The Sniper II: Babylonian Nights
Disclaimer: JK Rowling, not me, owns Harry Potter. The only thing I claim is the plot.
A/N: For a long time I tried to come up with a good plotline to follow Sniper. Voldemort and most of the Inner Circle were dead and Dumbledore wasn't Dark, just a man doing things for "the Greater Good". So I went looking for a good villain. I think I found a good one.
I am still not a veteran of the British army, or any army, so if someone with a military background wants to offer up some advice/assistance, I would be most appreciative.
Rev A: Some grammar corrections and the addition of an epilogue.
The Sniper II: Babylonian Nights
I suppose you want me to start at the beginning? That is kind of a philosophical point, but I'll give it a shot. Pun intended.
I guess the first thing is to make sure you are aware of the current events in the real world.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists seized four airplanes in the United States. Two of them slammed into a pair of world-famous office towers known as the World Trade Center while another hit the American military command centre called the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field when the passengers, knowing what happened to the other planes, attempted to regain control.
The American president initiated what he called, 'a war on terror'. The terrorists behind the bombing called themselves Al-Qaeda. Not as dramatic as Death Eaters but there you go. These terrorists had made a home for themselves in the country of Afghanistan with the full support of that country's government.
The scope of the war expanded to the nation of Iraq. We can argue the politics but the US, Great Britain, and other allies eventually launched an invasion on that nation on the 20th of March. As we speak the allied forces have removed Saddam Hussein's government from power.
The Iraqi military strategy was to engage allied forces in both a conventional and unconventional battle. Regular Iraqi army units engaged allied frontline troops as they advanced on Bagdad. Other units dressed in civilian attire waited until the frontline troops passed in order to engage support units. Neither tactic did anything more than delayed the inevitable but caused a fair bit of chaos.
As part of his strategy, Saddam directed his Ministry of Magic to directly support his troops in direct violation of the 1433 International Statute of Secrecy section 2.1 prohibiting the use of magical forces in Muggle conflicts. In all fairness, I do not believe they ever intended to really comply with that man's demands. Everything I came across was more like the Muggle-baiting Pureblood teenagers sometimes got into back home. Things like a Muggle-repelling wards on central bridges and the like. No direct harm was ever caused by magical means that I have learnt of during their activities.
Furthermore, I am convinced that the events of March 30 – April 2 were not the intention of the Iraqi wizards that unleashed it.
30 March 2003
I turned to acknowledge the speaker and found a large American marine gunnery sergeant with a unit patch for one of the Marine Recon units. The veteran Marine had been injured during an earlier operation and was currently assigned to the headquarters staff. "Can I help you, Gunny?" I asked.
"Sir, Lt. Colonel Roberts requests that you join him in the command tent." Lovely
Roberts was the American area commander for the joint Special Forces units providing intelligence gathering and reconnaissance for the advancing Allied forces. My SAS platoon was assigned to his area to foster relations. Unfortunately, while the man had an excellent reputation as a soldier and a tactical commander he was also a graduate of the American West Point military academy and did not care for officers that formerly were enlisted men, or 'mustangs' as the Yanks called us.
I wonder what he would say if he knew the 26-year-old SAS lieutenant named Cedric Digory was actually an almost 23-year-old wizard named Harry Potter?
"Very well, Gunny." I turned to my platoon sergeant. "Have the men ready for our scheduled insertion as planned, sergeant."
Staff Sergeant Angus MacTavish returned a casual nod. "Don't worry, sir. I'll make sure you look good." It wasn't proper military etiquette but the Scotsman was something of a mentor to me when I first joined the SAS in the ranks. He was the one that pushed me into the officer training program.
Having the Minister of Defence counter-sign the recommendation didn't leave me much of a choice either.
I acknowledged MacTavish's nod with a smile before turning back to the American soldier. "Let's go, Gunny."
The command tent was located not far from the temporary hanger my men were using to prepare for the insertion that night. I followed the sergeant into the tent to find Lt. Col. Roberts talking to a man in civilian clothing. I knew enough about Roberts to know he was not happy about something.
I observed the civilian as I approached. He was rather nondescript with brown hair, average height and weight. The hang of his coat indicated a probable lack of a firearm, which is odd in a combat-zone.
When Roberts noticed me he frowned, "Lt. Digory. Just the man I needed to see. Your insertion tonight will continue as planned however you will give command over to Sgt. MacTavish. Mr. Jones of MI-5 here has commandeered your services until further notice."
"Sir!" I protested. "I don't like the idea of sending my men on the mission without me. My place is with them." I could see agreement in the American officer's eyes but that didn't buy me much.
"You have your orders, lieutenant," he snapped back, frustration evident in his voice. He turned on the civilian, "Your helicopter will be ready in ten minutes. Have him back as soon as possible. I don't like having men in harm's way without their officer present."
"Of course, captain," Mr. Jones replied in a quiet, confident voice. Roberts walked away without another word.
"Perhaps you would like to collect your gear before we go, lieutenant?" Jones suggested as he walked past me and out of the tent.
I quickly caught up to the man outside the tent and asked, "What is this all about?"
"We have a situation developing near Al Hillah"
I mentally reviewed the briefings from earlier that day and say, "We don't have anyone planned to be in that vicinity for another two days."
"You will get your briefing when we arrive at our destination, Lt. Digory. For now I suggest you get your standard combat gear and meet me at the helicopter in five minutes."
Fortunately, my ruck and other equipment was ready for the night's planned insertion so I was able to quickly fill MacTavish in on the change in plans. My platoon sergeant was not any happier then I was but he was disciplined enough to accept it.
I made my ride just in time. I am barely seated before the Blackhawk lifts from the pad. The pilot immediately tilts the aircraft making to a high speed run in a north-western direction. I noticed that Jones never plugged in his helmet so either he had no interest in talking or didn't know the regulations.
"Hey, Potter. What's up? I thought you were headed into Indian country with your unit tonight?" I recognized the voice as US Army Lt. William "Little Bill" Timmons, my driver this evening. Nice guy, but something of a joker - always trying to take the Mickey out of the operators he ferried about.
The 'Potter' nickname was hung on me by an SAS sniper back when I was a Lance Corporal after I 'potted' him during a training exercise. Unfortunately, it stuck. Now my alias has the nickname of my real identity. Lucky me.
"Well Little Bill," I answered, "I heard your wife was in town tonight and I didn't want her to get lonely. After all, you didn't get the handle Little Bill for nothing." Bill's wife is an Army trauma surgeon. The pair met when Bill lost a rotor on a training exercise. Bill was fine but his co-pilot needed a lot of help. Lisa was cute rather than beautiful but she had a confidence that drew her a lot of admirers.
"In that case, I will be dumping you out right here, buddy." I could hear the rest of the flight crew snickering over the com. The rest of the flight was filled with good-natured barbs.
Thirty minutes after leaving the SF base, Bill announced we were two minutes out from the designated coordinates. Ten seconds later he added that he had a visual on an IR landing beacon. It was when I glanced out the window I got suspicious.
The sun was nearly down under the horizon but there was more than enough light to see. Not that that was much. The landing zone was marked off properly but only a single command style tent was in sight. No other tents, vehicles or anything else- just sand and a few small scrub plants.
Bill brought the helicopter down and had only time for a brief "Good luck" before I am out the door. Jones followed at a more sedate pace that probably irritates the hell out of the flight crew. No one likes to stay too long in an unsecured LZ.
Jones noticed that I have my G3KA4 already slung in combat fashion. "You won't need that, lieutenant. We are perfectly safe here." I ignored him and keep looking around.
Then the tent opens up and I know just how screwed I really am. I recognized the young man emerging from the tent. I haven't seen him in eight or nine years, but I recognize him.
According to the gossip passed on by Ron, the former Ravenclaw had gone into the Ministry and was rumoured to have joined the Unspeakables. It made me even more uncomfortable when he smiled at us.
