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A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era



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Old June 16th, 2009, 8:02 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Previously on A History of Magic...

Ron awoke to a devastated Ministry of Magic where Hermione had been forced to step in for a grievously injured Dawlish. Many of the Aurors had fallen and now Wizarding Britain is under assault by all manners of Dark Creatures. Oh, and Carter Sigismund is still dead.

Back at the trials, Harry is met by two familiar figures, the ghosts/images of Dumbledore and Voldemort who introduce him to the test. He has to choose between his duty and saving the woman he loves. In the end, he chooses love, but was it the right choice...

And now:


Chapter 302 – Choices that Matter

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and DADA Emporium sat in the heart of Diagon Alley. It was a rather unimposing building that was wedged near the far end of the alley, down the row from Gringott’s Bank. It’s placement was near the entrance to Knockturn Alley. It was also near the Diagon location of the Daily Prophet. All of these coincidences help to make certain that when the dark creatures started emanating from Knockturn Alley, Weasley’s Wheezes would become ground zero for the Ministry’s resistance plan. In addition, it ensured the proprietors of Weasley’s that help from their families would be readily available. That was the case when Ron apparated into the floo of his brother’s establishment.

Ron led his team into the retail area of the shop and out the front door. By this time, most of the visitors to Diagon had cleared out and what remained was a large, ad hoc barricade erected by the Aurors and the inhabitants who’d elected to remain behind. Ron approached the barricade at a crouch, sidling up beside his brother who was helping with the defense. George was busily handing out felt fedoras, adorned with the Weasley Wheezes logo. His voice echoed out across the alley.

“These are our most up to date spell deflectors. Put them on now!” Dudley Dursley stood beside George, holding a small, wooden shield. Every so often, an errant spell would head for the taller Weasley and Dudley would deftly maneuver the shield to block the spell. George, for his part, seemed not to notice Dudley’s actions, as if assuming it was a forgone conclusion that Harry’s cousin would protect him.

Ron felt a tug at his sleeve and he turned to find himself facing his sister, and Harry’s wife, Ginny. She was clad in blue jeans and a cotton blouse with Quidditch leathers over top. Her stringy red hair hung loosely about her shoulders and her eyes weren’t worried, but were very intense.

“Glad you could make it, Ron.” She said without any real bite. News of the explosive attack on the Ministry had already filtered down to the combatants. “Is Hermione all right?”

Ron nodded, gratefully. “She’s fine. She’s got her hands full until Dawlish is back. What’s going on here?”

Ginny pointed down towards the entrance to Knockturn Alley. “I was at the Prophet when the Dementors started pouring out of Knockturn. Since then, every loser dark wizard that had been holed up down there has been trying to push through. Hannah has got the Leaky Cauldron blocked off, so there’s no going through there. They’ve been trying to push through us to get to Gringott’s.”

Brother and sister ducked as another greenish spell passed overhead. “We were doing all right until the Red Caps and Banshees started showing up. I have no idea where they came from.”

Red Caps were small, gnome-like creatures with an insatiable appetite for blood. They could be found on Muggle battlefields, feeding on the dead, and they got their names from the stains that the blood made on their heads. Red Caps were susceptible to most charms and spells, so they usually limited their appearances to Muggles, but they were here and in great numbers. Banshees were dark creatures that took the form of women with floor length hair and green, skeletal faces. Their screams were known to kill. It explained the wildly out of place ear muffs that most of the defenders were wearing. Over top all of them were Dementors, swirling and floating above Diagon Alley, but staying away due to well placed patronus charms from George and the others.

Ron stepped up to where George stood. “Holding the line isn’t enough. We’re going to have to push them back to Knockturn.” George conjured a spell in the form of a ball of light, which spun out and tumbled down an advancing phalanx of Red Caps, like a bowling ball registering a strike. Ron glanced around and spotted a rusted grate which led to the sewers beneath the Alley. “I’ll take a team and try to outflank them.”

George looked at the grate and then shuddered. “You don’t want to do that, Ron.”

“Of course I do. I’m an experienced and highly trained Auror. I do this all the time.” Ron seemed non-plussed. It was difficult, even now, for his older brothers to stop babying him.

“I’m telling you, you don’t want to go down there.” George said.

Ron scowled. “That’s enough, George. Wait for my signal, than hit them hard.” Ron gestured to Williamson, Dean, and Seamus to follow him. Seamus seemed pleased to be out of earshot of the Banshees. One after the other, they dropped down the manhole and into the sewer. George looked over at Dudley and tossed him a plastic shopping bag. Dudley nodded and followed the team down.

Ron lit the tip of his wand and led them through the ancient sewer system. Dean held his nose and then stopped. “You notice that?”

“What?” Ron asked.

“What’s missing?” Dean continued.

Seamus’ eyes grew wide. “There’s nothing down here. There’re no rats or bugs or anything. This is a sewer, right?”

Ron’s eyes drew narrow. The sewer system beneath Diagon Alley was precisely that, a sewer. There should be any number of rats and rodents crawling around, but Dean and Seamus were right, the cistern was empty, devoid of any living thing.

“There’s something down here.” Seamus whispered. “I feel it.”

“That’s just your stomach.” Dean chuckled. “Come on, the sooner we get down there, the sooner we get out of here, and the sooner we’ll smell a darn sight better, except for you Seamus, you probably smell like this all the time.” Dean ducked the playful punch from his friend.

Ron took a step. The water was running slowly and only came up to their ankles. There was a small, brick-wide ledge on either side of the channel. “We’ll go down here, cross where Knockturn Alley is and then come up near Eeylop’s.” That would place them behind the advancing dark forces and give them the element of surprise.

They came to where the sewer split, one branch heading towards the Leaky Cauldron, the other heading down Knockturn Alley. The Knockturn Alley split seemed darker, more sinister. Williamson grabbed Ron’s shoulder, suddenly and pointed on the ledge. “Ron, look!”

Ron’s eyes grew wide. There were spiders pouring out of the Knockturn Alley sewer, each wave growing successively larger. He felt a cold terror grip his chest. Ron was deathly afraid of spiders and the larger ones could only mean one thing. His hand shook as he pointed his wand down the dark tunnel. He whispered a charm and sent a small fireball down the passage, illuminating the walls. The fireball came to sudden stop as it bounced off the body of the creature standing on eight legs.

“Acromantula!” Dean shouted. The creature’s multiple eyes seemed to glow.

“Food!” It shouted. There was a squeaky sound and the thousands of its children began to run towards the group. As one, the Aurors started firing charms and spells that sent some of the creatures spinning into the walls. The large acromantula was almost fifteen feet across and it seemed to smile as a blob of webbing shot from its tail and struck Ron, plastering him to the wall. Eric, Dean and Seamus were being slowly over run by the smaller spiders while the acromantula crawled towards Ron, it’s fangs clacking together in glee.

“You’ll make a tasty morsel. I’ll leave your friends for my children.” Ron closed his eyes in terror as he awaited the spider’s poisonous bite.

Suddenly, there was a violent hissing sound and the smaller spiders began running back down their pipe. The acromantula tried to turn, but was struck by a cloud of mist. Ron heard it cough and cry out in surprise. The giant spider was struck by a denser mist and then it screamed and ran down the alley as fast as its legs could take it.

“Hang on, Ron. I’ll get you down.” Ron saw Dudley appear out of the darkness, a pocket knife in his hand. He cut away the webbing holding Ron to the wall and propped his friend up as Ron regained his breath.

“Thanks, Dudley. What did you do?” Dudley shrugged his shoulders and reached into his grocery bag, pulling out an aerosol can.

Ron shook his head. “Don’t tell me George has come up with a potion that repel acromantulas? That was convenient.”

Dudley blushed. “Well, um, no, not exactly.”

“What did you use?” Ron asked.

Dudley turned the can so that the label faced Ron. It read, “RAID: Spider and Ant Spray”.

The large man smiled sheepishly. “Sometimes that’s all you need to get rid of bugs.” He watched as the wizards stood open mouthed. Dudley shifted uncomfortably and pointed down the tunnel. “Shall we?”

Dudley cleared his throat and continued on, followed slowly by the others, while Ron stood and shook his head in disbelief. Then he adjusted his bag and followed them.

***

The dark cloud fell away as Harry hit the ground with a thud. He was back in the white room. He moaned as he felt the residual pain from the blast the imaginary Voldemort had struck him with. He took a deep breath and stood.

He looked around and sighed. Had he passed?

The question was immediately answered. “Of course you did, well done, Mr. Potter!”

The source was a man dressed in a natty three piece worsted wool suit. He had on a glaringly bright yellow tie and a black bowler was firmly affixed to his head. His well-manicured hands rested lightly atop a black umbrella. He smiled serenely as he watched Harry take him in.

“Who are you?” Harry finally asked.

“My name is Lionel Hutz, Mr. Potter. I’m one of the attorneys that represent the ‘Powers that Be’, Incorporated. I must say, it’s a great pleasure to meet you, sir.” The man extended his hand and Harry took it.

“Hutz? Lionel Hutz? You’re serious?” Harry’s eyebrows arched and he stared at the man with great intensity.

“Of course, Mr. Potter, even TV lawyer have inspirations.” Hutz didn’t seem offended by Harry’s question.

“I understand that, but…” Harry shook his head. “Oh, never mind, so you’re saying I passed the first test?”

“Quite, Mr. Potter, an excellent performance. You see, in the past, we’ve had several people attempt the tests, and their duty has always been preeminent in their minds. There’s always duty and sacrifice, but love? That’s a very rare thing. You chose well.” The man beamed at Harry.

“Great, now what?” Harry asked.

“Well, the second test, of course. I am very interested to see how you handle this one. You are a remarkable man, Mr. Potter. I definitely hope to see you later.” The man nodded his head and winked out of sight.

Harry slowly shook his head and then felt a slight breeze blow past him. He looked to his right and suddenly, he was transported to a small, stone-walled room that he recognized. It was identical to the room at Hogwarts where he’d found the Mirror of Erised. He started walking and turned the corner. He expected to find the mirror standing where’d he’d last seen it. Instead, he found two mirrors, one on either side of him. They were almost identical to the Mirror of Erised, except neither had the writing that had identified it. Standing between the mirrors was a very familiar person.

“Hello, Harry.” The quite voice whispered.

“Sirius!” Harry ran to his godfather and threw his arms around him. He knew that this was a figment of his imagination, but it felt so real. He gripped Sirius tightly, refusing to let him go. Finally, Sirius gently pushed Harry back and stared into his eyes.

“It’s been a long time, Harry. I wish I was here under better circumstances, but the test has already begun.” Harry took a deep breath and glanced at both mirrors. Sirius sighed. “It’s a simple test, Harry. You must choose a path. There is no right or wrong, mind you, and I am not a person to rely on to tell you which on you must take. All you need do is to look into each mirror and choose.”

Harry nodded and turned to face the mirror on his right. For a moment, all he saw was his reflection and then the surface of the mirror began to shimmer and glow. Unlike the original mirror, this one did more than reflect an image, it immersed Harry in its view. It more like a pensieve vision instead of a reflection. He fell into the image and found himself at a ceremony, being held outside Hogwarts. The ceremony was very familiar yet was very different. There was a somber mood, but a feeling of relief and accomplishment. He was at the burial ceremony for those that fell at the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry remembered the day, yet this one felt very different. He was carried along, above the crowd and then he was dropped down to a tier of seats. He saw himself, seated alone in a row of chairs.

He looked no worse for wear, but considering what had happened, as he remembered it, he thought he looked quite good. Harry remembered sitting alone during the remembrance, yet this was very different. The ceremony had been very different. He remembered it being in the Main Hall, not outside, and he came late, giving everyone a chance to mourn. He looked up front. The Weasleys were there, with Hermione being held by Ron. They were crying, holding each other, just like they’d done before. He searched desperately and found her. Ginny was holding onto her mother, her shoulders moving slightly.

Harry turned and faced his younger self and silently wished he’d gone up there and comforted Ginny. Instead, he was startled by two voices. Voices he hadn’t thought he’d ever hear in this setting.

“There you are, Harry. Sorry we’re late, we had to make sure your sister was doing okay.” The younger version of Harry smiled up at the arrival of Lily and James Potter. The couple was older, but still vibrant. They took seats on either side of Harry and hugged him tight.

“We’re proud of you, son. You fought quite well. You can’t blame yourself for Petunia. Your sister can be quite headstrong, just like your mother.” James Potter glanced around and seemed to pause at the ghostly image where the adult Harry was standing. He shrugged his shoulders when the young Harry spoke.

“That’s all right, Dad. I hope Neville is going to be okay.”

Lily Potter patted her son’s head. “Neville is a strong boy. He’s the boy who lived, after all. His parents would have been proud of him.”

“I never quite figured out why Voldemort was so fixated on him.” Harry asked.

“Who knows, but poor Alice and Frank Longbottom paid a dreadful price.” Lily shuddered and looked at her husband. “If Sirius hadn’t figured out that Peter was going to betray us, I don’t know what might have happened to us, darling, or Harry.”

“I know, dear, but we survived. Our Harry fought very well as part of Dumbledore’s Army. He even ferreted out that rat Snape for what he was.” There was contempt in James’ voice.

Lily shook her head. “I’m still shocked that Severus ended up siding with Voldemort. I’ve known him for so long. I thought he’d seen the error of his ways.”

“You can’t make a snake change its spots, Lily.” James retorted and then spoke in a whisper. “Look, there’s Neville. I wonder if he’s going to speak?”

Harry turned and watched as Neville Longbottom walked up the aisle towards the podium. Half his face was burnt and bruised. His clothing was tattered and his face was downcast. He gripped the Elder Wand in his hand as he walked up to the front. There was a murmur in the crowd, but he ignored them. He continued walking. When he came even with the Weasleys, something astonishing occurred. Ginny reached out and touched her hand to his. Neville stopped and turned his face to look at her. He smiled, a smile that could only come from love. Then he continued his walk up the aisle to start his path to his destiny.

Harry felt overwhelmed. His parents were here. In this world, he hadn’t had to be without them. Neville had born the burden and won the prize. The world began to spin and Harry suddenly found himself back in the room, standing in front of the mirror. He turned, tears in his face and looked at Sirius who was crying himself.

Sirius nodded. “I would have given anything to have saved them, Harry.”

Harry turned and glanced at the mirror behind him. Sirius nodded. “Yes, that one is the life as you remember it. This one.” He pointed to the mirror that Harry had just experienced. “This one is a life that you could have had, if one thing had been different, if I hadn’t failed in my duty to my friends. “

Harry stood halfway between the mirrors. He looked at Sirius with a pleading glance. Sirius shrugged. “I can’t tell you what to do Harry. This is your choice. All I know is that I died with the regret that I could have saved Lily and James. That thought haunted me all my life and haunts me to this day, but you must choose the path, Harry. Only you can decide. The real question is about regret. Dying with regret is a tragic thing, Harry. So, choose, Harry. Choose the path and find out.”

Harry nodded and then shoved his hands into his pants pockets. He felt what he carried there and then drew his hands out and let them fall to his side. He tossed his shoulders back, erect and took a deep breath. Then he turned, and walked into a mirror. He made his choice and then the room went black.

A/N: I was always intrigued by the notion of why Harry was chosen as the Boy Who Lived. There's always a sentiment that it could have been Neville. In the end, Voldemort chose who his foil would be, but given the chance, would Harry have done things differently? By the way, you really didn't think I was going to make as simple as choosing love over everything, did you? Harry loved his parents, too.

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  #302  
Old June 17th, 2009, 4:50 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Yesterday, the battle of Diagon Alley saw the arrival of Ron and the remaining troops from the Ministry. Ron went gallivanting in the sewers and came close to being spider food. Dudley Dursley and RAID to the rescue! Newsflash! Carter Sigismund is still dead.

Meanwhile, Harry survived the first test and then was confronted by a TV lawyer from the Simpsons and then went into the second test. He could save his parents and Neville would become the Chosen One. Harry could have his greatest desire granted. What would he do?

So, stop reading this and find out already...and now:


Chapter 303 – Temptation

The sound of his footsteps echoed on the smoothed flagstones of the corridor. He adjusted his school robes, taking great care to straighten the Prefect’s badge on his lapel. His hair was shorter, neater, and he subconsciously worked at keeping it at a less flamboyant color. Teddy Lupin was adjusting quite well to his sixth year, although his first year as a Prefect had been quite difficult. What was more was the fact that Graciela had been named Head Girl and despite the fact that she seemed less prone to violence over the ending of their relationship, she was still, at best, frosty whenever they interacted.

Teddy was tall and broad shouldered with a lean physique and strong chin. He walked with an athlete’s gait, his position as both Captain and Seeker of the Gryffindor Quidditch team having been well earned by his prowess on the pitch. He’d far surpassed both his uncle and his aunt in terms of notoriety on the field, and there was a persistent rumor that Oliver Wood was considering him as a member of the English team for the next World Cup. He walked with great confidence, the lost boy from his first year well gone and left behind, a confident near-man replacing him.

As he approached the gargoyle that led to the Headmaster’s office, Teddy felt a slight bit of apprehension. A mid-day summons to the Headmaster’s office was unusual, given Kingsley Shacklebolt’s dedication to academics. This could only mean that something was amiss that warranted the Headmaster’s attention and usually that meant it had something to do with the Marauders. Teddy’s friends had reconstituted the Marauders on a lark, but it had turned into something more. They were a group within a group, a membership that was composed of people from different houses dedicated to a common purpose. That purpose, it seemed, was to cause as much mischief as possible. They had done that, and in spades. He hoped that his friends hadn’t done anything rash, at least without telling him first.

He walked up to the gargoyle and cleared his throat. Then he offered the password. “The man has style.” As the gargoyle turned to reveal the hidden staircase to the Headmaster’s office, Teddy couldn’t help but chuckle, as he did every time he recited the password. It was Kingsley’s tribute to Dumbledore, really, and they were words that stuck with Teddy and his friends. No matter what they did, they tried to do it with style.

He climbed the stairs and reached the waiting area in front of the open door to the Headmaster’s office. There were several people already in the office, huddled around Kingsley, who was sitting at his desk. There were several of the faculty, including Professor Longbottom, Professor Nott, and Professor McGonagall as well as one person that Teddy hadn’t thought would be there, Aberforth Dumbledore, the proprietor of the Hog’s Head. Now Teddy was really concerned and he thought back to his last Hogsmeade weekend. The Hog’s Head had become a stomping ground for the Marauders and he couldn’t remember if their last foray had resulted in anything untoward.

He swallowed the anxious lump in his throat and walked in as Kingsley was finishing a bit of business with his colleagues. “I think we got all of the residents out of the town through the tunnel to the Room of Requirement. Theodore, are their needs being met.”

The sallow skinned Potions master stood and ran his fingers through his long, jet black hair. “For now, but I’d hate to have to keep them there for too long. We may need to work them up into the dorms if this lasts too much longer.”

Kingsley nodded and then seemed to notice Teddy standing near the door. “Ah, Mr. Lupin, come in please.”

Teddy stepped forward and fixed his gaze on a point on the wall just above Kingsley’s head.

“I suppose you were wondering why I called you up here. It’s about the Marauders.” Kingsley had a passive expression on his face and despite his years of control, Teddy’s hair switched from brown to a bright pink. Teddy figured that the less he spoke, the less trouble he’d get into. So he simply stood silently.

“Come, Teddy, we know all about your little group and it’s, shall we say, extracurricular activities.” Kingsley leaned forward and fixed Teddy in an icy glare. Teddy became flustered and did not notice Neville and Theodore turn to the side, hiding obvious grins.

“Well, er, Professor, it’s more of a social club or study group, than anything else.” Study group? Teddy felt a pressing need to smack his forehead.

“I’m sure, but that’s not why you’re here. I have a very important question for you. Aside from you and your obvious talent, how many of your friends are Animagi?” Kingsley braced his hands together in front of his face.

Teddy was caught off guard. “Professor, that would be illegal. All Animagi have to register with the Ministry.”

“That’s quite true, Mr. Lupin, as you well know.” Professor McGonagall spoke up, her aquiline nose seemed to be pointing straight down at the young Prefect. “And considering your friends’ abysmal grades in my class, I’d be prone to believe that none of them would be capable of doing it correctly.”

Kingsley interjected, “But the original Marauders masked their ability to transmogrify by doing poorly in class. Teddy, this is very important, how many of your friends are Animagi?”

Teddy thought for a moment. Something wasn’t right here. This was more than a simple disciplinary session. He breathed out and sighed. “Five or six are very good at it by now, Professor. Some just can’t get it, like Carlo, but the others are almost as good as me, and I have a certain advantage.”

Teddy was a Metamorphmagus. He had an innate talent to transmogrify into any animal shape he desired. Kingsley rose from his desk and walked around to where Teddy was standing. He placed a reassuring hand on Teddy’s shoulder.

“Teddy, we have a critical situation in Hogsmeade. It’s a reflection of some very bad things happening in the country in general. A pack of werewolves has taken over the town. We’ve evacuated most of the population, but the werewolves are trying to gain access to the school grounds and with tonight being a full moon, we can’t risk that.” Kingsley nodded to Minerva. “Professor McGonagall and I are going to see if we can find the progenitor of the pack, the original werewolf. If we can defeat him, we should be able to take care of the rest. We need Animagi to come with us.”

Teddy nodded, he more than anyone else, understood that in Animagus form, a wizard would be immune from the werewolf bite. That was why the original Marauders had taken the risk of learning about Animagi, to safeguard his father during his alteration. Kingsley’s voice lowered. “Bring your friends to the main gate at six. I only want sixth and seventh years, Teddy. This is dangerous, but we have no choice.”

“Professor, what about the Aurors? Surely Uncle Harry or Uncle Ron can handle this.” Teddy felt a small sense of dread.

“There are dark things at work, Mr. Lupin. The Ministry is crippled. Most of the Aurors are incapacitated. Hogwarts is on its own, I’m afraid.” Kingsley dropped his head and returned to his desk.

Teddy’s throat dried and then he turned and left the room.

***

Harry found himself standing outside his parents’ shattered home at Godric’s Hollow. He’d made his choice, but was it right. He put his hands in his pockets and withdrew a small cameo he kept there at all times. The chain had broken long ago, but it the case remained intact. He opened the hinge and peered inside. On one side was a picture of Ginny, animated, smiling and blowing kisses at him. On the other were the images of his three kids, James, Albus and Lily. His choice had been difficult. In the past, all he wanted was a chance to be with his parents. He’d almost lost himself in the images in the original Mirror of Erised, but when he was faced with the choice and he felt the cameo in his hands, it reminded him of what he’d be giving up.

In the end, his life had revolved around choices that he made. He didn’t have to be the “Chosen One”. He chose to be. He confronted Voldemort, offered his life, and followed a path that was of his own doing. Regret could be poisonous, for sure, but Harry had always felt that he’d made the right choices. The memory of Ginny and his children cemented his conviction. Playing a game of “what if” was not his style.

“You have no style.” He turned and Godric’s Hollow disappeared. Cedric Diggory was standing next to him. They were in a graveyard, THE graveyard where Cedric had been slain. They were wearing the silks they’d worn during the Triwizard Tournament. Cedric smiled. “You were always like more of a blunt instrument, Harry, but I don’t know if I’d call that style.”

Harry’s head became a little light. All of the manifestations within this “dream” had been of people who were dead. So, was he imagining this, or were they ghosts? If he were imagining this, why didn’t he conjure up people he knew to be alive? Had he passed?

“Oh, you passed the test, Harry.” Another voice spoke up. The dapper figure of Lionel Hutz appeared. He sauntered up and doffed his bowler to Harry. “That was a near thing, wasn’t it? How easy is it to try to make a change from the past? Tell me, Mr. Potter, what finally cinched it for you? Why did you choose to let things lie?”

“A man could go mad trying to change the past and hope for a better tomorrow. I’ve seen first hand what that does to everything.” Harry responded bitterly.

Hutz nodded knowingly. “Ah yes, you have seen the impact of slight changes to the past, haven’t you?” Harry ignored the lawyer’s banter. Instead he looked around where they stood.

“Why are we here?” Harry asked.

Hutz walked over to where Cedric was standing and placed a hand on his shoulder. “This will be the scene of the next and final test, Mr. Potter. This one really intrigues me. What about you, Cedric?”

Diggory brushed Hutz’ hand from his shoulder. He turned and looked at Harry, instead. “You need to be true to yourself, Harry. You can’t let things overwhelm you, remember the sacrifices that everyone has made.”

Harry was stunned. He turned and looked at Hutz. “All these people, are they real or my imagination? What is this place?”

Hutz became serious. “They are real and they are not. You know there are ghosts, Harry, but why don’t we see them all the time? Why do you see Peeves or Nearly Headless Nick, but not Cedric here? Why can the Headmaster have interactive portraits of other Headmasters, yet you only see your parents or Sirius Black as parts of a dream?”

“I don’t know.” Harry admitted.

“I understand, Mr. Potter. It is very difficult to explain. Suffice to say, there are ghosts. Your friends and family are around in a spirit sense, but not readily accessible.”

“Except here.” Harry intoned.

“Precisely, but only here, in this realm of relative neutrality, where good and evil, dark and light meet. That is the essence of this place. It’s found in your mind and in it’s found on this plane. “ He pointed to Cedric. “He’s the ghost of Cedric Diggory, but he’s here only because your mind summoned him, and because this place, this graveyard plays a very important role in the next test.”

“When does the next test start?” Harry asked.

Hutz pulled an old pocket watch from the waist pocket of his vest. “It should start, right about, now.” Then he winked out of sight, leaving Harry and Cedric standing alone.

***

“CRACK! THOOM!” The central street of Hogsmeade was deserted in the reddish glow of the sunset. Seven figures appeared clustered together, their apparition echoing loudly in the empty street. They immediately drew their wands. Teddy stood next to Kingsley, alongside Lunastus Rookwood, Martin Peake, Graciela Baretto, Professor McGonagall and Richard Leveille. The four students, at least according to Teddy, were the best Animagi of the Marauders. Professor McGonagall had put them through a quick test to make sure. Alan Bass was also an Animagus, but his form was one of a small tarantula, and Kingsley made the call that he probably wouldn’t have been much help on this mission.

Teddy reached up and touched his fingers to his lips. Victoire had come to see them off and had kissed him deeply, forgetting that she was mad at him. Surprisingly, Graciela hadn’t reacted like he thought. She let out a wolf whistle, much to his chagrin. “Time wounds all heels,” was a favorite saying of Gracie’s. Apparently, she was close to forgetting their past. So much the better.

“Pay attention, Teddy.” Kingsley growled. The Headmaster turned to the rest of the group. “We go in and try to find the proto-wolf. Usually, they lair up in an enclosed, but open space. It should be warm and easy to defend. Any ideas?”

Gracie pursed her lips. “The Three Broomsticks, that’s where I’d go. It’s open, but contained. There’s a nice fire and the building is built like a castle.”

“It’s also at the end of the street, so they can see anyone approaching.” Martin added.

Kingsley nodded. “We’ll try there.” He pointed to Teddy, Lunastus and Martin. “You three stay on this side of the street with Professor McGonagall. You two come with me on the other side.” Gracie and Richard followed Kingsley.

They walked in parallel down the darkening street. Kingsley had explained that they wanted to wait until the moonrise to strike because only then would the alpha wolf be identifiable. Teddy didn’t like the thought of parading around an enclosed street with a pack of transformed werewolves, but they had no choice.

“Professor? Should we transmogrify?” Lunastus’ whisper carried to Teddy’s ear in the stillness of the night.

McGonagall shook her head. “No, not yet. It’s best to save the transformation until you need it. You’ll know when.”

Teddy listened and then continued to follow McGonagall down the street. The silence was suddenly filled by a chorus of loud, chilling howls in the night. Up ahead, The Three Broomsticks loomed, its windows darkened and broken out, but Teddy could see movement inside. There was a loud crash of more windows breaking and Teddy felt the hair on the back of his neck bristle. Then, a loud noise echoed through the night. Richard had sneezed.

Teddy looked across the way and his friend shrugged his shoulders just a dozen large lupine creatures poured out into the street from the Three Broomsticks, while another dozen or so lined the street behind them. They were trapped. Graciela offered Richard a quick snap on the back Richard’s head.

No need for stealth, Richard responded. “Ouch! I told you I’m allergic to dogs.”

The snapping of jaws and the low growls emanating from the approaching werewolves told Teddy that Richard’s comments weren’t appreciated. Kingsley’s voice echoed in the night.

“Minerva, you go forward. We’ll handle the ones behind us. Try to find the pack leader.” McGonagall nodded and turned to charges.

“I think now would be a good time, gentlemen. Lunastus, if you will, please clear a path forward.” The large, brooding teen nodded and concentrated. Rapidly, he fell on all fours and his size increased until he was the huffing, snorting figure of a rhinoceros. Teddy smiled as Lunastus built up a head of steam and plowed into the closely packed werewolves, tossing them aside with his horn. Martin began his transformation and became the figure of a large St. Bernard. The dog snarled and followed close behind the rampaging rhino, snapping at the pack. Teddy concentrated and became a burly, grizzly bear. He paused for a moment as McGonagall turned into her cat figure. Teddy bent his neck and McGonagall climbed up and held on. The ground was no place for a tabby in a battle like this.

On the other side, Kingsley had transmogrified into a lynx, almost the mirror image of his patronus. Graciela had turned into a sleek, powerful black panther and Richard? Richard had the most interesting Animagus form of them all. As a hypochondriac, it was thought that Richard would become something dainty or sanitary. Not so. As he transformed, there was a snort and a belch. Richard’s Animagus was that of a snarling, deadly wild boar. He plunged into the werewolves with abandon, taking on the mass of furry bodies that were attempting to attack the group from the rear.

Teddy barreled into his group, following in the wake of Lunastus and Martin. His eyes swept the group, searching for a werewolf that stood out, that separated itself as the proto-wolf. Almost immediately, he felt a crush of claws and teeth trying to cut through the hair on his body. A grizzly’s fur was thick and offered him greater protection, yet here and there, he winced inwardly as some penetrated his skin. He fought with his massive paws and jaws, casting bodies here and there, yet not making much progress.

