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A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era



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Old September 27th, 2007, 9:56 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 82 – The Devil’s Triangle

Harry hurried up to the quarterdeck of the Discooperire to find the crew bustling about stowing articles and running the guns out of the portholes on the main deck. His Aurors were clustered around Williamson on the main deck, dressed in uniforms similar to the crew. The sailors of the Discooperire wore shortened robes tucked into the waist of their three-quarters length white shorts. Each had on rubber-soled canvas sneakers to allow for solid purchase on watery or bloody decks. The ubiquitous red sash was the signature of the Discooperire crew as was a thin leather sheath for their wands on one hip and a large scabbard containing razor sharp cutlasses on the other. Muireall held a firm grip on the helm, keeping the prow of the ship sharply on its course while Captain Barreto held a large spyglass to her eye. The captain’s lips were pursed into a gesture of intense scrutiny. Harry followed the direction she was peering in and saw a large wall of foam and purplish light in the distance, which extended out of sight into the clear blue sky.

“Ah, Signor Potter. That is the boundary of the Triangle.” Captain Barreto gave him a smile and pointed to the barrier which the Discooperire was traveling towards. “The wall can not be seen by the muggles. It is a magical barrier placed there centuries ago by seafaring wizards in Columbus’ flotilla. It is a warning, no?” She laughed and replaced the spyglass to her eye. Harry extended the tube of his own telescope and brought the glass to his eye. He spotted the outline of a black shape that stood in stark contrast to the beauty of the wall.

“Is that the Malitia?” Barreto nodded and Harry felt a tension arise in his chest. Their quarry was fast approaching the barrier, and he’d get a first hand visual of what crossing the line would mean. Within moments, the Malitia crossed over the barrier. An explosion of yellow light marked its passage. Soon, however, the dark ship passed through the barrier, and Harry could see the dim outline of the ship through the translucent wall.

“Bring us closed hauled to the wind, Number One.” Innes grunted an assent to her captain’s instructions and turned the large wheel half a rotation to bring the nose of the Discooperire tight to the approaching wind. The sails of the brig acted like airplane wings as the wind crossed over their surfaces causing the ship to speed up. Combined with the magical sailing hexes that were in use, the wizard ship was virtually flying across the surface of the ocean. The Malitia seemed to be getting larger in the distance, as if she’d been slowed down while the Discooperire had increased her speed. Harry had brought the Forkjack up with him and set by the compass binnacle on the quarterdeck. The spoon’s color had shifted from yellow to amber and was darkening with each passing moment.

The mistress at arms walked up to the bottom of the stairs leading from the main gun deck to the quarterdeck and shouted to the captain. “The ship is cleared for action, cap’n. The crew is standing by!” Like the captain and the first mate, the mistress at arms was beautiful, her hair composed of small platinum ringlets. Her tattooed forearms were tanned and the look in her brown eyes spoke of deadly proficiency with the sword and hatchet strapped to her waist.

“Very well, Ms. Lockley. Our prey seems to be losing headway. Stand by for action!” The captain’s voice was firm, the iron in her resolve combined with years of experience emboldening her crew. “Stand by to cross the barrier!”

Harry noticed that they were fast approaching the wall separating the real world from the world of the Triangle. The bowsprit of the Discooperire soon made contact with the border towing the rest of the ship with it. A shower of light and sparks crackled across the ship. Despite the lightshow, the Discooperire passed through the wall relatively unscathed. Harry noticed Barreto’s brow was furrowed.

“What is it?” The captain put her spyglass in its case and drew her rapier from its place on her hip.

“It would appear, Signor Potter, that our enemy is not having difficulty making way. She has decided to turn and fight us.” Harry turned towards the Malitia and saw that the ketch’s bow was pointed straight at them. They’d been waiting for their pursuers to come through the barrier. The Malitia was heeled over slightly to one side as the wind coursed through its black sails. Her guns were run out and Harry could make out the heads of her crew as they leaned over their cannon. Harry noted the ship’s figurehead. It was that of a large vulture with a skeleton riding it, its arm extended with a wand in its hand.

“Hold her steady, Number One.” The captain kept her ship on a direct course for the bow of the Malitia. “Mistress at Arms! Give me a half and half mix, if you please.” Barreto acknowledged Lockley’s reply and turned to Harry. “We’re going to have mix it up. We will load half our guns with magical ammunition and half with straight roundshot. If they are rigged like us, they have protective spells around their vitals. Our magic should be able to crack their protection and maybe we can hit something important with the roundshot. Our best chance is to get close enough to board her.” Harry nodded and watched as the deadly dance engaged as the distance closed between the ships. The captain shouted to her crew. “Stand by for action, port broadside!” Harry glanced curiously at the captain. She’d called for her crew to ready for action on the port or left side of the ship. The angle of approach seemed to indicate that the ships would pass on the starboard, or right side. Captain Baretto gave him a large smile, her eyes twinkling at him.

“Now, Number One, Hard to starboard!” The Discooperire heeled over, its bow passing in front of the Malitia, bringing Barreto’s ship across the bow of its dark hulled enemy. “Fire as your guns bear!” Harry mirrored Barreto as she grasped hold of the railing. The roar of the cannon assaulted Harry’s ears as one by one; they discharged their rounds at the Malitia. Captain Forsythe of the Malitia wasn’t as surprised by Barreto’s tactic as she’d hoped, but still, the Malitia paid the price for its captain’s tardiness in recognizing her actions. Harry saw the impacts of their fire on the Malitia’s shield charms. The crack and the sizzle were like electrical discharges, combined with the rebound of solid shot against the protection. Here and there, a round would slip through a crack in the shield and impact on the hull or the rigging of the black ship. Captain Barreto swore, they’d not been able to damage the Malitia severely. “Stand by to receive fire!” Her warning came just in time.

Forsythe held his fire for a single broadside. The Discooperire was a slightly larger ship, carrying more guns than the Malitia. Forsythe went for a heavier weight of fire, hoping, like Barreto to score a crippling blow on his adversary. He had his gun crews aim high, looking to damage the masts of the larger ship. Harry saw the Malitia disappear in a cloud of smoke, fire and light. Her full broadside impacted heavily against the shield charms of the Discooperire. The air around them became heavy as the shields weakened at points, and soon heavy shot and light began to impact on the sails and hull of the ship. In a manner of seconds, the two ships passed by each other, exchanging fire and landing hits at random.

Harry was knocked to his knees by the impact of near miss. The deck was a tangle of rigging and broken timbers as well as broken bodies here and there. “Get down!” Barreto’s insistent voice was followed by the pressure of her hand as she shoved Harry to the deck. The Malitia had turned in a one hundred and eighty degree loop to her right, exposing her undamaged broadside to the stern of the Discooperire. The smaller vessel was much more agile and effected the turn before Barreto could counter the move. A wave of thunder and force hit the stern of the ship, shattering glass and planking, but more importantly, Harry heard a loud crack, and the sternward mainmast began to topple over the side. The tip of the mast sunk into the water, pulling the Discooperire to a virtual halt. The Malitia slung past the wounded ship and sped off ahead back on a course for Bimini Road. The Discooperire was crippled and her prey was stalking off ahead of them on the horizon.

***

Reginald Thornton tripped across the shattered quarterdeck surveying the damage. “What’s our status captain?”

Forsythe’s tall figure stooped low to address his master. “Five dead and ten wounded. We’re hulled pretty good, but the pumps are keeping up. I think we have a crack in the keel, but I’ve got the shipwright wizard holding it together. We’re making about a third of our top speed.”

Thornton nodded sagely. “How long to effect repairs?”

Forsythe took another glance around and did some calculations in his head. “If we stop somewhere, a day and a half. If we have to keep moving, three days, minimum.”

“We took out one of their masts, so they should be held up for a while. Maintain course, we need to get to Bimini Road.” Forsythe nodded and continued directing his crew.

***

Harry crawled across the torn rigging and spars of the main deck. Williamson’s arm was in a sling, the result of a wayward splinter that tore through his arm. The team leader was in much better straits than Steuben, who’d been decapitated by an improbable shot that managed to sneak through their shields. Harry hurried over to Barreto, who was directing the clearing of the debris and the repair of the mast.

“How long before we can get underway?” Harry met the captain’s eyes, where were afire with anger.

“A day, at the least. We have ten dead, including your man and ten wounded. I am such a fool! That captain out dueled me!” She spat in disgust, and then her eyes grew deadly. “He will not be so fortunate the next time we meet.” Harry nodded in agreement and moved back to his team.

Harry walked back to where his team stood. Their faces were drawn and taut. They’d been in battle before, but never had they been so helpless. Manchester’s face was tightened into a sneer. “Harry, you got to get us closer to those guys. I want a chance to get at them.” Somewhere along the line, every member of his team had acquired a cutlass, much like the crew. Harry made a mental note to pick up a weapon for himself.

“You and the captain are of one mind, Sean.” Harry brushed some dust off of his shoulder and looked out across the water as the small speck that was the Malitia disappeared over the horizon. A quick flash of dark green caught his eye on blue water. Harry squinted, unsure if he’d seen anything at first. He heard footsteps approaching and turned to see Muireall Innes draw up beside him. The first mate had small abrasions and scratches on her head and shoulders, but seemed none the worse for wear. Harry pointed out across the water at the object holding his attention. “What is that?”

Muireall followed his finger to the spot in the water. At first, it looked like a log, drifting among the kelp on the surface of the water. The log picked up speed and began a circling approach to their location. The log was joined by several other similar objects and as they neared the Discooperire, Harry could make out scales on the logs, which were dipping under the water from time to time. Soon Muireall picked up the image of a large, webbed fin and she stood still; her eyes widening in alarm.

“General Quarters! All hands take arms!” She vaulted to the quarterdeck and drew her cutlass.

Her captain came on the main deck and looked up at her. “What is it, Number One, is the Malitia returning?”

Murieall’s blue eyes were haunted, fear dampening their beauty. “No Captain. We have company. It’s Ceto!”

Her announcement was greeted with deathly silence. The majority of the crew’s faces were ashen as they drew their blades. Harry placed his hands on Muireall’s shoulder. “What’s Ceto?”

Muireall allowed her eyes to drop. For the first time since he’d met her, she seemed vulnerable. “It’s an ancient sea serpent. It’s the mother of all sea monsters.” She paused and tightened the grip on her sword. “It’s the harbinger of our doom.” Harry stared at her blankly as the ocean around them exploded in a wall of water while a piercing roar shattered the silence of their world.


A/N: Don't worry, the next installment should be out tonight or first thing in the morning.

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  #82  
Old September 28th, 2007, 1:22 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 83 – A Hard Day

The ocean exploded in a roar of foam and spray as long, scaled tentacles sprung from the water’s surface and landed with a crash on the deck of the Discooperire. The crew immediately launched into a spirited defense of their persons and their ship. Flashes of light were punctuated by the meaty slash of blades against the tough hide of the Ceto. The Ceto was a large creature comprised of an elongated and fat serpent’s body with eight radiating arms. At the end of the arms were twin sets of jaws with razor sharp teeth, that were gnashing and biting at the crew in close proximity. The head was that of a snake, including the dark, soulless eyes much akin to a doll’s. The body of the Ceto had broached the water and was floating near enough to allow its tentacles free reign of the deck of the ship. Harry sent a blast towards an approaching limb and the concussive force knocked the offending sets of jaws back into the deep, only to return at another part of the ship.

Harry took a long look at the beast, ignoring the screams and cries of the crew. His face was contorted in concentration and then he took one last long look at the sky. He turned to face his Aurors who were circled up against a bulkhead, fighting with sword and wand. Harry pulled his satchel close to him and drew out his broom. “Aurors! Get to your brooms! Attack it from the sky!” Without seeing if his team was following, Harry burst into the sky above the creature. He swooped up and began pelting the Ceto’s body with bursts of fire and energy. Soon he began to see indications that his team had joined him in his aerial assault. The Ceto rolled its body to cast one of its eyes at the swooping figures of the Aurors. As it rolled, Harry noticed that at the waterline, there was a flash of white as the scales of the creature ended and the soft belly of its underside was exposed. Carefully, Harry launched a hit at the exposed stomach and the creature reeled in anger, its cries resounding in agony. “Keep it up!” Harry roared skyward and dug into his bag. Finding what he was looking for, he put his hand to his mouth and gave his broom its head back towards the beast. Harry gave a quick mental command to his broom and without a second thought, dove gracefully into the roiling waters near the Ceto’s body.

“Harry!” Williamson pointed his broom to the spot where Harry had disappeared. His cries were matched by the cries of consternation from the ship, where Captain Barreto was busily battling the creature, but had noticed Harry’s plunge into the deep. Williamson steered his way to avoid a flying tentacle and hurriedly searched the waters for any sign of his leader. It was to no avail. Heavy hearted, Williamson pulled up and resumed his attack on the creature, joined by his heartbroken team.

Barreto was fighting one of the Ceto’s arms single handedly. Muireall lay prone against the base of the mast, having been thrown by the arm while her back had been turned trying to free one of the crew. Barreto jabbed her rapier into open wounds that had been rent open by blasts from her wand. The captain positioned herself between her wounded first mate and the snapping maws of the tentacle. She let out a banshee cry and pressed her attack which rallied her waning crew. Those that could still move rushed to her side and together, they pressed home the attack. Soon, they’d hacked through the sinew of the tentacle and it hung limply, separated from its body. The crew screamed in victory which was soon drowned out by the sight of seven more tentacles arrayed along the ship. With a shout, Barreto led them in a charge to carry on the fight.

The water was warm like a drawn bath. Harry felt a momentary sensation of panic as he resisted the urge to take a breath. After a moment, he gave in and drew in the water, momentarily surprised he wasn’t drowning. The gillyweed he’d consumed had allowed gills to form on his neck and he felt himself freely breathing in the water, filtering oxygen through his new gills. His body warmed as the seawater coursed through the openings and he felt a slight lightheadedness as he allowed himself to grow accustomed to the sensation. He glanced up and saw the soft, pale stomach of the Ceto. He drew his wand and pointed towards the softness.

“Sectumsempra!” A large gash opened in the center of the Ceto’s stomach. Blood and debris poured incessantly out of the opening. The creature reared back and down as it felt itself bleeding out. It drew its tentacles backward, wrapping around its body in an attempt to seal the rift in its torso. Slowly, as its entrails were pouring out, seawater was pouring in, counteracting the buoyancy that had been keeping it near the Discooperire. Harry began to swim towards the surface, but took a glancing blow from a descending tentacle which knocked him senseless. As the tip of the tentacle passed him, one of the sets of jaws on the end clasped shut on the ankle of his boot. He began to descend with the Ceto as it sank into the depths of the sea.

On the surface, the crew had been fighting for their lives. They were shocked by the roar of pain the beast emitted and then even more surprised as the body and then the tentacles began to sink beneath the waves. The ocean turned red as the blood from the Ceto began to boil to the surface and a hew and cry let loose from the sailors. Barreto noticed that Aurors were circling a spot in the ocean, in an attempt to find their lost leader. The captain raised her sword in salute to Harry Potter, obviously the reason they’d been able to defeat the monster. In all her time at sea, she’d never known anyone that could hold their breath for the amount of time that he’d been under. She mourned his loss, along with several members of her crew.

“Captain, out there! Off the starboard bow!” On the other side of the ship, Lockley was pointing to a spot on the ocean. The spot was a man, treading water. It was Potter! His face was pale, but his grin was evident to her, even at that distance. Barreto grabbed a semaphore horn and directed Williamson and his team over to where Harry was. Williamson had heard the cheers from the ship and the shout from Barreto. In a flash, he directed Coombs and Burby over to Harry’s location and they soon fished him out of the water.

The deck was a shambles, but Barreto lost little time in getting the crew back to working on the repairs. Harry sat on a bucket, a coarse wool blanket wrapped around him. Leonora was working on repairing the hideous wound on his ankle as he related the story to those around him. Barreto walked up to Harry and smiled. “You are a remarkable man, Signor Potter! No ship has ever survived and encounter with La Ceto.” She leaned down and planted a kiss on his cheek. “You are the Discooperire’s good luck charm!” With a laugh, she walked off to continue to tend to her ship.

Harry blushed at the attention but ignored the snickering of his team at the captain’s display. Leonora tapped his leg and he rose, attempting to put his weight on the ankle. It was achy and tender, but on the whole, it was better than not having a foot at all. He smiled his thanks and made a circuit of the main deck. They probably wouldn’t catch the Malitia before she reached Bimini Road. Even if they could get underway, they were in no shape for a fight. Despite their situation, Barreto had her crew scurrying about, fast at work at repairs. Harry came upon Muireall Innes sitting on a step of the stairs leading to the quarterdeck. Williamson was sitting next to her holding a cold compress to her head. He was whispering in her ear and whatever he was saying had brought a smile to her face. Harry steered away from the scene and ambled up to Captain Barreto.

“What’s our situation, Captain?” Harry watched as a replacement mast was being elevated into position by several of the crew. Most of the blood stains had been cleared and the damage was rapidly being repaired.

“We should be underway in a couple of hours, Signor Potter. We lost another seven crew and have many injuries.” Harry nodded soberly. “Based on our position, we should make Bimini Road sometime tomorrow night. I am sorry Signor Potter, but the Malitia will beat us to Atlantis.” Her eyes cast downward, and then she raised her head defiantly. “When we meet them again, she will not get the better of me, I promise you that.”

“I believe you, Captain Barreto, I believe you.” Harry chuckled and left her to her work. Harry walked towards the bow of the ship and stood near over the repaired figurehead. Discooperire’s figurehead was that of a mermaid holding a spyglass towards the horizon. As a joke, someone had attached a broom to her free hand, a tribute to the aerial attack by the Aurors. Harry smiled inwardly, the feeling of belonging hitting him square in the chest. His team had been accepted wholly by the crew of the Discooperire. Combat tended to bring people together and that was what had happened today. As he gazed towards the horizon, Harry felt the rush of the wind across his face as the Discooperire got under way. They were again making their way west, towards Bimini Road. The sun was setting in the western sky as dusk overtook them. He saw the crew lighting lanterns around the deck in preparation for the evening. Harry sighed heavily. Their first day of action had not gone well. Hopefully, tomorrow would be better.

Harry walked down to his cabin and spent some time replacing the fallen and broken furniture. He pulled out the cloth wrapped mirror from its resting place and opened it carefully. The mirror shard was still intact. He stared at the mirror and smiled.

“Ginny.” He waited and soon her face appeared in the glass. He smiled and kept his reflection from showing how tattered his robe was. “Hey there, how are you doing? How’s James?”

Her voice filled his heart, the losses from the day had been weighing him down. “He’s fine. He’s turned in for the night, but he’s looking for you.”

Harry smiled wanly, the darkening night cast heavy shadows in the room. With a quick flick of the wrist, he lit a candle nearby, its light causing his eyes to dance in the image in the mirror.

“I miss him. I miss you.” He sounded wistful and small worry lines had formed at the edge of his eyes.

“What is it, Harry? Is something wrong?” Ginny’s voice had a slight tension of worry in it.

Harry smiled wider, “No, how’re things at home?” He needed to hear more from home, if only to wash away the memory of the day.

Ginny hesitated, but then updated him on the day to day goings on at home. It seemed that Lee and Sarah wanted to hold their wedding on New Years. Harry wondered if Dennis and Cho’s wedding with the PA/DA gathering would become a tradition. George and Verity were thinking of spinning off the Defense Charms portion of the business into something separate from the gag shop. Dean Thomas was immersing himself in Spanish lessons, a thought that had Harry in stitches given Dean’s aversion to all things academic. This Isabella woman must have him completely wrapped. Dudley and Beatrice had been over for dinner with Teddy, and Harry’s godson couldn’t stop gushing about letters of the alphabet. Ginny was curious but had no idea what a ‘Q’ was and Teddy was constantly humming a bass guitar riff, “Dum da, da, da, Dum Dum…” and introducing himself to James as “Lupin, Teddy Lupin.”

Harry laughed and was glad that Dudley had taken it upon himself to take Teddy under his wing. Finally, Ginny told of Ron’s introduction to the cravings rage. Last night, Hermione had sent her husband out to find a Chalupa covered in Cadbury chocolate. Ever the connoisseur of sweets, the Cadbury part was fine, but Ron traipsed across town to find out what exactly a Chalupa was. The news from home settled him. Rather than make Harry ache from missing them, Ginny’s voice reminded him why he was fighting. It helped keep perspective as to why he chose this life. He felt more resolved to finish the fight, whether at sea or up to the gates of Atlantis itself.

Ginny finished her update and stared into his eyes, noticing how much more relaxed he was. “So, that’s the story from home, how was your day? Did anything interesting happen?”

He hesitated, then smiled. “Not really, it was a pretty routine day. Maybe tomorrow will be more interesting.” Ginny smiled knowingly. Ever since she’d known him, Harry’s idea of ‘routine’ could only mean his life had been in peril at least once and probably more.

“If I catch you drooling over some gorgeous captain, first mate or deck scrubber, you’ll find out what ‘interesting’ means.” He laughed at her humor. At least, he thought she was joking. He looked at her image in the mirror, but she wasn’t giving it away.

She told him she loved him and he returned the sentiment. After promising to talk the next day and blowing each other kisses, the two Potters signed off. Harry sat back in his chair, the ship had quieted for its evening routine and the sound of the water against the hull calmed him. Tomorrow would be better, he thought. He thought of James and Ginny. Her face flashed vividly in his mind. He sat straight up and one thought kept recurring in his mind. She was joking about the whole drooling thing, wasn’t she? The only answer to the question was the silence of the night.


***A/N: There you go, 3 chapters in less than 24 hours. The weekend is coming up, I'll try to get some more out, but remember, I rest on Sundays!

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  #83  
Old September 28th, 2007, 8:03 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 84 – Bimini Road

The Discooperire slid through the ocean during the night. The seas had calmed and the easy motion of the ship was like the rocking of a cradle. Dawn rapidly approached, the sun rising in the east behind them, chasing away the demons of the night. Harry rose early and went out on deck. He caught the first glimpse of the new morning and cast a weary eye westward along their course. He climbed to the quarterdeck and found Captain Barreto pacing behind the large wheel, her arms clasped behind her back. Lockley was at the helm, keeping an eye on their course and the wind direction, keeping the large sails from luffing from lack of air. At various spots on the main deck, crew members set about their morning tasks of a ship underway. The repairs to the ship had been completed rapidly, although she handled a little more difficultly, an indication of further damage yet unseen. Harry stepped beside the dangerous looking mistress at arms who gave him a nod.

“That was something else. What you did yesterday, I’ve never seen that before.” Her voice was silky smooth, like the brush of paint on a fine canvas. “There’s more to you and your people than meets the eye.”

Harry laughed. “I don’t know about all that. Desperation can make a person do extraordinary things.” Lockley gave him a grimace which passed for a smile. “Despite all that, we weren’t all that effective.” Harry’s gaze carried back to the main deck. Several sailors were sewing the dead into canvas bags weighted with round shot. Despite the fact that they were wizards, one and all, the tradition of the sea dictated that their comrades be prepared for their meeting with Davy Jones by hand. Harry watched as Williamson tended to the body of Aaron Steuben, the recent addition to the team in the place of Sarah Peebles. Harry shuddered to think that it might have been Sarah being readied for burial. How would he have explained it to Lee? Williamson took great care in his duties. Harry noticed that Muireall was standing near him, offering advice and probably a shoulder to lean on. Even though his task was regrettable, Williamson seemed to appreciate her presence and Harry was glad at that.

“Ahem, Signor Potter.” Captain Barreto had walked up beside him. The morning sun cast a symphony of reds, oranges and yellows on her face, lighting up the dark tone of her skin. Her light green eyes burned with the weariness of command and the passion of duty. Her jaw was set tight but her face could not communicate fear or hate as her lips still had a smile on them. Harry turned to face the beautiful captain of the Discooperire.

“Captain, will you please call me Harry? I keep looking for someone older when you call me that.” Harry tried to deliver the line half-heartedly, to lighten her mood. It seemed to work.

“Of course, Signor Harry.” Harry shook his head and she laughed at his discomfort. “I just wanted to tell you that we are making better time than I thought. We should reach Bimini Road before sunset.”

Harry nodded and looked carefully at the captain. Her brow was furrowed and she was tensed up. “That was a tough day, yesterday. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m sorry for your losses.”

Captain Barreto snapped her head up, her eyes were narrowed as she took in Harry and thought over what he’d just said. “Voce esta brincando comigo!” Harry looked at her with a puzzled look. “You are kidding, right? Yesterday was a good day. We should be dead, were it not for you! If anyone failed, it was I, for letting the Malitia get away!”

Harry shrugged his shoulders. “That’s no one’s fault. We’re making up the time and soon we’ll be caught up to them.” She gave him a disbelieving look. “You already told me Captain, that the next time we meet with them, they will not get the best of you. Were you not sincere?”

Barreto’s eyes blazed in anger while her hand reached for the well used pommel of her sword. “You are calling me a liar?”

Harry raised his hands in mock surrender. “No, but we don’t have time for you to wallow in self-pity. Yesterday happened, we can’t do much about it. We have a mission, and you need to focus on the next meeting, not on what happened before.” His tone lowered a bit and grew softer. “You did fine, and you’ll continue to do fine. I’m not worried about the next time we fight the Malitia. At least I’m not worried about us, because our captain is a fine warrior who’ll win the next fight.”

It was Captain Barreto’s turn to blush. Her dark skin turned a bright red which only deepened as Lockley failed to stifle a laugh at the helm. “Thank you for that, Signor Harry. Excuse me; I have to attend to the consignment of the dead to Davy Jones’ Locker. Would you like to say a few words about your man?” Harry nodded and followed the captain to the main deck where seventeen bodies were arrayed in a row, near the rail. The crew had mustered together and was arranged in a semicircle around the bodies. The Aurors were intermixed with them, indistinguishable from the rest of the sailors. Williamson stood next to Muireall and Harry noticed that their hands were at their sides, but their fingers were lightly touching. Something had definitely occurred with them and Harry silently wished them both luck. The captain walked to the front of the crew and pulled a large, tattered leather-bound book from a nearby locker. The ship’s log in hand, she began the slow and mournful process of bidding her departed crew and the Auror, Aaron Steuben, goodbye.

***

“I don’t want to hear excuses, Captain, we need to beat that ship to Bimini Road.” Thornton had pushed a finger in front of Captain Forsythe’s face. The captain’s head was bandaged and he was standing in ankle deep water in the hold of the Malitia.

“We are working as fast as we can, Thornton. You didn’t warn us about the danger in the Triangle!” Forsythe was trying to get another magical pump online to purge the water that had been pouring into the ship’s hull, the result of a ramming from a pod of orcas. The Malitia was only a few miles from the rocky formation called Bimini Road and her crew of misfits had thought nothing of the group of killer whales that seemed to be swimming nearby. One of the original raiders who’d accompanied Thornton on his visit to the Ministry of Magic, Tyler Crow, was leaning against the railing of the ship and watching their progress.

Whether it was boredom or evil, probably a combination of both, Crow launched a spell at one of the whales, killing it instantly. His insane laughter was interrupted when the pod launched itself at the Malitia. Over several hours of battle, they’d lost another five men and the ship was severely damaged before the whales moved off to mourn their dead. Thornton was livid at the man’s stupidity. He paralyzed Lobo and then strung him up from the yardarm and made the crew watch as the life was slowly squeezed from him.

“It was your man’s complete incompetence that cost us this time. Those Ministry fools are not far behind. If you can not get the job done, I can always find another captain among this pathetic collection of fools.” Thornton watched the anger rise in the tall captain’s eyes, but then it subsided almost as quickly as it appeared. The captain simply nodded his head and turned back to the task at hand.

Thornton waded from the hold and climbed back onto the deck. He started as a shadow approached him from the quarterdeck. His composure quickly returned as he recognized the eye-patch and tattooed figure of the Master At Arms, Gibson Cavanaugh. The rough man gave a twisted, gapped-tooth grin and leaned into Thornton’s face.

“Whatever you need, sir. I’m with you all the way.” Thornton smiled back and nodded. It was always good to have an ace in the hole in an emergency. Leaving the hulking brute behind, Thornton walked back to his cabin. He sat at the table and peered closely at the chart that he had unrolled earlier. It was one of the prizes he’d collected from the Ancients Room.

“So close.” He murmured to himself, his anger at the crew of the Malitia rising. “So close.”

***

“Sail ho!” Harry looked up at the crow’s nest, the lookout’s arm pointed to the horizon.

“What? Where?” Captain Barreto glanced up at the sailor perched aloft. His voice resounded across the deck.

“Two points off the starboard bow.” He hesitated as he took another look through his glass. “It looks like the Malitia, Captain. She’s about five miles out on the horizon.”

Harry watched as Captain Barreto’s eyes danced at their fortune. “Number One.” Muireall gave a beautiful smile, belying her violent intent. “Beat to quarters, por favor.”

Muireall tugged at the bos’un’s pipe on her neck and placed it between her full lips. A high, shrill tone resounded throughout the ship as her voice carried from stem to stern. “General Quarters!” The ship became a hive of activity as the crew ran to ready the ship for battle.

Barreto smiled wickedly as she took in the Malitia. The dark ketch had a slight list and seemed to be slogging along. Perhaps, the captain thought, they’d had their own encounter with the mysteries of the Triangle. So much the better. Harry heard the captain speaking, “This time, you won’t get away. This time, I will send you to the bottom.” Even with the evil sneer on her face, she was beautiful, and she was deadly. Harry almost felt sorry for the Brotherhood of the Blue Tar, almost.

***

Forsythe cursed to himself as the Discooperire was spotted behind them. The Malitia still carried several tons of water in her bilges and she was sluggish at the helm. Thornton was pacing wildly about the ship, exhorting the crew to pump faster to lighten their keel. The lanky captain sighed and walked over to Thornton, immediately regretting what he had to say to him.

“Orders, sir?” Thornton glared at him, unsure of what Forsythe meant. “Do we fight them or do we proceed to the Road?”

The dark wizard pondered for a moment, his red eyes glaring at the ever growing sails of their pursuers. He shook himself and put his finger in the captain’s chest.

“You do what ever you can to get us to the Road. I don’t care who we lose or what you have to do, enter the Road as soon as you can.” Without a word, Forsythe returned to the helm and began to issue a flurry of orders.

***

The “Bimini Road” is a large J-shaped formation of submerged rectangular limestone located off of the Bahamas. Discovered in 1968, speculation as to the nature of the construct has run the gamut from an ancient drydock for wayward Chinese navigators to a mooring point for the ancient sailors of Atlantis. The two ships were closing the distance between them. Both were rapidly approaching the open end of the Road. Within minutes, the Discooperire was close enough for the two forward cannons mounted on her bow, called chasers, to be within range to harry the fleeing Malitia. Smoke and light emitted from their barrels as Captain Barreto announced her murderous intent to her prey.

The Malitia entered the open, seaward end of the Bimini Road and scurried down towards the closed limestone end. The Discooperire was close behind. No one on either ship noticed that the sea began to fall until the rectangular limestone blocks were exposed to the air. Soon, dark clouds filled the sky and began to descend as if a giant hand was pushing them down to the sea.

