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Harry Potter and the God That Wasn't

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13 June, Friday, 2003

Mission Objective: European recognition and elevation of listed creatures (centaurs, ghosts, goblins, house elves, merpeople, werewolves) to status of personhood

Auror : Zabini, Blaise (Assistant of the Assistant of the Minister of Magic)

Squished, under the name was:

I’m not an Auror, why do I need to fill these out?

Recommended Course of Action: Change “creature” status of aforementioned species to “being” status. Continuation of “creature” status perpetuates degradation of. Problem: centaurs, goblins, elves, merpeople all unwilling. Send ambassadors to populations to convince, but peacefully.

Underneath, squished again but in a clear hand:

Just send Potter, he’ll either charm them or they’ll like him through Stockholm Syndrome. Win-win.

Harry wrote, in the margin, Fuck you too, Zabini.

Full Report:

Centaurs reject wizard human-related contact and practices. Negotiation (Aurors Abbott (Hannah), Bones (Susan), and Smith (Zacharias)) unsuccessful. Aurors report threats of physical and sexual violence towards selves and future negotiators (see Prisoner #102’s file, Umbridge, Dolores, for example of centaur sexual assault against humans). Recommend: Cease attempts of treaty with centaurs until leverage is gained, otherwise risk of violence against humans and could cause violence within centaur society.

Goblins reject rights given in negotiations as “unsatisfactory.” Demand (1) full possession of all goblin-made objects in possession of wizards, including wizarding money, (2) reparations for past goblin wars, and (3) for Harry James Potter to face trials and tribulations for breaking into Gringotts and releasing a dragon. Rejection of amendments; (1) would result in full economic collapse of wizarding world. (2) impossible if (1) is fulfilled. Even without fulfilment of (1), (2) would be impossible to fulfill. (3) Out-right refusal to hand over saviour of the wizarding world.

In the margin, next to the response to number three, is:

You seriously rode out of Gringotts on a DRAGON, Potter? I thought that was an embellishment.

Continued in the document:

Elves reject freedom and are terrified of it. Problem: they need something to do. Allow elves to take jobs, useful ones; healing, enchantments, reconstruction, restaurant-owning. Provide avenues other than serving.

Merpeople accepting of alliance, but wish to remain neutral and distant. Recommend: Accept. Further negotiation at later date. Negotiate: review positives of relationship with wizards (how it will benefit them), and suggest small increments to begin, that will allow wizards and merpeople to exchange beneficial knowledge. Important: Do not push merpeople into hostility. Respect boundaries.

Additional Notes:

Werewolves are being killed. Deaths appear caused by muggle means (e.g. silver bullets, decapitation by swords/axes). Suggest negotiations with Prime Minister. Suspected: Her Majesty’s Forces. If so, cannot harm killers. If not, suggest independent actors. Negotiate to our forces.

Ultimate goal is for all of Europe to recognize these species of “creature” status as “beings” instead. That said, only a few magical communities are like-minded. France, Spain, Italy, most of the former Yugoslavia are unwilling to negotiate –

“Harry!” Hermione hissed to accompany the sudden elbow to Harry’s side.

Ow, Hermione,” said Harry, discretely rubbing his side. Hermione rolled her eyes, not buying it for a bit. Pity. Harry was hoping for some form of sympathy; it was the only way he might survive through this meeting. He couldn’t remember what it was on, only that he couldn’t listen to it without wanting to sleep. (Honestly, these meetings were worse than Bins’ classes ever were.) Zabini’s report were much more interesting (and important, besides) in any case.

Not that Harry could do anything about the problems in the report.

Hermione sighed, and turned her focus away from Harry.

Harry continued reading the last sentence of the report.

-- unwilling to negotiate adding the aforementioned species to status of “being,” and therefore adding them influence in the politics of wizards (see Foreign Policy Country Files).

Hermione has those files. Harry wouldn’t get to see them.

Their relationship with other magical communities was strained at best. Magical Britain hadn’t really been the most popular kid at the playground in the past few decades. Its inward focus for the First War caused enough damage, and the reparations that were attempted before Voldemort rose the second time were annihilated through Fudge’s subpar attempts of keeping power.

Scrimgeour had been a mild improvement, but he had been concerned mostly on the affairs of his own government and people. Exports had diminished to almost nothing; when Voldemort had taken over, other countries had barred British wizards from crossing into their borders. It wouldn’t have worked for very long if Harry hadn’t killed Voldemort because most of the foreign governments hadn’t realized the reach Voldemort had already accomplished. Most governments refused to believe—or at least were just unwilling to hand over any of their citizens—most of the cases British wizards have brought against their citizens, and in many cases, demanded back prisoners. Naturally, Britain’s Ministry of Magic had refused to do. In France’s case, they refused to surrender British wizards who had fled Britain before organized searches began after the Final Battle. France had surrendered refugees, but not all. The senior Malfoys, for example, were happily living in the south of France.

(Harry was torn on the issue of the Malfoys, and opted to generally not be involved in that discussion, as he felt he owed Narcissa Malfoy a debt for not informing Voldemort that he was alive in the forest. Others who knew of this, such as Hermione and Zabini agreed that they all would have been royally fucked without Narcissa Malfoy. That did not, however, excuse either Lucius or Narcissa Malfoy for the torture, death, and suffering they caused while serving Voldemort. For this reason, they were the last on the list of former Death Eaters to recover for prosecution, though this was an unpopular decision.

Harry was personally assured that neither Lucius nor Narcissa wished to get involved in anything for the rest of their lifetimes. This was evidenced by how quiet they had been since the end of the war; and besides, Harry had pointed out many times to people, Draco Malfoy remained in Britain, and could be used as leverage if needed. This part was much more welcomed by people than the first bit.)

Crimes committed on in Magical Britain’s land were for the Ministry of Magic to prosecute. Hermione, the lovely researcher she was, found previous incidences when British wizarding citizens committed a crime on foreign soil and how the British magical government hadn’t challenged their right to persecute. The governments conceded, but they were facing the consequences of their audacity now.

Or, as Dean and Seamus put it during their weekly pub meeting, they were buggered.

“Nah,” Harry had teased, “I’m not worried. After all, we’ve got Hermione.”

“To Hermione!” called out Dean.

“To Hermione!” called out the others.

Harry glanced at his friend. Hermione sat tall and attentively, taking notes with pen and paper with her right hand, the entirety of her attention on the words of the presenter. Next to her was Blaise Zabini, who was rarely anywhere else. Curiously, the Minister of Magic himself was not present, though Harry supposed Kingsley couldn’t attend all of the meetings. Actually, maybe he saved the boring meetings for Harry and Hermione to suffer through.

Hell, if Harry was Minister, he’d send Hermione to go to these meetings in his stead too.

Not that Harry was helpful at these kinds of meetings. It was actually a pointless exercise, honestly. Kingsley probably just wanted some payback for the shit Harry put him through. Harry could get behind that.

The clock ticked slowly to the meeting’s end, but when it did, Hermione caught his sleeve and asked, “My place, tonight?” Harry nodded and Hermione was gone, off to whatever else she needed to attend to in order to keep their government running.

This left Harry alone to find something to do for the rest of the day. And while there had been plenty for Harry to do in the years following Voldemort’s death, they had come to the point in which Harry’s skills were less than helpful in a world where diplomacy was the weapon of choice.

On his route to the Auror training centre, Harry picked up a Daily Prophet after the headline HARPIES TO WORLD CUP, with the sub-heading, WEASLEY AMAZES WITH SEEKER SKILLS.

