April 5th, 1999
Sergeant Hernandez was going over the latest testing reports with Colonel Richards. The despair in the room was evident. The verdict was in. Modern firearms weren't very useful at all against magic. Not against anyone worth shooting anyways. Oh, they could take a team and clear out a bunch of magical civilians. It would be a slaughter. It was the trained magicals who actually took magical combat seriously that were worrisome. Basic, and mind you, these are the cheap basic ward schemes can stop any reasonable bomb, invalidating precision air strikes against high profile targets.
Intelligence agency after intelligence agency have compiled reports on the subject, now that it was blown wide open by the ever escalating violence in Europe. The average magical was little different than the average mundane. Sure, some of them are versed in the arts of violence, but they weren't soldiers. Magicals who kept occupations that revolved around combat however, were fairly numerous. Be it Law Enforcement, Hit Wizard, hired thug, international man of mystery, curse breaker, or numerous other jobs where you're likely to find yourself endangered. And they were dangerous.
Not only were they dangerous, they were nigh invulnerable. And it got worse. The Weasley Wizarding Wheezes managed to enchant (or is it charm?) hats that provide an always active shield. Nearly a quarter of the wizarding world had shops that sold them, and they're spreading to even more countries. There was no stopping the spread. Against magicals, it was better than nothing, if barely. Against mundanes, it took concentrated fire from several rifles, or a .50cal to punch through the shield. And this is a cheap hat being sold. The only reason warfare wasn't completely changed is because the one attempt by a country to outfit soldiers with such objects ended in an ICW raid and enough dead Iranian soldiers to keep them from trying again, and a fate worse than death for the suppliers. Their little international club was garbage at doing anything about this world wide wizarding war free for all, but excelled at preventing any attempts by a military to militarize magic, being the prime principle behind the Statutes of Secrecy. The only reason everyone involved with their unit isn't dead is because the ICW signed off on it, banking on Harry Fucking Potter to save everyone, letting uppity muggles train him because no one would think to look for Harry Fucking Potter in the middle of a muggle military. Faith in NATO and what is now the most powerful military alliance in the world? Zero. Faith in an emotionally stunted and borderline psychotic child? Absolute.
Most thought the magical world hid to protect itself from the increasingly capable muggles. The simple fact was, they were wrong. They were all wrong. Records of witch burnings showed that most real witches burned at the stake did it for fun! The standard shield taught to children the world over could stop Longbows, Crossbows, muskets, and anything else of the time short of a direct cannon shot. Mundanes had numbers. So. Many. Numbers. And that was it. Enough arrows, crossbow bolts, and bullets would bring down a shield. Enough cannons and they could siege someone's home. But they couldn't stop someone from just apparating away! No, they hid so they wouldn't destroy the an increasingly capable mundane world, and so they couldn't turn the mundanes against their enemies.
Reading the latest report, Sergeant Hernandez could feel the frustration coming from the writer. "All methods of calculating shielding capabilities of the standard 'Protego' shield have failed. Both mass and velocity play a factor in draining the power of the shield, but there is no discernible pattern. A weaker shield can be penetrated consistently with .50 caliber rounds fired from both sniper rifles and machine guns. The same shield can take upwards of 200 rounds of 7.62mm from a single weapon, less if more weapons are used. Rate of fire is instrumental to bringing down a shield. No 'adequate' shield has been taken down by hand gun rounds, irregardless of quantity and RoF."
And that passage right there summed it up. Massed fire or stupidly large bullets, or both. What they thought WAS effective (or, if anything, more than necessary) turned out to barely a tithe of what they actually needed to break a shield. Anything else short of a rocket launcher is useless against a prepared wizard. Anything less than a .50 Cal sniper rifle is useless against a wizard wearing a hat. Add in the confirmed toughness of magicals in general, and it was starting to get scary. They hit twenty-five pound cannonballs at each other while flying upwards of a hundred miles an hour, and called it a sport.
"Sir...what the hell are we going to do? I wasn't expecting this." Colonel Richards just shook his head in response.
"Sergeant, nothing's changed. All you can do is support those kids. They can't hold a good shield and attack at the same time, so at worst, you're still providing them with suppressive fire. At best, we can find a way around this shield problem." The wizard durability problem went unsaid. "At least they now have the means to bring anti-transportation wards up, so we can hold them down and use heavier weapons. An Apache's 20mm chain gun will shred anything they've shown us. A precision airstrike might not be effective against basic wards, but they won't hold off an AC-130 for very long. Or we'll have to suck it up and use an entire squadron to hit a target. We've got too many tools, we can get around their protections." Hernandez didn't miss the unvoiced 'I hope'.
They both looked at the last report. The rest of the reports may as well have been good news, and the last one may as well have been titled "Why you should never fuck with wizards". As a joke, one of the more enterprising American wizards transfigured a statue and animated it. Another charm and it started taunting people. As a joke, the soldiers had him walk it out to the range, where it proceeded to insult them while being shot. Over ten thousand rounds were dumped into it before it couldn't walk anymore. A few seconds and a wave of the wand later, and it was working again.
The only GOOD news was, at fifty meters, it took nearly thirty spells for someone to actually hit the statue, when the wizards played target practice with it. One good spell, and chunks of it were spread over nearly forty meters. Okay, so it wasn't very good news. Their shitty accuracy had to count for something though, right?
Looking for any excuse to stop thinking about the implications of what they've been reading, Hernandez tried for a subject change. Something nice and safe. "When are Harry and Luna supposed to be back sir?"