It was dark and the sea began to boil in a torrent of lighting, wind and waves. An eddy began to form in the middle of the rock formation causing the water to whirlpool, carrying both ships in a swirl of the mad ocean. Harry fell to the deck and watched in horror as the Discooperire pitched over to the side, tossing sailors and unsecured articles about.

“Tie yourselves down!” Captain Barreto’s voice resounded through out the ship and Harry found himself crawling to the rail and grabbing on to a length of rope that was dangling from it. He tied the free end of the line around his wrist and held on as the ship hurtled around in the waterspout. He looked over the rail and saw the Malitia in the same straights, although Harry could make out the images of some of her sailors being thrown off into the maelstrom.

“Keep the bow into the current! Ride it out!” Barreto was clinging to a lifeline while Muireall fought with the wheel, her knuckles turning white from the strength of her grip. The red-headed first mate nodded grimly at her captain’s orders and brought the nose of the ship in line with the current of the whirlpool.

They gathered speed as the Discooperire rode the eddy all the way around in countless circuits. Harry felt a pressure in his head and looked up as the sky continued to press down on them. He felt the blood rushing from his head as their speed and the pressure from the collapsing sky pressed down on his body. He stole a glance around and started seeing members of the crew passing out around him, their lifelines the only things keeping them attached to the ship. With a mighty effort he turned towards the captain, but her eyes were closed, the gee forces having wrought their vengeance upon her. Harry felt the grip of unconsciousness gripping him. Every second was a struggle to keep his eyes open. He watched as Muireall fought with every ounce of strength and determination she possessed to keep the rudder steady, until she too, gave in to the pressure and fell, lashed to the wheel. Harry sighed, and thought of Ginny. His eyes saw red, and then black as he gave in to the power of the whirlpool.


***A/N: I couldn't resist, I had to get one more chapter out...sorry.

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  #84  
Old October 1st, 2007, 2:23 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 85 – In the Shadow of Colossus

The first sensation he was aware of was stillness. The violently pitching deck was calm and a gentle breeze whistled through his head. Harry opened his eyes and found himself lying on his back, one arm still secured to the rail by its life line. He stared up at the sky, but his brain could not reconcile what his eyes were telling him. There were no clouds, no roiling dark storms pushing down on him. Instead, the sky was light green, almost alien. It was bright, but no sun seemed to dominate the horizon, it was as if the luminescence of the green sky cast a hard light all about them. He raised his chest up and sat upright. He shook some of the cobwebs out of his head and glanced around. The ship seemed no worse for wear, and the crew seemed to be rousing from their trip. Harry dislodged himself from the line and rose to his feet. What he saw over the railing floored him.

They were drifting in a large, protected bay. He caught sight of the Malitia in the distance, further away from the shore. The bay was dotted with ships in varied states of repair. Nothing moved on the hulks and the vessels ran the gamut from ancient Greek triremes to modern steel-hulled cargo ships. Looking further to shore, Harry saw a vast city nestled into the rocky shoreline. The inlet that marked the entrance to the city’s harbor was dominated by the figure of a statue that rose almost fifty meters into the air. The statue was a man, whose legs were astride the stone pillars that marked the entrance to the city. One of his massive arms was raised above his head, holding a cauldron where a bright yellow flame blazed into the viridian sky.

“The Colossus of Rhodes.” The voice beside him shocked Harry back into awareness. Captain Barreto had walked up beside him and was surveying the same scene as he.

“What’s that?” Harry turned to the Discooperire’s engaging captain. “What do you mean?”

Without taking her eyes off the massive figure and the mysterious city, Barreto let out a sigh. “It looks, Signor Harry, like the Colossus of Rhodes. It’s a lighthouse, which was supposedly destroyed by an earthquake in 226 B.C.”

Harry returned his gaze back to the city and its massive bronze guardian. The implications of what she said bore into his head. “This must be Atlantis.”

“More likely, Signor Potter, that is Metropolis, the capital city of Atlantis. Strange, I don’t see any movement over there, it is a ghost city, no?” She raised a spyglass to her eyes and scanned the ships nearby. “Dios Mio!”

“What is it?” Harry brought his own telescope to his face. He scanned the closest ship, a long, gray steel-hulled monstrosity that lay at anchor. Its hull was covered in rust, and it seemed to be settling by the stern. He focused in on the nameplate just below its bridge. “U. S. S. Cyclops.” He had a sharp intake of breath. The Cyclops was a U.S. Navy collier that had disappeared during the First World War with over three hundred crewman. How had she gotten here?

“Captain! Over there!” Muireall Innes was pointing to a masted ship behind them. It was sleek and long, but with a sharp list to port. One of the main masts was broken in half and what appeared to be smoke stacks were corroded and pitted with rust.

Captain Barreto took a long look at the ship. Her eyes read the nameplate. “City of Glasgow.” Barreto shook her head. “She disappeared crossing the Atlantic in 1855. She had four hundred passengers and over eighty crew.” By now the crew and the Aurors were fully conscious and were crowding the railing, taking in the sights. Here and there, the names of other ships could be read, all matching lost vessels to the Bermuda Triangle. Sailors were a superstitious lot, especially sailors who were wizards. Silently, well-used good luck charms were brought forward and rubbed with extra effort.

Lockley had been a sailor practically all her life. She was as salty as she was beautiful. While the crew went about the discovery of the world around her, Lockley kept her eyes focused on one thing. Her eyes narrowed and she turned to her captain. “The Malitia has turned for us, Captain.” Her voice caused her captain to shift her scan to her enemy. The black ketch was making for the entrance of the city. Unfortunately for them, the path led them directly for the Discooperire. Harry and Barreto watched as a large winged bird took off from the rigging of the Malitia, soon followed by the figures of several men. Harry zoomed in on the flying figures, who seemed to be perched upon rectangular carpet segments.

“Flying carpets.” Harry grunted as he watched Thornton lead his flying minions towards the landmass, away from the city. The evil wizard was making a run for the island and for his ultimate goal. Harry nodded over to the captain and called for his Aurors.

Williamson bounded over to Harry first and took in the fleeing figures on the carpets. “I suppose we can bring them in for misuse of magical artifacts.” Flying carpets were regulated by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Williamson’s comment drew chortles from the Aurors and crew.

Harry laughed and gave Williamson a nod. The Auror team leader gathered his Aurors and they began to pull their brooms out for a pursuit. Satisfied that the Aurors were making preparations, Harry turned to the captain. “We’re going after Thornton.” He hesitated, unsure of what to say to the voluptuous commander.

Barreto’s jaw was set and her hand was idly caressing her sword belted to her hip. “We will handle the Malitia.”

“Just make sure we have a ship to come back to, Captain.” Harry took a long look at the approaching ship and then once more at the beautiful captain. She seemed to want to say more to him and he felt a tug at the back of his head. He motioned for her to come closer so that he could speak to her in private. “I just wanted to say…” He hesitated. “I’m married, Adelina, and I love my wife. If things were different, who knows?”

There, he’d let her down easy. Hopefully the tanned goddess would understand. He looked at her face as she worked through what he’d said. It was always so difficult to break a woman’s heart, Harry thought. Suddenly, the captain let out a howl of laughter, almost to the point of hysterics.

“Compreendo perfeitamente! Ah Signor Harry, you are a funny man.” The puzzled look on his face told her that he was completely lost as to her reaction. “I’m Brazilian, I’m just friendly, not interested in you. I know you are married. I am also married! My husband is a banker at Gringott’s! You thought that I was interested in…” Harry’s face flushed a brilliant red, which deepened as she laughed once more. “I am very flattered; Signor Harry, but I love my husband very much. If I was not married, who knows?” She laughed once more, and Harry could not help but join in. Tension released, Harry grasped his broom and walked back to the main deck.

Williamson was sharing a tender moment with Muireall as they both worried for each other’s circumstances. Manchester gave a nod to Lockley who smiled back at him. Apparently, the rest of Harry’s team was having no problems with miscommunication. Harry raised his arm and looked back at the captain.

“We will be here when you return, Signor Harry. That other ship will not.” Harry saw the fierce warrior captain once more, not the teasing and alluring woman of a few minutes before. He believed her. With one more gaze at the Discooperire, Harry led his Aurors into the sky and set a course to intercept the small band of wizards who’d left the Malitia.

“Boa Sorte.” Barreto watched Harry and his team zoom off on the horizon, wishing them luck. A small part of her heart felt a heaviness, but she was not one to dwell on ‘what ifs’. She was the captain of a ship about to go into battle. She turned her attention to her crew’s preparations for the fight. “Number One, what is our status?”

“We’re ship shape and battle ready, captain.” In any other location, in any other setting, Muireall Innes’ voice would sing in the hearts of the those around. Today, in this context, it had a hard edge. They had a score to settle with the Malitia, and the payment was coming due. Barreto nodded at her first mate and walked to the quarterdeck. Lockley was firmly ensconced behind the wheel of the Discooperire, her eyes set on the target ahead.

“Ready boarders, Number One. Helm, take us point on with her.” The two ships approached each other head on, favoring neither one side nor the other. The sky seemed to lighten, but remained a pale shade of green and the sea reflected the tint. No one spoke, yet the tension built as the two ships closed on each other. The distance closed rapidly yet the captain remained calm. She ceased her pacing and watched as Muireall led an armed party to the forward end of the ship. Several of her sailors were carrying ropes with grappling hooks attached. “Hold her steady, then scrape her bow when they commit, Lockley.” The hard woman at the helm nodded wickedly. The captain was preparing a death embrace. One of these ships was going to die, today. The captain looked down at the gun deck. “Depress guns, aim for her hull!” The gun captains acknowledged their captain’s orders and shoved wedges at the rear of their cannon, effectively dropping their barrels to aim below the waterline.

***

Forsythe was seething at Thornton’s abandonment of the Malitia. He’d taken five of his best sailors with him. The captain of the Malitia could spare very few men for this fight, but concentrated on the task at hand. He’d used his superior maneuverability before and he figured, based on the way the captain of the other vessel was handling her ship, he’d be able to outfox her again. He’d turn at the last minute, exchange one broadside, and be able to turn into the other ship and rake her stern. “We’ll take her on the port side!” The helmsman nodded silently. Forsythe cursed Thornton under his breath. Thornton had taken Cavanaugh with him. The grotesque Master at Arms was the best helmsman he had, and now he’d gone off with the others. Forsythe would have to make do with what he had.

The vessels neared. “Hard a starboard!” Forsythe’s command turned the Malitia to the right at the last possible moment, hoping to expose his port broadside and pass down the left side of the Discooperire.

Anticipating the move, Barreto yelled, “Hard to port!” The Discooperire executed a hard left turn, driving her bow into the side of the Malitia and scraping along the hull of the smaller ship. As the bow of the Discooperire slid along the gun ports of the Malitia, it knocked over the guns that had been run out the side of the ship. “Grappling hooks away!” The sailors who’d been hiding beneath the gunwales with ropes and hooks tossed them over the side to the opposing ship, effectively lashing the two warships together, side to side. “Port broadside, fire!” Both captains screamed for their gun crews to open fire. Malitia’s guns had been trained straight out, so their fire hammered the main deck of the Discooperire, dismounting guns and killing many. The Discooperire’s guns had been trained downward and their shot’s swept through the Malitia’s hull, which had already been weakened by the encounter with the orcas. The Malitia began to list to the side, as water filled the voids down below.

In a ship to ship fight, when one vessel has a maneuvering advantage over the other, the best tactic of the larger and slower vessel is to lash on to the smaller one and negate their advantage. The two combatants were locked together. Captain Barreto had worked the fight to her advantage. “Boarders, away!” Her voice rang strong, as she led sailors from the stern of her ship onto the bow of the Malitia. Innes charged forward, leading her own boarding party from the bow to the quarterdeck of the other ship.

“Damn it!” Forsythe had been outmaneuvered. The enemy had a numbers advantage and he’d been lulled into thinking that the captain of the other vessel would allow herself to be had by the tactics he’d used before. He was wrong. “Repel boarders!” He drew his sword and wand and turned to face the beautiful red-haired woman who was advancing on him.

Smoke and light intermixed with the sound of steel on steel. Everywhere the blue uniformed Brotherhood of the Blue Tar was locked in hand to hand combat with the crew of the Discooperire. No quarter was asked and none given. Forsythe circled around Muireall, as the two felt each other out for weakness. Forsythe towered over Muireall, but she was an expert with a cutlass and she furiously parried and counter attacked every move he made. His superior strength drove her back. With the flick of his wrist, he summoned a piece of flotsam from the deck behind her. Almost too late, she sensed the piece of planking approaching her and she flinched to avoid it, just as Forsythe lunged with his saber. Realizing her mistake, she turned at the last second and took the point of his blade directly into her shoulder. Her scream reached her captain’s ears as Barreto fought her way through the main deck.

Barreto saw her first mate fall to the deck, Muireall’s cutlass dropped as the beautiful Scottish lass clutched the offending sword lodged in her shoulder. Forsythe had a wicked grin on his face. He stopped trying to pull his sword out of his victim and raised his wand to put the woman out of her misery. Captain Barreto drew the wicked looking dagger out of her sash and flipped it in the air to catch it by the blade. For all its adornment, the knife was perfectly weighted and Barreto drew her arm back and let it fly. It spun through the air, tumbling perfectly and evenly, end over end.

Muireall looked up at Forsythe and saw his deadly intent. She spat at him and he laughed. He raised his wand and started to speak the killing curse when he stopped, a surprised look on his face. The first mate was puzzled, then she watched the enemy captain pitch over on his chest, her captain’s prized throwing knife imbedded in his back, directly planted in Forsythe’s heart. Muireall gave her captain a look of thanks, and then she passed out from her wound.

With their captain dead, the surviving members of the Brotherhood of the Blue Tar began to wilt from the superior numbers of their enemy and a lack of heart. The gun deck began to wallow in water as the fatal wounds from the Discooperire’s broadside began to tell. Some of the evil wizards fought until the death, and Captain Barreto was more than happy to oblige them. Others began to surrender when they felt their vessel begin to succumb to the call of the deep.

“Return to the Discooperire. Grab the wounded and any prisoners. Lockley, cut us loose!” The surviving members of the boarding party collected their dead and wounded and shuttled their prisoners back to their ship. When all were aboard, Lockley and some of her crew cut away the grapnels, allowing the Discooperire to float free of the doomed Malitia. The black ketch slunk beneath the waves, taking its dead and its evil to the depths of the alien sea it had fought so hard to reach.

Barreto watched her prey disappear beneath the waves. The Discooperire was in almost as bad shape as the Malitia. The broadside she’d taken had opened holes of their own in her hull. Already, the main hold had almost a foot of water while the crew worked furiously to repair the damage. Most of the port side guns were off their mountings and dead and dying crew littered the space. They’d won, but at a dreadful price. Barreto turned to tend to her gravely wounded first mate.

“Captain.” Barreto stood and went over to Lockley, who was peering towards the shore. Lockley pointed towards the statue of Colossus. A ship was just passing between the statue’s legs. It was a sleek sloop of war, with a brown hull with a white stripe along the gun ports, a standard paint scheme for US Navy sailing warships. The gunports were open. Barreto picked up her spyglass and peered over at the nameplate on the approaching ship.

“U.S.S. Wasp.” Barreto allowed herself a sharp intake of breath. The Wasp was a twenty-two gun sloop of war, commissioned in 1814. On her maiden voyage, during the War of 1812, she’d gone on a cruise patrolling the western approaches of the English Channel, where she’d destroyed the HMS Avon and captured fifteen ships including the HMS Reindeer. She disappeared on her way to the Caribbean later that year along with a crew of one hundred seventy three sailors and marines. Now that ship was approaching, coming from some mythical city that was on a mystical continent with her guns run out.

“I wonder what her intentions are.” Lockley’s voice echoed Barreto’s own thoughts.

Barreto surveyed the shattered deck around her and the condition of both her crew and vessel. “Whatever they are, we are in no condition to fight.” Lockley nodded in agreement and watched with her captain as the mysterious ship from the path made its rapid approach.


***A/N: I almost didn't get this out. As fans of American College Football can attest, this was not a good weekend for Gators, Longhorns, Mountaineers, Scarlet Knights, and Sooners. As I drowned my sorrows over my beloved Gators, I found solace in writing. (Sniff, Sniff) Thank you kind people.

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  #85  
Old October 2nd, 2007, 2:39 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 86 – High Speed Pursuit

Harry leaned down over his broom, coaxing as much velocity as possible. He and his team were flying level, barely skimming the tree tops. The landscape below consisted of a multitude of islands tightly packed together, much like an archipelago. When the cataclysm struck the island of Atlantis, the numerous canals that served as highways to the island’s interior also served as fracture points for the earthquakes. The canals widened and became lines of demarcation among the various districts and duchies that made up the Atlantean kingdom. The environment of each island was different, with no discernable reason or pattern to them. In once second, Harry would pass over a heavily forested region then cross a wide canal, and arrive at a barren desert region. Harry swerved to avoid a large, snowcapped peak on one island, only to see a boggy rain forest on another. With no sun to guide him, Harry kept one eye on the terrain and another on his target, the six fast moving figures ahead of him.

Thornton left to the sounds of cannon fire. The Ministry vessel had caught up with the Malitia. Making a snap decision, he gathered his five most reliable wizards, including Cavanaugh, and made for the center of Atlantis. His vulture, Carrion, swept ahead of them and made a return circuit. Flying alongside its master, the ugly bird turned its mottled beak toward Thornton and squawked out a pitiful screech. Thornton looked at his pet and then snapped his head back in the direction he came. He could just make out the six pursuing Aurors that were closing the gap on him. He turned to the front and made a quick calculation of the distance to the high mountain in the center of the island and the rate of closure of the Aurors and decided that it was going to be close, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

The dark wizards were riding on blackened flying carpets. Each was kneeling on their carpet, towards the front half. Their hands were wrapped tight on the leading edge of the carpet, which they turned by pulling either hand on the edge of the direction they wanted to go. Pushing down on the front caused the carpet to dive and pulling up caused it to climb. Thornton motioned the rest to kneel lower, hoping to get a little more speed out of their conveyances. Up ahead, their destination loomed. The center of Atlantis sat on the largest islet of the group. In the greenish light, Thornton could make out a black cloud shrouding the island. The cloud was seemed to writhe and meander on its own. As he drew nearer, Thornton noticed the cloud seem to turn towards him and his minions. Getting closer still, he saw the cloud break up into smaller and smaller pieces. Pressing on, Thornton dove to skim the wave tops.

Harry saw the same cloud that Thornton saw. Seeing his quarry dive, Harry descended to match him. Harry saw the dark cloud dissipate into thousands of individual pieces and as he neared the island, he saw that it wasn’t a cloud, but flocks of birds. Harry saw immediately that further flight would be near impossible closer to the island because the sheer numbers and density of the avian fog would hinder their ability to fly. Hating to do so, Harry steered his team away from a direct pursuit of his enemy and made for a stone pier that marked the border of the central island. They would continue on foot.

Thornton hazarded a glance back at Harry’s team and saw them start to descend, obviously intimidated by the birds in the distance. With a flick of his head, Thornton sent his large vulture ahead, intending for the evil bird to use its size to intimidate the flocks ahead. The gruesome bird swept forward, its mighty beak emitting a horrifying shriek. At first, a small hole developed in the throng of birds. Thornton watched closely as a group of the dark, coppery colored birds swooped down. Several of their feathers seemed to shoot off from their wings. Instead of fluttering down to the ground, the feathers made a straight line for the vulture, like bullets from a gun. They crossed the distance to Thornton’s bird and hit it squarely, immediately perforating the bird’s torso in an explosion of feathers. One of the projectiles hit the hapless bird with such force that it carried through its body and on towards Thornton. The feather imbedded itself in the surface of Thornton’s carpet. He reached down and pulled the feather out. It was metallic, made of bronze. Its edges were razor sharp. Thornton looked up sharply, in time to see Carrion give out one last baleful cry and then plunge to the island below. Stymphalian birds, Thornton thought. In flash, he banked his carpet sharply, diving for the relative safety of the ground. His men followed him as rapidly as they could. Unfortunately, they were not as disciplined as the Aurors, so their formation was ragged and slow. The last blue-clad wizard to respond cried out as thousands of flechette-like feathers slammed into his body and catapulted him from his carpet to fall to earth below. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Harry’s eyes tracked the fall of the hapless wizard’s body, and then turned to his team. Williamson had them gathered together under a stone archway at the end of the stone pier. They’d stowed their brooms and were cinching up satchels and carry-alls for the trek into the island’s interior. They were all similarly clothed, still wearing the sailors’ garb they’d adopted while on the Discooperire. They wore loose black pants tucked into calf-length workman’s boots which laced up to the top. The crew of the Discooperire had adopted loose fitting tan half robes which buttoned tightly at the end of the sleeve to allow for freedom of movement. Around their waists were the ubiquitous red sashes where they stowed their wands and borrowed swords. Harry smiled as they reminded him of a pirate band from the stories he’d read in his solitary life in the room under the stairs at the Dursleys.

“What was that all about, Harry?” Manchester gave a gruff nod over to where the birds flocked.

“Stymphalian Birds, Sean.” The blank look on all their faces told him he needed to expand on his detail. “They were one of the Labors that Heracles had to overcome. They’re very nasty. Watch them.” He pointed to the birds that had killed the Brotherhood wizard. They were swooping down in a frenzy. “They’re flesh eaters. The eat anything they kill.”

“How do we get past them?” Leonora’s question spoke for them all.

Harry turned to Burby, who had a thoughtful expression on his face. “Noise. Heracles used noise to scare them off. So did Jason and the Argonauts.”

Harry nodded and looked at Williamson who had a smile on his face. The Auror Team leader reached into his robe and pulled several canisters out and tossed one to each of the Aurors. “Looks like we’re going to owe your brother-in-law more money, Harry.” Williamson looked down at the canister in his hand. In rich writing on the side it said simply:

“Weasley’s Whiz Bang Special: Guaranteed to offer to loudest gong for your galleon!”

Harry chuckled. He had no idea how he’d get this expense chit through the pitbull in accounting that was dating Dean Thomas. He shuddered; he’d rather face a million Furies than try to remember his accounting cost code for Isabella Ramirez. She was formidable. Spilt milk, Harry thought, and then he began to walk into the interior of the island, his team following close behind.

***

Thornton managed to lead his surviving wizards to an open beach opposite where Harry’s team landed on the far side of the island. Ignoring the hateful glares from his men, he pulled a papyrus scroll from the inside pocket of his pea coat and stared at it. In the distance, he saw the high peak that marked the center of the island. An overgrown path led from the beach into the foreboding forest ahead.

“Come on, this way.” Thornton began to walk up the path. Three of the wizards hesitated slightly, but Cavanaugh gave them an evil sneer and they slowly began to trudge behind their leader. They walked for hours, the wood never seeming to thin out. After a while, the green sky began to dim, as if in this world, there was a period of night. As darkness fell, pinpricks of light dotted the dark canopy of the sky. Thornton paused for a moment as a blood red moon rose in the distance and cast an eerie glow on everything around. They could barely make out the ground around them. Thornton called a halt in a clearing and told them to make camp for the night. As his men prepared to settle in, Thornton made a circuit of the open space. The lack of forest sounds was disconcerting for him. There was no rustle of the leaves in the wind, no hoot of a night owl, no chirping of crickets: there was simply silence. He returned to the comforting crackle of the fire that burned in the center of their camp. Squatting, he read through his scroll in the firelight. One of his men was patrolling the perimeter, the first watch of the night, however long the night lasted. Suddenly the silence was broken by a loud snort and growl. They were not alone. Nothing moved, yet they could all feel the presence of something out there. They sat around the fire, their eyes turned out to the mysterious darkness of the beyond.

***

Harry and his team came to an open savannah consisting of rolling hills and tall grass. As the sky darkened, announcing the night, Harry called for a halt and began to assist his team with setting up camp. Harry’s exploits had been required study by Aurors for years and so their standard kit consisted of charmed satchels that held a multitude of items which included tents for outdoor excursions. Soon, a circle of tents was arrayed around a blazing fire. Williamson set about setting watches for the night. As soon as he sat next to Harry, a loud roar bellowed in the distance.

“Best set two man watches.” Williamson nodded. “I’ll go stand one with you.” Harry looked around, seeking the source of the roar. An hour went by with no sign of what had been out there. Slowly, the six Aurors stood down, but were unable to fully relax. Harry felt the tension. “Look, whatever is out there, is out there. We need to rest.” He beckoned the team to sit around the fire. “We’ll be fine. Now, Sean, why don’t you tell us about you and Lockley?” Sean Manchester blushed noticeably in the orange firelight. The rest of the team chuckled at his discomfort. Harry turned to Williamson. “I wouldn’t laugh too hard, Eric, I’m sure everyone is quite interested in you and the lovely first mate.” The tension was released as they shared a laugh at their team leader’s expense.

Later, Harry sat inside his tent and reached for the mirror shard. He pulled it out gently and called her name. “Ginny?” He waited for a few moments, but she didn’t appear. “Ginny?” He waited again; still, she was not there. He walked out and glanced at the sky. The star patterns were unrecognizable and the crimson moon was unnerving. Perhaps the mirror did not work in this place. He hoped she wouldn’t worry. He returned to his tent and packed the mirror. As he settled into his sleeping bag, the bestial roar penetrated the silence of the camp. This time, it was much, much closer.

***

Ginny exited the lift at the second floor. She stepped towards the Office of Aurors and stopped as she heard her name called. She turned to find Sarah exiting the training arena, Silas close behind her looking a little chagrined. Ginny smiled at her friend and exchanged pleasantries with the pair.

Sarah looked over at her trainee. “Silas, stop taking it so hard. Everyone doesn’t win their first time in team combat.” He glanced at her doubtfully. “Besides, Kingsley is as good at they come. He’s been trying to hone his skills before the school term begins.” Sarah became a little exasperated. “Look, go back to your desk and think about three things you did well and three things you want to improve on. We’ll compare it to my list in a few minutes.”

“Trouble?” Ginny tried her best to hide her grin.

“No, but I wonder if I as this helpless when I started. Anyhow, what brings you down here? How are you feeling?” Sarah cast a quick glance at Ginny, checking for discomfort. Since Harry had gone off chasing Thornton, his friends had taken it upon themselves to constantly hover over Ginny. Many had offered to sit for James, although that task was a duty assumed by Kreacher, several had, in fact, done the job. Sarah and Lee called it their ‘trial run’.

“I’m fine. I’m going to see Ron, to check on him.” Sarah gave a laugh. “What?”

“Nothing really, but for someone who doesn’t believe in cravings, Hermione has had Ron chasing all over creation for some strange items.” Ginny gave her a ‘what gives’ look. “He’s been running around trying to find lumpia and Tabasco sauce.”

“What’s lumpia?” Ginny honestly had no clue.

“Isabella knew.” Ginny grinned again. “Lumpia are Filipino egg rolls.” Ginny laughed at the thought of her brother scampering about to find the delicacy. Sarah had walked her to the Office and bid her farewell. Ginny walked over to her brother’s cubicle. Ron had his head down on his desk. His normally long, straight hair was frazzled and frayed, fighting its pony tail. She laughed, which caused him to raise his head.

“Don’t you dare! You said pregnancy was a wonderful time, filled with joy and beauty!” His eyes were bloodshot and lines were multiplying on his face.

“That’s what I said, Ron. What did Harry tell you?” Ron stopped short. He remembered what Harry said and what Harry did during Ginny’s first pregnancy. He sighed heavily and dropped his head down once more. Ginny grabbed her brother’s arm. “Come on, Ron. I asked George to take over on Hermione craving duty for a couple of hours. Let’s go get some fresh air and some tea.”

“How’d you manage that with George?” Ron relented and allowed his sister to drag him along.

“Easy, I blackmailed him.” Ron looked over at his sister in shock. “Maybe not, maybe George volunteered out of the goodness of his heart?”

Ron’s glance became even more skeptical. “You paid him.”

Ginny laughed with her brother. “I paid him.”

Harry’s office door opened up and the luscious figure of Isabella Ramirez came walking out at a rapid clip. Trailing behind her was Lachlan McCrory, who was having to almost run to keep up with her. Isabella was speaking rapidly, a mixture of English interlaced with Spanish curses underneath her breath. Lachlan’s reedy, high pitched Scottish brogue became more pronounced.

“Those were needed!”

Isabella stopped short and folded her arms in front of her, her weight resting on one leg. Her eyes blazed and Lachlan seemed to cower from her gaze. “Fifty bags, maybe I would understand, but five hundred bags? There aren’t that many owls in the country! You’ve got to be smarter than that! Send them back!” She turned on her heel and stomped from the room, another flurry of swear words almost turning the air blue. Lachlan saw Ginny and Ron and shrugged his shoulders.

“Harry better get back soon. I don’t seem to have enough backside for this.” He glanced at his rear end. “She keeps chewing more and more of it off, everyday.”

“What was that about?” Ron looked over to where Isabella had stormed off.

“Owl treats. Savage has a brother who has a friend who could get us a deal on them if we bought five hundred bags.” Ron shook his head. Ginny found her respect for Isabella growing every day.

“I’d stop fighting her, Lachlan. At this rate, you’ll be standing for the foreseeable future.” She gave a playful glance at Lachlan’s rear end and laughed. He laughed with her. She grabbed Ron by the arm and took him out of the Office.

Later that night, after she’d put James down for the evening, she lay in her bed. She absently rubbed her stomach and her heart ached for her husband. These were the times she hated the most. She was strong willed and independent. She had a large and supportive circle of family and friends, but these nights alone weighed her down. She looked over to the end table and picked up the mirror piece.

“Harry?” No answer. She’d not heard from him in two days. Perhaps he was busy, or something worse. “Harry?” She hoped for some response, but none was forthcoming. She sighed and decided to turn in. She lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. It was quite some time before sleep eventually overtook her.

***

Harry and his team were circled near the fire. Williamson was lying on the ground; a horrible wound across his chest was bleeding profusely. Leonora was tending to him while the remainder of the team stood with their wands and swords drawn. Everyone had some injury. Burby could barely stand, his thigh punctured with bite marks. Coombs’ arm hung limply at his side, his shoulder a wreck while he held his wand out with his good hand. Manchester was bleeding from his side, a good sized wound made from a claw swipe. Harry was at the front, blood rushing from wounds on his back, arms and legs. He gripped his weapons tightly as the roar sounded again.

“Get ready, it’s coming back!” The group tensed, awaiting the next assault.


***A/N: I can't help it, the stories seem to want to write themselves like this. It's not that I like cliffies, they just happen. Really. I mean it. Why would I intentionally leave you hanging. What if I was incapacitated by a freak stapler accident? Where would that leave you?

