Harry Potter and the Gemini Curse @ghostandmiracle42
Act V, Chapter 5

Act V, Chapter 5: The Dance of the Dragons

"I DID IT, I DID IT, I DID IT!"

"AHHHHHH!" Ginny shot awake, as a tiny figure jumped up on the very comfortable bed she and Harry were currently occupying in the Citadel of Wakanda, and Harry let out a not-so manly scream. The scream didn't seem to discourage their visitor in the slightest, as she just yelled even louder.

"I DID IT, I DID IT!"

Their invader was a young girl of about ten or eleven, with braided black hair flying up and down as she bounced, in a nightdress, on the edge of their bed, a smile on her face so large Ginny worried she'd have a heart attack. Actually, now that she thought about it, was she having a heart attack? It would certainly explain a lot.

"Shuri!" T'Challa yelled, pushing into the room before immediately turning away and looking back out into the hallway. That's when Ginny's brain, which was trying really hard to function properly at that moment and failing, remembered that she was most definitely not wearing clothes.

"I am so sorry, it's my sister… Shuri! Please leave them alone!" T'Challa begged, though he didn't move an inch from his position staring resolutely out the door and nowhere else.

"I found it!"

That seemed to jog Harry out of his shock at least.

"You found it?" he asked groggily.

"Atlantis! I found it! Now hurry up! I want to show you how absolutely awesome I am!" With that, Shuri, princess of Wakanda, jumped from the bed and bolted for the door, diving through T'Challa's legs and out into the corridor beyond.


Will dropped out of the atmosphere with a sonic boom, Clarissa not five meters away from him, and together they shot at the same speed a rocket uses when attempting to achieve orbit towards the pit below. It was like something out of a nightmare. Tendrils of darkness lined the Earth for miles. All the plant life was dead, and dark clouds circled the sky. But the Nether Force was crystal clear to Will. It was like a black hole, sucking the magic out of anything near it, drawing power from the very life force of the universe. If they didn't kill Voldemort soon, they wouldn't have to wait for Riddle to crack the world in half, the Nether Force would do it on its own. And then the Phoenix would come to absorb the ashes. It was already on its way. The Dragon Force could sense it, like a predator stalking the universe, and that meant Will could sense it too. The only saving grace? It was on the other side of the universe, so Will, Clarissa and everybody else on Earth would be long dead by the time it got here. Hopefully, Stephen's stupid necklace would be blown to shit by the planetary detonation. One less Infinity Stone floating about could only be good news for like, the entirety of reality.

Hey Clarissa, that reminds me, when we're done with this flog we really need to take a look into what those idiots were doing with the Tesseract while we were stuck in Hell.

Yeah, something to do with an alien invasion?

That's what the folks back home said when I stopped in at the Central Tower in Alcheringa. Apparently, some metahuman chick went and blew them up all on her lonesome before fucking off to the Valar know where.

Could be using her help right now.

Yeah, well, I wouldn't say no to it.

Together, the duo shot out of the sky like twin fireballs trailing a blaze of fire behind them.

Hard and fast.

Sounds like our first night after the meteor.

Really? Now?

Too good to resist. If we don't die painfully, how 'bout a re-enactment?

Count me in babe.

Will hit first. He descended like a wrathful god coming to smite the mortal world and delivered the best motherfucking headshot in the history of the universe to the back of Voldemort's head. The sound of a 25,000 kilometre per hour fist hitting its mark ripped through the entirety of Britain, sending muggle researchers into a frenzy of epic proportions across the globe. Voldemort's body burst like a piñata, and Will crashed into the ground beyond, sinking roughly twenty-seven kilometres beneath the Earth's crust before he decelerated enough to turn around and fly back up out of the pit he'd just made. Clarissa slammed on the breaks a few kilometres above the pit and used the sheer power her decent had generated to blast the bloodstain that had been Tom Riddle with almost 2000 megajoules of raw kinetic energy. Behold another twentyish kilometre deep pit into the Earth.

Will quickly sealed the newly formed cracks in the Earth's crust as he rose back to the surface, lest lava rise up and kill them all. He floated up out of the crevice in gold and white armour, the sigil of a dragon in flight decorating his chest, and landed on the ground, which was now black for a whole different reason. Clarissa, dressed the same way he was, dropped down beside him.

"Holy mother of fuck," the voice of Sirius Black breathed. Will and Clarissa turned around just in time to see the Braddock siblings drop the magical barrier shielding them, Sirius Black, Mathew and Jack Murdock and Luke Cage from the devastation.

"Oh, you guys are still alive. Well done," Will said, giving them a thumbs up.

"Did you just…" Cage gulped hard, pulling his hood back, "did you just kill He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?" he asked in astonishment.

Clarissa laughed, "If only it were that easy." Even as she spoke the words, black vapour began to pour out of the ground, slowly reforming into something that could be considered to vaguely resemble the human body.

"I suggest you get out of here. Really, really fast," Will whispered.


"Leave us." T'Challa's voice carried with it a power that Harry couldn't help but admire. It was inspiring the way he could control a crowd with barely a word.

You realise that's what happens whenever you speak too, right?

No. I just say what you tell me to.

It's not the words. It's who says them.