For his part, Kingsley kept an eye on Teddy. The entire fight hinged on Teddy’s ability as a Metamorphmagus. Animagi were limited to one form, but Teddy had no such limitation. There was no way, despite their immunity from the werewolf’s bite, that they could survive for much longer. There simply were too many of the dark creatures to handle. He prayed silently that Teddy would figure it out.

Teddy felt McGonagall leap from his back, onto an adjacent roof. He felt better without her there, now he had a bit more freedom. His eyes caught sight of a larger wolf, with a long silver stripe of fur down its back. That had to be the proto-wolf. He concentrated and transformed into a bull moose. He lowered his antlers and plowed through the crowd of wolves. He spied Lunastus driving in front of him and Teddy leapt in the air and transformed again, this time into the figure of a silver backed gorilla. He planted his hands on Lunastus’ back and catapulted in the air and tackled the large werewolf. The pair gripped each other in a tight bear hug, rolling around on the round. Teddy felt the jaws of the animal tear into his shoulder and not let go. He felt his skin tearing and his strength weakening. Desperately, Teddy reached up and wrapped his hands around the creature’s throat.

Now it was a contest. Who would weaken first? Teddy’s shoulder and back or the creature’s throat. Teddy felt his vision darkening, he was moments away from losing consciousness, which meant certain death. If he passed out, he’d revert to his human form and would be susceptible to a bite. He gripped harder, desperate to finish the fight. After what seemed an eternity, he heard a loud snap and his opponent’s body slackened and fell back. It was dead.

The loss of their leader sent the pack into a bewildered frenzy. They howled and then ran, leaving their fallen comrades behind. They disappeared into the night. The Marauders let out a collective sigh and reverted to their human forms. Teddy felt himself transfiguring, his breath was heavy and the pain from his injuries starting to take hold. His hands were now around the throat of a human man. He looked down and then jumped back. He recognized the person, from his nightmares.

Kingsley ran up as he saw Teddy leap back. The Hogarts Headmaster looked down at the fallen werewolf and the gasped. Looking up at him were the lifeless eyes of Fenrir Greyback, a man who’d been dead for years.

***

“I’m going to kill you, Harry Potter.” Harry found himself in the graveyard, facing a phalanx of Death Eaters and the Dark Lord himself standing before him. Cedric’s lifeless body was off to the side. Harry gripped his wand. He’d been here before, facing the Dark Lord and barely escaping with his life.

“Stupefy!” Voldemort easily deflected Harry’s initial spell and cackled in merriment, mocking him for his simplicity, but this wasn’t a fifteen year old that faced Tom Riddle. This was an accomplished Auror. Harry subvocalized another spell.

“Redacto!”

A tombstone next to Voldemort exploded violently, knocking the Dark Lord to his knees. Harry didn’t let up. “Avara Kedavra!”

The pencil thin green light struck the newly reformed Dark Lord in the chest, killing him instantly. His wand fell to the ground and Harry stretched out his free hand and retrieved the wand, tucking into his waist band. He held his own wand up and aimed it at the stunned Death Eaters.

“Wait, Harry! Don’t, we give up!” Lucius Malfoy held his hands up, palms out. He took an unsteady step forward and glanced down at the dull, red dead eyes of his former master. He took a deep breath and then turned his eyes towards Harry.

“You have defeated him. You killed the master.”

Harry shook his head. “Not quite, but that can be rectified soon enough.” Harry knew about the Horcruxes that still existed, including himself, yet even they needed some sort of impetus. Even now, there was no sign of Nagini.

Lucius glanced at Harry curiously and then held his hand out to the other Death Eaters. As one, they knelt to the ground. Malfoy turned towards Harry. “Whatever, Harry, you are now our master. You are the most powerful wizard in the world, because you defeated the most powerful wizard in the world. We will follow you.”

Harry stopped short and felt a surge of adrenaline course through his body. He looked down at Malfoy, kneeling in front of him. “I don’t want to be the Dark Lord.”

Lucius smiled. “Of course you don’t. Obviously, you are better than he was. You can set things right. You can bring order to our society. Such is the power that you have at your fingertips.”

“Look what that power did to Voldemort.” Harry responded, but even now, his mind was racing at the possibilities. All the troubles in the world could be fixed. There’d be no blood-purity laws. He could make things work because he’d use the power for good.

“The Dark Lord was flawed. He underestimated you, Potter. But you know better. You are better. You would use the power the way it should be, to make this world better.” Malfoy’s light blue eyes were fixed on Harry.

Harry’s mind raced through the possibilities. He could stop Umbridge, he could stop Fudge, he could save Dumbledore, he could make things right, because he’d have the power.

Lucius Malfoy extended his arm, holding his hand out to Harry. “Take my hand, Harry. Accept the loyalty of the Death Eaters to your cause. Bring order to the world and become the most powerful wizard of our age. Make things right.”

Harry watched the hand. Here was the choice. He could carry on and be simply the “Boy Who Lived” and killed Voldemort, or he could use the power he’d just won and make the world better. He felt the magic coursing through his veins. All he need do was take Lucius Malfoy’s hand. He tucked his wand into his waistband, right next to its twin. His palms felt clammy and he swallowed. The power felt good, it felt like it was his birthright. His emerald eyes focused on Malfoy’s hand. All he need do was accept the power he already had. He glanced over at the body of Cedric Diggory. No more need die. He swallowed and then made his choice.


A/N: So we know that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power can be tempting. Remember how Harry never really thought about keeping the Elder Wand? Was it that easy? Why not use the power for good? It would be tempting, at least in this context. By the way, it felt good to write about Teddy and his friends.

Three days, three chapters...you guys overloaded yet?

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  #303  
Old June 18th, 2009, 8:37 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

When we last left our stalwart heroes, the town of Hogsmeade was under siege by a pack of werewolves. That led Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, to recruit the animagi from the New Marauders. Studly Teddy Lupin led the way and helped defeat the werewolves, but was surprised that a long deceased Fenrir Greyback was the leader.

Back at the trials, Harry got tempted by absolute power, when he stopped using the silly "stupefy" charm and blasted the Dark Lord silly. Now, he's faced with a choice: Ultimate Power or Status Quo. How will he answer?

Now, like in the past, Cedric Diggory is still dead.

So, with no further ado....



Chapter 304 – Getting the Balance Right

The elevator chimed as it reached the uppermost floor on the pad. Angel drew a magnetic card from the pocket of his long, black duster coat and inserted it into the reader at the top of the panel. There was a barely audible ping as the card’s destination was registered and the doors closed. He rode the car as it continued on its path.

Ever since the encounter with the Volturi, he and Spike had been following leads around the disappearance of Harry’s friends. The reports of the dark creatures emanating from England had been disturbing and now, only one last course remained. It was time to talk to the “Powers That Be” about what their intentions were around the magical world. Harry Potter had managed to fashion a relatively quiet era of peace, with the dark forces kept at a relative distance, but recent events bore all the hallmarks of the mysterious powers that both ran Wolfram and Heart, the shadowy evil law firm that had been his nemesis and kept the world turning from an evil perspective.

Visiting the powers was not something that Angel wanted to do. They had been a source of pain and death for him for most of his existence. He still couldn’t fathom whether they were evil or ambivalent. What he did know is that they were the source of a lot of the problems that were going on right now and he had to see if he could intervene. He wasn’t even entirely sure they would see him, given the monumental problems he’d had contacting them in the past. Still, he had to try.

The elevator doors opened and he found himself in a rather mundane and functional waiting area with a large, round reception desk. Behind the desk was a pretty woman who, in any other place, would have been typical of a receptionist at any other office, except for her red skin and the two small horns protruding from her forehead. She smiled as he exited.

“Mr. Angel? They will be with you shortly. They are meeting with their attorney. Would you please have a seat?”

Angel nodded and sat in one of the overstuffed chairs in the lobby. He picked up a Demons Quarterly magazine and leafed through it, while he waited for the Powers to see to him.

***

Lionel Hutz exited the elevator and walked into the lobby. He hesitated as he spied Angel flipping through a magazine. He regained his composure relatively quickly and nodded to the demoness behind the desk. She pressed a button and the door buzzed. He opened the door and walked into the conference room.

The boardroom was like any other that could be found in any lawyer’s office. There was a large oval oak table with comfortable seats around the perimeter. As was expected, Lionel stood at the end of the table and waited as the “Powers that Be” finished the current item on the agenda. While he kept his gaze forward, he took a quick glance at his employers.

No one sat at what would be the “head” of the table. The six figures were seated equidistant apart, three on either side of the table. Lionel knew each of them by name as he studied the engraved plaque hanging on the wall on the far side. The plaque was inscribed with the Powers’ mission statement. “Maintain the Balance: Turn a Profit While Doing it”.

The Powers that Be were a funny organization. Largely non-partisan and usually amoral, its membership fluctuated through the centuries. Through the years, they’d shifted, based on its membership from being completely evil to extreme benevolence. More recently, the addition of three members had shifted their focus to maintaining the balance between light and dark. The first member was the tall, well dressed man with slicked back hair sitting farthest away from Lionel. Gordon Gecko was probably the most amoral man that Lionel had ever met. He was driven by the fact that the most favorable way to gain power was to avoid vacuums or environments where one side of the spectrum completely dominated the other. Through the years, he could be found playing both sides to ensure an equilibrium.

The man next to him was well known to Muggles and represented a completely different outlook from Gecko, with the same objective. Steven Spielberg was a movie maker whose craft relied on his works able to portray an antagonist versus a protagonist. The recent ascension of the light over the dark had made material for his movies very hard to come by. The public simply was happy and not interested in fare that would either take them away from their troubles or watch stories about evil doers. He was the creative mind behind many of the Powers’ activities of late.

Next to Spielberg, and completing the members on that side of the table was a tall, youngish looking woman wearing a stylish red powersuit. She had long, straight blonde hair, and deep, brown eyes. Her skin was unblemished and tan. Her name was Stephanie Bonefear, and she was the group’s most recent member. Despite his best efforts, Lionel had little information on her background, but she tended to side with Spielberg and Gecko on most matters. Lionel chuckled inwardly. Despite her outward appearance, Bonefear was busily ignoring the discussion and working on a cross stitch pattern on her lap.

Hutz’ attention was drawn to the members on the other side of the table. They were the more tenured members who came from a time that was more belligerent to the world in general. The first man, opposite Gecko, usually never spoke. He wore a dark, black suit, white shirt and a thin black tie, looking more like an undertaker, except for the fact that he bore a remarkable resemblance to Brad Pitt, the actor. Hutz knew that his looks belied his true nature. He went by the name John Stilusveho. John “Pale Rider” or as he’d been known throughout the ages, Death. The Grim Reaper was one of the ultimate in not playing sides, death came to both the light and the dark, and his agenda was very much hidden. He tended to side with the two people seated next to him.

The other two members of the Powers were a father and daughter, who weren’t evil, per se, but thrived on chaos, hence their names, Lukas and Helga Kaoset. They were, respectively, the most and the second most tenured members of the board. Lionel knew their real identities, although he wasn’t altogether certain that the other members knew who they were, and out of self-preservation, they weren’t going to find out from him. Instead, he kept to himself and waited his turn in the discussion.

“Who overstepped their bounds?” Gecko’s voice was intense. “The whole point of this exercise was to close a gap, not tip the scales to other side.”

Lucas shrugged his shoulders. “In the big picture, it does strike a balance. We’ve had a few years of sickening sweetness, now we’ve tilted it to the other side. It won’t be forever and I’m sure John would appreciate the influx of business. I’ve never known you to be squeamish about the darker side of things, Gordon.”

As with most of their recent meetings, the focus of the arguments was between Gecko and Lucas. Neither could resist and opportunity to take a jab at the other. Gordon had been in too many boardroom fights to take the bait.

“Be that as it may, this will be bad for business. So, did you orchestrate this Lucas?”

Lucas shook his head. “Sadly, no, I didn’t. I wish I had, because it makes things very interesting.”

Gecko stared at him skeptically, but held his tongue. The room grew uncomfortably silent until Stephanie raised her head from her cross stitch. “I made it happen.”

She smiled shyly, while Gecko stared at her in shock. Even Lucas seemed taken aback by her statement.

“Why?” Gecko finally blurted out.

She carefully replaced her work into her bag and crossed her hands in front of her. “It wasn’t because I thought that the dark forces would win. I simply wanted to see what our pawns would do. This Harry Potter is very interesting, isn’t he Lionel?”

Lionel Hutz nodded carefully. Potter was interesting, to say the least. Gecko sat back and rubbed his fingertips over his lips. Absently, he pulled a cigarette from a gold case and lit it. He looked at Stephanie and Hutz could imagine that Gecko was carefully assessing where the alignments within the group had changed. He took a long drag and placed his hand on the table.

“I guess this all depends on how well Mr. Potter has done, doesn’t it?” His gaze went to Lionel. “What is the update on the third test?”

Lionel snapped to reality and clapped his hands together. “Actually, we may need a ruling on this.”

Helga leaned forward. “What do you mean? He had two choices. Which one did he select?”

“Forgive me, ma’am. You’ll find that with Harry Potter, things tend to be a little more complicated than that.” Lionel smiled wanly. “I think it would be best if I showed you.” Lionel walked to where a large flat screen television was mounted on the wall. He pulled up the remote control and turned it on.

***

Harry stared at Malfoy’s outstretched hand. His mind raced through the possibilities and for a moment, the sheer concept of wielding such power was intoxicating. Could he walk away from this? Although his form was that of a teen, his mind held the memories of what had passed before. His mind reflected on the momentary flashes of regret he had in not retaining all of the Hallows. He knew he’d made the right choice about the Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone, but there were times he’d wished he’d kept them. Now, he was being given a chance to wield unlimited power, to do whatever he wished.

He looked up at the kneeling Death Eaters. “Are you all in agreement with Mr. Malfoy?”

There were murmurs and finally, each of the robed and masked former minions of Voldemort nodded their heads. Harry looked at Malfoy. “How does this work?”

Malfoy looked at Harry and spoke softly. “You have captured the Dark Lord’s wand. We swear an Unbreakable Vow of loyalty to the owner of that wand. It’s as simple as that. There is no arbiter, no oath guarantor, just the wand.”

Harry nodded and drew Voldemort’s wand from his waist. He studied the wand and then looked at the collected Death Eaters. It would be so easy, he thought, he could make it work. He thought for another moment and then stared at Malfoy, holding out Voldemort’s wand.

“You may approach. All of you must swear by this.” As one, they approached and placed the tips of their wands along the wand in Harry’s hand. As one, they intoned their commitment to follow Harry.

Once they were done, Harry felt a surge of power in his body. The wand in his hand glowed and for a brief moment, he almost forgot what he wanted to do. All his sacrifices, all his loss, all that he’d done seemed to disappear, replaced by the sensation of power. Then, he narrowed his eyes and gripped the wand in two hands. In one movement, he snapped Voldemort’s wand in half.

“I have no desire to be another Dark Lord, nor do I want any of his followers to try to follow in his footsteps. You are all bound to me and I command you to drop your dark ways and to stop this pure-blood nonsense. There will never be another Dark Lord as long as I live and now, none of you can see to my demise.” Harry watched the shocked expression on Malfoy’s face. Malfoy slowly realized he’d been trapped. There was nothing he could do. He was bound, by oath, to Harry’s word, forever.

The sensation of power disappeared and then everything went dark.

***

Lucas slapped his open hand on the table. “He cheated!”

“No, he changed the conditions of the test. He found a third choice.” Gecko smiled and lit another cigarette. “I’m inclined to say that he passed.”

“Well I’m not. This is absurd. He can’t have it both ways.” Lucas’ face was red with anger.

“Apparently, he figured out a way to do both.” It was the first time Spielberg had spoken. The filmmaker in him was genuinely pleased by the turn of events. No one liked a predictable movie.

Gecko decided to press the point. “I say we put it to a vote. I think he passed, and doing so, is now allowed unfettered access to El Dorado.”

“That would mean he could reverse the flow of the well of evil.” Lucas responded.

Stephanie spoke up. “Yes, but he couldn’t drain it, only put it back into equilibrium, which was the goal of this whole project, wasn’t it?”

Helga raised her head. “It has to be a majority. A tie means he fails since he didn’t choose the right answer.”

“That’s not right. He didn’t choose the wrong answer, either.” Gecko responded.

“It’s an affirmative test, Gordon. Only the right answer can be accepted short of a majority vote of this council. We didn’t write the rules, we only enforce them.” Lucas beamed, assured that he had a tie vote. “Let’s vote.”

Lionel watched in interest as one by one, they voted. There were three votes for passing Potter, by Gecko, Spielberg and Bonefear. There were two votes against by Lucas and Helga Kaoset. That left John Stilusveho. He’d remained silent through the entire discussion. He seemed to only now, understand that five sets of eyes were fixed on him. He looked around and shrugged.

“I thought it was quite clever. It reminds me of the Peverell brothers when they tricked me out my Hallows. I think I’ll give him a pass.” He smiled an apology to Lucas and winked at Stephanie.

“So it’s settled. Harry Potter has passed the tests. He gets access to El Dorado.” Gecko was beaming. He loved winning proxy fights. He watched a sullen Lucas shake his head. Gecko turned and addressed Lionel. “You can let Potter know he’s won. Make sure that he sets things right with the well of evil.”

“I will, sir. In fact…”

Just then the two oak doors crashed open. Angel stomped in and stood next to Lionel, his hands on his hips. “I don’t like waiting and you really need to update your magazines in the lobby.” He looked at each of them, slightly surprised at seeing Spielberg. Angel smiled. “I really didn’t like Indiana Jones Part Four. Anyway, my name is Angel and I’m here to tell you to let Harry Potter into El Dorado.”

Gecko started laughing and looked at Lionel. “I think we found your messenger.”


A/N: I know, I know, the Powers weren't all that special, but remember, Lucas and Helga are not what they seem. They will factor in later in this series. For now, we're setting things up and the main thing to remember is that the well of evil will be in balance, meaning it's time for some really cool adventures.

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  #304  
Old June 22nd, 2009, 8:30 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

So, last chapter, we found that the Powers that Be were just like the board of a Fortune 500 company, only more so. Gordon Gecko, Stephen Spielberg, Stephanie Bonefear, Death and Lucas and Helga Kaoset all have their own agendas and their own actions. Still, Harry passed the final test and we need to see how things turn out...

So, stop reading this and scroll down already.




Chapter 305 – Loose Ends and a Side of Pasta

“Monsieur and Madame Potter, Madame Weasley, welcome back!” George Plimpton was resplendent in blousy, lime green and orange striped pants and a hot pink chef’s smock. Harry thought Plimpton had simply overlooked welcoming Ron in his greeting. The owner/operator of the Bistro extended his arms. “Please, forgive the mess, we are still repairing a good amount of the damage from last month’s unpleasantness.” This time Plimpton offered Ron a hard, discerning stare and Harry realized that the flamboyant chef blamed Ron, in part, for the damage from the battle in Diagon Alley.

The two couples followed Plimpton to a nicely appointed table in the center of the room and Harry hid a grin as the garishly dressed culinary master fussed over the ladies’ seats and made a great show of presenting the wine list, all the while ignoring Ron’s presence. After the drink orders were taken, even Ron’s, Plimpton bowed and made for the kitchen to prepare their meal.

“He blames me for the damage, doesn’t he?” Ron grumbled. “It wasn’t my fault.”

“Don’t take it personally, Ron. They always blame the government when bad things happen. That’s the nature of things.” Hermione admonished her husband playfully.

“Well, you outrank me, Madame ACTING Minister, so why don’t they blame you?” Ron retorted.

Hermione gazed at the menu and responded nonchalantly. “I didn’t force a flood of spiders into their pantry, now did I?”

“That was Dudley!” Ron’s voice was at a higher pitch.

“He likes Dudley.” Hermione quipped.

“I told you!” Ron was exasperated and he tossed down half the contents in his wine glass.

Harry chuckled and looked over at Hermione. “How is Dawlish?”

“He’s recovering nicely. He thinks he can come back to work now, but Elizabeth and I, as well as every healer we talk to, thinks he’s pushing it too hard. He should be ready next week, I suspect, if only to stop his whining.” John Dawlish had been seriously injured in the assault on the Ministry. Hermione had been acting in his place until he returned.

“That’s good to hear.” Harry turned and smiled at Ginny. He’d only been home for a couple of days and his chest grew heavy as he was reminded just how beautiful she was. He reached over and clasped her hand in his and then turned to Ron.

“What’s the story with Romilda and Lydia Simms?”

Ron chewed a piece of bread, his face becoming darker. “They really were dumber than we thought. We picked them up together, arguing in a pub on High Street. Their trial didn’t take long at all, especially after Simms’ connection to her manipulators in El Dorado were taken care of. I suspect they’ll enjoy Azkeban even less.”

***

The “Aurora” leapt out of the water, her black hull almost hidden against the dark skies as the ship approached the landing at Azkeban. Muireall Innes flexed her knees against the turbulent tossing of the sloop in the skies and glanced over at her husband. Eric Williamson was in full Auror attire, black robes, black knee length boots and a starched white shirt. His silver Auror’s shield glittered, even in the gloomy weather and his face was focused on the ship’s approach to the Wizard Prison.

Within moments, Muireall used her magic to guide her ship to the stone landing and watched with professional detachment as her crew secured the vessel to the bollards on the dock. Gavin Lockley’s voice bellowed in the howling wind, ensuring that her crew was motivated to make the landing smooth and without incident. Behind Williamson, a quartet of Aurors stood idly by the two prisoners were being transported to their new home. Romilda Vane was wide-eyed, her skin blotchy from crying. Even now, tears were forming as the gray stone mass of the prison was more apparent. Lydia Simms was more sullen, her eyes downcast. Williamson couldn’t tell if she was more upset that she’d failed or because, in some way, she’d been manipulated. Regardless, she was going to jail for a long time.

There was the rasp of wood on stone as the “Aurora” came to a halt. Lockley nodded mutely to Eric who beckoned the Aurors to bring the prisoners forward. They hadn’t been hard to find, bickering in a muggle pub, Pandora’s box inside a handbag being held by Simms. They came quietly, were tried and convicted without incident and now were here for execution of sentence. The Aurors quickly froze them in place, and levitated their still bodies, like so much luggage. Despite being frozen, Eric could hear Romilda’s sniffles, as if she never contemplated the consequences of her actions. Still, the terror and destruction she’d help cause hardened him to her pathetic pleas.

He led the procession to the central processing desk. A masked, faceless Auror met him at the junction and directed two of his colleagues to take possession of the prisoners. His voice was not recognizable under the mask, but his words were chilling and had a certain sense of finality.

“Lydia Simms, you are prisoner 841, you have been sentenced by the Ministry of Magic to imprisonment in the Azkeban facility for the rest of your wizarding life. You will not use your name. You are now prisoner 841. Take her away.” Eric stood by as Lydia was levitated to a far door and whisked to her new life.

The Auror turned to Romilda. Eric could see her eyes were panicked, her breathing was erratic as she hyperventilated.

“Romilda Vane, you are prisoner 842, you have been sentenced by the Ministry of Magic to imprisonment in the Azkeban facility for a period of 50 years to life. You will not use your name. You are now prisoner 842. Take her away.” Romilda let out a pitiful wail as they took her out.

Her voice echoed in Eric’s ear. It was pitiful.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry!”

Eric shook his head. She should have thought of that in the first place. He turned and walked back towards the Aurora, and a pleasant cruise with his wife.

***

“I feel sorry for Romilda.” Ginny said as she took a bite from her Caesar’s Salad.

“A lot of people died, Ginny, because of her and her friend.” Harry admonished.

Ginny gave him a hard stare. “I’m not saying she didn’t deserve to go to Azkeban, I’m just saying that I felt sorry for her. She always was kind of desperate in school. Remember how she tried to use a love potion on you?”

Harry nodded and started laughing. “I remember when Ron ate those chocolates.”

“Leave me out of it, Harry. I’m glad she’s in prison.” Ron snapped.

Ginny giggled. “What’s the matter, Wonnykins?”

“You stop that. They did cause a lot of trouble. There’s too much pain from their little scheme.” Ron grew a bit morose as they all thought about one person.

“How is Leonora doing?” Ginny asked, a bit more subdued.

“She’ll never be the same. Sean is beside himself. They were pretty close, when she was an Auror. He thinks it’s partly his fault he didn’t catch this in time.” Ron whispered.

“How could he possibly think he could have spotted what she was doing?” Hermione implored.

Ron shrugged his shoulders. “They both were mad at Harry. Heck, I was mad at Harry. Maybe we all should have caught it before it was too late. Sean just feels responsible.”

***

Sean Manchester barely heard the kindly looking healer in the lift with him. He was stealing himself for the person that had been his friend for decades and his partner for vast portion of that time. The news of her tragedy struck him hard he continued to beat himself up about it.

“I’m sorry, you were saying?” He’d lapsed into thought and the healer had stopped talking.

“That’s quite all right, Mr. Manchester. I said that normally, witches in Mrs. Sigismund’s condition are housed on the fourth floor with our other spell damaged patients, but what she’s suffering from can hardly be considered spell damage, can it?” The healer said in a soft voice.

“You’re right, of course.” Sean responded.

“Dr. Spinnet looks in on her every day. It’s fortunate that we have a witch trained in the medical arts, as well.” The healer seemed nonplussed that a muggle-trained witch had to do her job. “She’s on the sixth floor.”

The lift rang as they reached the sixth floor. They exited into a long, well lit hallway. The walls and floors were a stark, antiseptic white with a score of doors with tiny windows along each side. The healer walked past a guardian wizard seated a desk and led Sean to a door about midway down the hall. The door opened and Alicia Spinnet walked out. She saw Sean and smiled.

“It’s good you’re here, Sean. She’s a bit sedated, but I think the visit will do her good. I must warn you, though, the Leonora Sigismund you knew just isn’t there. She’s suffered such a psychic trauma, I don’t know if she’ll ever recover.” Alicia held the door open and allowed Sean to enter.

The first thing he noticed was that the room was all white. The floors and walls were padded and soft. There as a small cot along one of the walls and Leonora was crouched in a corner, talking to herself. She was in a set of white pajamas, no shoes or jewelry. Sean’s gasped as he saw her long, lustrous hair had been cut short, almost into a flat top. He glanced back at Alicia.

“It’s normal procedure. Muggles would never think of it, but given she’s a witch, she could easily use her hair to hang herself. It’s for her own protection.” Alicia shrugged helplessly.

Sean nodded and slowly approached Leonora. “Lenny? It’s me, Sean.” He spoke gently and his voice seemed to reverberate in the room. Leonora turned and smiled, although Sean noticed that her eyes seemed distant, almost vacant. He fought back tears as he tried to smile for her.

“Sean?” Her voice was unsteady, but recognized her old friend. “Sean.” There was a smile in her voice and Manchester felt, for a moment, that the old Leonora had returned.

Her mouth turned down in a frown. “Carter…”

“I know, Lenny. I know about Carter.” Sean said soothingly, his mind trying to block out the image of the tall, capable man that had died so young. It pained him to see his friend continue to torment herself.

“Carter.” She repeated numbly, then she smiled. “Carter made Head Boy. I’ve got to get the house ready for his visit. The year is passing so fast. It’s already the holidays. What a fine boy! He’s coming home soon.”

Sean glanced back at Alicia who shook her head slowly. He turned and looked back at Leonora. “That’s right, Lenny, we’ll throw him a party. Carter is a fine boy.”

“Yes, he’s a fine boy. He’s my baby boy, Sean. What a good boy! He’s got such a bright future ahead of him…” She turned back to the corner and began to recite off a grocery list of things she would buy for the party. “I’ll get a sirloin. He’s a big, strong boy. He loves steak. We’ll invite his friends: Teddy, Graciela, Richard…”

Sean rose and turned to leave. He took one last look at Leonora and then exited the room. He nodded at Alicia and then boarded the lift alone. Only then, did he allow the tears he’d been building up to come.

***

“Do you think she’ll ever recover?” Ginny asked sadly. Harry shrugged.

“Who knows? The mind is an awesome mystery. It’s even more than magic can fathom. There just isn’t a cure for a broken heart, is there?” Harry drew quiet as their main course was delivered. As they plowed into their seafood pasta, Ron pointed his fork at Harry.

“Now tell the truth Harry, did you really just leave El Dorado unattended? You were given the keys to a city of gold and you walked away?”

Harry laughed. “It’s not unattended. I just didn’t want to play the game they had for me.”

***

Charlie felt the invisible hand holding him disappear. He drew his wand and placed the tip at Frank Sinatra’s temple. The old Hopi held up his hands and smiled. “Dude, take it easy. Harry will be fine.”

“You should have told us that it would take Harry.” Charlie growled as Billie and the others joined him under Frank’s lean-to.

“Honestly, I didn’t know. I thought it would take me.” Frank’s eyes showed no fear. “Of course, if you think blasting an old injun like me into smithereens will make you feel better, go ahead.”

Charlie snarled a shout and then dropped his wand. “Damn you! We don’t even know if Harry is alive or dead.” He looked up at the tree that was holding Harry in its grasp.

“Oh, he’s alive, all right and doing well from what I can tell.” Frank responded. The shaman took off his battered chest armor and tugged at his old tee shirt. He reached into his cooler and pulled out several bottles of soda. “No one has been up there that long. I knew Harry could take it.”

“We need to get him out of there.” Charlie turned and grabbed Frank by the front of this shirt. “How do we get him out of there?”

“Charlie, let him go.” Charlie wheeled around and saw Harry standing there, none the worse for the wear.

“Harry? Are you all right?” Charlie stood and checked Harry for signs of injury.

Harry nodded. “I think so. I went through three tests, but no El Dorado.” Harry looked back at the tree, which had shrunk to a quarter of its size. Then he turned and pointed to one of Frank’s sodas. “I’ll take one of those, though, I’m parched.”

Frank nodded and handed Harry the antique bottle. Harry’s mind raced from his experience. There was a flash and bang and Lionel Hutz was standing outside the lean-to, right next to a familiar figure.

“Angel?” Billie’s warm greeting drew a stare from Charlie. Angel ignored their greeting and walked up to Harry.

“It was a close run thing, but you passed the tests, Harry. You get El Dorado.” Angel said softly.