Ginevra Weasley, the youngest child of the Techno-Magical Department Head Arthur Weasley, proved herself to be just as exceptional as her father and her many brothers (including world-renowned curse breaker Billius Weasley, successful entrepreneurs Frederick and George Weasley, and Ronald Weasley) by her truly astounding Quidditch skills. She plays as a Seeker on the Holyhead Harpies, and due to her quick catch of the snitch, the Harpies will be competing in the Quidditch World Cup this year.

“I know my catch won us the game, but it’s really due to my teammates that we’re going to the World Cup,” Weasley said modestly. “After all, it’s not just me on the team. We have a really strong team this year. Our Keeper lets nothing through, our Chasers are aggressive about scoring goals, and we can always trust our Beaters to watch our backs.”

Other teams expected to be at this year’s World Cup...

Good for her, Harry thought. Uninterested in the rest (he knew what the Prophet would be reporting), he tossed the paper in the trash. In the hallway, people waved and greeted him as he passed, but no one stopped him until he got to the Centre.

“Harry,” said Neville, surprised but welcoming. “I wasn’t expecting you today.”

Harry nodded at this. “Anyone need any practice or instruction?”

Neville looked around the large room, where groups of wizards and witches were practicing their spells on dummies and each other. “I suppose McDonald could use a bit more help on her speedy wand work,” he said eventually.

When Harry was done with Natalie McDonald, it was possible for her to whip out her wand from her wand harness and be spell-ready in half the time required for Aurors. But from the corner of his eye, Harry could see Neville frowning at him. Deciding to bite the bullet before Neville chose to take drastic actions like going to talk to Hermione, Harry meandered over to him. “What’s up, Neville?”

“Nothing really. Just was thinking that there ought to be something else for you to do, you know,” Neville said genuinely, without a hint of criticism towards Harry’s person. “I know you were a good Auror, but since they won’t reinstate you, it seems a waste to keep you training the newbies...”

“It was a good decision on their part. How can you keep order with someone who guarantees pretty much the opposite? I appreciate the sentiment, though. It was nice going out every morning with a goal for the day.” Harry laughed. “Who’d thought I’d miss the days of chasing down Death Eaters?”

“I miss the days you were an Auror,” said Neville wistfully. Suddenly, “BUTTERMERE! ADJUST YOUR WRIST FOR BETTER AIM!” They both watched the woman in question re-attempt her spell, and gave a clap and a congratulatory yell when she managed to strike her partner. “That day Kingsley got a cage filled with toads formerly known as Death Eaters was probably the funniest,” Neville continued. And oh, that had been a glorious day. Harry had tracked down several wizards who had enthusiastically assisted in interrogations and executions after Voldemort took over the Ministry, and secured them for trial.

The fact that he had secured them for trial by means of transfiguration, which may not be the most standard method of capturing fugitives, meant very little for Harry. Transfiguration as Harry used it was not illegal and only slightly immoral, in that it is forcing a human being into ceasing their humanity, in a way that makes them much more vulnerable than normal. (There were horror cases, as well as stories in which this end result was intentional, where wizards were turned into mice or birds, and were summarily eaten by natural predators.) Generally, most people avoided transfiguring other people for that reason. It was too easy to go horrifically wrong.

What Kingsley hadn’t waited for Harry to explain before yelling at Harry about protocol was that Harry had captured the fugitives before transfiguring, therefore their unsightly death through the food chain was fairly impossible. And Harry had only done it because the child hostages the fugitives had had were hiding in a crevice in the abandoned house Harry couldn’t get to. One of the children was badly hurt and needed medical attention; Harry couldn’t force them out without hurting them further, but they wouldn’t come out while the fugitives were in the room. Therefore, Harry had to make them “disappear.” After that, the children came out under their own power, bringing the injured child with them, and Harry was able to take them all to the hospital.

This didn’t explain why Harry chose not to change them back before he handed them over to the Ministry, but effectively distracted everyone enough to not question it. (The reason? Harry tended towards vindication whenever children were involved.)

“They still occasionally send me out to tackle poltergeists,” said Harry.

“Not quite the same, though, is it? Those aren’t very hard to handle. I mean, muggles can handle them alright,” countered Neville.

 “Well, that’s all they let me do,” Harry said in a carefully even tone. Neville hadn’t meant it as an attack, though it felt like one. Harry wanted to be useful, more than anything, and it was killing him to be idle.

“Have you ever thought of going back to Hogwarts to teach Defense?” asked Neville after a pause. “You were always good at teaching,” he added, waving a hand in McDonald’s direction.

Harry had given teaching serious consideration, to the point he almost brought it up to McGonagall a couple of years ago, when his workload began to wane. It wasn’t even that he didn’t want to because he had liked teaching other students in Dumbledore’s Army. But the thought of the monotony, of grading papers, of teaching the same material over and over again, of being back in Hogwarts for long periods of time—

He just never brought it up with McGonagall, is all.

“I don’t think that’s quite what I’m looking for,” said Harry.

Neville sighed. That clearly wasn’t the answer he was looking for either.

...

Harry called it an early day, and went off to Diagon Alley.

However, because Harry decided to walk to Diagon Alley, he had the fortune of popping out of the phone booth while some poor bloke was trying to get the phone to work. At least that’s what Harry presumed he was doing when Harry suddenly appeared in the phone booth with him and he startled so bad he went backwards out of the booth to fall onto his arse.

“Sorry ‘bout that, mate,” said Harry, holding out a hand to the fellow. “You all right?”

Whether or not he was all right was going to remain a mystery, as he was busy gaping at Harry. “What – but – where did you come from, I was the only one in the booth, you just appeared out of nowhere, that’s not supposed to happen, I was by myself one minute and then there you were, there are laws about physics that are supposed to stop this –”

“You do realize that the laws of physics don’t have any enforcement, right?” Harry asked, in a wondering tone that still effectively stopped the man from rambling. “So I can break the laws without any actual repercussions.”

“But they’re laws for a reason. You aren’t supposed to break them!”

Taking pity on the man’s franticness and increasing flush (he made Harry think of Hermione, if she hadn’t met him, honestly, so there was quite a bit of fondness in there too), Harry said, “Listen, mate, there’s an explanation for all of this.”

“Is... there?” he asked hopefully.

“Of course,” Harry smiled beatifically. “It’s magic.”

Silence. Harry wanted to cackle. It felt very appropriate and stereotypical.

“Magic,” repeated the man.

“I’m a wizard,” Harry added helpfully.

The man stared at him and blinked. Then he bit his lip and glanced to the side.

“I can prove it,” stated Harry, though he didn’t move, because if the man wanted to bolt from the crazy man, Harry wasn’t going to stop him.

“Can you?” he asked incredulously. He either felt weak with his arse on the ground or he felt comfortable enough to pick himself up, but in any case, he stood up. He wasn’t very tall, but taller than Harry (most people were, so that didn’t say much), ginger, and clearly with a propensity towards a red-face. He was wearing some type of uniform, which Harry believed had to do with aeroplanes, but as Harry had never had to ride one before, he couldn’t be sure.

“Sure, watch,” and Harry got back in the phone booth and waved for the man to get closer. When the man was close enough, he grabbed his arm and pushed in his code. The man yelled at the drop, but their ride stopped quickly enough for it to be mistaken for a yelp.

“Welcome,” Harry declared grandiosely, with open arms and everything, “To the Ministry of Magic.”

The man stared. And stared. His mouth moved as his eyes tracked the paper aeroplanes flying from place to place on their own, fires lighting by the walls producing people, owls going to and fro, and anything else that was too normalized to Harry to pick out.

“They’re flying,” the man finally murmured.

Harry hummed in agreement. “You like flying?”