Harry wasn't sure about that. He didn't feel anywhere near as powerful as T'Challa, or even Dumbledore or Will or Clarissa. Ginny just snickered in the back of his head.

T'Challa led Harry and Ginny (now suitably dressed in actual clothes) into a vast laboratory deep underneath Wakanda, following the rambunctious and clearly caffeine-high form of Shuri, who was actually ten, not the eleven that Ginny had guessed. The lab was quite incredible. Dominated by a large winding staircase in the middle of the room, desks and high-tech machines lined the walls. At the back of the room was an open glass window overlooking a giant underground abyss. The other scientists quickly vanished into side rooms as they approached. Harry couldn't help but notice the fearful glances sent Shuri's way. Apparently, the girl had a reputation.

"Shuri, if you have brought us down here for nothing, I will personally see to it that a vat of Rhinoceros dung is deposited on your bed," the prince said as his little sister stood in the middle of the room, jumping up in the air as she tried to reach a transparent screen depicting a globe suspended on an arm that was far too high for her.

"And I'll tell Mama that you and Nakia snuck into the broom shed last week and went flying without gear! You're not a wizard T'Challa. You can't cast an Arresto Momentum when you fall off!" Shuri snapped back. Then she stopped jumping, reached out her hand and whispered in Wakandan. The screen lowered itself down to her height, and she gleefully began tapping away.

T'Challa blanched, "How did you know…"

"Glory to Bast you actually did go out with her! I was just guessing! You're too predictable!" Shuri beamed back at the stunned look on T'Challa's face with the look of a cat that had caught a canary. She swivelled her hand on the screen, and a series of beeps rang through the room.

"Behold, my genius!" Shuri proclaimed, bowing dramatically. T'Challa knocked her to the floor with a well-placed backhand as he stepped up to look over the screen.

"Hey!"

Harry and Ginny glanced to each other and rolled their eyes, though they couldn't deny the smiles on their faces.

"You guys would fit in swimmingly with my family."

"Praise be! You actually did do it. Incredible Shuri!" T'Challa exclaimed, turning back to Harry and Ginny as Shuri pulled herself off the floor in a sook.

"Of course, I did it! I'm awesome!"

"Humble too," T'Challa retorted.

"You found Atlantis? Where? How?" Harry asked, cutting to the chase. Shuri elbowed T'Challa in the ribs and reacquired her screen. She tapped it, and an image of the Earth appeared.

"The Earth did not always look the way it does now. Continental drift causes the tectonic plates in the Earth's crust to move around, creating new landmasses and seas. You've been looking in the heart of the world, where the legends say Atlantis was, and you were right to look there. The only problem is you were looking in the wrong time period!" Shuri manipulated the screen and the recognisable continents of Africa, America and Europe rearranged themselves slightly.

"If Atlantis were, in fact, a city floating on the ocean thousands of years ago, then ocean currents and the shifting of the continents would have caused it to drift like this. Especially if no one was still alive to correct it!" She tapped the screen again, and a red dot appeared with the name Atlantis. Then, as a countdown clock of years began to advance, the dot slowly began to drift south, until roughly 4000 years were left on the timer, and the city impacted with the Antarctic ice-shelf.

"Antarctica…" Harry breathed.

"No wonder no one has ever found it," Ginny admitted, mind racing a mile a minute.

"Told you I was a genius."


The puny humans, as Will had taken to affectionately calling all those who couldn't destroy the world without a whole fuck tonne of help, disapparated not a moment too soon. Voldemort's body reformed, and he turned his eyes, now pitch black, on the pair of them.

"Did you really think you could kill me?" he asked, high pitch voice echoing with a resonant horror.

"It was worth a try," Clarissa said softly.

Voldemort narrowed his eyes at them.

"You dare to challenge me? Why? You and I, we are beyond the people of this world. None could challenge us. We can wash the slate clean. Built a better world for our children, free of persecution and fear of discovery! Together we could remake this world with but the snap of our fingers. United, we would be unstoppable." And it was at that moment that a horrible image tore through Will's mind. The image of a woman wreathed in flame, destroying billions of people with nary a thought, and the sickening guilt that came with knowing there was nothing that could be done to stop it.

"You don't have the right to decide who lives and who dies Tom Riddle. You are not a god, however much you try to convince yourself that you are," Will told him.

"Let go. We can help you. The Nether Force is driving you mad. It will destroy everything," Clarissa begged.

Voldemort threw his head back and laughed.

Time to pull a Superman.

Will lunged forward, summoning an eldritch sword and jamming it into Voldemort's chest, before repulsing him back out of the bowl. Clarissa, summoning the Speed Force into her veins, raced after him with the crackle of golden lightning. Will launched himself up into the sky and drew all the ambient magic in the air towards him and combining it with raw Dragon Force energy channelled from the Orrery of Worlds itself.

"SHAZAM!" A lightning bolt arced out of the sky, blasting a new crater within the forest. The glare was massive, but it was gone in seconds, replaced by a shockwave of darkness that disintegrated everything within 100 metres. Clarissa flew backwards, landing in a heap on the ground while Voldemort stood tall.

