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Published: 07/20/2005Updated: 01/05/2008Words: 204,297Chapters: 22Hits: 56,754
Harry Potter and the Soul of the Hero
- Story Summary:
- The Boy Who Lived has survived Sword and Defiance, but his fight has only just begun. Power enough to destroy Existence is growing in more than one source, and the War for Creation will burn all worlds. Beings of higher power, both Light and Dark, battle for dominance and caught in the middle is Harry Potter. But Harry has his own war to fight - against the Dark Lord - and humanity must unite if he is to win. We have reached the end, and change is coming, whether it be for good or ill. Harry must gamble again with everything on the line, even if it means damning his soul to an eternity of darkness... will he pay that price to save those he loves, or will he tear down Creation itself to destroy his enemies?
- Chapter Summary:
- Harry has seen and done terrible things in his long, desperate life. But the cost, the price in this game, has always been too high for him. He gambled and lost, his soul in the bargain, and is damned for it. The fires of Hell are about to scorch the planet, and the last hero is circling the drain of insanity....
Harry Potter and the Soul of the Hero
Chapter 11 - Pain of Redemption
We may lose and we may win,
but we will never be here again.
The Daily Prophet
HARRY POTTER - HERO OR MADMAN?
Special Correspondent Rita Skeeter
As wizarding Britain felt a renewed hope with the
return of their supposed saviour, was Harry Potter
secretly planning to betray us all and align
himself on an equal footing with He Who Must
Not Be Named, and attempt to overthrow our
The answer, sadly, is yes.
Late last night a hooded figure, shrouded in mist
and bearing unknown banners, leading two Nundus
by the collar, broke into the International Confederation
and walked through the Doors of Merlin, rendering
seventy two Aurors unconscious to do so, and disarming
a further two hundred.
The figure proclaimed himself as Harry Potter, the
Boy Who Lived, and indeed, given what we know of
Potter's power and past flouting of our laws and
traditions, it was him. (centre image)
Amongst other things, the self proclaimed Lord of
Twilight demanded he be given Merlin's Seat of
Power, which has not been claimed since the great
wizard's death several centuries ago. They who hold
the Seat have the power of the world at their
fingertips, so it is said, and Potter did seem to have
just that - without the Seat.
No one can doubt the good Harry Potter has done for
our world since the first time he defeated You Know Who
shortly after his first birthday. He has faced Dementors,
Basilisks, Death Eaters, and not to mention his parents'
murderer more times than any other person in the world,
and lived to tell the tale. But has the strain become too
much on the boy-wizard?
Surely no one can fight darkness for so long without themselves
feeling the bite of the evil in our world. Potter has been
known to use dark magic, has experienced many traumatic
events in his short life, and maybe now, after so long, he has
lost sight of what is right, and erred down the path He Who Must
Not Be Named took so many years ago.
St Mungo's experts discuss Potter's mental health on page 2.
The Wizarding Times
POTTER DOING WHAT HAS TO BE DONE?
Special Correspondent Ian Lighterman
It is not often in our lifetimes that we witness the
beginning of something truly great, truly amazing,
truly beyond us. Yesterday evening, as the
International Confederation met on matters of
war, Harry Potter rattled the cages of the
politicians and power holders of this world.
Claiming the Seat of Power in the International
Confederation, Potter set about to display his true
strength by disarming two hundred highly trained
Aurors with the blink of an eye. He was denied the
Seat by a unanimous IC vote, but looked as though
he had expected such a vote, and did not leave
Fusing his personal banners and sceptre into the
Seat, showing the world he claimed it, Potter then
announced without any hesitation that he would
be removing the members of the IC from their
positions of Power, and disappeared in a blaze
of fiery blue light.
Where Potter went is unknown, and given his
history it is unlikely we will ever know, but the
world's leaders are taking his threat seriously
and have set about increasing their personal
protection, as well as the magical barriers
on their establishments.
Though if the IC itself cannot keep Potter out
then these efforts may be deemed as futile.
As of this moment, even Albus Dumbledore has
been unable to remove Potter's mark on the Seat,
and a reward has been offered for information
leading to the young wizard's whereabouts.
One hundred thousand galleons - the highest
reward for a 'criminal' who has so far gone
out of his way to keep people alive, and has
sacrificed a lot to save our world more than
This begs the question that will be on everyone's
mind soon or late: Is Potter doing what has to be
done for the future of this world?
The power of He Who Must Not Be Named has
unquestionably skyrocketed since his last
appearance in March - enough so that he could
conjure the storm demon, a being of mythical power
Does the IC's refusal to recognise You Know Who
as a global threat mean our leaders are dooming
us to certain defeat? Or is Potter insane? The same
Potter who has, more than once, fought back the
worst evil in our world.
Is the Boy Who Lived our last hope? Will he save
the world or tear it apart? With two wizards, Potter
and the Dark Lord, siding off against one another and
both claiming the world as their own, will we all
be crushed when these titans duel?
The Daily Prophet
SEARCH FOR POTTER ENTERS FIFTH DAY!
Five days and once again thousands of galleons
spent on locating the infamous Harry
Potter, and the young wizard has not been
sighted anywhere on the planet.
