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SIYE Time:21:53 on 25th September 2017


Homecoming
By Brennus

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Nymphadora Tonks
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: Death, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: R
Reviews: 219
Summary: After four years working overseas for the shadowy Department M, a world-weary and dispirited Harry Potter returns to the land of his birth. He meets some old friends and makes some new ones, as he learns that much has changed since he left home. AU, a ‘Harry never went to Hogwarts’ story.
Hitcount: Story Total: 42793; Chapter Total: 2560
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
The final chapter, and events come to what I hope is a suitable climax.

Before anyone asks, yes, I might well write a sequel to this. I rather like this AU and, as I’m sure you will see, I’ve left plenty of elements that I could pick up on in a further story.

A final thanks must be given to Arnel, who not only corrected my many mistakes, but offered encouragement, advice and suggestions throughout. She’s a star.

Oh, by the way, not only is the title of this chapter a Sisters of Mercy song, but it also fits in with the ending extremely nicely, too. Go on, look it up on YouTube, you might even like it…




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Chapter 15 — Vision Thing



“Be careful, these metal rungs are slippery,” Harry called out as he slowly descended into the inky blackness with only the light streaming in from the small circular hole above him to light the way.

“You okay, Harry?” he heard Bill call down.

“Yeah, I… oh, I’ve reached the bottom,” he replied, before pulling out his wand. “Lumos!”

Looking around him, Harry saw that he was standing on a narrow concrete pathway. Below him, a wide steam of filthy brown water ran quickly by.

“I’m coming down,” Bill declared and Harry quickly made room for the man. A few moments later, the tall curse-breaker joined him on the pathway. He too withdrew his wand but rather than creating illumination he began to check for traps.

A noise from above alerted Harry to the fact that Ginny was beginning her descent down the metal rungs, and she was followed shortly afterwards by Dora. He then heard a scrapping sound as the access cover was pushed back into place and the light from above was extinguished.

“What a lovely place,” Ginny noted. She, like the rest of them, wore a plastic, all-in-one suit over her normal clothing. She also wore a yellow helmet with a light mounted on the front, which she immediately turned on. Sheepishly, Harry remembered he was wearing one, too, and reached up to press the ‘on’ switch.

“Okay, we need to keep going down this pathway and we should hit a junction in about a hundred yards,” Dora instructed them. She had placed herself in charge of navigation and clutched a copy of the map Hermione had provided which, thoughtfully, the Legal Witch had placed a Waterproofing Charm on.

“Hold on one sec,” Harry instructed and reached up to his ear and grasped the gold earring that hung from it. “Hermione, can you hear me?”

“Yes, Harry, I can hear you perfectly,” Hermione’s voice boomed in his ear.

“Ouch, not so loud!” he responded, wincing. The other three all grimaced in pain, too.

“Sorry,” she said at a more reasonable volume.

“We’re just about to set out,” Harry told her. “We’ll try and check-in every five minutes, but don’t be afraid to give us a call if you haven’t heard from us in a while.

“Will do. Good luck,” Hermione said. Harry let go of the earring and broke the connection.

“Right, communications with Hermione are fine, so let’s head out,” he told the other three.

“I’ll lead,” Bill said firmly. “You two Ministry types can follow me and Ginny will be in the rear so if I trigger any traps she won’t be hit, too.”

“Looking after your little sister, eh?” Dora teased.

“Not at all; if I do get hit by some Curse or Jinx, I want to know that the only other qualified curse-breaker will be available to bail me out of trouble. It’s standard procedure,” Bill explained.

“Yeah, do you think I would have stood for it otherwise?” Ginny challenged.

“Well, hush my mouth,” Dora replied.

Bill set off along the narrow pathway with Dora close behind. Harry maintained a little separation between him and his work-partner, while his life-partner stayed close behind him. They soon found the junction and saw that the tunnel that they had been following was only a small subsidiary passage and opened up onto a much larger one. They mounted a grid-metal set of stairs and turned right onto an access path that ran parallel to the raging brown water.

After walking for about a minute, Dora halted them at a large, concrete platform that jutted out into the water.

“We should be directly underneath that fake manhole cover now,” she informed them.

“Good spot,” Bill noted. “With the right talisman, our friendly criminals can just pop themselves down here in a split second. The question is, where do they go from here?”

“They could go in either direction, North or South,” Harry pointed out.

“Yeah, and we have no way of knowing which,” Ginny complained.

“There’s nothing for it, we’ll have to split up,” Dora decided. “Harry, you and Ginny carry on South down this path while Bill and I will head back the way we’ve come. If you find anything let us know immediately.”

Harry nodded, and quickly called Hermione to let her know they were splitting up. She didn’t sound happy about the decision, but seemed to accept that they would never be able to search the place thoroughly unless they did.

They set off with Ginny in the lead. She walked with her wand extended in front of her and a look of absolute concentration on her face. After about twenty yards she halted abruptly.

“Hold up, I think we have a trap here,” she said grimly.

“What kind of trap?” Harry asked, his eyes scanning the walkway ahead.

“I’m not sure, but I think it’s linked to whatever talisman activates the transporter back there. I suspect they’ve left a nasty surprise for anyone wandering around down here not wearing one. Stand back a bit,” Ginny told him.

After a few minutes working on the trap, Ginny turned to Harry with a frown. “I can’t deactivate this trap without knowing what exactly prevents its activation. I’m afraid we’ll just have to spring the trap.”

“What if it brings the entire tunnel down on our heads?” Harry protested.

“Then we’d better hope that Tonks and my brother can dig us out,” she grinned. “You’d better call the others and let them know what we’re doing, then get ready to cast the strongest Shield Charm you can.”

Harry quickly called Dora to warn her that they were about to trip a booby-trap and then held his wand in readiness. Ginny glanced at him with a mischievous glint in her eye.

