HARRY POTTER AND THE NECKLACE OF MENAT
A/N: How does a Super Harry take revenge? Let me count the way(s). ;D
also, edited in response to some of the reviews (esp lija's).
It is a common fact, known to law enforcement agents worldwide, that no matter how sophisticated and wily a criminal has become — able to leave no traces, evidence of himself when committing a crime — there was always a time, especially during his amateur years, that he has left a record of himself. On this Harry relied.
He started with just the face of the wizard in Philip's memory to track down his identity and from there started to uncover one link of the criminal gang to the next. He also pursued the exposed Muggle front of the operation, by painstakingly following the money trail, cross-referencing Muggle and magical accounts. Hermione, Percy, and Bill undertook a large part of this research, aided by Bill's Gringotts insider access. Any suspicious movements of money, they scrutinized, looking for links to any of the known Illegal Potions syndicates, for the scale of the entire operation indicated an established and well–funded cartel. Harry had long ago suspected this, especially after seeing the amount of galleons in Britwhistle's flat. Magical law enforcement agencies all over the world were already familiar with these Illegal Potions cartels – and so Harry knew them as well. It was just a matter of determining which one laid out the trap for him.
The man had buried his activities, disappearing in the criminal underworld but Harry kept doggedly at his investigations, making no qualms calling up favors owed him. For once he took advantage of his name and position in the Wizarding world, seeking the help and assistance of foreign governments, especially the Americans who had years of experience dealing with these types of criminal organizations. He took care to keep his activities and inquiries off the record though – completely under the radar – lest he tipped off the cartels that he was still pursuing the case. Officially, the Ministry had declared the case closed and Harry made a show of not going to work for two weeks in apparent protest but in truth he and the brothers had already started gathering evidence. In no time, his hard work paid off and finally narrowed the culprits down to one.
Why did it not surprise him that it turned out to be the biggest, deadliest Potions cartel of them all? The one with a trail of victims in its wake – both Muggle and magical – as long as the Amazon river?
But identifying which Potions cartel was responsible simply was not enough. He then started investigating the criminal organization's structure laterally and everywhere its complicated branches led to, determined to track down, not just the key players, but all the members of its entire magical and Muggle network, including the support system – the political and police protectors, Muggle bank officials who laundered their money – everyone, down to the shrimps of the organization.
It took Harry three years – three long years – to track down the syndicate responsible for the Potion X debacle. And even as he pursued the case, he started drawing up plans, spending months studying, scouting the cartel boss's estate, which also served as the gang's headquarters, accompanied every time by a Weasley brother. He sharpened his skills as well and developed magic no one before had the capability of doing, preparing himself for the inevitable confrontation.
And now it was time.
Harry was going to face the largest, most powerful, most ruthless Illegal Potions cartel in the world, confront them right in their home base. And he was going to do it with only Bill and Charlie in tow. True, he could have easily raised enough number of wands for the operation – and not just from the immediate family. Not a few of his men had declared that they would join him if and when he decided to go after the mastermind. After the attack at the Burrow, a number of Weasley relatives had come up to them to say that should the family ever decide to seek retribution, to add their wands to the pile. Auntie Muriel was right: The Weasleys breed like gnomes, though Harry doubted these Weasley uncles and cousins knew exactly what they were volunteering their wands and lives for. Enough bits and pieces had travelled through the family grapevine however, for them to realize something was up. But Harry declined them all and allowed only Bill to accompany him, for the latter's skills and to represent Ginny's blood family, while Charlie, a decided bachelor, insisted upon coming to make up for all the years he had been away from the family. Harry wouldn't bring Ron, either. None of the family deluded themselves into thinking that what Harry was about to do was anything beyond personal vendetta. Two Aurors getting caught in an unsanctioned mission abroad would bring a slew of problems all on its own.
They arrived just as the first veil of daylight settled upon the region, Portkeying in the forested area southwest of the estate. Harry had previously marked the Portkey point: a small clearing made inaccessible by a thick ring of old, gnarly trees and choked by masses of tangled vines. Harry had already disabled the wards in just this particular spot, where there was just enough space in the middle to accommodate the three of them standing up. He did not want to alert the guards at the estate that its security had been compromised.
From there, they slowly made their way – Disillusioned and on foot – to a hill overlooking the estate, Harry disabling the wards as they went, doing just enough for them to approach nearer but not to set off the wards. It was a slow-going and extremely complicated process, for one misstep on his part and it would send the estate's Caterwauling alarms blaring. He'd even cast scent-neutralizing charms on himself, Bill, and Charlie as protection against the vicious magical creatures the cartel had placed in the jungle as further security measure.
