The Astria Porta Project – Part One : Ouroboros Treasures
Disclaimer I don't own the Harry Potter franchise, nor the Stargate franchise. Other, rich, people do. I also apologize if several people in this story aren't portrayed with sufficient respect; I try, but I only have my imagination to base off.
Author's Note This is a repost. This story was originally published on this site five years ago, I got dissatisfied with it somewhen around 2010-2011 and promptly deleted it. Several months ago, I actually started reading it again and found that I enjoyed myself. So why not bring it back here again, aye?
It was, Harry Potter thought, a fitting name for his shop.
The ouroboros was a mythical creature of the likes of phoenixes and basilisks, only the latter existed in the wizarding world, while the snake that eats its own tail didn't.
His hunt for the Horcruxes hadn't gone exactly as the late Albus Dumbledore, former Hogwarts Headmaster Severus Snape, Hermione Granger or even Ron Weasley would have imagined. No, he hadn't immediately focused on the retrieval of objects related to Hogwarts' founders or even the mysterious and highly sought Deathly Hallows.
It all started quite innocent and entirely innocent, namely with a Muggle man, Mundungus Fletcher and a visit to Borgins and Burks. The Muggle man wasn't all that important of course, but he was the one who inspired his course of action. He didn't even remember his name, Donald something, but he did remember what he once said: "If you start thinking, think big."
So instead of merely searching for a couple of objects that happened to contain a piece of Voldemort's soul, Harry broadened his horizon, learned a few nifty spells and even crafted some of his own. At the time, he was rather surprised how easily chanting magic came to him, but he supposed his years at Hogwarts had to be good for something other than almost getting killed every year.
Mundungus Fletcher, renown for his poor choice of tobacco and whiskey, hadn't meant much to Harry's grand plan either, he too only served as a source of inspiration, namely the looting of magical sites for precious artifacts. Borgins and Burks, and in a roundabout way the memory shown to him of Tom Riddle working for the shop by Grindelwald's first lover, Albus Dumbledore, was a place that got him thinking as well. Considering the fact that the shop had been the primal place to be of Knockturn Alley for decades, wizards and witches probably held artifacts of the past in high esteem. Muggles were the same really.
Which brings us to Harry's activities during the great majestic and adventurous Horcrux hunt: Through bewitching several maps of Britain and the European continent, Harry was and is able to locate most of magical properties, even the Unplottable ones. Owning a house of an old wizarding family didn't hurt in that aspect. With the help of these maps, Harry sought deserted estates, hidden storage sites and lost magical objects, looted the majority of them and stored them in a couple of bottomless bags that were placed in a leather satchel he constantly kept on his person.
Because the wizarding world only started separating itself from the Muggle world in the middle of the Dark Ages, he often found Muggle objects from the period before the separation as well. These were stored in a Muggle rucksack, if only to distinguish one bag from another.
Since he operated alone - his friends having returned to Hogwarts for their seventh year - it took him nine months to go through one fifth of the locations on his list when the pesky situation with Voldemort started bothering him again. Slytherin's locket and Hufflepuff's cup were in his possession and without Dark Lord essence, he had the Invisibility Cloak at his disposal and the one and only Resurrection Ring pocketed away, so he checked his schedule, decided his weekend in Villedieu-les-Poêles in Normandy could be postponed, and made his way into his old school.
He didn't know what the Ministry, and in extension Voldemort, had been drinking when they decided to renovate the Scottish castle, but it truthfully was dreadfully; dull and bland and generally spoken rather depressing. As it was, he was surprised to find a battle going on between the various factions of the schools, the occasional member of the Order of the Phoenix or Death Eater passing by. While it would only be polite to assist his friends, he had a job to do: put a light to a millennium old tiara, kill an ugly snake and behead the Dark Lord.
The first of his tasks was an easy one, even if he had to knock Crabbe and Goyle - Dudley's lost brothers - out and hex Draco Malfoy bald and unconscious. The tiara was quite obvious to find in hindsight and a quick Extinguish-Your-Soul curse later, one of his more advanced inventions, Ravenclaw's precious relic was but a Muggle historical object. Naturally so, it disappeared in his bag.
Finding Nagini and Voldemort wasn't too difficult as well, they were giving a speech in the Forbidden Forest of all places. Hidden beneath his Invisibility Cloak, Harry cast his unknown, yet soon to be infamous Extinguish-Your-Soul curse at the obese snake, causing Voldemort to look around suspiciously. The teenage relic hunter had to refrain from laughing openly at the noseless wizard. Having already put a goblin-wrought sword through his forehead months before, effectively killing the Horcrux in him as well, Voldemort was with this last action completely mortal.
"Potter! Coward, reveal yourself!" Voldemort shouted. The Death Eaters shifted their position a bit, trying to find Undesirable Number One in their midst.
Harry didn't fall for the bait however; if he were a Gryffindor, honorable and brave, then he might have, but Harry had moved since then and certainly life as the wizarding equivalent of a pirate or tomb raider, whatever term you prefer, was far more Slytherin in nature than the real Hogwarts deal. Cunning and sly, the terms were nearly synonyms of idiotic and ugly these days.
Casting his special curse for the third time that day, Harry contemplated that it was a rather sad way for Voldemort to die, but what could he say? Arrogance always got people killed.
When their master abruptly collapsed and evaporated soon after, the Death Eaters panicked briefly, before coming to their senses. They glanced at each other and shrugged.
"He wasn't in his right mind anyway," one said to another. "And well... Being in charge of our world was fun for a while, but the paperwork involved was a bit much."
"Always Crucio'd the lot of us too. Do you think he'll be back?"
"I doubt it. Whoever did this is good, that thing that hit him didn't even have a light!"
"Don't fancy crossing that bloke. You reckon it was Potter?"
"Well... he though it was. Don't know for sure though, I heard the brat hasn't really been around much. Said he's traveling all over Europe doing Merlin knows what."
"Hey! Would you look at that! Someone's levitating the master's wand!"