“You mean I get access to El Dorado?” Harry responded.

“No, I mean you get El Dorado. You are now its caretaker.” Angel’s voice was calm, with a hint of humor.

“I don’t want to be its caretaker. I’ve already got a job.” Harry stood. “I just want the gifts and I want to stop the madness going on out there.”

“You don’t have to give up your job, Mr. Potter.” Hutz stepped forward and tipped his bowler. “And might I add that I was quite impressed with your handling of this entire affair.”

“What do you mean I don’t have to give up my job?” Harry asked.

The lawyer for the Powers smiled. “It’s just that. You have to return El Dorado to equilibrium and appoint a guardian, but after that, you control its access and its destiny. Shall we?”

A black hole opened in the ground and Hutz pointed inside it. “That is the way to El Dorado.”

Charlie leaned over to Sean. “That’s also the way to Hades, if I remember right.”

Harry ignored his riposte. “I suppose we’d better check it out.” He dusted off his pants and dropped into the hole, followed by the others.

Harry and his companions materialized in the center of a large courtyard. All around, Roman Legionnaires lined the outer wall and there was a small gazebo in the center with several settees and lounges. There were three old people he did not recognize as well as two that he did.

“Signor Harry! It’s about time you have arrived!” Adelina Baretto’s toga barely covered the important parts. Harry flushed slightly and then faced the captain.

“It’s good to see you didn’t take your captivity too seriously.” Harry joked. Michael rose from his couch, his sailor’s uniform still intact.

“All this was after you’d bested the challenges, Harry. The well of evil started receding to its pool, but it’s still there. Perhaps you could drive the evil down even further?”

Hutz cleared his throat. “I’m afraid that isn’t possible, Mr. Potter. The depletion of evil as a counter balance was why all of this occurred in the first place. You can not let such an imbalance happen again.”

Harry nodded. “Where’s your crew?”

Adelina rose and allowed the sheer fabric of her clothing to fall into place. “They are free and about. Most are on the Discooperire. We knew you were coming and we’re ready to go home.”

“There is the small matter of a guardian for El Dorado, Mr. Potter.” Hutz stepped forward and pointed to the golden walls. “This place can not be left unattended.”

Harry nodded and then smiled. He raised his arm and pointed at Frank Sinatra.

“You! You’ve spent your life looking for this place. Are you ready to be its guardian?”

For the first time since they met him, Sinatra was at a lost for words. Finally he stammered a reply. “You sure you want me?”

“You’ll have to populate the place, but I’m sure there’s any number of wayward Hopi that would join you.” Harry responded.

Frank pulled on the hem of his faded tee shirt. “I’d be honored. It will not be violated again.”

“It had better not.” Harry replied. Hutz nodded approvingly and clapped his hands. Instantly, the Roman Legionnaires transformed into ancient Aztec warriors, the new guardians of El Dorado.

Harry turned and faced Baretto. “If you can find some decent clothing, maybe we can hitch a ride home?”

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing, Signor Harry?” Baretto spoke in a half teasing, half alluring tone. Charlie spoke up as well.

“Yeah, what’s wrong with what’s she’s wearing?” His question was answered by a loud, audible smack from Billie on the back of his head.

Harry stumbled on the words. “Er, nothing is wrong, I mean, you look great, I mean pretty…” Harry turned beet red from embarrassment.

Adelina let out a full belly laugh and let Harry off the hook. “Of course, I am having fun with you, Signor Harry. You should have seen Michael’s face when I put this on.” Michael rolled his eyes and muttered a silent prayer.

Harry regained his composure. “If you are quite through, I’d like to go home now.”

***

“What do you mean she was half naked?” Ginny looked at Harry warningly and Harry blushed.

“She wasn’t half naked, Ginny. I only said that she was wearing something other than her uniform.” Harry knew his response was weak, at best.

“Some tan skinned beauty wears a see through bed sheet and you get all gaga, Harry Potter.” Ginny crossed her arms and stared at him. It felt like the entire room was staring at him. Harry felt beads of sweat forming on his brow, until Ginny started laughing.

“Gotcha! You are so easy, Harry.” Ron and Hermione joined in laughing at Harry’s expense and then continued their desserts. After the laughing had died down, Ginny leaned over and whispered in Harry’s ear. “Just wait until tonight, Adelina let me borrow the toga.” There was the hint of a smile on her lips and very definite tone of invitation in her voice. Harry smiled and returned to his dessert.

“Harry?” Ron interjected between mouthfuls of pie. “I know you brought the gifts back and contained Pandora’s box, but what I don’t understand is what does that mean for us now?”

Harry took sip of coffee. “The well of evil had been almost drained Ron. Opening the box not only filled it up, it overflowed. We’ve contained the overage, but now the well of evil is at full levels, on balance with the light.”

“So there’s more evil in the world?” Ron asked. “How much more?”

Harry shrugged. “Enough to make things a lot more interesting. I have a feeling that we’re going to be very busy, very soon.” The table grew silent as the four friends contemplated the impact of what Harry said.

Ron sighed heavily and then stared at Harry. “If that’s the case, and we have a rise of dark magic and dark wizards coming,” He looked each of them in turn. “I think I’ll have another piece of pie.” Ron turned and gestured for the waiter to bring more.

A/N: The purpose of this arc was to get us set up for more conventional mayhem. We'd done such impossible end of the world stuff, that we'd drained the world of baddies. Well, I needed to get some badness in there, and the Powers also give us an opportunity for bad stuff as well. Maybe not next arc, but somewhere down the line, Lucas and Helga will make an appearance, and you'll never guess WHO they are.

Reminder, I'm going in for some minor surgery tomorrow. I don't know if I'll post the rest of the week.

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  #305  
Old July 9th, 2009, 8:18 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 306 – Dawn Rising

Harry tapped on the accelerator as soon as he hit a straight piece of roadway. His hands tightened on the wheel as the large engine leapt forward propelling the car like a cheetah on the attack. He allowed his lips to curve in a subtle smile as the GTO carried forward with tremendous speed and power. He glanced over to the passenger seat and took in Ginny, who had her head back, her auburn hair flying in the wind as the convertible hurtled down the Scottish countryside.

She was absolutely stunning in the summer sun. Despite the wind and the noise, he caught the soft scent of lilacs that always seemed to drift whenever she was around. He eased back on the gas, in order to take a hand off the wheel and slide it onto her knee. She raised her head and turned towards him and smiled and his breath caught in his chest. After all these years, she still had a firm hold of his heart.

“I’m glad we could get away.” She said quietly as she reached her arm behind his head and idly ran her fingers through his wildly flowing ebon hair.

Harry nodded in agreement. “Although, it didn’t take much to convince your parents to watch the kids.”

She smiled again and slid over on the bench seat, resting her head on his shoulders. She leaned up and kissed him gently on the cheek. The spot seemed to grow warmer where her lips touched and Harry flushed from the reaction. She giggled and whispered in his ear.

“How much longer?” She asked.

“Not long, maybe another ten minutes or so.” He responded. They were heading for a small, isolated cottage nestled in the foothills of the highlands, perched on the edge of a barren loch. “A little less if I break some traffic laws.”

She blew in his ear. “I think you might want to step on the gas. I think we can afford a traffic ticket.”

The engine roared as Harry pushed the accelerator to the floor.

***

“Got another one for you, Doc.” Dr. William Wynn Westcott mopped his brow with the sleeve of his scrubs. A youthful attendant wheeled a gurney between the double doors and stopped at the waiting area. “It’s another drinking while driving fatality. Another case of chronic asphalt poisoning or sudden deceleration trauma.” The attendant snickered at his morbid joke. Westcott glanced at the mound atop the gurney, another body covered in a sheet. It was another dead person for Westcott, a coroner in London’s forensic lab.

Westcott was short and squat with a pronounced pear shape. The crown of his head was showing, indicating a rapidly losing battle to male pattern baldness. One of the “benefits” of being a coroner and working the overnight shift was that no one, especially his patients, complained about the lit cigarette that dangled from his lips, as if it would drop at any minute. His hair, what was left of it, was snow white and he had a matching walrus mustache that made his bulbous face seem bigger. His pale blue scrubs were dotted with old ashes and coffee stains and he waddled more than he walked.

Westcott sighed and walked to the sink. “All right, that’s enough of that. Leave the determination of cause of death to the professionals.” The attendant chuckled and exited the examination room. Westcott studied the body on the gurney and then looked around and shook his head. Summer was a busy season for him. There were already seven other bodies on gurneys, most young and most there as a result of stupidity. He wistfully sighed as he remembered when death was a bit more challenging. Now all it took was a few too many liters of vodka and a set of car keys.

As he was preparing to finish the autopsy of his current “client”, his cell phone buzzed in his pocket and he let out a snarl. He was even more perturbed when he saw the identity of the caller. He stepped back from the table and pulled out his phone, flipping it open.

“I don’t have time for this, Samuel. I’m backed up.” He growled into the phone.

The voice on the other end was excited and his old friend, Samuel L. M. Mathers, seemed to lose a bit of his faux Scottish brogue when he was excited. “You’ve got to come to the campus as soon as you can.”

Westcott let fly a derisive snort. Mathers’ “campus” was a pitiful row house in a seedy portion of London where he taught antiquated magic tricks to charlatans and con artists.

“I really am backed up, Samuel. I don’t have time to see your latest take on three card monte.”

“Will, the lantern came on and it’s very bright.” There was a hushed silence as Westcott took in the news. After a moment, Samuel spoke up. “Will, are you there?”

“I’m here. Are you sure?” Samuel bellowed out a clear affirmative. Westcott was already taking off his scrubs. “I’ll be there in a few minutes. You’d better call Bill.”

“I already have.” The phone clicked as Westcott disconnected. He took a fleeting glance at the remains scattered about his office. He shook his head slowly. If Samuel was right, death was about to get a little more interesting.

***

The small village was only about three to four miles away along an idyllic Highland path. Harry and Ginny strolled casually in the valley between two hills on the way back to their cottage. They’d gone into town to have a bite to eat and peruse the various shops along the central street. One of Harry’s hands was gripping a burnished bamboo walking stick while the other engulfed Ginny’s as they strolled along. The heather was in full bloom and he heard the “crek crek” call of the corncrakes hidden in the tall vegetation. The sun was slightly past halfway in its journey across the sky and a small brook trickled beneath a roughly hewn wooden bridge on the path.

Harry felt what tension remained in his body fade away and he stopped suddenly and turned to face Ginny.

“What?” She asked. She had a sly, whimsical grin on her face. He studied her for a moment, his viridian eyes drinking in her beauty. He dropped his walking stick and pulled her to him. Their lips met in a soft, deep kiss, seemingly framed by the sun’s rays on their shoulders. She tilted her head slightly and melted into his embrace, the initial surprise of his spontaneous display of absolute love giving way to acceptance and reciprocation. Her arms reached under his and drew his back to him. The kiss lasted forever. Harry would have sworn that the sun had set in the time they were together. He felt a surge of warmth and electricity pass through his body and he was sure that Ginny felt it too.

Finally, the eternity passed and they drew apart, yet Harry could feel the residual tingle of the kiss on his lips. He smiled and she blushed. She’d never had been able to really get used to the way his eyes danced when he looked at her.

“I love you.” He said in a quiet, hushed voice. It was if the local wildlife knew he had to express himself. It seemed like the birds silenced their calls. They were completely alone in this place.

“I know.” She smiled and he melted all over again. “I love you, too. I always have, Harry.”

A small part of Harry’s brain registered the remark. He remembered the small girl who chased the Hogwarts Express along the platform at King’s Cross Station.

The trials of work and family had been left far behind. They clasped hands and stared at each other, neither wanting to interrupt the moment they were sharing, a private moment between two people in love. Years of anxiety and worry melted away until it was just them.

Harry sighed and glanced down the path. “It’s not much farther, you know.”

“I know.” She pulled on his arm, guiding him down the path. She wrapped her arms around his right elbow and leaned her head on his side as they walked. She glanced up. “You know what?”

“What’s that?” He asked,

“There’s a hot tub at the cottage.” She declared.

The pace of their strides quickened as they continued towards the cottage.

***

Dr. William Woodman was a physician. He’d been practicing for quite a while and his travels had taken him to some very poor neighborhoods, but the location of the “Mathers’ Academy of the Magical Arts” was in the most dreary he’d ever been. The façade was a tattered gray with light streaks of faded green on the trim. Woodman kept a careful watch about him for the types of seedy characters that inhabited this neighborhood, especially at this time of the night. He was an older man, his face mottled with wrinkles, but clean shaven. Unlike his friend, Dr. Westcott, Woodman made no pretence that his hair could be recovered and had chosen to shave himself bald. It was an unfortunate choice, because even a small patch of hair would cover the age spots and narrow point at the top of the skull. His eyes were sunken into his face, their bluish gray tint barely discernible to the naked eye.

Woodman walked up to the door and pushed it open. The foyer was dark and musty and decades of collected dust and wear filtered through the beams of the single light hanging from the ceiling. He ignored his surroundings and walked a door, located beneath the stairs. Opening the door, he started clambering down another set that led to the “school’s” basement. The floorboards creaked under his weight, and he grasped the rickety handrail, not completely trusting its ability to support him, should one of the steps fly loose. Nonetheless, he made it to the landing and found himself in the basement. His two friends were already there.

Westcott turned and nodded to his old friend. “Bill, glad you could make it. Samuel here says he’s got wonderful news.”

Woodman turned and faced the third man of their triumvirate. He was skinny, almost emaciated. His skin clung to his bones like an oversized jacket, sagging in the worst places, especially at his elbow. He wore a set of faded magician’s robes, its midnight blue hue long faded with traces of moons, stars and comets adorning its surface. He had long black hair tucked under a pointed dunce’s cap that matched his robes. Samuel L. M. Mathers fancied himself an accomplished wizard, yet he toiled through the day teaching cheap parlor tricks and card games to muggles. His face was more animated than Woodman had ever seen and the old doctor waited with a bit of annoyance for the news to burst from Mathers.

“The lantern is on!” Mathers blurted out, finally.

“What do you mean?” Woodman cast a wary eye towards Westcott, who simply shrugged his shoulders.

Mathers raced to an old steamer trunk lying on its side, its top barely open. He pried apart the two fittings and opened the interior of the trunk for the other two to see. Inside, there was a simple brass oil lantern on the bottom of the trunk. It was dented in places and rust spots permeated the base and top. The handle was only attached on one side. Despite its outward appearance, Westcott and Woodman were entranced by the fact that a mild purplish glow seemed radiate from the center of the lantern. It ebbed from bright lavender to a dark black, its rays permeating the room. Collectively the three men stared at the light in the lantern until Mathers unceremoniously shut the door.

Woodman stroked his chin and glanced from Mathers to Westcott. “Well, we haven’t seen that in a few years, have we?”

“No.” Westcott looked wistfully at the trunk. “What do you think it means?”

“Are you serious? It means we’re back in business!” Mathers paced the room excitedly, pulling the hat off his head and tearing at his dilapidated robes. “It means no more card tricks and con men. It means we can do what we always wanted to do! We can prove we were right!”

“Easy Samuel, Dark Magic hasn’t quite had a great run of late. Look at Voldemort or Leclerc, both of those fools ran afoul of the Ministry and lost. What makes you think we can succeed?” Woodman folded his arms together, looking older than he was.

“Bill, we’re smarter than they are and besides, our strategy was never to overthrow the Ministry, at least overtly. Heck, they can stay in business for all we care. We were going to build a foundation from the ground up.” Mathers explained enthusiastically.

Woodman studied his friend and took a quick look at Westcott who was still staring at the trunk. “What do you think, Will?”

Westcott snapped from his reverie. “I do miss the power. Samuel’s right, the lantern gives a base of power and we starting from the bottom. I’d say it’s time to resurrect the Order.”

Woodman nodded. He was a pediatrician, he served children. The strategy would make great use of his connections.

Mathers interjected. “I can build a real school of magic, where our ways, the right ways, are taught. We’ll burn that Hogwarts place to the ground.”

“Not so fast, Samuel, there’s much to do, much to plan, we still shouldn’t underestimate the Ministry, especially if we do what we have to do.” Woodman cautioned.

Westcott nodded. “You can be sure of that. Once you start stealing the children of wizards and witches, it’s bound to generate some attention.”

Mathers seemed to ignore the warning. “It’s been a long time since the Order of the Golden Dawn could bear its claws.” His voice grew menacing. “I can’t wait.”

***A/N: I know, I know, the Order of the Golden Dawn aren't bad guys, just misguided druggies, so sue me. This one is going to build on the last...what is the lantern? What do these guys really want?

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  #306  
Old August 3rd, 2009, 6:21 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Okay faithful readers...the 2nd Anniversary of this fanfic is fast approaching...to that end, I think I need to build things up a bit...

Sorry for my enforced absence...Here's what we've missed so far...

The well of evil is now replenished which makes for a good time for the Order of the Golden Dawn. We still don't know what they are up to, but in good time, all will be revealed.

A doctor, a coroner and a charlatan all walk into a bar...oops, that was the last chapter.

Now, let's find out some backstory about one of our more controversial characters...

Chapter 307 – Opening Doors

The pub was almost empty, typical for a midweek late night. Aside from a few nodding derelicts in the corner, Sean Manchester was alone at the bar. He was hunched over the wooden façade, a shot glass of brown liquid in his fingers. Propped up on the bar was a 5X7 photo of a dangerously beautiful woman with platinum blonde hair and a piercing blue eye, the other covered with an eye patch. Sean downed the shot glass and carefully placed it back on the bar. The bartender walked over and refilled the glass. The proprietor was a patient man, and he knew Sean well. Today was a the occasion of the anniversary of the death of Sean’s wife, Gwen Lockley and this pub, a rundown establishment on the Plymouth docks was where Sean would come to pay his respects.

Sean and Lockley had a tradition. Whenever the Discooperire would return from a voyage, Sean would wait in this pub. It wouldn’t do for him to meet the ship like some traipsing camp follower and besides, Lockley had a reputation to uphold. So, he’d wait in this out of the way pub until she’d discharged her duties and would come to find him here. What was amazing to Sean was despite her hardened exterior, the battle tested toughness that came with her reputation, she was amazingly soft and vulnerable when they were alone. She’d come to him in this pub and wait for him to sweep her up in his arms and kiss her passionately. They’d have a drink and head home for some semblance of a normal life.

That had all changed with her death. Sean blamed Harry, initially for her death. His adventures tended to be dangerous and not wholly thought out. He’d told Leonora as much, way back then. In the end, it was Leonora’s fate that softened Sean. Both Carter and Lockley had chosen their paths. Lockley lived a dangerous life well before Harry Potter entered the picture. What had iced it for Sean was a weekend he’d spent with his father. The general had been surprisingly understanding, and yet unyielding his disagreement with Sean’s anger at Harry.

“I thought you loved that woman, my boy.” General Manchester blurted out over tea.

Sean almost choked on his cookie, freshly out of the oven and cooling on a plate on the kitchen counter. “Of course I loved her, Dad. What kind of foolish thing is that to say?”

The general adjusted the tie on his lacy apron and stared at his son with a heavy intensity. “I was just thinking that she chose the life she led and she was damned good at it. Now you’re wallowing over the consequences, blaming someone else and the like. I figured you didn’t want to give her credit for her choices.”

Sean wanted to argue, but the old man had a point. Gwen was many things, but she certainly wasn’t a fool. His last visit to Leonora iced his thoughts. Harry wasn’t to blame, neither was Gwen, or Sean himself. It just was. In the end, he missed his wife terribly, but he respected who she was and, invariably, understood why she’d died. It did not make her absence any easier, but it helped his understanding. Of course, there were loose ends. Granted, he always came to this pub on this anniversary, but it wasn’t the only reason he was here. He nodded to the barman and tossed a few notes on the counter. He picked up her picture and hung it back in its place of honor behind the bar. Then, he walked out into the night. He had one more loose end to tie up.

***

Hogsmeade was a bustle of activity. The damage from the previous month could still be seen, if one looked carefully enough, but the reconstruction had brought the crowds back. It was a Hogsmeade weekend and the streets were teeming with students, faculty and other visitors to the quaint village. George Weasley had made it a point to reopen his outlet in the small town, which drove the other retailers to open their stores as soon as possible. Fortunately for Mathers, it was relatively easy for him to blend into the crowd.

His was simply a reconnaissance, a way for him to observe the students outside the hallowed grounds of their school. Obviously, he would have preferred to be actually on the campus, and things were in motion to allow the Order to gain access, but for now, he could just watch and report. The lantern had been with them for as long as he’d known Westcott and Woodman. At the turn of the last century, they’d come together at Hogwarts and gotten into a lively debate over the Levi’s Laws of Magic. The three had insisted that the Dark Arts had a place in the curriculum, not to be feared but to be respected and used. Mathers, himself, wasn’t necessarily interested in the Dark Arts as he was about perpetuating power.

At his core, Mathers was a vain man, who knew that he was right about where the Dark Arts stood in the balance of magic. Magic was neither white and black, nor was it good or evil. Magic, at least from what Mathers understood from the writings of Bronislaw Malinowski does one of three things: produce, protect or destroy. Wizards and witches accomplish these tasks either through what was said (spells, incantations and enchantments) or through what is done (rites, procedures, use of magic tools like wands, or potions). That was it. Intent was evil, not the magic. Aurors can use blasting charms to destroy, and dark wizards could use healing charms to heal. The charms were tools, not good or bad.

The aversion to dark magic was at the core of what they wanted to do. The three men had come together to form the Order. Back then, they attracted all sorts of interesting followers, including artists like Yeats and Crowley. At the heart of everything, and something Mathers had not shared with even his partners, was the source of the lantern, the mysterious man who’d given it to him so many years ago. The lantern was a guide for the Order. As long as it glowed, the Order would be able to use Dark Magic to perpetuate the real notion of what magic was. His mysterious benefactor had pointed to Hogwarts as the place to start, where learning was more like conditioning, than actual intellectual curiosity. Sometime fifty years prior, a powerful wizard from the Hogwarts school had discovered their attempt to undermine dogma and had fought them tooth and nail.

The man named Dumbledore was a powerful wizard. He saw the subtle changes they were affecting through the joke shop they’d opened in Hogsmeade. Dumbledore came into their shop and tried reasoning with them. Westcott seemed to lose his mind and attacked the youthful wizard. Three on one, it hadn’t been a fair fight. Dumbledore was far more powerful. He recognized the lantern as a talisman of something sinister, dating from a magic far older than what they knew. He couldn’t destroy the lantern, so Dumbledore did the next best thing. He drained it of its power. What the three founders of the Order had not realized was that their own magical abilities had been tied to the lantern. Once its power had drained, so had theirs. They were left as squibs, except even more troubling, they once had magic and were now unable to use it. Westcott had fallen back to his profession as a coroner. Westcott had an affinity for death, some would say he worshipped it. Woodman had gone to be a pediatrician, trying to find, through treating magical children, the secret of restoring their powers.

Mathers had been hit the worst. He had no education, nothing to fall back on. He was a charlatan, a con man. So he opened a “school of magic” for muggles to use trickery to achieve base ends. Now, the lantern was back and with it, much to his delight, were his powers. He snickered at the feeling of power. A group of students walked by, clad rugby shirts in Slytherin green and gray. He smiled. The Slytherin would be a good place to start. He waited a moment and then followed the group down the street.

***

“Make sure you secure those hatches tight and don’t let me catch you fallin’ asleep on watch!” The voice was deep, a baritone with a hint of a whisper and menace. The tall, blonde haired man with a crew cut stood on the main deck of the sloop “Aurora” with his hands on his hips, his steely blue eyes cutting a glare through the watch members of the crew.

“Mr. Lockley?” His captain’s soothing contralto seemed to overcome the noises of a busy crew. Gavin Lockely turned and walked up to his captain. Muireall Innes had a hint of a smile on her face, her porcelain skin radiating off the moonlight overhead.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Why are you still on board my ship?” Muireall’s voice had a slight edge.

Lockley stood a bit taller, his hands falling to his side. “I was just making sure we had no slip ups tonight, ma’am.”

Muireall’s gaze softened and she placed a hand on her first officer’s shoulder. “It’s my watch tonight, and you know it. I know what day this is, but you’ve been on board ever since we arrived back to port. You need rest and I need you alert. Now, get off my ship, before I make it an order.”

Lockley nodded and turned to go down to his cabin to collect his things.

***
Mathers left the Three Broomsticks shaking his head from side to side. The situation had deteriorated far more than he’d thought. His initial entreaties to the Slytherin students had fallen on deaf ears. He’d been subtle enough, but something had fundamentally changed with the Slytherins. In the old days, the Slytherins were driven by the absolute conviction of the sanctity of pure blood lines, with dark magic seen as a mechanism of keeping the impure at bay. At its core, the Slytherin House had been driven by hate, hate that propelled its membership to use any and all means necessary to get the job done. The Slytherins that Mathers talked to had no such hate in their breasts. They were, basically, no different from the members of the other Houses. Mathers stood befuddled on the street and then sighed. He’d have to take a different approach, one more noticeable using lackeys far more willing. His mouth curved into a mirthless sneer and he apparated away into the night.

***

Lockley’s instincts were good, very good. He’d picked up the tell tale signs of being followed almost the minute he left the ship. Given that he had no idea why someone was tailing him, he decided to continue on his business and wait for an opportunity later. If someone wanted him dead, they’d had more than ample opportunity to get him. Besides, his errand was far more important to him than the small matter of being followed down the street.

He stopped at a corner shop, the street bustling with activity despite the hour. Life along the wharf tended to be that way. He selected a bundle of flowers and trudged down the street, seemingly unmindful of the other pedestrians. He crossed the street and stopped in front a ramshackle building at a deserted corner. There was a faded wood sign over the shuttered doors. It read, simply, “McTaggert’s”. Carefully, Lockley set the bouquet down at the foot of the battered steps and whirled in one motion drawing his wand and aiming it into the night.

“I’m not in the mood for games.” Lockley’s deep voice rumbled and he heard a raspy chuckle, which he recognized.

Sean Manchester came out of the shadows and into the faint glow of the one gaslight near the building. “I never could fool you, could I boyo?”

Lockley allowed his wand hand to fall to his side. “What are you doing here, Sean?”

“I suppose the real question, Gavin, is what are you doing here?” Sean pointed to the dilapidated building and its surroundings. “Hardly a place for a midnight stroll.”

“You know, obviously, what today is.” Lockley muttered and Sean nodded. “This was the orphanage Gwen and I stayed at, when our parents abandoned us.” The big man’s eyes fell downward and his shoulders slumped, as if he were holding back a dam of emotion. “It was the last time we were together.”

Lockley slumped down and sat on the steps. Sean took a seat next to him and leaned forward. “I often wondered why you were never together, why Gwen never spoke of you.”

“It was easy, she was ashamed of me.” This response drew a surprised look from Sean. “It’s true. You see, I was picked first, mostly because I was a boy. A wizard couple came and plucked me from the orphanage and left Gwen behind. I screamed, but deep down, Gwen knew that I must have really preened for them to pick me. It’s my fault she got left behind.”

Sean shook his head. “You were what? Eight years old at the time?’ How can you blame yourself for that?”

“I tried to keep tabs on her, the best I could. I even became a sailor when she did, just to be near her. I never could quite build up the courage to talk to her about it. There always seemed to be enough time.” Sean knew what guilt felt like, he felt the same way. He placed a hand on his brother in law’s shoulder.

“You can’t be responsible for what happened to Gwen, no more than I can blame Harry for what happened. Things happen.” Sean nodded.

“Is that what you came to say?” Gavin asked.

“Mostly. I wanted you to know that I didn’t blame anyone for Gwen’s death. It just was what it was.” Gavin nodded while Sean stood. “Plus, I wanted to see if you wanted to get a drink? I’ll tell you stories about your sister the sailor and you can tell me what Gwen Lockley was like as a little girl. I can scarcely believe she was a dolly and flower type.”

Gavin stood and nodded. “Well, I will tell you that she did have a Barbie phase…”


A/N: Okay, so now we know where Gwen and Gavin came from and that Mathers is an out of touch loon.

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  #307  
Old August 5th, 2009, 3:59 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

So, we've started to set the stage. Mathers, Woodman and Westcott are daft and crazy, but how crazy? We need to find out.

Oh, and we also learned that despite having a twin brother, the death of Gwen Lockley was probably my biggest boo boo, ever. (Right GIG?)

Okay, so let's make things a tad bit darker...

Chapter 308 - Entering Dark Territory


Mathers trod into the study and plopped down on the faded couch along the wall, a cloud of dust sweeping up into the air. Westcott leaned up against the wall, nursing a snifter of brandy while Woodman sat behind the ancient harpsichord, banging at the keys in a tuneless melody.

“The world certainly has changed.” Mathers ruminated. “I think our initial plan of starting from the bottom is not going to work.”

“What’s the issue?” Westcott asked.

“The Slytherins are not driven by hatred or by the dark arts. They are like any other house at that infernal school. What’s more, Kingsley Shacklebolt has made the students revere the name of Harry Potter and the changes since the fall of the Dark Lord.” Mathers was rather sullen, almost petulant, like a spoiled child denied a treat.

Westcott sneered. “Dark Lord, indeed, what an amateur.” He took a deep draw from his brandy. “He was a complete idiot. He had no idea how to wield his power.”

Woodman stopped playing and looked up. “What do you mean? He almost won and he had a pretty long reign of terror, not to mention his magical abilities.”

“He was blinded by his own hubris. He never truly understood the power of the horcruxes, for example. He made sentimental objects the keeper of his soul. Finding them was entirely too predictable.” Westcott saw the a thoughtful look on Woodman’s face.

Finally, the old pediatrician shrugged his shoulders. “He did make Potter his final horcrux, that was a stroke of genius.”

“More like dumb, blind luck, I would say.” Westcott would not concede the point. “He made Potter a horcrux by accident. He certainly didn’t plan on it. He had a basis of wielding and keeping power and he squandered it on some ridiculous notion of his own greatness. He was an idiot. He had the power of the horcruxes, but did not understand their natures.”

Mathers listened to the back and forth, absently and then felt a stab of inspiration. “You know, we’ve been going about this the wrong way.” He sat upright, his eyes sparkling. “Let me ask you, what do we want to accomplish?”

