Author name: Ruskbyte
Summary: Harry has been captured by Voldemort for a month during his fifth year. But now he's back and everyone is worried, because whatever it is that came back - it's not Harry.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Just over a two month absence. Sorry, 'bout that. I've decided, after having put this story off for so long, to extend it a bit more than I originally planned, rather than simply wrap things up. So, in traditional fashion, I've thrown in something of a twist - just to keep you on your toes.
Harry was clearly not in a good mood. All things considered this was probably understandable, but at the same time the idea of Harry getting upset was a disturbing one. After all, this was the boy who had pretty much single-handedly stopped Lord Voldemort and all of his Death Eaters in one fell swoop. Suffice to say everyone who had seen him in action were trying their best not to be intrusive.
Unfortunately the officials sent by the Ministry of Magic were not being quite as cautious in their dealings with him.
It was now the Sunday morning following Voldemort's attack and Harry's subsequent reappearance and utter decimation of the Dark Lord's forces. After having spent nearly an hour in Dumbledore's office the previous day Harry had finally been able to seek out the bed he had so been looking forward too. Not surprisingly he had slept straight through the rest of the day and that night, nearly twenty hours in total.
That morning, however, when he and Ron descended to the common room to meet Hermione for breakfast, Harry was not as pleased as she had expected. He explained, as they left Gryffindor Tower and made their way to the Great Hall, that the Ministry had arrived and would doubtless be bombarding him with awkward questions.
Hermione had been slightly distressed to learn that he was right and had spent most of breakfast sitting and watching Harry undergo interrogation. First he had staunchly denied the Ministry's request to conduct their 'interview' in private, steadfastly declaring that he had been waiting a month for a descent breakfast and nothing was going to stop him from having one.
The investigators had received this declaration with much the same condescending acquiescence that Hermione had come to expect from Minister Fudge, and to a lesser degree Percy. It was actually embarrassing to watch how they treated Harry, and by association the rest of the students, as if he were blissfully ignorant five-year old.
The strain this was causing on Harry was starting to become obvious.
The investigators, however, did not seem to notice the low growl.
The leader of the quartet that were speaking with Harry, a grey haired man that was built along the lines of a hulking oak tree, was particularly annoying. He had, in a bout of condescending amiability intended to put Harry at ease, introduced himself as Danny. Unfortunately the rest of his conversation was brusque and uncharitable, made worse by a horribly thick accent that Hermione could not identify and only barely understand.
That, and the fact he was obviously an idiot, was placing a definite strain on Harry's patience, which widely acknowledged as being almost limitless.
"Mr Potter," harrumphed Danny, scowling like a temperamental gargoyle with a head cold, "you still haven't properly explained to us--"
"Enough!" Harry snapped, cutting the bureaucrat's inquiry off with a sharp motion of his wand hand. Once he was sure he had everyone's attention, Harry lifted up his hand, wand held loosely in its grip. With slow and deliberate movements he placed his wand on the table before him, right next to his third slice of toast with marmalade.
Harry held his hand up in a fist and extended only his little finger, pointing it up towards the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. There was a loud crackle and buzz causing everyone to look up and watch in amazement as the sky above them changed from crisp blue with fluffy white clouds, to a vibrant orange with purple polka dots.
Hermione blinked in surprise and suddenly found herself trying to stifle a giggle. Not so much from what Harry was doing to the ceiling, but rather the dumbstruck expressions Danny and his fellow investigators were wearing. It was highly amusing, especially after the four of them had been badgering Harry with idiotic questions for the past hour.
Apparently Hermione was not the only one amused by Harry's little demonstration. Sitting a few seats down, she could hear Fred and George jokingly assessing and commentating on the reactions of those present. Across from the twins she saw Lee Jordan and Angelina Johnson whispering in each other's ears, both of them grinning broadly as they shot sly looks at the four Ministry investigators.
After letting everyone gawk for several moments Harry jiggled his hand about and the ceiling returned to its original state. Clearing his throat Harry drew the Ministry people's attention back to himself.
"Now here's the kicker," he explained calmly, "I did that, literally, by waving my little finger about. SO KINDLY STOP BOTHERING ME WITH SODDING TRIVIALITIES!!"
After the roar of frustration, which came close to blowing the four adults off their feet, died down, Harry turned calmly back to his breakfast. Ignoring the heaped plate of egg, bacon, sausage and what not, Harry reached for a fruit bowl and plucked up a large red apple. Twirling the apple in his hand he bit down with a vicious, but satisfied sounding crunch.
Ron, who was sitting next to Hermione and thus opposite Harry, leaned close to her and whispered, "I think Harry's starting to get annoyed with these idiots."
"Who wouldn't?" she replied, watching as Harry turned a baleful eye back towards the stunned looking investigators.
