Sorry, chapters will be shorter from now on. It seems that I don't have enough time to write long chapters. Shorter chapters give me much more room. It's easier to not rush the story too. However, chapters will be longer than 3000 words. That's for sure.
The Citadel. One could call it the capital of the Milky Way and would probably be right. There was however a second capital, the Omega. It was dirty, full of criminal gangs and mercenary groups, narcotic and weapon dealers centuries old station. There weren't many things you couldn't get on Omega, but the one thing didn't exist there for sure: peace. However, it wasn't a major problem for a group of four travellers which set the course on the said station. They sat on the bridge of their starship and looked through a viewing port at the massive Mass Relay, waiting for a woman in the pilot chair to finish her adjustments needed for the travel through the Mass Relay.
"Hey, Harry could you tell me more about the Avalon?" a raven-haired girl asked.
Harry took his time to answer, "Well, what do you want to know?"
Eve shrugged, "Something. You said that it is the source of magic. And the World Tree, how does it look like?"
"Well, ironically muggles know more about it than the magical folk. It always was sort of restricted even for wizards, but Merlin tried to ensure that wizards wouldn't know about the World Tree and the Avalon, but he still missed some muggle stories. Muggles could never see or access the Tree, but they listened to wizards and wrote stories about it. I have to warn you, that I might be wrong, since I didn't see the Tree myself. Have you read about Norse mythology?" he asked catching Daphne's attention.
"Not much," she admitted, "But I know enough about it."
"Good. It's crude and there are a lot of funny things in it, but they've got the important thing right. It says that there are many worlds connected via Yggdrasil, the World Tree. There are, in fact, something like a world on that Tree, but not in the way the mythology describes it. According to the mythology the Midgard is the world where we, humans, live. In reality it's the Earth and the World Tree has its roots on the Earth. I'm not sure, but it has to be about three-four kilometers tall."
"Whoa! There would be a huge shadow! And it would break under its own weight, and…" Eve began to argue.
Harry smirked and interrupted her, "Hold your hyppogryphs, Eve. It's magic. Remember?"
She sighed. "Oh, yeah. Magic."
"Now, remember Asgard, the world of gods? In reality it's the Avalon... well, you may call it Asgard, since the world had many names actually. Anyway I'm not sure if there are any gods. If the World Tree were visible and accessible while you were on the plane looking through a window at the Yggdrasil, you would see an enormous tree with a miniature flat world in the crone. It wouldn't look large, but it is actually quite big. It's just like the greenhouse on this ship. Bigger on the inside than outside."
Hermione laughed, turned around and said, "You know all those paintings with whales, turtles and elephants, right? Non-magical people tried so hard to describe the Avalon in their writings, but failed miserably. What's even funnier is how others didn't understand that and thought it was a good idea to put some animals instead of the Tree there."
"Yeah," Harry smiled. "The fact is, very few educated humans ever believed that the Earth was flat. Even four thousand years ago they knew that the Earth was spherical. It's too easy to prove. And there were wizards who could show it. We always had means to fly. Now mostly brooms, but earlier hyppogryphs, winged horses, magical airplanes in Ancient Egypt, self-transfiguration to get wings… that's, probably, how people got an idea of winged angels. All those texts about flat world originally described the Avalon, since it really is flat."
"Seems like wizards were more advanced back then," Eve said thoughtfully.
Harry sighed and nodded. He wanted to say something, but Hermione interrupted him, "The ship is ready. We will jump through the Relay in five seconds."
"Hope we won't end up thousand years in the future," Harry muttered.
"Shut up, Harry," Hermione groaned.
"But…" he was interrupted by transition. "What the Crumple-Horned Snorkack was that?"
"That was a jump," Hermione explained.
"What kind of idiot created this thing? Even my Gates work better and I needed just a few days to develop them. It felt almost like apparation for Morgan's sake."
"Calm down, Harry. You wouldn't create Gates if not for the Relays."
"Sure I would!" he argued. "Whatever. I hope we aren't in the future."
Hermione didn't answer for a moment and then exclaimed in panic, "We're thousand years in the future!"
"That was a joke," Hermione deadpanned.
Harry closed his eyes and sighed with relief. The other two girls sighed too: Daphne in relief, Eve in disappointment. "That wasn't funny at all," he said.
"Could you charm their rings while we're on the way to the Omega?" Hermione asked.
"Can I do it myself?" Daphne asked.
"No, we created the rings so that only I and Harry can change charms," Hermione answered. "Besides you don't know the right shield charm."
"Won't a simple Protego be enough?"
"No," Harry replied, "In fact, it haven't stood a chance against muggle weapons back then in our time. It wasn't designed to protect from kinetic impacts. We modified the spell and developed two enchantments. One protects from physical objects, and the other protects you from almost everything. The first one is more powerful but isn't that useful against toxic gases or radiation for example...
"What's a radiation?" the blond asked.
He sighed and turned to his girlfriend. "Hermione I think you should implant some information in her head. It's like talking to a child."
"Brilliant idea, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed and grinned madly.
"No way I agree to that!" Daphne exclaimed. "She'll mess up everything in my head."
