Just then, James heard a voice coming from far away. The next thing he knew, he was being pulled across the hall at speed to land in a heap. His eyes closed as the stress left his body.
Price watched as the old man was suddenly yanked from under their noses to land at the feet of the unidentified stranger. The silhouette of the man leaned over the downed old man, whispering something. No doubt, he was enquiring about the man's state of health. Seemingly satisfied, the man straightened.
Price's first impression was that this was one of the grunts. That was when the man pierced him with a stare.
'I think it is time to shed some light.'
With a snap of his fingers, the chandeliers overhead came to life, bathing the room in a soft golden light.
Hermione threw up a hand to ward off the sudden light. Once her eyes had adjusted she gazed around her.
She found herself in a large games room. The large heads of the two magical creatures looked even more threatening than they did in the dark.
But that was nothing compared to the man standing there.
Harry James Potter-Black, the self-proclaimed Emperor (to her) and architect of the Wizarding Empire stood over his son, fixing a murderous look on the two intruders with his backlit green eyes.
And she knew beyond a doubt that it was Harry. For he looked exactly like the Harry Potter she once knew at school. His hair was still jet black and messy as ever. His face was still youthful and free of wrinkles and blemishes. He was only clad in a pair of casual looking white short trousers that were tied together with a string. The well chiselled muscles of his arms and his upper torso gave further credence to his apparent youth.
And he still emanated the same amount of oppressive raw magical power, if not more since the last time she had seen him. Hermione was quick to notice that there was no sign of any the Crystalline Wands that she had observed in the other wizards here on his sun-bronzed skin.
Price was the first to react. Judging by the reactions of the old woman, this was the man they were looking for. He thought for a fleeting moment that this guy was not as old as he was made out to be, but he easily dismissed that. He had a job to do.
So he levelled the machine at the Emperor, grinning as the man looked at him quizzically.
As soon as the beam hit him, the wizard staggered. 'How does that feel, bitch?' Price crowed in delight.
Hermione watched as Harry staggered, thinking that this fight would at least be over before it began. However, she couldn't help but feel a sense of foreboding.
Before she could even tell Price to be careful, the Emperor suddenly threw his hands in front of him with a snarl.
Price, who was still gloating, was caught unawares when an invisible force picked him up and slammed him violently into the wall, then the floor, the ceiling and finally, the floor again where he laid, unmoving. One only had to look at the strange way his limbs were bent to know that all his arms and legs were broken.
'How does that feel, bitch?' Harry said with a terrible smirk on his face.
'Father,' James' weak sounding voice came from his place by the ground. 'I'm sorry …'
'Hush, now,' Harry said gently. 'You have nothing to apologise for. You tried your best. I will handle this. You go and see to your family.'
But there was no response.
'James?' Harry bent over the unnaturally still form of his son. Slowly, he put two fingers on the man's neck. There was no pulse.
A magical scan confirmed his initial diagnosis. There was nothing he could do.
Harry closed his eyes. He had to get his emotions under control.
Green eyes then flicked over to his old friend. Slowly, he turned towards the woman who was responsible for his son's heart giving out. The sight of her face did nothing to fulfil his earlier promise to himself as an immense feeling of anger and rage started bubbling in his gut. The ungrateful bitch dare come here, despite him having let her live? He could have easily found her if he wanted to. That he did not was something that she should have been thankful for. Instead, she hurt his grandson and killed his son.
Straightening, he got ready for a fight. Effortlessly, he suddenly started to rise in the air, before her disbelieving eyes. Still vertical, he floated around her, unsupported, facing her all the time. He came to rest on her other side.
Hermione was shocked at this impressive display of magic. The fact that his body was unblemished meant that he was capable of performing true wandless magic. Regardless, she kept her wand trained on his floating figure. Not giving him a chance to do anything, Hermione launched a blistering offensive as soon as he landed. The room was once again lit up with spells that she rained down on her erstwhile friend.
Harry, inexplicably, did not even flinch.
Hermione stumbled when the first curses actually fizzled out feet away from their target.
And through it all, Harry hadn't even as much as twitched. The emotionless expression on his face unsettled her more than anything.
Frustrated, Hermione started increasing the power of her spells. The jets of light had become noticeably paler; a phenomenon that Albus had assured her meant that her spells were quite powerful indeed. It was something that she felt inordinately pleased about. He would have no chance but to dance now as there was no way he would be able to shield against that.
To her shock, the spells that were approaching him suddenly curved away, went around him, and boomeranged back on their original caster.
Cursing, Hermione hastily conjured a metallic shield as she danced around trying to dodge her own spells.
Meanwhile, Harry had once again taken to the air. He slowly spread his arms. His eyes, inexplicably, burned brighter.