"Should we take it?"
The Death Eater thought about his answer for a moment. "No, we can only get in trouble by taking it. You know what? I'm leaving before we get arrested."
"Excellent idea, I think I'll leave as well. So, the usual discretion from now on?"
"Yes, our Death Eater life is over. My wife will be happy."
Voldemort's wand, the Elder Wand, found its way to Harry, who promptly left the scene, stopped by the fighting students and adults to tell them the Dark Lord was dead. It was, all things considered, still possible for him to go on his outing to Normandy.
He continued his treasure hunt for another year, occasionally visiting the wizarding world though he stayed in the Muggle world most of the time. After twenty-one months of constantly being on the road, as the Muggles say, Harry felt the need to settle down a bit. Having acquired so many artifacts he could start a museum, he chose to set up a shop. While the amount of magical objects he'd collected was still larger than the normal objects, there were a great many of those that were something in between. Not really magical, but they certainly acted like it. For instance, he had about a dozen of ugly Egyptian gauntlets that created a protective shield, healed wounds and tortured.
Selling a couple of objects, some to elderly wizards and witches, others to rich Muggle men and women, he eventually had enough money to buy a large property. Since one of his largest acquisitions was a pyramid-like thing spaceship, probably made by aliens of some kind, he bought one square mile of land near Blackpool and ordered constructions for a two acre large building in the style of a medieval castle. Perhaps those sizes were a bit over the top, but after living inside a cupboard for close to ten years, Harry wanted some space that was his. With his building located near the back of the property, it also formed a nice physical barrier against curious minds.
His small castle, or fortress, had a courtyard. The buildings up front would serve as his exposition rooms, at least some floors of it. The magical objects he wanted to sell would be on the top level, the fourth, and sufficiently warded against Muggles. Beneath the building would be two basement levels, his personal dungeons. One would serve as the floor where his not-quite-magical objects would be exposed though only for himself. The lowest level, well, he wasn't quite sure what to do with it, but he let he constructors build it any way.
The costs for his little setup weren't low, but neither were the objects he'd sold so that evened out a bit.
Harry hadn't been in business for a long time when a caravan of limousines and military jeeps drove on his grounds. On seeing them approach, Harry had to whistle.
"Must be someone high up," he said to himself. Despite the abundance of rooms he had, he lived alone, aside Kreacher and Dobby of course, and hadn't yet employed any staff. When the urge to go out and explore the world returned, he'd need to hire at least someone capable, yet so far it hadn't.
Hermione regularly visited him, what with the historical value of most of his collection, but aside from customers, reporters or students working on a thesis, nobody else came. The Weasleys had come once, yes, but they were obviously a bit overwhelmed with his apparent fortune. Ron left early that night, a bit too jealous of Harry's money and property, though Bill and Fleur stopped by from time to time; the eldest Weasley son quite interested in some of his Egyptian artifacts. Fleur simply longed for a bit of grandeur from time to time and a male that didn't have red hair.
Wanting to be there when his unexpected guests arrived, he descended the stairway, glanced in the mirror to see whether his Armani tuxedo didn't have any dirty spots, and opened his oaken entrance doors. Clasping his hands together behind his back, he waited.
Ten minutes later, men wearing black suits, sunglasses and guns had cleared the area, men from the military police were positioned on strategic places on his property.
'This looks rather official,' thought Harry, 'I wonder why I wasn't informed in advance.'
A friendly looking elder man exited one of the limousines, a woman in her forties with graying hair and glasses following suit. The man approached Harry.
"Mr Potter I presume?" he asked.
"I am Harry Potter," he said, "And welcome to Ouroboros Treasures ."
"I'm Lloyd Baker, liaison between Home Security and the British crown. How do you do?"
Harry's eyebrows rose slightly. "How do you do?" he replied. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"The article about your establishment in The Daily Telegraph a couple of days ago caught the eye of her Majesty; she has decided to visit your collection. Due to intelligence received in the Home Security department, the security level has risen. It was deemed best not to inform you in advance of her arrival to prevent this information to be unnecessarily spread."
Harry's eyes widened. "Her Majesty is here?"
Lloyd continued. "Because you were not forewarned, preparations have been taken and you need not worry about providing lunch. Unless your chef is up to the task of preparing food and drinks for a dozen men and women?"
Harry hesitated slightly. "I shall confer with him immediately. Excuse me for a moment."
He quickly walked to an anteroom of the entrance hall and called out: "Kreacher! Dobby!"
His house-elves popped in immediately. "Master called Kreacher?" "The Great Harry Potter Sir's be needing Dobby?"
"Can you make lunch for twelve men?" he asked.
The former Black elf looked delighted. "Master's be having company?"
Harry nodded. "The Queen is here with her entourage."
"Who's be the Queensie, Harry Potter Sir?" Dobby asked confusedly.
"She's a bit like the Muggle Merlin and Minister of Hogwarts," explained the wizard.
Both house-elves' eyes widened quite comically. "We's be making great lunch, Master," promised Kreacher.
"Excellent. I don't know whether they are aware of magic, but it's a good possibility someone will give you some more information about the likes and dislikes of the Queen and whoever is with her."
The elves nodded, feeling more assured in their loyalty to their master than before.
"All right, that's all for the moment."
He returned soon after to his guests, who were admiring his land. On spotting him, Queen Elisabeth II walked to him, her consort Prince Philip following.
"You must be Harry Potter," the Queen greeted him, offering her hand. Harry bowed and kissed it like a proper gentleman.
"That I am, my Majesty."
"This is my husband, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh."
Harry shook the Duke's hand.
"You have a charming place, Mr Potter," the man complimented. "It reminds me of Balmoral Castle. I understand it is a rather new structure?"
Harry didn't quite know what to say to that except yes, which hardly sufficed.
"Don't mind him, Mr Potter, my husband is a bit of a fanatic when it comes to architecture. Now, I understand you have a rather unique collection. Would you honor us by giving us a tour?"