"Hi Potter. Long time no see." Obviously, Terry knew what happened to the original Cedric Digory. That was one of the many times I cursed the impulse of an angsty 15-year-old in using a name to memorialize a fallen friend. I allowed my form to revert to its natural state. A little wandless magic changes the name on my uniform from Diggory to Potter.
Terry gave a resigned shrug at my neutral greeting. "Come on in and we can explain what is going on." My old schoolmate then turned and walked back into the tent. I really had no choice but to follow.
Inside is a Wizarding tent that is larger than Hogwart's Great Hall. There is a small group of wizards and witches gathered all of them dressed in robes made of dragon leather. It absorbs a lot of magic so a lot of spells fail against it but they are wildly expensive. I've seen enough teams preparing for combat to get a sense of what is going on here.
"What's up here, Terry?" I asked in a quiet tone.
Before he can answer, an older wizard approached us. The man was huge; at least seven feet tall and heavily muscled. He looked like an aging body builder.
"Boot, this is the man we've been waiting for?" the man asked in a deep, booming voice.
"Yes, sir," Terry acknowledged. "Sr. Agent-16, this is Lt. Potter of the SAS."
Agent 16 frowned as he took in my weapons load and other gear. "Welcome aboard, Lt. Potter. Have a seat; the briefing will start in a moment.
Terry motioned me over to a seat in the back row of a small briefing area. He settled into the seat next to me and leaned over into my ear. "This is big, Harry. I wouldn't have made them drag you in here if it wasn't. These people are from American Magical Investigation Bureau SMART team."
The Special Magic Accelerated Response Team served the same purpose of its Muggle counterpart, the HRT: Hostage Rescue Team, a very highly trained SWAT unit of the FBI. Where MIB agents served the same role as British Aurors, the SMART agents were called in when the spells were flying and the magic was Dark. I'll admit I was impressed.
Terry kept talking. "The Muggle leaders asked us to be here to prevent the Iraqi's from forcing their magical community from getting involved. For the last few weeks we've been setting up monitoring stations along the border. Aside from a bunch of prank or Muggle-baiting type magic we haven't picked up much of anything in Muggle areas.
Agent 16 moved to the front of the room. He instantly had the attention of all of the others in the room. It was obvious they respected him.
"Listen up people. We don't have a lot of time.
"As many of you know, we recently picked up a series of odd emanations in the area south-east of Al Hillah. I doubt many of you recognize the name but in ancient times it was the site of the city of Babylon."
That caused a slight stir in the room.
"Our wards recently picked up a series of rather strong pulses of magical energy of a decidedly Dark energy. We've never seen anything quite like it. The leading component of the American force will be passing through the area in the next few days. Muggle intelligence indicates there are no regular Iraqi forces in that immediate area.
"We have been directed to investigate the area and ensure this is not an attempt to interfere in Muggle matters by Iraqi magicals. We are to do this in a covert manner and avoid any contact with Muggle forces from either side.
"In the case we are unable to avoid contact, the Supreme Mugwump, Albus Dumbledore, has volunteered the services of Lt. Harry Potter. As you know, the Statute of Secrecy prevents a trained wizard from serving in Muggle military forces. Lt. Potter attended Hogwarts until just prior to his Fifth year but left before taking the OWLS required to be counted as a trained wizard. As a Muggle military officer, he will act as our interface in the case it is required. I have been assured he can stay with us during a broom flight into the area and his military training and weapons will be sufficient to keep him safe in case we need to go into combat."
Freakin' Dumbledore trying to control my life and I haven't even been in his damn school in eight bloody years.
As Agent 16 continued the briefing, Terry leaned over and whispers, "The Yanks didn't really recognize your name or put it together with You-Know-Who. I might have forgotten to give them a full brief on your history. I owe you that much."
"Cheers, mate." That was bloody decent of Terry.
"Still got your broom?" Terry asked with a chuckle.
"Remember Victor Krum? He just sent me a pre-release version of the Firebolt Mark 3." Terry turned to look at me with a look of pure shock.
16 continued his briefing. The SMART unit was made up of seven wizards and three witches. They were assigned code-names Hector-1 thru -10. Hector-1 was the tactical commander and a very competent looking man. He was Hispanic but something about him reminded me of a young Moody. Hector-2 was a witch and the second in command. She was also the main ward breaker of the unit. Hector-3 thru -7 was the primary security element. Hector-8 and -9 were specially trained to deal with Dark magic and ritual magic. Hector-10 was a scout equipped with an invisibility cloak and magical detectors of various types.
The briefing was not too different from ones I had sat through dozens of times since joining Her Majesty's Armed Forces. The terminology was a bit off but the gist was the same. Where is the bad guy? How many bad guys? How are they armed? How are they protected? How do we get in and out? Sensors, wards, rifles, wands- not a whole lot of difference.
The briefing ended and the Hectors started to move about their tasks. I noticed Hector-1 and Hector-2 observing me from the front of the briefing area. I made my way over to them. I noticed the front of each robe has their designation just like my combat gear.
"Lt. Potter," Hector-1 greeted me as I approached.
"Sorry to be thrown onto you like this," I apologized. "I hate it when REMF's get clever too." That was enough to make the team leader smile slightly. "I plan on hanging back unless you feel the need for my help."
"Having an SAS officer along isn't exactly like having some bureaucrat along," he admitted with a soft, Hispanic accent. "I understand you were a sniper before. Feel free to make use of those skills while you are hanging back there."
We made a few more comments before Hector-1 moves off to see to his unit. Hector-2 waited a moment before adding, "Why do I get the sense there is more to you then we've been led to believe, LT?" When I raise a questioning eyebrow, she commented, "I am very sensitive to magic. You are very strong magically and have a significant number of enchanted items on you. Much more than any untrained wizard should have." Then she smiled. "I love a good mystery," she said just before moving off.
I wandered over to my old schoolmate. "So, what's the story, mate?"
Terry gestured for me to follow and we move off to a quiet corner.
"I joined the Unspeakables right after leaving Hogwarts. Actually they recruited me during Fifth year to observe and report events at the school."
That is interesting. I wondered if they had others seeded at the school. Scratch that, I think a better question is 'how many they seeded'.
"Anyway, you have enough clearance in both worlds to know. The Unspeakables are actually considered a part of MI5. Some Muggleborn back in the '70s dubbed us MI5 ¾ and its stuck. Honestly we consider ourselves independent of the Ministry of Magic. Most of our funding comes from the Muggle side.
"Anyway, when the war broke out the Yanks asked for a British magical liaison. Since I can double with the normal intel blokes it made sense to send me. I primarily work as an analyst monitoring interaction between our two worlds."
"And how did my name come up?" I asked.
Terry shrugged. "Dumbledore. Listen, Harry. I know you've had issues with the old man but I have a bad feeling about this. I remember you from school. Once you get a mission nothing was going to stand in your way. And with friends like Hermione, Tonks, Remus and Shacklebolt, I seriously doubt you are as untrained as the official records indicate. I think this whole thing is dodgy as hell."
I always liked Terry. It is good to see working for the Ministry (Muggle or Magical) hadn't made a complete arsehole out of him.
"What do you suspect?"
"These emanations they picked up have been getting stronger in a predictable pattern and coming closer together, again in a predictable pattern. Each one comes from a different centre and not all of them are in modern-day Iraq. But every third pulse comes from the area where Babylon was. The magical sages back home and in the States are going spare trying to come up with an explanation."
Our discussion was cut short when Agent-16 called Terry away. But I reckon Terry gave me a lot to think about anyway.
I spent the next hour staying out of the way while Team Hector continued their preparations. Honestly, I spent most of my time worrying about my own team's mission. I eventually moved out of the tent to stand in the early night desert air.
While I waited I pulled my shrunken broom from a pocket of my vest and resized it. After an injury sidelined Victor's career for a season, my former Tri-Wizard competitor took a position designing and testing the new Firebolt Mark 3. It was only about 15 percent faster than my original Firebolt but could pull enough G-forces to make you black out in a turn and was completely stable in hover mode. The control charms were incredible.