After three quarters of an hour walking, they finally reached the top of the hill that gave them a sweeping view of the entire estate below. Harry chose this spot for just this purpose, though the wards in this area were even stronger and more powerful than in the jungle. It was like walking into a blizzard of wards. The cartel's lair sat astride two countries, and the wards had been built around the property to protect it not just from the governments of both but the cartel's rival syndicates as well. Needless to say, when it came to security, the estate was the magical equivalent of Fort Knox. By expanding the interstitial space around him, however, Harry was able to punch through a path where he, Bill, and Charlie could move without triggering the alarms. Harry then chose a spot where they would set up their base camp.
The area was so dry and barren that anybody who tried to peek down the estate from the top of the hill would be immediately seen, even at night, when lights were turned on around the estate. However, instead of a Disillusionment Charm, Harry had cast a Mirago spell around them to hide himself, Bill, and Charlie from the eyes of any outsiders. He cast the spell in reverse, however – which worked as effectively – throwing their images miles away. They could be seen, but a person could be standing right next to them and think they were several mountains away. That way he and the brothers could freely move about and do their tasks without getting in each other's way. Then they began working on the wards.
Though Bill was quite an expert on wards himself, Harry worked on them first, undoing the most difficult, trickiest ones first. He was gratified to see that no new, exotic, or unfamiliar wards had been erected since he last examined them, telling him that none of his previous incursions had been detected. The moment he undid a ward he started rebuilding it back again so that the tampering would not be detected, but he left magical backdoors for himself, Bill, and Charlie to allow themselves to pass in and out of the property without setting off the wards.
When he had dealt with the last of the most difficult wards, he left the rest to Bill and Charlie. Thereafter, Harry struck out on his own, disappearing most days after that, but first making sure that the brothers were safe at all times. Harry had given both brothers Portkey watches that just like the Burrow family clock could detect if they were in danger and would instantly activate and whisk them back to England. Harry only came back to catch a few hours of sleep and then he would set off again. He did not volunteer to tell them where he'd been or what he was doing and neither did they ask. Bill had a sneaking suspicion that Harry was operating a shade (or several) beyond the pale, but kept his mouth shut. Their very presence in this country was already illegal, who was he to judge Harry, really?
From time to time, a henchman or two would come alarmingly close to their camp, but the brothers were never seen. There were even moments of amusement when the guards would point to a spot on a nearby mountain, noticing something. Bill and Charlie guessed that the syndicate sent men to investigate, only to find air. Harry's protection spells were so airtight there was never any danger of them being discovered.
Finally, Bill and Charlie had finished with their appointed tasks. But they had to wait for two more days until Harry finally returned for the night and did not leave again a few hours later. He joined them for breakfast instead, after which he just said: "We should tidy up."
So they dismantled the tent where they had been camping in in the last several days. Then Harry handed his Invisibility Cloak over to Charlie who would serve as lookout. Harry reminded Charlie that if he and Bill were still not back by sundown, then Charlie should return at once to England alone.
"Don't come back looking for us. And tell Ginny, I'm sorry," Harry told Charlie as they shook hands while Bill clapped Charlie on the back, trying to bury his apprehension. Harry still hadn't told him what they were about to do. He could only trust that Harry knew what he was doing and wouldn't leave Fleur a widow and his children fatherless.
Charlie then swung the cloak over himself. Harry waited for him to completely disappear before removing the Mirago spell hiding them then quickly replacing it with other protective spells. Then the two started their march down the valley, breaking through the wards easily.
Harry walked calmly downhill, Bill keeping in step. Part way down, they met with a couple of the cartel's guards, idly standing under the shade of a tree, smoking cigarettes. The guards were completely astounded to see these two tall, Caucasian men marching calmly past them. These cartel henchmen were small fry, magically no match to Bill and Harry. Still, Bill glanced apprehensively at Harry, waiting for a signal. But Harry merely walked on, completely ignoring the henchmen. And only now Bill realized that the guards were not reacting normally to their presence. The guards continued to stand there, gaping at the two strangers, a cigarette hanging limply from the mouth of one. They didn't even raise their wands or sound the alarms. Without making any visible sign that he did, Harry must have already cast spells against these men though Bill wasn't too sure exactly when Harry could have done so. And then the henchmen did the most unexpected thing: they followed Harry and Bill meekly down the hill.
