Ten Years Later
Chapter One: Ten Years Later...
The Director of Magical Law Enforcement pulled her reading glasses off her face and sighed as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Things had not been going her way. They hadn't been for the last decade, since her best friend had walked out of her life.
In his defense, it hadn't been unexpected and had been quite understandable. In reality, the only detestable thing he had done was not say good bye before he left to parts unknown.
Sure there was the occasional rumor of his whereabouts and just exactly what he was up to. And he did keep regular correspondence with his godson. Andromeda had even spoken to him in person on several occasions. But it still hurt that he hadn't contacted anyone else.
Setting aside her paperwork for the first time in several hours, Hermione Granger began rubbing the fatigue out of her eyes, and cursed Harry for leaving her with a mess neither he nor her should have had to deal with in the first place. But there she was, once more the head of a fruitless cause, trying to take on the problems of the world almost single-handedly. Perhaps Harry wasn't the only one in his circle with a "Saving People Thing"; he was just the less masochistic one.
Hermione gazed up at her "Wall of Glory". Countless awards from the last decade adorned her wall, as well as some of her most cherished memories- the center piece was her favorite, featuring herself, Harry and Ron all in their second year, taken by the overly enthusiastic, late, Colin Creevy.
A pang of sadness made her heart ache slightly, but she quit being surprised long ago about how much she actually missed the budding blonde, muggleborn photographer. In fact, there were quite a few people she missed from "the good old days", though she still kept in contact with a few of them, even if it was only once week at Molly Weasley's Friday Night Dinners.
Her thoughts pulled her to her other best friend, a man whom she thought ten years ago she'd be happily married to. That obviously hadn't happened, and while the self-destruction of their relationship had been horrible, their friendship was better for it in the long run. And now Ron was happily married with several children of his own. She smiled as she looked at a picture of her with Ron and his family and couldn't help but feel envious of him.
There was a bittersweet sense of irony there that the most envious one of the Golden Trio several years ago, was likely the most enviable of them at the present time.
Her maudlin thoughts were turned away from the past as Ms. Chambers, Director Granger's personal assistant, entered the office.
"What is it, Kelly?" asked Hermione in a tired tone.
Ms. Chambers looked uncomfortable, hesitant to bring Hermione the news she'd come to deliver. From what Hermione had known of the woman that was never a good sign, as Kelly tried to chat her up every chance she got.
"Um... Director..." Kelly started uncharacteristically nervous. "We just got a message from Helena Sage's office..."
"Sage... Department of International Travel?" asked Hermione with a resigned sigh. "What is it this time?"
"Apparently, a high profile dignitary is coming through the International Floo Gateway without an escort," Kelly answered. "Completely unexpected, so they couldn't set up a proper security detail through either the Auror Department or one of the freelance security companies."
"Okay... But why bring this to my attention?" asked the Director of the DMLE. "Let Robards handle it. It's part of what he's paid to do as Head Auror."
"I understand that Director," replied Ms. Chambers. "However, Madame Sage thought you might want to handle this matter personally."
Hermione's gaze looked up from the form she was perusing to meet her yeoman's worried green eyes. There was something she was missing. A tiny detail that was escaping her. Her mind scrambled to what it could be. Very few of her friends either lived or traveled abroad. Ron was still in country, Charlie always came by broom citing that International Floo was too expensive and Ginny, barring any sort of family emergency, would remain in Bulgaria for another five or six days. Even Teddy and Andromeda were in country, seeing as Teddy would be getting ready to start his first year of Hogwarts...
And then it hit her.
It was Harry Bloody Potter, her wonderful bastard of a best friend, finally returning to England.
"Kelly, cancel whatever appointments I had for today and let Ron know I'll be dropping by with a guest," Hermione not so politely ordered her assistant. Without even waiting for a reply, Hermione had already waved and flicked her wand, placing the various forms on her desk into various filing receptacles and was out the door almost before Kelly could blink.
"Yes, Director..." the short haired red head said into the empty room.
The very last thing Harry expected to see once he returned to England was the stern face of Hermione Granger with a small contingent of Aurors behind her looking as if they were expecting trouble.
"Ah... Um... Hi?" he asked uncertainly. Hermione still wasn't looking very amused or all that happy to see him. "Well, don't everybody rush to greet me all at once."
After a long, tense moment, Hermione's expression broke into a smile. She stepped forward enveloping him into a hug. It was both very different and yet exactly the same as he remembered her hugs being.
"It's good to see you again..." she whispered to him.
"Likewise," he whispered back. After he pulled back a bit, he asked, "How have you been?"
"Ask me again in another half hour," she replied with a wide smile.
"Madame Director, not to interrupt, but we really should get going. His return has to have been leaked to the press by now and they'll be here en mass with who knows how many others if we don't leave very soon," warned a middle aged man wearing auror robes with various decorations denoting high rank and meritorious service.
"Right." Hermione acknowledged. "Harry, this is Senior Head Auror, Malcolm Robards. He deals with everything in the Auror Department that doesn't require my signature. Malcolm, this certifiable prat, is Harry Potter."
Robards raised an eyebrow at the introduction, but shook hands with Harry.
"Whatever she's said about me is only half true," Harry joked.
"I'm sure," Robards answered with a slight smile. "Mr. Potter, we have provided transportation for you to take you where ever you wish to go."
Before Harry could say anything, however, Hermione intervened. "Actually, I'd appreciate it if you inform Coulson that we'll be heading to New London."
