Hero Harry Chapter Fourteen.
AN: All readers will want to read the end AN, as some plot-threads will not be dealt with in this final chapter.
Granger Lab, Lake Sakakawea Magical Asylum Refuge, May 6th, 1997.
"Salazar is dead?" Flamel asked as he met Harry at the top of the stairs between the second and third floors of the Lab.
Harry nodded, then tilted his head back towards the burning laboratory.
"I'll be going to recover the body," Flamel said with a grim nod, "With men like him, there's no such thing as being too certain. His Simulacra dissipated, meaning he's almost certainly gone, but as I said, no such thing as too certain."
Flamel passed Harry swiftly, entering the burning lab, which didn't burn for long after the Alchemist entered it. Harry paid the man minimal attention, instead staring at the patch of blue crystal imbedded in his arm for a long moment, before removing the gun-pouch from his combat harness, fiddling with it for a moment, then placing it on the floor.
"Harry!" Hermione shouted as she burst out of the pouch's suddenly-expanded aperture, "Your hand!"
The bushy-haired young woman first seized Harry in a tight hug, then grabbed his wrist, and twisted it around so that she could inspect the lump of Tiberium imbedded in his palm.
"Oh," She said worriedly as she inspected its edges, "This is not good."
"Idiot didn't read any of the papers on Tiberium, did he?" Tabane said sharply as she hauled herself out of the enclosed space, Seras, to Harry's considerable surprise, coming out behind her.
"I just asked Hermione for the summary," Harry said a little tightly, "She said it was caustic to any living being, and skin contact should be avoided if at all possible."
"It's not just caustic," Hermione said, her worry increasing dramatically as she spotted thin shards of blue radiating out into Harry's skin from the initial site of contamination, "It's parasitic."
"The way you say that implied that this is a lot worse than tapeworm," Harry said cautiously, "How so?"
"It could eat you," Hermione said flatly, "Now lower your barrier, and hold still."
Ever-cautious, Harry briefly glanced up and down the hallway they stood in, as well as down the stairs, then studied Tabane for a long moment, before nodding sharply to Hermione.
Hermione drew her wand, worked it through a complex sequence, then spoke a simple incantation; 'Tempus Stature.'
"How does your arm feel?" She asked worriedly.
"No different," Harry said, flexing his fingers experimentally, "That was supposed to be a Stasis Charm, right?"
"Yes," Hermione said, her face slowly paling, "And I know that I performed it perfectly. This is very bad."
Lake Sakakawea Magical Asylum Refuge, May 6th, 1997.
Shortly after the remaining Simulacra faded, Gray Horse ordered his men to bring the wounded into the clearing around Granger Lab; between what few lights on the structure were still working, and the fire consuming one of the third-floor labs, it had easily the best illumination, not to mention clear and level ground, immediately available. Their attempts to move the injured ran into immediate problems, however; aside from a handful of those who had survived the combat, none of them could get any form of levitation charm to work.
"This," Draco said quietly as he eyed his wand, "Is very bad."
"It's weird," Daphne Greengrass replied harshly, projecting anger deliberately to cover for her grief and fear, "I've never heard of mass spell-failure like this before."
The Hogwarts Exiles, like most of the American soldiers, stood in the clearing around Granger Lab, attention torn between the spell failures, Tom and Ginny cuddling (some said the grin on her face had more to do with the flustered American than all the pain-killing potions she was doped up on), and keeping an eye on the Lab itself, watching for Flamel or Harry to appear.
"I have," Luna Lovegood said sadly as she ran through a series of silent spells, almost all of them failing, "Though I'd thought it only legend. When the last of the Pharoahs died, the Egyptian school of ritual magic rather suddenly stopped working. 'Very bad' scarcely begins to describe this, I think."
"So either Salazar or Flamel died," Neville said grimly, "Let's hope it wasn't Flamel."
Draco opened his mouth to reply, but was interrupted by the spectral form of Lily Potter streaking out of the woods into their midst.
It put something of a damper on conversation.
"Where is Harry?" The specter demanded of the students and soldiers looking around.
Part of Draco Malfoy's mind opened his mouth, trying to respond, but the larger part was caught up with 'ghosts aren't supposed to have red hair,' and 'if it has no physical mass, how can it speak?' A thought that his fairly recent self-education regarding muggle sciences had brought to him; also a thought he shared with George Granger.