Richards dropped the report he was reading and sighed. "Ask me no questions Sergeant, and I'll tell you no lies."
With a knock on the door, and an excited looking Jenkins stepped in and passed a folder to Richards, who started thumbing through it. "Bad news sir, Belgium got tired of waiting for us and tried their hand at solving their local wizard problem. They didn't tell me how bad it was, but I was told you needed to see this. Also, we're officially in DEFCON 2 and NATO is mobilizing, and we got signed orders from General Clarke that just came in, we're heading to Belgium as soon as Potter and Lovegood get back. In the mean time, you might want to check out CNN."
As Jenkins stepped out, Hernandez shook his head. "If Jenkins' is that excited, I think World War Three just started."
"I think it just did. The Belgian Ministry just fell, and the Belgium's just went to war with their local dark lord and is asking for support. NATO is mobilizing, and the Belgium Army just got clocked. Christ, I think magic is about to be blown wide open after this. They released fucking zombies. They have fucking zombies. What the God damn fuck is wrong with these people? THAT at least didn't make the news. Apparently armored cars beat zombies. Put your big boy pants on Hernandez, we're up. And I quote, 'Military Force is ineffective against magical protections. If magical solutions can't succeed, the use of nuclear weaponry is the only viable option'. They want to nuke their own country. Great. Humanity's only hopes are nuclear weapons or a mentally deranged eighteen year old boy. I hope to hell our team is up to this."
Hernandez snorted and was about to reply when someone knocked on the door. Waiting a moment, Jenkins stuck his head in. "Shit sir, Potter and Loony are back. They're a fucking mess." His head popped back out for moment before he stuck it back in. "Well, they say it isn't their blood, but they're still a fucking mess."
Richards groaned. "What the fuck did I do in my past life to deserve being stuck with a bunch of Very Special Forces? Oh, it's an easy job. It'll be good for your career. You'll be dealing with the best soldiers we have. You'll have command of a multinational force. I swear Jenkins, you rode the Short Bus to basic, didn't you?"
"You wound me sir! I'll have you know I also deploy on my very own modified C-130 short plane too. Painted yellow and everything. At least I'm not as stuffy as those SAS and SBS guys."
"Just send them in Jenkins. Hernandez, might as well stick around for this. I'll let you explain to them why...Oh fuck." Neither Richards nor Hernandez were ready for the mess that was Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood.
"Reporting as requested, Colonel." Harry walked in, with Luna hanging onto his arm like he was the only thing keeping her standing.
"What the hell Potter? You couldn't be assed to take a shower? I did not need to know that! I'm going to have nightmares for fucking weeks!" Luna cringed at the yelling, holding to Harry even tighter. "Look at Lovegood! She's a fucking wreck!"
Before the door closed, Jenkins yelled in. "Told ya they looked like shit!"
"Alright Potter, why the fuck do you look like you just walked off the set of a horror movie?"
Harry shrugged as well as he could with Luna attached to him. "I'm sure you can guess."
Hernandez shook his head. "What the hell was your mission!? You're practically covered head to toe in blood! What the fuck! How god damn many people did you kill? What the hell are you doing going on a mission without your teams anyways? Why the fuck are we all even here if you're going to run off on your own?"
Harry shrugged again. "We didn't take the teams, because it wasn't a mission. It was an execution."
"God damn it Potter! There are laws! You can't just execute these people! We're soldiers, not fucking murderers!"
Harry leaned over the desk. "Remind me why I'm supposed to care? When has the law ever done anything for me? You brought me here to kill wizards for you. You don't get to complain when I kill them, and you damn well don't get to complain when I kill those that murdered my wife. Since I was born, the wizarding world has seen fit to shit on me and kill everything I love, down to my fucking owl. Did you know I used to have a cat? It didn't quite make the monument, but apparently Voldemort killed my fucking cat the first time he tried to murder me. So I'm sending them a fucking message. I'm done. If I have to kill every wizard on the fucking planet to get my point across, and to stop them from murdering my family, so fucking be it. If I have to burn the entire wizarding world to ashes to protect Her..those I have left, so fucking be it."
"Fine. Obviously no one in my chain of command seems to give a shit that you're a mentally unbalanced fuck-job, so why should I? You want to kill wizards? Who the fuck am I to tell you no. Get a shower and some sleep, tomorrow you're both going to Belgium. Go kill us a fuck ton of wizards. I'll sit here and start phoning the god damn president, because we're all going to need fucking pardon's for working with you. But fuck it, right? You want to kill wizards. Whatever, Belgium in full of wizards, and they just bloodied the Belgium military. You're up! Go get em tiger!" Richards wasn't sure how much more of this command he could take before he was just as insane as 'his' wizards were. The fact that Harry, and apparently Luna as well, have certainly crossed the line into ax-murder crazy didn't bode well for the future of humanity.
Harry stroked his hand through Luna's hair as they lay in bed. She'd already cried herself to sleep. It was a scene altogether depressing common. They'd been sharing a bed since they were released from the hospital, even if nothing's happened. In a different world, a happier world, he might have found amusement in the fact that he's shared a bed with a woman (and a beautiful one at that) for so long, without having sex. Instead, it was just another symptom of how much this world hated him.
There seemed to be no end to their nightmares. Harry had far more haunting him than Luna did, but they both suffered the same. Alone, Harry could hardly close his eyes without seeing his life. The sight of Quirrel burning to ash at his mere touch. The Basilisk, even blinded, was almost as nightmarish. He could still smell it's breath. He could still remember the pain. The crushing despair of the dementors. The clarity in which he could remember his family being murdered overshadowed even Quirrel and the basilisk.
