Greater Than, Lesser Be
Summary: Harry and several others he knew ingested love potions; great—he could deal with that. But knowing that he found this out before and the people he trusted erased his memory and sent him back in time to relive his worst nightmare, again and again? Not this time if Harry Potter had anything to say about it!
Andy Bellefleur: In my book, if no one thinks we're heroes, it don't count.
Jason Stackhouse: Of course it counts! It's like if a tree falls in the woods; it's still a tree, ain't it? The whole point in being a hero is to do something greater than yourself. It'd be easy to do it for the glory or the girls, but we're bigger men than that, right?
- "Beyond Here Lies Nothing", True Blood, 2009
"Bollocks," muttered Harry, shaking loose mud off his dragonhide boot. He had just stepped into a pool of mud, the earth turned after the torrential rainstorm the previous night. And in Wales, where the sun rarely ever shone, mud puddles in the Brecon Beacons was fairly normal.
Harry Potter was twenty-seven years old. He had survived several murderous attempts on his life; surviving those, and later Voldemort's final attack on him a decade past, had led to his current predicament. Upon Voldemort's demise, Harry followed the path set out before him (rather, manipulated him into), and joined the Auror forces. He rose steadily in rank until he was second in department at the DMLE, but then something miraculous happened.
He was poached.
A private Saudi firm that undertook high-profile cases poached Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived (twice), the Defeater of Voldemort. In translation: Harry was a hired contractor. In layman's terms, beyond the euphemism, Harry Potter was a paid assassin to do other people's dirty jobs.
And strangely Harry kind of… liked it. He didn't take orders from Kingsley Shacklebolt; he didn't report to the Minister of Magic in Britain who would give him a dressing down about damaging his reputation and that of Britain. In fact, the only dressing-down he ever received was from his mother-in-law, Molly Weasley.
Molly Weasley, just thinking the woman's name had Harry clenching his jaws in anger.
Harry had been a good little boy. He followed his orders and let Dumbledore's manipulations continue once he had died. He courted Ginny; he married Ginny; they had children. Ron and Hermione dated, on and off, before finally marrying; all was well.
His employer—a man that Harry only had contact with about once or twice a year, depending on his target and hit—had left him a rather large file after he completed his most recent job in Malta. The file contained information about Dumbledore's manipulations, dating back from before Harry's initial death when he was seventeen. Most of it was things he had already guessed: knowing about the prophecy but doing nothing, the Horcruxes and waiting for Harry to 'deliver' them and be killed by Voldemort… nothing new on that front. He may not like it, but he understood it was war and he was a part of it. He sure as hell didn't forgive the dead Headmaster for it, though.
But the new information… that was a real eye-opener. Hermione once told him that Molly Weasley had shared information at Hogwarts with her and Ginny about how she used a love potion—Harry didn't think anything of it at the time; everyone did stupid things as kids, didn't they? —But then there was the file. And all the incriminating evidence in it.
Love potions, confundus charms, power binding, amulets—on him, on Hermione, on other unsuspecting people within the Order, the Defence Association. Harry felt his blood boil as his rage reached epic heights. But what was he going to do with the information, he wondered?
He didn't go to Hermione—despite her rather unfortunate and unhappy marriage, it would devastate her even more than her parents' refusal after they regained their memories in Australia. Luna—her mind was warped and he wasn't sure how she would handle the news of the attempts. Thank Merlin she was weird enough that nothing stuck to her. But Neville, and Dean, and Seamus, and Parvati and Lavender, and Cho and Dennis and Justin and Hannah and Susan…
Nearly every single one of the DA's names were listed. So were Tonks's, Remus's, and Hestia Jones's names.
Then his employer contacted him again, about a new job. Harry was in half a mind to turn him down—he couldn't deal with the painstaking application of months of research and reconnaissance required for his hit when he had this shit to deal with… but his employer insisted. So Harry went, and listened, and gleefully accepted.
His new target was not a kill, but rather an interrogation: find and detain one Missus Molly Weasley. If possible, Ginevra Weasley-Potter as well.
Easy-peasey, lemon-squeezy, thought Harry. His mother-in-law wouldn't hesitate to come over and prod and poke into his and Ginny's business about giving her grandbabies, and Ginny wouldn't see anything strange in inviting just her mother over for a meal.
Or, so Harry thought. Because it did go well, until the interrogation. Molly, well, she answered affirmative to everything, under Dumbledore's orders. But Ginny—she was always a snake in the grass. She slipped past Harry's defences and his magic, and ran out the back door, leaving Harry to chase after her.
So there he was, chasing his soon-to-be-ex-wife across the Brecon Beacons, muddy and more than a little annoyed as she tried to reach the end of their anti-Apparition wards before he caught up with her.
Thank Merlin he was wearing his hitgear, having just come back from a meeting with his employer. He caught up with the b-witch just in time, hitting her across the middle in a rugby tackle and bringing her down painfully to the unforgiving Welsh landscape.
"Nice try, my lovely," chuckled Harry darkly. "But not tonight, love. We're going to have a little chat, you and me."
"Fat fucking chance, Potter!" spat the redhead, writhing and twisting in her husband's grasp as the man tried to keep a hold of the squirming woman, getting soaked and caked in slippery mud in the process.
He swore and cursed as one of Ginny's hands and then legs came free; they scrambled around a bit, but then she had her wand in her hand, pointed at him, inches from his face and he was glaring murderously at his wife.
"Don't make me do it," she warned, hand steady. "Because I will."
"So why did you do it, why did you go along with it, Gin?" asked Harry, desperately seeking the answer to her treachery.
The young redhead laughed. "Why wouldn't I, Harry? The chance to marry the Boy-Who-Lived, to see all my dreams come into existence? The prestige, the money, the honour? Pick one. They're all right, and they're all wrong reasons."
"I don't understand," murmured Harry, dazed and confused.
"It doesn't matter, Harry," sighed Ginny, barely glancing away for a moment—she knew her husband's talents and skills well enough to never waver or take her eyes off him. "In the end, what matters was that you did what you were supposed to do: kill the villain, marry your best friends' little sister, save the world, live your life. It was what everyone wanted for you."