“Ready?” she asked.

“Would it mean anything if I said no?” he challenged.

“Not really,” she smirked. “Okay, cast your Shield Charm… now!”

Harry cast the protection spell with as much force as he could, placing the magical shield about a yard in front of the pair of them. Ginny then brought her wand down with a whipping motion.

There was a bright flash followed by a concussive blast that nearly knocked Harry backwards. Dust filled the air and for a second he was blinded by the billowing smoke which stung his eyes. Desperately, he reached for Ginny and found her standing next to him as she had been previously.

“Woo-hoo, that was fun!” she giggled. For the first time since he’d met her, Harry began to worry about the sanity of his girlfriend.

“I’m glad you think so,” he groused. “That was a hell of an explosion.”

“Yeah, but it was largely directional. If we’d have been standing on the pathway next to the trap we’d have probably been blown to pieces, but I was confident that we’d be fine setting it off remotely. Nice Shield Charm, by the way.”

“Harry, are you alright?” Dora’s panicky voice sounded in his ear.

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Harry replied. “The blast was just a bit bigger then we were expecting.”

“What was that, Ginny?” Bill’s voice asked.

“Level 4 trap; some sort of direction Blasting Charm that automatically detonated when anyone without the necessary Magical signature passed by. It would have been instantly lethal, too. Whoever set this up wasn’t playing around,” Ginny said grimly.

“Okay, at least we know what to look for from now on, but don’t get fixated on a single type of device. Any wizard who knows his stuff will mix and match his traps,” Bill warned.

“Well, duh!” Ginny snapped at her brother. “I do know what I’m doing here, you know.”

“Yeah, I know, Shorty,” Bill teased her. “I’m just reminding you, is all.”

Ginny proceeded to tell him exactly what he could do with his reminder, while Harry examined the spot that the trap had detonated from. There was remarkably little damage to the pathway, although he could see marks on the opposite side of the tunnel wall where debris had impacted. The trap must have been packed with some type of shrapnel, and paired with the Blasting Charm, the combination of which would have literally shredded anyone who set it off.

“Ready to press on?” Ginny asked.

“Yeah, I’m glad you spotted that trap, though. I don’t think there would have been enough of me left to scrape up into a jam jar if I’d come down here alone,” he admitted.

“Which is why it’s always a good idea to have a curse-breaker on hand, preferably a fiendishly intelligent and ravishingly beautiful one, too,” she smirked.

“I’m not arguing,” Harry agreed with a smile. Ginny was clearly enjoying herself.

They resumed their careful way forward, with Ginny once again taking the lead. They’d gone about another hundred yards when Bill called in and informed them that he too had uncovered a trap. This one appeared to be pressure activated, much like a Muggle landmine. Ginny acknowledged her brother and took the opportunity to check in with Hermione, who’d been monitoring the conversation. She urged them on, but begged them all to be careful.

A short while afterwards, Harry and Ginny encountered a T-junction ahead. After some debate, they decided to turn East, otherwise they would have been turning back on themselves. This apparently turned out to be the right choice, as shortly afterwards they encountered another trap, this one designed to shoot a barrage of poison-tipped darts in a spread pattern down the tunnel. Again, they chose to spring the trap, this time conjuring a thick metal sheet to shelter behind and allowing the darts to harmlessly bounce off it.

Their luck ran out about two hundred yards later when they hit a dead-end. The tunnel ended in a solid brick wall with no apparent exits. In frustration, they turned back and reported their situation to Dora and Bill. It turned out that they had also followed a junction East and were now following a tunnel that was gradually turning South.

“Hold up, Harry, I think there’s something I missed,” Ginny announced as she came to a halt about fifty yards back up the tunnel. “I was so intent on looking for traps that I wasn’t paying much attention to illusions. There’s a false wall over there.”

Harry looked at the section of wall to which Ginny was pointing. It looked exactly like the rest of the tunnel, but he didn’t doubt her for a second. The only question was how to get to it, as it was on the far side of the swirling waters.

“I wonder how deep this water is?” Harry mused, staring at the filthy, sewerage-filled liquid.

“Only one way to find out,” Ginny decided. “I guess it’s your turn to take the lead.”

He shot his girlfriend an unfriendly look, but she just smiled. Seeing there was nothing for it, Harry lowered himself over the edge of the walkway and let himself drop into the brown waters. He landed with a surprisingly small splash and found that the underground river only came up to his ankle. Experimentally, he shuffled his left foot to the side and found the floor vanished. He repeated the exercise with his right foot, and discovered he seemed to be standing on a submerged bridge.

“There’s an underwater pathway,” he informed Ginny. “It seems to lead straight to that illusionary wall.”

Ginny nodded. “I wondered if there might be something like that. It’s a bloody good way to hide an entranceway. Hold on, I’ll join you.”

She quickly lowered herself down to where Harry stood, and together they sloshed through the fast-running waters. When they reached the other side, Ginny tentatively prodded the wall with her wand.

“No traps or Recognition Spells that I can see,” she confirmed. “We should be okay to just walk through the illusion.”

Taking a deep breath, Harry took a step forward. His vision blurred for a brief moment, before he found himself standing in a dark corridor that appeared to open out into a wider space. Ginny suddenly appeared next to him, and she blinked as her eyes adjusted to the light.

“I think we can…” she began.

“DOWN!” Harry yelled, grabbing her and pulling her to the floor. He’d seen a faint movement up ahead, and it appeared that had saved their lives as the sickly green light of a Killing Curse shot over their heads.

Twisting on the ground so he could bring his wand to bear, Harry immediately returned fire, sending a pair of rapidly-cast Blasting Curses back towards their unseen foe. Ginny shot a curse that sent a flaming arrow down the corridor at lightning speed. It exploded in a small fireball briefly illuminating the open space.