Immediately Hermione's magical senses started pinging. Moving as fast as she could, she parried, ducked, dodged and shielded while wondering what was happening. The only physical proof of the spells was the ripples of air that they left behind, meaning that they would have to be even more powerful than her spells. Extending her magical senses, she tried to discern the position of her attackers. This was definitely the work of many wizards acting all at once.
She was quite surprised and horrified to note that all the spells had only one magical signature, and that signature was that of the man standing, no, floating in front of her.
Just then, an expression dripping with animalistic malice crept across Harry's face. It was then that Hermione knew for a fact that he was just toying with her.
Magical lightning sprang from his outstretched fingers, catching her unawares.
There was no way or chance that she would be able to dodge this. So, she conjured her best shield, and hoped for the best, praying to all the deities she knew of.
Hermione screamed as the energy tore through her shield as if it was nothing and slammed into her body, throwing it violently backwards so that she came to a skidding halt meters away from where she stood.
'Hermione Granger …' Harry drawled as he landed in front of her. He casually padded forwards on bare feet, stopping at her wand. Nimbly picking up the instrument with the first two toes of his left foot, he casually grasped it with his right hand, twirling it in his fingers as he walked towards her. 'Long time no see! You look like crap, by the way.'
He turned his attention to the wand. 'Or is it Weasley now?' he said casually, still examining the tool. 'Oh wait it hasn't been that for a really long time either, has it?' he said, looking at her mockingly. 'Not since old Won-Won left you. No it's …' he pretended to think for a moment, 'Dumbledore! Yes, Hermione Dumbledore.' He snorted. 'It's fitting that you would take up the name of a Muggle loving fool.'
'At least I am not living under the yoke of your tyrannical rule, Potter!' Hermione spat as she tried to scramble to her feet. 'Or is it Riddle?'
She smirked in triumph when he started.
'"Riddle"?' he asked confused. 'What the hell are you blathering about, woman?'
'Oh I'm sorry,' Hermione fired back. This banter was good for her. It allowed her to gather her strength. 'Would you prefer "Voldemort"?'
The look of bewilderment on his face would have been funny in any other given circumstance. But all it did was unsettle Hermione. She expected at least a bit of confirmation in his expression, however veiled it would be.
'Either living with Muggles has dulled your mental faculties or old age has done a massive number on your mind,' Harry finally said. 'Voldemort died nearly fourteen decades ago, you blithering bint! Remember? You were there!'
'Or did he?' she countered.
'Yes he did,' Harry continued in a tone that suggested that he thought she was being daft. 'After I finished all seven of his Horcruxes, I doubt he will be able to come back. Unless he has made an eighth Horcrux and split his soul nine times,' he said contemplatively. 'But since there hasn't been any activity that can be tied to him even remotely for all this time, one can safely assume that he is deceased.'
Hermione was fully prepared to open her mouth and call him out on his lie when the full import of his statement registered. 'Wait, seven?' she squawked, flatfooted.
'Yeah,' Harry said with a shrug. Using her wand as a finger, he counted them off in his other hand. 'There's his old diary, me, the Gaunt Family Ring, Slytherin's Locket, Hufflepuff's Cup, Ravenclaw's Diadem, and Nagini. All of them have been destroyed in that same order. Though I'm a bit fuzzy on the order of the cup, the diadem and the locket … I'm not sure which was destroyed first. I mean, they did all intercept Killing Curses at roughly the same time.'
He looked at Hermione processing this information. Old age really had caught up with her. Her mind used to be much more nimble than this. This woman was now as dumb as her former husband.
'Wait, you … you aren't a Horcrux?' Hermione said slowly.
'Not since the night Sirius died when I was fifteen,' Harry responded. 'Why, did you think I was influenced by Voldemort's soul fragment?' He scoffed, 'As if that puny shard could affect me.' Slowly, he started chuckling. 'That explains so much! Now I know what happened to the replicas of Ravenclaw's Diadem and Hufflepuff's Cup that were in the museum. The curator is going to be so pissed off when he finds out ... he thought they were real, you know. I think he cried himself to sleep the day he found out about the theft after discovering those forgeries that you had replaced them with. The man actually was close to tears when he came to tell me that they were missing... I just didn't have the heart to tell him that they were not real. Although, it would have saved me quite a bit of headache in trying to convince him to just let it go and not pay for it with every Knut he had.'
Hermione blinked, trying to process this new development. 'But – but, you said that there were only three –'
'I never said that,' Harry said quickly, cutting her off mid-sentence. 'If you recall, you assumed that there were only three. I just decided to let you keep thinking that. If I recall correctly, it was because you were being more irritating than normal that day.'
