Act I, Chapter 3: A Bird of Fire
The White House, Washington DC.
January 23rd, 1999.
Ginny stood outside the Oval Office, whistling softly to herself. It wasn't the first time she'd been here. She'd met President Clinton before he was impeached and removed from office the previous year. Nor was she surprised the new President had wanted to meet her. After all, everyone wanted to meet her these days. In fact, she had a game running with Fred and George. They called it "World-leader Bingo." Not very original admittedly, but, then again, it didn't need to be. All she needed now was the President of China, and they owed her a prank on anyone she wanted.
The door opened, and the President's secretary motioned her inside. Ginny entered alone.
Most world-leaders had entourages. Mary – Ginny's head of Political Affairs – was working on creating a handpicked version of the Secret Service for her. But it was taking a while to find trustworthy candidates. Ginny thought the whole thing was relatively redundant. No one in their right mind would even think to do anything to her, and anyone with a differing opinion would find themselves sorely corrected when they woke up in her dungeon. Ginny did not consider herself a violent person. But she had two babies to protect now, as well as a fledgling nation to govern. Not to mention, she was technically the leader of an interstellar war, though that was more Harry's domain than hers.
President Bartlet had blondish brown hair and wore a black suit and tie. He wasn't elderly, but nor was he young. In fact, he seemed to have achieved a perfect balance between the two, and he projected a sort of… aura… that filled the room. It was something she'd observed in a number of people. Harry being the foremost. But it was also noticeable in people like Professor Dumbledore, Will O'Neill, President Matson and Doctor Strange. It was a confidence, combined with will, power and authority, that made a leader take that extra step and feel… well, Presidential.
"Mr President," Ginny acknowledged as the President stood up from his desk and crossed the room to her. The Secret Service agents around the room were being very attentive.
"Mrs Potter," Bartlet replied smoothly, taking her hand and shaking it.
"Clear the room everyone." To their credit, the secret service didn't hesitate to follow the President's order and moved to stand outside the glass portico surrounding the Oval Office. The doors all clicked shut, and they were alone.
"Firstly, I wanted to thank you, both from myself and on behalf of the American people, for what you did for us two years ago."
Ginny waved the President off. "We didn't do it for fame or heroism. We did it because we were the only ones who could. If we hadn't, the world would have ended."
She shivered involuntarily at the memory.
"Regardless. If even half of what I've read is true, you and your husband deserve public holidays named after you."
Ginny smiled softly, "Well I appreciate the sentiment, Mr President."
"And your children are well? I understand you only gave birth a few months ago?" Bartlet asked, looking her over. Ginny examined his expression, trying to decide whether he was genuine. The man had three daughters, and by all reports was a family man, but you could never be sure with politicians.
"The twins are very healthy, thank you. Pregnancy is far less painful for witches than muggles as I understand it, and I had the benefits of not only Atlantis's advanced magic and technology but also my mother – who has seven children's worth of experience – to help me through."
The President seemed to like that answer, as he grinned and gestured for Ginny to join him on the couches in the middle of the room. They sat across from one another, and Bartlet stared at her for a moment, before sighing.
"Mrs Potter. I've only had this office for the past three days, and in those three days, I've learned so much it isn't funny. I've learned government secrets that would have all the worlds reporters frothing at the mouth, I've had complex military deployments explained to me, and I've had meeting after meeting with cabinet secretaries to outline my agenda for the next few months. And alongside all of that, I'm being briefed on the existence of a secret society of Witches and Wizards that exist all over the globe, and about how you saved the world."
"I've been briefed by my experts, but, well, I would like to hear it from you if you would."
Ginny was taken aback for a moment. That had not been what she was expecting at all. But then she smiled. It seemed Mary had been right after all. President Bartlet was, genuinely, a man who wanted to do right by his people. A man who honestly cared about right and wrong. And Ginny knew full well that the number of people like that in the world was precious few indeed.
So, she told him a story. She began on a cold Halloween night in 1981, and told the story of how Tom Marvolo Riddle, Lord Voldemort, had tried to kill a baby, and how he was defeated by a mother's love. She narrated how that little boy grew up unloved and uncared for, and how, on his eleventh birthday, he returned to the magical world. She spoke at length of Hogwarts Castle, it's magic and its mystery. And she told him of a little girl who trusted something she shouldn't have, and how she was scarred forever because of it.
