Harry Potter sat at his desk, elbows on the table as he pushed the palms of his hands against his closed eyes. He was tired and stiff and knew it would be hours before he could crawl into bed. The soft thudding of a headache pulsed its way down his skull to his temple but he wasn’t quite sure what to blame it on.
The strain on his eyes from staring at his reports for the past six hours? Possibly.
Skipping lunch again after barely having breakfast because he was worried he wouldn’t be able to finish said reports on time? Also, a good wager.
Or maybe because he’d been working this case for eight weeks and hadn’t had any new information in the past three? Unquestionably, Harry thought rubbing his palms down his face to rest under his chin.
After a year of training, two years as a Auror Apprentice and four years as a fully qualified Auror he thought he’d be used to the infinite amount of paperwork required of the cases he was assigned. He had excelled during Auror training and was quickly labeled as a skilled Tracker. While he had originally bathed in the admiration he received from being assigned to one of the most daring departments, he quickly learned Trackers do an astonishing amount of research and prep which normally led to tracking perps on foot for days on end or raids. Tracking was more exciting but raids were some of the few times Harry also got to work with Ron on the job. They had both gone through Auror training together but Ron had been assigned to the Tactical Unit, something which hadn’t surprised Harry at all. He mostly dealt in raid preparation and the strategic transport of dangerous persons or animals, working closely with the Magical Law Department and Muggle Relations. Between the two of them Ron saw the most ‘action’ but Harry had the more dangerous cases, which was fine by them as they had just both been happy not to have been assigned to the Security or Liaison Units.
Harry slid his hands down to the sides of his neck, kneading out the kink forming there. He pulled out his pocket watch, frowning at the time. It was half past three and he had been sitting at his desk since seven that morning.
“No wonder my everything hurts,” he mumbled under his breath. He slammed his palms back down on his unfurled parchment and gave an undignified groan. Across the office his apprentice, Dimitri, jumped. The dark young man easily startled, but Harry attributed that to working with The Boy Who Lived. Demetri was the first apprentice Harry had been assigned and knew the kid would relax around him given enough time. Harry had been impressed with the kid’s ability to find correlations even from the most convoluted scenarios. He had excelled in almost all areas of Auror training, the only disconcerting score being in improvisation, which would come with experience. The Auror Apprentice had been given to Harry shortly before this new case and has had a stick up his arse since, so far as Harry could tell.
“Sir?” Dimitri questioned him nervously.
“Ignore me, I’m just stiff,” Harry said gruffly, throwing Dimitri an apologetic grin. Harry looked around his office in boredom. There was a small couch pushed up the wall in the center of the room which, Harry knew from experience, was terrible for naps. It was currently covered in heaps of scrolls, all with tiny bits of multi colored paper marking various notes he’d eventually have to reference. The bracket by the door held the two Auror robes, dark gray for Harry and the light silver of an Auror Apprentice. The office looked the same as it did every day and he’d know, he’d been trapped in it for weeks. Harry begrudgingly brought his attention back to his notes and within minutes he could feel his focus going fuzzy. He barely noticed when a memo gracefully zoomed in and crash landed in his untidy hair:
Ministry of Magic
Date/Time: March 1st, 3:35pm
To: Auror Potter, MLE
CC: Head Auror Shacklebolt, MLE
From: Penelope Weasley, MLE-MNMU
Re: Possible Wizard Involvement – Muggle Family Missing
Shortly before 2:00pm today Muggle News Channel 4 broadcasted a story regarding the disappearance of a muggle family. Their house alarm was not triggered and there is no trace of forced entry. Please investigate the occurrence and notify our offices immediately once the house has been cleared of magical presence.
Magical Law Enforcement: Muggle News Monitoring Unit
There was an attached envelope containing the specs on the house and family but scrawled underneath the letter was a small p.s. Harry knew wasn’t on the CC sent to Shacklebolt:
I can’t wait to see you at Ron’s birthday party tomorrow!
Harry smiled at the note while ineffectively smoothing his mane down. Penelope and Percy had married less than a year ago and Harry had been surprised with how well he and Penelope got on. Whenever there was a big Weasley family party Harry and Penelope always had a couple spare moments to gossip about Percy, people in the Ministry, Percy, some strange non-magic related muggle event, and Percy; just to name a few. Harry figured she felt a little like an outsider amongst the sea of ginger and gravitated towards someone who might understand. Plus, it was satisfying in a strange way to have dirt on Percy not even Ron knew.