Focussing all the energy he'd collected in his palm, Will blasted Voldemort with a beam of extradimensional white fire. Voldemort absorbed the blast with a single hand, before redirecting it straight back at Will. He dove out of the way, and Voldemort banished a hundred construct blades towards him. Will entangled to the ground, and the constructs vanished. He summoned a whip of solar energy and lashed it around Voldemort's neck, using it to pull the pale-skinned man off his feet and into Will's waiting fist. Voldemort shot backward, landing on his feet as he skidded back through the dirt. Will raced forward, an army of summoned Daedra from the Oblivion Dimension rising up from the Earth and dropping from the sky as he charged. He stopped short and blasted a beam of golden power at Voldemort. Voldemort absorbed the bolt with an energy shield, and stamped his foot on the ground, dispersing the Daedra back to Oblivion before they even reached him. Clarissa jumped back into the fray, summoning an Ice Dragon and setting it and a blizzard so powerful it could put the entire world back into the Ice Age on Voldemort. The Dark Lord was enveloped in blue fire, and the ground turned to ice. Will launched himself forward, summoning a cosmic fire into his hand, before smashing it into Voldemort's gut. The Dark Lord stumbled back, slipping on the ice, and Clarissa's Ice Dragon grabbed him in its jowls, ripping Voldemort in half with his teeth. Then the dragon's mouth exploded, and blades of darkness shot forth in all directions. Will tried to dodge, but he took one in the leg and one in the shoulder, sheering through his personal shields like they were made from paper. The wounds began knitting themselves back together, but Voldemort pressed his advantage. Without his legs and flying around like the Genie from Aladdin, Voldemort vanished the eternal winter and tore open the ground to reveal a never-ending pit from which the most disgusting odour Will had ever smelt reared.

The magnetic pull of the hole was incredible, and Will instantly started sliding towards it. He summoned a lightsaber and cleaved it into the ground to keep himself fixed while Clarissa did the same.

Tartarus!

Will raised his free hand to the sky at the same moment Clarissa did.

"By the power of Zeus and the might of Olympus!" Their hands glowed gold, and a lightning bolt fell from the sky. The bolt struck the abyss and sealed it shut once more. The magnetic pull shut off, just in time for Will to hear the words, "AVADA KEDAVRA!". A wave of sick green light washed through the clearing, and Will summoned a cocoon of Dragon Force around himself just in time. His sight was blinded by green, but it cleared soon enough, and both he and Clarissa stood up, spheres of golden power in their hands. Voldemort was floating – his legs having since reattached themselves – a few metres above them, and he was smiling.

"I like you."

The darkness folded in on itself, and Voldemort was gone.

Will took a deep breath and let the energy in his hands fall away. He glanced to his wife, who looked as tired as he did.

"Well, that went about as bad as I expected it too," he said to the silence.

"Me too," she said with a sigh. Will groaned in pain as his collar bone slid back into place and stared up into the darkness as the clouds began to clear.

You better come up with something fast Potter, or we're all screwed.


Chapter 34: The Scorpius Rune

The Scorpius Rune was designed by the Pharisee of Ancient Egypt as a means of raising themselves above ordinary people and adding to the image they'd cultivated as gods on Earth. Suffice to say, the ruse worked for a really fucking long time.

The Scorpius Rune, better known as the Rune of Awareness, increases the sensitivity of all seven senses. As a result, the bearer gains incredible reaction time, and the ability to predict incoming threats in the moments before they happen. This lends itself to incredible durability and agility in battle – both magical and muggle. A famous boxer, whose name I can't say for copyright reasons, was caught using this rune in professional MMA and subsequently banned from the sport.

The rune's ability to provide enhanced reactions in combat is unparalleled, but it is not perfect either. The Scorpius Rune provides constant feedback from all senses at once; therefore, the possibility of being overwhelmed by the input for new users is high. For more experienced users, attacking the rune bearer with multiple skilled combatants will usually be enough to succeed in defeating the user, as the human body, unfortunately, does have limits to the amount of information it can process.

Pair this rune with the Pisces Rune for…


Knock, knock.

Hermione jumped to her feet, discarding Lily Potter's copy of Ancient Runes and Forgotten Civilisations, and began walking to the door.

"Coming," she called, stepping out of the living room and heading to the front door of the Granger family home in Watford. It was a small affair, three-bedrooms two bathrooms, a kitchen and a small backyard. But it was home, and as much as she loved the Burrow and the sheer intensity of it, she would always prefer the silence and tranquillity the place she'd grown up in offered her.

She stepped up to the front door and eased it open, suppressing a gasp when she saw the long white beard and half-moon glasses of Professor Dumbledore on the other side.

"Ah, Miss Granger. Lovely to see you."

"Likewise, Professor," Hermione stumbled, her voice returning to her. "Where are my manners. Come in!" She said, opening the door the whole way.

"Mum! Dad! We have a visitor!" She called, leading the Professor into the lounge room. Why the hell was Dumbledore here? This was not good. She hadn't told her parents anything about the current state of the Wizarding World, let alone anything about Voldemort's return. They knew about Harry and her membership in The Defenders, but that was it. She hadn't even told them about her trip abroad, not knowing whether it was breaking some law. She doubted they'd even believe her if she told them about Alcheringa. If Dumbledore said something about the Department of Mysteries…

Hermione's mother, Emma, came down the stairs, and to her credit, she didn't freak out at seeing Dumbledore's bright chartreuse robe and matching hat.