"It wasn't the life I wanted!" Harry was suddenly angry. He began shouting at his wife, in her face as he let his feelings go on the matter. "I never wanted to be the Boy-Who-Lived, I never wanted to save the world or have people look up to me, or lead them into battle! I never asked for it in the first place!"
"Too bad," snorted Ginny, a scowl on her pretty face, "Because you got it. And you'll deal with it just like you've dealt with everything else. You knew what Dumbledore did to you, and yet you're still here, aren't you? You'll go along with this like you went along with everything else—never questioning, never asking why."
Blinded by fury, Harry replied. "Not anymore," he growled out.
"Yes, you will. Again, and again, and again," she whispered.
"Did you think this was the first time you learnt of this?" here, Ginny mockingly laughed in his face. "Dumbledore had other plans in mind Harry—and you've done this before and you've never changed."
"Oh, God," breathed Harry, as the implications flooded to him suddenly, causing him to revert to his Muggle upbringing. It was unlikely that the manipulations that shaped so many lives would go unnoticed, and eventually some kind soul, or one with their own ulterior motive, would contact Harry and let him know what they've discovered. Harry, being quick to anger, would go after those responsible—every time.
And again, and again, and again, said Ginny.
She knew he had done this before. When, who knew? But he'd gone after her, or Molly, or Dumbledore with his suspicions and they stopped him. By removing his memory of the event—no—his contact would get back in touch with him and do it again, repeating the cycle. They did something else.
Then, he remembered Dumbledore's rather blasé disregard of time travel in his third year.
"You didn't!" Harry gapped, letting his wife go as he scrambled to his feet.
"I never did, no," she confirmed, "but Dumbledore did, twice. Once it was Snape, I think, when you sorted into Slytherin. Last time it was mum. But I knew what to do, if it ever came to this."
Harry's wand pointed at his wife in an instant; he wouldn't let her send him back in time again, letting fate follow the same pre-set pattern that they developed for him.
"I'd rather die," swore Harry, his green eyes glittering in the dark.
"That can be arranged instead, sweetie," agreed Ginny, a deadly glint in her own eyes. "We're happy; we won. You don't need to exist anymore, Harry. You've done your purpose."
Harry took a deep breath in through his nose and exhaled loudly.
Ginny continued, "But no one stopped you before by death, even though rumours are that the last time you confronted Dumbledore you were in your sixties and we were at peace for ages… so I suppose I'm obliged by the same force that compelled them."
Her eyes were not sorrowful as she levelled her wand. A brisk, November wind caught her loose, red hair, and her mouth settled into a firm line.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I'll see you on the other side, my love," she finished with a slight smirk.
Dispirited, Harry watched in horror as she began to wave her wand, a strange accent and words emerging from her mouth as her wandtip lit up and began to sketch eerie-looking symbols in the air between them.
Harry was still within his wards—he couldn't escape via Apparation or Port-Key. Instead, he put his limited runes knowledge to the test and began his earnest to combat whatever Ginny was doing. He began to sweat as the air around him began to heat up, the air thrumming and the images of his wife and the barren Welsh landscape beginning to waver.
And just as the last syllable of Ginny's spell fell from her lips, Harry frantically sketched one last symbol, swallowed heavily and vanished in a brilliant flash of light. The light startled three nearby cows, and the wave of energy that the flash emitted knocked Ginny off her feet.
When she opened her eyes, and sat up, she looked at where Harry last stood. If all went to plan, and she did the spell correctly, then there would be a dead twenty-seven year old Harry Potter where she last left him.
"Oh, bugger," she muttered, instead.
All that remained of Harry was his pair of mud-cased dragonhide boots. She mucked up the spell royally, and who knew what was going to happen because of it? She sighed. At least she could file a missing person's report with the Ministry in the morning. Her world might—just might—be safe from Harry's vindictive nature, but she wasn't so sure of the place where she sent him.
Oh well, she thought, it wasn't her problem anymore.
And with that, she Apparated back to her home that she shared with Harry to tell her mother the news that she would be inheriting the Potter-Black estate. Some good came out of the nasty little situation, at least.
Brecon Beacons. November, 1983: 11:45pm.
Harry had a serious headache and spots were flashing before his eyes, disorienting him. He muttered and cursed Ginny Weasley under his breath, calling her all manners of names as he blinked the spots away and rubbed a callous hand against his left temple.
And then blinked in surprise as the spots disappeared.
He was in the same bloody place as he had been while arguing with Ginny and fighting for his life and memories.
He nervously patted himself down, doing a mental check: head, still there, nothing bleeding; chest, the same, and still wearing his hitgear black vest of dragonhide and Kevlar underneath; trousers, same material and not torn; belt, still on tight with his Holly and Phoenix-feather wand, plus the Elder wand, and several interesting Weasley Wheezes that he normally took on hits. A quick feel to his back located his Beretta, and the extra ammunition he carried in a pouch off to the belt's side.
Yet… his feet were decidedly cold.
Harry looked down and nearly burst out laughing. He was standing in a mud puddle! He lifted one foot, noticing idly that he had somewhere lost his boots along the way. His big toe was sticking out of his right foot's black Primark sock.
Well then, he thought, isn't this interesting? Whatever he had done had counteracted something Ginny had done, but whether it moved him forward or backwards in time was another question altogether—and the knowledge of when he was would be immediately required.
With a sigh, Harry grimaced and rolled his shoulders. One way to find out when he was, was to Apparate to Diagon Alley. If he could, then he was in a time before his twenty-first birthday, when he purchased the plot of land and moved into his Welsh home.
Harry appeared in Diagon without incidents, settling on a grim smile as he stepped out of the shadows near the Three Broomsticks, bootless. No wizard would think that strange, the eccentric lot of sheep that they are. He began to make his way to Gringott's.
Ah, the goblins. Another one of life's necessary evils. Fucking bastards, thought Harry, recalling Griphook's betrayal. He couldn't have that happen again. How to handle this, how to handle it?
Well, he always had an emergency stash of Galleons on him somewhere, and perhaps after some negotiations he could persuade the beasts to look the other way?
Upon entering Gringott's, the first thing he noticed was the lack of hostility against him. Ever since he, Ron and Hermione had broken into the famed bank, the goblins were always one spear away from Harry shish kabob.
"How may we service you tonight, wizard?" the goblin greeted Harry jovially as he approached the lone teller, eyeing it strangely.