The Dragon was his dirty little secret. The crushing fear it inspired hasn't stopped haunting him. It was weeks before he could sleep without a potion, and even then, it was a restless sleep. He was fifteen, and had nightmares competing with each other. Cedric, and the entire ritual to bring back Voldemort was fast approaching a breaking point. Umbridge's blood quill was a mere mockery of pain and suffering compared to all he experienced by then. A small part of Harry also took savage satisfaction that Snape was privy to his nightmares, and it shook him enough that he couldn't bring himself to hold them over Harry the way he did with memories of his childhood.
The Department of Mysteries truly did break him. There were days that summer when he was outright catatonic. The memory was physically painful. Harry didn't admit it to anyone, but he nearly died when Hermione went down. It felt like an eternity, watching her fall. Had she not survived, it was unlikely he would have survived much longer. Sirius going through the veil, yet another source of nightmare fuel. The utter terror at the display of power from Voldemort? Just another straw on the camels back. Swarms of inferi? Death Eaters in Hogwarts? Watching Dumbledore die? It was just too much.
Hermione's screams as Bellatrix tortured her? The Battle of Hogwarts? The final duel with Voldemort? The massacre that was his wedding? The death of his wife, minutes after they married? The death of his godson that he was meant to keep safe? Hermione's screams of pain and terror as she lost her unborn child and nearly her life?
As much as what he and Luna just did should haunt him for the rest of his life, he doubted it could possibly haunt him more than anything else the world has thrown at him. From the way Luna was shaking, he couldn't say the same for her. She hasn't seen the same horrors he had. Very, very few ever could.
For all his nightmares however, three haunted him the most. Hermione in the DoM. Hermione's screams while Bellatrix had her. Finally, Hermione's screams at his wedding. Maybe he shouldn't have said it, but he certainly meant it. If it came down to a question of Hermione or the world, the world would burn. He failed her, time and again. He couldn't ever protect her. He couldn't even protect her from the troll.
At least, as he held Luna to him, the nightmares lessened. This is what his life was reduced to. This was why he agreed to murder wizards for the military. The world tried, and tried, and it finally succeeded. It taught Harry that there are all kinds of ways to die. Some painful, some bittersweet. Yet some can leave you with a beating heart and a warm body. The world of magic taught Harry hate. Now Harry was going to teach the world of magic fear.
Grabbing his wand, Harry felt it touch his magic, and felt his magic touch the wand. Gathering his magic, prepared to cast. Quietly, so as to not wake Luna, he whispered the incantation. "Expecto Patronum."
September 1st 1991
As the girls were chatting away, Harry let himself zone out as the sorting went on. Idly, he fingered his wand, thinking about the spell. It had been decades since he even tried to cast a patronus. He knew then that he was damaged goods. His inability to cast a patronus, a nightly reminder of how much he lost, and what he let himself become. It wasn't until he remarried that he stopped trying to cast it.
He didn't even pay attention to who was going where, as he let his thoughts wander elsewhere, to matters of the present instead of the distant past. He was lost in thought, about what the Sorting Hat said. He was certain he could have talked it into any house, but it outright told him he was too stupid for Ravenclaw, and that he had spent all his courage, whatever that meant.
Thinking over his life, with the words of the hat reverberating through his mind, Harry cringed slightly as realized what the hat meant. Harry was a natural genius when it came to fighting with magic. He could write books on fighting. He knew more magic to capture or kill people than he knew to do anything else. And that was the problem. He could fill a library wing with what he knew about killing people with his magic, and MIGHT be able to write out a few pages of parchment on how to do something else with magic. Hermione often berated him for being lazy, and relying too heavily on the Elder Wand. Harry couldn't deny that she was right.
And it always came back to Hermione. Since that Halloween, she practically did his work for him. Then Luna. When the going got tough, Luna learned everything. She wasn't as good as Hermione. No one was. But she was better than him. Instead of accepting the challenge, as she accepted his being a better fighter as a challenge, he just rolled over and let her do all the thinking. He let the habits beaten into him by the Dursleys get reinforced by Ron. Even Crabbe and Goyle would have learned more magic than Harry did over his life time.
Harry never had the desire to learn. He learned just enough to pass. He learned what little Hermione could ram down his throat in fourth year for the tournament. He relied on his natural skill with defense to run the DA in fifth year. Did he actually do anything sixth year? No, he just sat back again and did enough to pass. Considering he'd ran into a fully fledged Voldemort twice by then, Harry had to admit, he was stupid. Seventh year? What did he learn seventh year? Not shit. Hermione learned a great deal. Hermione learned enough on their hocrux hunt to probably get a mastery in everything but Divination, History, and Astronomy. Harry learned that Hermione was as much of a genius as he thought.
His entire life, he only went through, learning just enough. He picked up a few bits and pieces here and there. Luna first, then Luna and Hermione together, conspired to cram knowledge into his head. If it weren't for those two, he probably wouldn't know a quarter of the magic he does.
Hermione taught him some bits of runic magic that the world didn't have anymore, and with luck, would never rediscover until this Hermione tracks it down here. How to create the horribly misnamed starlight, which was pure refined magic, was a product of one of those runic magics. Even then, what runic magic he actually learned was almost purely combat oriented. Extremely powerful, but singular of purpose. He knew a few runic arrays, but he couldn't analyze them, or tell you how they worked. Monkey see, monkey do.
