AN: Whelp. This ties up the visit-in-Puerto Rico arc. I ended up writing a scene with the Weasley twins, and as I'm sure will surprise no one, even if it wasn't very long, it turned into a bit of an oddball. I'm a firm believer that most works benefit from a good range of emotions expressed in a story, helps add depth and 'life' to the piece.
Brutal Harry, Chapter 5.
North of Jayuya, Puerto Rico, March, 1997.
Usually, Hermione Granger was not a Witch noted for her laugh.
Those present were considering revising their opinion of the hysterical brunette; once she fell onto the floor, and started pounding it with her fist, most of them did.
"It isn't t-that funny," Harry said irritably, trying again, to remove the pink paint that had more or less soaked him with a cleaning charm.
"I'm inclined to disagree, personally," Draco said mildly, his face the very image of serenity, save his eyes, "I think pink is an excellent juxtaposition to your customary mood and attitude."
Hermione just continued to laugh, while the others made use of the pseudo-shower they'd added to the chalet's kitchen months ago to wash off the mess their mock-battle had created. They could have done it with magic, of course, but hot water lent a feeling of psychological and physical cleanliness that cleaning spells couldn't replicate. And it was easy enough to use magic to dry their soaked clothing afterward. The paint smeared all over Harry, however, was a product of the Weasley twins, and actively resisted being removed from his person by both magic and mundane means, thwarting every different variety of spell or detergent he tried to use.
"Most importantly," Neville said, his voice practically drowning in satisfaction, "We got you. We got you good."
"Oh?" Harry said, turning and raising pink eyebrows as he stared the stockier boy down, "So, you would consider a mission outcome where you achieved your objective, but everyone except Susan died good?"
Hermione stopped laughing.
"You've all improved in both your combat skills, and your ability to use them effectively, immensely," Harry said with forceful calm, "And as we agreed, I'll allow you to accompany me into the field. Realistically speaking, I very much doubt that either Fudge's thugs or Moody's fire teams could inflict anywhere near as many casualties on you, but remember, Britain is not safe, and if you get sloppy, you will die."
Lake Sakakawea Magical Asylum Refuge, North Dakota, March, 1997.
"My father," Tom said, transfiguring some of the quarry floor into sand for a more comfortable seat, "Inherited his hardware store from grandpa, who died when he was almost fifty from a heart attack. I barely remember grandpa, but I do remember things changing at home, dad was a lot busier after he took over the store.
"I'm not entirely sure why dad decided he needed to do such a good job, but he ended up putting a lot of time and energy into learning how to run a business. And not just handling the accounts or doing taxes or whatnot, but actually learning how to get people to work together reasonably well, and keeping up a good relationship with his suppliers and stuff, which hasn't always been easy as tax law and stuff steadily drives the US economy towards fewer, larger conglomerates and corporations."
"Wait a minute," Ginny said, "I know what a corporation is, and I can infer what a conglomerate is, but how does tax law affect that?"
"It's complicated on the whole," Tom said, "But a simplified version, is that the more complex the tax code, and the harder it is to properly utilize it, the more it favors larger companies capable of employing a larger number of accountants and lawyers to take advantage of the system, while smaller companies have to make do with less. That's not all there is to it though, and it's getting off topic."
"It's enough for now," Ginny said, waving him off, "Keep going."
"Right," Tom said, shifting on his impromptu patch of sand, "So anyways, the thing about my dad is, while he figured out how to get most people to set aside personal conflicts, or work for him without resenting him, he never figured out how to help people resolve their conflicts. And he never figured out how to deal with his kids, and sort out why we kept fighting with him."
"Why did you keep fighting with him?" Ginny asked with a trace of hesitance.
"Because he tried to run the family like he tried to run the store," Tom said, frustration and bitterness edging into his voice, "He was the law, he said how things would be, and there was no arguing it, no matter how ridiculous his position was. And that's just not right. I believe in 'Honor your father and mother,' but I don't believe in mindlessly doing as I'm told. That's not going to help anything."