"I wish to withdraw money from my account," answered Harry, almost hesitantly.
"Does the wizard have his Gringott's key?" continued the goblin, now eyeing Harry strangely.
Goodness, didn't he recognise the saviour of the wizarding world? Harry never considered himself egotistical, but surely even the goblin knew who he was, after Voldemort's defeat and his own bank heist?
"Um," began Harry, fishing around his pockets for his key. "It's here somewhere… somewhere… aha!"
Presenting the little golden key to the teller, the goblin examined it, glanced at the number, and then glanced again, startled. He raised his black beedy eyes at the man in front of him, and inquired, "Mr. Potter, sir?" in the politest tones he'd ever used.
"Yes?" answered Harry, just as confused.
"Could you please explain to Gringott's as to why you are a young man and not the three-year-old you should be?" the teller finished, an imperial brow arched.
Stumped, Harry felt the world around him shatter. Three-year-old? Good God, had Ginny mucked up so badly with him and his rather inadequate runes that she had sent a fully-grown Harry Potter into the past where his three-year-old self still resided at the abused Dursley's?
That certainly changed things. That changed things a lot. Harry was a fully grown wizard—he also possessed all three Deathly Hallows and used them quite often in his line of duty. He had a good amount of money on him, and had the resources and skills available to remove mini-Harry-him from the Dursley's… but… Hermione's voice of never letting yourself see you in time travel could mean bad things for Harry if the two were to meet—as in, world go boom.
Not good. What was his second option?
Take the money and do something about the information he learnt. Somehow, he managed to keep his memories. He knew every name on the list who were abused and manipulated by Dumbledore over the years; he knew where the Horcruxes were, what the prophecy was. He knew what stocks would rise and which would fall—hell, he knew that the Chudley Cannons would finally win their first game against Puddlemere United in the spring of 2001.
But how could he manage to find the Horcruxes, aid mini-Harry-him in the quest against Voldemort, sneak him out from under Dumbledore's nose, and not have the world go boom at their first meeting?
The twenty-seven year old was still pondering this, blithely ignoring the goblin and his growing suspicious look. Finally, the young wizard snapped his fingers and made his decision.
"Goblin, I require access to my vault. As you can see, something rather strange happened to me and I am now… much older than I ought to be. I will need the monetary resources of my vault to learn to reverse its effects."
If there was ever a human phrase that the goblin acquired over the years, it was bullshit. He smelled a rat and a con in a second, and wasn't quite sure how to proceed. In the end, he revealed his own suspicion on the wizard.
Harry didn't think the plan would work, so haggling began. Yes, he was Harry Potter, but a different one (he certainly wasn't going to trust the goblins with all his knowledge, but a minimal amount, thank you very much!); no, he wasn't trying to swindle the young Harry Potter out of his inheritance.
Finally, the lone goblin agreed to let Harry see his vault, but was only allowed to remove a small amount—something barely noticeable and explained away by poor management of a lowly goblin who would be executed once the details were noticed (but not him, oh no sir).
Harry left Gringott's with the date (November 6, 1983), all his body parts, but a dispiriting lack of Galleons that he had transferred into British notes. For all efforts, Harry pooled the majority of his Galleons from his secret stash to the miniscule amount that the goblin had kindly allowed him to take from his own vault, to have the combined amount of £66,000.
While quite a lot for a country in a recession and stuck stretching their piggy banks, Harry wasn't quite sure what sixty-six thousand could buy him. Not for what he had planned. No, he was going to need someone with brains that he could trust to manipulate the accounts that he'd be opening at Lloyd's in the morning, and even more so, he was going to need someone who could play the stocks using Arithmacy like a cheater could count cards at Blackjack.
In fact, Harry had many things on his plate, unfortunately, and he needed a good, quiet place to get them sorted. So he went to the Leaky, got a room, and pulled out the file that his employer had given him. There were several loose-leaf pieces of A4 at the back, so he used those as his start.
He quickly got used to using a quill, found in one of the room's drawers, and dipped it in the inkpot he also found. Then, he began his list:
1. Start his company to jump-start his plan. (Harry would go back and add details to this later)
2. Hire a competent accountant of some sort that knows about the magical world.
3. Break Sirius out of Azkaban? (Harry then scratched this out)
4. Find the Horcruxes
5. Train Harry, little-me
6. Invest my money
He would have added more, but he began to realise his plans were half-assed and half-formed. Unsure of how to proceed, Harry realised something.
He needed someone on the inside who would trust him. But who? It would be a big risk, either way… and then answer came to him: with a wizard's oath, Harry would approach Remus Lupin. He only prayed that Remus wasn't still as fanatically loyal to Dumbledore now with his friends' deaths and incarceration only a few years old than he was a decade later when he began to work at Hogwarts.
Fate would decide. Otherwise, thought Harry grimly, he was going to back to his old job and he might have to acquire a new target.
It took him near a week, but he finally found Remus Lupin in a small, run-down cottage in rural Cornwall. The full moon had been several nights ago, so Harry was going in under the impression that Remus would be too exhausted to fully fight back.
In between following leads about the elusive werewolf, Harry also multitasked and found an abandoned warehouse in London's seedier neighbourhoods that would ultimately suit his purposes—or at least, one of the numerous purposes his company was going to have.
Also hoping to court favours in the non-magical government, Harry registered his company. In the end, there would be no reason to use the Fidelius or hide his company from either non-magical, or Voldemort or Dumbledore's eyes. Not if what he was planning would work.
With the bulk of his sixty-grand gone, Harry was in a bind and needed Remus on his side. He needed his brains and creativity—and if Harry was honest too, his contacts. Remus knew a lot of people, despite never really holding a job down, and since Harry knew of his condition he wasn't going to care if the man took a few days off around the full moon each month.
Deciding against a glamour or disguise, Harry approached the cottage door in his usual hitgear (and new boots), as himself: twenty-seven year old Harry Potter, black hair cut close to his head in spikes now, and with the vibrant emerald eyes of his mother. Unforgettable.
Remus answered on the second knock—looked at Harry, and then promptly slammed the door in his face.
Harry frowned. He was more used to this behaviour from Petunia. "Remus? Remus, open the damn door!"
A stupefy flew out from the side window in response, nearly hitting Harry on the main porch.
