What happened to Voldemort's surviving forces after the Battle of Hogwarts? From this question, Wrath of Merlin was born.
The story I write is a gritty and realistic portrayal of Wizarding Britain struggling to survive in the aftermath of the war. The ensuing conflict is bloody, brutal, and dangerous, hence the M rating. This is not a story for the faint of heart, and those with a distaste for violence will not find Wrath of Merlin to their liking. But if your interest is piqued, then you'll enjoy this story. So, without further ado, I present:
WRATH OF MERLIN
a Harry & Ginny story
I. The Hunt
I don't know why he left.
I remember him at the memorial service for those who had fallen. He stared blankly ahead, not speaking, barely breathing. Hands clenched into tight fists when he got up to speak. McGonagall and Kingsley had insisted. And Harry, always giving, had relented.
I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.
Those were the only words he'd spoken before walking out of the temporarily repaired Great Hall, the massive doors opening with a wordless command from the gaunt figure that stepped out into the torrential rain…
…and then disappeared from my life.
And everyone else's.
We know he must have gone to Grimmauld Place at some point, because three days after he left Hogwarts, all of Sirius' remaining possessions were quietly deposited into the Potter vault.
A fortnight later, Snape's body had disappeared, replaced with a portrait of the former Potions Master and a letter explaining Snape's story.
His only piece of correspondence since he'd left - I don't want to use the word 'last.'
But he didn't return. He wasn't there for my birthday, he wasn't there to see me off for my final year at Hogwarts.
No one in the Wizarding World knows where he is.
The Daily Prophet has a thousand galleon reward for any information leading to his whereabouts, but all the sightings are nothing more than false hope.
If Harry wants to be hidden, then not even Death can find him.
And now it's November, only weeks before we take the Hogwarts Express back to King's Cross for Christmas.
It's hard walking through corridors, and learning in classrooms that you know people gave their lives to defend.
People like Colin Creevy, Remus Lupin, Tonks...and people like Fred.
His death hurts the most. I know that George is in more pain than what he shows. But none of us can begin to comprehend it. The bond between them was…something else. They use to joke about sharing a wedding ceremony.
But George doesn't joke anymore.
Just another thing that Voldemort took from us.
But now Harry was gone too.
I'd changed with his departure. After the shock, the tears, and Kingsley's admission that the Aurors couldn't find him, (they'd been searching for months) I'd lost whatever it was that made me happy. I felt hollow, like an empty shell of a human being.
I knew my friends worried about me, especially Luna, and Hermione, whenever she visited school. I don't know how Hermione managed. She spent half her time at Hogwarts studying for her NEWTS with me, and the other half working for the Ministry. I wondered where she was. She was meant to be helping me with the bloody essay I was working on.
Forcing thoughts of Harry from my mind, I went back to my parchment.
I looked up from my work at the sixth year boy from Ravenclaw.
"Um, I was wondering…um, do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?"
"No," I replied, disinterested.
I went back to my work, and he got the message, leaving quickly.
I wasn't some trophy. I didn't want to go to Hogshead with a boy who would boast to his friends how he was dating Ginny Weasley, Quidditch Captain, war hero...and total babe.
I scrawled a few more sentences down on the parchment. When I only had four inches to go, my stomach decided that dinner was in order.
I made my way to the Great Hall to find Hermione and Ron sitting in the middle of a crowd of admiring faces at the Gryffindor table.
Despite their presence, dinner was unpleasant. Not only did they constantly remind me of the missing member of our extended trio, but Hermione knew something, and kept shooting concerned looks in my direction. Ron just shoved food into his mouth.
By Ron's third helping of pudding, most of the students had left. Hermione cleared her throat rather deliberately.
"Ginny, I have news, but I'm not sure if you-"
"Of course I want to hear!" I said angrily.
Hermione's mouth opened in shock. She hadn't deserved my outburst. I immediately regretted it.
"Sorry," I sighed.
She gave me a sad smile before continuing.
"We…the Ministry, we found him."
I couldn't believe it. They'd found him.
"Where?" I asked in a whisper.
"We don't know where he is now, but he was in Godric's Hollow two days ago," Hermione said.
"Aurors reckon that he's gone east. They say he's probably in Europe, but we can't be certain. He's better at hiding than the lot of them put together," Ron added somberly.
"Do you know for certain that it was him?"
"It definitely was," Ron chuckled. "The Auror who saw him is in St Mungo's now."
Hermione smiled despite herself. "At least one thing hasn't changed. Harry still hates the Ministry interfering with his life."
I shoved my spoon around my plate, and Hermione had the tact to change the subject.
"Come to Hogsmeade with us on Saturday!" she insisted with a warm smile.
Reluctantly, I agreed, knowing that if I didn't; Hermione would get more worried and end up writing to my mother.
And that was something I wanted to avoid even more than a trip to Hogsmeade.
Following dinner, and trying my best to avoid the painfully obvious looks Hermione and Ron were giving each other, I headed to my dormitory. Getting into bed, I cast a habitual glance at the picture of the two of us on my beside table. Except he wasn't in it anymore.