North of Jayuya, Puerto Rico, March, 1997.
"Morning Harry," Hermione said with a yawn and a smile, "You sleep alright?"
"F-fairly well," Harry said with a nod as he entered the kitchen, where Hermione was working over some Runes as she ate breakfast, "And you?"
"Well enough, I suppose," Hermione said tiredly, "I was hoping to get at least an array for refining control finished, but since you were busy all yesterday, I haven't really had a chance to test it properly."
"S-sorry," Harry said, shrugging as he wheeled himself over to the table, "You know h-how they get about c-coming with me."
"Yes, Harry," Hermione said, scowling a little, "I do, especially considering how I want to come with you."
"You kn-know that Fudge is sp-specifically looking f-for you," Harry said firmly, "It's t-too dangerous."
"And Fudge is trying even harder to get you," Hermione sighed with no small amount of resignation, "But you're a lot harder to hurt than me. Same as with your mother. I understand why you don't want us in the UK Harry, but we don't want to be separated from you either."
Harry sat quietly at the table, remotely manipulating cereal, milk, a bowl and spoon to fetch his own breakfast. He didn't want to argue with Hermione, or his mother for that matter, but he knew what they were capable of (he had tested their abilities personally) and he wasn't willing to risk them in his work in Britain.
Hermione, on the other hand, knew that as things stood, the only way she could possibly convince Harry to let her come with him was deliberate and persistent emotional blackmail, something she was not remotely willing to engage in. The whole subject frustrated her, as she was a largely rational creature, and understood his logical reasons for wanting to keep her out of England (especially if, as they suspected, the Fudge regime had realized that a Philosopher's Stone had been fused with her), but she still knew that the separation was wrong somehow, even if she couldn't construct an adequate rational argument as to why. This conflict of logic and emotion was endlessly frustrating to her, and not taking that frustration out on Harry was one of the more difficult issues of self-control she'd found in her relationship with him.
Neither of them, however, had become so worked up over the issue that they were ready to have a pointless fight about it, so breakfast passed quietly, if somewhat tensely, until Lily came in and joined them.
"Ah, staying in England came up again, I see," Lily said, looking back and forth between Harry and Hermione as she moved around the table to give them both a good morning hug, "Now that that's out of the way for the day, Harry, how often have you been using magic to override your curse damage like you were last night?"
Harry winced; she had brought out the Mother voice.
"N-no more than an h-hour a day," Harry said carefully, looking his mother in the eye, as he attempted to suppress his nervousness, "M-most days n-not at all."
"I suppose that's as best as we can hope for," Lily said with a sigh, "Now tell me how they managed to beat you last night, and how you'll keep some idiot 'auror' from using the same trick to kill my son."
Hermione knew that wasn't what Lily particularly wanted to talk about with Harry, but she also knew that it was a subject of conversation they could both engage in, even if it suited Harry's personality more than Lily's. Even now, Harry could be a prickly personality to Hermione and his mother, and moving the conversation onto a more objective subject, one where Lily could demonstrate how she cared about her son in a way that he understood, was just the sort of thing Hermione was happy Lily was around for, as she rarely thought of such things herself.
Both Harry and herself were very direct people, and it sometimes made it hard for them to relate to each other when there was an unresolved disagreement between them. Hermione wasn't sure if Lily was simply more capable of being indirect by nature, or experienced and mature enough to recognize when Harry needed a more subtle touch in his life. Either way, she was grateful for it.
Lake Sakakawea Magical Asylum Refuge, North Dakota, March, 1997.
"So what do you do about your father?" Ginny asked, torn between frustration and curiosity.
"At this point," Tom said, shrugging somewhat sheepishly, "I mostly don't. I spent years trying to fight with him. About things like a curfew that had no exception, requirements on how much time I spend on homework, even if I didn't have any left; I ultimately took control of my life by acing a GED, and getting a job of my own."
