Hero and Demon
Chapter Two: Hero and Demon
Veiled in darkness, the gothic figure awaited his prey.
His eyes glowed dimly red with anger.
He carefully examined the wards of the building he'd been casing. The woman had just gotten home from an evening of leisure, catching up with a friend long gone- unaware of the surprise that awaited her.
He pulled a square device from underneath his seemingly smoky and intangible looking ink black cloak. Manipulating the toggles on the device, a small hole began to form within the wards and silently he entered.
Once more into the breach he went, the Avatar of Justice and Vengeance.
More than a man, he was like a demon possessed.
And like a demon, he would bring down the full force of his wrath upon those who would seek to impose anarchy and destruction to his domain…
A gnomish woman walked silently through the hall, her human companion dressed in all black wearing a hooded cloak was equally silent.
The gnome woman was significantly smaller than the human woman, standing only three and a half feet tall, though she still managed to look imperious in her regal looking hooded crimson robes. The fur that could be seen around her face was auburn colored.
The human woman was graceful, as if every movement was made with the intent to seduce or maim with the possibility to do both at the same time.
"Do you know why I've summoned you, Siren?" the gnome woman addressed her top human agent- an agent that even had the respect of the Gnomish Special Tasks Group. The last human to receive that dubious honor had been Harry Potter after two Nightingales and three full squads of STG Operatives had failed to bring him down. While Siren, currently her top Nightingale, didn't have nearly the fearsome reputation Potter had within the halls of DinLin, seat of the Gnomish Union's power, her skills were nearly unmatched by any within the GU.
"The Britain Situation, I assume," replied Siren. "You want me to investigate 'The Wizard'."
"Among other things," the gnome responded. "With the Cabal and the Ministry both preoccupied with this mysterious would be hero, we want you to infiltrate MagiCorp. Mr. Malfoy has been careful, bordering on paranoia, when taking on new employees. It is difficult getting agents where we need to inside his organization undetected."
"What of Potter? He has recently returned and is a much bigger threat than Malfoy," Siren inquired.
"You are to steer clear of Potter and all subsidiary businesses of Potter Incorporated. That includes Weasley Wizard Wheezes," the gnome ordered. "A week ago, I might have ordered a precursory search of the premises for anything damning, however, Potter's mere presence is problematic. In any case, everything Potter and his kin do is likely well above board. It would be unlike them to not have the proper permits for anything remotely questionable. Mr. Malfoy, on the other hand, we suspect is making weapons and other devices that are still illegal by the revised Parisian Accords. If we could acquire sufficient proof of such activities, the scandal could potentially irreparably damage the reputation of both the company and the man who built it."
"Dalatrass… Why are we going out of our way to avoid Potter?" asked Siren, "I'm certain I can take him."
"Perhaps…" the Dalatrass responded noncommittally, something that irked Siren to no end. "But you are not the first to make such bold declarations. Red Hood and Black Mask both made similar claims."
"And I am better than both of them," Siren replied heatedly.
The Dalatrass nodded. "You are the best, which is why we want you to investigate this new entity and infiltrate MagiCorp. We have something special planned for Potter."
Hermione Granger, Director of the Magical Department of Law Enforcement sighed in contentment as she entered her home.
It was the first time in a long time that she'd actually felt that way and she couldn't help but think that it was because of Harry- like now that he was back he was going to put everything right. She shook her head at such childish thoughts. Guarding the Wizarding World was her job now, a duty she'd taken on willingly, unlike Harry who'd had greatness thrust upon him.
She set her glasses case on the end table next to the door, her wand as well.
It had been great seeing her two best friends like that again. That was something she'd missed those ten long years that Harry had been gone.
Regardless of what Harry had said to Padma about them not being the 'Golden Trio' anymore, Hermione felt more complete than she'd had in a long, long time and she was certain Ron had felt the same. Perhaps they weren't the same people they once were- each with their own commitments and responsibilities independent of one another- it mattered little in the grand scheme of things. Hermione knew that Harry and Ron had her back if ever she were to ask.
But she never would.
Ron had given up the fight long ago. He still trained of course, magically and physically- she'd even called him in time and again to help her train recruits and give refreshers to seasoned Aurors, but she also knew that Ron's family came before everything else in his life. He'd come if called, of course, as he knew she'd never ask for his help unless things were truly desperate, however the thought of putting his family through all that worry- nevermind the potential risk of endangering them- made Hermione sick to her stomach.
As for Harry…
She wasn't that twelve year old girl in the bathroom anymore and Harry had already done so much for everyone- herself included. No, she had to prove that she didn't need Harry to keep saving her anymore- if not to him, then at least to herself. Besides, from what he'd told her about the journey he and her Head Unspeakable had taken into the Dwarven Restricted DMZ that was, at present time, being presided over by the Kobolds, he had his own problems.
That was another thing she'd have to deal with in the morning. Amanda Waller was the Head Unspeakable within the Department of Mysteries and was Hermione's subordinate. Though she'd known for quite some time that Waller couldn't be trusted- not completely at least- it was surprisingly shocking just how much her Head Unspeakable held back from her.
Over half a century prior, the Department of Mysteries had simply been a Research and Development organization. Most of its members were simple desk jockeys, though a few were considered "field agents"- not that they often left the confines of the Department of Mysteries. They, however, fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement simply due to the fact that any sort of forensic work that couldn't be done by regular Aurors were handled by them. This type of magical investigative work generally involved investigating any rare magical residues, unknown curses and mysterious dark magical artifacts.
The rise of Voldemort changed that.