As they continued their descent, they encountered more of the estate's workers and guards, all reacting the same as the two earlier henchmen had done. From everywhere in the mansion, more and more of the members of the cartel were joining them. Though he hoped Harry must know what he was doing, Bill couldn't help the rivulet of sweat coursing down from his scalp to his lower back. He was so tense he was gripping his wand so tightly he just might break it in half.
Then from their vantage point halfway down the hill, Bill saw more wizards arriving – by Apparation, Portkeys, by cars and other vehicles popping out of nowhere, all converging towards the main gate of the estate. He tried to scout his memory if there had been a scheduled conference for today – for they had been monitoring the activities of the key members of the group up till he, Harry, and Charlie left for this mission – but nothing was coming to mind. He threw Harry another worried glance. But Harry didn't seem surprised or fazed by the new arrivals. He simply continued his steady descent downhill.
So he knew, Bill thought. Harry must be responsible for it.
Thus they continued their march downhill until they reached the paved grounds of the estate. They met with the new arrivals who all looked bewildered as if they themselves did not know why they were there. A few recognized Harry, judging by the stricken look on their faces but they didn't raise their wands against the two either. Harry glanced once at the newcomers then ignored them just as he did the other workers. He then led the way towards the grand double doors of the sprawling white, stucco mansion.
They reached the huge foyer, at the center of which hung a huge chandelier. Directly opposite the entrance was a grand staircase. Harry continued on and climbed up the stairs, the staircase branching off in two at the landing. Harry took the left. When they reached the second floor, he continued to trace the path, with an entire train of the syndicate's henchmen still trailing behind them, following them meekly like lambs to a slaughterhouse. They reached the end of the corridor, where there was another set of double doors open.
Harry and Bill then entered the room and positioned themselves just off to one side of the doors. They found more men inside, but like their colleagues they too just stared blankly at the two strangers.
The cartel men trailing them followed soon behind, spreading themselves across the room, all facing Bill and Harry. When the last of the men entered the room, Harry nodded to Bill who immediately closed the door as Harry took an empty seat nearby. Bill stood just behind Harry's chair, hands clasped in front of him, grasping his wand tightly, his feet at a ready stance. He glanced nervously at Harry.
'I knew Harry has bollocks, but this is bloody insane,' thought Bill.
Meanwhile, the cartel members were eying each other nervously, but none seemed able to speak, let alone act. They just stood there, fully aware of everything that was happening but unable to understand the whys. Most of them recognized the black-haired, bespectacled man, and though they did not recognize Harry Potter's companion, the red hair was a giveaway. Several of the men kept glancing to another set of double doors that led to the main office further in the back of the room but Harry kept his cool...and waited.
The silence stretched on.
Rain had long ago deserted these lands, coming in spurts and the occasional temperamental outbursts. But there was a time when heat must have been necessary – or perhaps the first European magical settlers in the region thought they could adapt the Floo network here – for there was a fireplace in the room, though likely rarely, if ever, used. Letterboxes were the main form of magical communication around these parts. A golden letterbox of the stylized head of a Peruvian Vipertooth Dragon hung just above the mantel. Now the letterbox roared into life.
"Is anybody out there? Tell Amado to come in, this minute!" a voice boomed from the mouth of the dragon letterbox, speaking in the vernacular, which Harry and Bill understood perfectly. The voice was insistent, demanding, of someone used to every word, every dictate followed. But whatever spell Harry had cast was even more powerful, for none of the men in the room moved or even answered the voice.
"Elena! Rodrigo! Somebody!" the voice screamed angrily now. The cartel men fidgeted. In the past, such disobedience was punished immediately and with one's own life. Yet still no one moved.
"¡Setenta Hijueputa!" The voice screamed from inside the inner office followed by the sound of several things breaking.
Harry looked down and flicked a speck of dust from his jeans.
Then the door to the inner office banged wide open and a stocky, full-bearded man emerged, his wand pointing aggressively forward, ready to cast a curse at the first person unfortunate enough to draw his ire. He of all the men in the room seemed unaffected by the spell Harry had cast, for Harry wanted the man to be in full command of his powers, and still feel helpless, unable to do anything despite being surrounded by his men. But then the cartel boss's eyes caught sight of the strangers, and he stopped dead in his tracks. "Harry Potter!" He made as if to cast a curse at Harry, but then caught himself in time, probably thinking that he'd be dead before his curse even reached Harry. He would not be wrong. Instead, he looked around at his men. He grabbed the henchman nearest him by the shoulder and pushed the man forward. "What are you doing? Kill them! Kill them!" But the man only fell down to his knees, glancing up at Bill and Harry helplessly. The cartel boss grabbed at another lackey, but he got the same reaction. The boss started hitting his men with curses, trying to rouse them to fight Harry and Bill. But the spells didn't seem to have the effect he wanted – the spells simply were not connecting to his men. He kept firing spells, the effort strangling his breath. Finally, he had to stop. He looked around at the room, at his men, some of whom were the deadliest hitwizards in the criminal underworld. Now he turned his face back to Harry.