"What's a GED?" Ginny asked curiously.
"General Equivalency Degree," Tom said, "Or Diploma, or something else, I forget. Basically, it means I know what high school is supposed to teach me, so I can skip. Between that, and earning my own income, my dad backed off on trying to control my life so much."
"I wish we had something like that," Ginny huffed, folding her legs and sitting down cross-legged, "It might get mum off my back about everything. Or at least let me move out on my own," Ginny paused for a moment, her expression shifting from irritated to thoughtful, "What's it like living on your own?"
"I don't," Tom said, stretching out and shifting posture to face Ginny better as he spoke, "I still live with my parents."
"Um," Ginny said, running over Tom's words in her mind, "I guess you never said you moved out, but I sort of assumed you had, with how fed up you said you were with your dad."
"I won't be a legal adult until I'm eighteen," Tom said with some frustration, "I'd have to get permission from one of my parents to rent a place of my own, and there's no way my mom would go against my dad. Besides, if I tried to force the issue, I think I'd lose what little chance I have of fixing things with dad."
For a few minutes, the quarry was nearly silent, only the wind, a few bird calls, and the chittering of squirrels in the trees above them breaking the stillness while Ginny thought, and Tom waited.
"So what do you think I should do?" Ginny eventually asked, "I don't really have anything like a magical GED I can take, and while I've learned a lot about the muggle world, I don't have any skills that would make me an attractive hire to anyone there."
"I'm not you, so I can't make the call in the end," Tom said, "But what I'd recommend, is two things, trying one or both of them. First, spend as much of your time as you can without blatantly avoiding your mother away from her. Don't totally shun her, just avoid contact as much as you reasonably can. Second, when you are around her, don't talk about things you fight about all the time. Pick one day of the week, and try to talk to her about stuff that bothers you then, you'll probably fight, but it won't be everything there is anymore."
"I don't know if there is anything we can talk about without fighting," Ginny grumped quietly.
"Maybe," Tom said, "They're just suggestions. If you do try the second one, but can't find anything to talk about without fighting for a week or more, then it's even worse than my thing with my dad, and it's time for something more drastic."
"Like what?" Ginny asked, finding an odd anticipation within herself at the thought of something justifiably 'more drastic.'
"I don't know," Tom said as he pulled himself to his feet and started to brush sand off his clothes, "'s a bridge you cross when you get to it. Either way, it's getting to be time for supper, and I'm starving."
He reached out and offered her his hand.
"Food at the camp cafeteria ain't nothing special, but want to eat with me and the other camp workers?"
"Beats eating with mum," Ginny grunted, though she was smiling faintly as she took his hand, and let him help her up.
North of Jayuya, Puerto Rico, March, 1997.
"S-so," Harry said, looking around at the Hogwarts Exiles assembled in the Chalet's living room, "You all m-managed to score a hit on m-me, and as we agreed, that means I'll l-let you come with m-me."
Not everyone smiled, but there was an almost physically tangible sense of satisfaction from the others, especially Neville and Blaise.
"Next m-month, if you're r-ready to go," Harry continued, "You can all c-come with me. H-however, there's one m-more thing for you to learn," He levitated a relatively small tome into the room, and dropped it on the coffee table roughly in the middle of the room, "Occlumency. If y-you can't protect y-your secrets and mine at least s-somewhat, you're a l-liability."
Expressions of outrage began to arise amongst the others, but Harry pressed on, cutting them off.
"I d-don't expect you to beat me in th-this," Harry said firmly, "But you need to at l-least be good enough to recognize when s-someone is trying to g-get into your mind, so you can b-break the spell."
"It took me two weeks to learn to do that," Lily put in, "When I was in fifth year. After two months, I could kick out any of the people I trusted enough to practice with, mostly Alice Longbottom. You should all be more than capable of managing it, if you haven't already."