It took a while, but Luna eventually pounded simple wards into head as well, since she picked them up so much better than he did. Later, Hermione pounded in a few spells that came from the MAGI project. A few defensive and offensive spells that were on a completely different league in effectiveness. He turned a table into a magical shield that would stop anything short of Fiend Fyre. Pity it wouldn't take to anything small and light enough to wear. Once the words transdimensional mass came up, he got a headache and didn't pay attention to the rest of the explanation.
The Ward Hack project, precursor to the MAGI project, bore fruit as well. Rounded up a few hundred hackers, taught them basic arithmancy and runes, and let them loose with current wards, with big pay bonuses for making better wards, and finding exploits. That paid off big time. It became a major part of hacker culture, having both amateur Ward Hack competitions, and sponsored events. Harry thought there was a level of 'take that!' involved in the project. Those jealous of magic learning enough about it to tell wizards they're doing it wrong. Of course, the project was born out of a 'take that!' against the Goblins. 'Hey Hermione, wouldn't it be great if we could break the stranglehold Gringotts has on wards?' Not even a month later, Hermione had Ward Hack up and running. Hermione even made damn certain that Harry learned the exploits of many wards, and a few improved wards. When she really put her mind to it, Even Harry's obstinate refusal to learn wasn't a match for her...oh.
Damn. She knew. Even then, she knew. By the time she pounded it into his head, he had no need for the exploits, everyone was using better wards. You could Google "Basic Wards" and with a fifth year magical education, set up wards that would make Gringotts jealous. It was a bit rough around the edges, but slowly, the world was moving towards a Golden Age after the meltdown. Yet, Hermione knew. That's why she made sure Harry learned. That's why she was always so disappointed with him. He truly didn't deserve her. But why didn't she tell him? How the hell did he ever get her to agree to marry him again?
The Hat was right. Harry was a fool, and too stupid for Ravenclaw. But what did it mean by his courage being spent? That was something he'd have to think on for a while. For having jumped in front of several curses so far, he was fairly certain he wasn't a coward. Maybe the hat was just screwing with him? Wouldn't be the first time the magical world told him what they thought he needed to hear instead of the truth. For all their faults, the military at least was straight forward. Go here. Kill that guy. Go there. Kill that guy. Take two weeks while we do a cover up after your latest massacre. Simple. Sweet. To the point.
Harry was pulled from his thoughts when Crookshanks poked out from his hiding spot in Hermione's pocket and made his way over to Harry's lap. With a smile, Harry started scratching the horrendously ugly kitten behind his ears. Crookshanks lightly nibbled on one of his fingers. His own little way of saying 'stop brooding'. Harry chuckled at how much Crookshanks seemed to like him. Harry took it as a good sign that Hermione's familiar trusted Harry with his Mistress.
Every now and then, his hand would touch Hermione's as they both stroked the kitten. Out the corner of his eye, he could see a small smile play her lips every time it happened. Crookshanks was just enjoying the endless spoiling of both Harry and his Mistress. Harry was lost in the simple pleasure of petting a kitten, no matter how ugly, and listening to Hermione's voice as she talked with their new friends, letting it bring him back to friendlier times, times where he had far fewer nightmares and laughable worries. It wasn't until the sorting was done and the Hall went quiet that Harry started paying attention to the world again. He glanced up at the head table as everyone else was looking.
"Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Let the feast begin!" Harry quirked an eyebrow as Dumbledore took his seat again. Gone was his crazy old man persona. He still kept a grandfatherly bearing, but certainly didn't go out of his way to make people dismiss him. Definitely a change to keep his eye on. He wasn't certain if Dumbledore was going to be on his 'Kill' list yet, and wanted to get that sorted quickly. Different world, different people. Malfoy, already practically assured of his place on the kill list, seemed to have his try-hard pants on for getting on it. The only thing that seemed different was that he seemed competent. A competent Draco was a scary thought.
"Harry? Whats wrong?" Unseen by anyone else, Hermione's hand stopped stroking Crookshanks and gripped Harry's hand to get his attention.
"Sorry Hermione, I'm just thinking." A roll of her eyes and a slight upturn of her lips was her response.
"Stop it Harry. Just enjoy the feast, think later." Leaning in close, she whispered into his ear. "No plotting against him without me" and shot a glance towards Dumbledore. Obviously she was still upset about the ten years spent in an orphanage instead of with a family, and his borderline death-stare at Dumbledore wasn't unnoticed. Harry certainly wasn't going to blame her. He never forgave Dumbledore for the years with the Dursleys.
Shaking his head, Harry gave her a smile before serving himself food and joining the conversation. It was, most certainly, one of the most difficult tasks of his life. Talking with a bunch of eleven year old girls. After Susan and Hannah told Su Li about how Harry saved them in the alley, the excitable girl started making doe eyes at him. So did every other girl in hearing range. The seventh year that spoke to them about Thestrals shot Harry another pitying glance as Harry shot him a look that practically screamed 'HELP!'.
"Hey Harry, I'm sorry mate. I don't think I can help you with that problem. Good luck."
"Oi, Nicholas, don't waste your breath. That's my infamous cousin." Harry sighed as he heard Tonk's voice. Whatever he did to her, she was apparently still unhappy with him about it. At least he finally had a name for the older student.
"Wait, Harry Potter, only son of the Marauders, is your cousin from hell? I didn't expect that." Nicholas shot unbelieving looks to both Tonks and Harry.
"Oh Merlin, He's the son of Prongs! I totally forgot that! No wonder he was able to save all those girls!" Harry didn't know who the girl was, but guessed she was a second or third year.
"How could you forget that?" And another older girl he didn't know.
"Hello, Hermione Granger is sitting right there. Kind of a big deal. You can't blame me for overlooking the Marauder's for that."
