Disclaimer : Anything you read here that comes from the Harry Potter books is not mine. If it comes from the Dragon Age games then it also isn't mine. I do, however, own the monocle.
Note : Canon up to and including book 5 of Harry Potter is observed. Anything after that is for the most part ignored.
A/N- minor edit on 2013/08/01 - reorganized and tweaked some of the initial paragraphs.
A/N - 2013/08/26. : bunch of minor edits, mostly stupid mistakes fixed and a couple of sentences were tweaked. I have someone doing some beta reading work for me now so the quality should improve going forward. I'm going back and applying some edits to the first three chapters as well starting with this one.
A/N - 2013/09/09 : A couple of minor edits including corrections as suggested in the review written by Ibskib
Chapter 1 :
"Something the matter Potter?" The native New Yorker's voice was gravelly and deep as it broke the silence of the nearly empty structure of metal and fiberglass. The bus shelter was situated on a busy downtown street and was large enough to fit about a dozen people with elbow room to spare. Yet despite its size, the heavy rain and the prominent location, it was empty except for the two loitering wizards. Outside a man in a business suit stood oblivious as he waited for a bus, soaked to the skin by the rain pouring down around him and the intermittent spray from the spinning tires of passing cars, the unfortunate victim of a notice-me-not charm blanketing the dry haven in which the two wizards had convened.
The first thing Harry had noticed about Howard was the monocle he wore. It was small, perhaps an inch across, with a perfectly clear lens and a thin almost invisible golden frame. More remarkably it also hovered in mid-air, floating untouched without a single tangible connection to its owner. The optic would weave and bob every time Howard moved as it tried to maintain its position in front of his glaring eye and when stationary it seemed to vibrate with repressed energy. This was for the most part all normal behavior for a magical monocle.
The bit Harry couldn't quite wrap his head around was the monocle's tendency to spit out ephemeral pink sparkles almost every time Howard blinked. It was so completely out of character with his hard boiled exterior and grizzled visage that Harry had to assume he was unaware of the flamboyant feature. Given how dangerous the man could be and his perpetually dower expression Harry imagined that he'd probably had the monocle for years and no one had ever been able to work up the nerve to point the extra feature out to him. Harry would have been hard pressed to keep from laughing at the flowery shapes the sparkles formed during their brief vibrant existence but, as ridiculous as the contrast was, Howard simply wasn't the kind of person you made mockery of.
Harry figured that Howard Basely stood somewhere near six and a half feet tall, towering over Harry's more modest five feet and ten inches. Being a wizard it was hard to tell how old Howard really was. Most wizards didn't start to show their age until they were at least fifty and even then it was slow to catch up to them. The more powerful the wizard the longer it took before time's grip tightened and Howard Basely was undoubtedly a man with some magical muscle backing him up. He was older than thirty, younger than eighty, and that was about all Harry was sure of.
Of course Howard also had the regular kind of muscle, or at least he seemed to, the trench coat the American aurors all wore concealed most of him but the bulging arms and over sized shoulders were still hard to miss. His hair was unremarkable, a thick dark brown nest of curls that looked like it could use the touch of a proper barber. It seemed oddly mismatched when paired with the thick stubble that covered his jaw. His face, in Harry's opinion, couldn't seem to decide if it wanted to be round or angular and just ended up looking slightly thuggish. Several thick ropey scars laying across his right cheek and forehead made it obvious he'd been in one too many fights to the death and also begged the question – what did the other guy look like? Howard's eyes, so dark as to appear almost completely black, darted about with a burning intensity that focused quickly on anything that caught his attention. The pink sparkly flowers perpetually forming and fading around his right eye should have ruined the intimidating effect and yet somehow they just weren't up to the task.
"Only that this plan is complete and utter bollocks." Harry snarked back in his contrasting British accent. He then took another assessing look at the towering construct of steel and glass that they had been observing for the past half hour. Directly across from them on the far side of the street it looked fairly impressive until you noted the even taller buildings that bracketed it on either side. Harry thought the entire scenario was actually quite ridiculous. The idea that any self respecting dark lord would make his lair in a muggle office building was something he found quite appalling.
Harry'd had more than his fair share of encounters with dark wizards in his short life and he'd developed certain expectations for their behavior and habits. Shadowy castles, evil caves, mystical stone formations on top of ley lines, even manor houses both decrepit and regal, all were perfectly acceptable places for dark hideouts and evil rituals. In comparison the modern construction before them was entirely mundane and inappropriate and Harry was sure their target must be violating some kind of guild bylaw. Maybe if he could figure out how to report him the whole mess might take care of itself. The only appropriate aspect of the scenario was that the building was exactly thirteen stories tall, thirteen being a number known to muggles for misfortune and to wizards for its magical significance.
Harry Potter lacked Howard's bulky muscle and he made for a leaner less imposing figure at first glance. Nevertheless he had finally left behind the continual undernourished thinness he'd suffered from as a young teenager at Hogwarts and had since developed a certain wiry strength that became obvious whenever someone stopped to take a second look. Quidditch and trooping around the vast interior of the castle he'd once called both school and home had only begun the transformation. It had been the months running and fighting death eaters across all of England which had completed and honed it. His hair hadn't changed though. Untameable, wind swept and always defiant of any comb or brush that touched it his pitch black coif always managed to look like he'd just stepped off a quidditch pitch. A pair of thin framed spectacles completed the look, rarely removed in deference to the near blindness he suffered from without them.
Beneath his bulky trench coat Howard wore only black jeans and a dark brown shirt. The ensemble was completed with a broad brimmed dark brown leather cowboy hat that sat firmly on the top of his head. Harry in contrast sported an odd dragon-hide wizard's robe left open at the front and worn over a button up white shirt and a dark pair of trousers. Both men looked completely out of place on the streets of New York and were sure to grab the attention of anyone who noticed them. Not that anyone did.
"If you think it's so bad why the hell did you agree to help?" Howard inquired while eying a large piece of parchment in his hand. Dark black ink scrawled over its surface and illustrated an amazingly detailed layout of the first floor of the building before them as well as the streets around it. With a flick of Howard's finger the lines faded into the parchment only for more lines to quickly scratch across its surface with ridiculous speed until a new layout formed of similar shape. With a final flourish the title 'Second Floor' was inked across the top of the page in the finest calligraphy and the non-existent quill drew no more. Flicking quickly through the floors in similar fashion Howard confirmed that his aurors were in place and that none of the targets had changed position. Blue dots showed on the map where the dozen wizards and witches at his disposal were stationed near the first floor entrances in teams of four. Harry himself showed up as a purple dot directly beside Howard's own blue indicator. Finally red dots appeared on the top floor. There were thirteen of them laid out in an ominous circle in a large open area centered against the north wall.
