Categories > Books > Harry Potter > To Fight the Coming Darkness


by JBern 8 reviews

Rita gets an exclusive interview. Neville's being a naughty boy. Harry's getting tired of just training...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Romance - Characters: Harry, Narcissa, Parvati, Voldemort, Other - Warnings: [!!] [?] [V] [X] - Published: 2007-03-06 - Updated: 2007-03-06 - 7368 words - Complete

Disclaimer - Harry Potter is not my property. This is a work of fan fiction.

Acknowledgements - As always big thanks go out to the Alpha Fight Club crew and my beta Kokopelli. Thanks to all the folks on DLP and FFA that commented on the preview thread. I greatly appreciate all the assistance.

Chapter 31 - Complications

September 9, 1996

Logan Travers was the 'runt' of the litter. Of the five Travers brothers, he was the smallest and youngest. He was also the only son sorted into his father's old house, Ravenclaw, amongst a gaggle of Slytherins. His mother had been a Jugson.

He banked his new Nimbus 2001 into a series of tight turns in the early dawn light. It had been a rough summer for his family. His oldest brother died while taking part in a Death Eater raid. The new Minister had been causing legal problems for his family, claiming that they were allied with the Dark Lord, an allegation that, as of yet, was unproven. The only reason he had this brand new broom was that his parents had bought it for him when they had worried that their vaults might get frozen. They wanted assets that could be easily liquidated and a good broom like this was not likely to lose much of its value.

His old broom was a Cleansweep Eight. The Nimbus was a massive upgrade and his flying skills were definitely rusty, by as his father said, 'It would be a shame to let this go to waste. Perhaps you should try out for the Quidditch team.'

He spoke with Chang and Corner about it. Corner was skeptical of adding a seventh year, who'd never played with the team before. Still, a fast broom like this one got their attention. They told him that tryouts would be in late September and that if he really wanted it, he would need to fly extremely well.

Which explained Logan's presence out on the pitch, flying in circles. He had always liked chasing.

The broom suddenly jerked violently. He struggled to keep it under control. It yawed hard to the left and dropped five meters in less than a second. He felt his panic rise as it became harder to hold on. He'd heard stories of defective brooms before. There had even been that incident with Harry Potter in his first year.

Logan didn't exactly have the time to analyze the possible causes of his current problems. It was becoming more difficult to just hang on, as the broom refused his mental commands and continued to fight with him. With a particularly violent buck, he was thrown off the broom and began falling. He was over twenty meters off the ground!

He pulled his wand out of his holster to cast a cushioning charm as he twisted through the air. He spared a second, to take a calming breath before bellowing the command to invoke the cushioning charm at the ground below him. No doubt it will hurt, but Logan had faith in his magical prowess. He hoped his family wouldn't be too hard on him having such an amateur accident like this.

Just as he was about to hit, he heard a voice, "Finite Incanteum!" and the magical field of energy waiting to save his life vanished. He had no time to process this as his body completed the lethal fall and hit with a sickly thud.

From his disillusioned vantage point by the bleachers, Neville braced himself against the support beams. He'd been practicing the broom curse in the Room of Requirement and it took a tremendous amount out of him. He barely managed to cancel out his target's cushioning charm in time. The Ravenclaw made a good target. Too many Slytherins dying at once would raise too much suspicion and one of his brothers had participated in the attack on his house.

Neville resisted the urge to inspect the body. Instead, he headed back towards the lake for his morning run. He cancelled the disillusionment charm as he sat on the rock and waited for Ginny to arrive for their morning run. He had Bessie, the house-elf, following some of his future targets around, learning their habits. He already had two more promising leads: Pansy Parkinson's frequent trips to the Prefect's bath through the hallway devoid of any paintings and Daphne Greengrass' rather frequent trips at the Astronomy Tower with several different boys. Both were from families led by marked Death Eaters and they'd each made their sympathies clear.

He pondered the fates of the blonde and the brunette while watching the redhead approach him.

"Hello Ginny. How are you feeling this morning?"

"Sore everywhere, but all this should pay off for Quidditch season. Heck the way you're going, you should try out for one of the Beater slots. Kirke's about worthless, which isn't saying much about the other guy either. Looks like a nice day for flying. I'm going to take a spin later, do you want to come?"