We are all familiar with his disappearance during
March, April and May, and the futility of the
resources wasted trying to find him then. Is it
wise to continue spending galleons that could go
to the war effort, on a boy that clearly does not
want to be found?
The International Community is in an uproar
over the audacity of the Boy Who Lived, and
many are considering time in Azkaban for his
flouting of the IC law. Our Ministry is being
called into question on the motives of the boy,
and whether or not he is a figurehead for a
United Kingdom plot to overthrow the IC and
take the resources they 'claim' we want to
end our war.
2 Days Later
June 20th, 1997
Hermione didn't have to try very hard to convince her parents that travelling by Portkey to Australia would be a lot easier, cheaper, and faster than booking a flight on an aeroplane - especially because Ron and Ginny were accompanying them, and it would be a lot of hassle to get them on a Muggle plane.
Thankfully, the tickets Brian Granger had booked were fully refundable, and he did just that two mornings before Hermione arrived home bringing two of her friends. She had said there would be three, and Mr Granger knew who the third missing was. Harry Potter, somewhat of a celebrity in the magical world. Hermione had said he was meeting them in Australia.
Dressed for warmer weather, but still a bit cold for Australia, the two Weasleys and the three Grangers huddled around an old boot that Friday morning, each carrying a suitcase that Hermione had charmed to be feather light.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had spent two days at Hermione's home in Abingdon, a lot of the time spent getting to know her parents better, a fair portion of the time devoted to looking out for Harry....
After the constant stream of newspaper articles about him proclaiming him as a hero, a madman, an idiot, a dark wizard, and a number of other things, Hermione was in an almost round the clock state of worry about him. She told herself that he could protect himself better than most, but it wasn't enough. Not when both Light and Dark wizards all around the world were hunting him.
She told herself it would make headline news if he were seen or captured, and that no news was good news, but she worried - so did Ron, and Ginny was pale with worry. So far she had refrained from squeezing the coin Harry had given her, he had said it was for an emergency, but Hermione saw her rolling it around from time to time, and biting her bottom lip.
"When is this thing supposed to work, Hermione?" Janet Granger asked, holding the old boot by a shoelace.
Hermione fell out of her thoughts and looked at her watch. "Thirty four seconds," she whispered.
It was an international Portkey, but Professor Dumbledore had been only too happy to provide it. A little too happy, Hermione would have thought, but it did not matter. If he hoped they'd lead him to Harry he was wrong. They did not know where Harry was, and there had been no sign of him at all.
The Portkey was set to transport them to Canberra, the Australian capital. Into the ground floor of the Australian Ministry, where someone appearing through Portkey would not appear as odd. From there, it was the simple matter of taking a taxi to their hotel for the few days they intended to spend in the Australian capital.
Lost in her thoughts, Hermione gasped when she felt the familiar tensing behind her navel and was pulled into the Portkey, magic spinning her around faster and faster, a blur of colours, a roaring wind and a feel of falling. Slightly dizzy, Hermione, her parents, Ron and Ginny stood in the foyer of the Australian Ministry of Magic.
"Are- are we here?" Brian Granger asked. "Did we...."
"All the way from England," Hermione said, having her first look around the Ministry. It was a lot more modern than the one she knew best back home. A lot newer looking, with smooth carpeted floors and ultra-modern steel furniture, glass windows looking out into a busy street.
"Incredible," Mrs Granger said, shaking her head and smiling slightly. "That really is incredible."
In contrast to the modern foyer, every person in the large room was wearing wizarding robes and looked simply magical. A tall man with a strong brown beard approached them, holding a scroll of parchment. "Granger party?" he asked.
"Brian Granger," Mr Granger said and offered his hand. The bearded man took it.
"Welcome to Australia," he then said. "The Ministry of Magic wishes you a pleasant stay - please take these documents and Muggle paraphernalia. They allow you to legally be in this country for three months, or until your visa expires on the Muggle papers."
He handed Mr Granger a thick brown envelope and bade them a pleasant day, showing them to the revolving glass doors, telling them that since they were Muggles a taxi service operated most days just around the corner and could take them on to where they were staying.
There were seven Aurors on the door, and one of them held a picture of Harry. Hermione and her father were the only ones who saw it.
Outside it was mid-afternoon, as oppose to the morning they had just left in England - the air was warm and humid.
"Canberra," Ginny said. "It seems nice."
The skies were cloudy but a fair amount of sunlight shone through a large gap in the west, and the sights and sounds of the city washed over the small party as they made their way around to the taxi bays. They would need a maxi-taxi, a people mover, something that sat about six.
Still dragging their feather-light suitcases, Mr and Mrs Granger took the lead until they came to a turn off into the road that led to a small car park that was packed with cars and a taxi bay about seventy feet away. As they approached, a man jumped out of one of the bigger taxis, the one they needed and approached.
"Welcome to Australia," he said with a wink. "I'm from the Ministry - they keep me round for groups like you. I'm a Muggle, let's get your suitcases in the trunk and see you on your way."