Fortunately, Hermione Granger's arrival on the scene, dragging Harry out of the lab by the wrist, answered Lily's question for them.
"Harry," Lily said sharply, floating over towards the pair, moving to cut off the dawning horror she saw in Harry's eyes, "I need you and Hermione both to bleed, then mix your blood, now."
Harry moved without hesitation, seizing a knife from his combat harness and slashing lightly across the back of his forearm, before passing the knife to Hermione, then cupping his hand under the cut, allowing blood to slowly pool within. Hermione, more than a little bewildered, glanced back and forth between the Lily's spectre, and Harry's bleeding arm, before mimicking his cut, albeit more carefully and cutting more lightly, then allowing a drop of blood to fall off of the knife-blade and into the blood on Harry's hand.
Neither Harry nor Hermione had been in any kind of condition to properly take in what had happened during Lily's rebirth at Little Hangleton two years prior, but Harry at least had seen it, even if it was through the haze of Cruciatus-induced pain.
Lily's second rebirth was drastically different from her first. Crimson blood, flecked with blue, erupted from where Harry and Hermione's blood came into contact, twisting outward and taking form around the shade of Lily Potter. First to form was a roughly cylindrical column, with what was rapidly recognizable as a spinal column, formed from blue crystal, coalescing from the top and bottom of it, blood continued to flow, supernaturally created quantities of it rapidly filling in the flesh around the spine, organs, muscles, tendons, and connective tissues forming. A skull began to materialize, flecks of blue within the tide of red fusing together, as a pelvic structure, rib cage, and scapula began to form. As the organs of Lily's torso and abdomen began to reach completion, the synthesis of flesh accelerated as it moved on to less-complex tissues.
Skeletal arms and legs formed, and flesh began to creep up over the bare skull, while muscle sheathed the now-completed rib cage, and Harry superimposed himself, and his cloak, between the coalescing body and the gawking onlookers. Lily's bone structure finished forming, and as tendons and muscles began to run down her legs and arms, eyes formed in their sockets, her tongue formed, and her chest and genitals grew into place, skin sliding into place across her torso and abdomen, followed rapidly by her head and face.
Within a few more seconds, Lily's bare feet rested lightly on the damp grass, and she took Harry's cloak to wrap around herself. As Harry stepped back and turned around, allowing both himself and others a clear view of his mother's new body, it was very clear that her third body was radically different form both her first and second. The most blatantly obvious were her finger and toenails, which were formed of brilliant blue Tiberium, while her skin in certain places, specifically where bones were directly beneath its surface, had taken on a faint bluish tinge.
"Well," Lily said matter-of-factly as she looked down at her hands, "That was different."
That said, she stepped closer to Harry, and pulled his right hand up into clear view, revealing the shard of Tiberium imbedded within.
"I think we can assume, given this new form of mine," She said thoughtfully, "That the Tiberium has made its way into your bloodstream, which given its drastic effect on me, is bad."
"Mixed blessing," George Granger said, causing everyone within ten feet to start violently, Harry nearly stabbing the man in the chest with one of his knives, "It's Blue Tiberium, that stuff's growth rate without magic fueling it is positively anemic, especially in comparison to the green stuff."
"How did you do that?" Harry demanded harshly, trembling with tension as he re-sheathed his knife, "And in case you didn't notice, I'm now quite possibly the second-most magical person in the world."
"I wasn't always a scientist," George said, waving a hand dismissively as he stepped up to examine Harry's infested hand himself, "Now that we've got a diagnosis, it's time to move on to treatment. Lily, you've been working with magic rune thingummies regarding-"
"Power drain?" Lily cut in sharply, opening her hand and gesturing for Harry to hand her his knife, "Yes, I have. Good thinking George; this shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes. Hermione, get over here."
Hermione, who'd only been a few feet away, immediately approached, and when Lily gestured, extended her arm.
"What happ-" Lily began when she saw that Hermione's arm was unblemished, "Right, the Stone. This is going to feel weird and hurt a little, Hermione, and Harry, this will likely hurt a great deal, but you know I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it was in your best interest."
"I trust you," Harry said, his voice only wavering slightly as he spoke, "Do it."