Harry, for most certainly not the first time, felt like smashing his head into the table as the conversation turned into Marauder and Hermione fanboy/girl-ism. Repeatedly. He really didn't expect everyone to be familiar with the nickname his father's group had. Since when were the Marauder's a household name?
"I've heard about the Marauder's. Read about them in the latest edition of the Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts. Hey Harry! Is it true?" Harry looked across at the questioning boy. Fletch-Fitchley? Finch-Fletchly? Bob? Shit. Should have payed attention to people's names during the sorting.
"Um. Is what true?"
"That they can't, you know..." No. Harry didn't know. Thankfully the question was cutoff as another older student smacked him across the back of the head.
"Justin! You can't just ask things like that!" Harry wasn't sure he wanted to know the question. Or the answer. When Hermione gave him a questioning look, he just shrugged. Not knowing what he should know was quickly getting annoying.
Hermione just returned his shrug and went back to eating, sneaking bites to the kitten every so often. "Hermione, you're going to spoil him at this rate." Harry admonished her, while giving Crookshanks another bite from his plate.
"Oh shush you, I've seen you pass him nearly as much food as I did." She stuck her tongue out at him.
"Yea, but you're supposed to be his mommy. Discipline and all that. I'm the cool uncle whose supposed to spoil him."
"Please Harry, I stole him from the pet shop. I'm pretty sure any moral authority I had to 'discipline' him died right there."
"Don't say that too loudly. There'll be no living with that cat if he hears you." Crookshanks meow'd in response and nodded, drawing a chuckle from both Harry and Hermione.
"Aren't you supposed to admonish me for stealing? At least your mum and dad made a token effort to say stealing is wrong. Well, when they weren't too busy spoiling my beautiful kitten."
"Fine. Just because you asked nicely. Stealing is wrong, don't get caught and next time, knick one for me too. Ugly as sin" Harry withdrew his now bleeding hand from Crookshanks as the kitten clawed him "but he kind grew on me."
"Crookshanks is not ugly!" she indignantly hissed, earning laughter from the surrounding students.
As the last of the desserts disappeared, silence fell over the great hall as Dumbledore stood to make the beginning of year announcements.
"I have a few announcements to make. The Forbidden Forest is still off limits to all students, otherwise it would be called the Permitted Forest, or perhaps the not-really-forbidden forest. Maybe even simply the forest. It is, however, not called any of those. It is called the forbidden forest, for it is forbidden. I have been asked by Mr Filch to remind all students that magic should not be used in the corridors between classes. Quidditch Trials will be held on the second week. I suggest anyone interested in playing ask their respective house captains for the exact date and time of your trials. I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding them. Last year's dueling league was a success, and Professor Flitwick has assured me he will run it again this year."
Motioning to Flitwick, he stood up and took over the announcement. "The dueling league is broken down by year, so anyone interested in learning is welcome. A few of our more experienced students have volunteered to help out with the younger years. You know who you are, please stand up." Nicholas stood up, with a cigarette again sticking from his mouth, earning a glare from McGonagall. At least it wasn't lit. Harry didn't know the other students standing up, a girl from Ravenclaw, and a boy from both Gryffindor and Slytherin. "The first few meetings are open to any student in good standing. After that, you have to decide to join the club to continue attendance. Thank you."
As Flitwick took his seat, Dumbledore took over again, this time motioning for Michelle to stand. "As many of you have already noticed, we have a new professor with us. Many of you know of Miss Fuller..." He paused for a moment as a few people gasped. She was a footnote in history, and virtually unknown in England in his original world. It seems surviving Grindelwald gave her a bit more status in this world, judging from the excited conversations. "Miss Fuller will be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. She has brought a Phoenix with her as well. I would like to remind everyone that said Phoenix has a weakness for fresh fruits and belly rubs. Miss Fuller?"
With a nod, she addressed the gathered students, only a slight slur in her speech. "I would like to take this moment to make a few announcements of my own. The Phoenix that has joined me is Fawkes." With a flash of fire, Fawkes appeared and started lazily circling the the great hall. "He is not my Phoenix. We are not bonded. He is my friend, not my pet. That being said, feel free to spoil the free loader."
A few of the more knowledgeable students warily looked at the phoenix, like it carried a contagious disease, a few of the older Gryffindor's looked absolutely ecstatic, and most the younger children were just excited to see such a rare bird. All eyes in the great hall followed it as it landed in front of Harry, and looked him in the eye. The two continued to stare at each other while Michelle shrugged and went about her announcements.
"I'd also like to point out that I am, effectively, above the law, so crying home to mommy or daddy about me, no matter how important, is a waste of your time and a waste of a post owl's time. With that being said, I look forward to teaching a new generation to kick some ass. So much so, in fact, that my NEWT classes have no requirements. Remember, the Auror's will be there to identify your body afterwards, your own safety is your own job. Professor?"
Dumbledore, who was rubbing the bridge of his nose, stood back up. "Thank you professor Fuller. One final announcement before I send you all off to bed. The third floor corridor is off limits to those who do not wish to die a most painful death. And now, it's time for the school song. Everyone, pick your favorite tune!"
As the song begun, Harry shook his head at Fawkes, and smiled as he begun to sing. He was home. For all it's differences, it was the only home he ever truly had. Hogwarts. Maybe this time, he would take a professorship, and let the world handle it's own problems. And the school song was just as terrible as he remembered...
Sirius swirled his glass of firewhiskey, and let out another sigh. As the door to the parlor opened, he gave a startled look at James standing in the door way.