This man had a small growth of stubble covering his face and blue eyes. A mop of brown hair covered his forehead and ears, feathered down to his neck and when he walked he did so with a slight limp to his left. The purple taxi was large enough, and a few minutes later the suitcases were loaded into the back of the car. The limping man got the side door for Ginny, and then jumped into the driver's seat.
"The Hyatt Hotel, please," Mr Granger said, sitting in the passenger seat opposite the limping man. "And can we take the scenic way?"
The limping man winked again, and Hermione thought she knew him for a moment. "Scenic it is - take you round the Parliamentary Triangle and we'll go from there." His speech was slurred, not quite Australian, and a small smile played around his lips.
The taxi pulled away from the bays and out into the street. It was an automatic car, Hermione saw, and thought it was about time she herself learnt to drive. It was all good and well being able to travel with magic, but she also lived in a world where most people couldn't - including her family - so that was something to do after this holiday and before she went back to Hogwarts.
"Can't say I've been working here long," the limping man said in response to something her father had said. He indicated and turned into a filter lane, having to stop for a red light. The Ministry building was on the left, outside of her window, and Hermione hoped Harry had stayed well away from it. "No... jack of all trades me - just doing this job now, probably be another one later."
There was something familiar about the driver, Hermione was certain, and she saw Ginny frowning at him as well, spinning Harry's coin in her palm. Ron, being Ron, was mostly oblivious, and was staring out at the Muggle world and shaking his head at electronic billboards and road signs and whatnot.
"I've seen most of Canberra, yes," the driver said. "I can recommend the restaurant just a few buildings down from the Hyatt actually. Food is great, so is the drink. You planning on staying here long?"
"A month," Mrs Granger said, leaning forward in her seat behind her husband. "We're going to Sydney in four days, then up to the Gold Coast, before flying over to South Australia, and then Western Australia."
The limping man nodded. "I've seen a bit of Western Australia," he said.
Hermione's mind was racing. She did not know the face of the driver, but her thoughts turned to Harry and the war he was caught up in. She knew that she was a target, that they all were, her parents included. Voldemort had tried to kill her mum and dad once, and would most likely do so again if Harry didn't stop him.
Was this driver a Death Eater? How could she be certain they were heading to the hotel? She did not know the city of Canberra, none of them did. He could be taking them anywhere.
"How far is it to the hotel?" she asked, clenching her wrist and the wand holster she possessed under her blouse sleeve arm. Her wand twitched but didn't fly into her hand - not until she was sure.
The driver looked at her in the rear-view mirror and winked yet again. A character trait maybe... "Ah well," he said, and looked behind her in the mirror out the back of the car. "I'm afraid I won't be taking you to the hotel."
In an instant Ron, Hermione and Ginny had their wands out and trained on the back of the man's head. "Stop the car now," Hermione said, straight to the point. "Ginny, press that coin - get Harry here." Harry could handle a dozen Death Eaters, she knew, or more.
Ginny didn't hesitate and pushed the coin hard into her palm. It rippled and crackled blue and then shone with a deep white radiance. The limping man didn't stop the car, but turned down a one way road that was empty - devoid of traffic. Then he brought it to a slow stop.
Mr and Mrs Granger were not sure what to do, but Brian clenched his fists and ordered he stop the car. A stunning spell was on Hermione's lips when the limping man rippled, much like the coin, and he... changed. His brown hair became black, his blue eyes dazzling emerald and his short growth of stubble receded to just a faint shadow.
"Hello, guys," Harry said. "Can you push that coin again, Ginny, please, the other one is burning a hole through my pocket."
"Harry!" Ron exclaimed.
"HARRY!" Hermione screeched.
"Harry," Ginny smiled and clenched the coin until it stopped glowing. "I had a feeling...."
Harry smiled. He looked tired, he felt tired, and he sounded tired. "Sorry for the deception," he said, leaning back over his seat to look at them all. "But I'm sorta on the Ministry's Most Wanted List, and they've got people watching the hotel in the room next to yours, so I had to get you away now. Mr Granger, Mrs Granger - it is good to see you again."
Frowning and glancing out of the back window, Harry turned around and started the car moving again down the one way street. He spoke as he drove. "So, we can't go to the hotel, I'm afraid, because Voldemort will know that the Ministry is watching it, and therefore he'll know where to find you."
Mrs Granger visibly paled at the mention of the Dark Lord's feared name, the blood draining from her face. Hermione knew her mother had seen Voldemort once, in the ruins of their house last Christmas. Hermione had met him for the first time a few months later, and he was terrifying.
Brian Granger hadn't seen him though. "Hang on a minute, Mr Potter," he said. "We've planned this holiday for weeks and I don't think it--"
"Forgive me, sir," Harry cut in, turning back onto a main road. "But you don't know what to think - let me do it - and it'll keep you and your family alive."
"Staying away from you would also do that," Mr Granger replied.
"Dad!" Hermione gasped.
"I'm afraid it has gone beyond that now," Harry said. "But we've got somewhere... better... to stay. Safer as well. With a private beach and easy access to any point in the country. You'll get to see a lot more of Australia this way, you'll have no fear of death, and... and it will just be a weight off all of our minds."
To Ginny, Harry did seem tired - he had looked tired the last time she had seen him a week ago, and had, if anything, slept less since then. His eyes seemed alive though, sparkling and dangerous, looking everywhere at once. She suspected that there wasn't anything he didn't see around him.