A scream came from somewhere ahead of them and Harry assumed that one of their spells must have found their target. Scrambling to his feet, he powered down the corridor as fast as he could. While engaged in close combat in a confined space such as this, speed normally equalled protection.

He emerged into the open space, and found that the area was much smaller then he’d originally thought. Ahead of him, a figure was limping rapidly towards a door. When he heard Harry’s footsteps on the hard concrete, he whirled around and raised his wand. On pure instinct, Harry sent a blue bolt of energy sizzling from the end of his wand which impacted on the man’s chest. He was blown backwards and his body slammed into the wall behind.

“Shit, that’s a cool spell,” Ginny said as she came level with him.

“It’s called an Energy Bolt Curse. We used it back in my Department M days. It’s considered less Dark then the Killing Curse, although I’m not sure why. You end up just as dead if you get hit by it,” he explained grimly. “Now, let’s see who was trying to kill us, shall we?”

Harry approached the fallen man and examined him. He instantly recognised the face.

“This is one of the blokes that killed Dora’s informant, Sudsy,” he said. “In fact, this is the bastard that actually killed him. He seems to have a fondness for using the Killing Curse.”

“Any idea who he actually is?” Ginny asked, eyeing the body warily.

“Nope, and he won’t be telling us any time soon, either,” Harry said, angry at himself that he hadn’t tried to simply incapacitate the man. Clearly, his previous combat training was still too deeply ingrained in him. Further self-examination was delayed when Ginny suddenly knelt by the body and tugged at something around the man’s neck. From underneath his robes, she pulled out an emerald necklace that glittered in the faint light of their helmet torches.

“I think this is what activates the manhole transporter and provides safe passage past those traps,” she declared, before tapping the necklace with her wand. “Yep, this is definitely radiating a magical signature. Hopefully, this will make our passage forwards a bit easier.”

“Yeah, good spot,” Harry praised her.

Ginny looked thoughtful for a second. “You know, Harry, I’m certain I’ve seen a necklace like this before. I just can’t think where.”

“I’m sure it will come to you,” he assured her. “I’d better tell Dora and Bill what’s happened.”

He called the other pair and informed them of what had happened. Bill stated he would start looking for illusory walls, too, having already disabled a further two traps. The sewer network was proving to be an extremely dangerous place. Hermione broke into the conversation wanting to know if she should summon back-up from the Ministry, but they decided that having more people tromping around the narrow tunnels would probably cause more problems than it would solve.

Cautiously, Harry and Ginny opened the door that the dead wizard had been trying to reach. It led to another corridor, with a further door at the end of it. They were about halfway towards the far door when it suddenly flew open and a bright red bolt of light came sizzling towards them. They flung themselves down and tried to return fire.

Unfortunately, it soon became evident that there were two attackers ahead of them, alternatively casting offensive and defensive spells between them. Harry and Ginny were in an extremely exposed space with absolutely no cover and it was all they could do to protect themselves.

“Fall back,” Harry shouted to his girlfriend, trying to give her some cover fire. As soon as she started to edge backwards, however, a pair of spells came hurtling towards her and she had to put all her concentration into forming a shield in front of her. They were, Harry realised grimly, pinned down.

“Damn it, we can’t stay here!” Ginny yelled desperately. “Those bastards can use the doorway for cover while we have to shield against every spell they throw at us. We’ll soon be exhausted!”

“I know,” Harry called back, taking an increasingly rare opportunity to send a Blasting Curse towards the doorway. “We’ll just have to start trying to crawl backwards together.

“Okay, we’ll…” she began when suddenly a bright flash came from the doorway accompanied by a scream. They paused for a moment, wondering what had happened, before they heard a familiar voice.

“It’s us,” Dora yelled, “Don’t fire!”

“Dora?” Harry gasped in amazement. “How the bloody hell did you get there?”

The young woman’s grinning face appeared around the door frame. “We found an illusionary door just like you did,” she explained. “This place must have two entrances on opposite sides. Bill and I heard the spellfire and came to investigate. One of these buggers is the other wizard we saw at Sudsy’s place, by the way.”

“Are they dead?” Harry asked, climbing to his feet and hurrying forward.

“That one is, but the other one is just stunned. We should be able to question him,” Dora replied.

“Great, maybe we can get a few answers now,” Harry said with relief.

As Harry and Ginny passed through the doorway, he noticed that he was entering a corridor much like the one he’d just left. The only difference was that there was another door on the far wall which he intended to investigate shortly. Before that, they had to have a little chat with their attacker.

Bill was dragging the body of the other wizard they’d killed out of the way, leaving the captive slumped against the doorframe. They quickly searched the man, finding only his wand and another of the emerald necklaces. After tying him up securely, they awakened the man. After shaking his head groggily for a moment, he fixed them with a hate-filled stare.

“You, sunshine, are nicked,” Dora informed him angrily. “So, do you want to tell us your name and what you’re doing down here?”

The man spat at her, hitting her boot with thick glob of greenish liquid.

“Oh, you are so lucky I’m wearing this waterproof coverall,” Dora told him in a dangerous tone.

“I guess we have to do this the hard way,” Harry decided, aiming his wand at the man’s head. “Legilimens!”

“Screw you, you bastard!” the wizard yelled defiantly and bit down on something aggressively. A second later, his body started to shake and he began to gag. Before Harry or any of the others could do anything, he stiffened and slumped backwards.

“Shit!” Harry cursed and leapt forward. A quick examination revealed the worst: the man was dead.

“What the hell just happened?” Ginny demanded.

“He committed suicide,” Harry informed her. Carefully, he pulled the man’s jaw open and peered into his mouth. “Damn, it’s just as I suspected. There’s a tooth missing. I think this bloke had a false tooth that contained a deadly dose of poison. All he had to do was bite down really hard onto the tooth and it would crack open and kill him instantly. I saw something similar to this in Russia.”