“Yes. Yes! It’s always been my dream, it’s why I became a pilot. Well, I mean, I wanted to be an aeroplane but then my older brother told me I could never actually be an aeroplane, so I decided that the next best thing would be to pilot them. So I became a pilot. Oh, I said that already. Um, but this is incredible, they’re turning and all they are bits of paper!”

“Wanna go flying?” asked Harry, because that was really the gist of all of that and Harry loved flying, too.

“Yes,” he answered quickly.

“Brilliant. Take my hand, this is called Apparating, it’s not going to feel good but it’s fast.” The man, having lost all of his reservations at this point, grasped his hand. “What’s your name by the way?”

“Captain Martin Crieff.”

“Nice to meet you, Captain. I’m Harry Potter.”

...

Harry did indeed take Martin flying, and they only stopped when Martin remembered that he had been in a phone booth for a reason and had somewhere to be. They hugged when they parted, and Harry said, “By the way, I wouldn’t tell anyone about this. They’ll only think you’re crazy.”

“Oh. Oh, yes,” agreed Martin. “I suppose I can’t, can I?”

“Sorry, but that’s the only reason I can do something like this.”

“You lot are secretive, then?”

Harry shrugged. “Something like that.”

“Well... thanks for this. I can’t imagine a life without flying, and this was... really, truly, brilliant.” He grimaced but seemed so genuine that Harry was glad that the random bloke in the phone booth was someone who appreciated this as much as Martin.

Harry dropped him off where he needed to be, and at that point, he finally did head over to Diagon Alley.

...

At Diagon Alley, at this point repaired from its damage from the Second War, looked as shiny and new as it did when Harry came here in the shadow of a giant. Though it was different, under the veneer; the first obvious difference was that more people wore muggle clothes than not. There were still quills and parchment, but pens and paper had their place now. Unlike the Ministry, where there were hoardes of the young, many of whom Harry had known in Hogwarts, there were more of older generations in Diagon Alley. And despite the years, a feeling of loss was still present, because of those who were present here made very clear that there were those who were not.

Harry found his way to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, where the sign proclaiming “WHY ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT YOU-KNOW-WHO? YOU SHOULD BE WORRYING ABOUT U-NO-POO— THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION THAT'S GRIPPING THE NATION!" was still in place. Harry appreciated it still, but Harry knew many people thought it was an unnecessary reminder. They shut up though, when Ginny had snapped at one of them who had said as much while at the shop, “Good. We shouldn’t forget, or it’ll happen all over again.”

“Harry!” he heard as he entered the store. There was George with a grin that split from ear to missing ear. “Got bored at the Ministry again?”

“Thought you two would be lost without my pretty face, actually,” replied Harry as he went to the back and got his employee badge. (Not that Fred and George paid him. Well, technically, they did, but it somehow found itself back into their till, and then it found itself into his coat pocket, which then found itself in-between their kitchen plates in their flat upstairs, which then found itself bunched in Harry’s socks...)

“It’s way too easy to break the rules,” Harry said apropos to nothing when he came back into the store proper.

“What did you do this time, mate?” asked Fred, having finished helping a customer.

“A muggle was in the phone booth to the Ministry when I popped up into it,” admitted Harry without a trace of regret. “So I showed him the Ministry and took him flying.”

Fred blinked and gave out a startled laugh. “Who needs a Statute of Secrecy when you’re Harry Freaking Potter, right?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” said Harry. “Who’d believe a lone muggle, anyway? And I strengthened the muggle-repelling charms on the phone booth. Why those were neglected, I have no idea.”

“I think I understand why they kicked you out of the Auror Department, Harry,” laughed George.

“Oh, I don’t know, my dear twin. Maybe the Aurors –”

“—in all of their strict adherence to the rules, you mean—”

“—would have welcomed our dear Harry—”

“—who breaks rules like Snape tormented ickle Gryffindors—”

“—with open arms.”

“I merely differ in my philosophy,” Harry replied.

“Ah, yes, the classic, ‘Rules? What rules?’ approach.”

“Go set yourself on fire,” Harry retorted with amusement.

“Go to the back and organize our new shipments, if you’re going to bum around our store.”

...

When Fred and George kicked him out, Harry made his way to Hermione’s flat. When he knocked, Zabini answered the door.

“Hey,” Harry greeted as he walked around Zabini. “You and Hermione got a late night, tonight, then?”

“No, I was just about to leave,” Zabini drawled. “I wouldn’t want to interfere in your Girls’ Nights.”

“Oh, but we wouldn’t want you to feel left out. Us girls should stick together,” Harry smiled wide. “I think I have the best nail polish for you, too.”

“It really says something, Potter, when I can’t tell if you’re serious about that.” Harry opened his mouth, but Zabini beat him to it. “If you make a ‘I’m not Sirius, my godfather is dead’ joke, I will take your nail polish and make you drink it. Really, Potter, that joke is tasteless and got old before you said it the first time.”

Smirking, Harry lied, “Actually, I was going to say that I am serious. Nail polish is fun and relaxing. Why do you think Hermione doesn’t have any grey hairs yet? Our Girls’ Night. Join us.” Harry crowded into Zabini’s space, looked him dead in the eye, and repeated, “Join us.”

Zabini, the lovely man that he was, held his ground. “Now I know you’re shitting me.”

Harry smiled prettily. Zabini rolled his eyes.

“Back off, Potter,” he said shoving Harry away, going to the sitting room. “Did you see my report, while you weren’t paying attention in the meeting today?”

“Yes, I did. I particularly appreciated your commentary. I also appreciated how you managed to make it just slightly more interesting than that meeting to guarantee that I would read it but still suffer,” Harry answered as he shrugged his jacket off onto Hermione’s couch. There were two empty cups with teabags left in them, but no Hermione to be seen. Bathroom, most like. “Don’t leave on my account,” he commented as Zabini gathered his papers and jacket.

“I give you utmost assurance, Potter, that I do not, nor ever will, adjust my plans on your account,” he sniped and left.

Predictably, Harry heard the toilet flush and Hermione came back to the living room. She didn’t seem surprised by Zabini’s sudden departure. She probably told him to leave when Harry showed up. “Oh, hello, Harry.” That explained why Zabini didn’t want to stay for Girls’ Night. Shame. Harry would have to convince him to stay next time.

If you kidnapped someone, just to paint their nails and watch movies, would you still be arrested later?

Eyeing Hermione as she cleaned up the two mugs, Harry decided no, not if he got Hermione on board.

“I don’t think being at the Ministry is working out for you, Harry,” declared Hermione without further pleasantries.

“I think we should kidnap Zabini and paint his nails,” replied Harry.

“I don’t think we should kidnap Blaise and paint his nails because then I’d have to find a new assistant,” said Hermione without missing a beat. “Do you realize how long it takes to break one in? And don’t distract me, it’s childish and it won’t work, Harry.”

Harry sighed and leaned in his spot on the couch.

“It’s not that you lack the ability to appropriately complete your objectives in the Ministry,” Hermione continued as she got out some ice cream and made Harry set up the movie. She got two spoons for a pint for them to share. “You simply lack any inclination to adhere by the rules. And with the tenuous position we have with other governments, that is an unnecessary risk. And I rather think,” she said with a mischievous quirk of the lips that called to Harry all of the love and respect he felt for this woman, “that you would be better served doing something else.”

Harry constrained his intrigue with a mouthful of ice scream. After swallowing, he asked, “What did you have in mind?”

“I think you should travel,” Hermione said, pulling a piece of paper out of nowhere. “I made you a list of your goals.”

Harry took the paper and found a list of only ten items.