"Yes, Director Granger," Robards acknowledged as he turned and left the receiving bay of England's International Floo hub.
Harry turned to her surprised. "We are? Good to see some things haven't changed, mum."
"Ronald is going to be angry enough as it is that you didn't at least tell us you were coming back. He'd have wanted to be here. As it is, I only found out because I'm a Senior Department Head at the Ministry," Hermione responded as she and Harry began following after Robards at a more sedate pace. The remaining Aurors in the room fell into step with them, forming a small perimeter around the two friends. "Do you really want him to find out in the Prophet that you've returned?"
Harry sighed, but smiled taking the sting out of his comment. "And there's the reason why Ron and I practically did everything you ordered us to in school. So... Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, eh?"
"Yeah, who'd have thought?" said Hermione. "If anyone asked who from our year I thought would be the youngest Director of the DMLE in history, I'd have said you."
Harry shook his head. "Maybe Head Auror there's no way I'd let myself become the Director of the entire Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Too political, I'd already had enough of politics before the end of our sixth year."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's not nearly as bad as you make it out to be."
"Your press would say otherwise," Harry shot back. "Speaking of which, I'm surprised they haven't accosted us already."
"Despite the short amount of time we had to work with, we got this place fairly secured for your arrival," Hermione informed him. "So those vultures are likely camping outside."
"Tell us how you really feel," Harry replied jokingly. Hermione blushed in response. She hadn't meant to say her exact thoughts out loud.
As they approached the front doors, they could hear the reporters and various Harry Potter admirers outside and could see the Aurors pushing some of the more zealous ones back.
"For what it's worth Harry, I really am glad you're back," Hermione said.
"I know, Hermione, I am too," Harry replied as they braved the dreaded abyss. Forever the perfect gentleman, Harry opened the door and let Hermione out first before following her out and falling into step beside her. Instantaneously, both were assaulted by questions from both the press and their supporters/detractors. The questions came at them so rapidly that Harry doubted either himself or Hermione even heard barely a quarter of them.
It seemed like forever before they reached the ministry car and Hermione and Harry scrambled in as quickly as they could while maintaining their dignity.
"I forgot what that's like... Can't say I missed it though..." Harry commented as the door was closed by a no name auror.
Hermione nodded in agreement as she addressed the driver. "Phil, get us out of here."
"Yes, Director," Auror Coulson replied as he started up the car and waited for his fellows to move the press and public away from the car.
"You're on a first name basis with quite a few people," Harry noted.
"Only ones I deal with often," Hermione replied. "Phillip is head of the Special Investigations Division."
"And yet he's driving you around," Harry pointed out.
"This is the first time in years I've been in a Ministry provided vehicle," Hermione responded. "And Phil is one of the few in the entire DMLE I know I can trust implicitly. Do you think I would leave your safety to chance with just anyone?"
Harry looked at Hermione for a few seconds, making an inquiry that had been on his mind. "How bad are things, Hermione?"
"Not nearly as bad as the media makes it out to be," Hermione replied, though she didn't quite meet his eyes. "So what have you been up to all these years, except dragging Teddy off to whatever country you happen to be in?"
"This and that," Harry replied evasively. "You know he can't ever decide whether you or Ginny are his favorite aunt. He's also completely convinced that Fleur is scheming against him."
Hermione laughed. "That's good to know and Fleur, as much as I love her, isn't exactly subtle. She's determined to see Teddy and Victoire together. Never mind the fact that they're only eleven and ten."
"That's another name I hear all the time when I have Teddy. It'll be nice to finally be able to put a face with the name," Harry commented.
"Unless you visit Shell Cottage before then, it'll be Friday," Hermione commented. "And don't think I haven't noticed you haven't actually answered my question."
"What happens on Friday?" asked Harry. "And I'm honestly not avoiding the question; I'd just rather answer it as few times as possible. Since we're going to Ron's place, we could kill two birds with one stone."
"The weekly Friday Night Dinner at the Burrow," replied Hermione, letting the other matter drop. Harry could tell she was still very curious. It was obvious to him that she was better at restraining herself than she was ten years ago.
Harry looked at Hermione in surprise. "When did that start?"
"About the time Ronald and I broke up," Hermione answered.
Harry raised a curious eyebrow at that. "What happened? You guys were doing great when I left. To be honest, I half expected you to have your own brood of bushy haired red heads by now."
"Yes... Well... When you left while Ron and I were picking up my parents in Australia, there wasn't a whole lot keeping us together. Between Fred's death and my rocky relationship with my parents, there was just too much for us to deal with to really maintain a healthy romantic relationship," explained Hermione. "Some things were said, proverbial battle lines drawn with everyone taking either my side or his and everything kind of exploded."
Harry winced imagining how badly things must have ended. Hermione simply smiled.
"Everything is fine now, though at the time I didn't think it ever would be since everything seemed to be falling apart around me," Hermione assured him. "Molly got us all through everything. Making sure I knew I was still welcome at the Burrow and part of the family, practically forced me to come to the now regular Friday night dinners she hosts for practically everyone we know. Ron and I are actually better friends now than we've ever been."
"Well, for what it's worth, I'm sorry you had to go through all that," Harry said apologetically.
"I know," replied Hermione. "You're always taking on more guilt than you should. I think it might have happened eventually even if you'd been here. But who knows? I don't have a lot of time these days to deal in 'what ifs'."