“So, this bloke was Russian?” Bill asked.

“Not necessarily,” Harry disagreed. “It’s a standard trick in the intelligence community when an operative can’t afford to be taken alive. Clearly, this man had some secrets in his mind that he didn’t want me seeing.”

“Bloody hell,” Ginny muttered.

“Yeah, pretty extreme, huh?” Harry said, rising to his feet. “So what’s behind that door over there, then?”

“Dunno, we haven’t had a chance to look yet,” Dora advised him. “We were too busy saving your arses.”

“Good point,” Harry nodded. “Well, shall we see what secrets this underground base has? I tell you, if they have a hidden submarine pen down here, I’m going to piss myself.”

“What?” Ginny and Bill both said in confusion.

“Don’t worry about Harry,” Dora advised. “He’s watched too many James Bond films in his time.”

Sniggering, Harry moved over to the door and looked meaningfully at Ginny. With a smile, she came over and waved her wand around the doorframe several times.

“It’s clear,” she advised.

Carefully making sure he kept his body behind the wall, Harry reached over and turned the door handle. It opened easily, and he gave it a shove. No lethal spells came flying through the open doorway, however.

Peering around the frame, he found himself looking into a large room that was dominated by a table in the centre. Various metal framed cages containing all manner of items were stacked against the far wall, and the other two visible walls were covered in charts, maps and papers.

“I do believe we’ve found our villain’s secret headquarters,” he announced happily.

The four of them all entered and began to search the room. Dora was the first to make a significant discovery.

“Look,” she called out, holding up a small box. “There’s a whole stack of mobile phones here. I bet this is the evidence we need to tie in this mob to the riot.”

“Yeah, look, there are copies of those posters they put up in Hogsmeade,” Ginny declared, waving a wad of A4 paper at them.

“Spare wands, a shitload of potions, masks,” Bill announced as he sorted through one of the racks.

“Oh, shit, Harry look at this!” Dora called out suddenly.

He hurried over to where his friend was standing examining a map that was pinned to the wall. When he saw what the map was of, his blood went cold.

“That’s the site of Kingsley’s last garden party,” he gasped.

“Yeah, and what are the odds that these bastards were going to do something to disrupt it?” Dora spat. “That will piss off old Flirty-tits Greengrass, having her precious party disturbed.”

“Oh, bollocks!” Ginny suddenly exclaimed. Everyone turn to look at her in surprise. “Harry, I’ve just remembered where I’d seen one of those emerald necklaces before! Daphne was wearing one when we had dinner at their place!”

Harry’s jaw clenched.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPH PHP

They made their way back out of the base as quickly as they could. Even so, it took them half an hour to exit the sewer, time that they couldn’t afford to waste. Harry briefed Hermione as to what was happening as he ran back through the tunnels, and the Legal Witch was waiting for them as they climbed out of the maintenance hatch.

“Shouldn’t we alert the Ministry?” Hermione asked in a strained voice.

“Practically the whole of the DMLE will be at the garden party by now, setting up security. I’d send a Patronus, but I’d be too worried that some Muggle might see it,” Dora explained.

“Greengrass normally coordinates these parties from her office at the Ministry until it’s just about to start,” Hermione revealed. “If we hurry, we might be able to catch her there.”

“Okay, let’s go,” Harry said forcefully, and using the cover of a nearby alleyway, he Apparated to the Ministry. He was just pulling off his waterproof coveralls when the others joined him.

He fretted as they all removed their cumbersome garments, before setting off towards Daphne Greengrass’s office at a fearsome pace. Hermione was soon struggling to keep up, but the others were obviously much fitter. The few minutes it took them to reach the office seemed like a lifetime to Harry, and he practically kicked down the door as soon as he arrived. He found himself face to face with a flustered witch who stared at him in horror.

“What do you think you’re doing, coming storming in here?” the witch demanded.

“Greengrass, where is she?” Harry demanded in such a threatening tone the witch stepped back a few paces.

“She’s not here,” she spluttered.

“We didn’t ask you where she isn’t, we asked you where she is,” Dora yelled angrily as followed Harry into the room.

“She…ah… the party…” the frightened woman stammered.

“Shit! We’ve already missed her,” Harry cursed and turned to leave.

“Wait, Harry,” a breathless Hermione gasped. “We don’t know exactly what Greengrass’s plan is. At least check her desk to see if there are any clues.”

Harry nodded, and began to search the desk while Dora physically threw Greengrass’s assistant out of the room. Hermione also started to leaf through a pile of parchments until she noticed a document lying prominently on the desk.

“Oh, look!” she exclaimed, picking up the document.

“What is it?” Ginny asked.

“It’s an invoice for catering services for the party today. More specifically, it’s a bill for a large decorative cake that’s going to form part of the buffet,” Hermione explained with a shocked look on her face. “Can you guess who the cake supplier is?”

“Oh, I think I can take a stab at that,” Dora growled. “Would it be ‘Creative Creations’ by any chance?”

“Exactly, the Greengrass family must have been behind this whole thing”, Hermione declared.

“But why?” Bill asked in puzzlement. “What are they hoping to achieve?”

A horrible thought suddenly occurred to Harry.

“Dora, I think it’s a pretty bloody good chance that those bastards who killed Sudsy also killed Topa, right?” he said.

“Yeah, very likely, I should say,” she agreed.

“Well, what’s the one thing we found at Topa’s place that we haven’t accounted for yet?” he pressed.

“Oh, hell! The plastic explosive!” Dora cried in alarm.

“A big cake like we saw in the shop could fit quite a bit of explosive inside it, couldn’t it?” he reasoned.

“We need to get there! Now!” Dora yelled, already heading out the door.