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Last edited by USNAGator91; October 2nd, 2007 at 2:51 pm.
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  #86  
Old October 2nd, 2007, 8:08 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 87 – Herculean Efforts

Harry ignored the pain of his injuries. He turned to face the source of the throaty roar that threatened them. Out of the shadows and into the light of the fire, a massive lion paced, circling them with its head down in a feral, stalking posture. Its main was vividly golden and its fangs hung low from its jaws. Thinking back to the encounter with the Stymphalian Birds, Harry’s mind began to form a hypothesis about their adversary. The Stymphalian Birds represented one of the Labors of Heracles. Carrying this theme forward, Harry assumed that this was some form of the Nemean Lion. If that were the case, Harry thought, then they were in serious trouble. The Nemean Lion was impervious to weapons, its hide impenetrable. Being a magical beast, their direct magic had little effect on it as well. Its initial assault had been devastating, with the team receiving the bulk of their injuries in the first pass. Now, they were battered and had no means of defending themselves. The hulking feline made several snaps of its jaws in Harry’s direction, then it stopped. Harry noticed that it was crouching more on its legs, its taloned paws digging in to the ground.

“He’s getting ready to strike!” Harry pulled at Manchester, dragging the Auror away from the scene. Burby and Coombs edged their way in the opposite direction. Williamson was helpless and Leonora refused to budge from his side. Unsteadily, she held her wand up in one last attempt to hold off her inevitable death. Coombs saw what she was doing and stopped. He turned around and jumped in front of the Lion, just as the mighty beast was making its death leap at Leonora.

Coombs was an animagus whose form was that of a large ram. He shifted into that form and bucked at the charging Lion with all the effort in his body. His horns met with the breast of the Lion, right at the top of its massive front legs. Remarkably, he stopped the attack in its tracks, as if the rampaging Lion had run solidly into a brick wall. The Coombs Ram was favoring its injured front arm, but gamely stood before the Lion, interceding between the predator and its prey. The Lion let out a tremendous roar and swiped at Coombs with a large paw, its claws extended and driving a deep gash into the side of Coombs’ head. The ram was unsteady and then fell in a heap, unable to move. In that fleeting second, Coombs reverted to his human form, a large wound to the side of his head.

The Lion turned towards Leonora. She was staring in horror at Coombs’ form near the fire. She turned and made eye contact with the beast as it prepared to strike once more. “Incendio!” A large tongue of flame shot from her wand and pressed down on the Lion’s head. While his hide was impenetrable, like any beast of the wild, fire seemed to be a natural fear. She pressed her attack and the Lion began to fall backwards, retreating from the heat and light of the assault. In desperation, the Lion swiped its paw at a nearby tent pole which brought the fabric of the tent into contact with the flame. The loose material caught quickly and some of the burning embers landed on Leonora’s face and arms, causing her to fall to the ground in pain. Seeing its tormentor wounded and vulnerable, the Lion made to attack Leonora. That’s when Harry stepped forward. He saw how the elemental attack had affected the beast. He took a quick look at his surroundings and struck.

“Aguamenti!” A large, high pressure water jet hit the Lion on its flank. Harry kept up the pressure, and pushed the Lion onto its side. Harry never relented, keeping the full force of the spray on the body and face of the Lion. Slowly, the creature began to be pushed backwards, its body trailing on the ground. Harry felt the strain of the sustained spell, his cuts opening anew. Manchester saw where Harry was driving the beast and added a water jet of his own to the battle. The combined efforts drove the Lion several meters towards the sound of surf and waves. The rolling savannah they were on ended abruptly in a large precipice. Burby had almost fallen over during the previous day, because of the suddenness of the drop. Harry and Manchester’s combined efforts drove the Lion to edge of the cliff. The mighty beast fought, its claws seeking purchase in the loose soil to no avail. After one last attempt to leap at them, the force of the water jets sent the beast over the edge and down the almost three hundred meter drop to the rocky beach below. Harry was breathing heavily and peered over the edge of the cliff. He could barely make out the angry roars of the animal. Its hide was impervious to harm, but it was trapped below, with no noticeable way to climb back up. They’d bought themselves some time.

Harry and Manchester made their way back to the shattered camp. Williamson was sitting upright, but his head was bowed. Leonora was repairing the senior Auror’s wounds and struggling to hold back the well of tears that were pent up behind her eyes. Burby knelt over his friend and colleague. The tall, dark-skinned Auror laid a gentle hand down on Coombs’ lifeless eyes and closed them. He looked over at Harry and shook his head.

“He’s gone.” Burby returned his gaze at the small, thin Auror who was the best fighter of the group. They’d been working together for countless years and now the weight of the loss played on Burby’s shoulders. Added to the shock of the adrenaline that was lessening, he also felt the wound in his thigh began to throb. Harry stood stunned and dismayed. The sky was beginning to lighten, indicating the approach of another day in the green light of this strange land.

“Mend what we can. Gather up anything you can. We have to get going.” No one moved. The team had been together for a long time and the loss of a valued member struck them hard. Harry gave steel to his voice. “He died to save us. We can’t let it be for nothing. Now, get going. I’ll see to him.”

Manchester, Williamson and Leonora began to stir, helping to heal each other of their physical injuries. Burby remained motionless. He looked at Harry, pleadingly. “We can’t leave him here to be picked at, Harry. He deserves better.” Harry nodded and walked over the lifeless Auror. Carefully, he plucked the silver Auror’s shield from his tunic and collected Coombs’ wand. With a flick of his wand, Harry carefully moved Coombs’ body into his tent and wrapped the body up in the fabric of the tent. Burby watched carefully as Harry raised his wand once more. Reaching out, Burby grabbed Harry’s arm. “I’ll do it. He was my friend.” Harry nodded and stepped away from Burby as the tall Auror raised his wand. “Good bye, Carter.” With that, Monroe Burby set fire to the remains of Carter Coombs, Auror, Ministry of Magic.

***

Thornton shouted at Cavanaugh, “Use your sword! That’s what it’s there for!” The large wizard took a great swipe at the charging boar with his blade, momentarily deflecting the beast from its attack. Thornton looked around wildly. The beast had come at them during the night. It was huge, almost the size of full sized horse. Its tusks were crooked and jagged and it had managed to gore one of his men before they knew what had happened. It had to be an Erythmanthian Boar, another one of the Labors of Heracles. Fire seemed to keep it at bay and it seemed vulnerable to the blades. It was bleeding from over a dozen wounds, which only seemed to enrage the beast. They’d been fighting it all night and they were weary and tired. The exhaustion of their ordeal was tearing at their ability to fight and soon the final charge would be nearing.

The sky was fully lit, its eerie green glow reflected menacingly off the black hide of the animal. Its eyes grew wild as the full light of the day caught it. It gave a mighty squeal and attacked with all of its force, ignoring the swipes of the swords to its flank and driving the top of its head into Thornton’s chest. Thornton felt the air exit his lungs and expected to feel the tearing of flesh as the beast drove its tusks into him. When that did not come to pass, Thornton opened his eyes in time to see the Boar running off down the trail towards a hill in the distance.

Cavanaugh lent Thornton a hand up. “Perhaps it’s just a night creature.”

Thornton felt around his body for obvious wounds and winced at the pain in this chest from the blow. He couldn’t find fault with his henchman’s logic, but it hurt to speak, so he simply nodded. They were down to four and barely half way to their destination. They tended to their wounds and resumed their trek up towards the center of the island.

***

Their bodies were repaired, but the remnant aches and pains stayed with them. They ache of their loss wore on them more and Harry felt it as well. They walked in silence, no one wanting to say anything. Slowly, the treacherous terrain made their efforts hard and they were gasping for breath as the team made its way towards the last mountain. Harry’s mind turned to what they had faced so far. The thought of mimicking the Labors of Heracles was more than just intimidating, they were horrifying. They’d only really experienced one labor, and they had lost one Auror. How many more could they overcome?

“Harry?” Williamson’s face was pale, but the Auror was keeping pace with them. Harry looked over at him. “How many labors were there?”

“Twelve, why?” Harry stepped over a tiny crevasse in the exceedingly rocky path.

“I was just thinking, there weren’t a lot of beasts, really. Most of the labors involved retrieving an item or completing a chore, right?” Harry nodded. “I was just thinking, you killed Cerberus in the Ministry. We left the Lion back there on the beach. What else do you think we’d have to face?”

Harry thought for a moment. “There was a boar, a bull, a hind, and some mares. We saw the birds. I think there were some cattle, but I’m not sure. Why? Did I miss something?”

Burby spoke for the first time since the battle. “Yes, Harry. You forgot the big one.”

The thought dawned on Harry and Burby saw the recognition in his leader’s eyes. “Somewhere down the line, there has to be a hydra out there.” Harry shuddered, his mind racing on how to stop a nine-headed dragon.

***

Thornton led his men to one final open meadow before they reached base of the central mountain. They walked gingerly, eyes scanning the horizon. Exhaustion was reflected on all their faces, the lack of sleep burning their eyes. Thornton glanced ahead and saw the entrance to the trail that led up the mountain. He picked up the pace and then halted in his tracks.

A large four legged figure strolled out onto the path, snorting madly at them. It was a bull, larger than any Thornton could recall. Its horns stretched over four meters and its eyes were a bright read.

Under his breath, Thornton, the former scholar, hissed. “The Cretan Bull.” Rumored to be the sire of the legendary Minotaur, the bull was massive and renowned for its aggression. The four wizards stopped walking. One of the men at the end of the group began to turn.

“Don’t move.” Thornton warned. The man ignored his master. The fear and exhaustion of the journey finally triggered his flight response. He bolted back the way they’d come at a sprint. The bull roared and charged after the man. “Stay still.” Thornton chided the other two wizards. They felt the air rush by them as the Bull picked up steam. When it had passed them, Thornton beckoned the other two and the made a mad dash for the entrance to the path. The only question was whether the coward who bolted would last long enough for them to reach the mountain. They ran with all their remaining energy. Within minutes, they heard the screams of their colleague as the Bull tracked him down. Thornton and his two remaining men stretched the limits of their endurance. He could almost imagine hearing the hooves of the Bull reaching them. The sound of gravel hit their feet as they reached the rocky path leading up. They pulled themselves up to the first outcropping cliff and fell in a heap. Thornton looked back to the meadow and saw the Bull standing near the entrance to the path. Its horns and hooves were bloody and a fire burned in its eyes as if to tell them, he’d be there waiting when they returned. Thornton shook himself, and led his men up the path. They were on the final stretch that would lead them to the Palace of Cleito and ultimate power.

***A/N: OK, so I felt guilty for the cliffie. This one is shorter, but hopefully, it doesn't cause the fanbase to have a cow with the anxiety. Besides, my stapler seems to be plotting against me.

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  #87  
Old October 3rd, 2007, 3:04 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 88 – Homefront

Fall arrived at the Burrow, bringing cooler days and chilly nights. Dudley used the portkey that Arthur Weasley had provided him and arrived in the courtyard of Weasley home. Dudley took a quick look around and pulled the strap of the hard metal tool kit up on his shoulder. He walked silently to the front door and placed his tool kit down on the stoop. He depressed a small button on the side of the door jamb and laughed to himself as a symphony of bells announced his visit to the family inside the home. After a few seconds, he heard the light tapping of footsteps followed by the door swinging wide open. Molly Weasley offered him a smiled and beckoned the large man inside.

“Hello Dudley! Arthur and Teddy are inside.” Molly’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Ginny’s here too, with James.”

Dudley gave her a surprised look, worry immediately clouding his face. “Is there word from Harry?”

“No, that’s the problem. He hasn’t used the mirror in four days. Ginny is starting to get worried.” Molly’s eyes told Dudley that she was worried for her daughter and her son in law. With a nod, Dudley walked back into the kitchen.

He walked in to find several people seated around the large kitchen table. James was propped up on Andromeda Tonks’ lap, allowing the doting woman to hand feed him food from a plate in front of them. James’ eyes widened when he saw Dudley.

“Duds!” The toddler was delighted in getting Dudley’s name out while his mouth was full of carrots and mashed potatoes. James was a healthy eater and his natural curiosity caused him to be willing to try something new every day.

Dudley smiled at his nephew. “How are you doing there, munchkin? Eating again, I see.” Dudley’s mouth opened into a laugh as he watched Andromeda ignore the wayward food that landed on her lap.

“Uncle Dudley! Did you bring the tools?” Teddy Lupin had been huddled in the corner with Arthur going over back issues of Popular Mechanics. His hair had been changing colors as the strapping eight year old boy saw idea elements that he wanted to try on Harry’s motorbike. When Dudley nodded his head, Teddy’s hair turned a bright pink, which was indicative of Teddy’s giddiness over the project. Arthur offered Dudley a wave of the hand, but his attention was soon captured by another choice article which he pointed out to Teddy. Teddy offered a soundless shout while his hair became bright red.

Dudley’s gaze shifted to the figure seated at the end of the table. Ginny was hunched over a mug of tea, not really noticing what was going on around her. Her eyes were bloodshot, as if she’d not slept in days and her hair was a tangle of red curls, more wild than he could remember. Gently, Dudley sat himself beside her and smiled.

“What’s doing, Ginny?” She tried to give him a brave smile, but the effort couldn’t overcome her gloomy mood. Dudley gave her a slight pat on the back. “He’s fine, you know.”

She looked at him, part of her desperately needing proof that his words were true. “I haven’t heard from him in days, Dudley. I stay awake at night, so I don’t miss him if he calls.” Dudley noticed the mirror fragment that was on the table, not far from her reach.

“Well, that’s just silly!” Ginny’s eyes widened a bit. Everyone had tried to console her, so Dudley’s response was unexpected. When he saw that he had her attention, he continued. “Harry went off for a year chasing horcruxes or some such and you didn’t need a fancy mirror to tell you he was fine. My goodness, Ginny, he’s only been gone a month and you’re fretting after four days!” There was silence around the table, even James, smile intact, seemed to want to hear Dudley talk. “You two are connected. You knew when he was hurt or needed help before; do you have that feeling now?”

Ginny shook her head. Dudley’s voice softened a little, but the conviction was strong. “We have to assume that everything is fine until we know otherwise. This is Harry Potter we’re talking about.” Dudley puffed up his chest affecting the pose of a pompous aristocrat. “He has a certain flair for the dramatic.”

This brought a smile to Ginny’s face. For the first time that night, she seemed to take stock of her surroundings. Her gaze settled on James, whose brown eyes twinkled with delight, almost winking at her. She was serious for a moment, her commitment to her son and the life she was growing within anchoring her in the moment. James met her gaze. With a smile, his eyes never leaving his mother, he reached up with his hand, a gob of mashed potatoes in his fingers, and gave Andromeda Tonks a pat on the cheek, smearing the soft, white food on her face.

“James!” Ginny’s rebuke caused her son to giggle uncontrollably. Ginny rose and found a dishtowel, offering Andromeda, who was giggling herself, assistance with cleanup. Despite her melancholy, Ginny found herself laughing with them.

Dudley rose from the table. Molly offered him silent thanks and turned to help her daughter with James. Dudley looked over at Teddy. “You ready to get started, Rainbow Head?”

Teddy looked up from the magazine. “Any time you are Ogre Breath, and that’s Agent Rainbow Head to you.” Dudley smiled and waited for Teddy to join him. The pair gave Arthur a questioning look.

“I’ll be along shortly.” The Minister of Magic was putting the magazines away. “I have to review some reports and then I’ll be out.”

“Take your time, Uncle Arthur!” Teddy gave a chuckle. “We’d like to get the motor started this time.”

Arthur looked at the boy with a quizzical expression. Molly laughed. “Why Arthur, I think young Teddy is questioning your mechanical abilities.”

The elder Weasley laughed. “I do believe he is. Just for that, I’ll be out sooner than I thought.”

Teddy looked up at Dudley. “Come on, Uncle Dudley; let’s see what we can get done before Uncle Arthur gums up the works.” The flying biscuit hit Teddy square in the center of the chest. The boy caught the roll and promptly took a large bite out of it. With a laugh, he pulled Dudley out the door towards the barn.

***

They’d given her a much larger office. Isabella Ramirez sat behind a massive desk, parchment and paper scattered among the surface. Every so often, she’d scribble something down and hold a scrap of paper in the air. One of the several owls perched on a bar in the corner of the room would swoop down and land on a spot on the desk. She’d roll it up and place the paper in the owl’s leg holder and give the bird a destination. Without a second thought, the owl would soar off, bringing her missive to its intended recipient.

Dean Thomas stood in the doorway and watched her work. She was flicking her fingers across an abacus and writing her findings into columns in the ledger. He was amazed at how well she’d adapted both to the reality of magic and the limitations of working without modern tools. She felt his eyes on her and looked up. Her smile warmed his heart and he felt his cheeks flush with excitement. Her eyes danced merrily and seemed to flutter with a fire that took his breath away.

“I’m sorry.” His voice broke the silence. She gave him a questioning look. “I didn’t expect you to have to work with all these limitations. A good laptop would be indispensable right about now.”

Her smile widened. “Oh no, this is wonderful. It’s pure. It’s cash in and expenses out. Seriously, how did you people ever get anything done?” Dean laughed with her and shrugged her shoulders.

“It’s always been a matter of will. Minister Weasley has the will. You’ve done an amazing job! Thirty percent! Can you believe it?” Through her efforts, the Ministry’s cash flow had increased by thirty percent without raising taxes a single iota. She was ferocious in tracking down waste and overages.

Dean continued. “It’s late. You feel like getting out of here? We could grab dinner.” She closed her ledger and shooed the remaining owls off their perches. She grabbed her coat.

“Where do you want to go?” She had fallen in love with Diagon Alley. The wonders of the magic world in a day to day view was something she never tired of.

“We could go to Diagon Alley, if you want.” Dean was trying to understand her. She smiled wickedly.

“We could do that. I was thinking of dinner in. Why don’t we just go to my apartment and I’ll whip something up. We could have breakfast at Diagon Alley, tomorrow.” With that, she smiled and slowly walked out the door, leaving him standing there with his mouth agape. She stopped and looked over her shoulder, and gave him a playful wink.

Dean shook his head. He suddenly realized he’d never really understand his Latin love. He gave a sigh and whispered. “Dios Mio!” He pulled the door close and ran to catch up with her.

***

Ron Weasley slowly walked into his apartment and tossed his bag down by the door. He was beyond exhaustion. Hermione’s first trimester was very difficult. The morning sickness and the cravings encompassed his entire non-working hours and with a quarter of the Aurors off with Harry, his professional workload was burning him out as well. The apartment was quiet and the lights were out, except for a candle near the window.

“Hermione?” He looked around. For half of an instant, the ghost of anxiety from the vampire episode crossed his mind. Her voice settled that down.

“In here!” Her voice came from the bedroom. He walked into the room and found her reclined on a chaise lounge, several pillows propped behind her back. She was reading an old, leather-bound book. He took in her beauty. She looked happy, for the first time in weeks, she seemed calm. Her eyes glimmered when he walked in and her smile lifted all traces of tiredness and exhaustion from his shoulders.

“How are you feeling?” He leaned down and gave her a kiss on the lips.

“Very well. It was a good day, finally.” She beamed, she was entering her second trimester and had a worry free day.

Ron smiled. “Oh, so she’s decided to settle down, has she?” She threw a pillow at him.

“What makes you say that it’s a girl?” Her voice was playful, teasing.

“Only a woman could be that much trouble, before they were even born.” This time she threw the pillow harder, impacting hard on his head. She was laughing. She moved over to the side of the lounge and invited him to sit with her. He accepted without a second thought and wrapped his arms around her. They sat together enjoying the silence and the closeness. He could feel her heart beating in time with his and imagined the little heart thumping inside her as well. He felt intoxicated by the aroma of her hair as it tickled his nose. She was beautiful and he let her know by kissing her lightly on the back of her neck.

She purred gently and ran her hand on his cheek. She turned about gently and kissed him solidly, the first real kiss of passion in some time for the both of them. Suddenly, she rose from the lounge and reached her hand out to him. With a smirk, Ron thought to himself, “This is the change that Harry told him about.” She waved her hand and the bedroom door closed with enough authority to extinguish the candle in the living room.

***

“Teddy, can you go fetch us some water from the kitchen?” The youth stood up from turning a wrench on the engine of the motorbike. He nodded and bounded off for the kitchen. Dudley watched him go and looked at Arthur.

“What do we know about Harry? Is this unusual?” Arthur wiped some grease from his face and mopped his brow with an oil stained rag.

“The truthful answer is that we don’t know. This voyage has never been attempted before. The last we heard was that they were pursuing the Malitia towards the Road, after the first battle. Given how ferocious the first fight had been, I just don’t know.” Arthur’s worry for his daughter and son-in-law as well as his anxiety as Minister of Magic had aged him noticeably.

Dudley tried to eliminate the thought that was at the forefront of both their minds. He couldn’t. “What if he fails, Arthur? What then?”

“I’m trying to get the Ministry ready to respond. I’ve already sent feelers to the Order of the Phoenix in order to supplement our numbers. Truthfully, if Thornton gets his hands on Poseidon’s Scepter, I don’t know if we’ll be able to stop him.” Dudley watched as the burden of leadership ground down the good man in front of him.

“I suppose that only leaves one thing, then.” Arthur looked over at Dudley, knowing what he was going to say. “Harry isn’t going to fail. He doesn’t know how.” Arthur chuckled. “Now, pass that gasket over or we’ll be bleeding oil out the back.”

“That’s what it’s supposed to do.” Teddy appeared, holding three mugs and a pitcher of lemonade. Dudley looked over at Teddy. The boy’s hair was dark black. “It’s part of the double-oh package, instant oil slick. Nothing’s too good for Potter, Harry Potter.” Teddy struck a pose, holding his index finger up in the air like a gun.

Dudley laughed and explained. “Nothing stops a motorbike like ‘Oil, No Oil’.” The three broke into guffaws and went back to their work.


***A/N: A little treat for the fanclub, a brief look at the home front and a breather from the action. We'll be back at it next chapter.

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  #88  
Old October 3rd, 2007, 9:15 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 89 – The Palace of Cleito

The path switch backed up the side of the mountain. Harry and his team negotiated the narrow walkway, often sidestepping precipitous drops to the valley below. The mountain was devoid of vegetation filled with sharp, ebon rock that was smooth on its facets. At certain points of the climb, they had to scale vertical rises, the task made easier by obviously man-made handholds carved into the rock face. The view of Atlantis was breathtaking; the individual islets looked like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle laid out on a board for the eye to see. They began to see the summit ahead. For the most part, they were silent, their energy focused on the grueling climb up the treacherous face of their obstacle. They walked up towards the apex of their climb. At the top, the ground opened up into a large platform. What they saw took their breath away.

They were standing on the top rim of a vast crater. The mountain was, in fact, a volcano at the exact center of the continent. The rim was well over ten kilometers wide and the center of the crater contained a lake that stretched from rim edge to rim edge. The water lapped lazily at the edge of their platform. Harry knelt down and touched a finger to its smooth surface. It was ice cold and deep, the water a dark black from the depths in the center of the mountain. A rocky plateau dominated the center of the lake. Amid the center of the plateau was an ancient Doric structure, a perfect replica of the Parthenon in Athens. The difference was that its columns seemed smooth and whole as if it had been built only recently, instead of over ten millennia before. The water was so still, the building held a perfect reflection of itself on the surface.

“Do we swim for it?” Williamson’s voice echoed off the cavernous walls of the crater.

Manchester gave a sarcastic laugh. “Considering what we’ve run into so far, do you really want to be splashing about in a mysterious dark lake?” Williamson laughed, but Harry felt that Manchester’s point was well taken. How should they proceed?

Harry studied their platform and noticed that on the lake side, it was hand carved such that it looked like a man-made pier. Twin posts stretched out from its edge and a bronze gong was suspended between the posts over the water. Looking around, Harry picked up a couple of pieces of loose shale and tested them for weight. With a mighty heave, he threw a fist sized rock at the gong, its chime resounding across the entire area. The surface of the lake rippled from the sound waves. Harry studied the ripples. Instead of dissipating, they grew larger and more violent at a point almost midway between the plateau and their dock. The center of the disturbance began to froth and spray flew into the sky. Six horses’ heads flew from the water, bits in their mouths towing a small, golden boat behind it. Halfway down the horse’s body, the equine form gave way to a scaly serpent’s tail with a broad fin at the end. The reins of their bits were held by a tall, shrouded figure, his hands deftly guiding his charges towards the dock. The hands held no flesh, but were made of bone and scraps of rags. Harry tried to make out the face of the figure under the hood, but the front was masked by black, gauzy material that only shone with twin blue lights where the eyes normally would be.

“That looks like a Hippocampus!” Burby’s voice was as excited as he’d been since the death of his friend. They’d all seen pictures of Poseidon’s watery steeds in Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts. None had ever seen one up close. The water horses snorted and tugged at their burden, pulling the bejeweled vessel and its mysterious driver to the edge of the dock. The three hippocampi on the side closest to the pier plopped their front hooves on the dock, holding the boat in place. Their driver seemed to float from his position and up onto the pier. He was almost five meters tall, and his luminescent eyes stared at the five Aurors. When he spoke, his voice was loud and low with a gravelly quality as if running a knife over a whetting stone.

“Passage to the Palace.” They looked at each other. Was it a question or a statement? His inflection left doubt in their minds.

Harry stepped forward. “Yes, we seek passage to the Palace.” The tall figure’s eyes turned toward Harry. Harry fixed his own eyes on the driver, mustering up all the courage he had to stare down the mysterious man. For a moment, the lights of the covered eyes seemed to dim, as if the weight of Harry’s stare made him blink. They quickly returned to their full burn and the man held out his skeletal hand, palm up.

“Payment.”

Harry stood dumbfounded for a second. What kind of payment would be required? A sacrifice? A life? Harry stood dumbfounded. Leonora reached into her robe and pulled out five galleons. Without speaking, she placed the gold coins in the driver’s hand and stepped back to see his reaction.

Holding the coins in his hand, he lifted one up with his free hand and held it to his eyes. He turned the coin to either side and then hefted its weight as if assessing its value. Satisfied, he placed the coins in the opening of a small box just inside the body of the boat. He turned to them and raised an arm, beckoning them to enter the boat.

“Sit.”

The five Aurors took slow, hesitant steps. Led by Harry, they filed into the boat and sat on the twin rows of benches on the floor. The driver went to front of the vessel and took up the reins. Given their head, the water steeds let go of the dock and the journey to the Palace began.

“Harry.” Burby whispered into Harry’s ear. “I think that’s Charon, the ferryman who took the dead to Hades across the River Acheron.”

“I thought he brought them across the River Styx.” Manchester was trying to keep up with the conversation.

“No, silly, the River Acheron. The River Styx is just a myth.” Williamson stifled a laugh. Burby gave him a hard look and continued. “If I remember correctly, he charged an obolus, a silver coin, for passage.”

“Now you’ve done it Leonora.” The woman looked over at Manchester who was shaking his head. She urged him to continue. “You paid him in gold. There’ll be an audit with Isabella Ramirez for overpaying the fare.”

Leonora Sigismund held her stern visage for all of one second, before she joined the rest in laughing at the joke.

***

Thornton led his two men to a similar pier on the opposite side of the lake. Like the pier that Harry and the Aurors had found, there was a gong affixed to a stanchion. Unlike Harry’s pier, there was a small rowboat lashed to the railing as well.

“Do we sound the gong or row across?” Cavanaugh gave his leader a quick look. Thornton’s impatience won out. He pointed at the boat and the three made their way into its bottom.

Cavanaugh slipped the wooden oars into their locks and began a steady pace across the lake. The boat caused small ripples in the water, but they didn’t radiate away from their position. Thornton watched the water begin to swirl and thought he saw the glint of movement in the darkened waters. He squint his eyes, trying to make out the shape. Suddenly, they felt a sharp bump against the hull of the boat. Thornton looked closer at the water, then drew back.

“Turn around. Go back.” Cavanaugh, already startled by the movement, executed a sharp about face and began rowing swiftly back to their pier. Another bump hammered the side, causing the boat to heel to the side. The rotted planking gave way under the grip of the last wizard in their party. He fell over the side, into the cool, foreboding waters.

“Don’t stop, keep going!” Thornton hissed and Cavanaugh’s fear told him that his henchman would comply. The hapless lackey in the water screamed for them to stop, his terror causing his voice to echo against the vertical crater walls. Thornton watched as the man flailed in the water and saw the approaching shape before the doomed man did. In a flash, the man disappeared in an explosion of water as a long, oversized serpent flew out of the water into the air. Thornton’s man was stuck in the maws of the serpent’s teeth, screaming in pain. The serpent head disappeared in the water, dragging its prey to the depths below.

“Ladon.” Cavanaugh grunted, willing the final few meters to the pier. Thornton ignored Cavanaugh and leapt onto the pier. The Ladon was a water serpent who guarded the apples of the Hesperides. For his eleventh labor, Heracles had to kill the Ladon to retrieve the apples. Now the serpent was guarding the approach to the Palace. Thornton barely noticed as Cavanaugh joined him on the dock. Instead, the dark wizard picked up a rock and threw it at the gong. After a few moments, a skeletal hand was reaching out to Thornton, the gravelly voice traveling to his ear.

“Passage to the Palace?”

***

Harry and his team stood on the quay leading up to the massive building that dominated the center of the plateau. Broad alabaster steps led up to the huge columns of the structure and Harry led his team up the steep incline. They spread out in a loose spear formation, with Harry at the center. When they topped the steps, they walked between the large columns towards the center of the building. After passing fifteen rows of the columns, the floor opened up into a massive open air chamber. The center of the chamber was depressed into a bowl, almost a kilometer wide. At the center of the bowl was a large square building with a massive four-sided pyramid on its roof. The sides of the bowl were squared off, like seating tiers with rows of steps leading down to the building. With a brief look at his companions, Harry started the long walk down towards the bottom of the bowl.

They reached one of the four sides of the building and proceeded to a large archway in the middle of the wall. Peering inside the opening, their eyes could not distinguish any movement inside. Carefully, they proceeded in the opening, lighting their wands to guide them through. The structure was dotted with various columns and rooms. Dead ends and false paths dotted the area, like a large maze, much like the one Harry had entered during the Triwizard Tournament. Carefully, they negotiated the maze, focusing on the destination, a large, well lit opening directly beneath the apex of the pyramid. Slowly, they made their way deeper into the structure. Eventually, the room opened up to a central chamber.

“That was a simple enough obstacle. That maze would hardly keep anyone out.” Manchester clapped Williamson on the back, who returned a weary nod to his Auror.

“The maze is designed to keep you in, not to keep you out.” A tired female voice rang through the room. A steep set of stairs rose from the center of the room rising to a platform at the top. A slim, dark-haired woman, wearing bronze chest armor and greaves stood atop the platform, a circular shield and long spear in her hand. In her spear arm, she held a bronze helm with a long red plume on its top. Her expression was tired and sorrowful.

“You have another labor to complete, heirs of Heracles.” Her tone was beautiful, serene, yet baleful and sad. Pieces of the stairway began to fall away, exposing a large dark hole in the ground. Hissing began to emanate from the hole and the light of nine pairs of glowing red eyes emanated from the dark space.

Leonora turned to Manchester. “You had to open your mouth!” She mimicked Sean’s previous statement in dripping, sarcastic matter. “Oh, that maze was too easy.”

Manchester looked back at her. “Not now, Leonora. Save it for later.”

