A short preface is on order. This story won the DLP October Azkaban!Harry story contest. It was unedited when I entered it. This version has been edited, a bit. I fixed a lot of the grammar and spelling errors, as well as streamlined some of the characterizations. Still, it's a bit cliche at times, and if you do see any errors, please let me know. I'm hardly perfect. Also, this story is a test of my writing ability. I tried a psuedo-nonlinear story style of writing that I had never done before, and I think it came out alright. In addition, this story is a crossover with Firefly. If you have never seen the show, then shame on you. There are 14 episodes followed by one of the best damn movies ever made.
You Can't Take The Sky From Me
Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...
Weasley Magnate Found Dead!
November 3rd, 2013
By Oswald Tenswall
THE ESTEEMED Percival Ignatius Weasley, 37, of Ottery St. Catchpole, was found dead in his home today. Survived by five brothers, a sister, his mother, father and several grandparents, Percival was found by his beloved wife of sixteen years, Audrey, at approximately 3:15 this.
When Audrey, a member of the Minister's cabinet herself, was interviewed shortly after Aurors had arrived on the scene, she had very little to say due to overwhelming emotions. "I tried to shake him awake, I thought he was sleeping!" She told me as she dabbed the tears off her face. "He likes to take a mid afternoon nap after the big meetings – they take their toll on anyone."
Upon being asked of the possibility of rough play, she was very forthcoming. "His death looked very natural. Without a closer look, you would have thought he was sleeping, but when it was apparent he wasn't, I immediately sought help." I can report, personally, that Aurors and Medics arrived within minutes of the distress call, but declared Percival dead on the site.
The cause of death was undoubtedly the Killing Curse; it's infamously known for leaving minimal physical damage and is the choice spell for murders across the world due to its ease of use.
When asked for possible suspects, Audrey's list was surprisingly short. "It has to be Harry Potter. He is one of the few who had intimate knowledge of the protective magics on our home – none of which have any signs of tampering. The only other people with such knowledge were with me at the time of death –our family. Harry has been notoriously opposed to Percy's proposed legislations in the recent months, everything from Muggleborn rights to increased taxes on Chinese goods."
With tears in both of our eyes, Audrey finished with, "My husband is a good man! I want to see justice!" Percival Weasley was a great man and he will be missed by many. There is no word on who his successor will be, any potentials have been respecting the grieving family's wishes.
"I expect y'all back on the ship tomorrow at noon," Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the Firefly class transport, Serenity, told his crew. "I hope to have a job lined up by then. Something easy, but enough work to keep our mind off… recent events."
"A milk run?" Jayne asked hopefully as he cordoned off their cargo hold. Even he had had enough deadly action to last the week.
The Captain nodded his head in return. "No sense in anyone else getting hurt. I don't have anything right now, but I think a trip to a bar is in order."
"I could use a fight," Jayne commented with a sly grin. "I mean, a drink, yeah, a drink."
Mal chuckled. Jayne wasn't the only one who could use a drink or a fight. Zoe probably didn't have a preference at that moment in time - the loss of her husband, Hoban Washburne, weighed down on her harder than anyone could imagine. Wash was a great friend and a great pilot, and replacing someone like him would be impossible.
His crew was running at an all time low. First it was Shepherd Book, a man who seemed indestructible in his belief, and unwavering in his friendship, killed by the Alliance, and then Wash at the hands of Reavers. He couldn't ignore the loss of Mr. Universe either, and the loss of his immense knowledge, resources, and cunning. Without any of them, none of his crew would still be alive… But without them, his crew was feeling awfully small at the current moment.
That was ironic, because when he first bought Serenity, he never imagined having anything more than a pilot, mechanic, Zoe, and maybe a chef. He never did get that chef either, which was always good for a laugh. Instead, he had a gung-ho mercenary, a Companion, a legitimate doctor, and his crazy, damaged, sweet, warrior sister. He lost the preacher with the mysterious past and one of the best pilots in the 'verse, and although he was a decent pilot himself, along with Jayne and Zoe, and not to mention that River had a lot of potential… Serenity would never be the same.
And he meant that in both a physical and spiritual way. Serenity was in rough shape, even after the help they received, and he needed money to get her patched up to one hundred percent. But the sense of loss was not something that would be easily forgotten. Even Jayne showed some emotion. And if it were possible, River might even be more deranged than before, reportedly having killed upwards of fifty Reavers with her own hands, without even getting hit once. But Mal knew just as well as her brother, that the damage was deeper than any physical wound. Mal had his own demons to deal with, and he didn't even know where to begin with hers.
Still, the Captain had a job to do, and even more than that, he had a crew he was responsible for. The Alliance may have called off the manhunt for the Tam siblings, but that didn't mean he was going to parade around in front of them on a core world. They needed a job if for nothing else than for the sake of normalcy.
The ship landed at the medium-sized port of New Albuquerque, Paquin. The town was of decent sort, not too many roughnecks, and few Alliance sympathizers. The kind of people that could look after themselves, and a good chance to pick up a job that would not get themselves killed in the process. Inara even had a client lined up, one from one of the wealthy Trader's Guild. At least someone on the ship would be making some legitimate coin.
Mal, waiting for everyone to go off in their own directions, locked the ship behind him. Kaylee was dragging both Simon and River with her to pick up some parts for the ship with the mule and with what little savings they had. Inara had already taken off in her rented shuttle, so that left just Jayne and Zoe, who both waited for him to start their hunt for the nearest bar. The routine was almost ritualistic.
"What was the name of that bar down in the trade district?" Mal asked, recalling the last time they were in this town. "The Lumpy something…"
"Lumpy Muffin," Zoe responded helpfully, in that smooth, no-nonsense voice of hers.
"Yeah, The Lumpy Muffin," Mal confirmed, remembering the name. "We'll head there. Shouldn't be too far."
"What in the hell kind of name is Lumpy Muffin?" Jayne asked angrily, not having been to New Albuquerque before.
"Does the name really matter when there's beer and women there?"
"Women, are you sure? Sounds like a gorram gay bar to me."
"Well, if a fight breaks out, I hope you don't get your ass kicked by a frilly man."
Jayne sneered in response but said nothing, instead patting his hidden sidearm affectionately named Boo. Of course, he never left home without Binky either, but that went without saying. The same could be said for Zoe and her lever-action shotgun, most likely hiding inside her vest somewhere. Everyone had their quirks, and they'd rather be over-prepared rather than underprepared, especially with their luck. Mal still remembered the time where he told Jayne to not bring grenades, and they would have very much benefitted if he did. Reavers can ruin even the most basic of plans.
The inside of the bar was as inconspicuous as the outside. It was fairly average as bars go, average drinks, average patrons, average holo-pool table, average women. There wasn't even a proper sign hanging outside, but with big windows and an open door, anyone looking in could see the boisterous atmosphere and assume that drinks could be had.
Making himself scarce by promptly chatting up the prettiest alone woman he could find, Jayne left Mal to drink with Zoe. That was nothing out of the ordinary, except for her ordering "The strongest of whatever you got, two of 'em." Mal thought she ordered one for himself, but she downed both of them in quick succession before ordering a 'normal' drink.
Mal ordered his customary drink whenever he was in a decent bar. It was nothing special, but he'd been keen on it ever since he could remember. Zoe seemed to be in a rush to down as much drink as possible, not that he could fault her, so he took it upon himself to not lose his own senses and to keep an eye out around them. Usually the 'marks' were easy to spot, or one of the girls would know of a drop, but nothing seemed to stand out right away. Loose tongues caused by women and beer made bars a prime place for picking up a job. But it had to be done in a very specific way, and Mal wasn't sure of himself anymore – no one could have witnessed what they saw on Miranda and come out unscathed.
Minutes passed by as Mal scoped out the clientele, looking for that one stand out person, the one that didn't fit in with everyone else. Sitting nearest to him was a group of similarly dressed folk, wearing similar leather dusters and wide-brimmed hats. Not uncommon in these parts, if Mal was honest, but he had seen many other crews in his line of work to recognize another.
"Any jobs to be had around here?" Mal asked casually, not specifying any type. Friendly conversation was always a preferable opener, but he wasn't adverse to a little edge.
The man grunted, acknowledging Mal's presence. "Depends. You a merc? Always work to be found if y'know where to look."
"I ain't a merc, but I am looking here."
The man hrumphed. "You don't look much like a merc anyways."
"I operate a transport vessel," Mal continued on, undeterred by the man's brush off. "Can haul a good bit of cargo, guaranteed to reach wherever you need it to go."
The man hrumphed again. "Smuggler, eh?"
"Didn't come from my mouth. I don't ask any unnecessary questions, so long as I can fly and get paid."
"'Fraid you've picked the wrong bar for that." The man said in a more dangerous voice.
"Why's that?" Mal asked, now paying full attention to the man and his crew. He was outnumbered, even if Zoe wasn't practically passed out on the bar and Jayne nowhere to be found.
"This here is my territory, and I don't take kindly to your kind around here, Browncoat."
"The War ended a long time ago," Mal commented offhandedly. "But I ain't just going to leave without saying my piece. I'm just looking for some work and a little drink for me'n my crew. If you could –"
The rest of Mal's sentence was cut off by the man making a go at him. Not wanting to spill his drink and waste it on the bar top, the Captain took it and smashed it over the man's head as he lunged for him, sending his face into the wood.
"Harry… Potter," The Dark Lord purred, testing the name on his lips. "We meet again. You and I are quite alike… Heralds of a new age, but there can be only one of us."
"Voldemort," I acknowledged, drawing my wand and taking up a natural defensive stance. "There is a time and place for banter, but this is neither."
"Isn't it?" Voldemort asked, uncaring. "We are in a momentous, yet precarious position. Whoever walks away from here alive, will be amongst the greats of this era! And the other will be nothing more than footnote. History is written by the victor…"
I knew I stood no chance in a straight up fight with the Dark Lord. But, this wasn't going to be a straight up fight. I would play to my strengths, and expose his weaknesses.
"Yes," I agreed. "But what would your father think of you now? What would your prestigious ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, think of a mere halfblood toting his name around, calling himself a herald, a harbinger, whatever. Hell, at least both of my parents were magical and had a modicum of talent. What were yours again? A muggle man dosed with a love potion by your witch mother, who was barely a step above being a squib. Yes, clearly, blood and pedigree is everything."
An angry hiss escaped from Voldemort's mouth, the only indicator of his anger. "A Dark Lord has no father! Needs no father… Love is a weakness. Family is a weakness!"
"One does not need love to be strong, or to have friendships. Who amongst your minions could you call your friend? Is there a single person in this world who you could small talk with over a cup of tea and not have the urge to kill? You lack the proper skills to rule a nation, Tom. Fear will only get you so far."
"You know nothing, worm. You dare to lecture me? I had half of Hogwarts eating out of my hands with my words while I plotted to rule them all behind their backs. Your weak-minded countrymen may fear me, but there are those who flock to my cause, because they know of the power I wield, and the power they can learn to wield as well. Fame, money, wealth, it can all be had if you follow me."
"And it can also be had if I don't," I scoffed. "I have all of that."
"No, you don't," Voldemort said with a chilling laugh. "You don't have anything remotely resembling power, and the only fame you have you can thank me for! And wealth, you haven't seen wealth, haven't dreamed wealth. You know nothing of business, of politics, you know nothing about the world. You are here because you have to be, because the weak wizarding world demands it. Prophecy dictates your life, just as your 'friends' have you convinced to fight your own fight. Tell me, where are they now, while you prepare to die? Where are your blood traitor friends? Where is the mudblood? Or are they too afraid to die?"
"Why don't you ask them for yourselves? They are right here, surrounding you!" I exclaimed. "You see, we are very much different, Tom. I don't have to coerce my friends into fighting. Friendship is a concept you have no understanding of, one of many. You think we will be easily defeated, that we will bow before you and accept a life of oppression?"