"You're a bit jumpy. Knut for your thoughts?" James walked in, followed by Remus and Peter. Sirius didn't hesitate to pour them each their own glass.
"Tonight? It'd leave you knutless."
"So which kid is worrying you more Padfoot? The boy or girl?"
"Which has you worried more, the kids, this war, the last war, or the fact that we've all just been fired and the papers are going vilify us?"
Peter clinked his glass against Sirius's. "Alright Paddy, so it sounds like you have the same exact worries we all do. So lets go through them. We practically invited a war into Diagon Alley. Like it or not, we were wrong. We weren't going to last much longer as Auror's anyways. Besides, you know Rita is going to write a damage control article, and it's probably going to be about your buns of steel again." Sirius groaned, he didn't think he'd ever live that witch weekly article down.
Remus joined in next. "The last war is over. What has happened, happened. It really is time you made your peace with it."
Sirius shrugged. "And thus, ends the Ancient and Noble house of Black. Here I am, the last lord, and I represent everything my family hated. At least I've managed to ensure the Malfoy's inherit neither money, land, nor titles."
Peter chuckled. "You know, I'm not sure that was necessary. You know that Malfoy brat is going to be the downfall of his family. Old Lucy at least had a silver tongue, but his kid? Without Riddle to keep them in line, the next generation is going to turn on the Malfoy's. Assuming the kid doesn't mouth off to the wrong person and disappear."
"That's one of the things I'm worried about Wormtail. His prejudice isn't any secret. I'd be surprised if the Express made it to Hogwarts without Malfoy mouthing off to Hermione. I'm worried that either her or Harry will end the Malfoy line."
"What makes you think that?"
"You just have to look at the girl to realize she's short a few marbles. And don't even tell me that Harry is the same as he was a month ago. I won't even pretend, the little pronglet scares me. Have you seen the way he looks around Hermione and Iris? I'd say he's fiercely protective of those two, but that just doesn't get the point across."
"You think I haven't noticed? My own son looks to be attached to a girl that just attracts assassins. He jumped in front of a killing curse for his sister. Jumped in front of another curse for Lily. Whatever happened that day, it changed my son. I'm all too well aware of this. You know the official story is, Michelle killed all those people and saved the kids? Michelle only killed one of them. Harry killed the rest."
"Shit. Harry's already fighting adult wizards, and has a phoenix interested in him?"
James nodded. "Once his name starts getting out, we're all gonna have a giant target painted on our backs. Wizards like him are well noted for dead friends and family."
Sirus shook his head. "Heh, guess it's a good thing he's going to be an orphan pretty soon anyways. We don't have to worry about being brutally murdered in some stupid plot to piss off your son."
"That's the spirit Sirius! Gallows humor! I'm surprised we lasted as long as we did."
"James, why are you here? You and Lily don't have much time left, shouldn't you spend it together?"
James poured himself another glass. "Don't even pretend you don't know how things are between me and Lily. Telling Harry that me and Lily still love each other is one thing, but I'm not naïve enough to buy it. She never stopped blaming me. Whatever love she had for me, died long ago. The only reason she's even civil with me is because of Harry and Iris."
Peter smacked James on the back. "Fine, we'll stop pretending. This still leaves Iris unaccounted for. We'll all be long dead by the time Harry makes some sort of name for himself and people start trying to kill his friends and family. Iris however, will be the only family he has."
"When are you going to tell them? They should have both known years ago. It's going to have to be soon Prongs."
James sighed. "How do I tell them?"
Remus let out a small laugh. "What a bunch of pathetic cowards we are. We fought Voldemort himself with smiles on our faces, but we can't even tell the kids the truth."
"Moony, I feared Voldemort far less than I fear my daughter. She'll never forgive me. I don't think Harry will forgive me either. I just...I can't have them look at me, the way Lily does."
Rita Skeeter was an unhappy woman. Had Harry read most of her articles, he wouldn't have been very surprised. Snide insinuations, blatant character assassination, and perfectly walking the line of just how much she could get away with. It was no secret, she had enemies. At one time, they were powerful enemies, but in peace time, the quill is far more powerful than the wand ever was. She has done her best to systematically destroy the power base of the government, and for the most part, succeeded. The Crown wouldn't have nearly the authority in the magical world that it now wields, if she wasn't so good at her job.
Her current target however, was mostly spared her wrath. He was the sort of incompetent fool she wanted to run the ministry. Unfortunately, he just proved far too well qualified for his job. He needed to blame someone, and blaming these unknown terrorists seemed beyond him. So he shifted the blame to the absolutely wrong people. The Marauders.
She was pacing back and forth in her 'Good Memory' room. Stuck all across one of the walls were articles she had written. For all her power to tear down and destroy with her quill, she still preferred these articles to her normal fare. Even she could admit that her usual articles were so much bullshit. Enough truth in them to make wild slanderous insinuations, but no more than that. These were her special articles.
Arguably, that article didn't belong here, being as it wasn't written by her. However, even if it was someone else's work, and the writing was passable at best, it held a position here. It was the beginning. One would have to read the actual article to understand why it was posted on a wall filled with naught but her own articles. The Devil is, as they say, in the details. How were the Marauder's captured? What were they doing? In terms of passing information to the reader, the article left much to be desired. It would be a week before the 'how' became known, but the 'why' was spelled out quite clearly. A rescue mission went wrong. And there, the 'why' of it's place in the wall was made clear. On the list of those rescued, was her own name. Rita Skeeter.