"This is why Voldemort was always able to wreak so much havoc," observed Harry in a snide tone, "Instead of trying to stop him from taking over the world, which is what you're paid for, you go round pestering the only people with enough of a spine to stand up to him!"
Danny, and his comrades, tried to protest but only managed incoherent sputterings before Harry cut them off once again, now rising to his feet in order to berate them, "Since we've confirmed that you lot are completely wasting your time, my time and everybody else's time, why don't you do something constructive and go waste that dickless idiot Malfoy's time?"
A light-hearted round of applause from the listening students greeted Harry's words, as well as several bouts of laughter. The twins in particular seemed delighted by Harry's mention of the fate that had befallen Lucius Malfoy the previous morning. Surprisingly the Slytherin's seemed to cast some approval behind Harry as well, although more because of his scathing tone than anything else.
Even the few teachers eating at the repaired staff table seemed pleased.
To say that Danny and his companions were embarrassed would have been stating the obvious. All four of the Ministry officials were flushed shades ranging from a delicate pink on the cheeks of the one woman to the beet red that darkened Danny's scowl.
Hermione opinion of these investigators was not particular charitable. Her impression of Danny, whose last name he had neglected to tell them, was even less so. From what she had seen over the past hour, Danny was the epitome of a Ministry bureaucrat.
He had absolutely no sense of humour other than his own, which direly needed to be worked on. He probably read nothing and knew nothing, other than what he learned from The Daily Prophet. And yet he seemed to have strong, almost blindingly so, opinions on just about every current social and political issue, despite the fact that he was almost painfully uninformed on any of them.
Plus he was practically a walking mountain.
All-in-all, Hermione thought it was hilarious the way a boy such as Harry, a good foot shorter than Danny, could face down and so easily tell off the hulking man. In a disturbing way it reminded her somewhat of how Professor Snape would descend upon Neville, only without any malicious intent on Harry's part of the exchange.
He was simply frustrated by having to deal with a bunch of close-minded bureaucrats during his breakfast.
"Well," Harry suddenly announced, looking around the hall with a forced smile, "I seem to have lost my appetite from all this pointless discussion. If nobody has any objections," he glared at Danny from the corner of his eye, "I'm going to see Professor Dumbledore. In his office I am at least guaranteed intelligent conversation in polite company."
With his intentions clearly stated Harry bit into his apple a second time and left the table. As he passed next to Danny he lightly tossed the half-eaten fruit to the man, not even bothering to look at him as he strode off.
His interview with the special investigative team was clearly over.
As Harry strode, almost stalked really, from the Great Hall, Hermione exchanged a look with Ron. Communicating silently, in that way that only the closest of friends could, they set their own breakfasts aside and hurried to follow him.
"Harry! Wait for us!" called Ron as they ran.
Harry, almost at the end of the corridor, paused and waited for his two friends to catch up. Once the trio were assembled he began to lead the way to Dumbledore's office. Ron spent most of their journey commenting on Harry's interaction with Danny. His enthusiasm, which had returned full force with Harry's return, was almost bubbling over.
Hermione, however, noticed that Harry seemed somewhat preoccupied with his own thoughts and was hardly responding to Ron's babble.
"What do you need to talk to Dumbledore about, Harry?" she asked, seizing a chance while Ron was sucking in a breath.
"A rather delicate situation," Harry told them. He frowned thoughtfully, "I didn't mention it yesterday because I wanted to assess the consequences first..."
Ron was suddenly looking worried, "Is it bad? You-Kno- V-Vo-Volde... Voldemort isn't coming back, is he?"
Harry shook his head, "No. He's gone for good this time. This problem is different. You'll understand when I explain to Dumbledore. We're nearly there."
Hermione looked around and realized that Harry was correct. She had not been paying proper attention to their surroundings as they walked, but she recognised the corridor they were walking in. No much further down she could see the gargoyle that hid the entrance to the headmaster's office.
"Humbug," Harry told the stone guardian.
The gargoyle nodded in acceptance of the password and hopped to one side. The three teens stepped through the doorway and onto the spiral staircase leading up to Dumbledore's office. Finally the stairs, which moved them smoothly upwards, came to an end at the foot of the polished oak door.
Harry reached for the gleaming brass knocker and rapped it twice against the door. A few moments passed and then they heard the headmaster's voice granting them permission to enter. The door silently swung open and they quickly stepped inside, Harry first followed by Ron and then Hermione.
"Ah, Harry, Mr Weasley, Ms Granger," greeted Dumbledore as they entered into his office, "What may I do for you this fine morning?"
"There are some minor details about yesterday's events that I would like to discuss with you, sir," admitted Harry.
Dumbledore nodded amiably and motioned at the chairs arrayed before his desk, "Please, sit down and feel free."