"That's probably a good thing," Harry said knowingly. "So how has everyone else been?"
"Have you been living under a rock the last ten years?" Hermione asked incredulously.
Harry gave her a strained smile. "Sorry, but news doesn't really reach some of the places I've been very quickly and Teddy only really pays attention to what he finds important- like the fact that his Aunt Ginny is a really famous Quidditch Star and gave him an autographed poster of his favorite Quidditch Team the Hollyhead Harpies."
"Oh..." Hermione said contemplating things for a moment. "Well, Ron's doing great, married with children. Makes more money than all the rest of us combined since he started working in the entertainment industry. Ginny, aside being the star chaser for Hollyhead, is in a serious relationship," Hermione informed him. "Luna is now the editor of the Quibbler, aside from being their star reporter and Neville is a professor at Hogwarts and married to Hannah Abbott, who now owns the Leaky Cauldron. George is doing better now, though you can still tell he misses Fred terribly. All in all, most of the scars we all endured from the war have healed."
"So, who was the unlucky girl who ended up with Ron?" asked Harry.
"Padma-" Hermione began before she was interrupted.
"Patil?" exclaimed a surprised Harry. "After the Yule Ball I'm surprised she was willing to give him a second chance."
Hermione snorted again. "Yes and you treated Parvati so much better..."
'Apparently,' Harry thought to himself, 'Hermione has discovered sarcasm in the last ten years.'
"I thought we were talking about Ron," Harry responded, trying to refocus the conversation before an odd thought struck him. "And look, I'm sure she's still a nice girl, but please don't set me up with Parvati. Ron and Padma, I'm sure were a long shot."
"I don't think you'll have anything to worry about, Harry, seeing as Parvati is married-" Hermione stated, slightly amused as she was interupted a second time.
"Oh, well as long as we're on the same page," Harry replied not sure what to make of the playful smirk on Hermione's lips. He then looked out the window at their surroundings since the car was slowing down. "So this is New London."
"Uh-huh and over there is Ronald's house," Hermione pointed out.
Harry whistled, "You weren't kidding about the money, what exactly does he do again?"
"He's a movie director and producer," Hermione informed him. "He even owns his own film production company; Weasley Entertainment Ltd. Ron is actually one of the most sought out director/producers in the Wizarding World."
"Alright, I'm officially impressed," Harry stated.
"To be fair, Padma and Parvati help out quite a bit. Padma does the books and makes sure he follows whatever budget they're working with and Parvati does most of the cosmetic stuff and ensures everything looks good," Hermione added.
"Well, Ron always did want to step out of all of our shadows," replied Harry. "Now he casts a fairly big one himself."
And it showed as Ron had the largest and most elaborate house in New London, a small all Wizarding District in London that sprouted up in the aftermath of Voldemort's defeat. Harry's first impression of it was that it was a neighborhood for the super-rich with Ron, ironically enough, sitting at the top of the proverbial mountain.
The two were silent as Auror Coulson drove them through the roundabout that took them by Ron's front door. He pulled the car to a stop but neither did he shut it down or move to get out of the car.
"Thank you, Phil," Hermione said gratefully. "We'll manage ourselves the rest of the evening."
"Ma'am," Coulson replied as Harry and Hermione exited the vehicle. They were standing on the patio when Coulson drove off. They watch him for a moment before turning towards the front door.
"Ready to face the music?" asked Hermione teasingly.
Harry rolled his eyes but internally he was apprehensive. "As I'll ever be."
Hermione grabbed the door knocker, a rather cliché golden lion, and knocked on the door. Harry could hear some noise from behind the door, as if there was a small stampede rushing for the door. A brief glance over at Hermione showed that she was amused, if the half smile on her face was anything to go by. There was a brief moment of silence before the door opened, revealing a somewhat sizable group of small children ranging from, Harry guessed, eight to five years old, give or take a year.
Doing a quick count Harry was astonished as he noted six children- two sets of twins. And all of them looked far too similar to not be siblings. 'Just how many kids does Ron have?'
"What has your mother told you about answering the door?" asked Hermione to who Harry guessed was the eldest one or at least their typical ring leader and figured that this particular situation was a rather common occurrence.
"But we knew it was going to be you Aunt Hermione!" the dark skinned redheaded girl replied.
Another child, an equally redheaded boy, but lighter skinned, piped up. "Miss Kelly floo'd and said you were coming over."
"Alright, Weasleys, your mother is gonna flip if she sees that you've answered the door again, no matter who is on the other side..." said a familiar voice in a tired tone. "Hey, Hermione."
"Hello Ronald, late to the door, yet again," Hermione replied.
"Look dad!" shouted a third Weasley child, this one a twin of the first who spoke. "Aunt Hermione's got a boyfriend!"
Harry and Hermione's eyes widened in mutual shock. The former managed to hold back the blush threatening to reveal itself, though his eyes immediately lowered in embarrassment. The latter was sporting a shade of red that would have done any Weasley proud; however she held her head high and proud as if trying to pretend she wasn't even slightly embarrassed by the insinuation.
"So who's the unlucky...? Harry!" Ron exclaimed in shock, noticing his long lost best friend. Regaining his composure, Ron, still smiling, said, "So the prodigal son has returned..."
Harry smirked. "Nice word usage. Is that Hermione or Padma's influence?"
"A little bit of both, I'm sure," Ron replied. "Just being in the same room as both makes me feel smarter. Despite what she was like at Hogwarts, Parvati's no slouch either. So I'm constantly surrounded by women smarter than me- something had to stick eventually."
