Chapter 13 – The Emperor's Square
"Shun-sheng duh gao-wahn," River swore.
"I've never done that before," Harry said, staring at his hands. "In fact I've neither seen nor heard of any wizard banish a person in this fashion after their magic has stabilized!"
River saw that Harry seemed to be in shock and she happily reciprocated what he had done to her. She slapped him…. hard.
"You were going into shock," she supplied innocently responding to his look of anger.
"No I wasn't! I was just surprised!"
River pointed towards the unconscious body, "What do we do about that?"
Harry grumbled and grabbed her hand, pulling her towards the bushes. "Do you think they'll notice his absence?" he asked hopefully.
River just gave him a look. That was just wishful thinking.
"Okay," Harry breathed. "Okay," he repeated again. It was suddenly becoming very hard to think clearly. "Gorramit! What do we do?!" he growled softly.
"We could always kill him and dispose the body," River said, as normally as talking about the weather.
"What? No!" Harry snapped. "No," he said again, "Let's, let's check his pockets."
"Keys, id, pressure gauge, wires, tape, lighter, cigarettes," River murmured as she began to empty the numerous pockets on the man's jumpsuit. At the mention of cigarettes an idea struck Harry.
He clumsily pulled out a cigarette and put everything else back in his pockets the way it was. River got an idea of what Harry was planning and began to haul the man to a light pole a little distance away. She gave Harry an amused look when he began to cough after lighting the cigarette.
"Let's go," he choked out, his face was the image of disgust after the repulsive taste of tobacco. He grabbed the man's legs and quickly propped him up against the pole. River kept a sharp eye, looking for anyone in a position to spot them.
They put him in such a way that it looked like he was very relaxed and then Harry placed the cigarette in his mouth and the lighter enclosed in his hand. He wasn't worried about the cigarette falling on the man and burning him.
"Do you think they'll buy it?" Harry asked River feeling very nervous.
"We'll find out soon enough," she said stoically.
Harry and River waited with baited breaths. Both were ready to fight if things turned sour. Even though River wasn't reflecting any emotions, he could feel them on his shields. It was odd how River's focus on his mind was allowing him to understand her. He pushed aside that train of thought and focused on the man in front of them.
They hid in the bushes waiting for someone to notice the unconscious man and it didn't take long at all. Just five minutes later the refuelling of the ship was done and the remaining workers began to call out for the man and when they found him there were quite a few swear words directed at him.
Luck was on their side as it turned out their victim had a habit of wandering off for a quick smoke.
"Wh-wha?" spluttered the man when he finally stirred.
"What the hell Stiess! You know we're on a gorram schedule here!"
"What happened to me?" he asked, groaning as he stood up. His whole body was aching.
"You're sleeping on the job is what is happening!" barked one of the men and by his attitude and posture he seemed to be the one in charge.
"N-no," he stuttered, blinking in confusion. "I saw two kids?"
"Good god man!" yelled the man in charge, thinking that Stiess was on some sort of pill. It wasn't uncommon among the night shift workers. It helped them stay focused but when the effects wore off the levels of exhaustion were high. "Get it together or I'm going to send you to the centre!"
The threat of the centre snapped Stiess back to attention and he hurried back towards the ship still feeling very dazed and confused. Had he dreamt being mysteriously blasted off his feet?
Hidden in the bushes Harry mentally sighed in relief. Once the men were out of sight he took a hold of River and quickly began the journey back out. Their job was done and now they had to simply escape the facility. Everything rested on luck.
The infiltration had taken them almost an hour and it was only a few minutes to dawn. Harry knew they had to out of there before the white star rose and the employees began to pour in.
"Come on River," he urged as they nearly flew through the corridors.
"I'm right beside you," she said, comfortably keeping pace with him.
Harry didn't reply. He had had enough adrenaline rushes for the night and all he wanted to do was get out as fast as possible but it was easier said than done. Thrice, they had almost been caught had it not been for his mind tricks. By the time they had finally made it out the birds were chirping and the white star could be seen on the horizon in all its glory.