"Mum. This is Headmaster Dumbledore from Hogwarts," she said as her father came down behind her.

"Professor, these are my parents Emma and Dan Granger."

Her mum recovered first.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Headmaster. Hermione has spoken very highly of you," Emma said as they all took seats on the black leather couch.

"Not too highly, I hope. I've met many a parent that's fainted at the sight of me. Quite awkward as I'm sure you can imagine." Dan swallowed hard. Hermione thought it was probably safer to redirect the conversation as fast as possible.

"What's brought you to Watford, Headmaster?" She asked hesitantly.

Dumbledore smiled, "You, in fact, Miss Granger. I came first to congratulate you on your exemplary conduct in both academia and, certain extra-curricular activities at Hogwarts this year." Her parents both looked to her with pride at the compliment, but Hermione was too nervous to really appreciate it. "Secondly, to give you this."

Dumbledore withdrew a letter from within his robes and offered it to her. She took it carefully and broke the ICW issue seal. The paper unfolded, and flew up into the air, narrating as words traced themselves onto the parchment.

"Dear Miss Granger," a male voice said, "Congratulations on an excellent academic year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. My name is Bartleby Widdershins of the Department of Standardised Education at the ICW, and it is my privilege to inform you that, based on your stellar performance in this year's OWL exams, you have been selected as one of the five people from across the ICW community to receive the Joan of Arc Scholarship."

Hermione's jaw fell open. No. Fucking. Way.

"This scholarship, in case you are unaware, is provided to the top-scoring students in the OWL examinations, and pays for complete tuition, board and supplies for your continued education at your choice of ICW registered institution across the world until you have completed your NEWT studies."

Her father gasped. Dumbledore's eyes were sparkling something fierce.

"Enclosed are your final OWL examination results. Congratulations once again. Hoping to hear from you soon,

Bartleby Widdershins, Department of Standardised Education, International Confederation of Wizards."

The letter drifted down into Hermione's lap, and she just stared at it, entranced.

"Con… congratulations, sweetheart!" Her mother beamed, enveloping Hermione in a hug.

"Indeed. Congratulations Miss Granger. You've truly earned this," Dumbledore said with a smile.

Hermione swallowed hard, "What happens now?"

"Should you wish to continue your studies at Hogwarts, you will be offered full tuition, free of charge. You will have no need to pay for any of your books or supplies. If you wish to attend another school, such as the Alcheringa Academy or Ilvermorny, both of which you visited last year, you are more than welcome to with the same offer of free tuition and supplies until you graduate." Dumbledore hesitated for a second as if deciding if he actually wanted to say the next part.

"I must admit, I would love to see you back at Hogwarts this year. For more reasons than one. I wish to mend bridges with Harry, and knowing that I can count on someone of your skill and intellect, given the climate, would be a great boon. If you accept, I would offer you, Mr Murdock and Miss Jones the opportunity to take private lessons with me this year. I would also appreciate your assistance in a matter concerning a staff member I wish to recruit. He has been… hesitant… to come out of retirement, but with Miss Jones, who has already agreed to help, and yourself, I believe I can entice him to the table." Dumbledore folded his arms across his lap and held Hermione's gaze. She tightened her Occlumency barriers, taught to her by Sirius and Remus. She wasn't by any means an expert, but she could tell when someone was trying to get in her head at least, and the Headmaster wasn't. He was actually leaving the decision to her. As if it was a decision. If Jessica had already agreed, then it was important. And as much as she'd love to go to Alcheringa or Ilvermorny, there was nothing that could keep her from helping Harry and Ginny. She'd been searching and searching for more clues on the Horcruxes, but hadn't been able to come up with anything helpful. Hagrid's advice on substances that could destroy them was useful, though. She now had two vials of Kaiju Saliva stored in a well-sealed and protected case with her books. If they found another Horcrux and the Dragons weren't nearby, she'd be prepared. And after their showdown with Voldemort… They had to destroy the Horcruxes. Only then could the Dragons or Harry get rid of him for good. She'd guessed based on her observations, that Will and Clarissa had a plan, but it wasn't a good one, and it made them very nervous. She'd heard them muttering about the Phoenix Force and something called Galactus. She had a feeling she didn't want to know what a Galactus was.

"Thank you. Thank you so much. I ac…" she started, and hope bloomed in Dumbledore's eyes, but her father cut her off.

"If you wouldn't mind, we'd like to speak with Hermione alone first." Panic flashed through her veins, and she turned to her Dad, who looked very concerned. Her mum looked about as confused as Hermione felt.

"Of course. Miss Granger, why don't you Owl me with your reply?" Dumbledore stood up and bowed slightly.

"I don't have an Owl professor," she said.

"Not to worry. Simply call Fawkes to you, and he will deliver anything you need to me," Dumbledore straightened his hat and smiled.

"Mr and Mrs Granger. Miss Granger."

Then he spun on his heel and disapparated.

The second he was gone, her father rounded on her.

"Okay, Hermione. Fess up."

"Dan!" Emma exclaimed, smacking his arm. Hermione couldn't help but agree.

"What?"