His lips twitched a bit. 'By the way, how did you figure out that there were really seven? Oh wait,' he gave a little laugh. 'Don't answer that. I can guess … a copy of Dumbledore's portrait from the Americas, right?' chuckling, he turned to look out of the window, noticing that the rain had stopped. In the distance, the lights of the city twinkled through.
Hermione seized her chance. Whipping out her hand, she cast a wandless summoning charm at her wand.
Her wand easily flew from Harry's lax grip, landing in her hand.
And it promptly snapped into two.
'You didn't think that I was that stupid, did you?' Harry said, looking over his shoulder at her dumbfounded expression. Fully turning around, he advanced on her his expression darkening. 'Anyway, since you seem to be quite bent on business, let's get to it, shall we?'
Hermione whipped out a pistol. 'Get back,' she said tremulously, pointing the gun at her onetime friend. 'Or I will blow your brains out before you can even think of a spell.'
Harry cocked his head. With a contemptuous look, he stepped forward.
In response, Hermione pulled the trigger. Only, nothing happened.
'Oh dear,' Harry said in a deadpan tone. He magically snatched the weapon from Hermione's hands, holding out a hand to catch the weapon.
'I guess I can think faster than you can shoot.' Smiling, he spread his hands.
Without any warning, Hermione was suddenly flung back. Ropes magically appeared in midair and wrapped themselves around her, completely securing her. Harry hadn't even changed his posture or expression.
Just when Hermione thought things couldn't get worse, the guards came in with the heavily bruised form of her comrades who were trussed up in a similar manner.
'Did you encounter any problems?' Harry asked one of the guards.
'None sire.' Replied the guard as a House-Elf held out a robe for Harry to put on.
'Good,' Harry said as he helped himself into the open robe. Thanking the House-Elf, he turned towards Hermione. 'Well, I guess this is game over.'
'Not quite.' Hermione said in a low voice.
'Oh,' Harry raised an eyebrow, 'and how so?'
'Well,' Hermione said with a horrible smile on her face. 'You see, Harry, over the years, we have managed to get rid of that pesky virus you put in the software. Naturally, we still couldn't use those missiles seeing as you put up Unplottable wards around the Empire, effectively erasing everything but the territories of the Alliance from our maps. That in addition to the loss of our satellites means that there is no way we could ever target any place within the Empire.
'However, that was until recently. You see, if you put a magical tracker on a person and take that person inside an Unplottable location, you still get a rough location of the place. Now if you could make a computer interpret that rough location and say, launch a missile …'
She paused for effect. 'I had such a tracker on my person. And a command had been set up roughly an hour back, before we snuck into the palace. Had we finished the mission, I would have called off the strike, and I can still do that too … if you surrender.'
Harry was silent for a moment. 'You lie,' he finally said. 'A tracker of that magnitude would have been picked up by the palace wards the minute you stepped inside.'
'Not if the tracker was dropped outside, say near a statue a few hundred meters from the palace.' Hermione countered.
There was a tense silence that stretched for an interminable time. Harry noted that all of the intruders were looking at Hermione with shock. One of the men, especially, was horrified. 'How could you …?' he sputtered, 'My children!'
Just then they could hear a screeching sound in the distance. As one, everyone turned to look outside as what looked like a fireball descended towards the large square located outside the palace gates, and more specifically the statue of the Emperor that was built there.
Striking the statue, the missile detonated, lighting the sky up as it did so.
'We have a successful detonation.'
The president of the Alliance of the Free Peoples smiled.
'Call the municipality and have them dispatch a crew to clean up that mess.'
Hearing the voice of her erstwhile friend, Hermione opened her eyes, confused.
Her environs were still intact. The palace was still standing, the people still alive and she was still on the floor, held captive.
Harry was speaking to one of the guards. '…And also tell Lord Yaxley that he'll be footing the cleaning bill.' He muttered under his breath. 'What that man's father was thinking, I'll never know. At least it got rid of that statue. Infernal thing was blocking the dashed view…'
As the guard saluted and hurried out, Harry turned to look at the dumbfounded expression on the invaders' face. 'You lot really thought that I just put in a computer virus and stopped at that, didn't you?' he snorted. 'Well, for your information, that was just a little something extra that we added. This,' he jerked a thumb behind him, 'was the original plan. Though,' he turned to look out of the window. 'I really thought that the whole treacle thing was a joke.'
By then, the grounds, along with the entire palace, was lit up, showing the gardens covered with large swatches of treacle, while a large blackened crater was all that remained of the statue. Shouting could also be heard in the distance as lights in residential buildings came on, no doubt by the people who were woken up by the sudden loud sound and bright light. Sirens could also be heard, as Autos, no doubt belonging to the police and other emergency services flew in.
'So,' Harry looked at Hermione with an expression of faux patience. 'Any more surprises?' He looked at her expectantly. 'Nothing,' he raised an eyebrow mockingly. 'Are you absolutely, positively sure? Brilliant!'