"A life of oppression?" Voldemort scoffed. "Is that what you think? I merely wish to return our culture to its former glory. The Founders would be rolling in their graves if they saw the current state of our nation. Wizards who can barely piss without using their wand, and witches who couldn't cast their way out of a box. It is a sad state of affairs."
"And you think it's your right to control their lives?" I asked out of curiosity. Knowing how the Dark Lord's mind works goes a long way to fighting the man, but it is a very scary place.
"If not the Heir of Slytherin, then who?" Voldemort preached. He was enjoying his cliché villainous speech a bit too much. "The Ministry's incompetence has been fact since before I was born. Soon, there will not be much of a Ministry or our magical culture left. If I don't take up the mantle to rescue them, then who will? They are more concerned with technology, and the Statue of Secrecy, than our nation itself. We have been gifted with the power of magic, yet we sit behind legislation and fear of the unknown."
"It is their choice," I said simply. "And it is the ability to make these choices that define us as who we are."
"You would see your world destroyed around you?" The Dark Lord retorted, already knowing the answer.
"You seem to have that covered by yourself," I shot back. "How many wizards have died for your cause? Have died because of your cause?"
"More than you know," Voldemort smirked, his red eyes glowing briefly. "Yet the world is a better place without them. There was a time when our power exceeded that of the Muggles a hundred fold. Yet they are not getting stronger," He continued. If not for the situation, I would have expected him to be pacing back and forth in front of a hearth. "We are getting weaker, in body, mind, and knowledge. We, who in the past could move mountains, part the seas, and light the very air on fire, are scared of some thousand year old alchemy? I worry not about gunpowder, atomic weaponry or genetic plague. There is nothing that magic cannot solve, yet there are too few of us who realize that."
"Enough words," I said, having grown tired of hearing Voldemort's egotistical voice. "Violence will not endear you to those you wish to conquer."
"You wish to peril so soon? That is the destiny of every hero, and I am more than willing to oblige."
Just as we were about to get down to the dirty business of killing each other, several dozen more people popped into view – the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort's smirk disappeared and a grim look came over his face.
The pink hair of my girlfriend and Auror, Nymphadora Tonks was hard to miss. Jogging over to me, she delivered her report, completely ignoring the Dark Lord's presence. "The Death Eaters have been taken care of. There were more casualties than we would have liked, but it is done. They will not be a threat anymore."
"That is good news," I said giving her a quick kiss and turning back towards Voldemort. "I guess that makes the odds around forty to one for you now, Tom. With no followers left, and no Horcruxes, you must be feeling vulnerable."
Voldemort shrugged, unconcerned. "Perhaps your chances of survival are higher than they were before, but not by much."
The Order Members took up a circle around us, joining the other fighters. Several of them probably wouldn't be walking away from this battle alive, but everyone knew what they signed up for. Together, they quickly set up strong anti-apparition and portkey jinxes. The magic from a half dozen casters was palpable.
"I'm sure you felt that magic," I remarked towards Voldemort. The tension was evident in both of our bodies, but he was a lot better at hiding it than me. "There is no escape. One of us will be leaving here in a box."
"I care not of your numbers, or your 'wards'," the Dark Lord dismissed with a dramatic wave of his hand. "You think I would leave here, when the entirety of my opposition is presented to me on a silver platter? You think I will fight more cautiously without my Horcruxes? No, you've got me cornered like a caged, rabid beast, and now you will see the full range of my powers. I have nothing to lose, yet everything to gain!"
"Gotterdamerung!" I chanted, sick of his words, and quickly going through the wand movements as carefully as possible. Spirals of magic circled out of my wand, greens, oranges, and blacks. The Earth rent itself open, and the sky set itself ablaze like the times of old, and all Hell poured loose upon the Dark Lord. Fire and brimstone, ice, hail, and water, lightning and earthen fury assaulted Voldemort, yet he did nothing except smirk.
Not a good sign.
Zoe continued to snore lightly with her face buried in her arms, unaware of the brawl breaking out around her. Her dark hair completely covered her even darker face, and the rhythm rise and fall of her back indicated she was well and truly passed out.
Mal punched at the next guy coming after him, making sure not to smash his hand. He was itching for a brawl and his adrenaline was pumping before the first man had even gone down. Overpowering his block, the Captain sent the attacker stumbling back in surprise before he followed up with a heavy chop, sending the guy onto a table.
Mal didn't have time to recover, nor did he want it. He went after the third person, socking him right in the chin and sending him to the ground quickly, but not without smarting his hand. The element of surprise was fading, but it would turn into one of shock before turning into serious returned hostilities.
Spinning quickly, the former Independent Sergeant's leg shot out, catching the next man in the knee, knocking him over just enough so Mal's fist caught him in the chin as well. He might not be as graceful as Zoe in hand-to-hand combat, but he'd be damned if he couldn't get the job done.
He wasn't the only person fighting now. Some of the others were fighting amongst themselves as well. Locals or Alliance, Mal had no idea and didn't care either. He picked up a chair and smashed it over the back of the nearest man, sending him sprawling to the ground. Following up with a big punt, he kicked the man onto his back and pummeled the man's face enough just to make sure he wouldn't forget his own mug.
A hand roughly pulled the Captain off the man before he could do more than bloody him up. He was spun around and socked in the face before he could take stock of the new attacker. Splashing backwards onto the bar, he reached for anything and found a random glass. He tossed the contents at the man, successfully getting him in the eyes. The man yelled in surprise from the alcohol setting his senses on fire. That was coupled with the lighter Mal pulled from his pocket, setting the man on fire for real, and after kicking him backwards onto a chair, the man fell to the ground.
Satisfied that the man would be down for the count, the Captain was looking for someone else to fight and spotted many more than he hoped for. Jayne had popped up from somewhere, fighting a man that was a good foot shorter than himself.
Sidestepping off to the side to avoid a flying man, Mal picked another stool off the ground and headed for the nearest brawler. Zoe remained undisturbed as pieces of wood and glass sprinkled all over her from Mal's most recent, but brief, fight. Two against one was always good odds in Mal's opinion. He used the stool to send the first man careening onto the ground, and the remnants of said stool rendered the second man unconscious with some missing teeth. Mal was never usually this violent, but he was venting out some anger, as was Jayne. He was hardly an angel.
The only thing Jayne Cobb liked more than whores was fighting. Lifting the short man in front of him way over his head, the mercenary slammed him down through the wooden table. The table gave instantly, sending blood and food everywhere. He was the big man in the establishment, and he'd be damned if he didn't show it. Women loved a strong man, and maybe he'd get lucky and not have to pay for some companionship that night.
Head butting the next closest person to him, Jayne sent him careening into wall behind him. A sharp jab to the solar plexus knocked the man down for the count.
"Hoo yeah!" Jayne shouted, drawing some contemptuous glances from the nearest fighters.
A man in a blue duster charged at him with a pool cue, but Jayne pulled another man in front of him, using him to absorb the cue's blows, and then used the man as a battering ram before tossing him over the bar. A massive boot brought the attacker to his knees, and an uppercut sent him careening to the ground. No one messed with Jayne.
"Who's next?" He asked after clearing out a good ten foot circle around himself. No one seemed to want to tussle, except for one guy who was nearly as bulky as Jayne, and nearly as tall as well. He stepped forward, giving Jayne a smirk, but he didn't look nearly as intimidating.
Jayne, cracking his knuckles, lunged at the man, catching him in a grapple. Smiling, he welcomed the challenge.
Grunting as the last man crashed to the ground, Mal grabbed a random beer off the bar and chugged it down. He needed to dull the throbbing pain in his hand. Punching with a closed fist was never smart.
Many men (and a few women) had taken to the streets quickly after the fight started, or left after getting their asses whooped. The only other men left standing was Jayne and the man he was fighting with.
Mal, taking a seat at the bar to watch them fight for a few minutes, noticed that Zoe was still passed out. He didn't see how much she had to drink, but it was probably a half dozen shots in a two minute period, plus some brew.
The man Jayne was grappling with was strong, but so was Jayne. They were almost evenly matched, although the unknown man seemed more agile with his feet, while Jayne's fighting technique was slightly better. But perhaps that was just the alcohol.
Mal was pretty tired of watching though, so he walked over to the man and tapped him on the shoulder. The man jumped back out of both of their ranges and shifted his stance to fight off two attackers.
But Mal wasn't going to fight. He recognized a strong fighter when he saw one, and reacted accordingly. "Hey, you looking for work?"
"Hey, girl," I called to my wife. "I'm going to get some lunch, what do you want?"
"You're getting fish and chips again, aren't you?" She asked with a fake sigh, putting down her book.
"It's convenient and it's good," I responded. It's true. I never really ate the cliché meal when I was younger, and Hogwarts didn't serve it. But the food at the aptly named 'Corner Store' was very good, and only a minute's walk.
"I'll just nibble on some of yours," she said.
I sighed in exasperation. "You're rail thin and you need some meat on your bones. Don't come crying to me when you get hurt during the rough stuff you enjoy so much."
She rolled her eyes at my brashness. "You're incorrigible, you know?"
Giving a playful grin, I responded "I'll only be gone a few minutes, don't blow the place up."
The Corner Store was literally a minute away from our 'flat'. We've been living in London for a few years now, due to the convenience. We we're also married due to convenience as well. We became fast friends during our job training and decided to rent a flat together. That was over ten years ago. We didn't really love each other as such, nor did we really do anything romantic. She was essentially my best friend and the benefits of being married were better than being single, so it worked out for both of us. That didn't mean we didn't have deeper feelings for each other, and given enough time, they might come out, but there was no need for such things in our current situation.
We had a lot of fun together, I think that's why we are such good friends. The first time we talked was through an enchanted book she gave me secretly in our seventh year. She was Head Girl, Slytherin, and Pureblood, and had access to more information than the average person. She would feed me information through the journal while I hunted for Horcruxes. It was mostly just news and whatever she could extrapolate from the Death Eater children in the school, but every little bit helped even if the book was one way.
Still, her information helped quite a bit and despite hearing 'I should never trust an object that can think for itself if you can't see where it's brain was' a million times, I knew it to be safe. Perhaps it's a mix of her ingenuity and the fact that her position in the school never made her raise suspicion at all, but when we met face to face for the first time, it was quiet awkward putting a face to the words. And to this day, no one really knew what role she played.
As I gave my order to the short-order cook in 'The Corner Store,' I continued to contemplate our humble beginnings. Her father was a Death Eater, but he was killed in an accident years and years ago, leaving their family not very well off. They weren't poor, but it says something to where she has to split the cost of a London apartment with me.
Collecting our meals, I headed back to the flat. I had ordered two fish and chips, because I knew she would be hungry and would appreciate the full meal, plus I was hungry myself and didn't want to share.
I got back in record time, and she was still reading her book. She looked very pretty, with her black rimmed glasses and how she would habitually tuck her even blacker hair behind her ear as it would perpetually come undone. It was the little details about her that I found attractive the most.
"I got food," I announced, depositing the bag on the coffee table. The furniture was of decent quality, and most of it was quite aged and secondhand, giving the place a comfortable feel and some character.
"Great, I'm starving," she responded, closing her book loudly. I took both meals out of the bag, and neither one of us made a comment about how she said she didn't want one. It was a game we played, and one I suspected all women liked to do. It is essential for all men to know that what a girl says and what a girl means is not always the same thing.
"What are you reading?" I asked as we dug into our meals.
"Have you heard of Xiang Yu?"
"No," I shook my head negative.
"Then you will find what I have to say about it very boring."
"If you say so" I responded, not really caring about what she was reading. If I had a Knut for every book she read that I didn't understand, I'd be a millionaire.