He smiled at her, "I don't know about that; I'm not much good on a broom. I'd likely fall and break my neck or something. Come on, let's get going."


Harry had actually been moderately impressed with Conrad Dawlish. He had floated into the classroom on his magic carpet and hadn't made any effort to hide his missing legs. Unlike most other classes which were combined due to low enrollment at the school, Defense and Charms were still split because of their popularity. Dumbledore opted to forego traditional pairings and instead place the Gryffindors with the Hufflepuffs and the Slytherins with the Ravenclaws. All the other classes combined classes from all four houses.

When Dawlish had the attention of the room he began in a loud voice. "I'll never walk again, because I wasn't fast enough and my shield wasn't strong enough to stop a powerful cutting curse from the one we fight." His eyes locked onto Tonks in the back of the room. "Three others went with me that day and tried to take him on. Only two of us made it out alive. Well, if you look at me, one and a half of us made it out alive. Alastor Moody was the one that lasted the longest against him and he was a legend among the Aurors. So, is anything I'm going to teach you going to stop a Dark Lord? No, probably not. If you go up against him, bring help - lots of help. But Voldemort's not the only problem out there. He's got followers: he's got Inferii, Werewolves, Acromantulas, Vampires, Dementors, Giants, Trolls and even this undead thing that used to be a Dragon, although, I heard that got destroyed. Take away all his followers and creatures and he's a powerful wizard, but a powerful wizard by himself can be beaten by a group of lesser wizards or witches who know how to work together. Your Charms Master, working with a group of others, gave as good as they got. Most escaped without serious harm. See that witch in the back of the room. She's the reason no one will ever fear the name Bellatrix Lestrange again."

Tonks shifted uncomfortably under all the stares directed at her. She had asked Dawlish not to mention that. He had blatantly ignored her. They had never run in the same circles, with him being Fudge's personal bodyguard. Dawlish had a reputation as a technician, who prized flawless technique above all else.

Dawlish was again floating around the room. "I'm not going to turn you into living-death-with-a-wand. What I am going to do is make certain by the time you leave my class, you are competent spellcasters. It's one third of what will keep you alive in a fight. The next third is keeping your wits about you and not panicking. I can't teach you that. The last third, well that's Lady Luck and she's fickle. You can never count on her or the price she will make you pay."

"So, we're here to learn. I'm going to give you a list of the creatures you'll be questioned about on your NEWT exams. We're going to pay special attention the creatures known to be in his army. I'm still working out the details, but Professor Dumbledore knows a friendly giant, or at least one that is a bit less violent than the rest. We're gonna see him up close and personal next week, just so you can really see how imposing one can be. Most times it takes four or five witches or wizards working together to take one down. They'll laugh off a single stunner. You might find your best cutting curse is but a mere paper cut to a Giant. I want two feet of parchment on Giants and their weaknesses the day before our next class. In the first part, I want to see a discussion of the Ministry prescribed methods for dealing with a Giant. In the second part, I want to see if you can think, instead of just parroting a standard reply. There is a difference between knowing an answer and understanding an answer! Next week, we meet out by the lake and you will get an idea of what it's like to be staring down a Giant from the other side of the battlefield."

Harry, Ron, Susan and a few others knew he was talking about Grawp. The rest of the class was already muttering and looked a bit frightened. Dawlish was speaking again. "On the subject of spell work, I will tolerate no foolishness in this classroom. Watch what happens to the first one of you that I catch playing with your wands. Offensive spells will only be cast with supervision. For the moment, the only defensive spell you may practice without supervision is your shield charm."

"We will mix defensive and offensive work. I see that the quality of the education here has been a mixed bag for the past few years. For the rest of the day, I will be assessing your basic skills. I want four of you, actually if you would assist Ms. Tonks? Good, I want six of you at a time. On my command, I want to see your shield charm."

Dawlish paused and pulled out what looked to be a second wand. "Aurors have a training tool called 'the Prod.' See this stick. It's got a stinging hex permanently enchanted on the end. If your wand work is sloppy, you get to feel the Prod. If you aren't concentrating, you get the Prod. If you piss me off, guess what? You get the Prod. Assuming you pass muster, there are a group of targets at the end of the classroom. You will demonstrate a properly cast stunner, followed by a Reductor curse to the satisfaction of Ms. Tonks. Afterwards, you will use the Reparo charm to fix your target for the next group of students. You will then return to your seats and think about how much work you need to put in on your basic casting motions if you hope to survive a fight. When I call your group again, we will work on a different group of spells or the same ones if I feel that you don't pass muster. First row up to this line! Wands at the ready! Move it! I do not repeat myself!"