He looked at the people in front of him. 'Is that all of them?' he asked a guard.
'Yes, your imperial majesty. These are the ones alive. We have two dead in the Entrance Hall. They have been disposed of.'
'Have someone clean up that filth there.' Harry said, referring to the dead body of Price. 'Confiscate the machine the Muggle is wearing. I want someone to analyse it. And,' his voice turned sorrowful. 'Get someone to, ah, attend to … my son …'
Harry looked at Hermione's people intensely. 'You,' he said roughly, pointing at Ronald. 'Are a citizen of the Empire, are you not? Your talk of children along with the crystalline wand in your right arm more than proves that fact.'
With a crook of his finger, Harry levitated the man towards him. Powerless thanks to the magical suppressors placed on him, Ronald floated to him, magic made sure that he was unable to look away from the Emperor's pitiless emerald gaze.
Sneering, Harry tightened his hold on the man's neck, making him choke a little as he dived into Ronald's mind. Years of experience in the mind arts made it possible for him to not only pierce the pitiful Occlumency barriers erected by his captive, but also skilfully find the relevant information without making his target an insensate insane mess in the process. Harry wanted him to have full possession of his mental faculties to appreciate the consequences of his actions.
Ronald crashed to the floor with a groan as Harry released him. While his sanity wasn't affected, the Legilimency had given him a massive headache.
'All of these individuals are hereby classified as Category II restricted individuals,' Harry finally said, his voice still harsh. 'Send them to the dungeons.'
'Alert King James' heir about his new status and arrange for his presence along with the other kings and the Imperial Council first thing tomorrow morning. I do not care if you have to wake them up to inform them, but I want them here at precisely six o'clock in the morning. Three hours should be enough time to get out of bed and be presentable. I also want preparations started to ready ...' he paused for dramatic effect, 'The Automations.'
Immediately the guards left the room their captives in tow.
Hermione couldn't help but cry out when her body hit the ground roughly. Looking up, she found herself in a small cell. The floor, walls and ceiling seemed to be made of one block of unnaturally smooth stone. The door in front of her melded into the wall, leaving her in a cube of solid stone. She couldn't even hear the others.
She spent her time in the cell trying to get some sleep. Not that she could manage much considering the hard floor and the uncomfortable climate in the cell. All her possessions had been magically confiscated to be replaced by simple clothes. They hadn't even removed the ropes binding her either.
An interminable amount of time later, the walls turned transparent to show her equally dishevelled and sleep-deprived comrades, and most importantly, two guards who had set up a large mirror.
The surface of the mirror rippled to show a large room lined with chairs on either side.
At the end of the room, there were six thrones arranged in a semicircle. Naturally, these thrones were a step above the chairs in ornateness and size. And the people seated in them were, similarly, a step above the rest in terms of their dress and, more importantly, expressions of abject hatred.
In the most ornate throne at the centre of the semicircle was Harry. He had divested himself of his simple clothes and bland expression he had worn the previous night and had adopted instead, robes of the highest quality, an intricate bejewelled crown on his head and an expression of utmost loathing on his face. Sitting next to him was Daphne, as beautiful and young as ever, with vestments and expression equal in value to her husband's.
Hermione's hopes of getting any form of clemency, however slim they were, just died.
Just then a pure white phoenix appeared in midair with a burst of equally brilliant flames. Singing its melodious song, it winged its way towards the Emperor where it settled down on his lap, demanding attention.
His hard expression clearing momentarily, Harry fondly obliged it with a bowl of berries, petting it as it ate its fill. Satisfied, the bird spread its wings once more and with a trill, settled down on the back of Harry's throne, looking around imperiously.
Giving the bird one last fond and exasperated look, the Emperor turned to the room and started speaking. 'Today, an era of peace has ended. The Muggle nation has seen fit to violate the Treaty of Camelot and has not only trespassed on these lands, but launched repeated attacks on us that have not only threatened the lives of the Imperial Family but the peoples of Camelot.
'Fortunately, these brazen cowardly assaults have been thwarted. Unfortunately, King James was brutally cut down by these creatures.'
His statement was met with a variety of muttering. Clearly, the rest of the room was not happy with that news. Some even glanced in Hermione's direction, no doubt looking at her and her fellows through the mirror set up in the chamber.
'And the story does not end there.' Harry continued speaking. 'What is even viler than this is that our assailants claim to act on behalf of the government of the Muggle nation.'
Harry paused to let the hissing die down.
'Our course of action is therefore clear.' He looked around him. 'War.'
That one word rang around the chamber.
Slowly, King Edmund nodded his head, 'Agreed.'