He had only ever heard about Harry Potter, but what he heard was enough to scare the living bejeezus out of him. That was why he had to immobilize the Auror.
He might be the head of the leading cartel in the region, but it only meant that others were just waiting for the opportunity to strike him down. And when he heard that a few of his rival cartels were planning to expand their operations in Europe, he knew he had to beat them to the draw. He had no choice – if he were to keep his leadership, if his group were to maintain its position in the illegal underworld. But the problem with Europe was that it was Harry Potter territory. Sure, he could have sat on his pork and waited for the bastards to self-destruct when they finally encounter Potter, but to allow such a thing to happen would be taken as a sign of weakness, even by his own men. Dangerous, in his line of work. And so he had to make a move. But he couldn't continue with his plans, not with the Auror around. And since it was believed that it was nearly impossible to kill Potter, he planned a way to at least cripple the Auror somehow, to compromise him, not to act and instead look the other way when it came to his group's activities. It was a shot in the dark, he knew. But not to have done it would have been suicide.
Then everything blew up in his face. His plan was well-thought of, intricate, to quietly snare George Weasley and then Potter into a trap. He didn't know what happened. But suddenly Potion X was big news in England. And when both Rawlings and Britwhistle disappeared, he knew the plan was a misfire. He invested hundreds of thousands of galleons in the operation, and a pittance in profits returned. But didn't he let it go? Didn't he?! He gambled against Potter… and lost. He knew when he was licked. But knew as well that none of his rivals would try to succeed where he had failed.
It should have ended there.
He did not understand. He did everything to cover his tracks, to make sure the operation could not be traced back to his group, all his men working on the plan heavily disguised and Polyjuiced. How did Potter manage to pin it down to him? And even given that, he had people in his country's Magical Ministry that would inform him if Harry Potter was in the region. He had spared no expense in making sure that his estate was impregnable to outsiders. And yet here Potter was – his living nightmare sat in front of him, staring calmly back at him.
"You should have known this day would come," said Harry in the vernacular, his voice deathly cold.
"What are you talking about?!" The syndicate's boss decided to play dumb.
But Harry ignored his protestations of innocence. "What did you think? That I will not come after you?"
"Mr. Potter, I don't know what you've heard or what tales my enemies have been blathering in your ears, but I assure you, you have no reason to be here."
But Harry had long ago stopped giving the words of a venomous snake much credence. "Everything is just money with you, isn't it?" he addressed the room in general. "You don't care how many people you hurt, or even kill, as long as you earn obscene amounts of money for yourselves. And what do you use it for?" He let his eyes scour the room, his lips curling at the ostentatious and wasteful excesses – the gilt-edged furniture and ornaments, the cartel member's gold jewelry, at the wands in their hands, their wand grips encrusted with gold and diamond inlays, women whose bodies they bought, or more often, beat into submission. Then he thought of Mr. Weasley, putting an ad in the Daily Prophet, trying to sell his prized collection of Muggle batteries because a school term was about to begin. Of Mrs. Weasley, slaving in the back garden of the Burrow, trying to grow enough food to feed her family. Remus, in his patched and inexpertly mended robes. Ron, standing in the Gryffindor stairs leading to the boys' rooms, his pajamas a couple of inches short…. And Tom Riddle, his voice mocking: "Little Ginny's been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes: ... how she had to come to school with second-hand robes and books –"
They too could have used magic to make their lives a lot easier, more comfortable, but chose to do the right thing instead.
Poverty is never an excuse.
And Harry remembered Corinne, whose boyfriend never did recover from his coma, and died a year later. Corinne subsequently retired from Quidditch and never made contact with any of her colleagues again. Harry remembered too the pregnant Harpies patients who had died. Remembered Angela Smyth-Bothamley. And his anger, which had never really been doused in all these years, blazed anew with righteous heat. His anger over what happened to Ginny, however, he could not articulate, not in front of these men. That part of him was private, sacred, he wouldn't sully with these low-lifes.
"People are dead. People's lives forever destroyed…. People-I-Know," said Harry, his voice ringing in the silence-stiffed air. "Who then should I blame for their deaths?"