With the Ministry increasingly becoming a cesspool of corruption and 'Yes Men', the Hitwizard Department completely outmatched by veteran Death Eaters and the Auror Force becoming increasingly ineffective for various reasons (nevermind the fact that Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix was being slowly but surely eliminated), the Department of Mysteries, underneath the leadership of Emil Croaker, evolved from a bunch of overweight inactive group of middle aged witches and wizards with little to no experience outside of their tiny cubicles, to an effective covert fighting force that had begun to take a more active stance in the war. Despite several key victories against the Death Eaters (including ones that allowed the Longbottoms and Potters to defy Voldemort on multiple occasions), they too began to buckle underneath Voldemort's tyrannical rise when Augustus Rookwood infiltrated their ranks.
The fall of Voldemort that fateful Halloween had allowed Croaker to clean house and prepare for the rise of the next Dark Lord. They had purposefully left themselves vulnerable to try and draw out Voldemort after the events of the Triwizard Tournament, however, the unanticipated arrival of Harry Potter and his friends and the widespread destruction throughout their department had nearly made their plans all for naught. Despite that setback, when Voldemort finally did come to power once more, the DoM was the only Ministerial Department that remained completely free of Voldemort's influence and they'd managed to inform Kingsley Shacklebolt of the Ministries' fall the night of the Weasley-Delacour wedding, allowing Potter and his friends to escape in the ensuing madness. Unfortunately, Croaker and other senior Unspeakables had been killed and the Department of Mysteries remained disorganized and moderately ineffective against Voldemort's regime for the first couple months after the Ministries' fall.
If not for the efforts of Amanda Waller, they might have collapsed completely.
Waller's policies changed the DoM even more than Croaker's.
Whereas Croaker had been willing to cooperate fully with the rest of the DMLE, the Unspeakables had become even more independent under Waller's leadership- often taking on more and more field assignments wherever strange and unusual magic could be found- not just in the UK and not always with proper authorization. The Department of Mysteries became more and more secretive, even when working with the Aurors in their investigations. The Unspeakables would often not reveal all the information that they knew- leading to many confrontations between Hermione and Waller when the muggleborn witch took on the responsibility of running the DMLE.
This also lead to the Madame Director forming the Department of Special Investigations, an Auror organization designed to do much of the same investigative work that the DoM was responsible for. With Phillip Coulson at its head, their main responsibility was to fill in the blanks of information that Waller would intentionally leave out. Unfortunately, much to Hermione's dismay, Coulson and the DSI were not quite as effective as Waller and the DoM, which was why Waller's and not her own people were sent to Germany to investigate Incident X-2149, more commonly referred to as the Bownammar Incident, around the timeframe Harry specified that he and Waller had both been in the Dead Trenches
Director Granger distinctly remembered the report she'd received on the Bownammar Incident. Ministries all over Europe, Germany especially, went into a furious frenzy from mysterious activity from deep within the Dead Trenches. She could scarcely believe that Incident X-2149 was a multinational cover-up of various government agencies working independent of their local Ministries. Not only could the UK's DMLE and Ministry be potentially implicated should the incident be exposed for what it was, so could the Ministries of The United States, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan- as well as The Dwarven Republic, Gnomish Union, Goblin Hierarchy and the Kobold Protectorate.
Hermione sighed in frustration.
'Does the term 'political shitstorm' mean anything to either of them?' she thought darkly to herself, mentally referring to both Harry Potter and Amanda Waller.
So distracted she was, that she barely caught movement in the shadows and Hermione reacted immediately, reaching for her wand.
Unfortunately, she'd forgotten that she'd already removed her wand when she had entered her domicile for the evening. Cursing herself for being caught unawares and unarmed she dodged as a spell was sent flying at her. On instinct, she managed to grab onto the nearest object, throwing it at her would be attacker. Given the weight and the shattering of glass, she had thrown her favorite vase at the perpetrator and missed. However, she did buy herself time to retrieve her wand. Immediately, she spun around and reflexively and expertly deflected the spell that was thrown at her back.
She subconsciously smirked as she shut her eyes tightly. Not only was she a friend of Harry Potter and the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement- meaning she was both highly skilled and powerful, but she was also considered 'The Brightest Witch of Her Generation' for a reason- as her spell repertoire was larger than most and she knew how to use all of them effectively, if not more than a bit unconventionally.
"Lumos Solis!" Hermione incanted, a bright flash erupted from her wand. Typically, it was one of many spells designed to fight vampires. This particular one burned out their retinas – effectively blinding them for a rather substantial period of time, dependent on a wide variety of factors- such as the subspecies of vampire it was, that particular vampire's rate of regeneration, how long ago it had fed and whether or not it had access to any form of magical healing.
She heard two disguised voices cry out in agony. Though the spell was primarily designed for disabling vampires for live capture, it was equally effective for flash-bang tactics (though without the noise) against foes who had concealed themselves in darkness.
Hermione cautiously opened her eyes. Though she had closed them, her vision was still slightly hampered by her own spell, though at least she hadn't been blinded like the other two had been. Blinking a few times to help her eyes readjust to the darkness, Hermione slowly and silently crept forward into her home, watching for any other signs of movement. The Director's wand was held out before her, primed and ready to defend against anything that was sent her way. It hadn't taken her long to locate the still disabled figures on her floor and thus she stunned and bound them so that they were out of the way while she secured the rest of the premises.
Unfortunately for her, Hermione's attackers, having seen the red flashes of her stunners, found her position first and attacked. It was only quick reflexes gained from being a friend of Harry Potter, honed by Auror training, and further refined and maintained by holding semi-regular training sessions with Ron, which allowed her to dodge out of the way of their attacks. She was only barely able to shield her face from the pieces of her wall that exploded when a lime green colored spell made contact with it.