She's always been that way though. I don't really buy into that being a Ravenclaw tendency or any of that nonsense, as we are all products of our environment. Everyone reads, be it for research, entertainment, or instructions, some just do it more than others, and some do it a lot more. Like many wizarding families, we don't have a television or a computer, and Daphne was raised the same way as her parents were raised, so naturally she got into the same house as them, Slytherin.
Of course, Slytherin doesn't have the best of reputations. But when you enter the real world, you realize all that is a bunch of shit. Everyone is ambitious, everyone, and there is much more to it that just desiring to become the Minister or having enough money to bribe people.
Daphne isn't a typical Slytherin. There's no such thing and there never was, not in the land of Malfoy's and Goyle's and Bulstrode's, and that categorization means nothing outside the halls of Hogwarts. She did well on her OWLs, maybe even then best, but I couldn't even name a dozen people in our year who actuallytook them, so that's not saying much.
Ambition is such an odd concept though. It's not quantifiable, and it's not predictable, yet it exists in some form in everyone. My ambition used to be just to survive the year, and if I did, that would be a good year.
Hers were a bit lofty, but they are called ambitions for a reason. Daphne was a hard worker when it came to magic. She was not naturally gifted in certain disciplines, but she put in many hours of practice to become proficient with many spells.
But her ambitions did not lie within the practical realms of magic, they are within the theoretical. Her favorite subjects were Modern Runes, Arithmancy, Physics, Chemistry, Alchemy, but her heart lay in Astronomy. Her ambitions was to travel to the moon and to reach the stars.
Yeah, like that would ever happen.
Still, she's been working in the Department of Mysteries on new methods of transportation to replace outdated and cumbersome portkeys and Floo travel. Small steps first and maybe someday she will reach her goal.
Daphne's scary intelligent, yet somehow she has a fun side. The sex is great; we don't do it out of passion or love, or all that often for that matter, but when we do, it is fun and creative. She loves foreplay, and I'm all too happy to oblige. But our relationship is a lot more than just that.
Us, though, we do a lot together, even if our passions don't exactly line up. She has yet to attend one of the Quidditch games that Ron and I attend every week, and I'll never be able to talk Physics with her.
We've done a lot of worldly adventures; mountain climbing, hang gliding, zip lining, deep see diving, and a lot of things that allowed us to appreciate the beauty of the environment. You don't have to be a muggle to appreciate that, but it did help that none of those things required any advanced muggle technology. Daphne wasn't opposed to that kind of stuff, she just tended to get overwhelmed when presented with a strange contraption that doesn't fit with her idea of the world. We have muggle lighting in our flat, but no television or microwave. On the other hand, she enjoys going to the movies, and oddly enough, she enjoys the rush of kart racing. She can be quite competitive, and that is why I enjoy her company. She's very unpredictable in her tastes.
Me, on the other hand, I don't even know where to start. Horcruxes are good enough place as any though.
Both the man and Jayne looked at Mal in surprise. The man was at a loss for words, so Mal pressed on. "You're a mercenary, right? Got any special skills?"
"Mal, you can't be serious." Jayne commented. He had several bruises and was bleeding from more than a few wounds, but those were all minor injuries and beneath his notice.
"Any man who can give you a run for his money is worth a gamble," Mal said to Jayne before turning back to the other mercenary. "You got a name?"
The man, who was slightly more beat up as Jayne, identified himself. "Name's Jackpot, what's your gig?"
"Jackpot?" Mal laughed. "What kind of name is Jackpot?"
"I didn't create it," the man retorted. "Me ole' boss gave it to me."
"He said good luck seemed to follow him whenever I was around. His biggest score ever was with me at his side."
"Uh huh," Mal said, only vaguely interested. "And what happened to him?"
"Reavers," Jackpot responded as if that answered everything. It did.
"Guess you weren't very lucky after all," Jayne commented. "Starting to ruin my calm now, with talk about Reavers and all."
"I'm still alive, ain't I?"
"True," the Captain conceded. "But I've seen Reaver survivors chew the flesh off their fingers and carve their own bones into spears. You're not doing to do any of that, are you?"
"No sir," Jackpot answered.
"Well then, I guess we could do business. I'm Captain Malcolm Reynolds and I run a transport ship with my crew. Zoe, at the bar over there, is my first mate, and this here is Jayne Cobb, one of the toughest sumbitches I know."
Jackpot's eyes widened. "Jaybe Cobb, the hero of Canton?"
"One and the same," Mal confirmed, not bothering to hide a bit of his joking reverence.
"His story is pretty popular amongst some of the merc rings… how he threw his buddy out the plane before throwing the goods. Man's got his priorities straight."
"Yes… Well, you interested? We'll probably leave sometime tomorrow after we resupply. Ship took a beating against some Reavers but she'll be alright."
"You fought against Reavers, and you're still alive? I guess we'll get along just fine, with my luck, and your, er, bad luck." Jackpot seemed to be deciding what to do in his mind before asking, "Why me?"
Mal shrugged. "Any man that Jayne can't take down is worth asking about. Plus we lost a good man to those Reavers… ship's feeling a bit big at the moment, and could use a new face."
"What'll my cut be? I can do a bit of everything. I may be a trained merc, but I can fly a ship well enough and I'm a decent hand at welding and tinkering."
"That depends. Is there a bounty on your head?" Mal asked as if it were an everyday topic. "Is anyone out for your blood?"
"No, on both accounts. Paid muscle like me never gets the heat, that's usually the employer."
"True, true," Mal conceded. "But that's likely to change at any notice. We take any job that'll make us money, legit or not. We've run up against the Alliance more times than I care to mention, let alone a dozen other mercenary groups, Reavers, Nishka, the lot. Dangerous work this is, but you look like you can handle it. There'll be nine of us on the ship…how's five percent sound? Our biggest payday for one gig was in the six figures, so that could be a lot of jag."
Jackpot scratched his chin for a few seconds, mulling it over. "Seven percent," he asked. "Sounds like you get in a bit of danger."
Mal nodded his head, not denying the dangers. "Five and a half."
"Six," the man quickly responded. Jayne looked on in slight interest, but didn't offer to say anything.
"Deal," Mal responded, shaking the man's hand. "We're docked at the New Albuquerque port. Ship's a Firefly named Serenity, it'll be hard to miss. Noon's the time."
"Firefly, eh? I'll be there with my gear."
"Just make sure you get yourself squared away. I don't like private life interfering with the job, if you know what I mean. Leave any emotional baggage you have at the docks."
"Understood, Cap'n." The two men shook hands again, and tapped their stolen beers together. Jackpot departed shortly afterwards to get his gear in order, leaving Jayne, Mal, Zoe, and a couple of battered, unconscious men as the only people in the bar.
"Jayne, why don't you grab some beer for our stores, and I'll grab Zoe."
"Sure thing Mal," Jayne replied with a grin. It was easy to get his mind of the fact that he just got competition. Alcohol is a restricted substance on the ship, only to be drunk at special occasions. Being drunk for a job was never a good thing, but drinking after a successful job was always a welcomed event.
Mal sighed to himself at Jayne's antics. The man was a complicated person, despite outward appearances. Tough as nails, and with a surprising emotional depth.
Occlumency was damn worthless. Every day that went by, I felt like I lost a piece of myself. Dementors every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year - it took its toll. I had far worse memories to relive than pretty much everyone I knew. I had hoped that Occlumency would help, but I came to the conclusion that it was the second most overrated ability next to Parseltongue.
Occlumency was good at preventing mental assaults, specifically Legilimency and it made you more aware of compulsion type magics, such as the Imperious Curse or Veritaserum, and that awareness helped you fight it off, but it's hardly perfect. The training part was more useful than the actual skill. There are dozens of different methods to calm your mind and to focus yourself, and that in itself is probably more useful.
Legilimency is the only reason anyone should ever learn it, and it's the reason why nearly no one did. It's like animagi – it just simply wasn't worth the effort. Especially now. There isn't a single Legilimens alive, aside from myself. One of the perks to knowing Occlumency is that the opposite becomes sort of natural afterwards. It would be hard to prevent a magical attack that you didn't understand after all. And the sole reason why I was the exception to the rule was because Voldemort had a direct connection to my mind, and Occlumency helped with that. But the Dark Lord is long gone, as is Dumbledore, Snape, and anyone else who may have had the skill, including the Malfoy's and Lestrange's. The only ones who may know it are my former employers, and I have no proof for that but it wouldn't surprise me.
My body was worn ragged. I probably weighed less than eight stone. I could barely muster the will to move, let alone eat. The only reason I lasted so long was the same reason Sirius did; my animagus form. But just transforming was getting more painful by the day, and I was constantly surrounded. It was a novelty magic, but it was damned useful now.
I had no human visitors, and I had the feeling I would fall into a coma sooner rather than later. So much for being the Hero. I can't even die with honor and respect.
The next day brought a killer hangover for Zoe, but her only regret was not punching out a bunch of men. River, Simon, and Kaylee had returned the previous night with the ship's provisions, but Simon and Kaylee went back out for a night on the town, leaving River alone. Probably not the smartest decision Simon had ever made, but River managed to not have one of her moments.
Kaylee was out once again acquiring parts required to maintain Serenity, but their budget was limited and there was only so many things one could get on the cheap. Inara was not yet back from her Companioning, and Jayne was out doing one his most favorite things; munitions shopping. He was stocking up ship's armory as well as his own. His armor piercing rounds for Vera were not standard issue, and not exactly legal either, but Jayne lived for the hunt and knew how to acquire everything.
That left Mal and River as the only ones in the ship when Jackpot showed up, and River hadn't so much as said a word to Mal in days.
"Permission to come aboard, Captain?" Jackpot called up.
Jackpot walked into the cargo bay, carrying a large metal case in one hand and a bag slung over the other. He wore clothes that were casual, yet sturdy enough for some tough work, and Mal couldn't help but notice the man was scrawnier than he previously thought. The alcohol might have impaired him a bit the previous night, but there was no lack of muscle on the man.
"You ever been on a Firefly before?" Mal asked curiously.
"Flew one a few times a couple years back. This a model '99?"
"Aught-three. Looks older than it is; we've had to do a lot of repairs over the years. Sturdy machine though, Kaylee keeps her in good working order. I'd introduce you to the crew, but none of them are back yet. Well, River is around here somewhere…" Mal said with an afterthought. "I'll show you around, maybe some of the others will be back by the time we're done."
"Sounds good, Cap'n."
Mal led the new mercenary through the ship, showing him what little there was to offer, but also being cautious. He never showed his back to the man, as there had been two too many attempted thefts of his beloved vessel. Bathroom, mess hall, the common room, storage, engine room and the cockpit were all fairly plain and inconspicuous, but served their designated purpose well. The ship wasn't exactly in the best repair, and there was a ton of random clutter all over the place, but Jackpot didn't seem to mind. The vessel had character, and it was more than just a workplace, it was home.
"You've flown one of these before?" Mal clarified, remembering a previous conversation.
"Aye," the merc responded. "Close to ten years ago now. The pilot was hospitalized for about a month, so I had to take over. It's not too bad once you get used to the ships quirks."
"I'd not be opposed to letting you have a go at it. River's never flown a ship before, so I'd like someone with experience to help her out when I can't."
"Your call," the big merc replied with a shrug. "Whatever you need me to do, I'll do it if there's some pay involved."
Mal nodded his head. Typical mercenary behavior; Jayne was the same way until the crew began to grow on him. He reached for the comm. and called out "River, to the cockpit, please. River, to the cockpit."
Turned out River was already in the cockpit, in the bottom front seat. She was such a small girl that he couldn't see her, especially since she was sitting on her legs. She turned the chair slowly, catching sight of the new mercenary for the first time. Mal spotted wetness under her eyes, and he knew she had faced a lot of demons fighting against the Reavers, both physical and inner ones. What the Alliance did to her was wrong on so many levels, and Mal couldn't not even begin to comprehend what River had gone through, and would continue to go through.