Woodman cleared his throat. “We want the Order of the Golden Dawn to rise again.”

Mathers pressed his point. “But why? What does the Order bring that isn’t here today?”

Westcott kept his gaze fixed on Mathers, trying to determine what the portly con man wanted. “We know the true nature of magic. It’s neither good nor bad, just powerful.”

“So what? Between the three of us, we’d be comfortable in that knowledge. So why go through all of this?” The other two could tell that Mathers had a point behind his questions, they simply wished he’d get on with it.

There was an uncomfortable silence, then Westcott cleared his throat. “I don’t know about you, but magical theory has been perverted by the Ministry. The so called “Dark Arts” have been stigmatized and hexed, while the “good” magic has been favored. It’s the height of propaganda and it really keeps us from studying the true wonders of our abilities.”

Mathers smiled. “What true wonders, William? What do you really want to do?”

The old coroner smiled broadly. “Death. I want to study the nature of death. There are so many instances of death defining truly powerful magic. We must be free to pursue it.”

Mathers stood and pulled a large book from a nearby shelf. It had gilded letters on the front. “A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era.” Mathers leafed through the book until he got a point about a third of the way through. “But as you said, the Ministry has defined what magic can be studied and what must be banned. It would seem to me that we’d need to challenge their authority.”

Woodman stroked his chin. “They really are quite fragile. It wouldn’t take much to start a panic and to upend the whole infrastructure. Look how close Voldemort got.”

“Right!” Mathers seemed to be getting more excited. “Still, Albus Dumbledore was only a student at Hogwarts when he figured out that our powers were tied to the lantern. Although he was a brilliant student, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that by focusing the lantern’s power through his wand and into his phoenix, he’d drain the lantern and us. Trying to recruit him was one of my biggest mistakes.”

“He’s dead, Samuel. Dumbledore can’t dare threaten us now.” Woodman shuddered at remembering what it felt like to have his magical abilities drained like a tub of dirty bathwater.

“True, but we can’t be sure that he didn’t leave notes on the incident. Harry Potter and Dumbledore were close, and besides, there’s the portrait at Hogwarts to contend with. No, we have to come up with a better insurance policy.”

Westcott watched as Mathers glanced down at the book in his hand. “You have something in mind?”

There was a wicked glow in Mathers’ eye. He smiled without mirth and slapped his hand down on the book. “The current administration is keen on transparency. They allowed all the details to be published about the Voldemort episode. That will be their undoing.”

Woodman and Westcott shared confused glances. “Out with it man! What is your plan?” Westcott’s voice held a trace of frustration and anticipation.

Mathers had a self-satisfied grin on his face. He looked up. “You’re going to love this, William, because it’s right up your alley. You wanted to study death? Well, the answer to our problem is quite simple.” He looked at them intently.

“The answer to our problem is horcruxes!”

***

Despite Arthur’s retirement, the exponential growth of their extended family had forced Molly to make the Sunday dinners a once a month affair. The Burrow was a beehive of activity, kids chasing each other to and fro while the adults gabbed as they caught up on the events of the previous month. Up a broad hill, sitting atop the old stone fence with his legs dangling, Harry took the sight in and sighed contentedly.

“Who would have thought, yeah?” Harry turned and saw Ron and Hermione strolling up to where he was sitting. They sat next to him, Hermione to his right and Ron next to her. The three were more than friends, more than family. They were bonded by life, death and time that far surpassed the normal constraints of mere fraternity. They were three parts of a single whole, the triumvirate that brought down the Dark Lord when there only kids.

“It is something else.” Harry agreed with Ron’s assessment. The cacophony of sound and mayhem seemed perfect. He especially grinned as Rose Weasley sent a custard sailing through the air and landed on top of James Potter’s bright, red hair. James had been getting to be a bit of a bully. Albus worshipped his brother and very rarely stood up to him. Leave it to Rose to take on the role of teaching humility to Harry’s eldest child.

Hermione sighed. “Do you ever wish that we were back at Hogwarts? No matter what was happening with Voldemort, it seemed so simple then. It was just a matter of life or death.”

“Oh, is that all?” Harry chuckled. He understood his friend’s feelings. When John Dawlish was well enough to resume his duties as Minister of Magic, Hermione was more than ready to relinquish her role as acting Minister. Even in her role as the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (and, by extension, both Harry’s and Ron’s boss), she felt she had to play more on the political stage than do the conceptual and intellectual work, which she loved.

“Well, I for one wouldn’t want to go back.” Ron said assuredly. He turned and kissed his wife on the cheek. “I’d hate to go through another seven years before we found each other. That was excruciating.”

Harry laughed out loud. “I don’t see how, seeing that you both were completely ignorant of how you felt for each other.”

Hermione broke into giggles and looked over at Harry. “What about you, Harry, would you go back?”

“No.” His response was terse and absently, he rubbed the faint scar on his forehead.

“Why not?” Ron pressed.

“Well first, the idea that Ginny would be kissing Dean Thomas makes my stomach churn.” There was a twinkle in his eye as he said, but a darkness immediately overtook him. “But most of all, when I think of the suffering that Voldemort brought upon us, the horrid things he did, the murders, the horcruxes, the loss, I would never want that again.”

Harry sighed. “You know, I’m sure we’ve seen much more terrible things since we were at Hogwarts. We’ve seen friends die, we’ve done horrible things.” He hesitated and Hermione placed her hand on his shoulder. “Maybe it was because we were still just kids, but I still see the faces of everyone who died during that time. Cedric, Barty Crouch Sr., Colin, Tonks, Sirius, Remus and Fred: I still wake up from time to time seeing them in my dreams.”

Harry exhaled and smiled. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be so morbid. To answer your question, I would not go back. I love where we are.” He pointed down to the apple orchard where the milling Weasley clan and friends were stirring. At that precise moment, James tried to throw his own custard at Rose, but she seemed to anticipate the move and deftly moved to the side as the arcing dessert struck Lee Jordan on the side of the face. Rose smiled supremely as Lee drew his wand and began to chase James down a row of apple trees.

“I love this life. Most of all, I love being with Ginny. She lifts me up. She is my life. I can’t imagine going to a time where we’re not together.” There was a snap of a twig and Harry turned. Ginny was standing there, obviously having heard everything he’d said.

Her eyes were slightly misty, but she had a grin on her face. “I should hope so, Harry Potter. “ She walked up and waved to Ron and Hermione and planted a light, tender kiss on Harry’s lips. She bent her mouth towards Harry’s ear. “I should hope that you wanted to be with me. I’m glad you’re here too.”

“You are?” Harry smiled.

“Of course, because Lily needs to be changed and it’s your turn.” She dropped the diaper bag on his lap and kissed him fully on the lips as Ron and Hermione erupted into laughter.

***

“Horcruxes? Are you mad? Voldemort used horcruxes and they proved to be his undoing.” Woodman’s face was pale and clammy. The discussion had moved to a place he had not anticipated.

“Voldemort was a fool. Moreover, his ego dictated his devices. Think about it. He only had seven and he picked objects that had personal meaning. We would do it differently.” Mathers clapped the book closed.

Woodman’s expression was worried, but Westcott’s brow was furrowed in thought. “How would you do it differently?”

“First, we’d make thirteen horcruxes. Thirteen is a nice magical number.” Mathers was warming up to the topic.

“And the objects?” Westcott’s mind was churning. The concept of a so many deaths intrigued him.

“That’s the easy part.” Mathers reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a standard deck of playing cards. “I am the master of card tricks, aren’t I?”

Westcott nodded. Each suit had thirteen cards. It was a rather elegant solution. Some part of his brain seemed to be alive at the prospect of seeing death up close, and not just its after affects that his job as a coroner allowed him.

Woodman stood, somehow the years of being a doctor and a pediatrician provided him a sense of morality. “You’re mad, Samuel. Voldemort was driven insane by cutting his soul into seven parts. You’re talking about almost doubling that.”

Mathers shrugged his shoulders. “Voldemort was mad to begin with. I suspect the horcruxes didn’t do it to him.” Mathers flicked his wrist, flopping an ace of spades on a nearby table.

“You’re talking about killing thirty nine people! Have you lost your mind?” Woodman was shouting, while Westcott watched Mathers intently.

Mathers sighed. “No, I’m actually only talking about twenty six.”

“What? Three times thirteen is thirty nine…” Woodman’s eyes widened in terror, seeing the wand in Mathers’ hand too late.

“Avada Kedavra!” The green light struck the old doctor in the chest. As he died, Mathers whispered an incantation and tapped his wand on the card on the table. He swayed unsteadily for a moment and then straightened, looking over at Westcott.

The coroner didn’t seem overly concerned about his friend’s lifeless eyes on the floor. He stared intently at Mathers. “Well? How did it feel?”

“Confusing, although I did feel a surge of energy. I’m sorry, I guess I chose the spades as my suit.” Mathers sat down and rubbed his forehead. “I must confess, though, that I’m a bit disappointed. I’d expected a bit more.”

Westcott stepped over Woodman’s body. “I should think so. The killing curse is actually very merciful. The victim’s life is extinguished almost instantaneously. I think the longer the death, the more powerful the magic.”

Mathers nodded. “I think I see. We’ll have to make the deaths a lot more horrible.”

“Yes, and not only in the means, but in the victims themselves, the more powerful the life force, the stronger the magic.” Westcott’s mouth was practically watering from the prospect. “I think I’ll take the hearts as my suit, by the way.”

Mathers nodded and casually extracted the thirteen hearts from the deck with a practiced hand. He placed them on the table and looked over at Westcott.

“This doesn’t bother you?”

Westcott shook his head. “No. I’ve been waiting for this my entire life.” Westcott nodded to himself. The strongest life forces were found in three types of people: heroes, mothers and…he smiled to himself, children.

A/N: Questions, questions, questions: Who will be murdered? How will they be murdered? Am I really going to let twenty six people go to horrible deaths? What's the deal with the lantern? Eh, let's just wait and see, okay?

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  #308  
Old August 10th, 2009, 4:30 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Now we have a look at what evil is, it's time to dig a little deeper. My friends, many were right about Horcruxes, it takes something manifestly more evil than a simple murder to create them.

Let's find out...

Chapter 309 – Magick Moste Evile

“I don’t think you did it right.” Westcott looked up from the book he was consulting and stared at Mathers.

“What do you mean?”

“There should have been more there. You said you didn’t feel anything? You should have.” Westcott held up the book, in order to allow Mathers to read the title. It read, “The Secrets of the Darkest Art”.

“Creating a Horcrux takes a tremendous amount of power. It rends the soul, so you should have felt something more.” Westcott slammed the book shut. “I bet that your card isn’t a Horcrux.”

“I said the right incantation. What do you mean? I killed Woodman for nothing?” Mathers shook his head, not because he felt any guilt or remorse for killing Woodman, but because it might not have yielded the result he was looking for. “I had to have done it right.”

Westcott snickered. “There’s one way to find out.” The former coroner idly twirled his wand in his hand.

“No, I’ll take your word for it.” Mathers was unsure whether Westcott was serious or not. “What do we do now?”

Westcott rose from his seat. “I think it’s my turn to give it a try.”

***

Bonnie Clinkscales had been a member of the Ministry Hit Squad for almost a decade. She’d survived war and dark plots, famine and indifference. The witch had remained true to the Ministry and true to herself. She gripped her robe tightly about her as the first vestiges of the approaching winter sent a blustery wind through Diagon Alley.

The Alley never truly closed, but it did go through a nightly transition where the retail shops would shut down and the eating and drinking establishments ramped up to full swing. Knockturn Alley was not immune to this transition. As Bonnie carried out her patrol down the nefarious dark alley, she noticed how Borgin and Burke’s was already shuttered and closed for the night, while sound emanated from behind the dark doors at various pubs and restaurants along the way.

Bonnie was tall for a witch, approaching six feet. She appreciated working for Dennis Creevey, if only that despite her intimidating size, he still towered over her. She wore her hair closely cropped, better suited for the round pill box caps that the hit squad wore. The cap was pale gray, like the rest of her uniform. She sighed, hoping that some day, someone with a better fashion sense would design a uniform for the hit squad. She rounded a corner and noticed a shape huddled in one of the alleys along Knockturn.

She drew her wand and lit the tip, casting a whitish blue glow on the alley. There was a man slumped against the wall, his face bruised and battered from an apparent mugging. She knelt down beside the man and shook him, gently.

“Sir?” The man stirred and moaned. Cuts from several wounds seeping blood onto the black pavestones. She tapped her shield quickly, summoning support, which would take a few minutes. “Sir, who did this to you?”

The man’s eyes opened drowsily and he tried to focus on her face. “Don’t know…someone got me from behind.” His words were slurred as he tried to talk around his swollen lip and several missing teeth.

“Petrificus Totalus!” Bonnie felt her body lock up into a rigid pose, nothing able to move. A voice echoed in the alley. “I’m afraid I’m the culprit.” Westcott appeared from deeper in the alley, his wand at the ready as he stepped over the broken man on the ground. He could feel a sense of anticipation, the chill thrill running up his spine as he contemplated the helpless witch.

“Wingardium Leviosa.” Bonnie’s inert form levitated a few feet off the ground and with a flick of his wrist, several binding ropes appeared out thin air, tying themselves tightly around her body. Westcott released her from the paralyzing charm. After all, to get the full effect, she needed to feel everything.

Bonnie didn’t panic. She turned her head as far the ropes would let her. “You don’t want to do this. I’ve already summoned help.”

“I know, but this won’t take long. It won’t take long at all.” Westcott muttered, more to himself. He reached into his pocket and drew out the ace of hearts. He’d spent countless decades observing death, in his capacity as a coroner. The experience left him profoundly familiar with its consequences, but now, for the first time in his life, he was face to face with the reality of death. He’d thought he’d be hesitant, that he’d feel some semblance of reluctance, but to his surprise, he found himself enjoying the experience, loving the feeling of panic and fear in his potential victim. He smiled inwardly and raised his wand towards Bonnie.

“Crucio!” A wracking pain coursed through her body and she screamed out loud. This being Knockturn Alley, even in this day and age, there was no real threat of any good Samaritans happening by. Westcott mumbled the first part of the Horcrux spell, and a green glow cascaded around the playing card. He felt a knot in his stomach, like a fist grabbing his insides and twisting. The pain was excruciatingly pleasant, yet difficult to endure. He whipped his wand to the side. The spell was primed.

“Diffindo!” With a wave of his hand, he severed Bonnie’s head from her shoulders, extinguishing her life. He uttered the last part of the incantation and the green light around the card grew brighter and the fist inside his stomach grew much more savage in its motion. He felt like his insides were on fire and he fell to his knees, gripping his stomach and screaming. He felt like his organs were tearing apart, like a pair of hands were inside his skin, ripping a piece of paper. His head was pulsating with pain and he dropped his wand. The card floated in the air and as he stared at it, a smoky, hazy greenish vapor came out of his eyes and mouth and floated through the air to the card. It was like watching a piece of his soul be imbedded in the card.

The pain subsided, but it was followed by a wave of nausea and dizziness. The card gently floated to the ground, the bare hint of a greenish tint around it. Westcott reached out and grabbed the card. Touching it with his bare hand sent a wave of pain through his head, followed by visions of his life rushing by. He’d done it! He tucked the card in his pocket and stared at the derelict he’d used to bait the woman. The process had taken barely a few seconds, although it seemed like a much longer time. He casually placed the ace into his pocket and withdrew the two of hearts. A smile of anticipation hovered over his face as he pointed his wand at the hapless man on the ground.

***

Ron stood back from the scene, taking everything in. Williamson was directing a canvas of the nearby businesses, but Ron knew it would be a fruitless gesture. Denizens of Knockturn Alley made horrible witnesses, but the effort had to be made. An obviously shaken Dennis Creevey stood next to Harry and Ron ambled up to where his friends stood.

“Who could have done this, Harry?” Dennis’ voice quaked with anger, his muscular forearms tense from anger and grief. One of his people had been brutally murdered and Dennis was looking for a target for his frustration.

“I don’t know, Dennis, but whoever is behind it, we’ll find them. I can promise you that.” Harry nodded as Ron approached, arriving simultaneously with Williamson and Mortimer, the other team leaders on site. Sean’s team was standing by at the Ministry. Gaslights shone brightly, illuminating the scene while healer wizards and investigators snapped pictures and collected evidence. Harry led his team leaders off to the side, away from Dennis.

Harry looked over at Mortimer. “Well? First impressions?”

Each of his team leaders had unique gifts. Mortimer’s was the ability to analyze a scene objectively and to be as dispassionate as possible with his reports. It didn’t mean that he didn’t have emotions roiling through his chest, it just meant that he could compartmentalize them as needed. While other members of his team found themselves overcome with nausea at the sight, Mortimer kept himself in check and focused on the task.

“Well, as you can see, very brutal. Someone worked both of them over before decapitating them. It wasn’t a simple killing curse here, Harry. They were both meant to suffer before dying.” Mortimer sighed, the first outward sign that the scene was getting to him. He quickly got back to business. “There’s a very ritualistic quality to the murders. The scene isn’t haphazard or hastened. Bonnie was killed first, but the man was tortured first.”

Williamson grunted. “That makes sense. They used the man to lure Bonnie in. Her request for assistance asked for a healer.”

“Anything taken?” Harry asked, his eyes avoiding looking at the spectacle in the alley.

Mortimer shook his head. “No, and that’s another reason that I think this is part of some sort of rite or ritual.”

“Yes, but what kind of ritual?” Harry noticed that Ron seemed a bit more ashen.

“I don’t know.” Mortimer responded.

Ron shook his head. “I think I do.” Harry looked up at his best friend while Ron seemed to struggle with the enormity of dilemma. “You’re not going to like it.”

“I don’t like anything about this. Bonnie was a good witch. She was also a tough one. Personally, I’d like to know what kind of dark soul it would take to do something like this.” Harry felt a sense of something familiar in the back of his head, even as he watched Ron nod.

“It’s funny you say it that way, Harry, because I think this is all about dark souls.” Ron saw realization strike Harry’s face and nodded. “That’s right. Remember what Hermione read out of that book?”

Harry’s face grew pale. “Merlin’s beard! It can’t be!”

“What?” Williamson glanced between Harry and Ron and saw their shocked expressions.

Ron gathered up his wits. “Horcruxes, it looks like someone is making Horcruxes.”

“That’s impossible. The last person who did that was…” Even now, Williamson couldn’t bring himself to say the name.

Ron had no such inhibition. “Voldemort.”

Harry forced himself to turn and look at the carnage. “That’s not the worst of it, I’m afraid.”

“What?” Ron asked, wondering what could be worse than someone tearing their soul to live forever.

“We already know what happened to Tom Riddle when he made seven Horcruxes, right?” Harry looked over to Ron, who nodded.

“It drove him mad.”

Harry nodded grimly. “That’s right and this person was willing to make two of them. Two murders, two Horcruxes, all in one fell swoop. Who knows how many more he’s willing to create. We’re talking about someone who’s willing to wield very powerful dark magic and doesn’t care about the consequences of making more than one Horcrux.”

Ron nodded in understanding. “Even Voldemort murdered one at a time, and spaced the murders out.” He blanched at how easy it seemed to be for this new perpetrator. “Whoever did this has to be completely batty already, and this will drive him even further insane.”

***

“Are you insane? You could have been taken at any time!” Mathers stared at the two cards on the table. He looked up at Westcott. “Did it work?”

“See for yourself, touch one of the cards.” Mathers hesitantly placed a finger on the ace. Immediately, he felt a rush of pain and images crashing through his brain, images that weren’t his. He pulled his finger back.

“It worked.” Mathers spoke in a hushed, reverent voice. Westcott nodded.

“Of course it did. I can tell you it’s no picnic, not like your experience with Woodman. I’d hazard a guess that you need to start over.” Westcott was very matter of fact, like the experience hadn’t phased him. “There is one thing, it was foolish of me to work alone and us working together wouldn’t be right.”

“What are you saying?” Mathers asked.

Westcott scooped up the cards and smiled a wolfish grin. “We’re going to need some followers. It’s time to build an army.” He raised his wand and drew a symbol in the air. It was the Dark Mark.

“Death eaters?” Mathers asked. “Hasn’t that been done already?”

Westcott laughed. “Of course it has, but they already have brand recognition. Imagine the confusion that will go through the Ministry.”

“You’re right. They’ll be so focused no stopping a new ‘Dark Lord’, they’ll never look to us.” Mathers smiled.

“Not until it’s too late and we’ve brought the whole Ministry down.” The two men shared a laugh and contemplated their next steps.


A/N: This one is going to get dicey. Death eaters? Who? We'll find out, soon enough.

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  #309  
Old August 12th, 2009, 5:17 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Well, dear readers, you have a clear and somewhat nauseous understanding of what it takes to create a Horcrux. We have our loony tune Voldemort wannabes causing a stir while our fearless heroes understand the Horcruxes. Now, do they understand everything?

Read on:

Chapter 310 – Of Dark Marks and Fear

Ron walked down the center of Vendira Alley, his eyes scanning back and forth, looking for any sign of trouble. In the week since the murder of Bonnie Clinkscales, five more wizards and witches had been slain, in the same gruesome manner as the first two. In fact, the perpetrators were getting bolder, often striking in broad daylight and within earshot of large crowds. The Daily Prophet had a running headline, keeping a tally of the dead and clearly editorializing on the Ministry’s inability to find the killer. Not that Ron could blame them, because the Aurors had no idea who as behind these attacks. For sure, they’d theorized about Horcruxes, but it wasn’t like those evil talismans left a traceable aura. Ron shuddered as he remembered the Horcrux hunt during the age of the Dark Lord.

Ron took a brief look behind him and shared a gaze with the two grim-faced hit squad members trailing him. To his side was a winsome young woman with pale skin and bright, exotic eyes. Her Auror robes looked brand new and she did not wear the shield of an Auror, indicating her position as an apprentice. Ron had been leery of taking on another apprentice, so soon after Carter Sigismund’s death, but Harry had insisted and Kingsley Shacklebolt had highly recommended this candidate.

Kara Bones came from a long tradition of Ministry service. She was slightly built, but highly intelligent, having taken a dozen O.W.L’s and nearly as many N.E.W.T’s at Hogwarts. She’d been a Ravenclaw, which even today was a house still marked by the qualities of logic and intuition. Her head was swiveling back and forth, trying to emulate Ron’s vigilance. For Ron’s part, he had to admit to himself that he appreciated the chance to tutor another Auror.

“What are we looking for, anyway?” Kara’s voice seemed frail, quiet, despite the steely resolve in her face.

Ron shrugged his shoulders. “Right now, we’re looking for anything out of the ordinary. For the most part, we’re here to calm the public, not necessarily to catch whoever is doing this.”

“How will we catch them?” Kara never stopped her scan, impressing Ron with her commitment to duty.

“They’ll make a mistake. They’ll slip up. They always do.” Ron wished he was as confident as he sounded. From up ahead a piercing scream echoed through the alley. Ron snapped his wrist, his wand ejecting into his hand and he broke into a run.

A crowd of people was gathered around the entrance to a small alley. Ron shouldered his way through and pushed to the front. Inside the alley were the grisly remains of another wizard. Ron’s hand dropped, his wand flapping at his side. A quick scan told him that the scene was very similar to the others. He sighed heavily. They were no closer than before. There had to be something different.

“Uh, Ron?” Kara’s voice trembled and Ron turned around quickly, thinking that his apprentice was being overcome by the sight of the headless corpse. Instead, he saw Kara’s eyes fixated on the sky. Members of the crowd had their hands over their mouths and Ron looked up quickly to see what was making everyone so crazy. In the sky, a dark bank of thunder clouds had gathered and formed into an unmistakable shape. Ron felt the blood rush from his face, wanting to rub his eyes, sure that he was seeing things, but the evil shape was still there.

Kara spoke without removing her eyes from the vision. “Is that what I think it is?”

Ron nodded. “Yeah.” He shook his head and looked up once more. “It’s a Dark Mark, the sign of the Dark Lord.” His words were punctuated by a bolt of lightning and a clap of thunder.

***

“Harry!” “Mr. Potter!” “Over here, Harry!” Harry sighed behind the podium and pointed to the lead reporter from the Daily Prophet. He was a heavy set man wearing a patched tweed coat with faint coffee stains on the front.

“Yes, Alfred?”

Despite the fact that Harry obviously knew him, the reporter wanted credit for his question in other outlets. “Alfred Hall, Daily Prophet.” It was all Harry could do to keep from rolling his eyes at the obvious introduction. “Harry, will the Office of Aurors confirm that the Dark Lord is, indeed, back?”

“I will not make any such confirmation. Tom Riddle is dead. You, yourself, Alfred saw his remains.” Harry knew the follow up was going to be bad. They always were.

“He came back from the dead before, Harry, who’s to say he hasn’t worked his magic again?” The reporter had a smug look on his face, while Harry glared at him, his emerald eyes piercing the distance and causing the reporter to turn away. Alfred Hall had been one of the key writers who’d doubted Harry’s insistence on the Dark Lord’s return during the Triwizard Tournament. Now the wheezing gasbag was grilling Harry as if the Dark Lord’s return was a certainty.

“I, for one, will state unequivocally, that Tom Riddle has not returned. We have a dangerous situation, that is true, but there is no doubt in my mind that these murders are not the work of Voldemort.” Harry gripped the sides of the podium, steadying his anger.

Alfred Hall wasn’t done with Harry, however. The rotund reporter seemed to smiling from beneath his ponderous walrus mustache. “Are you saying that because you really believe it or because you want to protect your reputation as the chosen one? After all, your whole persona was built on that myth.”

Harry had been dealing with the press practically since he was a boy. He’d developed a thick skin during that time, but the notion that he was more concerned with his reputation than protecting the public. His face flushed noticeably. His brow furrowed in a scowl. His knuckles whitened as his grip on the podium tightened.

Before Harry could respond, and possibly get himself into trouble, he was surprised to hear Hermione’s voice speak up.

“Mr. Hall, that was completely inappropriate. Let me remind you what muckraking cost the last Prophet reporter who made things up.” Hermione’s voice was oddly pleasant, with an underlying hint of menace. Harry glanced over at his friend gratefully even as Hall blanched.

Hermione clapped her hands together. “I think that’s all for today. We’ll keep you posted on any developments as they occur.”

***

Westcott took a drag on his pipe, and blew smoke circles out from his mouth. He smiled contentedly and stared at the wireless as the press conference ended. He chuckled as he replayed Hall’s question and turned absently to face Mathers.

“Things couldn’t going any more perfectly.” His comment was met with silence and he studied his partner carefully.

Mathers was hunched over with his head in his hands, rocking slowly back and forth. Westcott raised an eyebrow and took a calm assessment of his partner. Mathers had lost weight. He’d managed to create three Horcruxes, but the toll was more telling. He was pale, sweating profusely. The normally ribald and talkative man tended to murmur to himself. Westcott cleared his throat and spoke louder.

“What’s wrong with you, anyway?” Mathers seemed to snap out of his stupor and looked up at Westcott.

“Nothing’s wrong. I’m just a bit under the weather. What’d you say?”

Westcott glared at Mathers carefully and grunted. “I said that things are going right to plan. They are starting to doubt even Harry Potter.”

“That’s good, right?” Mathers seemed disconnected.

“Of course! Pretty soon we’ll be able to ramp things up. How is recruiting going?”

“I haven’t been able to follow up. I’ll get on to it today.” Westcott didn’t seem convinced.

“You’d better. Are you sure you can handle all this? Maybe you should take a break. As a doctor, I would say you look worse than my patients, who are usually dead.”

“I’ll be fine. You just take care of your business, and I’ll take care of mine.” Mathers snapped.

Westcott nodded and resolved himself to keep a close eye on his friend. After all, there had only been one Dark Lord.

***

“What a troll!” Harry tossed his robe down on his chair and paced his office. Hermione, Ron, Williamson, Mortimer and Sean took up spots around the room as he railed against Hall’s question. “How dare he think that I only want to look good.”

“Easy Harry, people are scared.” Hermione tried to use a soothing tone, but she was still worked up by the question. “We have to allay those fears and fast.”

“Where are we?” Harry slumped into his seat. Mortimer cleared his throat.

“Well, I’m not entirely surprised by the Dark Mark.” He held his hands up at the obvious responses from his colleagues. “No wait, it fits. Our base theory is around Horcruxes, multiple Horcruxes. The only wizard in history to use multiples was Voldemort. It goes to fit that the Dark Mark would follow.”

“You mean someone fancies themselves a Dark Lord?” Ron seemed incredulous.

“Why not? The answer may lie in the histories. That may tell us what they’ll do next.” Mortimer reasoned.

“There is one other possibility.” Sean spoke up solemnly.

“No, Sean, he’s dead. I’m sure of it.” Harry unconsciously rubbed the faint outline of his scar. “I would know.”

Sean held up his hand. “Harry, hear me out. Old Voldy thought he’d created six Horcruxes. He didn’t even know about the seventh, you. Who’s to say that he didn’t make another? After all, it was almost a dozen years later before he was resurrected.”

Harry hesitated and slowly nodded. “He had help, though. Wormtail had to do a lot to get him reformed.”

“I know, but maybe he had help again.” Sean remarked.

“Who? All the Death Eaters are either dead or in jail.” Ron said pointedly.

Harry grimaced and allowed his shoulders to slump forward. “Not all of them.” They stared at him, some nodding. Harry sighed. “There’s still one Death Eater out on the loose.”


***A/N: So, given that my readership is EXTREMELY smart, I don't have to tell you who's about to get a visit from the Ministry. Of course, if there is a Dark Lord playbook, what is the next step for our savants?

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  #310  
Old August 17th, 2009, 4:33 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Okay, so I'm not that big of a mystery writer. Everyone guessed who's getting the visit...so we'll just keep going in:

Chapter 311 – Old Wounds and Foes

The old tavern had a reputation for watered down ale, horrid service, a contemptible environment and a stale, moldy smell that did not go away. Westcott could care less about these items as long as the establishment’s most cherished quality was preserved, that of complete anonymity. Having spent decades around the decay and rot of dead people, the ambiance of the top floor meeting room did not phase him. He sat a ramshackle table, his hands idly shuffling a small deck of cards. Westcott knew his “deck” consisted of a single suit, hearts, and held only thirteen cards. He felt a tingle on the back of his neck as his fingers touched the cards that had been “horcruxed”. Already, he had six, so every other card was touched. He’d managed to match what the late Dark Lord had thought he’d created, and still he felt no ill effects.