'Ostium Refractum!' Hermione wordlessly incanted, sending the bone breaking curse at her attackers. She then deflected another oncoming curse before recasting the bone breaker once more. The Director then searched the darkened room for better cover. Finding none, she dodged one curse, deflected a second and shielded against a third. The third curse, a bone shattering curse, nearly caused her shield to buckle completely.
Hermione knew right then that if she didn't think of something quickly she would be in trouble. However, she couldn't allow herself to dwell on that fact since she immediately had to dodge a fourth curse and deflect a fifth one, quickly responding with a stunner. She dodged the third attacker's curse, knowing him to be their strongest caster and possibly more powerful than she was.
'Consulo,' Director Granger incanted wordlessly, while her hand seemingly effortlessly twirled a complicated wand movement. With speed much quicker than most, Hermione managed the Reflector Charm. The next spell slammed against the charm and immediately bounced back. Despite how taxing the spell was on her magical reserves, Hermione held the spell long enough for the second attack to strike the reflective shield.
Judging from the sounds from across the room, the first spell she reflected back struck its caster while the second had not. Cursing as she moved to a better position of cover, she contemplated her options when suddenly movement behind her caught her eye. However, before she could react, she was struck with a crimson bolt of magical energy and knew no more.
"Look who's wakin' up over here," said one voice.
She heard the flick of a lighter and caught a whiff of the familiar- though nauseating (in her own opinion) smell of burning tobacco. As her eyes opened, despite the fact that her vision was blurry and unfocused, she realized she was tightly bound and gagged- her wand nowhere in sight.
"Time to cash out," said the smoking man, taking a long drag of his cigarette.
Director Hermione Granger of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement recognized these three men, which made her blood run cold.
The leader was a man named Benjamin "Benny" Siegel, a wealthy American businessman, who was a minor shareholder of MagiCorp. He had also been implicated in many cases of bribery, forgery, larceny, blackmail, racketeering, conspiracy and even murder. Unfortunately, Hermione could never get the charges to stick, mostly due to him having unconfirmed ties the Cabal, a shadow organization of wealthy purebloods that uses any means at their disposal to control the political climate of the government to suit their whims. Try as she might, not even the combined force of herself and the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, being war heroes and all, could hope to stamp out their corruption from within the halls of the Ministry.
Benny, as he liked to be called, was most associated with the Cabal Associate known only as Black Widow, though there had been rumors that he'd done dealings with the one known as Metus. He was of little cause for concern, however, as Benny rarely ever got his hands dirty, preferring to having a solid alibi against whatever accusations about his illicit dealings were being levied upon him. The other two, however…
Emerson McMurphy and Liam Jessup were more of the typical thugs associated with the type of scheme that Hermione had fallen victim to. Part of a small, but not insignificant gang that called themselves the Khans, their primary trade was in the manufacturing and distributing drugs, both mundane and magical in nature. Their ranks consisted of mostly muggle raised or muggleborn witches and wizards, which easily allowed them to interact freely in both worlds. Though they were well known criminals, they'd been lucky on more than one occasion, just barely managing to slip away from the Aurors and Hitwizards that came for them. Despite being mere thugs, they were rather high up on the Undesirable List due to Jessup's association with the Cabal Associate known only as Nicomedes, the apparent leader of the Cabal, according to other Khans within custody.
Quickly gazing around the room, Hermione studied the other three people in the room. With the exception of Benny, they all appeared to be members of the Khans, and only McMurphy and Jessup appeared to hold any significant rank.
"Will you get it over with?" asked McMurphy exasperatedly.
Benny didn't even bother glancing at the Khan leader, as he motioned for him to be patient. He dropped his cigarette on Hermione's carpeted floor, before stamping it out. "Maybe Khans kill people without lookin' 'em in the eye, but I ain't a fink." He turned to Hermione who glared defiantly at him. "To you this must seem like a 12 karat streak of bad luck, but you see, this game was rigged from the start."
As he said this, he drew his wand slowly and deliberately and took time to aim it at her head. The lights flickered, making everyone in the room look around. Hermione immediately noted something different. Where there had been six criminals in the room, there was now only five. McMurphy was the first to realize this.
"Hey, where's Chance?"
"Shit!" Benny cursed. "It's that demon again!"
Laughing emanated from the darkened doorway of the next room, though it was raspy and wheezy as if coming from lungs that had long withered out with layers of dust caked into them. A set of red glowing orbs appeared from the doorway to Hermione's left and the unconscious form of Chance was haplessly thrown into the room.
'Hello… Benny…' a voice said in a loud whisper, though it didn't emanate from the other room where the red-eyed entity glared menacingly at Hermione's attackers, but from inside her own head.
Suddenly, an explosion of mist began billowing from the next room. The entity or 'demon', as Benny called it, charged at the Khans and their leader. The smaller of the nameless Khans was laid out in a single punch that sent him spinning. The second nameless Khan, a giant of a man who towered almost two whole feet taller than anyone else, punched at his attacker, but his fist phased right through it. The entity jumped and latched itself to the giant man's back, gripping the back of his head in its hand. There was a small, bright flash of red and the big man bonelessly collapsed onto the floor.
Jessup then tried to curse the creatures back. "Avada Kedavra!"
The sickly green curse, however, simply passed harmlessly through the creature's back, blowing chunks out of the wall on the other side.
"Drop the wards, we need to split!" Benny ordered.
"They are dropped!" McMurphy said. "Shit!"
A visible pulse of magic from the creature crashed into Jessup sending him flying into the wall behind him. And then as if some invisible force grabbed onto him, McMurphy was suddenly jerked towards the wraithlike demon, which then clotheslined the Khan in midair. While the Khan was still airborne, the entity then buried its elbow into his sternum.
