Of Hel and Earth
Chapter 1: Of Choices
The aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts was not easy nor simple. There were parties, once everyone had slept a few days, but there were also many funerals. Then the trials began and Harry found himself jumping between helping rebuild Hogwarts and spending hours at the Ministry. Trying to give evidence on the many Death Eaters without implying he had only seen them in his dreams was difficult but he managed with Hermione's help.
There was a memorial for Dumbledore, one year after his death, and a sparsely attended funeral for Severus Snape, his Order of Merlin First Class mounted onto his gravestone. There was the funeral for Remus and Tonks and arranging custody for Teddy; Andromeda was quick to adopt him, thankfully, as Harry was in no position to be looking after a kid. Harry was almost numb by the time Fred's funeral came around and he didn't remember much for a couple of months after that.
In late July, two months after Voldemort's defeat, a band of rogue Death Eaters managed to track him down at the small cottage he was renting on the outskirts of Hogsmeade. Two fell to the house's wards but the other five made it through. Fortunately, Neville was visiting at the time and between them, they took down the attacking wizards with only a few minor injuries.
Turning the captured Death Eaters over to the Ministry was tense - the Aurors had arrived just as they were wrapping up, as usual - but Harry found himself smiling through the whole ordeal. For the first time in two months Harry felt alive. For once his mind was not swamped by the grief, anger and loss of direction that had been clouding it for so long.
Hermione managed to convince Harry to move into a guest room at Hogwarts after that, despite his protests that he could look after himself. Unfortunately, without being able to offer any convincing evidence Hermione didn't believe him. And considering how viciously the Ministry was hunting down even potentially Dark artefacts, Harry didn't want to tell anyone about the Hallows.
It had happened in the middle of the Death Eaters' attack.
Neville had been duelling in the backyard while Harry was fending off two in the living room, slowly but surely winning. With those odds the fight should have been annoying but winnable - until one of them had crept around behind him and thrown an overpowered expelliarmus at his unprotected back.
His wand had gone flying and Harry had stumbled from the force of the spell, tripping over the coffee table and landing sprawled on his stomach on the floor. Panic and fear had started to kick in then, knowing that he was an easy target with his ankle twisted around the table leg like that. He had watched in horror as the Death Eaters advanced on him even as he tried to scramble up, deadly curses on their smirking lips.
The men had spoken, light flaring from their wands, and Harry had had a last moment to think of all the ways to die and he had thrown one arm up to cover his eyes and-
And a foreign but calming weight had settled into his hand, a dome of blindingly white light surrounding him protectively.
The shock of it - of having somehow called up his magic with his wand on the other side of the room - took a moment to settle in. But then he had remembered the two splashes of coloured light against the shield and Harry had slowly sat up, his arm dropping, to find his assailants unconscious on the floor. It had looked like they were simply Stunned, but Harry didn't know of any shield that did that. His mind jumped to accidental magic – rare in wizards his age but entirely possible – before another possibility reared its head. A possibility that he hadn't wanted to even consider but unfortunately he was holding the evidence.
That weight in his hand? It was a wand. And not just any wand. Despite having tried to dispose of it, apparently the Elder Wand had managed to find its way back to him. Admittedly it had been at just the right time, but still. He didn't want it.
Then he had moved to stand and had felt a familiar weight in his pocket and almost groaned. With a sense of deja-vu Harry hesitantly slipped a hand into the pocket and pulled out a very familiar stone. Of course, the Cloak was in his other pocket. He had taken to keeping it on him at all times in case he ever needed it to escape from Death Eaters or rabid reporters.
That was when things had taken a turn for the worse, a groan from the other side of the couch alerting him to the awakening Death Eaters. Harry had scrambled up, Elder wand in hand, and when another very battered looking Death Eater had burst through the back door, Neville on his heels, Harry had acted without thinking.
The light of the spell that erupted from the Elder Wand was at least three times brighter Harry had ever seen. A second later it was joined by a bright glow that emanated from the Stone and Cloak, effectively blinding Harry once again.
He hadn't known the significance of it then, but for the first time Harry had used a Hallow while all three were on his person.