"Oh hardy, har, har..." Hermione intervened sarcastically, as she pushed passed Ron and navigated through the sea of Weasley children that were congregated in the foyer. "I think I'm going to take my ridiculously superior intelligence where it's more appreciated."
"Padma's in the kitchen, trying out some recipe or another that either her mum or mine sent over..." Ron said to her, before turning to address his kids. "Alright Weasleys, I need a minute with Uncle Harry, so why don't you all go upstairs."
There were a number of protests as none of the kids seemed too keen on leaving, but a look from Ron, which Harry labeled the "Dad Glare", sent them all reluctantly heading up the stairs, though there were a number of looks back towards Harry and Ron.
When they were out of sight, Harry spoke up, saying the first thing that came to mind. "That... Is a lot of children..."
Ron snorted. "I'm a Weasley; I can impregnate a woman just by being in the same room with her if she's not careful with her prophylactic charms."
Harry laughed. "Who came up with that one?"
"George," Ron replied. "He seems to think that I'm trying to make mum happy by giving her so many grandchildren to spoil since Ginny doesn't seem too keen on having children anytime soon."
"He does have a certain amount of proof..." Harry said with a gesture upstairs.
"Circumstantial," was Ron's response, along with an eye roll. "It's good to see you again."
"Likewise," Harry agreed. The two moved in for a hug when Ron surprised Harry with a punch to the gut. The punch had Harry doubled over, gasping for air. "That's... Your one... Free one..."
"I think we're good," Ron replied with a smile.
"Just feel lucky we both agree I might have deserved that," said Harry. "I've not exactly been playing the part of the wandering tourist when I was traveling around the world."
"We'll have to practice sometime, I haven't been exactly been living easy myself," Ron challenged.
Harry snorted as he looked around.
"You know what I mean you bastard," Ron said as he shut the door.
"I'll have you know my parents were married at the time of my conception and birth," Harry argued.
"So were mine, at least by the time I came along... There's still a bit of speculation about Bill though," Ron shot back. Both men chuckled. "Ready to go see what the women are up to?"
"Sure," was Harry's reply as he followed Ron through the manor.
Dinner at Ron's house was everything he'd imagined dinner at the Burrow would have been when Ron and his siblings had been much younger- only involving even more Weasleys as Ron's family was bigger than the one he grew up with. With nine children in all and one on the way, the large table was full of boisterous activity as the kids interacted with one another and laughed at a joke or embarrassing story about their father that Harry told. Not to be outdone, Ron also told a few about Harry.
It was the best night Harry could remember having in a long time.
As Ron was putting the younger children to bed and one of Ron and Padma's twin daughters was talking to Hermione about a book she'd started reading, Padma took the time to talk to Harry alone.
"You know... I'm a bit jealous of you three," she admitted.
Harry gave her a startled look. "How come?"
Padma sighed, there was a hint of worry in her expression, "It's just... The three of you are so close. You've been gone for all this time and yet when you showed up... It was like you never left."
Harry smiled. "That's because I don't think it's quite hit us yet."
She gave him a confused look.
"I don't think it's really settled into our minds that the 'Golden Trio' doesn't really exist anymore- at least not as it used to. Hermione's got too many responsibilities and Ron's got too much to risk for me to be dragging them off into one form of trouble or another," Harry explained. "That was in the past and we're all different people now. We're not exactly eighteen anymore."
Padma's expression changed to one of guilty relief. "I don't think you guys have changed all that much."
"Deep down... Maybe not... But times change and people change," Harry replied, "Only time will tell how well we've adapted to those changes."
"It's good to have you back, Harry," Padma told him.
"I've been hearing that a lot," Harry cheekily responded. More sincerely, he added, "It's good to be back."
"Parvati is going to be jealous she missed you tonight," Padma stated.
"How is she, by the way?" Harry inquired, "Hermione mentioned she works with you and Ron, but I haven't really heard anything else."
"She's doing well. She's visiting Lavender while she's still in the country," Padma informed him. "They'd have both probably been here tonight, but Lavender gets... Irritable... Around the full moon and isn't always the best of company."
Harry vividly remembered the reason why, as he'd seen her being mauled by Fenrir Greyback the night that Voldemort had been defeated.
"What's Lavender doing these days?" he asked.
"She works for the Ministry of Magic in the Department of Werewolf Affairs, she's their top liaison in the ICW," Padma stated.
"Really?" Harry said, genuinely surprised. "I always figured she'd grow up to be... An actress or something."
"Maybe without her scars. She had a really tough time dealing with them after the war," Padma told him.
"Sounds like she's doing better now, what happened?" asked Harry.
"She ended up adopting a little girl named Tessa, whose parents abandoned her because she was bit by a werewolf," Padma sadly replied. "Seeing how much worse that little girl had it stirred something in Lavender and she's been fighting for the Rights and Fair Treatment of Werewolves ever since."
"Amazing how times and people change, isn't it?" asked Hermione from the stairway, joining Harry and Padma in the den.
"How much did you hear?" asked Harry.
"Enough. You know you don't have to be alone anymore," Hermione said in a slightly troubled tone. Harry walked over to her, placing his hands on her shoulders.
"Hermione, when the chips are down and the cards are on the table, at the end of the day, I'm never alone," Harry assured her.