"Yes," Harry said thoughtfully.
He shook his head and explained, "I mean that Hermione would probably do something mischievous if given a chance and you're right to be against it."
"You killjoy, Harry," Hermione huffed.
He smiled and asked, "Eve, tutor her in general knowledge, please?"
"Yeah, sure," the biotic answered.
"Thanks," Daphne muttered with a blush, embarrassed.
"Good," he nodded. "Anyway, you can't cast these spells like Protego, they're way too power-demanding, no wand would be able to do it, but your rings have own… power sources and so can handle the enchantments."
"By the way," said Hermione suddenly, "Harry, you're a genius. Eve, I could transfer you the knowledge of that asari. She was a very powerful biotic, I'm sure it would be useful for you. Your brain won't be able to hold her memories, but I'll implant only her biotic skills. If you trust me, of course."
"You saved me," Eve said. "Of course I trust you. Besides, it's exciting! If I'll be able to use it properly I'm ready to do what I must."
"Let's go to the training room then."
Eve nodded and followed the witch out of the cockpit. Harry considered following them for a minute, but decided to stay in the pilot chair just in case. Daphne didn't move from her place either.
"Can she really do it?" she asked.
"Yeah," he answered. "If it comes to the mind arts she can almost everything. Give me your hand, please."
"Why?" she asked and gave him his right hand.
"The ring hand," he added.
"Oh." She complied and watched him enchanting her ring. "How did you create this enchantment?"
"It wasn't that difficult," he said continuing his work, "Almost all our spells are easy. The most of the ship was created using Hogwarts' fourth and fifth year spells. A few sixth year spells and I think only one seventh. Some are overpowered versions; other spells are a bit modified. You only need to know a bit of muggle science and you'll find that even first year spell can be used in very unexpected ways..."
"But I thought that muggle technology wouldn't work with magic," Daphne said.
"Completely false dogma," Harry said. "Magic is all about intent and knowledge. If you don't understand technology you'll destroy it with magic. If you understand technology and want to use it, then it's very easy to make technology work along with the magic. Unless you, Daphne, learns technology you won't be able to incorporate it in your magic."
"Oh," she muttered. "That makes sense. Why no-one knows about it?"
"Wizards are stupid," Harry answered with a sigh. "Even muggleborns. They're even worse. They come to the wizarding world as kids, all excited about magic, use magic for everything and soon forget things they've learned in muggle school. At least, pure-bloods don't get too excited about magic and actually study it, instead of just using. The truth is, science isn't any less exciting. I'm not trying to tell you that magic is easier. It's not, but the majority don't create their own spells, don't create their own potions, don't study magic itself. Their whole life wizards learn nothing and do nothing."
"I do," Daphne said defensively. "I love working on new spells."
"You're one of the few exceptions," Harry said. "But even you didn't try to study muggle science. The problem is, science is difficult and you can do only few exciting things without lots of money knowledge and colleagues. It's understandable wizards don't try to learn it. They have magic."
"But anyway," he said with a sigh. "I was talking about first-year spells. The shield charm for example. Not the first year material, but it's still a good example. We took a look at many shield spells. There are, actually, similar charms, but to use them you need more than one caster. You know them from Hogwarts, probably. Your ring contains a soul and it's a very good energy source. That's why we don't need many wizards to create shield around you. Besides, the ring is made out of mithril. It amplifies the charm."
"You gave me a lot food for thoughts," she muttered. "You didn't explain why you and Hermione wanted to go to the Omega. The Citadel seems to be much better destination."
"Elementary. If you want to know more about life in a country, go to its poorest districts. Then you will see the true ugly face of the country. Hermione has that asari's memories, but it's difficult to build an opinion based on other's memories. Besides I wouldn't want to sort through seven hundred years of the asari's life…"
"Yeah," Daphne nodded. "I don't know how she is able to not lose herself in asari's memories."
"That's Hermione. She is bad at developing something entirely new, she isn't good at battle magic, she is quite bad at potions. Well, she can brew them well, but only by following instructions closely. However she's brilliant at everything else, including the mind arts. It has something to do with her brain that can hold all that knowledge of hers."
"Not good at battle magic?" Daphne raised an eyebrow.
"Well, better than you."
"I'm not that bad actually," Daphne noted. "My father trained me well."
"Didn't see you in action," he scowled. "Because you were, probably, hiding…"
"Harry, please," she interrupted him. "I know that I was a coward. I always was one. I wanted to help you with the Triwizard Tournament in the fourth year. I wanted to warn you about Umbridge in the fifth, I wanted to join your DA, I wanted to reveal the truth about Draco in the sixth…" She burst in tears,"…I wanted to help you fight in the Hogwarts battle, but I was afraid. I'm a coward and I'm sorry! I hope to be able to change. I'm trying for Merlin's sake!"
He felt a sharp twinge of guilt for making her cry. He was able to do bad things, but he wasn't heartless. Besides, the sight of the attractive blonde would melt even iciest hearts. Besides, Hermione was right, he was a pervert. He pulled her into a hug feeling extremely awkward. "I'm sorry," he said.
"You don't have to be," she said sobbing into his chest.