Lily looked to Hermione, who nodded, if a bit fearfully, then grimaced, then began to carve runes into the back of her son's arm, cutting as lightly as she felt she could risk without interfering with the runes formation. It was, indeed, the work of only a few minutes, as Lily worked a handful of runes she was exceedingly (mind-numbingly she'd sometimes felt) familiar with into Harry's skin, then pulled Hermione around and revealed the pseudo-tattoo on the back of her shoulder where her copy of Lily's incomplete defensive array had been placed. She added a single bloody rune to the array, which visibly healed in front of her eyes, barely giving her time to complete the rune before the first cut closed.
"Harry," She said sharply, "Pump all of your power, every single bit of it, into that array."
Harry, who had felt the array begin to pull on his already-drained reserves, did as she said immediately, pumping every erg of magical power he had into the set of Runes, which rapidly began to suck on his power in return, squeezing him dry of magical energy in seconds. The experience left him woozy, magical fatigue and physical fatigue were not the same thing, but neither were they completely unrelated, and Harry had lived with his body super-saturated with magic for nearly five years by that point.
"Is it sucking you dry?" Lily asked more gently, wrapping an arm around his shoulder as she noticed his disorientation.
"Yeah," Harry said somewhat breathlessly, "I don't like it."
"I don't think I would either," Lily said, relief clear in her voice, "But it'll give us time to look for a more permanent treatment."
She paused for a moment, then suddenly yanked Harry into a full-body hug, shocking both him, and most of the onlookers, especially those at an angle to see tears beginning to form in her eyes.
"I could feel it," She said, her voice wrought with pain, "All the way from Virginia. I could feel it when you were hit with the Killing Curse, and I came as fast as I could. I'm sorry it wasn't fast enough."
Harry was lost for words; he knew his mother cared for him, she had made that abundantly clear over the two years since she had re-entered his life, but he didn't know how to handle such raw displays of emotion. Especially after the fight he had just had, and the emotional highs and lows that had come with it. Hermione, ever determined to help Harry further out of his shell, took a firm hold of Harry's hands, and manually wrapped his arms around his mother, initiating a return hug on his behalf, which he slowly made his own, holding the taller woman gently.
Hermione then turned her attention towards the onlookers, chest swelling up as she took a deep breath in preparation for telling the other Hogwarts Exiles, Tom, and a few of the soldiers off for not minding their own business, but one look at her stormy expression made her point to the lot of them without a single word being said.
"Hermione," Draco called, intentionally attempting to distract her, "I do believe it would be best if we had words about how our spells have been acting up since the fight ended."
Giving the onlookers another glare for good measure, Hermione allowed herself to be distracted.
Azkaban Island, British Territorial Waters, May, 1997.
The fortress of Azkaban, based on the island of the same name was, simply put, a ruin. It had been the most hardened magical fortification in the British Isles a week earlier, its triple-ringed format, heavy wards, and Dementor Guards making it a supposedly-impregnable fortress, with only one (not publicly announced) escape ever having been managed from within it. Its wards, charged from the leyline that the prison rested on over the course of centuries, had prevented all known magical means of transportation on and off of the island, as well as imbuing its stony walls with a nigh-insurmountable resistance to any and all forms of magic.
Now, its outer ring had a massive hole through it, a twenty-foot wide section reduced to rubble, which, once the Dementors had been neutralized by the attacking force, had served as the insertion-point for taking the ring. Grenades enchanted to resist vanishing, banishing, and other methods of disposal, then strapped to modified Bludgers, had led the assault into the ring, and slain most of the prison's defenders before the attackers had simply run out of them.
Once the outer ring was secured, a pair of M1 75mm Pack Howitzers, purchased by the British from American manufacturers during WWII and eventually surplussed out of military service in the ensuing decades, were assembled in a clear field on the island outside of the ring, and the attacking force began to educate themselves in the operation of light artillery. Many mistakes were made during the learning process, but the attacking force outnumbered the defenders better than two to one, and unlike the attackers, the defenders had no powerful non-magical explosives or other means by which to force their way out through the outer ring. After five days of practice, both gun crews managed to achieve a reasonable rate of fire, three rounds per minute, and the bombardment began in earnest, gradually reducing the entire middle ring to rubble, then pounding the rubble into debris, just because the gun crews could.
After only a single hour of bombardment on the prison's inner ring, the guards surrendered, offering up their prisoners in exchange for their own lives.