This was why Harry would only be unsurprised by most of her articles. She wasn't ashamed to admit (to herself nor to her readers) that she was a complete Marauder fan girl. She was their biggest supporter in the media. The other articles on the wall showed that quite well. Every time a political move was made against the Marauders, and there were many over the years, she rallied public support. Every time something negative came up, she used her connections to bury it. She had a new article supporting them written often enough to keep them as public figures, with out writing too much about them.
It was how she managed to keep her book on them a top seller for the past year straight. So maybe she wasn't completely altruistic in protecting the reputation of the marauders, even if she could probably make more money now by destroying them. A second book, filled with the dirty secrets she knew, would certainly net in hefty profits, but she was going to take those secrets to her grave.
Already, she had an article written, tearing down Minister Fudge for his inept handling of the current insurrection. His Government was unlikely to last the week after publishing. Drawing from the previous few articles, she had enough to keep the Marauder's as the wronged heroes, in the public eye. Little Harry's actions in saving several heirs of notable families was certainly going to help. Maybe collapsing Fudge's Government was just her being petty, but she wasn't going to let his cowardice hurt the Marauder's; her paycheck and personal heroes. And even now, as much as she liked to think of herself as heartless, she wasn't sure it was in that order.
Harry had to admit, he was impressed with Hufflepuff's common room. It had a very warm and welcoming feeling to it. The chairs and couches certainly seemed inviting, and several fireplaces meant there was no crowding around a single fireplace. The bathroom was certainly better, and there were individual rooms instead of dorms. True, they were very small rooms, but individual rooms none the less. Still, he was uncomfortable with the arrangement. Hermione's final hug of the night seemed a bit desperate. On some level, she was definitely afraid of being separated from him. If it wasn't for that separation, he would have been all too glad to get away from his questioning housemates.
Fawkes spent a great deal of time staring at him during the feast, and now, was following him around. To say his housemates were curious was an understatement. Many were also concerned, buying into the myths and legends surrounding the birds. That they would take promising young witches and wizards and bring them to where they're needed, almost invariably resulting in their heroic death overcoming a great evil.
Taking a seat on his bed, Harry sighed as Fawkes continued to stare at him. He still didn't know what Fawkes wanted. At least he felt he wasn't foolish enough to buy into the myths and legends. If Phoenix's were that smart, Fawkes would have never stuck around with the old fool. Either way, as if he hadn't already ruined any attempt to 'blend in' enough, being followed by Fawkes was going to make it impossible to not stand out.
Drawing his wand, he slowly rolled it in his fingers, feeling the phoenix core as it sang to him. It really was a remarkable match. "So if I remember correctly, this has one of your feathers in it, does it not?"
Fawkes trilled happily.
"It's really a remarkable match. Did you give the feather specifically for my wand?" Fawkes nodded again. "Thank you Fawkes, but why?" Again, Fawkes just stared at him. Harry wouldn't have admitted to anyone but Hermione or Luna, but it was beginning to unnerve him. Without warning, Fawkes took hold him and disappeared in a puff of flame.
Landing hard on the ground from the phoenix travel, Harry cursed as Fawkes circled above him, trilling happily.
"Oh, just laugh it up you overgrown turkey! What the hell was that for?"
"Because I wanted to take a few moments to speak with you." Harry looked around before shrugging and holstering his wand. By any measure of his senses, he and Fawkes were alone in what looked to be a teachers office. That meant it was probably Michelle.
"Oh? Not worried?"
"Please, if you meant me harm, I'd likely be dead already. I'm only a first year student."
"Right, and I'm the Queen of Atlantis." Slowly, Michelle faded into existence. "If you're just a first year student, then it's high time I retire." She shot a dirty look at Fawkes. "So, can you guess why you're here?"
"New student orientation?"
"Because you're a really creepy pedophile?"
"Low blow kid. Imperious'd boys can't say no, but alas, I prefer willing partners, with a bit more junk in their trunk, if you catch my meaning."
"Really? I'd expect one of your age to be worried about throwing your hip out." Harry could admit that antagonizing her was probably not one of his better ideas, but he couldn't help it. Personally, he blamed Jenkins for corrupting him.
Michelle waved a hand airily. "I've no idea what you're talking about. My hips are in excellent shape."
Harry smiled. She did have nice hips after all. "Okay, fine, your hips are most definitely in excellent shape."
"Who knew you had a thing for GMILF's. Or maybe I'd be a Great-GMILF. You know, I AM older than Albus..."
"Okay, so that makes you a really really creepy pedophile?"
Placing a finger on her lips, she paused to think for a minute. "You know, considering just about everyone I had sex with in the last fiftyish years wasn't magical, I suppose the sheer age difference means that isn't THAT far off the mark..."
"Michelle, what do you want?" The entire conversation was bringing up things Harry would really rather not think of. Admitting defeat on the verbal sparring was just far too preferable to taking that line of thought to it's logical conclusion.
"I knew I could beat around the bush longer than you. Welcome to my office, please, take a seat." As Harry settled into the seat, a small folder was tossed in front of him.
"Now, I'm not sure what I want to do with you Harry. I'll admit, with my past history of megalomaniac sociopaths, my first instinct is to kill someone like you."
"People like me?" Harry opened the folder to a set of pictures. The remains of the people Harry killed in Diagon Alley.
"Lets not beat around the bush. I'm not the Ministry, I don't work for the Ministry, and the Ministry can't force me to divulge information. So, tell me. Time travel? Dimensional travel? Demonic Possession? Fawkes seems to think I shouldn't murder you out of hand, and even went so far as to donate a feather for your wand. Admittedly, if Fawkes didn't drag me here August first, I wouldn't know you exist. I may have ignored many problems in my life, but even I can't ignore a potential problem of this magnitude when it's right under my nose. What is your purpose?"