Slowly, the hissing became louder and the fiery eyes began to draw out of the hole. Williamson lowered his head and turned to Harry. “Hydra. It had to be the hydra. You know, Harry. It’s too bad you weren’t an accountant. I’d live to see my pension.”

Manchester didn’t skip a beat. “Isabella Ramirez is an accountant.”

Williamson looked back at Manchester, then over to Harry. “Oh, I stand corrected.”

Harry silenced them as he watched the creature draw itself out of its lair and rise to its full height. Nine heads with razor-sharp teeth snapped at the air and at each other and then focused on the five Aurors all at once.

“Harry?” Burby caught Harry’s attention. The Auror pointed to an entry on the other side of the room. Harry saw the figures of Thornton and one of his men, slinking along the wall and making their way towards the steps. Thornton’s eyes blazed with glee as he saw the Auror’s plight. Harry couldn’t blame him. The Aurors would have to defeat the hydra to get to Thornton, and Thornton knew it.

Williamson looked at Harry. “We’ll do it like we discussed. Harry, leave the beastie to us, you go stop Thornton.”

Harry nodded. His four Aurors paired up, Williamson with Burby and Leonora with Manchester. The team walked ahead of Harry, interposing themselves between the monster and their leader. A tremendous roar filled the room and the hydra coiled up its nine heads, and leapt to the attack.

***A/N: I really didn't mean to do that to you. I mean, it just worked out this way. The next chapter would have been too short.

Sorry?

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  #89  
Old October 4th, 2007, 2:23 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 90 – The Secret of the Key

The hydra’s serpentine necks snapped out towards the five Aurors. Leonora, who was covering Manchester and Burby, who was covering Williamson, released quick shield charms to deflect the physical charge of the heads. When the top of a head reached the shield, the momentum of the charge was deflected to the either side. Six of the nine heads crashed into the floor on either side of the Auror pairs. The remaining three heads held back, attempting to find a way to get to Harry, who’d started to slide from behind his embattled team to get to the other side of the chamber.

“Sectumsempra!” Williamson snapped his wand at the head nearest him. The spell sliced through the neck, near where it met its scaled, bulbous body.

“Incendio!” With a quick flick of his wrist, a searing tongue of flame burned into the cavity where the neck had been separated, fusing the open wound shut. Meters away, Manchester executed the same severing spell, causing a nearby head to be severed from the creature’s body. One of the other deflected snake’s heads turned quickly from where it impacted from the ground and caught Manchester with a glancing blow with its jaws, creating a gash in his calf and throwing his follow-up spell off target. Within seconds, the place where he’d decapitated the hydra head began to bubble and sprout out two fully grown appendages. They were back where they started. Manchester felt the wound on his leg begin to burn. The saliva of the beast was poisoned and now the wound was cursed. Despite the agony, the squat Auror turned his attention to another head that was beating its top on the perimeter of Leonora’s shield.

Harry broke into a run, hugging the wall in order to get around to where Thornton and his minion were climbing the steps to the top of the platform. The three heads that were tracking him hurled themselves at him in the attack. Harry conjured a shield charm which deflected two of the heads behind him. Without stopping his momentum, Harry dove forward and high in the air, narrowly causing the remaining head to graze him in the shoulder with its protruding fangs. Harry’s dive propelled him forward and when he hit the floor, he executed a graceful roll to absorb his impact on the rough stone.

“Sectumsempra!” Harry barely hit one of the offending beasts with the severing spell, but the dead neck landed on his wand arm, effectively pinning it to the ground. Harry raised his free hand.

“Incendio!” Flames shout from Harry’s finger tips and fused the hydra’s wound shut. Placing his feet on the dead weight holding his arm down, Harry managed to pull his arm and wand free and rolled away in time to avoid the attack of the remaining two heads. Harry’s shoulder burned and he felt his strength waning in that part of his body, the hydra’s poison working its way through his body. Trying to put the pain out of his mind, Harry blocked another strike by his tormenters and pushed back to the wall. Harry reached into a pocket and tossed a small vial on the floor. A small scattering of Peruvian Blackness Powder shrouded Harry from his attacker’s sight. This particular version of the powder was less expansive and only covered a six or seven square meter area. While hidden behind the cloud, Harry mumbled a disillusionment charm and started walking along the wall, hidden from the eyes of his hunters, he hoped.

Williamson had managed to sever and neutralize another attacking head, but not without a price. Burby had been bitten in his shoulder by a desperate lunge by a dying head and Williamson had taken a full bite on the thigh by another. While the creature was clamped down on his leg, Williamson cut and cauterized the head. Manchester was fighting through his own agony and had managed to take out a head and burn it shut himself. Now they were down to six heads and four of the five Aurors had been wounded by the bile-laced bite of the hydra. Williamson looked over at the other pair.

“Draw in tighter! We’re getting separated!” Burby grunted and began to shuffle over to where Leonora was standing. Williamson hoped that working together; they could keep the heads near them and away from Harry. Unfortunately, only four of the remaining six heads were paying any attention to them. Where were the other two heads?

Harry snuck along the wall, his two attackers milling about the dark cloud behind him. Quickly, one of the heads whirled out of the cloud. Its fiery red eyes seemed to looking right at Harry. The crimson orbs narrowed and focused on the exact spot he was standing. Harry’s stomach turned as he realized, the creature could see him. A loud hissing snarl came from the massive mouth, and the second head joined its sister and the pair launched themselves at Harry. The head of the Aurors was barely able to get his shield charm up and the impact of the assault threw Harry back against wall. A little dazed, Harry brought his arm up to keep the creature at bay. One of the heads crunched down on his forearm.

“Expulso!” While his arm was engaged with one head, Harry blasted the other. It exploded in to hundreds of pieces. The pain in his arm was excruciating and the head began to drag him along the floor. Keeping his wits about him, Harry fused the neck cavity of the head he’d just destroyed. Whipping around to the head that had its death grip on him, he severed its neck and fused it closed. Even in death, the head kept its hold on his arm, blood flowing freely from its mouth. Harry pried open the jaws; ignoring the agony of the long teeth extracting from his flesh. Soon his arm was free, but now was useless, hanging down at his side. He rose and started up the steps to confront Thornton.

The dark wizard and his henchman reached the top of the platform. The warrior at the top donned her helm and stepped to meet him. Behind her was a large door made of gold, bronze and silver with a keyhole in the center. She lowered her spear and aimed its razor-sharp point at Thornton.

“You have not passed the labors. You may not continue!” Her voice was menacing and her intent deadly. Thornton laughed and raised the lanyard on his neck, dangling the key in front of her.

“I have Solon’s key. You obey me.” His haughtiness and arrogance exuded from his voice. Cavanaugh drew his sword and started to circle around the woman. For her part, her laugh was surprising and welcome.

“The key holds no sway over me. It is what it is. It is simply a key. You must pass the tests and show that you are worthy.”

The smile dropped from Thornton’s face, the temerity of her challenge causing his face to redden with anger. At that moment, a voice rang through the chamber to Thornton’s ears.

“Reginald Thornton, you are under arrest for the violation of the Dark Arts Protection Acts and Thievery from the Ministry of Magic.” Harry’s voice was unsteady and when Thornton turned to face him, the dark wizard was delighted by Harry’s appearance. Harry’s face was ashen from the loss of blood and the poison coursing through his various wounds. His left arm hung limply at his side and Harry had a pronounced limp from being thrown against the floor and wall. Thornton stopped short, because Harry’s green eyes burned through him. The dark wizard gave a subtle nod to Cavanaugh, who stalked down to where Harry was standing. Thornton turned back to the guardian of the vault and raised his wand.

“Let’s see who wields power over whom.” Thornton released a blast charm towards her. Rapidly, she raised her shield and the blast impacted on the surface of the golden metal disk. She fell back, but kept her feet under her. She raised the spear and a cool blue light beam shot from the tip and impacted on the barely erected shield Thornton threw up. They circled each other, seeking a weak point to exploit and exchanged spells in a dizzying display of magic.

Cavanaugh approached Harry, a sword in one hand and his wand in the other. Harry sighed and holstered his wand and then drew the cutlass from his sash. The beady-eyed, gap-toothed wizard gaped in surprise and raised his wand to cast a stunning spell. He was even more surprised when Harry erected a shield to deflect the spell and even more so when Harry blasted the steps near Cavanaugh’s feet. Momentarily dazed, Cavanaugh exploded in rage and charged Harry with his sword raised. Harry neatly parried the blow and stepped to the side, allowing the larger man’s momentum to carry him past where Harry stood.

“Expelliarmus!” Harry pointed the tip of his sword at Cavanaugh and the man’s sword went flying across the room. Harry dropped his cutlass and pulled his wand out.

“Stupefy!” Cavanaugh went flying down the stairs. He pulled himself up and turned back towards Harry. A blast charm reached out from his wand and impacted the wall behind Harry, covering him in rock and debris. Harry ignored his wound and sought a quick finish to the fight.

“Petrificus Totalus!” Not expecting Harry’s quick response, Cavanaugh froze in place, unable to move. Harry heard a hiss and one of the embattled heads of the hydra grabbed the paralyzed wizard at mid-torso. Unable to scream and unable to move, Cavanaugh died as the hydra’s bite tightened on his body.

Thornton hit the guardian with a blast charm at her feet, causing her to drop her spear. Dazed, she raised her shield to fend off the next curse and felt impact of another blasting charm on the side of her body, away from the shield. She fell unconscious on the ground. Thornton turned and saw Harry staggering on the stairway, trying to reach him. Thornton’s curse hit Harry in the chest and drove the wounded Auror down on his back. Thornton began to cackle to himself. Glancing around, he had an inspiration. Thornton picked up the discarded guardian’s spear and walked down to where Harry lay. Thornton held the spear over his head, point aimed down at Harry’s breast. Harry took a glance over to where his team was. Leonora was the only one standing, fending off the last two hydra heads and protecting her prostrate team members. She saw Harry’s plight, but could not make a move towards him.

His wounds and the poison had sapped Harry totally. His mind wandered back to his wife and son and he smiled. Thornton paused at the grinning visage of his intended victim.

“You know, Potter. You should feel honored. You will be allowed to die at my hands. Soon, I will have the ultimate power.” Thornton raised the spear and stopped. His expression turned to surprise and curiosity. Harry watched as Thornton’s body pitched forward and fell next to him. Protruding from his back was a recognizable ornamental dagger that Harry had last seen tucked in the red sash of the captain of the Discooperire.

“Assist Leonora!” Captain Barreto’s voice echoed across the cavern. He heard footsteps as she approached. “Ah, Signor Potter. We are fortunate that these bad men always want to talk too much, eh?”

“They’ve been bitten by the hydra. This is very bad, ma’am.” A deep, rich baritone voice that Harry could not recognize resounded. “The wounds are cursed.”

Harry heard the worry in Barreto’s response. “What do you mean, Commodore Blakely?” Her question was interrupted by the dulcet tones of Muireall Innes.

“We finished off the hydra, Captain. Leonora is fine, but…” Muireall’s voice choked up. “The others are gravely injured. They all have the bites.”

Silence gripped the room. The strange voice held the timbre of command. It rang out in the room. “Let’s get them to the Wasp. We don’t have much time.” Harry could make out a figure dressed in blue, a double row of gold buttons running down his tunic. Gold braided epaulets hung from his shoulders. He was tall, wearing white pants tucked into knee length black leather boots. He had a peaked cap, running front to back and had a thin naval officer sword strapped to his waist.

Harry felt the ground begin to rumble. The voice rang out once more. “Let’s go now, ladies and gentlemen. The Lord Poseidon knows Solon’s Key is here. He is going to reclaim the Palace.”

Harry felt hands tugging at his body. He was being carried. The loss of blood and the poison had begun to take its toll on him. He felt his strength at ebb and saw darkness at the edge of his vision. He turned and saw the beautiful Captain Barreto walking next to him. She saw his gaze and smiled.

“Do not worry, Signor Harry, you will be fine. Sleep now.” Despite her assurance, he could sense the worry in her voice and see the fear in her eyes. He tried to smile at her, but could not find the energy. Instead, he brought Ginny’s face to the front of his brain, and allowed that to be his last memory as he faded into unconsciousness. Around him, as his rescuers toted Harry and his team away from the site, the dormant volcano was beginning to waken.


***A/N: A little housekeeping. In my timeline, Harry becomes head of the Office of Aurors in the 2006 range (just before Albus is born). JKR just said that he becomes head in 2007. That's the problem with canon. That being said, I didn't miss it by much.

OK, it's not a cliffhanger if you know what happens in the epilogue, right?

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  #90  
Old October 5th, 2007, 2:43 am
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 91 – Metropolis

A warm breeze passed over his face while the soft hush of surf caressed his ears. Harry allowed himself a brief moan and opened his eyes. He was lying on a large, soft bed covered in silky soft sheets. His shoulder throbbed in pain and he felt a general weariness in his body. He sat up briefly, and his head spun from the effort. He made out the dim outline of his glasses on top of a table to the side of the bed. With great effort, he reached over and grabbed them, and placed them on his face. He was in a magnificent room, lined with marble and tile. The room was circular, with three quarters of the perimeter lined with columns and open to a majestic view of the great harbor. He could see down to the harbor, where a wooden warship was moored against the quay. Directly in front of the ship, Harry could make out the familiar outlines of the Discooperire. The effort to sit up and take the brief survey taxed him. He reached a hand to his shoulder and felt the gauze bandages that were packed against his wounds. With a sigh, he lay back down and took in the fresco that adorned the ceiling of the room. A loud explosion broke the silence. Wearily, he rose back up and searched for his wand.

“It’s all right, Signor Harry.” Captain Barreto’s falsetto echoed from the archway behind him. “That is just the mountain reclaiming the Palace of Cleito.” The tanned commanding officer of the Discooperire entered the room trailed by an extraordinarily beautiful woman garbed in a sheer white toga. She had a medium build with long flowing blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. She carried a silver basin and a towel and walked over to the side of the bed where Harry lay.

“My name is Diana. You’ve sustained some very serious injuries.” She made a quick request with her eyes and Harry nodded. She pulled down the sheet and expertly began to remove the bandages covering his wounds. Harry looked over at Barreto.

“What happened? Where are my people?” Harry looked once more at his nurse. “Where are we?”

Barreto gave him a laugh. “Everyone is fine. We are in Metropolis, the city we saw from the Discooperire.”

Diana gave him a stern look. “You and your men are very lucky. The hydra’s poison curses wounds.” Harry got a brief glimpse of the tear in his flesh. The area around the wound was black and shriveled and seemingly unable to close. He remembered Dumbledore’s hand and how a slow death awaited his mentor had he not been killed by Snape. Diana saw the fear in Harry’s eyes. “Not to worry. This is Atlantis.” She made the statement as if that were enough.

She opened the bag she’d brought with her and pulled out a mortar and pestle. She also removed a small leather pouch which contained several thin slices of apple. She put one of the apple slices into her mortar and began to grind it into a fine mush. She daubed the edge of the towel into the mixture and rubbed the paste onto Harry’s wound. Everywhere she touched ignited a flame of pain in the area. He winced and grit his teeth as she continued to apply the balance of the paste on him.

She gave him a stern look. “It’s better that you feel pain, then feel nothing at all in death.” She replaced the bandage and walked out the door, offering him a quick smile on her way out.

“What was that all about? What did she put on me? Captain, what exactly is going on?” Harry dropped back on his pillow, exhausted from his effort.

Barreto laughed and drew up a cushioned stool near the bed. Carefully moving her sword edge to the side, she sat down next to the bed. “Where do you want me to start, Signor Harry?”

“I guess at the beginning.” Harry smiled to himself, still amazed at her ability to remain calm.

She smiled, but her eyes were distant as she remembered the events of the past week. “We had defeated the Malitia. She was sinking fast. We were in none to good shape ourselves. That ship down there,” She pointed to the Wasp. “She came out. I thought we were done, but they offered us assistance.”

“Where did she come from?” Harry’s eyes gazed at the ship, its large American flag fluttered in the breeze.

“She fell along the Bimini Road in a storm in 1815. Aie! That is the original crew and original captain!” An amazed look came over her.

“What?” Harry could scarcely believe his ears.

“That is Captain Johnston Blakeley, commanding officer of the USS Wasp, schooner of war.” Even though she said the words, Harry got the feeling that she could barely believe them.

“Why did you call him Commodore?” Barreto gave him a condescending nod.

“In the days of sailing ships, any captain who commanded more than one ship was called a commodore, Signor Harry. Commodore Blakely commands over thirteen serviceable vessels here in Metropolis.” Harry nodded his understanding.

“Who are all these women, then? Who was that woman at the Palace?”

Barreto’s eyes became excited. “They are the original inhabitants of Metropolis. They are what are left of the Amazons! “ Harry gave her a doubting look. “Verdade! It is true! They have been charged with guarding the vault at the Palace. For centuries, an Amazonian sentinel has been placed at the Palace to watch over Poseidon’s treasure. Until now, that is.”

Harry heard the change in her tone. “Why until now?”

“It is very funny, Signor Harry. The objects in the vault belonged to Poseidon, but the door is a magical portal. It can be only opened with a special key. Poseidon was waiting for the key to be returned to open his own safe!” She laughed hard at the notion that the god of the sea was hindered, basically, because he didn’t know the combination to his safe. “Once the key was returned, Poseidon reclaimed his property. The volcano under the Palace erupted and returned the center of Atlantis to the deep.”

“Are we in any danger?” Harry felt the rumblings of the volcanic aftershocks vibrating through the floor to his bed.

“Oh no, Signor Harry. We are very safe.” Barreto looked at his pale face, trying to assess his strength. He beckoned her to continue. “Any way, the Wasp towed us into the harbor and we met all the lost sailors from the Bermuda Triangle. Some had died during the transit. Dios Mio, remember how we almost died ourselves coming down?” He nodded. “The Wasp started the movement. Her sailors decided to settle here with the beautiful Amazons and help keep their society thriving. Over the years, they’ve been joined by the sailors who’ve found themselves here. The funny thing is, while they are here, no one ages. “

Harry thought about that fact and a noticeably bigger problem arose. “What about us? Will we be able to leave here?” He thought of Ginny and James and the idea of being stranded in this place, no matter how wonderful it was.

Barreto’s eyes narrowed. “I do not know.”

Harry closed his eyes. He would need to meet with Captain Blakeley himself.

***

He spent the next couple of days in and out of slumber. His routine became set where he would eat, then sleep, all the while the beautiful Diana would come and tend his wounds. The festering stopped after a while and he could see that the darkened flesh around the cut was beginning to lighten slowly. One morning, he felt strong enough to stand on his own. He rose from the bed and pulled on a pair of trousers that were hanging by the frame. He put on the matching robe and walked out into the greenish light of the day. He walked past the columns in the room and out onto a wide veranda. He spotted a tall, lanky figure dressed in blue military garb. Slowly, Harry walked up to the man and offered his hand to Captain Johnston Blakeley.

“Harry Potter.” Harry took his hand. The grip was firm, but not testing. Blakeley had coarse brown hair and wore a goatee on his chin. His eyes were a russet brown and weather lines accentuated them. He seemed genuinely happy to meet Harry.

“You gave us quite a scare, there.” He invited Harry to sit at a nearby table. Harry gladly accepted the invitation. The effort to walk out had been more tiring than he’d expected.

“I hear we have you to thank for our rescue.” Harry accepted the proffered beverage that Blakeley poured.

“Tosh, think nothing of it. I’m more than equally amazed that the five of you were able to get past the hydra. That was some bit of work.” He was friendly, and Harry instantly felt like he’d known the captain for years.

“You look pretty spry for someone who is almost two hundred years old.” Blakeley laughed at the comment.

“I suppose I do.” Blakeley’s gaze grew serious. “Captain Barreto says you have some concerns?”

“Captain...”

“Call me Johnston, please.”

“Johnston, in all the time you’ve been here, how come you never tried to go home?” Harry watched the man’s face. A small darkness passed quickly over his eyes and then he reverted to his pleasant face.

“We did try, but we didn’t know how. Now it’s too late.” Blakeley lowered his head. Harry’s gaze turned to fear. Were the stranded here? Blakeley saw the consternation in Harry’s face. “Oh no, no, Mr. Potter. We know how to get back; it’s just too late for me and my crew, for many reasons.”

“Call me Harry, please.” Blakeley nodded his thanks at the gesture. Harry couldn’t resist a small dig. “It’s the least I can do for a man your age.” Blakeley laughed and refilled Harry’s glass. Then, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small circular object and placed it on the table.

It was round and only four or five centimeters in diameter. It had a glass face and letters inside the face. It was a small compass, its needle pointed off over the horizon. “This was brought to us by a traveler almost sixty years ago. It points in the direction to travel to return to the portal.”

“Traveler? Did something happen to him? Why didn’t he use it to return?” Harry gazed at the small compass, thoughts of returning home dancing in his head.

Another voice echoed on the patio, in answer to his question. “The traveler was a woman, actually, and she didn’t return home because she fell in love with the tall sea captain who plucked her from the water.” Harry turned to see a woman enter the patio from a flight of steps near the end. She was athletic and fit. She had sandy-blonde hair trimmed to her neck and large curls. She was blessed with a wide, endearing smile and dancing pale blue eyes. She was wearing a toga, like most of the women in Metropolis. She walked over to their table and kissed Blakeley on the lips when he’d risen from his chair to greet her. Harry made an effort to stand.

“No, please, Mr. Potter. Save your strength. I’m married to this big lug of a man.” She pointed over her shoulder to Blakeley who was positively beaming. The woman reached out and offered her hand to Harry. “My name is Amelia. Amelia Earhart Blakeley.”

Harry let the air escape from his lips. Amelia Earhart had disappeared in 1937 while trying to circumnavigate the globe. While theories abounded about where she’d disappeared to, no one had definitively determined her fate, until now.

Harry glanced back at the compass. “Forgive me, Amelia, but how do you know this compass works? What’s so special about it?”

Earhart gave another laugh. “I’ve been back to the ‘real world’, Harry. I went back a few years after I disappeared to set my affairs in order. Unfortunately, the world was at war and I couldn’t take the risk of not being able to return. As to your other question, what’s special about it? It was given to me by a very dear friend. Nicola Tesla. He said it was special and he was right.”

“Tesla?”

“You know him?” Earhart grinned at him.

“I might have run across him in the past.” Harry made a mental note to ask Arthur to convey additional thanks to the diminutive former resident of Azkeban.

Blakeley rose once more. “You look exhausted, Harry. Why don’t you get more rest and we’ll talk again.”

“Wait, Johnston. Why can’t you go back?”

Blakeley shook his head. “We may not age here, Harry, but if I go back, I’d be two hundred and forty years old. This body would age immediately and I’d wither and die. My fate is here, with Amelia and my crew.”

Harry nodded and allowed Blakeley to assist him back to his room. Harry allowed sleep to overcome him once again, visions of compasses and Ginny whirling around in his dreams.

***

Blakeley escorted Harry to see his Aurors. He found Williamson in bed, with Muireall Innes at his side, carefully watching as the senior Auror went through his regimen of treatment. Harry found Manchester in a similar state, with the exception that Lockley was cuckolding him to take his medicine and to shape up. Harry didn’t even attempt to restrain his laughter at Manchester’s plight. Leonora met him outside Burby’s room. Harry thanked her for her courage, and she smiled at his progress.

Entering Burby’s room, Harry found the big man sitting with Diana. At first, Harry thought that she was caring for him much in the way she’d treated Harry, but they were holding hands and whispering to each other quietly. She jerked back and excused herself as Harry entered.

“How are you feeling?” Harry glanced over his bandages and met Burby’s stare. Burby looked like he wanted to say something, to declare something to Harry.

Harry knew immediately. “You’re not going to return with us, are you.”

“I’m sorry, Harry. I love her. She can’t come back with us, and well, Coombs was my best friend and only family back home. I’ve found peace here, with them and with her.” His eyes lowered, the fear of letting Harry down overcoming him.

“It’s all right, Monroe. I understand. I really do wish you well.” Harry reached down and shook Monroe Burby’s hand.

“Here, take these.” Burby held two Auror’s shields in his hands. One was Coombs and the other his own. When an Auror died or left the service, his shield was taken in order to commemorate their service.

Harry took up the shields then paused. He handed Burby back his talisman. “You’ll always be an Auror, Monroe. Take care of yourself.”

“Thanks, Harry. For everything.” Harry nodded and left the room.

***

The citizens of Metropolis turned out at the docks to wish the crew and passengers of the Discooperire farewell. Over a third of Captain Barreto’s remaining crew, all men, had decided to stay in Metropolis to start new lives. Captain Blakeley was turned out in his dress uniform and he stood with Amelia by his side to wish them well.

“Remember, Harry. You and your men will feel the effects of the bites for the next few months. The apple slices will help your recovery, but keep up the treatment.” He handed Harry a bag of golden apples. Harry looked them and raised his eyebrow. Blakeley laughed once more. “Come on Harry, everything here was predicated on the Labors of Heracles. Where do you think those apples came from?”

“They’re the apples of the Hesprides. The ones that the Ladon guarded.” Harry rolled his eyes, having missed the obvious answer.

“Right you are!” Blakeley’s laugh was shared by the assembled crowd on the dock.

Harry’s grew serious. “What about you? The Palace is gone, what will you do?”

“Harry, the Palace wasn’t our only duty. We guard Atlantis. You have no idea what’s here. The world’s not ready for its secrets. When it is, Atlantis will rise again.” Blakeley gave Harry one last handshake and ushered the ailing Auror up the gangplank.

On the quarterdeck, Muireall Innes stood by the wheel, Williamson sat nearby. “The ship is ready to get underway, Captain.”

Barreto looked off at the crew staying behind and waved. She turned to the vivacious first mate. “Very well, Number One, let’s get under way.”

Muireall guided the nose of the Discooperire away from the pier. The sails filled as the following gust moved them through the Colossus and out to sea. “Course heading, captain?”

Barreto looked down at the small compass in her hand. “Make your course three points off the starboard bow and let the wind take her.”

The Discooperire left the island of Atlantis behind them. After they’d crossed the horizon, the sky began to darken. An eddy current began to swirl. Knowing what to expect, Barreto prepared her crew. “We’re going home, everyone! Lash yourselves down!”

Harry found a spot near the railing and tied a line around his wrist. The wind swirled while the waters caught the ship in its grasp. The centrifugal force began to push down on him. The ship’s timbers groaned and creaked from the force. Soon, Harry blacked out, followed by the rest of the crew.

***

The room was black from the darkness. The night had come, like all the others and she slept alone in the bed. She’d put the baby down and spent hours trying to fall asleep. When her mind finally allowed her to sleep, she didn’t dream. She was afraid to dream because of what she might see. So her nights were dreamless, and lonely. Her anxiety was getting worse. It had been almost a month since her last contact with Harry. Everyone was on edge, and even the most optimistic of people were beginning to doubt that the mission had succeeded. She was afraid to dream, because she thought she’d see Harry die, and Ginny couldn’t bear to see that.

She started. “Ginny.” She heard Harry calling her, like a ghost from the grave. “Ginny.” She heard his voice again. “Ginny.” She sat up in her bed. She’d heard it distinctly. She turned to the end table and saw the mirror. She reached up and grabbed it.

“Harry?” She stared at the glass searching for his image. His green eyes shone through the reflective glass.

Her whole body shook as she took in his smile. He looked tired and ill, but his smile made her heart sing. His voice took her breath away and his words assured her that it was all right to dream again.

Harry spoke, his voice the only sound in the room. “Everything is taken care of. We’re on our way home.”

***A/N: Homeward bound, and no cliffie this time, whew.

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  #91  
Old October 5th, 2007, 8:10 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 92 – Journey’s End

A few miles up the coast from Plymouth there is a small, rocky inlet shrouded in mist. The surf crashed against the treacherous rocks below and an ancient lighthouse warned passing ships against approaching the unpredictable channel. Dusk was approaching and the high cliffs cast the beach below in shadows, relatively obscuring the crowd who’d gathered there. A tall man with long red hair wearing flowing black robes stood at the end of a long dark pier that ran out into the inlet from the beach. The man waved his wand and the mist parted from around the pier. He began a slow stroll onto the weathered planking and made his way to where the end of the quay met the water. Several of the gathered throng followed him out, but gave him some space to finish his task.

He peered anxiously out beyond the entrance to the little cove, his eyes rapidly growing accustomed to the fading light. The sun was setting on the western horizon bathing the cloudy night sky in an explosion of reds, pinks and yellows. The man reached into the sleeves of his robe and drew out an ash wand and held it before him.

“Flagrate!” His voice was loud and confident. A fine line of flame burst from his wand and hung suspended in the air. He moved the tip of his wand in the sky, drawing the large outline of a letter ‘X’ which remained as fiery beacon in the night sky. Calmly, he replaced the wand in his sleeve and gazed once more to the horizon. Two figures broke from the crowd and walked up to where he stood. One had long brown hair with large bouncy curls. She had the tell-tale bulge of a woman who was late into the second trimester of carrying a child. She walked up beside the man and put her arm through the crook of his elbow while she carefully laid her head on his shoulder. The other figure was a woman who also looked to be with child. Her hair was a vivid auburn which seemed both wild and controlled at the same time. She was carrying a small child, who seemed a little over a year old. The child was ogling the fiery mark the man had made. He pointed up with glee and gurgled in delight.

“Do you see them yet?” Ginny playfully grabbed James’ hand and helped him point to the beacon.

Ron Weasley gave his wife, Hermione a small peck on the lips and turned to his sister. “I think I see a light out there. It could be them.”

Ginny scanned the horizon and caught the briefest speck of light in the distance. With the darkness rapidly approaching, it was difficult to make out any shapes, but the lights seemed to remain constant and were growing larger as whatever carried them drew near. After a few minutes, the lights began to shimmer around the dim outlines of a ship, its masts towering above the sea and its sails billowing as the ocean wind pushed it home. The sky around the vessel burst into spontaneous explosions as multi-tinted fireworks were launched from the deck of the ship. James’ attention was immediately drawn to the display.

“Boot.” He pointed at the ship as it entered the channel between the massive cliffs marking the entrance to the cove.

“That’s right, James. It’s a boat.” Ginny smiled, her own anticipation growing as the now she could clearly see the ship and the scurrying bodies on its deck. Aloft, sailors were reining in the canvas of the sea-going sails and slowing the brig for its approach to the dock. “Daddy is on that boat.”

“Da?” James looked at her, his face lit in expectation and delight. He looked once more at the ship, for once, ignoring the light show. James jabbed his pointer finger out once more, this time emphatically. “Da!”

Ginny looked out once more and followed James’ finger towards the bow of the ship. She spotted a figure standing near the bow, one arm holding on to part of the boat’s rigging to steady himself. She could make out a smile on the pale face of the man and in the reflection of the bright bursts of the fireworks, could swear she saw hints of green reflected off the glasses perched on his nose. Ginny held her breath, her heart racing. She didn’t hear the brass band behind her kick off its triumphant march. She didn’t hear James’ repeated cries of “Da!” Instead, she saw Harry growing nearer and nearer. Her pulse raced, yet she was calm, almost relieved. The prow of the ship nosed gracefully towards the dock and settled in to an easy approach. She could see him clearly now. Harry Potter and the brig, Discooperire, were finally home.