Team Hector started to emerge from the tent with a little good-natured ribbing back and forth. Hector-8 noticed me and a nasty look came to his face.
"So tell us Brit, were you that bad a student the Hogwarts kicked you out?"
"Ah, behaviour problem than? Picking on the little girls?" The prick reminded me of my cousin Dudley. A bit of Snape too. There was a time not too long ago that I would have cursed this git. Or at least smacked him.
Fortunately, eight years of military service forces one to grow up.
I turned to the man with a flat expression. "Do you have a problem with me, agent?"
"Ya, I got a problem with you. If we get into the crap, we're going to have to hold your hand and that could get us killed. You are an unknown and I don't like it."
I nodded slowly. In a low, steady voice I've found to be wonderful in dealing with insubordinate soldiers, I reply, "I understand that, agent, but it has nothing to do with me. We both have our orders and are expected to carry them out. If it makes you feel any better, I am no happier about this then you are but I will carry out my mission. Do you have a problem with that, soldier?"
Hector-8 saw something in my eyes as he backs up a step and comes to an almost acceptable attention stance. "No, sir."
The small movement out of the corner of my eyes was Hector-1 and -2 emerging from the tent. Hector-1 gave me a small nod of approval before saying, "Time to go girls and boys. Mount up!"
I will admit the flight across southern Iraq was fun.
The MIB issue brooms of the SMART unit were sturdy, dependable brooms built to government specs by the lowest bidder. In other words, the Nimbus 2000 I received my First year twelve years ago had about the same performance.
Okay, so I had a spot of fun on the way to former location of Babylon. I hadn't been on my broom since my last leave when I visited the Weasleys. The SMART team flew in a loose formation about 75ft off the ground- high enough that they weren't likely to be seen but low enough not to worry about any fast moving military aircraft. Even with a cushioning charm, getting hit by a couple tons of metal moving at 700 knots would really ruin your day. I stayed just above and behind their formation. It felt good to be in the air on a broom.
It took us close to three hours of flying to reach the area where Babylon once ruled from. At one point it was the greatest city in the world. Now it is mostly a series of low hills with the occasional ruins visible.
We landed in a small clearing near a large clump of bushes. I activated a small rune on the handle and the broom returns to its miniature state.
It was kind of funny. I landed and immediately raised my weapon and moved to cover. The Hectors pulled out their wands and started casting wards. I'm sweeping the area for threats while they are using magic to push any threats away. I never even thought of pulling out the wand I am not technically supposed to have.
Of course if the opposition has any magic detection wards up they may have just as well sent off a bloody flare.
One thing to remember, the SMART teams are a law enforcement unit, not a combat unit. They operate under different guidelines and have different objectives. They want to bust in to the suspects' lair, capture them and preserve evidence while ensuring each other's survival. I'd been trained to remove the target, achieve my mission, and move on.
I was impressed as the group quickly organized and moved out with a minimum of fuss and almost no verbal communication. It was obvious this is the elite of the Yank magical forces. Wish the British MOM had them against Tommy. Of course if we had they were probably disbanded by Fudge at Malfoy's instigation.
I trailed along behind the group, my weapon ready.
We had moved maybe 2 klicks when the group suddenly moved to cover. Hector-2 dropped back after a moment and moved to my side.
"-9 just detected a strong burst about 500 yards ahead and it just ended suddenly. Now she detects combat level magical energy. We are moving in. Find someplace to go to ground while we check it out."
The team moved out, disappearing under Disillusionment Charms or an Invisibility Cloak in the case of Hector-10.
Obviously they have some type of team communications device that I wasn't invited to join in. Wasn't that nice of them? I'm a bit pissed at being dropped off like a one year old still in nappies too.
I pulled out my map book and found the page for this area. I noted a raised area two hundred metres ahead and off to the left. Sounded like a good place to go to.
Moving quickly but stealthily through the brush, I came to the rise a couple minutes later. It was rather steep. I doubt it was a natural formation. Most likely it is covering a ruin of some type. I started my way up.
I was half way up the side when I noticed the familiar flashes of light of a spell battle. Oddly enough, all of the pulses are going in one direction.
Reaching the top, I pulled out my night scope to take a look. What I saw shocked even me.
It was either Hagrid's dreams become someone else's nightmare or someone really just unleashed a pair on Nundus on the SMART team.
"Gonna need a bigger boat," I muttered.
Nundus have been known to taken the combined power of anywhere from 100 to 150 wizards. The large leopard-like cats breathed out disease like a dragon breathed fire; except imagine catching the bubonic plague, anthrax, and Ebola in a single instant. And unlike dragonfire, the nundu breath persisted in the area for hours, days, or even weeks after the animal left depending on how long it resided in the area. Now two of the things were going after the ten-man SMART unit. Not good odds.
Time to even them up a bit.
I reached into my ruck and open a small pocket. I pulled a long hard case from the ruck and quickly get it onto the ground. I flipped off the latches and pull out one of my favourite toys: the AW50 sniper rifle. It is a bit overkill for use against a soft target like a man, but does a nice job taking out material targets like small trucks, helicopters and boats with a well placed shot. Should be perfect for use on a gigantic magical jungle cat.
I've never hunted animals. Okay, there was the basilisk but to be honest it was really hunting me. I have no idea what the anatomy of a nundu would look like to choose the best shot. The head is the most mobile object on any living target. That plus the range makes it a poor option.
I deploy the folding-stock and take a prone position looking out over the magical fight. One of the big cats is standing perpendicular to me and roaring at one of the Hectors. The .50BMG round takes it high in the flank just behind the shoulder.
Yep, he bloody felt that. He staggered a bit and stumbled to the ground. It looked more confused than in pain. The round must have damaged the nerves. Good enough.
I switched to the second nundu. It appeared to be eating ... someone. I snapped off a quick round in hope its poor 'meal' can be saved. A last second hop by the cat caused the round to sink into its soft flank.
The nundu lets out a horrific yowl of pain and anger at the sudden attack. It whipped around looking for the source of the pain. It seemed to decide the few magical bolts coming at it were the source and lunged forward at a phenomenal speed.
The next round caught the creature in the neck as it lunged forward. I didn't even realize I'd pulled the trigger. It fell forward to face-plant in the ground from its momentum.
I checked the first beast and it is no longer moving. Just in case I put a round into the tops of each creature's head. I saw Scream also. I didn't want to get bitten or breathed on because I assumed the bloody things were dead.
I re-loaded the clip, policed my brass and then returned the rifle to its case. I used my broom to get down the where the Hectors were. I figured at that point speed is more important than stealth.
Almost as soon as I landed I find the remains of Hector-1 and Hector-3. They were covered in sores so they must have caught a face full of nundu breath. I also found several Iraqi wizards dressed in some kind of cotton skirt with straps across their chests that reminded me of pictures I'd seen in my old Muggle school texts. I knew it wasn't the normal grab of modern wizards in the area who dress much like their traditional Muggle counterparts in flowing desert robes.
Three of the Hectors made their way over to me. I recognize them as Hector-2, the team second in command, my buddy Hector-8, and the team scout Hector-10.
"Potter, was that you?" Hector-2 asked with a wave of her wand towards the closest of the nundu corpses.
"You needed the help. Any other survivors?"
"Only us," a new voice answered.
The Hectors and I are surprised by the newcomers. It is a young man and woman dressed like the other Iraqis I'd found. He looked around thirty and had the look of some college lecturer. I think it was the bemused look on his face as he surveyed the chaos coupled with the large lenses on his glasses. The young woman looked about twenty and seemed about done in but had a very determined look in her eye. The wand in her hand showed no sign of weariness either. That was about all I could see as she was covered head to toe in an elaborate robe that somehow made me think of a high priestess.
The man added, "I'd say you chaps picked the perfect time to arrive. Things went a bit pear-shaped there at the end." I don't think he even noticed the three wands and one assault rifle pointed at them. His English had a pure British upper-crust poshness that didn't sound forced at all.