They had made it and they were just in time to see the ship carrying their goods take to the sky. They had done it.
They had done it!
As quickly as possible they retreated into the woods and removed their jumpsuits before jumping into the speeder and speeding back to the city.
When Harry felt they were a safe distance away, a broad grin stretched his face and he turned to River who was enjoying the breeze. "A mission well done don't you think," he said cheerfully.
River nodded. "So what now?" she asked.
"We make for Xi'an," he said, his eyes gleaming. It was time to find the magical world. He didn't know why but he was certain there was something to be found on this planet.
Mal, Zoe and Simon were waiting anxiously. The clock was ticking and there was no sign of their quarry. Had the mission failed? Had they been caught?
Dark thoughts plagued their minds for hours until finally the little red button they were staring at began to blink.
"It's here!" Mal barked. "Zoe, get Jayne ready! Simon, keep the ship steady." He turned on the com and spoke, "Kaylee, how much more time do we have?"
The com crackled and Kaylee's voice was heard over the static. "A few minutes cap'n," she said nervously. She was watching the tracker in the engine room like a hawk and it was her job to detach the cargo.
Mal hurried down to the cargo bay just in time to watch Jayne step into his suit. "Are we ready?" he asked an alert Zoe.
"Cargo has been detached!" Kaylee shouted out loud, not bothering with the com. Mal hurried to the base of the staircase and yelled, "Follow the trajectory doc!"
They had to be quick. If they stayed suspended for more than four minutes on the Alliance routes, they would have a cruiser on their tails before they could even think 'escape'.
"I see it!" buzzed Simon's voice. "It's still moving quite fast, Jayne won't be able to take a hold of it."
Mal cursed and hurried back to the bridge. "Okay," he said taking over the controls and keeping the com open.
"Jayne, get out of the suit. We're going to swallow the cargo."
"We could have done that from the start instead of this you know!" he shouted as he quickly got out of the suit.
"We're not skilled enough with that manoeuvre but we don't got a choice now," Mal barked.
Everyone waited with baited breaths as Mal realigned the ship in the path of the container and Zoe opened the outer door.
100 feet, 40 feet, 2 feet and bam!
The container thumped into the door separating them and the vacuum that was space. Jayne quickly punched the switch to shut the outer door.
"Capture is a success captain," Zoe said, relieved. "I believe this is the first job we've completed without a single hitch!" she said playfully.
"Ha, ha," Mal laughed rolling his eyes and turned to Simon. "Guess this means your sister is fine doc," he said slapping him on the back. "Get that pathetic look off your face and come on. Harry said he'll be sending a letter giving us a small update."
That got Simon up and together they hurried down to the cargo bay. They had precious cargo to check on after all.
Three weeks later
Complete defeat was staring Harry in the face. More than a fortnight had whizzed past and River and he had practically scanned the entire planet. There were seven cities in total on Shinon and they had travelled through each and every one of them, through every little alley that was built, even toured the sewers and journeyed through every monastery that existed.
Yet there was not even a tiny scent of magic present anywhere.
While Harry was getting depressed by the second, River was having the time of her life. She hadn't had any episodes in three weeks and she got to travel! There were very few moments when her eyes weren't wide open in wonder and mouth half open as she got drunk on the beauty of the planet. She even found the sewer system of the cities fascinating. The architecture and smoothness of the system was simply incredible. She tried to explain the magnificence of the planet to Harry but to her annoyance all he was interested in was finding magic.
Right now they were trudging down the main road in Xi'an. They had completed one rotation of the planet and now Harry wanted to enter the forests of the planet.
"It will take us nearly 300 days to explore the entire forest at the speed we're travelling at," River said as they idly walked down the road. "And that is not counting sleep or rest."
Harry glared at her. "I think it's worth a try," he said stubbornly.