"You asked. What are those grey dots?" Harry responded blandly. Outside the businessman had since been joined by two others in similar attire as well as a plump middle aged woman dressed in jeans and a yellow blouse. The woman was the only one of the group blessed with protection from the elements but she looked just as badly off as the rest. Unfortunately her flimsy umbrella wasn't really up to the task given that the rain wasn't so much falling as it was engaging in a frontal assault on any and all who dared stand against it. The entire group looked miserable and Harry couldn't help but feel more than a tad bit guilty. After-all it was his wand that had cast the concealing ward.
"What grey dots? There aren't any grey dots. And I met you when you were wiping the floor with a trio of his most accomplished followers because they offended your sensibilities. Of course I asked. I'm understaffed and you're not afraid to show lowlife scum the end of your wand. You still could have said no." Harry hadn't meant to get into that fight but despite his best efforts he'd never been able to quash his impulse to help those in need with little thought before hand to the potential consequences, especially when those in need were right in front of him. That these particular victims had also been attractive young women hadn't done anything to dissuade him from his instinctive response. He'd been shopping in the wizardry district when three suspiciously nasty looking wizards in dark robes with their hoods up had started herding a pair of frightened young witches towards a dark alley at wand point. He'd decided to take offense and the wizards had made the mistake of taking offense to his offense and well that had been one offense too many. He might have gone a bit hard on them but his frustration with how he'd left things in Britain had been eating away at him for months. Harry was fairly certain that whatever the wizards had planned for the young witches would have been fairly traumatizing and quite possibly fatal but for some reason they'd soon seemed much more terrified of Harry than they had been of their erstwhile assailants. Given the way they'd screamed when the severed head and shoulder of the last wizard had fallen at their feet he wasn't at all surprised that they hadn't stopped to thank him before fleeing. But at the end they had left alive and unmolested so Harry had still chalked the entire affair up as a victory.
"There." Harry pointed to some almost invisible splotches on the map of the top floor that seemed to drift aimlessly across it without regard to walls or doors. They all seemed to join together and separate indiscriminately making it hard to get a count of how many were actually showing up. "And I agreed because you've got a nasty wizard who thinks Voldemort was about as evil as a nifler. From the way you tell it his greatest aspiration is to surpass Grindewald`s body count and that's more than a little bit frightening. And I agreed because you didn't tell me the bloody plan before hand. We have no idea what we're walking into. The place is one giant trap. I keep having visions of him port keying out as soon as we walk in the door and dropping that entire monstrosity on top of our heads."
The entire incident in the shopping district would have put him in a world of trouble back in Britain even if he was still their favored wizard savior. Disemboweling a wizard in the middle of Diagon Alley was just the kind of things that the ministry aurors tended to frown upon. When Howard had shown up he'd taken one look at the remains, snorted, and then spat in what remained of the face of one of the corpses. Then he'd ask if Harry was interested in killing any more dark wizards. While wizarding Britain often seemed stuck in the middle ages America's wizards and witches had gotten a little further along before finally stagnating. As far as they were concerned the wild west had never been tamed and if someone made too much trouble justice administered entirely at the point of a wand was perfectly acceptable. Howard had even had a deputy badge in his pocket that he'd insisted Harry stick to the front of his robes for the duration.
"We should be attacking through the top floor windows from brooms. We attack right through that long glass wall they're all standing in front of." Harry pointed out again. He'd already made similar comments twice before and didn't expect it would change anything this time either but he wanted to make sure he had a firmly established basis for criticism when the operation inevitably turned into a cock-up.
"Because I'm sure that would look wonderful on the six o'clock news. New York is a no fly zone for a reason Potter. And those splotches don't mean anything. The charms must be failing. Why are you even here? In the country I mean, get that look off your face. " Howard's expression twisted into a crooked leer. It stretched his scars oddly and Harry imagined he was staring at two mismatched faces that had been badly stitched together, forming a new much more frightening visage when combined. The monocle spit out a couple of pink orchids and Harry wondered briefly if the strange little thing was mocking him. "From what I hear you're some big fucking hero back in England these days with a vault full of galleons and witches falling all over themselves for the honor of spreading their..."
"Oye! Shut it. You're disgusting Howard. I emptied the vault before I left." Harry interjected while rolling his eyes. Obviously the rumors were exaggerated. If there had been hordes of attractive young witches looking to shag him he'd somehow missed them all. As it stood he'd been far too busy trying to deal with the nightmare of post-Voldemort Britain to go on so much as a single date much less work his way through a bevy of buxom young women.
"My point is if I had that kind of a welcome waiting somewhere I sure as hell wouldn't be off hunting down dark wizards in a foreign country." Howard finished with exasperation. Howard hadn't talked much about his personal life but Harry'd gotten the distinct impression he wasn't the sort to settle down. Perhaps he was envious of the imagined situation?
"Oh yes. Everyone in England wants a piece of the man who punched Voldemort's ticket. Have you ever been to England Howard?" Harry groused. Howard grunted in acknowledgment before replying.
"Can't say that I have. Wet from what I've heard. And cold." Harry looked pointedly at the puddles surrounding the bus shelter they were standing in and the torrents of rain that continued to soak the shivering muggles waiting for the bus and shook his head.
"I'm not talking about the weather Howard... and don't believe everything you hear. I'm talking about the ministry. It's all up for sale in wizarding England. The government has its collective hand out waiting for a bribe. The paper will print anything if they think it will make them a galleon. Finally there's the people. They just blindly follow this so called government and believe everything it spoon feeds them. Voldemort was finally dead. I figured that was it. I'd done my part and things were finally supposed to get better. No more fair weather friends. No more pure blood politics. I thought it was all downhill from there. Play some quidditch. Maybe even find a witch and settle down to have a few kids." Harry paused for a breath and Howard took the opportunity to comment.
"Not so much?"
"Bloody Death Eaters buying their way out of prison – again! Murderers and worse and six months later half of them were considered upstanding citizens and suggesting anything else was an unfounded insult. No one seemed to care! These monsters slaughtered people, some of them my friends, and I was expected to shake their hands and smile. That's what the minister wanted anyway. I killed Voldemort after all so it was expected that I'd go and shake hands and make nice for the cameras. Never mind that he was pushing for legislation to reduce the rights of anyone who had anything to do with the muggle world. You probably know by now that Voldemort was raised in a muggle orphanage. They printed it in the Daily Prophet four months after he died. Tom Riddle - the evil muggle-born wizard with delusions misleading our poor bamboozled society and starting a war. Better watch out they started saying. Another muggle-born might do the same ungrateful as they are with their strange muggle trickery. Need to keep a closer eye on them. Everyone conveniently forgot that Voldemort's mother was a pure blooded witch playing with love potions of course." Harry paused in his diatribe to watch as a bus finally pulled up to the stop. The muggles sloshed a bit as they worked their way up the stairs in their soaking wet clothes and paid their tolls. To assuage his guilt Harry surreptitiously flicked a couple of low powered drying charms at them as they worked their way through the door. It wasn't much. He used only enough magic to upgrade them to merely unpleasantly damp.