"Really?" he rhetorically asked. "Seriously, Remus, open the door!"
"And let you Death Eater scum take me? I don't think so!" came the growled response from the other side of the door. Harry wisely dove out of the way as several kitchen knives penetrated and burst through the thin wood, disappearing into the nearby foliage.
"Oh, for Christ's sake, Remus, I am not a Death Eater!" retorted Harry angrily, bringing the Elder wand up and slashing briskly at the front door, which exploded inwards.
With the ease and experience of a child soldier, Harry burst into Remus's cottage and immediately engaged the man in battle. He didn't use force; he didn't want to permanently hurt the werewolf, but the man wasn't exactly playing nice either.
After several cuts on his face and the back of his hands, Harry had enough and used the Elder wand's powers to yank Remus's wand from him, and the bind the man to the nearby sofa seat.
Remus glared at Harry, snarling under his breath as the man inched closer to one of his father's old friends—who, as Harry realised and then stopped suddenly, was younger than him.
"Oh fuck," muttered Harry, as he raised his right hand with his wand in it, to scratch to his head. The wand rubbed against his black hair as Harry pondered how to handle the new development. He hadn't expected that he would be older than his parents' friends, but… Lily and James Potter had Harry at 20, in 1980. In 1983, Remus, Sirius and Peter would only be twenty-three or twenty-four years old… nearly four years younger than Harry currently was!
At the sight of the supposed Death Eater confused and frustrated, Remus took an experimental sniff and was floored—the scent of wood, ash and a unique Potter scent overwhelmed the still hypersensitive werewolf quirks, causing Remus's inner wolf to howl.
"James?" whispered Remus, pale now.
Harry's eyes darted back to the werewolf, and visibly deflated. "Sorry, no."
"But… how?" now Remus was looking at the man up and down, noting every nuisance that Harry had, and comparing him to James Potter. "You look like…"
Harry found the strength to muster up a grin. "As everyone says," he offered. "If I release you from the bind, will you promise not to attack me?"
Reluctantly, Remus nodded. The incantation from Harry's wand released the werewolf from his bind, and as he slowly stretched and rotated his hands, Remus noticed the little changes that separated the man from James Potter.
Shorter. Thinner. Held himself differently. Smelt a bit differently, too, now that Remus was paying attention—and the real kicker that sucked the air from his lungs: the man's green eyes.
It clicked, far quicker than Harry had expected.
"Harry?" gapped Remus.
"Hiya, Moony," replied Harry, a small smile stretching his lips. "I think we should sit down and have a little chat. What do you think?"
"This had better be good," growled Remus, considering the implications that his supposed three-year-old practically adopted packmate and son had inadvertently created.
Harry nodded. "Oh, trust me—it is."
London. December, 1983.
Harry never had to question Remus's loyalty. Years upon years of being removed from his friends and 'pack' left the man vulnerable to outside influences, but with Harry making contact with the remaining Marauder, Remus was able to suppress outside influence and easily consider what Harry told him of his journey to the past, as well as show him the file that his employer had delivered to Harry before that fateful evening in Wales.
After reading the file, Remus was ready to let Moony out to have some fun, but Harry sat him down and explained what he wanted to do—and while it meant leaving Harry-little-him with the Dursley's for the time being, and letting Sirius remain in Azkaban, it might possibly help them win the war in the future.
Remus, although he didn't always like the methods Harry was willing to take to get what he wanted (Dumbledore's "Greater Good" and the adage, "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions," sprang to mind immediately), the werewolf agreed to the rest—and having a steady job with annual income as well as time off during the full moon from an employer who knew what he was, was an added bonus.
The first thing the two wizards did was travel to Harry's warehouse.
The second was to debate the company name. Finally, despite already being registered, Harry changed the temporary name of the company to the new one: Cloak & Dagger.
Thirdly, he and Remus devised a plan to cultivate the little, precious money Harry had left and how to employ loyal workers who would do what Harry was going to ask them to do.
In the end, it was Remus would found a solution to the third problem. And the solution was named Artemis O'Donnell, an incredibly old and decrepit wizard who never left his rather large and intimidating estate in Ireland, who had no children, no mistresses, no issue of any kind and a very strange relationship with old, first edition classics.
Remus knew of him through several old contacts when he was working as an antiquity dealer a year previous, and had delivered several first edition novels to the old wizard. The wizard took a liking to him, and they kept in touch even after Remus was made redundant.
"And how exactly is he going to help us?" questioned Harry sceptically.
"You'll see," answered Remus, settling to explain. Harry remained sceptical, but the werewolf was optimistic. He went to see Artemis on a Wednesday morning and came back Saturday, ecstatic.
"O'Donnell is in. He'll want to meet you, but he thinks your idea if a good one, and is willing to finance us. He also updated his will to make you and Cloak & Dagger the sole inheritor," he explained on his return.
Needless to say, Harry was impressed.
The next day, he and Remus used a Port-Key to Ireland, and then Apparated to O'Donnell's estate. The man, stuck permanently in a levitated chair, greeted them at the front door with a house elf beside him.
"Mr. Potter, I presume?" the man asked in a scratchy, gravely voice, full still of an Irish lit that reminded Harry of Seamus Finnegan.
"Hello, Mr. O'Donnell, sir," greeted Harry, reaching for the stretched and feeble hand of the decrepit wizard.
The two shook hands briefly, and O'Donnell led the two to his library. Once they were settled in rather comfy armchairs, with O'Donnell near the fireplace, the Irishman asked Harry to explain.
"I'd sure Remus has already briefed you on what happened to me in the future," began Harry, questioningly.
"Yes," said O'Donnell, inclining his head.
Harry nodded. "Good—but as he doesn't know yet all of my plan, I might as well share it with the two of you. First, we need to go back to the future.
"The wizarding world didn't change once I defeated Voldemort for good. At all. In fact, I would say it almost fell into blind disregard of the past twenty-five years of guerrilla warfare that we engaged in. Once Voldemort was defeated, I'm sure that a few of us thought that Muggleborns would be given the same opportunities as Purebloods in the Ministry—that there wouldn't be fake trials or Death Eaters buying their way out of Az.
