Wrath of Merlin was first published some ten years ago, and I decided it was time for an update. This revised edition leaves the fundamentals of the story unchanged, but I've reworked it to sharpen the narrative, generally improve its continuity, and tie the story better to its sequel, Auror Commander.
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 an attempt at a gritty portrayal of Wizarding Britain struggling to survive in the aftermath of the war, written mostly from the perspectives of Harry and Ginny – and occasionally others. The conflict that unfolds is bloody and brutal.
This is not a story for the faint of heart, and those with a distaste for violence will not necessarily 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 Harry left.
The last time I saw him was at the memorial service in the Great Hall held for those who had fallen – some two weeks after the Battle of Hogwarts. Everywhere around us, the scars of the Battle were still plain to see.
McGonagall, now Hogwarts' acting Headmistress, and Kingsley Shacklebolt – the newly installed Minister for Magic – had insisted that he speak. And Harry, always giving, had relented.
His hands were clenched into tight fists as he made his way to the lecturn. He stood in front of us, staring blankly ahead, not speaking, barely breathing.
I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.
Those were the only words Harry had spoken before walking out of the Great Hall. The massive doors opened with a wordless command from the gaunt figure that stepped out into the torrential rain – even though it was the middle of May – 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's remaining possessions were quietly deposited into the Potter vault at Gringotts.
A week later, Snape's body had disappeared, replaced with a portrait of the former Potions Master and a letter from Harry explaining Snape's story.
It was his only piece of correspondence since he'd left. I don't want to use the word 'last'.
In the days and weeks after his sudden departure, I had held onto a fervent hope that he'd return. But Harry didn't return. He wasn't there for my birthday, and he wasn't there to see me off for my final year at Hogwarts in September. I stood on Platform 9¾ that day with a pit in my stomach.
And now it's November, a handful of weeks before we're due to take the Hogwarts Express back to King's Cross for Christmas holidays.
It's hard walking through corridors, and learning in classrooms that you know people gave their lives to defend.
People like Colin Creevey, like Remus Lupin, like Tonks. 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.
And now Harry was gone too.
I don't know where he is.
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. After all, if Harry wants to be hidden, then not even Death can find him.
I'd changed with his departure. After the initial shock had worn off, I'd held onto hope that he would be found, that one day he'd walk back into my life with an explanation, that somehow, his departure would make sense.
And then I'd hold him again, and it would be alright. Everything would be okay.
But it was Kingsley's admission to me, just a couple of weeks ago during one of the Minister's visit to Hogwarts, that the Aurors – their ranks decimated from the war – could no longer prioritise the search for him – that was when 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 was managing. She spent half her time at Hogwarts studying for her NEWTS with me, and the other half working for the Ministry.
I guess NEWTS were just a hobby for her. But they sure weren't for me – which I why I found myself working on an essay for Defence Against the Dark Arts in the Hogwarts Library under the glare of Madam Pince. Forcing thoughts of green eyes and unruly jet-black hair from my mind, I went back to my parchment.
I looked up from my work at a Ravenclaw student. His face looked vaguely familiar, like he was on their Quidditch team. A couple of rows over, I could see a group of his mates casting furtive looks in our direction.
"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 the Hog's Head or Madam Puddifoot's with a boy who would boast to his friends how he was dating Ginny Weasley: Quidditch Captain, war hero. If he knew about my nightmares and the post-traumatic stress disorder, he wouldn't find me as attractive. Maybe he could join me on a date to my next counselling session.
I scrawled a few more sentences down on the parchment before my stomach decided that it was time for dinner. I cleared my books and parchment away and 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.
It was always nice to see them, but dinner was unpleasant. Not only did they constantly remind me of Harry's absence, but Hermione knew something she wasn't telling me, and kept shooting concerned looks in my direction. Ron just shoved food into his mouth.
I scowled. Pig.
By Ron's third helping of pudding, most of the students had left. Hermione cleared her throat rather deliberately. "Ginny, I have news about Harry, but I'm not sure if you want–"
"Of course I want to hear, Hermione!" I interrupted her.