"St-stay… Stay away from me!" Benny shouted in a panic as he backed away from the creature. He then leveled his wand at Hermione. "Stay back!"
The creature's eyes simply narrowed slightly and it inched towards him slightly.
What happened next would forever be burned into Hermione's memory forever. Though he did not incant it, the Director of the DMLE could always identify the Killing Curse on sight. Faster than any mortal creature could possibly move, the entity positioned itself between her and the curse and wrapped Hermione in its shroud. A strange and unfamiliar feeling coursed through Hermione's body before it happened- the feel of the raw, unstoppable power of Benny's Killing Curse passing right through her was more than a little disconcerting and awe inspiring. And as quickly as it all happened, the creature set itself upon Benny, grabbing him by the neck.
'Big missstake… Benny…' it 'said' inside both her mind and Benny's mind.
"N-No…" Benny rasped, trying unsuccessfully to break the creature's grip. Hermione had no idea what was happening, but Benny apparently did. The creature's eyes shifted from red to green as they bored into Benny's own. The white collar criminal screamed before dropping into unconsciousness. He was then unceremoniously dropped onto the floor. The demon's eyes shifted from green to white until its gaze turned to Hermione, they began to glow a soft purplish color- indigo if she wasn't mistaken.
'Hermione Granger…' it rasped, and with a wave of its hand, the binding securing her came unraveled.
Though grateful to her saviour, she was more than slightly intimidated by it as if the entity was emitting a strange fear inducing aura.
"Who… What are you?" she asked.
'I am what never was and what will never be… What is and what will be… The Exemplar of Truth and the Paragon of Justice…' it said as its eyes changed from indigo to blue. 'I am Wizard.'
With that, the entity vanished as if it was never there- the carnage around her house and the unconscious bodies strewn across the room a testament to its presence. Director Granger stood up on shaky legs, sending out several patronus messages as she secured each of her attackers.
The War Room, as it was often called, was one of the most secure rooms within the Ministry of Magic, accessible to only a select few within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Minister of Magic. With the attack on Madame Granger's home the previous evening, all of the senior staff were in attendance.
At either head of the table were Minister Shacklebolt and Director Granger. To Hermione's left was Henry Spencer, Liaison to External Consultants; Remy Hadley, Head Medi-witch, and Amanda Waller, Head Unspeakable. To the Director's right were Malcolm Robards, Senior Head Auror; Phillip Coulson, Head of Special Investigations; and Maria Hill, a liaising agent of the international task-force being formed. Given what Hermione now knew of the Bownammar Incident, the international task-force might either be a great idea- to reign in rogue elements like Waller in, or it could be a bomb waiting to happen, but, she supposed, she'd deal with that when the time came.
"So… An attack of a senior department head and another sighting of 'The Wizard'," Kingsley tiredly said after a moment of silence. "What have we got?"
"The Khans were hired through an intermediary, in this case, Benny," Robards reported. "Not surprising. Despite their multinational, billion galleon activities, Khans have never been more than glorified thugs. Very few of their members have direct ties to any major crime syndicates like the Cabal. Benny, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. He might be a small time criminal, comparatively speaking, but he's a potential gateway to more than one organization. Unfortunately, we're not the only ones with a claim on him. The Americans, especially, have been waiting for him to slip up."
"It's always something, isn't it?" Kingsley asked rhetorically. "So, now that first contact has been made, what can we ascertain about the Wizard?"
They'd all watched everything from Hermione's perspective in a pensieve.
"He's good, very good, whoever he is, with lots of specialized training in both magical and physical combat," Consultant Spenser pointed out. "It narrows down the list on just who this person is, unfortunately, for every person we know about with the sort of training 'The Wizard' has obviously underwent, there's at least three more we don't. My money's on the Gnomish Union, they're notorious for this sort of thing, especially since we can all agree that whoever this is, they are using some sort of MagiTech, the likes we've never seen before."
"Not exactly their MO," Hermione countered. "Other than the Wizard's use of hyper advanced MagiTech, there isn't really anything that points to the GU being involved. Besides, they wouldn't benefit from acts of vigilantism in our country."
"They would if it were a cover for something else," Henry replied.
"True, but in this instance, I'm inclined to agree with the Director," Waller piped up, which was a rarity. That she was siding with Hermione Granger was a rarer thing still. The Waller/Granger conflicts within the Ministry were even more notorious than the Weasley/Granger ones that were nearly a common everyday occurrence during the Director's time at Hogwarts. "I've seen Nightingales in action, and Operative Wilson confirmed; wherever The Wizard acquired his skills, it wasn't from the Gnomish Union. Though his fighting style appears to be an amalgam of fighting styles- including Gnomish- his movements are more reminiscent of those of Dwarven origin."
"The Republic, then?" asked Agent Hill.
"Not with the level of MagiTech we've seen. Unlike most other governments in the world, the Dwarven Republic has been shying away from any sort of serious MagiTech development- opting to hire outside contractors for whatever MagiTech needs they might have, perhaps to avoid another incident that made the Dead Trenches what they are. The trick is to figure out which company or organization is involved, as most companies dealing in MagiTech don't have the capital resources capable of developing the level of MagiTech we suspect we saw last night," Hermione added.
"You think that someone is actually capable of all that without any sort of MagiTech?" asked Henry disbelievingly.
"It's possible," Coulson defended. "Wands, relatively speaking, are a new type of magical foci. There are many methods that are considered either too inefficient by modern standards or are just plain lost to us. There are also various types of focus-less magic, though those are typically ritualistic. On the other hand, technomancy, or MagiTech, is a new and widely unexplored branch of magical practice. There's no telling what sort of limitations there are.
