Harry and Hermione return to England.
Chapter 10 - Home, Sweet Home
Harry and Hermione sat idly in their seats on the flight from Berlin back to Heathrow airport. Hermione held a pen and notebook in her hand, writing down ideas for potential tools to develop, or further modifications to their suits. Harry had long abandoned the task of maintaining consciousness, earplugs muffling the monotonous drone of the plane's engines.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our descent towards Heathrow airport, and will be landing in fifteen minutes," the voice of the stewardess rang over the intercom. "Please make sure that all seatbelts are buckled, and that trays are folded up and all seats placed in their upright positions..." Hermione ignored the rest of the announcement as she straightened her seat and shook Harry awake.
The plane landed on the tarmac without incident, and twenty minutes later, Harry and Hermione stepped out into the cool autumn air.
"Home, sweet home," Harry said softly, Hermione humming in agreement. They hailed a taxi and told the driver the address of a building close to the Leaky Cauldron. Hermione took her gloves out of his bag, and discreetly cast a mufflatio charm, concealing their conversation from the driver.
"So, what do you think it'll be like?" Hermione asked casually.
"Don't know," Harry said honestly. "With any luck the Death Eaters won’t be too big a problem, but that's just wishful thinking."
"The ministry will probably be overthrown, with Riddle at the head, and magical Britain will be a racist dictatorship," Hermione responded matter-of-factly.
"Well, aren't you a ray of sunshine today," Harry deadpanned.
"I'm just being realistic," Hermione retorted. "Of course, that means that we probably won't get paid for this job."
"Probably," Harry agreed, "since Dumbledore certainly won't pay us."
"Maybe not, but we should probably seek his help anyway; he might be of use to us," Hermione said. "At the very least, it could be fun to mess with his head a bit." Harry looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
"And how, pray tell, would we do that, dear wife?" Harry asked.
"Well, dear husband, we could tell Dumbledore that Harry Potter hired us to take care of things for him," Hermione explained. "You kill Riddle, hide the body, say that you whisked him away to wherever you're holed up at, and come back in a couple of days with the corpse, and everybody's happy." Harry considered the plan for a moment, and then nodded in acceptance.
"We're here," the driver said as they pulled over to the specified destination. Hermione canceled the privacy charm and thanked the driver, giving him the required payment before stepping out, taking their bags with them. They walked into the abandoned alleyway where the entrance to the magical pub, before Harry briefly set his bag down on the ground. He opened it up and rummaged through it, pulling out his own gloves before closing it. After donning his gloves, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of sunglasses, Hermione doing the same.
Soon after developing the first version of the suits, Hermione bought two pairs of sunglasses and enchanted them with the same visual filters that was in their helmets, to provide them with the ability to see things beyond the visual spectrum without wearing their helmets every time.
After casting several facial obscuring charms on themselves, Harry grabbed the doorknob to twist it open, but it would not budge. He jiggled the handle several times in vain, and eventually sent a burst of magic through his glove to unlock the door.
"Have you ever seen this door locked before?" Harry asked Hermione. She shook her head, and they both cautiously drew their wands before entering the pub. It looked like that there had been a struggle on the premises at some point. Tables and chairs were scattered about, many of them shattered; scorch marks along the walls and blast craters on every surface indicating spell fire. The thick layer of dust lining the floors, disturbed only by the pests that now infested the area implied that whatever happened there had happened some time ago.
Setting their bags on one of the few intact tables, Harry activated the Mage Sight filter on his glasses and began observing his surroundings. In addition to the expected Muggle-repelling charms and the gateway into Diagon Alley in the back of the pub, he also noticed several monitoring and alerting charms, all linked together and all voice-activated, it seemed.
"Hey Hermione, check this out," Harry said, beckoning the woman next to him to look at his discovery. "What do you make of that?" Hermione frowned at it in concentration, and then relaxed as she came to a realization.
"Get ready," Hermione said, deactivating her Mage Sight and standing in the middle of the room. Harry deactivated his glasses and took a position behind her. Both adopting a combat stance, Hermione said loudly and clearly, "Voldemort." For a long, tense second, nothing happened. Then the rushing sound of someone arriving via a portkey echoed in the room, and the two hunters immediately opened fire, sending a torrent of stunners at the intruders before they could even react. Five surprised wizards immediately crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Harry and Hermione conjured ropes to bind them and walked over to them, and she rolled one onto his back with her foot, before snorting in disdain.
"Trackers," Harry stated, the venom evident in his voice.
Tracker is the collective term for any low-level mercenary, and represent the worst of the profession. While they called themselves mercenaries, a more appropriate description would be thugs-for-hire, as they were often hired by unsavory characters to act as paid muscle; their lust for gold and often lacking intelligence ensured their loyalty. However, they also have a tendency for violence, and when things begin to go wrong, will start to wildly fire lethal curses and sorting out the survivors later. Harry and Hermione had run into trackers several times in the past while on jobs, and have always taken the time to disable their operations.
Nobody likes competition.