On the whole, as he looked out over the ruined prison fortress, Lucius Malfoy decided that it was the most successful non-financial endeavor he had ever engaged in, even if it had cost him two million Galleons for all the mercenaries he'd had to hire. Still, it had secured the release of those who remained loyal to him for non-monetary reasons, and sent a statement to every remaining figure of power or influence in the entire United Kingdom.
A message, Lucius silently decided as he studied the remnants of the abandoned fortress, That should be taken to its logical extreme.
"Level the place," He ordered, turning to the commander of his mercenary forces, "I don't want a single stone left standing atop another, even if I have to spend another million pounds on the ammunition and explosives to finish the job."
People would know what happened when a Malfoy went to war.
Lake Sakakawea Magical Asylum Refuge, May 6th, 1997.
"This would be why so many of your spells are not working," Flamel announced as he approached the small group that had formed around Draco and Hermione, discussing the apparent mass-failure of magic.
The group included most of the healthy remnants of Harry's classmates who had taken part in the fight, as well as Captain Gray Horse, George Granger, Paul Wright, and Minerva McGonagall. Not much had been learned, aside from a growing list of which spells didn't work, and they were more than happy to see the Alchemist, though what he carried was more than a little disturbing.
Burned and battered, the dead body of 'Salazar' floated along in the air behind Flamel, who deftly drifted it down into the middle of the circle around Hermione and Draco. He then proceeded to roll the cadaver onto its belly, a swift illusion blurring out the bloody ruin of the back of Salazar's head, and gestured towards the back.
"Look closely at the skin on his back," Flamel said, "I think those of you with enchanting or spell-crafting experience will find it to be quite interesting."
Hermione immediately leaned forward, her curiosity overcoming her natural aversion to being close to a human corpse; Draco wasn't far behind, and George Granger nearly knocked Paul Wright over in his rush to examine the body himself.
"This has to be the finest set of runes I've ever seen," Hermione said after a few moments study, "At least in such quantity. It looks like runic definitions of spells?"
"Yes," Flamel said, "I knew that Salazar had tied himself to 'Wizard' magic, but I hadn't suspected he'd done something quite like this."
"I'm not too proud to admit I haven't figured this out yet," Draco said, leaning back from the body to look up at Flamel, "What 'this' did he do?"
"In essence," Flamel said evenly, "He engraved the entire library of official 'Wizard' spells into his flesh. Have you ever tried to create a new spell, Malfoy?"
"Can't say I have," Malfoy said, shaking his head, "The thought has crossed my mind, but I've always had more pressing affairs at hand."
"Well," Flamel said evenly, "As any competent spell-crafter or spell-researcher can tell you, in order to adequately understand, or to craft, a spell, one must first understand the effects of one's magic on the natural world. It is possible to cause nearly any effect with magic, but unless an individual understands what they are doing, most of their magic will be wasted as it does 'flashy' things, create light, rattle the windows, etc, etc. When one understands what they desire their magic to do, they will much better be able to control the flow of their magic, and waste less in the process. What a 'spell' does, is shape the magic for you, without the need to understand just what natural processes you are altering, nullifying, or amplifying."
"But there isn't any particular association between a given gesture, and the effect it creates," Hermione said sickly as she looked up from the body, "They've all always just been a random chain for gestures, and the Latin arguably could only be associated because of the intrinsic meaning involved in language. But this," She gestured down towards Salazar's corpse, "If I'm reading these runes right, these are interlinked to the casting of spells, which means... I'm not sure what it means."
"It means that whenever a Witch or Wizard cast a spell, unless they properly understood the effects they were creating," Flamel said grimly, "They were relying upon his knowledge to make the spell more efficiently, with the gestures and incantation serving to evoke his knowledge, in exchange for passing a portion of the magical energy that the caster utilized on to Salazar."
"...That would rather handily explain why he always had so much magical stamina," Draco said wryly, "He was cheating."
"Cheating brilliantly at that," George said, a faint hint of respect in his voice, "The man was an absolute bastard, but in order to actually accumulate that much knowledge... I think I'm jealous!"
Marie smacked him over the back of the head.
"He's dead you imbecile," She said shortly, "All his brainmeats, as brilliant as they may have been, spread across..."
