AN: I do not deserve cookies. Please don't hurt me dear reviewers. I promise to make it up to you somehow.
"I'd like to hear that joke." The blonde smiled, and Moody's eyes skated over her face for a second. "There's always time for a good joke."
"I'd prefer to get on with arresting both of you, and Professor Granger here."
"The only problem is that you can't." Harry smirked, "We both know that the only reason you didn't bring anyone else is that you know that I'll just claim Professor's Privelege."
Moody grunted, "Hadn't thought of that one."
"I did. It's why I came!" The blonde glanced around the room before settling into a corner, propped up on a convenient cabinet, "I thought this would be amusing."
Susan glowered at the blonde for a second, before rounding back on Hermione who was sat behind her desk, head in her hands, "You'd best have good reason."
She mumbled something under her breath and Harry laughed a little, before turning back to Moody, "You got it?"
"Fresh copies." He reached inside his robe and handed a thin folder over to the only other conscious man in the room, "I didn't have time to look through it before I was interrupted. Barely managed to get it as it was."
"That was you?" Susan's glower was growing impressively.
"You have a nice office." Moody paused, "And you've put on weight."
Susan almost snarled, "I suppose that breaking into the Ministry is a lark after breaking out of jail?"
There was a bark of laughter from the grizzled ex-auror, "What makes you think I did anything when we broke out of Nurmengard?"
The blonde looked up from where she was peering over Harry's shoulder, "Some of the guards died."
"And that isn't going to be Dark Lord Potter here?" Moody indicated him with something approaching a sneer.
"He only kills those for whom there is no hope." The woman's smile grew slightly fonder. "There's a surprising lack of them at the moment."
"I like to think I bought us a breather." Harry didn't look up from the folder as he commented, flicking through pages. "Is there any actual reason you're here or are you just here to observe?"
The blonde pouted, "You haven't been answering my letters."
"Ask Hermione." He nodded towards the desk, where Professor Granger was busy digging through her drawers, looking for the firewhiskey. "I don't reply to any letters."
"He's right, he's completely ignored me too. Other than sending his daughte-" Hermione paused for a second, glancing at the pile of books she'd moved to the floor earlier, "How did you publish the books without sending any letters?"
"Business letters go to my company, not to me." He frowned, "Dobby took me somewhat literally a decade or so back and letters addressed to Harry Potter have been stuck in a room gathering mould ever since the trial." His voice grew slightly more distant as he flicked through a few more pages. "Blame Dobby for that." He paused his scrutiny for long enough to throw a letter across the room, "There's a few research opportunities that I think you might find interesting, or at least some professors to offer tenure to."
Susan's glower was slowly spreading across her face, turning it an interesting shade of purple that Harry hadn't seen since the Dursleys. The blonde nudged him as his eyes, hidden amusement shining, tracked across Susan's for a second, "You went past it."
She pointed, "Yup."
"Huh." He went back to the line and glanced across the columns. "That's convenient." He looked back at the indignant redhead for a second, "Susan. Where's Azkaban located?"
There was a moment of dawning realisation on her face as her wand came to point at the overly relaxed Harry, "That's what all of this is about? The reason you broke the terms of your parole, started a jailbreak, released a convicted criminal, and then went on the run?" The cogwheels began to turn in her head, distracting her for a barest instance.
Harry reached out and took the wand out of her hands in a single movement, crossing the room to back her into the bookshelf as he did so. "Pretty much."
She blinked, fingers twitching around the air which had previously held her wand. She hadn't even seen him start to move.
"Don't make me ask again." He hesitated. "Please?"
"I'm not helping you." Her eyes met his, "I don't know why everyone here seems to trust you."
Neville sat up, "I don-"
A blast of red light filled the room for a second, slamming into his body and throwing it back against the wall, where it collapsed again.
"Still as foolish as ever." Moody nodded at the body, "You made this guy a professor?"
Harry glanced across at Moody, stepping back from where he had crowded Susan against the bookcase, "Defence too, sometimes."
"You have to be kidding me." Moody snorted, "He didn't even get a shield up."
Susan frowned, "Did you expect him to be able to shield all of you?"
"There were only four stun-." Harry paused for a second, glancing at a corner of the room behind Hermione's desk with a pointed stare, before continuing, "There were only four stunners. Child's play."
"Seems a bit unfair."
"Don't remember you saying that at my trial."
A defensive tone crept into her voice, "How was I supposed to know you were surrendering?"
It was Hermione's turn to shoot an incredulous look at someone, "Is there something else that can be implied by someone throwing their wand to you?"