On she went, telling tales of Basilisks and Phoenixes, of magical tattoos, Dementors, and Ascended Beings, of four friends torn-apart by betrayal and war, of the Home that Lily Potter left behind. She told him of Jessica Jones – the bravest Slytherin to walk those hallowed halls – and of Mathew Murdock – a boy who refused to surrender, despite the whole world shunning him. She wove tapestries and watched as the President listened, enraptured by her every word. The Triwizard Tournament, the night of the Yule Ball, when she and Harry had completed their bond. Then she told him of the Horcruxes, and of Voldemort's return from the dead. The founding of the Defenders Army came next, and the battle where she herself had fought Voldemort to a standstill in the Ministry of Magic. She held nothing back. Not the cruelty of Umbridge, the horror of Voldemort's presence, or the radiance of Will and Clarissa O'Neill.
Then her tale began to draw to a close. She explained how she and Harry had gone in search of Atlantis, how they had restored life to the ancient city, and how it had all culminated in a battle in the skies above Hogwarts. Voldemort, dead on the paving stones. The castle, a pile of rubble, and ruin.
When she was finally done, she sat back, and President Bartlet looked at her with such newfound respect that she couldn't help but smile.
"I want you to know," he said at length, "that you will always have a friend in the United States government. So long as I am President, the US will always be ready should you need help."
"The world is vulnerable Mr President," Ginny told him, "the Sorcerer Supreme is dead, and the Sanctum Sanctorum destroyed by Voldemort. It has been rebuilt it's true, but much of what Doctor Strange was working on has been lost, and only Professor Dumbledore, who is also dead, might have been wise enough to understand it regardless. We do not know how long the Doctor's enchantments on the dread Dormammu's prison will last, especially given the Destroyer's attempt to destroy our universe very nearly succeeded."
Now it was Ginny's turn to sigh.
"It is not only magical threats we must fear either, as I'm sure Director Fury has informed you." The President nodded gravely.
"Thanks to our discovery of Atlantis, we won't have to worry about alien invasions like the Captain Marvel Incidentany time soon, and Harry is preparing a team to use the Gateway to explore the galaxy; get a feeling for the climate of things out there."
"So the Director tells me," Bartlet said, "though I'll admit to you that he didn't seem happy about the fact that he didn't have any control over it. He takes global security very seriously."
"As do we, Mr President." Ginny paused, an idea forming in her mind. Ginny had been unsure exactly how they were going to explore the entirety of Atlantis when so much of the City's technology was beyond them. It was true Ginny had an instinctive knowledge of how the systems worked, thanks to the Ancient Gene embedded in her DNA as a Pureblood witch, but she didn't know why they worked. Or how to fix them if they became damaged. Large sections of the outer city had been flooded – both during and prior to Ginny's rising of the City from within the Antarctic ice – and the machinery in those areas had taken extensive damage. The team of scientists working on the City now – led by Filius Flitwick, the former Charms Professor at Hogwarts – was comprised almost entirely of wizarding scholars. They had about ten muggle scientists – mostly the parents of muggleborn students, or the spouses of witches or wizards who had married muggles – but only one of them actually had extensive training in Physics. The rest of the group was comprised of five British Unspeakables who'd survived Voldemort's destruction of the British Ministry of Magic, about fifteen French and Catalan Wizarding Scholars who'd supported them against Voldemort, and some of the Ravenclaw House members who'd been members of the Defenders Army. Finally, they had a team of Cursebreakers and Wardbinders on loan from Gringotts (Harry had actually gone to the Great Citadel – the Goblin Capital City hidden deep beneath the Sahara Desert – to speak with the Grand Imperial Magistrix of the Goblin Nation and secure the deal).
Harry was also worried about defending Atlantis should another wizarding nation decide to attack them. Since establishing themselves as an independent Wizarding Kingdom the previous year, two different secret forces – one from the Magical Caliphate of Northern Africa and the Middle East, and one from the Russian Department of Magical Oversight – had tried to breach the city shield. Both had failed, but it did highlight that they needed a defence force of some kind. They had a battalion of soldiers from the Federal Protection Authority stationed at the city as part of their treaty with President Matson, and a contingent of Aurors from France and Catalonia, but together they numbered less than fifty men and women. If there was a military threat to the city – muggle, magical or alien – they would be severely outnumbered.
Maybe, just maybe, she could solve two problems at once.
