Scabbers is thin, Harry notes. Thin and stressed. Ron thinks it’s Hermione’s new cat Crookshanks, that the cat has something against his rat. Crookshanks does seem rather fixated on the rat, but Harry knows that’s not the cause of Scabbers’s stress. After all, he was peaky in Egypt – before Hermione met her fluffy, flat-faced companion. He’s written to his muggle friends about it for advice, because it worries him, and an hour into the train ride, Hedwig appears at the window, tapping to be let in.
Capture and test it, Jet writes.
Murder it. It’s a liability, Ruby says.
Interrogate your friend. He’s not the most logical one in the classroom, Emerald writes.
Buy it off him, Sapphire suggests.
“Who’s writing to you at this time of year?” Ron asks, feeding Fudge Flies to his scared rodent.
“Muggle friends,” Harry says absently, folding up the letter, then thinking better of it and flicking his wand. Hot sparks fall through the air and slowly burn through the paper, destroying everything written on it.
“You have muggle friends whose letters you burn?” Ron asks in shock.
“I… my Uncle sent me to a school for delinquents,” Harry says slowly. “Trust is hard to come by.”
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione sighs, leaning over and giving him a hug – a very tight one. “You should have told us.”
Harry smiles to himself. It’s simultaneously pleasant to have people who care so much, and adorably cute that after all this time, his magical companions are rather innocent. “That reminds me,” he says, when Hermione lets go and settles back into her seat. “I got you something, Ron. Forgot all about it.”
Ron blinks at the object Harry yanks out of his trunk. “It’s a book,” he says blankly.
“It’s a muggle story,” Harry explains. “I thought you might like it.”
“Well, okay,” Ron says doubtfully, taking it from Harry’s outstretched hand. “Thanks.”
“Why don’t we do some magic before we get to school?” Hermione asks suddenly.
“C’mon, Hermione,” Ron grumbles.
“I found a good curse,” Harry says slowly. “It seems easy. We could use it on Malfoy if he interferes.”
Ron perks up. “Cool.”
Hermione rolls her eyes. Harry smiles inwardly. It’s nice to be back.
Professor R.J. Lupin has a good mask, but not nearly as good as Harry’s. And Harry, as Leyden, spent years breaking down Jet’s, and his sisters, to put them back together after particularly nasty schoolyard moments. Harry knows three things:
- The professor recognizes him
- The professor feels a connection to him
- The professor is hiding something.
“I haven’t poisoned that chocolate, you know,” he says with a wry smile, stepping back into the compartment. Harry takes a cautious bite, left hand stealing to his pocket. Call him paranoid, but Harry always carries a bezoar around, even if he’d never admit it to Snape’s face. The chocolate makes him feel warm after the dementors. After the screaming.
The Professor rides at the front of the train for the rest of the ride. After a bit, Harry makes an excuse and leaves to find him. Hermione is following him a few minutes later. Hermione’s like that.
“Can you teach me?” Harry asks. “That spell?”
“It’s very difficult magic,” the man says quietly. “Many fully-grown wizards can’t do it.”
Harry pauses. “Can you teach Hermione?”
By the time Harry and Hermione return, Harry is feeling very smug.
“What was that all about?”
Harry has forgotten Neville and Ginny compartment-crashed them. “We’ve got lessons.”
Ron sighs. “Nerds.”
Harry’s mind is reeling. Every time he goes near those monsters, he collapses; he’s accidentally turned Ron into a Robin Hood fanboy; his patronus takes the form of a stag; Scabbers is acting like a haunted Furby; Black has tried to break into Gryffindor tower, only to attack Ron; the twins’ map hold four names that seem a little too close for comfort…
“Hemione,” Harry whispers, at the end of one particularly nasty Potions class, “I need to go to the library. Come with me?”
Hermione comes, of course. Hermione would marry the library if it were alive, or at least, that’s what Harry thinks to himself. “Well?” she asks. “What’re we looking for?”
“Quiet,” he replies, and Hermione cocks her head, looking puzzled.
“Lupin’s a werewolf,” he whispers to her. “Right?”
“Yes,” Hermione says slowly. “But, Harry, he’s really nice, and he seems to be taking steps to keep us safe…”
“I’m not worried about him,” Harry says shortly. “I’m worried about Scabbers.”
“Scabbers? You think he’s going to eat Scabbers?” Hermione asks in confusion. “Werewolves only attack –”
“—humans, I know,” Harry breathes. “Thanks, Hermione. I’ve got to go find the twins.”
The twins, as it turns out, are quite easy to find. You just follow the sound of laughter, yelling, and general chaos. They’ve ‘rescued’ half a dozen bowtruckles and a bonsai tree and dumped it in the middle of the great hall. Apparently, the bowtruckles quite like their new home, because they’re attacking the teachers every times they make an attempt to move the tree. Fred and George are, of course, pleading innocence, claiming they just wanted to take the tree-guardians sightseeing. It probably doesn’t help that they borrowed a second year, a rather dreamy-looking girl with blonde hair, to help them. Said second year girl is confirming their claim, only her face is entirely empty of mischief. It’s hard to tell, even for Harry, whether she’s genuinely missing the humour, or just very good at faking it.
“Fred. George.” They turn around, faces breaking out into identical, evil grins. Harry is sure they were some sort of demons in a past life. The freckles don’t even seem to do anything to hide the possibility they’re planning on some sort of high crime. Sacrificing Cassius Warrington to Satan, probably.
“Harrikins,” Fred says. “What can we do for you? Blow up a bathroom?”
“Paint Malfoy yellow?”
“Tie Ronnikins to the castle roof?”
“Flood the Charms Classroom?”
“No, no, certainly not, and no,” Harry says. “I need some information. About you-know-what. Made my Christmas, by the way.”
“Wonderful, my dear chap,” George grins.
“What’s you know what?” the girl asks.
“Oh, yeah, this is Luna, our neighbour,” Fred says, waving at the girl. “She acquired the tree.”
“Hello, Harry Potter,” the girl smiles. “Nice to meet you. Ginny talks about you a lot.”
“She does, doesn’t she, George muses. “Anyway, what did you need to know?”
Harry spares a glance at Luna and raises an eyebrow.
“Oh, she’s fine,” Fred says. “She’s not about to sell you out or something, unless you happen to know how to find a cr – cranky snorkel –”
“Crumple-Horned Snorcack,” Luna says patiently, utterly unperturbed by Harry’s suspicion of her. Harry is impressed. It seems she genuinely doesn’t care.
“That,” Fred agrees. “You don’t, do you?”
Harry shakes his head. “No, I don’t. Come over to the corner?” he asks, eyeing the teachers who are still trying to persuade the bowtruckles to move. So far, only Hagrid has had any success, with one bowtruckle happily residing in his coat of many pockets.
“Okay,” George says slowly, and they foursome shuffle over to a corner near the end of the Gryffindor table. “So,” the redhead says, crossing his arms and leaning against a wall, “What’s going on that you need us to be so secret.”
“Well,” Harry says, and two pairs of eyebrows raise at his slightly heightened tone. Just loud enough for the teachers to catch if they try. “It’s about you-know-what, but I need you to… swear for me.” He eyes the twins carefully. If they miss this, his plan is going to get a whole lot more complex. “You know. How we do it.”