"Certain extra-curricular activities? Current climate? Visiting other schools? You didn't tell us anything about this. Now you're on such good terms with the Headmaster that he's asking your help with recruiting teachers? And who is this Miss Jones you apparently know?"

Hermione took an intense breath.

"You promised you'd told us everything that happened the past two years. You said your friend Harry was in a competition at school. Not that you went with him to other schools to compete! Why did the school really close early this year? I don't think it was because of Wizard Flu. And for the record, I didn't buy that from the start." He folded his arms and stared at her, using his disappointed face.

"Hermione… what haven't you been telling us?" Her mum asked, placing a hand on Dan's knee.

It felt like time slowed down as the Pisces Rune burned against her arm. Everything around her fell still as her neurones flared faster than any ordinary mind.

She ran through possibilities, strategies for getting her out of this mess sliding across her thoughts. She weighed every variable, every factor… and came to a conclusion that shattered her heart. Her parents would not allow anything except full disclosure now, and once they knew, they wouldn't let her leave the house. And with the trace remaining active until her birthday in September, they'd be able to do it too. There were too many people that relied on her. The first Muggleborns were due to arrive at the Oxford House tomorrow. It had to be now, or she'd lose the element of surprise.

"I… I'm sorry, Mum. I'm sorry, Dad." She traced a rune in the air and pushed it forward. A blast of cold air rippled outwards and her parents froze in place. A tear slid down her cheek, and she thrust out her hand, twitching her fingers the way she'd practised. You could use specific runes to lock spells in suspension. That way you could cast a spell in a place where you wouldn't be caught for underage magic, use a rune to anchor it to an object, then use a specific gesture to activate the spell later, without setting off the trace. In this case, it was a simple summoning charm. But it served its purpose. A purple beaded clutch bag flew down the stairs and into Hermione's waiting hand.

It had been Jessica's idea. Who else would have thought about it? But right now, as tears streaked down her face, Hermione was grateful for Alias' paranoia. Her parents' eyes began twitching. The stasis rune was wearing off.

She ducked her hand into her bag and withdrew her Defenders Cloak. Draping it around herself, she took a metal orb out of the bag and placed it on the table. This one was Moody's idea. Aurors used them on Muggles all the time. It was a low-grade Obliviation Bomb. It would instantly wipe any memories of magic from the minds of any muggles within the vicinity of the detonation while leaving wizards unaffected. It was an efficient way of clearing a magical crime scene of non-magical witnesses.

She placed the sphere on the table and clicked it open. A rune on the top began to glow.

Her parent's legs and arms were shaking now, but their faces remained trapped.

"I love you. But my friends need me, and I can't jeopardise that." Hermione reached into her cloak and twisted the portkey thread. Her feet lifted off the ground, and she was pulled into a vortex of rainbow light. The last thing she saw of her parents was her mother breaking free of the runic spell, and a flash of white light.

Her feet landed on a wooden floor, and she found herself staring into Alias's face. Jessica took one look at Hermione's tears, and the bag clutched in her hand, before pulling her into a hug.


"I am so sorry, Miss Granger. I had no intention…"

"I know. I actually don't blame you. It's my fault really," Hermione answered truthfully as she walked down the main street of Budleigh Babberton with Jessica, Matt and Dumbledore. It was a small village, Jessica thought. You could see the ends of the rows of houses, and the darkness of night beyond. Jessica didn't like it. It was far easier to launch an ambush in a small silent town like this than a city like London, where anonymity was one's ally. She'd mentioned as much to the Headmaster, and he hadn't been worried about a potential attack. When she'd asked why, he'd simply said, "You're with me." Jessica thought that was very egotistical and kept her senses alert anyway. Matt would know if anyone tried to sneak up on them. Anyone except Voldemort, as he'd discovered when Greyback's camp was attacked.

The mission was simple. Recruit Horace Slughorn, a potential informant, to work at Hogwarts to protect him from the Death Eaters (and to fill up a vacant teaching position). If Slughorn resisted? Well, let's just say Jessica, as leader of the Defenders, had greenlit extreme measures, much to Dumbledore's chagrin. He refused to say precisely what Slughorn knew, but it was clearly important, and if Jessica had to guess, it was connected to the Headmaster's hand, which in the previous week had turned ashen and corpse-like. Not that Jessica really cared.

Jessica had initially been going to refuse to participate in the mission until Dumbledore said what information was so vital until he assured her that the only reason he wasn't divulging the truth was because of the danger of being overheard. The Home was a significant thoroughfare these days, anyone could hear what you said. Hogwarts wasn't much better. Aurors and Warders were on the grounds twenty-four-seven putting up defences, the risk of discovery was too high. So, she'd acquiesced on the proviso that he explain everything the day term resumed, or she'd interrogate Slughorn herself.

She'd done her research. She knew Slughorn had been a teacher while Tom Riddle had been in school. He'd been head of Slytherin House. Clearly, Dumbledore believed Slughorn knew something important about Voldemort. But what? It was why she'd agreed. This information was big. Big enough to put aside grudges and personal pride.

"No," Dumbledore said, "The fault is mine. I should have realised your parents wouldn't be receptive. I am dreadfully sorry." The conversation lapsed into silence, and they advanced down the street, eventually coming to a darkened cottage at the edge of the lane. The front door had been blown in.