Ron leaned over to Harry and whispered. "He's a bit hardcore isn't he?"

"Yeah, but he needs to be. I watched the fight he had in a Pensieve. His technique was perfect, yet Riddle's spell blew right through his shield. I'd say he paid his dues."

Three of the first group of six got a dose of the pain stick after their first casting. Harry could see the flaws in two of the three, but missed the third. He made them recast it twice more and only Wayne Hopkins escaped the instructor's wrath. He watched Hannah Abbott wince in pain. A quick glance around the room saw several practicing the motions already.

That row was dismissed and theirs was called. Harry had Susan on his right and Ron on his left. On Dawlish's command, they cast. The crippled Auror's eyes moved up and down the line, dissecting their performance. He floated next to Megan Jones. "Not enough snap in the wrist, right here!" He stuck the tip of the prod on her wrist and she yelped. Sally Perks got the same treatment, but for a different reason. He eyed the rest of them and nodded in approval. The second casting resulted in Megan and Ron getting prodded. After the final casting, which everyone passed, Dawlish floated next to Harry.

"I'm going to be especially tough on you, Potter. I know you have shown more potent shields, and we'll touch on those later, but right now I want to see you cast this shield correctly while I use the prod on you. When I say cast, you cast."

Dawlish whacked the stick into the back of Harry's leg and held it there for three seconds before shouting, "Cast!"

"Good. Your technique doesn't breakdown under duress. Take a deep breath and we'll do it once more. Mrs. Potter your hand, if you please?"

Susan reluctantly held her hand out. Harry's eyes narrowed, looking dangerously at Dawlish. "Now Mr. Potter, when I say cast, you will perform a perfect Protego. Ready?" He put the prod directly into Susan's palm and held it for two seconds and bellowed "Cast!" Harry's shield flared powerfully and crackled with energy as he stared defiantly back at his instructor. Dawlish shrugged and floated next to him and whispered in his ear.

"Good. You won't be able to help her if you can't help yourself. You'll likely hate me before the end of the year. If you don't, then I haven't done my job." He then dismissed them and shouted for the next row.

"I'm okay, Harry. Don't get your knickers in a twist," Susan assured him, flexing her fingers as they moved over to the area where Tonks stood.


It was lunchtime, when Harry learned that a Ravenclaw student had died on the Quidditch pitch. The Claws were understandably subdued. Classes were immediately cancelled for the rest of the day. Harry expected to have his lesson with Flitwick cancelled, but it wasn't.

Both Susan and Tonks accompanied him to the Room of Requirement. Inside, he found Professor Sinistra, Fred Weasley, Dawlish, and one other Order member he vaguely recognized.

The attractive Astronomy witch smiled at him. "Mr. Potter, I've missed you in my classes this year. Filius asked us to come here this evening and widen the variety of opponents you face. Hopefully, you will find this experience educational."

Harry started off against Fred, who proved to be eager, but not really much of a challenge. Under normal circumstances, he would have played with Fred longer, but he knew that the other three were studying him, looking for weaknesses. Fred's form had slipped a bit since the DA, he was very rusty. He helped Fred to his feet after immobilizing him. "Fred, you try too hard to be too clever. Think less, cast more."

Dawlish floated onto the dueler's platform. "Now, I can truly see what all the fuss is about, Mr. Potter."

With that, he began firing spells rapidly at Harry. Harry was hard-pressed at first, but his superior mobility ended up carrying the day. The other man reawakened Dawlish and helped the man back onto his magic carpet.

The stocky man was next. He introduced himself as Kyle Torkelson. Harry quickly understood the man's style was defensive in nature; he focused on his shields and stuck to using basic disarming, stunning and binding charms without much in the way of variation. It was a duel of attrition as Harry overpowered his opponent's staunch defenses, suffering only a hit by a weak jelly legs jinx that was easily countered. Still, it was a solid workout and both were panting by the time Harry managed to bring him down.