"Who are you?" Hector-2 demanded.
"Oh, I am Professor Sa'aleh al-Jumaili, formerly of the British Museum specializing in Ancient Mesopotamian religious and magical practices. This is my associate, Ms. Dana Ali. Ms. Ali is an expert on ancient runic languages and Mesopotamian ritual magic. My, this is a bit of a disaster." Seven SMART team members were dead and at least that many more Iraqis and that was his reaction?
Maybe just getting the title of 'professor' causes one's brain to turn to mush?
"What the hell were you people doing out here?" Hector-8 demanded. "Those fucking cats just killed most of my team!"
I noticed the witch tighten her grip on her wand at -8's (justifiable) anger, but the professor just turned a bemused look at the Hector.
"I assure you that was never our intent. We were here to prevent the nundus' escape, not assist them." Oddly enough, I found I believed him. "The ancient ritual we were going to perform should have prevented the further deterioration of their holding wards and the rest of the ward cascade failure as well."
"What is going on here?" Hector-2 asked in a growl.
The professor straightens his glasses like he is fielding questions in his classroom before answering. "Saddam Hussein is desperate. He ordered our Minister of Magic to assist in his defense. Minister Ramzi cited international regulation preventing our involvement and was promptly shot. The Deputy Minister, Ibrahim al-Yussuf, agreed but ordered nothing more than harassing and nothing where the Muggles could witness magic use. He was trying to walk a very fine line."
That sounded great and perfectly reasonable to me. Unfortunately, I could hear the 'but' coming that was causing my arsehole to pucker. Between four years at Hogwarts and seven years in Her Majesty's service, I could feel it coming. We were about to get buggered-up real good.
"However, something unfortunate occurred. Some of the wizards forgot their magical history and opted to use a particular location as their base from which to act."
"And that place was bad why?" Hector-8 growled.
The professor looked baffled. "My dear sir, the mound they chose is the remains of the great ziggurat, Etemenanki, which is often considered the inspirational source for the Judeo-Christian story of the Tower of Babel." He then turned and pointed towards the mound I'd been shooting from.
"That mound is the remains of a smaller one that mirrored the great one. The great ziggurat was built to honour the victory of the mage Marduk over Tiamat and her forces around 2,700 BCE. Magical powers at the time were often seen as a gift from the gods by both Muggles and Wizards alike. Indeed, the legends grew to the point that both became gods themselves; although Tiamat is more often described as a demon today."
Hermione would have loved this bloke.
"If the work of Ali of Bagdad in the 6th Century CE is to be accepted, as I believe it should, the ziggurat is built over the site where Tiamat and her forces were entombed for all time. A study of the magical wards that were detected under the mound seems to support this hypothesis.
"The Ministry wizards decided to set up their operations from atop the remaining base of Etemenanki. Since their goal was to cause confusion among the invading Muggle forces this was seen as humorous -the whole babel / confusion thing. Unfortunately, their rituals destabilized the wards under the mound. The mound started to emit an odd magical resonance in pulses.
"Now a series of similar, but much smaller ziggurats, such as this one, dotted the area of ancient Mesopotamia. They also honoured Marduk but were not seen as related to the great site. However, with each pulse the wards on one of the lesser sites fail. And from these mounds come monsters.
"Monsters?" Hector-2 asked warily.
"Yes, monsters," Dana Ali spoke up for the first time. "While popular Western culture recently started depicting Tiamat as a several headed dragon, she is actually considered the mother of demons in Babylonian stories. The Enûma Elish calls her the mother of dragons and serpents. She was apparently fascinated with creating new creatures with her magic. We believe aside from some dragon species, she is also responsible for basilisks, nundus, centaurs, nagas, and hydras to name a few."
Great, an ancient Dark Lady version of Hagrid. I wonder if she thought they were cute, harmless critters too?
Ali added, "We were sent here in an attempt to recreate the ritual we believed had been used to create the wards. The nundus emerged before we could finish the second chant."
"So how many more of these mounds are there and what is the big finale when the wards at the main site finally fail?" I asked.
Ms. Ali took in my SAS dress and armament for a second before answering. "We think Tiamat herself will be released along with possibly some of her monsters and human followers."
"Okay, we've wasted enough time," Hector-2 asserted. "-8,-10 gather up the rest of our team and the other bodies. Potter, keep an eye out for any more company while we clean up the site. Professor, Ms. Ali, I am afraid I am going to have to ask you to come with us."
"We must report back to our superiors!" Ali objected. A part of my brain notes she has a warm, fuzzy voice. I don't know about the rest of her but she has a voice for radio.
"Not my problem," Hector-2 answered. "We have two whole divisions heading into this area in the next twenty-four hours. I can't have them entering an area where the worst Dark creatures in history are suddenly, and conveniently, appearing in their path."
The two Iraqi magicals continued to protest until Hector-2 threatened to stun them until we reach the American base. They subsided as the Hectors make short work of cleaning up the battle site. The Americans sprinkled a powder over the nundu bodies that ignite into bright blue flames twenty seconds later. It burnt almost like Fiendfyre as it quickly consumed the bodies.
"Time to go," Hector-2 announced seven minutes after they started. "You two have brooms?" she asked the Iraqis.
"No, a carpet," Professor al-Jumaili answered.
"Fine. -8 and I will lead the way. -10 and Potter will follow behind you. Do not attempt to escape. Potter, the base moved so pay attention. Let's fly people."
The flight back to base was not nearly as relaxed. The Hectors took 70 percent casualties in under ten minutes. No matter how you train, that kind of thing hits you hard. The Iraqis were even worse. They arrived with fifteen other witches and wizards and were the only two left alive.
The base had moved about two hundred klicks to the north of its previous position and it was well inside the Iraqi borders but in the desert area. When we landed at the base the Hectors moved quickly into the tent with Agent-16 and Terry. A trio of guards arrived and escorted Professor al-Jumaili and Ms. Ali into a secluded corner of the tent.
I wasn't invited to join either group so I moved into the tent and found an empty table. In short order I had the AW-50 sniper rifle and my G3KA4 assault rifle stripped and cleaned. Both weapons can handle a fair amount of abuse but better safe than sorry. Desert sand gets everywhere.
I was reassembling my weapons when the professor made his way over to where I was standing.
"I must say, I was quite surprised to see an American magical unit deploying with a British military officer even a squib." I ignored the leading comment. Dumbledore uses them all the time and they are bloody annoying. If you have a question then just ask it. If I want to play word games I'll go hire a solicitor.
"He isn't a squib."
I looked up in surprise at that. Ms. Ali had approached with the professor. In the light of the tent I actually got my first good look at her. The witch had removed her outfit's elaborate headgear and the outer robe. She had intense brown eyes that seemed to dominate her face. She had also released her hair and now it framed her face in soft-looking night black long hair. The ancient kilt garb the Iraqis were wearing looked smoking on her. The kilt came to mid-thigh showing a lot of really nice leg. The straps went across her chest while revealing nicely toned abs. If her expression wasn't so intense I'd call her gorgeous.
"He is Harry Potter."
Al-Jumaili looks gobsmacked. "The Harry Potter?"
I don't answer as I am watching Ali. She hadn't broken eye contact with me.
"I went to Durmstrang. I was too young to enter the Tri-Wizard Tournament but my grades were high enough that the Highmaster allowed me to join the delegation to Hogwarts. The scar is gone and the hair is cut short but the eyes are the same. And the impression of suppressed, coiled magical power waiting to be unleashed is the same. It is him."
Al-Jumaili looked like Christmas (or whatever) just came early. "Harry Potter! This is an honour!" He rushed forward to shake my hand. "I had just finished my postgraduate studies at Oxford when Pureblood Wars came to an end. Most impressive!"
Fortunately, the little session was interrupted by the arrival of Agent-16 and Hector-2.
"Sir, this is Professor al-Jumaili and Ms. Ali."