Harry Potter’s Goals

1. Take a break, Harry.

2. Go to foreign magical and muggle communities and learn what you can.

3. Take a break, Harry. Really.

Then, in a handwriting which Harry recognized as Zabini’s:

We’re writing Potter a list? I’ll contribute.

4. Get laid.

5. Drink and have fun.

6. Don’t do anything work related.

7. Don’t get into trouble.

8. Don’t let trouble find you.

9. DO NOT LET TROUBLE FIND YOU.

10. Do NOT make YOUR trouble MY trouble, Potter.

“Did you realize that Zabini edited this, Hermione?” asked Harry. Hermione frowned and grabbed the paper from him. Judging by her increased frown, Harry guessed that no, she wasn’t aware of that at all.

“Just for that, Zabini will be your contact while you’re gone,” Hermione decided. Harry winced in sympathy.

“I didn’t agree to this,” complained Harry. Hermione ate ice cream, pointedly pretending to pay attention to the movie.

“Harry, what else are you going to do? You hang around the Ministry but you don’t have an official job title, you couch surf and have no residence of your own, and more importantly, you’re bored out of your mind. It’s clear to everyone that you need something to do, and that it’s not here. Neville come up to me today and told me you spent hours correcting McDonald’s wand work. Hours, Harry! There’s so much more you could be doing! You’re so skilled, and so knowledgeable, but your skills aren’t meant for bureaucracy at all.”

“I also ignore the rules,” added Harry. He took some ice cream. Ooh, mango.

Hermione nodded. “And that’s not very good when it comes to diplomacy and bureaucracy. Fred and George told me you spent hours in their store again, after you showed a muggle the Ministry of Magic. Harry, what were you thinking? Are you trying to blow our secret?”

“One muggle can’t do anything. He won’t be able to find the phone booth again, and if he tells anyone, people will just think he’s crazy. And besides, why do we need to be a secret, Hermione? It’s bad enough that we’re cut off from the muggle world, but we spend so much time and effort on keeping our secrets!” Harry sat up from his slouched position on the couch. “You’ve seen our records! You saw how many people we’ve had to Memory Charm! You saw how badly they fucked it up!”

“I know, Harry! But these things take time. You can’t just change everything all at once, that’s not how politics work!” Hermione sighed. “And this is why I think you should go travel.”

“Because I’m a failure?” Harry asked bitingly.

“You are not a failure, Harry,” Hermione stated firmly. “It’s just that—this may be a weird question. But Harry, what do you want to do?”

That effectively stopped the winds in Harry’s sails. “I—yeah, that is a weird question. I want to help, obviously.” Didn’t she know that?

“Harry, there is a big difference between helping because you want to, and helping because you think you should,” Hermione said slowly, gaze fixed on Harry. “Can you see the difference?”

“Of course I can,” Harry answered flawlessly.

Hermione gave him a flat stare. “Okay, then. What’s the difference, Harry?”

Harry shifted uncomfortably. “Helping because you want to is helping because... you want to?” Hermione raised her eyebrows incredulously. “Okay, fine, I don’t know, but who cares? I’m Harry Potter, people expect me to—”

“That’s just the thing, Harry. That’s the difference. You’re doing what you think other people want you to do instead of doing something that makes you happy. Politics is not your forté, and that’s okay. You’re not supposed to be the best at everything,” were the words that Harry knew Hermione had had difficulty in coming to terms with. Harry looked down abashed. “You find something you love and you work towards that. You work on skills to help you with that. You don’t love politics, so you’re not motivated to work towards getting better at it, so you don’t, and here we are. But, Harry,” she said in a sad tone. “You’re used to doing what people want you to do. Granted, you do spend a lot of time breaking the rules as you see fit, but never in such a way where you openly state you’re going to disobey, nor do you use your disobedience to make a statement. You just break the rules when it suits you and continue to pretend to follow them otherwise. You don’t know what you want to do because you’ve never been able to think about it before. Honestly, Harry, did you ever really want to be an Auror, or did you just state that because people wanted you to fight Dark Wizards all of the time?”

Harry swallowed, and didn’t answer. Now he was glad Zabini wasn’t here for this.

“That’s why I think you should leave. Go out, go experience the world, find out what you love. So then you can do that.” She reached over and grabbed his hand. Harry stared at their linked hands, thinking he might cry and trying not to. “Harry, you deserve to be happy.”

“Okay,” Harry said. “Okay. When do I leave?”

...

Over the years, Harry had gotten more adept at eating Hagrid’s treacle fudge. Or maybe his jaw had gotten stronger through all of his attempts at eating it. Harry pondered this while Hagrid prepared some tea and Fang drooled happily on his lap.

“It’s great that yer doing this, Harry,” Hagrid enthused. “Yeh need a break. I’ve been sayin’ since the end og the War that yeh need a break, need to get away from Britain.”

“Is that what you told me? I thought you said I needed to get off Hermione’s couch,” Harry teased. His teeth scraped a bit of the treacle fudge, a minute amount manageable enough for Harry.

“Aye, I did. Yeh can’t bum around with yer friends forever, after all,” said Hagrid kindly as he sat down heavily on the chair, causing it to groan warningly. Harry wondered at the existence of chairs that talked as you sat on them and the sorts of things those chairs would say. “Eventually, you got to keep goin’gin life, and Harry, no one thinks you need ta be like the War never happened, but nothings going ta get better when yer here but not doing nothing.”

Harry maintained Hagrid’s steady gaze, and then sighed. “Yeah, I know. Hermione and I talked about it.”

Hagrid nodded. “Good head on her shoulders, that girl. Gonna be a sure thing for the next Minister of Magic.”

“No spell our Hermione can’t do,” Harry remembered fondly.

“Got any plans on where ter go?”

“Not really, I was just going to go and see what happens.”

“Always a nice way ter go about it,” Hagrid said. “Quite an adventure, too. Meet lots o’ colourful people and do lots of neat things.”

They spoke of odds and ends and nothing in particular until the end of Harry’s visit, at which point Hagrid brought Harry to the Forbidden Forest to visit the threstrals, many of whom had become very fond of Harry over the years.

“Yer wanna ask one of them to fly you?” wondered Hagrid, as they fed the threstrals apples.

A threstral nuzzled Harry’s face. “I think I’ll be good. But I’ll keep it in mind.”

And that was that.

...

Harry visited Headmistress McGonagall, who was just as impressive now as she was when Harry was a first year. Her office as Headmistress was similar to that of her office as the Head of Gryffindor House and the Transfiguration professor, but with a change of location. It lacked the mystique of Dumbledore’s; instead, there were plenty of books, ordinary-looking objects that gave faint pulses of magic, but the most startlingly difference between McGonagall’s office and Dumbledore’s was the presence of personal items. Even the portraits, which had been covered up for his visit, were not nearly as strange as the personal items—which truly emphasized how isolated Dumbledore had been in life, really. They surprised Harry the first time he visited, as McGonagall hadn’t had them in her office as his Transfiguration professor. Upon noticing his surprise, McGonagall had smiled faintly and explained, “It seemed prudent to take care in remembering the past, more than ever.” Harry had realized, after that, that many of the photos were of people that had been lost in the war.

There were House photos of his classmates, and Harry could pick out the ones that had died. There were photos of his parents’ generation, of those Moody had pointed out to Harry while at Grimmauld Place—and speaking Moody, there he was...