"And people believed all this you say?" Howard queried while pointedly ignoring the minor breach of the statute of secrecy. Enforcement of the American version of the policy was much less strict. Technically on paper the law was as stringent and unyielding as ever promising the harshest penalties for even the slightest violation. In practice Harry had quickly discovered after his arrival that it was quite a bit more flexible than that. If it didn't end up on television or in a newspaper then law enforcement generally couldn't care less. If it ended up in the tabloids that was apparently just fodder for a good laugh.
"They loved it. Wizards and witches everywhere could suddenly consider themselves better than Voldemort. They had wizard ancestry after all and obviously this pathetic dark lord came from nothing. Never mind that they used to piss themselves if you whispered his name in a crowded room. I saw the writing on the wall. All that violence and perseverance was for nothing. If everyone was willing to throw away what I'd nearly died fighting for then I wasn't about to stand around and fight for them a second time." Harry finished. He'd left England shortly after his twentieth birthday and even after five months his resentment still hadn't faded a whit.
"So you came here. What about your friends?" Howard fished distractedly around in his pocket. Harry suspected he was looking for his compact. It was just about time and if Howard wasn't ready to call for the strike his aurors would start getting nervous.
"That's right. I left. I emptied my vault and I scarpered. I suggested they do the same. The ones who saw what was happening called me a coward. Most of them, the ones who didn't, just thought I'd gone round the twist. Again." Harry almost spat the last word out. He'd been accused of dark or insane behavior one too many times during his Hogwarts years. When he'd been a kid he'd let the hard feelings lapse and forgotten harsh words in favor of renewed approval and support. But he'd been young then and he'd since grown up. Grudges had become much harder to let go of.
Howard Chuckled as he found what he was looking for but left it and his hand both situated in the pocket. "Still doesn't explain why you're helping us pick a fight with the dark ass hole himself."
"A friend once told me I have a saving people thing. She was usually right." Harry explained after a moment of silence. His voice brimmed with suppressed emotion.
"Smart girl this friend of yours." Howard commented hesitantly. Harry could tell the man realized he'd stepped in something sensitive. He thought for a moment and turned to put Howard off with a vague response and instead found the horrid tale slipping unbidden from his lips.
"Most brilliant witch I ever knew. She always wanted to fix every thing. Champion of lost causes my Hermione was. Right up until Draco Malfoy removed her head with a dark cutting curse." Harry could hear the wistful tone in his own voice slide smoothly into repressed anger. There was no point in anger anymore but it was still there whenever he remembered.
"Sorry." Howard responded gruffly. The kind of understanding bought through similar experience resonated in his voice. The empathy calmed the violence in Harry's thoughts and he sank into dark satisfaction as he remembered how the story ended. "Rotting in prison I hope? Or better yet just plain rotting?"
"Azkaban – but only for three months. Then information magically came to light proving that he'd been under the influence of a compulsion potion. Completely innocent. Very fortuitous for him. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the donation Narcissa Malfoy made to the Minister's discretionary fund only a week before." Harry replied blandly.
Howard scowled. One advantage to the wizarding America mindset was that very few truly dark wizards survived long enough to reach trial. The idea had appealed to Harry and dictated his destination of choice when he abandoned England.
"His wonderful luck didn't last out the month." Harry continued in a monotone. "While he was in prison a nest of acromantulas set up a nest on his ancestral grounds. But there wasn't much game for them to eat so when they ran out of rabbits and deer they swarmed the manor and dined on its occupants. Their guest, a young muggle woman that Malfoy had been entertaining, somehow managed to escape and hide in a well warded room under the parlor floor but Draco and his mother died tragically. Wasn't much left of the bodies when the aurors finally arrived. In an interesting twist the hidden room under the parlor was filled with dark objects of the worst kind. They weren't the kind of things an innocent wizard or witch would keep in their home."
The expression on Howard's face turned to horror as the implication behind Harry's works sunk in. Harry turned and smiled at him briefly, letting his satisfaction with the dark ending to the tale surface for a moment. Harry figured he'd reached his quota for reminiscing for the day and he turned to prompt the wide eyed Howard onward and couldn't help but note that for the first time since they'd met his visage was free of pink floral arrangements. "Shouldn't we be walking into an ambush right about now?"
Harry watched as Howard tried to adopt a stoic visage but the disturbed reaction lingered in his eyes even as the monocle began once again cheerfully sparkling. A tulip was soon followed by a lily and then a petunia and Harry wondered again if the monocle was a bit less mindless than it appeared. Harry couldn't blame Howard for his shock as anyone who had ever come face to face with an acromantula knew how terrifying the things could be. Harry had sat on his broom and watched through the window from under his invisibility cloak to make sure events transpired as intended. It had been the single vilest experience of his entire life but he'd forced himself to stay from beginning to end as the acromantula swarm had eaten them. Mrs Malfoy had been lucky enough to have her head bitten off first making the entire experience from her perspective fairly quick and painless. Draco hadn't been so fortunate. They'd started with the younger Malfoy's feet.
Howard watched Harry for a moment longer before shaking himself free of contemplation. Having come to the end of some internal debate he took his right hand out of his pocket and flipped open the compact mirror he'd been cradling. Two middle aged wizards and a fairly attractive blond witch stared back at him with their visages squished together cheek to jowl to share the small space provided by the tiny surface.
The leader of team one was an older wizard with thinning grey hair and a face that was beginning to develop significant wrinkles. A full but neatly trimmed beard adorned an unremarkable visage but his brown eyes heralded the staunch resolution of a veteran lawman as he waited for his orders. His name was Maurice and Harry remembered that he'd had a surprisingly strong hand shake when they'd met briefly at the short planning session earlier in the day.
The second wizard had blue eyes and was obviously younger than the first. Harry had guessed that Thomas was still at least forty given that when they met he'd spent the entire time talking about his two kids still attending Salem's institute and his eldest who'd recently taken up a career as a potion brewer. Flat red hair sat over what had at the time been an animated enthusiastic cleanly shaven face. Now his features had transformed into the serious focused look of a professional. Harry supposed there was no greater motivation to pay attention and get home in one piece than a family waiting for you to return – or so he'd like to imagine anyway.
Cindy, the final team leader, wasn't just the only witch in the group but she also couldn't have been older than twenty-five. Harry figured this both because of her smooth facial features and because of the way she'd spent the entire meeting flirting with him. He hadn't been able to suss out if she was actually interested or just naturally a flirt and it had left him vaguely unsure how to respond. She'd been amiable and cheerful and not the slightest bit boring and before the meeting had broken up she'd pulled him to the side and suggested slyly that they meet up for some firewhiskey after 'kicking some dark lord ass' so in retrospect she'd probably been trying to get him to ask her out the entire time. Despite her lack of seniority the others at the meeting had obviously respected her. The members of her squad that exceeded her in years had deferred to her without complaint and he could only assume it was because she was a talented and deadly witch. Remembering her rather athletic build and the twinkle in her hazel eyes when she'd trailed one seemingly delicate hand down his arm before leaving he figured he'd probably take her up on the implied offer. He wasn't dead after all, just very unhappy, perhaps some of that cheerfulness would rub off on him.