There was a chill in the room and the men felt terror like they had never felt before. They could taste in the air, a suffocating sense of dread — for Harry did not come here to fight, but to mete justice. He looked at each and every member of the cartel as he delivered his malediction.
"Because of you, your greed, your laziness, people are dead. From now on, you will no longer be able to use magic nor kill or even hurt or threaten anyone. You can only eat what you yourselves have worked hard – working your fingers to the bone – to work for. All the days of your lives you will never know anything but hard work and misery, and will never find prosperity no matter what you do. All your ill-gotten wealth you will lose, everything – not a single knut or Muggle cent will be left to you. And if you try to get money by force or by stealing, know that nothing will come of it. Food will rot before your very eyes if you ever try to get money through dishonest means." Harry looked intently at every man in the room, binding their magic, placing the curse on each one of them. Was he abusing his powers? Was he doing the right thing? He had long ago skirted around the issue in his mind. He was just grateful that he somehow managed to rein in his anger, that so far he hadn't spilled a single drop of blood even though every cartel man in the room had blood in his. Harry continued to sweep the room with his eyes, cold, implacable, sealing his final curse. "And this curse will be passed on to your children and your children's children." He stood up and spoke one last time. "Be thankful that this is all I've decided to do." He turned to Bill, grabbed him by the shoulder and, in a flash, they were gone.
They appeared back at the hill from where they originally set off.
"That is one bloody exit!" Bill exclaimed, as they reappeared in their meeting spot with Charlie. He goggled at Harry, his self-possession deserting him to be replaced with disbelief and creeping fear. "Is it true what you said back there? About them not being able to use magic anymore?"
"All of them?" Bill said, more aghast than awed. The extent of Harry's curse! That one wizard could do that!
A bird's call whistled in the air, and Bill had to swallow his astonishment – for Harry had delivered quite a doozy – before he could answer with the appropriate whistle back. Charlie then materialized out of thin air a few feet from them.
"What happened?" said Charlie.
But Bill was already palpating the estate's ward shield, and felt it crumbling under his expert fingers. And now yellowed, transparent patches of air began to appear along the dome of the shield, as the magic holding it up began to disintegrate. Bill was still marveling at this demonstration of Harry's magical power – which he had seldom seen – when he felt Harry kneel down beside him. He glanced down to see Harry scooping a handful of dry earth in his hands. Harry then closed his hand over it lightly, but when he opened it again, the soil had completely turned to dust. He brought his fist closer to his mouth, whispered something into it only he could hear. Then he stood straight up, pulled his arm back, then cast the fistful of dust into the air. But instead of dropping back to earth, the wind caught it. The dust cloud seemed to swell in size and number, darkening a patch of the sky, riding the air, moving as if with intelligence, like a murmuration of starlings. Harry, Bill, and Charlie stood looking up at the dust granules as they sailed, defied the wind. And when it reached some twenty meters up the sky, the dirt broke into four sections, each section sailing off into a different direction: north, south, east, west — each and every tiny grain of dust carrying with it a payload of Harry's curse.
In the days, weeks, months, years to come, a pall of plague would seem to descend upon the region. Not a week would pass when rumors started filtering back to England of how the cartel's mansion had been mysteriously razed to the ground, the syndicate's gold in Gringotts melted into unusable, black molten lumps, the jewelery and other valuables stored there similarly destroyed. Acres and acres of the syndicate's lands would soon be plagued – and repeatedly – first by rats, then drought, or sometimes by storms that would sit for days, flooding the farms. Most mysterious of all, no plant seemed ever to grow in the syndicate's lands again, even after someone thought of removing the topsoil and replacing it with soil from other parts of the region. Years, decades, centuries would pass, and yet the said lands would never be able to grow any type of plant again. Thus, they became known as Las Islas de Malditas, the Cursed Lands.
But the cartel's misfortunes did not end there. Everywhere the cartel's money had been channeled into, every property, stock bought, company invested in, everything went up in smoke – sometimes literally – soon after Harry's visit, exactly as he vowed. Its Muggle and magical protectors would fall into similar straits, losing their jobs, falling ill, or previous crimes they thought they had long buried coming suddenly out in the open, and many were given prison sentences. A year and a half after that fateful day, the syndicate's leader would be found dead near a Muggle dumpster, having died of starvation. It would take his magical Ministry days to realize that he had died, for he had become unrecognizable. He seemed to have greatly aged, and became extremely emaciated, with most of his teeth missing.
In the wizarding world, no illegal potions cartel ever tried to pick up where the syndicate left off. Whispers went around of how the cartel met its end though nobody could prove it. Nobody had seen Harry Potter ever having visited the country. Still the rumor persisted. And since then, nobody ever tried to smuggle illegal potions into England again – or anywhere remotely near it.