Mathers, however, seemed to be a different matter. His erstwhile partner had not been able to get past the third horcrux and Mathers seemed to be deteriorating by the second. That was one reason why Westcott decided to hold his meeting outside the confines of their headquarters. Mathers may yet turn into a liability, but Westcott wasn’t quite ready to cast him off. He’d just take action to ensure he could move when he needed.

The sound of heavy footsteps interrupted his thoughts as the door opened from the bar area down below. The rickety wood door squealed in protest on his ancient hinges and four figures in black entered the room. The tallest waved a thin hand at three chairs in the center of the room and then the rail thin man walked over to where Westcott sat. His three companions took their proffered seats without comment.

If there was ever a man that resembled the Grim Reaper, Caleb Odom was that man. The resemblance, of late, had been one that covered his role in the organization as much as his physical appearance. He was almost seven feet tall, but thin, his skin hanging tightly on his bones. When he drew down his hood, his pale, bald head look very much like a bare skull, with dark, sunken circles around his black eyes and his mouth had thin, colorless lips. There was no humor or anger in his gaze, there was just, nothing. Caleb had started life as a coroner’s apprentice, a wizard who’d been tossed out of Hogwarts many years ago and whose wand had been snapped by the Ministry for conducting underage magic in the presence of muggles. More accurately, he’d been performing underage magic ON muggles, but that was a nuance that as lost in the passage of time.

Westcott had recruited Caleb to be his first “Death Eater” and the man had taken on the role with relish. Like his appearance, it had been Caleb’s job to isolate and select the people whom Westcott would use to create his horcruxes. He’d already been through the ritual that Westcott had designed for his Death Eaters and now, the fruit of the recruitment efforts were about to be seen.

When Voldemort had been recruiting followers, there was a large and ready pool of candidates from the so-called pure blooded families. They were driven by notions of superiority and by a singular hatred for the impure. Westcott’s task had been decidedly more difficult, given the relative indifference that blood status had in society. Caleb had been easy to find, he was someone that had been with Westcott for many years. Caleb, however, when tasked with finding acolytes for the new order, had been forced to dredge at the bottom of the barrel. The results were three people seated before them.

The first was a woman. She had black, stringy hair that seemed at best, unwashed, and at worst, oily to greasy. Her skin was tanned with dark blotches randomly dotting her arms and face. Her eyes were a dark brown and when she smiled, she displayed a row of sharpened yellow teeth. She was on the thin side, but had a slight paunch starting to form. Melinda Eliof had led a hard life in the back alleys of almost every European capital, before she’d been gobbled up by a traveling circus. As a child, she’d performed tricks, mostly because she’d been an untrained witch. She’d been taken in by an abusive wizard who spotted her abilities when the circus passed through the high peaks of the German Alps. He kept her chained and taught her the rudimentary spells she’d need to keep the house up and him fed. He’d even managed to give her a wand, in the shape of a wooden spoon, so that, she could continue to act as his domestic servant.

Westcott believed that Eliof was the direct proof of his belief that magic was neutral, neither good nor evil. Intent was the most telling story. After years of abuse under her presumptive master, she’d raised her wooden spoon and did a simple scouring charm on the man’s skin. Unfortunately, she’d used the charm she’d designed to scour her iron skillets and pots and the man shrieked in pain as his skin was slowly eroded to the bone. After he died, she’d packed whatever books she could find and headed off into the night. Caleb had found her running a cleaning service out of a stall on Vendira Avenue. What had caught his attention was the fact that her “service” had been a front for her to steal and pillage her clients. She was completely amoral and perfect as a new Death Eater.

The second figure fidgeted in his seat, acting like a caged leopard looking for a way out. He was well under five foot seven and had a thick middle. His eyes were red and round and he had a pair of cracked glasses perched atop his nose. Kevin Boxall was a hustler, a man who made his living tricking wizards and muggles alike out of their hard earned cash. He left an unassuming impression, looking more like an accountant or a banker than a hardened criminal. He was utterly ruthless, more often than not, leaving his victims dead or close to that condition after he was done picking their pockets.

The last man was pure muscle. He was a hulking brute, well over seven feet tall and half as much as wide at the shoulders. Mark Manley had drifted from meaningless job to meaningless job, his last having been as a deck hand on one of the Malfoy cruisers. He’d been tossed off the ship after he’d used his physical strength to break a sailor’s jaw during a disagreement. Westcott had been surprised to find that the first mate of the ship, a Gavin Lockley, had physically lifted Manley over his head and tossed him onto the dock in a heap. That was one wizard Westcott hoped he never had to face, but the experience had scarred Manley and he seemed itching for a rematch with his former first mate.

Westcott tucked his cards inside his robe and steepled his fingers in front of him on the table. “You know why you are here. Each of you has your own story, and we needn’t bother rehashing how wronged our childhoods were or how society has left you by the wayside. I don’t have time for that.” His gaze penetrated each in turn. “I have only one request. Will you join me or not?”

He waited patiently as each, in turn, gave him slow nod. He smiled. “Then there’s only one thing left to do. Stand and hold out your arms.” He nodded to Caleb who drew his wand. “You will all swear an unbreakable vow to me, pledging your powers and your lives to my mission.”

His first thought had been to have them swear the vow to the Order, but given that Woodman was dead and Mathers was losing his mind, he felt that he was the only real wizard worthy of carrying out their mission. The three clasped hands as Caleb traced an image of the Dark Mark on their forearms, the tip of his wand cutting into the flesh, the skin bleeding and burning the mark into them. Once done, he swore them to their vows.

Westcott nodded grimly. “Now, for our first mission, we need to reintroduce an old Dark Lord favorite.” He glanced out to the windows, where rays of bright sunlight cascaded through the broken panes. “It’s time for the sun to go away and for the darkness to return.”

***

Draco Malfoy was hunched over a ledger, his quill hand moving furiously as he penned in the month’s latest figures. One day, he grunted, he’d find a way to lure Isabella Ramirez away from Gringott’s to handle this for him. Wouldn’t that be something? He’d have Dean Thomas’ wife working for him. Sometimes, he thought, irony could be so, ironic.

He leaned back in his chair and ran his hand over his platinum hair. The widow’s peak seemed to be rising every year and he lamented the loss, wondering why, considering the long locks his father had sported. Draco’s face grew dark, thoughts of his parents and their fate echoing in his mind and he felt a slight tinge of guilt when he recalled his own role in their arrest and incarceration. He tarried on the thought. Yes, he’d helped but at the same time, he’d been pushed there by Potter. His thoughts were ambivalent about his old foe. Malfoy had turned out far more capable at business than even his father, and he knew he was less a dark wizard and more an entrepreneur, but he could not shake the lingering animosity he held for one Harry Potter.

His thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on his door. One of his assistants stuck her head inside. “Mr. Malfoy, there are some gentlemen here from the Ministry of Magic to see you.”

His eyes traveled down to desk, laden with paperwork. “Send them in, but remind them I’m busy.”

It was probably another delegation from the Department of Magical Games hoping he’d sponsor the next Triwizard Tournament. Fat chance of that happening, considering that the Hogwarts slot would to another Gryffindor, maybe Adelina’s niece or the Lupin brat. He sighed, forming his negative response in his mind. He caught himself short as Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Mortimer Gafney entered his office. Surprised, it took him a moment to recover his composure.

“Potter.” He said quietly, and waved his hand to some chairs in front his desk. Harry nodded and he and his companions sat.

“Thank you for seeing us on such short notice, Draco.” Harry responded.

Draco’s eyes narrowed. There was something in Potter’s voice that told him this was not a social call. Given his past relationship with Potter, they never were. “This looks official, Potter. Come to take the Discooperire away from me again?”

Harry smiled in spite of his natural antipathy to the man seated across from him. “No, actually, we’ve come to ask you a few questions.”

Draco’s lips pursed. “Well, get on with it, I haven’t got all day. I have a business to run.”

“There have been some incidents lately. Some murders that have fit a pattern that we can’t quite get our arms around.” Harry hesitated and glanced at Ron. Then he took a deep breath and continued. “It would seem that someone is trying to pass themselves off as followers of the Dark Lord.”

Draco paused ever so slightly and he resisted the urge to touch his forearm that held his own Dark Mark. Instead he sneered at Harry. “Oh, you’ve locked up or killed every Death Eater except me, so naturally you assume that I’m the one behind this? There are many idiots who fancy themselves the next Dark Lord. In fact, come with me and I’ll show you a goblin that thinks he’s Voldemort and Nagini, at the same time. You’re really chasing at straws now, Potter.”

“You always were a cheeky sot, Malfoy. Maybe we should run you in for dressing like a pimpernel.” Ron’s contempt for Draco seeped from his voice.

Harry held up his hand before the exchange escalated. “You’re right, Draco. There are many people over the years that claimed to be Voldemort, but we left a certain detail out of the murders.” His viridian eyes pierced Draco. “Someone is making Horcruxes out of the dead.”

Realistically, there’d only been a few followers of Voldemort who understood what the Horcruxes meant to Voldemort. It was true, many like Regulus Black, had figured it out, but even Bellatrix Lestrange had no idea of the full import of the Dark Lord’s magic. The exception had been Narcissa Malfoy, who’d pieced it together during the Battle of Hogwarts. The notion of Horcruxes had been carefully hidden among the Malfoys, even after the death of the Dark Lord.

Still, Draco would not give so easily. “You’ve put your face on every magazine and book that’s been written for the past fifteen years Potter. You’re such a glory hound, I’m sure one of your adoring fans could have read about them in your many biographies.”

“True, Draco, but all the histories talk ABOUT the Horcruxes, they don’t tell HOW they are made. There’s only one book, “The Secrets of the Darkest Art” that tells how to make them. There are only five copies that we know of in existence. Four are accounted for and the fifth…”

“The fifth is in my family’s vault and Gringott’s, where it still is, Potter.” Things were slowly getting worse, as far as Draco was concerned. “I know where you’re going with this Potter, and I’d tread very carefully. Did it ever occur to you that there were more than five copies?”

“It has.” Harry responded.

Draco studied Harry carefully. “Why are you here, Potter? What is it you want?”

Harry sighed. “I need to see your mark, Draco. I want to know that Voldemort is truly dead. I want to make sure that his Death Eaters didn’t hide another Horcrux from us.”

“I see and if I refuse?” Draco’s voice had a decidedly dangerous edge. Ron’s hand flexed, popping his wand out from its spring loaded sheath.

“Please, Malfoy, please refuse.” Ron tapped his wand in anticipation.

Draco locked eyes with Harry, ignoring Ron and Mortimer. He raised his left forearm up and pulled the sleeve of his shirt down showing the bare arm. There was a faint outline of a dark mark, that was still, and seemed to be more a shadow than anything.

“Satisfied, Potter?” Draco snapped.

“I am, Draco.” Harry stood and nodded for his companions to precede him. Harry paused and turned to face Draco. “There is one more thing.”

“My family’s copy of “The Darkest Arts” will be forwarded to the Ministry.” Draco snapped.

Harry nodded. “Thank you, Draco.”

“Potter!” Harry turned as Draco stood and leaned forward on his desk. “Don’t ever ask me for anything, ever again. My support of the Ministry is officially over and you can tell your lackey, Dawlish, that someone will replace him as Minister soon enough. You picked the wrong man to make an enemy of, Potter.”

Harry chuckled. “Get in line, Draco. I have plenty of enemies.” Harry slammed the door as he filed out.

***A/N: Well, looks like more intrigue and politics coming courtesy of Draco. Oh, and what is it that Westcott wants to do next????

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  #311  
Old August 19th, 2009, 4:05 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 312 – Book Fairs and Politics

Harry was standing near Mortimer’s cubicle when the large, black owl landed nearby, a carefully wrapped package tied around its leg. Harry reached up and pulled the package from the owl’s leg. As he was wont to do, Harry reached into his pocket to pull out a treat for the messenger bird. As he reached his hand up to the owl, the bird seemed to huff and turned its head, instead of taking the treat, it flew off, leaving Harry’s hand hanging in the air.

Mortimer suppressed a grin. “Let me guess, that’s the book from Malfoy?”

Harry looked down and nodded. “I suppose I deserved that. Then again, considering it’s Draco, maybe I didn’t.”

“There’s not a whole of love lost between you two, is there?” Mortimer asked.

“No. It’s something that’s been going since we were kids. I thought it was just about the whole Voldemort thing and pure bloods and the lot, but it’s always something more.” Harry mused. His relationship, if it could be called that, with Draco could only be described as “complicated”.

Mortimer quickly changed the subject. “Well, we’re back to where we started. There are five books and we’ve accounted for all five of them.” He handed a report to Harry who went down the list. A thoughtful expression crossed Harry’s face. Mortimer raised his eyebrow.

Harry focused on the page. “Well, we visually verified three of the copies, but it says here that Hogwarts has two in its restricted section.”

“Yes?”

“Well, I was just thinking, did we actually confirm that the two copies were at Hogwarts?” Harry ran a pensive hand through his unruly black hair. “When we went on our Horcrux hunt, Hermione was able to get a copy of the book without anyone actually missing it.”

Mortimer nodded. “I’ll go up to Hogwarts and check it out myself.”

***

“Bloody Potter and his arrogance!” Draco paced in front of the large fireplace in his study. The stunningly beautiful woman with long platinum hair sat in one of the high backed chairs studied him carefully. Domina Malfoy’s face was impassive.

“I don’t see what you are so worked up about, Draco. Potter’s visit was probably justified given the circumstances.” Draco stopped his pacing and stared at his wife.

“I hope you are not taking his side of this, Domina.” Draco growled.

She sighed. “I’m not taking any sides, Draco, but you are not being completely honest, are you? Potter is attempting to solve a very grisly crime and you were a logical person to interview.”

Draco shook his head. “I’m not saying he wasn’t, but it was the way he did it. It’s emblematic of the way he’s always approached things. Potter and his lap dogs in the Ministry have run roughshod over the rest of us. They seem to think they own all of this.” He spread out his hands in frustration.

“You may be right, Draco, but what do you intend to do about it. The public seems to like them.” Domina commented carefully.

Draco nodded. “The public likes peace, they could care less who’s in charge. In fact, maybe it’s time to find a new administration and run things right.”

“What do you mean by right, Draco? No one is going to go back to the old days.” Domina’s mouth quivered slightly, as she recalled how narrow minded she’d been in the past.

Draco nodded. “I have no intention of opening up any pure blooded nonsense, it’s bad for business.” He hesitated and then snapped his fingers. “That’s it! That’s how we’ll do it.”

“Do what?” Domina asked and arched an eyebrow as Draco smiled.

“We’ll build a political coalition around a more business-friendly platform. Think about it, all these programs, all these rules have put a huge drag on business. Taxes have gone up while regulation has gotten more stringent. All I need to do is find some allies and we’ll be able to bring down the Dawlish government.” Draco grew more animated as his idea grew more solid.

“Allies?”

Draco smiled wickedly. “Oh yes. In fact, I know just who to go to. It will rock the foundations of the Ministry and put Potter in a position where he’ll be unable to do anything about it. It’s perfect.”

For the first time in the conversation, Domina Malfoy smiled. It was good to have her husband back.

***

“Well, you were right.” Mortimer walked into the Office slightly out of breath. Harry looked up. Mortimer pulled out a small notebook and scanned it. “It looks like one of Hogwarts’ copies is missing.”

“Missing?” Ron asked.

“Well, not missing, but not there.” Mortimer responded. “Let me make better sense.”

“Please.” Ron retorted, but Mortimer ignored the gibe.

“The book has been checked out and not returned.” Mortimer consulted his notes. “It was a long time ago, so we should be able to follow it up.”

“Who checked it out?” Harry asked.

“Delores Umbridge.” Mortimer responded.

“Umbridge?” Ron asked and then he nodded, his bright red hair flipping in back and forth. “You know, there was a report when she was Headmistress that she was always trying to amass knowledge. I guess that can include books.”

Harry turned to Mortimer. “You said there’s a way to check it out, how?”

“Her house is in Ministry custody. It contains a rather large library. We can check things there, can’t we?”

Harry nodded and turned to Ron. “All right. Ron, you ‘re up. Take your team and see what you can find.”

Ron stood and gestured to Kara, his apprentice. She waved and turned to the rest of Ron’s team. Ron looked at Harry. “I hope I can stomach this.”

“You’re not afraid, after all this time, Ron?”

Ron shook his head. “No, but the color pink and cats makes my stomach turn. I can only imagine what Umbridge did with both in her house.”

***

Westcott studied the old, rundown home sitting on a small plot of land in the center of a small hamlet. The house was dark, the lawn overgrown, with the look that it had not been inhabited for quite some time. The charms the Aurors had placed around the house prevented apparition directly onto the property and it limited him to one visit a week and made it difficult to take something out of the house. He’d had to work several weeks to be able to secure the Dark Arts book and now he needed something even more important. He glanced to his right where the skeletal face of Caleb could barely be discerned in the darkness of the moonless night. The other three “Death Eaters” were somewhere behind his lieutenant.

He turned his attention back to the house ahead. With the fall of the Dark Lord, the properties of his followers were placed under charmed “watch” to prevent their contents from being used to rally other dark arts lovers. Delores Umbridge was no exception, especially after her extraordinary escape from Azkeban. He wished he’d hadn’t needed to return, but the guardian spells necessitated it. There was one more book that was essential to their cause that Umbridge had.

He started walking forward, waving a hand towards Caleb, calling for his followers to proceed. They slipped through the broken gate and silently proceeded to the front door in a single file. One by one, they entered the house. Caleb gestured to Mark Manley who stood by the door, keeping watch. Westcott nodded and led the others back past the foyer and into a small room lined with rows and rows of shelves crammed with books. The center of the room held a torn pink throw rug with a small wooden chair with torn upholstery. Cracked and broken tea cups and plates littered the floor and made a crunching sound as their feet passed over it. Westcott ignored everything, his eyes moving towards a specific spot on a specific shelf. This was the place where Umbridge kept her “special” collection. It was here he’d found the Dark Arts book and had seen what he was searching for now.

He reached the shelf and found a large, but thin book with a black, satin cover. It was bound by a black leather strap and had a faded white sticker label with a hand written title. The book looked more like a home-made scrapbook or an official report cover, than an actual book. As Westcott looked at it, he saw the stamp of the Ministry of Magic affixed on top of the lettering on the label. He brushed the dust off the edges and read the title.

“Ministry of Magic Procedures Manual #441: The Use, Control and Supervision of Dementors. Delores Umbridge, Special Undersecretary to the Minister.”

Westcott held the book tightly in his hands. He smiled triumphantly and then paused as a muffled crack reached his ears. He turned to face Caleb just as Manley came around the corner. The large, hulking psychopath said one word.

“Aurors.”

They rushed to the front room and Westcott saw seven black robed Aurors approaching the gate led by a tall, lithe red headed man. Westcott’s narrowed. The guardian charms prevented them from apparating. They had to get outside of the gate to get away. He turned to Caleb and nodded. The New Death Eaters drew their wands and took up positions to ambush the unsuspecting Aurors.

***

“It’s not important that you like me. In fact, I know that I don’t like you.” Draco sat at a table, a piping hot cup of tea on a saucer in front of him. “This is strictly about business. I know that you are as concerned with some of the Ministry’s more stringent regulations as I have been.”

The two men he was talking to stared at him, until one nodded his head ever so slightly. “What is it you propose, Malfoy?”

Encouraged, Draco leaned forward. “I’m not talking about a coup or anything so vile. In fact, I’m not even talking about removing people from their staff positions. Even Potter can keep his job.” Draco fought down the bile building in his throat. “What I’m proposing is simply a change in administrations. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Arthur Weasley and John Dawlish were the right men for their times, but for England to be truly transformed, we need to transition to the government to someone else.”

“You?” One the men snickered.

“No, of course not. I don’t want it and I’d never get it. No, I think we’d need to find someone amenable to all of us. It would have to be someone who’d help business grow and thrive.” Draco sat back and watched the two men think through his proposal.

The taller of the two spoke up. “I have your word Draco, nothing happens to the people who are in staff positions, especially those close to us?”

Draco nodded. “We’ve been doing business together far too long for me to double cross you. It would be the ruin of me.”

“It’d be more than that if Adelina Baretto found out you’d tried to hurt Harry.” Draco nodded and unconsciously shuddered at the prospect.

“There is that, of course. Look, I won’t lie to you. I’ve got a major beef to pick with Harry and the people he works for, but my biggest concern is to shake things up to create a better environment for business. I have no desire to cash in on a grudge. Besides my wife works for the Ministry.” Draco watched as the pair exchanged glances.

The taller one leaned forward. “I’m not saying yes, but I will say that I am intrigued by what you’re proposing. Right now there’s only the two of us here. We’d have to bring it up with the entire partnership group. “

Draco nodded. “I understand. Take your time, there’s really no hurry.” Inwardly, Draco smiled, knowing he’d placed a wedge in the first cracks in Potter’s world. He looked across the table.

George Weasley and Lee Jordan exchanged one more glance before George stood. The owner of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Defense Spells placed his hands on the table and leaned forward. “You make a good argument, Malfoy, and I will consider it, but cross me, even a little bit, and I will bury you.”

George stood up and he and Lee left the room.


***A/N: I know, I know, George??? Remember that WWW is a major importer and exporter for Malfoy's ships. They are probably more tied together than George is with the Ministry, especially after a lot of his friends went to work for Gringott's. It all depends on who Draco finds to run for Minister and how Dawlish responds, doesn't it?


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  #312  
Old August 25th, 2009, 4:13 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 313 – Politics is War

Dusk, as a time of day, tends to be a mixed bag of fortune. There is something exhilarating and scary about that time of the day where the darkness of night overwhelms the brightness of the day, meeting in a reddish glow on the horizon, like a tide wiping away the beach. Ron’s eyes narrowed. A pink glow hovered against the side of the Umbridge house, looking like the sun was setting along its stuccoed side. An urge, more of a feeling, an instinct screamed in the back Ron’s head. He held up his hand, snapping his wrist and shooting his wand into his palm. Without a word, he pushed his wand out.

“Protego!” His shield charm cascaded in front of his team, absorbing the impact of Caleb’s blasting charm, just in the nick of time. Ron turned to his team.

“Spread out! Set up a cordon. We’ve got to figure out how many we’re dealing with.” He kept a watchful eye on Kara, but his apprentice quickly backed behind a stone wall. Ron returned his gaze towards the house and peered through cloud of dust and smoke that hovered in the air. Periodically, streams of light would bound from a window here or there. He took one more look and beckoned an old wizard crouching behind a car over.

“There can’t be more than three or four of them in there, Chuck.” Ron watched as Chuck Hensley, the senior member of his team nodded. Ron gestured to a small house adjacent to the Umbridge house. “Take Fortner and Reilly with you and see if you can flank them. We’ll give them something to think about out here.”

Hensley nodded and Ron stood and threw a blasting charm that caromed off the front door frame. The explosion of dust and mortar created a billowing cloud of dust, offering Hensley the opportunity to sneak out to right of the Umbridge home. The response from the house was blistering, forcing Ron to duck down and hug the ground as red streaks blared through the darkness.

***

Caleb turned his head towards Westcott. “We’ve been here too long. If I were them, I’d try to flank us. There’s no way out the back.”

Westcott nodded grimly. He’d determined as much. He studied the ever darkening sky and saw flashes of light as the Aurors kept him pinned down. He had to find a way to break the stalemate. In the distance, he heard the tell tale sounds of sirens as the muggle authorities began to respond to the explosions that bracketed the neighborhood. Introspection from a gaggle of muggles was something he wanted to avoid. Come to think of it, the muggles may just provide him the cover he needed to escape. He turned to Caleb.

“Cover me. I’m going to give the Aurors something else to think about.” Caleb shouted to his companions and they began a furious fusillade of spells designed to keep the Aurors’ heads down.

The front lawn was dotted with blackened and charred holes where wayward curses struck with a randomness that made the scene disconcerting. Westcott noted the brick wall lining the edge of the property was pretty sturdy and was probably where the Aurors were seeking refuge. His gaze continued past the Aurors to the street behind them. The main street was lined with row houses, made of red brick and most likely held muggles who were under the main disillusionment charm that had bracketed the Umbridge house. Behind the houses flowed a large river, with a main bridge with an entrance that lie directly in line with the front door of the house. Traffic still flowed on the bridge, as if no visible signs of the desperate battle could be seen, which the case was most likely.

The bridge was made of stone towers, with cabling suspended from the top holding the main roadway. Being dusk, the last vestiges of rush hour were bumper to bumper atop the asphalt road surface. Westcott aimed his wand at the closest stone tower. He hesitated for a brief moment as he saw the myriad of vehicles on the bridge. Buses full of passengers, families in station wagons, delivery trucks all holding people who had no idea what he was contemplating. He mentally smacked himself. He was a Dark Wizard, he was going to be a new Dark Lord, he should have no feelings of sorrow for those muggles. He cleared his throat and let fly his blasting charm.

***

“Ron!” Kara pointed behind them. The main suspension tower of the bridge disappeared in flash of flame and smoke. The tendrils of the cables snapped with a loud cracking sound and flailed helplessly as they lost their purchase. The roadway began to collapse under the weight of the vehicular traffic. Cracks in the pavement formed as the main beams and girders began to bend and twist in the wind.

“Damn!” Ron motioned to his Aurors within sight. The damage was far too much for one or two of them to handle. He rather doubted if the four of them immediately present could do the job. What was certain was that the Aurors had to save the muggles on the bridge. Whoever was in the Umbridge house would have to be allowed to get away. Ron cursed under his breath and ran towards the bridge, his Aurors following him.

***

Westcott watched as the tall, red haired Auror led his team towards the chaos of the failing span. He smiled and nodded to Caleb who motioned for the others to proceed out the door. They walked on top of the broken flagstones of the front path and through the ruined remains of the gate. Once in the street, one by one they began to apparate. First Westcott, then Eliof, then Boxall then Manley, they disappeared with a crack and flash of green smoke and light. Caleb stood for a moment, ensuring their escape. He pointed his wand upward and let fly with a Dark Mark, to better sow confusion with their opponents. Then, in a flash, he was gone.

***

“You two are daft, you know that? What the devil are you doing dealing with Malfoy, anyway?” Dudley Dursley sat at the large oak table located in the back storeroom of Weasley’s Wheezes in Diagon Alley.

“Don’t you think I know that, Dudley?” George’s response was a bit more defensive than he’d intended. He placed his hands on the table, as if steadying himself. “Draco Malfoy is up to something and he’s clearly desperate enough to approach us about it. Don’t you think it would be best for us to find out and stop him?”

“Then go to Harry, or Ron or even Hermione, let them sort it out. You’re playing with fire.” Dudley grumbled restlessly. His brow was furrowed and his almost bald head creased from the expression.

“We don’t even know what he has planned.” Lee chimed in. “What good would it be to tell them when we don’t know what to say?”

“And what if Malfoy is playing you? He comes from a family of politicians. Heck, he’s one of the best politicians out there, or else he wouldn’t have lasted this long.” Dudley rose and began pacing behind the table.

George snorted. “Draco Malfoy? He was a sniveling sot in school, afraid of his own shadow. I’ll grant you he has a head for business, but there’s no way he’d get the best of me, much less play me. You can’t kid a kidder, Duds.”

Dudley stopped his pacing and leaned on the table with his arms. His voice grew low and menacing and he fixed his gaze on both George and Lee at the same time. “Many people have underestimated Draco Malfoy, much to their own regret. Even his parents underestimated him and look where they are. I’m warning you both, don’t do this. If anything happens to my family, including Harry, because of your games, I will see to it that you regret it.”

“Dudley, it’s us. We’re your friends. You know us.” George tried to be chipper, upbeat, but a hint of surprise was in his voice. Dudley had never spoken to him like that before.

Dudley’s voice softened, only slightly. “I know you both, all right. You’re pranksters and geniuses, but you’re playing a game that’s over your heads. You’re playing a game that Malfoy is good at and there could be serious repercussions to the people we care about. I still say tell the others, but you do what you want. I won’t have any part of it.” Dudley turned and left the room.

Lee looked over at George. “Maybe we should tell someone in the Ministry, George.”

George shook his head. “You know Harry and Hermione, they’ll just say let things be, let them run their course and Ron will go along with them.” George sighed heavily. “All we just need to do is find out who Draco’s backing. Once it’s done, we’ll tell the others.”


***

Harry stood off to the side as the Aurors completed the repairs to the bridge. All the while the Obliviator Squad was working overtime to ensure the muggles involved had any memory of the incident erased. After a moment’s further observation, he turned and walked into the Umbridge home.

Inside, there were more Aurors and staffers from the Department of Mysteries, who were running charms to detect any hint of the perpetrators of the act. The Dark Mark above had been long ago eliminated, but Harry could feel the outlines of its presence. He walked up to where Williamson and Ron were standing.

“Well?” Harry asked.

Williamson consulted the parchment in his hand. “It looks like the copy of the Dark Arts book was taken, Harry.”

“We figured that, Eric. He had to have taken it earlier. The real question is why did they come back? What did they get this time?”

Williamson checked the parchment. “We’re inventorying the books now. We just don’t know.”

“Harry!” Mortimer came from the library holding another parchment in his hands. “I think I know what they got.”

He handed the parchment to Harry who scanned it quickly and then frowned. “That’s not good.” Harry looked out the window and checked the sky, which was clear, the stars twinkling in the night. “We’d better make sure that every one is up to speed on their Patronus charms.”

“What is it?” Ron asked. Harry handed his friend the parchment. Ron scanned it and shook his head. “Dementors? I thought they were all gone.”

“The equilibrium, remember? With the balance back, the Dementors are back too.” Harry looked around the room. “Any idea who they are?”

“No, but we haven’t finished our sweep. We’ll let you know when we do.” Williamson responded. Harry nodded and turned to leave. Before he got to the door, he stopped and looked back.