Luna is watching with mild curiosity as Fred and George glance at each other, their own questions far less restrained on their faces. “Well, then, Harrikins –”
“—how can we turn that up? We –”
“We’re up to no good!”
They finish in tandem as Harry shoots a surreptitious glance at the teachers. A single figure has stiffened slightly. Good. "Luna," he says, "If you won’t swear to keep this quiet, I’m going to have to send you away.” He doesn’t know why he’s affording her this trust; he hasn’t done this is a long time, not since Carmine betrayed him and Jet.
Luna doesn’t ask any more questions. Perhaps that’s what draws him over. “I solemnly swear, Harry Potter, I am up to no good, so may it be.”
“Ah, this is why we love you, Luna,” George beams.
“Well, I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” Harry says, once again just loud enough to be heard. McGonagall sighs, muttering something about ‘Weasleys corrupting Lily’s boy’ and ‘vulnerable Potter blood’. Lupin, however, is attempting to eavesdrop without being noticed. Exactly what Harry wants. Along with answers, of course.
“What’s up?” Fred. “Is it good?”
“You know that map’s old, right?” Harry asks. “But not super old. Thirty, forty years at most. Anyway, mission from beyond the grave.”
“The what?” George asks.
“We’re gonna need two things,” Harry says, now too quiet to be heard. A set of barely-discernible green eyes narrow slightly in suspicion. “One, a distraction. Two, an inescapable cage about yay big.” He makes a shape with his hands, about as big as Crookshanks’ basket. “Oh,” he adds, almost as an afterthought, “And Scabbers.”
“Scabbers? What do you need our brother’s battered old rat for?” Fred exclaims. “And why not ask him?”
“You could find a better rat, anyway,” George adds. “Scabbers is almost as old as you! Missing bits and everything.”
“I’m aware Scabbers is missing his toe,” Harry says patiently, “But it’s very important its him. Now listen…”
“That’s very risky, Harry Potter,” Luna says, after he’s done whispering the distraction plan.
“It’s okay,” Harry says, firmly and clearly. “We’ll meet up when we’re done for the final bit, in the empty classroom opposite DADA, okay? I’m pretty sure none of the teachers will catch you.”
“How can you be so certain?” George asks.
Harry smiles. “I’ve done riskier things.” Much, much riskier, in fact. “Trust me on this. I’ll pay all of you off for helping.”
“We don’t need to be paid,” Fred says, voice slightly clipped.
“Of course not,” Harry says evenly, “But payment is not always in galleons.”
As Harry approaches the dorm room, Ron is in a tizzy. Scabbers is gone and he can’t find him. Harry thinks to Luna, currently rat-sitting, and Fred and George, whom he passed pelting down the corridor followed by Peeves and half-a-dozen giant chickens. At least they can genuinely say it’s not all their fault. There was only meant to be one, anyway. As Ron starts ranting about Crookshanks, Harry slips into the room and grabs Ron’s arm. He knows where Scabbers is – the rat tried to escape a marauding pair of cats (and isn’t that wording perfect?) and Harry and this blonde girl in Ginny’s year chased her down. Ron recognizes the description and wants to know where Scabbers is. From there, it’s not hard to convince him that Hermione needs come too, because she’s good at magic and might know something about Scabbers’s new condition. Harry doesn’t specify what the new condition is. Nor does he warn Ron that he’s recently sent word to the Aurors that there’s a suspected Death Eater opposite the DADA classroom.
By the time they’ve collected Hermione, Fred and George are already outside the classroom, talking animatedly to Professor Lupin about the time they started a food fight in the great hall. There’s a slight glint in Fred’s eye. The twins are smarter than many give them credit for, and perhaps they’ve noticed that they’ve only earned a single detention for tempting fate around a poltergeist, or that their teacher has been watching them since the incident in the great hall with a particular look. Whatever the case, the twins now have an alibi for when the recently engorged and mildly peeved salamander appears in the Great Hall.
Scabbers is motionless in his cage, but Harry assures Ron that he’s just sleeping – tired after escaping the cats, surely. Scabbers is a fighter, he says, just like Peter Pettigrew was, the one who faced off Sirius Black and became nothing but a finger. Hermione stares at Scabbers like she’s just seen him, then at Luna. Luna, to her credit, retains her dreamy expression and waves, asking whether Hermione thinks engorged fire burns hotter and colder. She thinks colder.
Professor Dumbledore looks magnificently confused as he sweeps into the classroom, followed by a mildly irate Professor McGonagall, and, for some Merlin-forsaken reason, Filch. Fred and George claim Professor Lupin as their alibi, and do a magnificent, if over-the-top, impression of not knowing what’s going on. Their usual theatrics makes it hard for anyone to know if they really were in the know, of course. Minister Fudge has shown up – as Harry expected, the Ministry thought they were talking about Black. Madam Bones and Aurors Scrimgeour and Dawlish look confusedly at the rat in the cage. Ron is even more confused, while Hermione looks absolutely horror-struck all of a sudden. It can’t be, she whispers, and Harry puts an arm around her. It is, and it’s horrible.
This is Scabbers, Harry explains. Ron’s rat, and Percy’s before him. A wonderful, faithful creature for 12 years, who got into a fight in his youth and lost a single finger. He’s been stressed since Black broke out of prison. He must admit, a few people are here on false pretences, and it’s entirely his fault there’s a giant salamander rampaging around the school, but it’ll soon shrink. He thanks everyone around him – the Ministry for coming at his call, the Headmaster for his concern for his students, Lupin for his stories of his family, Hermione for her intellect, Ron for always being there for him, Fred and George for being useful scapegoats, Luna for helping him capture a runaway rat. McGonagall for teaching him that sometimes bravery is not about rushing headlong into stupid things, Filch for teaching him that magical animals are not quite all they seem. Filch looks surprised, which doesn’t shock anyone, though Harry’s perfectly even tone of voice certainly does. And Harry explains that he recently found out Scabbers has a condition where he uncontrollably turns into a human if hit with a certain spell.
They were fooling about with hexes, he says, does Ron remember? And the redhead does, commenting that Scabbers was always nice enough to take the spells before they tested them on each other. And Harry explains how he found a certain spell in a certain book and decided to test it. It’s implausible, but Harry Potter is not known as the brightest wizard. And it’s all Madam Bones needs to grab the rat and have Scrimgeour test out the spell on him. Scabbers grows into a man, as Harry expects, a man who jerks awake and tries to scramble away. A man who gets jumped on by two angry, considerably solid red-heads and narrowly escapes a thumping (“-sleeping with our BROTHERS, you Merlin-be-damned pervert!”) as Madam Bones sternly advises them the Aurors will take things from here. Fudge is in shock, as Harry explains that during the war, Bagnold and Crouch may not have quite done things as they should have, that he’s glad the Minister came down to see this. Dawlish has to be explicitly ordered to check for the Dark Mark – which is there, white and pale and hard to see but so very there, on the snivelling man’s skin.