"MagiCorp?" Kingsley asked.
It was a well-known 'secret' within the higher echelons of the DMLE that Draco Malfoy had connections within the Cabal, however they weren't sure how. Both the Malfoy and Greengrass families had been rumored a time or two of being members, but nothing concrete was ever proven. While Lucius and Draco Malfoy's past illicit activities were a matter of public record and Deckard Greengrass was suspected in a multitude of crimes before his 'untimely' death, both Lady Malfoy and Lady Greengrass had an exemplary record. That meant they were either entirely innocent of whatever past transgressions those closest to them were a part of, or just very good at covering their tracks.
While Hermione didn't recall much about Daphne from school, she'd actually met Astoria Malfoy on several occasions and believed the new Malfoy Family Matriarch to be the genuine article, which was more than what she could say for the woman's husband.
"It's possible… But I don't think so," Hermione reluctantly admitted. "While we know that Malfoy is in some way connected to The Cabal, even if we can't even begin to guess at the how, he has been a good asset to the Auror Department and the Ministry over the years. His double dealing already puts him in a precarious position and striking out on his own would only put his family at risk. No matter what else I or anyone else thinks of him, Draco Malfoy would not do anything that would put his wife and son at risk, unless he had no other choice."
"Maybe he doesn't anymore?" Robards suggested. "Or perhaps you're underestimating what he's capable of. He was a Death Eater after all."
Hermione rubbed the bridge of her nose. She hated having to defend Draco Malfoy of all people. "While he was briefly a Death Eater, he's not the monster his father was and even Lucius Malfoy wouldn't do such a thing lightly."
"As much as I hate to admit it, she's right," Spenser sighed. "Whatever Draco Malfoy's activities involving the Cabal are, The Wizard doesn't figure into them."
"Phil, could you compile a list of MagiTech companies with either the know how or the resources to replicate everything done by the Wizard?" Hermione requested. "Also we'll need a separate list with the companies with both. Include MagiCorp on that list as well. While Draco Malfoy isn't under any suspicion- this time- we can't rule out some sort of rogue element within his organization."
"Sure thing, Madame Director, I can have it on your desk by the end of today," Coulson replied.
"Director, are you sure you don't want to take a bit of leave after everything that happened?" Kingsley asked concernedly.
Hermione smiled in response. "It isn't necessary. I'm already cleared with medical- the only spell I was hit with was a stunner, but I appreciate the concern."
"If you're sure…" Kingsley trailed off as Hermione nodded. "Then this meeting is adjourned. We'll meet at our usual time Friday afternoon, barring another incident like last night."
Each of them rose from their seats and after a few words of parting, most went their separate ways.
"Waller… There's some things we need to discuss," Hermione said to the Head Unspeakable before she could scurry back to her office several floors below. It was only after the room was vacated by everyone except for Waller and Director Granger was the silence between them broken. "Case file, X-2149."
"2149… Bownammar… Why...?" Waller began to question before realization set in. "Potter."
"How much else are you hiding?" Hermione demanded.
Waller snorted in derision. "Not nearly as much as your friend is, Madame Director. Even now, you're underestimating him. Be careful who you trust, keep your own council."
"I can and do trust Harry implicitly, what I wonder about is how much I can trust you," Hermione accused.
"Despite what you think of me, I only act in the best interests of Great Britain and her people, magical or not. You might not like my methodology, but I get results," Waller rebutted. "Watch your friend, Granger; he's not the Boy Scout he used to be at Hogwarts."
"What are you trying to imply?" Hermione asked icily.
"Rich, politically and personally connected to the Dwarven Republic and knows more about magic and MagiTech than most anyone else in the entire United Kingdom?" Waller listed off. "I can't be any more obvious without slapping you in the face with it."
Hermione looked startled at the implication. "You think Harry is the Wizard?"
"More like I know Potter is the Wizard, I simply don't have the necessary evidence to prove it," Waller shot back. "You've always been an idealist Granger. It's an admirable, if not foolish quality. Don't be too surprised by the top name on that list Auror Coulson provides you."
With those parting words, Waller strolled out of the War Room.
It was several hours later before Director Granger finally managed to get away from the stresses of the Ministry of Magic, leaving with just as many questions as she had answers. The most troubling of which had come up when Phil handed her the list of MagiTech companies that had the theoretical skill and resources to generate any possible equipment used by The Wizard.
MagiCorp, as she'd expected, was at the top of that list, being the largest techno-magical company in the world. It was the number two slot that left her astounded.
Hermione wasn't sure what to think or feel about the fact that her best friend was not only running a lucrative, but very selective and secretive MagiTech Company, but he hadn't even mentioned it the previous evening. It was astounding to her that in terms of projected gross income, only MagiTech had outshone Harry's company, which only a week prior, had been headquartered in the Dwarven Republic- in the city of Kirkwall, one of the few dwarven settlements that extended topside.
Even more astonishing was the fact that Harry's Company, despite being so successful, was nearly completely unknown to many within the British Isles. Except for maybe Andromeda, Hermione was fairly certain that no one she knew was even aware of the fact that Harry's company even existed, especially since Potter Inc. didn't seem to have any sort of presence in England and the surrounding areas.
She couldn't help but wonder what Malfoy would think of Harry possibly 'muscling in' on his territory. The thought made her smile.
Director Granger's smile almost completely vanished as she reached her destination. After Harry left, she didn't think she'd ever be in this place again. Sighing to herself, she made her way to the front door of #12 Grimmauld Place, Harry's current residence and, apparently, where his headquarters was currently located. It was only a short moment that she knocked on the door that she was greeted by a familiar face.