“We have to send a Patronus now!” Hermione argued. “It doesn’t matter if a Muggle sees it.”

“Yeah, but Greengrass might see it, too,” Harry disagreed. “It might prompt her to detonate the bomb early.”

Fuelled by that logic, the group ran to the Ministry’s Apparation point in the Atrium as fast as they could. As neither Ginny nor Bill knew of the garden party’s exact location, Harry and Dora were forced to Side-Along them. Harry cursed every wasted second.

They arrived in a secluded grove of trees set in the large garden the party was being hosted in. The loud pops they made attracted attention, however, and one of the Ministry’s security staff ran over to check what was happening. It proved to be a familiar face.

“Blimey, what are you lot doing?” Ron demanded as he caught site of them.

“Ron, we have a credible threat to the life of the Minister. Where is he?” Harry demanded.

“Over by the house,” Ron replied instantly. “He’s been greeting guests as they arrived and has just delivered his welcome speech. They’ve just set out the buffet and…”

“Bollocks!” Harry spat and sprinted past the surprised Auror with the others hard on his heels. The garden was full of guests all dressed appropriately for such a social occasion. They all looked at Harry in shock as he ran past them.

Looking desperately around as he ran, Harry caught sight of a row of tables with crisp, white tablecloths covering them. They were covered by a veritable feast of foods, but his eyes were drawn to a large, multi-tiered cake that sat in pride of place on the centre table. To his horror, Harry saw Kingsley Shacklebolt standing next to the table, chatting to a number of his guests.

“Kingsley, get down!” Harry yelled as he ran towards him.

The big man turned and looked at Harry in surprise. “Harry, what’s happening?” he rumbled.

Not taking any chances, Harry skidded to a halt near the confused Minister and pulled out his wand. With a flourish, he Vanished the cake, causing a gasp of surprise from the assembled Muggles.

“What the hell are you doing?” Kingsley demanded in a strangled voice. One of his guests, an elderly woman, chose that moment to faint and toppled to the grass.

“He had no choice, Kingsley,” Dora called out as she came to a halt beside Harry. “There was a bomb in the bloody cake. Daphne Greengrass is behind the whole campaign against you and we think she’s been trying to assassinate you.”

“Daphne? Surely not,” Kingsley said in surprise. “The Greengrass family are neutral; they wouldn’t do something like that!”

“You’re quite right, Minister,” a voice called out. “Assassinate the Minister for Magic using a Muggle bomb? Unthinkable.”

They turned to see Ophion Greengrass emerge from out of thin air, with his daughter close behind him. They both wore robes and rather smug expressions.

“Ophion, will you please tell me what the hell is happening? Why are you wearing those robes, anyway?” Kingsley demanded. Harry, however, just pointed his wand at the pair of them.

“Drop your wand, Greengrass,” he said firmly. “We know you’re the mysterious Mr Winter and that you’ve been running that criminal gang here in London. We found your secret hideout in the sewers, too.”

“Ah, yes, how unexpected and, it I might say, rather stupid of you. Honestly, Mr Potter, we’ve been laying a trail of clues leading straight to the door of ‘Creative Creations’ for months now. Did you really not think to simply search the place?” Ophion laughed.

“Yes, we’ve had the packaging for that Muggle explosive hidden away in the kitchen for days now. I would have thought that your little curse-breaking whore might have at least helped you break in to have a look around, but no. You always have to do it the hard way, don’t you, Harry?” Daphne smiled.

“I told you to drop your wands,” Harry repeated loudly.

“We’re quite unarmed,” Ophion replied in a superior voice. “With all these Aurors and Ministry staff around, we wouldn’t dream of trying to attack the Minister directly.”

“So that’s why you tried to smuggle that bomb in, was it?” Ginny challenged the man.

“Oh, there was no bomb, you stupid little girl. I simply wanted Mr Potter here to be seen performing magic in front of the Muggles,” Ophion said haughtily.

There was silence for a moment, before Harry addressed the Greengrass elder in disbelief.

“What the hell will that achieve?” he demanded. “Yeah, the Muggles here will have seen it, but we have enough trained Obliviators here that none of them will ever remember the event.”

“I’m so glad to hear you say that,” Ophion crowed, before turning and directing his attention to the Muggle guests. “Perhaps I should explain what the young man is talking about. You see, unbeknownst to you all, a race of magical beings has been living under your noses for years. We are bound to keep our existence a secret by an agreement called The International Statute of Secrecy. We wizards will do anything to maintain that secrecy, including wiping your memories, a procedure called, as my friend here noted, ‘Obliviation’. They will quite literally rip the memories from your minds.”

“Stop this,” Dora yelled angrily. “What the bloody hell do you hope to achieve by all this?”

“It’s all quite simple,” Ophion smiled and then walked forward to the front of one of the catering tables. He picked up a small object from it and displayed it to the crowd proudly.

“While you must understand that you Muggles are an inferior breed to us wizards, I must applaud you ingenuity. This marvellous little device is called a web camera, and it’s currently filming live footage of this entire event which is, even as we speak, being uploaded on to the internet. I’ve made sure the footage is posted to hundreds of sites all over the world. Within hours, the whole world will know of the existence of magical beings in their midst.”

Harry felt his blood run cold. Had the Statute of Secrecy really just been blown to pieces? He stammered out the one question he could think of. “Why?” he demanded.

“Why?” Daphne repeated in amusement. “Isn’t it obvious? So these stupid Muggles can see what we, the superior race on this planet, are capable of. I’m quite sure they won’t like it, of course, especially now they know we’ve been running around wiping out their memories. No, they’ll try and attack us, I don’t doubt and we, the true masters of this planet, will subjugate them! No witch or wizard will have a choice, they will be forced to eliminate the Muggles or face being destroyed themselves. My father and I have triggered a war that will see us restored to our rightful place as lords of this world.”