"That didn't happen. One of my supposed best mates, Ron Weasley, ignored the way that Muggleborns lived before Hogwarts—and yet he was courting one of the smartest Muggleborn witches that ever lived. Despite coming from a blood traitor family, where his father worked in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts department in the Ministry, they all considered Muggles to be below them. They didn't understand how they lived, or worked, or got by without magic. A life without magic was inconceivable to them, just like for most Muggleborns life with magic before their Hogwarts letters."
"Where are you going with this, Mr. Potter?" asked O'Donnell, frowning. He was from an old, Pureblood line.
"Could you explain to me, sir, where the Wireless came from?" asked Harry, nodding at the old-fashioned brown box that sat on the fireplace mantle.
O'Donnell turned, stared at the music box, and contemplated. Then, he realised. "Oh, very good, Mr. Potter. Very good."
"What?" asked Remus, glancing back and forth between the three objects.
Harry glanced at Remus. "Did you think the Wireless was a magical device first, Remus?"
"Exactly. Wizards took a non-magical device and changed it, utilising its properties to suit their needs. So why did they stop there? A wireless radio has been around since the turn of the twentieth century in the non-magical world. The TV has been around since about ten years after the radio," explained Harry patiently, reaching into his miniscule non-magical education to present the facts. "Why didn't wizards utilise the wide-reaching expanse of television? Why stop at the radio? Why still use candles when you've already changed and mutated something that ran on electricity to run in a magical environment? Why not push it further?"
"You're talking about… about non-magical technology?" asked Remus, hesitantly.
O'Donnell shook his head. "Only a little, Remus. I think Potter here is talking about something larger. Otherwise he wouldn't need my financial backing on this."
"Pretty much," agreed Harry. "Ideally, I want to bring the wizarding world into the twenty-first century." (He ignored Remus stating that unlike him, they were still living in the twentieth) "Let's capitalise on what the other wizards failed to push forward. And then expand."
"You'll have a good, strong base with the Muggleborns," agreed O'Donnell, cackling. "But you won't win the Purebloods."
Harry shook his head. "I won't need to win the Purebloods," he began cryptically, "And as for the Muggleborns—a census was done in my time in the future, the same year that I disappeared from. How many Muggleborns do you think there are to a Pureblood, or Half-blood?"
Remus shrugged, as did O'Donnell, coughing into his hand.
"The ratio is nearly 6:1," stated Harry. "Hermione figured that out. For every six Muggleborns, or non-magically raised, there is only one magically-raised or Pureblood.
"But let's simplify. In my year alone, the magically raised were Ron Weasley, Parvati and Padma Patil, Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy, Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe, Pansy Parkinson, Theodore Nott, Millicent Bulstrode, Daphne Greengrass, Blaise Zabini, Susan Bones, Zacharias Smith, Ernie MacMillan, Stephen Cornfoot, Su Li, and Morag MacDougal. That's eighteen.
"And for those of use muggle-raised? Myself, Hermione Granger, Lavender Brown, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnegan, Tracey Davis, Hannah Abbott, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Wayne Hopkins, Megan Jones, Terry Boot, Mandy Brocklehurst, Kevin Entwhistle, Anthony Goldstein and Lisa Turpin. That's fifteen."
"And the magical-raised are more than the non-magical raised," stated Remus. "So?"
"Yeah, but some the magical raised are half-bloods. Meaning that they'd know how to hide and exist in the non-magical world. Those are Bulstrode, Cornfoot, Susan Bones, Smith and Li. Change the numbers: thirteen to twenty. Sixty-five percent are muggle-raised or can exist in a non-magical environment."
"That is a good number, but not definite," agreed O'Donnell carefully. "So where are you going with this, Potter?"
"How many are Quidditch fans?"
"Excuse me?" asked O'Donnell, clearly thrown but the new topic of the conversation.
"How many wizards and witches in the United Kingdom are Quidditch fans? Imagine—you don't have the Galleons to see a match. It's your favourite team and they're in the play-offs. You could listen to the match on your Wireless set—but why, when you have a television set instead where you can watch the matches like you're actually there?"
"Are you suggesting that, like the Wireless, the company does the same to a television set?" questioned Remus, almost sceptically.
"Yes," agreed Harry, nodding solemnly. "And after that, to cameras to film the matches; then to computer units, and phones, and expand from there."
"Let's say it could be done," argued Remus, sensibly. "There is still the legal issue of getting around the Ministry of Magic and their 'enchanting' non-magical items."
O'Donnell agreed. "How would you get around that law?"
"The same way the Wireless got around it. The WWN has been around for the same amount of time as the non-magical radio. If they can enchant it and have the Ministry approve it, then we can do the same to a television set," explained Harry, crossing his arms and leaning back in the armchair. "All we have to do is get the Quidditch fanatics on our side. The manager of Puddlemere would be a coup—think about the influence and money that they have. If they're interested in a television that will broadcast their matches to their fans who are part of the club's fanbase, but unable to get tickets… who loses?"
"It's a gamble," murmured Remus, scratching his chin. "But it could work."
"And where would you go from there? Why television?" asked O'Donnell.
Harry grinned, viciously. "Because in 1994, Hogwarts will host the Tri-Wizard tournament. And wouldn't that be a lovely way to introduce Voldemort back to the magical world, caught on camera and everyone unable to dispute it?"
"Oh," said Remus, eyes wide.
"Oh," echoed Harry back, darkly.
"But that's only one aspect," argued Remus a week later, as he and Harry sat down in their run-down office in the warehouse. "Television. We'd need cameras, and cables, and a way to broadcast it, and a studio to film things as well."
"Sure, this is why we have a large warehouse. We'll need another for other things, though," muttered Harry, flipping through various Ministry papers that would require him to fill them out before he enchanted anything. "And we'll need a greenhouse for plants, and a pretty sturdy lab for some other experiments, and offices to hold meetings and interviews, and a hell of a lot of loyal employees who won't jump ship at competitors."
"Competitors!" gapped Remus, "I hadn't even thought of any to Cloak & Dagger."
"That's because there won't be any for about a decade. Not at least until mini-Harry-me goes to Hogwarts. Essentially, I want to remain a private company that will mass-produce our goods once we perfect them and sell them in exclusive contracts and rights to the Ministry and the International Quidditch Association. We get them on our side, globally, and we're set."
Harry frowned. "Remus, do you still have those lists of the people involved in the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers? And the Society for the Support of Squibs? What better workers than those who others ignore?"