Everyone had their own demons though, and it would be impossible to help someone fight theirs off they couldn't fight their own. All anyone could do for her was to support her while Simon tried to figure it out.
"Mr. Potter! Mr. Potter!" One of the reporters called out from the front row, waving a hand high up in the air. I didn't recognize her.
"Yes Miss - ?" I called out, pointing at her. Being the Hero of the Wizarding World, again, was not easy.
"Amelia Harroway with Transfiguration Today. I was wonder, along with the rest of the world, what you plan to do now that You-Know-Who is finally gone, and is there anyone special in your life."
I nodded my head thoughtfully. "That is the big question, isn't it? All my life I've been living with the shadow of Voldemort looming over me. I've been in constant danger everywhere I went and I can't even count the amount of time's I've been nearly killed. I just want to have a little peace and quiet, and enjoy what life has to offer. And no, there is no one special in my life. My girlfriend was tragically struck down during the final fight, as were many others. Next question?"
A plethora of hands took to the air so I called one out at random. "You over there, in the blue."
"Tracey Donovan with the Daily Defense. Popular rumor was that you wished to become an Auror. Has that changed? I don't speak for the DMLE, but I think they would be more than happy to have someone of your caliber on their roster."
I shook my head. "That was what I wanted to do before Voldemort tried to take over the world again. I've fought dozens of dark wizards since his resurrection, and I've grown sick of it. I am not needed to hunt down the remainder of His elusive followers, and there are many Aurors who are much more experienced at that kind of thing than me. Also, from what I've been told, being an Auror is a lot more than just hunting dark wizards. There is espionage, tracking, concealment, and then there all the calls you have to respond to, no matter how insignificant, and after that, there is a pile of paperwork. An Auror sits at a desk for more than half of their time, and there is very little fighting at all, and that is what I do best, I'm sad to admit. I'm a product of my environment, nothing more, and I would like to take up hobbies that I didn't previously have time for. Next question…"
"River, meet our new crew member, Jackpot."
"Nice to meet you, ehm, River," Jackpot greeted, giving a slightly nervous cough.
River didn't say anything at first, instead she tilted her head and looked at him oddly. After a few seconds she asked, "What kind of name is Jackpot?"
The merc looked suddenly uneasy, but he surprised himself by answering truthfully. "My full name is Jack Potter, it's just a silly nickname I got a few years back and it's stuck ever since. In any case, what kind of a name is River?"
River merely tilted her head again in response, as if that would answer the question.
"It's a very… nice name," Mal responded when it was evident River wasn't going to.
"Thank you Mal."
"Are you getting any… bad vibes?" Mal asked with hesitation. He wasn't comfortable with River's gift. Call it whatever, but her apparent ability to read minds was downright scary at times, and knowing that she could use it on anyone, any time, was even more so. And on top of that, it wasn't even controllable. There was no on/off switch. Sometimes she could hear people in other ships floating through the 'verse, and that included Reavers.
And hearing what they think must be particularly unpleasant, yet somehow it was still not physically worse than what the Alliance did to her. River had more nightmares that the whole crew combined. She could feel when they were in pain, she could feel when they had pleasure, she could feel when they were guilty… it made being around her hard at times.
The girl shook her head, but opted not to say anything more. Instead, she snuck past them and left to visit one of her favorite crannies on the ship.
"She has a few quirks, but River's a nice girl once you get to know her," Mal explained.
"We all have our quirks, Cap'n. It's part of what makes a crew unique."
"True. Let's get your gear sorted away and then maybe the rest of the crew will be back."
Mal showed him to his room. He decided to put Jack up in the front with everyone else, away from Simon and River's room in the back. It's hard enough for that girl to sleep without the thoughts of a second mercenary intruding upon her, as if Jayne's lecherous and/or traitorous thoughts weren't enough. Mal was pretty sure Jackpot knew how to work the room's ladder/door combo, but it was his duty to show him all the necessities, regardless.
Done with the preemptive tour, about thirty minutes later, the mercenary followed Mal out to the cargo bay to watch over the ship and wait for the rest of the crew.
Spotting River laying up on the catwalk, Mal called out to her. "Hey River, you know where the rest of my crew is at? It's past the time I told everyone to be here."
River pulled herself up into a sitting position and dropped herself to the floor, some fifteen feet below. She dusted it off like it was nothing out of the normal, and Mal did his best to not suggest that River was anything but normal.
She stopped in front of the new mercenary and answered. "Kaylee is out for supplies. Simon is out for supplies. Zoe is out for supplies. Jayne is out for supplies. Inara is out for supplies."
"Right. So everyone is out for supplies, and I'm here with a new merc and a crazy seventeen year old girl for company. Just my luck."
Legilimency can be quiet useful in prison, unlike Occlumency. Especially in a prison where I haven't seen another human since my trial. I didn't exactly expect to get convicted at the trial, and boy, was that a surprise.
Azkaban was not a fun place. People were put here for a reason. I was severely underweight and all my hair fell out due to malnutrition years ago. I got one meager meal a day, which I think is served by house elves but I couldn't be positive. It always appears when I am not aware, which is quite often. There's no reason to keep my eyes open when all I see is pitch black.
But, that's where Legilimency was useful. I didn't need it to know what the other prisoners were thinking - mostly despair, agony, hopelessness, longing, and hunger. But the guards had some interesting news. The walls of the prison were so drenched in magic that it took very minimal effort to see what everyone was thinking, and while it was mostly disturbing, it was the only entertainment I got. And it were those very walls that were also so very entrenched with the despair, anguish, and misery of a thousand prisoners that I think the dementors could leave tomorrow and we would all feel the effects for years to come.
I learned that my wife became the Minister of Magic, somehow. It was shocking news to me, to be sure. I'm not sure how she pulled it off, considering the massive scandal that took place over my crime, and how an even bigger scandal would break out if she were to release me from prison. Even being the Minister did not give her the clearance to visit me.
Still, it was interesting news, and I never though she desired the position at all. Daphne was busy reverting the country back to its former glory of the pre-Voldemort/Bagnold era of the first war, while increasing Muggle awareness. She was directly reversing some of the previous muggle friendly laws that the last Minister passed in a grudge, and she was wildly popular. Somehow she convinced everyone that muggles could be dangerous if provoked, and while the vast majority were benign, she also told everyone how to stay safe and how to protect themselves from possible mass destruction. I'm pretty sure I was safe where I was and not even a hydrogen bomb could break Azkaban. Still, it was a sign of the times that the general population was starting to change its ways.
In the same way that the country was reverted back to the old ways, it also accepted the new. I have no clue how she pulled it off, but there better be a statue or something of her.
I found it heartening that she hadn't remarried, or even so much as dated another person, or if she had, no one knew of it. Her faithfulness was somewhat surprising, I would admit. It was her idea after all that got me into this prison, but it was a direct response to an extreme problem. Our backup defense didn't exactly fly too well, but that didn't seem to matter when she ran for Minister. The public didn't buy it that I was a hit wizard and that the Department of Mysteries ordered me to assassinate their target. Even if that was the truth, and it partially was, they would never take responsibility for assassinating an esteemed member of the ruling body, regardless of my credentials.
I still can't believe I got caught. What a lucky bitch, randomly mentioning my name and happening to be correct. A dozen Polyjuice and Imperious alibis was not enough apparently. They still never found any trace of me being at the crime scene, but I think the fact that the two other potential witnesses and proponents against me were found dead several months after I was arrested, further cementing my guilt. Oh well. There is a saying – "Politics is a dirty business," and I guess that fits the entire situation perfectly.
I think the world's waiting for me to die already. I've lived far longer than anyone expected. What can I say, I'm special, and I'm sorry for the inconvenience.
"Oh, Captain, I didn't know we were taking on passengers?" Kaylee commented upon seeing Jack and after unloading the rest of her supplies. "Are you going to introduce us?
"No, little Kaylee, he's crew. On a trial basis at least. His name is Jack Potter, and I hope our luck is changing. Jackpot, this is my crew," Mal said, introducing them in order as they appeared.
Brief introductions were made before Zoe voiced her concern. "With all due respect, Captain, but can we afford another crew member? We could barely afford replacement parts, and I'm not even sure how we pulled that off."
"Inara helped," Kaylee said. "She called in a few favors and dug into her own purse."
"Really?" Mal asked with surprise. "Why would she do that? And where is she anyways?"
"She's in her shuttle. And she did it because she likes this ship, and surprisingly, the crew. It's her home as much as anywhere else is, and she wants to keep flying.
"Huh," Mal let out breath of shock. "Well then…"
Jayne spoke up next, briefly stopping the effort he was doing to secure their cargo. "Did we get any work? I hate just sitting in port with nothing lined up."
Mal shook his head. "That's how the fight started. The guys I was talking to also ran a cargo ship, and they didn't take very kindly to us intruding. I was thinking we hit up the next planet and moon, I don't think there's going to be much for us here."
"Actually, Sir," Zoe said, "I did get something while we were at the bar."
Mal snorted. "How did you get something? You were passed out in a pile of your own drool."
"That's just a matter of opinion, Captain. Still, I got a contact while you were off presumably getting in a fight, and by the looks of it, getting your ass kicked as well."
"Ha ha, so who is this contact, and what kind of work is it?"
"Well, I just got a business card with a name written on the back. A Samuel Murphy, have you heard of him?"
"No," responded Mal as he looked over the card. "A Miner's Guild, eh?"
"Miner's?" Jayne grunted in disgust. "Sound like there's going to be a lot of heavy lifting in our near future."
"And hopefully payment."
Hands of blue. Every time I woke up, I saw the Hands of Blue. Constantly probing, constantly searching. Stainless steel everywhere, when I could open my eyes, which was rarely, the sights did not behold me.
Awareness was not something I'm ever sure I acquired while here… wherever here was. It was like I was constantly in a dream state, yet I couldn't remember any of them. I don't think there were any Dementors around, but perhaps I was simply dead. I'm not sure. I can't remember what it was like to be awake.
I don't think I'm in Azkaban now, and I can't even remember if I ever was. It's all a fleeting memory to me.
I can't feel my magic, but that could have just been a dream as well. Is magic real? I can't remember.
The drugs are constantly coursing through my body, keeping me in a stasis like state. I can barely hear myself think, let alone hear what other people think.
Headaches, every hour of the day. I'm not sure why. Why? Why? What are they doing to me? Where am I? Who am I? When will this end?
"I have a bad feeling about this, Mal," Jayne commented while bucking up his combat boots.
"You always have a bad feeling Jayne," Mal retorted.
"Yeah, well, for good reason."
"What's the worst that can happen?" Mal asked.
"Please tell me you did not just say that," Jayne said with disgust. "I think I'm going to have to bring the grenades now."
"No, Jayne. No grenades. There shouldn't be a soul within a day's travel of us, not even Reavers."
"Fine," Jayne grumbled. "But don't come crawling back to be for a grenade when we need one."
"I don't plan on it," The Captain responded. "Zoe, how are we looking?"
"Shiny. The derelict is exactly as described," Zoe called back from her intercom. She was managing the navigation systems, and River would be watching them while they recovered the goods.
"Good. Head down to the airlock when ready," Mal called back. "Jayne, show Jack how the suit works. I don't want any surprises."
The minimal crew watched on as the Captain shuffled about, preparing the cargo bay for the potentially massive load of material. Inara, Simon and Kaylee would be watching the ship as well, and although Inara and Simon had no real roles to provide, they did all they could to help.
Mal led Jayne and Jack out into the vastness of space, using several tethers. All scans showed that the vessel had no pressure. Miner's Guild leader Samuel Murphy had told them the ship experienced engine failure, spewing unsafe amounts of radiation over space. And since the mining ship was in public space, the Alliance could legally commandeer the goods, and they probably intended to do so once the radiation was at safe levels.