Harry, Bill, and Charlie watched the dust clouds fly until they couldn't see a single speck anymore. Then Charlie pulled something from inside his robes. He turned to Harry.
"I know you gave me a Portkey to use, but Hermione thought this would be better," said Charlie. He showed Harry a picture frame that had a photo of Harry and the now expanded Weasley family, including Harry's son, James, and a heavily pregnant Ginny.
"Let's go home," said Bill. Then they all placed their fingers on the Portkey.
Ginny sat under a tree, piles of letters on her lap. She took out a card Nicholas Bothamley and David Wiggins had just sent her and Harry from Hogwarts. Their lives having both been touched by Harry, the two had become fast friends when they met at Hogwarts - David resuming his first year study. And now they frequently sent Harry and Ginny letters from school, and sometimes boxes of Honeyduke's sweets for James. Fortunately for her son's teeth, James had plenty of cousins and had Ron for an uncle, so Ginny didn't feel guilty giving them to her son. The card also had a picture of Jessica in it, looking shyly at her. Ginny never met the tiddly tyrant Jessica was supposed to be. Though she wasn't there when Harry showed his magical tent to the kids - she was still pregnant with James at that time - Harry did bring her and their son to the Smyths' bed and breakfast inn a year after she had given birth where she met an extremely shy and quiet Jessica instead. Jessica's grandmother would later inform Ginny that Jessica had always declared that she wanted to be like Ginny Weasley when she grew up and apparently Ginny intimidated the young girl where Harry could not. But ever since then, they made regular visits to the inn. They were often accompanied by other members of the family, Martin Smyth finally meeting a wizard he genuinely liked, hitting it off with her dad who had just recently discovered the joys of Muggle caravaning.
Ginny glanced up, at the vast estate grounds, where James was playing with his cousins. The entire family arrived here ten days ago, visiting Sylvie and her son. There was more than enough room for them, for Sylvie lived in a castle that had been in her family for generations.
Ginny's mum was just across from her, but on the other side of the massive lawn, talking with a couple of witches from the village. She knew that her mum was comparing home remedies with them, ancient Viking magic were still heavily practiced around these parts. Her other brothers and their wives were on the grounds as well, but Ginny just couldn't help keeping an eye on James. Her son was turning out to be quite a handful. She placed a gentle hand on her five-month pregnancy bump, silently entreating her next child to please, please have the disposition of a saint – or a statue, whichever was quieter.
Or better yet, to just be like its dad.
Harry. Ginny wondered where he could possibly be right now or what he was doing. It must be particularly dangerous for him to deposit the entire family – including Andromeda and Teddy – in Sylvie's estate. The fact that Volga magic was actively practiced around these parts, and seldom everywhere else, meant it had wards quite difficult to breach. And she was sure Harry added a few of his own just before he and Bill left. He had been going on these trips with her brothers for years now. And though she didn't know exactly where, Ginny had a shrewd idea. She refused to entertain the thought, however, because it would only make her angry. And she didn't want to be angry with Harry for doing something he felt he must do. With a baby on the way, Harry wouldn't risk doing something that he knew wasn't a sure thing. Or so she hoped.
He married her, three weeks after James was born, in the small chapel in Godric's Hollow where his parents also had their wedding, attended only by their family and their closest of friends, the wizarding world waking up to read a small announcement about it in the Quibbler the next day, which also came with the news of the birth of their son, James Sirius Potter. Friends and former colleagues at Harpies would later tell her of first, the confusion (for there was never any report of the two ever dating), then the jubilation of the wizarding public after both the Harpies management and the Auror Department confirmed the news. They said it was very similar to the celebration following Voldemort's first downfall. But she never saw any of it. Harry had whisked her and James off to a private chateau in France (very near a large wizarding hospital) immediately after the ceremony. It could not be called a proper honeymoon though, for they were accompanied by her parents and frequently joined by the rest of the family. Exactly a year later, Harry would marry her in a much more formal, larger wedding ceremony, still in the same chapel, James acting as their much distracted, disruptive, attention-grabbing ring bearer. This time too Ginny would get the honeymoon she wanted, Harry taking her to the Alps, then New Zealand and Japan — without James (for which privacy they would later pay for with weeks of James's major league sulkiness).*
They still could not remember what happened that morning at the Burrow, the day she got pregnant. But Harry believed that the image that rose in Ginny's mind of her kissing his Adam's apple was a partial memory. They figured the reason she regained a bit of the memory was because she was holding tightly to the Necklace at the time. But almost every night since they first slept together, Ginny tried to show him what she had seen, tried to recreate it. Needless to say, she was quite enthusiastic about it. Very.