“This doesn’t make sense,” Kingsley protested. “Why this elaborate scheme? Either of you could have just performed magic and posted it on the internet.”

“But this way we’ve already exposed the British Minister for Magic, thus making your position untenable,” Ophion smiled. “You’ll be kicked out within days for allowing this to happen, you Muggle-loving fool.”

“We admit this wasn’t our original plan,” Daphne continued. “We had intended to just involve you, Kingsley, but when we heard that Harry Potter himself had returned to the country, well, that was just too good an opportunity to miss. The man who defeated the Dark Lord and ensured the Muggles would be left in peace, responsible for breaking the Statute of Secrecy and exposing the Wizarding Community to the world? Why, that’s priceless!”

Harry stared at them in horror. Had he just been responsible for outing the existence of witches and wizards to the world?

“Why have you done this, Ophion?” Kingsley demanded. “The Greengrass family has always been neutral. You’ve never shown the slightest desire to buy into this racist supremacy crap. Why now, when you stand to lose so much?”

“Because we stand to gain so much more,” Ophion snapped. “While we never sided with that insane lunatic Voldemort, it didn’t mean we never believed that the Muggles should be shown their rightful place. Look at the mess they’re making of the world, the foul miscreants! It’s time for us to step from the shadows and take control, as we should have done centuries ago! And now, thanks to the Muggles’ own technology, we will achieve it. After this film has been seen across the world, everything will change!”

“Err, no, it won’t,” a small voice said.

Every head turned towards the speaker, who proved to be a small, slightly dumpy waitress who was standing nervously behind the table.

“What did you say, Muggle filth?” Ophion spat.

“I said; no, it won’t,” the girl confirmed, sounding a little more defiant. “No one will see your webcam footage.”

“And why, pray tell, is that?” Ophion growled menacingly.

The girl reached down and grabbed a thin cable and was attached to the web camera. She then held it up so the crowd could see it. The cable was clearly not attached to anything.

“I unplugged it,” she announced. “I do loads of these posh events, and they always warn us to be on the lookout for journalists and photographers trying to get in. When I was bringing the sandwiches out, I nearly tripped over this wire. As the security brief we had didn’t mention anything about cameras around the place, I figured it was just some paparazzi trying to get some sneaky pictures, so I unplugged it. I meant to mention it to someone, but I… err, got a bit distracted.”

“So, this footage hasn’t been recorded?” Harry asked the girl.

“No, not through this camera, anyway,” she confirmed.

Harry turned and looked at the Greengrasses. For a second, he feared they might have other cameras about the place, but their enraged expressions suggested otherwise. Ophion was livid, and looked like he was about to leap over the table and attack the waitress with his bare hands. Harry pointed his wand at the man and was about to tell him to surrender himself, when a snort of laughter escaped his lips.

Ophion and Daphne both snapped their heads round to look at him. Such was the outraged expressions on their faces that he couldn’t help himself: he burst out laughing.

At first everyone stared at him like he was mad, but then he heard a giggle from behind him. He turned to see a bright-red Ginny, barely able to keep in her laughter. As soon as she saw his face, she gave up and howled with laughter.

Hermione stepped forward and pointed at Daphne. “You think you’re so clever, you stuck-up, pure-blood cow, but your whole intricate scheme has just been shot to pieces by a Muggle waitress who possesses a bit of common sense. That’s hilarious!”

Two generations of Greengrass’s stood, trembling with anger, as every witch and wizard in the garden roared with laughter at them.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP

Op hion and Daphne Greengrass were led away in handcuffs while the bemused Muggles looked on. This gave the Ministry Obliviators the perfect opportunity to get to work. Within minutes, all of the Muggle guests at the garden party were chatting away, completely unaware of the drama that had just occurred, even if a few did question what had happened to the marvellous cake that had been the centre-piece of the buffet.

Harry and the rest headed back to the Ministry, too. They were required to provide full statements of what had happened, not to mention that none of them were exactly dressed for a high class function. Dedalus joined them as soon as they arrived, and they provided him with full details of their adventures underground. He immediately dispatched a team from the Magical Patrol to further investigate the secret base and to retrieve the bodies.

Several hours later, Kingsley returned and immediately summoned the five of them to his office, where they were forced to give him a full account of the whole affair. After running through the background to the case, Harry started to explain what more they had discovered after interviewing the Greengrasses that afternoon.

“The whole thing was an elaborate set up to firstly discredit you and the British Ministry, and then expose the whole of our society to the Muggles,” Harry explained. “Ophion was sure that they would attack us if they became aware of our existence.”

“He knew the Muggle world quite well, you see,” Dora continued. “It appears that the Greengrasses lost nearly everything in the first war. Although they never openly declared their support for Voldemort, they financially backed him to the hilt. When Harry here blew him to kingdom come the first time, they lost everything.”

“Ophion’s a pretty smart guy, however,” Harry took up the story again. “Knowing that questions would be asked if he suddenly went bankrupt, he decided to rekindle his fortunate by stealing from the Muggles. At first it was just petty crime like stealing jewellery and robbing the odd bank, but then he realised that he could set up legitimate businesses to hide his criminal activities. For the last fifteen years or so he’s been creating a Muggle business empire on the back of his ill-gotten earnings.”

“But what about that Edgar Stephens character? He was being used to transfer funds out of the magical community and into the Muggle one, not the other way round,” Shacklebolt objected.

“It was a big circle of corruption,” Harry smiled grimly. “In fact, Stephens was at the end of the money laundering operation. Stolen Muggle money was being illegally passed into our economy, and then passed back into the Muggle one via Stephens. Of course, to the Muggle authorities the funds were then completely untraceable. Ophion’s, or should I say, Mr Winter’s, income appeared completely clean to the Inland Revenue.”