"I killed him in the Materials Engineering lab," Harry cut in, him and Lily approaching from where they'd enjoyed a brief moment of privacy, Lily's arm wrapped around his shoulder.
"Right!" Marie declared as she seized George by his collar, "You have no reason to be jealous of such a man, doubtless the only reason he was able to accumulate so much knowledge was his longevity, which I supremely doubt comes from ethical sources."
"Annual ritual sacrifice of a virgin," Flamel supplied grimly, "Reinforcing his own youth and vitality by stealing theirs. Also the reason we very rarely went a year without at least one fight, and a number of dead minions on his part."
"There you have it," Marie said with a decisive nod, "I've little doubt that you are far more intelligent than he."
"If nothing else," Flamel said as he began moving towards where the bodies of the dead and wounded lay, "You are wiser. Now if you will please excuse me, I need to tend to the wounded before the golden hour has lapsed."
"And I need to go give the all-clear, so we can start bringing the camp's inhabitants back," Paul Wright said, nodding respectfully towards the group at large, before turning and leaving.
"Right," Hermione said decisively, standing from where she'd been inspecting Salazar's body, then turning and stalking towards Harry, "Get over here, Harry."
Harry, feeling an odd sort of nervousness he didn't really know what to make of, cautiously stepped forward, Lily readily allowing him out of her embrace, hiding a smile with one hand.
"I am officially declaring you to be on medical leave," Hermione said somewhat grouchily, before seizing Harry by the shoulders and planting a fierce kiss directly on his mouth.
Harry almost fell over from shock, reflexively grabbing Hermione in return as his legs tried to give out beneath him; Hermione didn't release him for several long moments.
"We both know you're no helpless lump without your magic," Hermione said when she pulled back, somewhat breathlessly, "But you're not going and fighting anywhere until we've got a handle on this Tiberium thing. And you're not leaving me and going off on your own again!"
Hoots, whistles, and a few raucous cheers sounded from the English and American onlookers, while Harry blushed for the first time any of them could ever remember seeing.
Parvati Patil wept openly as the Alchemist gently used a specialized swabby-thing she didn't really understand to spread the Elixir of Life across her twin sister's face. Watching the legendary Elixir work was somewhat horrific in and of itself, but after a little over twenty seconds, rather than a scorched ruin of bone, ash, and blood, Padma had eyes, a nose, lips, cheeks, and it was all healthy. Parvati seized the unconscious Ravenclaw and began crying into the girl's cloak, as Flamel smiled, then stood and moved on to his next patient.
There was nothing he could do for Blaise Zabini, as the boy's head had been removed altogether, not to mention reduced to the consistency of chunky salsa (Flamel rarely could stomach Mexican), but most of the American soldiers had been downed by Enforcers, not Salazar himself, and Flamel was able to revive most of them, leaving only six more-thoroughly destroyed men beyond his care. Captain Gray Horse was... effusive in his thanks.
Neville Longbottom's broken legs were treated with a potion after an attempt to use a spell failed, Draco Malfoy declined the offer to regrow his missing eyebrows and hair with dry humor, which left only the issue of Ginevra Weasley's lost limbs, which was somewhat more complicated.
"If Salazar's spell... matrix? Engine? I'm not entirely sure what to call it," Flamel informed Ginevra gravely, "Had not been destroyed, I could have spelled the curse-magic out of your wounds and treated them immediately. Unfortunately, as it is, curse-removal is not a field I'm sufficiently familiar with to be able to perform such magic now that the spell-locus has been undone."
"Sir," Tom said as he held the potioned-up (and more than a little loopy) Ginny carefully in his lap, "I thought that the Elixir of Life was... a bit more potent than that?"
"Oh it is," Flamel said with a bittersweet smile, "I could neutralize the curse simply by application of the Elixir, but that would take quite a bit more of the Elixir than it would to simply restore her limbs, and quite frankly, I will save between one and three lives by not treating her in such a way."
Tom, and most of the others within earshot of Flamel, were shocked by his words.