"Where have you been, Harry?" she asked. "You said you were going to go see the Muggle Prime Minister--"
"I did," Harry nodded. "And that went... well... I suppose, but let's talk about something else. I mean, you are here on holiday."
"Where is this place you're taking us?" Mr Granger asked roughly.
"Somewhere," Harry replied, "on the coast of Southern Australia."
Janet Granger sighed and folded her hands calmly into her lap. "If you... if you think this is best, Harry, we won't argue. But we don't know much about your war, but we did learn to trust you over Christmas, so...."
If anything, Harry looked like he was trying to remember what had happened at Christmas. How could he forget!? Voldemort had killed Ethan Rafe, he'd captured twenty Death Eaters, the prophecy had been revealed to the Dark Lord, and he'd ended up in a Muggle hospital. Ginny feared for him, and what he would eventually show them in the pensieve.
"Trust," Harry said. "From now on I don't want any of you to trust anyone you meet outside of this car. There are a lot of... people... out there, who would do a lot to get their hands on me. I'll explain the rest later, but now...." Harry turned off the street and into an empty alley between two buildings.
Driving along, Harry waved his hand and ahead of them the air seemed to open and a beam of white light spread out, revealing a large impressive hall where the back of the alley should have been. It cut right across the alley, and Harry drove right through it. Mr and Mrs Granger paled as Hermione turned in her seat to look out the back window and watch the gateway close.
An impressive piece of magic - she hoped she could learn it... that Harry would teach it.
Harry turned off the car and took off his seatbelt before stepping out onto the long red carpet that cut up from the front doors to the large marble staircase of his headquarters. The chandeliers along the ceiling, dangling from domes and on the walls all flickered with pale white light, and a line of candles hung suspended on air curling up the stairs. He'd parked the taxi in the dead centre of the large entrance hall.
The Grangers, and the two Weasleys, got out as well - looking around at the large hall and the dozens of doors along the walls.
"I'm afraid I've stolen this car now," Harry sighed, scratching his chin in thought. "No matter. Let me show you up to the guest rooms."
Harry had learnt to drive seventy eight years ago. Well, had been forced to drive needing to cover four thousand miles to reach a gateway along his glowing scar link. There had been other cars, other vehicles, since then - and the refresher in Western Australia a few weeks ago at Matt's farm. He would have to see that man, and reimburse him for the property damage the vampires had caused. Return the taxi as well - but that would all have to wait.
With a wave of his hand Harry made the suitcases move through the side of the car and float ahead of him as he moved towards one of the doors on the left, and not the stairs. The others followed him. Through the door a smaller set of stairs led up to a large open room with a dozen windows that looked out onto a large crystal-blue ocean and golden sands. A perfect beach, devoid of humans and untouched by anyone in years.
"This is what I call the... living room," Harry shrugged. "Good a name as any, I suppose. See those doors over there." He pointed across the room, about a hundred feet away, to a series of five doors against the wall. "They open onto full bedroom suites with bathrooms and whatnot. You'll be staying in there - it's quite comfortable."
"Which is your room, Harry?" Ginny asked.
Harry blinked and then smiled. "I haven't picked one," he said, stifling a yawn. "Not had much chance for sleep in the last week... not with everything...."
"Everything?" Hermione asked.
"You're not the only people here," he replied. "There are thirty men and women, members of the Muggle special forces. Soldiers. They're staying a few floors up and about half a mile that way." He pointed through the wall. "This house is huge inside and out, but you shouldn't see them. They know you're here, but you can't let anyone know they're here. A lot of laws, both Muggle and Wizard, have been broken - foolish laws, inadequate laws - but these men and women do have families."
The room had a dozen sofas and chairs, as well as a full bar and food supplies. Part of the last week had been spent supplying this house and fortifying its defences. As it was, an Auror force could lay siege to this house for a decade and never enter it. Voldemort, on the other hand, could probably break the house open in minutes if Harry wasn't here.
"What Wizarding laws have you broken, Harry?" Ron asked. "Besides the obvious ones, of course."
Harry yawned before answering. "Mainly the one against mixing magic and muggle technology. Technomancy, I think is the most widely used term for it."
Hermione opened her mouth to speak but Harry shook his head. "Later," he said. "Let's get you settled in--"
"I don't like any of this, Potter," Brian Granger growled, surprisingly angry for a dentist. He pushed his glasses up further onto his nose and pointed a finger at Harry. "You openly admit to breaking the law, you tell us our lives are in danger and that we're safe here. There are security guards at the Ministry of this country with your picture. This is not normal, you understand, and I think we deserve an explanation now as to what is going on!"
Harry's tired face hardened with each word, and, while she hadn't seen him really lose his temper in awhile, Hermione had always thought Harry was more frightening with a quiet anger. Like the kind she knew he was feeling now. Expecting an outburst or out right refusal, Hermione blinked when Harry said:
"Of course, take a seat." He motioned to the nearby chairs. They creaked under the weight of disuse but were magically strong. Harry himself remained standing before one of the windows, looking at Brian Granger without blinking and holding his hands behind his back.