Unconsciously, Ginny placed her hand on her chest where the necklace used to hang, as if expecting it to still be there. But it was long gone, a year after she had given birth in fact, when there was no longer any danger of her suffering from any post-pregnancy problems. After consulting with Kingsley, Harry decided to turn over the Necklace to the Vatican, not only as a thank you for warning him and giving him the ability to see the Romas and their hexes, but because he honestly thought that the Necklace would be safest with the Vatican wizards. Harry could have deposited it at the Department of Mysteries but he knew from experience that he could not always trust that the Necklace would remain safe there: Governments can change, people can not always be trusted, etc. Besides, it would remove the danger the Necklace staying in Britain posed. He didn't want to give the Romas any reason to come back to England and try to get the Necklace anew. Harry also suspected that the Vatican had more 'interesting' magical treasures in its keeping that no one knew existed, ones that were even more powerful than the Menat necklace, so he figured he could trust them. He could have donated it to Gringotts, or even return the artifacts to the Romas but he'd have to strip it of its powers which he wasn't sure was a good thing to do, after all it gave him James and saved Ginny's life. Harry thought that it might save someone else's life someday.
Ginny looked down at the papers in her hand once again and took out the letter Baba had written to Harry before she died. Ginny ran her eyes once again to the translated words, showing red under the Serbian letters, concentrating on one particular passage:
'I know you think that your second life and your powers are all the reward you would get for all your hardships and sacrifice, even though they mean the least to you. You do not think that you deserve the one your heart wants the most, but you're wrong. There is love waiting for you yet, Mr. Potter. And it will be with the one you truly want. I don't know who she is, I only see a woman with flaming hair...'
There was more but Ginny's eyes had already begun to tear, as they often did whenever she read Baba's letter, for there it was: Baba had clearly seen it in Harry's future, her, only, always, in his life.
They could never find proof that she went directly home after she left the party, but Harry did find out who Philip actually slept with that night. Several CCTV cameras from the houses and establishments near Philip's townhouse recorded him walking with a Muggle woman along his street. The same cameras recorded her leaving alone a few hours later. When Harry spoke to the girl, she said she met Philip somewhere but couldn't remember exactly where. Harry discovered Philip Confunded her so she wouldn't have a memory of entering a magical house – so much for his house being Fideliused. The Muggle woman had no Potion X inside her system, and except for a few, her memory of that night was largely intact. And what remained of it more than proved that she was the woman Philip had brought to his flat. And that she had been with him an hour before Ginny left the party.
But what mattered most was that James was truly Harry's son, and just to dispel any doubt that he was, Hermione suggested that Harry and James take a DNA test, using samples of their hair. The MoM's Forensics division had to "wash" Harry's hair several times and took the team numerous tries before they finally succeeded in removing all traces of magic from Harry's hair.
It wasn't important to Harry and Ginny. Not really. And would have done away with the test, too. But days after Ginny had given birth, Philip's parents tried to file a claim on Ginny's baby. Only with incontrovertible proof that Harry was truly James's father could they silence the Rawlings couple. Up to the last, the Rawlings did not realize that they were walking on thin ice. They should be thankful though that Harry was so deliriously happy in those days that he did not pay much attention to them.
It had been years, and he and Ginny continued to be deliriously happy.
Ginny instinctively turned her head to her left and there her husband was, staidly walking towards her. He's back. Ginny gave a sigh of relief. A pair of small arms were wrapped around his neck, tiny feet dangling in both his arms, but Ginny couldn't see the small person Harry was piggybacking on his back. She didn't need to. They had played this game numerous times before.
She beamed up at her husband but stayed sitting down. "Harry, have you seen James?" she called as he approached.
She heard a giggle behind Harry's back.
"I haven't. Why? Is he missing again?" said Harry, his eyes twinkling.
"Harry, do you think he's run away?"
"I don't know, Ginny. But James is really powerful. Perhaps he has learned to Apparate to Diagon Alley."
More giggles, but Ginny scowled at her husband. She didn't want Harry giving James any ideas.
Sylvie's son, Patrick, came toddling towards them on his short legs, Sylvie close behind.
"C'mon! Let's play!" said Patrick. "Teddy and Ferdy want to play kicket!"
James immediately forgot all about the game he was playing with his parents and quickly wriggled down Harry's back. Joining Patrick, the two boys ran towards the field. The three adults could only helplessly watch.