Remus sighed and passed the lists over from his own folder. "Well, if we're going to start hiring people, we're going to need offices that look pretty swanky and an idea of how we're going to keep them loyal to us without spilling secrets. As well as working out wages."
Harry looked up. "What the hell do you think I'm trying to do now, Moony? C'mon, let's start with Hassan Mostafa, from the Association. I'm thinking he'd be mighty interested in what we have to offer…"
It took Remus and Harry nearly four months into 1984 to get the company fully up and running, as well as set up numerous meetings with Mostafa. At first, Remus and Harry used O'Donnell's money to locate a rather nice plot of land in southern, rural England that had a view of the Channel. There, they purpose-built a four-storey office building, with an attached laboratory, greenhouses, and what Harry hoped to never use, a training and lab centre for an small army.
But once Remus and Harry, with O'Donnell's help, finalised their schematics for the television studio (which would remain in London), they decided to broach the IQA's head.
"You can't use your name though," argued Remus, from Harry's left as they sat in first class on an Air Emirates flight to Dubai.
"Why not?" asked Harry, affronted. He quite liked his name.
Remus glanced at him, askance. "Well, it's not like it's well known or anything, Harry."
"I booked the flight under Potter!" he argued back.
"In the non-magical world, sure," agreed Remus, whispering. "But in ours?"
Harry huffed. "Fine." He pouted a bit, but then a light blossomed in his eyes and Remus glanced at his best friends' son in worry.
"I don't like that look. I really don't like that look—James would get that look."
"Why, I have a new name to use! Perfect as the CEO of Cloak & Dagger, as well!"
Remus swallowed. "Which is?"
Harry grinned. "I'll be known as Harry Houdini, the greatest illusionist and magician there ever was! Perfect!"
Remus twitched. Despite not growing up under James and Sirius's rather watchful and influential eyes, Harry Potter had strangely, as a young man, managed to turn out exactly how Sirius and James would've wanted him to. Remus was utterly terrified.
Dubai was blisteringly warm and dry as the two stepped out of the air-conditioned airport. A sunglass-wearing, Armani-suited man was waiting for them beside a Lexus, holding the car door open as he ushered them in.
"Mr. Lupin?" he queried.
Remus nodded and offered Harry to go in first. The plush interior soothed Harry and Remus's jetlag, but both were eager to meet with Mostafa and begin negotiations. Winning his endorsement would seal the company's fate.
The building that hosted the IQA's head was elaborate, exotic, and exquisite. It was a typical stucco building, with many Arabic influences in the structure and architecture, but inside was typical wizard: larger than the outside, items floating or completing tasks without human hands, moving pictures (mainly of Quidditch).
"Ah, Mr. Lupin! Welcome, welcome," boomed a man from across the room. He was skinny, rather tall and weedy looking, and sported a fetching moustache.
"Hassan Mostafa, I presume?" asked Remus dryly, holding out a hand to shake.
The man reached forward and grasped tightly, pumping up and down. "Lovely Western tradition! Come, come, introduce me to your friend here, and let us go to the courtyard and have tea, shall we? Then we discuss work."
"Of course," agreed Remus smoothly, indicating to Harry. "This is the founder and CEO of Cloak & Dagger, Mr. Mostafa, Harry Houdini."
Mostafa took a second glance at Harry as they passed under an archway, pushing open two white-latticed doors, revealing a lush tropical oasis in the middle of the desert. "Houdini, eh?"
"I would like to say that it is my real name and my parents were messing with me at the time of my birth, but alas!" greeted Harry, dramatically, "I adopted the last name as my own."
"Eh, eh," agreed Mostafa, "No worries, young Houdini. Your name is not important to me—business is!"
The man indicated that Remus and Harry should sit. In the middle of the courtyard, located under a white cloth that stretched from four wooden posts, was a rectangular coffee table with silver service china presented and readied for the three men. Two comfortable pillows, on the flagstone courtyard floor, were for Remus and Harry.
"Please, sit," offered Mostafa. "We begin with mint tea. Then, business."
The head of the International Quidditch Association poured three teacups of mint tea, and offered Madeleine's as a snack. After Remus and Harry both had a sip, Mostafa nodded. "Now, I was intrigued by Mr. Lupin's incredibly vague proposal. After all, what could I, Hassan Mostafa of the International Quidditch Association, do for a company that has not yet produced anything? Perhaps, Mr. Houdini, you could elaborate?"
Harry nodded, reaching for the folio he had with him. He and Remus helped clear a small section of the table and then opened the folio. He removed several pieces of parchment and A4 paper (which had Mostafa raising his eyebrows in surprise), and then laid them out for the man to read at his leisure.
"Mr. Mostafa, please allow me to explain the idea behind Cloak & Dagger and what your position as the head of the International Quidditch Association can do for us…"
On June 1st, 1984, Cloak & Dagger began its first round of interviews. They were for several genius wizards and witches from all over the world.
The seven sat in the large boardroom that Harry and Remus would use to conduct massive interviews for numerous positions, as well as briefings. However, at the moment they were using it to introduce the company, give a tour, explain the wages and the secrecy oath that any and every employee at Cloak & Dagger would be required to take (from the lowliest house elf and janitor, to the senior managers working under Remus and Harry), and give a basis of the job that these scientists/experts would be performing.
"Welcome to Cloak & Dagger," greeted Harry as he swept into the boardroom, shutting the door behind him. Remus was already at one end of the oblong table, with the first, handpicked, seven that Harry and Remus were interested in:
Camilla deBurgs, a middle-aged Swedish witch who studied at Durmstrang from a prominent Pureblood family but with the "unfortunate" baggage of a half-blood son from a failed affair with the Muggle, against her parents' wishes. She also had a strange fascination with all things Muggle that put Arthur Weasley to shame…
Jonathan Randolf, a young up-and-coming Muggleborn from the States, who struggled to meet ends' due and was working two part-time positions for thankless sickles in the American government's charms division and as a caddy in a potions firm.
Yui Takasami, a brilliant and super-polite, young Asian witch with nothing less than six offers from different companies, governments, and countries who all wished to poach her talent—a talent that lay with the emerging robotics in the non-magical world and applying them to magical fields within the international-equivalents of the Auror divisions for magical warfare.