"Looks like they got here before us," Jessica remarked. They had forgone their Defenders Robes for this mission. No sense in broadcasting after all.

"It certainly seems so," Dumbledore agreed.

"No one's moving within the house," Matt noted, staring at the building through his red-shaded glasses, "I can't detect any dark magic either. There's an odd heat signature though."

Dumbledore led the way forward as everyone lit their wands. If there was something in the house, she was more than happy for the Headmaster to die first. The cottage looked like a disaster zone. Blood spatters covered the walls, a grandfather clock had been cleaved in half and thrown across the room. A crystal chandelier had fallen from the roof, shattered into a dozen pieces, and a rather expensive looking dinner table had been blasted to smithereens.

Jessica frowned, her detective's mind going to work in an instant. There was something wrong here; the damage seemed too haphazard. The giant bloodstain made no sense. Either someone had actually exploded to create that impression, or it had been splattered there on purpose. If this was a retrieval mission, why was there so much destruction? Minor damage from misfired disarming charms she would have understood, or discarded ropes from an Incarcerous, but stunners, impediment jinxes and immobilising hexes created no physical damage. This was clearly a battle using reductors, and not well-placed ones either.

"I don't like this. The dispersal of the damage is all wrong. This wasn't a retrieval raid," Jessica said, casting her light across the living room and the remains of an upturned piano.

"The spell traces are all recent, this must-have happened within the hour," Matt said, clearly confused. He alone had no light illuminating his wand. Certainly, wouldn't help him anyway. He was staring at an overturned armchair in the corner of the lounge.

"I think there is more to this situation than meets the eye," Dumbledore said, moving towards the couch. It wasn't very remarkable, a dull blue and grey striped armchair.

"That chair is weird," Matt said hesitantly. "It doesn't have an aura, but it has a heat signature that's a dead ringer for a human's."

"Bingo!" Hermione announced, turning her wand on the chair.

"Finite!" Instantly a yelp came out of the chair, and it transfigured into a portly man with a scraggly beard, wearing a set of pyjamas that matched the upholstery of the former chair.

"That explains that I suppose," Matt said candidly.

"Excellent work," Dumbledore said gleefully, and Jessica realised the old man had been testing them. Asshole.

"Evening Horace. You're looking well," Dumbledore said.

The balding man stood up, dusting off his pyjamas.

"Albus. I must say I'm not pleased to see you. Who are your friends?" the newly revealed Horace Slughorn turned his eyes on them, sliding from Jessica's florescent pink hair to Matt's glasses before stopping at Hermione's frizzed hair, which despite being tied into a ponytail, still looked like it had been out in the rain for far too long.

"Horace, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Jessica Jones, Mathew Murdock and Hermione Granger, otherwise known as the Defenders operatives Alias, Daredevil and Brains." Hermione gave an awkward wave while Matt continued to stare at the man, most likely reading his aura. Jessica stepped over to the window and peered outside. Slughorn's gaze took on a new kind of scrutiny, and a sly smile grew on his lips.

"Ooh," He said, locking onto Jessica as she turned back around, "Well. I must say, excellent deduction skills Miss Jones." He looked to Hermione, "A perfectly executed finite charm Miss Granger, and Mr Murdock, you would be the second person I have encountered with the gift of aura reading. Can I perhaps enquire into how you acquired such a power?" Matt was silent for a moment before saying only, "An accident when I was a kid."

"Interesting. Very interesting. You must tell me the story some time."

"Mr Murdock and Miss Jones will be entering their OWL year when term resumes," Dumbledore advised, "And Miss Granger is entering her NEWT studies with a Joan of Arc Scholarship." Slughorn's eyes went very wide indeed.

"Very impressive, indeed. Why the last Joan of Arc Scholar I had the utter pleasure of teaching would be Lily Evans, the mother of your group's founder. Where is young Harry now that I think about it? Is he well after the battle in the Ministry? Were you there?" Slughorn actually licked his lips at that. Jessica made to say something scathing, but Dumbledore spoke first.

"Quite the elaborate ruse you concocted Horace. You weren't by any chance expecting someone else were you?" Dumbledore asked.

Slughorn's smile vanished in a second, "Someone else? I don't know what you're implying."

Slughorn withdrew his wand and waved it an arc, clearly trying to divert from the conversation. In the span of a few brief seconds, the house had restored itself to pristine condition, with not one item out of place. The lights flickered on, and Slughorn nodded to himself, turning to Dumbledore.

"Don't think I don't know why you're here Albus," he said, pointing his finger at the Headmaster, "the answer is still no. Absolutely and unequivocally no." Jessica had a feeling she understood Dumbledore's game as well. Her eyes were fixed on a cabinet that had hastily reforged itself. Dozens of photo frames were visible across it, each one displaying a picture of Slughorn next to a famous witch or wizard, all of them signed.

"I am simply here to check up on you Horace. I imagine I haven't been the only one. I doubt you'd go to such efforts for little old me."

"What would the Death Eaters possibly want with me?" Slughorn demanded. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled.

"I never mentioned the Death Eaters, Horace."