"I dread the day those two enter Hogwarts," said Sylvie. "And with Freddie to boot," she added, with a remorseful shake of her head.
"But Teddy will be there. He'll keep them in check," said Harry, trying to sound optimistic.
Ginny and Sylvie caught each other's eyes then studiously looked away.
"What?" said Harry, indignant.
"Nothing," said Sylvie. "We can only hope." She turned to Harry. "So you're back. I don't know how Ginny put up with it, always disappearing, constantly in danger..."
"Well, he does have his uses," said Ginny, looking her husband up and down in such a way that Harry's face reddened.
"Ugh! Ginny! Not you too!" cried Sylvie with a grimace. "As if we don't already have enough of that with Ron and Hermione...Speaking of which, " added Sylvie, as she remembered something, her face forming into a scowl, "will you please tell Ron and his wife that before they lock the door to any room in this house to make sure that no one is inside with them, including house-elves?"
"Why? What have they done now?" asked Ginny curiously.
"They asked to see the armory and then thought of locking themselves in. Well, one of my house-elves happened to be in the room at the time, cleaning, and whom, apparently, they didn't see. For some reason –" Here she threw Harry a reproachful glance because she knew it would be a spell Harry taught the two. "my house-elf couldn't Apparate from the room. Can you imagine the trauma that poor thing suffered? I swear I'll never hear the words 'My King! My King!' again and not shudder!"
"Why are you telling me? I'm not their best-friend," said Ginny, trying to keep a straight face.
"But Ron's your brother," Sylvie pointed out.
"Ugh," said Ginny, making a face. "Please don't remind me."
"Uhm, they're newlyweds," interjected Harry, trying to come up with some kind of excuse for his friends. Before he left, he specifically asked Ron and Hermione to behave.
"What newlyweds? They've been at it since after the war!" said Sylvie, avoiding looking at Ginny, whose face had gone tomato red from the effort of keeping her laughter in. "I don't know how you put up with it all those years! It's like living with a pair of human rabbits!"
"Ehrm," said Harry, scratching the back of his neck.
The look on Harry's face though broke Ginny. She started laughing, soon joined by Sylvie. But their laughter was echoed by tinnier ones coming from the grounds, which always was a bad sign. Harry turned his eyes towards the field, squinting his eyes for a better look. Then he frowned. "Are they using gnomes as pocks?" he asked, horrified.
Ginny and Sylvie followed Harry's gaze. True enough, James, Freddie, and Patrick were squealing their heads off as they sent a gnome flying through the air.
"Oh no, not again!" said Sylvie, already running toward the field. "It's okay. I've got it!" she shouted back to Harry and Ginny.
Harry and Ginny exchanged glances, and smiled at each other despite themselves. Harry walked up to her, and sat himself on the ground beside her. He turned to her slightly and scooped her easily off the ground, then placed her gently in between his legs. Ginny leaned back into him, and his arms automatically wrapped around her, resting his hands on her distended belly. They always sat like this, Ginny safely cocooned in Harry's arms.
She didn't ask him where he'd been or what he had been doing. Instead, she turned her head to bring her face closer to his so he could kiss her. He obliged, naturally, giving her a soft, lingering kiss. Then they both turned their faces back to the field where now the children were playing tag. They looked on in contentment at the children, smiling as a child broke out into peals of laughter. There were other eyes looking after the kids and Harry and Ginny took the chance to steal a small amount of sleep that – as all parents of babies and toddlers all over the world knew unfortunately well – took all of twenty-three seconds.
A/N: Finally! Sorry for the long delay, but thanks continuing to read. Thank you as well to all who reviewed. Shoutouts go esp to Lija, whose reviews I always look forward to, and to the reviewer over at siye where I first posted my ffs who called my attention to my problems with tenses. I really appreciate it even tho i still struggle with them among other grammatical problems.:)
*Harry would marry her...taking her...etc — I meant these were Harry's gifts for Ginny.
Also, kingsley's house is an actual house. I fell in love with it and the architect's other underground house, first time I saw them online. It's name is Snowden House. Just had to include it.
i also left out the part where harry went to galina's people alone and removed the excoriation and decaying smell hex he cast on galina's brother. but even i was uncertain whether harry's anger would die down enough for him to do it. ;D
also, I've been heavily reediting this fic, hoping to catch the grammar mistakes. I meant to reedit chapter 6, esp the reaction to the date-rape drug, but thinking about it, I was reminded of my original intentions on the chap. the 180° turn, the humor, and the downplay were red herrings. so the chapter stays as it is.