“I hope you do find something. Britain has been through so much over the past twenty years. I don’t think the people could handle another Dark Lord.” His face dropped ever so slightly and his voice lowered. “I don’t think I could either.”

With that, Harry turned and left the room.

***

Draco strolled into the library of his family’s expansive mansion. His strides were upright, assertive and he almost had a smile on his pale face. His wife was seated in front of the fire, her head buried in a book when he entered. She noted that some color had returned to her husband’s face and he seemed positively giddy.

“Well?” She asked, resting the open book on her lap.

“Weasley was his typical arrogant self. They are all rather arrogant. I’m sure he’s plotting to learn what I’m up to and then run and tell his friends in the Ministry.” Draco sat down opposite his wife, in a matching, high backed chair. He crossed his legs and clasped his hands in front of him. “They are rather predictable. George Weasley probably will treat this like some schoolyard game. More than likely, they’ll oppose anyone I put up to be the new minister, just to make sure I don’t win.”

“You don’t think you’re playing too cute, Draco?” Domina asked, playing more the devil’s advocate than opposing him. Draco appreciated her input and the interplay. It helped him see things from all angles.

“No, not yet. You see, who I put up is not as important as who will actually win. In fact, the person I have in mind as a fall guy may also put a wedge between a lot of these alliances that have formed around Potter and his brood.” Draco poured himself a glass of port from a nearby table. “War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by another means.”

“That’s interesting, did you just make that up?” Domina asked.

“No, a muggle general named Clausewitz said that.” Draco offered.

“What does that mean, to you?’ His wife asked, as she rose from her chair and put her book down. She walked over to her husband and offered her hand to him. Draco took it gratefully and rose, putting his arm around her, while waving the other, dousing the fire for the night.

Draco placed a light kiss on her cheek and then smiled. “It means that war is politics and politics is war.” He smiled wickedly. “This is a war I’m determined to win.” Arm and arm, husband and wife left the room to retire for the night.

***A/N: Just to clarify, Draco is not part of the Westcott plot, however, could two divergent agendas meet at the right time to create a "Perfect Storm" of trouble for our heroes? You betcha!

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Old August 28th, 2009, 8:55 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 314 – Feet of Clay

Westcott’s hands gently slid across the binding of the captured book. The faint gold lettering was neat, yet somehow very sinister at the same time, somehow fitting its previous owner. Dementors played a major part in setting the tone during Voldemort’s era, but a frequently missed fact was that the Dark Lord did not control the dark creatures, they operated under the control of the Ministry. Specifically, they were primarily used to guard captives at Azkaban. It was rumored that up to her death, Bellatrix Lestrange would cower at the hint of their presence. Westcott laughed out loud. Here was a weapon he could wield that even Voldemort hadn’t had the use of. The dementors should be quite a shock to the Ministry that was reeling.

A shuffling of feet caught his attention and he turned from the table. He was in the school Samuel had started for the Order so many years ago. Mathers entered the study looking decidedly older than he’d seemed only days before. His weight had dropped and his shoulders were stooped forward and ambled along, sometimes mumbling to himself. His cheeks were gaunt and thin and his skin was almost greenish-white and wrinkled. Walking behind him fretfully was a short man with short, closely cropped red hair. The man was about forty and appeared to be ready to catch Mathers, should the older man fall. Thomas Winters was the only Death Eater recruit Mathers had managed to bring into the fold. He had been the school’s only caretaker and was entirely devoted to Mathers. Consequently, his oath had been to the Order and not to Mathers or Westcott individually, like Westcott’s Death Eaters.

Westcott’s eyes narrowed. Mathers had started mumbling, all the while grasping two playing cards in his enfeebled hands. His horcruxes were taking a toll on him, the ripping apart of his soul too much. He saw the deaths he caused cycling through his mind and the madness was slowly overtaking him. There was another feeling starting to percolate inside him, one that was slowly overtaking his madness. Winters aided him to a chair and he sat, his arms braced on the top of the table, the cards seemingly staring into his eyes and penetrating what was left of his soul. The ember of the new feeling was slowly, slightly rising to the top.

“You look like hell, Samuel.” Westcott took a seat across from his old friend, who hadn’t registered his presence until Westcott’s shadow crossed his face.

“Eh, what’s that? Oh, William, yes I suppose I look a fright.” Samuel tried to laugh, but it was a hollow, retching sound that didn’t come out sincere.

Westcott studied his friend and fellow dark wizard aspirant. “What’s going on with you? Have you made your third horcrux?”

Mathers shook, his eyes studying his two cards. It was as if the king of spades was pointing an accusatory finger at him. He swallowed the bile building in his throat. “No.”

“Why not, man? This was your idea. I’ve already made six horcruxes and I’m ready for more. We’re supposed to be in this together.” Westcott’s voice rose to a high pitch.

Sweat was pouring down Mather’s brow and he held the cards outward, as far as his extended arms could reach. “I can’t.” It was like a dam bursting, a torrent of pent up emotion releasing and the emotion that he’d been suppressing finally boiled to the surface. He felt remorse.

“I’ve spent my whole life as a trickster, a charlatan. I was someone who used cheap parlor tricks to fool people when the only person I’ve really fooled was myself.” He sighed heavily, placing the cards flat on the table in front of him. “I’m no Dark Wizard. I never wanted to kill those people. I wish I hadn’t” The remorse for his deeds coursed through his body. The cards on the table began to shake and tremble. The lantern in the corner of the room glowed a bright green and a greenish white aura hovered over the cards.

Like lightning bolts, green light snapped from the cards and struck Mathers on the forehead. He was knocked backward on his chair and landed on his back, screaming and writhing in pain. His hands fell to his stomach and he gesticulated wildly, his voice loud and growing hoarse as the pieces of his soul attempted to reintegrate themselves with his body. Gouts of yellow fire shot from his eyes and a back blast knocked everyone in the room off their feet.

Finally, the chaos subsided and Mathers was lying on the ground, tendrils of smoke rising lazily from his robe. His skin had returned to its normal color and it seemed like he put on weight instantly. He looked up at Westcott, his eyes pleading but normal in their coloring. The sweat was still pouring down his face. His voice was raspy, almost a whisper and it seemed like it took every ounce of strength he possessed to speak. Surprisingly, he looked up at Westcott and smiled.

“I’m free.” He exhaled slowly and slumped down onto the floor, unmoving.

Westcott had seen many dead bodies before. Nevertheless he eased his hand to Mathers’ neck and felt for a pulse. There was none to be had. His thoughts wandered back to the dark secrets book and reflected on the ways to reverse a horcrux. Remorse by the sundered soul was the only way, but that person rarely survived the act. Mathers knew that, yet he allowed the remorse and guilt to consume him. In the end, that was his undoing. Westcott stood and looked around the room. Tom Winters was standing, staring at the dead body of his mentor. Westcott studied the diminutive man and sighed.

“Well, what about you?”

Winters looked up at Westcott, bewildered. “I am already a Death Eater.”

“No, no you’re not. There’s one more oath you need to take.” Westcott motioned to Caleb who drew his wand.

***

“I don’t know about this, Mr. Malfoy, I’ve never really considered a career in politics.” The well dressed man sat across from Draco, smiling apologetically. He was thin, with tan skin and he spoke with a trace of an accent. “I also don’t know how any such move would be received.”

Draco nodded thoughtfully. He had to play this carefully. Done right, he’d not only clear the way for who he really wanted, he’d sow all sorts of discord among Potter’s family and friends and preserve Mrs. Malfoy’s little boy’s rear end in the process.

“I understand, but I’ve already told you I talked to George and Lee and they are willing to go along if the right candidate is selected.” Draco leaned forward, going for the kill. “As far as experience, that’s precisely what we need. You know business so you know what it will take for real growth to occur.”

“Mr. Malfoy, I have to tell you that I support most of the current Minister’s programs on equality and openness.” The man’s voice shook slightly, but then grew stronger. “I will not undermine what we spent so long getting accomplished.”

“Nor should you.” Draco held his hands out. “Look, I’ll admit, I was the biggest pure blood follower that ever was. I was a Death Eater for Merlin’s sake. But now, I am a business man. All I care about is that the government stop interfering with business. Surely that doesn’t require you to go against your principles?”

The man nodded. “I will say that I have been less than pleased with some of the new regulations. My employer has chafed under the new rules and we have seen our business slacken.”

“Precisely my point!” Draco raised his hands in the air. “Social justice has been achieved. We’ve transformed society. Now it’s time to reap the benefits of those rewards. It’s time for prosperity.” Draco snapped his fingers. “Say, that would make a superb campaign slogan.”

The man chuckled, but then his face grew serious. “Why me?”

Draco nodded sagely. “That’s a good question. Frankly, I had not considered you, but given that I needed to make this work, I thought that you’d help bridge the differences between WWW and Malfoy Enterprises. Let’s face it, you have ties to both. Your experience at Gringott’s is first rate from a financial and business perspective and your wife is a solid friend to the Weasleys.” And the Potters, Draco thought.

“Speaking of my wife, I will have to discuss this with her. If anyone in my family says no, the deal is off.” He had him, Draco gloated.

“Of course, I wouldn’t think of crossing your wife.” Draco said seriously, because, at least on this point, he was sincere.

Raimundo Baretto rose from his seat. “I will consider it, Mr. Malfoy.” He shook hands with Draco and then turned and left.

Draco stared at the door and smiled. Things were moving perfectly.

***

Harry and Ginny reclined easily on the swing on their front porch. Gone were the days when the children would be playing idly in the front yard under the watchful eye of Kreacher, their self appointed guardian. Harry eased his arm around his wife and luxuriated under the radiance of the hot, summer sun. Ginny was passing the time watching replay of the latest Quidditch match between Oliver Wood’s Puddlemere United and the Harpies. She held a small silver cup in her hands. It had a wide mouth and she was staring thoughtfully into the quicksilver like liquid inside. The cup acted like a mini-pensieve, allowing the bearer to “watch” memories without being totally immersed in them. She was studying the action from Oliver’s point of view, since it was his memory that she was viewing.

Harry smiled as he watched her, the sunlight reflecting off her crimson locks, her porcelain skin almost translucent under the summer sky. The faint scent of lilacs still permeated the air and he closed his eyes as he remembered the first time he’d told her he loved her. The kids were out and about somewhere. James and Albus were near inseparable, especially considering that James would be heading off to Hogwarts at the end of the summer. Lily was at the Burrow, spending time with her grandparents and her cousin Rose.

Harry leaned over and planted a soft kiss on Ginny’s cheek and then leaned his head back and soaked in the sun. He sat there for a moment and then felt a shiver run through his spine. The sun was no longer giving him warmth and he opened his eyes. Gone were the open blue sky and the high, bright sun. Menacing clouds, far to numerous to count and completely out of character for the season filled the sky. A fierce squall was approaching on the horizon, a grayish black curtain of rain moved inexorably toward the Potter home. Harry squinted into the distance and rose from the swing. He placed his hand on the porch rail and then brought them back, like he’d put his hand on a hot stove.

The railing was ice cold, like death. He looked up at the sky and snapped his wand into his hand. He turned and shook Ginny’s shoulders.

“What is it?” She stood and faced him, recognizing when he went into full Auror mode.

“Find the kids, get them inside the house.” Harry said tersely, watching the sky.

“What’s going on, Harry?” There was no panic in her voice and Harry marveled at how lucky he’d been to marry a woman like her.

He raised his wand to the sky, catching a glimpse of the approaching dark creatures. He turned to her, his viridian eyes bright with energy.

“Dementors.”

***A/N: Okay, okay, so Draco's fall guy is Raimundo Baretto and I know, I know, that means he's courting the wrath of Adelina. But that makes for a real juicy confrontation, now doesn't it? And what if George and Lee think Raimundo is actually involved with Draco...how about an Adelina vs. George smackdown? Can you dig it?

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Old September 1st, 2009, 8:36 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 315 – No Confidence

The sky had darkened to a point where it looked like midnight in Godric’s Hollow. James Potter was pulling on his brother Albus’ arm as the two ran across the open field towards their home. They’d been working on their secret warren, a hideout that both could play in away from the meddling of their sister. At first, neither Potter boy had noticed the darkening sky, but the first heavy drop of rain made James look up. What he saw chilled him to the bone as he saw intermixed with the menacing rain clouds the ominous, whispery forms floating amid them. James had never really seen a Dementor, but he’d heard enough stories to know that it was time for him and Albus to go. He grabbed his brother and both lit off for their house.

Ginny was becoming frantic. Lily was safely ensconced in the house, but the boys had wandered off, as they usually did. With James getting ready to head off to Hogwarts at the beginning of the next month, she and Harry had let him have free rein with his brother. Now, she had no idea where they were.

“I can’t find the boys, Harry!” Her voice was loud, but not panicked. That was not her way. Harry turned and faced his wife.

“They’re coming now. Look, across that field, there they are.” Harry pointed with his wand and Ginny followed the gesture. Her eyes widened as she saw a score of the Dementors start to swoop down from the sky.

“Harry, they’re not going to make it.” She said tersely, her body rigid. Harry gauged the distance and grimaced.

“They can if we help them.” He glanced over at a nearby shed and she nodded.

“Accio Firebolt!” Ginny’s voice was strong and her broom crashed out of the shed’s window and fluttered into her hand. She straddled the broom and looked over at Harry. “I’m ready.”

Harry tensed his body and stared up at the oncoming Dementors. “Go!”

Ginny tore off at full speed, her body leaning forward over the pommel of the broom, barely skimming the ground. Her crimson hair fluttered in the wind swept breeze and grew darker as the rain pelted her mercilessly. She kept her eyes focused on the two figures running in the field. She seemed to be careening towards the creatures swooping down from the sky. On she pressed, and yet Harry still hadn’t acted. She trusted her husband. She knew he’d do what needed to be done. Just when it seemed that it would be too late, she heard his voice.

“Expecto Patronum!” Harry’s voice seemed deeper, almost amplified in the rain. A flash of white light expanded outward, like the corona of an explosion. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a massive white misty stallion bound past her, trailing a radiance behind it. When the edge of the wall of light touched her, she felt warm and dry. The wall bounded forward and created a barrier just behind the boys, just at the first Dementor struck. When it impacted Harry’s patronus barrier, the wall shimmered and snapped, while the Dementor was thrown backward in disarray. The effect was telling, but the problem was that there were dozens of Dementors approaching and Ginny didn’t know if even Harry’s considerable power would be able to hold them off.

Ginny swept down and hovered next to James and Albus. She pulled Albus on the broom, seated in front of her, while James clambered on behind her. She felt James’ hands tighten around her waist. The broom swayed unsteadily as the added weight was compensated for by the anti-gravity spell. She straightened them out and took off for the house.

Harry could feel the perspiration starting to pour down his face. Each Dementor impact drew increasingly more power from him. He staggered but held on, as more and more of the infernal creatures hurled themselves maddeningly against his wall. He held on until Ginny and the boys flew past onto the porch. Then together, the family joined Lily in the house.

Harry grabbed some floo powder and hustled his family into the den. “We’ll go to the Burrow. At least we won’t be isolated there.”

As if to punctuate his point, a window shattered in one of the front rooms. Harry threw the powder into the floo and the Potters left their home.

***

“Minister!” Inwardly, John Dawlish winced at the voice, but there was no avoiding the man. “Minister, Alfred Hall, Daily Prophet, what do you have to say for the Ministry’s lack of foresight for the return of the Dementors?”

Insipid as the question was, it was a good one. Dementors had covered most of England proper and were migrating north into Scotland. At least seven wizards and witches had received the Dementor’s kiss while an untold number of muggles had experienced the same thing. Dawlish had just gotten back from quite a haranguing at the hands of the muggle prime minister and now he was standing in front of the members of the press.

Dawlish sighed and then took a deep breath. “Mr. Hall, you know as well as everyone else that there was no way to know the Dementors would return. No one could predict that.”

Hall seemed unconvinced and let his skepticism show when he asked his next question. “In the past, the Dementors served the Ministry. Is someone in your administration controlling these now?”

Despite his years as minister, Dawlish could barely contain his anger. “You are implying that we set these monstrosities loose on purpose? I will not answer stupid questions, Mr. Hall.” Dawlish turned and left the podium as Hall’s quill scribbled furiously.

“That was nervy, Alfred.” A thin, ugly woman in a threadbare business suit whispered to Hall. “You know he wouldn’t answer that question.”

Hall grunted and then smiled. “Yes, well he might not have admitted to it, but he certainly didn’t deny it, did he?” Hall grabbed his notebook and tucked into his coat. He had a deadline to make.

***

“That could have been handled better.” Percy Weasley escorted the Minister up to his office. Percy was the nominal head of Dawlish’s party in the Wizengamot.

“The question was ridiculous.” Dawlish grumbled, but he knew Percy was right. “How bad is it?”

“It’s not good, John.” Percy took a seat in a chair across from Dawlish’s desk in the Minister’s office. “There are rumblings in the Wizengamot to take a confidence vote and hold elections. I don’t know where we’ll fall out.”

“Confidence vote? Who’s calling for that?” A confidence vote basically determined if the current Minister needed to dissolve his cabinet and hold new elections. Usually a vote of “no confidence” indicated that the sitting Minister’s tenure was about to come to an end.

Percy shook his head. “It’s no one in particular, but it seems to be led by a business coalition. They are still very irritated over the tariffs and taxes we’ve had to levy.”

Dawlish slammed his hand on the table. “We needed the revenue after the war and to compensate all the house elves who were freed.”

“I know, John, but they are being blamed for the current downturn in the economy. It’s the way of things.” Percy stood. “Look, maybe this will pass. If we can weather this latest incident, I may be able to pull together enough votes to forestall this.”

Dawlish nodded wearily and watched Percy leave.

***

Whatever chance Percy thought Dawlish had was immediately wiped out by the devastating article Alfred Hall wrote in the Prophet all but placing the appearance of the Dementors on Dawlish’s lap. Public opinion, driven by fear and by the general gloominess of the country turned downward. The vote came down almost overwhelmingly.

Dawlish rose to the podium in front of the gathered Wizengamot. “Having received your vote of ‘no confidence’, I hereby dissolve my administration and call for general elections. I will serve until this body declares a new Minister.”

The speaker slammed his gavel down and the a murmur swept through the room. High in the back, Draco Malfoy sat with his hand over his mouth, hiding his smile. Things were going his way. He didn’t know who was behind all the foolishness going on in the country, but as his wife had told him, one should never let a good crisis go to waste. Besides, if things go the way the intended, then the Ministry would be under new leadership, stronger leadership and whoever fancied themselves a “Dark Lord” would be history.

Draco sat back. This wasn’t about Potter. He would never truly like Harry, but he respected him and whatever animus he’d had for Potter had longed waned when he became the head of a family and of a business. No, this was strictly business. The fact that Potter and the Weasleys were in his way added a bit of spice to it. He’d use them and their tendencies to get Dawlish removed and his handpicked successor emplaced as Minister. Then, he’d be in a position to take his business into the stratosphere.

He chuckled. There was a certain amusement in manipulating George Weasley in getting this. Draco understood he was taking a big chance in throwing Raimundo Baretto out there, but if done right, even Baretto would come out better after this. George Weasley would be taken down another peg and Malfoy himself would be more powerful than his father had ever been.

***

Westcott studied the rumpled copy of the Daily Prophet and smiled. He turned to Caleb. “It’s beginning to happen. The Ministry is unraveling. The chaos we are sowing will provide us ample opportunity to bring this country under my heel. What do you think about that, Caleb?”

The tall Death Eater bowed his head slightly. “It is all going as you’ve foreseen, my lord.”

“Yes, it has.” Westcott felt rather sure about himself. Unconsciously, he tapped the lump in his breast pocket. “I believe it’s time for another, Caleb.”

“That would make it eight, wouldn’t it my lord?”

Westcott laughed out loud. “Yes it would, wouldn’t it? That would be one more than even Voldemort, excellent.” He took one more look at the article announcing the new elections. “They’ll have another to take Dawlish’s place. They always do. We’ll find out who the favorite is and then make an example of him. Soon the time will come when England will meet it’s new master.”

“Who is the front runner, my lord?” Caleb seemed excited, the prospect of mayhem driving him on.

Westcott put his face closer to the newspaper. “There are several names listed here. Percy Weasley, James Cutter, Hermione Weasley and Raimundo Baretto.”

“Do we kill all of them?” Caleb asked expectantly.

“No, we wait until the first poll comes out and then…” Westcott made a slashing gesture across his neck.

“Until then, let’s go find number eight, shall we?”

***A/N: Sorry about all the political stuff, but it's got to set the stage. What I'm thinking about was Draco's reaction to Harry in the Epilogue. What caused it? I think we'll find out in this arc. I'm probably going to really make members of the club mad with this arc.

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  #315  
Old September 3rd, 2009, 4:28 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 316 – The Politics of Personal Destruction

“I don’t want to be Minister!” Hermione Weasley paced in front of Dawlish’s desk, her brow furrowed in anger. “I don’t want that job, John.”

“Hermione, just listen, okay? Who else are we going to get? Percy doesn’t agree with our policies, Raimundo Baretto is an unknown quantity and James Cutter? You know what he stands for.” Dawlish ran his hands through his thick mane of salt and pepper hair.

Hermione stopped and leaned on the desk. “John, there’s nothing wrong with Percy. How would it look if I was taking on my brother-in-law? Raimundo Baretto is smart and accomplished. You don’t become managing director of Gringott’s without having some sense. And Cutter? Yes, I know what he stands for, but I can live with that.” She stood straight. “I don’t want the job. Take my name off the list, please.”

Dawlish sighed and slowly nodded his head. “Alright, Hermione, you win. I was hoping for some continuity, but I’ll respect your wishes. Truthfully, I’m kind of relieved. Now maybe Elizabeth and I can start that family?”

Hermione laughed. “Perhaps. It’ll work out, John, it always does. It’s not like we have a dark lord lurking about to take over, right?”

***

James Cutter was a good looking man, very much in the mold of Gilderoy Lockhart. Tall, handsome and effusive, he projected an image of self-confidence and utter competence. Unlike Lockhart, Cutter was a thoroughly capable wizard. In his life, he’d been an Auror, entrepreneur, Quidditch player, adventurer and politician. The disparate roles served to highlight what James Cutter was all about. When it came down to brass tacks, James Cutter was all about James Cutter. The sum total of his existence was a constant game of self-promotion. In politics, Cutter found a vocation that matched his limitless need to be seen and adored.

Cutter was an effective member of the Wizengamot. Though personally, he held no heartfelt conviction for any position or side, he took positions that were popular and polled well. He conveyed the persona of a negotiator, a peacemaker, bridging the gap between two sides. He found himself to be the quintessential moderate, ever straddling the fence, dabbling in all sides and ultimately standing for nothing.

The no confidence vote created an ideal opening for a man who saw being the Minister of Magic as the penultimate prize of his career. He looked like a Minister. His long flowing blonde hair, warm blue eyes, tanned skin: he could practically see his likeness rising atop the atrium in an everlasting tribute to the greatness that was him.

As he walked down the alley, it was difficult not to cast aside his hood so that his adoring fans could see him, but he’d promised to keep a low profile and this was a way for him to garner the support he needed to see his dream through. He passed the decrepit sign of a boarded up Borgin and Burke’s. He swung around the corner until he came to nondescript door in a back alley. He tapped on the door and it opened noiselessly. He walked into the darkness of the room.

He figured he was in the side showroom of Borgin and Burke’s. All around were strewn cast off articles and magical devices. A heavy layer of dust and cobwebs covered everything. The recent past had seen the demand for the store’s wares go down, although with the new rise of what was being called the “Dark Terror” by the newsies, Cutter could only imagine when this place would open again.

“You’re alone?” The voice rang out in the stillness. Cutter whipped his head around and spotted his host. The man was standing next to large, wooden cabinet, adorned with black brass fittings. Before the man walked into the light of the moon cascading through the skylight, he seemed to rest a hand on the cabinet and bow his head. Then, as if shaking off a momentary bout of weakness, he stood straight up and walked boldly towards Cutter.

Cutter noted the man was neatly dressed, in a contemporary black suit definitely of Continental design. He had platinum hair coifed back against his skull and pale skin that stood out against his dark clothes. When the man looked at him, Cutter involuntarily shuddered. The man’s eyes were gray and cold, with an intensity that shook Cutter to the bone. Even more disconcerting was that the man smiled. It was a deadly smiled, with all the sincerity and openness of a great white shark.

Cutter cleared his throat and stood to his full height, almost a full head taller than the man. “I’m here. What can I do for you, Mr. Malfoy?”

Draco Malfoy placed a reassuring hand on Cutter’s broad shoulder. “Actually, James, it’s what can I do for you?”

***

The only residents of the darkened country estate had been an old man, the owner, and his elderly housekeeper. Neither had been worth the effort of turning into horcuxes. He reserved that “honor” for witches and wizards. It was a little thing to have the three new members of his entourage dispatch of the pair and the house made for a much better headquarters. It was a manor befitting a dark lord. Soon, he’d show this piddling world what he was and what he was supposed to be.

He covered his mouth with his hand, hiding the smile. It would not do for him to display pleasure to his minions. His eyes snapped to the latest Daily Prophet. “Dark Terror” indeed; these fools had no idea of what terror was, but he’d show them. There was an irritation in the back of his skull, an endless buzzing that roared to the fore every so often. It was doubt. Not about what he was doing, but in his own ability. He’d hesitated before and that frightened him. He couldn’t afford to show any weakness. It consumed him and drove him to greater heights.

He rose from the ornate desk the previous owner had thoughtfully left him. On the wall, there was a full length mirror. He turned to the side and then to the front and smiled. Unlike Voldemort or even Mathers, Westcott’s look seemed to be improving. He saw a trimmer, leaner man. He felt taller, and he even felt like he had more hair. He laughed in a self-satisfied way. A knock at the door interrupted his self admiration and Caleb entered the room.

Westcott’s chief henchman had to duck his head as he cleared the jamb. His face was impassive, yet his eyes held a note of concern. His master was standing before the mirror and smiling. Caleb wondered how this could be so. Westcott looked almost like a corpse, his skin shriveled and pale, almost desiccated and his head was completely bald. Yet, Westcott seemed to be smiling, as if he enjoyed his new look. The creation of each new horcrux seemed to steal another piece of Westcott’s humanity. Caleb wondered what his master would look like when the final horcrux was made.

Westcott’s raspy voice whispered in the room. “What is it?”

“The first poll is out, master.”

“Excellent, let me see it.” Westcott held out a bony hand as Caleb handed him the latest copy of the Prophet.

“Hmmm, this is unexpected. Well, I’m afraid the polls don’t lie.” Westcott’s face twisted into a sneer. “Let’s reward their favorite candidate with a visit, shall we?”

***

“Raimundo? What is Draco playing at?” George paced his office while Lee watched. Dudley, despite his misgivings, was seated in the corner. Dudley grunted.

“Maybe he’s playing it straight? Raimundo is a good man and he’d be great for the business community.” Dudley stated.

Lee nodded in agreement. “Did you ever stop and think that maybe Draco cared more about business than tricks.”

George groaned and rolled his eyes. “Not you too! I’m telling you, something isn’t right. Draco is up to something. I won’t support Raimundo.”

“You’d be going against Adelina and a good number of friends and even family members. Bill is pretty torn between supporting Raimundo and Percy. He’s leaning towards Raimundo.” Lee observed.

Dudley added, “Not to mention Dean and Isabella, the House Elf Guild and United Centaur Movement.”

George stopped pacing. “The House Elf Guild?”

“Yep. Raimundo helped set them up.” Dudley responded.

George shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll say I’m backing my family. I mean, Percy is family, after all.”

Lee looked at his friend soberly. “George, if you didn’t know about Draco, who would you be supporting?”

“Don’t try to turn this around, Lee. The fact is I do know that Draco Malfoy is involved and I’m going to do whatever it takes to stop him from succeeding. “ George put his hands on his hips.

“Even if it divides your family?” Dudley asked quietly.

George nodded slowly. “The family is already divided.”


***

“Why are you helping me, Malfoy?” Cutter squinted his eyes and studied Draco carefully. “The word on the street is that you already support Raimundo Baretto.”

Draco nodded. “True, I put Raimundo up, but that was mostly to offset Percy Weasley. Raimundo has close ties with the Weasley/Potter coalition, so their supporters will be divided. All we have to do is get a hold of the non-aligned and you can slip in and become Minister.”

For a moment, Cutter allowed himself to contemplate the possibility. He smiled and then just as quickly, his smile went away. “What do you want out of this?”

“Me? Nothing really, just some favorable treatment for my company, maybe some government contracts and certain people removed from positions at the Ministry.” Draco smiled slightly.

“Let me guess, Potter?” Cutter asked.

“Are you crazy? You want to stay Minister, don’t you? Say what you will about Potter, he’s popular and you’d have a revolution on your hands if you fired him. Besides, I like him where he is. The sot doesn’t know how rich he is, I’d hate for him to get a taste for the business world.” Draco chuckled. “No, I’m talking about people like Hermione Weasley, she’s been too much trouble for her own good and she needs to go.”

Cutter nodded. “Are you sure you can pull this off?”

Draco nodded and pulled a crisp piece of parchment from his inside pocket. “You know what this is?” Cutter shook his head. “These are the latest poll results.”

Cutter nodded. “Weasley should be ahead, he’s more well known.”

“Guess again.” Draco smiled and passed the sheet to Cutter. He studied the numbers of the three way horse race and raised an eyebrow.

“Baretto? Baretto is ahead?” Cutter handed the sheet back to Draco.

“That’s right and you are in a dead heat for second. That means we’ve siphoned off support from Weasley. Now we have to bring Baretto down a peg, and if I know George Weasley, he’ll do it for us.” Draco smiled once more.

Cutter joined him. He extended his hand. “You’ve got a deal, Malfoy. When do we begin?”

Draco took the proffered hand and smiled. “Tomorrow night, at the debate. It’ll be the first public event with the candidates. Everyone in the wizarding world will be there and with Baretto in the lead, it should be quite the party.”

