A:N – This is a story I thought would be interesting and fun to write. I hope you all like it.
Chapter One – Voldemort's Final Victory
Harry Potter had walked amongst friends, and enemies, his entire life. His parents had been murdered by the greatest Dark Wizard of all time when he was only a baby, and so he had been raised by his hateful relatives, who despised everything to do with magic, or, in their words: "Harry's kind". He had once thought he would be miserable until his life finally gave way, but that had not come to pass, for on his eleventh birthday, he had been rescued from the Dursleys, by a half-giant named Hagrid. It had been one of the best days of his life, and at first he thought it was a dream, but in truth, there was no stronger reality.
After that incredible day, his journey did not end. In fact, it had just begun. To describe everything that happened to him would take a long time, so a summary would be a better option. With the help of his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry made a new home, and family, in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as well as quite a few enemies. Seven long years after learning how his parents had really died, Harry had finally defeated their murderer, Lord Voldemort.
It had come with a great price, however; one which Harry could see etched on the tormented faces of those who had lost family and friends to the evil tyrant and his cruel regime. He could see and feel their pain, as it was also his own. Currently, the "Survivors of Hogwarts", as they were being called after the almighty battle, were grief-stricken and tearful. A funeral was underway for the victorious dead.
Harry listened with tortured ears as the wizard, who had also buried Dumbledore, as well as married Bill and Fleur, read a list of the fallen.
Harry couldn't listen to anymore; he had known many of those people very well, and could not cope with hearing who else had given their lives for his cause. He attempted to block out the voice, one which he could call "The Voice of Death itself", using his tears, but was unable to do so. He sat there, crying silently, weeping for those brave witches and wizards, whom he would never see again.
The very moving ceremony was taking place beside the lake, as Dumbledore's had. The wizard continued reading out names for several minutes, including those of Centaurs and House Elves alike. Harry had been adamant that they be remembered with the same glory that his fellow people would be, and had threatened to hex the priest when he had refused. He had quickly changed his mind.
Minister Shacklebolt had decreed that the dead should be buried on the grounds of Hogwarts, as it was ground they had fought and died on, protecting it, protecting each other, protecting themselves…
Harry had chosen a seat directly at the front beside Ginny, who was crying into his shoulder; mainly for Fred, but for everybody overall. Harry had his arm around her, and felt inclined to hold it there until the end of time. Slowly, he lifted his head and realised that the heat on his face was originating from the blistering Sun overhead. He thought it strange that something so beautiful could still exist. He held his eyes were they were, refusing to be blinded by the overwhelming show of light, until he could stand it no more.
Once that happened, he lowered his gaze to the forty seven identical white tombs, in each of which he knew a friend lay. Forty seven friends. Forty seven too many.
Two weeks later
'Ah, Harry, thank you so much for coming,' Kingsley greeted.
'Any time, Minister,' Harry replied eagerly. They shook hands and sat down on either side of the new Minister's desk.
'How is the clean-up process going?' Harry asked curiously.
'Slowly, to say the least. Voldemort may be dead, but many of his followers are still out there. Quite a few escaped just after he was killed.'
'And I take it they're not going to turn themselves in?'
Kingsley smiled solemnly. 'Of course not. If they were going to, they would have done so already. Many of them are only hiding, but a select few continue to wreak havoc on everyday life in a series of hit-and-run operations. But, you must know that already.'
Harry nodded. 'It's been the main story in the Daily Prophet ever since that attack on Gringotts.'
'Yes, and to make matters worse, they are still targeting the Muggle population. The Prime Minister is growing impatient, but I can hardly say that I blame him.'
Harry studied Kingsley carefully; he appeared to be exhausted, which was expected after two weeks of non-stop raids, attacks and battles between Aurors and Death Eaters. It had gotten so bad the Ministry was forced to ask for volunteers from Hogwarts seventh years. Harry had been one of them, but he had been away on a peacekeeping mission in Japan for five days.
'So, how was your mission?' Kingsley asked. 'I take it you convinced the Japanese Minister that Voldemort is truly gone?'
Kingsley smiled once more. 'Well, that is to be expected, I'm afraid. Many countries are afraid that we have been infiltrated, and that this "report" of Voldemort's death is little more than a ruse.'
'Priori Incantatem worked in the end.'
'Which is why I sent you,' Kingsley concluded. 'I trust you didn't fraternize with the Japanese witches too much?'
Harry felt himself turn a little red. 'I tried to restrain myself as much as possible.'
Kingsley laughed. 'I'm only kidding,' he said jokingly. 'I know how much you care for Miss Weasley.'
'Yes, I thought so.' The Minister parted his hands and stood up, Harry following his lead. 'Down to business, I'm afraid. The reason I called you in here is to discuss something rather… intriguing. Yesterday, we raided Malfoy Manor.'