"I know it may come as a surprise," Flamel said wryly, "But the ability of the Stone to produce the Elixir of Life, unlike its ability to produce Gold, is quite limited. I am an exceedingly skilled doctor, and travel the world as a specialist, treating worst-case scenarios via magic on the sly. When both my magical and mundane skills as a healer fail to treat a case, I simply cheat with the Elixir. Miss Weasley's life is in no danger from her wounds, as grievous as they are, and I know that at some point, someone will re-discover the means by which to remove the curse magic. Once that has been accomplished, I'll be happy to use the Elixir to restore her limbs," Flamel turned his attention to a half-hidden figure looking on from the edge of the crowd of (formerly) wounded, "And the same is true for you, Miss Tabane. If you'd spoken with me before the Salazar's death, I could have attempted the same for you then."
Tabane retreated the rest of the way behind the tree she was peaking out from behind, and said nothing. Further discussion was cut off by the arrival of Molly Weasley.
"I do not believe, Mister Potter," McGonagall said with a sad smile, "That we have spoken for some time. How have you been?"
"...Busy?" Harry said somewhat hesitantly, not having expected the question.
Harry, along with those of his 'team' that had not stayed with the wounded, had taken a seat on the grass (Hermione very nearly sitting on Harry, her head resting on his shoulder), and were more or less just resting while they waited for daybreak; Luna Lovegood had even fallen asleep, her head in Lily's lap.
"I cannot say that surprises me," McGonagall said, suppressing the urge to try to conjure a chair, before gracefully seating herself on the grass in front of Harry, "Now please really tell me just how you have been, and what you have been doing, for the last year."
It only took one pointed jab at Harry's ribs from Hermione to get him talking, and once he did, Harry found it oddly liberating to give an account of his activities since they had fled Hogwarts. McGonagall was rather startled when he told her (upon request) just what he kept in his 'basic' safehouses. It also gave him some perspective on just how strange it was to keep quantities of Gold measured in multiple tons as 'standard provisions.'
"I did possess a Philosopher's Stone for several years," Harry explained, "I have stockpiled a reasonable amount of Gold."
Harry left unstated that what he considered a 'reasonable' amount of Gold was enough to throw the world's Gold markets into complete chaos.
"Well," McGonagall said with a subtly amused expression, "I don't suppose that I'd be able to us a financial incentive to convince you to take a position as my new defense professor then, would I?"
"Headmistress McGonagall," Harry said, rather startled by the offer, "My magic has just been more or less crippled for the foreseeable future."
"Harry," McGonagall said gently, "I do not care if your magic is currently unusable. What you taught your friends over the last year and a half is nothing short of remarkable, and I would rest much easier if knew that all my students were half so capable of defending themselves. It is your mentality, your discipline, and most of all your drive that made you such an effective teacher, not your powerful magic, though that certainly didn't hurt."
Harry thought silently about McGonagall's words, before Molly Weasley interrupted any attempt on his part to reply.
"HARRY JAMES POTTER!" The Weasley matriarch bellowed as she stormed over from where the wounded lay, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY DAUGHTER?"
Harry glanced at Hermione, who shrugged, then at the other Hogwarts exiles, who shrugged, then at the American soldiers who were nearby, who grinned and shrugged. Sighing, Harry rolled his eyes, and pulled himself to his feet.
"You know," He said thoughtfully as Molly approached, "I haven't felt the touch of the Cruciatus on my body since just after the Tiberium got into me."
Hermione's eyes widened at Harry's words, but the Weasley's arrival preempted anything she may have had to say.
"Harry James Potter," Molly growled, glaring down at the slightly-shorter young man, "What did you get Ginny into?"
"Nothing," Harry said flatly, turning a glare on Molly so harsh that she instinctively stepped back a pace."
"Nothing?" Molly said, half-confused for a moment, before shaking off her shock at Harry's glare, "Nothing?" She continued in a shriek, "If you did nothing, then why is she missing an arm and a leg?"
"I didn't DO nothing," Harry shouted back, storming right up to the woman with fire in his eyes, "I didn't GET her into ANYTHING. I taught her how to fight, she chose what to do with that."
"You've been leading her astray ever since she was twelve years old!" Molly shouted back, completely ignoring Harry's words, "And now you've cost her half her limbs!"
"Bullshit," Harry snarled, "I argued for months that none of them should have come to fight with me-"
He was cut off by Molly slapping him forcefully across the cheek.
"YOU LIA-urk" Molly began, but never finished.