That's where Serenity came in. They had to grab the cargo and go before the raw materials fell into Alliance hands. It wasn't that it was illegal goods, just very valuable, and if the material wasn't recovered, the Miners would face a large setback and their investors would not be happy.
Mal was more than happy to help. Miners' Guilds tended to be some of the richest in the 'verse, and recovering the goods would pay well enough to patch his ship up and make his crew happy.
Launching the magnetic grappling hook, Jayne connected them all to the mining vessel. Carefully, they pulled themselves across the distance one at a time and activated their grav boots upon reaching the ship.
They had discussed where to cut into the ship during their briefing, and they concluded that the top side of the cargo bay would be weakest.
"Jayne, apply the sticky. Everyone else, stand back."
My first true vacation was quite nice. I had chosen a nice beach in southern France, one with a good view - both the water and the women. The weather was very nice as well, and I couldn't help but feel that perhaps my life was taking a turn for the better.
That was a good thing too. Defeating Voldemort took too many lives. Bill Weasley was one of the first. Fenrir Greyback didn't like to leave any job unfinished, and he tailed Remus Lupin unknowingly back to a meeting - it cost both the Order Members their lives.
But the single largest loss of life had to be during the final battle. I told Voldemort that he had no more followers left, but truth be told, we couldn't find half of them. It was as if they disappeared off the face of the planet, even Bellatrix.
Still, the loss of my girlfriend Tonks was just one spot on the list. We weren't very serious, but that was hardly the point. Neville, Dean, Lavender, Colin, and the list went on for fifty more names.
It did no use to stay on it. They may be dead, but they will never be forgotten.
I relaxed on the sand, reclining in my chair and enjoying a butterbeer. It would be hard to explain to the muggles why flames were shooting out of my head if I drank Firewhiskey.
Basking in the sun for what felt like hours, I didn't notice when a man sat down next to me until he coughed a few times.
"Mr. Potter. You are a very difficult person to find," the mysterious man said. He was wearing 'normal' muggles clothes, normal, except that we were on a beach and everyone was in beach attire, yet he was in slacks and a nice shirt. A little out of place, but a decent effort.
I placed a hand on my wand, unable to read his intentions. "That is generally the point of going on vacation. Who are you?"
"Sawbridge is my name. I heard your speech, but then again, who didn't? I understand you don't want to become an Auror, and I don't blame you. Too much bureaucracy and politics, and not enough action. What if I told you there was an alternative? One that doesn't involve paperwork, investigating doddering old fools for enchanting their tea set, or taking guard shifts in a prison?"
That sparked my interest a bit, but not by much. "I'd rather do nothing at all. I quite like it here."
"You may like it now, but for how long? Fighting is all you know, like you said, and the time will come where you will get antsy and lust for a fight. The peaceful life is not for you, not for the long term."
"What are you offering me?" I asked.
"A life of anonymity."
Everyone stood back and waited with baited breath as Mal triggered the breaching charge. The det-wire infused epoxy was a brilliant invention, if it could be called as much. It was nothing more than a rigged hot glue gun and some hot burning explosive.
The explosive flared, causing everyone to turn their heads to avoid burning their retinas out. The breaching only took a few seconds, and once it was finished, Mal quickly kicked the piece of metal inwards. There was no gravity, so the plate bounced off the bulwark on the other side.
"Unpressurized, should be fun," Mal declared. "Be on your toes, and watch out for sharp edges. The sooner we start, the sooner we finished, and the sooner we get paid."
Jayne took the right side along with the new merc, and Mal took the left side. Their lights illuminated the inside of the large cargo hold, where dozens of large containers lay strapped down. They were approximately ten feet long each, and half as tall as a man. It wasn't Mal's place to peak around the contacts cargo, but the gold seal on every box was enough of an indicator to know that they were sitting on a gold mine, literally.
"Jayne, hook up the pulley," Mal ordered. "And widen the breach so we can fit these things. Jack, you'll be moving them. One crate a time, we don't want to get sloppy."
"Time to earn our pay."
"Hey Harry, I got a letter from Blaise," Daphne said as she came into the room holding up a letter. "She's says our order is finished.
"Really?" I asked in surprise. "That was quick."
"Well, her mum does know her stuff."
"Do you want to go now?"
"Sure," Daphne replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "We got nothing else going on."
Walking over to the fireplace, I grabbed a small handful of Floo powder and called out "Madam Katarina's!"
Stepping into the green flame, the world around me swirled into a vortex of multicolor light. I could just make out a dozen or so connected fireplaces, but they spun by so fast I couldn't make out any details.
I got spat out a second later, and Daphne fell out just behind me. The inside of Madam Katarina's was very nice, as you'd expect from an upscale brothel. Blaise Zabini and I didn't really get along, but that's to be expected. We've never really talked all that much, but Daphne and her have been friends since childhood. Blaise was quite beautiful, with her brown hair and green eyes, but she wore way too much makeup and had on far too many pieces of expensive and gaudy jewelry. She managed the front desk of the brothel, and although she didn't actually 'work', she, never-the-less, would never escape from the shadow of the business. If she lost all that baggage, she would be a striking woman, but as she currently was, I couldn't be less interested.
"I'll do some catching up with Blaise, and you can go talk to Katarina" Daphne told me. "But if I find out you messed around with her, I'll cut off your balls. Understand?"
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, Daphne. I won't fuck the proprietress of this fine establishment."
It's not the first time I've been in this place, nor even the tenth. I've never actually partaken in the women here, but when your wife's best friend works there, you tend to follow her when she goes, just in case.
The place has a lot of odd memories. The primary of which is discovering Ginny Weasley working there. That bit of information created quite a rift between the Weasley's and me, or rather, it did when the news first broke. That was over ten years ago now, and Ron is still a great friend and the rest are more or less amicable.
That doesn't mean they don't blame me, somehow, for how their daughter turned out. She did such a good job in sixth year trying to make me jealous by turning herself into a whpre, that she would never become anything but one. She wasn't particularly good at anything, in fact, I would call her the very definition of average. I wasn't really in the mood for half the schools sloppy seconds, so I dodged that potential mess.
Luckily, Ginny didn't seem to be working today. She's been working at Madam Katarina's for a good fifteen years, which gave her seniority over most of the other workers. She was quite popular and well liked, and she got to attend many events she wouldn't normally have been able to go to if she didn't escape from the legendary Weasley poverty. She got to live the life of glitz and glam that she wanted, and which she would never of had if she continued to pursue me.
It's always odd being in the place. There's a place in the back of my mind that always worries that the media will see me in the place, the married Hero of the Wizarding World, but I also knew it didn't really matter. Whore's they may be, but they are very high class ones, mostly anyways. Respected in a lot of circles for their elegance and grace, the Wizarding World, as a whole, did not look down upon the high society types as they would the gutter trash. They did not have the same stigma as they would have with Muggles.
Making my way to the Madam's room, I thanked the world that there were silencing charms on all the rooms. I gave three knocks on the heavily engraved hardwood doors at the ends of the hall.
"Come in!" The voice of Katarina Zabini rang out. It was very pleasant sounding, and that may be part of her allure.
I pushed the doors open and quickly closed them behind me. "Hello, Mrs. Zabini," I greeted. I gave her a friendly peck on each cheek as is complementary. I was above the status of getting on my knees and kissing her hand, just barely.
"What have I told you about calling me Mrs. Zabini?" She scolded. "Please call me Katarina."
"Sorry, Katarina," I apologized. "Old habits." Not really, it's just the same sequence we do every time we meet. It also helps that she hardly looks a year older than her daughter, who herself doesn't look to be a day over twenty-five. Katarina must be over sixty, but I'm not dumb enough to ask. One thing is for sure though, is that she's smoking hot, elegant, refined, and lethal with her wand and words. It was her job to be beautiful, and so much more. Narcissa Malfoy didn't have anything on her, rest her soul, even if the rumors were that Katarina killed her.
She would never say. I had wondered for a long while what happened to all those Death Eaters who disappeared, but the rumor is that Katarina assassinated the lot of them, even Bellatrix Lestrange. She never denied or confirmed it, but I can tell from her mannerisms that she has a very deadly side. She also may have created those rumors herself, and there was a rumor about that as well.
Of course, that's helped by the reason I was there in the first place. She was a pureblood through and through, but she was not a fanatic. She would preserve her line and our culture by any means necessary, and that was proven by the small pouch she just handed me.
"This the stuff?" I asked.
"Yes. Powdered Ricen-Sophoric Solution. Be very careful with it. I'd be too easy to off yourself by accident, and we wouldn't want that, would we?"
"Perfect," I said, examining the contents. "How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing. Provided that you use that the way I think you're going to use that."
"Change is on the horizon," I confirmed.
"River, take us down." Malcolm Reynolds commanded.
"Okey dokie, Mal," she replied with a cheeky grin. Her attitude towards him seemed to have done a complete reversal.
The whole crew was in good spirits, and rightfully so. They just had their first good job in a long time, and with no strings attached. The last time that happened was quite a while ago, before they had picked up the doc and her sister. It was a welcomed change, and perhaps it had a little to do with their new merc, Jackpot. Whether or not his name was coincidence was to be seen, but things were starting to look up.
"Alright folks," Mal said to his gathered crew. "We will spend a few days in port, maybe a week. I know Inara has a client, and we all have some cash burning a hole in our pocket. Kaylee, you have free reign to repair whatever needs to be repaired. Everyone else, try and have a good time."
Before they were dismissed, Mal took the envelopes containing the crew's pay out of his satchel. Passing them out was quite an experience of itself; he liked the reactions the members had after a particularly good day.
Jayne got his first, and upon opening it he exclaimed, "Guo shi! This for real?"
"Yes it is," Mal responded. "The Miner's Guild was pleased with our work. I know it's not our biggest payday, but it should last us until the next job."
Mal was being modest. Everyone got paid, although everyone also had a different cut percentage. Zoe had the highest, of course, with Jayne after her at ten percent. Kaylee was next, and then after Jack, everyone else just got a small percentage. Even River and the Doc got a small cut, and although their usefulness on the actual job was limited, they were still part of the crew. There was no agreed upon percent, but they were happy just to have a home. Anything else was just gravy.
The crew went their own way, with Kaylee taking their hauler to collect parts for the ship. Jayne was probably heading to the nearest brothel, and Zoe was probably scoping out the place in general. As Mal was closing up the ship, Jack confronted him.
"I have a contact for our next job," he said randomly.
"Really? That was quick. Who?"
No sense of time, no sense of anything. I think the guards think I'm dead. They've been waiting for a long time. They think the dementors devoured what little was left of my soul.
I'm not sure they're wrong.
My body stopped functioning years ago. I feel like a husk, unfeeling and unseeing. I can't even separate human thoughts from hallucinations.
Azkaban always wins. Always. There was no one to break me out, no one worth a damn in this whole world. Even if I was released tomorrow, there's no coming back from this. There's no coming back from death, not this time.
My very soul aches, and if there was any mercy in the world, I'd be put down like a rabid dog. Voldemort was right. I should have died as a hero, yet here I rot for all eternity, as the villain. I can only hope my end comes sooner than later, perhaps a meteor destroying the planet, or maybe global warming will finally destroy us all.
Time. It's my only form of sustenance, and I just keep devouring it as it trickles past.
"You? Have a job for us?" Mal clarified.
"Yessir. I wanted to see how you guys operated before I made the request."
"I take it we passed?" The Captain quipped.
"If you didn't, neither one of us would be standing here right now," Jack said bluntly.
"Okay, I'm listening. But this better not be some crazy plan that you dreamed up years ago to rob Blue Sun Headquarters."
"No, nothing that well guarded," Jack responded. They had both walked back inside the ship and were sitting down in the mess hall. They didn't want to be overheard.
"Oh, so there will be guards? Zhen daomei."
"Possibly, but why don't I start from the start?"
"That's usually a good spot," Mal replied dryly.
