AN: Ok yeah, this chapter feels very half-assed and I apologise for that. I felt like I've been neglecting it (I've been busy planning out… other things, and created an Ace RP blog that I have absolutely no courage to use, as well as vomited out a bunch of pictures and set up a Redbubble account as well).
BUT! I got a sudden burst of inspiration and finished this in, like, a day, so here it is! Thank you all for being so patient with me xD
(of Informants and Scouting)
After the war, Harry had always considered George Weasley to be one of his closest friends.
The loss of his twin brother had broken the red-head, and it took a good few years for him to start living – not just existing. His family and Harry had done all they could to help him, but in truth they had all been dealing with their own problems.
Losing a twin was like losing the other half of your soul. Harry hoped that he never had to experience it, not now that he had Ace and Luffy. He couldn't even begin to imagine the pain that George had to go through every day.
So the wizard didn't exactly blame George for becoming a little… well, dark, to put things simply. While Harry was off travelling the world and training, George used his joke store 'Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes' as a front for the more shady side of the pranking industry. He supplied… illicit objects and began swapping and exchanging information. Much to Harry's surprise, George established himself as one of the best information brokers in England.
So Harry and George made a deal – George would supply Harry with whatever information he needed, and Harry would do everything he could to make sure the authorities turned a blind eye to George's business. The Master of Death had no room to judge what George was doing, especially considering the red-head wasn't doing anything harmful. He was just… supplying information that could potentially lead to harmful activities.
Pft. It wasn't as if Harry was doing anything different.
Disregarding their… dishonest activities, Harry and George were as close as ever.
It certainly didn't surprise Harry that George was now very, very angry with him.
Harry held himself tall, even as George stalked over to him. The red-head towered over him, and the wizard suddenly found himself pulled off the ground, George's hands fisted in the front of his robes.
"Where the hell were you?!" He hissed again.
Keeping his expression neutral, Harry replied coolly, "Did no-one see fit to tell you?"
It honestly would have surprised him if no-one did. Then again, the Ministry would have probably done their best to cover up his disappearance with some falsehood or another, but he'd expected Hermione or Luna – or hell, even Draco to tell George.
But from the lost, furious look in George's blue eyes, Harry guessed that no, no-one told him.
"It's alright George," came Luna's soft voice. "Harry is here now."
"No," the red-head spat. "It doesn't matter that he's here now – where were you when Ellenore first appeared Harry? Where were you when Diagon Alley was attacked? When Luna was hurt? When Ron's-" He broke of and blinked tears from his eyes. "Why did you go Harry?!"
Why do I have to keep explaining myself?
"You seem to be of the opinion that I actually had a choice in leaving." Harry responded mildly. "Death's call must be answered."
"Hey, let him go!"
At that loud, furious shout, Ace strode into the room then with a wild, dangerous look in his eyes, with Luffy right behind him. He was beside Harry in an instant and tore George's hands away, his finger's gripping the red-head's wrists tightly.
Harry could have sworn he heard the bones creak, and then he felt it – the hot, burning rush, and Harry had to act.
"Ace, no!" The wizard darted forwards and grabbed one of Ace's arms at the exact moment Luffy did with his other, and together they hauled Ace away from George, who staggered backwards and slammed against the wall.
It turned out they were just in time – heat flared across Harry's skin as Ace's fist burst into flames, yet it only lasted for a moment before they flickered out of existence, and Ace was left breathing heavily. Harry caught Luffy's eyes, saw the same anger reflected in them that had been in Ace, yet strangely he was the one keeping a level head.
What the hell? Shouldn't it have been… the other way around at least?
Wait. The bond. Luffy came in after Ace, therefore was behind him the entire time, and he must have felt everything through the bond and only reacted on my behalf when I was ready to stop Ace. Ace was already too angry to properly sort through everything.
It actually made him feel a little warm inside at the realisation that these two were ready to defend Harry. Not that he needed it, but the gesture was nice all the same.
"W-what the hell?!" George spat out as he straightened up, using the wall for support. He was glaring at Ace coldly, while Ace glared right back, a scowl firmly tugging at his lips.