Harry closed the file and pushed it back. Before he even realized it, Michelle had an iron grip on his arm, and pulled him half across the table, wand jammed into his neck just hard enough to let him know resistance was not an option. Harry quirked an eyebrow at her. He felt the intrusion through his occlumency next.
"Nice occlumency Potter, only a few people have ever noticed me. Slipping through people's shields is a trick you pick up after enough practice."
Harry tried to shrug. "Wouldn't know. My legilimency isn't that great. So why ask questions if you're going to root around in my mind anyways? And if you're in my head, isn't the wand to the neck a bit of overkill?"
"Harry, if anyone can respect another persons mind, it would be me. I'm just making sure you aren't about to feed me bullshit. Now, the sooner we get this done, the sooner I can call up my friend with a back-hoe to hide your body or the sooner we both get to sleep. Which happens is purely up to you."
"I vote for going to sleep. I'm kind of tired myself."
"Cute. Too cute. Judging by the situation I originally found you in, I'm guessing you're a dimensional traveler. If you were merely playing with time, it is unlikely you would have survived the first time."
"You'd be surprised what I survived the first time, but you're correct."
Michelle smiled at him. "See, you can cooperate."
"Only because you've made it pretty clear that I don't have much choice."
"Well Harry, I'm sorry to say, but this does kind of make you my problem. Are you a psychopath bent on world domination or destruction?"
"Can't say that I am."
"So what brings you to this world?"
"...and you're not lying. Much."
"I didn't chose to come here."
"No, but you have some goal. Please, don't make me dig through your mind for it. I really hate doing that."
Harry stared into her eyes for a long moment before answering. "To have the one thing I always wanted, and never had. A family. A mother, a father, a sister, a wife whom I love and children. To protect them, cherish them, and always, love them. To see my friends, healthy and happy. To bounce my godchildren on my knees. To read bedtime stories to my children, my friends children, and the children of those children. To grow old together with my friends and my wife. To die peacefully, and have my funeral attended by those who would not speak of my magical ability or political exploits, but of Harry Potter. Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather. Loving husband. Caring friend. I want nothing more than the every day happiness that I've long been denied."
Michelle nodded. "That has to be about the best answer I could have imagined. Be careful though, if the ministry gets wind of what you've done, or the ICW, you can expect a quick death. Well, the ICW will give you a quick death. The Brits are a bit barbaric and would probably feed you to the dementors. Tell you what, you avoid any sociopathic tendencies, and I'll leave you be. Do keep the body count to a minimum and don't start a war as a dark lord. That's all I'm asking. I'll look the other way if you end the current one."
Harry chuckled as Michelle released her grip on him. "Harry, don't fuck with me. I let one Grindelwald plunge the world into war, I won't let a Potter do it as well, no matter how chick flick your sob story. I'll gladly murder you in cold blood if need be."
Fawkes grabbed his shoulder and returned him to his room before he could respond, then left him alone. Harry couldn't say he was happy with the conversation, and he definitely wasn't happy with the fact that Michelle seemed every bit as powerful as her status of 'living legend' suggests. Yet, he wasn't unhappy with the conversation. She was going to leave him alone as long as he didn't make a bid for being a dark lord. He knew he'd be under scrutiny from her, but there was a definite upside to it. She was someone he could talk to. That was more than he had five minutes ago. Considering he didn't plan on doing anything other than a few necessary homicides (and those could wait until he was sure they were 'necessary' in this world), it wasn't like her scrutiny would cause any problems. So Harry did what he did best. He shrugged, got dressed for bed, and decided to try and sleep.
September 2nd, 1991
Harry wasn't sure what to think as he woke up. On one hand, he needs sleep. On the other hand, he has no doubt that the time spent with his hysterical and very insane wife, well, what was left of her soul at least, wasn't very restful and likely was going to drive him insane. After showering and heading to the common room, he could tell that he wasn't the only one that didn't sleep very well. Most the first years looked like they didn't sleep well, while Hermione, Susan, and Hannah all looked like they barely slept. They all shared a look that seemed to say 'This is going to be a long year'. Somehow, he doubted the other girls looked any better.
Once again welcomed into a group of first year girls, even if they were far more subdued than most first year girls would be, Harry yet again decided that he needed to make some friends. Maybe if he took a beaters bat to Ron's head enough times, he could beat his petty jealousy out of him. Harry knew he didn't have the patience to deal with the guy as he was. Maybe he could just hang out with the twins until Ron matured. IF Ron matured. For better or worse, Ron was his best mate, and he doubted that without helping Harry in his little war with Riddle, that the prat would mature before he was married and on his third kid. But because he WAS his best mate, he couldn't really justify putting him into the sort of situations that he survived by sheer luck the first time.
"Come on Harry, we gotta go to the Great Hall. We're getting our class schedules today" Well, he could put up with the girls for a few days at least. As long as he doesn't have to start listening to them talk about which guy they think is cute. Though, considering the occasional look and the fact that he did help them get out of Diagon Alley, for the time being most such conversations would revolve around him. That might be even worse, and sitting through first year curriculum was going to be bad enough on its own. Nothing else to do for it. As the troops used to say, drink water and drive on.
A/N: You know. I really think I should rethink this whole writing thing. Looking at my update schedule, I'm obviously not cut out for this. Oh, and yes, Colonel Richards is definitely letting the stress of his job get to him.