"But, I am willing to admit that we are a bit over our heads," Ginny said carefully, studying the President's face. He kept himself well-controlled, as any good politician would, but Ginny saw a hint of curiosity spark in his eyes. President Josiah Bartlet was a learned man, a Nobel prize-winning Economist as a matter of fact; the chance to gain new knowledge would be a powerful tool in her arsenal.
"The magical world is significantly… backwards, when it comes to our studies of science, both mundane and advanced, and we would be highly appreciative of any help the United States could give us in understanding all the advanced technology and magic inside Atlantis. Also, if Director Fury is as concerned by national security as we are, I see no reason that we can't coordinate our efforts to protect the Earth against any potential threats that might come our way."
"I see…" The President said, a smile growing on his face. Bartlet stood up, and Ginny did the same.
"Well Mrs Potter, it certainly has been informative talking to you. I will be sure to think over what you've said, and I'm sure we can come up with a plan of some sort that can benefit Atlantis, the United States, and the whole world."
"Likewise, Mr President. I look forward to speaking with you again." Ginny shook Bartlet's hand, then vanished, her body dissipating into golden dust, leaving the President of the United States to chuckle to himself as the Secret Service barged back into the room.
The Ruins of Hogwarts Castle, Scotland
May 15th, 2006
Ginny knelt on the cobblestones, mouth agape, staring in awe and horror at the hole in the air. It was about five meters in length, a giant tear stretching across the blue sky. Like a knife wound in skin. At its edges, white smoke dissipated into the air, and every few seconds, a blur of light – like tiny flashes, a different colour each time – shot out into the world before vanishing.
Around her, research and medical teams from both Atlantis and SHIELD worked caring for the injured or trying to discover precisely what had happened. It was a disaster. A dozen people were missing – Peter, Claire, the Quinjet, all the people on board and a bunch of SHIELD guards, including their leader, James Hewlett. Hermione, Parvati and Padma were inside the triage tent behind her, being tended to by magical and muggle nurses for the severe burns they'd received during the explosion. A team of scientists were making their way into the nuclear reactor, searching for any sign of Dr McCoy or Kitty.
A few feet in front of Ginny, in the centre of all the bustling activity, was a tall African-American man wearing a black trench-coat, eye-patch hiding one of his eyes. The back of his head was scarred dreadfully.
"I don't want guesses, I need ANSWERS! We need to know what this thing is, and we needed to know it yesterday!"
Another light shot out from the window. It flew down to Fury, taking the shape of a ribbon of blue light, before vanishing.
"And someone figure out what these mother fucking lights are!"
Ginny sighed, then stood upright, ignoring the sight of the destroyed castle beyond, and stalked up to the SHIELD Director.
"Calm down, Director," she said tersely, "I invited you here. I can eject you. Don't forget that."
Fury turned towards her, eyes burning with anger for a fraction of a second. Then he restrained himself, remembering just who he was talking to.
"These people are doing everything they can. Yelling will do nothing." Fury clenched his teeth, no doubt seeing the logic in her words and not liking it one bit. He was just as anxious about this as she was. The difference between them, Ginny believed, was that she had spent her entire life earning the respect of those around her – because of not only her age but her gender as well. The old prejudices died slow deaths in the Wizarding World – Ginny's own mother was a testament to that. Fury was far more used to knowing everything and expecting answers when he ordered them. Patience was not a virtue a person in command often had the luxury of cultivating.
"What news from Atlantis?" he asked.
"Shedoesn't like this… Window. Whatever it is, it scares Her. Far more than I've seen anything since the Destroyer tried to obliterate the Universe." Atlantis was not just a piece of technology. It was alive. It could think in a way, extrapolating new ideas when plans or tasks failed. It often suggested alternate options before Ginny could even think of them, and it was paranoid concerning its own safety. Its mind had evolved in the years since Ginny had first connected herself to the Ancient Database to restore the City. Growing so much that the City had seemingly decided on its own that it preferred the feminine pronoun. Professor Flitwick believed the City was actually feeding off Ginny's consciousness through the Gemini Rune burnt into the back of her neck. The more time Ginny spent connected to Her, the more She learnt.