***

The dock instantly became a hive of chaos as the final line was tied to secure the Discooperire to its mooring. The roar of the crowd touched the crew and they returned the greetings in earnest. A gangplank was extended and touched the dock with authority. Immediately, Arthur Weasley trailed closely by his son Percy and John Dawlish walked up the length of the board and hopped aboard the ship. Captain Barreto, Muireall Innes and Harry, as well as the surviving members of the Auror team stood on the main deck to greet them. Arthur extended his hand to the captain.

“Welcome home!” Arthur greeted each in turn. “I’m looking forward to your report. It’s good to have you back.”

“It cost us dearly, Minister.” Captain Barreto looked over the remainder of her crew that had returned with her. Arthur looked around as well. The Discooperire had come home with less than half of her original complement and minus three of the seven Aurors who’d started the trip.

“I understand. Well, let’s not tarry long.” Arthur raised his voice. “Thank you, everyone! Now, if we are to avoid a riot, your families are waiting for you! There’ll be time enough later for speeches.”

The crew applauded once more. Muireall Innes looked over at Captain Barreto. “Shore leave, Captain?” The gorgeous captain pursed her full lips together and smiled. With a nod, Muireall’s delicious Scottish lilt rang out through the ship. “Shore leave is granted!” Almost at once, the crew began to file off what had been their home for almost three months.

Dawlish walked over to where Harry was standing. The former Auror noticed that Harry as well as Williamson and Manchester were barely able to stand. Each was bedecked in a myriad of bandages. Although an owl had been sent once the Discooperire was in range of the coastline, the extent of their injuries had not been fully appreciated. Combined with the fact that both Steuben and Coombs had fallen and Burby had ‘retired’, Dawlish felt a certain emptiness at their plight.

“I’m going to give the team an extended leave.” Harry spoke for the first time. The weakness of his voice could not hide the iron in his spine. “They need time to recover.” Harry’s voice fell an octave as the effort still taxed him.

“As do you, I suspect.” Dawlish watched as Harry bade farewell to his Aurors. Muireall Innes came over to the group. She stopped near Harry and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. With a nod to the others, she placed Williamson’s arm over her shoulder and guided him to the gangway. Together, they walked off with her whispering in his ear. Even in the fading light, Harry could see his cheeks redden and his ashen face break into a smile.

“Since Leonora is fit, can she handle the expense reports?” Manchester’s arm was around Lockley. “I’d hate to have face the Auditor in such a weakened state.” Before Leonora could get in a response, Manchester grunted from where Lockley’s elbow ‘accidentally’ made contact with his one uninjured rib. “Sorry.” Sean Manchester gave another grunt and allowed Lockley to help him to the dock.

“You need the break, too, Leonora. I don’t want to hear of you coming back any earlier than a month.” Harry drew a deep breath in order to emphasize his orders. Leonora made to argue. “You did well but not all scars are physical. Get your mind rested; there’ll be work enough in the future.”

“Thanks for everything, Harry.” Leonora smiled and turned to leave. She paused and turned back to him. “Do you think we’ll ever see Monroe again?”

“I wouldn’t bet against it. Who knows?” Harry smiled at her. She turned for the gangway. A loud voice called her name. A tall, graying man in a tweed suit raised his hand to catch her attention, beside him, a tall boy dressed in a Hogwarts uniform adorned with a Ravenclaw crest bolted from the crowd and plunged her in an embrace. Harry turned to Dawlish. “Nice touch, having her family meet her here.”

Dawlish shrugged. “What can I say, I have an in with the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at the school.” Harry laughed and smiled once more as Captain Barreto neared.

“Ah, Signor Harry! Let me help you off my ship.” Before he could protest, she pulled his arm around her and directed him towards the ramp. Without protest, he shuffled down and searched the crowd for Ginny. She was nearby and set James down on the pier.

“Da!” He ran as fast as his little legs would propel him and practically leapt into Harry’s arms. Harry basked in his son’s excitement and gripped him as much as he could. Captain Barreto stood to the side as Ginny approached. Harry turned and kissed his wife deeply. His legs became unsteady and Ginny reached an arm around his waist to support him. Harry nodded over to Barreto.

“Ginny, I’d like you to meet Captain Barreto, commander of the Discooperire.” Barreto gave an exaggerated bow and embraced Ginny.

“Muito prazer! I am glad to meet you, finally.” Her smile broadened as a man dressed in a fine three piece suit approached. “Ah, Signor Harry. Este e meu marido. This is my husband, Raimundo.” He was reserved, yet his dark eyes were glittering as if he were in on a good joke. He shook Harry and Ginny’s hands. With a smile, he extended his arm to his wife to escort her away. Captain Adelina Herminia Liliana Virginia Barreto gave Harry a large embrace and a loud kiss on his cheek. Her eyes twinkled. “Tchau! Harry Potter. We will meet again! Bom divertimento!”

Harry’s face blushed uncontrollably. All he could manage was, “You too.”

The bombastic and stylish captain sauntered off the pier on the arm of her husband. James pointed at her and smiled.

“Pitty lady!”

Ginny looked at the receding figure of the beautiful Brazilian bombshell and then looked at her husband. “Yes, Harry. ‘Pitty Lady’, indeed.” Her gaze told Harry that he had some ‘splainin to do.

After a minute, they were joined by the rest of Ginny’s family. Harry made a careful effort to greet everyone and offer a few words of conversation. Even though he was putting up a front that was hardly noticed, Ginny saw him struggling to keep up. She’d been told that he’d been injured, but she watched his every move and every twitch. She noticed how he favored one leg over the other and how his shoulder seemed to be twinge every time he moved. She knew in a glance, that he’d been hurt more badly than he had let on. He was barely standing, and trying to not let anyone notice, but she did. She knew right away that she had to get him home.

She interposed herself between Harry and her family. Taking James from Harry’s arms, she made excused them from the exuberant Weasley clan and guided him down the pier. Hermione, being the only other person in the group who could really read him, diverted the rest from following under the pretense of asking about a Welcome Home party for the next Sunday Dinner. Ginny gave her sister-in-law a grateful look. The Potters made it to the end of the dock where they stopped.

“Kreacher!” The stooped, gray house-elf appeared in a flash.

“Yes, Mistress Ginny?” Kreacher gave a nod to James who was applauding his appearance. Kreacher noticed Harry standing nearby and bowed deeply. “Master Harry, it is so good to have you home.” Kreacher immediately noticed Harry’s discomfort and agony. Taking in the bandages and his master’s wan complexion, Kreacher quickly looked at Ginny.

Ginny nodded slightly. “Can you take James home? I’ll get his father back. Harry needs a lot of rest and we are going to make sure he gets it.”

Kreacher offered Ginny a smile while taking a delighted James in his arms. “Kreacher will make sure Master Harry rests, even if it kills him.” With that, the house-elf disappeared with James in tow.

Harry looked over a Ginny and smiled. Rapidly, a puzzled look came over his face. “Wait a minute. Did Kreacher just make a joke?”

Ginny laughed and took his hand. The confused expression was still on Harry’s face as they winked out of sight.

***A/N: Hello everyone! I just wanted to say a few words about this fic and what my intentions are for it. Right now it's up to 217,691 words and 346 pages in MS Word. That is way more than I'd ever expected to be able to write, especially since this is my first attempt at fiction. I thought I'd be out of ideas by now.

That is not the case. My intent is to go ahead and take it up the epilogue. I've got several more arcs that I am researching, so stay tuned. I will continue the focus on Harry and Ginny.

When this fic is done, I'm leaving the possibility open to start new fics about the other characters. My thought is to continue the "A History of Magic" theme with concentration on Hermione and Ron and Teddy Lupin. I want to finish this one first.

So here's the deal. As long as someone reads it, I'll keep writing it. When the stories get too wierd, or lack imaginiation, we're going to close it out. Fair enough?

Believe it or not, the key element for me is the feedback, because it tells me that people are reading and what people want to see. It's an interactive format. I do take everything to heart, including adding characters based on the "fan club". So keep it up! This chapter was intended to tone things down and answer some questions. I'm going to try to take the weekend off, but who knows, if the Gators lose again this weekend, I may just have to pick up the old laptop and start pecking away.

Thanks!

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  #92  
Old October 8th, 2007, 3:37 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 93 – Harry Potter’s Day Off

Two weeks passed as Harry tried to return to life at home. Ginny and Kreacher hovered over him daily to ensure that his treatment for the cursed wounds he’d suffered from the hydra’s bite was properly administered. The depth of his injury shocked Ginny. Whenever she helped him pull the bandages off, she’d fight to not shudder at how massive the tear in his shoulder was. The skin, while still dark, had lightened quite a bit, but she still struggled at how much damage there had been. The losses had been staggering, and Harry used great effort to provide comfort to his team and to his friends who were trying to understand the journey he’d just returned from. He was still ashen and every day was a constant struggle for Harry to even perform the most mundane of tasks. Despite warning his own people to rest, Harry Potter refused to grant himself the respite his body so sorely needed. He would pour through paperwork and force himself to attend to the day to day operations of the Office of Aurors. Ginny resolved herself to getting Harry a day off, even if she had to hurt him to get it done.

Harry’s eyes opened to the familiar confines of his bedroom. His shoulder ached, like it usually did and he steeled himself for the pain and effort it would take to get him through the day. He turned his head to look at Ginny and saw that she was not in the bed next to him. Slightly puzzled, he figured that she had risen early to take care of James. He raised his torso up and rose out of bed. Making his way to the bathroom, he stood in front of the sink and carefully studied the wounds healing around his shoulder and chest. Slowly, he began to unravel the gauze covering the main wound on his shoulder. It had drained more than usual, last night, and it felt like every ounce of the poison that left his body seemed to depart with a sharp pain. He winced, but was able to remove the bandage and clean the wound. He reached for the bowl on the side of the sink where Kreacher placed newly ground apple pieces for his treatment. Carefully, he treated the wound and put on a fresh bandage. He pulled on a tee-shirt and walked downstairs to the kitchen.

He was immediately struck by the silence in the house. Usually, there was a frenetic chaos that accompanied the morning ritual of feeding and clothing a toddler for his day. There was none of that. Harry walked to the table, where a large and still steaming breakfast was laid out for him. Harry smiled and sat down. On the empty plate in front of him, there was a large, manila envelope. His name was scrawled on the outside of the envelope in the light, flowing handwriting of his wife. He took a sip of his coffee and opened the envelope. Inside was a fresh piece of parchment with more of her handwriting.

“Harry,

Today, you are taking the day off. I’ve discussed this with Dawlish and my father and you will be clapped in irons if you show up at the Ministry. You NEED a day where you simply do nothing. Should you get bored, I’ve enclosed some tickets to the Chudley Cannons versus Puddlemere United (Chudley may break the streak this year!) Oliver is starting so it should be exciting. I’ve taken James to my mother’s house and I’ve got to catch Holyhead versus Tutshill.

Whatever you decide to do, you will not be allowed to work. Have you ever had a day off, Harry? Simply stated, you do whatever you want to do. If you decide to sleep all day, than do that. I want you to enjoy yourself. We’ll see you for dinner around seven and you can tell us all about it.

I love you.

Ginny”

Harry turned the end of the envelope over and dumped out two Quidditch tickets for today’s match. He smiled and contemplated this turn of events.

“A day off,” he mused silently to himself. He smiled and started feasting on the spread of food before him. “What to do?”

***

Harry showered and changed into jeans and a tee-shirt. He’d thought about lazing around for a while, but sitting idle just wasn’t in his nature. He grabbed a coat and walked out into the crisp fall air. The leaves were changing and a cool breeze was filtering through the park across the street. He decided to walk for a bit and soak in the atmosphere of a city in full swing. He put his hands in his pocket and strolled leisurely through the park. Exiting the other side of the park, he hailed a passing taxi. He arrived at the Leaky Cauldron and nodded to some of the familiar faces of the patrons. He walked through and proceeded on to Diagon Alley. His pace was unhurried and he allowed the sounds of the street vendors and sidewalk cafés to permeate his brain. Eventually, he found himself at Flourish and Blott’s. Spying a familiar face, he walked over and greeted the clerk.

“Hello, Beatrice.” The tall woman behind the counter allowed her face to transform from a scowl to a smile as she recognized Harry.

“Harry! How are you feeling?” The woman who was dating Harry’s cousin Dudley walked from around the counter and gave Harry a careful hug. “It’s good to see you out and about.”

Harry smiled. “Listen, Beatrice, do you have anything I could read, just for fun?” Beatrice thought for a moment. On one date with Dudley, they’d gone to a large chain book store located in the middle of a muggle shopping mall. She’d been astounded by the selection of items that ranged outside of the normal school curriculum or magical reference. “Leisure-reading” was a market she was trying to convince the owners of Flourish and Blott’s to try to attract. Of course, wizards and witches could go and buy pulp novels from those self-same big box stores, but Beatrice was convinced there was a market for magically-animated novels. Consequently, she was overjoyed when Harry came up and asked for some help.

“I think we might be able to find something to catch your eye. Is there any subject, in particular, you’re interested in?” Harry shook his head. Beatrice led him to a new section of the store which contained rows and rows of books. The section was heavy with traffic, as Beatrice’s idea caught on with a good number of the patrons. Beatrice walked down one aisle and stopped. “How about a good sea adventure complete with pirates and sea monsters?” Harry rolled his eyes slightly and she quickly realized her error and apologized. Trying quickly to move beyond her error, she walked over to another section labeled as “Mysteries”. She gave Harry a quick look and he gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. He’d had his fill of mystery for now.

She paused for a moment and snapped her fingers. She went to a corner of the section and pointed. The sign read “Quidditch”. Harry’s eyebrows rose an inch. Beatrice handed him a brightly adorned tome that showed the Gryffindor Crest with players on broomsticks flying around it. Harry smiled as he read the title.

“Quidditch My Way: From the Hogwarts House Cup to the World Cup by Oliver Wood.”

“This is perfect.” Harry laughed and followed Beatrice to the counter. He paid for the purchase and walked out the door, holding the book in front of him. “I didn’t even know that Oliver could write.” He chuckled at his own joke and continued his stroll down the alley. Eventually, he got to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and made his way through the throng at the door.

“Harry!” Verity was ensconced behind the counter assisting the line of people. “George is in the back!” Harry nodded and smiled. With a wave, he pushed his way through the crowd. He reached the door to the stockroom and walked in. He found George, Lee and Dudley sitting at a long table with Isabella Ramirez and Dean Thomas sitting across from them. The discussion did not seem to be going well for the entrepreneurs.

“But they are extraordinary defense articles!” George’s high pitched nasally voice rang through the room.

A rapid-fire response returned his wail. “Por favor, tell me what defensive purpose this, how do you say? ‘Nosebleed Nougat’ serves? I may be a muggle, but do not think that I am stupid, Senor Weasley.”

Lee and Dudley seemed to have stopped trying to repress their laughter at George’s plight. George glared at Dean as if this situation had been his fault. In some ways, it had. Dean shrugged his shoulders. This was how Isabella handled things and besides, she was extremely hot when she was auditing someone. Dean felt the better part of valor was his continued silence.

“Harry!” Dudley noticed his entrance and rose to shake his cousin’s hand. Lee was immediately behind him while Isabella and Dean stood to greet him as well. Only George seemed to be oblivious to Harry’s appearance and had his nose touching a line of figures on a parchment. After a moment, George noticed Harry and pulled at the Head of the Office of Aurors.

“Harry, tell them, no, tell HER that we do a lot of business with the Ministry and that these things were needed.” George shoved an invoice into Harry’s hand. Harry barely looked at the items on the list. Dean had a worried look on his face, afraid that a confrontation between the hero of the Ministry of Magic and his obstinate girlfriend could not end well. A small trace of doubt passed over Isabella’s face. She didn’t doubt that she was right, but she was hesitant to be as forthright with Harry, who was still hurt. Harry looked right at Isabella and smiled.

“I’m sorry George, but the Minister has given Isabella full discretion here. My hands are tied.” Harry handed his dumbfounded brother-in-law the paper and made for the back door. “Besides, today is my day off; I’m not handling any official matters today, per Ginny’s orders.” He opened the door and turned to Dudley. “I saw Beatrice today and she says ‘hi’. Ta ta, everyone.” Harry left the auditors and their quarry to their work.

***

Harry appeared outside the Hog’s Head Inn in Hogsmeade. He walked in the renovated establishment and smiled over at Aberforth Dumbledore, its proprietor. Ever since Leonora and Sarah’s battle and subsequent capture here, Aberforth had set about fixing his old bar and inn. The result was a larger, slightly cleaner version of its former self. He didn’t want another Three Broomsticks. The original Hog’s Head was a reflection of him and so he made the new Hog’s Head almost the same, only bigger.

“Wha’ brings you this way, Harry?” Aberforth was busily cleaning a mug with a dirty dishrag.

“Day off, Aberforth. I think I’ll just sit and have a pint, if you don’t mind.” Harry took a seat by the window and propped open his book.

Aberforth grunted and poured some ale out of a tap and walked it over to the table. “Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.” When Harry began to dig into his pocket to pay for the drink, Aberforth waved him off. “Save it. Just remember, you owe me the story about Atlantis.”

Harry nodded his thanks and promised he’d tell the odd younger brother of Albus Dumbledore everything about the trip. Just not today, because today was his day off. He gratefully accepted the tankard the barman left him and opened his book. He whiled away the time, laughing at snippets that the erstwhile braggadocio’s had written. His selection of Harry to seek for the Gryffindor squad was an entire chapter unto itself. Oliver was especially forthright in detailing Ginny’s remarkable catch of the Snitch in the epic match pitting Puddlemere United against Holyhead. There was even a chapter on his ongoing relationship with Gwenog Jones. Harry lost himself in the writing until the large grandfather clock near the door chimed two o’clock. With a sigh, he closed the book and walked out the door. He had one stop to make and then he would head to the match.

***

“Tickets?” Harry handed over the two tickets and walked Teddy into the grandstand. It was a bright day and young Teddy was festooned in the colors of the Chudley Cannons.

“Uncle Ron is going to be so crazed when I tell him I got to go!” Teddy’s brain was going through a myriad of scenarios of how he’d tell the only other Chudley Cannon fan that he knew. Chudley was making a remarkable run at the league title. They were undefeated, thus far in the season, and Puddlemere was their only obstacle to advancing to the next level of play. For their part, Puddlemere had gone through a rebuilding season, but had acquitted themselves well, in no small part because of the fine play of their new captain, Oliver Wood.

Harry smiled at his godson. Part of him wanted to chide the youngster to not make fun of people, while another part was anticipating seeing the look on Ron’s face when he found out his sister had given away the two most coveted tickets of the season to Harry and Teddy. “It’s my day off.” Harry thought. He’d think about that later.

The match was advertised, hallmarked by superior defense at the keeper position. Oliver and the Chudley keeper matched miraculous stop with miraculous stop. After several hours, the match was deadlocked, nil to nil. The beaters were slapping bludgers about and several key players were injured, but refused to leave the pitch. The ebbs and flows of the match swept Harry and Teddy up in its momentum. Both seekers had opportunities to catch the snitch, but each time, the other seeker or beaters would stop their efforts. As twilight was approaching, Harry watched the Chudley seeker complete a barrel roll and inverted loop to grasp the snitch, giving the match to the Cannons. For the first time in almost two hundred years, the Chudley Cannons stood atop first place in the league. Harry escorted Teddy to the area where fans could meet their favorite players and Teddy’s hair alternated from orange to black as he got the autographs of the Cannons’ starting lineup.

“Harry!” Harry turned and saw Oliver Wood approaching from his side of the pitch.

“Tough one, that, Oliver. Your boys played well.” Oliver shrugged his shoulders.

“What can you do about it? They had to get better one day.” Oliver nodded over at the Cannons who were basking in the limelight.

Harry turned to Teddy. “Teddy, I’d like you to meet Oliver Wood.”

The wide-eyed boy came over and nervously shook Oliver’s hand. “Y-you know Oliver Wood?” Teddy was confused, his hero worship for his godfather competing with meeting one of the more well-known players in the game. For his part, Oliver gave the young fan a bright smile.

“Do I know Harry? I taught him everything he knows. He was a passable seeker in his day.” Harry rolled his eyes, but the words had a magnetic impact on the boy.

“You taught Harry to be a seeker?” The awe in Teddy’s voice was readily apparent. “What about Aunt Ginny?”

“Your Aunt Ginny has talent. I’m glad I don’t have to play her anymore. She’s the best Quidditch player with a Potter or Weasley name. How old are you Teddy? When do you start Hogwarts?” Oliver gave the boy a quick wink.

“I’m almost nine.” Teddy beamed. Harry smiled at him, part of his brain reflecting on how old Teddy was getting. He was a little outside of two years from starting Hogwarts.

“I’m going to play Quidditch for Gryffindor, just like my favorite player.” Harry smiled inwardly, humbled by his godson’s desire to emulate him.

Oliver chuckled. “Really, and what position would you like to play?”

Teddy beamed. “I’m going to be a keeper, just like you were!” Harry tried to hide his gaping mouth as he realized that Teddy’s hero worship had taken a slight shift. Oliver laughed heartily and signed the copy of his book that Teddy handed him. Harry joined in the laughter and checked his watch. With a wave to Oliver, he led Teddy away, and started making towards home. All in all, it had been a good day. He made a note to himself to ask Ginny to pull some of the Prophet articles about his Quidditch days.

“Come on, Teddy. Let’s go home.” Harry grabbed Teddy’s hand and apparated away.

As they were disappearing, Teddy looked at Harry. “You never said you actually KNEW Oliver Wood…”


***A/N: Well my Gators lost...I may have to take GinnyIsGenius' advice and write during the weekend. (I hate it when she's right...)

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Old October 9th, 2007, 3:33 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 94 – Adulthood

Time passed quickly and found Harry and his team making rapid progress in their respective recoveries. Fall passed into winter, and Christmas with the Potters was something special with James starting to understand the goings on around him. The Weasley family Christmas was hallmarked by a particularly raucous party where George announced his engagement to Verity. Unfortunately for George, he made the announcement after Teddy Lupin had given him a pair of binoculars as a gift. Teddy had been ably assisted by Dudley and Lee in lining the eyepieces with a particularly resilient magical black ink. When George made the bold announcement, he was unaware of the dark circles around his eyes which made him look like a raccoon confessing his love for the woman at his side.

The family was ecstatic for George, glad that he’d found someone that complemented his personality and charm. Verity Hopkins was a strong-willed woman, an orphan, who’d found her niche in the business world. She embraced Weasley’s Wheezes and its peculiar lines of products. She found ways to expand its offerings and its customer base. With Dudley in the lead, they’d opened muggle-based stores that sold innocuous gag gifts that appealed to all. Most of all, she adored George. Despite his bluster and bravado, she saw into his heart. She recognized the underlying pain that Fred’s death had on George and how he compensated for his grief. She saw through all that and saw much more. In short, of any person George knew since his brother, Verity ‘got’ George, and now, they were going to be together forever.

Christmas passed and New Year’s Eve was upon them. Harry found himself walking the halls of Hogwarts, taking in the paintings, interacting with the specters and poltergeists of his youth. He made his way up a staircase to the second floor and found himself in front of a large door. He knocked loudly and entered when he heard a voice beckon him from within. Harry entered a room and remembered the many times he’d been here. From Lockhart to Lupin, Crouch-Moody to Umbridge, he had a plethora of memories of this place, good and bad. Harry made his way inside and saw a tall dark-skinned man standing at a far window. Harry made his way over to the man and joined him in his reverie. The man was bald with a large gold hoop ear ring dangling from his ear. He was dressed in a finely tailored three piece wool suit finished by a silk Gryffindor House tie. He stood with his hands behind his back and was staring at the winter landscape beyond. They were facing south, the mountains behind the lake covered in a new blanket of powdery snow. Harry could barely make out the lines of the Quidditch pitch as the snow had filled in every nook and cranny of the structure.

Without taking his eyes off the pastoral scene, Kingsley Shacklebolt spoke in a low, soothing voice. “Happy New Year’s, Harry.”

“Happy New Year’s to you, Kingsley.” Harry smiled at the former Minister of Magic. The décor in the room was orderly and neat, yet warm and personal. There were mementos of his time in the Aurors’ Office as well as his tenure as Minister of Magic. Centered upon his desk was a picture of the Order of the Phoenix, before the Battle in the Department of Mysteries. Kingsley figure was standing right next to Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. Harry allowed himself a brief tinge of regret, but his smile quickly returned.

“You’re more than welcome to join us, if you like.” Harry was wearing a tuxedo, complete with black tie and matching cumber bun. “With the numbers increasing, we felt it only fair that members of the Order of the Phoenix be included.”

For the first time since Harry had entered the room, Kingsley turned and looked in his direction. “That would be nice, my wife and I would be delighted to attend.” Kingsley turned and made his way back to his desk. He motioned for Harry to take a seat. “How are you feeling, Harry? Are you fully recovered?”

“Just about. I still have some weakness in my shoulder, but I’m feeling much better, thanks for asking.” Harry took a seat in one of the comfortable chairs opposite Kingsley’s desk. “You didn’t ask me to come up here to ask about my health, what’s up?”

The Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts smiled and held up his hands in mock surrender. “I sometimes forget that you aren’t the same boy I knew all those years ago. You’re right Harry, I did want to talk to you about something. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about two things.” Kingsley saw Harry’s look of concern and rebuffed him immediately. “Oh no, it’s nothing earth shattering or evil. I figured since you were here, I’d ask you personally.”

Harry looked over at his old friend and breathed a sigh of relief. In many ways, Harry’s motivation to be an Auror had been inspired, in a small way, by the Kingsley’s approach to the job. Harry was curious as to what Kingsley needed.

“Harry, I was wondering if I could get you to come back and give a couple of lectures to my fifth and seventh year students. I think it would be helpful for them to hear from you before they take their O.W.L.S. or N.E.W.T.s. Besides, it never hurts to have the Head of the Office Aurors to emphasize a teaching point.” Kingsley chuckled, but Harry was mulling over the request.

“Are you sure, Kingsley? Maybe Dawlish or Lachlan would be better suited to speak on those subjects. As you know, since I missed my seventh year, I had to make up my N.E.W.T.s. I don’t know what I would say.” Harry and his friends had crammed over the summer after Voldemort’s defeat and had managed to pass the Nastily Exhausting Wizards Tests only by a small margin.

“Harry, I can teach the theoretical, but the practical requires some extreme motivation. I can think of no one better qualified to speak to why students need the skills you used to defeat Voldemort. I’d be very appreciative.” Kingsley smiled as Harry nodded yes.

“You said there were two things you wanted to discuss?” Harry glanced at the timepiece hanging from the ceiling; it was almost time for him to return to the Room of Requirement. The party was starting.

“Right, you owled me to make an assessment of Mortimer Gafney as a potential Auror candidate upon his graduation.” Harry remembered asking Kingsley to take a look at Silas Hornsby’s friend. “I don’t know about his past, but the boy is exceptional, Harry. He’s brilliant and intuitive.”

“What about his heart, Kingsley?” Harry related the first meeting he’d had with the juvenile delinquent so many years ago. “I’m trying to see if he’s truly changed.”

“People can change, Harry. I believe that Mr. Gafney has changed, too. If you are asking for my opinion, if Mr. Gafney passes his N.E.W.T.s, which I have no doubt that he will, then I will recommend him for entry into the Office of Aurors.”

In Harry’s mind, an endorsement from Kingsley Shacklebolt was as good as a golden ticket. He let Kingsley know that he’d look for Mortimer Gafney’s application over the summer. The two friends shook hands and agreed to see each other at the party.

***

Harry made his way back to the Room of Requirement and found the party in full swing. Harry walked through the raised foyer and made a scan of the room. The dance floor was situated below him and several couples were dancing a reel to the time of the ghostly orchestra situated high in the rafters. This year, the P.A. had opted to expand the guest list to all those who fought against Voldemort. This included the members of the Order of the Phoenix. Harry saw Arthur and Molly Weasley dancing together. Molly was wearing a royal blue dress and her hair was carefully coifed to reflect the occasion. Arthur was guiding her through the dance, his eyes never leaving hers and a broad smile seemed to stretch from his face to her own. Other members of the Weasley clan dotted the room. Charlie Weasley was dancing with a tall, exotic looking woman who delicate features were hallmarked by a black eyepatch over her left eye. The story was that she was a dragon-keeper, like Charlie and they’d met in the hinterlands of Romania, chasing dragon egg poachers.

Bill and Fleur were engaged in conversation near one of the window seats, apparently winded from dancing. Fleur was resplendent in a golden gown which concealed the fact that they were expecting their second child as well. Verity was standing near the punchbowl, her arms crossed and she was busily scolding George. After a moment, George, with a decidedly guilty look on his face, handed over a vial of liquid to his fiancé and gave her a sheepish grin. Apparently, to Harry’s trained eye, George had been intent on spiking the punch with something and Verity was having none of his high jinks, especially as she stood there looking resplendent in her light blue gown. It appeared as if George took a second look at his bride to be and smiled, his face flushing slightly. With very un-georgelike tenderness, he placed a soft kiss on her cheek, eliciting a radiant smile from the tow-headed woman. She returned his kiss and allowed him to guide her to the dance floor as a slower tempo song began to play.

A voice from behind him caused Harry to jump a bit. He turned to find Neville Longbottom entering the room. On his arm, Jennifer Crabtree walked beside him, her eyes dancing at the wonder of the event, but never drifting far from Neville’s face.

“Harry! I’m on time this year!” Neville offered his hand to Harry and the two friends shared a laugh. “You remember Jennifer, now that Professor Trelawny has retired, she’s the new Divination Professor.”

“I remember, it’s so good you could come.” Jennifer offered a shy curtsey and smiled. She was tall, almost a half a head taller than Harry. Her raven hair flowed freely down to her shoulders and her brown eyes were dancing in the party lights.

“Thank you for having me. This is the only time I can get Nevie Wevie to dance with me.” It was Neville’s turn to blush. She turned to him, seemingly unaware of his discomfort. “Let’s dance, Nevie Wevie.”

Harry touched Neville’s arm and leaned into his friend’s ear. “Nevie Wevie?”

All Neville could do was shrug his shoulders before Jennifer bodily dragged him out on the dance floor, finding a spot next to Dennis and Cho Creevey. Dennis’ massive arms were wrapped around his delicate bride. They were oblivious to the rest of the party, as if they were hearing music being played only for them. Dennis gazed into Cho’s eyes and laughed a bit. They were sharing a joke only known to the two of them. After a moment, Dennis reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a long jewelry box. Cho opened the box and saw a bright bejeweled necklace. Squealing in delight, Cho kissed Dennis deeply and then asked him to place the diamond strand around her delicate neck. With one more kiss, she pulled him over to one of the many intimate window seats arranged by the room for the party. It had suddenly dawned on Harry that tonight was the Creevey’s first wedding anniversary, which probably explained the gift.

