Actions

Work Header

Forgive Those Who Trespass

Chapter Text

Chapter One—What Heroes Do

“You understand, don’t you, mate?” Ron’s eyes were anxious, and he was hovering. He might not call it hovering, but Harry knew that was what it was. Already, Ron had knocked several quills, one inkwell, and the latest “practice report” off Harry’s desk as he fidgeted about.

“I do,” Harry said. He smiled, hoping that would reassure Ron. Ron only looked more nervous. Harry finally snorted and shook his head. “It’s not as though it’s a hard concept, Ron. You’re bored with Auror training. The Department of Mysteries sounds more interesting and pays more. And Hermione’s going there.” He winked at his friend.

Ron flushed. “That had nothing to do with it.”

Harry rolled his eyes. Ron had made many strides in his relationship with Hermione, except what should have been the most obvious one: admitting it existed. “Of course it didn’t,” he said. “Really, Ron, I’ll be all right. I’m staying in Auror training because what Hermione described doesn’t sound interesting to me. But we’ll still work together in the Ministry, and I’ll see you from time to time. Why should this have any effect on our friendship?”

“Well. Er.” Ron scratched the back of his neck. “Unspeakables aren’t allowed to talk about what they do—“

“That’s why they call them Unspeakables, I know.” Harry had become tired of that joke the first day in Auror training, during the introductory lectures, but he managed to sound gently teasing instead of exasperated now. He raised an eyebrow at Ron. “Do what you need to do. I’ll be right here whenever you deign to notice me, a lowly Auror slobbering over the chance to talk to a mighty Unspeakable.”

“I didn’t mean it like that—“

Harry stepped around the desk and clasped Ron’s shoulders. He and Ron had avoided touching as much as they might have lately; the revelation of Harry’s sexual orientation had unsettled everyone in the Weasley family at first, and Ron still sometimes looked doubtfully at Harry, as if he expected him to show an uncontrollable desire to hump Ron’s leg. It was the only way to get the truth through that thick skull in this case, though. “Ron. I’ll be fine. I promise. Will I be lonely? Yes. Do I think you’re mad for starting another course of training when you’ve already spent a year in the Auror program? Yes. Will there be barriers between us? Undoubtedly. But it’s nothing our friendship can’t survive. We’ve faced evil lockets together, Ron. How many other friends can say that?”

That worked, at least. By the end of Harry’s speech, Ron’s face had lost its tight lines, and he was grinning. He slapped Harry on the back. “How could I have forgotten?” he said. “Whatever Hermione and I deal with in the Department of Mysteries, it couldn’t compare to evil lockets.” He paused reflectively. “Certain you won’t come yourself?”

Harry laughed. “Certain.” The Department of Mysteries, which had been reserved enough to suffer the least infiltration during Voldemort’s control of the Ministry, had still lost some of its members to the trials that followed Shacklebolt’s election as Minister, and was advertising for new Unspeakable trainees. They tried to make it sound exciting, but as far as Harry could tell, it was still three-quarters sitting behind a desk to one-quarter being out in the field examining dangerous magical objects. And he had to have excitement in his life. The promise he had made to himself after repairing his wand to stay out of trouble turned out to be strictly temporary.

Ron nodded. “Then I reckon we’ll see you around.” He hesitated. Harry blinked, wondering what was happening behind his friend’s clenched jaw and rapidly fluttering eyelids.

And then Ron grabbed him in a rough hug, the only time he had done something like that for months now. Harry sighed and returned it, feeling a tension he hadn’t known he still carried relax.

The door to his office opened, and Hermione popped her head in. She only sniffed when she saw them hugging and muttered something that sounded like, “About time.” Then she looked at Harry. “We’re going to a pub to celebrate tonight, Harry. Want to come?”

“I’d love to,” Harry said. “But there’s that theoretical exam in Tracking and Stealth tomorrow—you know, the one you lucky bastards are walking away from—and I have to study for it.” Gently, he let Ron go.