The rune on Ginny's neck – a black ink marking like a tattoo, shaped like the Roman numeral for two – began to hum against her neck, pricking with heat. Speaking of the Gemini Rune…
A shimmering blue portal exploded into being on the far side of the courtyard, and Harry stepped out, followed by a Demelza Robbins and Neville Longbottom, both wearing the Ancient Armour. In its unhidden form, the armour appeared to be made mostly of white plating, with black meshed material around the joints to allow for movement and red piping separating the two. On the shoulder was a black circle, with a symbol in the centre. A white inverted V, with a small circle above the apex. The Home Rune, formerly known as the symbol of the Ancients. Now the sigil of the Witches and Wizards of Atlantis.
Demelza held her position on Harry's left; petite and curvy, but well-muscled and possessing a fierce gaze. Her hair – which Ginny had always admired and envied – was a mousy brown, with high volume and a faint curl to it. She held a cylindrical silver contraption in her right hand, her wand in her left. Neville stood on Harry's right. The once pudgy and clumsy boy had grown into a tall man, thick of frame and black of hair. Strapped to his back was a giant double-bladed battle-axe. His father in law had given him that after he'd travelled into the depths of the Pacific Ocean to ask for permission to marry the man's daughter.
Harry himself looked great – though Ginny supposed she was a bit bias in that regard. He'd done his hair since his return from the Federation, and now wore his trademark red Defenders Cloak over black clothing. He was the only one who still wore the Cloaks – a relic of his mother.
"The girls?" She asked as they approached Ginny and Fury. Jessica – one of Ginny and Harry's twin daughters – had caught Dragonpox two days ago. The City, incredibly, had very little in the way of curing diseases. Ginny was learning that the Ancients – the builders of Atlantis – had been a very science-driven people, and as such often dismissed smaller essential things like batteries or vaccines in favour of pursuing grand inventions like nanite armour or flying cities. Their health and safety procedures left much to be desired, and their medical knowledge wasn't much better than modern Earth science. Something she imagined the city's original inhabitants had probably regretted dramatically as they were being wiped out by the plague.
"Fine. Minerva is taking care of them. We need to focus on this. Gin, Daphne says she's had a call from the Wakandans," Harry answered, and Ginny's stomach lurched. She did not want to think about them right now. Demelza and Neville didn't take their eyes off Fury.
"T'Chaka wants to know what the fuck that thing is." He glanced up at the window. "Do we even know what it is?"
Ginny shrugged, and Fury turned towards one of his analysts, who was alternating between staring a tablet and the sky.
"Addams, report on what you have." The blonde woman – whom Ginny realised with a start she had actually met before – nodded quickly, approaching the group. Yes, Ginny did know this woman. She and Harry had met her when they fled Britain after Voldemort's attack on the Ministry. She'd worked in the American Embassy. Then it clicked. This must be the spy in Fury's ranks. She'd known MIB had a muggle spy in Fury's inner circle, but seeing the woman was another thing entirely.
"Well, according to the atmospheric scans, the event doesn't actually exist."
"What?" Harry asked.
"I mean that the atmosphere is recording no response to any unnatural stimuli. No rush of air into or out from the gap, no gravimetric anomalies or time-dilation effects. It's like the thing isn't there."
"That's good news at least," Ginny said.
"What is it doing then?" Fury asked, gripping his gun holster. Professor Flitwick stepped up beside the woman, staring at his own tablet.
"It's spewing out magic," Flitwick said, not looking up from his graphs, "a concentrated form that I've never seen before in all my years of study. The energy has somehow, perhaps by the event itself, been compressed into a gaseous form that's leaking from that side into ours. It's incredibly potent, but it doesn't last long. Within a few seconds of existence on our side, its dissolves back to magic's natural invisible quantum form." Fury grunted, as if expecting something like that.
"The window itself," Addams continued, "appears to be incredibly complex in nature. Based on the data we're receiving from the other side; we believe it's actually intersecting several different layers of reality. Kind of like a junction of some kind. A point which, theoretically, you could use to cross between them, though I have no idea how you'd accomplish it."
"And the lights?" Ginny asked.
Addams and Flitwick looked to one another, then spoke in unison. "We don't know."
Harry sighed, closing his eyes for a few seconds.
"Can it be closed?" Another light, this time grey and shaped like a tiny storm-cloud, emerged from the window, vanishing into the air.
"The damage is already done." A cold wind rose up in the air, stirring around them. Ginny's hair whipped out behind her, and she spun in time to see a figure dressed all in white step out of thin air. Immediately, Neville and Demelza stepped between it and Harry and Ginny as a dozen of Fury's agents surrounded them.