“We have lost so many,” had said McGonagall. She had looked so very tired. “And I couldn’t help but feel, after the First War, that we hadn’t learned anything. We continued on as if Voldemort hadn’t happened. As if we hadn’t created him.” She was silent. It occurred to Harry in an incoherent realization that he could barely parse out later, that McGonagall was speaking to him as an equal. McGonagall viewed Harry, not as a former student or as a pseudo-charge, but as someone who had proved his worth and deserved her respect. Considering her obvious refusal to give respect to those who wanted it so badly, Harry had felt a glow of warmth in his chest. “I went to school with Voldemort. Just for a year. Barely noticed him, of course, as I was already a seventh year, and he was only a first year student, but I remember—he was just a boy, Harry. Just like you and so many were, he was only a child.” Harry had a sudden, fearful inkling that McGonagall had learned about Voldemort’s childhood, and knew enough of Harry’s, to draw a comparison.

He had been right.

“Albus left his Pensieve behind, along with the memories of Tom Riddle that he had. I... there have been times where I have disagreed with Albus on his decisions, but I have oft made a point of supporting his decisions, thinking they were for the best.” She had released a sigh, staring at the small people in the small photos. “Albus made so many mistakes with Riddle, so many that if he hadn’t, we could have avoided Voldemort entirely, and have a truly exemplary wizard in our ranks.

“Though perhaps the root of Voldemort was systemic, I mustn’t put too much responsibility on Albus. Though watching those memories—Harry—are you alright?”

Fairly certain that Harry had done nothing to warrant this sudden concern, Harry had met McGonagall’s concerned stare with raise eyebrows. “Er—yes?”

The corners of McGonagall’s lips had twitched upwards. “I meant, Harry, so much of your troubles in life were due to Albus’ machinations. He may have meant well, but it’s hardly difficult to see that his decisions had a distantly negative effect on your life.”

“Okay,” Harry had said, because he really didn’t want to talk about this, but if he denied it, McGonagall would push or worse, get Hermione in it, and Hermione would bring Zabini and then there’d be a fucking intervention, but whereas faux calm acceptance would— “Was there a question in there?”

McGonagall had peered at him, and Harry felt like her student again, had felt like he had broken the rules again and might have resented her just a bit for making him feel that way with this subject. “No, Mr. Potter. I merely wanted to let you know you could, and always will be able to, talk to me about anything if you need. I am perfectly willing to cover up them” –she had indicated the covered up portraits of previous Headmasters, so that they could not interject in their meeting— “any time. I actually quite like being able to think and act without constant commentary, and I’ve taken to covering them all up more often, actually.”

The dark burgundy curtains that covered the portraits were an addition that was made ostensibly for both McGonagall’s and Harry’s sakes. It was recommended, though not in so many words, to Harry that speaking to Dumbledore’s portrait had a negative effect on Harry by Luna. When he had met her for drinks one night immediately coming from a discussion with Dumbledore’s portrait, Luna had said, in her absent way, “You’re still quite angry at him, aren’t you? I suppose I was quite angry with my mother too, after she died. Though you have more reason to be angry with Dumbledore than I had with my mother.” Harry had startled, as they had just been discussing a trip to Norway to investigate a possible Dementor grouping, but he stewed quietly on the words during the night.

When they left, both quite drunk, Harry had declared, “I’m not going to talk to Dumbledore. No talking to dead men for me! Not anymore!” To which Luna had added, “It is good to obey the laws of nature...” and they had promptly caught the Knight Bus back to Luna’s and spent the rest of the night watching terrible horror films.

The next time he came to visit McGonagall, the curtains had been in place, magicked to stop the people in the paintings from speaking or hearing them. McGonagall had said that she found herself much freer to act as she thought best without the input of hundreds of previous Headmasters, many of whom she called “inept dullards who spend far too much time muttering about what it was like in their day.” While that made sense, Harry thought that McGonagall’s pleasure at lacking the constant chatter from the previous Headmasters was more of a surprise to her than anyone, and Harry strongly suspected that Luna had revealed his drunken decision to others.

However, Harry found visiting Hogwarts much more pleasurable without the daunting prospect of speaking to Dumbledore. He visited more often and was clearly more comfortable while he was, to the point where his lack of stress about visiting was noticeable to others. Harry could see that some of his former professors, such as Sprout, Flitwick, and most of all, McGonagall, wanted to comment, but thankfully refrained from doing so. Harry could only feel grateful at whatever stopped them; the idea of discussing Dumbledore, and what that would lead to, gave Harry an uncomfortable and slick squirm in his chest that moved up to his throat and lodged itself there. It took a while to get to the point where he felt like he could breathe again, let alone speak, whenever he thought about the confrontation. Though he supposed that if he was actually confronted about it, he could deflect easily enough, as he did with McGonagall, but there was only so long he could do that before someone pushed.

Now, though, Harry was about to leave for an indeterminate amount of time (though Hermione told him he ought to come back periodically for catching up and tea), he thought about going up to speak to Dumbledore’s portrait. As he was leaving McGonagall’s office, he eyed the gargoyle and considered going back to speak to Dumbledore. He thought of the ring he wore as a necklace, the wand he kept hidden in a secret jacket inside pocket, and his invisibility cloak that he had folded in the secret pocket’s opposite. They felt heavy for a reason he couldn’t name on his person, and their weight was wrapped in a bitterness directed towards the man who was determined that they would find Harry as their Master.

Harry turned on his heel and walked away.

...

The plan was to say good-bye to all of his friends and leave to France, the start of his vacation. From there, he would travel in a random direction—he’d like to hop on a train and go, really—and keep going until he gets somewhere. Once a week, he would send a letter to Zabini to update him on his progress, and would occasionally return for tea with Hermione.

In hindsight, Harry wasn’t surprised that nothing went according to plan.

It began with a list. It often did, with Hermione. Hermione was a strong advocate of list-making, keeping a log and schedule with the same diligence she managed her Hogwarts study planner. This list caught Harry’s attention as it was in her bathroom. Finding books and notes in Hermione’s bathroom was not the strangest event, but this particular list was unusual in its vagueness, showing none of Hermione’s usual attention to detail.

It went as follows:

Café Rosé at 7:51.

A curious thing, and while Harry put on Hermione’s fluffy, pink, guest bathrobe, he pondered as to its meaning. Perhaps Hermione had a date? But she wouldn’t need to write down her date; also, who would plan to meet at 7:51?

Harry memorized it, and the next morning, he was at Café Rosé in London at 7:50. He waited there, disguised, to see if Hermione would show up. He watched for anything magical at all to happen.

At 7:52, nothing had happened. Disappointed, Harry went back to his coffee. Because he looked away, he missed the next sequence of events until the gun shot rang out.

Magnus Lockwood, an influential member of the Wizengamot, walked out of the café at 7:51:54. As he was just about to walk out of view from inside the café down the sidewalk, a car speeded down the street and shot him once in the head. He died instantly.

Harry did not recognize him, otherwise he might have been watching him more closely. As it was, Harry only looked back up after Lockwood had fallen onto the sidewalk. Because it was a gunshot, he wouldn’t have thought it was related.

But because Hermione had had a note with the time and place, he stood up and went to the body. And Harry, the former Head Auror even if for a few years, figured it out.

When he returned to Hermione’s later that evening, he said to Hermione, “Heard what happened to Lockwood?” It made more sense, at this point in the day, for Hermione to have done what she’d done. Lockwood was one of the primary opponents of Hermione’s proposed amendments to wizarding laws. Harry recalled that Hermione had mentioned him—a thorn in her side, she’d said. A man who had supported Voldemort’s take-over of the Ministry but hadn’t gotten any attention drawn to him, so had slipped through persecution. He was currently attempting to counter Hermione’s proposed Bill to reform funding of the Techno-Magical Department so as to assimilate better in muggle society with a Bill that requires the preservation of wizarding tradition so as to “not lose more than necessary due to the war.” To the purebloods who had lost many of their number during the war, this was an appealing bill, while Hermione’s seemed threatening to their values. In the past, he also opposed Hermione’s proposed bills to grant more rights to muggleborns, muggles, and to species that were not considered “beings.”