"It is I who would be honored, Majesty," stated he.
"You are a charming you man," said the Queen.
Harry would be lying if he said he didn't blush at that comment. Deciding to ignore the fact that the monarchs of his country was standing right in front of him, he started his introduction of his little business. He wanted to give a complete explanation though.
"This question might sound odd to you, Majesty, but I have to ask: Are you aware of all aspects of your empire?"
"If by that you are asking whether we are aware of the wizarding world, the answer would be yes, we are," responded the Queen.
"And your staff, Ma'am?"
"They are my servants, Mr Potter," the Queen answered, amused, "Of course they have the security clearance to at least know about that."
"Good," said Harry, "then I can tell you a more truthful version."
The Prince and Queen smiled slightly. It wasn't often they came in touch with a wizard or witch and when they did, it never was for long and oftentimes quite distantly.
"The Ouroboros, as you might know, is a mythical creature, both in the magical and regular world." He pointed to the silver symbol engraved in the entrance doors. "It is often associated with time, eternity and the universe, one of the primary reasons I chose this animal as the namesake and logo of my enterprise."
They entered his residence, Harry leading them to a corridor to their left.
"About two years ago, I was given the task of finding several magical relics that were enchanted to hold a piece of the soul of Tom Marvolo Riddle, later known as Lord Voldemort. The existence of these objects, in the wizarding world named Horcruxes, was a secret unearthed by the late Albus Dumbledore."
"As I wasn't an adult wizard yet, I had some time to come up with a plan to find these Horcruxes, destroy them and eliminate the threat Voldemort posed to Britain and the world. In this respect, there were several routes I could have taken, one involving the search for other, even more mysterious objects that were supposedly given to three wizards, one being my ancestor, by Death itself. But that course of action was devised by Dumbledore and involved the cooperation of his murderer, my former potions professor, and two of my friends."
"You did not follow this path, I suppose?" Prince Philip questioned. Harry briefly looked at him, noting the interested faces of the MI5 and royal staff members. He absently wondered just how many Muggles knew about the wizarding world.
"I did not. You see, I was inspired by a quote I read quite coincidentally: 'If you start thinking, think big.' So I started making plans and devising ways to easily go about the task ahead of me. With careful use of spells and charms, I was able to enchant several maps of the British Isles and the European mainland to locate any magical site or isolated magical object. By comparison with a map of wizarding Europe, I made a long list of places to visit. Some places were inhabited, so I did not linger long there, but quite a few were abandoned and had fallen in a state of disarray.
"I removed most of the valuable objects in the abandoned places, while sometimes I even took complete graves of important persons throughout history. As it was, the really old locations were often littered with both magical and non-magical artifacts, so I took both with them.
"After I vanquished Voldemort, I continued my explorations throughout Europe and quit a couple of months ago, wanting to settle down a bit. I sold some of the artifacts I gathered, constructed this estate and opened shop. I could have opened a museum of course, but a man has to gain an income somehow."
"That's quite a fascinating tale," commented the Queen.
"In the meantime, we have arrived in the burial chamber. In the left corner is the grave of a Roman general. I estimate that he died during one of the attempts to invade Britain when the Western Roman Empire still existed."
The grave was rather simple, though an original shield, sword and uniform was positioned next to it.
"The grave next to it is from a Welsh landlord in the seventh century AD.
"The grave in the center of the room is the final resting place of Charlemagne, while directly across of him lays William of Normandy. Next to Charlemagne is Egbert, king of Wessex and Anglo-Saxon overlord in the ninth century AD. Across Egbert lays Alva, one of Charles V's military leaders sent to the Netherlands in the sixteenth century AD to oppress the resistance of the northern Netherlands. Opposite the Roman general is a Viking leader named Guthrum of the ninth century AD, while the one opposite the Welsh landlord is Ethelred the Unready."
To say the people gathered in the room were impressed, would be an understatement. They were baffled that so many historical figures were unearthed from their hiding places and placed in one pesky, if large, room.
"You sell these graves?" one attendee asked incredulously, receiving a disapproving stare from the others, including a stern look from the Queen.
Harry shook his head. "They are not for sale, though this room will only be a temporary resting place for them. I am still unsure of what I should do with them."
A silent conversation, spoken in looks instead of words passed between the Prince and the Queen, ending with both of them nodding shortly.
Harry continued his explanation. "The two graves near the front of the room are as special as the others, though for the normal world they don't mean that much. The one on Charlemagne's side is Salazar Slytherin, founder of the wizarding school of Britain, while the other contains the remains of Morgan Le Fey, a famous or infamous witch, depending on your sources, of the eight century AD."
"You have managed well to keep this a secret," said the Prince.
Harry weighed his words carefully. "It might surprise you, Majesty, that these graves aren't the most remarkable things I have encountered. And as to keeping this a secret, I would be swamped with visitors if word got out. Not to mention the complaints I'd receive of every country involved."
Lloyd Baker noted Mr Potter's comment carefully in his mind. Perhaps the secondary reason for their visit could be explained without any problems. It was a risk the royals, Home Security and several other secretive governmental organizations were taking, but a necessary one. The Americans, when given monopoly, always managed to make the situation graver than it was before.
Harry led them through the complete floor, followed by the second and third floor. The rooms in these parts weren't as filled with artifacts of historical value as the burial chamber, but they still contained many noteworthy objects, each of them having an interesting background story. Throughout telling them the historical context, Harry included stories of how he found something, what trouble he went through to go inside a site or even what he sometimes had to do to get out. The royals found the explanation educating and amusing at the same time, by the time noon arrived, a pleasant atmosphere hung about the group, though formalities and etiquette were still followed.
"If you would follow me, my servants have prepared lunch for you."
It was a feast really, the likes of which feasts at Hogwarts seemed ridiculously bad. When dessert came about, the mood grew a bit more solemn.
"Mr Potter," began the Queen, "I have a question for you, and please answer it honestly. Would you be willing to part with a lot of the artifacts in your possession and have them placed in a museum? Aside from the financial gain you currently have on selling them, of course."