***

Caleb stood as Westcott paced. “That is an excellent idea. What better venue to have my coming out, as it were, then a debate that will showcased to the entire country.” He glanced down at the paper with the poll results. “Unfortunately, everyone will tune in to see Mr. Baretto die.” He laughed in a tuneless cackle that echoed throughout the room.


***A/N: Now, now, before the hyperventilation begins, I wouldn't POSSIBLY kill off Captain Baretto's husband, would I?

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  #316  
Old September 11th, 2009, 4:36 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 317 – The Law of Unintended Consequences

The familiar disorientation cascaded through his brain as the floo network deposited Draco Malfoy at the arrivals area of the Ministry of Magic. The atrium was a buzz of activity with wizards and witches, goblins and house elves milling about the grand central fountain. A team of house elves and workers made last minute adjustments to the stage area where the candidates would debate. Draco’s eyes lingered on the three lecterns arrayed on the stage and allowed himself a grin. Already, George Weasley had begun a “whispering” campaign in order to promote his brother’s candidacy for Minister. Despite his actual loathing of George, Draco had to give the CEO of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes credit for subtly. There was a fine line that needed to be treaded. On one hand, George was obviously supporting his brother. He could be forthright and open about that support. On the other hand, Raimundo Baretto was both liked and respected by many in the community, including members of George’s immediate family. That meant an overt smear campaign would have caused a rift in the family that would have endured for a while.

Draco chuckled at that thought. Internecine fighting among the Weasleys would have been fun, but was not an outcome he expected. No, George’s approach was more benign. There were little whispers, careful rumors hinting at Raimundo’s lack of political experience intermixed with a targeted advertising campaign that touted Percy’s own considerable background in Ministry management. Combined, Draco had noticed a softening of Raimundo’s position in the polls. When combined with the background he’d given Cutter, should serve to propel his chosen candidate into the lead.

Getting Cutter elected, while helpful, wasn’t the main reason why Draco was doing this. In retrospect, Potter’s visit to his obvious made sense from the perspective of the investigation, yet it was the attitude with which he was confronted that sent him over the edge. He remembered the contempt, especially, in
Ron Weasley, easily the most glaring example of riding coat tails he could ever imagine. The Weasleys and the Potters seemed act like they had a license to tell anyone what to do and how to act. The utter arrogance of their condescension was nauseating. He’d seen how they dealt with opponents. No one had seen Rita Skeeter for quite some time now. Taking them down a peg would create a vacuum. This vacuum would allow Draco to propel himself and his family upward and back to the point where being a Malfoy actually mattered.

That day was coming and soon. Draco only had to watch as the world fell into place. Soon enough, he’d be on the way up and the Potters and Weasleys would be relegated to the position of power they’d earned, not what they thought they deserved. Draco snickered once more before turning away from the stage. The supreme irony was that the Weasleys would do all the work for him.

***

“Signor Harry!” Despite the years, Harry felt an involuntary flush as he turned and saw Adelina Baretto approaching down the corridor. She was dressed in a conservative business suit, complete with jacket and skirt. Despite her attempt to tone her look down, there was no way for her hide her beauty. She smiled broadly and walked up to Harry.

“I’m glad I caught you. Will you attend the debate this evening?” Harry was unused to seeing his friend in anything but her captain’s attire. It was doubly confusing to see her outside the friendly confines of her ship, the Discooperire.

Harry smiled pleasantly. “Of course I’ll be there. We’re providing security.”

“But you support Raimundo, si?” Despite the lightness of her tone, Harry noticed small lines forming at the edges of Baretto’s normally dancing brown eyes. She was nervous! In all the time he’d known her, he’d never known the captain to be nervous about anything, but her husband’s foray into the limelight obviously worried her.

Harry cleared his throat. “Officially, I can not take any sides, Adelina.” He held up his hands to halt her inevitable protest. “I am the head of the Office of Aurors. We are neutral in this.”

He turned slightly and then stopped. He smiled a little, temporarily halting the building anger rising in Baretto’s face. “However, I will tell you that my wife, Ginny, supports Raimundo, if that means anything to you.”

Baretto’s face brightened. “That’s good enough for me. Everyone knows, as the wife goes, so goes the husband.”

Harry scrunched his face together. “Wait, I didn’t mean…”

Adelina laughed and waved. “Ciao!”

***
About fifteen minutes before the debates were to start, Harry exited the lift and found himself on the crowded atrium floor. The crowd was packed in, shoulder to shoulder and the balconies overlooking the central rotunda area were also heavily populated. This was the first open election in many years. Dawlish had been elected to succeed Arthur Weasley, but he’d been put in as an heir apparent, and had not faced a tough challenge. Harry wove his way through the lanes marked off by velvet ropes suspended in the air and edged up to where Dennis Creevey stood. Dennis looked distinctly older, though not aged. His characteristic physique was intact, but there were loose strands of gray and white beginning to show in his hair. Harry could not tell if that was the result of genetics or from the overwhelming responsibility he had as the Hit Squad leader. With the shake of his head, Harry realized that Dennis’ premature aging could also be a result of the rumored problems he and Cho were having at home. Ginny had mentioned it in passing, but until now, Harry had not given it much thought. He offered a silent wish of good luck to his friend and then spoke up.

“Dennis. How are things?”

Dennis turned from where he was offering final instructions to one of his wizards. “Harry? Things? They are a bleeding security nightmare. We must have every citizen of voting age here. I almost wish that Arthur hadn’t promoted suffrage to house elves and goblins, either, because they are all here too! There’s no way we can keep a lid on security.”

Harry nodded and took an unconscious look around and grimaced. Dennis was right. The atrium was packed and he heard the tell tale sound of the floo network as even more people arrived. His eyes caught on several horses suspended in the open space above the platform. The horses were all white with large, white feathered wings. Affixed to their heads were what appeared to be colanders with green and yellow lanterns. Harry smiled to himself.

Having been raised in a muggle home, he knew what a television was and how it created the mass media market in the muggle world. For the longest time, the closest analog to the television in the wizarding world had been the wireless, but now Nicola Tesla had applied his genius to a new invention. The Photomotive Apparatus captured magical images and transmitted them through the floo network to fireplaces around the world, delivering three dimensional images and sound. The Pegasus-like horses were found to be the best “platforms” to mount the cameras and were, themselves, becoming quite the on-scene reporters for the new medium. Print journalists like Alfred Hall still thumbed their noses, but Harry could see the newspaper eventually giving way to the Photomotive. He’d expressed as much to Ginny.

Dennis had been right. The crowd made for a security migraine. Here and there, he caught glimpses of his friends and family. George was standing with his parents, a protective arm around Percy’s shoulders, delivering last minute words of advice. Across the way, Raimundo and Adelina were surrounded by a group of admirers that included Isabella Ramirez and Dean Thomas, Ginny, Hermione, and, surprising to Harry, Fleur and Bill Weasley. Harry felt a dark cloud come over his mood. No matter what happened, this was sure to cause a rift in the Weasley family.

His eyes settled on the well dressed wizard standing off to the side. James Cutter was almost an afterthought, but he seemed particularly well positioned to make a run at the top spot, given the almost even support his opponents had. Harry noticed that Cutter had a particularly smug look on his face and then watched as Cutter shared a brief glance with none other than Draco Malfoy. The gesture was brief, barely noticeable, and if Harry had not been looking in that direction, he would have missed it. Draco’s response was quick. He glared at Cutter and then turned away. Harry wracked his brain. Hadn’t Draco endorsed Raimundo? Was there something between Draco and Cutter? He made a mental note to look into it.

Harry’s attention was drawn back to the stage as Hestia Jones walked up and stood in front of a podium off to the side. Although face to face, Hestia had a small, feeble voice, the seashells resting on the podium captured her voice and caused it to reverberate through the atrium.

“Ladies, Gentlemen and magical beings, welcome to the Ministerial debates.” She was interrupted by a smattering of applause. “We have a lot to cover, so let’s bring the candidates up.” The three men in contention walked to their respective platforms and waved. After the requisite introductions, Hestia continued. “The format is this. I will raise an issue from the questions submitted to the Daily Prophet. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond, with a one minute rebuttal after the initial response. Let’s get started, shall we?”

Harry felt himself detach from the actual questioning. Despite his connections through family and work to the Ministry, he actually abhorred politics. Personally, he had no real favorite in the race, although he felt more inclined to support Raimundo, if only for his loyalty to Adelina. He crossed his arms and kept a roving eye on the crowd and the area. It was going to be a long night.

***

The first sign was subtle. Harry felt the temperature in the room start to drop, despite the crush of people all around. The feeling was like summers at the Dursleys. Back then, his Uncle Vernon could care less about Harry’s comfort, but as Dudley grew older and more corpulent, Aunt Petunia would make a great fuss about turning down the air conditioning to keep Dudley from passing out from heat exhaustion. Harry remembered sitting in his room, looking out his barred window and feeling the hairs on his arms rise and his flesh grow goose pimples as the temperature would fall a degree at a time. The contrast between the hot, humid summer day and the cool frigidity of the artificial winter was like diving from a hot tub into an ice bath. Harry felt a shiver go through his spine and began to look around.

The candidates were still talking. Unnoticed above them, around the domed ceiling, dark clouds began to form in a swirling array of bleakness and ominous oppression. A loud clap of thunder echoed in the room and silenced the proceedings. Harry felt his wrist snap and his wand fall into his hands. The clouds opened up briefly and revealed the presence of Dementors.

***

Names were important. Westcott didn’t want to play word games like Tom Riddle and the whole “I am Lord Voldemort” scenario. He knew that “William Westcott, coroner” wouldn’t inspire the fear and dread he wanted. The name he chose would be remembered for ever. He glanced around from the balcony he’d appropriated from the Daily Prophet. In the name of “transparency”, Caleb had been able to sneak Westcott and his ten Death Eaters into the Daily Prophet’s offices in the Ministry, which had a balcony overlooking the atrium. Westcott nodded and smiled as the Dementors began their descent towards the crowd. They would provide the perfect distraction for the next step, his introduction to the world.

He turned and nodded to Caleb, the tall, brooding aide de camp stood attentively. “It’s time, Caleb.”

Westcott’s minion bowed at the waist. “It will be done Lord Verusmalum.”

The self proclaimed dark lord bathed in the glow of his name, knowing that it meant “True Dark Lord”. He waited as his Death Eaters bounded off the edge of the balcony and floated down to the floor below.

***

Harry heard the crack and snap of blasting charms send brick and mortar flying in all directions. Dementors didn’t destroy property. He turned and stood in shock. Near the great fountain were ten figures dressed in midnight black robes, their cowls raised, each with a bright silver skull mask covering their faces. A cry howled from the panicked crowd.

“Death Eaters!” It was like a starter’s pistol starting a race, a mass exodus began for the exits. Harry fought the tide of wizards and witches, trying to head off the newcomers. His face was a mask of resolve. Voldemort was dead and gone, as were his pathetic followers. These pretenders needed to be dealt with immediately.

As he reached an opening in the crowd, Harry raised his wand and then paused. There was a figure amid the ten faceless Death Eaters. He was clad in a black robe, but unlike the others, his hood was down, showing a pale, almost green complexioned bald head, with a nearly featureless face. He had a slit for mouth and almost no nose. His face was similar to Voldemort’s, snake-like, yet utterly different. Instead of glowing red eyes, the man’s eyes glowed dark purple. In one hand, he held a wand of black wood. In the other, he held a battered metal lantern, casting a light, lavender glow. The man’s mouth was contorted in what could be mistaken for a smile, save for the utter evil in the expression. He spoke and his voice rattled inside Harry’s head.

“My name is Lord Verusmalum! You thought you’d defeated dark magic! Know now that your Ministry can not protect you. You may fight, but you will not win. All will bow before me or be destroyed.” Westcott turned and pointed towards the dais where the candidates huddled behind their podiums. “We will start with the one you think will lead you.”

Harry turned in horror. The self-proclaimed dark lord was pointing towards Raimundo. Harry was knocked off his feet by a blast from the Death Eaters. Events moved in slow motion. He saw the terror in Raimundo’s eyes as Verusmalum smiled. He saw the green light emit from the black wand. There was nothing Harry could do.

***

Adelina Baretto was many things. She was a wife, a mother, a captain, a witch. Above all, she was an experienced warrior. The first sounds of battle caused her instincts to kick in. She leapt onto the stage and saw the dark robed man aiming at Raimundo. She ran and tackled Raimundo to the ground, feeling a sense of nausea as the green killing curse passed overhead. The curse carried forward and struck James Cutter in the side. The tall wizard fell to the ground, dead.

Caleb, seeing the miss, pointed his wand towards the stage. He sent a blasting charm and the stage erupted in a blinding flash of light and fire.

***

Westcott yelled in frustration. His intended target had escaped harm. He felt a tug on his arm and whirled to find Caleb grasping him.

“My lord, we must go!” For a moment, the purple haze in Westcott’s eyes disappeared and his familiar brown eyes returned. He nodded. They’d planned for a quick hit, not a pitched battle. Surprise was their weapon, for now. Already, the Ministry aurors were responding. One of his Death Eaters was down, motionless on the ground. He allowed Caleb to pull him towards the floos, which were covered by the Dementors.

Tom Winters fell back with the other Death Eaters. His attention was caught by a flicker of movement on the ground. He looked down and found himself staring at a face he’d seen countless times on newspaper and magazine covers. The emerald eyes were unmistakable. He brought his wand up and aimed at the struggling form of Harry Potter. Winters found that he could not speak the words. He hesitated and in that moment, he found out what an extraordinary wizard Harry Potter was.

Despite the fact that his wand had been knocked from his hand, Harry raised his palm and shouted. The ground beneath Winters morphed into brick tentacles, wrapping around Winters’ body, holding him in place. Behind him, Westcott and the rest of the Death Eaters entered the floos, and the Dementors disappeared into their clouds and once again, the atrium was open and clear.

All around, there was rubble and debris, with the occasional body and wounded wizard, moaning in pain. Harry rose and recovered his wand. Dennis and Ron ran up to him as Harry approached the trapped Winters.

“What the heck is going on, Harry?” Ron asked.

Harry looked around, a sense of dread at the prospect of reliving the Voldemort wars. “I don’t know.” Harry’s hard gaze fell on Winters. “But we’re going to find out.”

Harry took another glance around and stopped his scan at the remains of the stage. He saw Draco Malfoy kneeling over the dead James Cutter. Draco’s eyes snapped up, meeting Harry’s. There was shock and regret in his eyes, but Harry thought he saw one more thing. The grip on his wand tightened, because Harry thought he could see guilt in Draco’s eyes. He was going to find out why.

A/N: Hmmm....kind of messy, but there is one other consequence that I didn't have room for, but it will be earth shattering. Gonna have to wait til next week.

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  #317  
Old September 14th, 2009, 7:06 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 318 – The Sum of Our Fears

Westcott paced the study of their mansion lair. He rubbed his hands together incessantly and shuffled about, mumbling to himself.

“Verusmalum, indeed, what kind of a silly name is that? Maybe I should have called myself Veritaserum instead.” His mind continued to play back the events at the Ministry. He’d missed Baretto. They’d managed to cause all amounts of chaos, but they’d failed in what they wanted to do. He fumed as Caleb walked into the room.

“Well?” His voice was raspy, like stone on a grate. The tall Death Eater bowed reverently.

“My lord, all indications is that your killing curse struck James Cutter. He’s dead, at any rate.” Caleb watched as Westcott processed the information.

“What does that mean?” Westcott asked, finally.

Caleb inhaled slowly. “All indications were that Baretto and Weasley were eroding each other’s support, so Cutter, actually, was probably best positioned to win.”

Westcott smiled, “Then it turned out as we planned, even if the target changed.”

“Yes, my lord, but there is a slight complication.” Westcott stared at his minion, the dark purple haze of his eyes boring into Caleb’s impassive stare. Caleb waited a moment and continued. “Reginald Curry was killed in the battle, but it looks like Winters was captured.”

Westcott shrugged his shoulders. “So, we can replace lost Death Eaters. There were bound to be casualties.”

“Yes, my lord. The problem is that Winters was captured alive.” Caleb spoke carefully, trying gauge Westcott’s understanding.

“Yes, so? Death Eaters take a loyalty oath to me. Winters did too, when Samuel died. You were there.” Westcott eyed his lanky lieutenant. “What’s the problem?”

Caleb took a deep breath. “My lord, you never finished the ceremony. You were supposed to make Winters swear upon his life to uphold the oath, but you never finished the words.”

“What do you mean?” Westcott asked slowly.

“My lord, the lantern began to glow brighter after Mr. Mathers’ death. You broke the bond with Winters before the oath was finished.” Caleb stopped talking and waited.

Westcott allowed the information to process. What did this mean? Did it matter? What should he do? Finally, Westcott looked at Caleb. “It doesn’t matter. We’re too far along for us to turn back and Winters doesn’t know anything that would hurt us. Besides, the Ministry is about to be far busier than they anticipated to worry about interrogating Winters.” Westcott motioned for Caleb to draw near. “This is what I plan to do.”

***

Diagon Alley was alive with nervous energy. The sun poked through the clouds offering the inhabitants and shoppers a sense of security. With the sun out, the Dementors weren’t anywhere to be seen. Dudley Dursley walked purposefully through the crowd, the latest edition of the Daily Prophet tucked beneath his arm. He stopped in front of the entrance to Flourish and Blotts and peered inside. A young girl behind the register saw him and shook her head, pointing with a hand down the street. Dudley waved and continued on.

Beatrice had become considerably more active in Raimundo’s election efforts. Raimundo’s base of support could found among the merchants and vendors along Diagon Alley, so it made sense to establish his campaign headquarters in an abandoned storefront near Gringott’s. Beatrice, despite her job at the bookstore and taking care of two growing children, Harry and Lily, had taken to volunteering any spare time to help with the campaign. There was something about all this that caused Dudley to wonder about all this. For all that he had changed in the past decade, Dudley was still a simple man, and subtly was lost on him. It made him naturally abhor politics of any kind, but the overtures by Malfoy to his partners made him doubly suspicious.

It wasn’t that Dudley had anything against Draco Malfoy. When you got right down to it, he was family, after all. Beatrice had seen a bit of a rapprochement with her sister, Domina, but they weren’t overly close and Draco’s history made Dudley very reluctant to accept things at face value. Raimundo was a good man, which made Dudley feel a bit guilty about his resistance, yet he continued to harbor doubts about the entire affair.

The carnage at the Ministry and the murder of one of the candidates combined with a self-proclaimed Dark Lord had put most of society on edge. Dudley could feel the tension as he walked down the Alley. People remembered the devastation that one Dark Lord had wrought. Nothing was known about this one, so the nervousness was almost visible to Dudley as he walked along.

He rounded a corner and spotted the Baretto campaign headquarters. The storefront had been transformed into the prow of a ship. It looked like an exact replica of the bow of the Discooperire. Despite his initial misgivings, Raimundo certainly was proving he had knack for the manipulations of politics. His wife was well known and a hero to many wizards and witches, so it only made sense to build on that reputation. Outside a group of witches was handing out flyers. Dudley spotted Ginny and Beatrice among them and waved. Beatrice smiled broadly and Dudley felt a singular feeling of warmth cascade through his chest. He approached and offered what passed for a smile.

“Aren’t you worried that this is too close the debate fiasco?” He asked pointedly.

Beatrice shook her head. “We have to show this Lord Verasmalum that we aren’t cowed by his threats. If we show fear, than he wins.”

“That’s how Voldemort got so much power.” Ginny added, as she handed another passerby a flyer. “People let their fears overpower their will to resist. Too many people stood off to the side while others did the work. That won’t happen again, ever.”

“I see.” Dudley nodded thoughtfully. “Muggle history has taught the same lesson.” He turned to his wife. “Will you be long? I was going to pick up the kids from mother’s.”

“I shouldn’t be long…” Her voice trailed off. There was a low humming sound in the air, that was getting progressively deeper and louder. “What is that?”

A shouted cry from a man nearby led them to look upward. In the sky, there was a large fireball arcing through the air. It was being trailed by seven other fireballs. All eight were shooting out black smoke and their path didn’t seem random. It was like they were being guided.

The large fireball seemed to turn at a right angle and without warning shot down and landed down the alley in a blinding flash of fire and light. The other, smaller fireballs followed suit, shattering windows and scattering bricks and masonry all around. The impact knocked Dudley and the others off their feet. As the dust settled, Dudley felt the ground shaking methodically and he peered anxiously down the alley.

Ginny got to her feet and instinctively drew her wand. “Look!” From the smoke emerged a large, hulking creature, standing on two feet and bearing scales on its upper torso. Its head was human-like, with two eyes, a nose and a mouth, but that was where the resemblance ended. The creature had to be well over twelve feet tall and about the same wide at the shoulders, over which it carried a large spiked club. It snarled through a vicious set of teeth and howled at the stunned wizards.

“Ogre!” Ginny didn’t know who spoke, but the creature certainly looked like one of the dark beasts she’d studied at Hogwarts. Ogres were bred for one reason, to kill and destroy. They were thought to not have a soul or a conscience, doing the bidding of the person employing them. Through the hazy air, Ginny picked out several figures in black behind the ogre.

“We’ve got to get out of here.” Ginny said calmly. She looked around. There were several wounded and incapacitated people lying on the ground. Already, Dudley was looking one over, trying to get the man on his feet and out of the way. From down the alley, he could make out the distinctive red hair of George Weasley running towards the sounds of chaos. From within the campaign headquarters, several heads poked out of the broken glass. When George reached them, he stopped in his tracks and drew his wand.

“Anyone remember how to handle an ogre?” Ginny asked. Never one without a response, George snickered.

“Very carefully?” Ginny ignored her brother.

“We’ve got to hold these guys off until we can get the wounded out of here.” Ginny said grimly.

Beatrice sighed. “It’s worse than that.” Ginny looked over at the witch who was pointing across the way at the open front of the ice cream parlor. There were a dozen wide eyed children staring out. At this moment, the ogre and Ginny were equidistant from the site. Beatrice turned to Dudley.

“Be a dear and help the rest of these folks out of here. Ginny, George and I are going to get those kids out of there.” Dudley wanted to argue, wanted to protest the absurdity of the request, but he held his tongue. Beatrice was right. Instead, he leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips.

“Don’t be long, dear.” Was all he said before reaching down and picking up a wounded man in a fireman’s carry and running down the street.

Ginny watched their exchange and wondered if she would regret having not given Harry a decent kiss before he left this morning. She shook her head. Now was not the time. As one, she, George and Beatrice started flinging spells and running towards the shop.

***

Harry studied the sleeping figure of Tom Winters through the glass plate of the holding cell. The captured man had not yet risen from being knocked out from oxygen deprivation from Harry’s spell. He heard footsteps approaching him and shook his head. He’d know those feet anywhere.

“Hello, Ron.”

Ron Weasley stood at Harry’s side and looked at the prisoner. “Has sleeping beauty woken?”

Harry shook his head. “Not yet, apparently going without oxygen for thirty minutes is not conducive to consciousness.”

“I can get him to wake up.” Harry put his hand on Ron’s arm, stopping his friend from drawing his wand.

“No, the healers say that magically inducing consciousness may induce amnesia. We need his memory intact.” Ron looked at his friend skeptically and then left his wand where it was. Then he studied Harry’s face, seeing it deep in thought.

“What’s bugging you, Harry?” Ron finally asked. “I mean besides a new Dark Lord, Death Eaters and an election.”

Harry chuckled. “I saw Draco and Cutter exchange looks, but I thought Draco pulled Raimundo into this, so why was he making goo goo eyes at Cutter?”

“He was playing both sides of the fence?” Ron asked.

“Maybe, but that wouldn’t figure. Draco’s a manipulator, but he’s smart. He wouldn’t try to endorse both. That’d be counter productive.” Harry ran his hand through the tangled mass of his hair. “I can’t figure it out. I’m missing something here.”

Ron turned his gaze back to the prisoner and then sighed. “You know, from what I saw and what we gathered, Cutter wasn’t the target, Raimundo was.”

Harry nodded. “I saw that. If Adelina hadn’t reacted so quickly, Raimundo would have been killed by this idiot dark lord.”

“Right, but consider this, if Draco had a hand in this, wouldn’t it make sense for him to take out Raimundo to pave the way for Cutter?” Ron asked carefully.

Harry shook his head. “I can’t believe that, Ron. Draco is many things, but he isn’t a murderer.”

“Are you willing to bet your life on that?” Ron asked. Harry looked up at his friend and was about to answer when the caterwaul charm went off in the Ministry. Harry turned to look as Silas Hornsby came around the corner.

“It’s Diagon Alley, Harry.” Harry and Ron forgot their conversation and ran after Silas.

***

Ginny leapt forward and landed in a roll, the arc of the ogre’s club barely missing her. She allowed her momentum to carry her forward up to her feet and launched a blasting charm that disintegrated the pavestones beneath the slimy creature, making a large sink hole. It fell inside up to its waist, momentarily stopped.

“Now! Get the kids now!” Ginny shouted and then turned her wand towards the black robed figures that started running towards her when they saw what befell their ogre. Behind Ginny, Beatrice and George were busily grabbing children and apparating them a short distance to the barricade being erected near the bank and manned by Seamus Finnegan’s security force. Seamus, joined by Dean Thomas apparated to assist George and Beatrice. Soon, the last of the children were taken out, leaving Ginny and Beatrice as the last to leave.


“Ginny, we need to go! Get to the barricade!” Ginny turned to agree. She fell back as Beatrice covered her. Beatrice knocked a dark robed figure off his feet and looked at Ginny. “Go! I’m right behind you!”

Ginny nodded and apparated to the barricade. She appeared next to Seamus, George and Dean and looked around for Beatrice and then looked down the Alley as a large crashing sound carried to their ears.

“Beatrice!” Dudley heard his voice shouting, as the horror struck him.

***
Beatrice saw another Death Eater aiming at Ginny and let fly a spell from the hip. The Death Eater crumpled to the ground and Beatrice saw Ginny disappear. Satisfied that her friend had gotten out, she started to concentrate on her own escape. Before she could blink away, a loud crash echoed in her ears. Out of the corner of her eye, she could barely discern the ogre. It had freed itself and waved its club, striking the brick and concrete façade directly next to Beatrice.

Before she could apparate away, she saw the wall collapse, bringing tons of brick and mortar down towards her. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, then for some reason, she saw Dudley and her kids. She allowed herself a smile and then, she saw nothing, nothing at all.

***A/N: Hmmm, wonder what Dudley's response may be? Wonder who he'll blame? I wonder.

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  #318  
Old September 18th, 2009, 7:48 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 319 – Enough Blame to Go Around

Tendrils of smoke wafted from the ruins of the buildings around Gringott’s. Seamus Finnegan’s security team had held against the ogre, but only barely. Despite their efforts, Seamus still had several casualties, some fatal among his numbers. All around, Harry could barely find a single witch or wizard that wasn’t nursing some injury or another. Harry’s gaze drifted to the remains of the building across the way. Aurors and other Ministry wizards were busily digging through the rubble. Harry wasn’t so much looking at the activity as he was fixated on the baleful figure of his cousin, standing off to the side, his face a stone mask, with no visible emotion being displayed.

Harry slowly walked up to Dudley and placed his hand on his cousin’s shoulder. Dudley barely reacted, the bare hint of a nod at Harry’s presence all he could muster. They stood together, watching the rescue teams continue their work. After a few minutes, Dudley turned and looked at his cousin.

“Carter survived something like this, didn’t he Harry? I mean, Beatrice could still be alive under there.” Dudley’s words held a tinge of desperation. Harry frowned to himself. Carter had reacted quickly and had managed to shield most of his body from the falling building. Granted, Beatrice was an accomplished witch, and if she had time, Harry was sure that she would have been able to survive the building collapse, but every indication was that the time to act simply didn’t exist. Still, there was a sliver of hope, and who was he to deny his cousin, his family, that hope?

“If anyone could, it would be Beatrice, Duds. She is a very good witch.” Somewhat mollified, the two stood together and watched the efforts. Harry felt a presence behind him. He patted Dudley on the shoulder and found himself staring at the cool, dark blue eyes of Domina Malfoy, Beatrice’s sister. Her expression was inscrutable. Harry thought he saw a flicker of emotion behind her mask, but he couldn’t be sure. Quietly, Harry stepped away from Dudley and watched as calmly, Domina took his place beside his cousin where the two of them sat in silent vigil for Beatrice.

Harry saw Mortimer approaching and met his former student away from the activity. “Well?”

“Well, it looks like Seamus and his crew got two more of them. Whoever they are, they aren’t as good as the real Death Eaters.” Mortimer responded.

Harry waved his arm out. “They were plenty good enough to do all this and that ogre was a tough creature to overcome.”

“I agree.” Mortimer glanced over at the activity in front of Dudley. “Anything yet?” Harry shook his head and Mortimer sighed. “We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. I think it’s time to force the issue with our prisoner.” Harry was inclined to object. They would have to revive the captured Death Eater and then administer veritaserum. Taken together, the treatment and truth drug may cause irreparable psychic harm. He was hoping to avoid that type of fate, for anyone.

There was a loud cry and Harry turned to look over at the workers. Silas had been leading the efforts and the tall, broad shouldered Auror made his way to where Domina and Dudley stood. After saying a few words, he looked over at Harry and Mortimer and slowly shook his head. Harry felt the air leave his chest and he felt an immense sense of grief for his cousin. Even though he’d pretty much assumed the worst, Harry was surprised at how much he’d clung to the slim hope that Beatrice had survived. Then Harry saw something he thought he’d never witness. Domina Malfoy reached out and wrapped her arms around Dudley, as the big man’s shoulders heaved. She patted him on the back as he let his grief flow and tears were pouring down her face. Harry felt his jaw tighten. This had gone on far enough. The blood of innocents was something this new “Dark Lord” was willing to spill. Harry turned to Mortimer and nodded his head.

“You’re right. It’s far past time.” Harry led Mortimer away from the site of the tragedy. “Let’s go have a talk with our friend.”

***
“How many do we have left?” Westcott paced the floor of the study. The battered lantern glowed even brighter after today’s carnage. It seemed to thrive on chaos and destruction. Westcott stopped and looked at the old light. He’d never even thought about it. He’d simply brought it with him wherever he went. He seemed course with energy whenever he used it. He never fully understood its purpose. It had been brought to the group by Mathers so many years ago. He’d never really said where he’d gotten it and what it’s purpose was. What Westcott did know was that when he used magic near it, he felt powerful, invincible. The feeling was even more pronounced now than even before, when he was young.