By the time the spots in Harry's vision had cleared the Hallows had disappeared, even the Cloak. The unconscious forms of Neville and the three Death Eaters were the only proof anything strange had happened.
It took three days and a visit with Hermione and Ron (both having temporarily moved into Hogwarts) before he discovered where they had gone. He had been caught by surprise when Hermione had demanded to know when – and why - he had gotten a tattoo.
After transfiguring and levitating two mirrors to float around him, Harry had received his first glimpse of the familiar symbol - a circle inside a triangle, both bisected by a vertical line – branded onto the back of his neck. A thrill of something like fear run had through him, his hands shaking as they raised to press against the mark. He had briefly thought he was finally free of the Hallows, though he had mourned the loss of the Cloak, but no. Instead, he was now branded with the very symbol he had come to loathe.
He was just glad the mark wasn't somewhere more visible.
It had taken a few weeks and a couple more run-ins with renegade Death Eaters for him to master the Hallows, but soon enough he could call them into existence whenever he wanted. It was still a novelty, watching his opponents' faces when he pulled a wand from thin air, but that was one of the few amusing things he could find in the situation.
Eventually Harry had moved on from the rebuilding to enter the Auror Academy with Ron. Tensions ran high midway through when Harry broke up with Ginny (it was a mutual decision but Ron was still very much her big brother) but after three years they finally graduated.
It was a good life, as far as Harry was concerned. There were even a few times when he got to travel abroad. But right from the start of his career Harry knew there was something wrong, something missing, and two years later it was definite.
He wasn't aging.
It hadn't been quite so obvious at first - wizards aged slower than muggles anyway and that usually kicked in around the early twenties - but by the time he was twenty-three he could no longer deny it. He still looked eighteen.
Hermione had noticed it long before, of course, but had originally chalked it up to childhood malnutrition or a side-effect of the phoenix tears from all those years ago. But after five years of no change even Hermione could not think of another explanation. Even his hair and nails were growing at a quarter of the speed they should have.
So as far as they could tell, Harry was potentially now immortal. Joy.
He managed three more years as an Auror before the job started getting to him. He felt like he had spent his whole life doing the same thing - chasing people and constantly almost getting killed - and wanted a change. The curious looks he started getting from his colleagues as he remained eternally eighteen didn't help either.
That was when Luna appeared.
He hadn't seen her in years. She had spent a couple of years after Hogwarts traveling the world, looking for all manner of strange creatures, then Harry had become a bit of a recluse and she had disappeared. The only contact anyone had with Luna these days were the long, rambling letters she occasionally sent out, each with a different owl. They inevitably ended in a question related to whichever obscure spell or plant or creature or artefact that she was working on at the time.
So when Luna turned up on his doorstep one evening, as enchantingly loony as ever, he was rather surprised. He wasn't surprised when she said she'd become as Unspeakable.
What followed was a highly convoluted and confusing conversation that basically came down to, 'Do you want a new job?" Harry had stared at her, slightly incredulous. He had cast finite just in case this was actually some joke of George's then slumped back in his chair and asked why on earth the Unspeakables wanted him.
Apparently his unchanging appearance was not as secret as he had hoped and rumours of it had managed to trickle down to even the lowest levels of the Ministry. The only known reason for someone to age so ridiculously slow was if their magical core was immense, Luna explained, and anyone with that much power was always approached with a job offer. Add to that his status as the Boy-Who-Lived and the many Dark objects they had taken after the war, some even from Voldemort's personal stashes, and he was the perfect candidate.
Harry, still suspicious, had narrowed his eyes and asked plainly if accepting would result in being put under a microscope himself. Luna had just turned to stare out the window and blithely replied that a full medical was conducted annually on every Unspeakable but that, no, he wouldn't be subjected to any extra tests unless he agreed to them.
There were several pros and cons to either path but in the end Harry decided that having a genuine reason to hide away from the public, getting to poke at strange and mysterious objects and possibly finding out more about the Hallows and his apparent immortality sounded more interesting. Luna had also explained that there was more than one type of Unspeakable, which had helped. Harry was very sure he wouldn't suit a life of pure research.