Susan's hand twitched towards where her wand was normally kept before she remembered that her wand was currently spinning around Harry's fingers in his off-hand, "Lord Potter is registered as having extremely capable wandless talents."
Hermione snorted, "No one has a reasonable grasp of wandless magic."
Hermione met his gaze squarely, "You couldn't even summon things to you wandlessly. Lets not pretend you could fight a duel without a wand."
The blonde cocked her head for a second, "He didn't tell you."
"Didn't tell me what?"
A faint smile crossed her face, "Everything."
"I don't tell anyone everything." He seemed somewhat defensive, "And I just presumed that she knew."
The blonde sighed, before turning to Hermione, "We switched his wand for a blank during an evaluation. He didn't notice."
"That evaluation was easy though." Harry missed the calculating look in Susan's eyes as he turned back to the blonde, "It's not as if there was anything dangerous involved."
Susan dashed forwards, twisting Harry's wrist, taking her wand and knocking his to the floor as she reversed their positions, shoving him against the wall roughly. "My turn to ask some questions."
"Why Azkaban?" Susan demanded, "What do you want with an island you scorched to the ground?"
Moody glanced at the blonde, who glanced at Hermione, who looked back at Moody. Shrugging, Moody started to raise his wand to blast Susan away from the other wizard, only for Harry to meet his eyes and shake his head a little. "If I knew that, I wouldn't be asking where it is."
Susan shoved him against the wall harder, ignoring the fact that Moody was now waving his wand towards Neville in favour of getting information from the unruly haired wizard.
He tensed his shoulders for a second, "Lets just say it's a matter of vital importance and then you can tell me."
As the wand tip pressed into the back of his neck harder, Harry's other hand flicked once, before a green light filled the gap between him and Susan, sending her flying, her wand spinning in a different direction, Harry wringing his arm a little, a pale wand in his left hand. "And remember that most war veterans carry at least two wands."
The blonde nodded a little absent-mindedly, "And that some of us are entirely capable of doing that without a wand."
Harry grunted in agreement before pointing his wand at the off-balance Susan at the other side of the office, "Azkaban. The location. Help me save some lives."
Seeing the obstinate look on her face, Moody shook his head, "Still think that we should just take the answer from her."
"Do you fancy trying to get through her Occlumency barriers?"
Moody pulled a face, stomping over to the bookcase, crossing the blonde's line of sight as she perched herself on her cabinet once more.
Harry hesitated, "I'll trade you. Amelia for Azkaban."
Susan's eyes narrowed and focused on his, a light Legilimency probe touching on the surfaces of Harry's own Occlumentic barriers. "You're threatening to kidnap my dead aunt?"
Harry sighed, "We both know she isn't dead, and we both know that you don't know where she is." He hesitated for a second, assessing the look on Susan's face before flicking the pale wand once, sending primary wands back to their owners. "That's the point of a Fidelius. How many years is it? How many years since you last got to share more than a few words with her, all heavily coded?"
She eyed him suspiciously, storing her own wand away, accepting the tentative truce between them, "And how exactly are you going to give me that? You know that secrets have to be given willin-"
Harry stalked over to Hermione's desk, grabbing a scrap piece of parchment and a pen, scrawling a single sentence on it, before folding it in half. He didn't need to say anything.
The blonde sighed as Susan's mouth dropped, "I knew this would be interesting." She pulled her feet up onto the cabinet and scooted against the wall, glancing over at Moody as she did so, "Do you think I could get some popcorn? Maybe some lemon drops?"
Susan's mouth finally started working, "So how, exactly, did you end up as Secret Keeper for Amelia Bones' fake death?"
Harry raised an eyebrow, "She asked Dumebledore."
"And when he died it passed to you?" She frowned, "I thought it went to everyone who held the secret. Honestly, I thought Moody had the secret."
"I wondered why you were so quick off the mark." Moody grunted, "I didn't expect a British response for a good ten minutes after Harry broke me out."
Harry soldiered on past Moody's anecdotes, "He asked me to hold the secret. A dead secret keeper is useless in cases like this, and Dumbledore didn't expect to live longer than a few months." He conjured an armchair, and sat down in it, keeping his eyes on Susan, "After all, he asked me to kill him."
"Of course." A faint smile crossed his face, "If you're going to arrange your death, ensure that it's something spectacular." A slight frown, "Though, of course, there were problems."
The blonde hummed a tune to fill the silence as Susan stared at him for a second, considering, before conjuring her own chair and sinking into it, flicking her wand back into it's holster. There was a definite tone of disbelief. "Diagon Alley was staged."
"I thought you'd reviewed all the battles." Harry settled further into the armchair, "Something about spending the last fifteen years training for the sole purpose of defeating me."