"Hmm, I guess it starts when I was a kid. My folks would tell me of various stories around the dinner table, most of which I thought were just made up, or embellishments of my father's dull life. But there was this one story that stuck with me. We were never rich, never even middle class either, like most on the rim worlds..."
"Ain't that the truth," Mal commented.
"Never having much money ourselves, Dad would always tell us about our rich relative, the one who found himself in prison. Dad said he was a millionaire, with enough to buy a whole moon, but there's no way to know for sure. Anyways, I'd always thought it was just another one of his tales, but when I got older I started to do some researching, and this relative of mine does actually exist, although all I found was his name and the name of the prison. There wasn't anything more than that, not even through the higher channels."
"This man must be pretty old then, to have been in prison when you were young, and to be still in there."
"I think my dad's dad told him, so I'd imagine he's at least seventy, but probably more. The important part is that he's still alive, and rich."
"So what are you suggesting?" Mal asked.
"Well you have to figure that he's been in there a long time, and would give anything to get out, to see some fresh air one last time. And if that actually happened, he would pay said rescuers a reward for their troubles."
"Ah, I see. So you want us break into a prison and rescue some guy that may be a relative of yours, on the off chance that he may pay us for rescuing him?"
"That sounds about right," Jackpot agreed.
"Fa kuang. I like it. What's the name of the prison?"
Poking, prodding, always searching. For what, I never know. The Hands of Blue are disappointed that all their tests show that I'm as normal as they come. I'm just a random Joe. I have no history that they can track.
But I am an enigma. I'm here for a purpose, and my continued survival baffles them. A catatonic state some would call it, but when my sedation levels drop enough, I can hear bits of pieces of their thoughts, but none of them make sense. It's just a reminder that I'm still alive, and that humans have once again entered my life. They are trying to figure out why I am in this state, but all their tests come up as me being a perfectly normal, healthy person.
That is what should be sending off their warning bells and whistles. I am anything but normal. But how would a Muggle ever come to that conclusion? It is impossible. And because of that, they will continue prodding on me, opening me up and seeing what makes me tick, and why I still live. If they could examine my soul, they may find the answers they seek, but until then, I live for my brief minutes of lucidity.
"Qingwa cao de liumang," Mal cursed. "The prison ship?"
"You've heard of it?" Jackpot asked in surprise. "It took me three years just to find the name of the place.
"Simon knows of it better than I do. All I know is what he's told me, but that's where the Alliance messed around in his sister's head."
Silence followed for a few seconds before Jackpot spoke, "So… it's going to be tough to break into then, I gather?"
"If a doctor could do it, what's to stop two mercenaries and two former soldiers?"
"You think the crew will go for it?" He asked nervously.
"It could be fun, especially if there's money to be made," Mal said, quickly going through the details. "The fact that we will be sneaking past the Alliance is even better. We will need the doc's input though. He's done it once, he can do it again, except this time he has our support. Maybe he can even find out what they did to his sister. In the mean time though, let's go find a bar."
"Harry, could you bring this folder to Percy?" Arthur Weasley asked me after we finished up our tea. I liked to visit him every now and again while at work. His office was only a few floors up from the Department of Mysteries.
Working there got tiring at times, and even I could use a break every now and then. It was pretty much the perfect job for me. It kept me in the loop at the current happenings at the Ministry, while keeping my own anonymity, mostly.
Percy and I were decent friends at this point in our careers, at least compared to our time at Hogwarts. Our friendship had really started when I had reclaimed my Wizengamot seat, and he was more than happy to show me the ropes.
Taking Mr. Weasley's folder, I headed off for the day. Arthur must have thought the folder important enough to have them delivered right away if it couldn't wait until the end of his own shift.
I Flooed to his home; I was one of the few who had access outside of his own family. I'd been at the house dozens of times so it wasn't strange to see me there unannounced just for a friendly visit.
However, I didn't see anyone right away. Audrey would usually be up and about doing miscellaneous tasks or writing something or another – I think she was working on her second book. But I didn't see anyone. I saw that the office door was nearly closed though, so I headed towards it. That's where he normally spent his time while at home.
Knocking on the door twice and hearing no answer, I slowly pushed the door open, and promptly saw a scene I would not be forgetting any time soon.
Percy was there, laying on his magnificent oak desk, stark naked. On his face, also naked, was his wife, but shockingly, riding that man like a bull was none other than Hermione Granger herself.
"What the hell?" I said suddenly, announcing my presence to those in the room.
"Harry!" Hermione shouted before all hell broke loose. Limbs flew all over the place as they tried to untangle and I retreated into the previous room. Did I just fucking see Mrs. Prude herself in a three way with Percy fucking Weasley of all people? Ron's older brother?
Hermione came out first, fully clothed, and blushing like I've never seen her blush before.
"What the hell was that?" The words escaped my mouth before I could stop them, but they were the ones I would have chosen regardless.
"It's not what it looks like!" she said quickly. "Well, it is, but let me explain. And please don't tell Ron."
"I don't give a damn who you have sex wit, but this better be a damn good story for me to not tell Ron. How long has this been going on?"
"About fifteen years…" she said slowly, and surprisingly truthfully.
"So before you and Ron became married," I said, narrowing my eyes. "What the hell is wrong with you? Oh, you've always had a penchant for the smart, studious, law abiding types, and Percy is the very epitome of that, isn't he?"
"You have to understand," Hermione pleaded. "He's always been so helpful and nice while we were at Hogwarts. I idolized him!"
"So that's reason enough to fuck him?" I retort. Hermione's demeanor shifted instantly.
"Ron's prick is so small that he could fuck me and I'd still be a virgin afterwards, if it weren't to Percy claiming me first. And every Tuesday is girls' night, which Ron very well knows. He just doesn't know how literal it is."
I was caught a little off guard. I'd never heard her talk so crudely, but I guess the duress was messing with her head. "So, you and Audrey have been double teaming Percy for the last fifteen years. What a mess."
"Don't tell a soul, Harry," she said harshly. "If anyone were to find out, it could be very bad for you. You know the kind of power Percy has, and he could make your life very unpleasant. It could mess up all of our careers!"
"Whatever. I only came here because Arthur asked me to give these papers to Percy. Here, you take them. I don't care if he gets them or not, but they seemed important at the time."
I left as quickly as I came. I did not even want to confront Percy. I bet those papers were rubbish anyways, and that Arthur wanted just wanted to expose his son. Well, it worked. Now I'm going to tell Ron, consequences be damned, he's my friend. At least now I knew who was behind the current political climate. Percy has always tried to put himself in with the staunch Pureblood community, but Hermione would apparently do anything to get her own opinions heard. Yes, it's all starting to make sense now.
"So this is it, huh?" Jayne scoffed. "Don't look like much more than a derelict. I can't believe we travelled half the 'verse for some moonbrain who might not even have the money to pay us. The Alliance probably froze his accounts."
"Jayne?" Mal asked. "Shut up."
"That don't make it less the truth," the merc pointed out.
"Do you keep your money in a bank?"
"Well, no –"
"Exactly. Not everyone does."
"Yes, well –"
"Enough," the Captain warned. "Zoe, bring us around. River, you are to stay in here, and under no circumstances are you to board that vessel, do you understand?"
"Yes, Captain," the girl replied in a small voice. Out of all the places in the universe she didn't want to visit, this was at the very top. The very thought of it gave her nightmares, but perhaps Simon could find something that would bring some insight into what they did. On a side note, they would never suspect either Simon or River to revisit the place on their own free will, so it is unlikely that any of the safety protocols have changed. Or so they hoped.
They had all decided that blatant infiltration was the best course. They went the opposite route of the Ariel hospital theft. They'd planned to do what the Alliance least expected, and they weren't expecting someone to break into their facility. Their primary protection was the control of information, and general obscurity.
"There, you see that?" Mal said, pointing to a small vessel flying away from the prison ship.
"It looks like a… Tanner class short range transport," Zoe responded.
"And I'd bet that it services the prison. It's too inconspicuous not to. Ok, change of plans. We are going to commandeer that vessel to sneak aboard. Maybe we can find something useful to help us in there, if not, well, just remember, no killing. We're not trying to start a war."
They waited with stalled breath as Serenity flew down towards the service spaceport, several hundred miles away from the secret flying Alliance prison and testing facility. They trained their ears, hoping to not hear their proximity warning go off, or transmission receiver to kick on. The last thing they wanted was to be hailed by the Alliance, arrested for trespassing, and then thrown into the very prison they were trying to break into.
Their luck held, and Serenity docked serenely near the short range transport. The crew was all bundled up and ready for action.
"Remember, no killing unless absolutely necessary," Mal reminded everyone. "Use your stun rifles, that's why we bought them. And Jayne, I hope you brought your grenades this time."
Jayne snorted before opening the jacket of his vest, showing over a dozen various grenades. "I don't feel safe without Vera, so I got something for any possible situation. Frags, smoke, gas, incendiary, shock, concussive, flashbang, stun – "
"There's a difference in those three?" the Captain asked curiously.
"The names," Jayne shrugged. "I just like some extra firepower in case these Alliance weapons get all wonky."
"Well, since you seem so keen on using your grenades, why don't you go throw a concussive one into that transport ship and tie those Alliance folk up all nice and pretty?"
"What, right now?" Jayne asked nervously. "I didn't mean –"
"You're the one with the concussive grenades, so why don't you go concussify them nice people over there, unless you think your friendly demeanor alone can take their vessel?"
"Wo cao," Jayne cursed profusely. "Tianxia suoyuode ren dou gaisi!"
"If you ask nicely, maybe Jack will help you," Mal jibbed. He knew how much Jayne disliked the other mercenary. They were very similar personality-wise, but perhaps that is one of the reasons for the dislike.
"I ain't need any help for this," Jayne scoffed before he headed out through the airlock.
"You think this is wise, Captain?" Zoe asked.
"No, not really. But it gives him something to do," Mal responded.
"So what do we do?"
"Well, I expect in five minutes Jayne's going to come back here with a bunch of tied up crewmen and our ticket to Azkaban. In the mean time, I suggest preparing yourself mentally, both of you."
To keep their idle minds from wandering, they did a double check on all their gear. Their stun rifles were fully charged. They had their masks so the Alliance wouldn't see their identity, and they also had bindings to secure any stunned guards and the like. Of course, no one went anywhere without proper support, so they all had backup firearms in case things got dicey. The crew of Serenity had a motto: If someone was trying to kill you, you best sure kill them first.
Simon felt the most out of place, as he did not have the military training of the others, but what he lacked in experience, he made up for with sheer determination. He had survived Miranda just like everyone else, and what was storming Azkaban, again, compared to that hellhole?
As predicted though, Jayne came back a few minutes later, his task successful. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he gloated. "I got us a ride."
So much anger.
So much panic.
Something was… different. Something has changed.
Something… was wrong.
Looking around the corner, Jack signaled that the hall was clear. This was his gig, his idea, so he would be the one calling the shots. At least until he did something stupid.
The inside of the ship was vastly different than the outside. The exterior was designed to look inconspicuous and borderline derelict, but the interior was a very different story.
"Dreary," Mal said, describing the place in one word. It was a mixture of unidentifiable, high tech metal, coupled with sparse electronics designating locations, or, in some cases, warnings. Also dispersed intermittently were automatic doors similar to the ones encountered on Ariel.
"That describes the Alliance in one word," Zoe agreed. "Everything is ergonomically and practical and –"
"Boring," Jayne finished. "Unless until you start shooting at them. Paint the halls in red and such."
"No killing. Unless they try to kill you first, and then by all means drop them, and preferably when before they drop you. We ain't got time for any funerals either, so you best pay attention."
Jayne, not quite acknowledging Mal's words, was looking over the Captain's shoulder at something. Then, in a quick flash, Jayne pushed Mal aside, brought his stun rifle to bear, and pounded a shock pulse through the Alliance soldier who emerged from a side door, sending the man down to the ground unconscious.