Couples. Harry allowed that single thought to pervade his meditation. This New Years, far more than the others was marked by the number of couples that had been formed since their time at Hogwarts. Everyone was moving on with their lives and finding out what it meant to be bound to someone by the heart. Adulthood was not determined by how independent one was, but by how one fared in matters of the heart. Loneliness was a bitter thing, but its direct opposite was the ability to find someone that complemented you perfectly. All around, examples of that concept abounded.

“Hello, Harry.” He turned to find Luna Lovegood standing nearby. Behind her, a rail-thin, smallish man stood, his eyes fixed on Harry.

“Luna!” Harry reached down and embraced his old friend. He turned and shook the hand of Luna’s companion. “Hello, Nathan. I saw the revision you did on your grandfather’s book. It was very well done.”

Nathan Scamander beamed. “I couldn’t have done it without help from your team. The creatures you encountered on the trip to Atlantis were worth a chapter all by themselves.”

“Really Nathan, you had no problem putting the ceto in your silly book, but you make no mention of the Crumple-horned Snorkacks.” Harry stifled a laugh as Nathan gave a small roll of his eyes.

“You know how pressure from the Ministry to publish Harry’s exploits made me have to delay my Snorkack article, dear.” Harry marveled at how adeptly Nathan had soothed Luna’s funk. There was definitely a future for them. “Now come, let’s dance.” With a nod to Harry, the couple moved out onto the dance floor, narrowly avoiding Seamus Finnegan and Parvati Patil, who were locked together in a tight embrace, a far cry from the manic nature of Seamus’ normal dancing. Harry shook his head; even Seamus was not invulnerable to the steadying charms of a woman.

Harry noticed Dean and Isabella dancing with a noticeable Latin flair. Apparently, in addition to his Spanish lessons, Dean had enrolled in dancing lessons as well. As the music paced, they sauntered around in variations of the mambo and salsa with Dean admirably leading her around the dance floor. She was dressed in a vibrant red cocktail dress, her dark tresses winding about her bare shoulders offset by her tan complexion. Her eyes never left Dean, who managed to match her gaze as they whirled about the room. At one point, Dean dipped her towards the floor and stole a kiss before lifting her up. She smiled wickedly and allowed him to spin her in towards his body. As their foreheads met, she grasped the back of his head and kissed him deeply. For a moment, Dean seemed to lose control and forget the next steps in their dance. He didn’t seem to mind, since his fire brand of a girlfriend was his entire world and he loved when she was this close to him.

Off to the side, Lee Jordan and his new bride, Sarah, stood talking with Dudley and Beatrice. Sarah was dressed in a small black dress and seemed to hang on her husband’s shoulder, a dreamy, newlywed expression on both of their faces. Harry thought back to when he’d first met the shy, insecure girl who was now one of his most confident and trustworthy Aurors. On the surface, they made an odd pair, the happy-go-lucky co-proprietor of a joke shop and the staid, professional executor of the law. Yet together, they were an unstoppable force and Harry was glad they’d found each other.

Harry’s gaze shifted to his cousin, Dudley who was engaged in a whispered conversation with the pretty brunette at his side. Dudley had slimmed down, no doubt in an attempt to match the beauty of the store clerk who had his heart. Beatrice and Dudley were near inseparable. Over the past year, she watched as he assumed a mentor role to Teddy Lupin and became the serious partner at Weasley’s Wheezes. That was not to say that Dudley didn’t have a funny side. No one working with George Weasley could do so without a sense of humor. The difference was that Dudley seemed be adamant against degrading people and made sure that whatever was produced by the shop did not cross the line from jest to humiliation. Beatrice appreciated that in him and was more and more convinced that the future was bright for them. She especially loved the way he was with children, not only with Teddy, but with his nephew James as well as with Victoire, Bill and Fleur’s little girl. In her mind, Dudley would make the perfect father. Dudley was completely unaware of why she blushed at that precise moment. Beatrice laughed as plans for the next year began to formulate in her head.

Harry felt a hand on his shoulder, which moved down to his waist. He turned and saw Ginny standing next to him, her green gown unable to hide the bulge of her stomach. Her bright crimson tresses cascaded down past her shoulders and her face radiated a beauty that took his breath away. Her arms were bare and he placed a hand on her shoulder and lightly caressed down her arm. He took her chin in his hands and reached down to kiss her gently on the lips. Sparks flew between them and they smiled to each other. Finally, they broke their embrace and grasped hands.

“I’ve been looking all over for you.” She chided him gently. “I was thinking that I’d have to find a new date. I wonder if Michael Corner is available now that Cho is taken?”

She laughed as Harry let a scowl cover his face. He couldn’t help himself, her laugh touched his spine and caused him to join in.

“What’s so funny, you two?” Hermione and Ron ambled up to the pair. Hermione had her arm on Ron’s and was readily self-conscious about her appearance. Like Ginny, it was apparent to everyone that she was in her third trimester of her pregnancy and was feeling the ill-effects that came with it. Ron walked proudly, unable to take his gaze from his wife. It was obvious that he loved her and words were not enough to convey the depth of his love. What Harry liked about his friend was that he wore his emotions on his sleeve. You knew by looking right at him what he felt, and right now, as ever, Ron’s world revolved around the lovely woman with long brown hair to his side.

“Ginny was pining for Michael Corner.” Harry grunted as his wife’s elbow found his ribs. Ron snorted and let out a chuckle.

“Oh, I don’t know. Did Viktor Krum get an invite to this soiree?” Hermione affected an innocent expression which broke into a shared smile with Ginny as Ron choked on her response. Hermione smiled and gave her husband a kiss on the lips. Somewhat mollified, Ron reached an arm around her shoulders. Harry looked out over the dance floor, a pensive look on his face.

“What is it? What are you thinking about?” Ginny was used to her husband’s contemplative nature which more often than not, made for very interesting conversation.

Harry smiled and looked at her and his friends. “I was just thinking about how we’ve all changed. A few years ago, this would nothing but drunken debauchery. Now, it’s something different.” He swept an arm out to the room in general.

“Everyone is a couple.” Save for Ginny, no one really understood the way Harry thought better than Hermione. She focused in on Harry’s thoughts almost immediately.

“Precisely. We’re growing up, we’re all becoming adults.” His friends nodded, agreeing with his observation.

At that precise moment, a voice pealed through the room. “George Weasley! Put that out now.” Verity was standing near George who was kneeling on the floor next to Dudley and Lee. George held a lit match in his hand and a long fuse trailed along the floor disappearing into a box placed directly under where Dean and Isabella were sitting. George turned a decided shade of purple and the three stood together, heads hung low while their dates scowled. With as much aplomb as he could muster, George wet his finger tips and doused the match in his hand, just as the ethereal clock began to chime twelve, marking the entry into a New Year.


***A/N: Sorry about being tardy, I had a couple of staff meetings to attend. Anyway, hope you liked this one, I'm going to move the timeline ahead soon. First, we'll see how the children are doing and then we have some more babies to birth.

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  #94  
Old October 10th, 2007, 1:47 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 95 – Childhood

Teddy Lupin sat in on his bed perusing through his latest additions to his World Quidditch Collector’s Cards collection. The cards came in packs with the latest in magical chewing gum stuffed in the wrapper. He sighed for a moment as he found another Viktor Krum card, bringing his total number to twelve. The European sensation was a great player, but the nine year old was hoping against hope that the Chudley Cannons would be properly represented. He thumbed through the stack of newly unwrapped cards when he dropped some on the bed by accident. Three cards fell from his hand and on to the orange and black comforter that covered his bed. The first made him smack his head in frustration. It was a picture of Oliver Wood making a spectacular stop for Puddlemere United. He’d just seen the phenom a couple of weeks ago and now Teddy wished he could have asked Oliver to sign his card. Still brimming with enthusiasm, Teddy quickly placed the prized acquisition at the top of his “Favorites” pile. Teddy returned his gaze to the second card and stopped for a moment. It decorated in the dark green and gold of the Holyhead Harpies. Teddy was a fan of Gwenog Jones, but really hadn’t followed the Harpies too closely. On the face of the card was a picture of Ginny riding unabashedly towards a Snitch, a broad smile plastered on her face.

“Aunt Ginny?” Teddy remembered hearing somewhere that she’d played for the Harpies right after she graduated from Hogwarts, but really didn’t think anything of it. He flipped the card over and studied her statistics. Teddy was stunned. His Aunt Ginny was quite good as a Seeker. He spun the card around and looked back at her picture. Somehow, she seemed well suited to riding the broom and she had a carefree look on her face. Teddy took a quick glance at the weathered broom that sat in the corner of his room. His Uncle Harry had given him the broom years ago. It was much too small to support his weight now, but maybe he could talk his Aunt Ginny into teaching him some things. Teddy’s brow furrowed as he remembered that Ginny was due to have another baby real soon, so his Quidditch lessons would probably never come to be. He sighed and stared at his “Favorites” pile for a second and then carefully placed the card the pocket of his pullover. His Aunt Ginny warranted “Personal” status, which were the select cards that he carried with him at all times.

“Well I’m two for two. Let’s see what the last one is.” Teddy placed a hand on the last card which had fallen from his deck. It was a specialty card with the label “Classics” on the border. These were random cards of Quidditch Players who’d merited mentions but different reasons, never played for the professional associations. Teddy turned the card over and looked at the picture. He was so shocked that he dropped the card on his bed as if it were on fire. Teddy stood and paced back and forth for a few minutes and then picked up the card to look it over once again.

Harry Potter’s smiling face was on the surface of the card. Teddy’s godfather was wearing flying leathers with the Gryffindor emblem and team captain’s badge affixed at the front. Carefully, Teddy flipped the card over and read through Harry’s exploits on the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts. Apparently, his godfather hadn’t been a pushover; in fact, Harry had been one of a very select group that was selected for a House Team in his first year. That was an accomplishment worth emulating. Teddy had been dreaming for months of playing Quidditch at Hogwarts, and now he saw that his Uncle Harry had accomplished that feat a very young age.

Teddy walked over to the corner of the room and picked up the small broom. Maybe, he thought, he didn’t have to suspend his lessons. Maybe his Uncle Harry could teach him how to make the team in his own first year, too. His mind afire with the possibilities, Teddy almost didn’t hear his grandmother calling for him to come downstairs.

Teddy bounded to the top of the stairs and leapt up and straddled the banister. With amazing agility and a confidence born of youth, he slid down the spiraling rail jumping to the floor just before he slammed into the gargoyle statue situated at the bottom of the stairs.

“Teddy! How many times have I told you to stop sliding down the rail? You could get hurt.” Andromeda Tonks was putting on a long overcoat as she chided her grandson.

Teddy’s hair turned a brilliant purple. “Sorry, grandma. I got a little carried away.” Rarely one to stay cross for long, Andromeda gave him a quick disproving look and handed him a jacket.

“Come on, now. We’re going to be late.” She handed him a small bag which he took with the end of his fingers, as if it were toxic.

“Do I have to go? Victoire will make such a scene.” Despite his complaint, Andromeda saw small streaks of pink pigment phase into his hair. Pink usually indicated that he was really happy to see the beautiful daughter of Bill and Fleur Weasley. Like his mother was at this age, Teddy had no idea how to control the various shades of color of his hair and usually, the tint was controlled by his mood.

“It’s Valentine’s Day and we promised Molly to help her watch James so that Harry and Ginny can go out. Now stop being silly and come on.” He made one more semi-hearted attempt to mope and followed his grandmother to the floo. He shifted a bit as she tried to set his hair to some semblance of order and rearrange his clothing. Still unsatisfied with his appearance, the chime of the clock made her give up on her attempt to neaten him up and she pulled some floo powder out for the trip to the Weasleys.

***

“Hello?” Bill and Fleur Weasley walked out of the living room hearth, their dimpled daughter Victoire following closely behind. Fleur held a hand to her back to try to support the bulge she was carrying, a close sign that her second child was progressing as scheduled. Victoire ran up to her grandmother and presented a card to Molly. It was embossed with glitter and crayon and consisted of colored construction paper. Molly chirped in delight and gave Victoire an appreciative hug and kiss on the cheek.

Victoire took a careful look around the room. Of course, a lady never seems anxious, she thought to herself, but as with many kids her age, she could not restrain the impulse to ask the question. “Where’s Teddy, grandmother?” The preciseness of her diction could not hide her excitement.

“He’ll be along soon.” Molly smiled knowingly at Bill and Fleur.

A small voice boomed behind Victoire. “Vee! Vee! Vee!” The blonde haired seven year old turned daintily towards the onrushing figure of James Potter as he bound up to greet her. She made an attempt to ward him off, but his determination and smile wore her down soon enough. She touched her finger to his nose and he giggled in delight. Soon she was seated on the floor and James was seated next to her, babbling incoherently but maintaining a constant stream of thought to her.

The sound of an arrival in the floo caused her to turn her head up. Before she could speak, James screamed out at the top of his lungs. “Teddy!”

Apparently, in his quest to learn how to talk, the only word James could say with perfect clarity was the name of his favorite person, besides his parents, of course. The toddler picked himself up and ran over to where Teddy was brushing the soot off his leg. James stomped up to Teddy and extended his arms to the boy. Teddy was used to James demands for his attention and immediately picked James up in one fell swoop.

“Wow. You’re getting heavy, squirt!” Teddy liked calling James squirt because that’s what George and Ron had been calling Teddy for as long as he could remember. James didn’t seem to mind and began laughing and tugging on Teddy’s hair. His laughter caused Teddy’s hair to shift from green to red to a bright pink. Off to the side, Victoire stood patiently, her hands behind her back. After a minute, Teddy put James down to allow Andromeda to greet and dote on the boy on her own.

With the respite, Victoire handed Teddy a carefully handcrafted card. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Teddy.” Teddy accepted the card haltingly and read it. Immediately, his face turned a bright red matched by his hair color. His head looked like a beet while Victoire looked at him expectantly.

“Thanks.” Was all Teddy could muster. Victoire gave a huff and stomped off to the other side of the room while pretending to study the Weasley family clock. Teddy was silent for a minute and gave a helpless glance at his grandmother. Andromeda was holding James and smiling at him. She looked over at Teddy and gave him a silent nudge with her eyes. Teddy sighed and picked up the small bag he’d brought from home. He removed its contents and walked over to where Victoire stewed.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Victoire.” Brusquely, Teddy handed the delicate young girl a card and single, red rose. Teddy’s grandmother made him sign the card and pick out the flower as gesture of kindness. Victoire stood for a moment, remembering that a lady should not allow her suitor to get off the hook too easily. The card was thoughtful, but the flower made her smile. She smiled and gave Teddy a quick peck on the cheek. Teddy’s hair turned an almost fluorescent crimson and Victoire did not notice him bring his hand to his cheek to wipe off the offending kiss. Teddy walked outside while Victoire went to show her parents her prizes.

The sun was still shining in the sky in the crisp winter day. Teddy looked over towards the garage and saw the doors were still shut. Arthur hadn’t returned from the Ministry just yet and Dudley was apparently taking Beatrice out for Valentine’s Day dinner. The rules were pretty rigid; Teddy was not allowed to work in the garage without either one of his co-conspirators. He felt a chill breeze willow through the courtyard and he jammed his hands into the pockets of his pullover. Silently, he walked over to a small shed off to the side of the main building. Most of his attention had been pulled to the garage, over the years as Arthur and later, Dudley worked on the contraptions that Arthur brought home. He’d seen the shed, but had not really thought much about it. Curious, he tested the knob on the door of the shed. Surprisingly, it turned and the door opened. Teddy took a cautious look around the grounds and then walked into the room.

The sunlight streamed through the lone window, casting shadows in the corners of the room. Teddy’s eyes took a few minutes to grow accustomed to the light in the room. When he was able to focus, his eyes grew wider. On the wall was an array of brooms and sets of Quidditch gear. Hanging above each broom was a name. “Bill”, “Charlie”, “Percy”…every child in the Weasley clan had a broom with their name on it, except Ginny. Teddy walked up and laid his hand on each in turn. He paused at one and stared at it silently. Above its hook, the name “Fred” hung on a placard, its broom waiting an eternity for its owner who would never return to claim it. The brooms were shorter, made for children to play a child’s game. Teddy felt himself breathing finally and looked over at an adjacent wall. Two more brooms hung there. One had a carefully handwritten sign hanging above its hook. “Ginny” was written boldly in crayon on the card. Teddy pulled out Ginny’s playing card and stared at it for a minute and then looked back at the broom.

The other broom hanging next to Ginny didn’t have a name. Teddy walked up and stared at it for a minute. On its wooden handle, the letters “H.P.” had been crudely etched. “Uncle Harry?” Teddy stared in wonder. He reached back into his pocket and pulled out Harry’s classics card. Remembering a detail, Teddy ran out the door and looked out towards the back of the courtyard. At the back of the apple orchard, three poles stood. They were barely twenty feet high with hoops suspended from them. Normally, Quidditch posts are fifty feet high, but if you are playing among friends, twenty feet would do just fine. Teddy could barely contain himself, he’d found where his Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry had played with Ginny’s family.

Short of breath, Teddy ran back to the shed and pulled down the broom with his godfather’s initials on it. He ignored the equipment hanging on the walls, there’d be time enough for that later. Right now, he was determined to see if he could handle a broom. He dragged the broom outside. Carefully, he straddled the broom and closed his eyes.

“What are you doing, Teddy?” Victoire had come to look for him and found him about to launch into the sky.

“Nothing.” His hair was a bright yellow and his attempt at playing innocent did not seem to be working.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to be playing with the broom.” Victoire stood with her hands on her hips. “You could get hurt.”

Teddy snorted as his hair turned a contemptuous royal blue. “I’ll be fine. You’ll see. I’m going to make the Gryffindor team in my first year.” With that, Teddy concentrated and held on to the broom as it soared into the sky. The freezing temperatures didn’t have an impact on him. He rode the broom into the air and got his first view of the landscape around the Burrow from a bird’s eye. He experimented with a quick bank and felt his heart pounding as he tilted to the side to effect a turn. The smile on his face was evident as he grew bolder with his attempts to turn and carry speed. He was ecstatic at the feeling of wafting about the clouds. He looked back and saw the Burrow and Victoire standing in the orchard, concern on her face.

He remembered his Aunt Ginny’s card and its description of the aerobatics she’d performed. “Time to try a loop.” He thought to himself. He pulled back on the handle and the broom began to climb upwards. He held onto the wooden stick and pulled it back farther until he was inverted. Just at that time, his hands numbed as the cold winter air combined with the fact that he was not wearing gloves caused him to lose his grip on the broom. In a panic, he lunged forward to re-establish his grip. He missed by a fraction of an inch and he felt a brief sensation of weightlessness until gravity took hold of his body and started pulling back to earth, sans broom. He felt his body accelerating at a frightening speed. For a brief moment, he saw the shock on Victoire’s eyes as he hurtled down towards the ground. A few feet before impact, he felt an invisible force grab him, like a hand, and gently lower him to the ground. He lay on his back, breathing hard staring at the sky. A shadow blotted out the sun and stared back at him.

“That was foolish.” Ginny stood over him. Quickly, he rose up and brushed grass and dirt from his clothing. Ginny Potter’s face was inscrutable and Teddy lowered his head in shame as his hair turned a blackish brown.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Ginny. I just wanted to,” he didn’t get a chance to finish, before Ginny cut him off.

“You just wanted to try out the broom so you could learn to fly and play Quidditch, right?” Her voice was stern, but with his head down, he couldn’t see the smile playing on her face. He nodded his head silently.

“Well, for Merlin’s sake, wear gloves, it’s freezing out here.” Ginny’s response surprised him. He looked up and finally saw her smile. His hair turned a bright orange as his confusion became evident on his face.

“I don’t understand.” He looked at her carefully and tried to determine what trick she had up her sleeve.

“I used to sneak out here myself, and borrow my brothers’ brooms to practice, but Teddy, you need to ask someone to show you how. You could have been hurt badly.” She placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Yes ma’am.” He looked up at Ginny and then pulled her card from his pocket. “Could you show me?”

Ginny laughed and rubbed her prominent belly. “Not right now, but why don’t we ask Harry to give you some pointers? Then, when I’m not carrying this bowling ball around, I’ll give you some real flying lessons from the better Potter player.”

Teddy laughed. “Really? That’d be great, Aunt Ginny.” His head dropped once more. “Aunt Ginny?” She looked over to him. “Thanks.” She smiled back at him and placed a kiss on his cheek.

She looked back at the house. “I was just dropping off some clothes for James. Why don’t we keep this to ourselves and not tell your Aunt Molly. We wouldn’t want her to worry.” Ginny winked at him conspiratorially. He nodded.

“Teddy Lupin!” Victoire’s high pitched voice carried to him as she stomped over to where he stood. When she got close to him, she reared back and thumped him soundly on the back of the head. “Don’t do that again! You scared me half to death!”

“Sorry, Victoire.” His shoulders sagged as he braved her assault.

Victoire glared at him and gave a huff. “I don’t think you are right now, but you will be.”

With that, she turned on her heel and walked back towards the house. Ginny reached over and put an arm on his shoulder and led him in Victoire’s rapidly receding footsteps.


***A/N: Going strong, please don't forget the FEEDBACK!


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Thanks to cybobbie for the awesome sig pic!
Thanks to the best fanclub in the world!

My Fanfics:
A History of Magic: Part II - Beyond the Epilogue
Teddy Lupin and the Legacy of the Marauders ; A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era (on hiatus); You Are Cordially Invited... (First Attempt)

Last edited by USNAGator91; October 10th, 2007 at 1:59 pm.
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  #95  
Old October 11th, 2007, 2:09 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 96 – Bad Luck?

The winter refused to surrender to the oncoming spring. The sky was overcast and a heavy chill bit into the air in early March. Five men sat a table overlooking the city, their eyes focused on each other and on their strategies as they tried to take advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses. It was early Saturday afternoon and Dudley Dursley, George Weasley, Lee Jordan, Ron Weasley and an older man were huddled around a card table set up in Ron’s living room. A small pile of scythes and galleons was clustered in the center of the table and each man held a hand of cards in front of them.

George was wearing a dark green transparent visor on his head. With Hermione only three or so weeks from her due date, an unlit cigar was being furiously gnawed between his lips.

“I raise one galleon.”

“I fold.” Hugo Granger, Hermione’s father, placed his cards carefully on the table.

“He’s bluffing.” Lee Jordan had his elbows on the table, his cards perched an inch from his nose.

Dudley, who had a rather large stack of coins in front of him was leaning back, his cards hidden carefully in his massive hands. “How do you know he’s bluffing?”

“He’s scratching his ear.” Lee rearranged some of the cards in his hand and looked at George carefully.

Ron watched as George waved a finger in the air. “What do you mean, he’s just pointing to the ceiling.”

Lee snickered. “He’s scratching his missing ear.”

“Are you going to be obscene, or are you going to play cards?” George had an eager look on his face as he dared the rest to meet his bet.

“Too rich for my blood.” Dudley slapped his cards on the table, face down.

“He’s not that good.” Lee threw a galleon on top of the growing stack of money in the pot.

Ron sat pensively and looked back at his own cards. His was the smallest pile of money. Each bet was bringing his participation in this week’s edition of their winter card games to a close. He screwed up his courage and threw one of his dwindling coins on the pile. “Call.”

“Three Aces!” George smiled triumphantly.

Lee slapped his cards down and turned to Ron, who had frozen in place. With a heavy sigh, Ron tossed his cards down. “That’s almost ten hands in a row. I don’t seem to have it today.”

“When do you ever have it?” George leaned forward and scooped his winnings up into his outstretched hands. Ron gave his brother a scowl.

Just then, the door opened and Hermione walked in the door, followed closely by her mother, Rose. Hermione’s parents were dentists and lived nearby. Over her pregnancy, they’d been more and more involved in their daughter’s preparations for motherhood. Her father, Hugo, was a tall, soft-spoken man with a generous heart and keen sense of humor. Ron got on rather well with Hugo and would spend a good amount of time with him asking questions about the vagaries of the muggle world. For his part, Hugo Granger lost no opportunity to play the odd practical joke on Ron based on the latter’s general unfamiliarity with technology. There was one occasion where Mr. Granger had Ron spend almost an hour searching for needle and thread so that Hugo could repair the hole in his “Internet”.

Because of his twisted sense of humor, Hugo Granger was readily accepted as a kindred spirit by the proprietors of Weasley’s Wheezes. Hugo saw his daughter and wife walk in the door and smiled. He rose quickly to help his wife with the packages she was carrying into the apartment.

For her part, Rose Granger was a beautiful woman, a seemingly older version of her daughter. She had long flowing brown hair with large curls that bounced about her shoulders. She was fastidious about her appearance and maintained a careful decorum about her carriage. A brilliant dentist, she was widely respected for her skills in orthodontics. Seeing the five men clustered around the card table, she offered a disapproving glance and shot a scolding look at her husband.

“I should think that you boys would hold this fraternity party somewhere else. Hermione needs her rest.” She set her burdens down on the floor and moved to help her daughter remove her overcoat.

“Hello, Mrs. Granger.” Ron gave a chagrined look at his mother-in-law. She returned his greeting with a smile.

“Well, would you look at the time!” Hugo Granger gave his daughter a hug and kiss; and turned the men at the table. “Sorry, gentlemen. I promised to take Mrs. Granger out for an early supper.” He gave them a wink which they gratefully acknowledged as they recognized his attempt to save them from further admonishment. Wasting no time, he ushered his wife out the door, leaving the four men and Hermione alone.

Ron stood and went over to his wife. She looked tired from the exertion of her shopping. He placed a hand carefully on her protruding belly and kissed her.

“Are you all right?” He watched her with worried eyes.

She smiled a radiant smile which melted his worry. “I’m just a little tired. I think I’m going to take a nap.”

Ron turned to his cohorts and gave them a meaningful look. They all nodded. “We’ll just play one more hand and then I’ll get them out the door.”

She smiled gratefully and walked into the bedroom to lie down. Ron watched her progress then sat back down at the table with a huff.

“This has got to be the last hand, boys. She looks peaked.” Ron stole another glance at the bedroom door.

George smiled and broke his reverie. “Besides, looking at what you have left, one hand should just about finish you any way.”

“Just deal the cards, you git.” Ron faked a swat at his brother’s head and put his ante in the pot.

“Five card draw, nothing wild.” George dealt the next hand swiftly and the men began to plot their strategy once more. Ron looked at his cards. He had an ace of clubs, an eight of spades, a two of hearts, an eight of clubs and a six of diamonds. He held a pair, an ace and two basically worthless cards. Dudley began the betting and was aggressive to open. Ron struggled to stay with them as the pot grew. He drew off the two cards that didn’t help his cause. He turned them into George for replacement and carefully looked at his new cards. The first made him pause. It was a nine of diamonds, the so-called “Curse of Scotland” in Contract Bridge. He sighed and thought about the money he was about to lose. He looked at the other card and it was another ace. Now he held two pair, aces over eights. He matched the betting and felt a tinge of excitement.

After several rounds of raising and betting, it was time for the call. First came George.

“A pair of queens!” He smiled and looked over at Dudley. For his part Dudley gave George a slight shake of his head and a grin of his own.

“Pair of kings!” George’s balloon deflated as he realized his loss. Dudley glanced over at Lee who couldn’t hide his own glee.

“Two pair, jacks over deuces!” Lee laid down his cards silently began counting his winnings considering Ron’s recent spate of bad luck. The three turned to Ron, who was strangely silent. The excitement built in Ron’s chest as he realized that his luck had finally turned. His hands shook as he laid his cards down on the table. Stunned silence greeted him as they realized he’d won.

“I won a pot. How about that!” Ron began to collect up his winnings.

Dudley stared at Ron’s hand and shook his head.

“What is it?” Ron had never known Dudley to be a sore loser.

“Bad luck, that hand.” Ron stopped and stared at Dudley.

“What do you mean? I won.” Lee and George looked over at Dudley with puzzled looks, joining in Ron’s confusion.

“Aces over eights, black suits with a nine of diamonds.” Dudley’s voice had a trace of exasperation. The blank looks from his friends only served to heighten the sensation.

He continued. “It’s the Dead Man’s Hand. It’s the hand that Wild Bill Hickok had when he was shot in the back during a poker game.”

“You’re joking.” Ron hesitated a moment then continued to collect his money. “Well, it was good luck for me.”

Just then the bedroom door opened and Hermione stood in the threshold. “Ron! The baby’s coming! Hurry!”

The four looked at each other in shock while Ron immediately stopped picking up the gold coins on the table.

***

Ron bolted up from his seat. “Are you sure? It’s still three weeks early.” He ran over to his wife who ignored is blatantly insipid question. Instead she allowed him to help her to the bed.

Around the table the three remaining men looked at each other in panic. Lee glanced over at George.

“What do we do?” George shrugged his shoulders and looked helpless.

Dudley stood and paused at the end of the table. He turned back to the other two. “We should do something, shouldn’t we?” Again, helpless stares reached back at him.

Ron burst back into the room. “What do I do?” He scurried around the apartment, trying to think of who to contact or where he should take his wife. A long, painful wail carried through the room, stopping him in his tracks.

“Ron! You and those morons, GET IN HERE!” Hermione’s pained commands jolted them into action. Ron ran into the bedroom followed closely by his three hapless friends. Hermione was propped up on some pillows, the bed coverings pulled up to her chest. Perspiration was pouring down her forehead. Ron reached for her hand with his. As the next contraction reached her, she gripped his hand tightly, digging her nails into his palm. He winced from the pain while his knees buckled. When the pain passed, she turned to four men in the room.

“You!” She directed a spite-filled glare at George. “Go get your mother!” George practically sprinted from the door.

“You!” Lee snapped upright. “Go get Mrs. Kenilworth! She’s the midwife. Her office is in Diagon Alley!” Grateful to be dismissed, Lee dashed off to carry out Hermione’s commands.

“Dudley.” Hermione’s voice was only slightly more gentle. “Would you please go get my parents?” Dudley nodded and looked over at Ron. Beads of sweat were pouring down Ron’s brow and Hermione had not released the death grip she had on his hand. Ron’s arm was contorted in an awkward manner and he was trying to maneuver his body to keep from breaking the arm. Dudley gave Ron a laugh and sauntered off to retrieve the Drs. Granger.

Murmuring through his clinched teeth, Ron looked at his wife. “What do you want me to do?”

“You stay here.” Her breathing was rapid and she eased her grip on his hand momentarily.

Ron looked at her and smiled. “Isn’t this wonderful? We’re going to have a baby. You look beautiful Hermione.” He gave her a wistful glance, the love in his eyes glowing down on her.

Hermione turned to look at him as another contraction hit. She squeezed his hand once more. At the top of her lungs, she returned his loving words. “THIS IS NOT WONDERFUL!!! YOU DID THIS TO ME, RON WEASLEY!!! NEXT TIME, YOU CARRY THE FLIPPING BABY!!!” The rest of her words were lost in her screaming and given the nature of the swearing that was involved, it was probably a good thing.

***

Night fell and a small crowd of people were gathered in the living room of Ron and Hermione’s apartment. The welcome sound of a baby’s cry emanated from behind the door. Ron and Hermione’s extended families were huddled around the kitchen table anxiously awaiting word on the new arrival. The door opened and Ron walked out, looking none the worse for wear. He cradled a tiny swaddled form in his arms and a ridiculous smile was plastered on his face. The collected Weasley and Granger clans looked at him.