Harry had made a decision almost ten years earlier, to never take an attack on his person lying down again, and responded to Molly's slap in the exact same way he would have responded to an assault from anyone else; with force. Before Molly had even realized Harry had begun to move, his left hand was wrapped around her throat, while his left foot hooked her knees, and he pushed forward, slamming her back down onto the ground.
"Nobody controls your daughter," Harry growled, glaring directly into the stunned woman's eyes with furious intensity, "She makes her own decisions. She chose to learn how to fight, she chose to join the attack on Fudge's camp in Wales, she chose to stay and fight here, and sacrifice herself to protect the lives of others. She made all those choices, and when you try to blame me for what she chose to do, you SPIT ON HER SACRIFICE!"
The last came out in an enraged scream, and for a long moment, Harry simply glared down at the now-terrified Weasley matriarch, grappling with his fury.
"Ginevra Weasley is the very best sort of friend," Harry half-shouted, removing his hand from Molly's throat and standing back up, "All of those who came and fought here today are. Salazar was only coming for one of us, but every one of these people, British, American, wherever they came from, didn't even have to be asked to fight on behalf of others. They just did."
Harry turned, facing those who stood around him, which now included those who had been wounded (as well as some who had been clinically dead), and Flamel himself, looking from one face to the next. In the crowd he saw each of his friends from Hogwarts, save the dead Blaise Zabini, he saw McGonagall and Paul Wright, he saw Tabane and Seras, he saw a whole pack of disciplined, determined soldiers that had earned his respect even if he didn't even know their names. In that moment, he saw men and women of honor.
"Two years ago, Hermione and my mother earned my trust by fighting alongside me against Tom Riddle and his thugs," Harry said, "I know that I have a hard time trusting people after how I grew up but you," Harry pointed first to Ginny, then swept his arms around to encompass all of those who stood around him, "All of you have fought alongside me, each in your own way, as you are able, including some of you I'd never met before," Harry nodded towards a cluster of the American soldiers, "You've earned my trust, my respect, and my honor."
Harry nodded sharply, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before speaking one more time.
"Now, you are all my brothers in battle, and for the first time in my life, I feel honored to serve alongside someone else, and would trust you all to fight at my side again."
The End, of Hero Harry.
AN: In the first story, Harry sets out down the path of a Hero, in this story, Harry learns something that every Hero who wants to endure must learn; he learns how to trust others. Forming healthy, supportive relationships, was supposed to be one of the main themes of this story from the start.
Things didn't quite work out the way I wanted them to with that. Shortly before I started writing this story, a number of personal relationships in my life fell to pieces; this did no favors for my ability to write a story about the intended theme, and updates both faded to a monthly, instead of weekly, schedule, and the plot became somewhat fractured and fragmented in the earlier stages of the story. At some point, I hope to come back and improve the coherency of the earlier parts of this story, but that's a long ways away, if it ever comes at all. Last week, on the Sunday I intended to finish this chapter and post it, I ran into another betrayal of trust from someone; fortunately, I've learned how to overcome personal betrayals a lot more easily, and the last portion of this story was only delayed a week, instead of months.
Now, as to what comes next...
The story of Brutal Harry, and the world he lives in, is only just beginning. For those of you who read my other work, yes, the event referred to in prior chapters is the catastrophe that drives the primary plot of War in Tokyo. Yes, that means that the two stories take place in the same world, and yes, that means that somewhere down the road, the various characters will be interacting with each other. How and when, is a seeeeeecret.
In the meantime, I will state flat-out that part of why I had the Harry Potter magic system linked to a locus controlled by Salazar, was because I needed that locus destroyed. Harry Potter magic is simply pants-on-head retardedly broken. Trying to write stories with the full form of it over extended durations becomes simply impossible, because there's only one limit on Harry Potter magic, and that limit is that it can't bring back the dead. It can literally do anything else.
You may have noticed, that over the course of this and Brutal Harry, I never really did anything with magical portraits. Why? Because the conceptual underpinnings of self-aware paintings, possibly as reflections or even copies of dead people, is pretty damn horrifying when you think about it. How the hell do they work? Are they simply clever 'AI' that mimic people? Are they legitimately living? Are they echoes, or trapped reflections of human souls?
It's just too much of a mess for me as a writer to want to deal with, and the system as a whole had to go, so now it's out, clearing the way for better stories in the future.