"Someone had to be able to."
The blonde let a giggle escape, silencing herself behind a curtain of hair as Harry shot her a look. "Fifteen years of preparatation and you didn't notice anything unusual about the entire Potter-Dumbledore brawl in Diagon Alley?"
"It was all fairly usual. No civilian casualties, no major injuries, just one dead body, smoothed over by a convenient story of possession by malevolent spirit, supported by Dumbledore's diary notes on what he was working on with you."
Harry sounded positively sardonic, "How convenient."
Susan frowned, "What?"
"You must have lost a good portion of your brain since Hogwarts." He snorted, "No civilian casualties during the busiest time of year in the only magical zone in one of the largest cities in Europe?"
A look of amusement crossed Hermione's face, "That's how I worked it out, initially. That and the lack of injuries."
Scowling, Susan glared at her, "The auror report concluded tha-"
Harry held up his hand. "Who were the Aurors?"
"Senior Auror Shacklebolt and his partner, Tonks."
Moody snorted. "Connect the dots."
There was a pause, that Harry used to summon the bottle of Firewhiskey that Hermione had dug out from her bottom drawer and pour himself a glass.
"They faked it." Susan glanced at the rest of the people in the room. "They faked it, and everyone here knows that."
Sarcasm crept into Harry's voice, "It's almost like you're looking at ex-member's of Dumbledore's inner circle."
Hermione tapped one of her paperweight's meaningfully, touching the flaming wings that danced with unburning flames on top of a pile of paperwork, capturing a figure that Susan now recognised as Fawkes in flight. "The Order of the Phoenix."
"Now retired, of course." Harry sounded confident, but Susan noticed the blonde wince slightly before wiping her face clear of emotions. Harry's tone turned slightly bitter, "There's no need for a group against the dark when there isn't a dark lord."
It was with the weary tone of a long-held argument that Hermione started, "You can't continue blaming them for not supporting you in the third rise o-"
Moody growled. "It was the least they could do."
Susan blinked, "Third rise?"
Harry looked at her, openly baffled, "You honestly thought I'd just taken to murdering magicals?"
"Those who thrived in war often struggle to readjust." Her gaze touched on Moody's single eye for a second, "The things they've lost are often hard to replace. I read the psychiatric report."
"The psychiatric report was wrong." Susan shivered. She had never heard Harry's voice so cold, "I killed those that I had to. No more, no less. Just those who bore the Dark Mark, those who carried a piece of-"
The blonde coughed loudly, drawing attention to herself for a minute as she pushed herself back to her feet and off the cabinet, "That's classified."
"I presume everyone else knows?" There was a moment of assent before Susan tapped the pocket with her badge meaningfully. "He can tell me. I'm cleared for everything."
The blonde's eyes were flinty, "This is beyond your pay grade."
"Who are you to make that call?"
Harry glanced across at the blonde wryly, cutting her off before she could reply to Susan. "Just here to observe huh?"
Her smile wasn't apologetic, "Sort of."
Shaking his head, Harry tapped one of the armrests in his chair, drawing Susan's attention back to him, "Every single wizard that died was Marked. Every single wizard that burnt needed to burn. Every single person that was destroyed beyond recognition was done so out of necessity." His voice shook a little, his eyes focusing on something not in the room "It was the only choice I could make."
"There's always another choice." Susan lent forwards, "Always."
Hermione shook her head, "Not for this. It's the only reason that he had any support."
"You supported him?" Susan seemed a little incredulous, "The report said that you were the one that turned him in. Gave up his hiding place."
Harry shrugged, "She had family, a career, a future." He nodded towards the floor above them meaningfully, "I had a daughter, who had a supportive extended family. She had two, who needed her support, her help, her guidance. Without Ron…" he trailed off, letting Hermione take over.
"Without Ron, there was no other option if I wanted to live my life." She paused, "Also, he wasn't hiding there. It's just where he was at the time."
Susan frowned, "What about Harry? No life for him to live?"
"Weapons are for war. No war means that no weapon is required." He tapped his wand holster meaningfully, "At best I was a killer, at worst I was a loose cannon." A thoughtful pause passed, "And given everything I'd done, I figured you were going to put me down anyway."
"Sounds like we should have put you down." Susan's tone was dry, analytical almost, "The war is over. Completely."
"The war is never over." The answer came from all of them, not quite together, but quick enough that Susan eyed them carefully, waiting for further explanation.
Moody was the first to shrug his shoulders and expand, "There are always Dark Wizards, there will be always be Dark Lords." He tapped a scar on his face meaningfully, "I've been putting them down since before you were a toddler, Madame Bones. There's always another lunatic crazy for blood."