“It’s a girl!” The room broke into spontaneous applause. Ron seemed not to notice as his eyes were drawn to the delicate face of the child he held. He looked up once more. “Hermione is just fine.” An unconscious sigh of relief rippled through them.

Ginny walked up and peered at her niece. “What’s her name?”

Ron looked over at his mother-in-law and back at Ginny. “Her name is Rose Ginerva Weasley.”

Smiles branched through the room. George walked up and began to hand out cigars from a box. Verity’s voice rang out at him. “George, take them back, right now.”

Chagrined, George began to collect the exploding cigars he’d distributed. Dudley walked over and pat Ron on the shoulder.

“I guess I was wrong.” Ron looked over at Dudley. The gentle giant looked down at little Rose and smiled. In answer to the question lingering on Ron’s face, Dudley smiled. “I guess that wasn’t an unlucky hand.”

Later that night, when everyone had left, Ron sat in a rocking chair in the corner of his bedroom, holding his baby daughter. He glanced over at the bed where Hermione was sleeping peacefully, a smile on her face. Her hair no longer seemed matted or frayed, but every strand was perfectly set. Every feature and detail of her face, from her well defined dimples to her perfect nose seemed to radiate beauty and peace. Ron looked back down at Rose and noticed that, like her mother, every feature was perfect. He thought about what Dudley had said. He didn’t feel unlucky, not anymore. In fact, as he felt the small heartbeat of his daughter upon his chest, he was the luckiest man in the world.


***A/N: I have sons, so I can't really speak first hand on this, but my observation of my friends with daughters is that fathers are suckers for their daughters. Ron is in soooooo much trouble.

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Old October 12th, 2007, 2:44 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 97 – Flying Lessons

Albus Severus Potter was born almost three weeks after his cousin Rose just as spring was making its presence felt. His arrival into the world was much smoother than either his older brother or his cousin and his parents could not have been more thrilled. 12 Grimmauld Place immediately became a thriving hub of activity that was ruled with a velvet encased iron hand by the Potters’ house elf, Kreacher. The advantage that Harry and Ginny had over Ron and Hermione was centered on the fact that they had learned with their experience with James that the key to running a household with a newborn was to adhere to a strict routine. After the first week with young Albus in the fold, the Potter home became a well-oiled machine.

Little James was a little disoriented by the sudden change in his home. The noise and the constant doting on his brother by his parents bit seriously into the attention that heretofore been exclusively reserved for him. Ginny, having been the youngest of seven children realized the potential for regression in her oldest son, made it a point to discuss remedies to the problem with Harry. Both tried to carve out special time with James. The ultimate solution, however, came in a very colorful package.

It was Saturday at the Burrow and Harry and Ginny had brought their growing family for a visit to the Weasley family home. Andromeda Tonks was there with Teddy. As with most grandmothers, the prospect of doting has a narcotic effect and Andromeda soon joined Molly in making funny faces young Albus. Soon, Ron and Hermione arrived with Rose and Hermione’s parents. The gathering wasn’t planned, but it was the first ideal day of spring. Winter’s embrace had released its grip on the countryside and the sun was high and bright in the blue sky. The families were sitting in the courtyard, with the largest crowd centered around the infants, who were placed side by side on the picnic table in their baby carriers. The happy parents were alternately bombarded with questions and checking on their new charges.

Harry pulled Ron to the side. Ron eyes had noticeable dark circles around their rims. His shoulders seemed to slump and his body looked as if it would drop at any minute. Harry clapped his friend on the shoulder.

“So, how do you like fatherhood?” Harry smiled at Ron’s heavy sigh.

“I love it, but, Harry, I’m so tired. She cries a lot and always wants constant attention and all the feeding, it’s a marathon.” Ron sat on a nearby bench and his exhaustion seeped from his body.

Harry looked at him knowingly. “Who? Hermione or the baby?”

Ron laughed then quickly checked to see if his wife had heard him laugh at her expense.

“Hermione has been great. She’s been very understanding and patient, which worries me.”

“Give it some time, she’ll be back to old self. Rose is beautiful, Ron.” Harry looked over to where the crowd of older people were taking turns passing the babies back and forth.

For his part, Ron smiled at the sentiment, the words echoing the same thoughts he had every time he looked at his daughter. The two friends sat together and enjoyed the warm rays of the sun on their faces.

***

The flurry of activity around the babies was nothing new to Teddy. He remembered when James was born how confusing it had been for him. Not really bothered anymore, Teddy watched from a distance as the adults continued their shameless banter. Teddy’s eyes narrowed and he stood straighter. Ginny had placed James down on the ground near her as she went to attend to some issue with Albus. James was a little miffed at having his mother place him down and when she turned to his brother, Teddy began to see the hurt in the older Potter’s eyes. James lower lip was beginning to quiver and he raised his arms up looking for someone to give him some attention. All the tall people who before, couldn’t wait to see him, were clustered around where his brother and cousin were. James looked around, bewildered. He couldn’t figure out why everything had changed. The toddler began to feel a meltdown forming in his heart.

James felt a tap on his shoulder and he turned his head to find its source. Teddy had walked up to him and knelt down on the ground nearby.

“Teddy!” The smile on James’ face immediately told Teddy that any sad feelings the little Potter was having had been wiped clean by the arrival of his rainbow haired hero. James hesitantly put his arms out to the older boy, who picked him up and carried James over to a bench away from the rest of the crowd.

Teddy sat James on the bench next to him and smiled. James, whose fine motor control was just beginning to manifest itself, pointed a stubby finger at the table with the babies.

“Brubba.” His statement was emphatic and he looked up at Teddy expectantly.

“Yes, that’s your brother.” Teddy acknowledged his understanding and James giggled. Teddy’s hair changed from blue to orange to pink and James delighted in the spectacle. James’ giggles turned into a hearty guffaw.

“You know, James. Everything is going to be okay.” Teddy looked down at his young charge who seemed to be hanging on his every word, as if he understood what Teddy was saying. “Babies need some extra attention when they are born, but your mom and dad still love you.”

“Momma. Da Da.” Again, it seemed like James understood what Teddy was saying and babbled as if engaged in the conversation.

“So you see, everything is going to be just fine.” Teddy leaned closer to James. “Tell you what, I’ll be around, just in case you want to play, okay?” James tittered more at the way Teddy’s hair changed from pink to a golden bronze, indicative serious intent. With the laughter, Teddy’s hair went back to pink. Soon the two boys began to engage in one of their favorite games, point and name.

James pointed out a nearby apple tree. “Tee!”

“That’s right, it’s a tree.” Teddy confirmed James’ observation.

“Howze” Another gesture emanated from James.

“Yes, that’s a house.”

The game continued as they whiled away the time in the sun. Around the corner from them, Ginny stood, her eyes watering slightly at what she’d overheard. Even with all the hub bub surrounding Albus, Ginny never really took her eyes off James. She’d followed the pair as they went to sit at the bench. Teddy’s words warmed her heart and she vowed to herself to make it up to the wonderful nine year old sitting with her son. She looked over across the courtyard. As if sensing her attention, Harry looked up. Silently, she beckoned him over. Harry excused himself and walked up to his wife. When he arrived, she tugged at his sleeve and pulled him to where the two boys were sitting.

“Harry, would you mind taking James? I think it’s time for his lunch and nap.” Harry looked curiously at Ginny who gave him a subtle nod. Not fully understanding why, he knew she had her reasons so he whisked James up in the air and swung him around.

“Come on, little man. Time for some food!” Ginny watched as father carted son through the air, much to the little boy’s delight. Together, they made off for the house.

“May I sit with you?” Ginny pointed to the open spot on the bench. Teddy shrugged his shoulders and moved over to the side. “I appreciate what you did for James; that was very mature.”

Teddy’s hair turned a deep shade of red, matching his face. “It’s what Uncle Harry told me when James was born. I was just copying him.”

“I didn’t know that.” Ginny smiled inwardly at her husband’s constant ability to surprise her. “Still, I think it was sweet.”

They sat together for a few minutes in silence. The first birds of spring were making their way north and lined the budding apple trees in the orchard. Ginny smiled down at Teddy.

“I’d like to make you a deal.” Ginny saw that Teddy had a puzzled expression on his face. “If you keep paying attention to James when we visit on Saturday or on Sunday dinner, I promise to set aside some time to give you flying lessons. What do you think?”

Teddy’s face brightened and his hair turned a bright pink into an almost blazing white. “You mean it?” Ginny nodded, then Teddy’s face darkened a bit and his hair became a little more aqua. “Aunt Ginny, you don’t have to do that, I’d take care of James anyway. I like him.”

“I know. That’s why I’m doing it.” She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. His hair went back to the crimson shade to match his blush. Strangely, he did not bother to wipe this kiss off. Ginny giggled and stood up. She reached her hand down to him. “Why don’t we start your first lesson?”

“Now? Really?” Teddy jumped up.

“Why not? The babies are going down for naps and I could use some time in the air.” She led him over to the broom shed. Inside the shed, Teddy was immediately drawn to the Nimbus 2000 that had Harry’s initials. Ginny immediately stopped him.

“We’ll start you with this one.” She reached up and pulled down George’s Cleansweep Five from the wall. She turned and handed the dusty handle to Teddy. “The Nimbus can be a little quirky the first time out. The Cleansweep is a good one start with.” She reached over and pulled her old Cleansweep down from the wall. Together they went out to the clearing in the middle of the apple orchard. They stood together and Ginny began his first flying lesson.

“What binds the rider to the broom are very specific spells. The cushioning spell is one of the most important because it keeps you locked in place.” Teddy was rapt with attention, emulating every move Ginny made. “You’ve got to concentrate a little on telling the broom where you want to go and what you want to do. You can’t treat it like a car or a door. It’s not totally inanimate.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Many people believe that brooms are almost alive.”

Teddy’s eyes widened and stared at the broom in his hand. A question came to his mind. “Aunt Ginny, if that’s the case, does that mean your brother Fred’s broom won’t fly anymore? Because it misses him?”

It was an innocent question, but painful for Ginny. She did a good job of hiding her sadness. “I don’t know, Teddy. No one has ever really tried to ride Fred’s broom since…” She couldn’t finish the sentence. She shook herself and continued the lessons.

“Today we’ll focus on taking off, level flight and landing. No tricks, do you understand me?” Teddy nodded. “Good, now concentrate. Don’t think about flying, just yet. Use your mind and introduce yourself to the broom. It will take care of the rest.”

Teddy straddled the broom and thought. “Hi, my name is Teddy Lupin. How are you?” In that instant, the broom leapt up into the clear blue sky. Close behind, Ginny accelerated, keeping her charge close by. Whoops of laughter could be heard from Teddy’s mouth as the pair soared out above the Burrow.

***

Harry had finished putting James down for his nap in Ron’s old room. He walked out into the courtyard. The babies had also been put inside for naps and a few of the adults milled around chatting. Harry looked around for Ginny and noticed both she and Teddy weren’t anywhere to be seen. The faint sound of laughter and shouting came to his ears. He raised his eyes up to the sky and spied two specks in the sky. The shapes got closer and he noticed that the one of the riders had flowing red hair and seemed to be hovering over the second rider. The second rider had hair that blazed green to blue to maroon. Harry smiled. Teddy was getting flying lessons, apparently. Fortunately for Teddy, Harry thought, he was getting them from the best there was, Ginny Potter.

***

Over the past nine months, Sarah Peebles had been emulating the way Harry had tutored her with her own student, Silas Hornsby. Her pupil had performed well and was very much like Sarah had been in her first year of training. Today, she’d taken him outside the wizard world to gauge his ability to conceal his abilities while performing his job among muggles. They were at an open market highlighted by a variety of street performers. The arrival of spring had created a burst of activity and desire to be outside. The pair strolled along the main promenade taking in the sights of the festival atmosphere.

Silas noticed a tall, thin man dressed in tattered robes standing in front of cardboard box. “Magic is a state of mind, ladies and gentlemen, and a gift that only a few of us possess.” The man had a hooded nose and stooped shoulders. He held a knotty wand in his hand. He tapped a battered top hat with his wand and pushed his arm inside and pulled out a scrawny rabbit. The crowd gave him a smattering of applause. The man basked in the little attention he was getting and Silas snickered to himself. Just at that time, the rabbit bolted from the man’s grasp and jumped on the box, knocking it and its contents on the ground. The rabbit stopped near the ring of people who surrounded the man’s act.

“Oh dear.” The man gave a sheepish grin and extended his wand. “Accio rabbit.” The rabbit seemed to be dragged along the ground, much to the delight of the onlookers. As if pulled by a rope, the rabbit hugged the ground until it reached the man. The cheers were much louder now. Silas looked across the main plaza and gave Sarah a hard look. Seeing her student’s concerned glance, Sarah made her way to his position.

Silas turned to the man giving the show. “That’s all I have today, but remember to watch for me. I am Frustro the Great.” With a nod to the theatrical, the man yelled “Flagrate!” and carved his name in fire above the crowd. Coins and currency were eagerly tossed in the open bucket at his feet. He shook hands with well-wishers and began to collect his things. Sarah gave Silas a confirming look. The two Aurors walked up to the man and grasped his elbow, secretly.

“Sir, you’re going to have to come with us.” Silas’ had been practicing his official voice. It had come out quite well.

“What’s this all about? Who are you?” The man looked between the pair, bewildered. Sarah held out her Auror’s shield, encased in a leather billfold for journeys in public. Seeing the talisman, the man stopped resisting their pull and allowed them to bring him to a nearby alley.

“Sir, what you just did was a major violation of the Magical Secrecy Act. What is your name?” Silas was leading the questioning as Sarah stood off to the side, watching the man and her pupil’s performance.

“Zachary Frustro. Look, I didn’t violate anything. I’m a squib. That magic wasn’t real.” Silas looked over at Sarah who stepped forward.

“Mr. Frustro, the spells were correct and the magic looked real. It’s a violation. If you’re a squib, how did you do what you did?” Sarah took a slight step back as the man reached into his robes.

“I used this.” The man pulled out a well-used Kwikspell Manual, its pages were dog eared and highlighted. “Those are the only two spells that seem to work at all.”

“I understand sir, but you used real spells in front of muggles. That can only mean a trip to Azkeban.” Silas stood adamantly defiant, his hands on his hips. For his part, Frustro bowed his head, looking like the pathetic wretch he was.

Sarah stood thoughtfully and remembered an encounter years ago, when she was a student and thought that violations meant automatic sentencing to Azkeban. If she’d followed that path, Silas would still be in Azkeban and not making use of his second chance.

“Silas, come on.” Sarah reached her hand for Frustro’s and waited until Silas was touching her. She side-along apparated the trio to Diagon Alley. “Give me your wand, Mr. Frustro.” The shriveled man surrendered the wand to her outstretched hand.

“I’m going to give you a break. Squib or not, there is no magic allowed in front of muggles, period. Next time, it will be Azkeban for sure. Understood?” Slowly, Zachary Frustro nodded his head. “Good, let’s go Silas.” The pair of Aurors left the pitiful man behind as the bustle of the Diagon Alley crowd shoved him about. Sarah was busily explaining to Silas why she’d done what she’d done. Frustro sighed heavily and plopped down on a nearby stoop and placed his head in his hands. He pulled the rabbit from his robe and absently pet its head.

“I’d give anything to be a wizard, Johan.” He looked down at the rabbit and smiled. “I’d have the greatest powers and be the most known wizard in the world!” The rabbit looked up at him and he sighed once more. “I guess it’s not meant to be.”

“I wouldn’t say that. You just have to find the right person to tell you how.” The voice came from nearby and Frustro saw a man standing in the Alley, hands in his pockets with a smile on his face.

“Would you really be willing to give anything to be the most powerful wizard on the planet?” The question hung in the air as Frustro continued to pet his rabbit. The bustle of Diagon Alley hid his reply.


***A/N: Look, I try to hold out details as much as possible, but I'm not very subtle. Those of you who figure out where this is going early, be kind.

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  #97  
Old October 15th, 2007, 1:57 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 98 – A Serious Proposal

Zachary Frustro was in the seating area of a small pub. He’d followed the stranger to this out of the way hole-in-the-wall establishment, intrigued by the man’s question. “What would you do to be one of the most powerful magicians known?”

Obviously the man was deranged but he’d offered Frustro a free dinner and all the drinks he could handle for the evening. They’d left Diagon Alley and walked down the road outside the Leaky Cauldron. The man had turned down another darkened alley and led Frustro to a nondescript door where the pub was. They entered to an empty establishment. There were no patrons and no wait staff visible. Frustro sat down at an empty table and looked around. The man picked up a small bell sitting at the end of the bar and rang it by its wooden handle. A pair of swinging doors at the other end of the room burst open and a pretty waitress came out with a tray on her shoulder. The tray contained a couple of mugs of beer and some appetizers. She set the drinks and food down on the table in front of Zachary, smiled, and left.

Zachary took a long pull of the beer and sat pensively as the mysterious man took a sip of his own beverage. The man was slight of build and sat with a relaxed posture. He was bald, pale with dark black eyes and a wide smile that never seemed to stray far from his face.

“Who are you?” The question had been rattling around Frustro’s head from the beginning. The man’s smile grew wider.

“Of course. That is a natural question. It’s a question we ask ourselves endlessly. In answer to yours, you can call me Meff.” The man lifted his tankard and drank deeply.

“Meff? Ok, Meff, what game are you playing?” Zachary’s life had been punctuated by the cons and scams he’d pulled and those that had been pulled on him. The sum of his life helped the hapless squib to recognize a game when he saw one and this definitely seemed to be a game.

“Everything we do in life is part of a game, Zachary. You, by an accident of birth, were not blessed with the powers that come with having wizard parents. That is the way which the wheel has turned.” Meff leaned forward on the table. “You said you’d give anything to have those powers you were denied. Were you not sincere?”

Zachary leaned back in his chair and allowed his fingers to dawdle about his mug. He was an orphan. His parents were wizards who died almost twenty years ago, caught up in the tide of evil that Voldemort had wrought in the early days. They’d run afoul of some Deatheaters and were killed for their temerity. Frustro was twenty at the time, and was lost in what he wanted to do and where he wanted his life to go. He was a squib, without magical abilities, and Zachary lived his entire life wondering if his parents were disappointed in what he was, and more importantly, what he wasn’t. The ability to cast spells was special. He deserved to be special and whatever had happened, he would be special.

“I would do anything, Meff, but it’s all moot, isn’t it? There’s no way for me to gain powers. I’ve tried everything there is to learn magic and there just isn’t any way.” Zachary smiled over at Meff and opened his hands to try to get the man to lay his cards on the table.

“I understand, but remember, we’re talking about magic here. Anything is possible. I have the ability to give you the powers you seek.” Meff reached into a bag and drew out a long, narrow wooden box. He laid the box on the table and unlatched the small brass clips on the front. The box opened along its axis. Inside, a wand sat on a bed of stain and silk. It was dark red and mottled with black spots.

“This wand is special. It will make you special. Don’t you want to be special?” It was if the man could read Zachary’s mind, causing the small, hooked-nose man to stop breathing. “Go ahead, try it.” Meff turned the box over towards Frustro.

Frustro placed the tips of his fingers on the wand. It was warm. When his skin made contact with the smooth surface of the instrument, the wand began to glow a dark red sheen. Tentatively, Frustros picked up the wand and felt its lightness in his fingers. He swung the tip around experimentally and felt a burning sensation radiating from the wood to his fingertips and up his arm. Frustro stood and looked around the room. Meff nodded over at a table and chairs in the corner.

“Redacto!” The table exploded in a blast of fire and smoke, pieces flying about the room. Sheepishly, Frustro gave an apologetic look over at Meff who was silently applauding the spell.

“How did that feel?” Meff had stood and walked around the table to stand beside him.

Frustro looked down at the wand in his hand. His arm still tingled while his heart raced from the experience. “It fell wonderful. I never knew what this could be like. I felt confident and sure. I felt powerful.”

Frustro raised the wand and pointed at the scattered shards of wood of the table he’d destroyed. “Reparo!”

Nothing moved. There was no follow-on sensation of power and no remedying the damage that had been caused.

“You got your one demonstration. Everything has a price, Zachary. I will grant you this power, if you are willing to pay the toll.” Meff carefully lifted the wand out of Frustro’s hand and guided the man back to his seat. Frustro’s throat was dry and he felt an emptiness in his being when the wand was removed from contact with his skin. Unconsciously, Frustro grasped his mug and drained its contents as the memory of the experience seared in his mind.

“What price?” His throat was scratchy, hoarse as his adrenaline drove him to crave a repeat of the performance.

Meff’s eyes were shining an almost sinister shade of red, yet Frustro missed the change as his attention was centered on the red wand in its case. “First, here is what I will give you. This wand will make you one of the most powerful wizards in the land. You can do whatever you want with it, cast any spell with impunity. The wand isn’t a gift, but a loan for twenty years. From time to time, I may ask a favor of you, but for twenty years, you will be the owner of this wand.”

Frustro’s eyes went from the wand to the man at the table. “What kind of favors?”

“You said yourself, life is a game. I have needs that only the owner of that wand can provide for. Any hesitation on your part, and the deal is null and void and you lose everything. You spend the rest of your life as a squib.” The bait was out there. Meff left the wand in the open, its glow drawing Zachary’s eyes to it.

“Is that the price? Performing these favors?” It seemed easy enough, just be an errand boy for twenty years.

“No, that is the deal. The price? Well the price is your soul. When the twenty years are up, I want your soul, for eternity.” The room was silent. Zachary Frustro looked over at Meff, his eyes wide in surprise.

“My soul? You’re joking, aren’t you?” Frustro’s voice was broken and weak. The price was high indeed.

“Not at all. You see, when we die, we have a choices. Most, if not all people, move on to the next plane, but others can make the choice to pay their debts. Your debt will be to me, for twenty years of power.” Meff leaned back and watched Frusto carefully. “This is a big decision. Why don’t you take the evening and consider the proposal? You can choose a life of being nothing more than a slick hustler, never experiencing true power, or you can have the ultimate power for twenty years. Think about that.” Meff rose and escorted Frustro to the door. “I’ll be here tomorrow evening at eight. If wish to accept my offer, be here.” The door shut on Frustro, who stared at the entrance for a few minutes. Zachary raised the hand which had held the wand and felt a residual tingle. Just then, it began to rain. Zachary turned up his collar, and began the lonely trek home.

***

“Harry, could you come up here please?” Harry was seated at the dining room table, about to dig into a healthy portion of beans and eggs. Today was going to be his first full day back at the Office and he was trying to get an early start on his morning. Ginny’s voice wasn’t frantic, but it did sound excited so Harry shoved a small bit of sausage and egg into his mouth and ran up the stairs to the nursery. When he entered the room, James was seated on the floor, playing with a stuffed wolf doll that was mounted on a broom. The elder Potter child was playfully running his wolf through the air.

“Teddy whoosh!” James would then giggle every time he finished making his toy fly through the air. Harry tousled his eldest son’s hair and walked over to the diaper changing table where Ginny stood with Albus. Ginny was wearing green and gold robe with the Holyhead Harpies logo on its front. She was busily cooing to the baby perched on the table who was laughing back at his mother’s sounds. The baby’s hair had grown thicker and was a shiny jet black.

“You rang?” Harry’s voice was playful and curious. His wife returned his jocularity with a brilliant smile that outshone the rays of the sun peering through the nearby window.

“Look at Albus, for a minute, will you?” Ginny moved aside to allow Harry access to the changing table.

A small window of worry overcame Harry. “Is something wrong?”

“No, there’s nothing the matter. I just want you to look at him.” Ginny prodded her husband to come closer to the baby.

Harry looked over his youngest son. His body had grown longer, but the rolls of baby fat crinkled at his joints. There were rolls upon rolls at the baby’s ankles and elbows and at every other place in between. Albus was gurgling and laughing at his own ingenuity. Harry smiled and gazed down at the boy, trying to determine what had drawn Ginny’s interest. Father and son locked eyes, their gazes intertwined in happiness and Harry suddenly realized what had made Ginny so excited. Albus’ eyes had changed from a light gray to a brilliant shade of green, almost the mirror image of Harry’s eyes. In many ways, Albus was the exact doppelganger of his father. The thought caused Harry’s pulse to race.

“I see what you mean.” Harry turned to Ginny and reached an arm around her shoulders.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” Ginny squeezed her arms around Harry’s waist. Harry could only agree and kissed his wife tenderly, enjoying the experience of being with his family. The hall clock chimed the half hour and Harry stood straight.

“I’ve got to go. I don’t want to be late for my first day back.” He reached down and kissed Albus on his head and knelt to kiss James. He stood and gave Ginny a lingering, soft kiss and ran down the stairs to the floo.

Harry arrived via floo in the main atrium of the Ministry of Magic. As was its usual Monday morning condition, the Ministry was a hive of beings jostling for position as they made their way to work. Harry set a deliberate pace, his thoughts on his family and he was unaware of the tide of people around him. The crowd seemed to part to allow him to pass, many recognizing the Head of the Office Aurors while others recognized the famous Harry Potter.

“Signor Harry!” He turned to see the tall, exotic features of Captain Barreto approaching, her equally gorgeous first mate, Muireall Innes trailing right behind. The buxom mistress of the Discooperire came up to Harry and enveloped him in a ferocious bear hug and then kissed him on both cheeks. “It has been a while, Signor Harry.”

His cheeks somewhat flushed by the greeting, Harry straightened his robe while giving a nod to a passerby he vaguely recognized. “It has been a while, Captain.” Harry nodded to Muireall. “How are you, Ms. Innes?”

The tanned captain bellowed out a laugh. “She says she wants to come with me to the Ministry to help with paperwork. I know the real reason. She’s here to see Williamson. Those two have not been apart since we arrived.” Captain Barreto let out a low growl which caused her first mate’s cheeks to burn with embarrassment. “We have to meet with Senorita Ramirez. We are outfitting the Discooperire for our next voyage. How are you, Signor Harry? How is the new baby?”

Harry quickly had regained his composure. “He’s well. They are all well. How is Raimundo?”

“Si, he is very good. I must go, Signor Harry. I wouldn’t want to keep Senorita Ramirez waiting. Would you mind if Muireall followed you to find Williamson?” Harry gave a smile and indicated for Muireall to follow along. “Tchau! Signor Harry, we shall see you soon!”

“See you soon.”

Harry led the crimson haired Muireall Innes to the lift lobby. Securing space in the next car, they rode up to the second level exchanging mindless pleasantries. When they reached the right level, Harry led her to the main room.

“Williamson?” A familiar head poked his head up from the old desk that Harry had occupied as a team leader. Williamson now led Harry’s old team and his red robes rustled as he rose. “You have a visitor.” Harry extended a hand out and pointed out Muireall.

Williamson’s face flushed as snickers tittered out of the row of cubicles that housed his team. With a wave, he rushed over to where Muireall stood and led her down the hall towards the training arena.

Harry gave a stare over at the remainder of Williamson’s team, silencing the throaty laughter momentarily. When he walked into his office, their obvious delight in their leaders discomfort was demonstrated by the backslapping and giggling that broke out.

Later that morning, Dawlish made his way into Harry’s office, finding the head Auror buried in mounds of paperwork. “Obviously, Lachlan isn’t a details man.” Harry sighed as he tried to weed his way through the mountain of parchment that Lachlan had left for him in his absence.

Dawlish smiled. “No, he’s good in a fight and a natural leader, but bureaucracy gets him down.” The head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement grew serious for a minute. “How are you feeling Harry? Are you up for this?”

Harry sat back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. “Definitely. We’re clearing the docket and things are progressing. I have a feeling that things are going to be relatively quiet for time being, and I think we can use the break.”

Given Harry’s poor performance in Divination at Hogwarts, he probably should have left the prognostication to others.


***A/N: Sorry for my tardiness. It was such a beautiful day, I took my sons out on the boat yesterday. No worries...we'll probably get two chapters out today.

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Old October 16th, 2007, 2:34 am
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 99 – Momentous Decisions

Zachary Frustro couldn’t bring himself to go home immediately. Instead, he found himself walking the street outside the entrance to his low-rent apartment. Deep in thought, he wandered about, unaware of where he was, his mind focused on the memory of the one time a spell he cast actually worked. Not only did it do what he wanted it to do, it felt incredible. His hand still felt the residual tingle of the power that coursed through him into the wand, or was it the other way around? Absently, Frustro looked up and saw a battered wooden sign hanging over the street. The weatherworn letters proclaimed the name of a small pub called “Dregs”. He laughed to himself and walked into the establishment. “Dregs” was a fitting name for the place. It was here that Zachary would spend many an evening with his only two friends in the world. Hopefully, they were in their usual spots, because tonight, he had an interesting question to ask them.

The bar was smoky and dimly lit. The room was about half full and quiet with the murmur of conversation as its patrons drank away their sorrows and shared their complaints with no one in particular. Frustro’s eyes narrowed as he became accustomed to the hazy air. He looked towards a table in the corner and saw two middle aged men whispering together. One looked towards the door and spotted Frustro. With a casual nod of his head, Frustro held up three fingers to the bartender and pointed to the back table. The dirty man behind the bar gave a grunt and nodded. Slowly, Frustro made his way back to the table. The occupants of the table were wearing dirty, tattered clothes. Their faces were worn by age and life, wrinkles wrapped around their eyes which were bloodshot and tired. A small spark of recognition sparkled in their eyes as Zachary pulled up a chair and settled in to join them.

They were squibs, like him. Rejected by the muggle world because of their proximity to the magical world and rejected by the magical world because of the lack of powers. They tried their best to fit in and found solace in sharing their sorrow between each other.

“What’s doing, Charles?” Charles Gorman had known Frustro since they were children. Coincidence had made their families friends and the mark of being squibs was something they shared and suffered through. Gorman was a clerk at a potions shop on Diagon Alley. He was as cognizant of the materials needed to make the most complicated of concoctions, yet without the ability to perform magic, was unable to see the fruits of his knowledge.

He gave a gapped-toothed smile at his boyhood friend. “Not much, Zachary. How were things out in the muggle world? Did you get your spells to work this time?”

Frustro shook his head candidly which brought out a cackle of delight from the other man at the table. “What’s so funny, Argus?”

Argus Filch was the perennial caretaker at Hogwarts, the bane of many a student that had passed through that august institution. Frustro had met Argus several years ago at a meeting with the publisher of the Kwikspell Guide when both were grasping at ways to overcome their perceived disability. Zachary often pitied the twisted old man as he sat year after year and watched as student after student discover the wonder of controlling their abilities. Through the halls and from the professors, Argus had enough knowledge of how to work the magic, but he didn’t possess the ability to perform them.

“Are you convinced now, Zachary? That book was a load of dung!” Filch snorted and drank from the mug the waitress brought him.

“As a matter of fact, Argus, I am convinced. The book is worthless.” Frustro’s comment made Filch draw back. They’d spent countless evenings arguing the merits of the Kwikspell Guide and whether their inability to cast spells was a result of a poor book or poor execution. Tonight was the first time he’d heard Zachary admit that the book simply did not work.