Hermione huffed and crossed her arms. “You do realize that you’re unlikely to meet people unless you go out, right?”

“I don’t want to ‘meet people.’” Harry stared back at her.

“Harry, if you would just—“

Leave it, Hermione.”

“Yeah, leave it,” said Ron, strolling over to give Hermione a kiss on the cheek. Behind her back, he directed a look of pity at Harry, and then started to pull his fiancée out the door. “If a bloke doesn’t want to go out, then he doesn’t have to go out.”

“Ron, I just think—“

But the door shut behind them then, and Harry was free to squash the thoughts that tried to rise to the surface of his mind. He really did have an exam tomorrow, and Auror Gillyflower aspired to follow in Snape’s boots by showing that she was unimpressed with Harry’s name. Harry knew he would get the hardest questions. He didn’t know the material that well.

He dived into reading the book, and the thoughts were successfully squashed.

*

Of course, when he got home to his flat that evening, they were waiting for him. Harry still wasn’t used to walking into a room without the sound of someone else moving around, without a warm scent that decorated the chairs and the pillows, and without a voice that responded to his arrival.

“Maybe I should get a Crup,” he muttered.

His flat was a pleasant enough place, with a drawing room that Hermione had helped him decorate in Gryffindor colors, a kitchen big enough to prepare indifferent meals, a loo that Harry kept clean because he didn’t have enough else to do, and a single bedroom. But it was nothing compared to the flat he’d shared with Ginny, which had had two bedrooms, an extra room to entertain company, and—that indefinable something else that came from someone else living there.

Harry fetched a bottle of butterbeer from the enchanted icebox and wandered into the drawing room. Its two couches and two chairs faced inward to a broad oak table, on which his books were piled. He could have got a wizarding telly that would work even in the midst of all the magic, but he had found himself more inclined to stare into space than pay attention to any diversion.

He sat down in the most comfortable chair now and did it some more.

Hermione just didn’t understand. Harry didn’t want to be gay. He had admitted it because he didn’t want to lie, either. Pretending to Ginny that they could have a future as a couple when he didn’t love her sexually would have been cruel.

On the other hand, he wasn’t proud of it, and he resented Hermione’s constant suggestions that he should be. Who would actually choose to be bent, if it was a choice? No one, that’s who.

Harry took a moody sip of his butterbeer and closed his eyes.

There were other reasons he didn’t want to go out and please Hermione by chatting up blokes. Not many people knew about his orientation right now. The moment they did, he would have to deal with constant unwanted advances and the papers speculating why this had happened.

And he still hoped—

Hermione would scold me so much if she knew about this

He still hoped that, if he didn’t have sex with other men, he wasn’t actually gay. People who were bent slept with other people of the same sex, didn’t they? At least, every definition Harry could find said so. So there was always the chance that, if he could just refrain long enough, he would start finding women attractive again. It hadn’t happened so far, but it was only a few months since he broke up with Ginny. Give it time. He hadn’t thought Ron would hug him again so soon, either.

Hermione didn’t understand his attitude. Well. Let her not understand, then. Harry would almost have liked to see her suddenly decide she liked girls and deal with that, except that he wouldn’t wish this misery on anyone.

He finished the butterbeer and resisted the temptation to get another. He wanted to look over the exam material one more time. No one could say that he wasn’t being responsible and steady now. Discovering he was gay hadn’t turned him into a voracious sexual appetite on two legs, constantly flitting from one man to another.

It never will, he promised himself, and then flicked his wand to Summon the book from the satchel he’d carried home from work.

*

Harry took a deep breath as he stepped out of the room set aside for the theoretical exams. Another nervous bunch of trainees, participating in an exam on Potions from the notes Harry glimpsed, promptly began to shuffle past him. He let them go, relieved to no longer be in their place.