Harry smiled at the small mercy she’s granted him. Yesterday they had crossed paths in the courtroom hallways and Harry had mentioned how cooped up he’d been feeling lately. Suddenly the smile slid from his face as he began calculating the length of time he needed to finish his report and clear this muggle house of magical connection. He knew she’s meant well but, even though Ron’s birthday party was tomorrow at the Burrow, most everyone was getting together tonight for drinks at the local pub. He’d be late now and was annoyed as he had been looking forward to seeing his friends, especially Ginny. He had recently read an article regarding the Appleby Arrows most talented Chaser being removed from the team and had wanted to know if there was a secret story that hadn’t been release to The Prophet.
After the Battle of Hogwarts Harry and Ginny had given their relationship another shot. It had been wonderful for the first six months but then turned stale. They had toughened it out for almost another year before Ginny instigated the breakup. Harry was certain their own ambitions had ruined the relationship: Ginny was away training with the Hollyhead Harpies for days on end and Harry was likewise completely immersed with his Auror training. The day Ginny returned from a two-week training seminar with the Harpies, he realized something was amiss. They had had amazing welcome-home sex at his flat then Ginny almost immediately left to meet Luna for drinks. Harry had felt somewhat relieved to get back to his casework even as a nagging little voice inside him whispered something was wrong. A few hours later Ginny came back and there had been a long, awkward talk about their relationship. It had been a mutual breakup even if Harry had felt a little blindsided at the time. They had stayed up all night talking and when she left in the early hours of the morning there was a feeling of peace between them. Since their break up they had been closer than ever. In some ways, he was closer to Ginny then Hermione as they just had more in common.
That was over five years ago and Harry hadn’t actively pursued any kind of relationship since. Oh sure, he had been out on plenty of dates with different women and men, even those who fell somewhere between, but nothing serious. The wizarding world was indifferent to people’s sexual preference, something Harry had been shocked to discover. He had always felt attraction to both men and women, and now that he was older he realized he didn’t really care what people identified as, so long as there was chemistry. All the same, it seemed impossible to find someone who wasn’t all caught up on dating The Boy Who Lived.
“Auror Potter, sir, are we heading out?”
Harry looked up to see Dimitri placing a pile of scrolls on his desk and glancing down at the memo in Harry’s hand. There was a hint of disappointment in Dimitri’s tone and Harry knew he wasn’t the only one who had hoped to duck out early.
“Don’t call me ‘Auror Potter’, just Potter or Harry is fine. And yes, grab your gear, we’ll leave in ten minutes,” Harry reassured, standing up and giving his shoulders a roll.
“Actually, just grab all your stuff. You can skive off when we’re done, no need to even come back to the Ministry.”
A grin spread across Dimitris face, “Yes, Auror Potter!”
Harry rolled his eyes as the kid bounded across the office to collect his items, not bothering to correct him again. He resigned himself to a miserable night, realizing he’d be late to the pub and then he’d have to come back after to finish up his paperwork.
If it wasn’t for this stupid rumored “Organization” his work load would be more reasonable and more enjoyable. Being cooped up all day reevaluating hundreds of open cases and tracking leads, all from his desk, was growing weary. Soon Harry would either have to officially announce the rumors as a hoax or officially request further manpower and funds for a full investigation. Until then he was stuck in Auror purgatory, and there was something about the research he collected he just couldn’t write off. Working a case with little viable evidence, zero leads and a bleak prospect was draining, but Harry felt there was something there, just out of his reach.
About three months ago Harry had tracked a deranged wizard accused of no less than three attempts of kidnapping. Harry had been happy to work the case and even happier he’d been the one to catch the scumbag. After his capture things had taken a weird turn. The wizard switched between languages, accents and personalities at the drop of a hat and no one in the MLE had been able to get anything useful out of him. They had even called in an Unspeakable from the Department of Mysteries but with no luck.
Hell, no one could even tell where he was from. The perp had been sent to St. Mungo’s with heavy security for further testing. As far as any of the healers knew he had spell damage to his brain worse than most had ever seen and all the reports that had been sent back to the MLE spoke of his mumbling about some sort of secret society.
A few days later the Ministry of Magic had been sent a confidential notice from MACUSA regarding whispers of an Organization forming in the underbelly of some if the State’s major cities. Before the week was out a hoard of stolen illegal goods was discovered with some documents pertaining to several wanted wizards in the U.S and U.K. Unicorn hearts, manticore venom, centaur parts and an array of deadly plants and herbs were found stashed in an abandoned warehouse, all of them associated with dark magics. It was a scandal that had to be swiftly hushed as the warehouse was on an offsite Ministry location but hadn’t been designated for use in decades. Shacklebolt had set Harry up as the lead investigator, thinking it would be a quick open and shut case of useless rumors.
“Ready to go, sir,” Dimitri quipped from outside the office door. He had put on his Apprentice robe and had his backpack on one shoulder with a look of excitement on his face.
Harry stood, donned his Auror robe, pushed his wild hair back and secured it in a tail. He patted his pockets for his watch, wand and badge then headed towards the door.