Theorists were apparently the backbone of the Department of Ministries and spent their time in the bowels of the Ministry discovering, calculating and testing magical theories. Finders devoted themselves to finding and bringing back interesting objects for others to study. Luna was a Researcher, so she got to do a bit of both. Watchers guarded the other Unspeakables, the Department itself and everything within and, finally, Testers were the idiots brave enough to actually play with all the strange things the others found, discovered or theorised. There were some, of course, that fit more than one category, but that was how the Unspeakables were generally divided.
Luna had dobbed Harry in as a potential Finder, Watcher and/or Tester, which was… flattering. Maybe?
It was being paid to travel the world that sold Harry on the idea of becoming an Unspeakable.
It took three weeks to decide and another two to finalise the paperwork for his transfer. Ron was furious that Harry was ditching him (though it was at least partly fear of losing his best friend), but he was quickly beaten down by Hermione. After tricking his new job out of him she was both completely jealous and very happy for him. Glad his friends were behind him, despite the way they had been slowly drifting apart over the last couple of years, Harry had started his new job with an enthusiasm he hadn't felt in years.
Eight years later and that enthusiasm was still going strong. He'd had a crash course in arithmancy and runes the first year while working on an ancient tome that drove the reader insane, despite no one being able to understand a word in it. Learning occlumency had come next, Luna a much better teacher than Snape, eventually followed by legilimency. The latter he wasn't so keen on but Luna and his senior Unspeakables had insisted that it was a good skill to have in their line of work so he had persevered. He wasn't particularly skilled at it, certainly nowhere near a Master's level, but he was good enough for his purposes.
The only time in his career as an Unspeakable that he had questioned his sanity in accepting the job was the four months he worked on the Veil. It was one of the few artefacts that had a constantly rotating research staff due to the prolonged effects of working near it - slower and more insidious than a Dementor but with much the same eventual affect - but Harry didn't even last the usual six months before he was taken off the project. Flashbacks and panic attacks in the middle of running tests on a highly dangerous magical object were never a good mix. It was possibly also because the researchers had gotten sick of the enthusiastic way the Veil reacted to Harry. The way it would flutter wildly in its frame, the calls from within much louder than usual, was rather disconcerting. Needless to say he never worked on that project again.
Eight years, and he thought he had seen it all: household items cursed six ways to Sunday; ancient jewellery that turned the wearer to dust; books that devoured the reader instead of the other way around; disembodied parts of every creature on Earth, including humans, that continued to work despite being locked away in a jar of preservative potion; and many more mysterious objects that they had no clue about.
He was wrong, of course.
Aurors had been called, apparently by the muggle Prime Minister, after a large chunk of rock had fallen out of the sky and into a muggle couple's backyard one day. It was unlike anything ever seen on Earth, though it could almost pass as pure quartz. There were four problems with it though: it had fallen from the sky, it was the wrong size and shape for a natural stone, it was polished completely flat and smooth on one side and it was lit from within by a flickering spectrum of lights.
The stone had also caused several detectors in the Unspeakables' offices (despite not being completely sure what some of them actually detected) to go haywire. Harry knew that the very quick hand over of the mystery object by the muggle researchers to the Unspeakables was not entirely normal.
Initially Harry wasn't allowed anywhere near the thing, as per usual for any kind of new object since the Unspeakables still weren't sure about Harry's magic. The fact that he still hadn't visibly aged suggested a greater magical core than any of them had ever planned for, and they were wary about having that kind of power around unknown objects. However two weeks later Harry was again approached by Luna, the current leader of the task force working with the 'Rainbow Stone' (technically it was object USO63794 but that was only used in the reports), who asked for his help. So he left his current project in the brain room and excitedly began reviewing her team's findings so far.
The data, once he got his head around it, was quite surprising. Initial tests had revealed a residue on the object that was reminiscent of a permanent portkey, but strange enough that they couldn't really classify it as magical. The energy felt old, ancient really, and the closest explanation anyone was able to come up with was a thousand-year old portkey which had overshot its course and ended up in the wrong place sans passengers. Which really wasn't a nice thought but that wasn't their job.