“Okay, so Greengrass had himself a nice little setup, there,” Kingsley acknowledged. “So why risk it all now? Why did he try to pull off this mad scheme?”

“Ah, that would be your fault, Minister,” Hermione leapt in. “I’m afraid all your new Anti-discrimination laws were an anathema to Greengrass and his daughter. Plus, he was worried that the closer cooperation you were fostering between the Ministry and their Muggle counterparts would expose his operations. He decided that it was time to try and succeed where his former lord failed and destroy the Muggle world, once and for all.”

“Ophion is the ultimate gambler. Unfortunately for him, his gamble didn’t pay off,” Dora said smugly.

“What about those thugs of his? Who were they?” Kingsley demanded.

“Loyal family retainers,” Dora confirmed. “It appears they actually received training to become Death Eaters during the second war, but Harry snuffed out Voldemort before they had a chance to join the fight. For years they’ve been the muscle in his criminal activities, which explains why they fought like Death Eaters but knew so much about Muggles.”

Kingsley sighed. “Well, that was a close run thing. I have to say, though, I’m deeply displeased that a pair of Gringotts employees had been dragged into the middle of a Ministry investigation. If the goblins get wind of this…”

“Not a word!” Ginny said hastily.

“Trust me, Minister, it’s in our best interest that they never find out, too,” Bill assured him.

Further conversation was briefly halted when Kingsley’s secretary, Lavender, entered bearing a tray of refreshments for them all. They remained silent until she left, although Harry did notice the especially warm smile the girl gave to her boss as she left.

“You know, if Ophion Greengrass hadn’t been so hell bent on dragging you into this farce, his plan would have succeeded,” Kingsley noted, stirring his coffee with a sullen expression on his face.

“He overcomplicated his plans, too,” Harry agreed. “I guess he was a bit like Voldemort in that respect; too caught up in his own cleverness.”

“The plan wasn’t that clever, though,” Hermione disagreed. “I really should have figured most of it out much earlier; the clues where all there. I can’t believe I missed the significance of his holding company’s name, for instance.”

“Sorry, I missed that bit,” Dora admitted.

“Remember, it was called Otherside Holdings Plc,” Hermione prompted.

“Ah, where is the grass not always greener?” Harry said, understanding coming to him in a flash.

“The other side, and in this case, on the Muggle side,” Dora nodded. “Bloody hell, we should have picked up on that.”

“I wouldn’t beat yourself up about it,” Kingsley told her. “It would have been a flimsy lead at best. Still, the repercussions of this whole affair will need to be considered. The speed at which Muggle technology is progressing is a threat to us all.”

“Surely you don’t buy into the idea that Muggles are a danger to us, do you, Minister?” Hermione asked, sounding faintly outraged.

“Not in the way you’re implying, Miss Granger, no,” Kingsley smiled. “I merely refer to our ability to remain hidden from them. Very soon some random Muggle is going to capture an image of one of us performing magic and the game is up.”

“Most people would think it was faked, surely?” Harry protested.

“Probably, but it only takes a single incident to start people asking questions and things can snowball from there. Imagine if a film of a witch casting a spell with her wand ends up getting shown all across the world. At the moment, if a Muggle catches sight of one of us with a wand they wouldn’t ask too many questions; it’s just a bit of wood to them, after all. But if that film came into the public domain, well, that would be a different story. Besides, a disgruntled witch or wizard like Greengrass can easily get access to Muggle technology.”

“I’m sure if the Muggles started actively looking for us, it wouldn’t take long for them to find us,” Dora added. “Let’s face it, these garden parties have shown how much effort has to be put in so that the average witch or wizard can fit in with Muggles. Most of us would stick out like a sore thumb.”

“The International Statute of Secrecy was fine in its day, but times have changed,” Kingsley said thoughtfully. “I think I’m going to have to call a meeting of the ICW regarding this. We need to prepare for the day when we are outed. I’m convinced it will be a matter of when, not if.”

“I think that’s a good idea, Kingsley,” Dora agreed. “It will be better if we decide how we make ourselves known to the Muggles, rather than have them uncover it themselves.”

“I quite agree,” Kingsley nodded. “I do have one final question, though. As Ophion asked, why didn’t you two raid the bakery? That should have been right up there on your to-do list.”

“The Greengrasses did too good a job of turning the business around,” Harry shrugged. “We were convinced the bakery was a legitimate business that was simply being used in a money laundering operation. We didn’t think we’d uncover anything useful by raiding it. Besides, we’d already checked the place out once.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry to say, Ginny, that Harry put down a deposit for a wedding cake for me and him. I hope you’re not too jealous,” Dora grinned.

“Oh well, as long as I get to be a bridesmaid,” Ginny sighed tragically.

“Actually, while we’re on that subject, I have something that I need to give to you two,” Kingsley announced, pulling a pair of golden envelopes from his robes and handing one each to Harry and Dora.

“Ooh, have we won a tour of a magical chocolate factory?” Dora joked.

Grinning, Harry opened his envelope and stared at the neatly printed card contained within it. He felt his jaw drop as he read.

“Married? You’re getting married?” he gasped.

“What?” Dora exclaimed and ripped open her own envelope.

“Oh, congratulations, Minister,” Hermione smiled. “Who’s the lucky lady?”

“Lavender, his secretary,” Harry told her, waving his invite at her. He turned back to look at the Minister, “and you denied anything was going on, Kingsley!”

“Yes, well, that was a slight mistruth, I must confess,” the big man admitted uncomfortably, “but Lavender is a beautiful young witch and I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

“Wait a minute,” Dora interrupted. “I distinctly remember you once saying you’d never be dragged down the aisle! In fact, you normally think marriage is a swear word!”