"Well," he heard Hermione's voice and winced. "I go out for a few minutes and you're hugging a crying girl. I would applaud for making her cry, but I don't like a sight of her in your arms. You'll sleep on a couch."
"But, Hermione! You don't mean it," he groaned breaking the hug. Neither Hermione nor Harry noticed a barely noticeable sly smile on Daphne's face.
"Next time, you'll know better than hug her," she said coyly. "I put Eve under a sleep potion for a few hours."
"Will she be ready for our tour through the Omega?" Daphne asked.
Hermione looked at her for a moment, then answered, "Yes."
"Say, how come… you and Hermione turned, well, dark?" was Daphne's next question.
"Morgan, save me, is that a game of hundred questions?" Hermione growled.
"That's only the second!" Daphne protested.
"Mione, the earlier she'll be through with questions, the quieter she'll be in the future," Harry said.
"Alright, but you'll be the one answering questions," Hermione said.
"So, Daphne, what did you mean with your question exactly? I'm sure you heard enough already to understand why."
"I know, but where did your attitude came from? I mean you're ready to sacrifice so much for… for your goals… I don't know…" she frowned unable to find right expression.
"For the Greater Good?" Harry helped her.
"I already told you, that the war changed us… But, if I'd be honest, it's more Dumbledore's fault," he said and smiled. "He raised me like a weapon. He placed me with abusive relatives, who told me every day that I were a worthless freak. He wanted me to be ready to sacrifice myself if it's necessary. He presented me a lot of challenges that could lead to my death in Hogwarts, so that I would be ready to face Tom. He asked Weasleys to befriend me, so that I would have an anchor to the light side. Sure he loved me almost like a grandson, he even gave me time to have fun and a bit of happiness… at a great price, lives of people who were dear to me, but he believed that I had to die in order to defeat Voldemort. As for Hermione… she was always with me and that affected her as well."
"That's horrible," Daphne whispered bewildered by his words. "I never thought about it this way. To think that Dumbledore…"
"You misunderstand me. I admire him. Sure, I don't like to be manipulated, but he did what was right. He did it for the Greater Good. You have to give it to him. His manipulations led to the victory over Riddle. To think that the battle was fought by Hogwarts students and a few Order members and was won! The only flaw I see in him is that he didn't understand that magic can't be evil. Tom said once, 'There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it'. And now I believe that he was right. If we need power to ensure the Good of everyone, then we'll seek it. A few sacrifices on the way don't matter. On the other hand Dumbledore was very reluctant to kill, we're not. Killing saves innocent lives. "
"That's deep," Daphne muttered, "But I'm not sure if I agree."
"The thing is, we don't care what others think, we do what we must," Hermione said.
Soon the Pandora got to the Omega. Asteroids were quite troublesome, but it wasn't difficult to avoid big ones. Shields took care of the small ones. Their ship was too odd to request a docking permission, so they just flew in using ship's invisibility. Then Hermione and Daphne warded their landing platform against muggles. The station wasn't the nicest place they had seen. Daphne and Harry were immediately reminded of the new Diagon Alley.
"Eww!" Eve exclaimed. "Did you see that ugly guy?"
"A vorcha," Hermione answered. "According to asari's memories they're quite aggressive and dumb. I need more intelligent specie to scan."
"You didn't tell about vorcha," Harry said.
She shrugged. "They don't matter. Vermins. Come on, we have to find a better place than this."
The space station was huge and Harry could barely believe that such thing existed. He was excited seeing it, but very troubled by the sight of dead bodies, an awful smell and hordes of hostile-looking and violence were everywhere and the trio was walking through the passages without getting unwanted attention only thanks to disillusionment charms.
"Now, at last something besides krogan and vorcha," Hermione said when they spotted an asari with a turian. The next moment she used Legilimency and a second later an expression of disgust appeared on her face, she fell down on her knees and vomited. "For Morgan's sake!" she exclaimed, wiping her mouth.
"What happened?" Harry asked rushing to her.
"I have a really bad luck with the targets," she answered breathing hard. "She's a prostitute. Asari are mostly just like human females, and I relieved a few of the memories where she... You don't want to know."
Everyone cringed at her words and Daphne said, "Perhaps you should choose a human."
"Shut up," Hermione snapped. "The last thing I need are your 'witty' advises."
"Are you alright?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Hermione answered in a lot more calmer voice. "I've blocked the unwanted memories, I'm not even sure what they were."
"Did you get something we may use?" he asked.
"Ye..." Hermione began to say, but was interrupted.
"She's dead!" Eve exclaimed in an excited voice pointing at a body of an asari.
"Well, she is," Harry said glancing at Daphne: this time it was her who vomited.
"And she has a huge hole in her chest," Eve said. "It's the first time I see something like this."
"Why do they leave the bodies like this?" Daphne asked in disgust.
"It's quite lawless part of the space station. Normally people don't go here if they don't want to make their lives very short, but interesting," Hermione explained. "Follow me, I'll lead you to the ruler of this place."
"Who is it?" Harry asked.
"An asari, Aria T'Loak. Our first target to get under control," Hermione said, the corners of her mouth quirked in an evil smile.