Hermione's mouth opened in surprise. She hadn't deserved my outburst. I immediately regretted it.
"Sorry," I said with a small sigh. She gave me an understanding smile before continuing.
"The Ministry, they found him."
I couldn't believe it. They'd found him.
"Where?" I leaned in and asked in a whisper.
"Godric's Hollow, two days ago," Hermione replied, her voice low. "We don't know where he is now, but–"
"Aurors reckon that he's gone east," Ron interrupted her. "That's what Dad said anyway. They say he's probably in Europe, but they can't be certain. I reckon he's better at hiding than the lot of them put together."
"Do you know for certain that it was him?"
"It definitely was," Ron chuckled. "The Hitwizard who saw him was Disarmed and Stunned before he had a chance to blink."
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 even 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 glance at the picture of Harry and I 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 prospect of 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, or dancing with him at Bill and Fleur's wedding…just before the war had changed everything.
The memories overwhelmed me and the tears fell freely, my body heaving with raking sobs as I hugged my legs to my chest. I hated it, hated how this was affecting me.
A small voice was telling me that this wasn't me, that the old Ginny Weasley wouldn't have lost it over a boy. The old Ginny Weasley was made of stronger stuff.
Then again, the old Ginny Weasley hadn't gone through a war. The old Ginny Weasley hadn't lost what I'd lost.
In the war, I'd been tortured by the Carrows during their tenure at Hogwarts. They'd used the Cruciatus Curse on me when I'd refused to use it on other students. I knew pain. I knew what pain felt like.
But the Cruciatus had nothing on this.
I sprinted through the trees in determined pursuit. I was going to catch the bastard fleeing from me, and he didn't have a chance in hell of escaping. For months, I had been training for moments like this.
"Not even the Aurors can know about what we're doing here. Harry, from now own, you can have no contact with anyone. Not at all. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I understand."
"Not Hermione. Not Ron. Not even Ginny."
"You will be required to maintain a security clearance and you will need to make the Unbreakable Vow."
"Then welcome to Operation Wrath of Merlin."
Operation Wrath of Merlin.
Covert, clandestine, top secret, whatever you cared to call it. An unlimited black budget. More levels of classified than the rest of the Departments of Mysteries and Magical Law Enforcement combined.
Of course, officially, Operation Wrath of Merlin did not exist.
It existed for one simple goal: find and kill the remnants of Voldemort's armies – his surviving Death Eaters, Snatchers and other Dark wizards and witches who had pledged their loyalty to him. And after the Battle of Hogwarts, we discovered that Tom Riddle's forces were far more extensive than initially realised.
Only about a third had taken part in the attack on Hogwarts itself. Riddle was too intelligent a tactician to commit his entire force, and why would he need it? He was attacking a school filled with terrified students and the remnants of the Order of the Phoenix, not a fortress.
He hadn't counted on Dumbledore's Army. He hadn't counted on the Elder Wand. And he hadn't counted on me.
We reckoned another third of Riddle's forces gave up, came out of hiding and handed themselves over for trial in the hopes of a more lenient sentence.
But that final third of Voldemort's supporters went underground, much like we had during the war, to wage an insurgency across Wizarding Britain. The final third still wanted me dead. And they weren't about to go away without a fight.
So we hunted them down. Judge, jury – and in some cases – executioner.
Only a tiny handful of Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries knew about Operation Wrath of Merlin, managing our logistics, finding our targets, and looking after our working quarters.
Kingsley Shacklebolt himself 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, trained me to fight the Dark Arts in a way Hogwarts could not. They were my teachers and my teammates.
I didn't know their real names. Neither did Kingsley.
Arcane magic, the deep knowledge, forces that I did not fully understand – these were the norm in the Department of Mysteries. Under the tutelage of X and Y, I learned to use them, to embrace the knowledge and power contained within those bleak stone walls deep underground London. I got a three month 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 Tom Riddle – I had reconciled this within myself when I went out to destroy his Horcurxes. That the Elder Wand did it for me made no difference. It was a means to an end.