The blonde nodded in agreement, "Harry is an asset. A valuable asset. One of the most valuable assets a country can have." There was a hint of pity in her voice as she eyed him, "Trained by the most powerful wizard of the previous generation, probably the most powerful wizard of his generation, countless victories under his belt, an almost flawless rec-"
"Almost?" Harry objected, "Who did I miss?"
Hermione raised an eyebrow, saving the blonde the trouble, "Ron, for a start."
Harry reached out his hand and took hers for a second, "We got him in the end."
"Only after he gave me up. Gave up his famil-"
"I know that." Harry winced, "It cost us both something."
Pouting at being cut off, the blonde continued, ignoring their entwined fingers, "An almost flawless record, and some of the most imaginative research to come from any wizard of his generation." She tilted her head, her hair falling around her shoulders again, "I'd say that Hermione is probably one of the few who could actually contest the role of most valuable asset." A slight pause. "If that isn't me."
Susan frowned, "Who are you anyw-"
Hermione cut over her, "War is a constant. Like Moody says, there's always another one." She tapped her fingers on another ornament, activating it. A carefully sculpted snow globe showing a wizard, surrounded on all sides, spellfire seeming to flash around him. "We all made our sacrifices, we all paid our prices." Her eyes tightened before she closed them and rubbed a hand against her forehead tiredly, "Please, respect the peace we bought."
Harry lent forwards, taking over, "It doesn't matter either way, of course. You're an auror, not an executioner."
"That's your job?"
"Only when it needs to be."
"Fine, what about that evaluation? What was that for?" Susan eyed up the blonde again, "And don't think that you can dodge the question of just who you are."
The blonde smirked, "You don't get to breed manticores without a licence. Sometimes it's beneficial for the Ministry to administer the evaluation for the manticore breeding themselves."
"It's nothing hard. A few spells, a quick written test." Harry tossed Susan's wand back to her before storing both of his back into their holsters. They were giving answers, she wouldn't try again unless they stopped. "Easy enough to pass if you've got the spare time."
Hermione snorted, "It's about three years to get a Class 4 licence for dangerous creature breeding. We offer it." She nodded towards the bookshelf, "We've even got the latest text on manticore breeding if you want to take a look."
"I wrote it." He nodded towards the pile, "Though I wasn't exactly sober at the time, so it's in the pile of books you should get rid of."
Susan coughed politely, drawing attention back to her, "You published how many books exactly?"
"About one a month. Every month."
"So that's another violation of your parole then?"
"Nothing in there about me writing books."
"I thought Dolores stopped you from doing anything that might 'spread your dangerous and irrational views'." Susan's sarcasm was painfully obvious.
"Given that she buys every book I write, I can only presume that I've finally converted her." Harry glanced across to the blonde before continuing, "That or she just hasn't realised yet."
"Should I be checking for compulsion charms?"
"Your department has bought most of the relevant books too. You'd best check everyone for compulsions." Harry walked over the bookcase and ran his fingers along the shelf for a second, before tossing the book he wanted to the surprised redhead, "I believe that this should be familiar."
"It's on our entry level reading list." She frowned, "All of our interview candidates have to buy a copy and read it."
"You pay for my firewhiskey." His tone was sardonic, "Thank you."
"Does Dolores know?"
"I really, really hope so."
The blonde giggled again, pulling her feet up under her and transfiguring the cabinet into something more comfortable, "She was once heard muttering about studying for a Mastery in Defence. Says that if Harry Potter could do it, anyone could do it."
Amusement glinted in his eyes, "Would you believe that my Defence Mastery has nothing to do with duelling?"
The blonde raised her eyebrows, "You know that you permanently damaged your examiner? He's never quite been the same."
"He learnt something new." There was a hint of bravado in his tone, "Examiners for Mastery level qualifications should expect to face world-changing developments. It wasn't even anything big, just some four dimensional rune schematics."
"He didn't even know you could do three dimensional rune schematics."
"Then you shouldn't have sent him." He raised an eyebrow, "Unless you thought that my chance of failure was ridiculously high and were trying to do me a favour."
The bushy-haired academic snorted, "94% of Mastery applicants failed before the Institute was established. Even with our assistance, it's still over 40%."
"How many candidates do multiple masteries?"
"None." Hermione lent back in her chair, "The time investment is too high."
"Close your student pub." Harry paused, "Or at least put some decent books nearby. Drunken inspiration is what led to my Transfiguration Mastery thesis."
"I liked that one. Even if it did draw heavily from Dumbledore's work."
Moody stared at the blonde for a second suspiciously, "How do you know that?"