Slughorn sighed, "Alright, alright. Yes fine. The Death Eaters have been hunting me. I haven't been staying anywhere for more than a week, moving from muggle house to muggle house. The people who own this place are in the Canary Islands. It's been delightful, I'll be sorry to leave. It's quite easy once you get the hang of it. Freezing charm on the Burglar Alarm and make sure the neighbours don't see you bringing in the piano."

Jessica would have to remember that one. The Burglar Alarm, not the piano.

"Ingenious," Dumbledore said, "But it does seem like a rather tiring existence. I'm sure you've heard Hogwarts is being given the best of protections this year…"

"Now, now! If you're going to tell me my life would be more peaceful at your pestilential school, you can save your breath, Albus! I might've been in hiding, but I certainly heard what happened to Dolores Umbridge! If that's how you treat teachers these days…"

"Dolores Umbridge," Matt cut in, his voice dripping with anger, "tortured students with blood quills and poisoned them with Veritaserum. If you start defending her, you'll find me turning over your address to Voldemort before you can restore your deterrent spells." Slughorn flinched as Matt spoke the name.

"And trust us when we say you don't want to cross him. Whatever he was in the past, he's infinitely more powerful and horrifying now." Hermione said, a dangerous quiver to her voice. "I've seen him with my own two eyes. I watched as he killed my friends, and I watched him take on Harry, Ginny, the Sorcerer Supreme and Professor Dumbledore all at once without batting an eye."

Slughorn at least had the grace to look suitably chastised. Dumbledore stood up then.

"Are you leaving?" Slughorn asked, hopefully.

"Do you mind if I use the loo?" He asked. Slughorn's hopeful look vanished.

"Second door on the right."

"Lovely." Dumbledore walked down the corridor and disappeared.

Slughorn turned his attention to Hermione. "Don't think I don't know why he's brought you lot here," he said. Hermione blushed slightly. Jessica turned to the cabinet and stepped over to it. Dumbledore clearly had the right idea, as much as she hated to admit it.

"Did you teach everyone here?" She asked him. Slughorn stopped his scrutiny of Hermione to look at Jessica, his smile returned to his face.

"Indeed. Each and every one of them. All mine."

"Barnabus Cuffe, Editor of the Daily Prophet. Ambrosius Flume, founder of Honeydukes. Gwenog Jones, captain of the Hollyhead Harpies. Quite the impressive collection indeed." Jessica picked up the photo frame dead centre. One of Slughorn and Lily Evans, dressed in the robes of an Unspeakable.

"Harry is always looking for people who knew his parents, especially those who knew his mum. He has Sirius Black to know his Dad, but his mum didn't have as many friends he's found." Slughorn stepped over, looking at the picture in Jessica's hands.

"Ah, yes. I found that as well. Ever the studious one Lily. I helped her with her entrance paper for the Department of Mysteries, you know. It was on Transcendental Runes and Charms, and her experiments with creating pocket dimensions. A truly exceptional young woman. It truly is a shame what happened to her. She would have changed the world." Slughorn's smile faded, and Jessica realised she'd hit the jackpot. Slughorn must have been very close to Lily.

"Brains? I've been meaning to ask, but I keep forgetting with all the missions I've been organising in Harry's absence, how is your research into Kelmscott's Theory going?"

No one ever said Hermione Granger was slow on the uptake.

"Oh! Really well actually. I think I've translated and proved the Laws of Thermodynamics function exactly the same even with the introduction of the magical variable. Mary Jane says I shouldn't bother mentioning Rudolf Clausius at all in my paper because it will make the Purebloods less likely to take me seriously if I mention the idea came from a muggle scientist. I'm waiting to hear from Gwen and Peter about a time we can get together so we can test the next phase, which will involve a concentrated examination of the Magical Core and its reaction to external stimuli. Luna has graciously volunteered to be our, ehh, lab rat so to speak, but I won't do any tests until I have at least one other genius in the room with me to help if anything goes wrong." Hermione's words came out very fast and very exuberantly, but Slughorn held onto each one. Jessica wasn't sure whether he understood what Hermione said or not, but he clearly acted like he did. Either that, or it was the energy with which she spoke that had him raptured.

"Well, Mr Slughorn," Matt said, catching on, "If you did decide to come back to Hogwarts, I'm sure Harry would love to speak with you about his mum's work. He's quite the expert at Ancient Runes, and last year he taught us all Defence Against the Dark Arts in secret after Umbridge banned us from learning spells in class." Slughorn's look turned deeply thoughtful.

'Hook, line and sinker,' Jessica thought to herself.

A flushing sound came from the bathroom, Dumbledore stepped out, holding a magazine, and Jessica placed the photo back on the bench.

"Well, I do believe we best be off," Dumbledore said.

"You're leaving?" Slughorn asked.

"Yes. I think I know a lost cause when I see one. A pity, I would have considered it a great personal triumph if you had consented to return to Hogwarts. Well, our increased security, notwithstanding, you're welcome to visit at any time."

"Lost…" Slughorn whispered to himself in horror.

"Farewell, Horace," Dumbledore said, stepping out the door.

"Goodbye, sir," Hermione said, waving as she followed.

"Evening," Matt said, tilting his head in respect before walking outside. Jessica shook Slughorn's hand as his lip quivered and closed the door behind her. She'd barely reached the street when Slughorn slammed the door open once more, walking out in his pyjamas.