Hermione smiled. "I know... It's just... You're back and I think that fact is just settling in for me. I keep expecting you to be gone again the next time I turn around."
"Well, I'm not going anywhere for the foreseeable future," Harry soothed.
"Good. Now that, that is settled and the kids are all tucked in, why don't you tell us what you've been up to these last few years?" said Ron as he joined the others.
"And here I thought I could put off the interrogation for at least another half hour or so," Harry said with a smirk.
"You did promise answers when we got here, Harry James," Hermione stated taking Ron's side.
"Actually, I said I didn't want to tell you without telling Ron. I never actually said I was going to tell you guys anything once we got here," Harry corrected, ignoring the way Hermione was glaring at him.
"You do remember she's got one of the meanest right hooks we've ever seen, don't you?" Ron reminded Harry with a smirk.
Harry shot Ron a smirk of his own. "Know that from personal experience do you?"
"Err..." Ron eloquently replied as he lost his playful smirk, opting to look at a rather interesting spot on the floor- his face heating up in a spectacular blush. "I thought we were talking about you!"
"Well there isn't much to tell, really," Harry said as they each took a seat in the den. "I traveled around a bit, lost myself for a while and then finally found something to focus on. When I started putting my life back together, I started bringing Teddy, and sometimes Andromeda, with me to wherever I happened to be at any given time."
"That doesn't really tell us anything," Padma pointed out.
"Like I said, there isn't really much to tell," Harry reiterated. "I did make a few interesting friends while I was abroad. There was this one dwarf who practically lives at this tavern called 'The Hanged Man' over in the states that is probably the greatest storyteller ever. He could make even the most mundane events into epic tales of the struggles of good and evil. His connections are actually what got me access to my money after I left Britain."
"Tethras," Hermione said suddenly, at Ron and Padma's confused looks, she elaborated. "Harry, you must have befriended a member of the Tethras family. Ron and I had been having some difficulties dealing with Gringotts until they stepped in on our behalf. I did a bit of research and found that the Tethras family is one of the more important families in the Dwarven Republic's Merchant's Guild."
Harry shrugged off their astonished looks. "Actually, Varric is the head of the family- at least since his brother disappeared."
Ron snorted. "Not much to tell, Harry?"
"In my defense, I had very little to do with any of that. I didn't even know you guys were having any problems with Gringotts," Harry replied defensively. "Varric told me he knew some people that could switch my accounts from Gringotts to Norkral if I was willing to do my banking through the dwarves and I accepted. Everything else was him or someone he knew."
"So how did you end up meeting and becoming friends with one of the most influential figures in the DR?" asked Hermione. Ron and Padma were also curious, doubly so when Harry blushed.
"Um... Err... A bar fight actually..." Harry stuttered reluctantly. Padma was looking amused, while Ron had to fight to hold back his laughter.
Hermione was looking mildly bothered as she shook her head and sighed. "Oh, Harry..."
"It's not like I started it," Harry said defensively, but didn't quite meet their eyes. "But I would have finished it; if not for this one guy I swear was a half giant. Tossed me half way across the room, over the bar and through at least two tables."
"At least two, Harry?" Ron snickered, ignoring Hermione's glare.
"Well, I wasn't really in position to count and most of the tables had been demolished by that point anyway," Harry said in a chagrined tone. "But that's when I met Varric, still sitting at his table drinking the house ale. After I took down the half-giant who happened to really be just a really big man, the Aurors showed up. Needless to say, I was in no position to do anything but get arrested, but he put in a good word for me, paid for the damages to the pub and then took me to a healer. After wards, we bonded over a couple of pints."
"Sounds like this Varric isn't the only one good at storytelling," Hermione said skeptically.
Harry shrugged. "It's the version you'd likely hear from Varric- only his version would be far more embellished and have me looking like mix between an expert martial artist and Merlin, taking on the entire room with nothing but a paperclip, a book of matches and a piece of chewed bubblegum. Blindfolded. And having people actually believe that's what happened."
Hermione was still looking skeptical, but Ron, however, was intrigued.
"Think he'd be interested in a job as a scriptwriter?" asked Ron.
"And give up the freedom of being his own boss?" asked Harry incredulously. "The only thing less likely to happen is finding out the true story of why he named his crossbow Bianca."
"He named his crossbow?" Padma asked.
However, before Harry could answer Hermione interrupted, getting the conversation back on track. "As interesting as that is, you still haven't told us really anything about your time away."
"And like I said, there isn't really all that much to tell. The most exciting parts of my time away were spent with Teddy, anything else I don't like to think about. The earlier years, I pretty much wandered and when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, I'd get drunk and look for trouble. I was in Mongolia when I finally got in over my head," said Harry, not looking at the others, "Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking at the time and I still haven't figured out exactly all that happened- as I was half delirious, either from the alcohol or from the many blows to the head I took when they finally brought me down- but apparently I impressed this old sorcerer. So instead of being thrown into jail or just dumped in a dark back alley somewhere, I was taken to his compound and nursed back to health."
Harry was so lost in his memories that he didn't notice the mixed looks of guilt and horror on his friend's faces.
"The price, of course, was that I would become his apprentice," Harry smiled as he continued. "Since I really was in no position to argue, I accepted. The old man was a local living legend. I doubt more than a dozen people knew about him outside of his little corner of the world, but he pretty much ran everything within his little chunk of it. I learned a lot from him. It's also where I first started dabbling in MagiTech- not that it was called that then, seeing as the ICW was still months away from relaxing the laws on using magic on muggle items."