"We have a go. All teams breach your entrances in sixty seconds." Growling the command before flipping the compact shut Howard threw an imperturbable charm over himself and headed briskly out of the shelter into mid day traffic. A quick flick of Howard's wand combined with a strange incantation in a language Harry didn't recognize and the slowly moving cars filling the street all came to an abrupt halt. Howard proceeded without pause, weaving effortlessly through the magically grid locked traffic, and then stepped smoothly back off the street and onto the opposing sidewalk. Their entrance point was a set of thick glass double wide doors locked and barred despite the mid afternoon weekday hour. Howard had chosen the spot with the thought that if someone used the obvious entrance and made enough noise that anyone paying attention might miss the other teams slipping in the back. Harry's reputation and the example he'd made of the dark lord's followers had somehow elected him to play the part of sacrificial lamb right alongside Howard and so he followed him across the street – the rain sliding off an invisible shield that he'd cast earlier and never bothered to take down.
"So Potter," Howard asked as stood before the doors, the sound of loud swearing accompanied by a multitude of blaring horns escalating behind them. He waited while Harry waved his wand around the door trying to feel out any magical protections that might have been placed upon it. "How did the goblins take it when you asked them to transfer your galleons."
Harry glanced briefly at Howard before looking back to his work. "Transfer?"
"From your vault. You told me that you emptied your vault. I have to imagine those goblins weren't cooperative when you told them you wanted to transfer everything to the gnomes." Harry figured his confusion must have been obvious as Howard continued to explain as if to a simpleton with frequent pauses and skeptically raised eyebrows "There's a blood feud. Any goblin stupid enough to set foot in America is likely to find itself gutted before it's gone five feet from the shore."
"I didn't" Harry replied while checking the front door for alarm wards with a few flicks of his wand. The door glowed briefly. Harry wasn't an expert on such things but he'd picked up enough through necessity to recognize alarm spells that would most likely resonate through the building at the first sign of any directed magic. Fortunately detection spells were intentionally passive for the most part picking up on the faint leak of energies that any imperfectly charmed object leaked into the air around it and there was no such thing as a perfect charm. Fortunately the dark lord in question hadn't accounted for more muggle means of gaining entry though that was probably because the aversion charm that was also visible on the door was almost strong enough to send a determined muggle running into oncoming traffic. "I've never even met a gnome."
"But then what did you do with all the galleons? I thought the Potters were one of the five richest families in Britain. Or was that just a bunch of bull shit spread by some uppity pure bloods?" Howard watched as Harry casually removed a massive muggle sledge hammer from inside his robes. The tool was three feet long, felt like it weighed a ton, and had a head that on its own was bigger than the pocket it had been retrieved from. Most importantly it was real, not conjured, and completely bereft of magic that might set off the alarm spells. Harry had learned the hard way that it never hurt to come prepared.
Taking a couple of steps back Harry held the hammer raised behind him in a two handed grip and then he swung it around and at the door throwing his entire body behind the blow. Several brackets, the locking bar, and the entire pane of glass that had filled the door were all thrown inwards and fell with the hammer to the ground on the tiled interior floor. Harry raised an eyebrow at the spider webs of cracks covering the glass pane and found himself very impressed that aside from a single crease down the middle it was still mostly intact. Howard just stepped in and over the hammer without any comment and Harry quietly followed him inside.
The building was the product of a modern muggle mind. With the exception of the fake marble flooring the interior was formed entirely of metal, glass and concrete and yet still somehow managing to look somewhat posh. Harry supposed there were such buildings in London but he'd never seen them. Castles and dungeons he felt right at home with but downtown New York felt like a foreign world to him. Harry forced his mind back to their conversation as the sound of their foot steps echoed throughout the cavernous lobby.
"Oh no." Harry answered as they approached the stairwell. Howard checked for traps on the door while Harry turned to keep an eye the empty space behind them. "I had a literal mountain of galleons in my family vault."
"And? If you didn't leave them with the goblins or transfer them to the gnomes what did you do? Convert it all into muggle funds?" Finished whatever detection spells he had been using to make sure the door was safe Howard opened it a crack and glanced around. The stairwell was well lit, surprisingly airy for such a confined space, and completely empty. It was also ridiculously tall. Harry wasn't sure which would be worse, climbing the stairs or fighting the dark wizards at the top. They'd talked about sending a team up the elevators before dismissing the idea as a blatant request for trouble.
Harry rolled his eyes as he began jogging up the stairs behind Howard "I thought about that but the conversion rate with the Goblins is criminal. No, right now it's all in my pocket."
Howard's response was a snort and an eye roll.
"If you didn't want to tell me, " he grumbled between heavy breaths, by this point the two of them had jogged up seven floors worth of stairs and neither of them were taking their time about it, "Could have just told me to mind my own business"
"No, really mate." Harry's response was a bit easier and he even felt a grin slipping onto his face. Between quidditch which was a better work out than most wizards thought and the constant running from either death eaters or the press he'd managed to stay in pretty good shape. "My inside breast pocket – filled with a mountain of galleons it is."
By the time they'd run all the way to the thirteenth floor Harry was starting to feel the strain in his legs. Readying his wand and taking a deep breath he nodded to the recovering auror who nodded back with a grim look.
Howard then chuckled with genuine amusement before pulling out his mirror. Once again the mirror showed the faces of the other three team leaders but this time they were all catching their breath after their own rapid ascents to the top floor. "All right everyone – breach the floor in ten seconds."
Snapping the mirror shut and stuffing it into the depths of his right pocket Howard readied his wand and glanced over at Harry. "If you die Potter – mind if I keep your robes?"
Howard then laughed and turned to face the door while Harry cast a quick unlocking charm at it and placed his hand on the knob. "I'll make you a deal. If I die you can have my robes. If you die I get that pink sparkly monstrosity you call a monocle."
"Sounds fair," Howard began before stopping abruptly. Harry could almost see his mind going back over Harry's last sentence in more thorough detail. "Wait – pink... what did you say?"
Harry grinned and wrenched the door open without answering. Howard was nothing if not professional and he instantly forgot their banter as he slid through the door with his question unanswered, his wand raised, and his eyes scanning ahead of them for the expected ambush.
The hallway was dark and it was empty. Harry slid out of the stair well beside him and looked in both directions. It all matched Howard's tactical map. To their left a short hallway turned and disappeared. To their right a longer hall continued all the way to the elevator lobby with several other halls pealing off to head toward the building interior. Glass doors dotted the walls in both directions and behind each could be seen some variation of modern black and metal office furniture. None of the rooms looked particularly inviting.
"Too quiet." Howard grumbled. "They're either incompetent or there's still a surprise waiting for us. Cover me while I check the map."