An awkward silence hovered over the table as the men drank their beers. Frustro seemed lost, alone as he contemplated the events of the past day.

“What’s with you tonight, Zachary?” Charles was staring at his old friend intently who had spotted that Frustro’s mind was elsewhere.

Frustro hesitated, unsure of how or whether to proceed. He drained the remainder of his drink and held up his mug asking for a refill. He took a deep breath and sighed. “I met someone who said that he could grant me power.”

His statement was met with skepticism from his friends. Filch chortled uncontrollably and sneered closely at Frustro. The hooked nosed squib reddened a bit and screwed up his courage.

“You don’t understand. He has this wand which allows me to cast spells. I destroyed a table with it. It was amazing” The look on Frustro’s face was passionate and fierce. Charles studied his friend carefully, noting the seriousness combined with wonder in the man’s face.

“And he’ll give this to you out of the goodness of his heart? What’ll it cost you, Zachary?” Filch’s voice dripped with sarcasm. He had an edge he normally reserved for the whelps at Hogwarts.

“Of course not. I’ll have to perform some tasks from time to time, but I get to keep the wand for twenty years. I get to be a powerful wizard for twenty years.” There was a tone in his voice that Gorman picked up on immediately.

“What happens after twenty years, Zachary?”

Frustro was silent. “I have to pay my debt.”

“What debt, Zachary? What is this man asking for?” Charles leaned in, worried.

“Nothing at all, really.” Frustro’s voice dropped an octave. “Just my soul.”

His friends sat stunned at the revelation. “That’s absurd! Who is this man?” Charles looked at his friend with concern. Frustro’s shoulder shrug made him grow more worried.

“Why, Zachary? Why would you agree to something like this? How does he collect your soul? Do you have to die?” Charles was becoming more shrill.

“I guess so, Charles, but it’s worth it. I’d rather be someone for twenty years than live decades like this.” Frustro pursed his lips and sat back as if exhausted. Filch had been silent during the exchange. He took a deep breath and spoke up.

“You’re a coward, Zachary. You’re going for the quick fix. Life is life. Miserable or happy; no matter what, when you’re willing to give up your life for the easy way, there’s always more misery than happiness. What kind of errands will you be running?” Filch looked closely at Frustro, gauging his response.

“I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, the wand would be mine.” Frustro stuck his jaw out defiantly, Filch’s words burning his ears.

“I’d think long and hard about this Zachary. A bargain like this can never be undone. Dead is dead. Believe me, I’ve seen it.” Filch’s eyes drifted to the last twenty years, the dead bodies of students passing briefly before him.

“I know Argus. I’ve got to think this over.” Frustro stood up. “I’ve got to really decide if this is what I want.” He looked down at the hand that only hours before had held the power, the memory, once more, overcoming his senses.

Gorman stood with him. “Argus may be right, Zachary. We may be squibs, but we still live. Don’t give up your life for something so temporary. This doesn’t feel right. I hope you realize that.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Frustro bade his friends goodnight and walked out into the night.

***

“That is more than fair, Isabella.” The two dark skinned women were laughing together as Dean madly scribbled in a ledger. Captain Barreto folded up the parchment which held her orders and the list of provisions the Ministry was going to purchase.

“Well, we can’t have one of our heroes undersupplied, can we, Capitan?” Isabella’s smile caused Dean to flush and he caught himself before he made a mistake with an entry.

“I appreciate it, mi amiga.” The vivacious captain stood and embraced the comptroller of the Ministry. There was a knock on the door and Dean went to answer it. Opening the door, he saw Harry, Williamson, Manchester and Leonora standing outside. The next meeting was with the Aurors who’d survived the trip to Atlantis. The four entered the room and were greeted by the sight of Captain Barreto and Isabella Ramirez with their heads together giggling.

“This can not be a good thing.” Manchester grumbled to himself.

“You!” Manchester stood straight as Captain Barreto stalked him. “Where is my mistress at arms?”

Manchester gave a pleading look to his colleagues as he tried to stammer out a reply. “I, well, ma’am, you see, I had this time off, and well, um, er…we sort of got married.”

The shocked look on the Aurors’ faces told Barreto that this was news to them. Harry stared at Manchester.

With a sheepish grin, Manchester stared at a spot directly above Harry’s head. “She’s probably at home, I suspect.”

Barreto’s gaze grew softer. “Well, Signor Manchester, do you think she still has the desire to sail the seas or have you tamed my best ship handler with visions of domestication?”

“Oh no ma’am. I’m sure that she’s ready to go back to sea.” Under his breath, where only Leonora could hear, “Merlin knows I could use a break, she’s wearing me out.” Leonora hid a snicker behind her hand. Manchester looked back at Barreto and spoke louder. “I’ll tell her tonight. When do you need her?”

“A week from Monday will do fine. It’ll be for about six weeks. Tell Mrs. Manchester I expect to see her then.” Barreto offered him a wicked grin and tossed a casual wave to those in the room. “Tchau! Signor Harry, good to see you.” She gave Harry a wink and sauntered out the door.

“Ahem.” Isabella shook them out of their observation of the flamboyant captain’s departure. “It’s so good you can meet with me. I wanted to go over your expense reports from your voyage. Most of it is self explanatory, of course.” She rifled through some pages and looked at Manchester. “Mr. Manchester, can you explain why you overpaid the toll to the ferryman?” Harry saw the twinkle in Isabella’s eyes and barely hid his laughter at Manchester’s discomfort.

***

Harry knocked at the door of the apartment. There was a muffled shuffle of feet and the sound of locks being undone. Slowly the door swung open revealing the tired face of his best friend, Ron Weasley.

“Harry! What brings you out here?” The door swung open wide. Ron stood in the threshold, a set of comfortable cotton sweat pants and shirt on. “Hermione, it’s Harry!”

Hermione came from the kitchen, a dish towel in her hands. “Harry! Hello! Don’t just stand there Ron, ask him in.” Ron gave Harry a quick look of apology and invited his friend in their home. A small metallic frame sat in the middle of the room with a large baby seat suspended from it. Little Rose sat in the seat as it swung to and fro, smiling lazily as the steady thrum of the motor comforted her. Over the past few weeks, Hermione and Ron had struggled to get Rose into a comfortable routine. She fussed and cried constantly and made life extremely difficult. It was Dudley who given them the battery-operated swing which he’d found at a store while out with Beatrice. On one desperate night, Ron had carefully placed his colic ridden daughter in the swing and she immediately settled down. Now Ron and Hermione kept a ready supply of batteries at hand.

“Hello, Hermione. Actually, I came to see you.” Harry sat at the kitchen table, joined by Hermione. Ron went into the kitchen to finish whatever Hermione had been working on. “Dawlish wanted me to ask you about taking a new job.”

Since her daughter had been born two months earlier, Hermione had been working sparingly. Combined with the fact that her House-Elf Emancipation legislation had effectively worked her out of a job, she’d been fiddling around the Ministry with very little to do. At first, she enjoyed her time with Rose, but now, she’d been feeling the pull of wanting to do something. Ron had surreptitiously approached Harry to see if he could do something for Hermione.

“What’s the job, Harry?” Hermione perched her head in her hands, her interest peaked.

“With all the changes in the Ministry, we’re at a point where we can effect real change.” Harry reached into his satchel and pulled out several large tomes. “Dawlish would like to place you permanently in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement as the Director of Legislative Affairs.”

Hermione’s face perked up. “What does he want from me?”

Harry nodded over at the books on the table. “We need to revise the entire structure of the law. You’d be responsible for reviewing the entire legal code and eliminating all the ‘pure blood’ nonsense that’s in there. Everything from muggle exclusions to squib banishments, you would be responsible for bringing our system of law up to date. Do you think you’d be up to it?”

Hermione’s eyes sparkled with delight. She was being offered a dream job, a chance to make a real difference. Her gaze drifted to her daughter and her face dropped a bit. “I don’t know, Harry. I don’t think I could leave her.” Sadness lined her voice.

Harry rose and smiled. “So work from home and bring her with you when you have to come into the Ministry.” Hermione looked at Harry incredulously. “I cleared it with Dawlish, although I’m sure Leonora and Cavendish got to him. He’s instituting a policy allowing employees to bring their children with them. He’s even got plans for a daycare, if you can believe that.”

Hermione crushed Harry in a powerful hug, her eyes watering gratefully. “I don’t know what to say, Harry.”

Harry took a deep breath when she released him. “I’m assuming you’re accepting the job. That’s good enough for me.” He shook Ron’s hand and made his way to the door. “I’ll see you Monday.” Harry walked to the door, and made for home.

***

At precisely eight in the evening the next day, Zachary Frustro found himself standing outside the plain door where the mysterious Mr. Meff had bade him to return. Every ounce of his being was telling him to walk away and to reject the offer. What was twenty years to the magic born, even a squib? Was he willing to give his life for twenty years of magic? His arm tingled and hummed; he could feel the power circulating through his body as his memory blazed in his head. He paced for a moment and with that self same arm, he pulled open the heavy door and walked inside, the decision made from the instant he’d first grasped the wand.

***A/N: As promised, a second chapter for today. You probably won't see the next one until tomorrow evening, but you will see one.

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  #99  
Old October 17th, 2007, 3:46 am
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 100 – Frustro the Great!

Frustro entered the bar and looked around for his potential benefactor. Meff was seated in the exact same spot as yesterday, wearing the same clothes. It was if he’d been frozen in time from then to now and when Frustro entered the pub, the man was reanimated. He stood and smiled, offering his hand to Zachary and pointing him to a seat. Frustro sat warily, his eyes looking around the room and finally resting on the table. The box and its wand were no where to be seen. A sense of disappointment coursed through his body and he brought his eyes up to face the man across from him.

“So, Zachary, have you come to a decision?” Meff gave him a friendly grin and opened his palms wide. Frustro gave a slow nod, unable to speak.

“Do you have any questions?”

Frustro’s head went back to the conversation he’d had with his friends. “How do you collect my soul, when this is all said and done?”

Meff gave a nod. “The real question is do you have to die in order for me to collect your soul, isn’t it?” Frustro again nodded. “It’s obvious, isn’t it? You can’t very well surrender your soul if you’re still using it, can you?”

The weight of the decision pressed down on Frustro. For a brief moment, he felt the urge to jump up from his seat and run out the door. His mind flashed over his life and highlighted the anguish of not belonging, of not being special in either the muggle or magical world. Despite that, he had a life. As if sensing his hesitation, Meff reached under his chair and pulled out the familiar wooden box and placed it carefully on the table. He slowly opened its catch and turned the box so that Frustro could see his prize.

Frustro’s palms became sweaty and his pulse raced as he caught sight of the red wand. It had a warm glow to it and his fingertips began to tingle. It was all he could do to not reach out and grasp the wand in his hand. All thoughts of leaving immediately left his head.

“Any other questions?” Meff’s voice was quiet and triumphant. Frustro’s head shook slightly, his eyes never leaving the wand. Meff pulled out a long roll of parchment and placed it on the table in front of Zachary. “All you need do is sign on the line. I will countersign as the trustee and you will be a powerful wizard. Are you ready?”

Zachary saw a quill on the table and he reached for it, looking for an inkwell to dip it into. “You won’t need any ink.” Meff’s eyes were growing wider, their blackened tint shading red. Frustro placed the nib on the paper and began to write. Immediately, the top of his hand felt like it was on fire. A red ‘Z’ was scrawled on the top of his hand, matching the ‘Z’ on the parchment, which was tinted a coppery red, like blood. Frustro looked over at Meff in shock.

“You need to sign in blood, I’m afraid. It’s a small price to pay for the power you seek.”

Frustro took a deep breath and placed the tip of the quill on the paper. The going was slow as he was wracked with pain with every stroke of a letter. Through it all, his signature was duplicated on the top of his hand, permanently etched in pain in blood. When he was done, he put the quill down and sat back in his seat. Meff took the pen in his hand and turned the parchment around. He scrawled his name rapidly on the paper. At the same time, another fiery pain shot through Frustro’s hand, matching the strokes of the pen that Meff was making. A large red spot covered his hand as Meff finished his signature.

“There you go. It’s all yours.” He slid the box over towards Frustro’s side of the table. Just as Zachary’s hand reached for the wand, Meff grabbed his wrist and pulled the wizard to be close to his face. An ugly sneer was planted on the man’s face. “Remember, you must perform tasks for me, from time to time. You can not refuse, no matter what the task is. Do you understand?” Frustro tried to pull his arm from his grip, but failed.

“I understand.” The friendly demeanor returned to Meff and he released Zachary’s hand. At the precise instant that his fingers wrapped around the wand, the room exploded in a flash of smoke and red light. In that instant, the pub, the box, the tables and Mr. Meff disappeared and Frustro found himself standing alone in the middle of a deserted alley. He felt a momentary touch of panic and lifted his arm up and saw the wand gripped tightly in his hand. It hummed with energy and Frustro smiled to himself.

He pointed the wand at a nearby rubbish bin. “Diffindo!” The bin tore along its axis, dumping its contents on the alley floor. A rush of contentment and excitement entered his head, the intoxicating sensation more intense than he remembered. A throbbing pain suddenly came from his hand and he saw blood pouring from the wounds from the signing of the pact. “Episkey!” The blood dried up and disappeared and most of the raw wound healed itself. The scars of the signatures remained. He could clearly see his own name written in his rough scrawl, identical to his signature on the parchment. His benefactor’s name was also clear. His eyes narrowed as he saw that the man had written his entire name down on the contract. Frustro’s face became ashen and he felt a hole form in the pit of his stomach. He wasn’t able to breathe. His fingers sought to drop the wand on the ground before him. The wand sensed his failing spirit and warmed with a bright red glow, its heat radiating up his arm and resonating in his head. He felt calm and assured, like in the arms of a lover and the pain went away. He held up the wand and smiled and began to walk up the alley towards home. Absently, he placed the wand in the breast pocket of his jacket, its warmth near his heart. He exited the alley and turned up the crowded street. He peered momentarily at his scarred hand. Below his signature, the full name of his donor was emblazoned in bold, flowing script, almost like a tattoo. The name permanently etched in his hand was:

“Mephisto.”

***

“So, Uncle Dudley, when are we going to give it to him?” Dudley Dursley and Teddy Lupin were walking down a gaily lit Diagon Alley, each working on ice cream cones that they’d just picked up.

“It’s not a surprise if you keep flapping your gums about it strobe head.” Dudley tousled Teddy’s hair as they walked among the crowd.

“Aw, come on Uncle Dudley, it’s so, so, so…” Teddy was trying to find the words. “It’s so Q!”

Dudley laughed at the Bondesque reference. “It’s just about done. It’ll be ready for his birthday, okay?”

“I guess I can wait that long.” Teddy took another lick at the melting ice cream. Summer was knocking at the door, but the late spring evenings were just right for ice cream. Teddy’s grandmother had some errands to run in the Alley and Teddy, who’d just turned ten, had been pining for the chance to visit Weasley’s Wheezes. Dudley volunteered to watch the lad and the pair had decided that an ice cream cone was needed. Teddy also knew that it was the ideal opportunity for Dudley to sneak a visit to Flourish and Blott’s to see Beatrice.

“Here we are, Uncle Dudley!” They were standing outside the entrance to the bookstore.

“Will you look at that! Isn’t that a coincidence? Well, while we’re here, we might as well see if Beatrice is around.” Teddy’s hair turned a fluorescent shade of lavender as he laughed at Dudley’s lame attempt at playing coy.

The two walked into the shop where Beatrice had just finished assisting Andromeda Tonks with some purchases. Teddy gave his grandmother a hug and greeted Beatrice.

“Hello, you two. You saved me the walk to pick up Teddy.” Andromeda gave Dudley a peck on the cheek. “Come on Teddy, we should be heading home.” Rather disappointed, Teddy bade the couple farewell and followed his grandmother out the door.

Beatrice gave a shout to her manager that she was taking a break and walked out into the temperate evening with Dudley. They found a nearby bench and sat together, watching people walk by. Dudley was more quiet than usual and Beatrice worried that something was troubling him.

“What is it, love? Is something on your mind?” Her breathing was shallow as all sorts of unrealistic fears penetrated her conscience.

“Er, well, yes.” Her heart fell and her stomach began to tighten. Dudley noticed her discomfort and placed a hand on her knee. “It’s not bad at all. I was just thinking about us.” A bead of sweat formed on his lip as he tried to get the words out. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small jewelry box. He carefully opened the box and knelt in front of Beatrice. “I was wondering, if you thought it would be alright, if we got married. Will you marry me?”

All sorts of thoughts raced through Beatrice’s head. She’d been hoping for this yet she worried about life with a muggle. What would her parents say? Where would they get married? Where would they live? Would he resent her for her powers? Would they have children who were squibs? She swooned a little and bit her lip slightly. She looked Dudley in the eye as he waited anxiously for her reply.

***

Frustro walked along the street, the wand pressed tightly against his breast. He walked the darkened sidewalk near his apartment. The sound of footsteps touched his ears. He whirled to find a tall, menacing figure standing near him.

“Well if it isn’t the squib.” The man had a pitted and scarred face, the remnants of a childhood disease.

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Slowly, Frustro placed his hand into his pocket, his fingers lightly touching the warmth of the wand.

“Why would you? I’m a wizard, and you’re nothing but a waste of time.” The man sneered again and pulled out a black, bent wand.

Frustro pulled his wand from his pocket and pointed it unsteadily at the man.

“What’s this? The squib has a stick? I’m so scared. Redacto!” A blinding bolt of red light shot from his wand striking out towards Frustro.

As if of their own volition, his lips formed the words. “Protego!” His shield easily deflected the blast. “Expelliarmus!” The words came out stronger as Frustro grew more confident; the man’s wand flew from his grasp. “Petrificus Totalus!” The attacker froze in his tracks. Unfortunately, his mouth worked just fine.

“You think having some trick up your sleeve makes you special? You’re still nothing but a low life, miserable squib. And that’s all you’ll ever be.” A slow burning fuse was lit in Frustro’s brain as the man continued his diatribe.

“Every one of you people thinks you’re like us. Even with a trick wand or some correspondence course class, you’ll never be one of us.” The man’s eyes blazed as his hatred came out in his words.

Frustro felt his entire life of misery and loss building in him. He turned his wand on the man. “Crucio!” The man screamed in pain, but was unable to move as the torturous spell touched every nerve ending in his being.

After a moment, Frustro released him from his pain. The man was breathing hard as Frustro released him from his paralysis. He fell to his knees and gasped for every labored breath.

“You think you’re one of us? You’re nothing, but a dirty, meaningless squib. You’re worse than a muggle, because your parents were pure bloods. Think about it, you are nothing but the last pitiful reminder of how they died as failures. You are nothing more than their failure.” He laughed between his breaths, the sound growing stronger, rattling in Frustro’s brain.

The anger, the frustration, the fear all boiled in him lighting the fuse in his heart. Frustro’s felt the wand rise in his arms. Almost without thought, it pointed at the man.

“Avada Kedavrah!” A greenish light shot from the wand and struck its target true. His tormentor fell to the street, dead. Frustro stared at the wand in his hand and dropped it. He stared at his hand and back at the dead man. He felt the bile rising in his throat as the horror of what he’d done struck him. He felt like throwing up. He’d killed a man, over words. He looked around and began to walk away. After a moment he stopped and looked down at his hand. He felt the longing he’d felt before he got the wand. He turned and looked at the wand. It was burning red, as if calling to him. He stared at his hand and calmly walked over to the wand and picked it up. He returned it to his pocket and walked away from the corpse of his victim, never looking back.

Had he looked back, he would have seen the most amazing thing. The man rose from the ground, and stood watching his retreating back. His figure transformed into a slightly built bald man with fiery red eyes. Mephisto smiled. He’d gotten exactly the response he was looking for from Frustro. Like his last minion, John Faustus, this one would be perfect for what he had planned. Zachary Frustro would provide him the blood of the good that would allow Mephisto to live another millennium. He pulled out a large cigar and lit it with a tongue of flame emanating from his finger. He turned around and disappeared into the night.

***A/N: So now you know which "mythology" I pulled this story from. As an aside, 'Faustus' can mean liar. I chose 'Frustro' because it's latin for the word deceive.

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  #100  
Old October 18th, 2007, 2:17 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 101 – Errand Boy

Harry arrived in Diagon Alley and made his way down the central promenade heading towards the offices of the Daily Prophet. His gait was almost casual with an underlying alertness, as if he was ready to spring to action in a moment’s notice. It was early evening and he was heading to pick Ginny up from work for a rare dinner out. Kreacher had owled Harry informing him that the boys were doing well and suggesting that Ginny could use a respite from the evening routine. Harry readily agreed. He spied a tangle of hair that was cycling through a prism of color changes and recognized his godson and Andromeda making their way through the crowd towards the exit.

“Uncle Harry!” Teddy had spotted him as well and broke into a run. Harry gave his godson a crushing hug and then smiled in greeting to Andromeda as she caught up. “What are you doing here, Uncle Harry?”

“I’m meeting your Aunt Ginny for dinner. You guys out shopping, I suppose?” Andromeda gave a cheerful nod.

Teddy, for his part, hadn’t been interested in shopping. “I hung out with Uncle Dudley. Then he got all squishy when we met up with Beatrice at Flourish and Blott’s.” Teddy made a face and his hair turned a distinct shade of pea green. Harry noticed that Andromeda’s face was weary and tired.

“Okay, you two, I should let you go. Teddy, get your grandmother home.” Harry laid a hand on Teddy’s shoulder.

“Will you be flying with me and Aunt Ginny this weekend?” Teddy’s eyes were wide in anticipation.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Before you know it, you’ll be chasing the snitch all over the pitch.” Harry gave Andromeda a kiss on the cheek and waved farewell to his godson.

He continued down the alley. As he approached Flourish and Blott’s he was greeted by the sight of his cousin Dudley sitting on a knee in front of Beatrice who was on a nearby bench. Just as Harry spotted them, Beatrice jumped from the bench and into Dudley’s arms, knocking both of them to the cobblestones. Concerned, Harry ran over to the couple splayed on the pathway.

“Are you two all right?” Harry offered his hand to Beatrice, whose eyes were full of tears. He then turned to help Dudley up off the ground.

Dudley had a huge smile on his face. “We’re getting married, Harry. She said yes.”

“I knew she would. Good for you!” Harry turned to Beatrice who was holding her hand in front of her, prominently displaying the ring on her finger. “Congratulations, Bea.”

“Thanks, Harry.” Beatrice gave Harry a hug and then turned to Dudley and kissed him deeply. “I’ve got to go tell mum.” With that, she tore off down the alley, heading for home.

The cousins stood and watched her leave in silence. After a moment, Harry turned to Dudley. “Speaking of which, have you told Aunt Petunia?”

Dudley nodded. “Mum helped me pick out the ring. She doesn’t think we should tell Dad until after the wedding. We’re going to have to make it a wizard affair. I don’t think we can have it at a muggle venue.”

“Sure we can, Duds. You don’t have to give in entirely to this world. We can make accommodations too.” Harry gave his cousin a serious look.

“I appreciate that Harry, but I want Teddy to be in the wedding and I don’t want the boy to worry about controlling his hair color. I want him to be natural.” Harry gave his cousin a smile. Teddy and Dudley had grown close and Harry was grateful to his cousin for helping maintain a strong male presence with his godson while Harry had to go off on his adventures. In the big picture, Dudley had become a strong and moderating influence in many areas of Harry’s life. He was reliable and dependable. His advice was mature and meaningful. Harry was glad that Dudley had become the man he was today.

“I’ve got to go meet Ginny. Are you going to be all right?” Dudley smiled and nodded.

“I’m more than all right, Harry. I’m in bliss. I’d better get going, too. I’ve got to tell Verity and Sarah before I tell George and Lee. There’s no telling what my business partners will do when they find out and I’d like the adults in their relationship to get a heads up first.”

Dudley made off for Weasley’s Wheezes. Harry watched him go and then turned into the offices of the Daily Prophet. For the first time in a long time, he had a scoop for his wife.

***

His apartment was sparsely furnished. The aging wallpaper was tattered and torn, pieces hanging down from the wall. A single light hung from the ceiling and the constant drip of the kitchen sink was the only sound that permeated the air. Frustro sat in a battered high-backed chair staring out the window. Since his encounter the night before, he’d been sitting there, the wand in his hand, contemplating what he’d done. He’d killed a man, just for taunting him. What worried Zachary more was not the revulsion at the act of taking a life, but the exhilaration he felt when the power manifested itself in the wand. It was intoxicating. Strangely, the shield spell and the disarming spell didn’t seem as exciting, but a true sense of power and energy overcame him when he used the Cruciatus Curse and the Killing Curse, he felt pure ecstasy.

How was that possible? He’d sat there, reliving the memory over and over. He knew what he’d done was absolutely wrong, but a small part of him, in the deep recesses of his mind, had the small hope that he’d get to experience the sensation again. He shuddered and rose from his seat. Poking the wand into his pocket, he ran for the door.

It was near closing time at the “Dregs”. The normally sparse weekday crowd had begun to filter out into the night. His ubiquitous companions were nursing their drinks in the back of the bar. Ignoring everyone else, he practically ran to the table where his friends were and sat down hurriedly. His eyes danced around, casting furtive glances, trying to identify threats as his startled friends greeted him.

“Look what the cat dragged in.” Argus Filch was well into his fourth or fifth drink and his gravelly voice was further marred by the slurring of the alcohol. Frustro gave a half-hearted chuckle and continued his sweep of the room.

“You accepted the bargain, didn’t you Zachary?” Charles Gorman’s voice sounded disappointed in his boyhood friend. “Merlin’s beard, what have you done?” Gorman noticed how flushed and guilty Frustro looked.

Frustro’s eyes stopped moving and locked in on Charles. The pair stared each other down until Frustro gave in and cast his dark eyes downward and nodded.

“I took the deal.” In a soft whisper, Frustro spoke what remained of his conscience. “I killed a man tonight.” His friends stopped breathing. Frustro continued. “It wasn’t my fault. He tried to attack me and the wand…” He drew the wand and held it reverently. “The wand saved me. I killed the man before he could kill me.”

Filch looked at Frustro with narrowed eyes, an instant sobriety in his stare. Gorman blanched at what he’d heard from his friend. “What happened? Did he try the killing curse and it rebounded on him when he defended himself.”

Frustro pounded the table with his fist. “No. He attacked me and I killed him.”

Gorman thought for a moment, the shock of realization hitting him like a hammer to the forehead. “You mean you used a killing curse? On a real person?”

Put that way, Frustro saw the shame and horror in Gorman’s face. Filch for his part was impassive and inscrutable. Gorman spoke haltingly. “You’ve got to give the wand back, Zachary. You killed a man, what’s next?”

“No, this is mine!” He pointed the wand at Gorman’s chest. “You just want it for yourself. Besides, I signed the contract.” He displayed his hand with his signature and the prominent signature of the wands trustee.

“Easy, boy.” Filch spoke for the first time, his voice even. “Neither me nor Charlie want that stick of yours. We’re just saying that maybe you don’t want it either.”

“What do you know? You’ve been cleaning the toilets of brats with more power in their little fingers than you’ll ever have. You’re like all squibs, just jealous of those of us with real power.” Frustro’s voice dripped with contempt.

“Listen to yourself, Zachary. Don’t you remember what it’s like? You’ve had that wand for twenty hours, what will it do to you in twenty years?” Gorman’s voice shook with fear. He had fear for his friend’s fate and slowly, he was beginning to fear for his own life.

“I’m different now. I’m powerful. You could help me, Charles. Argus? Why don’t you join me?” His friends were silent, trying to piece together the changes that had occurred to him. Finally, slowly, Filch rose, trying not to take a threatening posture.

“Let me ask you one thing, Frustro.” Filch laid a galleon down on the table as a tip. “Where is the line drawn? You killed a man. What are you not willing to do with your new ‘power’?” Filch cinched up the front of his shabby coat. “You killed someone without any prompting. When this Mephisto comes around, I guess you’ll be ready to do just about anything.” Filch nodded to Charles and meandered to the door.

Frustro and Gorman sat together, silently contemplating Filch’s words. In his mind, Frustro started to hear a song. The melody was soothing. The wand in his hand flashed red, in time with the music. Immediately, Frustro began to calm himself.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I own the wand, it doesn’t own me.” Frustro replaced the wand in his pocket.

Gorman stared at his friend, trying to find some semblance of the man he once knew. “Maybe, Zachary, but you still have to do Mephisto’s bidding.” Gorman stood and paid his tab. “Let me ask you this, Zachary. Did you want the power just to be powerful or was there something greater that you wanted to accomplish? The point is, even as squibs, me and Argus live our lives with purpose. What purpose are you living yours?”

Frustro watched his friend disappear out the door into the night. He sat for a moment, staring at the grain of the wood in the table. He heard footsteps approaching and then saw a full mug of beer placed in front of him on the table.

“I didn’t order this.” Frustro said absently.

“True, but you looked like you could use a drink.” He turned at the familiar voice and saw Mephisto standing near him. His strange benefactor sat across from Frustro in the chair just vacated by Gorman. “So, those were your friends, eh?” Frustro nodded. “They were just jealous, you know. They can’t have the power you have. Don’t you feel it? The warmth, the energy, the pure delight when you wield the magic?”

Frustro gave an involuntary smile. He’d felt all of those things and more. It was wonderful. He contemplated Mephisto who sat with a smug grin on his face. With a sigh, Frustro spoke. “You’ve come with an errand for me, haven’t you?”

“Right the first time, Zachary. Don’t worry, this one is relatively easy.” Frustro gave him a doubtful glance. “No, really. I want you to procure an item for me. It’s a manuscript by Christopher Marlowe, ‘The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus.’ You’ve got to get the original manuscript. It’s at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Bring it to where we signed the pact. Do not damage it and you must bring me the original.”

“Why do you want it?” Frustro was puzzled by the request.

“Let’s just say I’m a collector of fine antiquities.” Mephisto pulled out a cigar and lit it with the flame on his finger. His eyes blazed a fiery red. “Anyway, that’s none of your concern. Our deal simply says you get the wand and you complete tasks for me. This is your first task.”

Frustro grunted and pushed himself from the table. He stared at Mephisto for a moment and started out the door. “Oh, and Zachary?” Frustro stopped, but did not look at the short man at the table. “Obtain the manuscript by any means necessary. I know that you know how to kill. Do not hesitate to kill if someone stands between you and the manuscript. You’ve become quite good at it.”

Frustro shuddered and continued out the door. Mephisto’s maniacal laughter followed him into the night.

***A/N: OK, I'm back home from my business trip, so we'll get back into our morning postings. The feedback has been pretty sparse. This is a clear departure from the Mythology tack and I'd appreciate some feedback as to how this is going.

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My Fanfics:
A History of Magic: Part II - Beyond the Epilogue
Teddy Lupin and the Legacy of the Marauders ; A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era (on hiatus); You Are Cordially Invited... (First Attempt)

Last edited by USNAGator91; October 18th, 2007 at 2:26 pm.
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