"Stand down!" Harry and Ginny yelled, the Gemini Rune thumping in sync.
Is it… Harry whispered in Ginny's mind – one of the powers afforded them by the Gemini Rune's magic.
It was Luna. She floated an inch above the ground, toes pointed like a ballerina, and glowed with soft white light, but it was still her. Her hair had turned to white as well, but the dreamy expression on her face and the sparkle in her eyes were exactly the same.
Six years ago, Luna Lovegood had vanished off the face of the Earth. The last person who'd seen her was Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron-Fist. He'd agreed to take her to the heavenly city of Kun Lun. When he'd returned, Luna wasn't with him. All he'd say was that she was gone. Ascended, to a higher plane of enlightenment.
No one had heard anything from her since. She was, for all intense and purposes, dead. They'd held a funeral.
"Hello Harry. Hello Ginny. Neville, Demelza," Luna said sweetly. Neville and Demelza both gasped, lowering their weapons in awe.
"Who are you?!" Fury snapped; gun drawn. "Alien? Spirit? Ghost?"
"I am Luna Lovegood, Nicolas Fury. And you should treat me with more respect, I think." She turned to look up at the window.
"It's here now. There is no stopping it. I had hoped that, with the Nether and Dragon Forces gone, it would leave the Earth alone. But this cannot go ignored." Ginny pushed forward into the ring of guards, approaching the misty figure.
"Luna.. What's here?"
"I thought I could do more… but the Accords… I understand it now. Why the other Ascended don't do more. Why they can't do more, even if they want to. It's a matter of balance, and law." She whispered, barely at the edge of hearing.
Harry stepped beside Ginny and tried to grab Luna's arm. His hand simply phased through her as if she wasn't there.
"Luna. What's here?"
A screech like the crashing of boulders, like the grinding of metal against metal, tore through the sky. The ground trembled, and the very air vibrated as a flash of red burst into being on the southern horizon.
"Quickly! I cannot help you over-much! Already the other Ascended are coming to investigate. It wants you. It knows of your past, can sense your exposure to its brethren, and can feel your potential." Luna froze, and her form began to blur. Frantically, she reached out to Ginny, and she desperately tried to reach back.
"Hide where the Forces cannot reach!"
Luna popped out of existence as if she'd never been there at all. Harry grabbed Ginny from behind, and they turned back towards the incoming light.
"What the hell is going on?!" Fury barked. The ground continued to vibrate as the thing drew closer. It wasn't a light. Not really. It had a physical shape — an enormous creature of flame.
What did she mean? A place where the forces…
Harry's hand flew to his ear.
"Lavender we need a Gateway now!"
The air around them began to burn as a series of runes appeared, hovering in a circular pattern at the edge of the courtyard. Another screech echoed through the air, in time with the explosion that heralded the blue Gateway portal shimmering into existence.
Harry and Ginny, so attuned to one another now that they didn't need to speak before they acted, bolted for the portal. No one else had the force of mind to move. The others – witch, wizard and muggle alike – simply stood there, staring in awe as the creature bore down on them. Several people in that courtyard had seen power like that before. Felt it before. It had nearly ended the world.
The only person who followed them was Fury. He chased after the couple, matching their speed perfectly. And as they dove through the shimmering barrier, he was right beside them.
The initial sensation of passing through the wormhole wasn't that different from a portkey. The jerking motion was there, though it caught your whole body instead of just hooking around your navel. But unlike a portkey, you couldn't actually see the vortex you fell through. There was a faint impression of blue as you passed through the event horizon of the Gateway and the jerking motion pulled you forward, but the next moment you emerged from the other side, with the exact same momentum you had going in. There was nothing in between.
They burst into the Gate-Room of Atlantis, and Ginny didn't stop running, praying to all the gods that Luna was right, and the creature only wanted them.
"LOCK IT UP!" Harry screamed.
A transparent energy shield flickered into being over the portal seconds before the rippling water turned red. A crashing 'GONG!' shook the room as the creature slammed into the shield, and the City trembled under the onslaught. Then the portal shut off, leaving Harry and Ginny standing opposite Nicolas Fury, in the one place she'd sworn he'd never set foot.
"Don't touch anything. If you do, I kill you. And don't think I won't."