‘Either way, it’s nice to get out of the office’, Harry thought to himself, following his apprentice down the hall.
Harry glanced down to check his notes and looked back up at the house. They were roughly two hours away from Little Surrey but this street was eerily similar to Private Drive. Harry didn’t like it one bit. Dimitri stood on the immaculate lawn and was already setting to work casting Muggle Repelling charms. Harry began his notes on the perimeter of the building. No sign of forced entry. No disturbance to any of the shrubs under the windows or doors. No nothing. This looked like any other cookie-cutter home you could find in the suburbs.
Taking out his wand Harry moved to the front door and unlocked it. Instantly he felt the tingle of magic residue waft over him.
“Dimitri!” Harry whispered back out the door, “Come here, we have something.”
Harry heard a small groan and grinned. He had also hoped this would be a quick stop. Why did he ever get his hopes up?
“Humenum Revelio,” Harry whispered. Nothing.
Dimitri appeared at his side, “Anyone home?”
“Nope,” Harry said in a normal tone, “Did you feel the residue?”
“Yes sir, I honestly have never felt it so strongly before.” Dimitri mused, peering at a picture of a family portrait.
"It’s easier to feel when is fresh and untainted. You start stacking spell after spell on top one another and things get muddled and weak. This house has only recently known magic,” Harry said as he glanced at the photo and felt a twist in his gut as five people smiled, unmoving, back at him. A dark-haired woman sat holding a bald, smiling infant as a man stood behind her. Two young girls stood on either side of them, the oldest looking no more than twelve and the younger about eight. It wrenched Harry’s heart to think this seemingly happy family meeting some terrible fate. Harry took a step towards the parlor, glancing around the green and beige hued room. The sensation of residual magic was stronger here. There was a TV on a stand pushed next to the empty fireplace whose mantle was riddled with framed photos of the two girls through the years and the new baby. A large, squashy couch sat under the window and Harry could just make out coloring books and crayons under the coffee table. There was an overflowing bin of brightly colored baby toys next to the door leading to the dining room. Everything looked calm, as if the family would be back any moment and question the presence of two strange men in their house.
“Specialis Revelio!” Harry said, hoping for another dull outcome.
Abruptly there was roaring of wind like a hurricane rampaging through the house. Harry rolled out of the hallway and into the parlor, sprawled himself on the ground, pointed his wand at Dimitri and shouted, “Protego!”
A silvery shield appeared around the young man, who turned to face Harry with his hands clasped over his ears, crouching to his knees and pressed his body to the entry wall. A deafening wind continued to rumble around them, ripping photos and trinkets from the wall and sending the deadly projectiles hurtling around the rooms. Furniture was lifted up only to come smashing down hard. Curling a protective arm over his head, Harry looked up and had a clear view of Dimitri in the entrance hall. He saw his spell glinting around his apprentice, shudder and fade. He raised his wand to cast again when suddenly the wind stopped. Debris that had been lashing about fell unnaturally fast to the ground. An eerie stillness permeated every corner of the dim house. All the furniture was pushed up against the walls and blocked the sunlight. Harry stood to a crouch, wand out.
Something was wrong.
“Lumos!” Harry whispered.
Nothing happened. Confused, Harry looked from his wand to Dimitri. The young man’s face was a mask of horror as he stared at the ceiling in the parlor above Harry. Harry looked above him and felt his stomach lurch.
The ceiling was covered, wall to wall, in ruins. Ruins that had not been there a minute ago and seemed to be written with fresh, dripping blood.
“Dimitri get out!” Harry yelled. The horrified man looked Petrified where he stooped.
“Depulso!” Harry said, pointing his wand at Dimitri in an angle he hoped would send him out the front door.
Still nothing happened.
Something was very wrong.
Harry couldn’t feel his magic. He looked back to the ruins, mentally berating himself for not taking the class at Hogwarts. Harry scrambled to his feet and lunged for the entrance hall. He hit an invisible barrier that sent him careening back to the center of the room. His head hit the hearth of the fireplace hard and he saw lights dance before his eyes. As he tried to focus the room around him, he heard several loud cracks that were horribly familiar.
Sitting up he looked back at Dimitri. The man had his wand out and a determined look on his face. He had turned slightly, glaring at something to Harry’s left.
“Rel-“ Dimitri began.
Harry looked to his target and saw five masked figures standing in a semi-circle around him. Two raised their wand in unison and shouted, “DEPRIMO!”
In horror, Harry watch Dimitri’s body crunch into the wall. There were several loud snapping noises as his body imbedded further and further into the stucco. Dimitri screamed as he broke through to the wall and was sent careening into the next room. There was a loud thump and his screaming stopped.
In a fury Harry turned towards the attackers, raising his wand. Before he could even open his mouth, he felt a searing hot pain shoot up through his body and the world around him went dark.