Justine Hannah, a fresh-faced Aussie with a "dubious" background of having an Aborigine grandmother on one side of her family, which had her blacklisted and refused a magical—and for a while, a non-magical—education in rural north Australia. As bitter as Jonathan Randolf, Justine was eager and spoiling for a fight and ready to show that she was talented in magic and could work.
Piers Meeker, a rather lowly government official from South Africa, had the brains and insight, as well as shrewd disposition, to see things that others could not. This elevated him to the position of a senior analyst in the South African magical government and had him sent out to numerous communities to check on magical users in non-magical environments, and pass out the necessary punishments.
Sebastian Vienelli, an elderly Italian who had retired from service in the Italian magical government's potions and herbology unit in the mid-fifties, similar to St. Mungo's in Britain. He had created several revolutionary potions for dragon pox and crup's bite until it was discovered that he was selling the potions on the black market to Muggle parents who couldn't afford the treatments for their 'mudblood' children when the hospitals refused to help the muggleborns.
And Edith Glover, a no-nonsense Welsh squib grandmother who happened to somehow be in the possession of nearly every contact in the magical – and non-magical – world. She retained friends from all over the globe, and happened to be quite the botonist, as well as well known in the non-magical world for her liberal love for herbal treatments.
Each would contribute to Harry's company, adding bits here and there until everything was put together and he had a complete picture of the company he wanted to create—a progressive, competitive, and ruthless company that shredded Pureblood tradition and tied those which suited them to non-magical modernism.
"I know that you're probably wondering why you're here, or why you were offered hotel accommodation, airfare, and transport to come for an interview to a company you had never heard of. But before I get into all that, allow me to introduce my vice-president, Remus Lupin," began Harry, pointing at Remus and sitting next to him. "I am the founder and President of Cloak & Dagger, Harry Houdini."
There was a stilted snigger from Jonathan Randolf, the Yank, and Harry grinned. "Yeah, trust me, I get that a lot.
"Anyway; as for what you're here for, well, I can't really go into much detail. But here's what I can explain, and if you're smart—which I'm sure you are—you'll pick up where I'm going with this without revealing anything."
"Harry," cautioned Remus, rolling his eyes. "You're soap-boxing."
"Right you are," agreed Harry jovially. "Let's begin.
"My private company is here to conduct research and experiments that will ultimately be released for sale purposes globally. We already have the first idea and the necessary paperwork filled out and approved from the British Ministry of Magic. Once a working proto-type is up, we'd be travelling to Saudi where Hassan Mostafa will oversee our next contact, and finally, our first customer. I'm aiming for governments or Quidditch associations."
At first, the people Harry and Remus chose to attend the interview seemed interested, if not a little amused. Now, going down Quidditch, Harry could easily see the bored, vapid expressions the women were adopting. Eager to not lose them, Harry released a little more information.
"That being said, we're not actually creating anything Qudditch-related."
Camilla, Justine, and Yui now looked up. Edith was patiently taking notes and listening to what Harry had to say, regardless.
It was time to hook them, now that he had them baited. "In fact, what our product is, is something non-magical, turned magical for practical, everyday use."
Now everyone was sitting up, attuned to listening and waiting to see where this would go. After all, they were getting a free trip out of this.
Remus took over. "You might be wondering why you're here now. Some of you are potions masters, or botanists, or herbologists. Some work with charms, and transfiguration and non-magical items. You're here because you're the best at what you do and we want you. We want your talents and your skills. Each little bit that you're good at would add to the larger picture of the foundation of Cloak & Dagger."
Piers tentatively raised his hand. "Excuse me, Mr. Lupin?" he began, in a thick South African accent, "But this product that you will be creating—is it the first of its kind? What guarantee would we have as your employees that the company would not buckle under the first year and render us out of a job?"
Remus grinned. "Excellent question, Mr. Meeker. We're private, no one has come up with this product despite it being around in the non-magical world since the 1930s, and the oaths required to work at Cloak & Dagger require complete secrecy and compliance or there would be no job."
"As for whether or not the company will buckle," continued Harry, "it won't. We've a strong financial backer, as well as Hassan Mostafa of the International Quidditch Association and all his money and contacts involved in the project. For a near sixty percent of the British population, it won't fail. And if we expand globally, we'll have an unrivalled claim to the niche market. Our plans and product are impossible to copy or duplicate, as the secrecy oaths do not allow any employees to discuss their work outside of the building to anyone. Within the building, only those within your department unless in on your current project, will know what you are working on."
"Those are pretty tight security measures," mumbled Justine, frowning. "Just what are we creating that would need such secrecy?"
Harry sighed inaudibly. He had one already onboard, without talking wages. "It's not this actual project that would require the secrecy. It's the later projects that will come once we make a name for ourselves. We'll be the premiere manufacturer for progressive, modern magical items with a non-magical twist. Integration into the magical world will take some time unless you hit the biggest consumers in the market—the Quidditch and Quadpod fans. From there, we can expand easily into the daily home. But that's this product—the rest…" Harry faltered. "They might not be to everyone's tastes, I understand that, but once you're within the company you have a right to bid and turn down projects as you see fit. Your salary would be secure."
"What salary are we talking about here?" asked Sebastian, quietly. He sat at the table with his hands folded neatly on top, wearing an expensive, tailored wizarding robe. Clearly, money wasn't an issue, but he was still curious.
"The current annual wage for a British ministry employee is under 1000 galleons. That's mid-level management within most departments. That's the equivalent to £5000, and pretty worthless to live on as an annual wage," said Remus steadily, if not a touch bitterly. "Cloak & Dagger is registered in the non-magical world because of our close ties to the British government and companies. That means, should you work for C&D, you will not only need to be knowledgeable of non-magical customs and their culture, but you would need to be able to move effortlessly between the two. That places you in a company that is predominantly in the non-magical world, but selling magical items. You would easily receive, then, a non-magical annual starting salary of £40,316.44, or 8063G.4S and 25 knuts."
There was a sudden inhale of sucked breath as the seven interviewees considered their wages. For Edith, she would be rejoining the magical community and receiving more than her retirement pension would ever pay her; for Jonathan, we would be making nearly twelve times over what he was making in his two jobs on a good day; the others were thinking similar thoughts.