Afterwards, multiple people are in shock. Fred and George are shaking with anger, Ron with shock. Hermione is still looking utterly horrified, Professor McGonagall is white, Professor Lupin looks like he might be about to throw up. Filch is muttering something about why he should have let Mrs Norris eat the rodent long ago, murderers in the castle making a mess for him to clean up. Dumbledore casts his usual figure, calm, serene. Harry doesn’t trust him, not now.
People filter away slowly, mostly back to the Hall, where, according to a sun-bear Patronus that strolls into the room, the salamander is still huge and still rampaging and it’s playing keepy uppy with the Slytherins, what is going on, why did the Minister just walk past and look grateful? The children are left standing in the room. Ron is still staring at the cage. Harry squeezes Ron’s shoulder. He’s sorry he had to trick Ron, but Scabbers was such a good rat ron would never have believed him. It’s okay, Harry will figure something out to make up for Ron’s lack of a rat. They need to go now, or they’ll miss out on a massive lizard playing volleyball with green-clad ponces.
When they get to the hall, the salamander is determinedly whacking people into the air, even as the spell slowly wears off. Ron wants this burned into his memory forever. Fred is muttering something about chickens, where are they, why have they not gravitated to the centre of food, damn it, Peeves. Harry smiles, then trots over to a certain, shabby Professor. Thanks for not killing the twins, Moony. It was my idea after all. He leaves the hall, shooting an evil grin behind him. Fred definitely has that glint in his eyes right now. Mischief managed.
“Harry, why did you give me this book?” Ron asks one day.
“Hmm?” Harry looks up. It’s Easter break, and he’s once again staying over at the Burrow.
“Why?” Ron repeats. “It’s great and all, but now Hermione is handing over these newspaper clippings, and they’re all… it’s not real, is it?”
“If Robin Hood was ever real, it was years ago,” Harry says. “Centuries.”
Ron nods slowly, silent for a moment. “I miss Scabbers. I know he was a Death Eater, but before that, he was just Scabbers, right?”
Harry nods in agreement. It’s happened, now; Ron is not the 11-year-old who got on the platform on his first day. It’s ironic that his little sister reached this stage before him, really, but in the end it makes no difference. Percy was similarly shaken up, guilty over never realising. Harry assured him, with carefully shy words, that it wasn’t his fault, if Fred and George hadn’t shown him something really cool, he would never have known. There was no way to know. Percy’s a good brother.
“Harry,” Ron says again, and Harry looks up. “Hermione knows something I don’t. Did you tell her, or did she figure it out.”
“Figured it out in 2nd year,” Harry replies evenly.
Ron is thinks quietly. It’s different somehow. It has been since the rat incident. “Harry,” he says again. “You said you had muggle friends.”
“They know,” Ron says. A statement, not a question.
“They do,” Harry agrees. Green eyes meet blue, even and unflinching. Ron’s job is to judge, now.
“What’s human trafficking?” Ron asks tentatively. “It was mentioned in the article, but Dad’s never heard of it.”
“Slavery, mostly. Sometimes they nick your organs,” Harry explains calmly.
Ron’s eyes widen. He looks revolted. “What for?”
“Muggles can’t just regenerate like wizards do. Sometimes, if muggles are ill, their – say, kidneys, maybe – they break. Normally, doctors – that’s healers to you and me – would find a person who’s dying in hospital of, I don’t know, being stabbed, and ask the family if, when that person goes under, they could have a kidney. The family says yes, the doctors stick the kidney in the person whose kidney broke. Except there’s not enough kidneys to go around, because lots of people don’t let the doctors take a kidney, and doctors work hard to keep the person alive anyway. So sometimes people get kidnapped off the streets so they can take the kidneys and sell them to people whose kidneys are broken.”
Ron stares. “What?!”
“Muggle medicine,” Harry shrugs. “They make do without magic, and it works fairly well, but people don’t get stabbed all that often.”
“That’s horrible,” Ron decides.
“It is,” Harry agrees. “But people grow rich from it.”
Ron watches Harry through the corners of his eyes for a moment. “Harry.”
“What are you doing?”
“What everyone else at the Ides does.”
Ron tilts his head. “A minute, Harry?”
“Sure,” Harry says, standing up. “As long as you need.” He claps Ron on the shoulder and gets up. He’ll go down to the garden. Maybe help Ginny polish the Basilisk skull. It’s getting a bit grimy.
Ron is unsure, but then, as he says a few hours later, what’s change without risk? Hermione said something like that, anyway. Probably. In any case, Harry has some new comrades for a heist.
“Hey,” Harry says quietly.
The dog tilts its head at him, tongue lolling out. Its covered in dirt and grime and smells like it tramped through a garbage heap. It’s also the size of a small bear. Harry thinks it’s brilliant. “Woof.”
“I tried,” Harry tells the dog. “But it was blocked in the Wizengamot. Something about collaboration.”
The dog watches him through big grey eyes. No grown dog has grey eyes, no dog that’s really a dog.
“So, you’re my godfather.” Harry sees ears perk up and a tail wag at the statement. “On the run from the big man. Professor Lupin reckons you ran away from home when you were 16.”
“Arf,” the dog agrees.
Harry slowly reaches around and hugs the dog. “Ew, you smell. You really need a bath, you know.”
The dog snorts.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Harry lets go and looks at the dog. “I live with Aunt Petunia now.”
A low, angry growl.
“Yeah, they sent me to St Brutus’s for Criminal Boys.” Harry sighs. “Look, I gotta tell you now, I’m not a carbon copy of Dad. It’s not like you can really spill on me anyway, you’ll get kissed. Whatever. I’m going to take over the world with a band of muggles, muggle-blooded wizards, and blood traitors. We’ve been hitting rich muggle crims, but one day we’re going to hit Death Eaters.”
The dog looks as confused as a dog can get.
“I’ve got a plan, if you want to come with me,” Harry says quietly. “Professor Lupin reckons you were a good guy. And, I dunno. He’s a bit stiff, but he was the stiff one, wasn’t he? I know muggles who’d keep you. They’d probably love you, actually.”
The dog arfs softly.
“Hagrid’s hippogriff is sentenced for execution at the end of the year,” Harry tells him. “Hermione’s got it all worked out. We’ll come down and look sad, one of us will break a mug if you need extra time, and you take Buckbeak and fly to the Black House. We’ll pick you up as soon as term is out.”
The dog makes an odd motion with its head. Harry interprets it as a nod.
“Alright. See you, Sirius.”
Harry leaves behind a large bag of sandwiches, but he doesn’t feel much better. It’s not conscious, but part of him remembers this dog. The justice system is toast, Pettigrew won’t be kissed. At least Harry knows what he’s going to get as presents for his muggles. A bunch of magicals.
“Leyden!” Emerald squeals, latching onto his side. “I missed you!”
“Did you bring us candy?” Ruby asks.
Sapphire snorts. “Straight to the point, I see.”
“Hey, Leyden,” Jet sighs. “Sorry for them. I tried locking them in their room but Sapphire picks locks from the inside now.”
“Hi, guys,” Harry grins, carefully disentangling himself from Emerald. “Yes, Rube, I brought you candy.”
“Jackpot!” Ruby chirps, grabbing a box of ice mice.