Agent-16 gave them a brief nod. "Professor, Ms., we have been in contact with your magical government. Your Minister al-Yussuf offered a magical vow that the release of the creatures was not intentional. In order to prevent the revelation of magic from the Muggles we have chosen to join forces. Team Achilles is coming to support Hector. We have a number of people from Magical Animal Control en route and two additional squads of Oblivators also. The Brits are also sending two squads of Hit Wizards and an Oblivator squad as well."
Then he turned to me. "Lieutenant, I understand you were responsible for saving the remnants of Team Hector. You have my thanks. I had planned on returning you to your unit but the British senior officer requested you stay at least until he arrives."
I can feel the steel jaws tightening about my neck.
"And that would be?"
"Senior Auror Shacklebolt"
Lovely. "Fine, I can wait until Kingsley arrives."
Agent-16 looks a bit perplexed about my casual reference to Kingsley. From the smirk on Terry's face I'd say he sees this whole thing as a prank.
I guess I do too. It is funny that the Iraqis recognize my name but not my magical allies.
1 April 2003
The British forces arrived just before noon. I had crashed out around 6 so it wasn't too bad. Six hours of uninterrupted sleep is the ultimate gift in a war zone.
"Harry, good to see you."
"Kingsley. It's turning into old home week here in the desert. First Terry and now you. Should I expect Tonksie to be trailing along behind you too?"
The large, bald black Auror smiled widely. "Nope, Mrs Lupin had to take a leave of absence. Chasing Dark Wizards when you're pregnant is apparently a bad idea."
Okay, he got me with that one. I was officially stunned. "Remus is going to be a dad? When is the little hairball due?"
"Six months. Remus is a wreck and Sirius is taking book on what the kid will be. I am down for boy and metamorphamagus. Ron just put down 'hamster'.
"Ron's going to win. With parents like Remus and Tonks, the kid has no choice but to be a 'ham'-ster." Shack groaned at the pun.
"Anyway, I have two full squads of Hit Wizards, ten experienced officers, and a squad of Oblivators. While I am nominally their senior officer, I am well aware that you actually outrank me here."
I barely suppressed a groan of my own. "I didn't want that, Shack. You know they forced that on me."
Shack's grin was not comforting in the least. "Well, that is what you get for stopping a Dark Lord and his entire Inner Circle by yourself when the rest of us failed. Plus the fact you fought so hard not to be recognized made it a game for her. I swear the woman should have been a Slytherin and could give Albus lessons in emotional manipulation."
I had to agree to that. "But she looked so sweet and understanding. When she yanked the rug out from under me I couldn't say no."
"I know. Sirus has the picture of the look on your face at the point hanging on the wall of his house right where his mum's picture used to hang."
I was plotting my revenge on my dogfather as Shack led me out of the bunkroom I'd been sleeping in. Thank Merlin I'd placed a Silencing Charm on the door. The place was packed.
Team Achilles had arrived with replacements for Team Hector. (I later learnt that Hector-2 was now Hector-1. Talk about confusing. Hector-8 and -10 remained the same.) The Iraqis had also sent a team that I noticed talking near the table where I'd cleaned my weapons. I could see them talking to Professor al-Jumaili. Ms. Ali was hanging near the back of the group. Unfortunately, they had also brought her normal clothes.
When she noticed my looking in their direction, Ali gave me the same hard stare as the night before.
"Careful Harry. That one looks like she either wants to kill you or shag you rotten. I'm not sure which would leave you in worse shape."
I scowled back at Kingsley. "Are you sure you're a Senior Auror? Cause that sounded like something Sirius would say." The big man snickered and tried to look wounded.
I saw Terry standing in a group of fifteen people. The old home week continued as I walked up. At least half of the group attended Hogwarts with me.
"Hi, Wayne. Been a long time."
"Not since you left Hogwarts," agreed Wayne Hopkins. He'd been in my year but in Hufflepuff. We were casually friendly although he did wear those damn badges of Malfoy's in Fourth year. "I am here as part of the Oblivator unit. My partner is Marietta Edgecrombe. She was a year ahead of us in Ravenclaw." I remember she was Cho's best mate and that is about it.
Kingsley interrupted. "Harry, this is Martin Addams, leader of squad 1. And I think you know Terence Higgs, leader of squad 2."
Addams was in his mid-30's and looked like a younger Moody. He was missing his left ear, had a large gash across his left cheek and was missing some fingers on his right hand. Higgs had been four years ahead of me in Slytherin. He had been their Seeker before Malfoy bought his way onto the team. We'd occasionally played pick-up Seeker matches before he left school and he'd won about a quarter of the time. Pretty good bloke for a Slytherin and he hated Malfoy with a passion.
Addams' team included Jack Sloper and Ken Towler, both Gryffindors. It also included Astoria Greengrass, a Slytherin two years behind me and my classmate Daphne's sister. I'd heard Malfoy tried to talk her family into an arranged marriage but the Malfoy name had fallen with Tom. Higgs' unit included Vicky Frobisher who was two years behind me in Gryffindor.
I didn't know any of the other Oblivators or Hit Wizards. Most of the Oblivators were former MLE officers or Hit Wizards that had moved into less dangerous work. The remaining Hit Wizards either had ten years in with the Ministry or were citizens of Commonwealth members recruited in to make up for the losses suffered during Tom's take-over at the Ministry.
The reunion was cut short when Agent-16 called the meeting to attention. We quickly found open seats.
"Thank you all for coming so quickly," Agent-16 started. "We have a potential Class 1 breach of the Statutes of Secrecy. First I will ask Dr. al-Jumaili to provide you with some background information. Doctor?"
Al-Jumaili stood up and moved to the lectern Agent-16 had just left. "Well, yes. Um. Good afternoon. The reason we are here today is the impending collapse of the wards beneath Etemenanki."
The doctor went back over what he and Ali told Team Hector and me the night before. Apparently, Tiamat was the queen of a city that actually preceded Babylon. There was no separation between magical and Muggle then. They believed their powers were supernatural in origin and the truly powerful were thought to be demigods or even full gods.
Sounds like Tom's wet dream, doesn't it?
We don't know a whole lot about the magic of the time. They didn't use wands but the use of what we call Dark Magic was commonly accepted. Raise the undead? Check. Cause plagues and disease? Check. Demonology? Weather Magic? Stealing another wizard's power? Check, check and check. In fact, the Unforgivables were probably treated like Stunners and Disarming Charms today.
And we haven't even gotten to her cute, cuddly pets yet.
As for her defeat at the hands of Marduk, it seems that Marduk was the child of a ruling family of a small city-state that might have been near modern-day Ramadi. Tiamat ordered the city sacked in and Marduk's family was slain. Marduk was a rather gifted wizard and a skilled leader. He pulled together Tiamat's enemies to mount an attack on Tiamat's domain. Eventually Marduk defeated and killed Tiamat.
Or at least that is what this history written by the victors says.
Now it seems Marduk may have trapped her in a state of suspended animation leaving it for someone else to deal with when the wards finally failed. Thanks, mate.
Dr. al-Jumaili finished his presentation when another Iraqi stood up. "I am Acting Minister of Magic Ibrahim al-Yussuf. Before this effort can move forward, we must insist that the involvement of Lt. Potter come to an end."
He moved to look at me directly. "Please understand, Lt. Potter. While I respect your achievement of six years ago in the magical world, you currently wear the uniform of a nation that is invading my own in the Normal world. A number of our First-generation witches and wizards have already lost normal family members in the conflict. I fear they would find it impossible to work with you under these circumstances."
I have to hand it to the man. He had the backbone to stand up and say it, politely and look me in the eye, while maintaining a firm stance. I doubt Madam Bones would have handled it as well if the positions were reversed. I am damn sure that arse Fudge would have been screaming for dementors the moment I set foot in the room.
I also liked the use of First-generation and normal rather than Muggle-born and Muggle. It sounds a lot classier and less arrogant.