Harry, instead of taking the proffered seat, glanced at the other occupant of the office. Standing by the fireplace, green bowler hat in his hands, was the Minister of Magic; Cornelius Fudge. Hermione watched with satisfaction as Harry's burning gaze raked up and down the Minister, clearly making the rotund man feel uncomfortable.
"I'd prefer that Minister Fudge not be present," Harry said in a level voice, his eyes turning from the Minister to Dumbledore.
"Why ever not?"
Harry's answer was a candid one, "He's an idiot."
Dumbledore frowned in slight disapproval at Harry's words, but could not fully repress an amused twitch of his moustache, "Harry..."
"Oh, very well. He's not an idiot," Harry acquiesced to Dumbledore's wishes, but returned his eyes to Fudge, pinning the man beneath his gaze. "He's a politician."
"Some might say it's the same thing," observed Hermione, fighting a smile.
Harry glanced at her and shrugged, "You said that, not me."
Fudge, quite naturally, was obviously incensed at being spoken about in such a manner. Hermione watched him carefully as he huffed, puffing his chest out in a pompous attempt to establish his importance. From where she was standing, on the opposite side of the circular room, she could just make out the faint sound of Fudge grinding his teeth together.
"If this is about Black and Pettigrew," declared the Minister, stepping away from the fireplace and glaring at Harry, "The headmaster and I have been discussing--"
"This has nothing to do with that," interrupted Harry sharply, not even bothering to return Fudge's glare. He turned his attention to Dumbledore instead and spoke, "This is a personal matter and has no relevance to Ministry affairs."
Dumbledore clapped his hands together and strode out from behind his desk, placing a calming hand on Fudge's shoulder. "If you would not mind, Cornelius. Harry is one of my students, after all. We can continue this discussion later, perhaps over dinner if you would care to stay a while..."
"Yes, yes, that would be fine, Dumbledore," agreed Fudge, although clearly somewhat reluctant to be set aside by the headmaster in favour of, what he considered, a mere boy. "I will be around if you need me, checking up on the reports and statements my people have been gathering."
With a tip of his head to the venerable wizard, and a thinly veiled glare towards Harry, Fudge donned his bowler hat and stomped out of the office. Dumbledore watched with both amusement and resignation in his expression, waiting until the thick oak door swung shut before turning to the waiting children.
"Very well, Harry," he said, motioning at the plush chair, "What is it you wish to discuss?"
Harry gestured for Hermione and Ron to seat themselves while he remained standing. After they had made themselves comfortable and Dumbledore had returned to his own seat behind his desk, Harry began pacing restlessly round the office. He paused by the bird stand that was usually occupied by Fawkes, the phoenix.
Fawkes, however, was nowhere to be seen. This was a pity really, since Hermione had never actually seen the magnificent bird. During the escapades surrounding the Chamber of Secrets in their second-year, Hermione had been petrified during the time Harry and Ron had ventured beneath the school.
Finally he spoke, "Contrary to what I might have said, yesterday, when I was challenging Tom, I cannot destroy magic. Nobody can."
Harry resumed his pacing, the eyes of everyone in the office watching him, even the portraits of the previous headmasters. He was clearly agitated by something and trying to work out how to express what was bothering him.
"Nothing can be truly, completely and utterly destroyed. It's impossible," he continued, making short, choppy movements with his hands to emphasise his words. "Magic, regardless of how it may seem, is not about destruction or creation. It's about change."
Hermione glanced across at Ron, checking to see if he understood where Harry was going with this. She knew, as a matter of experience, that the redhead was doubtless even more confused than she was, but checked just in case. One look at the perplexed expression on his face confirmed that he was just as in the dark.
"Magic is change," Harry declared, coming around the room to stand by the fireplace. With the toe of his shoe he thoughtfully poked and prodded at the grille, ignoring the fire crackling only inches away from his foot. Frowning Harry turned away from the fire to face them, leaning back against the stone fixture, "Because of that; magic cannot be destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another."
"But... you turned V-Vo-Voldemort into a Muggle!" protested Ron, only stumbling slightly over the name. He seemed very nervous about the idea that Tom Riddle was not completely dead and buried. "We saw you do it! You destroyed his magic!"
Harry looked over his shoulder at Ron with eyes hooden in shadow, "I don't want to sound condescending, Ron, but you saw nothing."
Hermione was alarmed at how sombre Harry suddenly appeared. She could only wonder what could be so dreadful about this situation that would make him act so seriously about it. Harry was by no means a pessimist, but she had seldon seen him in this manner.
It was... unnerving.
Visibly struggling to reassert control over his emotions, Harry pushed off from the fireplace and began pacing again. His hands were clasped tightly together and resting in the small of his back as he strode back and forth, head bowed in concentration. Without looking up he said, "What you saw was simply a visible manifestation of what I did to Voldemort's magic."
"I don't understand," admitted Hermione, trying hard to puzzle out what Harry was trying to tell them in such a roundabout fashion. "You turned Voldemort into a Muggle! You had to have destroyed his magic."