Hermione was about to speak when Harry interrupted her.
"Yes, technically, it was illegal, but you can't honestly believe that anyone worth their weight in mithril actually adhered to those laws," Harry said. "Even that Deluminator in Ron's display case over there bends, if not outright breaks, several of the Parisian Accords."
"Actually, Potter, I was going to ask what sort magic you learned and what type of MagiTech you enchanted," Hermione responded, though the half smile on her face betrayed the annoyed tone in her voice. She knew she'd never live down her law abiding attitude from her school days, especially since she was head of one of the more elite law enforcement organizations within magical society.
Harry blinked. "Oh... Sorry... Old habits and all... "
"I'll let it slide for now..." Hermione mock threatened.
"Thanks," Harry replied gratefully. "Unfortunately, my oaths keep me from talking about most of my training. But I can tell you that I enjoyed my time there and managed to work through my issues and get my head put on straight. However, the old man and I didn't see eye to eye on a couple of issues, and I ended up leaving."
Harry paused for a moment, as if considering something before continuing. "I went to Beijing from there and took the International Floo to Hong Kong. From there I contacted Andromeda and arranged to spend some time with her and Teddy. Between the gold I'd had with me from Mongolia and my freelance work, I didn't really have a need to access my vaults until long after Andromeda and Teddy left. By that time I had been in the U.S. for a couple months. It was actually luck that I'd met Varric when money was starting to become an issue. From there, I switched from the Goblins to the Dwarves to handle my finances since the Republic, unlike the Goblin Hierarchy or the Gnomish Union, hadn't tried to double deal in any way."
"To be fair, Harry, I don't know what happened between you and the Gnomes, but it's not like we were being totally honest with the Goblins over the whole Lestrange Vault/Sword of Gryffindor thing," Ron pointed out. "Not to mention we did take one of their dragons and demolished a good portion of their London Branch."
"True, but I didn't actively try to kill any of them either," Harry rebutted. "They sent two teams of hitwizards after me before falling back on their 'mythic' Praetorian Guards. The Goblins learned not to fuck with me after that. As for the Gnomes... Less said there, the better."
The vehemence of his statement, with the added profanity shocked them all. Ron and Hermione counted themselves lucky that the Goblins hadn't gone after them like that. Padma clutched onto her husband afraid that it might still happen.
Harry coughed uncomfortably, after a short awkward moment. "Sorry... I'd rather not talk about it right now..."
"So... Not that I'm not happy you're back and all... But why did you come back?" Ron asked changing the subject.
"Mostly because Teddy's starting Hogwarts soon," Harry replied, glad for the change in subject.
"Mostly?" asked Hermione.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I got the strangest bit of news a few weeks back. Honestly, when I initially read it, I was almost certain I'd picked up one of Teddy's muggle comics. So what do you guys know about this vigilante?"
"Not much, really," said Hermione with a tired sigh. "He just appeared a little over a month ago. No one's really gotten a good look at him so we're not entirely sure the vigilante is even a single person, let alone male."
"Did you guys try that scrying method Parvati suggested?" asked Padma.
Harry raised a questioning eyebrow at Ron, but the red head simply shrugged.
Hermione nodded. "It took some doing to get everything, and in the end we still had to get Lavender to help us. Whoever this person is, they're very thorough. We've tried nearly every magical method we can think of to try and either track him down or figure out his identity and we keep coming up short every time."
"It should have worked," Padma said with a frown. "It's the strongest non-dark scrying ritual we know of."
"What scrying spell did you guys use?" asked Harry, intrigued.
"Strange's Scrying Method," Hermione informed him.
"Ah," was Harry's simple reply.
Hermione looked at Harry skeptically. "Ah?"
Harry nodded. "Ah."
Ron rolled his eyes. "Since Hermione apparently doesn't want to admit that you know something that two of the smartest women of our class don't, I'll ask. Harry, since you obviously seem to know something none of the rest of us do, could you please fill us in?"
Harry rolled his eyes at Ron and then began to explain what he knew. "Strange's Scrying Method is probably one of the most overrated remote viewing spells in existence." He held up a hand to forestall interruption from either Hermione or Padma. "I know, I've seen the arithmancy behind it. Going strictly by the numbers it's nearly more powerful than any other scrying spell in existence. However, the spell is rare. In fact, it's impressive than any of you know about it, so it's not all that surprising that the spell didn't work as it should have."
"What do you mean, the ritual went flawlessly," Hermione said with a frown.
"I'm sure it did," Harry nodded in acknowledgment. "However, whoever your vigilante is, he doesn't have the standard set of anti-scrying enchantments or else it might have worked. Concealment spells that secret away a person into a separate space/time will cause it to fail nearly every time."
"You mean like the fidelius charm?" asked Ron.
Harry shook his head. "No, Strange's Scrying Method can see through the fidelius- sort of. They wouldn't be able to tell where he was at that moment, nor would they really perceive his surroundings, unless they knew the secret of his location, but they'd still be able to identify the person they were trying to scry. No, the fidelius charm, simply put, bends all methods of perception around a specific location. What's being hidden is still there and you can see, hear, touch and smell everything about it, however, the magic involved doesn't allow your senses to perceive those things as being there. In short, the fidelius charm is an illusion. It's an extremely complex one but still just an illusion. No, the magic I'm talking about doesn't simply hide a person; it places them into a separate dimension entirely."