I no longer recognised myself in the mirror. Sure, I still looked like me, with the uncontrollable jet-black hair, my mother's eyes, and the lightning scar, but I wasn't the same person.
The war against Voldemort marked the end of my childhood. It was here, in the Department of Mysteries, that I became a man.
In the war I had learned to hide from death. In the Department of Mysteries, I had learned to embrace it.
"You will have to conceal yourself for the duration of Operation Wrath of Merlin."
"For how long?"
"Until it's over."
I understood why it had to be me. I had come to accept why I had to leave. If everyone knew where I was, I would become a target. Anyone I was with would become a target. Anyone I cared for would become a target. The words collateral damage had imprinted themselves on my mind.
Ginny would become a target.
The risk was simply too high. It wasn't a risk I was willing to accept – not after Fred's death at the Battle of Hogwarts and the devastated faces of the Weasley family.
When he had first approached me about joining Operation Wrath of Merlin, Kingsley had shown me the countless threats – against me, against Ginny, against Ron and Hermione, against so many others that I counted as friends.
I remember feeling sick, reading through the threats. Realising that this was far from over. Nowhere was safe with me. Too many people had already given their lives defending me.
Ron and Hermione would've told me that it was their choice to fight. And during the war against Riddle, I had begrudgingly accepted I needed their help – that I couldn't do it alone.
But this was different. I had the resources and the training of the Department of Mysteries. I could spare them this fight. I could give them a chance at a normal life.
And if I was a shadow, my location unknown to virtually everyone, then they would be safe. And from the shadows, I could strike fear into the hearts of those who wanted to destroy me.
Kingsley had 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."
Arthur Weasley also knew where I was and what I was doing. I felt worse for him, most of all. He was forced to lie through his teeth to his entire family, to his only daughter.
But it came with the territory. Arthur had been named Deputy Minister for Magic, a roll which he had taken 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.
Like me, Arthur could not say a word. He too, had made the Unbreakable Vow. The only people we could talk to about Operation Wrath of Merlin were those who knew its name.
Led by the Auror Office, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had pledged to find me – but little did they know that they were being fed a steady stream of false sightings and leads from the Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries designed to throw them off my trail.
But still, there were slip-ups. I'd been spotted a few days ago by a Hitwizard in Godric's Hollow, and I'd been forced to Disarm and Stun the unfortunate wizard. Of course, he was just doing his job. But so was I.
The wizard I was chasing after had killed innocent Muggles in the war. He was a practitioner of a particular branch of revivalist Dark Magic – simply put, human sacrifice in an effort to bring back the dead. Tom Riddle had prized that sort of special skill.
But I was about to teach him a rule only Riddle and I had ever broken: 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 to me. I pulled out my Invisibility Cloak and put it on.
It was one of the Unspeakables, X, speaking to me through a specially designed magical earpiece used by Aurors and Hitwizards in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
"He's about twenty feet in front of you."
I didn't reply. Like all Unspeakables, X was a man of few words, so conversation was implicitly discouraged. Instead, I moved slowly closer to the wizard's hiding position, silently casting a spell that would prevent him from Apparating. There would be no escape.
I saw my target burrowed into the undergrowth, beneath a massive oak. This was too easy. I inched closer, my feet catlike in their movement. Stealth was essential. Another lesson from my time in the Department of Mysteries.
Then I Disarmed him silently. His wand flew towards me, and with a flick of my own wand, it shattered into useless splinters.
I removed the Invisibility Cloak, my face hidden in shadow.
"Please…" His voice was a hollow whisper, hoarse from running.
I had to remind myself why I was doing this, why he deserved this fate.
"You slaughtered entire families," I said. My voice was not my own.
"I…no, please!" he pleaded.
Remember what they did, I told myself. Remember what he did. Remember Cedric Diggory. Remember Colin Creevey. Remember Fred.
I aimed my wand.
And then he was no more. His body lay prone in the undergrowth.
There was a part of me that hated the words. There was a part of me that hated the green flash of light. And I wondered if eventually, I would come to hate what I had become.
But above all, I hated them more.
A/N: Please leave a review and let me know what you think.