"They do teach the family heir the basics in a number of houses," Draco admitted calmly, "It's been years since I've had any practice in fending off attacks, but I could most likely pass your test right now."
"Mmm," Luna said distractedly, "I don't know Occlumency, but I know something like it."
"Aunty taught me some," Susan volunteered.
"I was never much good with it," Blaise admitted, "But I have been taught."
"Well," Harry said, "Th-then you can help the others learn. Everyone wh-wh-who makes the bar next m-month can c-come to Europe with me."
Lake Sakakawea Magical Asylum Refuge, North Dakota, March, 1997.
Two young men, possessed of red hair, freckles, near identical bodies and fully identical genetics, were relaxing in a modest wooden building, built along the lines of a hunting lodge, chucking a balloon back and forth between themselves with magic. The room itself was fairly sparsely appointed, a few simple wooden chairs, a card table, a mini-fridge and microwave, a fireplace (currently lit) and a radio, which was currently playing-
"This is your DJ, Padfoot White, and next up on The Big Jazz KRZQ 75.3, is a smashing rendition of one of the classics passed down from Lead Belly-"
A swing/jazz station, which generally suited the mood the Weasley twins had been in when they'd turned it on, and continued to do so after the fireplace flared, and the first member of the party they were waiting for came tumbling out.
"'ello there Malfoy," Fred said amiably, "How was Jamaica?"
"Rather warm for this time of year," Malfoy said evenly as he translated the momentum imparted by his international floo journey into a roll halfway across the lodge then up onto his feet, "How was the weekend here in the colonies?"
"Smashing," George said with a toothy grin, "Now down to business, did it work?"
"Did what work?" Draco asked calmly, managing to give the impression he had no idea whatsoever as to what was being asked of him.
"The paint of course," Gred said, rolling his eyes as Susan Bones tumbled out of the fireplace, "Unless you'd like to tell us whether or not any of our other little innovations worked?"
"Which Innovations?" Draco asked as he seated himself on one of the chairs with some poise, maintaining his unflappable demeanor.
"Well," Forge said, his grin growing.
"We'd tell you," Grorge continued, grinning as well.
"But then we'd have to obliviate you," Frorge finished as Blaise tumbled out of the fireplace.
"The paint worked," Susan said with a respectful nod towards the twins as she dusted herself off, "Harry eventually got rid of it by brute-forcing a Finite Incatatem, but no regular spell or non-magical cleaner would get it off."
"Awesome," Freg said, "How'd you guys get it onto him."
"Oh," Luna said as she happily cartwheeled out of the floo and across the room, coming to a stop in a perfect handstand, smiling up at the twins, "We dropped a paint-balloon on him, just like that one you're playing with."
"But how'd you hit him with the balloon?" Ged asked, juggling his own balloon between his hands with magic.
"We beat him in the wards-up fight," Blaise said, somewhat savagely, as he retrieved a bottle of orange juice from the mini-fridge, conjured a glass, and poured himself some, "Next month, we're going to Europe."
"Sweet," Both twins said.
North of Jayuya, Puerto Rico, March, 1997.
After the last of the group, save Lily and herself, had passed through the floo, Hermione leaned over and kissed Harry full on the mouth. Harry's jaw dropped, his eyes went wide, and he began gibbering silently in shock.
"Remember me, while you're gone," Hermione said, a smile quirking her lips, "And know that I'll be trying to get something together to help you protect everyone while they're in Europe with you."
Then, because she was so pleased with the first outcome, she kissed him again, before scampering off through the floo herself. Harry was so out of it, that he barely noticed his mother's goodbye hug, completely missed her smirk, and was totally unaware of Dobby bursting into laughter once Lily had left.
Malfoy Manor, United Kingdom, April, 1997.
The instant Harry arrived outside the estate's gates, he knew things had gone horribly wrong. Smoke hung heavy in the air, and the orange glow of reflected firelight glimmered off the bottom of the cloud. More, his sensitivity to active magic told him that the formidable wards that protected the estate had been shattered.