He’d survived. And he had no doubt that he was going to get passing marks. He’d finally divined the often twisty way that Auror Gillyflower’s mind worked. Every question he’d studied for, including uncommon twists to common situations, was on the exam. Harry had still been the last to finish, but he had finished with a slight, confident smile.

Gillyflower stepped past him now, giving him a narrow-eyed look of dislike. Harry raised an eyebrow at her. She huffed and pushed her way irritably up the corridor, visible at once from a distance by the pinned-together sleeve that covered the remains of her right arm. She’d lost it fighting the Carrows in a battle that occurred before they were assigned to be “professors” at Hogwarts.

Harry shuddered as his own memories of Amycus and Alecto Carrow came back to him. Then he shook his head briskly. He was an Auror now, and Aurors were only expected to save individual people, not the world.

He did wonder who he would be partnered with when he finished the exams. He, Ron, and Hermione had always planned to show how well they functioned together as a triad unit, and demand to be assigned together. But the answer to that question was still two years away. No one, not even Shacklebolt, had argued that the training should be sped up simply because Harry was the Chosen One.

Harry wandered back towards his office, yawning now and then; he really had stayed up later than he should have last night studying for that exam. On the other hand, now he could relax and go home if he wanted. There were no other exams he had to participate in today.

He met Mr. Weasley just as he reached his office. Harry smiled. Mr. Weasley had been the one to accept Harry’s changed sexual orientation the most easily; it seemed he had never really entertained his wife’s hopes that Harry would become part of the Weasley family by marrying Ginny.

“Arthur.” Harry still stumbled on the name sometimes, but Arthur had insisted that, with so many grown sons, he couldn’t be “Mr. Weasley” in public any longer, as no one would know who the name meant. “What can I do for you?” Perhaps it was another invitation to dinner at the Burrow. Harry accepted those happily, even though it meant making uncomfortable eye contact with Ginny across the table. Mrs. Weasley’s cooking remained superb, and Harry knew it gave her comfort to have as many chairs filled as possible, so she didn’t have to notice the one seat that always remained empty.

“Harry.” Mr. Weasley’s voice was so sharp that Harry lost his smile immediately. “No one’s told you about Ron and Hermione?” He nodded at the door to his office, to signify that Harry should open it.

Harry swallowed, and wished that would actually cure a dry mouth and a throat suddenly tight with fear. “No,” he said, tapping his wand to remove the wards. Mr. Weasley followed right on his heels, relieving Harry of the need to give an invitation. He took the sole chair without seeming to notice what he was doing, leaving Harry to sit on the desk. “What happened?” Any number of horrible scenarios raced through his head, from a magical accident in the Department of Mysteries to sudden imprisonment in Azkaban for using illegal spells during the war.

“They’ve—gone.” Mr. Weasley was twisting his hands and staring at the floor. The sight gave Harry the strength to reach out and place a hand on his shoulder.

If someone else is hurting, it’s up to me to do something about it.

“What do you mean, gone?” he asked quietly. He wouldn’t have thought that he could be this calm, since he might be receiving news of his friends’ deaths, but his mind had put up a barrier against the thought of it being actual death. Somehow, he couldn’t comprehend that.

“They joined the Department of Mysteries yesterday,” Mr. Weasley said. A desperate sob worked its way up his throat. Harry shifted closer, so that he was holding both the man’s shoulders. “There was a mandatory meeting last night for all the new recruits. And the Unspeakables have been recruiting heavily in other Departments, so there were quite a few people there. And then—“

“Something happened?” Harry whispered, the visions of magical accidents returning to him.

“We don’t know what happened.” Mr. Weasley produced a handkerchief and blew his nose. “We only know that no one can reach the Department of Mysteries now. Any lift we try to take won’t go lower than the eighth floor. A few people have tried the staircases, and the steps simply cease to exist below the Atrium.”

Harry narrowed his eyes. “What about sending a Patronus to someone in the Department of Mysteries? Or an owl?”