“Six, my lord. We have six Death Eaters left.” Caleb said solemnly. The tall aide kept his emotions in check, but winning at this rate will kill them all. He waited patiently as Westcott stared at the lantern. After a moment, the self-proclaimed dark lord waved his hand casually.

“It’s a small price to pay. We can find others.” Sensing he was being dismissed, Caleb bowed at the waist and left the room.

Westcott stared at the lantern. The purplish light pulsated bright and dim, with its glow leaving him warm. An inspiration struck Westcott, and he reached inside his robe and drew one of his ten Horcrux cards. It was the six of hearts. He twirled it in his finger and the reached down and opened the small window on the lantern. Carefully, he placed the card inside. It disappeared amid the glow of the light and instantly, Westcott felt a simultaneous surge of power and of pain. He fell to his knees as the magic coursed through him, but painfully so. He grit his teeth and stood, despite the agony. He drew his wand and aimed at the far wall.

“Redacto!” The blast was more powerful than any other he’d ever seen. He was thrown back as Caleb and one of the Death Eaters ran into the room with wands drawn.

“I’m all right. Leave me.” Westcott grumbled. Hesitantly, Caleb nodded to his companion and then withdrew from the room.

Westcott stared at the lantern. The magic was very powerful. It was like raw energy coursing through his veins. He reached in and studied the other nine cards he had. He looked from the deck to the lantern and back, the vague notion of an idea in his head combined with the hesitancy of the unknown. He sat down and began to think. All the while, the lantern pulsed its light at him, like it was taunting him to make a certain choice.

***

When Harry and Mortimer arrived back at the Ministry, the Office was abuzz with the remnants of last night’s attack on the debate and today’s attack at the alley. All resources were being committed to finding this new dark lord. The only problem was that no one seemed to know anything about him. Well, Harry thought, there was someone.

He walked past the busy Aurors and into the main holding area at the back of the room. He waved a curt dismissal at the guard, who nodded and left. With a glance at Mortimer, who positioned himself at the door, Harry entered the cell holding their prisoner. The man was still unconscious and was breathing regularly. His injuries had mostly been internal, a combination of asphyxia and cracked ribs from Harry’s spell. Harry reached into his bag and pulled a small vial filled with a swirling red and white potion. Healing draughts tended to mend the injury, but rarely revived the comatose. In fact, most healers suggested against reviving slumbering patients, due to the extreme harm the draughts had.

Harry hesitated and then quickly opened Winters’ mouth and poured the contents of the potion down his throat. Harry waited. First, Winters’ chest began to heave, his breathing becoming short and rapid. Then he sat straight up in his bed, his eyes flying open. Winters coughed and then finally settled down enough to notice that his hands and feet were shackled to his bed. He looked around, the disorientation slowly giving way to realization. That realization was confirmed as he finally noticed Harry in the room with him.

Harry frowned deeply. “My name is Harry Potter, and one way or another, you are going to tell us what we need to know.”

Winters gulped back the bile building at the base of his throat. His eyes going from the bright viridian orbs that the anger on Harry’s face, to the small vial the Auror held in his hand that could only be veritaserum. Harry saw the panic on Winters’ face.

“That’s right. I used a Revival Potion and yes, this is veritaserum. “ Harry’s voice was cold, like the chill that comes from walking in a cemetery at night. “I’ll use this on you if you don’t wish to cooperate. You know what can happen when you mix the two potions, don’t you?”

Winters gulped, sweat pouring down his brow. He looked up at Harry, and finally nodded, his shoulders sagging in defeat.

“Good, now tell me who this new Dark Lord and tell me what he wants.”

***

The house was dark and silent when she got home. Domina had apparated to a location further down the road, giving her the opportunity to think as she walked home. Absently, she shut the door and walked slowly into the study. Draco stood in front of the large fireplace, a glass of wine in his hand, as he studied the flames in the hearth. He turned when she entered, his expression one of both worry and dismay.

“Well?” He asked. Despite everything, Domina felt like laughing. No matter what he’d gone through, no matter how much he plotted or did, Draco still clung to the concept of hope. She saw it in his eyes. He actually hoped her sister had survived.

“She’s gone, Draco.” His eyes fell to the floor. He’d not anticipated all this. He’d been making careful political calculations. He’d no idea that this “dark lord” would cause such havoc. Still, even though he knew someone else had caused all this pain, he still felt a tinge of responsibility. After all, he’d brought Baretto into this. If he hadn’t, both Cutter and Beatrice would still be alive. This is not the way he wanted things to go. He turned his gray eyes towards his wife.

“I’m sorry, Domina, truly.” His voice was solemn, contrite. He bowed his head and when he did so, he did not see her hand move through the air and connect with his cheek with an audible slap. He looked up at her and saw her dark blue eyes staring at him, her cheeks flushed against her pale skin.

Domina stood with her hands on her hips. “I will not be pitied, Draco. I will not wallow in grief. I have other things to do, and so do you.”

“Other things, like what?” Draco rubbed his cheek.

Domina folded her arms. “Grief is for the weak. Malfoys? We don’t grieve for our lost ones.” Domina’s face softened, her expression a bit warmer than arctic. “Malfoys avenge our lost ones and that’s what we are going to do. This pretend dark lord is going to wish he’d never crossed us or me.”

***

Dudley left his mother’s Privet Drive home, his shoulders sagging, his hands crammed into his pockets. Petunia had tried to get him to stay, but there were arrangements to make. Fortunately, his kids could stay with his mother as he did the things necessary to bury his wife. He walked along the sidewalk, and when he looked up, he found himself in a long pedestrian tunnel that led to the park up the road. He shivered involuntarily, remembering the encounter with the Dementors he’d had. He remembered how that incident had fundamentally changed him. He also thought about his wife. Beatrice had also changed him for the better. He was a different man because of her. He studied the faded graffiti on the wall, without really seeing it.

Someone was to blame for Beatrice’s death. There was that dark lord, for sure. But there had to be others who put her in a position to get killed. There were others who through negligence, ignorance or malice put his wife in a place where she was vulnerable. He’d find out who they were and when he was done, he’d make sure they paid.

Dudley sighed and pulled a small, old fashioned key from his pocket. Ginny was decidedly nicer than George. The port key she’d given him was actually a key. He took one last look around the tunnel, where, conceivably his life had begun and then he rubbed the key and disappeared into the night.


***A/N: Okay, I promise I'll do my author's intro next time. I'm just running out of time today. I wanted to get this chapter out. Have a great weekend all.

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  #319  
Old September 28th, 2009, 5:23 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 320 – Off the Mark

The faded sign stumbled as the blasting charm struck the front door. The “Mathers’ Academy of the Magical Arts” was barely legible on the sign. Harry strode in behind the members of Williamson’s team who were searching the rundown townhouse in pairs. He stopped in the darkened foyer and stood, almost casually with his arm hanging by his side, his wand gripped loosely in his fingers. After a few minutes, Eric Williamson walked up to Harry.

“The place is empty. It looks like Winters was right, they abandoned this place right after Mathers’ death.” As Williamson continued his report, Karen Sands, one of the senior Aurors who looked more like a school marm than a warrior, approached. Williamson snapped his jaw shut and Harry gazed at the older woman. Her face was ashen, a stunned look permeating her presence.

“What is it, Karen?” Harry asked, although the woman looked dazed. Harry repeated the question, snapping her out of her reverie with a start. She shook her head apologetically.

“I’m sorry, Eric, Harry. I found something.” She took a deep breath and hesitated.

“Found what?” Harry gently placed his hands on her shoulders and locked his eyes on hers. “Karen, what did you find?”

She pulled a handkerchief from one of her robe pockets and daubed it lightly on her forehead. “I think you’d better see for yourself. It’s in the basement.” She pointed to a small, rickety door that led to a flight of stairs. She made no move to walk towards the door. Harry shared a look with Williamson and then started down the stairs.

***

Draco liked the early morning around the docks. The water was smooth and flat, almost like a flat piece of onyx in the pre-dawn darkness. Despite being the middle of August, the sea brought a heavy layer of fog and a chill that seemed to radiate up his spine. He pulled the front of his heavy overcoat together and luxuriated in the quiet of his walk.

Despite his outward demeanor, Draco was angry. It had taken a while for him to figure out what exactly was bothering him, but it had come down to the notion that events had rocketed well out of his control. He was angry at his weakness, his guilt for what happened to Cutter. Who was this “dark lord”? Who was this perversion of Voldemort that was upending his world? The consequences had been far worse than he’d imagined. The death of his sister-in-law had bothered him far more than he’d thought it would. After all, she’d married a muggle, and one related to Potter as a kicker. Yet through the years, Beatrice had made a conscious effort to stay connected to her side of the family. The war had a way of overcoming old prejudices. There were presents for Scorpio and family gatherings where even Draco had to admit, Beatrice’s husband was at least bearable. The point was that this usurper had ruined everything and Draco was going to find out who and what this man was up to.

He turned the corner, the morning mist clinging to his heels like cobwebs. Out of a darkened alley, an imposing figure cast a shadow across him that caused Draco to draw his wand. As the approaching shadow resolved itself into a person, Draco was surprised, but not alarmed and his wand fell to his side.

“You shouldn’t sneak up on a person like that, especially in these times.” Draco chuckled. “What do you want?”

Dudley Dursley gave Draco a severe look and then shook his head, like waving away a fog. “I want the people responsible for murdering Beatrice to pay for what they’ve done.”

“Why come to me? Why not go to Potter and the Ministry, or even bloody Weasley, your partner?” Draco thought he knew the answer, but he wanted to hear it from Dursley’s lips.

Dudley’s gaze never wavered. “I don’t want them arrested. I don’t want them stopped.” Dudley leaned forward. “I want them dead. They have to pay for what they took away from me and you’re the only person with the ‘morals’ to see it through.”

“Not to mention that Beatrice was family, right?” Draco asked. Dudley nodded his head and Draco sighed. “Well, Domina had already come to this conclusion. Are you sure you want to be involved in something like this? It’ll put you at odds with everyone you love.”

Dudley nodded vehemently. “Harry would understand, if it had happened to Ginny, and George saw what his own mum did to avenge Fred. I want this.”

Draco stared Dudley down and then offered his hand to the large man. Dudley took the offer and shook it.

“Do you know what a blood oath is, Dudley?” Dudley nodded quietly. Draco released his grip. “Good, because you just took one.”

***

Harry traveled down the narrow stair well and found himself in a darkened basement filled with the paraphernalia of the illusionist and con man. Cobwebs dotted the entire space and there was a dank, musty smell to the room accompanied by the faint trace of an odor that Harry was very familiar with. It was the smell of death.

With a shared glance with Williamson, Harry walked into the room and looked around. At first there was nothing remarkable about the space. He took a careful scan and then saw an opening to another chamber, the other half of the basement. As he approached the arched doorway to the second chamber, the smell of death grew more pronounced, more powerful. Harry steeled himself and entered the room. What he saw was something out of his worst nightmare.

Along the far wall were nine bodies, hanging by their wrists in various states of decay. From the expressions on their faces, it was obvious to Harry that the people had not died easily nor without suffering. At the end of the line of bodies, was the corpse of a short, balding man with a faded purple robe. Strangely enough, the man’s face seemed peaceful, in direct contrast to the tortured expressions of the other bodies.

Involuntarily, Harry raised his hand to his face. He glanced at the short man at the end. “Samuel Mathers, I presume.” Williamson nodded in agreement. Harry continued down the line. “This must mean that these are the other victims for his horcruxes.”

Williamson seemed shocked, but responded. “Add in the first two victims, this means he has at least ten horcruxes.”

“At least.” Harry agreed.

“What would that do to a man? What happens when you split your soul into ten pieces?” Williamson studiously avoided looking at the bodies.

Harry’s mind went back to a book Stanley Greenberg had sent him. It was about serial killers as defined by the FBI’s behavioral unit. “Either it will drive him completely mad, or make him really like the sensation.”

Williamson finally looked at the bodies. “What if it’s both?”

Looking at the bodies, Harry could only agree. What if it was both, indeed?

***

The state of the weakening economy meant that there were plenty of abandoned storefronts and warehouses available to Caleb to hide his master and what remained of his followers. Today, they were in an old doll shop. With money tight, no one was buying doll houses and clothes. It was a bizarre scene, to Caleb, almost laughable if things were not so serious. His five remaining death eaters were milling around, sitting on absurdly small chairs, designed for kids and stuffed animals, not for grown killers. In the center of the shop, his arms resting on a quaint, Victorian doll house was Westcott. Caleb’s master was staring at the battered lamp, as its glow ebbed and flowed, its lavender light casting a pallor over the room. Caleb wondered about the lamp, yet would not dare to ask. Westcott’s appearance was continuing to diminish, his skin a light and pale, almost green and pulled tight over his skull. All of his hair had fallen out and his eyes blazed purple. He continually shuffled a handful of playing cards in his bony fingers and cackled from time to time, as if in on a joke that only he understood.

Their situation was dangerous. The attack on Diagon Alley had caused a great amount of damage and some deaths. The Aurors were in full pursuit mode, and there was no where in the wizarding world for them to hide. That meant recruitment of more death eaters was problematic. He could not approach even the topic of doing something different, because Westcott was more and more entranced with the lantern. It was like an addiction, which, in many ways it was. Instead, Caleb went about securing their location. After all, he and the others were bound by unbreakable vows. Even if he had second thoughts, there was nothing he could do about it.

***

He didn’t notice the activity around him. For the past couple of days, he’d allowed Caleb to guide him, but he really wasn’t aware of where he was and what was going on. The call of the lantern was intoxicating. It drew him in. It called to him. Even in the past, when the lantern had fueled them before Dumbledore had drained its essence, he never felt the immense sense of power he felt when he’d placed his horcruxes inside the light. He’d fed the lantern two of his cards, two pieces of his soul and the result had been like a bargain, and overwhelming sense of power that seemed worth the price. He looked down at the cards in his hands. Eight cards left, eight pieces of his soul. He could easily give a few more, couldn’t he? He’d still have his immortality, but even more so, he’d have his power. He cackled to himself and caught his reflection in a cracked mirror along the wall.

He was even better looking. He ran his hands through the thickness of his hair. He reveled in how dark and full his complexion was. He noticed his eyes had a purplish tint, but what price this revitalization. He smiled to himself. A few more cards would make no difference. He looked at the lantern and smiled. It was as if a small voice was calling him.

“Make a deal…feed me…and I will give you power…feed me…feed me…”

Westcott hesitated and then pulled out the eight and nine of hearts. He smiled and then opened the small door at the front of the lantern and one by one, fed the cards into the light. It flashed brightly, warming him to the bone and he felt the power coursing through his body. He’d never felt so powerful. Even after the sacrifice, he still heard the voice.

“Feed me…feed me…feed me…”

***

“Laying it on a bit thick, aren’t you?” The man studied the woman sitting in front of a marble fire pit, a harsh purple flame crackling in the center. The woman turned and smiled.

“A bit, but it’s been so long since we’ve had the lantern working.” She turned and smiled at the fire. Westcott’s face was reflected in the flames. “It was sheer luck that the fool put a horcrux in there. The power is incredible.”

The man nodded and bit his lip. “Still, that’s old magic of the darkest kind we’re dealing with. We don’t know all we need to know.”

The woman pursed her lips and crossed his arms. “Don’t be such a ninny, father. I swear, living down here has made you tepid.”

Lucas Kaoset snorted. “Tepid, like lukewarm bathwater? My dear Helga, you still have a lot to learn from me. Keep playing with your lantern. I’m just interested in the chaos it creates.”

Helga Kaoset laughed at her father. “You’re still an old fuddy duddy. We can do so much more with this power.”

Lucas patted her shoulders. “Of course we can, but patience is a virtue, daughter. Let’s see how this plays out. I’m curious to see how all the players interact. There’s bound to be chaos all around.”

***

The Aurors were out picking over any clue they could find. The office was barren, save for a few owls with messages awaiting their masters. Draco and Dudley entered quietly and carefully made their way to the holding area. Tim Winters looked up when the cell door opened. He’d hardly been a prisoner, but where else could he go. The Aurors felt that he’d be more protected in the office, than anywhere else. Westcott would have to fight through the enhanced security to get to him.

He was surprised when the two men entered. They wore all black, like the Aurors, yet did not have the tell tale shield identifying them as such. The larger of the two stood by the door while the thin man with platinum hair and gray eyes approached.

“Mr. Winters, I understand that you’ve got some information on this so called dark lord.” Draco said mildly.

“I already told Mr. Potter everything I know.” Winters said bluntly.

Draco’s voice was soothing. “I’m sure you have, but what about details you don’t know?”

Winters eyed Draco carefully. “I’m sorry, are you affiliated with the Ministry? I don’t recall meeting you.”

“You haven’t.” Draco slowly drew his wand and sent a binding charm that wrapped Winters’ body up securely. “You see, we are interested in what you know, but I don’t think you’ve told us everything.”

“But I have told you everything! I told Potter everything I know.” Winters’ voice wavered and Draco smiled evilly.

“You told them everything you remembered, not everything you know.” Draco reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out a small vial. “You see, veritaserum will help you remember the details that you can’t recall.”

“B-but I’m still recovering! That might kill me.” Winters began to panic.

“It might.” Draco said somberly, “But two things, we’ll get the information we need, whether you want to give to us or not.”

“And the other point?” Winters asked quietly.

Draco smiled a smile that lacked any humor, any remorse. “Believe me, I know first hand, but you should have considered the consequences before you became a death eater. It’s time to reap what you sow.”


***A/N: Sorry for my tardiness. I've got a very sick Gator Jr. home from school, so I've been pretty busy. Hope you all like this one. You knew that Westcott wasn't smart enough to figure all this out on his own, didn't you?

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  #320  
Old October 5th, 2009, 8:43 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Last time on Dancing with the Goblins...er, I mean History of Magic:

Devastated by the loss of his wife, Dudley turns to the one ruthless man left who will help him find and deal with Westcott.

Harry and his Aurors find out that they really should have rented "Se7en" before entering the basement and Williamson instantly regretted the 1/2 Pound burrito he'd eaten before coming out.

Westcott and his band of weirdos were busily hiding among Ken and Barbie's Malibu Dream house, while he fiddled away with his lantern, which, we find is being pushed along by Lucas and Helga (HELGA? What, the author couldn't come up with a better name than HELGA? 321 Chapters, you're darn skippy I'm running out of names to use.)

Draco and Dudley head to the Ministry to go Jack Bauer on Winters....

And now:::




Chapter 321 – Old Friends and New Approaches

Over the years, the bank to the wizarding world, Gringott’s, had expanded well beyond being a place to keep valuables and deposit earnings. The schism that had broken open between goblins and wizards had not reached to the board of directors of the bank. In their wisdom, the goblins who ran the bank basically ignored the issues their brethren had with the humans who ran the Ministry of Magic. They also recognized that they could not continue to be the face of the bank, and still hope to expand their interests. To that end, they relied on their human employees to guide their operations, at least on the surface.

The goblins who ran Gringott’s could not tell one human from another by site, but they did recognize talent. That was why the primary operations directorship was given to Raimundo Baretto, who also hired and relied on other, very talented associates. One of those associates was walking confidently down Diagon Alley. She was a tall woman with a smooth, light coffee complexion. She walked upright, with her shoulders thrown back, her long, flowing black hair bouncing behind her as she navigated through the crowd. She smiled inwardly, her full red lips revealing bright white teeth as she caught sight of the glances being tossed her way by the wizards in the Alley. After two children and a decade of hard work, Isabella Ramirez-Thomas still created a stir wherever she went.

Despite being a muggle, many of the innovations and growth in Gringott’s business holdings were directly attributable to Isabella’s direction of the finance division. With Bill Weasley running operations, and Fleur Weasley running retail banking, Raimundo had expanded Gringott’s into a financial powerhouse with ties to most of the successful businesses in the wizarding world. Even though they couldn’t stand each other, George Weasley and Draco Malfoy had many things in common from a business perspective, namely done through their dealings with Gringott’s. What Isabella had created was an entity that provided the central financing and monetary basis for the majority of the economy that existed in modern magical Britain.

There was a danger in putting so much stock in one financial construct, but given that the wizarding world was so small, there was little that Isabella could do avoid having Gringott’s be a target for mayhem. Seamus Finnegan’s staff acted more than just as muscle. His investigators were proactive in ferreting out schemes and threats that would be able to take the entire wizarding world down in one fell swoop.

Raimundo’s move to become Minister had taken Isabella by surprise, yet, in the end, it made perfect sense to her, that is, until the violence and blood shed started happening. She felt her Puerto Rican blood boil at the loss of Beatrice Dursley. For a brief moment, she imagined this new dark lord in the clutches of a rabid chupacabra. She shook her head. She had no time for day dreams. Before long, she found herself at the doors to the bank and walked passed the security wizards inside.

The main teller area was a bustle of activity. Like the Alley, there were hundreds of wizards and witches milling about. High above the grand ceiling area of the lobby, there was a massive calendar of light, displaying the date and the time on an old analog clock face. It was nearing September and she nodded in understanding. It was only a couple of weeks before the new class headed off to Hogwarts. That explained the activity all around and explained the familiar flash of red hair she spotted in the nearest waiting line.

“You know, you don’t have to wait, Ginny.” Ginny Potter was in the midst of giving her oldest son a withering glance of warning, and then turned to smile at Isabella.

“Oh, I know, but I wanted the kids to learn that they are not above anyone else.” Without looking, she flicked her hand back and smacked James on the back of the head, just before he could flick his unaware brother’s ear. She continued the conversation as if nothing happened. “I just hate this mad rush, but this is the only time we had to get it done.”

Isabella smiled and then glanced at James. “Are you ready, Senor Potter for your adventure?”

James beamed, his unruly red locks bouncing in the early morning sunlight. “I was born ready. I’m going to eat that place up!”

“I wouldn’t be so cocky, young man. You still have a lot to learn.” Ginny warned, but James was hearing none of it. He pushed his chest outward.

“What’s there to worry about mum? We know all the faculty and most of the students, heck, my cousin Teddy is a Prefect and Victoire is there too.” He held his fingers out, counting off each advantage. “Dad didn’t know anyone when he got there.”

“That’s true, but it’s not about who you know…” James interrupted his mother.

“I know, it’s about who you are. I get it mum.” James smirked wildly. “I’m a Potter and a Weasley, what could possibly go wrong?”

Isabella and Ginny shared a horrified glance and then burst into laughter. With a knowing smile, Isabella bade the Potter clan farewell and turned towards her office.

Her assistant, a tall, blonde haired man with broad shoulders and muscles on his muscles handed her a piping hot cup of coffee as she entered the office.

“Gracias, Bernardo. Any messages?” She sipped her coffee. Perfectly made, as usual. Her assistant tended to spoil her. He shook his head and went back to dictating to the quill on his desk. She walked inside her office to find someone sitting at her desk.

“I thought you were going to Paris.” There was a smile in her tone and a sultry lightness in her voice, a tone only reserved for one person.

Dean Thomas stood from her chair. “I’m leaving in a few minutes, but I wanted to see you first.”

“You miss me already?” She laughed and threw her arms around his neck. Before he could speak, she planted a kiss on his lips, her full lips robbing him of any decorum or resistance for a brief moment. When they parted, he exhaled heavily and then seemed to shake himself back to alertness.

“Well, er, yes, I missed you, but that’s not the only reason I came to see you.” It was a good recovery, but Isabella could see something was bothering her husband. She turned to the ledger he had opened on the top of her desk.

“What is it, mi amor?” She asked, suddenly all business.

“Well you know that the Ministry has us oversee the auditing of the elections funds as they pass through to candidates.” She nodded and Dean pressed on, his finger on a line item. “This is Raimundo’s fund. You see that donation there?”

She looked, and saw inked in name, “D. Malfoy”.

She nodded. “We know that, Dean. George and Lee told you about Draco’s involvement in Raimundo’s campaign. Even Raimundo mentioned it. Why is this important?”

Dean nodded tersely and pulled out a separate binder. “Normally, as part of Raimundo’s campaign, we don’t have access to this, but after he died, we had to audit the books.”

The golden script on the ledger read “J. Cutter”. Dean opened the book and pointed his finger to several entries. Isabella studied the ledger entries and their amounts.

“Dios mio. Draco Malfoy contributed to Cutter’s campaign as well?” She asked, more to herself.

Dean nodded. “It looks that way, but why would he push Raimundo out there, heck, he recruited him and at the same time, bring along Cutter?”

Isabella’s eyes narrowed and then she picked up a small bell at the edge of her desk. Ringing the bell, she waited a moment before Bernardo peered inside.

“You wanted to see me, ma’am?” His aquiline features were motionless as she nodded.

“Yes, I need to send an urgent owl to the Ministry.” As he left to fetch an owl, she turned to her husband. “I don’t know what it means, but we’d better bring this up to Harry. I don’t like coincidences and it seems very odd that a former death eater brings forwards a campaign supporting two candidates just as a new dark lord rises. I don’t like coincidences at all.”

***

Harry and his command team made their way back up to the upper floor of the “Academy”. They were all pale from the horror they’d seen below, and were relatively silent for a few moments. Meanwhile, several of Dennis’ more stouthearted wizards and house elves were busily cataloging and cleaning up the basement. Dennis reached the top of the steps, his gait a little unsteady as he tried to forget what he’d seen.

Anxious for something to do, Dennis walked up to Harry. “We’ll be done in a few minutes, Harry.”

Harry nodded and turned to the team. “None of this makes sense. Voldemort was horrific, but he never worked at this scale.”

“We’re missing something. There’s something that Winters hasn’t told us.” Mortimer refused to even glance at the door to the basement.

Williamson shook his head. “The man was afraid for his life. He told us everything he knew.”

Harry shook his head. “Maybe so, but we’re still missing something. This Westcott can’t just appear and become a powerful dark wizard. Something has to be driving this, something has to explain what we saw.”

Before Mortimer could add his thoughts, their Auror shields began to glow and a shrill caterwaul charm went off. Harry momentarily forgot the horror he’d seen as his team sprang to action. “The Ministry!”

Fearing another attack, the Aurors disapparated into the air.

***

The main building of the First London Central Hospital was comprised of rich red brick with high ramparts giving it almost the look of a castle. The two men who entered its main doors, one tall and heavy, the other thin and pale, hardly took notice of their surroundings, yet if they had a notion of irony, would have laughed at the thought that their destination was the dungeon in all meanings of the word.

The thin man wore a natty black wool suit in a contemporary European style. His jet black brogans clicked audibly on the faded yellow tile of the old hospital. His platinum hair almost glowed white and his gray eyes were searing, boring straight ahead while conveying the message that he was not one to be trifled with. His companion walked with a loping gait that seemed to belie a hidden dexterity. Despite his size, he walked silently on the tile floor, his soft soled shoes carrying him easily to the lift at the end of the hall.

With a quick glance at the directory, the pair entered the open lift and pressed the button for the lowest floor. They stood in the cab, neither man speaking nor were both men looking around. No words were needed, none shared. The only sound was the wheezy struggle of the old lift to continue its journey. Finally, there was a shake and with a chime ringing out, the doors opened and emptied them out into a dark, musty hall. They walked side by side to the end of the hall, where an open doorway beckoned. Inside, was a large room lined with large ceramic tiles and lit by harsh, bright fluorescent lights that cast an intense sheen across the room.

The place was filled with two rows of gurneys, each with a sheet covered form atop. In the back of the room, a small radio blared out a warbling country and western song. The men looked farther into the back of the room. There was an operating theater and table and a short, stocky woman, barely four foot seven inches was bent over a body on the table, her feet firmly planted on top of a milk crate as she worked on her “patient”.

The larger of the two men cleared his throat, but she didn’t seem to hear him. He looked at his partner who prodded him. This time the man spoke up. “Excuse me?”

The woman turned from her work, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, a long ash balanced precipitously on the end of the burning ember. She had large, round spectacles that were extremely thick and made her eyes seem five times their normal size. When she spoke, her voice came out in a brutal rasp, like sandpaper on china.

“Line them up with the others.” She motioned to the end of the line of gurneys and the turned back to her work.

In spite of himself, Draco Malfoy was barely able to suppress a chuckle. He elbowed Dudley to try again. “Are you Doctor Quincy?”

The woman sighed heavily and turned once more. “Yes, I’m Dr. Quincy, now the ONLY coroner here. As you can see, I’m very busy, and I don’t have time for solicitors.”

Draco spoke up. “You misunderstand us, Doctor. We’re not solicitors.”

Her bug eyes stared at Draco. “Who are you then, I’m pretty busy.”

“We’d like to ask you some questions about one of your colleagues. Do you know a Doctor William Westcott?” Draco asked.

“Westcott? Yeah, I know Westcott. He’s the reason I’m so far behind. Took off without so much as a word. Bloody layabout.” She grumbled. “I don’t know where he’s gotten to. If I did, I’d give him a piece of my mind. I haven’t showered in a week!”

Draco sighed and rolled his eyes. This had been a dead end, but Dudley spoke up. “You said he just left? Did he leave anything behind?”

Her bulbous eyes seemed to watching both of them at the same time. “What? He owes you money or something?”

“Or something.” Draco added.

She stared at them and then hopped off her box. “Makes no never mind to me.” She waddled over to a box on top of a battered desk in the corner. “This is his stuff. Take it.”

Dudley reached down and picked up the box. Together, he and Draco started leaving. The small woman called out to them. “If you find old Willie, tell him that he’d better not let me catch him. I’ll give him a good thrashing for leaving me in the lurch.”

Draco paused and faced her, his gray eyes glittering. “I’ll give him that message, but something tells me that you won’t have to worry about Dr. Westcott for much longer.” He whirled around and followed Dudley out the door.

Draco’s response caused the woman to shudder. She glanced around at the gurneys of dead bodies and wondered aloud how soon before her former colleague would be sitting on one of her tables.

***A/N: Thought you'd like to hear from Isabella and Dean...just setting things up. Had to find a cheap device to pull people towards each other....hopefully this works.

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