Nodding Harry stood back and waited while Howard dug the parchment out of his coat. Harry scanned the seemingly empty hallway and thought to himself that their ought to be more light. The ceiling lamps were off but the large glass windows in the offices were clearly visible and bright despite the overcast sky. Still none of that light seemed to reach the hallway which remained dim and shadowed.
"Everyone is where they're supposed to be. And if we don't get a move on we'll be late to the rendezvous." Howard stated and moved to put the parchment back in his pocket.
A shadow in one of the offices moved and Harry spun to face it. "Bloody hell..."
"Potter?" Howard barked and turned. Even as he did so something else flickered in the corner of Harry's eye and he spun only to find himself confronted with yet another empty office. Howard noted where Harry's attention lay and stopped to peer into the office as well only to snort in disgust. "Get a hold of yourself. I thought you were up to this."
"Check the map again Howard. There's something here." Harry insisted with a tense voice.
Howard lifted the map that was still in his hand and waved it in front of Harry. The thirteen red dots continued to hover in a circle inside the large room that dominated the north wall and the blue dots of the other aurors all stood in formation at the various entrances. Harry noted that he and Howard weren't the only ones that weren't moving along as they should. Each of the teams of aurors were milling about instead of proceeding towards their goal. Finally he noted several of the grey splotches loitering in near by offices including the one where he was sure he'd seen something move. Another grey splotch caught his eye as it crept through walls making a bee line towards his and Howard's position. Then suddenly one became two. Then four. Then nine. Similar groups of splotches drifted towards the auror teams and Harry found himself suddenly very sure that there was nothing wrong at all with the charms on the parchment.
"The splotches Howard." Harry hissed. "Look at the bloody splotches."
Harry grabbed Howard's arm and dragged his protesting form along the longer hall towards the elevator lobby at a sprint not even waiting to give the older wizard a chance to look at the map despite his admonishment. What was coming for them was going right through the walls as if they weren't even there. Standing in a small hall to face them could very well be a death sentence.
Harry didn't stop running until they'd reached the center of the elevator lobby. One wall opened out onto the city offering a clear view of the buildings across the way and the frantic street far below them. Two banks of gleaming elevator doors lined two opposing walls and beyond that a hall angled into the building interior and, if he remembered correctly, led almost directly to the room in which the gathering was taking place. Harry let go of Howard's arm and spun to observe the room. When nothing immediately assaulted them he began to throw out blue bell charms indiscriminately. The gentle glow of the floating lights blanketed the room as they attached themselves across the ceiling and the area quickly lost its ominous appearance.
"What the hell do you think you're doing." Howard growled his voice expressing his anger as well as it could without shouting loud enough to alert their quarry to their presence. Harry merely raised one finger as a request for patience and then inscribed a glowing fiery rune in the air before poking it in the middle and sending it lancing into one of the elevator doors where it left a scorched black impression behind as it faded away. Three more symbols followed one roughly on each side of the lobby and one etched into the glass window behind them.
"Use cursed fire Howard. Or if you know them spirit lancing spells will work even better." Harry advised. The auror sent him a confused look that lasted for only a moment before his eyes widened in surprise.
A thick cloud of darkness pressed into the room through the interior wall. It flowed across the lobby and for a moment all the light Harry had created with the blue bell charms seemed to vanish engulfing them in pitch black suffocating darkness.
Then the runes exploded with blinding light and the darkness dissolved as if it had never been leaving behind over a dozen ethereal shapes formed of shadow and mist gliding towards them across the once again well lit floor.
"Fuck" The word spat from Howard's lips was quickly followed by another curse but this one brought with it a flaming whip of fire that cut towards two of the closest creatures. As the line of fire passed directly through the first the creature broke apart into motes of fading shadow. The second slid upward and the whip cut beneath it carving off only a small portion of its substance where its feet would have been if it had been a human. More specs of shadow fell apart as the piece of it that was lost dissolved but the rest of it continued forward unperturbed. These beings, Harry knew, couldn't feel any pain. They didn't really feel much of anything at all.
Harry had encountered wraiths only once before. During Voldemort's second rise to power he had somehow enacted a dark ritual that had made him immune to all forms of direct hostile magic. It was an immunity he had first shown to the world by hunting down and murdering Dumbledore right in the middle of Diagon Alley. To try and find a way to counter the ritual Hermione had insisted that they first needed to know more about it.
Their search had led them to some pretty dismal places including the long abandoned hideout of a fifteenth century dark lord rumored to have once protected himself in a similar fashion. That wizard had died when three feet of steel had been shoved through his gut but Harry doubted going after Voldemort with a sword would end well for anyone. They'd tracked down the long dead wizard's abode which had long been hidden from both muggle and magical sight. It had been a twisting tower of mottled stone that seemed to rise up from the sea to climb up the side of a shear cliff. It, unlike the office building, had been an appropriate hide out for a dark lord. Hermione had been insufferable for days she'd been so proud of herself for tracking the place down.
It was inside the tower that they'd encountered the wraiths. The first had caught them off guard and it had nearly cost Harry his life. The spells he used on instinct flew through it unnoticed and it was only in desperation that he finally sent a fireball its way at which point the vile entity had fallen apart into scattered wisps of burning shadows. Their first trip had ended in retreat. They'd soon discovered that the creatures were everywhere in the tower and that darkness would reach out and cloak the approach of any sizable group making them impossible to fight against.
It had taken them a week of digging into the black family library but they had found what they were looking for in a book entitled 'Spirits, Ghasts, and other ghostly creatures'. A ghost or poltergeist was the memory of a person that had died and not been truly ready to go. Wraiths in comparison were an echo of the actual moment of a violent death. They were a remnant of the act itself instead of the unfortunate victim. The horror of such a moment, they had learned, often left behind an imprint on the surface of reality. Such an imprint would fade away if left alone harmless and forgotten when existence healed and the world moved forward. When provided proper sustenance however wraiths could be formed. In most cases sustenance consisted of an intentional flood of powerful magic pushed into the imprint by an accomplished wizard. The resulting wraiths were inevitably eager to recreate themselves over and over in acts equally as violent as the one from which they had sprung forth. Harry wasn't sure how a dark wizard would go about controlling them, they hadn't researched that particular tidbit, all Harry and Hermione had been interested in was how to fight them.
Taking a deep breath Harry twirled his wand over his head and gathered up his will. Harry had come to a point in his magical progression where most spells could be managed with little more fanfare than a thought and a token wand movement. Spells like the one he was about to try though took a little more effort. As the creatures drew close he swept his arm down and around while shouting out, his words echoing loudly through the lobby and undoubtedly reaching the dark lord and his followers deeper inside the building. "Scindam spíritus!"