Ron whistled in amazement.
"But Harry, the spell takes that into account," Padma cut in. "That's why Parvati recommended it in the first place."
"To a point," Harry acknowledged. "It will easily pick up on most forms of intradimensional concealment, unless the enchantment covers an area no bigger than a small room. As for extradimensional scrying- there are some places that are immune to any form scrying from outside of their own realm. I can name at least three right off the top of my head. For your spell to gain the capability of seeing such places it requires an even rarer, extra component, an Eye of Agamotto."
"Aga-what?" asked Ron confusedly.
"Agamotto," Hermione automatically corrected. "He was an ancient wizard whose power of over The Sight was so powerful he was able to siphon part of his ability into several fist sized orbs allowing non-seers to gain the ability, however limited, to see into what he called 'The Beyond'."
"Strange's Scrying Method was always meant to incorporate an Eye of Agamotto. The reason why the spell generates as much power as it does is to allow the person doing the scrying to safely access those realms otherwise restricted to them and to aid them in sensing pocket dimensions they otherwise wouldn't," Harry lectured. "Due to the fact very little scrying actually required an Eye of Agamotto to see the subject they were searching for, they fell into disuse, doubly so when most of the jewels were either lost or destroyed three hundred years ago. The ritual itself fell into disuse as newer simpler scrying rituals were developed."
"And as of the Ministries' last count, there are only three left in existence," Hermione said dismally. "And nothing short of a miracle could get us anywhere near close to one, let alone managing to get one of them into our custody even temporarily."
"Four, actually," Harry interjected. "I'm betting the Unspeakables failed to mention that Waller and I found one in the ancient dwarven city of Bownammar about three years ago, but were unable to recover it."
"Amanda Waller?" Hermione asked slowly and deliberately.
"One and the same," Harry replied a bit smugly, though that had gone unnoticed by Hermione who was stewing over the fact that she'd been lied to and by Ron and Padma who were awaiting the possible eruption of Mount Hermione.
"Tell me everything," Hermione demanded in an even voice.
"Well, it all started when Varric and I…"
"Sister!" exclaimed a surprised, grey eyed blonde woman as she moved to embrace a blue eyed brunette. "It's good to see you, Daph, but I had no idea you were coming. I put Scorpius to bed about an hour ago; he will be so disappointed he missed you."
"I'm not here for a social call unfortunately," Daphne Greengrass said as she warmly returned the hug. "I have business to discuss with your husband, Tori."
"Of course," replied Astoria. "Draco's in his study working. Have you heard about the Auror Charity Ball we're throwing this weekend? I'm looking forward to it."
"As am I, sister," Daphne replied formally with a smile.
"Oh? Any particular reason why?" Astoria pried.
"I'm not seeing anyone," Daphne gently rebuked her excitable younger sister.
"I just want to see you happy, Daphne," replied Astoria with a sigh.
"Tori, I know how much you enjoy planning these types of events," Daphne temporized. "Just seeing you happy makes me happy and I am content with that for now."
"I just worry about you sometimes."
"I know, Tori, you wouldn't be you if you didn't. But, I assure you, I am more than capable of taking care of myself," Daphne asserted as she and Astoria came to a stop in front of the Draco's study.
"You'll stop by to see me before you leave, right?" asked Astoria.
"Of course, sister," Daphne answered making Astoria smile brightly. The blonde then left to return to whatever tasks she'd been doing before her sister arrived. With her back turned, Daphne allowed her features to shift into a slightly disgusted scowl. As much as she loved and cared for her sister, sometimes it was odd for her to think of the two of them as being related, let alone sisters. She knocked on the door briefly, before walking right in, not bothering to wait for an answer. She greeted the man inside in a cold tone. "Hello, Draco."
The blonde man didn't look up from his desk that had all sorts of papers scattered around it. Some looked like legal documents, others were obviously financial statements, and some still looked like blueprints, with various arithmantic equations scrawled all over them. The white board on the wall was also covered in equations- mostly theoretical if Daphne remembered her Arithmancy correctly. There were also two large tablets of paper on wooden easels, one filled with more arithmantic equations, the other a complex diagram that she couldn't begin to decipher without examining it closely.
Despite his many personality deficiencies when they were children, Daphne Greengrass knew that Draco Malfoy was not stupid. After all, a stupid person couldn't have accomplished the things Draco had in the aftermath of Voldemort's defeat. In less than a decade, MagiCorp was the single most successful company in the entirety of the Wizarding World. Though she'd never admit it out loud, she grudgingly admitted that her sister could have chosen much worse for a husband.
"I thought it was getting a bit chill in here," Draco commented, still perusing the documents on his desk. "What brings one of the last remaining Dementors to my humble abode?"
"To visit my dear sister and her darling husband of course," Daphne said sweetly, a fake smile plastered on her face.
"And my father really was under the Imperius Curse when he was serving the Dark Lord," Draco snapped sarcastically. "Cut the pleasantries and tell me why you're really here you soul sucking bitch."
Daphne's regarded Draco neutrally, "Do I truly need to express my displeasure with you, Darling Brother?"
"As if what I say or think has ever stopped you," Draco pointed out.
"Then I'd like you to explain this!" snapped Daphne as she slapped the regular edition of that mornings Daily Prophet onto his desk- the one whose headline announced the Auror Charity Ball being hosted by the Malfoy Family, as a show gesture that MagiCorp was doing its part in helping secure the safety of the Wizarding World.