She smiled, "Classified."
Susan interjected, "Is there anything that isn't classified?"
The blonde grinned this time, showing her teeth, "Classified."
Harry looked meaningfully at the piece of parchment Susan had taken off of him, "Hate to be the killjoy, but we need Azkaban's location."
Almost monotonically, Susan replied looking straight at the blonde, "Classified."
The blonde swung off of the cabinet and reached inside her robes for a second to pull out a letter, "Madame Bones, I think you'll find that this is all in order."
Susan's eyes flew to meet the blonde's for a second before she slowly took the parchment from the outstretched hand and opened it. "Just who are you?"
"No one important. And now that's done, I'm finished here." She walked over to the door, "I trust you can handle it from here Harry?"
"Handle what?" Harry frowned at her, "If I knew what was going on then I wouldn't be here."
"You'll find out." She paused, holding the door open for a second, "Do make sure to visit me next time you're in the neighbourhood."
"You're on the run." The pout reappeared, "Run back to me."
Hermione snorted to herself quietly, earning a glance from Harry before he continued, "If you insist."
A beautific smile and a closed door was the only response she needed before the occupants of the room turned back to a slightly annoyed Susan. "Do I presume that you're all coming?"
Hermione shook her head, "I need to sort out Neville."
Moody grunted, "I'd best deal with that too."
Susan's hand flexed towards her holster before loosening her shoulders. "Guess it's just me and you then."
Harry's eyes held an anticipatory gleam as he stepped out of the door. "To think. You're finally getting to take me to Azkaban."
As the door swung shut behind the two, Hermione turned to the ex-Auror, "So what's the real reason you aren't going?"
Moody sunk back into an armchair that he conjured up. Summoning the firewhiskey towards him he scratched his head, "Lets just say she's getting old."
Hermione looked up from where she was finishing the job of adjusting Neville's memory, "What makes you say that?"
A smile carved it's way across Moody's scarred face as he downed his tumbler in one, "I don't have Professor's Privilege."
Hermione's wand froze for a second at the apex of it's curve before a smile twitched at her lips. "How long till she remembers and comes back?"
Moody shrugged, "Someone's got to cover for the suddenly ill Professor Shortstaff." He pulled a schedule out of his pocket, "How hard can it be to give a lesson on pruning a Devil's Snare?"
AN: Some more stuff about Blonde is coming in the next chapter. Her identity is secret because that's her job not because I'm an asshole who likes creating secrets. Though it is fun. Lets just say that she's, well, "classified" I suppose. There's probably more than enough for you to work out what she is, even if you can't work out who she is. The only clue I should need to give is that it's my all time favourite character in Harry Potter who manages to sneak her way into every single fic that I ever write or imagine. It's kind of awkward. I need to kill her off in at least one of my fanfics.
Interestingly enough, this chapter also marks a divergence point from my original plotline. I didn't like how the original plotline developed, so I changed it. Hah! Professor's Privilege is something that I once again dislike because of the Deus Ex Machina feel of it, but it also creates some fanon to deal with the fact that a known rapist and murderer (Severus Snape) who supported an absolute lunatic (Voldemort) escaped justice. I just don't buy that a Headmaster, even one with as much political influence, could keep someone who would rightfully be the largest traitor of them all, the one who killed the family of the Boy-Who-Lived, from being lynched by a vengeance seeking mob.
Finally, breaking one of my rules and replying to a review in a chapter note…
To the reviewer that sent me a review of, or a PM about, almost every chapter I've ever uploaded to fanfic giving nothing but a list of words that I spelt wrong: you missed some. Please try again, this time with more manners and less insolence. You don't have to read my fic, and whilst I may make some mistakes, I'm writing an extortionate amount of words every week at the minute – somewhere in the region of 40-50K/week – so honestly… I don't care. One or two words a chapter isn't going to detract from most people's enjoyment of the story and frankly the extra hour or so it would take to go through with a comb and pick away at it to get every word corrected instead of most of them are hours that I don't have spare. I have e-penpals to write to, three fanfics that I'm writing, angry Canadian girls to write various definitely innocent stories for (cough) and an entire novel to write.
On a separate note, if anyone has too much time and enjoys everything from Harry Potter to Sherlock Holmes to sci-fi/fantasy cyber-punk, drop me a PM. I don't need a spell-checker and grammar-nazi so much as I need someone whom I can bounce ideas off of and generally abuse your brain for generally. I'd say "beta" but I'm not sure that's quite the right way to describe it. Bonus points if you can also make cookies because I'm running out (again). I'm more than happy to reciprocate if you can string more than half a dozen words together.