“Yes, I did,” Hermione answered casually. “I heard you called it in.”

“Yeah. I happened to be there.” He gazed steadily at Hermione. “I found a note in your bathroom with the name of it, and thought to check it out. Tragic, what happened, though.” Hermione lifted her head up, and met his gaze, and for a long while, neither spoke.

“Tragic,” Hermione echoed. “Especially considering those teenaged muggle girls that went missing by his house.”

Harry nodded in acceptance.

They watched the movie, in warm and trusting silence.

...

Harry knew that Hermione knew that he knew. Harry didn’t know if he ought to expect Hermione to do it again, or even how to feel about what she had done. Harry couldn’t approve of what Hermione was doing (though that was made more difficult when Hermione’s bill passed shortly thereafter, and a proud Arthur Weasley stopped by Hermione’s office to discuss his budget plans for his department). He could neither condemn her when Harry himself readily and easily resorted to murder when he had deemed it necessary during the Second War, and while he had never killed someone during his stint as an Auror, he had been willing to, several times, had it come down to it.

(Killing a criminal, while not recommended, was not forbidden if it was to protect one’s own life or the lives of others. Using an Unforgivable to do it was, which Harry always found odd. There were many ways to kill someone unpleasantly with common hexes.)

He was not surprised Hermione was capable of arranging the death of an enemy, either. He recalled, vividly, the moment he realized what had happened to Umbridge when the centaurs took her away, and that Hermione must have known. He had only been surprised that none of the professors punished her for it.

(“They thought I hadn’t known,” Hermione had said, when Harry had mentioned this. “They explained to me what had happened and why I should never have done that, but I was in the hospital wing recovering from the spell to my chest, so they decided that was all that was needed.”)

Harry also recalled, with satisfaction, really, the word SNEAK that had been written in boils on Marietta Edgecomb’s face when she ratted Dumbledore’s Army out to Umbridge.

No, Hermione’s viciousness was neither a surprise nor unprecedented.

If Harry had questioned Hermione on her decision to eliminate her political opponents in such a permanent manner, he might have avoided what was next to come. As it was, Harry’s unwavering trust in Hermione led him to believe she would do better to not leave any clues if she did it again. And that, if she did do it again, she would do it with the good of the wizarding world in mind.

And Harry was right, in both regards; Hermione neither left behind any clues nor did she do her crime without reason. No, the fault for the following events was Harry’s own shoddy luck.

Harry happened to meander down to the Department of Mysteries because he’d heard that Luna was back for a bit. That meant that he was one of the few outsiders (the others including Hermione, Kingsley, Zabini, and Neville) who saw the current project of the Unspeakables, which had Harry battle-ready before he even registered what he was seeing.

“What is this?!” Harry hissed, as he steamrolled forward, towards the Unspeakables. Luna, frowning and wand out, followed him. “OY! Edwards! TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON!”

Edwards dropped the needle and syringe he was holding and it shattered on the ground, blood spilling on the white floor. “Mr. Potter, you’re not supposed to be here. You’re also not supposed to call me by name.”

Closer to the person strapped to the table, Harry could sense the wrongness from the person beside him. Before he could puzzle it out, he saw the demon trap on the floor and the table.

“No one cares if I’m here, and I’ll call you ‘idiot’ for bringing a demon into the Ministry. Whose orders are you following?”

William Edwards was older than Harry by quite a bit, having survived both the First and Second Wars, and having served as an Unspeakable for most of that time. Although he never supported Voldemort, he never opposed him either and quietly accepted the jobs given to him regardless of who was giving them. He was not imprisoned for two reasons: 1) though Edwards lacked what most people called empathy or a conscience, he also never deliberately sought to harm anyone, and 2) he was driven primarily by his scientific curiosity, and there were many reasons Hermione needed someone like him.

That said, he didn’t dislike Harry; he merely was disappointed he couldn’t get Harry strapped to his table.

That said, Harry didn’t dislike Edwards; he merely was physically repulsed by him.

Edwards hesitated in giving his answer and Luna stepped in, calm and ethereal, “It appears you’re attempting to draw blood from the demon on the table. Did you check to see if there’s a human trapped inside?”

That, at least, got a steady confirmation. “Yes. Only the demon inhabits the body. We’ve trapped it in there until it’s exorcised.” He pointed to a mark scarred onto the demon’s arm. A sealing mark.

“What is the purpose of this experiment?” asked Luna, all business. Luna as “all business” was odd, particularly as the people Harry normally associated that phrase with—Hermione and McGonagall—fit the description in a very different manner than Luna. The vague, dream-like, surprised quality in Luna’s demeanor shifted to the point where all of her intensity focused on her goal to a terrifying degree not even Hermione nor McGonagall could truly match.

“The blood of a human possessed by a demon shows several magical qualities upon ingestion. We have several, fully-informed, consenting wizard volunteers testing its full effects,” intoned Edwards. He vanished the blood and glass on the floor.

“What effects have you seen thus far?”

“Telekinesis, increased supernatural senses, and ability to affect those being demonically possessed.”

“Could you be a bit more vague about how they affect wizards, please?”

Edwards frowned, and Harry suspected at this point he wasn’t even aware that he shouldn’t be answering Harry’s questions (even the sarcastic ones), but merely trying to explain his discoveries. “They can cause them pain, mostly, but we suspect they might be able to exorcise them more quickly than a normal exorcism would, or through a wizard’s less savory methods.”

“Where are these volunteers?” asked Luna, and Edwards whisked them away to introduce them to the volunteers.

They were just that—volunteers. Fully-informed, consenting volunteers, just as Edwards had promised.

(One thing to say about Edwards, which may be why Hermione liked him fractionally more than Harry—he followed the rules well.)

After conversing with the volunteers, Luna and Harry parted without a word while Harry went to the Minister’s office. There, he found the Minister poking at a mobile phone given to him by Hermione.

“Can’t figure out your mobile, then?” asked Harry. Kingsley gave him a withering glare before it melted into sheer exasperation. The plasticity of Kingsley’s face always entertained Harry. Grinning, Harry strode in and sat himself in one of Kingsley’s guest chairs.

“Justin said I’d have to recharge it,” said Kingsley, “But I’ve had it on constantly for a month, but it still says it has a full battery. I’m a little uncertain as to why.”

“What’s Justin’s theory?” Harry asked, peering at the phone.

“He thinks it’s the ambient magic here in the Ministry keeps it charged,” stated Kingsley, straightening and placing his mobile out of sight. “Since I’m here so often. Is this a social visit or did you want to speak to me about something specifically?” he inquired.

“I have a point this time, I’m afraid,” admitted Harry. “I was just in the Department of Mysteries.”

Kingsley gazed levelly at Harry. “Harry, you know you’re not supposed to be down in the Department of Mysteries.”

“Kingsley, you know you’re not supposed to have a demon strapped to a table in the Department of Mysteries,” Harry mocked.

Between the two of them, Harry always won their staring competitions. This time was no different. Kingsley looked away first and sighed.

“Global numbers of demons are increasing,” affirmed Kingsley. “It’s beginning to alarm a great portion of not only the magical communities, but also the muggle officials who are aware of the problem. Muggles who are not aware of the problem are only that much more vulnerable to demonic attacks. The imprisoned demon is a security risk, but we’ve discovered that ingesting demon blood increases the magical capabilities of wizards. Our volunteers are testing these effects, to see if they would be helping fighting against these very demons.”