“Did you bring us anything else?” Sapphire asks eagerly. “We held our ground fine, but everyone else is growing and we’re looking like you’re our only useful person.”
“Flattering,” Ruby grumbles, teeth chattering.
“As sad as it is, she’s right,” Jet sighs. “We need more resources, and we can’t get more men until we’re older. Every other circle is headed by someone who’s seventeen or older. They’re big game, Leyden.”
“I did bring other presents,” Harry says, and Emerald lights up. “But we have to do some travelling first. Think we can get a car somewhere?”
“A bit dangerous to go alone in a taxi, and none of us can drive without police chasing us,” Jet points out.
Harry grins, and pulls an oversized flask from his pocket. Its full of a familiar mixture, brown and gloopy. Good old Hermione.
“You brought mud,” Ruby says flatly.
“Polyjuice potion,” Harry corrects delicately. “Gives a single hour of a false identity for each dose. This is enough for three hours, I think.”
“What kind of false identity?” Sapphire asks slowly.
Harry smiles and pulls two corked ampoules from his pocket. He knew he kept these for a reason. “Well, we have a Mr Gilderoy Lockhart, or a Mrs Narcissa Malfoy. So. Who’s driving?”
When Sirius spells the door open and bounds into the entry hall as Padfoot, Narcissa Malfoy is looking curiously at him. This would ordinarily cause him to commit massive-explosion-and-Padfoot-defenestration, but Narcissa is wearing muggle clothes – more specifically, a bright red knee-length dress with a big bow on the front and gold trimming. The day cousin Cissy wears Gryffindor colours and muggle dress will be the day Hell freezes over and Heaven burns, and today is only mildly cloudy. Narcissa is not Narcissa.
There are two other girls in the entrance hall, identical in size, both with curly blonde hair. Both are wearing similar dresses to ‘Narcissa’, though the one in green seems to have a dress that’s grown scales. Green is looking curiously around as Red is, butterfly clips dancing with each turn of the head, while Blue is fixing his mother’s portrait with a malevolent stare as she screeches about muggles and filth.
Harry has stepped into the entrance hall, a massive grin on his face, wand in one hand, other hand at his belt – that’ a rather large knife. Kid sure is keen. Sirius arfs at the girls turn their attention to him.
“What are we waiting for, Leyden?” Blue asks. “This is cool and all, but what are we doing? And do we get to torch this place? Crazy woman’s bugging me.”
Sirius barks in appreciation. Torch it! Explode it! Stomp on Walburga’s portrait and flush the bits down the loo!
Actually, the portrait is stuck to the wall, but there’s probably a muggle method for dealing with things that are stuck to walls.
“Wait for Jet,” Harry responds. “Soon, Sapphire. We’re picking up something important. This house belongs to a contact of mine.”
Sirius yips in agreement.
“What’s with the dog?” ‘Narcissa’ asks. “He’s very excitable. Your contact hasn’t been giving him drugs, has he? Cause that’s one very big, very friendly dog.”
“No drugs, Ruby,” Harry assures her. “Well. Maybe alcohol.”
Oh dear. Harry has a little too good a measure of him, Sirius sniggers to himself. Dog’s can’t snigger aloud; it comes out as a sort of spluttery, barky noise.
“Leyden! Girls!” A blonde boy, similar to the girls but with less curls, steps through the open door, glancing around. “Ha, I thought this place was magic. What’s up with the portrait?”
“No clue,” Harry says cheerfully. “Padfoot, where’s your stuff?”
Sirius barks and trots off into the kitchen. Harry follows him, and after a few moments, so do the others. Sirius is all packed up, and has been for the last few days – they came up with a fairly decent plan, the two of them, even if Sirius was a dog 90%% of the time and could only make doggy noises.
“Great,” Harry says, picking up Sirius’s trunk with surprising ease. “Anything else, Padfoot?”
Sirius shakes his head. No, there’s nothing else. He’s emptied his room, packed every relic, light and dark, even stolen the salt from the pantry. The house is uninhabitable, unless you use the house-elf to grab some stuff. A lot of stuff. Sirius may have shrunk down a few pieces of furniture. He’s not sorry.
“Alright!” Harry nods to the others. “We got it.”
“So, we’re not allowed to set it on fire?” Ruby/Narcissa asks, pouting.
“Not even the painting?” Sapphire moans.
“What’s with you guys and fire?” Green asks.
“Shut up, Emerald,” they chorus.
Sirius woofs and Harry turns to him. “Padfoot?”
Sirius barks at the grate, then turns around, runs out the room, and barks at the portrait, which is now screaming about shame and burying spawn in the garden.
“The dog says we can burn the house down?” Jet asks, amused. “Your magic dogs are pretty smart.”
Sirius doesn’t know whether to preen or feel indignant. He settles on preening.
“I guess if Padfoot says you can, you can,” Harry says simply. “I’ll pack the car.”
One and a half hours and a car chase later, Grimmauld Place is nothing but a pile of ashes, and St Brutus’s is holding one (1) criminal more than normal.
“Okay,” Ruby says, shifting back into herself, much to Sirius’s indignation (he never got to steal a car and drive it when he was her age!). “What’ve we got?”
Harry grins. “We’ve got Padfoot.”
Sapphire stares at him. “We went to all that trouble for a dog? I mean, nice and fluffy and all that, but really, Leyden?”
“Not just any dog,” Harry says smugly. “Are you, Padfoot?”
“Arf,” Sirius agrees.
“This is our ticket to magic. And my godfather.” Harry grins. “Nice and dual purpose, eh?”
“No offence, Leyden,” Emerald says, “But how high were your parents?”
“How high are you, is more the point,” Ruby cuts in.
“Sis…” Jet groans. “Leyden, you’d better have a good reason for tomorrow morning’s whiplash neck.”
“Hey, at least we finally got to steal a car,” Sapphire snorts. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
“Not the point,” Ruby grumbles. “So, that bear pretending to be a dog is your godfather?”
Harry nudges Sirius with his knee. “Go on, then. Safe, I promise. I’d trust this lot with my life.”
Sirius cocks his head at Harry for a moment, then turns back. A second later, fur recedes into skin, a snout recedes into a nose, eyes change shape, and a worn but distinctly human Sirius is standing next to Harry. “Afternoon, kids.”
“Isn’t that the serial killer?” Ruby asks.
“No, but not for lack of trying,” Harry tells her flatly. “This is Sirius Black, my dad’s best mate, and now your pet Snuffles. I’m homing him here while our justice system tries to suck his soul out.”
“I only tried to kill one person,” Sirius grumbles. “Death Eaters don’t count.”
“God, Harry,” Jet sighs, “You don’t do things by halves, do you? Magic and now this…”
“Oh yeah, and I’m bringing friends on our next raid,” Harry added. “Y’know, feel free to pinch the little ones as they come…”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Emerald says serenely, “Sapphire is already corrupting the eight-year-olds into dressing like wizards for the sake of it.”
Sirius scrunches his nose and Ruby pounces. “See! He’s a wizard and he thinks it’s a bad idea! I told you it was bad taste.”
“I have an aesthetic,” Sapphire says primly.