The five wraiths that were already almost within reach were torn apart amidst a whirlwind of energy that rent the purely spiritual creatures apart while leaving all things tangible untouched. The spell was nothing more than a faint breeze to anyone or anything firmly rooted in the physical world but to creatures of spirit it was like being caught in a whirlwind filled with razor blades. Like the one that Howard had slain the death of the wraiths was completely silent. Their existence was far too ephemeral to move the air about them and form anything resembling sound. Their numbers being suddenly cut in half was however noticed by the rest of the wraiths and after a moments pause the remaining creatures flew directly at Harry. Harry now had all their attention, how wonderful.
The spell had been an onerous one and even Harry had to take a moment to recover from such a significant expenditure of his magic. As the forms approached him he considered his options. There were likely apparition wards in place so trying to escape that way could end with him badly splinched. Nothing else really occurred to him that could help him escape from six wraiths at once and he was starting to consider more desperate tactics, smashing through and jumping out a window perhaps, when he was reminded why it never hurt to bring backup. A ring of fire formed around him and the wraiths paused at the border. It was a lesser spell that Harry recognized. The fire was a natural one without much actual magic permeating it. It would hurt the Wraiths but cause them no true harm. It did however cause them to pause long enough for a giant fiery turtle to tear all six apart in short violent order. The final shadow motes settled and then faded amidst the flames as the last of the creatures vanished leaving Howard to struggle with the turtle as it tried to turn back on its maker and engulf him. The struggle was short lived and the turtle subdued by superior will before it too vanished. A flick of Harry's wand extinguished the circle around him and he nodded once to Howard. Fiendfyre was the most dangerous form of cursed fire around but it was also undeniably the most effective. Harry had never invested any time in learning to wield the fickle spell but after such an effective demonstration he wondered if perhaps he should make the effort.
Howard spat on the ground before pulling out the now crumpled tactical map only to swear loudly before handing the map over to Harry and then marching onwards towards their goal. A quick glance told Harry all he needed to know before he shoved the map in his pocket and followed behind. Maurice and his team were simply gone. The one corner of the map was now filled with grey splotches as a group of wraith feasted on the remnants of the life force left behind by the now dead wizards. In another corner of the map, the closest to their own position, two blue dots moved inwards with haste. The wraiths that had attacked Thomas had obviously been defeated but at great cost and Harry wondered briefly if the family man who led them was one of the survivors. Only Cindy's team was intact with her group of four bright blue dots moving steadily towards the final confrontation.
The room where the ritual was being held was completely empty of furniture. Dust that collected on the floor in odd patterns made it clear that the room had once been filled with some variety of furniture and short dividing walls but they had either been removed or more likely vanished when the area was re-purposed. One long wall faced directly out the north side of the building and should have let in significant light but like the rest of the building the room still somehow managed to appear dim and gloomy. Facing inward and chanting thirteen witches and wizards cloaked in thick dark robes hovered on the edge of a dark red circle inscribed with precise lines and arcane runes in a pattern that meant nothing to Harry other than very bad news. The circle itself was wet and viscous and he'd have suspected it was drawn in blood even without the bodies lying still in random spots about the room with their remaining blood pooling beneath them. Almost all of the bodies wore robes, though a few wore dresses or mismatched muggle casual wear, and Harry suspected he now knew the fate that had been intended for the two witches he'd rescued the day before.
The dark wizards had their wands turned inward towards the center of the circle where the dark lord himself stood beside a glowing pillar of white light. His voice like those of his followers was raised to a fever pitch and his Latin incantation formed a powerful counterpoint to their measured chanting. He wore traditional black robes just like his followers but unlike them his hood was down and his face clearly visible. He was a tall man. Nothing about him screamed dark lord to Harry. His face was plain and his hair a boring tame sandy brown. If he hadn't been standing in the middle of a blood bath with dark red symbols painted on his cheeks and forehead he'd have been entirely unremarkable.
"No prisoners" Howard murmured to Harry as he raised his wand. There was no need to explain. With six of Howard's aurors dead the dark lord's death warrant had been sealed.
Howard's first spell jumped across the room. It was a dark, writhing pillar of sickly yellow light that engulfed the nearest witch before fading away. She stopped chanting and stood for a moment looking confused and vaguely ill before exploding abruptly apart in a shower of gore that covered the two startled wizards beside her. Two more of the robed figures fell to piercing curses from team two that lanced through their chests while another reacted quickly enough to throw up a broad magical shield that deflected upwards the majority of the force from the bludgeoning curses sent by team three that had been headed at his head as well as that of the witch beside him. A cutting curse from the same direction separated another wizard abruptly from his head. The spell of the final auror reached what was obviously one of the more talented wizards and the target simply caught the glowing blue light on the tip of his wand and batted it away where it continued until it smashed into the nearest window turning a five foot square area of glass into a cloud of dust particles that dispersed into the rain storm beyond.
Harry's own spell had been slightly more insidious. The resulting cloud of yellow noxious gas went unnoticed at first amidst the more attention grabbing spell fire. The cloud settled around a trio of startled followers who found themselves gasping for breath after they inhaled to cast their first spells. Thirty seconds later two of the followers would lie dead and bloated with yellow fumes seeping from between their lips. The third managed to crawl to the edge of the cloud for a breath of fresh air but before she could catch her breath a cutting curse cut a gash half way through her chest and she would bleed to death shortly after.
Things only got worse for the dark lord's followers after the initial volley. The enraged aurors threw a flurry of spells at them made up of magic reinforced with anger and pain. Several of the followers tried to conjure temporary bulwarks of stone to act as crude defenses but they were cut down, blown up, or eviscerated in the crossfire from three different directions before they could manage it. It wasn't long before only the most talented of the followers still stood sliding between curses, batting them aside with the deft touch of a champion dueler. When the opportunity arose he would deflect them back towards one of the group of aurors and force them to defend long enough to earn him some breathing room. Harry would have been impressed if he wasn't too busy being concerned with the activities of the dark lord. The man continued to chant seeming to take no notice of the chaos around him.
What once had been a pillar of light had now flattened and developed corners and from the right angle had begun to look suspiciously like a doorway. Throwing caution to the wind Harry marched out of the cover of the hallway and straight across the room towards the last of the followers. Their hood was knocked off by a near miss with a bludgeoning curse and Harry found himself facing, instead of the man he'd expected, a middle aged witch that could at best be described as handsome. Her curves which had been hidden behind the bulk of a badly sized robe suddenly seemed obvious and he was momentarily thrown as his mind adjusted to the new reality. She stepped towards him, sliding deftly past the next batch of concentrated spell fire. She was obviously smart Harry observed. She'd been keeping herself directly between the circle and the only remaining intact group of aurors which had forced them to hold their spell fire. Sending random magic into an active ritual circle was always a bad idea. All things being equal the most probable outcome was a catastrophic explosion that would kill you, your friends, the wizard or witches casting the ritual, and just about everyone within a a couple of square miles.
When confronted by Harry she contemptuously grinned at him before sending two conjured arrows his way followed by a wave of undulating flame. What this told Harry is that he'd been giving her far too much credit. Harry had learned the hard way that if you're going to try and overwhelm someone with magic you had to make good and sure you didn't send a combination of spells that could be defeated with a single incantation. That was what she had just done and Harry knew just the spell for the occasion.