His gaze flickered to Ginny once, and despite the confidence Hermione knew he felt, she also thought he was uneasy, perhaps fearful, about what to say. That wasn't Harry, something must be really wrong, really terrible, for him to display such a feeling openly.
"I've brought you here because this is the last safe stronghold on the entire planet that can hope to stand against Voldemort's power," Harry began. "With a wave of his hand Voldemort could topple Hogwarts, wipe a city off the map, slaughter thousands... with a wave of his hand, Voldemort could melt continents and boil oceans. The only thing that's stopping him from doing that is me."
The way he said that, Ginny thought, wasn't boasting. Just a simple statement of the truth. Either way, they all knew it was the truth.
"Here, you are safe," he continued. "Here I will know you're safe. You can still visit the country, see the sights, but after that I'm going to have to insist you stay here. In time, I'll offer the same protections to Dumbledore for Hogwarts, and you can return for your last year, Ron, Hermione... you as well, Ginny, but until then - you are all priority targets of the Death Eaters and even Voldemort himself, and I won't have innocents close to me die."
"And how many innocents have you killed over the years," Brian Granger hissed. "Hmm? How many guilty, even?"
Harry didn't blink at the question. Millions, billions. "More than you can possibly imagine," he replied without emotion. His face neutrally calm. "But I did what had to be done. If I hadn't... well, then only the innocent would have died. You're a dentist, sir, not a master in war. You can't possibly understand the sacrifices and responsibilities of that."
"Well if you think we're staying here you can just--"
"Do you love your family?" Harry cut in, fire blazing in his eyes. "Because I'm trying to save them, and whether or not you know it your arguments are in favour for having them murdered, casualties of war. I've seen a lot in my time, but one thing I know for certain, one Truth, is that death is final. Always and absolutely. You're an educated man, make the right choice."
Oddly enough, Harry was reminded of something Allarius had said at that moment:
Doing what you believe to be right, Potter, will always have a price in blood that the innocent around you will have to pay.
Oh yes, the demon had been full of many pearls of wisdom such as that. It had been right, on that occasion. Wrong, so wrong, on many others.
"We'll stay," Mr Granger growled after a long moment, looking to his wife for conformation. She nodded quickly and cast a somewhat fearful glance at Harry. "But not for you, Potter. When this is over, we're gone, and I don't want to see you again! We don't want war!"
Harry shrugged and raised his palms towards the roof with a sigh. "I don't want war, but it wants me - always has - as long as you stay alive, I would gladly stay away for the rest of your lives."
I don't expect to live until the end of this year anyway, Harry thought. The game is hard this time - too complex. I'm surrounded by enemies with nowhere to turn.
You'll kick ass, Ethan offered in return. And if you die, then you die on your feet. Nothing less and nothing more.
At times, Ethan was more a part of him than they both realised.
"Has your loyalty ever wavered, Lucius?" the Dark Lord asked his longest serving Death Eater. An odd question, for a wizard who had served him from the beginning, had gone to Azkaban for him, and had trained his son to follow in his footsteps.
"Never, my lord," Lucius replied, trying not to shiver. The very air seemed hung with crystals of ice in the presence of his master these days. No light could withstand the pulsating aura of darkness that emanated from the snake-like form of Lord Voldemort.
"The correct answer, of course," Voldemort mused. "And yet you are one of the few I believe. Tell me, how goes recruiting?"
"Three hundred new recruits within the last month, my lord," Lucius replied from behind his mask. His teeth were chattering, no matter how hard he tried to suppress it. Oh yes, he had definitely chosen the right side in this war. There was no stopping his master. "Since the world learnt that you summoned the storm demon, dark wizards all over the world have been flocking to your recruiters."
"Excellent," Voldemort whispered. "Excellent. Only those marked will survive the coming apocalypse. Only those whose loyalty was unwavering...."
Lucius refrained from caressing his Dark Mark. He would survive, as would his son and wife. But foremost, himself. The Mark ensured that.
"What new orders, my lord?" Lucius asked. The dark chamber in Slytherin Fortress was rotting and putrid, but all that paled aside Voldemort.
"Stonehenge, Lucius," Voldemort replied. His red eyes burnt with a strange intensity and his hands were shrouded in red light. "Where it all really began, where it all will end. Stonehenge, to open a way between worlds, to release an army of demons against the Darkslayer. To destroy Harry Potter!"
One hour later
Ginny moved across the room and put her hand on Harry's cheek. He sighed into it, holding his forehead with one hand and met her eyes calmly. He's tired, she thought, very, very tired.
"I'm tired," Harry said.
"Why don't we go relax on the beach?" Ron offered, glancing out of the window at the sunny beach with its crystal blue sea. The bay looked very friendly, comforting.
"That might be a good idea," Hermione said. "Let my parents get settled in...." There had been some harsh words shared between Hermione and her parents, and things were still a bit rough - but agreeable.
Harry shook his head. "I... em...." he began, and for the first time since he had been back Ginny saw Harry unnerved.
"What is it?" she asked, leading him down into the chair by the window.