Working on that theory, the Unspeakables started running more practical tests. Someone was sent off to study the magical activation of a portkey and came back with a theory on how to use the Stone as a transportation device. The first to try it was an old man, even by wizarding standards, who had been an Unspeakable for longer than anyone could remember. Sadly he had no friends or family left and that was exactly why he often got to test things first. The Unspeakables covered him in tracking spells and devices and sent him off in the hope he'd turn up somewhere soon in good condition.
Astonishingly, he did. He had apparently been thinking of his house at the time of his departure and had landed only about twenty kilometres north of it slightly winded but no worse for the experience. His noted that it had been less like a hook behind the navel and being squeezed through a tube and more like flying through a vortex of violent, raging wind.
The next test had involved a young witch just out of training who had purposefully thought of a forest almost twice as far away. She had been discovered almost fifty kilometres north of the forest she had been meaning to land in, thirty metres from a cliff.
More tests had been run, the results indicating that the only physical problem caused by using the Stone was fatigue relative to the distance travelled - the man who had tried to portkey to Alaska had landed in the North Atlantic Ocean and been unconsciousness for two days. There was also the problem that nobody ever managed to end up quite where they wanted to go. Most appeared north of their goal, though the one Unspeakable who had tried for the North Pole had found himself south of his target in the Norwegian Sea. The most curious thing though was that the Stone never went with the person it transported.
There was light, just like a spell, and unexpected bad weather frequently appeared above the Ministry and the landing sites, but the Stone never moved from its pedestal. It made experimenting easier, not having to wait for the latest test subject to bring the Stone back, but it drove the Unspeakables mad trying to work it out.
A new theory was bounced around: the Stone, with its constant misses, was set to go to one particular location. New tests were run, with people using the Stone without a specific destination in mind, and it was quickly discovered that all the new landing sites traced a clear line north-west across England, Ireland and past the southern tip of Greenland.
Even more tests, this time of the people involved, showed that the size of one's magical core determined the distance one would be transported. Soon theories were being thrown around, several Unspeakables claiming that someone with a large enough core may even be able to reach Canada.
The excitement this brought about was almost ridiculous. Were the Americans messing around with a new type of magic, or had they unearthed an ancient form of transportation? Had they been dabbling in something that shouldn't have? If they had sent it over to Britain was it some kind of weapon or spying device? Luna took it all in stride, her own theories only slightly less conspiracy theorist and certainly no less insane. Harry, in comparison, spent the next few days alternating between mad laughter and exhausted exasperation.
Then, of course, Luna had an idea.
By this time Harry had learnt to be very cautious of any plans that came from Luna's head. Inspired, certainly, and quite often brilliant, the Ravenclaw's mind worked in strange and potentially dangerous ways. This time was no better.
"You want me to what?"
Luna had smiled, her wand still swishing through the air above the Stone as she cast spell after spell on it. "Are the nargles affecting your hearing, Harry?"
"No, it's not- I don't-" Harry had spluttered, forcing himself to a stop for a moment to collect his thoughts. "You're serious about this?"
"Of course." Luna had replied, spells suddenly finished and wand already back in its customary place behind her ear. "You're the best person for the job, after all."
Harry had backed up, giving Luna room to walk over to a nearby desk so she could scribble down her observations, before following. "You want me to try the blind-target portkey spell with the Stone?"
"Because I supposedly have this insanely large magical core which, might I add, we have yet to find proof of?"
"Oh, Harry," Luna had murmured, turning back to face him, hip braced against the desk. "Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist."
Harry had simply sighed, well aware he wouldn't win that argument, and ran a hand through his hair. "Fine. You want a powerful spell, I'll give it all I've got. But I'm warning you; nothing's going to come of it. I've been through all the tests and my core is above average, yes, but I'm nowhere near the range you want. I'm not going to give you the result you're hoping for."
Luna had just smiled and turned back to her work, a soft, "We'll see," drifting through the doorway as Harry left.
That was how he had ended up where he was now, standing a foot from the Rainbow Stone with two dozen trackers of various types attached to him and his holly wand loose in his hand. The other researchers, both those on the team and a few others who had dropped by purely for curiosity's sake, had crowded around the outer edges of the room. A few closer in were running last minute tests with various spells and devices, one even double checking her calculations and wasn't that reassuring.