Kreacher the House Elf was looking positively ancient.
"Madame Granger…" he croaked. "Master is upstairs in his study. Follow me."
"Thank you," she replied, though the aging House Elf did not acknowledge her. Hermione was once more astonished as she entered the house. The entire place looked far better than she'd ever seen it. "Wow…"
Silently, she followed the House Elf to a door on the second floor. Kreacher, after gesturing towards the door, disappeared with a pop. Hermione softly knocked on the door, but got no answer. Quietly, she opened the door and peered inside to and was met with an unusual site.
Sitting at the desk in his study was Harry wearing two strange golden bracers on his hands as he manipulated some sort of unseen object- the lenses of his glasses glowing slightly. The expression on his face reminded her of simpler times when all she had to worry about was end of the year exams and whether or not Ron saw her as a girl or as just another boy- only with squishy bits. Usually, when Harry's face bore that sort of expression, he was on a broomstick preparing to catch a golden snitch. It was disconcerting and yet comforting to see it again.
It was yet another sign that times were changing yet still the same.
"Harry," Hermione called to him softly.
"Hermione," Harry replied back with a surprised look on his face. His hands then began to move, as if he was hastily putting something away. Once that task had been completed, he tapped his glasses with his right hand, the glow fading from the lenses. He then immediately began pulling off the bracers. "What brings you here?"
"A consult... What were you doing?" she inquired.
"Working," was Harry's short answer.
Hermione was hurt that he didn't seem inclined to share more, but she also realized that they weren't children anymore and that they both had some secrets that couldn't be shared even between friends.
"Funny how things change, isn't it, it seems like it wasn't so long ago that I wanted to become an auror and was going to you for all the answers. So what bits of sagely advice can the wise and mystical Potter bestow upon the humble Director of the DMLE?"
"Funny..." Hermione dryly responded, her expression telling Harry she thought his response was anything but. "While you were away, did you study any obscure magic?"
"Yes..." Harry answered cautiously. "But you know I-"
"Can't talk about your training, I know," Hermione interrupted. "I'm not here about that... I just need bit of information on a strange bit of magic I encountered recently."
"Okay... What do you need to know?" Harry asked his posture straightening as he shifted all of his attention onto her. It was one more thing that Hermione found unsettling about Harry. As he sat behind his desk, waiting patiently for her inquiry she was suddenly hit with the image that she was back at Hogwarts, only it wasn't her best friend that she was visiting, but the headmaster of their old school, the wise and seemingly all-knowing Albus Dumbledore.
Unsettling didn't cover it. If anything, it was an understatement.
Never in a million years did she think that Harry would have that effect on her. Others perhaps, but not someone he grew up with, someone who had been with him through nearly every important event in his teenage years.
"What types of magic are there for turning someone intangible?" she inquired.
Harry looked at Hermione in surprise before his expression settled into a thoughtful frown. "That's... Problematic..."
"How come?" asked Hermione.
"That's a very rare, very old type of magic. The fact that you've encountered it, and came to me asking about it, means it was used in some sort of criminal activity and you want to find some way of countering it- while doable, it won't be easy," explained Harry. "However, and more pressing, it also means you're dealing with a very powerful, skilled and knowledgeable magical criminal. There aren't many people capable of using such magic, either due to lack of skill, lack of power, or lack of knowledge. It takes a very precise combination of all three and not many people have it."
"Do you know of anyone capable of using such magic?" asked Hermione.
"A few that can use it effectively. Though, as far as I know, none of them are currently in the country. Which method did they employ?" Harry inquired.
"What do you mean?" Hermione inquired, caught off guard by the question.
It was rapidly becoming more and more apparent to her that there was so very much she didn't know about magic. Of course, she hadn't truly studied magic since taking her NEWTs, and hadn't studied all that many rare magics since the Horcrux Hunt over a decade ago. She just hadn't had the time with her increasing responsibilities and had created the Division of Special Investigations for just that purpose. Especially since the Unspeakables under Croaker, and now even more so with Waller, had become a very secretive sect of the DMLE and were highly selective with what information the deigned to share, even with her, the Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Not for the first time was she cursing the actions of taken during the first war with Voldemort and the subsequent actions taken during the aftermath by both the Bagnold and Fudge administrations.
Harry frowned in thought. "The ability to become ethereal or "phase shift" as it's more commonly called these days- is a very old magic, ancient in fact. So there aren't any true counters for that type of magic currently in regular use. A few wards, but those are rare and not entirely reliable as they aren't very compatible with Dwarven, Goblin or Gnomish Wards- which are the most common in use now-a-days, even by independent human warders. I've studied them a little, but I'm not all that familiar with those types of wards. However, given the amount of time he spent in Egypt, Bill might be- or at least might know someone who is."
"Tell me about the methods used to phase shift," Hermione suggested. "Perhaps we can eventually come up with a working defense from there using MagiTech."
Harry nodded. "The ability to phase shift comes from a person's ability to pull their physical bodies onto the ethereal plane. It's not dark magic by any stretch, but it'd definitely be frowned upon in most countries since it's classified as advanced soul magic."
"Like Horcruxes?" asked Hermione concernedly.
"Not really," Harry replied shaking his head. "While both are classified as soul magic, they're about as related to each other in the way that ice cream and chocolate cake are considered deserts."
"So how does one go about making themselves intangible?" Hermione inquired, the concerned tone never leaving her voice.