'Ah. I take it you think he's harbouring some old acquaintances?' Harry asked interestedly.
'Not quite,' Kingsley said, shaking his head. 'He told us to do so as proof of his newfound innocence. We believe he is looking for an acquittal from the Wizengamot.'
'What!' Harry exclaimed. 'You're not going to give him one, are you? You can't just believe he's had a change of heart, and even if he has, what about the things he did before-hand?'
'You forget that it's me you're talking to, Harry,' Kingsley said softly. 'Of course I have no such intentions. He may get life in Azkaban if I have my way. We do not believe he is harbouring any Death Eaters there, or he wouldn't have willingly invited us to investigate it.'
Harry shrugged his shoulders, confused. 'Then why bother searching it?'
'Why? Because it was Voldemort's base of operations for almost a year; I figured if he had any little secrets lying around, they would be there,' he said mysteriously; 'even if Malfoy does not know about them personally.'
'I take it you found something, then. This "intriguing" thing.'
'Yes, but it is much easier if I show it to you rather than telling you about it. If you will, Harry,' he said, holding his left arm outwards. Harry grabbed it and, almost immediately, felt himself being compressed through that tiny tube once more.
After a second of discomfort, they reappeared in Malfoy Manor. Evidently, the wards had been collapsed by Ministry officials.
'Double guard?' Harry asked, noticing two Aurors in their long cloaks standing by the entrance, looking haughty and intimidating.
Kingsley merely nodded. Harry felt himself getting nervous, now. The last time he was inside this house it hadn't been under good circumstances.
'Nothing to be afraid of,' Kingsley assured him, noticing his apprehension. 'This way,' he motioned.
Harry followed his new leader into the living room, where there was now a rectangular hole in the floor. Upon closer analysis, Harry realised it was a trap-door, but one with a ladder. That wasn't the strangest thing, however. The hole was twice as long as it was wide, and the ladder appeared to be propped against a slanted marble wall, which gave Harry one impression.
'Tunnel?' he asked confusedly. Kingsley nodded in response. He held out his hand, and Harry realised it was a gesture from him to lead. Obliging, he nodded to the Minister and began to descend, careful not to slip, although it would only be a drop of a few feet if he did. He stepped off the ladder and turned around, finding himself indeed in a tunnel. It was about eight feet high, but only three or four wide. It went forward about ten metres, and then turned left. Harry was right about the walls and roof being made of marble. Everlasting torches of fire lined the walls. Voldemort definitely hadn't spared any expenses on this place.
He examined the passageway keenly as Kingsley climbed down behind him. 'Well, what do you think?'
'They kept this under their living room?' Harry asked incredulously.
'Yes. Perhaps Lucius didn't think we would find it, but that doesn't seem like him. He wouldn't underestimate the Ministry so much.'
Maybe… Harry thought suspiciously.
'Very well; let us go on.'
Harry led the way up the passageway slowly, being cautious of traps or any unexpected dangers that may have been planted. He reached the fork and turned quickly.
He stopped in his tracks, gazing at the large door in front of him. It was also made of marble, but carved onto it was a large serpent, entwined around a large letter "S", sporting large, green emeralds for eyes. There were words above it, but he couldn't read them from where he was standing. There were Runes etched around the side of the door. As his eyes met those of the snake, he felt something similar to a bolt of electricity creep through his body. He saw no door handle, then inwardly kicked himself for thinking a door like this would have a handle.
'For Slytherin,' Harry said, nodding towards the "S". That much was obvious. 'How do you know it's a door?'
'The words read: "Only the Chosen One contains the key", Kingsley replied. 'Keys open doors. Have you any idea what-'
'It means Parseltongue,' Harry interrupted. He folded his arms neatly, staring up at the snake, mesmerized. 'Voldemort must have set up this room himself. He knew that I am the only one who can enter it besides himself. Do you want me to open it?'
'No,' Kingsley said quickly. He held out a scroll of parchment with the same Runes written down. 'Not until we have these deciphered, at least. Unfortunately, all my people are busy at the moment, so…'
'So you haven't been able to translate them,' Harry finished. He turned to face Kingsley and let his arms unfold. 'I'll speak to her.'
Harry sat on the couch offered to him, waiting anxiously for her to return with the tea. She did.
'Here you are,' Hermione said, handing him a cup.
'Thanks.' Harry took a sip of the hot liquid gratefully.
Hermione sat down on the couch beside him. 'So, I've had a look over the Runes you gave me.'
'Can you translate them?' Harry asked.
'I already have.'
Harry smiled. Even after all these years, Hermione's intelligence continued to both impress and surprise him greatly. 'So, what do they mean?'