Before Kingsley can protest, I motioned for him to remain silent. I stood up instead. "I can understand your position, Minister. I don't want to be a point of contention here so I will voluntarily leave you. However, if you need my assistance I will make myself available."
The acting Iraqi Minister of Magic looked relieved at my acceptance and lack of fight.
In a voice just loud enough to be heard by the British contingent, I said, "Well mates. Keep your wands ready and your heads down."
"Harry, you don't have to do this," Terry hissed.
I patted him on the shoulder as I moved past him. "Don't worry, Terry. It's all good."
Kingsley had moved out with me. "Don't do anything stupid, Harry"
I gave him a grin. "Hey, stupid is my middle name. Well, actually it is James, but according to Sirius and Remus it works out to be just about the same thing."
I grabbed my gear from a nearby table and make my way out of the tent as the briefing resumes. As I stepped out of the tent I had a thought occur to me. Today was the Weasley twins' birthday. I really had to do something to honour it.
I pulled out my broom and Invisibility Cloak and leave the camp.
I arrived at the Etemenanki site just as the sun was setting. While my broom was faster it had taken a bit longer to get things arranged then I'd expected. When I was five klicks away I could feel the magic in the air. I'd expected the fireworks to start at midnight. It seemed as through things kicked off three and a half hours early.
Coming in over the Tigris River I could see Iraqi units moving all over the area. Saddam had a palace located just north of here. I could see them reacting to the lights in the sky from the magical event occurring at Etemenanki. I didn't know if the Muggle-Repelling Wards collapsed under the pressure or if they never had a chance to get them up. But they sure weren't bloody there now.
Fortunately, I arranged for a distraction.
I activated my satellite radio and called to an aircraft twenty klicks behind me. I am just setting down when the road running west of the site erupts in fire as the flight of A-10's flew up the road with their 30mm cannons firing and the impact of several dropped bombs.
I'd wanted to save their attack for later if I needed it. Both of the pilots were squibs so the Statute would have been safe if they had spotted any spellfire. Ah, at least it kept the local 'normals' busy.
The scene I discovered looked like a movie set. There were bodies scattered everywhere. Some wore the modern dress of Western or Iraqi Wizards but a fair amount wore outfits that looked much older than even the kilts the Iraqi team wore the night before for their failed ritual.
I walked past the remains of Marietta and Wayne. There was nothing I could do for them. There was too much blood on the ground to think otherwise.
I suspect this was the crew responsible for the anti-Muggle wards. Many of the Iraqi wizards also had swords made out of bronze. Oddly, the blood on the blades looked green.
Moving quietly through the surrounding brush, I stayed off the paths as I made my way towards where the main body was supposed to be restoring the wards. Coming through the trees, I paused just inside to get a sense of what was going on. It looks like they were too late.
There was a woman I assumed to be Tiamat sitting atop a throne on a raised dais at the base of the mound. By the bright orb of light floating on either side of the throne, I could see she was wearing a costume that looks like it was made entirely out of stands of beads and some strategically placed feathers. There were three men standing with her on the platform. They were also in what looks like some kind of formal garb. They reminded me of the crazy archaeologist in high priest robes at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
But what scared me the most isn't the people on the dais. It was the dozen people being held by glowing bonds at the foot of the platform while a pair of nundus, and a dragon that made my Horntail at the Tournament look meek and unintimidating lay waiting nearby.
An air strike was out unless I want to sacrifice everyone over there. So I had to go to Plan B.
I felt a sense of déjà vu as I pulled out the .50cal AW50. Some would call it overkill with the short range and against a human target. However, I would have to deal with the nundus and the dragon next and wouldn't have time to change weapons.
I slowly crawled to the best vantage point to get a shot at the dais. Satisfied, I lined up the shot taking aim just above Tiamat's breast bone.
I am about to pull the trigger when one of the men moves into my line of fire. A globe of opaque energy suddenly surrounds the foursome. I doubt they knew I was there. I suspect it was some type of privacy ward.
Normally, I would wait it out for the ward to drop and the shot to clear. However, the dragon looming over my teammates makes me nervous. I hoped with the range and the noise of the aftermath of the A-10s' run that my shot would go unnoticed.
The heavy round caught the dragon in the neck just under the jaw. I didn't have any faith in a body shot actually reaching anything vital but the neck is still a relatively small enough target that the chances of hitting something important goes way up.
From the amount of blood that spurted from the wound, I'd say it was effective. The dragon threw its head back in shock and tried to roar but all that came out was an odd gurgling noise. It stumbled backwards in confusion as the blood continued to flow out.
I actually felt sympathy for the great beast. It was a beautiful creature. It crashed to the ground as blood loss got to it and lay there twitching.
One of the nundus moved towards the dragon. I guess all cats are curious, but I couldn't let a disease breathing creature near my teammates.
My round took the nundu in the chest the same as the ones the night before. My third round is off as a sudden shift in its mate's stance goes through the stomach area. Its yowl of pain and anger caught the attention of the four humans on the platform. I took the second shot at the nundu because it was too close to the captives.
I am lining up on the platform waiting for the globe to dissipate when I felt a sharp blow to the back of my head. Then it all went black.
I woke up stripped of my ruck, my gun belt and my weapons. My flak jacket was gone too. All I had on is by BDU's and my boots. They even pulled the blade from the sheath in my boot.
Great. It's official. This mission has gone completely tits up.
"Are you okay, Potter?" a voice asked.
I looked up to see Dana Ali bound and kneeling in the sand over me. Well, at least I had one nice thing to wake up to.
"Just brilliant. Who in the hell snuck up on me?"
"It was them." Ali gestured with a chin over to my other side. I rolled slightly to get a look.
Nagas are the snaky cousins of centaurs. Rather than the bottom half being a horse, these blokes have the lower half of really big snakes. The humanoid halves remind me of Tom after his restoration. In their hands are eight foot long spears topped with wickedly sharp looking points that look like obsidian. I also noticed several of them were wounded with green blood leaking out.
Their snake-like attributes apparently extend beyond just their lower halves and some physical features. I saw their tongues flickering out, sampling the air. That was how they found me. They 'tasted' me. I was all camouflaged and silent, but I failed to block out my scent.
It is always the little things.
Our little group consisted of five Americans from the Achilles / Hector teams, two Iraqis including Dana Ali, and three British Hit Wizards.
Jack Sloper was unconscious with obvious head trauma. It looked like one of the spear tips had sliced him. Vicky Frobisher was tied up on the other side of Dana looking brassed off but okay. Astoria Greengrass was just behind her and looked okay except for a growing red stain on her right shoulder.
"Where is Shack?" I asked.
Vicky scowled and gestured with her chin. "Poor bastard never had a chance. The basilisk came out of the mound right in front of him."
"A basilisk too?" I muttered. I looked over to see a pair of statues standing off to the side of the dais facing the mound. Just beyond them I could make out a cave opening in the mound. Damn it. Now I was annoyed.
"Him and Higgs were gone in an instant," Vicky continued. "Then the bloody nundu comes bounding out and breathes all over the Iraqi team. The other nundu and the dragon took out the SMART teams. We were pulling back when those snake things came up behind us."
"Ya, they wiped out the Oblivator teams before hitting you." Vicky looked really upset at that.
"They didn't come out of the mound. The basilisk broke the seal on the hole. We would've seen anything else coming out. Thanks for getting rid of the nundus and the dragon. I thought for sure they were going to eat us."
I nodded acceptance of her thanks but went back to the topic.. "I reckon they were at one of the other sites and were waiting for Tiamat's emergence. Lovely, I wonder how many others are sitting out there waiting for her."
"We all tried using our emergency Portkeys but these bonds seem to be blocking us. I can tell there aren't any wards blocking travel."
I filed that information away as one of the men from the platform strides arrogantly down to us. He came to a stop in. Then he began to speak… in perfect English.
"Her Royal Divine Majesty, Tiamat the Creator and Destroyer demands that the highest ranked among you come forward to hear her requirements and submit yourselves to her rule."