"Right," the witch in charge had said, finally looking up from her papers, ink smudged across her fingers and cheeks. "You remember everything we discussed?"
"Yes," Harry had answered, anxious now and just wanting to get it all over and done with.
"You have the muggle trackers on your belt, and the spells are attached to you, your shirt, shoes and cloak," the woman had continued, ignoring Harry's reply. "We've tried to estimate your place of arrival according to the previous patterns and your core size and you should end up somewhere on the western coast of Ireland so all you need to do is find the nearest wizarding settlement and floo back to the Ministry. If we've misjudged and you land in water don't forget a bubble-head charm - there's gillyweed in the pouch on your belt if you need to do an extended swim and-"
"That's enough." Luna's soft voice had cut in, her steps quiet as she glided to a stop next to Harry. "You'll just make him nervous if you keep rambling on like that."
Harry had given her a wry smile. "Thanks Luna."
"No problem Harry." The girl – woman, really - had smiled back, then moved to stand in her customary spot across the Stone from him. "You ready?"
Nodding, Harry had raised his wand, shoulders shifting as he took a deep breath.
"Remember, Harry," Luna had added, her unusually serious voice drawing his eyes up to meet hers, "you have to make this as powerful as possible. That's the whole point of it after all."
And suddenly Harry realised she knew - had probably seen the tattoo on the back of his neck and known exactly what it meant - and that this test wasn't about his core size. It wasn't even truly about his magic. It was about the Hallows and seeing how one powerful, ancient magical artefact would react to another powerful, ancient magical artefact. And Harry had paused, drawing odd looks from the various researchers around the room, then slowly slid his holly wand into the sheath on his wrist and, with a flick of his hand and mind, drawn the Elder Wand from thin air.
Cries broke out from around the room and several of the Unspeakables darted forward to stop him but Harry had always had a problem with impulse control. With a quirk of his lips and a sardonic salute to Luna he cast the spell, brilliant, multi-coloured light flaring around him on all sides.
The last thing he saw was Luna's smile, her hand raised in a jaunty little wave and her eyes echoing an almost reluctant sadness.
Across the universe a gold-clad, dark skinned sentinel jolted as a flash of unknown power sped past the edge of his sight, aimed right at a very familiar planet.
A minute later, in a bustling city that was just settling down for the night, a body and dozens of quartz-like shards popped into existence. The halo of light surrounding the figure pulsed, getting brighter and brighter, faster and faster, then suddenly shrunk, compressed, condensed…
Then exploded in a shockwave tore through the city like a tsunami, darkness falling in its wake.
Hi all! Thanks for giving OHAE a chance. Please review whether you like it or not - concrit is greatly appreciated and I enjoy bantering and explaining things. :)
Please note that this is not slash or romance, as in I have no plans to write any couple that isn't already Marvel canon such as Tony/Pepper and Thor/Jane. I'm just terrible at writing romance in general, so that's off the board. Adventure, drama and multidimensional drama? All fair game.
Please also note that I update very slowly. Basically I write when I feel like it and when I have time (which is once in a blue moon), I have several stories I am writing and I didn't have a collection of chapters already done for OHAE before I started posting.
Chapter 1 was edited 11/9/13 and 30/8/14 and as of the latter date I wish to thank the following people for helping out via reviews and PMs:
64 – comment on age differences
Thornado – for pointing out I used 'should of' instead of 'should have' (ACK!)
HellsMaji – for making me question how well I explained the Unspeakables' destination estimate
Azera-v – for reminding me to state that there are no planned pairings.
WolfDarkfur – for reminding me which twin died in the Battle of Hogwarts (...oops?)
TheEdifier – for the amazingly long review, pointing out a couple of future mistakes to avoid and picking up a rather amusing typo
Phantom Feline – for reminding me that Heimdall exists which I just remembered was a thing I meant to write into my outline.
And to ARTs Ninja Pal (aka Ninja) who's excitement at reading the first scene I wrote in this 'verse spurred me to really start writing OHAE
Hope you enjoy OHAE!