"Simon will worry," she said with her trademark expressionless face. The overdose of happiness seemed to be wearing off.
Harry sighed. "Are you sure you felt nothing with your," he poked her head, "you know mind powers?"
River frowned, "No."
"Are you sure?" he pressed. "Most of the time you were blubbering like an infant high on sugar!"
River narrowed her eyes. "My brain functions at a level you cannot comprehend. When I say I didn't find anything means I didn't find anything."
"Alright, alright," Harry grumbled, raising his arms to placate the annoyed girl. "I was just making sure."
River blinked at him and turned away. Harry took that as a sign of irritation. They followed the same path they took the last time and turned into an alley between two buildings. "When are we going to leave this planet?" she asked curiously.
"When I'm absolutely sure there's nothing here," he replied while examining the walls of the narrow gap between the buildings carefully.
"What are you doing now?"
"In my past there were magical doorways hidden in walls," he said. "I'm checking for the same."
River raised an eyebrow.
"You mean to say now you're going to feel up every structure on this planet?!"
"Do you have any idea how long that will take?"
"Don't care," Harry replied indifferently. "And I don't want your mathematical answers either!" he added loudly interrupting River.
"Don't you want to know how much time you'll be wasting?"
"Listen River!" he said angrily, losing his temper at her attitude. He straightened up and turned around to face her but he didn't realize she was leaning over him and accidently knocked her back.
His expression changed from apologetic to shock when River hit the opposite wall hard and then just sank into it and disappeared.
His mouth dropped open and he stared at the wall dumbfounded. Had River just passed through a magical doorway? His mind kept asking that question and the shock of seeing it happen had rendered his body immobile.
"Holy merlin!" he gasped finally and began to touch the wall where River disappeared. "River!"
There was nothing. His hands didn't feel any magic nor were they passing through the wall. "River!" he called again but there was no response.
"Dammit!" he swore banging his palm on the wall. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a small pulse of electric charge run through his body and his hand sank in. He pulled out his hand and stared at the wall, the excitement building up in his gut.
"Could it be," he whispered and took a step back; the thrill of anticipation gushing through his blood. He closed his eyes and then he ran into the wall.
It felt like sinking into a very viscous slime. For a moment Harry felt a stab of panic fearing he was going to get stuck but then he passed through the barrier and fell at River's feet on the other side.
He glanced up, eager to see the wizarding world in the future only to have his excitement plummet at the sight on front of him.
"It's Miranda all over again," River whispered; her voice tight with anxiety.
Harry stood up slowly, his heart constricting.
If the place they had just come from was filled with life, happiness and prosperity. This was just the opposite.
Everything was different.
The buildings were smaller and clumped together in a way which screamed wizarding mentality. The roads were paved with stone and the entire atmosphere felt oppressive. Even the sky was darker and there was an unnatural chill present in the air.
The skeletal remains strewn on the ground gave a clear picture as to what might have happened here.
"Are you alright River?" Harry croaked, desperately trying to hold back the grief threatening to overwhelm him.
"I'm fine," she said, but Harry could feel her distress on his shields. If it weren't for his occlumency he knew there would be tears falling right now.
Taking a step forward felt like a mammoth task. Memories of the war and the torture he had suffered were resurfacing.
"Harry," River said softly, placing her hand on his shoulder startling him.
"I'm alright," he said heavily. "Let's just see if we can find out what happened here."
The wind almost masked the sound of their footsteps but the fact that they could hear it showed what a dead city this was.
River just tilted her head to one of the bodies. Most of the cloth had almost degraded but it was easy to make out the remains of the military blue uniform of the Alliance. "Judging by the state of the remains, this man died more than fifteen years ago."
River noted that unlike the remains on Miranda, the causes of death were visible on almost all the remains, some brutal and some indicating a quick death.
"You get that from this?" he asked gesturing towards the remains.
"It's not hard," River said. "I think the magic people and the Alliance had a slight disagreement."