"So, if Riddle's using trackers, then that means that either all the good mercenaries left town, or he's too cheap to afford anything better," Harry concluded. "So, what was all that about?" he asked Hermione.
"In one of my books, I read about something called the Taboo," Hermione explained. "While it doesn't explicitly say what the Taboo is, the book did say that during the first war with...Riddle," she continued, almost activating the Taboo again and instigating another unnecessary fight, "when his supporters took over the Ministry of Magic the first time around, a law was passed stating that all witches and wizards had to turn in their wands for 'inspection' or face prison time. After the war ended, once again wands had to be 'inspected.' If the monitoring charms here are any indication, then I imagine that those inspections were to place and remove monitoring charms on every wand in Britain." Harry's eyes widened briefly at the implications of that statement.
"That seems remarkably...inefficient," Harry said, pausing as he searched for the right word to describe the events. Hermione shrugged indifferently.
"Perhaps, but it is the most surefire way that anyone who says Riddle's nickname will be found and dealt with. The area charms are probably to alert them of any Squibs or other non-wizard beings who say the Taboo. It's actually very similar in principle to the Trace," Hermione continued, then rolled her eyes at Harry's confused expression. "I guess you wouldn't know, but the Trace is another monitoring charm implanted into wands, and is one of the reason why there isn't a wand maker on every corner: it takes a lot of time and effort to get the charms to lie dormant until the wand selects a host, tie itself to that person's magical core, and deactivate once the host reaches magical maturity." Harry stared at her blankly for a moment, before shaking his head in confusion.
"Okay, forget I've ever asked," he said, turning towards the still unconscious trackers. "So what do we do with these idiots?" he asked, nudging one with the toe of his boot.
"I figure we snap their wands and dump somewhere where they can’t harm anyone," Hermione suggested. With a wave of her wand, the wands of the trackers sailed through the air, and with one swift swipe, they were cleanly split in two. With another wave of her wand, the five limp bodies were hauled to their feet by invisible hands, and she pressed her wand tip onto their shirts, turning them into portkeys. A few seconds later, they disappeared with a pop.
"Where'd you send them?" Harry asked conversationally as Hermione sheathed her wand.
"Someplace where they won't bother us," Hermione answered evasively as she swept away the broken wands with her foot. "Let's find someplace to bunk up in here," she said as she ascended the stairs that led to the inn rooms. While many of the rooms were in a state of disrepair, one was relatively intact, save for the copious amounts of dust accumulated on all the horizontal surfaces, which a quick cleaning charm took care of.
"So what now, just patrol around Diagon Alley until we find something interesting?" Harry suggested. Hermione considered it for a moment, and then agreed. As she turned around and opened her bag to pull out her suit, she felt a pair of arms wrap around her waist and soft lips brushing against her neck. "Do you need any help undressing?" Harry asked in a low, seductive tone, pressing feather light kisses along her neck and jawline; Hermione bit her lip to keep herself from moaning in pleasure.
"As tempting as that sounds..." she sighed contentedly, turning around to face her husband, "we had a deal: no love-making during missions. We can't afford the distractions...or the physical debilitations," she added teasingly. Harry dropped his shoulders in disappointment, pouting his lip comically. "Oh, don't be such a baby about it," she admonished him jokingly. "You can fuck me senseless after we deal with Riddle and his Death Nibblers. In fact," she continued, whispering into his ear in a husky voice, "I'm expecting it." Harry finally conceded, and pecked her on the lips before digging out his own suit from his bag and slipping it into it, becoming the deadly hunter known as Mortis.
After donning their uniforms and making sure that their weapons and gadgets were in their proper places, they entered Diagon Alley via the entrance at the back of the Leaky Cauldron. When they entered the normally busy marketplace, it was lifeless. After further inspection, the two hunters realized that many of the shops had simply closed for the day, although a few shops had boarded up windows, displaying their permanent closure, including the joke shop Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. They eventually split up, Hermione continuing to patrol Diagon Alley while Harry ventured down the darker Knockturn Alley.
Hermione sighed in boredom as she walked down the empty streets of Diagon Alley. However, wandering around the area, hoping to find and Order member was the only somewhat reliable way to safely get in contact with Dumbledore; owls could be intercepted, she doubted that they would still be connected to the Floo network, and while they could Apparate onto the grounds (despite her constant assertions that such a feat was impossible in her youth), they did not know what kind of security measures were in place there. While she doubted that Dumbledore would implement anything too dangerous, it would not be prudent to make such a gamble.
Using the thermal filters of her helmet, she slowly scanned her surroundings, watching for any unusual heat signatures, particularly those of a human body.
She eventually stopped when she saw a red figure in her vision when she peered into the window of a shop. She turned off her thermal vision, and saw nothing, concluding that he must have been under either a disillusionment charm or an invisibility cloak. She turned it back on to see that the figure was rifling through the shop’s inventory and had not noticed her. She carefully backed away several meters before disappearing with a crack.