Harry remained quiet for a while. "Truthfully, Ma'am? I wouldn't mind not having them, I am selling some of it after all, but I wouldn't want them to be spread to numerous museums across the world. While they aren't exactly always from the same origin, together they represent a time line in history not often told. By now we know a lot, if not most, of the ancient Egyptian civilization, the Greek culture and the Roman empire. We know roughly what happened to who in the past millennium, but for the rest the Dark Ages remain just that, shadowed by the civilization before and after. And I don't know of any museum specialized in this branch of history that is capable of securing all my findings."
"And if subsidies would be given to build an entirely new museum, a royal museum, around your collection?"
Harry frowned. "I wouldn't mind per say, but the transport alone of everything would have to be done the normal way and I don't see that happening over a long distance."
Lloyd chose this moment to speak up. "That could be part of another matter we would like to talk about."
Harry regarded him oddly, then glanced at the Queen and her Prince. "This isn't an elaborate ploy to install some kind of magical duke, is it?"
The Queen smiled serenely. "It is not, Mr Potter."
"It has come to our attention, entirely coincidentally, that you didn't only find magical and non-magical relics."
Harry sighed softly. Well, so much for well-kept secrets. "That is possible, Mr Baker."
"Several British agencies know the nature of these alien objects and through intricate intelligence gathering, have managed to construct a story surrounding them, as well as the true nature of our past. One of these objects is called an Astria Porta and essentially is a portal to worlds in other solar systems and sometimes even galaxies. At this very moment, American Air Force personnel uses one of these Astria Porta to travel our galaxy, but as is the American way, they have gained quite a few powerful enemies."
Harry thought back to the spaceship parked in his dungeon and the numerous depictions of snake-like beings on stones he'd collected.
"The Americans for the moment consider the existence of their Stargate program a closely kept secret, whether this is out of a need for having a monopoly or out of a feeling of responsibility, we don't quite know. Many of our officers and employees however are uncomfortable leaving the safety of our world in the hands of the yanks."
Harry cocked his head to the side. "I thought Great Britain and the US were allies?"
"We are, we are," Lloyd assured, "but when it comes down to it, the Commonwealth represents more territory of this planet that than the US ever will."
"And why would you tell all of this to me? And pardon for saying so, Ma'am, Sir, but why in the presence of the Prince and Queen?"
"The Astria Porta in possession of the Commonwealth," the Queen revealed, "has been in Windsor Castle for decades now, out of use and out of reach of the people that might be able to control it."
"In fact," Lloyd continued, "We lack the right facilities to house it. The Americans have their headquarters placed inside a mountain, but we do not have that luxury. Every military domain in our possession is unfit for such an operation, and even if we used one, that would only result in more attention than we'd want to."
It didn't take long for the two pieces of information to be connected in Harry's mind. "So you want to build some kind of underground base beneath the museum housing my collection, a museum that would take any attention drawn to the project away."
Lloyd nodded, pleased.
"Still that doesn't explain why I'm being informed of all of this."
"It has been noted that you currently own one square mile of land, with only one acre built on. With your permission..."
"You want to construct headquarters here as well as that museum." Harry sighed. "It would solve the transportation objections I have, I suppose."
"You would naturally be given a position in both organizations," the Queen stated. "As primary provider of artifacts for the Royal Ouroboros Museum and as owner of the grounds the Astria Porta Project, provider of objects to research so that our technology can evolve more rapidly, and royally certified relic hunter. Besides, it isn't because your normal business transactions would cease, that your magical enterprise should as well."
Harry thought about the offer for a while. There wasn't really anything that forced him to accept, he'd certainly gain more than he'd lose, but still... He was a solitary being, despite appearances. Then again, maybe some company wouldn't be bad, even if they were spies, soldiers, scientists and bureaucratic pricks.
"I... accept," Harry finally offered.
The Queen clapped her hands once. "Excellent. Now, can you call your servants? I would like to have a word with them."
"Of course, Majesty. Kreacher! Dobby!"
The elves popped into existence. "You's be calling, Master?"
"The Queen wants to say something to you." The elves' turned, a bit frightened that they ashamed their master in front of this guest, to Elisabeth II.
"I wanted to thank you for an excellent meal, well done!"
As one, they blushed a dark green tint and looked down at their feet. Dobby of course couldn't keep quiet.
"Misses Queensie's be thanking Dobby and Kreacher!" Harry quickly intervened before the former Malfoy elf started wailing and herded them towards the kitchen areas. As he returned, he said to his guests: "Sorry for that, Dobby's quite an emotional fellow."
The royals' visit to his estate and the subsequent news that a royal museum would be constructed to house his collection was reported in The Times a couple of days later, causing an uprise in visitors of noble breed. With the help of some people working at Buckingham palace, an architect was hired as well as several notices sent out looking for employees; guides, administrative staff, and the likes. That the security was provided by the British military was a noteworthy exception to the rule, but didn't cause for much of an uprising.
At the same time, an architect working for Home Security started making plans for the military base and several members of MI7, a clandestine branch of MI6, cataloged the alien technology in his basement and gave him a thorough report of what they managed to discover of the aliens in existence and their stance concerning Earth.
In the end it was decided that his lowest dungeon would be transformed in offices for the lads and lasses of MI7. Instead of turning up his grounds and build in the open, a tunnel would be built from these dungeons, from which the entire base would be caved out. A trip to a Greek site ended up with Harry getting his hands on an Ancient ring transporter, which would be placed in a secure room in the ROM, the Royal Ouroboros Museum, and serve as the main entrance to the underground base.
Constructions of both the museum and the base started, though the latter was in place long before the museum buildings were finished. A Fidelius charm with Harry as its secret keeper protected the Astria Porta Project, abbreviated Approject, from unauthorized access and knowledge, placing Harry in one of the most important positions of the operation.