"Oh, that," replied Draco unconcernedly. "What about it?"
He knew he was intentionally provoking her, but he didn't particularly care.
Daphne narrowed her eyes. "You know damned well why I'm furious right now. The last thing we need is more Aurors breathing down our necks."
"Don't forget who your little club's main benefactor is Dearest Sister," Draco sneered. "Lest you forget, Malfoy is not a name well thought of in most circles- politically dead in most cases. These little piecemeal gestures keep Granger off my back. You losing a few thugs in the process is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things."
"And while you play your little games trying to make nice with the Aurors, how fairs your progress in figuring out who this vigilante is who keeps interfering in our business?" the calculating woman demanded. "Don't think it has escaped our notice that he's using MagiTech."
"Yeah, and wherever he got it, it didn't come from me. Every last piece and component is accounted for," Draco shot back. "I've checked with a couple of my contacts within the GU, but most of them either have no clue or aren't talking. They've made a lot of enemies over the years, some more powerful than others- even a couple right here on the isles. One in particular just recently returned"
"Potter?" Daphne asked incredulously. "I'm willing to admit the hero thing is right up his alley, he doesn't have the power or skillset to pull off the particular brands of magic we've seen."
"Look, I'm not saying it is him, but we shouldn't outright rule him out as a possibility," Draco warned.
"You certainly haven't changed much," Daphne scoffed. "It was always 'Potter- this' and 'Potter- that' at Hogwarts. With the way you've always gone on and on about that buffoon, one has to wonder if your marriage to my sister is just for show after all."
"Watch yourself woman," Draco warned. "You might be my wife's sister, but don't think I won't see you gutted at my earliest convenience."
"Always with the idle threats," Daphne quipped back. "Perhaps if you actually grow a pair of testicles, you might actually follow through- might even do it yourself. I doubt it though. Even your father, as impotent as he was, had some form of killer instinct, even if he was proven to be the Dark Lord's bitch in the end."
Draco swiftly drew his wand.
There was a loud bang and a bright flash.
A lone figure was left standing in the room and it wasn't the Malfoy Scion.
"Pathetic," Daphne said with disgust. "Draco, you are just as much my bitch as your father was the Dark Lord's. Don't you ever forget that, Darling Brother."
As she said this, the Greengrass Matriarch kept her wand drawn on the young Malfoy. Then, her face shifted from its cold and calculating expression to one more reminiscent of when she arrived and was greeted by her sister.
"I'll see myself out," she said with a smile as she whirled her wand scattering all of the paperwork throughout the room. "And don't worry about the Director- she shouldn't be an issue much longer."
Azkaban Asylum Codex Entries:
Name: Harry Potter
Hair/Eye Color: Black/Green
Aliases: The Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, Master of Death, The Wizard
Facts: After defeating the Dark Lord Voldemort at age 17, Harry Potter went on a soul searching sabbatical around the world. After failing to find the answers he sought, he found solace at the bottom of a bottle. Mongolia is where his travels ended and he was apprenticed to an old wizard. Due to a difference of opinion, the two parted ways- Harry's apprenticeship incomplete.
After leaving Mongolia, Harry reestablished contact with the grandmother of his godson, Andromeda Tonks and has maintained a close friendship with her ever since.
Roughly ten years after his departure from England, Harry returned to be closer to Teddy, help his friend Hermione Granger and to reconnect with his friends. Instead of helping through official channels, though he does do that through charities, the Potter scion has become the vigilante known only as the Wizard.
Name: Hermione Granger
Occupation: Director, Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Hair/Eye Color: Brown/Brown
Aliases: Director Granger, Madame Granger, Madame Director, Brightest Witch of her Generation, Youngest Director of the DMLE
Facts: She is a woman of many achievements, though many, she herself included, would say that if not for Harry Potter she may not have gotten the opportunity in the first place. Despite being far from where she imagined herself, she greatly enjoys her job- at least whenever she isn't being hounded by either corrupt politicians or the press.
She respects The Wizard and his cause and will even seek his aid and aid him in return when the situation warrants it. Despite this, she will not let the mystery of his identity rest and will sometimes vent to her friend Harry- using him as a sounding board to voice her frustrations with her unlikely ally.
Despite working with the Wizard on several occasions, she refuses to downgrade his status from Undesirable #1 and her official policy is that he is to be captured on sight.
Name: Draco Malfoy
Occupation: Chairman/Founder of MagiCorp
Hair/Eye Color: Blonde/Grey
Aliases: Mr. Malfoy, Malfoy Family Patriarch, The Amazing Bouncing Ferret, Witch Weekly's "Sexiest Wizard Alive" (2)
Facts: The picture perfect definition of irony, Draco Malfoy was one of the staunchest supporters of all anti-muggle/muggleborn rhetoric growing up as a boy. As a man, he is one of the wealthiest wizards alive by enchanting "muggle artifacts" merging technology and magic in a new line of business called MagiTech. MagiCorp, the company he founded, is the leading developer and distributor of MagiTech products- his principle competition being the Gnomish Union and Potter Inc.
Though he married his wife, Astoria Greengrass, for political reasons, he cares for her a great deal and she has become the single most import thing in his life, along with their son, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy. He will secure any means of protecting them both, which has often lead to him constantly double dealing of both the Cabal, a secret organization of rich purebloods who work from the shadows, and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
He is the single most powerful man in the Magical UK with no direct ties to either the Cabal or the Ministry.