Harry snorted. He had managed to subdue the bubbling emotions within him and was looking at the corpses with detachment. "This means that they managed to escape Earth after all," he said.
River turned her head sharply. "Escape Earth?!" she said incredulously, her mind connecting his words to all the oddities that made up the package that was Harry Potter and then her mind came to shocking conclusion.
"You!" she began but Harry just raised his hand to stop her. "Not now," he said firmly. He had just made a big mistake and he was in no mood to discuss it right now. "Let's take a look around and keep looking for anything that resembles a stick," he added.
It was with a grimace that Harry began to search all the bodies he could see. It felt wrong but it seemed that River was having no such problems. He was glad the buildings weren't too large else it would take them forever to find what he was looking for but as they went further and further on, his hopes of finding a wand kept diminishing.
The end of the street they were on opened up into a much bigger street perpendicular to it and the buildings seemed to be grander from a certain point of view.
"Just like Diagon Alley," Harry murmured.
"What's Diagonal Alley?" River asked.
"It's not diagonal," Harry corrected. "It's Diagon and it was famous magical centre. Markets, banks, lodgings, pubs, playgrounds, it was all there."
"I've never seen architecture like this," River commented in slight fascination.
"This is how structures were built in medieval England. And considering it is centuries old architecture for me it's not surprising it's been forgotten. It's only our kind that refused to evolve."
"These buildings haven't been tended to in years," River said. "And yet, they seem to be in perfect condition."
"Magic," Harry said smiling. He stopped in front of the next body that wasn't wearing an alliance uniform and began to search. The texture of the cloth felt nostalgic in his hands and he smiled ruefully. "Even their fashion sense hadn't changed," he muttered shaking his head.
"Harry look," River said.
She pointed ahead and it seemed that the street broadened drastically some fifty feet in front of them.
"The emperor's square," River read on a stone sign board. It was a large open area and it was surrounded by a single arc shaped building. In the centre of the area was a broken down statue and Harry was dreading having to identify it. He prayed against all odds that it wasn't a statue of whom he thought it was.
Lord Voldemort's handsome face built out of stone stared up at him from the ground.
"God no," Harry moaned. "He survived!"
"That's Voldemort isn't it?" River asked.
Harry just nodded. Suddenly the whole mystery behind the death of all these people was beginning to make sense. If Voldemort was alive then seeing dead people everywhere always made sense.
A piece of paper trapped in the currents of the wind startled the two of them and they were ready to fight in an instant.
"Just a piece of paper," Harry said wearily and then, calmly, he proceeded to stamp on his enemies face. "Stupid moronic dark lord," he growled his face getting angrier and angrier as he tried to smash the statues face in. All the sorrow and anger that he had buried inside him was finally bubbling out and then he let out a blood curdling scream. "Why did this son of a bitch have to survive? WHY!" he sobbed.
River felt pity well up inside her at the sight of him. Turned away from him she snatched the floating paper and her eyes widened when she saw what was on it.
Breathing heavily after working all his frustration on the now broken face, Harry turned to River. "What?" he snapped.
She just handed him the paper.
By order of the Alliance, all non-humans are to visit the nearest registration facility. Failure to comply will result in severe action.
"What the hell is this?"
"The Alliance discovered the existence of magical beings and wanted to experiment on them," River said voicing the various scenarios running through her mind. "Or Voldemort decided to wage war on them too and they were destroyed."
"Not possible," Harry immediately countered. "Voldemort can't be beaten. He's immortal. What I don't understand is why he didn't take over long before itself. What the hell just happened to the wizarding world after I was gone?!" he said in frustration.
River just looked at him strangely.
Voldemort lose? It felt like just thinking it was forbidden. It was impossible! How can man; no, monster that lived for over six hundred years lose to mere muggles?!
"River," Harry said slowly. "Voldemort can't lose and he can't be killed."