He'd walked out of that, too.
My lower lip trembled. I'd missed him more today than I had in a while. The upcoming Hogsmeade visit had only worsened my mood. It had reminded me of happier times, going to the Three Broomsticks with his hand in mine…
The memories overwhelmed me and the tears fell freely, my body heaving with raking sobs as I hugged my legs to my chest.
In the war, I had experienced the Cruciatus at the hands of the Carrows. I knew what pain was like.
But the Cruciatus had nothing on this.
I sped through the trees in pursuit. I was going to catch the bastard, and he didn't have a chance in hell of escape. I had confidence borne from skill, honed in training for this very moment.
"Not even the Aurors can know. Harry, from now own, you can have no contact with anyone. Not at all. Do you understand?"
"Not even Ginny."
"Then welcome to Operation Wrath of Merlin."
Operation Wrath of Merlin.
Covert, top secret, whatever you cared to call it. Black budget. More levels of classified than the Department of Mysteries and Magical Law Enforcement combined.
It existed for one simple goal: find and kill the remnants of Voldemort's armies.
Of course, officially, it did not exist.
After the Final Battle, we discovered that the forces of Voldemort were more extensive than initially realised. About a third had taken part in the attack of Hogwarts itself - Voldemort was too intelligent a tactician to commit his entire force, and why would he need it? He was attacking a school, not a fortress.
He hadn't counted on Dumbledore's Army. He hadn't counted on the Elder Wand. He hadn't counted on me.
We reckoned another third gave up, came out of hiding and handed themselves over for trial in the hopes of a lighter sentence.
But that final third went underground, much like we had in the war.
The final third still wanted me dead.
So we hunted them.
Only five wizards alive knew about Wrath of Merlin.
Kingsley had recruited me. Not that he could join himself - he had been appointed Minister for Magic by the Wizengamot. His Auror days were over.
Two Unspeakables, codenamed X and Y - I didn't even know their real names - trained me to fight the Dark Arts in a way Hogwarts could not.
Arcane magic, forces that I never want to deal with again were the norm in the Department of Mysteries. I learned to use them, to embrace the knowledge and power contained within those bleak stone walls.
I got a month-long crash course in combat magic that taught me more than three years of Auror training possibly could.
And it was there I learned how to kill.
I had been prepared to kill Voldemort. That the Elder Wand did it for me made no difference. It was a means to an end.
But in the Department of Mysteries, I became death itself. The war was the end of my childhood, but it was here I became a man.
I no longer recognised myself in the mirror. Sure, I still looked like me, with the uncontrollable hair, my Mother's eyes, and the lightning scar, but I wasn't the same person.
"Only for as long as Wrath of Merlin continues. A year, tops. We won't ask you to do this forever."
I understood why it had to be me, and why I had to leave.
If everyone knew were I was, I would become a target. My friends would become targets.
Nowhere was safe with me.
But if I was a shadow, my location unknown to virtually everyone, then I could strike fear into the hearts of those who wanted to destroy me.
Kingsley summed it up quite nicely:
"You can't plan and carry out a Dark Magic attack when you're too busy looking over your shoulder in fear that Harry Potter will be there."
Along with Arthur Weasley, the five of us made up Operation Wrath of Merlin.
I felt worse for Arthur. He was forced to lie through his teeth to his entire family.
But it came with the territory. Arthur had been named Deputy Minister for Magic, a roll which he took on with great reluctance, but again knowing, that he, like Kingsley, was the best person for the job in the trying days after the war.
The wizard I was chasing after had killed innocents in the war. He practiced a particular branch of revivalist Dark Magic - simply put, human sacrifice to bring back the dead. Voldemort had prized that sort of special skill.
But I was about to teach him a rule: death is intended to be permanent.
I couldn't see him anymore. He hadn't used magic to hide, that would only serve to pinpoint his location.
I pulled out my Invisibility Cloak, and cast a non-verbal silencing charm, also levitating myself two feet from the ground for good measure.
It was X, sitting at a desk, thousands of miles away, but I could hear him through the headset fitted to my ear.
"Yes?" I replied.
"He's about 20 feet in front of you."
I didn't reply. X was a man of few words, so conversation was implicitly discouraged. Instead, I moved slowly closer to the wizard's hiding position.
I saw him burrowed into the undergrowth, beneath a massive oak.
This was too easy.
I returned to the ground, my feet catlike in their movement. Stealth was essential. Another lesson in my time at the Department of Mysteries.
I disarmed him silently. His wand flew towards me, and with a flick of my own wand, it shattered into mere, useless splinters.
I removed the Cloak, my face hidden in shadow.
"Please…" His voice was a hollow whisper.
I had to remind myself why I was doing this, why he deserved this fate.
"You slaughtered entire families in your experiments. You deserve to die."
My voice was not my own.
"I...no, please!" he pleaded as I aimed my wand.
Remember Cedric Diggory. Remember Colin Creevy. Remember Fred.
And then he was no more.
I hated the green flash of light.
But the evil that still threatened us? I hated that more.