"All right. I'll do it. But I want a raise!"

"Fabulous," Dumbledore announced, he gestured to Jessica, "Miss Jones will be by tomorrow with Head Auror Braddock to bring you to Hogwarts. The Ward securities have been changed you see, so we'll have to readmit you to the clearance list."

Slughorn twisted on his feet, nodded, and turned on his feet to stalk back inside. After the door closed and the quartet had made their way a few houses down, Jessica gaged.

"Gee thanks, Professor. I'm sure I'll love it," She said, rolling her eyes as the others laughed.

"Well done to all three of you," Dumbledore said, nodding to Jessica, Matt and Hermione in turn.

"Clever angle, appealing to his vanity to get him to do what you wanted. Bringing us was a stroke of genius," Hermione said.

"Imagine if you'd showed up with Harry and Ginny," Matt pointed out, "he might have had kittens." They laughed again.

"What did you think of him?" Dumbledore asked as they continued down the road.

"He's clearly an egotist, though not in the traditional sense. He's the type of person who likes to be associated with the rich, powerful and famous, but doesn't really want to be either of those things himself. If I had to guess, I'd say he's like the person who spends their life trying to become the chief of staff rather than the President, the man who works behind the scenes and has connections everywhere," Jessica deduced.

"Correct. Horace, or as we must now call him, Professor Slughorn, has always enjoyed the company of the exceptionally gifted, be it in academia, charisma or magical power. He used to run a club at Hogwarts where he would invite the students he deemed exceptionally talented to forge contacts with others, sometimes current students, sometimes former students who owe their own success to Professor Slughorn."

Dumbledore stopped at a fountain in the centre of the town and pulled a portkey shaped like a pen out of his pocket.

"Thank you all for your help tonight. I promise I'll give you all the answers you want once Hogwarts has been made secure. After the welcome feast, come to my office. There we can have a long-overdue conversation, and I will do as I promised Harry before he departed and tell you all my last and greatest secret." He placed the portkey in Jessica's hand and stepped back.

"Until then."

Matt and Hermione touched the portkey, and together, the trio were swept into a vortex of rainbow light.

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Act I, Chapter 1 2577 0 0 2. Act I, Chapter 2 3857 0 0 3. Act I, Chapter 3 6839 0 0 4. Act I, Chapter 4 3517 0 0 5. Act I, Chapter 5 2759 0 0 6. Act I, Chapter 6 3646 0 0 7. Act I, Chapter 7 3123 0 0 8. Act I, Chapter 8 3749 0 0 9. Act I, Chapter 9 3592 0 0 10. Act I, Chapter 10 4635 0 0 11. Act II, Chapter 1 4795 0 0 12. Act II, Chapter 2 4912 0 0 13. Act II, Chapter 3 4596 0 0 14. Act II, Chapter 4 4033 0 0 15. Act II, Chapter 5 4695 0 0 16. Act II, Chapter 6 4878 0 0 17. Act II, Chapter 7 5376 0 0 18. Act II, Chapter 8 4393 0 0 19. Act II, Chapter 9 3716 0 0 20. Act II, Chapter 10 7982 0 0 21. Act III, Chapter 1 8563 0 0 22. Act III, Chapter 2 3926 0 0 23. Act III, Chapter 3 4739 0 0 24. Act III, Chapter 4 2324 0 0 25. Act III, Chapter 5 5812 0 0 26. Act III, Chapter 6 6900 0 0 27. Act III, Chapter 7 3211 0 0 28. Act III, Chapter 8 6466 0 0 29. Act III, Chapter 9 2888 0 0 30. Act III, Chapter 10 7371 0 0 31. Act IV, Chapter 1 6177 0 0 32. Act IV, Chapter 2 6862 0 0 33. Act IV, Chapter 3 6360 0 0 34. Act IV, Chapter 4 7018 0 0 35. Act IV, Chapter 5 9640 0 0 36. Act IV, Chapter 6 4531 0 0 37. Act IV, Chapter 7 2345 0 0 38. Act IV, Chapter 8 7242 0 0 39. Act IV, Chapter 9 6161 0 0 40. Act IV, Chapter 10 11288 0 0 41. Act V, Chapter 1 12170 0 0 42. Act V, Chapter 2 3204 0 0 43. Act V, Chapter 3 7727 0 0 44. Act V, Chapter 4 3213 0 0 45. Act V, Chapter 5 7099 0 0 46. Act V, Chapter 6 8061 0 0 47. Act V, Chapter 7 5544 0 0 48. Act V, Chapter 8 5414 0 0 49. Act V, Chapter 9 6046 0 0 50. Act V, Chapter 10 7849 0 0 51. Act VI, Chapter 1 6040 0 0 52. Act VI, Chapter 2 3614 0 0 53. Act VI, Chapter 3 4633 0 0 54. Act VI, Chapter 4 4638 0 0 55. Act VI, Chapter 5 2781 0 0 56. Act VI, Chapter 6 6382 0 0 57. Act VI, Chapter 7 4027 0 0 58. Act VI, Chapter 8 7169 0 0 59. Act VI, Chapter 9 4260 0 0 60. Act VI, Chapter 10 5574 0 0 61. Glossary and Appendices 10011 0 0 62. Update: A potential podfic 265 0 0