“This is a bad idea and I don’t condone it.”

Kingsley sighed. “I know.”

“You realize you need to write me down as a supervisor to guarantee safety, now, right?”

“I was hoping you wouldn’t find out about this project, honestly,” admitted Kingsley, as he wrote the official note. “The least amount of attention to this project and the faster it’s done, the better. Don’t let anyone know that you’re on this project, and for the love of all that is good, Harry, don’t attack Edwards.” Kingsley pushed the paper forward to Harry and leaned back.

Harry swiped the note from the desk, grinned at it, and said, “I make no promises if he attempts to convince me to let him have his wicked way with me on the dissection table.”

Kingsley shuddered. “Put like that, I can understand. But Harry—don’t.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll just linger in the background to make sure the demon doesn’t escape and kill anyone. Won’t hear a peep about it.”

...

Kingsley didn’t hear a single peep from down in the Department of Mysteries.

He heard screams, rather.

And then explosions. Harry’s doing, of course, though that was an unimportant tidbit for Kingsley and the rest of the Ministry at the moment. Particularly for the Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries being ripped limb from limb at the demonic power wielded by their own test subjects.

It all began with an article a couple of hours ago that morning:

DEMON KEPT INSIDE DEPARTMENT OF MYSTERIES!

Whenever there is a question about what actually is contained in the Department of Mysteries, the individual in question is also answered with a resounding “shush” by all parties of the Ministry. We are left, then, with the question of what is it that is in the Department of Mysteries that the Ministry wants to keep secret so badly?

Due to the information from an anonymous source, we now have our answer: demons.

Currently, under the very floor of our government, a monster from Hell is being contained and its blood used on human subjects to see its effects. The nature of these experiments are unclear as are their purpose. Although the information given from the source was limited by necessity, the source itself was reliable. The Ministry, rather than eliminating the demon, is containing one despite the risk it presents to all individuals present at the Ministry.

As a reminder, this summer, a total of thirty students who are about to enter their last year at Hogwarts are interning at the Ministry in various positions. They are considered the best and the brightest of their year, and have promising futures and careers ahead of them.

The Ministry of Magic, which fell so far out of the trust of the people before the Second War and was overtaken by the Dark Lord during it, is still only beginning to regain the trust of the people. However, when the Ministry allows dangerous risks like allowing demons to live within the Ministry walls that threaten the lives of all who work or visit there, is the Ministry really deserving of that trust?

Needless to say, it was a shit storm. It was also a shit storm that Harry wasn’t privy to, because while all Ministry personnel arrived at their jobs on time to see the Daily Prophet’s news article and react in an appropriate and timely manner, Harry was sleeping soundly on Hermione’s couch. He didn’t arrive at the Ministry until two hours later.

Unfortunately, as Harry understood it later, Harry had missed a lot in those two hours for during that time, the top crust of the Ministry had realized:

1) Yes, there was a demon in the Department of Mysteries.

2) Yes, there were also people who were ingesting demon blood which enhanced their magical abilities in strange ways.

3) Aside from Unspeakables, there were only a few people who were in the know about this project, those being: Kingsley, Hermione, Neville, Zabini, and Harry.

3a) It might have been hinted in the article that it might have been an Unspeakable who found a way around their magical oath, which was difficult but not impossible, and that increased the number of suspects who leaked the information.

3b) Except not really, because it occurred to someone that Harry had also been involved in a murder a couple of months back, and out of all of the people involved, Harry was the only one who was uncontrollable, disliked the rules, and had no real official authority down in the Department of Mysteries.

An arrest warrant was sent out for Harry.The Auror Department began a search run by the few Aurors not trying to contain the situation downstairs.

Hermione went to her office, locked the door and Apparated home to wake Harry up.

“Bloody hell, Hermione, what is it?” murmured Harry, throwing an arm over his face.

“Harry, oh, Harry, I’m so sorry—I didn’t mean for this to happen!” Hermione exclaimed, frazzled and overwhelmed.

“What? What happened?” Harry sat up, his wand in hand.

“I told the Prophet about the demon in the Department of Mysteries,” Hermione said, “and the Ministry thinks you’re the leak.”

Harry blinked. “Of course they do. Why do they think that?”

“Because you were at the murder scene of Lockwood and overseeing the demon project in the Department of Mysteries and you don’t have any official standing any more! Oh, Harry, I didn’t mean for this to happen!”

“There’s not many of us for it to have been, Hermione,” responded Harry calmly, adrenaline waking him up, but practice making him move in sure, calculated movements.

“I thought they would think an Unspeakable had gotten around the Oath! Or a participant in the project!”

“Evidently not,” Harry snapped, cold.

Silence. Harry got up to put on his clothes.

“We’ve all done so much for the Ministry, I scarcely thought that any of us would be suspected. We’re all well-liked, too, within and outside of the Ministry. The fact that the blame fell instantly on you is... not what I expected.”

Harry waved his wand around the room, tucking away supplies into his larger-than-it-appeared bag. “I’m their favorite scrape goat Hermione. I know you’re the Ministry now, but it’s only been a few years since the Daily Prophet was calling me mad.” He helped himself to Hermione’s kitchen, packing food that wouldn’t spoil. Hermione trailed after him.

“What are you doing?”

Harry turned to look at her. “I’m packing. Going to need it on the road.”

Hermione frowned. “No, Harry, you can’t.”

“Can and will. Think of it as an early departure to my vacation.” Harry smiled wide, the one meant to assure people that Harry was just as much the risk-taker as they were told and there was nothing they could say or do that would stop his next act of stupidity.

Hermione’s frown took a determined curve, but Harry reached forward to place his hands on her shoulders. “Hermione, they need you. You’ve done so much for the Ministry in the few years you’ve been here. House elves are getting paid. Wizards are using phones. Muggle studies is mandatory, students are using pencils and pens, people are learning to use technology and how to integrate it in our lives, Azkaban no longer has dementors, every one is guaranteed a trial and legal representation. You’ve done so much! They need you. They already think I’ve done it, and there’s no one else it could be. You let me take the credit. It’ll be fine.” Hermione still looked ready to pick a fight. Harry continued. “Hermione, if you go down for this, you’ll never get back up. You won’t become the Minister of Magic, your laws will lose support and credibility, and all of your work will be for nothing. You not only should let me do this, you can’t not let me do this.” The lines on Hermione’s face became resigned, but Harry’s grin became wide and sharp. “Besides, they won’t know what to do with me. Boy savior, a criminal? ‘What do we do with him?’”

Hermione’s lip quirked in a way that Harry took as a victory, but by this point, at the Ministry, Aurors had been sent down into the Department of Mysteries to destroy the demon project due to official and public demand.

Demon blood had had a strange effect on the wizards and witches participating in the experiment. There weren’t many of them, and at this point in the study, they had been constrained to a few converted rooms in the Department of Mysteries. They had been told that it was because they had found something to monitor and it was nothing to worry about, but actually, it was something to worry greatly over. The participants had all been diligent about receiving their dosage—far too diligent to be normal in a study. When denied a dosage, the participants had displayed symptoms similar to that of drug addicts. For now, the participants had been in the converted rooms for about 24 hours, receiving the normal dosage while Edwards and the other researchers decided what to do.

(When Hermione read the report, she had thought this experiment had gone too far, and sought to end it before anything went wrong and it would be impossible to save the participants.)

Some of the participants, terrified by being cornered by the Aurors alongside the irrationality their addiction was wrecking upon them, attacked the Aurors and Unspeakables attempting to restrain them with their demonically-enhanced magic. Kingsley and many others heard the screams from below their feet.