The person hiding under the invisibility cloak paused when he heard the tell-tale sound of Apparation. He heard a similar crack behind him, but before he could react, he felt a spell impact his back, and slipped into unconsciousness.
Hermione pressed the tip of her wand against the exposed crystal on the wrist of her glove to recharge the small amount of power used to cast the stunner that she had used. She pulled down the invisibility cloak to reveal a young man that she did not recognize. She briefly skimmed over the man’s surface thoughts, any defenses that he may have had diminished by his unconscious state, and discovered that he was a member of the Order, trying to find supplies for the resistance; he also happened to have chosen this particular shop because of its lack of security.
Learning all that she needed to know, Hermione pulled a circular cloth-covered object from her pocket and slipped it into the Order agent’s robes. She laid the invisibility cloak back on and disillusioned herself before reviving the Order agent, who woke with a start. He looked around nervously and, finding no one there, quickly grabbed an armful of items off of the shelves and Disapparated. Satisfied that her work was done, Hermione activated the communication unit in her helmet.
"Harry, I found an Order member," she said. "I dropped off the package and will meet you back at the Leaky Cauldron."
"Great, I'll be there in a minute, out," Harry replied, terminating the link. After one last glance at her surroundings, Hermione Disapparated back to the Leaky Cauldron and began to change into her Miss Grayson persona.
Meanwhile, Harry was having a more exciting experience.
When he ventured down Knockturn Alley, once again many of the shops were closed, but Harry stumbled across an open pub. Activating the Mage Sight filter on his lenses, he saw that every single person inside was a Death Eater. He also saw that five of said Death Eaters was about to exit the premises. The five of them stumbled out drunkenly, laughing at some unknown joke when they saw Harry standing in the middle of the path.
"Well, look who we have here," one of the Death Eaters slurred, "some crazy bloke playing dress-up."
"I was in the neighborhood," Harry replied, the innocence in his tone undermined by his voice's heavy modulation. The Death Eaters guffawed as if Harry had just told them the funniest joke that they have ever heard, and Harry noticed that he was beginning to draw a crowd.
"Well, let's have a little fun with you," another Death Eater said, before all five cast the Cruciatus curse at Harry, who simple Apparated out of the way. Harry placed one hand on his hip and the other around the handle of his knife.
"Since you missed me, I'm feeling merciful," he said. "I'll give you this one last chance to back off and run away. I suggest you take it, or suffer the consequences." The five offending Death Eaters simply laughed and fired killing curses at him. Harry once again Apparated out of their path, and retaliated violently.
He drew his knife out and swiped it across the first Death Eater's neck, cleanly slicing his carotid artery, ducking down to avoid the spray of blood. He then spun around and shoved the blade into the chest of the second. He then drew his wand and blasted the other three away with a series of reducto hexes before they could react. Harry extracted his knife from the chest of the now dead Death Eater, whose limp corpse crumpled to the ground, and turned to face the stunned crowd.
"Anyone else want a piece of me?" Harry growled at the assembled crowd. In a surprising moment of intelligence, the Death Eaters immediately Disapparated from the area, a few leaving behind various body parts in their terror. Wiping the blood off of his knife blade using the robes of one of the fallen Death Eaters, Harry sheathed his weapons and decided to return back to the Leaky Cauldron before Hermione began to worry about him.
Jacob Marlow was one of the junior members of the Order of the Phoenix who had been sent out to raid Diagon Alley for supplies that they needed. While their leader, Albus Dumbledore was overtly averse to thievery, even he eventually acknowledged that they would need to replenish their supplies somehow, and with their fugitive status, gaining them through legal means was a difficult proposition at best.
That day, while trying to steal potions supplies, Marlow heard the distinctive crack of someone Apparating in the distance, causing him to freeze up, even though he was under an invisibility cloak. He heard another crack right behind him, but was stunned before he could react. When he awoke, he saw no one there and hastily grabbed an armful of materials before Disapparating back to Hogsmeade.
From there, he ran back to Hogwarts castle and reported the incident, and was inspected by Madam Pomfrey, the school nurse. While there were no effects to his body, except the stunner. However, they did find an unusual artifact in the pocket of his robes that he did not remember being there before. After summoning former professors McGonnagal, Flitwick and even Dumbledore himself to inspect it, they found nothing but a wand-activated communications charm. Deciding that it was not malicious in design, Dumbledore removed the cloth from the item to reveal a circular crystal. On top of it was a piece of paper that read, TAP THE CRYSTAL WITH YOUR WAND. Convinced that it was safe, Dumbledore reached down and removed the note before he tapped the top of the crystal with the tip of his wand. For a moment, nothing happened, and then the diminutive image of a woman dressed in business robes projected itself over the crystal.
"Ahh, Mister Dumbledore, we finally meet," the woman said. Dumbledore frowned in confusion; he had never seen this woman before.
"I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Miss...?" the aged wizard replied politely.
"I am Miss Grayson, representative of Death's Hunters," the woman replied professionally, "and I am here to offer you a proposition."
No, that is not a promise of future smut, you pervs.
Not much else to say, except don't forget to review!