His proclamation of assent was echoed by the other kings. One of them, a young man who looked particularly grief-stricken, simply nodded. Hatred and anger shone in his eyes as he glared at the captives through the mirror. Daphne, on the other hand, had yet to stop trying to kill the murderer of her son with a glare.
Harry, meanwhile, was addressing the room in formal tones. 'As decreed, the Empire is in a state of war. What is the condition of our troops?'
'Five hundred thousand of our Automations are ready, sir,' an old man replied, getting to his feet stiffly, and showing his military background by the stiff way he held himself. From the looks of suppressed amusement coming from his fellows, it was evident that this was a quirk the man displayed. 'The remaining five hundred thousand should be ready by tomorrow evening at the most.'
'You have till afternoon.'
'Yes, sir,' the man said with a crisp salute. Harry nodded.
'Aside from that, we have over two hundred thousand soldiers battle-ready.'
'Good,' Harry replied. 'Give no quarter. I want every single non magical human in that Merlin-forsaken country eradicated. It is only polite, after all, considering that they did try something like that with us just now.'
Unable to do anything, Hermione and her fellows could only watch the repercussions of her failed mission unfold. They had failed. Not only was Harry not a Horcrux (not that it mattered in the end) but they had failed in crippling the Empire. The end result was a very much alive and very pissed off Emperor sitting in front of her with undeniable proof about the identity of his attackers. The loss of his son only served to piss him off more.
'Begging Your Imperial Majesty's pardon, but what exactly are these "Automations"?' The young king that Hermione had identified as the late James' son spoke up.
Harry smiled briefly at his grandson. 'I think Lord Desmond would like to do the honours here. His department did develop these after all.'
A fussy looking man got up and strode to the centre of the room. 'To those who aren't familiar with the Automations,' he said to the room in general in a wheezy voice. 'The Automations are something developed many years ago on the back of the machine gun constructs that were used extensively during the last stages of the Great War of Formation. This is what was made.'
With a wave of a hand, the surface of a large floor to ceiling mirror rippled to show a monstrous image.
Coming in at seven feet, it looked like an armoured human holding a rifle. However the similarities ended there. The head was a grinning metallic skull with glowing green eyes.
'These were then mass-produced to act as a security measure should our enemies decide to take up arms against us. Their batteries are self-recharging and made of an alloy of Mithril and gold and have a limited intelligence. The guns also have a similar self-recharging battery pack and can fire bolts of explosive hexes continuously for an hour. The body is made of an alloy of Mithril and titanium.'
Abruptly stopping his speech, the man retook his seat, inadvertently leaving a moment's silence in the room.
Harry was quickest to recover. 'Like Lord Desmond said, these things were manufactured in case our enemies decided to attack. They were, in fact, slated for decommissioning in five months as an act of good faith in lieu of the peace talks that we were going to initiate with the Muggle nation upon the hundredth anniversary of the Treaty of Camelot. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, these Automations are now going to be pressed into active duty as our shock troops.'
'Lord Desmond and Field Marshal John Hodgkin, start preparations for war. I want to be able to make landfall by tomorrow at the latest.' Harry said grimly. 'Use our transportation satellites to send the army directly into enemy heartland. That will be able to give us the benefit of surprise.'
'Sir, what of the collateral?' one of the men spoke up hesitatingly.
'What of it?' The Emperor replied indifferently. 'I do recall saying not to give any quarter. That land is to be wiped clean of every single Muggle. They will pay for this affront! After all, when they signed that peace treaty, they agreed to a ceasefire with the understanding that if they were to initiate an attack against us, they will have a total war on their hands with no quarter given. I am merely following the conditions the Imperial Council has laid down. Do you have a problem with the conditions you, or to be more specific, your predecessor introduced, my lord?' Harry pierced the man with a glare that said that the man better not have any problems with it if he knew what was good for him.
'Ah,' the man stated uncomfortably. 'No sir … My apologies.'
'Good, then it is decided. Now, onto another pressing issue, namely the existence of our … guests,' Harry looked around him. 'I need not say how embarrassing this incident is to our Imperial Home Department. That a bunch of Muggles not only managed to enter the country but commit regicide by killing a sovereign, attempt the murder of one of the princes, initiate an attack on our person, and nearly annihilate millions of magical citizens is unconscionable. Were it not for the steps taken years beforehand, we would not be here talking.' Harry looked at one particular man. 'Lord Dalhousie, I want answers. Figure out how it is that these people entered undetected. To start you off, I have a lovely little file here that I complied after interrogating one of the intruders. He was not only implicit in the attack last night, but one of the main architects of the theft of two priceless artefacts belonging to the Four Founders of Hogwarts as well as the leader of a sleeper cell comprising of Muggle-loving witches and wizards who have come to our shores. You have a month; either find those answers or find another job.'