Speaking of better stories, I'm going to announce right here and now, at least two independent sequels to this story:
What happened to Tonks? I'm sure some of you remember the way she left the story, in rather dire condition. Well, I've got plans for her, and that story is something I've been looking forward to writing for more than a year.
Harry and Hermione dealing with being on 'medical leave' and not having magic, as well as the Tiberium infection he's suffering from. I'll be blunt, this is going to be my first-ever attempt to write an out-and-out romance, so it'll probably be wonderfully horrible. I've certainly involved romantic themes in my writing before, but this is going to be the first time I try to write a story where romance is the primary focus. I'm a guy, and I'm weird, so readers can expect this to not be like most HP romance stories out there, possibly not like any. A particular notice to expect strong Christian themes in this story; I don't know how to write a romance outside of a Godly definition of Love (I scarcely know how to write a romance with one), and I'm not going to try. Also, as they're both incredible nerds (Hermione academics, Harry military), expect adorkableness if I can manage it.
Both of these stories will be at least six months away; I have to spend some time on my original work, as I have little to no money, and I need to earn some income to replace things like damaged speakers, heat-sinks on my computer (my CPU heat-sink is un-mounted, I have to lay my computer on my side to let gravity hold it in place), and other things. I may also put together a compendium of short stories dealing with the life and times of other assorted characters; Luna, Draco (who has a novel-length story of his own planned for some years down the road), Neville, Susan, etc, etc. I'm a writer, it's what I do, and I intend to get a lot of mileage out of it.
Finally, for those of you wondering what my next fanfiction projects are, I'm rebooting The Warp is Calm (current chapter 70% complete, will be posted on SB when finished, here the weekend after that), and finishing War in Tokyo. Don't know when WiT will see an update, as I'll be focusing on my original work again, but hopefully it'll be soon.
Unplottable location, 'Neutral Ground,' June, 1997.
"Ah, Mister Potter," Lucius greeted amiably as he entered the small, spartan room occupied only by a table with two chairs on opposite sides of it, "It's good to see you again."
"Lucius," Harry greeted from his seat in one of the chairs with a cautious nod, "I am rather curious as to why you wished to see me. I was under the impression that the war in England was over."
"Oh, it is," Lucius said with a nod as he seated himself with casual grace, "It was pretty much over after Moody cleaned out the Ministry, and you took out Fudge's internment camp. Cleaning out Azkaban just made that clear to everyone, and allowed me to recover my loyal subordinates."
"I am rather surprised they did not ask you to take up rulership after that," Harry said, "Or that Moody didn't try to seize it."
"Harry," Malfoy said, affecting a slight air of offense, "Over the last two years the vast majority of Magical England's sixty thousand inhabitants have sat by and done nothing while their fellow citizens were systematically persecuted, abused, killed, raped, and dehumanized, because they couldn't get off of their arses to do anything more than tut over it as they read their morning newspaper, far too apathetic to actually wish to enact change themselves, far too apathetic to want to actually do anything. What do you think I told them when they asked me to form a new Ministry?"
Harry just sat there and stared at Malfoy expressionlessly.
"I said No of course," Lucius said with a snort, "I have no use for a bunch of mindless minions. Even if I was still interested in that kind of power, Tom tried to build an empire with dunderheads like that, and we all saw where that got him. I've no interest in trying to run their nation for them, especially now that most of the spells that they were wholly dependent upon for their lifestyle have now failed them. Far more trouble than they're worth."
"Understandable," Harry eventually replied, "That still does not tell me what you wished to see me about today."
"Just dropping off a few presents for you, really," Malfoy said with a pleasant smile, "I thought you'd appreciate these."
Malfoy pulled a small sack from his belt, and emptied it onto the table. Out of the sack fell a ring with a cracked stone upon it, a trashed diary (one that Harry recognized from his second year at Hogwarts), an ornate goblet with a tarnished golden hole stuck through it, an amulet that looked to have been sliced in half, and an antique diadem that had also been cut in half.
"With the Horcrux your mother pulled from your scar at Little Hangleton," Malfoy said with a smile, "That should be the entire set. I do so hate leaving loose ends untied, don't you?"
Harry simply nodded slowly, a small smile of its own appearing on his face.
AN: Riddle never made Nagini a Horcrux in this timeline, so yes, that is the complete set.
Jumble Paratroopers Splat!