Harry took a deep breath and, Ginny saw, he tried to hide his shaking hands. A blossom of fear bloomed in her stomach but she suppressed it. Whatever could unnerve Harry had to be truly awful.
"I've finished filling the pensieve," he said quickly, hoarsely, and almost inaudibly. "What... what happened to me, the main parts... Merlin.... the main parts are in there. Hours worth, it'll probably take a few days to get through...."
Surely... surely she could not see tears in Harry's eyes. God, tears! Ginny felt beyond scared about what she might see in this basin of memory.
"What... what can we expect?" Hermione asked faintly.
Harry shuddered in her arms, and tried to suppress it. "Please don't hate me...." he whispered. "Please.... I thought I could do this... I thought... God, I killed you all!"
"You're scaring me, Harry," Ginny said, holding him close. He wasn't crying - he was close - but he wasn't.
Grimly, Harry sat up straight and looked directly at the glass topped table in between them and Ron and Hermione on the sofa. He growled and waved his hand, revealing a stone basin filled about an eighth of the way up. That could be about a week's worth of memory. It had been hidden under a bending of the light, making it invisible.
"I spent a few days filling it up, getting it done with," Harry said absently, staring into the silver liquid. He seemed detached, cold, not really talking to them but to himself... or something inside of him. "I don't want to see it - I don't! But I can't keep it from you... go in, I'll pull you out in an hour or two." Harry sighed again and held his head in his hands. "Please go," he finally said. "You have to know."
Ginny hugged him before moving over to the pensieve but Harry did not have it in him to return it. His friends offered him a worried, careful smile and then, in the blink of an eye - touched the silver memory in the basin and were sucked down into it.
Harry watched them go and then leaned back in his chair. I'll just rest my eyes for five minutes, he thought, just five....
He fell asleep for the first time in two days.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny found themselves floating in darkness with Harry - the memory of Harry - and followed him as he was thrown across Existence with his shoulder bleeding. They watched the Guardian approach, knowing nothing of what or who it was, and finally they were propelled along time and space - appearing in another world at Hogwarts.
"My God," Hermione breathed, looking around at the familiar yet different Hogwarts. A thought was all it had taken. "This is...."
They were all afraid now, as the memory jumped from Harry losing consciousness to waking up with people they knew to be dead around him. Sirius, his parents, a brother and sister he never knew.
It got worse, a lot worse, and it was only just the beginning. Soon enough they wanted to flee in terror, and rightly so, but they owed it to Harry to stay.
It will never be over, not for you, Darkslayer.
Existence was littered with debris and destruction, many threads of it simply burnt out, gone and lost - the Guardians were losing the age-old struggle to protect the Boundary. A calm had descended, or perhaps it was just the eye of the storm, but Harry knew it wasn't done yet.
Hadn't even begun.
Could he continue to ignore the growing degradation of the fabric? He didn't think so, and that thought made him want to die... but he knew if he did, it would be final, and eventually even the Land of the Dead would succumb to the weight of Existence ending, and be consumed into an eternity of darkness.
That couldn't happen - won't happen. It would come to him, if he didn't go to it. Destiny always did.
Harry awoke from his troubled dreams three hours after he had fallen asleep by the window. With a start, he jumped up and coughed, gazing out into the twilight world and the constant, perpetual crashing of the waves against the beach. He checked his watch and realised how long he had been asleep.
With a curse, Harry turned....
and beheld the pensieve. It was swirling, glowing, his friends were still in there.
Indecision clawed at Harry for a moment, but then he decided against pulling them out. He had other plans that needed seeing to first. With a thought, he straightened his cloak, unfolded the creases, and Apparated across the house to what he had called the 'Workroom'.
There were five men and women already there when he arrived. Members of the crack British special services - this bunch from the SAS. The three women and two men saluted him when he arrived, as, once again; he had been given a field commission as Commander - Commander Potter.
"Evening, folks," Harry nodded and the five soldiers relaxed.
After his meeting with the Prime Minister a week ago, and the agreement they had forged, Harry had wasted no time building his force for which he would take over the world with. It still sounded grim when he thought about that, but that was what he was doing, he supposed. Thirty men and women had been hand picked by the Prime Minister, an ex-soldier himself, and his Ministers for War. All of them knew of the wizarding world, and the soldiers did after being told.
Discipline being life to a soldier, they took it all at face value - which is to say they didn't really react at all. A mission was a mission, and if this one dealt with... technology a little different from normal, so be it. Magic was technology, as they saw it.
"Commander," came five prompt replies from the highly trained soldiers. Each one was wearing a customised uniform with an array of gadgets and weaponry. At Harry's request, and after a week of fusing magic and muggle technology, none of the weapons were lethal unless made to be.
The Workroom was just that. Bench after bench of tools and equipment. On many of the benches Muggle guns sat glowing, or in pieces. Those glowing had yet to cool down from the spells and incantations Harry had changed them with, and that really was all that was holding up his plans at the moment.
Crystals, small and sleek covered the workbenches as well. Some were glowing, some were dead, all were going to be used to store a charge of magic, given by Harry, that would last years. A replacement for the clips of bullets in the guns, these crystals would fire a variety of spells preset into the trigger. On the side of the weapons, a dial had been fitted. At Harry's order, all changed weapons were currently set to 'Stun'. There was an option for 'Kill'.