Just then, the feed was cut off, the mirror showing the shocked expressions on the captives' faces.
The walls then turned opaque, leaving the inhabitants to ponder their fate in renewed solitude.
An interminable amount of time later, an opening appeared in the wall again. Guards then marched right in and seizing their captives, marched them out.
They were unceremoniously thrown into the throne room. This time, Harry was the sole occupant.
'Harry,' Hermione immediately began demanding in a pleading voice. 'You can't do this! Tyranny isn't right! Denying people their freedoms –'
'Oh shut up, Granger,' Harry said with an impatient voice. 'If you must know, regular administration is handled by ministers who are democratically elected. If intervention is required, then that is the job of a viceroy. If that fails, one of the kings steps in. I only step in if all else fails, which has only been once in the past century. So don't go about lecturing me on things you do not know.'
There was a moment's silence. Then, 'What are those satellites that you were speaking of?' Hermione finally said, unable to handle her curiosity.
Harry smirked. 'I see you paid attention to this morning's entertainment. And of all the questions, you come up with that? Very well; satellites are manmade objects that orbit the earth, just like the old Muggle satellites. Only, we can launch ours through magic. If you must know, it was due to the recently invented featherlight charm that this is possible. That spell can negate the effects of earth's gravitational pull without having an effect on mass. Once applied, it is a matter of simplicity launching anything.
'Of course, this led to more research, innovation and discoveries. I won't bore you with the details, but in the end we can transmit magic from one place to another via these satellites. That makes intercontinental mass apparition, Floo travel, mirror communication and Portkeys possible. We have quite a few satellites in orbit dedicated to each function.
'There is a downside to this, however,' Harry said with an insincere smile. 'When a large group of people Apparate or Portkey using those satellites, the amount of energy let out when they reach their destination is quite … devastatingly huge. That was why we have large ports constructed for such a purpose, because that much of energy let out in a populated area such as a city can be a bit … detrimental to people and property.' He sighed. 'Naturally, the military had to find a way to harness that into a weapon. So now we have a few satellites up in orbit that do nothing but send out lances of destructive magic into the earth.'
'Imagine … a sudden explosion right in the middle of a city followed by legions of those,' he waved at the same floor-to-ceiling mirror, which immediately showed the horrifying image from before. 'And that isn't even counting the lances of magic that we are going to be unleashing into those cities that aren't lucky enough to play host to these fine automations.' He clapped his hands in front of him. 'Don't you just love magical technology?'
He smiled cruelly. 'I see the look of horrified surprise on your face. Weren't expecting all this, were you?' he snorted. 'Let me guess, you thought we were some backward nation living in the Dark Ages. I would like to say I am surprised, but that would be a lie … this is just typical of you, isn't it, Hermione? You always had a knack for making assumptions and not even thinking of verifying those assumptions.' He sneered.
'Do you know why all of us were here together under one roof?' He finally said after a long moment of silence. 'James had suggested that it was time to start friendly relations with The Alliance. We were making preparations for that. But thanks to you, our schedule has changed.'
Then his expression turned ugly. 'You killed my son, bitch. It's because of you that my son is dead. I never pursued you and that deadbeat husband of yours, even when I could easily catch you. I left you alone. I did not go after your kids either. Your daughter, Rose, remember her? Judging by the look on your son's face, you haven't even told him about his elder sister.' Harry shook his head. 'Anyway, Rose grew up well-adjusted, raised by your brothers-in-law. She is now living quite a happy life in the city with her large family. In fact, I hear that her second daughter just recently gave birth. I could have punished her for your sins, could have held your transgressions against her the same way you did for my sons. But I did not. You, on the other hand…?'
An oppressive feeling began to saturate the air in the room as Harry became angrier and angrier.
'Let me show you how it feels, shall I?' he said softly.
Without warning, Ronald's abdomen burst out, spilling his guts on the floor.
Hermione screamed out loud. She struggled ineffectually against her bindings as she watched her son slowly slump forwards in his own blood, gore and bodily fluids. The only reason he had not fully collapsed was because his knees were magically fixed to the floor.
Harry crouched over the dying man. 'As you die, know that your family is going to suffer the same fate.' He whispered harshly, internally loving the anguish his lie was causing the turncoat. 'I hate traitors.'
'Take her to the dungeons.' Harry said to the guards. 'Put the body of this filth with her. Let her and her fellow Category II restricted individuals watch the destruction of her beloved Muggle nation before they are executed.'
President Kalani Paŭlo of the Alliance of the Free Peoples smiled graciously as yet another toast went up in his name.
It was barely two days since the news about the successful crippling of the Empire had been disseminated. The monitors of the Empire had left quite hurriedly since, further indicating success.