Jet rolls his eyes. “How ‘bout we hit one of these?” He holds up a set of files.
Harry smiles. “Show me.”
“Everyone gets a knife,” Jet explains kindly to Ron. “Most of the time we don’t actually use it. I’m pretty sure Sapphire’s the only one who’s actually stabbed someone.”
Ron glances nervously at the pretty young girl in the black and blue dress. Sapphire is adept at walking the invisible line between goth and cute, and most people don’t dream of her being the dangerous one. Sapphire waves back with a big grin, the other hand on her hip just above her bone steel dagger. “So, the knife is just in case?”
“Basically,” Harry says, coming over. “We’re not asking you to assassinate the Queen. But one day things could go pear shaped, and when they do, you’re not going in unarmed.”
“Where are we going?” Hermione asked nervously. “I know you do this a lot, but that doesn’t mean I have to feel safe.”
“Chillax,” Ruby sighs. “We’re not losing you on the first day. You’re useful.”
Hermione looks doubtfully at the girl.
“Don’t worry,” Harry tells her. “Ruby is a little utilitarian, but she’ll grow on you. We’re going under the cloak. The same as we normally do. Jet, you got everything?”
“All ready, just waiting for Snuffles to stop looming outside Goldheel’s room.”
Harry snorts. It was Jet’s idea, but Sirius loved it. Goldheel has always been a problem, actively encroaching on their territory, feuding, ever since Carmine turned traitor. Now he gets to worry about the huge, toothy, grinning, bear-sized dog staring into his window at any given opportunity. Sirius thinks he’s getting close to cracking. Neither Jet nor Harry can wait, though Harry is interested. Sirius was rather cautious in the first days. Jovial, sure, but cautious, and Harry was worried Sirius might not be able to fit into his life quite as he needed to. Apparently, though, Sirius nursed a grudge against the Supreme Mugwump for failing to step in. And that made him very much the Padfoot Professor Lupin had spoken of.
“He nearly wet himself,” Siirus announces gleefully, stepping into the room a few minutes later. Nobody seems to pity him. It’s hard do. Not everyone at St Brutus’s is capable of empathy, and why give if it will never be reciprocated?
Alright, gang,” Harry says, with a wide grin. “You up for it, Jet?”
“Full speed ahead, Leyden,” Jet replies, with a smile of his own.
Winchester Bandits on the Rise Again – 8 Homes Destroyed. Police Suspect Gang Activity
“That went well,” Sirius says smugly, crossing off the final name on the list and high-fiving Sapphire. Sirius likes Sapphire almost as much as he likes Harry. Apparently, their mutual love of things that are just slightly too vicious for comfort, driving way too fast and with no regard for rules, and drinking (Jet despairs, but Sapphire can bust into a liquor cabinet hidden in Fort Knox) makes them kindred spirits.
“Only got shot once,” Emerald agreed. “That confused them.”
“Yes, well, there’s a reason they call it point bland,” Jet snorts.
Harry sighs. “I’m just annoyed we had to stab someone again.”
“Next time, we can bring our own guns,” Ruby says steadily. “Less mess.”
Harry politely declines to show up at the Weasley’s too early – he has muggle friends he hasn’t seen, remember, but he’d love to come over a day or two before – do they mind if he brings his dog? There’s a lot to be said about the dog, but it can’t go in this letter. He can? Is Mrs Weasley sure? Thank you, you’re wonderful, really. I can’t wait to come over.
“I wish we could go,” Sapphire sighs. “Sounds like a great sport.”
“If you enjoy moving far too fast and breaking people’s bones, sure,” Harry shrugs.
Jet sniggers. “Your kind of sport, then, eh?”
“Yeah,” Harry agrees. “Welp. I told them I’d floo in about three minutes ago. C’mon, Padfoot.”
Sirius barks and jumps into the fireplace. Harry follows, and after a short but majorly disorienting spin, topples out of the grate onto Mrs Weasley’s nice clean floor.
“Hi,” he says, looking up at the Weasley matriarch as Sirius snuffles in a way suspiciously reminiscent of stifled laughter. “Sorry about the floor. I still haven’t really figured out floo travel yet.”
“Oh, that’s alright, dear,” Mrs Weasley sighs, picking him up and brushing the soot off. She flicks her wand at the ground and the mess vanishes. “See? It’s nothing, really, Harry.”
“Thanks,” Harry smiles. “I’ve got my trunk – this is Snuffles, by the way.”
“Oh, yes, you did mention him,” Mrs Weasley says, with a slight frown. “You said there was a little more to him?”
“I’ll explain it a bit,” Harry sighs. “Snuffles, could you…”
Sirius trots out to the backyard, to where Ginny is caring for her basilisk skull. Harry recently showed her the magic of muggle varnish, and now it shines. Snuffles apparently thinks it’s quite interesting. Harry smiles. “Where should I put my stuff, Mrs Weasley?”
“Oh, up with Ron,” Mrs Weasley tells him. “He’s been excited… probably reading one of those comics, or that book you gave him… never seen him so fascinated by printed word, though I must admit, the story does suit us rather…”
Harry’s ‘in a bit’ turns out to be after dinner, when everyone is seated around the table, even Percy and Hermione, both of whom have been spending inordinate amounts of time buried in books. Harry touches the tips of his fingers together, watching the family carefully over his tent. Sirius is still outside – chasing gnomes, this time. After Azkaban, Harry is unsurprised.
When he begins to speak, he first goes over the general occurrences of the last year – dementors, teachers, Scabbers, Black. The dementors draw shudders, Scabbers reflected horror and disgust. While the Weasleys gave emotive accounts, Harry places everything factually, blandly, almost. It’s surprising what the four boys and one girl missed collectively about the whole debacle.
Once he’s sure the topic is clear, he moves on to Ron’s new book. Well, not new, now. Everyone in the family has read it – his parents out of curiosity, Percy because it’s a muggle book and therefore a learning experience, Fred and George because the weapons looked wicked, Ginny because she wasn’t about to be left out. Harry carefully speaks of the ideas, the protagonists and antagonists and the various endings. Ron is dissatisfied by some of the more negative ones, and says so. Harry agrees. The good guys don’t have to be subjugated.
And then he takes a step back in time again, explaining how he caught onto Scabbers. Funny how nobody really asked for more when he pointed out the basic deductions. Now he explains about the files he searched with Hermione, Scabbers’s affliction, his own suspicions – you can’t just vaporise someone, there are bits strewn everywhere if you use magic, Black should have been covered in blood, but he wasn’t. Uncontrollable laughter, a sign of insanity, or of a curse. The nail in the coffin for his case, he says, was when the Wizengamot moved to block a trial for the on-the-run Black. That told him something was up.
Mrs Weasley looks concerned for him. What is he getting at, she wonders, and Arthur agrees. Is there something he needs help with? Molly loves him like a son, he knows this, doesn’t he? And Harry nods over his fingers. Molly does love him like a son, and that’s why he trusts them with this instead of going behind their backs. Ron and Hermione can attest to what he’s going to say, and he implores them to think over the evidence and not the emotion, if they can, though he won’t blame them for shock and disbelief.