Just one of the things he had learnt at the Ways of Twilight, was a way to put magic into the crystal so that, given the right pressure, it exploded. Similar to the grenades these men and women used, each now carried a belt of grenade/crystals. Instead of a hellish explosion though, these crystals when activated exploded with a spiralling pulse of stunning magic.
Again, there was a more lethal variety - but no innocent would be killed by Harry's soldiers. If there was a skirmish with Death Eaters (or worse) however... well, everyone in the Workroom had killed before.
"These crystals pack a punch," the grizzled leader of this squad of soldiers said. He was a family man, wife and daughter, and had worked all over the world for his country. "Took out all of Bravo with one in a training exercise."
Beyond Harry using his real name, no one else in his force did - ever. There were thirty men and women in the house, sixteen men and fourteen women, and there were six squads of five people each. They were named as such - this squad, the one standing in front of Harry was Alpha Squad. Its leader was Alpha One, second-in-command Alpha Two, and so on until Alpha Five.
No names - no identification or anything. These soldiers were not affiliated with the United Kingdom. Their pay was quadrupled for this mission, but only if they returned alive and still under their cover. The Prime Minister, if questioned on this, would declare every one of them a mercenary - gun for hire - nothing more.
They did not exist.
The same for the remaining five squads of soldiers. Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Foxtrot, and Golf. No names, no ID - they were alone in this.
"You tested the crystals?" Harry asked Alpha One.
The man nodded, his sharp eyes meeting Harry's stare for stare. "Worked just like you said they would, Commander - and better. Bravo never stood a chance. Took them four hours to wake up though...."
"Four hours is enough...." Harry nodded, picking up a crystal and twirling it in his hands. His thoughts kept flittering back to the pensieve... no, not yet.
"When is our first mission, Commander?" Alpha One asked after a moment had gone by in silence. "The men - and women - are... excited, more than anything else, sir."
Harry nodded towards the modified rifles and pistols all about the room. "Give these three more days, by then I should have the layout of our first target, and we'll form a plan of attack."
Alpha One nodded and licked his lips. "None lethal assault?"
"None lethal," Harry agreed strongly, forcing the point home. "The majority of those we will be fighting are not our enemies... but follow orders from those unwilling to commit real forces to the Dark War... we have to remove them from that influence."
Alpha One shrugged. He was a soldier, trained to follow orders, no matter what the mission. His country had ordered him to follow Potter, and Potter ordered him to this. So be it.
"I'd like a day to test the new weaponry before seeing combat, sir," Alpha One said. "All squad leaders would."
"You have it," Harry nodded. "Four days then. But no more than that, Alpha One. The time we have to unite this world can be counted in days, now."
Less even, Ethan muttered. So much less... it is going to be close.
It always is by the end. Always... why is nothing ever really resolved without war? That has got to be a Great Truth.
Perhaps the Truth, Ethan offered. But I sure hope not.
These soldiers did not know the whole plan - not by far. Harry was the only one who knew that. But they knew more than Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. Which would change once they had all viewed the pensieve. That is, if they still wanted to know him. He had torn so much away, burnt and destroyed - brought chaos to countless billions - would they see him any different than Voldemort after this?
Sure hope so.
"I've a few more things to explain before we move on," Harry said a moment later. "This." He picked up a small circular silver button from the box on the table before him. He had made these last night, the work of five minutes or so. "This is a Portkey," he told the Alpha team. "Attach it to your uniform. If you're hit, taken down and can't see a way out - just squeeze these silver discs and you'll be transported through space back to this base."
He handed the box to Alpha One. "They'll work more than once," he said. "Always have them on you. Insurance, sort of, to make sure we get you back. If we can help it, no one is going to die."
The Alpha squad nodded and each accepted a silver disc, slipping it into a pocket on their uniforms, attaching it to a chain around the neck, or just holding onto it for now. Each soldier wore a shoulder plate, charmed against most spells - not Unforgivables, try as he might it was beyond even Harry to protect against them - and on it was written their 'name'. Alpha One had A1 on his right shoulder, Alpha Two - A2.
He had been surprised to find that he couldn't offer protection against the Unforgivables. They were of a different sort of magic, and he just couldn't block or shield them. It was... surprising. And a tad frightening.
It was the uniforms that Harry wanted to discuss next. They were very protective of most of the body, strong and durable, magically charmed to resist most spells, and light. But they... lacked a certain flare.
"All six teams have a new call sign as of today, Alpha One," Harry said. "You will keep your phonetic designation, but as a whole you are now part of a force known as the Twilight Guardians."
An apt name, in more ways than one.
"Twilight Guardians," Harry continued. "In time, I think, you'll come to understand just how important that is. In fact nothing is of greater importance," Harry whispered, standing tall.
The pensieve was like a burrowing tick in the back of his mind, and he knew he had put it off long enough. Saying his goodbyes and issuing his final few commands to the men and women that would help him save the world, Harry Apparated back to the sitting room where the pensieve still shone and swirled.
"Okay...." he breathed, leaning forward to touch the silvery liquid. He hesitated and then clenched his fist, gritting his teeth. You're stronger than this, he thought. You lived through it, you can watch it!