People were scrambling, attempting to counterattack, and somehow, the demon got loose.

Blaise Zabini, who was helpfully telling people to piss off when they approached Hermione’s office, ran into her office himself, locked the door, and called Hermione’s mobile.

As soon as Hermione picked up, Zabini reported, “The participants are slaughtering people and the demon’s loose. Tell Potter to get over here and stop them.”

“On my way!” he heard Harry say along with a distant pop.

A not-so-distant crack sounded next to him, and he put his mobile away to speak to Hermione. “We’ve lost some Aurors and Unspeakables, but the precise number is difficult to determine. Some Aurors who escaped shut the door to the Department of Mysteries, so they shouldn’t be able to get out, but there were still some Aurors and Unspeakables trapped in there—”

An explosion rippled through the ground beneath them.

“Well, Potter got in.”

Down below, Harry hoped Hermione and Zabini would have the sense to not interfere. It was usually a toss-up, whether or not Hermione would do the sensible thing, nowadays. Being in a position of power had Hermione used to the idea that she had to be consistently responsible (or at least the appearance of it), and realized that sometimes it was best to leave Harry to his exploits. Other times, she thirsted for the days where she could curse with the best of them, make people physically fall to their knees, and know that Harry’s back was covered.

As Harry snuck around the wall and struck one of the other demon blood crazy participant with a blasting spell and then a freezing spell to the floor, Harry decided that if ever there were a time for Hermione to join him, a fight with a demon and people crazy off its blood would be it.

He saw from his peripheral vision a couple of the participants attempting to crawl away from the fight, but the direction they were headed would only lead them further down into the Department. It would, however, decrease their chances of being knocked out by a scared Auror or Unspeakable, so Harry moved to a new spot to draw attention to himself and let the two participants who hadn’t gone crazy get away from the danger.

Or at least, that was his intent. Before he could do anything, the demon rushed the two participants and snapped one of their necks. The man shrieked away from the demon and the body, and noise from the displacement of air from Harry’s Apparating in front of the man resounded throughout the room. Grabbing the demon, he shot off a bat-boogey hex to distract it while he yelled at the wizard to run, which he did, thankfully.

Harry had to move again after that, because his success so far in this fight was due to the fact that he had disillusioned himself and both the addicts and the demon were having difficulty locating him. Harry’s disillusionment charms had always been excellent, to the point of invisibility. Hermione, without invisibility, would have not done nearly as well.

Yeah, Hermione’s rage at being locked out of the Department of Mysteries would be worth it. Even if it meant he was alone in here with the addicts and the demon. It was almost like fifth year, all over again.

A hand hit his arm and there was a loud yell from one of the participants, “Found him!” before he was flung backwards into the wall. He was going to be one big bruise if he survived this.

He Apparated to the opposite side of the room, shot off a spell, Apparated again, shot off a spell, then again, and again. If he kept moving places, they wouldn’t be able to get a grip on him with their powers.

Harry was only incapacitating the participants. When they were unconscious, they were unable to do anything, so they could be handled by the Ministry later. Despite their powers, they were only human, so it was fairly easy to knock them out.

That demon, though. That was going to be tough.

The body it was inhabiting was a beautiful man. A real life example of tall, dark, and handsome. But its eyes were endlessly black, and it shouted out the horrors it would visit upon the wizards that had imprisoned it.

Harry had not taken on any demons during his stint as an Auror, because demons so rarely could enter Britain. The royal family, having their own special forces to handle supernatural threats, had built iron bars and salt lines into the foundations of the entrances and exits of their country. (These protections were also built into important government buildings. Evidently, it was extremely difficult for a supernatural creature to enter Buckingham Palace, or any of the other homes of the royal family.) Since the end of the Second War, there had only been four demonic possessions in six years.

A wizard’s preferred method of eliminating a demon involved killing it with a magical fire, which also killed the host. (Normal fire didn’t work.)

Harry was prepared to do that, as he didn’t expect to kill a host that was reportedly not inside its body anymore, if not for something the demon was saying inbetween the screamed curses.

“I hope you lot realize that it hasn’t just been me you’ve imprisoned here!” it screamed, its power tearing into a wall in its search for Harry. Unluckily for it, the sound covered Harry’s constant Apparating and discrete spells to protect the participants lying unconscious all over. At this point, Harry and the demon were the last ones standing. There were some bodies of the Aurors and Unspeakables, but they were dead or unconscious, and those that could had run off, if not out of the Department, then elsewhere to hide. They’d be fine. “Edwards lied when he said I was alone in here! All this time, this pathetic human has been in here screaming at you for freedom! And all this time, imprisoned without food or water, his body’s going to be shit if I leave! He’d be better off with me in him, thanks to you!”

Speaking of which, if Harry was going to do this murderous, treacherous, fugitive thing, he was going to do it right. He’ll kill Edwards before he departs as a fugitive, then.

It would also ensure people blamed him rather than Hermione for everything, too.

Yeah. That’s why.

“WHERE ARE YOU? COME OUT, WIZARD!” screamed the demon.

“Here I am,” sang Harry, appearing behind it. Harry threw magically-constructed salt in its face and it screeched. Harry considered his options. He could burn it, but now that he knew the host was still in there, he hesitated to do that. He could exorcise it, but he had to stop the demon from attacking him, so he needed to trap it. Trapping demons was difficult, because normal spells for restraining people, like the Body-Bind Curse, didn’t work. (Even weak demons had enough power to throw off restriction spells. They also made their host physically strong enough to break off any rope or chains used to restrain them. This is why most wizards hit demons with as strong as they had, and left to get reinforcements or burnt the demon themselves.)

Burning was such a painful way to die.

And the hosts of demons were usually left awake.

There had to be some other way to stop the host’s pain.

And Harry had an idea. It was a terrible, moronic idea, but that had never stopped Harry before.

 

Harry made himself visible, and the demon lunged for him. Staring straight into its black, furious eyes, Harry yelled, “AVADA KEDAVRA!”

Green light rushed towards black eyes—

—and all was still.

Harry waited, tense, but when nothing happened, he stood cautiously, keeping an eye on the still forms on the ground.

Some of the participants he had knocked out were stirring, but that was alright. He bound them easily enough, and then went to the Department of Mysteries. He secured all of the participants on the ground, and then opened the door to the Department.

Instantly, he was bypassed by medical personnel to tend to the wounded in the Department and then he was surrounded by Aurors demanding his arrest. “Sorry, lovelies, hate to do this, but I got to cut this short. I came back just for one thing.” Ah, and there was Edwards. Harry knew he hadn’t seen him among the bodies. Harry Apparated behind him, grabbed his upper arms, and Apparated away before anyone could stop him.

Alone in an alley of London with Harry Potter was clearly not where William Edwards wanted to be, but he also didn’t appear surprised. He looked grim and grey-faced as he turned to Harry and asked resignedly, “What did the demon tell you?”

“Did you know there was still a human soul inside the body?”

Harry’s tone and posture brooked for no way out of this. Edwards sighed, took of his glasses, pocketed them, and closed his eyes. “It was the twentieth demon we’d brought in, and there had been a human soul contained in all of them. I needed to run that experiment, Potter. I needed to. You have no idea how much we’ve learned in this project. Even if you kill me now, even though people have died, we’ve learned so much.” He kept his eyes closed for the entire fervent speech.

Harry’ scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. “And here I thought you followed the rules,” Harry muttered to himself. “Good-bye, Edwards. It really has not been a pleasure.”

Harry lifted his wand, and killed Edwards with a simple reducto to the throat. It was so over-powered that he died instantly.

One less problem to worry about.

“Toodles,” said Harry to the corpse, and vanished.