Sirius Black has been there the whole afternoon. He’s sat next to their daughter, been chased by their youngest son. Been in the exclusive company of Harry for many a night. He’s currently committing genocide on their gnomes. Sirius has helped Harry. He’s promised to help Harry intimidate the Dursleys, during the small time he has to stay with them, and he has.
Harry has a plan, see? The Ministry is failing. While Percy sits in his room slaving over his cauldron bottom report, two more officials are receiving bribes to allow substandard materials to slip through the cracks. A teacher removes himself after backlash due to a condition he can control – how long is it before they crack down on the free spirits, like Fred and George? Arthur will never receive a raise, never be put in charge of the Muggle-related offices that don’t exist but are desperately needed, the ones on better relations and integration and balancing cultures. Ron will never reach his full potential, burdened by pure-blood supremacy. Ginny will forever be held back by the reminder of a haunted diary and a snake, never climb higher lest she marry profitably and excel in her role both as working woman and then mother. Hermione will never have a single discovery or idea broadcasted, dismissed as impure blood. Harry will be forever exalted as saviour yet condemned as celebrity. A painted figure, nothing more.
So Harry is going to change things. He’s already changing things in the muggle world. He’s already brought down over a dozen of the muck, and netted a decent profit out of it too. No matter how you see it, Voldemort is rising. He was rising when Harry arrived at school. He’s only getting stronger. Harry is going to rip through the current structure and rebuild things, then rip through muggle Britain and rebuild it too.
Arthur looks doubtful, but Harry soothes his doubts. He doesn’t expect them to fight, to throw themselves on the line for him. They are Harry’s Weasleys, he just wants them safe, though if they want to come along with him, they’re welcomed. Molly doesn’t need to worry about her children being hurt out of recklessness; Harry will do his best to keep them safe. Basilisk hide, he reminds them, is practically spell-proof.
Ron’s okay with it. He’s been okay for a long while. Percy, ambitious Percy so often cowed, even now, under the label of blood-traitor, grabs onto the idea with both hands. Fred and George are a given. It’s chaos. It’s going to screw over the pure bloods. Done. Hermione has known for longer than anyone else and has made her peace with it. It’s part of why Harry is so fond of her – she sees the rot clearly, clearer than anyone else he’s met. Ginny, who is just as vicious if not more so than Sapphire, is eager. Cautious Arthur and doting Molly are more reluctant, not to accept, but to be so abrupt. Is it wise to completely take over Wizarding Britain?
But it’s not like Voldemort. Voldemort did it openly. Harry has already quietly been disassembling the underground. The only open warfare is at the Ides. The only open warfare in this place will be at Hogwarts, and there it manifests as a war of minds. They don’t need to completely uproot Britain. A takeover can be gentle.
The Weasleys all agree, in the end, and Sirius comes bounding in to jump on laps and hug multiple ever-so-slightly disturbed people with a little too much energy. Apparently the gnomes haven’t worn him out, not yet. Harry smiles. He knew his Weasleys would come. That’s why he likes them.
When Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet, he doesn’t know whether to laugh or rage. He’s not stupid – something is up, and the Tournament is known for killing off its contestants. So he does the only thing that makes sense at that moment – fakes a panic attack. Gasping, uncontrollable muttering, wide eyes and trembling – it’s far too easy, it sways the school, and it pisses off Crouch. Harry doesn’t like Crouch. Crouch is irritating and in the way.
He’s to compete anyway, but he has an alibi for the entire night – time spent listing names, countless names that are enemies or dangerous or just plain inconvenient, with Ron and Hermione, though if anybody asks, they were trying to figure out how to enchant a broom to act like Harry’s Firebolt. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good idea, but it can wait. For now.
The first task is coming up and it’s dragons, and Harry laughs to himself, because after a Basilisk, what’s another multi-tonne scale machine? There are ways, he thinks to himself, ways around these things, without him needing to go anywhere near the dragon, but he digresses. Cedric Diggory is apparently the most capable person in the school, and one more ally won’t hurt.
“Well,” Harry says calmly, “We have a problem, don’t we?”
“Undiluted bubotuber pus,” Ron groans, holding the open envelope out gingerly.
“I’ve got a numbing salve in my trunk,” Harry tells Hermione. “We’ll go upstairs and put that on your fingers, and then Madam Pomfrey can work her magic. Ron, if you don’t want to keep that, you should probably hand it over to your brothers.”
“Right,” Ron mumbles. “No more opening mail, I suppose?”
“Not from people we don’t recognize,” Harry says gravely. “Looks like we’re moving a target around, my dear friends.”
Rita Skeeter found in remains of destroyed home! Reporter amnesiac – evidence of illegal activity found!
“What a coincidence,” Harry purrs, putting the Quibbler away. “I wonder when the Prophet will be telling us about their missing reporter, hmm?”
“The Quibbler’s full of trash,” Pansy Parkinson sniffs.
Harry tilts his head. “I think you’ll find, my dear schoolmate, I was suing Miss Skeeter at the time of the… incident. I’m afraid it may be hard for me to sue someone who doesn’t remember what she’s done, though I’m sure I can prove Auror Dawlish wrong if I try hard enough…”
Hermione steps over and leans closer to him. “Harry,” she whispers, “You’ve got a letter from the Ides.”
“Excuse me,” Harry says, standing up and smiling at the Slytherins. “I have an important piece of mail to read.”
23 of your 57 targets located. 1 of 23 hit.
Somerset and Dorset targets both hit. Snuffles is getting reckless.
Have gained control of Goldheel.
We miss you. Stay safe.
Harry smiles and puts the letter away, before holding his hand out to Ginny. “Ready?”
“Just so you all know,” Harry says, loudly and clearly, watching the empty surface of the lake, “I’m not dating Hermione. That’s all. Accio SCUBA gear.”
He’s there in a quarter of an hour, but lingers – he knows he’ll be blamed if anything goes awry, Boy-Who-Lived and all, and Fleur isn’t showing. No matter. The girl isn’t too heavy, not in comparison to Ron, anyway, and it’s hardly as if he can’t afford the air, an Indetectable Extension Charm (thirteen failures say nothing of the fourteenth try) has seen to that. Three hours, and nobody shows up. Cedric and Krum are long gone – Harry wonders, offhandedly, if anyone would realise if he die, right there, under the lake. Probably not. Bastards. He grabs Ron with one hand, the girl with the other, and pops up out of the water a quarter-hour later to shocked gasps.
“You know,” he says, just loudly enough to be heard, as they’re bustled off to Madam Pomfrey’s, “I think some accidental magic might have happened with the tank. I could have sworn there was only an hour of air.”
Nobody told Harry that Pettigrew had escaped. His last hopes for the Wizarding World expire. Cedric is dead. Stupid, noble git. Everyone cheats in the Tournament. Wearing the hide wouldn’t have been so hard. Maybe then he’d be knocked out instead. It’s passed, now. Instinct tells Harry to be still and wait, even as a rag is roughly shoved into his mouth.