"Harry?" a voice from across the room called, and Harry looked up to see Janet Granger, Hermione's mother, walk over and sit down in the chair opposite from where he stood. She was alone. "Is Hermione about?" she asked.
Harry nodded. "She's in here," he said, motioning to the pensieve. "It's sort of like a video player," he continued at Mrs Granger's wide eyed stare. "I'll... I'll get her out."
Taking a deep breath, Harry closed his eyes and threw all caution to the wind, diving head first into his terrible memories.
When he opened his eyes, Harry recalled very well where and when he was. He could even recall bits and pieces of what he thought at the time. After all, it was when he first began to feel Allarius pulling strings in the background of his mind.
"It was fun, guys," Trask said defiantly, against the misery of this place. "We saved a lot of lives..."
"That we did," whispered James, flexing his sore hand. A door handle had erupted into it. "And we have a few more to save yet."
Azkaban, the inescapable island fortress in the first world he had stepped in to after his own. It was in the final minutes of its existence - soon, very soon, Harry would jump from the roof as a griffin carrying his sister, only to fall into the icy waters of the sea below.
The pensieve had created the memory perfectly, almost regrettably so, and Harry watched himself walking grimly down the dank corridors of the prison. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were there as well this time, standing with their arms wrapped around one another just a few feet away. The real Harry stood behind them silently as they watched him save the day yet again.
Before Harry approached his friends, the memory moved out onto the roof of Azkaban. Cedric Diggory, an Auror they had freed on the island was there with them - about to die again - and the roof was crawling with Death Eaters. The sky, quite openly, was overcast with twilight and a few dark storm clouds. Even this early in the game twilight had been haunting his footsteps.
A familiar face stepped onto the playing field above Azkaban.
"Well done, Harry," the familiar yet entirely different version of Ethan said. "Most impressive. My father has lost another fifty servants today - really a small price to pay to end your interference."
Ethan, Evil Ethan, on the roof of Azkaban. The one in Harry's mind laughed bitterly. I was very stereotypically evil, wasn't I, he mumbled. Harry eyed the dark cloak, the hard eyes and silently agreed.
"Dear Merlin...." Ginny breathed, upon recognizing Voldemort's flesh and blood. "It's him... he was... he was good in our world."
"Aye, he was," Harry agreed and stepped up alongside his friends for the first time since entering the pensieve. For a moment the memory was forgotten and Harry almost fell out of it in surprise when all three of his friends tackled him.
"Oh, Harry," Ginny whispered. She had reached him first. "Why didn't you tell us? This is awful...."
After a moment, Harry separated himself from his friends. "It doesn't have a happy ending," he told them. "And this is just the beginning."
As one, as four, they turned back to watch the nightmare atop of Azkaban unfold. Harry remembered, vaguely, thinking about fate a lot as he climbed the levels of the prison. He had even wondered if his life had been mapped out, planned by some storyteller - written by some author in some other world somewhere. FATE! Somewhere just as real as any of the world's he had visited, but where his life was at the mercy of a single imagination. Or even all the other versions of him who had died and failed were from other imaginations, other writers of stories. Creators... a Creator.
After all he had seen, he still did not know if that were true or not. He hoped it wasn't, but didn't care if it was. No, he did not care! Life was all that mattered in the end, and love.
Life can end but love doesn't have to. As he relived Azkaban and his thoughts there, Harry felt that this time he was making the right choices in regards to love and friendship. A single glance at his friends, and Ginny - always for Ginny - told him that.
The rest of this memory streamed by in a blur, and Harry had only one more thought as he watched it unfold. Plans for entire worlds, for destiny, for the end of time and life were forgotten as he spoke, as he prayed, to the Creator, the Writer, to God, and called somewhat of a... truce, a bargain with that force.
Okay, God, he said, and Ethan heard him and grinned. I'll play your Game through to the end now - whatever end that may be - but after that I'm done. You hear me, Creator? One last dance, one last bet, and then I am done. You and I, we did big things, but I'm pulling out of the Game after this. If you're there, your cost is just too high....
But if he wasn't there... well... you cannot blame God for all that has happened and not believe in him at the same time. Harry believed, moreover he knew God existed. Perhaps He didn't anymore. No matter, Harry had made his choice now. The Game was almost done with.
And just like that, with that choice, Existence took another turn down a dark and uncertain path that either forked towards its salvation or its ultimate destruction. Which fork in the road had been taken by Harry now would not be known until the last roll of the dice.
The last flip of the coin.
The memory exploded, Azkaban exploded, and Harry watched himself tumble into the icy sea, but he didn't really see it. A small smile played around his lips, and a maddening laughter resounded in his head.
Oh yes, he was sure his... prayer... had been heard by something. There were many watchers in his mind, silent observers of the Great Game.
Let them make of it what they will, Ethan said. They know you're mortal, know you're powerful, know that you will never be broken... they also know that you're backed into a corner with nowhere to turn and that, that, Harry, scares the hell out of them! You have always been your most dangerous when your back is up against the wall.
Author notes: Thanks for reading, folks. Your criticism is always appreciated.