As Dumbledore said, this was the beginning of a new age. Finally, those freaks would be put in their place and normal people could get on with their lives. Of course, there was a lot of planning to be done for this to happen, and the possibility that neither he nor his heirs would see full victory was strong, but it was a start.
Quietly excusing himself, he went outside to get some fresh air.
It was a beautiful night. The stars were twinkling in their millions in the clear sky. Down below, he could see the lights of the capital twinkling merrily.
Sighing once more, he looked up to the sky.
He did not notice one of the myriad stars suddenly move in an anomalous fashion.
But he did notice when that star started to brighten.
'What the –?'
Suddenly a blue beam of energy lanced down from the heavens right into the centre of the city below. This was shortly followed by an explosion so bright that it momentarily turned night into day, and so loud that he could feel the tremors all the way from where he was standing.
It was enough to get the entire party out of the house and join him.
'What the hell was that?' one of the people said. Someone aimed the large pair of astronomical binoculars installed there at the now darkened city. The explosion had not only decimated the city centre, but caused a massive blackout in the rest of the city. Exclamations of surprise could be heard from the few denizens within the house behind when it was suddenly bathed in darkness, the lights having failed.
'Sir, you should see this,' the man said in a trembling voice as he handed the President the telescopic device.
What the President saw took his breath away.
The only reason he could see the city centre was because of a ring of fire caused by the explosion. Without that fire, he doubted he would be able to see a contingent of what only could be robots. Their grinning skull-like heads were as terrifying as their emerald green eyes. In their hands, they held very futuristic looking guns.
Suddenly they started moving. Their gait was surprisingly agile and fluid for machines, or at least the machines he had seen in the films (he was an antique film enthusiast and was addicted to the science fiction genre of the late twentieth century).
They opened fire the minute they reached the periphery of the impact site where they saw their first human.
Green flashes of light erupted from their guns, burning through living tissue and concrete as if it was paper.
Meanwhile, one of the party guests had bought another pair of binoculars. The light caused by the ongoing destruction allowed him to see more.
'Sir, there are people at the back.'
The President trained his field glasses there. Sure enough, there were humans at the back standing still.
Suddenly, a pair of leathery bat-like wings sprouted from the back of two of those individuals as a third grew dark fur while the fourth person's body started elongating. They all seemed to be changing into animals.
Soon enough, the President did not need his binoculars. He could see the dragons that replaced two of those people easily. The fire they belched out into the air was incredibly noticeable in the darkness. A quick glance through the binoculars showed a massive serpent and a humongous leopard-like creature illuminated by the dragon fire.
'We are under attack!' The President finally said in shock.
'Astute observation, Muggle,'
As one, they all turned around to see five armoured figures floating in the air above them.
The one in the centre was clearly a leader of some sort, his rank denoted by the black cloak fluttering behind him. As the figures descended, light from the candles within the house was caught by the golden lines in the supposed leader's otherwise black armour.
The faceless helmet flowed away from the leader's face, revealing an aristocratic face and eyes that were glowing in the same shade of green as the machines below.
'Hello, Mr President,' the man said mockingly. 'Let me introduce myself. I am Harry, the first Emperor of the Wizarding Empire. The man whose family and people you tried and failed to exterminate two days back. I am also the same Emperor your stooges tried and failed to kill.'
He slowly unsheathed a jewel encrusted sword. 'As per the terms of our agreement, since you broke the treaty, we give you total war. No quarter …'
With a cry, security guards unleashed fire on the five. Unfortunately, the bullets pinged off the armour, not even making a dent.
With sudden speed, the four men flanking the Emperor rushed off, making short work of the security team. Their job done, they dashed off inside the house. Screams could be heard from inside amongst the smashing of furniture. One of the bedroom windows was suddenly spattered in blood, adding further horror to the tableau.
The Emperor, meanwhile, just looked towards the house. Shortly, the three snipers that were placed in the house and one of the trees in the property landed at their feet, bereft of their guns.
With three slashes of his sword, the Emperor decapitated the Muggles. Without even moving, he slashed the throats of the remaining guests that were accompanying the President.
Soon enough, President Kalani Paŭlo of the Alliance of the Free Peoples was the only person standing in the garden as his security detail and guests slowly bled out onto the grass.
'Please,' he pleaded, sinking to his knees.
'Are you asking for mercy?' Harry asked derisively. He barked out a laugh. 'We had left you and yours alone, Muggle, till you attacked us. We even were about to change the Treaty of Camelot in a few months' time which would lift the many restrictions placed on you.'
He looked at the man. 'We have a saying in the Empire: "Never tickle a sleeping dragon" … now you die for your foolish actions.'
That was the last words President Kalani Paŭlo of the Alliance of the Free Peoples heard before he was gored with the sword.
Harry sat at his study, watching the sun rise.