British intelligence services discretely informed their counterparts of the other Commonwealth nations, bringing about an influx of Canadian, Australian, New-Zealandic, Jamaican and Barbadian personnel.
The smaller nations of the Commonwealth realm weren't capable of sending a lot of people, though each had a representative present, each working through the embassies of each country. Because the MI departments of the government were strictly British in nature, MI7 was promptly renamed Homeworld Security and served as the public relations and Terran side of Approject, a department, their intelligence told, the Americans lacked.
It wasn't perhaps the most secure way to go, but it would be presumptuous to assume only Britain could support the project. Besides, if they wanted to represent a larger part of the world, it simply was a necessity.
Within six months all of their preparations came to an end, combined units had gone through intensive training and scientist were able to develop nuclear fusion generators through study of the alien devices, a feat only enabled because fine scientists from various parts of the worlds put their heads together. While the aliens primarily worked with an element foreign to earth, the fusion generator worked with elements present on the planet. Plans were already in the works to steadily replace nuclear reactors, gradually grow less dependent on oil or gas from the Arabic nations, and fulfill the energy needs of the Commonwealth.
Surprisingly enough, the Astria Porta stored in Windsor Castle was the last object needed to be installed in the Approject facilities. Homeworld Security and Phoenix Operations, the department responsible for the actual off-world visits, wanted to make sure that their activities could run without much trouble once they started.
"Does anyone want a cup of tea?" Jeanine Walker, one of the management-assistants of Homeworld Security politely inquired.
"I could do with a bit of Earl Grey, Ms Walker, no milk and a bit of sugar," Lloyd Baker, freshly appointed liaison between Approject and the throne, answered.
"Rose-hip with some sugar, please," ordered Harry.
The other senior staff members of both Homeworld Security and Phoenix Operations gave their preferences. They waited until their drinks arrived, before settling down to begin their meeting - a gathering of the board of directors you could say.
"All right, people," said Matthew Scott, the former MI-6 director who was one of the driving forces behind Approject and generally acknowledged as the leader - after the Queen of course. "Let's start this meeting. Mrs Feist, would you like to begin?"
The head of the administrative department affirmed the request. "I will begin by summarizing the statistics of both organizations. Phoenix Operations currently has 278 men and women employed. 78 of those compromise our thirteen teams of six members each.
"White Dove Alpha and Beta are our diplomatic teams and will only be sent to non-hostile planets and civilizations in order to establish alliances or at least friendly relations. Panther teams Alpha and Beta consist of former SAS soldiers and MI6 agents, they will perform sensitive missions and assassinations. Finally, the eight Wasp teams, from Alpha to Hector are the ones performing regular reconnaissance and exploration missions.
"We currently have forty scientists working for us, all of whom are located in the Blackpool base. Fifty former Royal Navy men and women work as security guards under the command of Mortimer McCoy, former Marshal of the Royal Navy. Sixty employees are general Phoenix staff, performing numerous functions like operating the Astria Porta or ovd erseeing the paperwork necessary. Our IT department has twenty people under its command, while the remaining thirty are technicians cooperating with the scientists."
"That's a lot of people under our command," said Scott, "and the number's only going to grow as we bring in the other nations and the bases in Canada, Jamaica, Australia and New Zealand become active. Mrs Feist, I understand there were some difficulties establishing ranks for Phoenix Operations?"
"We have solved our problems, sir," answered Sarah Feist, "The titles of the different ranks are, according to superiority: Supreme Chief, Chieftain, Vice-Chieftain, Guardian, Vice-Guardian, Lord, Vice-Lord, Knight and Vice-Knight.
"Her Royal Highness Queen Elisabeth the Second is Phoenix's Supreme Chief. Mathew Scott is this base's Chieftain. Arthur Olvan is Vice-Chieftain, while Harry Potter and Wycliffe Brooks are Guardians. This rank will always be represented by two people: one magical person that is the base's Secret Keeper and one former military leader. Vice-Guardian James Sunders is the former two's second-in-command. They direct and organize the security of this base. Every department head is a Lord, and their deputies Vice-Lords. Division or team leaders are Knights and team members or regular employees are Vice-Knight, on an equal footing with privates.
"These ranks apply in every branch of Phoenix Operations. Cooperation between branches formally exist through the Chieftain Council, though it is logical to assume that Chieftains of each branch cooperate. In case of an emergency or threat, a Guardian's authority overrides the authority of Chieftain and Vice-Chieftain."
Scott looked at the newly categorized Lords, Vice-Lords and Guardians. "At the moment only the British branch of Phoenix Operations exist. The Canadian branch will be operative within six months, the Australian branch in three months, the New Zealandic branch in five months and the Jamaican branch in one year.
"Assuming the coming meeting between the Queen and the leaders of the Comonwealth nations goes well, prospective branches can be located in India, Barbados, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Mozambique and Sri Lanka.
"Most of these countries aren't in an ideal situation right now, which is why Phoenix Stewart will focus on developing agricultural and medical technology. Phoenix Gibson's primary project will be the development of a hyperspace capable engine, Phoenix Newfoundland will concern itself with offensive and defensive weaponry, including spacecraft. Phoenix Blue Mountain will be our training center. Lord Richards, the floor's yours."
Johanna Richards, Science Lord, the organization's Research & Development department, straightened her back a bit. "The mono class nuclear fusion reactor is ready to be produced on a larger scale, the only existing exemplars are currently in use for this base, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and the government buildings in London. The bi class reactor, a more advanced version, is being designed as we speak and will eventually be used for energy needs of the Commonwealth nations. The tri class reactor will be a massive improvement of the mono class, though it will only be used for Phoenix Operations.
"We have disassembled the snake-like energy guns and used that study to develop our own gun with the same functions as the snake weapons, but constructed of elements found on Earth. The prototype will be tested in two days, production is planned for the following month.
"The shield gauntlets in our possession," Harry refrained from snorting, when it came to original alien equipment, he'd originally found everything, "are still being worked on in our laboratories, but it's looking good.