"That depends on the method used," Harry replied. "Ancient Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian and Viking magic users each had their own ways of doing it for differing purposes. The Chinese and Japanese were able to achieve the ability through sheer physical, mental and magical discipline in order for them to be able to make themselves intangible for brief periods of time- usually to allow them to avoid taking damage from magical and physical attacks. The Egyptians had a ritual that allowed certain individuals, typically high priests and priestesses, to take on a spiritual form so that they could better interact with the spiritual world- the Chinese and Japanese also did this, to a lesser extent, however, death was a much larger part of Ancient Egyptian culture, both magical and non-magical. In fact, the majority of all necromantic arts in practice today are derived from Ancient Egyptian practices."
"I didn't know that," Hermione said with a small frown. "What about the Ancient Vikings? Given how complicated phase shifting sounds, I'm surprised they ever managed it. Vikings weren't known for their magical ability or being all that accepting of those of magical talent."
"Their mistrust of magic users only surfaced when they began to interact with other organized societies like the Woads and the Romans. The Vikings most elite warriors used magic and magical weapons. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Thor and his magical hammer, Mjolnir, actually did exist in one capacity or another. Anyway, Ancient Nord warriors used magic differently; they channeled magic through their voice. In fact, roughly translated, the ability was called 'The Voice'." Harry explained. "Those who had the ability were often highly praised, as they, more often than not, were charged with protecting their villages from the Vikings primary enemy of that time, the dragon."
Hermione sighed. "I think the closest analogue would be either the ancient Chinese or Japanese methods, but we're not entirely sure. In fact, we suspect MagiTech to be involved."
"It's theoretically possible, but no one I know has managed it, not even the GU," Harry responded, looking at Hermione's conflicted frown, before sighing himself. "What's on your mind, Hermione?"
"I had a chat with Waller this morning," Hermione said hesitantly as if unsure where to take the conversation.
"And?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow.
"She didn't deny anything, but she said some things and hinted at others…" Hermione replied.
"Just go with your instincts Hermione," Harry replied.
Hermione looked Harry directly in the eye. "Are you the Wizard?"
Harry chuckled in amusement. "I should have guessed as much. Waller always was vindictive."
"You didn't answer the question, Harry," Hermione pointed out. "Are you the Wizard?"
Harry's expression lost all traces of humor. "Any answer I give you would be irrelevant, Hermione."
"How so?" Hermione inquired.
"Because it all comes down to trust," Harry said sternly. "How much you trust Waller and how much you trust me. Waller and I have a history, much of it antagonistic and most definitely not one-sided by any means. Bownammar is merely the tip of the iceberg. A lot has happened in ten years Hermione. I've gained many friends and enemies- some, in their own right, are just as bad, if not worse than Voldemort and while I hesitate to call Waller an enemy, she's hardly an ally."
"I… I'm sorry Harry…" Hermione replied remorsefully.
Harry simply smiled. "I get it, Hermione, I do. We were the absolute best of friends and I dropped out of your life for nearly a decade without even saying good-bye. We're bound to have some issues to resolve, just like Ron and I have a few."
Hermione snorted at that. "Men."
"What?" asked Harry bewilderedly.
"I already know you let Ron hit you," Hermione stated with a smirk, her hands going to her hips. "Very few people know Ron like I do and you haven't changed all THAT much… Anything left between you two will be settled as soon as Ron can get you in that sparring room of his. I'll never understand how you males, with all your machoism and testosterone, can somehow solve most of your problems by beating each other up."
Harry shrugged with a smirk. "Emotional range of a teaspoon, remember?"
The Director simply rolled her eyes in response.
"So, did you have anything else on your agenda for today, or was picking my brain about obscure magic and accusing me of random acts of vigilantism all you have for the day?" Harry asked cheekily.
"No…" Hermione replied, becoming hesitant once more and refusing to meet Harry's eye.
"What is it, Hermione?" Harry asked concernedly.
"Well it's just…" Hermione stuttered, "It's just that… I have this invitation, you see… The Malfoy family is hosting a ball this weekend and I was wondering if you'll be my 'plus one'?"
"Sure," Harry casually replied without the slightest ounce of hesitation.
"Really!?" Hermione inquired in disbelief. She remembered after the war that Harry was quick to avoid such events like the plague. Of course she was as well, even if she did see the benefits of attending such events.
Harry simply shrugged again. "I don't see why not, especially since I won't have Teddy until the middle of next week. Why so surprised?"
"It's just… I expected to have to work harder to convince you, is all," Hermione replied.
"Yes… Well, I won't say I'm looking forward to it, all things considered, but going to one or two of these types of events shouldn't be too bad," Harry reluctantly admitted. "Is there anyone else we know that's going?"
"Malcolm and Phil from the Auror Department will be going, various members of the old DA, and Shack," Hermione informed him. "Also in attendance will be some senior department heads and various members of the 'elite' of our society and perhaps even a foreign dignitary or a celebrity or two. Astoria likes to try and go the extra mile for these sorts of functions."
Harry looked at Hermione in confusion. "Astoria…?"
"Malfoy. She was a couple of years behind us at Hogwarts and married Draco a few years back," Hermione filled in. "She's a good woman and a positive influence on him."
"If you say so," Harry replied unconvinced. "I suppose I'll find out this weekend. What time would you like to meet up?"
"I'm not sure, honestly," Hermione answered. "Can I owl you back later with a response if I don't see you before then?"
Harry nodded with a smile. "That would be fine."
"Thanks, Harry," Hermione said as she returned his smile. "I'll see you later."
"See you later, Hermione."
"Mr. Malfoy," said a voice coming from a glowing blue orb on Draco's desk.
"What is it, Ms. Graves?" Draco asked tiredly.
"Lady Greengrass is here to see you," the voice informed him.