Hermione sat down her cup anxiously with both hands, feeling worried. 'I don't know where you found these, Harry, but-'
'On a door in a hidden passageway underneath Malfoy Manor,' Harry said honestly, going against Kingsley's wishes. Hermione looked scared. He didn't blame her one bit; the last time she had been near that house, she had been tortured.
'It doesn't surprise me,' she said weakly, then raised her voice to normal levels once more. 'They translate into a warning: "He who will enter this room shall never return. The Dark Lord commands it. So say we all".'
Harry was quiet, thinking hard, before he realised something. 'It's probably a false warning. I think Voldemort just doesn't want us to find out what's behind that door.'
'Harry, you can't be serious,' Hermione whispered. Her eyes were wide with fear.
Harry blinked. 'I'm not,' he said truthfully. 'I don't know why I said that.' He felt confused now. Could something have happened to him when he had looked at the snake, causing his judgement to become clouded? He remembered that strange feeling, like a bolt of electricity…
He stood up quickly. An unstoppable urge to see the door once more enveloped him like a tight-pressing blanket. 'I have to go,' he told her, reaching for his coat.
'Harry, wait!' Hermione walked over to him, looked him directly in the eye. 'Promise me you won't do anything you'll regret.'
He hesitated, unsure of what to say. Then he returned her gaze, but found himself unable to be truthful. 'I won't. I promise.'
With a loud crack, he disapparated.
Harry reappeared in Malfoy Manor once more, surprising the Aurors on duty.
'I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but you need to have clearance to get through without an escort,' one of them said bluntly. He held out his palm. 'Your security clearance, please.'
Harry nodded and reached into his coat pocket, but, instead of producing a pass, he brought out his wand. The guard looked alarmed, but didn't have time to issue a warning to his partner, as Harry stunned him. The other guard appeared in the kitchen doorway and reached for his wand, but it was too late. Harry raised his own quickly.
The guard collapsed in the doorway, leaving Harry standing there alone. He was in shock at what he had just done, but found himself unable to undo the spells. Not because he was incapable, but because his mind was telling him not to. It was as if he were no longer in charge of his own body.
He found himself waking towards the trap-door in the living room, and tried to stop, but to no avail. Then he was descending once more, feeling excitement that was not his. Both sides of his mind fought for dominance, with the side leading Harry onwards winning. He then found himself at the door once more, staring into the snake's eyes.
He knew what he was about to do, and tried to keep his mouth firmly closed, but he should have known it would not work.
'Open,' he hissed in Parseltongue. The door, which was really a slab of marble, slid upwards slowly. Harry stood there until it retracted completely, disappearing into the ceiling, and then ventured inwards. It appeared to be a larger version of the tunnel, with only one key difference: size. The chamber was about ten metres long and ten metres wide. In the centre was a large wooden table, upon which lay a mysterious object emanating a blue glow. Harry had seen a similar glow before. It was a portkey.
As he walked towards it, he saw that it was a round pot, around which another ornate snake twisted itself. Both were made of the same material the walls and roof were emblazoned with. As he approached it, he saw a dark liquid filled it. Black or red? He couldn't tell, due to the lack of light. He felt an overwhelming desire to touch the pot.
No! He shouted at his own mind. But it was futile. Some type of mysterious energy had been transferred to him from the door, and he couldn't overpower it. That was why only he could open the door. Voldemort had planned it out very well. As time itself appeared to pause to see what would happen next, Harry felt his forefinger brush the pot, and was immediately jerked forwards, via the navel, into the darkness.
An explosion shattered the night. Eragon lunged forward, racing through the grass as a fiery wind surged past his cheek. He slid to a stop and loosed an arrow at the bounding doe. It missed by a finger's breadth and hissed into darkness. He cursed and spun around, instinctively nocking another arrow.
Behind him, where the deer had been, smouldered a large circle of grass and trees. Many of the pines stood bare of their needles. The grass outside the charring was flattened. A wisp of smoke curled in the air, carrying a burnt smell. In the centre of the blast radius lay a polished blue stone. Mist snaked across the scorched area and swirled insubstantial tendrils over the stone.
He raised his bow once more when he heard a low groan. He saw a man, or possibly someone nearing manhood, lying beside one of the trees. He was unconscious. Eragon lowered the bow and ran to him, seeing if he was hurt. He couldn't tell, but he knew one thing: this hunt was over. He had to take this man to Gertrude. The journey back would be tedious, but he had no choice now. Firstly, he ran over and picked up the stone, hoping he could buy some food with it. Then, he went over and lifted the man over his shoulder. He was fairly heavy, but years of farming and hunting helped Eragon manage. Slowly, he began to head towards Palancar Valley, wondering where this man had come from and where he had obtained such unusual clothes.