He sighed. While he had anticipated this, the fact that he had managed to outlive one of his sons filled him with sadness and grief.
He and Daphne had not aged at all over the past century. They had managed to outlive Ginny and Gabrielle, who, like their children, had aged visibly. His other two wives, like his oldest son, had been taken away before their time. Ginny had died due to unforeseen complications in childbirth. At least they had managed to save the baby. Gabrielle had taken the loss far too personally and had just … wasted away.
Harry had discovered long back ago that being Master of Death did not mean immortality. It only meant that on the day they tired of life on the mortal plane, he and Daphne could move on.
But that day was far away in the future.
On that thought, he picked up the report in front of him. Magical computers had long been invented and had fully replaced parchment. While they could mimic the feel of parchment, he still missed the real stuff.
But at that moment, he did not care about all of that. The contents of the report within the computer more than held his attention and interest.
It had started on the back of the Featherlight Charm that made it possible for satellites to be launched into space and had mushroomed from there.
Sixty years back, they had managed to land a wizard on the moon. Ten years later, they had sent probes towards Mars. It took nearly a year for that first expedition to reach the planet. A lot of experimentation with magic later, the time it took the next probe to land was shortened by half.
All that led to this moment now. Harry looked at the picture of the spaceship. This would be the first manned mission to Mars. And The Emperor and Empress of Earth (for that is what he would be by the time the craft left) would be on board.
The goal of this historical mission: applying climate control charms and wards on a grander, planetary scale.
In essence, they were going to attempt terraforming Mars.
It was times like this that Harry was happy that he had engineered the creation of the Empire. True, many had died, and their deaths did weigh on his conscience. However, one look at what had happened so far more than assuaged any guilt he felt.
Harry breathed in deeply. True, this was no utopia. Corruption, the bane of every government, and a necessary evil, was there, as was unemployment, crime and poverty. But those factors were markedly reduced compared to what was around in the Muggle Age. Besides, there was nothing that could be done about it. He still remembered the article published a few decades back called the Timken-Cooper Article. In a nutshell, the paper had found that corruption was actually essential to the working of any government. There was no way to eliminate it fully, it could only be contained. The same held true for crime, unemployment and poverty.
The air was so much fresher, water bodies were free of contamination and the night time skies were clear, a far cry from the days of pollution that marked the era of Muggle rule. Many formerly endangered species were now thriving as the environment fully healed. Magic truly was in the air ... And in the water and land as well.
And now … now, they were going for the stars…
When I started this story nearly four years ago (damn, I cannot believe that it was that long!) I had no experience in writing (other than the odd English essay).
Then I read Dethryl's work which inspired me for "Be Careful What You Wish For". That was initially going to be it for me, and then …
Then I visualised the ending, which you see in chapters 51 and 52.
One of my favourite authors, Jeffery Archer, once said that the key to a good story (or any story) is having an ending. The beginning, while important, isn't as crucial as the ending. Once you have that, all you have to do is connect the beginning to this end. Whatever else happens, happens, and is part of the story.
So yeah; I knew how it was going to end all those years ago. I did not anticipate quite a few things in and about the story…
…A good example would be the number of chapters…
So to all you future writers out there who have an idea for a story … a little bit of advice: start from the end. This isn't just from me, but from one of the greatest authors of the time. And since he has managed to write quite a few books, most of which have become number 1 bestsellers in the world ... I think he knows what he is talking about!
Anyway, a bit of thanks to:
1. Dethryl for his They Shook Hands series which started me on this story. I look forward to the day they are fully complete.
2. Miss Lalla, for those times she was there to proofread my chapters
2. Opopanax, for being my sounding board
3. Firephoenix for being another sounding board and beta.
4. Scott Marshall for sitting down and explaining the intricacies of economics to a guy who has done biology
And if anyone is interested, I used the following links to help my story along:
www. britroyals .com: this website has a nice detailed history of all the kings and queens of Britain all the way from 700 AD. It also includes a nice little summary about those kings, and how they are related to the current queen.
www. jobev title. Html: this is a document that explains all about the intricacies of the titles used in British aristocracy. Is someone Lord James or Lord Potter? Is an earl more important than a viscount? Why is the last name of a noble different from his place name? … What is a place name? … All of these questions can be answered in this site.
You just have to get over the fact that the author of the article is a regency romance novelist … *ahem*
There is a lovely national geographic documentary that speculates on a world without oil. Check it out. It will give you nightmares. And you might also decide to use your car less and conserve electricity (doing something for the planet … go me!)
Anyway, this is it for me and Rise of the Wizards. Thank you all for reading, reviewing, putting it on your favourites list, and most importantly (to those who have been with it from the beginning) sticking with it for all these years. You guys have been great.
I do have some other ideas … let's see what happens to them!