"I think you best pay attention, Captain. But if you'd like me to inherit your ship, then by all means, get yourself killed."
"Ung jeong jia ching jien soh!" Mal cursed, brushing himself off from the potential near-catastrophe.
"Glad you're still with us, Captain, but we have a job to do."
I hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing.
It's as if there is not a single human left in the world.
Arriving off the lift that Simon had directed them to, the crew of Serenity analyzed the room around them. It was vaguely circular and the outside wall consisted of many mainframes with a multitude of lights flashing on and off, with a small section containing a tool closet. The stainless steel finish made the place seem lifeless.
In the very middle of the room sat a single chair, designed in such a way and with such a history that sent shivers down everyone's spine. In a circle surrounding the chair were a dozen terminals, most of them for various scanners and other such devices that no one but Simon would have the vaguest idea of how to work or their purpose.
"No one's here," Jayne said, breaking the silence.
"Way to go, Captain Obvious," Jack needled.
"Heh heh, shut up," Jayne retorted. "This was your idea, so where is the guy? Where is anyone? My trigger finger is getting a bit heavy, and it's a bit spooky in here."
"While you children are bickering, I'm going to see what information I can get from these mainframes," Simon said, breaking up their little squabble. "Hopefully they have information on what they did to River."
"Alright, Doc," Mal agreed. They might as well make the trip worthwhile. "Well cover the doors and nab anyone that comes in."
Even the Captain was a bit rattled, to see exactly where the Alliance bastards had cut River open and played with her brain. He didn't need another reason to hate the alliance, but this place was as good a reason as any.
Someone's coming. Someone new. I can't tell if they're friend or foe. I'm not sure if I'm capable of making such a distinction.
Different. That's a good word. This person was different. They all were.
Different was good. It broke up the monotony. Something exciting was about to happen, I could feel it. As long as it wasn't the Hands of Blue and their bosses, I would welcome anything.
"You sure this is the right way?" Mal asked Simon. Jack had long given up in trying to lead their little expedition. There were too many leaders and not enough followers.
"I don't know, as I've never been this way," Simon replied. "But all signs point to a holding area down here." He explained his point by pointing to a sign that said 'Holding Area' right on it.
"No need to get tetchy, Doc. Not all of us were in the top three percent of our class on Osiris."
"If you boys would stop for a minute, you'd see that we are there," Zoe said, gesturing around to the long hallway of small, enclosed rooms. Hefting her shock rifle as familiarly as if it was her lever-action shotgun, she covered the first door.
Mal, recognizing her stance from years of working with the girl, readied himself to breach the room by standing slightly off to the side, hugging the wall for cover.
Propelling the door open, the group of them rushed in, covering all their angles and removing blind spots.
"Empty," they all concluded. The room was little more than a cell, an eight by six block of hell.
"Next room, then. There's bound to be someone here."
Room after room, they went through, but there was not a prisoner or test subject to be found in any of the cells. Eventually the dreary hallway ended and a room sprang up before them. The dense metal door indicated that this was no normal room.
"Jayne," Mal motioned, signaling for the mercenary to peek in real quick.
The big mercenary nodded and after adjusting his grip on his stun rifle, he peeked in quickly through the thick window. His eyes widened imperceptibly at what he saw inside, but he withdrew his head quickly so he wouldn't get seen.
"Well?" Mal prompted.
"Guards," Jayne said quickly, licking his lips. "Maybe a dozen, maybe more."
"Armed?" Zoe asked.
"Stun rifles like these," Jayne said, patting his plastic gun.
"Well, Jayne, it's your lucky day. You go throw in some of those fancy grenades of yours, and then we'll take them out."
"Couldn't we just go around them?" Jayne asked. "Not that I don't mind a fight…"
"You said they are guards," Mal reminded. "That means that they must be guarding something. There's no point in having guards if there is nothing to guard."
"I'm glad you agree," Mal quickly said with a small smile, patting Jayne on the shoulder.
Jayne grumbled, but turned around and carefully walked to the door. Mal thought he heard something like "I don't get paid enough for this."
"I'm going to start thinking that I've been paying you too much if you don't get a move on."
"Whatever," Jayne retorted. "On my mark –"
Jayne began pulling grenades off his harness, unpinning them but holding the detonators closed, until he had three in each hand.
"Ready?" He asked, turning around, only to see that his four companions were standing a good fifty feet away. "Meh."
Opening the door quicker than the guards could react, he tossed in his grenades, a mix of pretty much everything except frags. He'd hope the incendiary grenade would make things a bit more lively.
As soon as the grenades detonated, the rest of the crew rejoined him as they stormed in. Simon stayed cautious and at the back, having the least experience amongst them, and even though Jayne and Jack we're trained mercenaries, they had nothing on Mal and Zoe who we're trained soldiers and fought in the war. That kind of training never left, no matter how long ago the war was.
It was like shooting fish in a barrel. The combination of smoke, concussive, flashbang, and tear gas, let alone the surprise attack, caught the entire unit off guard. Chairs shattered and bodies hit the floor, unconscious, as the Serenity crew opened up their stun rifles into the Alliance men.
As soon as the smoke cleared, they got to work binding up all the people. Tape was sufficient for the mouth, and Jayne was less than gentle with both that and the hand bindings.
"Good work , now let's find –" Mal started, but he was cut off by the sounds of an alarm.
"Guo shi!" Jayne cursed. "I swear, it wasn't me –"
"No time," Mal said, cutting the merc off. "Quickly now, everyone, we have to find this man and get out before this turns messy."
My head felt like a watermelon; swollen, as big as the moon, and four times as heavy. Grogginess was an understatement, and delirium was very likely. My current existence could have entirely been a dream or a hallucination, there's no way to tell for sure. I've been asleep longer than I've been awake, and that is an unsettling fact.
Slowly though, it felt as if it was fading, as if I was coming out a long hibernation, as if I was finally waking up and entering the real world. I was breathing heavier, and my I could actually hear vague sounds coming through my ears, and a semblance of light creeping through my eyelids.
The entropy was severe, and I doubt that if I was a muggle, it would ever go away, but even still, I managed to catch a few muffled words before I attempted to open my eyes.
"How's he looking, Doc?" The first voice asked. It was a voice of some concern, but mostly curiosity with a slight hint of trepidation.
"Aside from some malnutrition," the doctor started, "He appears to be a perfectly normal, healthy, human being. I don't see any physical or neurological reason to why he should be in a comatose state, but the drugs I administered should start kicking in shortly."
I took that as a sign from above, and attempted to open one bleary eye, a millimeter at a time. It was bright, very bright, and borderline painful. A gasp of pain escaped my mouth, and the doctor noticed right away.
"It looks like it will be sooner, rather than later," the doctor commented.
"Good job, Doc, as always." The man's attention seemed to waver as he addressed someone else. "Zoe, how's it looking out there? Any sign of the Alliance?"
I could just barely make out a response coming, and it sounded as if it came through a speaker. "No, Sir, it's all shiny up here. Not a peep on the short or long wave either. I think we are in the clear."
"Good. Keep me updated though. The target seems to be waking up."
Target? Whatever that meant, it couldn't be good. I attempted to open my eyes again. Stifling the pain of light, I scoped out the room. It was a sterile environment, as one could be expected, with stainless steel and hazard labels over everything, but somehow, it felt a smidge more homely than the previous location I was held at. It was infinitely better than Azkaban though.
Anything was better than that dreary island.
Closing my eyes to stave off the pain, even though the pain was welcomed – it was a reminder that I was still alive and not dreaming, I worked on my other senses. I smelled nothing but foreign substances, probably medicines and sterilizing agents, but also a whiff of machine oil.
I could wiggle my fingers, which was a good sign, but I couldn't yet feel by feet, let alone move my toes, but with luck, the feeling would come back eventually. I hoped.
Slowly, I tested my mouth, opening and closing my jaw and moving my tongue around. I experimentally licked my lips and attempted to talk. "Mmmwharlllgarbllllblarhgm."
"I think I can do something for that…" the doctor said. A few seconds of later I felt some water trickle between my lips. I sucked it up greedily.
Some minutes passed as my eyes slowly adjusted to the light and the feeling of chewing on rubber finally disappeared. The people in the room seemed to wait patiently though, talking in low whispers, but my brain was still too befuddled to even attempt Legilimency. I had a blazing headache though.
"Sit up when you are ready," the same voice told me in a gentle tone.
I gave it a go, shuffling myself up onto my elbows. Before I got to far though, the doctor took over, activating the reclining part of the medical bed I was on.
Opening my eyes just enough to see the entirety of the room, I was shocked at the amount of people. There were seven in total, with the doctor being the most prominent and the only one dressed as such. He looked the part, very professional and composed, with the expected mannerism. There were two tall men as well; the one with black hair, goatee, and a slightly crazy look was a bit taller than the other, who seemed very sturdy. There was also a woman with a great set of tits who had an air of class about her, vaguely reminiscent of Katarina Zabini, and a man wearing a heavy brown shirt and working suspenders. He stood prominently, slightly behind the doctor, giving me the idea that he may be the leader. He had that look about him.
Behind him were two girls. The first was dressed in a one piece jumper, like a mechanic's suit or something, and she looked fairly young, mid-twenties, maybe. The other had black hair in contrast to the other girls brown, was dressed in heavy combat boots, a loose, threadbare sweater and a skirt, and didn't look old enough to have finished her schooling.
They we're all staring at me, some of the impatiently, some of them curiously and even friendly. They definitely weren't my previous captors, the ones with the drills and weird tools, unless that was a dream. This wasn't a dream though, and the guns at some of their sides told me that this was pretty serious as well.
After a few more minutes of quiet, the man in the suspenders stepped closer to my bed. "I am Malcolm Reynolds, the Captain of this fine vessel, Serenity. You got a name?"
"Name?" I repeated slowly, testing my recovering ability to process words. "I can't… can't…"
I couldn't remember my name. When was the last time I had heard it?
"Harry James Potter, Order of Merlin, First Class, Wizengamot Chairholder, Unspeakable Second Lieutenant, honorary member of the Dark Forces Defense League, honorary member of the Hogwarts Board of Governors, honorary member of the –"
"Thank you, River," Mal cut off, "for that insightful bit of information. So your name is Harry Potter. What were you in for? Before the Alliance started testing on you that is. Or do you not remember that as well?" He mocked with a somewhat tired and agitated tone.
"Careful, Captain," the doctor warned. "We don't want to trigger anything stress related."
I wracked by brain trying to think of an answer, while vaguely wondering how that girl knew all my titles like that. Not that they weren't common knowledge, but if these people are muggles like I thought they were, then they shouldn't have that info. But the terms of my imprisonment was so long ago, the dementors affected me so much, that I had buried much of my past deep into the unreachable recesses of my brain. Or so I thought.
I shook my head negative. "It's been so long, I'm not sure what is and isn't."
"He assassinated the Minster of Magic," River said helpfully. "Percival Ignatius Weasley."
Silence fell on the room after that proclamation, both from me and everyone else.
"Is that right, son, you a killer?"
Taking a deep breath as the memories began to assault me, I nodded my head.
"He's an assassin," River said once again. "Called a Hitwizard. He thought the Minister was destroying their society, so he took extreme measures and killed him."
"Interesting," the Captain said genuinely. "So, you don't touch little boys or anything like that? Just a little murder?"
"Murder is a strong word, but there is a back story," I said slowly, still testing my thoughts. "I was a government hired assassin, in the simplest form. I guess it all started when I discovered my best friend's wife, also my friend, had been cheating on him with the Minister, who was also his brother, for longer than they had even been married." I paused to take a long sip of water, and after coughing a bit on it, I continued my story. Recalling it for the first time in years was as if I was reliving it again myself, and I was trying to make sure I remembered all the details.