Bone of the father, flesh of the servant, blood of the enemy. Does it count as forcibly taken if he’s tied up but unresisting? It doesn’t matter. Lord Voldemort is risen. The war has begun. Followers are summoned, and Voldemort is speaking to them, reprimanding, torturing, gloating. Voices, some familiar, some not, whisper and submit and jeer. The Cruciatus is more painful than any muggle injury and it’s all he can do not to jerk back and crack his skull against his stone backing.
They’re going to have to go.
Eventually, he’s forced to his feet and given his wand, left to fight for himself against one of the most powerful dark Wizards of the 20th century. Wands connect to phoenix song and lights and the ghosts of past atrocities; for a moment Harry wonders if it will be him, standing in Voldemort’s place, one day. No. He’s not Voldemort. A conqueror can be benevolent.
Connection, break, expelliarmus, accio, grab Cedric –
“They’re crazy,” he gasps out. “They spelled the Cup – they think Voldemort’s back – Minister, they’re crazy! I – I’m sorry. Cedric…”
People are screaming. For once, he doesn’t blame them.
“I promise,” he says quietly, “I’ll deal with the people who did this. They’re trying to resurrect Voldemort – this is my fault, if I hadn’t asked Cedric to take it with me – I promise, I’ll deal with them.”
And he will, but not in the way people imagine.
“Dumbledore wants Sirius to open up Grimmauld Place,” Lupin tells them.
“We burnt it down,” Sapphire says gleefully.
“I’m aware,” Lupin says dryly. “Harry, why are you and your friends trouble magnets?”
“Hermione’s not,” Harry points out.
“Questionable,” Ron comments, and Hermione hits him with a comic book.
“So, is he or isn’t he back?” Jet asks. “Only, I’d like to know if the muggle-hating megalomaniac is after us.”
“Yes, he’s back, but I told everyone it was just crazies trying a few dumb things,” Harry says.
“That’s the Ministry line,” Hermione adds. “Tragic accident.”
“Dumbledore’s been telling everyone it’s really him,” Lupin says.
Sirius snorts. “I suppose he wants us to join up again?”
“Well, I think that’s the point of using your ash pile,” Lupin points out idly.
“I’m busy taking over the world,” Harry whines, pouting. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Yeah!” Emerald exclaims. “We need to set Sirius on a bunch of kids, blow up a house, and possibly stab some wizards!”
“We’re also out of magic sweets,” Ruby adds, as if it’s just as important. In her opinion, it probably is.
“You’re taking this remarkably well, Professor,” Hermione says tentatively.
“I’m nearly broke again, my only remaining friend is on the run from the law, the crazy Dark wizard that killed the others is back again, I’m going to attempt to murder people in a week’s time, and my mind is fried from being around James Potter and Sirius Black for ten years,” Lupin tells her flatly. “I don’t have the energy nor the sanity to protest.”
“Good, want to help us rob, render homeless, and possibly murder Walden Macnair?” Sapphire asks eagerly, bloody sparkles dancing in her eyes. “The sooner we get that done, the sooner we can take over Wizarding Britain.”
“And the sooner we get candy,” Ruby adds, grumpily licking a lollipop.
“You’re related to Ron, aren’t you?” Harry snorts.
“You can keep her, if you like,” Jet adds.
Walden Macnair found dead in destroyed home – Aurors suspect foul play.
“This is a terrible situation,” Dumbledore says gravely.
“The fact Macnair’s dead, or the fact we’re sharing chairs?” Sirius snarks. He himself is perched on top of a resigned looking Lupin (“You’re not a dog, Sirius, stop it!”) and has a wide grin on his face.
“Yes, well, you really shouldn’t have let Grimmauld Place burn, Sirius,” Dumbledore scolds, looking exceedingly disappointed. In fairness, Sirius would be too, because they’re currently meeting in Hestia Jones’s apartment, and it’s tiny, to the point of McGonagall sitting on
“I didn’t! It was the damn house elf!” Sirius protests, putting on his best innocent face. It’s good enough to pass, really, but nobody’s going to buy it, because he’s done so many ridiculous things in his youth that this is really just the sprinkles on the icing on the cake.
“Could’a been anything,” Moody points out. “Constant Vigilance, I say. Any old Death Eater could have killed him for any old reason. Maybe he upset You-Know-Who?”
“I have received intelligence that Macnair was found with a number of lacerations and deeply embedded projectiles within him,” Dumbledore tells the Order, looking even more upset than he was a moment ago.
There’s a general chorus of “What?”, apart from Emmeline Vance, who just nods gravely, and Sirius, who has been living in the Ides for long enough to know what the jargon means.
“He means,” Emmeline says calmly, “They were stabbed – slashed, really – with some sort of sharp object multiple times, and also shot with a firearm – that’s a muggle wand that fires really tiny bludgers into you.”
“Isn’t Macnair the Death Eater working as an executioner?” Kingsley asks slowly. “Surely this is good news for us.”
“Vigilantism is not the way,” Dumbledore replies, tone that of a preacher. He regards the Order over his spectacles. “This is a danger to us. If the Order is seen to be killing Death Eaters, the public will find us distasteful.”
“Is Voldypants even back?” Sirius asks, rearranging his face into one of incredulity. “I mean, crazed Death Eaters, sure, but Harry never mentioned anything about Voldemort.”
Dumbledore gazes at Sirius for a moment, and Sirius looks back calmly, internally thanking Jet for his paranoia surrounding wizarding mind-control techniques. Dumbledore can’t obviously read his mind now, and Sirius has made it clear that not only is he exceedingly effective at hiding and fighting (“Leaving presents for the French Aurors is fun. That was the fifth serial killer, you know!”) , he is also a loose cannon. Eventually, the old man speaks. “Harry was very clearly in shock. I have reason to believe they in fact succeeded that night.”
“Whatever’s happening, we need to do something!” Tonks, a new and rather overeager recruit, thumps the table with her fist.
“We will, Tonks,” Lupin says soothingly.
And they will.
Dolores Jane Umbridge is quite possibly the nastiest woman Harry has ever met, and he saw(and subsequently exterminated) a cannibalistic, torturing one just a week before the beginning of term. The toadlike woman seems to harbor a certain dislike for him, doesn’t allow them to practice any magic in DADA classes, and treats everyone like five-year-olds – at least, that’s what Seamus loudly complains. Harry wouldn’t know, really.
Things like this are exceedingly quick to come to a head; after all, cool exteriors can hide hot tempers, and Umbridge seems excited to incite Harry to violence as quickly as she can. Angelina is furious at him for getting a week’s worth of detentions. They’re falsely earned. He wasn’t really that angry that he needed to stand up and talk back to his teacher, but people’s expectations are important. He tells Angelina that he’s sorry, he’ll make the next session, he’s sure she’ll make good choices, she’s a brilliant player, he’ll try to control himself. It doesn’t quite satisfy her, but she knows he’s being needled, comprehends the need to stand up, even if she can control it.
The Undersecretary’s quill cuts lines into Harry’s hand, but it’s nothing compared to the Cruciatus or even the dim memories of his uncle and cousin. The thing that angers him the most is what he’s to write. I must not tell lies. I must respect my superiors. As if he’s at fault for Dumbledore spouting what is, ironically, the truth about Voldemort’s return. As if she, the most loathsome creature he has seen bar none, is his superior… no.