"I didn't. I couldn't."
"So, if you didn't destroy Voldemort's magic, what did you do with it?"
"I... tore... it out of him," replied Harry slowly, hesitantly. He licked his lips and looked across at Hermione with what she could only describe as a torn expression, "I put it somewhere... somewhere safe. A place only I can gain access to."
Margot - Aside from 'Ave Caesar' and the occassional 'Quid quo pro' not really I'm afraid.
Eleana23 - I didn't originally intend for the H/Hr element to come across as much as it did, but somehow it worked its way in there.
Lisa - At least we know that Harry has his priorities straight.
ffnet-joel - There should be a couple more parts if all goes well.
web weaver - I wanted to do something original with Harry rather than making him Gryffindor's heir or a mage or the like.
aniwda - ;)
Rogue1615 - I might explore the workings of magic in more detail in the next part.
P-chan - I imagine his Death Eaters were equally horrified by it.
Meli S - I've never read the Wheel of Time series, although I have heard some people mention it. Sounds interesting, I'll keep an eye out for them.
Annie - I didn't forget this fic. Unfortunately it got set to the side because of The Order of the Phoenix. I don't think I'll try working two stories simultaneously again.
Maxennce - Thanks.
depth - Sorry if the update took a while.
Tanya - Well, the Order is finished now, but the sequel should be up in a week or two.
Sinne - There will be more, but not too much.
Shadow Wasserson - I'll think about posting the first draft up at the end of it all.
CapricornZ89 - It was fun, wasn't it?
Kyra Andros - I hope you didn't get into trouble for being late.
ebelsj - I decided to make Harry and Draco best enemies for this fic, although in Well of Shadows our favourite ferret will be taking a very dark turn.
hamsterdancer - Lewis Carroll is one of my favourite authors, along with Dean Koontz and A.C. Doyle.
moonstarlet - I love writing fight scenes, especially dramatic ones.
master-of-magic - Sorry for the delay.
Jarvey - Cool.
Moridin Shadar - I'll bet this cliffie is especially bad, ne? Particularly after such a long wait between parts.
Leeann - Just a couple more I think.
Serenity - That's another reason why I shelved the story for so long... I couldn't decide where to take it after knocking off Voldemort.
Liquid Ice - I never could resist a touch of the dramatic.
teazer - The Matrix never sprang to mind while I was writing.
Korinna Myorin - I shall endeavour to try.
Centra-gal86 - You know Harry - hates making a fuss over things.
Lone Wolf - The kitchen sink, eh? I'll consider it.
Leeann - I'll be going on until I can wrap things up to my satisfaction.
Deity of the Heart, and Soul - If you have to fight a bad guy, might as well do it in decent threads.
dog-boy - I'm guessing you loved it, right? Good to hear it.
Puddles - And with the great ending of this chapter, you have to wait for more! I'm evil! ;)
Tiger Lily - Wood's obviously rubbed off on him.
katie janeway - I tried to make it a fitting death for the man. No exactly easy, but I think it came across well enough.
The Millennium One - Not much action from here on - since all the bad guys are dead or captured. Still, I'm going to try keep things interesting...
LuxDragon - The next chapter should prove entertaining I hope.
Ariel - I'm not entirely sure myself.
sk8reagle - Glad you liked it.
Kenaz Astaroth - I'm afraid my natural good humour overwhelmed the darkness I originally had planned.
Vlana - That's Harry for you, impressive even when he isn't trying.
Otaku freak - Ah, well. I hope you can forgive me for the delay, but I decided to give Order of the Phoenix priority.
SweetDreamz2414 - With luck this wait was also worth it.
Akiko SkywalkerGreenleafPotter - It seemed appropriate somehow.
Promy - Sorry, but I always get ideas. Cliffies are my favourite playthings after all, you can never have too many of them.
katrina - It seemed easier than explain where he had been hiding for a month.
Heeroluva - That's Harry for you.
Leeann - Just a couple more I'm afraid, then I'll be done.
FawkesnFlame - Thank you.
Lu - Hopefully this and what comes next will remedy that.
Dark Dalamar - I really don't know.
Nexus - Thanks.
deadredsocks - Harry seems to attract these sort of occurances.
Phoenix - Took me a while, but I'm continuing.
Usako3000 - I've always pictured Harry as wanting nothing more than a simple, ordinary, normal life. I try to bring that across when I write his character.
AcGirl - Quidditch is important, although I doubt Hermione would agree.
Confuzzler - Good to know.
Aimee - I trust you found it without to much trouble.
M. Black - Ah, the Big Bad Wolf and Muse. Been a long tie since I've heard from these two. Granted the review was two months old, but still...
Sparks - Don't do anything drastic after this latest cliffie.
DaBear - Of course he's worried about Quidditch!