"The translator devices and linguistic goggles are proving to be more difficult to construct, but given time that too should be accomplished."
It was quite interesting what a bunch of geniuses could come up with. For instance those linguistic goggles; when worn they should increase activity in the part of the brain responsible for linguistic skill in such a matter that you could understand any languages, written and spoken, and reproduce them. The explanation was, no doubt, much more complicated, but that was as far as Harry could follow. It was, however, a much easier alternative to learning alien tongues individually. Or worse, having to rely on an artificial language derived from some millennia old script found in an old pervert's tomb - Harry'd been in one of those often enough.
Frankie Aberdeen, IT Lord and one of the best hackers in Britain, spoke up. "While we haven't been able to access the Stargate Command network, an obscure Pentagon sponsored agency called NID has agents in the Cheyenne Mountain Facility. They in turn slipped copies of everything in SGC's database on the internet through various forums. It took us a couple of days to crack the sites, but we now have every mission report, every discovery and the entire Astria Porta address database of the Americans.
"Samuel Dickerson and Kathleen Farrow, two of the best programmers, are busy developing an operating system with an entirely new programming language, Astra, with the majority of my crew to ensure 100 percent safety of our data. The system kernel is based on the same principles as the Linux kernel, though Avalon OS will be able to deal with far more technology than existing operating systems. The team lead by Virginia Pinkerton is working with Daniel Kaddish of the science department and Boris Dover of the technical staff to design the first nanocore based computer on Earth. Avalon OS is in its beta phase, a release candidate is scheduled for the first of July, three days before the first mission, and will be installed on every computer including the ones from Homeworld Security. The second version of Avalon OS will contain a more advanced kernel, based off of a better machine language than Assembler entitled Royal."
Again, half of what was being said went way over his head, but Harry vouched to follow a couple of courses to know what the specialists were saying.
"Lord Malone, how are your troops doing?" asked the Chieftain.
"All troops have gone through as much training as possible, as well as developed battle strategies based on the new weapons and hopefully new shielding devices. Until then, standard SAS strategy and weaponry will be used, though the White Dove teams are inexperienced to real combat. We are on standby for missions, sir."
"Excellent work, Lord," Scott said, "Guardians Brooks and Potter, how is the security going?"
Harry motioned for Wycliffe to go first.
"Guards are positioned near every entrance to the base, rotations have been worked out and a team for the terminal will always be present to deal with unpleasant surprises." The terminal was the name given to the space housing the Astria Porta and inspired by the terminals in airports. "Camera surveillance of the grounds and museum is active. Safety protocols have been established, holding cells in Guardian Potter's dungeons constructed. Two fortified Hummervees and one fortified former military bus will always be available in the estate's garage in case of evacuation."
Harry continued. "The Fidelius charm is active, as you well know, effectively hiding us from any and all sensors, be they normal, alien or magical. All visitors must be approved by me and given the secret to the Blackpool base. While it's possible for two people in the know to talk about it freely, I want you to ensure none of your employees are having loose tongues. As long as our existence is to be kept a secret, not a word of what goes on in here is spoken outside this base. Expect for Liaison Baker and the Commonwealth representatives who have to confer with their superiors and counterparts.
"Having said that, the Royal Ouroboros Museum is opening its doors on the fourth of July to a restricted group of people; journalists, renown archaeologists from over the world and people the museum invited personally. A visitor that might interest you all will be a doctor Daniel Jackson and his 'assistant' Murray."
A flicker of surprise was present on every attendant's face.
"The room containing the Ring Transporter is adequately protected, but I will cast a Confundus ward on the door before the visitors arrive, just to be sure.
"On another front, I'm in contact with wizards and witches from every prospective branch nation and trying to weed out the ineffective candidates. Aurelia Dibble, a Canadian witch, has already been approved and the Australian choice is divided fifty-fifty between an Aboriginal mage and a former Unspeakable of the Indo-Australian Federation, a wizard born in Sydney. Each of them have roots outside the wizarding communities, it's the only way they would fit in.
"I'm also searching for a Vice-Guardian for Phoenix Blackpool, in case something happens to me. It's a good possibility the same policy will be adopted for the other branches."
Matthew Scott nodded to show he appreciated the initiative. "All right, I think we covered the major points now. Lord Donagal, how are your technicians doing?"
The meeting continued for another two hours, trying to fine tune everybody's schedule and their own deadline: the Fourth of July as well; if the first mission was a success, the New World Symphony by Dvorák would be played. If it was a failure, Mozart's Requiem would sound from the museum's speakers. It was a subtle enough code.
A blue Volkswagen Beetle was parked in front of 'Adder Castle', name several locals had given to Harry's estate and since got picked up by the press. A woman with sleek, brown hair to her shoulders, dressed in an elegant suit, a pair of thin-framed glasses perched on her nose, stepped out of the Beetle. She walked the few stairs to the oaken entrance door and rang the bell.
A minute later, a dark-haired, not too short, not too long, young man opened the door.
The woman offered her hand. "Mr Potter I presume? I'm Melissa Taylor from The Guardian , we arranged an interview?"
"Welcome, Ms Taylor, to my home," Harry Potter said, "Come in."
"I wanted you to know how grateful I am for this opportunity," the journalist said.
"We'll be going to my office, please follow me."
They walked the distance to what once was the burial room and now was a very large office, with a roomy desk, comfortable chairs, and a nice (if fake) Persian carpet on the floor. Melissa looked around, surprised by the modern look of the place. Her first impression, even her second impression, had been that at least this part of the medieval-styled 'castle' was true to its category in every meaning of the word. The impression of a castle was still pronounced, but it got quite a futuristic look, what with the lights and painting.
They sat, Harry offering a cup of tea to the young woman and getting one for himself.
Melissa arranged her Dictaphone, placed it in the middle of the desk and procured two sets of three pages filled with questions.
"These are the questions I would like to ask. Are there any you won't answer or rather want I didn't ask?"