“Both of them return baffled.” Mr. Weasley shook his head. “There have been numerous other spells tried: Summoning Charms directed at people who were there, any number of unlocking spells, Finite Incantatem, and the use of a few artifacts which are supposed to dispel magic that goes wrong. Nothing works. I don’t know what’s happened to my son or Hermione, and I—“ He reached up and clasped one of Harry’s hands. “I thought you would want to know as soon as possible, since you were in an exam when it was discovered.”

Harry nodded. He was responding both to Mr. Weasley’s words and the unspoken plea he could hear hidden behind them. Please save Ron and Hermione if you can. And of course Harry could do no less. What was a hero for, if he couldn’t save his best friends from a mysterious curse?

“I’ll do what I can,” he said. “And I’ll go to Minister Shacklebolt for help, instead of jumping blindly into this.” There were times it paid to have known the current Minister as a member of the Order of the Phoenix.

*

It didn’t take Harry long to learn that the Ministry planned to do exactly nothing.

Possible reports that could have made it to the Daily Prophet were suppressed. Most members of other Departments refused to talk about the situation when Harry asked them. Overnight, the maps throughout the Ministry that directed visitors were redone, so that now the Department of Mysteries and, indeed, anything lower than the eighth floor appeared never to have existed.

Harry grew first incredulous, then angry, then enraged. When he finally managed to send an owl to Shacklebolt, demanding an explanation, he received a terse letter in return.

Dear Harry:

I’m sorry, but nothing can be done. If the public knew about the situation, there would undoubtedly be a panic. And after the mess that Fudge and Scrimgeour left the Ministry in, the last thing we need is the inference that we can’t control our own Departments. I plan to resolve this as swiftly as possible. Rest assured, I’m working around the clock with experts on all sorts of magical disasters. But nothing can be done for right now.

Minister Shacklebolt.

About that time was when Harry decided that heroes also didn’t sit around waiting for other people to rescue their friends.

*

Harry patted the satchel slung on his left shoulder. He’d never been so grateful that he’d made Hermione teach him that spell she’d used during the year of the war, the one that could enlarge the inside of a bag until it contained an unlimited number of supplies. He had a good store of food—he wouldn’t trust anything he found to eat in the Department of Mysteries—several changes of clothes, a Foe-Glass, a Sneakoscope, a notebook containing the most useful practical suggestions he’d picked up during Auror training, several photographs of Ron and Hermione that he could use in tracking spells, an owl feather he could Transfigure into an owl during an emergency, a series of blankets to cushion his sleep, cooking pots, a few stones to construct temporary hearths, his Invisibility Cloak, and a few other magical artifacts he’d acquired during the last year that might prove useful.

He’d thought about bringing the Elder Wand. Could he really hold back on anything that would allow him to rescue his friends? And then he’d thought of what might happen if someone in the Department of Mysteries overcame him and stole the Elder Wand.

No. He had his wand of holly and phoenix feather tucked in his belt, and that would have to do.

He stood, now, at the top of the last flight of stairs leading down to the Department of Mysteries. He hadn’t bothered with the lifts; he was certain that they bore spells to tell the Minister and any of his interfering busybodies if someone tried to access the ninth floor.

Only a few more steps into the unknown.

Harry took a deep breath and fixed Ron and Hermione’s faces in the forefront of his mind. He was doing this for them. If he didn’t go after them, who would? And maybe the Minister would find a solution in time, but maybe he wouldn’t. Harry couldn’t trust to authority. If he had, he would never have made many of his most important discoveries, and would certainly not have won the war. People like McGonagall and the adults in the Order had done their best to keep him out of things for as long as they could. It only resulted in disaster.

He took the few steps down.

At once the air in front of him turned thick and misty. Harry found it hard to breathe, as if he stood in the presence of Dementors.

He wondered for a moment if Dementors really could have taken over the Department, but then, the Patronuses people in the upper floors kept trying to use would have had some effect. Besides, this mist was warm, like steam in a tropical jungle, not the deadly cold Harry associated with Dementors.