Hector-8 tried to stand. "I am the senior American officer here."
I rolled to my knees and stand in one motion. "I am the highest ranked person here."
Hector-8 scowled at me. "I am sure I outrank you, lieutenant. Plus you are only a squib!"
Astoria's response almost made me laugh in spite of the circumstances. "Yank, are you daft? My family may not like him but even we have to admit he outranks us all."
I never turned my gaze from the ancient wizard in front of me. I hated to use it but for this occasion it was the only way.
"I am the Royal Wizard to Her Majesty, the Queen of England; Lt. Sir Harry James Potter, Holder of the Victoria Cross and Order of Merlin, First Class, Knight Companion of the Garter, the Slayer-of-Voldemort."
After killing off Voldemort, I fended off every effort made by the Prime Minister or the Ministry of Magic to pin medals on me. I didn't do it for medals. I was successful too. At least until Queen Elizabeth invited me for 'tea'. Next thing I know I kneeling to be knighted and they are throwing ribbons around my neck. I felt like a bloody ring-toss game and they couldn't miss. At least I talked them out of proclaiming me Duke of Hogwarts.
"And you are the one to use the strange magic to kill my Divine Queen's pets. You shall do. I am Urak, Grand Vizier to Divine Tiamat. Follow me to your audience." He waved an odd looking rod that was hooked on the end and had tassels hanging off the bottom. My bonds dissolved instantly. I don't know if the rod acted as a wand or was merely a prop.
Two of the nagas moved in behind me almost like an honour guard as I stood up. I started forward and Urak fell into step at my side.
"We have slept long?" the Vizier asked casually as we approached the dais.
I didn't see any harm in answering. "About 5,000 years according to the local expert." He looked a bit troubled by that. Which I could completely understand.
"I have a question in turn. How is it you understand English?" That had been bugging me.
Urak looked at me in slight surprise. "The blessing is from Antu, Queen of the Birds. She received the gift and taught us how to understand all men. Each of us hears in his own tongue."
Urak led me up the base of the dais stairs. The platform was only seven steps so I was fairly close to Tiamat and able to get my first good look at her.
If this was a Hollywood movie, she would have been an exotic beauty. Her costume was exotic, but she looked like a housewife from Privet Drive. She reminded me of some of the women Aunt Petunia had over for tea when I was a kid. At least Tom looked the part.
I also noticed my gear tossed carelessly off the side of the platform. The AW50 was on top and looked okay. But it was what was next to it that really caught my attention.
Urak started the introductions. "Your Divine Majesty, I present to you the minor lord Harry Potter of the city-state of Britain."
"Why did your people come to attack Me and Mine, lordling?" Tiamat demanded. "You have slain My pets. By My rights, I should flay the flesh from your bones for such impudence."
I am not the most diplomatic person in the world but I was the only one there. How do you sum up in a hundred words or less five thousand years of history and explain the current situation?
"It was not my intent to harm you or your pets when I came here. The world has changed a great deal since your ... sleep," I started. "What we call the magical world, people with powers, separated from the normal, unpowered world centuries ago. The normal people live their life unaware of our existence. The normal world is fighting a war now over this ground. We believe this war caused a destabilization of the wards keeping you asleep. My people came only to ensure our secret is kept. Honestly all we know of you is legend. Your people harmed many of my people. I only killed your pets to protect my people."
Tiamat scoffed. "That is rank foolishness. The ungifted exist only as slaves at the feet of the Gods-blessed!" Okay, now I saw the Dark Lady potential. "As for your people, this is My land and all that dwell on it are either My servants or food for My pets.
"You claim to be Gifted but I sense no Gems of Power in your possession," one of the two unnamed men standing beside the throne commented in a nasty tone. "I sensed no Power from the weapon you used to slay My Mother-Wife's pets."
"My son-lover Kingu speaks the truth. You have no Gems to focus the Gift. You seek to deceive us!"
I decided it was time to establish my credentials as it were. I wandlessly conjured a small chair and sat down.
The expression on the ancient Mesopotamians is mixed between surprise at the chair's appearance and shock that I would dare sit in the presence of the queen.
Before they can get over their shock, I said, "Look, I understand this is not what you expected. I am sure we can help you get up to date and settled in somewhere as you catch-up on all you missed. I will say that your choice of pets will be a topic of concern as they are rather dangerous.
"You will have to accept that the world has changed and some things you used to do are no longer acceptable. However, I am sure there is a great deal we have lost that you can teach, such as this translator spell, while we can teach you all that has been learnt since your time."
Maybe I was being naive but I figured it was worth a shot to bring them in peacefully. Oh well.
Tiamat's face turned 'Uncle Vernon' red and purple. That is never a good sign. Urak, Kingu and the third man seemed furious as well. Guess I don't have a calling to be a diplomat.
"How DARE you!" Tiamat thundered from her throne. Now she was standing and waiving a jewel encrusted rod in my direction. I noted the jewels were glowing. "I am TIAMAT! QUEEN of the lands between the Rivers of Life and the Mountains Beyond! Chosen of the Gods! Daughter of the Gods Ak and Unq and I will eventually assume My rightful place by their side! I care not for your pitiful rules!
"Even if this time has forgotten Me, this land is Mine, now and for all time. My empire shall rise anew and all the Gifted of this time shall serve Me while the weak will answer Our whims. But as for you lordling…"
She raises her rod and makes an odd gesture. I felt a sense of motion to my left. I glanced back over my shoulder…
Straight into the eyes of a basilisk.
My first shock was the fact I didn't die instantly. The second was the snake's comment.
"Why you not die? Mother said for you to die."
"Um, not sure myself."
"You can speaks to me?" the basilisk hissed in surprise. From its length and speech, it was a baby compared to the one I faced my Second year. "A two-legs that speaks to serpents!"
Yep, it sounded like a five-year old. I thought things couldn't get any weirder.
"What is this!" Tiamat demanded. "You resist My serpent's gaze! Only those of My bloodline may do this. You do have power and are of My blood. Very well, you may have potential. In time you will come to see that your place is to serve Me." She made another gesture with the rod.
Two of the nagas moved up to stand on either side of me as the basilisk moved away. This wasn't going to end well.
"Urak, take this one into the chamber until I have time to deal with him. The wards held Us for so long should have no problem with this one."
Okay, now that was just not happening.
I allowed the nagas and Urak to lead me towards the opening in the mound. We were behind Tiamat's dais and hopefully out of sight. Ten metres from the opening I hit the nagas with a pair of wandless banishers. Wandless, they weren't strong enough to do more then buy me a little time.
Which I didn't have a lot of. Even as my wand appears in my hand from its disillusioned sheath on my forearm, Urak is bringing a rod around in my direction.
The Blasting Curse caught Urak in the ribs at point-blank range. It probably killed him immediately. A Summoning Charm pulled one naga into the path of the spear of his mate. A Cutting Curse finished up the last of the guards.
The combat didn't go as unnoticed as I'd hoped.
"You shall pay for this outrage! Kill them! Kill them all!"
That last was an instruction to the remaining nagas to kill the survivors of the teams sent here. I didn't have a lot of time.
I snapped off a quick spell even as I started running. "Accio designator!" The small laser-sight unit leaps from its place atop my pile of gear and makes a bee-line for me.
I snatched the designator out of the air like a Snitch before bringing up a strong shield. Pulses of light from the platform rippled across its surface. The rod-based spells seemed slower to cast but had more strength behind them.
The silent overpowered Cutting Curse slashed into the four nagas involved in killing my teammates.
A split second later I am forced to dive away as the great-grandmother of the Killing Curse smashes through my shield to where I had been standing.
I transfigured the dirt and rock into a granite barrier to resist the spells. Their curses started to shake it immediately, blowing chunks out of it at a time.
I inched the designator out past the barrier slightly and pressed the button.