Harry checked the list, glancing at the reporter from time to time. The woman was, if anything, quite thorough and from the looks of it, incredibly curious. The subjects concerned the museum, his professional life, his personal life, questions of general interest and even some political inclined questions. But, he had to admit, none of them really went over the line. Some dared and challenged him, of course, but it was nothing alike his experience with Rita Skeeter and consorts.
"I don't have any issues with this list, though I won't give an elaborate answer to each."
Melissa smiled. "All right." She pushed the 'record' button. "Let's begin. I understand that you received instructions from the Her Royal Highness to place your private collection and the artifacts you auctioned in a museum. How did that exactly go?"
"As you might remember, the Queen visited my estate with His Royal Highness Prince Philip nearly seven months ago. The visit was both a surprise and an honor on my part, I assure you, so I decided to show her a bit more than my usual customers get to see. An example of this were the graves of William the Conqueror and Charlemagne, in fact they were placed in this very room."
Melissa looked around her, surprised.
"You made your office in here?"
Harry nodded. "With the Museum built, I decided to give this room a different purpose. Her Majesty was quite surprised by what she saw. In hindsight, I should have recognized the hints passing between her and her consort, but I didn't. We just had lunch when the Queen asked me how I would feel about parting with the things I've gathered. And well, from one thing came another, I received the help of a lot of people working at the palace, gave the permission to use part of my land..."
"According to rumors, the ownership of the Royal Ouroboros Museum will be split between yourself and the Queen. What is the real deal behind it, and what exactly are your contributions?"
"The rumors are at least partly true this time," said Harry, "At this moment in time, it's true that the royal family and myself are the main investors of the ROM. The Queen invested one million pounds in the project, I donated one million pounds. I provided the land on which the museum is built and leased the majority of my collection to the museum. Because I can't simply give away my source of income, artifacts I've worked really hard for me to get, 25 percent of the revenue will be used to slowly buy all of my artifacts.
"50 percent will go directly to the museum, while the remaining 25 percent will be used to invest in other artifacts and facilities. In simple terms, you could say that last part will be put in one major savings account used to buy from other sources or loan a topic-specific exposition. When all of my leased items are bought, that share of the profits will go to the royal family to repay their investment. It's a very long-term business plan, spanning decades, but it's a good one."
"What was or is the most expensive item in your collection?"
"The graves of those important historical figures are without a doubt priceless, but they were donations on my part. As for an object? I suppose the sword I've found near Exeter that is presumed to be the 'Excalibur' sword of the Arthurian legend. It at least bears that name. It has six large diamonds encrusted, three on each side of the hilt, and does date from those days. The diamonds on their own are worth two million pound each, but the total package was estimated at thirteen million pounds. It is, after all, some proof that Arthur Pendagron once lived."
"But it'll take years to pay for something like that!"
Harry smiled. "Which is why I gave the most expensive artifacts to the museum instead of leasing them. I couldn't possibly find someone willing to spend that much money on a rusty sword anyway."
"You'll be twenty at the end of July and already you are vice-director of a rising museum. Your total net worth is estimated by our financial advisers to be approximately 118.6 million pounds. The Sun recently elected you as most eligible bachelor of the year. The Queen has had lunch with you and your findings have instigated chaos in the archaeological world. Tell me, Mr Potter, what is the secret to your success?"
"I don't think there is one way or method towards success. I'm more convinced it's a combination of character and circumstances. I didn't have a happy childhood, my aunt and uncle didn't like me and they let it show. They spread lies to the neighbors, I never had any friends as a kid, but would, given the chance, want it any different? I don't think so. I learned from an early age to be responsible, to think for myself, to survive.
"When I went to the boarding school my parents attended, people had high expectations of me. I didn't always understand what they wanted me to do, or maybe I did and tried to ignore it, but it definitely was a time in my life that helped define me. I quit school when I was seventeen and decided to do something I always was denied as a kid: go treasure hunting. And I'm good at it, my current situations proves that.
"I think that if you really want to be successful, if you have the drive to mean something, you will be and you will mean something. That doesn't always have to be from a materialistic point of view of course, sometimes getting married and creating a family of your own is more than enough to succeed in life. But neither of those come easily. You have to be strong, you have to know what you want and when to grab the opportunity. But you can't go about it rigidly either, you have to allow your impulsive side to come out from time to time. Sometimes you have to take risks and hope for the best.
"I think that the best attitude to achieve something is to simply be yourself, acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, and don't expect from others what you can't do yourself. It's what makes the difference between a good leader and a leader , what separates average from well done."
"You've mentioned getting married and having children as one way to success; can we expect a future Mrs Potter or is your candidature for most eligible bachelor still valid?"
Harry smiled softly. "It's still valid. I'm not on the lookout for a potential girlfriend. If I meet someone and we hit it off, sure, but love simply is one of those things that needs to follow a natural course. You can't force it, not if you want it to be genuine. Besides, I have plenty of years ahead of me. I have patience."
"A completely different subject now... Can you tell our readers why they should visit the Royal Ouroboros Museum?"
"Because we're a new organization, we're able to benefit from decades of experience from other museums, we looked around at what is available, what the possibilities were. Quite frankly, Ms Taylor, what we saw, we found lacking. Our world's growing and changing daily, the generation of today isn't what the one of yesterday was, so we tried to create a niche in the museum world. We used modern technology and all what's at our disposal to develop an interactive way to get our message across. We have virtual simulations of battles long fought, actors playing roles, audio and video messages and documentaries, I sometimes really felt as if we were bringing Disneyland to the museums, and I liked that. Kids will love, parents secretly too, people who otherwise don't care much about our history might find themselves hooked to our often gruesome past, while the historians and academical inclined will be suitably impressed by the things presented.
"The Royal Ouboros Museum fills a hole in history that doesn't get much attention. The first half of the Dark Ages are to most truly dark. We know all about the period before 500 AD, we know the most important events since 1,000 AD, but what do know of Beowulf's era? Where do we separate truth from fiction concerning Arthur and his Knights? The tale we spin isn't always a positive one but it isn't pessimistic either; through various figures in history, some famous others unknown, we make a sketch of that time.