"Ace," Harry began. "Ace, look at me."
Reluctantly, the pirate turned to face him, grey eyes still burning furiously. Harry had to blink against the sudden wave of heat that swept through Ace's skin, and he nearly let go, but the fire seemed to splutter and die in the pirate's eyes.
Minutely, Ace relaxed, and Luffy let go of his arm. Harry followed the gesture, still looking him in the eye, trying to send a wave of reassurance and calm along the bond. Finally, the tension drained from his body, and the wizard squeezed Ace's shoulder briefly before looking back to George.
"They didn't tell you what happened?" Harry asked George.
"We couldn't." Luna chimed in. She hadn't moved from her position in the bed at all. "The past few years the Ministry have been revising their employee contracts, getting rid of any loopholes that may be in them. We're magically bound not to tell any Ministry Secrets, especially we Unspeakables." She let out a regretful laugh. "Unfortunately your disappearance was classed as a Ministry secret. We couldn't tell anyone what happened."
"The Ministry covered it up." Draco said from the doorway. "I didn't know anything about it until you showed up again yesterday. I thought you'd gone off and gotten yourself killed on one of your hunts, or that you'd gotten yourself pulled into some huge fuckload of trouble and had to lay low for a while. But no-matter how you look at it… You had no choice. You know, what with you being the 'Master' of Death and whatnot. You have to fulfil death's every command."
George, who looked to have calmed down somewhat but still kept a wary eye on Ace, said, "What does that mean, Harry? What does Draco mean by 'Master of Death'?"
Harry sighed. Here we go again.
It was getting really late. Ace had conked out hours ago and was currently snoring away at the end of Luna's bed. He'd just passed out with no warning, and it had alarmed Harry to the point of panic. Luffy though – while laughing his arse off – had then explained that Ace suffered from narcolepsy. Even though learning that still worried Harry, he realized that there was no use in freaking out.
But explaining things again was tedious. By the end of the tale, George was significantly less angry, though he was still rather… agitated. Harry guessed that the red-head was anxious to get back to his shop. He'd learned over the past few hours that even though a majority of Diagon Alley was closed until all the debris had been cleared away and all damages had been repaired. Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, while officially closed to the public, still was still open for less… noble business.
Of which Harry had to discuss with George. He knew George would have information that Kingsley had failed to give him. It was just that… discussing it here, in the hospital, wasn't exactly an ideal thought. Even though Harry had made sure to search for any bugs and block out eavesdroppers, it was better to discuss it at a secure place. George's shop would be good, but Grimmauld Place would be ideal.
He mentioned it to George, and instantly a he adopted a professional demeanour. For a brief, heart-breaking moment, Harry longed for the red-head's enthusiastic smile and jokes.
But that George didn't really exist anymore. He hadn't for a long time.
So they said their goodbyes – Harry, kissing Luna on the cheek, and after a small bout of mischievousness did the same with Draco, who spluttered and glowered – Harry levitated Ace and made his way out of the hospital, followed by George and a giggling Luffy.
Grimmauld Place was decided upon, and even though Harry still needed to do some shopping, he decided to do it after getting the information from George. He placed Ace in bed, and Luffy decided to explore the house – and that left Harry feeling slightly worried because even though he was pretty sure he'd gotten rid of all cursed objects and locked those he couldn't get rid of away, there just might be something he missed, and knowing Luffy he would inevitable find that something and cause all sorts of havoc.
But he and decided to risk it. He and George settled in the library with a pot of tea, and got down to business.
And much to Harry's delight, the red-headed wizard had much to tell. Though a majority of it were unproven rumours, Harry still devoured every word, because ever rumour had to have some base of fact. But amongst all of the rumour, George managed to provide a literal gem – the whereabouts of one of Ellenore's bases of operation, if not the base.
"A small little town just barely inside the Russian border," George told him. "My sources told me that a large well of magical activity has been gathering there, almost as if she's… collecting it. The strange thing is that she's not trying to hide it – at all."
He gave Harry the precise co-ordinates, and a plan began unfolding in Harry's mind.