"The designator emits a light that can only be seen with special equipment. A British Tornado bomber was waiting on station for a possible 'target of convenience.' Unlike the A-10 pilots, this pilot had no idea what he was targeting. The bomb simply homed in on the light.
"The bombs impact left a crater ten metre across and five deep. It had been targeted on the platform. When I swept the area afterwards, I found remains from what were at least two people. You're going to need forensics to decide if it was really two or all three. But for now I'd treat it as though one got away." I sit back in my chair as I finish my story.
The wizards sitting at the large C-shaped desk look shocked at the idea of a Muggle weapon able to do that much damage. And to drop out of the sky in a controlled fashion? These guys really need to wake up to the 21st century.
For my part, I was wisked away from Iraq two hours after the bomb landed on Tiamat's party and brought here to answer questions. Now I am sitting in a darkened room at a table by myself while a bunch of old men and women ask me stupid questions.
"Are you sure they were all killed, Sir Potter?" one of the wizards asks. Do you know Tiamat was definitely killed?"
"No, I don't. That is why I said to assume one got away for now. It is a good bet, but the bomb didn't leave enough identifiable remains to make a determination on-site. I'll just say I found female clothing remains from her outfit but that doesn't prove anything. I found parts to at least one man. It is plausible one managed to run before the bomb hit. If he or she did, they never returned while we were still there."
The wizard at the centre of the large desk comments, "Indeed, Mr. Potter. And what of your team?"
"Most of the captives were killed by the nagas before I was able to reach them. Only Ms. Frobisher, Ms. Greengrass and Ms. Ali survived. All of them were wounded but the nagas executed the men first. We did recover all of the bodies including the ones killed in the initial fight."
"And Tiamat's pets have all been terminated?" asks a Russian witch.
I give a shrug. "For the most part. When I left Iraq no new reports had surfaced since the main site's ward collapsed. That probably means there are no more sub-sites left to be found. Also, none of the Muggle military reports mention mythical monsters wandering around."
"For the most part, Mr. Potter?" the old-fart-in-chief asks. This will be fun.
"Two of them seem to have attached themselves to me. The basilisk, who I've named Bob, promised not to kill or petrify anyone. For old time's sake I sent him to the Chamber of Secrets. And one of the Nundus was a nursing mother. Her kitten is about two weeks old now and has decided I'm her new mother."
Wow, does that set them off. Let me tell you a couple of secrets. Basilisks have an inner eyelid that stops their gaze from killing or petrifying anyone. The second secret is that if you a bitten by a basilisk and survive you develop a strong immunity to most poisons and toxins. I 'accidently' discovered that includes nundus breath when my new kitten 'burped' on me. Looks like Vernon was right. I am a freak. But I'm a cool freak. Who wouldn't want a nundu kitten nipping at their ankles? The poor thing was so tiny I named it Mouse.
The questions continue for hours. I am really getting tired of this.
"This is all covered in my report. If you have any more questions, you can owl them to me." I stand up to leave this pointless questioning.
Of course the old meddler needs to throw in his two Knuts first.
"Just one more minute, Mr Potter. I regret that I have to inform you that as because of your public acceptance of the honours granted you with the Order of Merlin, 1st Class, it carries with it the status of a fully accredited adult wizard. As such per the Statutes of Secrecy you are barred from further service in the Muggle military. Your commander has already received word via official channels that you were killed in a helio-copter crash in the western Iraqi desert. The transfigured remains delivered to him will confirm this to him. No one will have any doubts."
Dumbledore pauses and takes on his patented 'friendly, trustworthy Grandfather' look. "It is time to come home, Harry. You've played in the Muggle world long enough. You have a responsibility to our world that you have ignored long enough."
Oh, now I know why they made me give up my wand and my pistol before I came in here. My wandless magic is no-where near strong enough to sort him out. I strongly tempted to simply use my bare hands at this point. The old bastard wanted to paint me into a box. I spent enough time trapped in a box of Albus Dumbledore's creation, starting with a certain cupboard. I don't do boxes anymore.
I take a deep breath and try to control my sudden desire to become a Dark Lord - starting by killing off the entire Executive Committee of the ICW. I am pretty sure Ron would join me. I know for sure the Twins would.
The committee is starting to look scared. They can feel the raw mix of anger and magic pouring out of me.
In a calm, dangerous voice I finally speak. "Once again you interfere with my life, old man, and take something dear to me. Very well, if Lt. Cedric Diggory is dead then you leave me little choice. I shall assume my position as Queen's Wizard immediately."
I turn and leave the Committee room as all hell breaks loose behind me. I ignore the shouted orders to stop. A lot of the shouts are directed at Dumbledore- none of them seem too happy right now.
Dumbledore thought he was going to manipulate me like a rat in a cage; the same way he did up until my trial. Well, bugger that.
I push through the outer doors and past the Aurors guarding the Committee chambers. I wandlessly summon my wand and pistol without breaking stride. The Aurors shout protests about procedures but I ignore them.
I enter the piazza that serves as the Apparition point for the ICW's Rome headquarters. Just arriving are two beautiful women, Dana Ali and Astoria Greengrass. They don't look too happy either. Both look relieved to see me
"Potter," Greengrass starts. "Bad news, it seems the Dark Bitch got clear of the explosion. The tests came back and identified all the samples as male. How are we going to handle this?"
I stop in front of them just inside the Apparition point.
"That is no longer my problem."
With a snap, I am gone.
A/N: A number of reviewers asked exactly what the title of Queen's Wizard entailed. I wrote the following scene to answer that question. It is not really an omake, more like the scene after all the movie credits have run.
"You sent a basilisk where?" I smirk at the outraged expression on my host.
"Oh, relax. I just said that to tweak the old bastard. Bob and Mouse are at Potter Manor. I had Dobby take them there when the ICW insisted I go to Rome to brief them."
Sirius settles down at the news. "Good thing because Ginny would have hexed you into next week!" I shrug. Not my problem. My poor former roommate Dean on the other hand would have not had a good week. Besides the day I can't escape a witch eight months pregnant with twins I should just hand in my wand.
"But what the hell was Albus thinking?" Sirius continues. "Merlin knows he's been gone on enough about how you need to return to the Wizarding World and take up your proper role. But this is barmy even by his standards."
I look up from the pint of bitter I've been enjoying while bring Sirius up to date. "My role?"
Sirius gives a shrug. "He sees you as his successor in guiding the British Wizarding World. He goes on about it every time I run into him; Remus and Dora too. We've all started to avoid him as much as possible. We're sick of hearing him go on about it."
"So what are your plans now?"
I take a pull on my glass as I consider the question. "Exactly what I told Dumbledore and his minions; take up my position as Queen's Wizard."
"I thought that was a ceremonial position."
I shrug. "I looked it up after they hung it on me. Officially, I am the Queen's advisor on all things magical – like Merlin was for King Arthur. Practically though it pre-dates the creation of the Ministry of Magic and the ICW. The magical portion of the Magna Carta that created the Ministry and separated the worlds specifically allowed the King to keep his Wizard and that the holder would be answerable only to the monarchy, not the Ministry. The treaty for the inclusion of Britain in the ICW accepted that document as proof of the legitimacy of the Ministry, so now they can't reject it without completely renegotiating the treaty.
Sirius looks stunned. "They just gave you a virtual black check. You're exempt from Wizarding law."
"Think I should make Hagrid happy and import a couple dragons?" Sirius starts to snicker with a wicked gleam in his eyes.
AN: The names of all of the Iraqis mentioned in the story were actual Iraqi civilians that were killed during the 2003-4 time period. I wanted real names and took them from news stories. No offense is meant by the use of their name in the story or inference to their character. The physical description of Dana Ali was taken from photos of British-Iraqi model Reem Al-Mawassri.
I named Bob the basilisk and it was only after the first version of this story was posted that my son asked if the nundu kitten was named Mouse in honour of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I never thought of that but loved the idea so I had to incorporate it here.
Based on the reviews so far, there will be at least one more episode in the Sniper universe. Be sure to review!