Cogere. The word resonated in Harry's thoughts as he flicked his wand quickly in front of him and punctuated the action with a casual upward sweep. A wave of pure force sped out in front of him knocking the arrows out of the air and pushing the flames right back to whence they came. The look on her face was that of horrified embarrassment which he found a surprising reaction to her own imminent demise. It did however show that she'd recognized her mistake, perhaps in time to have prepared a counter response. A thick semi opaque magical shield formed and the flames vanished where the two came in contact. The shield was far less effective in protecting her from the wave of force however and the witch found herself launched across the room. She bounced off the floor, landed again and then rolled until she finally lay heaving on her back. Sprawled on the floor in front of the broken window she forced herself up and spit out a mouthful of blood. Rolling again despite her injuries she managed to avoid a pair of cutting curses sent at her by the remains of the Thomas' team, and then she casually threw herself out the broken window and into the rain storm beyond. Harry was surprised at the suicidal move from what had seemed a determined opponent. He was less surprised when he heard the crack of a rough apparition moments after she fell out of sight.
"Nice Harry." Cindy congratulated with a wan smile as she walked up to him. She had a small gash on one cheek and her hair was big and frazzled as if she'd been electrocuted but overall both she and her team appeared to be alive and well. He could see their countenances fall as they looked around and noted the complete lack of Maurice and his squad.
Harry soon discovered that Thomas had indeed been one of the two survivors of team two. His partner, a skinny man whose complexion had turned pale and sallow stood beside him and appeared to be struggling not to fall to the ground and start retching. One of his hands was held atop a bleeding wound on his side that looked decidedly unhealthy.
"I need to get Will to the healers." Thomas huffed as he frantically looked around the room. Eying his target he sent a pair of curses into a formation of stones propped up in one dark corner. The stones were pulverized and the haphazard wards they had held up collapsed around them with a visceral sensation as if it was suddenly just the slightest bit easier to breath.
"I'll be fine..." Will began only for Thomas to shush him as he grabbed him around the waist.
"You're right. You will." Thomas responded before briefly eying the rest of them and murmuring. "Good luck."
With a loud pop the pair were gone and the remaining six were left standing outside the still active circle and what was now definitely some kind of doorway.
"This is awkward." Cindy eyed the circle with annoyance before shouting at the dark wizard in the center. "Come out here and let us kill you already!"
"Because that's going to work." Grumped a wizard twice her age, Harry couldn't remember his name, only for his compatriot who's name Harry also couldn't remember to elbow him in the side.
"Got a better idea?" Cindy responded while rolling her eyes.
There were lots of reasons that ritual circles were so rarely used. Yes they could be powerful. Yes they could provide effects unfathomable through the efforts of a single witch or wizard. Unfortunately they were also deadly when subject to even the slightest interference or error in their construction. Harry only knew what he did about them because it had been a ritual Voldemort used to gain his immunity to magic and it had come up often in their research. The best way to deal with an active ritual was to disrupt the wizards on the outside early enough while the matrix of power was still being formed. When this happened the magic simply fell apart, usually eating the ritual participants from the inside out but leaving any bystanders mostly untouched. If you didn't do it soon enough though the ritual began to take on a life of its own. It gained stability and cohesiveness and began to pull in an escalating quantity of magical power all on its own. You could still rip it apart fairly easily but the results at that point were without exception explosive.
"We don't have much choice." Howard replied as he wandered the outside of the circle. "If we try to interfere we'll die, he'll die, and anyone within a couple of city blocks will probably die with us."
Howard pondered for another minute before continuing. His dissatisfaction with what he was about to say evident on his face "We have to let him finish and deal with the results. Cindy - get our own set of apparition wards up. I don't want this bastard running the second the ritual is complete"
Cindy hesitated. "I recognize some of those symbols Howard. Dimensional schism engravings. Power markers."
Howard nodded in acknowledgment and Harry began to wonder just what it was they taught aurors in New York. "Then it could be a greater summoning. A greater demon of some kind. Maybe a lesser god. The power in that thing is phenomenal."
"Bloody hell." Harry commented as he began to see what they were getting at. If their only plan was to let him finish then it might be a very, very bad plan. "I take it greater demons and lesser gods are a bit scary?"
"Shit your pants scary." Cindy replied. "Think the unnatural bastard child of Godzilla and a heliopath."
Harry just stared at her in confusion. He thought he might have heard Dudley mention the name Godzila sometime in the distant past of his childhood but the reference escaped him.
Cindy shook her head at his confusion and Howard took over. "The last known greater demon summoning happened in Italy in and around 1669. It destroyed more than forty towns and over two hundred wizards died trying to stop it. The Italian ministry managed to convince the muggles that it was just the bloody volcano going up again. Then there was a lesser god summoned around a hundred years before that somewhere in China. About a million people died that time before it finally just got bored and went back home. Technically if I had any certainty that this was a greater summoning I'd be obligated to pop that circle and consequences be damned. Nothing is as bad as what could be coming through that doorway. I'd just hate to get all those people killed for nothing if he's got something less suicidal in store for us."
"Bugger." Harry groused. It was time for a new plan. Some things you just didn't take chances with and it sounded like this was one of them. "Time for you to be on your way Howard. You too Cindy."
Cindy whipped her head around from where she'd been studying the room in preparation for laying the requested wards. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me. I'll collapse it inwards." Harry replied lightly. Howard, Cindy, and the remaining trio of aurors stared at him in confusion.
"Grand stander is going to get a lot of people killed." Murmured one of the aurors and Harry turned to glare at him.
"Harry." Howard ventured. The man was squinting at Harry through the monocle and Harry suspected he was checking to make sure he hadn't gotten himself cursed in the preceding conflict. "Ritual circles collapse outwards. They always collapse outwards."
Harry shook his head. "Hermione and I did a mountain of research in some very shady libraries when we were trying to figure out how to stop Voldemort. The trick is to not only pop the magical circle but to penetrate it. You can force your way inside and drag the energies inward with you. It inverts the flow of the energy and instead of exploding outward it implodes."
Cindy fidgeted nervously as she listened to his explanation. "You've done this before?"
Her question was soft and tentative. Harry figured she already knew the answer. He found he was surprisingly at peace with the scenario. The people he'd cared about most were dead. The rest of those who he'd tentatively called friend were an ocean away with more important things on their mind than the fate of Harry Potter. It wouldn't be the first time Harry had marched into certain death, maybe this time he'd finally get it right. "It isn't the kind of thing anyone ever gets to do twice."
Harry turned to address Howard before continuing, "Howard it may not take out a city block but it is still going to destroy the top of this building. So go bugger off. I've got work to do."
"Fuck" Cindy cursed and looked down at her feet. She was somehow even prettier with the look of regret on her face. Or perhaps it was just that Harry new the regret was on his behalf and that lent it extra weight.