May as well set it in motion now.
"George, I need to ask another favour of you."
Grimly, the red-head said, "Anything, Harry."
The wizard grinned.
Luffy pouted. He'd spent what felt like hours wandering through all the rooms – and they seemed almost endless. Every time Luffy thought he'd found the last one, his snooping either uncovered another door or secret passage.
So of course, the pirate had taken it as a challenge, and he took it upon himself to leave no room unexplored. He found a lot of interesting stuff too! There was this really cool tapestry and even though he didn't recognise any of the faces or names, it had been really fun looking at all the details. He thought that Robin would have really liked to see it, what with her love for history.
There was also a lot of really interesting moving paintings and pretty trinkets. He'd even spent some time with arguing with one of them; it'd called him a 'filthy muggle', whatever that was, and Luffy had almost put a hole in the wall when the painting became too annoying. But he figured that harry wouldn't really like that, so he decided to ignore the painting and walk away to find something more interesting.
Then there were the glass cases full or random bits and pieces. Pretty jewellery, some statues and books, he was pretty sure there was even a pair of shoes. He'd tried to open the cases, only to find they wouldn't budge. When his skin was in contact with the glass, he'd felt an undercurrent of energy, similar to what he felt from Harry, and he figured the wizard had locked them with magic or something.
Out of curiosity, he's punched the glass, just to see what would happen, and found out that it merely bounced of the surface without leaving a crack.
When he'd finally – finally – run out of rooms to explore, he wandered back to the room he and Ace had stayed in. His brother was still happily snoring away on the bed, and Luffy briefly thought about joining him for a nap, but something had caught his eye and distracted him from his train of thought.
There was a desk in there. Covered with sheets of paper and books, stuff that Luffy generally wasn't interested in, but there was one book that was different than the rest.
The front cover held one of those moving photos, depicting a group of three kids. He recognised one of them as Harry – he had the same glasses, and his smile was similar too, but it lacked the dark, bitter edge it did now. The other two didn't ring a bell – another taller boy with red hair and freckles, and a girl with big bushy hair and large teeth.
Carefully, because he knew Harry would be angry if he tore any of the pages, Luffy picked the book up and sat on the edge of the bed. He pushed his straw-hat off and let it hang down his back, and opened the cover.
He barely had time to take in the first picture – of two older people who looked a lot like Harry did – when he felt a tug on the bond.
It was strange. One second, he'd felt Harry almost as if he was right beside him, and the next he was gone. Far, far away, so far that Luffy could barely feel him at all. The photo album fell from numb fingertips, and the pirate clutched his chest as a dull ache appeared.
A strangled sound escaped his throat, and at the same moment Ace shot up from the bed with a gasp. His and Luffy's eyes met, wild and confused and searching.
Luffy didn't like the feeling. Not one bit. This… distance was almost as bad as that time he woke up and thought Ace was dead.
When he'd thought that Ace had left him alone in the world.
The Straw-hat Captain was on his feet and out the door in a matter of seconds. Ace threw off the covers and leapt up, following Luffy out into the hall and down the stairs.
There way was blocked however.
That read-headed wizard that they had met at the hospital – the one that Ace felt a keen dislike for despite the reassurances Harry had given him – stood at the base of the stairs, his arms crossed over his robed chest and a wicked grin on his face.
"Well boys," He purred. "It seems I have been appointed your babysitter."
He really should have thought this through more.
Like, for one, I should have dressed for a Russian Winter. For Merlin's sake this is complete rookie mistake. FUCK.
Shivering, the wizard hastily muttered out a heating charm though numb lips and let out a blissful sigh as warmth filled his limbs. Next, he raised up a shield to buffer the freezing wind that seemed intent of making his heating charm useless.
Everything was white. And covered in snow. But in the distance, he saw it – the manor that Ellenore was supposedly using to gather up that strange magic.
Cross-country Apparation was pretty easy for him. The best thing about his current circumstances was that he'd actually been here before – the manor was owned by a Russian Politician; during Harry's stay, he'd been invited there to a rather dull party. In fact, he was pretty sure it was at that same party he'd first met Ellenore.