Harry wasted no time, he overrode his body's natural control of its limbs via magic, yanked his invisibility cloak out its pouch on his combat harness, and then Apparated into the manor's entrance hall, placing his silent arrival along the hall's southern wall. He was not surprised in the least to find the hall a shattered wreck, clear signs of an intense spell-battle presence, as well as a number of corpses. What did surprise him, were the brass shell casings and bullet holes spread about the chamber; he had not expected Lucius to adapt that far to the march of technology.
No firearms were present, however, which meant that whichever faction had conducted the strike had known enough to not leave discarded weapons lying around. Nine months ago, Harry would have immediately discarded Fudge's 'Aurors' as the perpetrators of the attack, but they had learned since then.
I should charge them for my 'lessons,' Harry thought grimly as he silently crept further into the shattered ruin. The manor itself, as best as he could tell, wasn't burning; unsurprising given its stone construction and heavily-enchanted nature. A few swift apparitions to the various wings of the manor confirmed his suspicion, as well as the fact that aside from some hasty looting, the manor was largely intact, and Harry moved on to the wooden houses the Malfoys had constructed for the refugees under their protection.
When he appeared in the field where the structures had stood, he instinctively applied both a filtration charm to his face, and a flame-freezing charm to his body. There had been dozens of modest, two-story wooden houses; now half of them had collapsed, and all of them were on fire; massive, roaring blazes with tongues of flame reaching dozens of feet up into the air. Moving as swiftly as he could without sacrificing meaningful stealth, Harry checked each structure with a charm designed to detect heartbeats, and found none living.
He did find a number of burning corpses, however, more than a dozen, all-told. Which removed any chance of this attack being the work of Moody's men; Harry Apparated back to Malfoy Manor proper immediately, and stowed his cloak.
If any of those responsible for this attack remained, he wanted them to find him now.
A silent tracking charm, a more advanced version of the 'point me' charm that Hermione had developed for him, failed to reveal Lucius Malfoy's location, most likely meaning that he was behind the wards of the Ministry of Magic itself, something he would investigate in more detail later. A second iteration of the same charm, however, directed him into Lucius' study, which he rapidly searched for signs of Narcissa Malfoy's presence. His search, both magical and physical, revealed nothing in the luxuriously-appointed study, and Harry snarled silently in frustration.
Closing his eyes to focus, Harry collected his magic, pooling, concentrating, focusing a great portion of it together as he drew his wand, and then cast a spell with the presence of wand, movements, and incantation for the first time in months.
His magic rippled through the study in a visible wave, tearing apart and dispelling every magical effect present therein. The desk exploded, as magically expanded spaces within had their contents shunted into reality, and splinters of wood sliced across Harry's body, tearing his clothes, but failing to pierce his magically-warded skin. Harry waited a moment for the study to settle, then cast his detection charm again; it drew his attention to beneath the exquisite Persian rug that dominated the study's floor. Said rug had already been damaged by the desk, so Harry thought little of simply yanking it aside by brute force of magic, then vanishing the marble stones that made up the floor beneath it.
A massive metal safe was revealed beneath; Harry latched onto its door with his magic and yanked. Rather than tearing the door out as he had intended, it ripped the entire safe out of the floor, leaving it hovering in the middle of the room. Snorting in irritation, Harry shaped a simple unlocking charm, Alohomora, then massively overcharged it with magic, and slammed it into the safe's door. The safe nearly tore apart its locking mechanism obeying his magic's command to open, but Harry ignored it.
Within the safe lay an unbreathing Narcissa Malfoy, laying haphazardly across a pile of golden trinkets and other valuables that Harry had no interest in. Harry gently levitated the woman out of the safe to himself, and carefully eased her mouth open, and took a sniff.