"You sure Harry?" Howard asked shortly in his typically gruff voice. "It isn't your place. Don't suppose you can teach me how to do it in five minutes or less?"
"No time. Greater summonings, are they always as bad as you described?" Harry asked. He glanced back at the circle and noted that the portal now somehow appeared to reach twenty feet in the air and stand ten feet wide. It was an impressive effect given that the circle that held it couldn't be more than six feet across and the ceiling was still no taller than fourteen high. There definitely wasn't enough time.
"Worse. Where do you think Atlantis disappeared to?" Howard responded and then pondered a moment. "You sure you can pull it off?"
"Piece of cake." Harry replied lightly.
Howard watched him for another moment and then nodded his head at Harry in respect, before finally turning to the remaining aurors. "Time to go everyone."
The three members of Cindy's teem popped away at her agreeing nod. Howard tipped his hat to Harry and then followed as well with a slightly louder crack. Finally only Cindy remained.
"I was going to show you such a good time tonight." Cindy murmured with a smile.
"You tell me this now?" Harry couldn't keep the grin off his face and she smirked in reply.
"Not too late to change your mind. We don't know for sure that its a greater summoning." He couldn't help but wonder if maybe she'd liked him more than he thought. Either way they were running out of time and there was no telling how long it would take to complete the ritual.
"But it probably is." He stated with conviction. Somewhere near ten million people in New York were standing at ground zero and he couldn't walk away from that.
"Probably." She agreed with a sigh before pulling his head down for a long, intense kiss with a surprising amount of tongue. It was almost enough to get Harry to reconsider his options.
"You just had to be a big fucking hero." She murmured. She kissed him once more on the lips, this time briefly, and then stepped back and pulled out her wand. "See you in the next life Harry Potter."
Then she vanished and Harry was left alone, standing in front of a now glowing blood red circle surrounding an obviously insane dark wizard and a quickly growing portal that looked like it should fill the whole room and yet somehow continued to remain inside that six foot wide circumference.
Harry watched the spot where she had stood for a moment before turning his attention to the matter at hand. The dark lord continued to incant in the middle but he seemed to have noticed that everyone had left except for Harry. He sped up his chant, rushing to finish, perhaps realizing for the first time that his life had just developed an imminent expiration date. Harry simply ignored him. The wanna be dark lord was already dead. All that mattered now was the circle.
"Bollocks." Harry whispered without much conviction and then he walked into the circle with his wand raised and magical energy pooling at its tip.
Imploding a ritual circle, or so Harry had read, wasn't about incantations or wand movements. This was good as it had been several years since Harry had read up on the subject. He'd once anticipated the possibility of catching Voldemort in the midst of casting yet another ritual and ending him that way. It would have been a pyrrhic victory for sure but a victory none the less and, while it hadn't happened that way, the idea and the theory behind it had stuck with him.
Breaching the circle was the easy part. Something purely physical would be stymied at the circles boarder but any incompatible magical energy no matter how weak would disrupt the carefully organized flow of power and pop the containing circle like an over inflated balloon. The trick to reversing the flow was that with enough talent and fortitude you could hold all that power back with just your will and your wand - plugging the puncture point just like the boy who stuck his finger in the dike and held back a flood. Then you gathered your magic, pushed through the puncture, and dragged that balloon in right behind you. This is exactly what Harry did and a great many things occurred within in a very short span of time.
The first was that the ritual reached completion. Harry destabilized the circle at almost the exact moment the doorway finished forming. It reached hundreds of feet above them and spanned a width greater than that of the great hall of Hogwarts. Of course it still fit within that six foot wide circle under a fourteen foot ceiling. Magic was funny that way sometimes.
The flows reversed exactly as Harry intended and even as a monstrous creature of madness and flame tried to step through the breach between worlds the doorway first changed directions and then fractured. The elder god was ripped apart and torn from existence in a brief moment of titanic opposing forces. It had been a creature so old and so hungry that no wizard or man on Earth could have stood against it but instead it died somewhere between here and there, sometime between moments of now and then, and its passing went unremarked and unobserved.
Finally the circle finished collapsing and all the energy Harry was dragging behind him rushed inwards towards the now sickly red and green portal.
Outside on the sidewalk a group of trench coat clad aurors stood and watched as the entire top half of the office building simply vanished. There was no explosion, no conflagration of fire, instead it was simply there one moment and gone in the next. Howard tipped his hat to the vacant space. Cindy wiped away a few tears. Then the group of aurors turned and apparated away.
The cover up took surprisingly little effort. The building had already had enough aversion charms around it that the muggles never even noticed when half of it disappeared. Howard's superiors had been shocked to learn that he'd gotten an English national treasure killed but they hadn't held it against him. Each of them knew how much worse the entire affair could have gone and many a wizard in the American ministry would raise a toast to the foreign wizard that night. Howard certainly did. He raised several toasts in fact and ended up very thoroughly drunk. Then he picked up a young witch who was impressed by his scars and tales of daring-do and went about keeping himself thoroughly distracted from recent events.
Cindy went ahead and had that drink of firewhiskey but she had it alone, sitting in her apartment, giving herself an evening to mourn the man she'd known so briefly. The next day she'd get up and put it aside. But she would always remember fondly the handsome wizard with an English accent who'd blushed when she flirted with him
A month later word would finally reach England of how Harry Potter had died but as the country was embroiled in a muggle born and half blood rebellion at the time few took any immediate notice. Years in the future the history books would one day agree that Harry Potter had been a wizard born to strife and that he had died as he had spent most of his short life, fighting and saving lives. He would become the example of what a Gryffindor should aspire to be for generations to come. If Harry had been around to hear the stories he would have undoubtedly been horrified.
Of course the history books were written by wizards. Worse they were written by British wizards and they in particular were not well known for thoroughly checking their facts. If they had been a bit more thorough then perhaps they might have realized that none of them really had any idea what they were talking about.
Authors Notes :
My thanks to anyone who took the time to give the story a read and made it to the end of the first chapter. I hope you enjoyed it.
I'll say up front that I make no guarantees that this story will be finished. I hope to finish it of course – I've written and filled out most of an outline spanning 21 chapters so that is certainly my intention. However if I continue as I have begun that's some where near a quarter of a million words which is, well, a whole lot of words. I haven't even started the second chapter so expect them to be slow in coming. Chapter one feels to me almost like a complete story in itself so I went ahead and published it despite that voice in the back of my head insisting I should write at least five chapters before I consider posting anything.
I will say up front that this will not be rehashing of the plot of dragon age with Harry as the protagonist. Think big boulder dropped in a little pond and you'll get a good feeling for the kind of impact he's going to have on Thedas and not all it will be for the better.
Reviews would be awesome. Honest criticism is accepted as long as you aren't trying to roast me to a crisp with flames. I wouldn't spend too much time making suggestions on how the story should carry out though because, as mentioned earlier, the outline is already fairly complete and I have a firm picture in my head of how events will transpire.