Remus smiled gently. "Yes. The company does have these funds to pay you, and keep you quite happy with our projects, as well as any projects you wish to come up in your time here at Cloak & Dagger. Your ideas are our intellectual property, of course, but you do receive commissions and bonuses when they are sold."
Yui and Camilla had not added to the conversation at all, and Harry was doing his best to keep his face impassive. It was hard to sell a company, and an idea, to a carefully selected group of talented people he wanted to hire without actually telling them anything.
"Where do I sign?" asked Camilla suddenly. "I've got a son to feed and I'm not stupid enough to turn the money down. You said we can turn down any projects we don't like?"
Harry and Remus nodded. Remus even went so far as to slide the contract to Camilla, near his seat, and point out the appropriate clause within it that allowed her to make that decision.
Camilla began reading over the contract, a pen withdrawn from her purse and the cap off before she finished the first page.
The entire table was watching her, waiting for any outbursts. After a tense thirty minutes, as she carefully read over the contract twice, and asked questions about turns of phrase, which had Harry deferring to Remus, Camilla nodded.
She initialled every page, and signed the final one and dated it.
Harry smiled and stood, coming around the table to shake her hand and welcome her to company. In the meantime, there was the buffet table off to the side behind; would she care for some sandwiches and a coffee before they went on the tour?
As Harry played host, Jonathan requested a contract, as did Edith and Sebastian. Justine, Piers and Yui remained undecided, but asked to look over the contract as well.
"What length is the contract for?" asked Jonathan.
"Currently there is a probation period of three months, or until the completion of the first project with a review afterward. From then on, it's renewable each year or indefinite for however long you wish to stay with the company until you want to retire, or if we have cause to think you might harm yourself or the staff," replied Remus.
"Where would we be required to work?" queried Justine.
"In these offices, with a private office for personal work as study and research—but you also share a lab with your team members for when you need to collaborate or share information."
"You're looking at them," responded Remus.
"Who do we report to?" asked Sebatian.
"Harry and myself, but predominantly Harry. This was his idea and it's his baby," answered Remus.
"What about family? I assume we'd be required to move and not floo in?" asked Jonathan.
Remus nodded. "We'll help you find housing, pay the down payment or first months' rent on a place of your choosing and help settle any moving costs for your family. We can't go as far as get them jobs too, unless they have something we can use within Cloak & Dagger, but we can send them to the right contacts in the right places that can help them with employment or schooling."
Jonathan signed, stood, and joined Harry and Camilla on the far side of the room.
Edith nodded in places and as she and Sebastian, the eldest in the room, began a low murmur of conversation and discussing their work as well as the contract, Remus watched with a careful eye as they signed their contracts.
Justine bit her lip, and making a firm internal decision, signed her contract as well. Only Yui and Piers remained undecided.
"Are there any questions you would like answered?" asked Remus, moving to sit near the two, who remained at the large table while everyone else got drinks and snacks.
"I do not like not knowing what we'd be producing," admitted Piers, grudgingly. "I'm tired of following blind orders."
"You can always turn this down," replied Remus steadily. "You don't have to take the job if it's not sitting right with you—both Harry and I would understand that. As for the product, I can completely assure you other than possibly making wizards lazier than they are now, it won't actually harm them."
"Swear it?" asked Piers, eyeing Remus.
"On my magic," he agreed, raising his wand. There was a flash of brilliant light that startled the other occupants in the room and which ceased their conversation.
Yui and Piers signed.
Harry shared a grin with Remus, clapped his hands for attention just like he used to when he was fifteen and leading the Defence Association, and smiled. "Now that's all out of the way, let me show you Cloak & Dagger. Despite it's rather ominous name, I promise we're not really that bad. In fact, I can now tell you that our first product is actually a magical version of a television…"
"Are you fucking serious?" blurted Jonathan, mouth dropping open.
Harry displayed a wide, toothy smile. "Scarily so, Mr. Randolf, but not all the time. In this case, we're catering to the Quidditch fans to get a strong basis of the Ministry never over-ruling our product. And just think of the revenue it will generate… as well as the monopoly we'll have on studio space, and television shows and acting schools…"
As Harry got caught up in his daydream of pulling the wizarding world into the future, the rest of his new employees, save Remus, began to see the extent of Harry's dreams. And slowly, they too, realised that if they stuck with him, they could be a part of something that would change the world—or, alternatively, if they were young and ambitious, they realised that they would have a huge share in the market of creating the one-and-only items that Harry was hinting towards, as well as the prestige.
They didn't know it, but those first seven employees would be Harry's cornerstone in the niche market he was hoping for, as well as some of the brightest and most talented people he would ever find.
With their help, Cloak & Dagger was going to be on the map and bigger than even Harry envisioned. But first…
"Um, boss?" asked Jonathan, the young American, still spotty, broke into everyone's daydreams. "How 'bout instead of taking us on this tour, you show us where the toilets are, yeah?"
Notes: [Oct.10.2010] Well – I'm not dead. I'm just insanely busy with life at the moment. In case anyone was wondering why I haven't posted anything for the past year, I was living in Cardiff, Wales, completing a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education. It was… an interesting year that had far more downs than ups and had me far busier than I expected.
I began writing this in August, when I returned from Wales, and have been adding and tweaking it every so often. I'm slightly afraid my older Harry has got away from my ultimate plan for the story, which was a disgruntled one-shot into the past, and expanded much further into a multi-chaptered arc. I can't guarantee that I'll be updating anytime soon, despite half of Part Two being written, mainly because teaching JKs and SKs is insanely tiring! Life duties come first, and holidays/weekends are usually spent snoozing (you know that you're tired when you're in bed before 10pm). However, the story does pick up, with Cloak & Dagger being a firmly established company, Dumbledore, little Harry, and the beginning of Harry's rather intense plans - which you can try to guess! :)
Enjoy this and I look forward to hearing comments and suggestions for future Parts. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!
PS: As for "Wyckham/Road", I do believe that I'll continue with my rewrite of it as a new story completely, now that I've tasted the British Educational system (specifically in secondary, which I trained for). Several elements of my experience living in Wales will come out further in my stories now, and I need to rewrite my 'Harry goes to another school' appropriately to reflect the standard GTCW/GTCE curriculum that I integrated with my magical school.