Draught of the Living Death, He thought silently to himself, This would have kept her for decades. Well done, Lucius.
With no further ado, he wrapped an arm around the floating woman's waist, and Apparated out of the Malfoy Estates.
Underground Safehouse, Earth, April 1997
Narcissa Malfoy woke slowly, gently, from her enforced slumber, surrounded by warmth, though she was subconsciously aware that she was most certainly not on her silken sheets. The bed she lay in was hardly crude, but it was nowhere near the level of luxury she was accustomed to. It was the unfamiliarity more than the lesser degree of comfort, that nudged her around to a more complete awareness, and she was more than a little shocked at where she found herself to be.
Narcissa's first impression was that she had been abducted and was being held in a muggle warehouse half-refitted to function as living quarters, but a more detailed look around dispelled that notion. First off, there were no windows or doors. Second off, there was an enormous pile of gold bars stacked in one corner of the 'warehouse.' Finally, Dobby was sitting on a bed near hers, staring at her.
Seeing Dobby made her think of Harry Potter (Lord Black, senior of the Potter bloodline her subconscious helpfully supplied), thinking of Harry Potter made her think of his odd relationship with her husband, which made her think of the last thing Lucius had done, which had been to stun her. She wasn't certain how she had gone from being in a situation where her home was under attack, to one where she was most likely in one of Lord Black's residences ('safe houses,' she believed the appropriate term for a place like this was), but the fact that her husband was not with her was most distressing.
"Is Lord Black in?" Narcissa slowly asked, turning to face Dobby.
"Harry Potter Sir is sleeping," Dobby said quietly, his luminous eyes fixed on Narcissa, "He was very upsetted when he got back from old-bad-master's house, and Dobby had to use his magic to help Harry Potter Sir sleep properly. Don't wake Harry Potter Sir up."
"I see," Narcissa said quietly with reflexive courtesy, more than a little surprised by the quiet force in the house-elf's voice, "Where am I?"
"Missy Narcissy is in one of Harry Potter Sir's safehouses," Dobby answered, some of the force leaving his voice, "It is where Harry Potter Sir takes peoples he rescues, before he brings them to Crazy-Eye, old-bad-master's house, or the oosans."
"Oosans?" Narcissa asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Peoples from the U-S-A," Dobby said with a nod, and what Narcissa could have sworn was a glimmer of a smile.
"I see," Narcissa said with a faint smile of her own, "I don't suppose you could direct me to the loo?"
Dobby silently pointed towards one of the large room's less well-lit corners, and shortly thereafter, Narcissa had gained some privacy, as well as the availability of hot water in a tub. One of the lessons she had learned growing up within the House of Black, both through direct instruction, and indirect teaching through behavioral conditioning, was do not show weakness to outsiders. The meaning of 'outsiders' may have changed many times over the years, but she certainly did not hold enough trust in Harry Potter, even if he was Lord Black, to show weakness in front of him.
So, she spent the next three hours shivering in a hot bath, and trying not to think too hard of what might have become of her husband, not to mention the refugees he had been sheltering.
Location unknown, time unknown.
When Seras woke up, she was not in a happy place. There was blood on her face, it felt like her nose might be broken, and she was very thoroughly tied down, onto what felt like a particularly hard lump of wood. It was also pitch black, and while she could hear others moaning quietly in pain, she couldn't see anything.
Almost worse, was the fact that when she tried to call out herself, no sound came from her mouth; she could feel the air moving from her lungs, through her throat, and out her mouth, but no sound came with it. Somehow, the inability to call for help terrified her more than anything else.
AN: Well. In case it wasn't obvious by this point, I'm now issuing a warning: This fic is about to go to dark places. Me being me, the end of the story isn't going to be a despairing thing, but some people are not going to have happy times, and some people are going to die. There's not much in cannon detailed about what happened in the camps muggle-borns got sent to, I will be going into detail about things like that. It's not going to be pretty.
You have been warned. Twice now, even.