He knew this visit was coming, though he'd expected her to visit him at his manor once more. It was very rare for his Dearest Sister-in-Law to visit him at his place of business. 'I wonder what the harpy wants now…'
"Send her in, Mercy," Draco ordered his aid.
"At once, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco sighed, he wasn't in the mood to deal with the 'soul sucking bitch', as he frequently referred to her as. He hadn't forgotten his last encounter with his wife's sister. It was only a matter of seconds before Daphne Greengrass regally and imperiously walked into his office, looking the epitome of the pureblood Matriarch he knew her to be.
There were many who had attempted to emulate the aura she exuded, his own wife included, women who could only immitate the monetary, political and magical power and influence that Lady Greengrass possessed in abundance, but failed to in various and spectacular ways. Theo Nott's wife Anastasia and his former class mate and fellow Slytherin Alumni, Millicent Bulstrode were prime examples of his. Others didn't even make the attempt of mimicking the posture and dignity that should have been ingrained in those of their station from birth, such as Susan Bones or even, to a lesser extent, Hannah Longbottom (nee Abbott). Pansy might have been able to pull it off, even though her mother had never had the presence to do it herself, but he hadn't seen her in years.
In fact, the only women that Draco Malfoy new that could match the classic beauty, arrogance, presence, power and formidability that came naturally to the Greengrass Matriarch were Augusta Longbottom (at least in her prime, though the woman, even in her twilight years, was more formidable than some trained professionals) , Natasha Zabini and his own mother.
"Hello, Darling Brother," Daphne greeted, but with none of the false cheeriness that she had at Malfoy Manor. Her voice was cold and her tone, biting.
"Dearest Sister, what brings you here, and in the daylight no less," Draco asked mockingly. Daphne's eyes narrowed menacingly.
"Hold your tongue, worm, lest I be inclined to remove it," Daphne snapped.
"Still sore that your little hit that you ordered on Granger went completely to shit?" Draco inquired amusedly.
"Something needs to be done about this vigilante!" Daphne raged. "I'll not have him continuing to interfere in our business."
It was Draco's turn to glower at Lady Greengrass. "Your business."
"Semantics since many of our ventures are funded by money you provide."
Huffing in frustration, Draco ran his hands down his face. "Get to the point, bitch, and then get out of my office."
"We need something, anything that we can use to take down the Wizard," Daphne demanded. "Since you're not entirely useless, I know you have something stashed away from prying eyes that we can use."
Draco leaned back in his chair as if mentally debating something.
"As a matter of fact…"
Azkaban Asylum Codex Entries:
Name: Daphne Greengrass
Occupation: Pureblood Socialite/Businesswoman/Criminal Mastermind
Hair/Eye Color: Brown/Blue
Aliases: Lady Greengrass, Greengrass Family Matriarch, Metus, Lady Archon, Soul Sucking Bitch
Facts: She was the most powerful witch in her year and second most powerful overall- second only to Harry Potter. Daphne Greengrass was also top of her year academically- mostly due to the fact that Hermione Granger was absent for her their entire seventh year, otherwise she'd have ranked second.
Cold and calculating, she managed to take over the Greengrass Family business in its entirety shortly after the fall of Voldemort. Though her parent's deaths were ruled an accident, there are many who suspect her of foul play, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Apart from the Greengrass Families' legitimate holdings; she also took over her father's place within the pureblood shadow organization known only as the Cabal- a sect of wealthy purebloods who pull the strings of politicians through bribery, blackmail and other nefarious means, gaining the title of 'Archon' within the organization and taking up the moniker Metus.
She is one of three of the most influential Archons of the Cabal- the others being Theodore Nott Jr. who had taken the title of Magister (the overall head of the Cabal) and Natasha Zabini (the only Archon from before the fall of Voldemort and mother to her classmate Blaise). It is through her that the Cabal gets their primary funding and MagiTech from MagiCorp, the company founded and presided over by her brother-in-law, Draco Malfoy.
Daphne has an extensive background in psychology and is particularly gifted in emotion manipulating curses and hexes and is a top notch potion's mistress.
Name: Amanda Waller
Occupation: Head Unspeakable
Hair/Eye Color: Black/Black
Aliases: Waller, Madame Waller, Agent Waller, Unspeakable Waller
Facts: She is a valuable ally and a dangerous enemy.
Like many other "Specialists" around the world she has more than her fair share of rivals- including Harry Potter, whom she has encountered on more than one occasion during his sabbatical from England. She is also the primary reason the Unspeakables continued to run and exist during and after Voldemort had control of the Ministry a decade ago.
She is one of the eleven individuals that went into the Dead Trenches during the events of Case File X-2149 (The Bownammar Incident) and was one of four known survivors. She had many reasons for going down into the Deep Roads under Germany, though she had been unable to complete many of her objectives- including obtaining the Eye of Agamotto. It was also her that personally recruited Harry Potter for the mission.
Amanda Waller is an excellent duelist and specializes in dark hexes and soul magic. It was with her help that Albus Dumbledore confirmed that the Diary of Tom Riddle was, in fact, a horcrux.
Name: The Wizard
Hair/Eye Color: None/Depends on Emotions
Aliases: Undesirable #1
Facts: Although he works on the side of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, The Wizard is their most wanted Undesirable. Despite having never killed, many- auror and criminal alike- fear engaging him in combat. Few can claim to even come close to standing on even ground with him in any capacity. He is capable of becoming intangible and making others intangible as well and is also able to use wandless magic.
Due to his presence, crime has dropped significantly. However, the danger posed to society by criminals is also significantly higher. Many other extraordinary magical beings have also made appearances in Britain and beyond to do battle with the Wizard- including but not limited to; Siren, Solomon Grundy, Hagraven and Metus.