"If you know where I'm from, then you know how old he is. And you can't even imagine how powerful he was at that time itself. It's because of him I am where I am now, you know that."
"So you really are from the Earth that was," she breathed. She walked up to him and touched his cheek like she was examining something incredible. "Are you an immortal?"
"No," Harry said uncomfortably as she trailed her fingers on his skin. "And stop doing that!" he snapped stepping away from her.
River settled for staring at him in fascination.
"What do I do now?" he asked helplessly.
River bent at the hip to examine one of the remains not wearing an alliance uniform. "Multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and his leg was blown off," she mumbled while brushing her hair out of her face. She frowned as her eyes flickered from the alliance soldiers to the wizards and witches. "It's odd," she said. "It seems like the magic people died much before the Alliance soldiers."
Harry's eyes focused on River's posterior in spite of the seriousness of the situation. "Err… What?" he stammered and quickly moved in front of her where he got another pleasant eyeful.
"The remains of the magic people seem to be older than the Alliance soldiers," she repeated, oblivious to Harry's roving eye balls.
"What does that mean?" he asked.
"They died at drastically different times," she replied straightening out gracefully. "But the evidence around us suggests there was a battle so they couldn't have died at such different times."
"How much time are we talking about here?"
"A year or less," River said.
"Huh. That is strange," Harry said, mystified. "But how does this help us?"
"The flyer said registration facilities. The next logical step would be to research when the Alliance made registration compulsory for normal residents and start working our way up looking for oddities."
Harry sighed. This is was not how he expected his reunion with the magical world to be. He had hoped Voldemort was gone and the witches and wizards had prospered in the future but it was not to be. The war had followed him into the far future or he had followed the war. He didn't know which one it was but one thing was for sure.
He was never going to be rid of death and destruction.
"Let's get out of here," he said tiredly. "I don't think I can take looking at these bodies anymore."
"Don't you want to keep looking for the magic sticks?" River asked.
"There's nothing here," Harry said glumly. "If there was then I'm almost a hundred percent sure the Alliance cleaned out this whole place. There aren't even any muggle weapons here."
"Probably to research magic," River agreed.
Harry just sighed. "Let's go."
"And much, much more," she whispered into the wind staring at the head of Voldemort.
"River come on!" Harry yelled.
Next destination: The Alliance archive building. Every core planet had one and it wouldn't be hard to enter with their identification. They only had to hope that their research would not raise any red flags.
2 Weeks Later
The roar of the engines of Serenity felt like music to Harry and River's ears. They had contacted the ship after landing on Ariel and they were lucky that the ship was close by. They had just finished up a job which almost led to Mal getting his head blown off.
It had been a long trip and both were filled with a sense of relief and excitement at being back home again. It didn't register in Harry's mind that he now recognized Serenity as home.
They had changed their appearance back to normal with the only defect being that River's hair was still short although it was in the process of growing.
"River!" Simon cried rushing out of the still opening cargo hold and crushed his little sister against his chest. Harry grinned at the over protective brother.
"Harry, River," Zoe said smiling warmly, followed by Mal and the rest of the crew. Hugs and manly hugs were exchanged.
"I see you didn't keep up the disguise," Mal commented.
"It was becoming a drag," Harry confessed. "I found myself missing my real identity."
"It's good to have you back," Jayne grunted.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Really?'
Jayne shrugged. "Kaylee forced me to say it."
Harry laughed and Kaylee tried to help River untangle Simon from her.
"It's good to be back," Harry said with a happy sigh. He looked around and frowned at the absence of one of the crew.
"Where's Inara?" he asked.
"Work," Mal grunted. Harry detected resentment in the captain's voice and didn't press the matter.
"Did you find any gorram freaks?" Jayne asked, at his direct and insensitive best.
"Why don't we get back in the air and I'll tell you all about it," he said grimly.
The tone of his voice said it all. They had found something and it wasn't for the better.