He cast a Bubble-Head Charm on himself and forged forwards. The steps beneath his feet became progressively harder, and then impossible, to see. At last, his feeling foot found nothing but empty space. Harry cursed softly and paused for a moment.

Nothing for it.

He cast a Feather-Light Charm on himself and leaped.

For long moments, he drifted downwards, past snaking tendrils of what he could only hope was mist and not some kind of grasping vine. He could hear his own breath coming in hoarse, panicked near-shrieks. He had never realized how hard it would be to simply fall, without a broom beneath him and with dozens of possibilities as to how the fall might end.

And then, before he was ready for it, a floor crunched under his feet. Harry dropped into a crouch; old, dimly-remembered advice told him that trying to lock his knees and land upright was a good recipe for shattering his legs. Pain ricocheted through his body, quickly turning into numbness, but at least nothing seemed broken.

Harry still kept quiet, breathing, for long moments before he looked up.

Above him was a vast, empty void of space, as black as the ceiling of a cavern. Harry couldn’t see a sign of the stairs. He cast a Lumos Charm, then a stronger spell that Aurors used to scout crime scenes at night, which cast a floating ball of light in front of him. Still nothing looked back from the frozen night above. Harry frowned and turned to regard the vista in front of him.

A vast, broad corridor, paved in gray stone and with sturdy rock walls that could put some of Hogwarts’ to shame, led away to the east. Small, spinning blue flames rose from cracks between the stones here and there. They dissipated quickly, but Harry didn’t like the look of them anyway. Visible tendrils of mist swayed back and forth above head-height. At the far end of the corridor was a curve, with a blaze of white light beyond it.

When in doubt, go forwards.

He did, leaping now and then to avoid the silent flames. They never touched him, and he wanted to keep it that way. The corridor was even broader than he’d thought, big enough for the dragon they’d ridden out of Gringotts to pass through without ducking. Harry rubbed his arms and tried to convince himself that there was a chill to the air after all, and that he wasn’t getting gooseflesh out of fear.

The blaze of white light grew steadily brighter as Harry neared, but in the end it was no worse than a sunny day outside; only the blue-lit darkness of the tunnel made it seem so radiant by contrast, Harry thought. He squinted cautiously through the open door for a moment.

He thought he made out the silhouette of a human figure sitting with its knees drawn up and its head bowed over them.

Harry licked his lips and tried to recall all the theoretical expertise on Tracking and Stealth he’d just gained. Or would practical advice be more feasible, at this point? Any way you sliced it, he knew he wasn’t supposed to simply charge in—hard though that was when he thought this person might be Ron, Hermione, or one of the enemies responsible for their disappearance.

He cast a few charms, one that would dull the sound of his feet and one to lessen the feeling of contact if he accidentally brushed against the person. Then he lowered his satchel, fumbled for a moment, and pulled out his Invisibility Cloak. Arranged carefully, it would just about cover him and his baggage.

He edged in cautiously nevertheless, trying not to disturb the dust scattered on the floor of the room too obviously. The figure never looked up, but Harry still paused a good ten feet away from it and cast several detection spells to reveal traps. There were none to be found.

That didn’t reassure him.

He still couldn’t make out the source of the light, except that it seemed to come from somewhere further away in the roughly triangular room, and higher up the wall. As long as it hadn’t made him miss something in the floor or air, Harry decided he wouldn’t care about its origin for right now.

Closer, and closer. He could make out the emaciated state of the figure, and the fact that the hair spilling over its hunched shoulders and bowed face was pale. Naturally blond? Or had it gone white with whatever tortures he’d been forced to endure? Having seen the enormous chain that was locked around one leg, Harry was less inclined to the view that he’d been someone performing those tortures.

He went too fast in his eagerness, and his foot scuffed sharply. With a gasp, the prisoner flung up his head and stared wildly around the room.

Harry’s stomach dropped.

What the fuck was Draco Malfoy doing here?