“It’s all a bit rushed this wedding, isn’t it? The date for the ceremony is in just two weeks’ time,” Harry speculated. “I mean, you haven’t even announced the engagement yet. What’s the hurry to get hitched?”

“We just didn’t want to wait,” Kinsley said defensively.

“Really?” Dora said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “You didn’t want to wait, or you were worried that Lavender would be starting to show if you didn’t?”

“Minister, Lavender isn’t…” Hermione began to say.

Kingsley didn’t reply, but he didn’t have to. The guilt was written plain on his face for them all to see.

For the second time that afternoon, Harry collapsed into a helpless ball of laughter.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPH PHPHP

Gently, Harry placed the bunch of flowers at the foot of the simple gravestone. The stone was starting to look a little weather-beaten, but at least it was in keeping with the rest of the cemetery.

He stepped back and was blinded by the sunshine which had previously been blocked by the trees. He was glad that Sirius was at rest here where the sun could reach his grave. His godfather had previously left strict orders that if anything should happen to him he was on no account to be buried with the rest of his family in the Black family crypt. Sirius’s request had been the least Harry could do for the man who in many ways was the only father he’d ever known.

“You okay, Harry?” a voice asked.

He turned and looked at Ginny. She was dressed simply in jeans and a t-shirt, but she still looked absolutely stunning to him. A gentle breeze stirred her long hair and the sun shining through it made it look like she was surrounded by a halo. Truly, the stone angels dotted around the Highgate Cemetery had nothing on her.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he replied. “I’ve always liked this place, you know. I think Sirius would have liked it, too. It’s so beautiful here.”

“It is,” she agreed, “although it’s a bit creepy, too. Those tombs look like something straight out of a horror story.”

Harry chuckled. “The Black family crypt is over there, and Sirius was always adamant that he wouldn’t be buried in it. I think he shared your opinion of it.”

Ginny nodded. “Do you need a bit longer here? I can go for a wander if you want to be alone.”

“No, I think I’m ready to go. Besides, I’ve spent enough time on my own over the last few years. It’s much nicer being here with you.”

He walked over to her and slipped his arm around her shoulders. Ginny gave him a quick hug, and they began to slowly walk down the leafy path that led to the main entrance.

“I really must go and visit my parents’ graves, too,” Harry said after a while. “I haven’t been there since I left to go and join Department M.”

“They’re buried in Godric’s Hollow, aren’t they?” Ginny asked. “I seem to remember reading that somewhere.”

“That’s right,” he confirmed. “Sirius and I always used to go there at least once a year, normally at Christmas. I really must get back into the habit.”

“I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have my parents,” Ginny admitted sadly. “You’ve lost so much, Harry. It breaks my heart.”

“Sometimes life is like that. If I spent my time pondering all the things I’ve lost, I would end up slashing my wrists. I have to think positively and count my blessings for the things I do have. I have some family left, and an increasing number of friends. I’ve got a pretty hot girlfriend, too,” he grinned.

“Prat,” she laughed and gave his middle another squeeze. “So, on a lighter topic, how serious are Bill and Tonks getting? They just can’t seem to be apart from each other at the moment. Do you think there will be wedding bells in the near future?”

“That would be cool, but I don’t think they should rush into anything,” Harry told her. “They were both totally hung-up about their previous partners, and they need to make sure that they’re not just using each other as a substitute. I don’t think they are, and that they make a great couple, but they don’t need to hurry. They can take their time, unless Dora’s up the duff, of course.”

Ginny giggled. “Poor Kingsley. Lavender’s taking over totally. Hermione heard that she flatly told Kingsley that he has to get rid of his sports car and buy something more sensible, instead. He’s under the thumb already.”

“Hey, he lived the playboy lifestyle long enough. It will do him good to settle down,” Harry said, but he did have rather a malicious smile on his lips as he spoke. “Talking of Hermione, how are things with her and your brother, Ron?”

“Merlin knows,” Ginny said in exasperation. “I swear those two think that arguing is a form of foreplay. I know they went out for a meal ‘as friends’ the other day, but I’ve no idea how they got on. They’ll either end up getting married or killing each other, I expect. Perhaps both.”

Harry chuckled in agreement. By now they had reached the exit and beyond the gate he could see the busy traffic hurtling by outside. It was a stark reminder of the modern world.

“I hope Kingsley can convince the ICW that things have to change. We stand less and less chance of remaining hidden, now, and it would be far better if we can control our exposure to the Muggles,” Harry said.

“I agree,” Ginny nodded. “In fact, when you think about it, it’s a miracle the Muggles haven’t found out about us already.”

“Yeah, but things aren’t going to stay that way forever. I think we’ll see some big changes in the next few years,” he prophesised.

“I’m not worried, not when we have Harry Potter around to save the day. Can I have your autograph, please, Mr Potter, sir?” Ginny asked in a little girl voice, fluttering her eyelashes at him.

“You can have a lot more of me then that,” he replied with a leer.

She laughed, and then looked at him with an evil glint in her eyes. “Of course, you know my parents still want to meet you. Bill and Ron have both been going on about what a nice bloke you are, and my mum is dead keen on finally checking you out herself.”

Harry groaned. “Perhaps I can use Greengrass’s underground base to hide in?” he speculated.

She slapped him lightly on the arm. “Coward!” she giggled. “I don’t know, Harry Potter; hero of the wizarding world and international super-spy, afraid of one middle-aged witch! The worst thing she’ll probably do is try to feed you too much. Come on, Harry, you can’t avoid them forever.”

“Well… okay, as long as you’re there to hold my hand and protect me,” he agreed reluctantly.

“Of course, you’re not getting away from me that easily, you know,” she smiled wickedly. “Besides, we make a pretty good team. I don’t think there’s anything we can’t achieve together.”

“I think you might be right,” he smiled. “Come on, let’s head home.”

Because, finally, he was back where he belonged.








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