"It would create a scandal, if I had not killed him first, but not before he dragged my name through the mud. He was a well liked Minister, with enough power to pretty much blackmail anyone, and plant enough convincing evidence to get away with it. But he didn't do that, he wasn't like that -he went the social and political route, destroying the foundations of our society, in some sort of grudge against me. But it was more than that, I suppose. He rubbed the salt in my wound, passing through all the laws and bills that his mistress wanted, most of which weren't very good for the long term of our society."
"So, that's enough to kill him?" The brown hair girl asked. "You didn't try talking?"
"I did talk with him," I said quickly. "He was a good friend of mine for many years, before all this happened. Killing is never my first option. But when all else fails, the war of words escalates to a war of wills and firepower, and that is one I'm going to win every time."
"So how'd you do it?" Jack asked.
I could see the mark a few yards ahead of me. I don't think she saw me, as I was wearing a bland hooded cloak. A little compulsion charm had reminded her that they they're low on Floo Powder. It was the truth, so there was no particular reason to fight it.
I waited patiently outside the Alchemist for her to make her purchase and get out. Patting my pocket to make sure I still had the package, I couldn't help but feel a little nervous. I'd killed dozens of people before, all bad guys, but this person was a friend of mine, an out of control friend and the Minister, but a friend none the less. It was a shame it had to come down to this.
Spotting Audrey coming out of the store, purchase in hand, I made my move. Before she could reach the apparition point, I pulled my wand out and performed a simple switching spell. In a few days time, Percy would be dead. Katarina Zabini's poisonous concoction would make sure of that, and it would be untraceable back to me.
There would be no reason to suspect me. No one had ever killed a person before by poisoning Floo Powder with a subtle, organic compound, and it would only trigger upon entering the Floo that it had been used in. It was quiet ingenious. My wife thought the idea up, Katarina made the poison, and I did the switch. Really, Audrey Weasley was the deliverer of the poisoned powder, and if all else failed, I had a dozen alibis to cover my tracks. There's no way I would get suspected, let alone caught.
"Yet you did," the Captain said dryly. "Clearly."
"Blind luck," I said simply. "Blind fucking luck. That bitch Audrey spouted my name at random, simply because of the little quarrel going on with Percy. I didn't see that coming, and the next day I'm on trial, and despite the efforts of my wife, I found myself in Azkaban, doomed to rot." I didn't bother to hide the anger in my voice. Time did not dilute the bitterness I harbored. "Until you lot showed up I guess. What is your story anyway? Why did you free me? And how does - River was it? - know so much about me?"
"Well, Jack here knew of your imprisonment through a family story, said you had some money, and might appreciate being freed."
"Ah, I see. Money – that shouldn't surprise me," I said, clichély rubbing my chin. "Well, I don't have anything in the bank – which is a long story in itself – so I kept all my gold and such at home. I'm not sure what my wife did after I was imprisoned. I had no chance of being freed even when my wife eventually became the Minister and fixed all of Percy's mistakes, simply because my poisoned Floo powder eventually did kill Audrey and Hermione as well…"
"I'm not going to pretend I understand a single word coming out of your mouth," the Captain said bluntly. "I have no idea what Floo is, or a Ministry of Magic, or a switching spell."
"River isn't a witch?" I asked in surprise. "I figured she must be reading my mind or something, to know my full name."
"She's not a witch," Simon said loudly. "And I would appreciate it if you wouldn't call her that again."
"Sorry?" I apologized faintly. "I just assumed –"
"Assumed that my sister is a witch? Last time someone did that, we nearly got burned at the stake. I assure you –"
"Whoa, I have nothing against witches, let me assure you. Witching burnings though, seriously? What is this, the sixteenth century?"
"No…" Simon said slowly. "This is the twenty-sixth century, and a lot of the rim planets are not as civilized as the core."
"Come again?" I asked faintly. "Twenty-sixth century? Planets?"
I took a long swig of the water they provided, draining it dry, and vaguely wishing it was something harder. The Captain stepped forward again, while the rest of the crew was seemingly entertained by our talk. "Son, when exactly were you imprisoned? We were expecting an old man, yet you look younger than me."
Letting out a sigh, I responded. "The fourth of November, 2013."
"2013?" the Captain repeated faintly, before summarizing everyone's thoughts. "Wo bu shin wo dah yan jing!"
"So, you mean to tell me, all of us, that your fortune is back on Earth-That-Was?" Mal let loose an unintelligible curse.
"Earth-That-Was? Where exactly are we?"
"We are on my vessel, Serenity. It's a Firefly class transport ship."
"A spaceship," Kaylee, the girl with the brown hair, said cheerfully. "The best damn ship in the 'verse."
"Thank you Kaylee, for your ever cheerful exuberance," Mal said, turning back to me. "Earth-That-Was, Earth to you, is a dozen years away with the fastest of engines."
"Oh… " I said, not really comprehending the situation. "What happened to everyone? And if I wasn't imprisoned on Earth, where was I?"
"A comet smashed into the Earth," the doctor said, going into a semi-professional lecture mode. "A large comet smashed into the planet, some time before the turn of the twenty-second millennium. The records are unclear. The comet ripped away the atmosphere, and devastated the lands. Temperatures rose, seas boiled away, everything died. It is commonly believed now that the surface is nothing but lava and poisonous gas now."
"I take it people got away, what with you all being here." It was hard to even think that the Earth as I knew it was no more, even if I did realize it was a possibility.
"Yes. There was much warning, and many attempts to destroy the comet before it hit, but they all ultimately failed. No one is sure how humanity escaped and chose this part of the galaxy to colonize, only that they had many dozens and dozens of city sized ships that somehow made the journey. No one really knows for certain, just like we don't know how you ended up on that prison ship. It's a secret Alliance testing facility, called Azkaban."
"Named after the prison I was captured in," I explained. "So I was probably there for centuries."
"Maybe. They do tests there, the kind of tests that polite society would frown upon, the kind of tests that could send a planet to revolt if the proper people caught wind of it. They performed tests on my sister as well. They did something with her brain, so it is not out of the range of possibility that they did something to you."
"Is that how she can read minds?" I asked curiously. The fact I picked that up surprised most people, but it was a logical conclusion to someone who has experienced that before. I reared my Occlumency up to full force, but I think even the weakest of skill could keep her out.
"She's what we call a Reader, and I think she had the ability before she was at that facility, but… that is a long story and not mine to share. She's an extremely gifted girl and that's why they targeted her. Do you know why they did testing to you?"
I shrugged my shoulders. I guess there wasn't much point hiding the truth. "I'm a wizard. So if you want to burn me alive, please do it quick."
"Huh," Mal said faintly, again being surprised.
"You're a wizard… Harry?" Simon asked, clarifying.
"Born one. Not much good it did me though."
"I'd consider living to over five hundred years old something, unless that is the norm?"
"No, not at all." I could count the people who have lived as long as I apparently had on one hand, and they only accomplished that with the Philosopher's Stone.
"That's why I can't read your mind anymore!" River exclaimed, jumping off her perch and onto her feet. "After I saw your assassination, I couldn't hear anything else."
"That's because I blocked you out. You were causing me a huge headache."
"Oh, sorry," River responded, looking slightly ashamed. Simon watched on with interest before jumping back in. "You can… stop her from reading your mind?"
"Took me years to master it," I admitted. "I can 'read' minds as well I suppose, as long as we're all being truthful here, but I haven't done that since before I was all drugged up."
"Can't you teach that? To control it I mean," Simon clarified. "River… she hears everything."
I winced in sympathy. "I'm not sure. I think your Captain would rather ditch me as soon as he got paid though. You guys' mercenaries or something?"
"Or something," Mal said.
"Cargo ship," Kaylee said. "Vaguely…"
"Ah, I see. Now, you are just transporting me, and at the end of the trip, you get a nice payday. We'll, once I'm up and better, maybe I could control my magic, but without a wand…"
"See, there's that word again," Mal said, his tone changing suddenly. "Magic. Wizardry. Sorcery. I don't get any of it. You're going to have to explain –"
Suddenly the proximity alert on the ship started going off, the warning lights spinning red ambiance onto the walls. The intercom came alive after that. "Sir, it's the Alliance. They've spotted us and are closing the distance."
"Wo cao. Zhen daomei!" Mal groaned.
"We're humped!" Jayne growled in frustration.
"I take it the Alliance are the bad guys?" I asked, sitting up fully and working my toes.
"In this case, yes," Mal said quickly. "Zoe! How long until they are within pulling range?"
"About thirty second!"
I realized that their mission to rescue me had just turned pear shaped. I knew nothing about anything regarding space travel or anything like that, but what I did know was magic.
My magic was there, dormant for years, a rampant beast waiting for release. It was common knowledge that our magic got stronger as we got older, and it only took one look at Dumbledore to see that. And mine had sat idle for centuries, waiting to be used, and I had just the idea.
I shifted my bed until it was next to the hull of the ship, or what I thought was the hull, and I took a firm handhold on some rogue piping. I concentrated all my might on my latent magic, hoping to spur it on, to excite it, and to perform something I had never tried before.
Destination, determination, deliberation.
I felt the magic coalesce all around us, almost becoming tangible, yet it's ethereal quality remained visually elusive to us all. But I could feel it, and I bet even the muggles could feel it. It pooled up inside of me and burst out through my every pore.
And with one last thought, I apparated the entire ship and its crew to our destination. Apparition is only possible to places you have been before, so I tried my best to get as close as possible, bearing in mind that I didn't know the capacities of this space ship.
Looking down, I could see I had slagged a good quarter of the room's walls, turning them into nothing but base steel and carbon. I had expelled a lot of magic, but my instincts had told me I was successful.
"Well, here we are."
Author's Notes. It's only fair that after 20k words, I can include some more information, being fanfiction and all.
The first major thing, that I should point out if it wasn't obvious (and it kind of isn't), is that all the scene's involving Harry were nonlinear, and that is because Harry's memories were being read by River, and the fact that that is occuring before they even meet is sort of a Tarantino-style twist, and the two timelines don't really converge until the end. It's not something I've ever tried to write before, and it was an experience, and I think it came out decently.
Also, I, like many people, suffer from an acute case of Daphneitis. Sorry. Her legacy plays a big part in the next chapter (yes, there is a part two in progress!), so it isn't just a spur of the moment thing. I tried to avoid all the major cliche's involving her, but just including her in any stories nowadays is cliche, so I just downplayed everything that would potentially turn her into a Mary Sue and excluded anything that wasn't important to the story.
And before I get any complaints, the only real character that had a modicum of bashing in this story was Hermione. It couldn't be avoided, as she is half the reason Harry ended up in prison. Perhaps I was too harsh, but ohwell. I tried to draw a parallel with Ginny being sort of like Inara, so I sort of tried to hide my dislike of her character with that excuse. As for me including a small mention of H/Tonks, Fem!Blaise, Cliche!, ohwell. I do think a lot of my personal opinions on fanfiction elements shine through a little bit much, but as this was a timed contest entry and not a full blown one, I can excuse my self.
This was the first time I've ever written Firefly, but I've been told that is was done a lot better than the HP parts, so I take that as a good sign. Writing an ensemble cast is pretty hard, and I don't think I gave Inara a single line. Regardless, writing Jayne is a lot of fun. And yes, I do realize that Jackpot is an awful name.
As for when to expect the next chapter? Probably not that soon, and not before the next chapters of my other two active stories. I got a lot of it outlined, but I'm not sure how long the story will be. I have to tie up a lot of the loose ends in here, such as Daphne, Hitwizard!Harry with no wand, the brief mention of his Animagus form, the location of modern wizards, Harry's trial, River's condition, the fact that Harry and Daphne had no children, the very subtle hints about how Humans colonized the Galaxy, etc...
One last thing - Don't tell my my Mandarin Chinese is fucked up. I know it is. I don't speak it, so I took phrases right out of the show's script.