Harry is no Dark Lord, but he is no sweet boy either. He will tell her the truth, he will respect his superiors, oh yes. It will be as easy as walking.
She is only a small obstacle, but Harry hates her almost as much as Voldemort himself.
Harry shows off his scars to the common room. He asks if it’s legal. If she can do it. Speculates as to where she got such objects. Hermione is able to look it up – it’s legal, if only by a technicality. No matter. Harry is quiet in his next class, though he lets his face show his anger. Then he speaks up again, earns another detention, bows his head at Angelina’s wrath as McGonagall watches and warns him to keep his head down. She means well, McGonagall. She could be a great general, but she’s too idealistic. Oh, well. It will be her choice in the end.
The school is alerted to the mess in Umbridge’s office by a yell of male horror and a scream of female fright. Poor Ginny was terrified, remembering her incident with the Basilisk, they whisper. Even Harry thought it was a mess, they say. When the two arrived at the office, Ginny telling Harry about the Quidditch trials, neither of them could possibly have been prepared for it. For the bloodstained carpet, for the mangling, the violence.
And if Ginny has a half-hour-old silencing spell on her wand and Harry has a toy gun in his trunk, if Fred and George have recently bought a large quantity of dungbombs, if Ron has mucky fingers and Hermione is a little too good at transfiguration, the Aurors don’t pay attention. Wizards are bad at forensics. Nobody checks for the time of death. They simply assume. After all, someone would have come by, there’s no way the murderers could have headed people off.
Voldemort is going crazy, Harry notes. His ranks are dropping in number, his potions master is incompetent with lack of practice. He responds with numerous hits on muggle targets, not that the magicals seem to care.
Oh, poor blind creatures.
Dumbledore is going mad himself, for remarkably similar reasons. He has no intel, and his only spy is getting nervous. Sirius is meant to be staying at Remus’s (he’s Remus, now, it’s been too long listening to such an impersonal epithet), but as the once-professor claims, how can he hope to control a jumpy, cabin-fevered Sirius when he couldn’t control the normal one, even with a big shiny badge?
Poor, blind old man.
What’s the point of cutting curses, of dark spells and Avada Kedavra, when your visible enemy wears the hide of Slytherin’s own creature? What’s the point of all your training when an invisible enemy can hit you with a deadly shot faster than you can draw your wand? What’s the point of the age difference when the last things you see are the glints of metal and cold hazel eyes in saccharinely smiling faces? What’s the point of requiring a member of a listed family on the Sacred 28 to let you in when you’re cut down before you can convey your master’s mistake? What’s the point of allying yourself with Dark Creatures when all but the most insane turn around and attack you?
Poor, blind, broke, dead Death Eaters.
The Room of Requirement is so very, very useful, both for collecting allies at school and for escaping to raid places he despises, the homes of those who stand in the way. There is nothing like seeing their shock, whether it be from death at the hand of a muggle weapon, the mistake in truly believing in pure-blood families, or normally quiet, kind green eyes glinting with maleficence.
Sirius is not lying low, as Snape tries to insinuate.
Lupin is not recruiting for the Order, as Dumbledore believes.
Harry is not being a good boy, and nor are his friends.
Such a shame…
“Done,” Jet says calmly. “The Cullens are down.” Another day, another family removed from the equation – this one a muggle crime gang. Good riddance, and good supplies, though Emerald still doesn’t know whether to sell the drugs or use them to overdose someone.
Overdose, Sapphire decides gleefully. She’s never seen that before.
Overdose, Harry agrees. He knows the perfect person.
Oh sure, Voldemort has his trinkets… but he has plans for the snake, and the others are more appropriately placed in the past tense. Ruby had fun. Horcruxes scream when they’re killed, and Emerald, a verified sweetie in comparison to her two brutal sisters, is the only one who seems off-put, complaining of earache of all things.
It’s so easy to sneak in and cast a group Imperius on Snape, have him deliver the poisoned potion. It’s over so very quickly, and wraith rises up in rage for a moment before numerous people jump on the snake, wrestling it down as Ruby happily performs the final action, just as she did for the vessels before.
“Can I have it?” she asks when it’s over. “The pattern’s so pretty. I’d like, I dunno, a purse? And some shoes.”
Why not, they think. The sight of a pretty Muggle girl wearing the skin of the Dark Lord’s beloved animal servant… Not that there are many direct Death Eaters left. Those that still live are too well protected for the strike team… not so for the Wizard’s Order, though. They will go, eventually.
“Loot the manor. Remove anyone you come across.”
It’s progressed so very far from the days when Harry wondered at his companions innocence, assured them death was just a precaution. Perhaps he was innocent then, too. But by now, it no longer matters, just like so many other things. Ron is now an expert at checking for dark curses and dispelling them, in action and in the celebration after, Hermione is an expert at unconventional combat, the girls are a killing unit, Jet is a dead shot. He is a thinker and the unexpected fire.
It’s going to be so very easy, just as he thought it would be.
Storming the Ministry feels good. The transition goes smoothly – little real opposition, though Dumbledore’s army, planted within, looks to be in shock, especially at the vicious grins they receive. There’s a certain pleasure in removing the Wizengamot, another in removing the Ministerial office.
By the end of the day, countless people are ready for Hermione’s cool processing. Fighting, slurs, anger – it won’t help them, not when Harry has placed their immediate fate in the hands of the most logical and yet most Gryffindor witch he knows. The people will be fully vetted later, but a panel of his trusted, but for now, they’re organized by danger – shall they be sent home, to holding cells, to Azkaban?
He lets his core people sit down in the Wizengamot. It’s a little squishy on the Chief Warlock’s chair, even if Ron and Hermione have no interest in it – the triplets, for one thing, have grown, and Jet can only take so much weight on his legs. It feels good nonetheless. He’s done it.
It’s amazing how easy it is to solidify his hold on the population. He has a newspaper, courtesy of dear unfazeable Luna; a crack police force headed by a certain pair of twins; a personal strike force led by the two younger redheads; Hermione heading the trickier bits with Percy’s help, the older Weasley helping with new legislation as well. And with magic, properly used, in their hands…
Harry stands in the centre of a burning house and smiles at Jet, his first friend. “We’ve done it.”
“We have,” Jet agrees, wiping his bloody hands on his jeans. “Shame the girls couldn’t come.”
“Well, that’s south-west England covered,” Harry says. “Time to move on, I think?”
“Always,” Jet smiles.
The future is bright.
Perhaps Fleur might be conducive to a plot to conquer France? It has its own problems, after all…
Harry is a megalomaniac, really. He knows it. He’s no savage like Voldemort, but he has blood on his hands. He’s fine with it.
It’s time to go home. Ruby and Ron will be pigging out on candy by now, Sirius has probably turned some prisoner’s head into a pumpkin, and Hermione, Percy, and Remus working on werewolf legislation will no doubt have turned up far too much paperwork. As for Ginny and Sapphire heading the strike team… there’s going to be quite a bit to clean up. Harry needs to solidify magical Britain before they take over Muggle Britain. Small first, then larger…
And then, the world. A kingdom to rule and share. How perfect.
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