"Fire her up Zoe," Mal barked. He was really interested to know what Harry had to say. His stories were always fascinatingly unbelievable.
"She's already fired up captain," Zoe said dryly. "She was never even fired down."
"Yes, well... umm... take her up then!"
"Real smooth captain," Zoe laughed and headed to the bridge.
Simon refused to let go of River and dragged her to the infirmary. He was determined to make sure nothing had happened to her.
"She's fine Simon," Harry said exasperatedly. "The only damage her body would have undergone is overconsumption of chocolates!"
"That's true," River said seriously. "My sugar levels could have increased a lot."
A brief look of panic crossed Simon's face. "I have to take some blood samples," he mumbled under his breath while preparing the syringe.
Harry rolled his eyes and left River to suffer from her brother's over protectiveness.
Once they a good distance away from Ariel, Mal called everyone into the galley. "So let's hear it," he said to Harry.
And so Harry told them the tale about their venture into Alliance territory with River helpfully interjecting and correcting Harry every now and then. He told them about the job, the betrayal of Fanty and Mingo's source which nearly led to Simon having a heart attack.
"Relax Simon," River said comfortingly. "I think I killed just one of them."
"That's not comforting at all!" he said while protesting against Kaylee's attempts to get him to sit down.
On the other hand Simon was glad that his sister seemed more at ease after all this time and was talking more often. He was now recognizing the River he remembered before the Alliance got a hold of her and he knew Harry was to thank for some of that.
When Harry reached the part about his burst of magic, Jayne had been most impressed. Blasting someone away with magic? That was just cool.
A few laughs were exchanged when Harry told them about his search over the planet and how irritable River had been. Kaylee gasped when Harry arrived at the climax of his story.
"You found them!" Kaylee gasped.
"Yes," Harry said heavily. "But it wasn't the way I'd hoped."
"They were all dead," River said.
Harry left out the bit about him being from the Earth and had instructed River to stay quiet for the moment. He wasn't ready for that piece of information about him to be known yet.
"Alliance?" Mal asked darkly. His hand closed around his pistol as his hate for those men bubbled to the surface.
"There appeared to be a battle and it seems one side was annihilated," Harry muttered.
"Hold on a minute," Jayne interrupted. "How can bunch of people with guns, with not even advanced weaponry defeat a bunch of people with freaky powers along with their boss who apparently has super freaky powers!?"
"I don't know," Harry snapped. "I don't know anything! The only thing that I do know is that some military guy named Durran Haymer was involved in this whole registration crap!"
River frowned at Jayne's statement. It was strange that all the magic folk seemed to be killed by bullets. Why didn't the Alliance use any of their highly sophisticated weapons?
Harry anger faded when he saw the incredulous looks he was getting.
"Did you say Durran Haymer?" Zoe asked, holding her breath.
"Yes," Harry said. "And I need to find him and talk to him to find out what happened to my people."
"Mal," Zoe said, straining against letting a grin stretch on her face. It would insensitive to smile when Harry was talking about the destruction of his kind of people but she just could not help it.
"NO! Don't say it!" Mal said firmly.
"Don't say what?" Harry asked.
"Durran Haymer's wife," River chirped.
Harry noticed she was back in her favourite dress. "Wife?"
"River!" Mal cried in dismay. He hated hearing that word.
"Okay what did I miss?" Harry asked.
"It's a long story," Kaylee said smirking, "But Mr. Haymer's wife, is also the captain's wife."
"And Monty's wife too," Zoe added helpfully earning a dirty look from Mal.
"And if you want to get into his house and talk to the man then you're going to need her help," Jayne said with a broad smile.
"This cannot be happening," Mal groaned.
"In simple terms we need to speak to YoSaffBridge," Zoe summed up while patting Mal on his back.
Mal just let his head thump into the table.
Harry just stared at everyone, bemused. "YoSaffBridge?"
A/N: Yolanda is back!
Pointing out mistakes is helpful. Thanks for reading.