"If you're curious or simply want a day out with your family but can't think of anything specific, the ROM is you destination."
"I noticed a lot of people walking in and out some of the buildings, is there still much work to do?"
"That were the gentlemen from our IT department. They've finished the final touches on our roleplaying life-sized computer game."
"Can you tell us a bit more about them?"
"I'll tell you about one of them, I don't want to spoil all the fun, do I? One of the games take place during one of the sessions of the Round Table, where the visitor has to assume the role of a member and decide on the outcome of various problems. The visitor will then be transported to a battle field or sent on a mission. It'sa highly advanced computer game made by the company that creates the Final Fantasy series with the purpose of educating the player in medieval history."
"Are you going out on any expeditions in the near future?"
"I haven't planned anything yet, but it's a good possibility that I'll go relic hunting when the museum's all set up. I know of a few locations that might be worth it. At the moment though I'm working closely with the government on a longterm project as well."
"And what does this project entail?"
"It's actually an international organization compromising prominent scientists of the Commonwealth of Nations that aims itself at the betterment of our world. It's still in the early stages of its existence, but it's looking good. A major part of the project focuses on finding medical cures to numerous diseases, increasing the food production on the African continent and finding environmental-friendly power sources. It's a British initiative at the moment, but we're hoping that after the next Heads of the Commonwealth of Nations Meetings, more countries will step in."
"And how does a relic hunter and museum vice-director like you fit in such an organization?"
"I was asked to be one of their spokesmen," replied Harry, "They wanted someone young, prominent and innovative to represent them, I guess they were impressed by what I've done with my life so far and decided to take a chance. It didn't hurt that they use a mythological creature as their namesake."
"Do tell me more," inquired Melissa, curious and excited to get another scoop for The Guardian . This interview was one of the best things to happen to her and it didn't even involve scandals.
"The organization's called Phoenix Operations after Greek mythology. A phoenix is a symbol for rebirth and immortality. The organization's aims are to rebirth prosperity and stability in a lot of countries. As for the immortality part, well, anyone that manages to invent even one cure or technological advancement is assured to be well-remembered."
Sprouting the right amount of half-truths would create a blanket of confusion and uncertainty that would be much more effective in befuddling hostile elements of the civilizations, without casting any suspicion on them. What he told her about Phoenix Operations was true, he simply didn't say that the betterment of the world included far more than what he already said. It was a tactic proposed by him that met surprisingly a lot of resistance with the men and women of Homeworld Security. It was a bit hypocritical and unintelligent of the secret service employees, but he supposed everybody had their faults. It sometimes surprised him though how Slytherin he'd become since the death of Albus Dumbledore, and he didn't use the term in a Voldemort kind of way.
"I wanted to thank you for the invitation," Willy Granger said as he shook Harry's hand.
Juliette Granger, born Juliette Oxford, used a more direct way and kissed his cheek in thanks.
Harry's eyebrows rose slightly. He'd always thought of Hermione's parents as stiff, upper class kind of people, but so far they acted quite laid back.
Hermione was glancing away from her parents when he looked at her.
"I see where your daughter got her beauty from," he said to Juliette.
"Aren't you a charmer," she patted his hand. "We've been curious to see for ourselves what your objects are all about ever since Hermy came home telling us about your new home."
Hermione's cheeks reddened slightly. He found it quite ironic that good old Grawp's nickname for his friend was the same her parents used.
"So how's university life treating you?" he asked her.
"Fine. Musical history isn't really interesting, though the lessons aren't as simplistic as History was in high school."
"Do you know whether they replaced that ghost in the old place already?"
"I don't think so."
"I'm glad you came, I don't get to see a lot of our kind anymore," said Harry, "but I'm afraid I have to go, the mayor and director Webster are going to cut the lint."
The two dentists and their daughter, Art History student, watched him go. Willy turned to the youngest member of the family. "What does your community say about him living outside their influence?"
"Some of them aren't happy about it. Last time I saw Ron, he told me of rumors going on that the Wizengammot was going to fine people that spend more than half of their time in the normal world. Of course with the Slytherin and Le Fey's graves being opened to public next week that rumor's probably already in the trash bin. Morgan Le Fey was only a myth before he found her."
"He seems to do that a lot, finding proof that legends are true."
"I swear that boy's going to find evidence of aliens on Earth one day the way he's going about his life."
From his position next to the mayor of Blackpool, Harry smiled. Through the loudspeakers, New World Symphony by Dvorák was playing. The game was afoot. The galaxy officially wouldn't be the same anymore.
"Daniel Jackson," 'Murray' called.
"The man next to the fat man, he bears the mark of the vengeance goddess."
"The vengeance goddess? Who's that? And are you talking about Harry Potter and that odd scar on his forehead?"
"No one knows who the goddess is. In Jaffa legend, she sends forth her avengers to meet out justice, often ending with the death of the Goa'uld. The avengers always had a zigzag mark on their person; according my forefathers' tales, they are impossible to kill."
"When was the last time these avengers appeared?"
"Thousands of years ago; their existence is legendary, but passed on from generation to generation, especially the words of the last avenger for they spoke of the annihilation of the gods when they would reappear." The former Prime nodded to himself. "I will inform my fellow Jaffa of the avenger's return. More will break away from their masters with that knowledge in mind."
Daniel wanted to tell his friend that he shouldn't get his hopes up on a mere legend, but he refrained. In the end, there was nothing wrong with a little bit of hope. Besides, if it made the Jaffa easier to deal with... Of course the fact that some British man had such a mark, it was a little suspicious, especially in his field of work.
He made a mental note to look into this Harry Potter a bit more when their holiday was over, but for the moment he was here to satisfy his curiosity and see Britain's legacy for himself. And Teal'c of course. The Colonel had given the man a rather one-sided view on human culture, it was high time the Jaffa was introduced to a subject that had nothing to do with science fiction.