He was right outside the wards that encased the property… and even now, he could feel the strange energy emanating from the structure.
It was something he'd never felt before. Strong, nearly overpowering – it raised nearly every hair on the wizard's body and caused goosebumps to spread out over his skin.
What the hell is that witch planning?
It was time to find out.
His plan was simple. Sneak through the wards, snoop around a bit, maybe fish for some more information, get back out, then return back to England and buy some groceries. He hoped to get things done quickly, so he could be… closer to Ace and Luffy.
He didn't like the ache the separation caused in his chest. They felt so far away now, and if he didn't know any better he'd say that they were…
Harry shook the thought from his head.
The sooner I get this done, the better.
He sucked in a deep breath, and activated the runes that allowed him to access the invisibility cloak that had been absorbed by his body. His form flickered for a moment, before disappearing completely.
The next step was not as simple. The wards would not allow anyone not keyed to them to pass through, but Harry had a way to bypass that.
But it was risky. He'd only done it twice before, after all the sealing runes had been applied to his body, and both times had left him terrified and weak.
But they'd also been used for an extended period of time.
Harry placed his hand on his chest, right above the melted sheet of crystal that was once the resurrection stone, and closed his eyes.
He focused on the runes that kept his connection to the spirit world closed, and severed the magic keeping them active. His perception of reality gave a sudden, abrupt shift, and his body became disturbingly light.
He opened his eyes.
Everything had become grey. The manor, his clothes, his skin; even the snow – which was supposed to be white – was grey.
And there were shadows. Things that moved at the corners of his eyes, never fully showing themselves, and the wizard made sure to never focus on them. Noticing them would draw their attention, and you could never tell what spirits were benevolent or… well, malevolent. You could never trust the things that lurked in the Spirit Realm.
But it had its advantages. The Spirit Realm was like a blanket reality that covered the normal world, and Harry had discovered that the Resurrection Stone did more than just call a spirit back from the dead. It allowed him to walk between realities, and it was great for espionage. Harry's physical body now did not exist in normal reality, and therefore any of the magic at work in that reality had no effect on him. It was a physical thing, so it did nothing to the bond – but he wasn't positive that Ace and Luffy felt it at work.
But he had to be careful. If he spent too long in there, he'd grow tired, and draw the risk of attracting a dangerous spirit. It sucked on his physical energy and magic. He had no idea whether he could die or not, because of his current… condition, but he'd rather not test it out.
With a determined grin on his face, Harry moved forwards. He would feel himself pass through the wards, almost like phasing through a wall.
Let's get this shit done.
AN: Whelp, I have big plans for the next chapter. Let's hope I get it out quicker than I got this one out xD And this is literal shit, bit I'm posting this now and I'll go through and edit in the morning. Just… tell me if there are any obvious mistakes, yeah?
Also, about my coming stories, I'm actually gonna work on them both because they're just too interesting:
Deconstruct: Ace/Luffy. Dragon!Ace, major fantasy AU. The threat of war looms on the horizon and every kingdom is ready to take action. Ace, one of the last of his species, is prepared to defend his friends and family until his very last breath. When someone from his past – a kid who had taken him in when he was on the verge of death – appears and asks for help, Ace realises that there are things that are a lot more important than war and revenge, and sometimes even monsters deserve to be loved.
The Human Stain: Crocodile/Luffy/Doflamingo. Supernatural/modern AU. On the way to an important business meeting, wealthy crime lord Crocodile encounters a scruffy schoolboy on the run from some thugs. While the kid was badly beaten, he managed to dispose of all of his attackers, and intrigued, Crocodile decides to forgo the meeting and help the kid out. A one-time meeting turned into dozens of others and the crime lord found himself ensnared in the trap that is Monkey D. Luffy. Things become even more confusing when Doflamingo gets dragged into the mix. Now with a serial killer stealing other people's powers, Luffy's friends are targeted and the already precarious balance of power in the world is shifting.
I'm gonna close the poll on a bit, but I'd like to see what you guys want me to focus on more.
Hope you guys enjoyed this shitty chapter~