DISCLAIMER: Anything you recognise belongs to JKR.
Written for the Tentatively Titled Competition on HPFC
The challenge: A Harry-centric fic with the title Rate of Descent, theme descent into darkness, prompt verisimiltude.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
—Arthur C. Clarke
Even after all these years people still called him the 'Chosen One' and expected him to save the day. He was ten years retired, hell twenty five if you counted from when he stepped down from fieldwork into a fully administrative position. There had been three division heads since him, what with his niece Roxanne's promotion to head of MLE two years ago, and Harry remembered little of Morton Higgs who had taken over the position. Which was perhaps for the best given the likelihood of his still being alive for another week.
The anti-magic Agitators had been ramping up their regime in the last two months, led from the front by Chancellor Mackenzie and his secret service lapdogs, rounding up anyone suspected of having contact with magical families and holding them for interrogation in underground cells imbedded in Thames House. So far the Ministry had found no way around the elemental shields which prevented apparition and since there was no evidence of actual witches or wizards being held there they had stopped trying. A mistake in Harry's opinion, since one could logically expect similar defences to be employed wherever they were holding those of the magical community that they had captured.
He wished that they still had Hermione's brain to pick over the problem; her assassination six months ago , and he was damned well calling it that until proved otherwise, had been a catastrophic loss to the scattered remnants of Wizarding Britain. Ron had taken her death hard and what was left of the family took turns keeping an eye on him while they went about their business of trying to survive. Rosie and Evan had him now, good company for one another as his niece and nephew-in-law were still in mourning for Lou, Tony and Colin, early casualties in the war. And unlike the Voldemort war, the Blood War as it was called in the textbooks there were no hidden clues laid down by wise Professor Dumbledore to follow, no convenient spy in the enemy camp standing at their adversary's right hand. This time they were outnumbered, outgunned and staring down the increasingly high chance of total eradication.
Sometimes he wished that he could speak to Dumbledore's portrait, to ask for advice of the man who was still twice his age and experience, who had lived through three wizarding wars and come out on the victorious side each time. Surely he would have known what to do. Alas, this wasn't possible as the first strike in this dreadful war, the nuclear bomb which wiped out Hogwarts and everything living in the surrounding 50 miles had seen the castle and all contained property completely and devastatingly obliterated.
The only good thing about that attack had been the death of the student responsible, Josiah Simm, only child of one of the loudest Agitators in muggle parliament, who had smuggled the device in but hadn't been able to escape the school grounds in time. The Agitators had named him a boy martyr to their cause and his disgustingly innocent face still featured heavily on their propaganda posters.
Both of Lily's boys and Al's youngest daughter died that terrible day, and the second bombing three days later—a conventional explosive this time given the location—had destroyed the Ministry Headquarters, and to this day Harry wondered how they got the bomb in. He tried not to think of it too often as his brain often threw up visions of the bodies; James, his corpse a bloody mess from the waist down, his warm brown eyes pierced by his own shattered glasses; Percy, still serving after all these years, half of his head crushed by fallen rubble; Hugo, only identified by the phoenix tattoo he had got deliberately to provoke his mother during his teenage years. Somehow Al had survived, buried in the depths of the Department of Mysteries for three days before he and the other Unspeakables were pulled free by the rescue efforts. His leg had never healed properly and he still limped when he ran, a common pastime in the last year for all of them.
Their current hiding place, a small cottage in the north of Wales had proved a safe, if not pleasant location so far. Arthur's knowledge of all things mechanical had proved extremely useful a hundred times over, though his grip had weakened such that Angelo did most of the physical operations under his direction. Louis' oldest boy had surprised them all turning from a feckless alcoholic to a fit and able fighter in these dark days. Molly and Ginny had set up an infirmary of sorts, using whatever healing skills they had garnered through experience and conversations with Teddy to treat those who made it to the shelter. Another person Harry tried not to think about, his godson, just another casualty of the Hogwarts attack, who had spoken of the Simm boy only a month before his death. Apparently the boy had broken his arm trying to fly past the school boundary for a dare and had been fascinated by the magical healing process. The verisimilitude of his childish actions still burned in Harry's heart.
They had limited contact with the other groups, the only reliable form of communication being patronuses which many were finding increasingly difficult to cast. They had been cut off from continental Europe by an elemental shield of enormous proportions which now surrounded the entire British Isle and blocked both portkeys and apparition. Flying, whether by broomstick or winged creature or the much-repaired motorbike that was still held together by duct tape and a prayer was almost an invitation to get caught by the AI drones operated through the satellite network. And every muggle form of transport required an electrical scan where any magic possessed by a person registered by interfering with the device just by contact.
Arthur Clark had been right in his Profiles of the Future; magic had been superseded by technology. Electronics which were not disabled by nearby magical fluctuations, neural implants and tablets which rendered the taker immune to memory charms and control spells. The only things they had yet to find a way to block were the killing curse and a collection of lesser charms which caused no harm. Only last week they had revealed their newest toy, a drug which when injected temporarily disabled all magical effects on or surrounding the target. It had cost Luna her life, her decades of perfecting her transformation into a hare lost at the tip of a needle.
In the end all that any of them had been able to do was hide. Run and hide and hope that in time the Agitators would believe that they were all dead and give up their hunt for magical blood. The words they had used when the Wizarding world had been inadvertently revealed by their technology beyond any ability to control, the ideals that the magical community sought to enslave them and wipe them out had garnered a tidal wave of fear and hatred which a handful of muggle politicians rode to perfection. After the convenient deaths of the extended royal family at the hands of 'evil magic-wielding supremacists,' it had taken little effort for them to usurp control of the country and the incensed muggle population.
The remnants of the Ministry did what it could to keep the safety house network running and keeping families together, slowly, painstakingly smuggling small groups out of the country by boat, attempting to rescue those that were captured. In the end it was not going to be enough, and Harry could clearly see the desperation in the faces of those around him. They still looked to him for a miracle despite knowing that he could do nothing in the face of such overwhelming odds. The Chosen One was helpless this time, and old man from an old war who would go down fighting and die like the rest of them, falling eventually to the descending darkness.