Mr. Torkelson shook his hand rather vigorously, "Well played Mr. Potter."

Harry smiled back at him, "Thank you. If I may comment, you might want to focus on your offense a bit more. Death Eaters often use spells that can't be blocked. Your shields are good, but you can't count on blocking them all."

Finally, his former Astronomy instructor stood facing him. She was lithe and fast. Her spells were quick. It reminded Harry a bit of his exchange in the Atrium against Bellatrix.

She also clearly wasn't restricting herself as Harry swatted away a cutting curse and a piercing hex. They were slightly underpowered, but would still draw blood. It merely demonstrated the level of control she had over her magic as she followed with a strong stunner, trying to overwhelm his shield. Apparently, teaching Astronomy left her with substantial free time during the day and she made good use of it.

Still, Harry had an ace up his sleeve. Professor Sinistra was know to loathe spiders. He recalled one particular incident in his third year with substantial humor. Knowing her phobia rivaled Ron's, Harry snapped off a Tonare//. The blasting curse was rather loud. He knew she would either dodge or shield. It didn't matter, as he was looking for the sound to cover his next spell.

"Invito Arachne Colossus!"/ /Harry tried to keep his conjuration as quiet as possible. Sure enough, a spider the size of his broom appeared and began quickly advancing on his teacher. A moment of paralysis later, followed by two Reductors and the spider was rendered a steaming mass of flesh, but the distraction allowed Harry to bind and silence her. Harry chuckled as he recognized several very unladylike words she was mouthing as he removed her bonds and dispelled the silencing charm.

She regained her composure quickly and spoke in a dry tone. "Your spell choice was in rather poor taste, Mr. Potter."

"I'm aware of that, but as the Headmaster would say, you should strive to overcome irrational fears."

"I see. Very well, next you will fight us two at a time. Filius has mentioned that you need to start working against multiple opponents. Mr. Torkelson and Mr. Dawlish, I believe you gentlemen would like a rematch."

The room reconfigured itself into a more open arena rather than a dueling platform as Harry gathered his wits to him and prepared for a fight. Already Fred and the Professor had their heads bent together. No doubt they were discussing strategy. She even looked at Harry and gave him an evil smile. Harry gulped knowing he was going to be repaid for that giant spider...


Sometimes, Rita Skeeter wondered why she chose this line of work. For what seemed like the hundredth time in the last five minutes she wondered what else she could have done instead of being a journalist. She wouldn't be waiting around this vacant dump called Spinner's End, if she was a musician would she? Everyone hed always complemented her on her lovely singing voice.

Her introspection was interrupted by a cloaked figure who opened the door and entered the room.

"Ah Baron Caruthers at last, I was beginning to wonder if this was payback for the Minister's Ball a few years back? I had a legitimate source for that story," Rita said sweetly.

The man removed his cowl revealing his pale face and somewhat serpentine features. "I'm afraid the Baron will not be joining us this evening. He is unfortunately indisposed. I hope my company is a suitable substitute," Voldemort said with a hint of a smile.

Rita stood frozen for a moment before Lord Voldemort shrugged and continued. "Please sit. No harm will befall you unless you reach for your wand. You did after all, come for an exclusive interview with a powerful wizard. I apologize for the ruse, but I doubted that you would have come otherwise."

"People know I'm here." She said slowly.

"Should they make a foolish error in judgment and come, the people who know I am here and are waiting outside would most likely kill the people you know. Let us hope that it does not come to that, shall we? Now, I suppose you have some questions for me? Please let us at least be comfortable? You'll notice I have not placed any Apparition wards up. You are free to leave at anytime, but you won't, will you? I have never granted an interview before. So, we have ourselves an experiment. Which wins out - curiosity or fear? Please join me for an exclusive interview. I have a quill and parchment waiting for you."

With a wave of his wandless hand, the table shimmered and the previously empty table now had a sheaf of parchment, quill and ink jar waiting for her. There was never any doubt as Rita sat down and picked up the quill.


By dinnertime four hours later, Harry was in better spirits even after losing several of the two-on-one duels. He was proud that he had managed to win one of the four where he fought three opponents simultaneously. The most underhanded trick Sinistra had up her sleeve was having Tonks and Fred slip out for a minute during the second duel with Dawlish and Torkelson. When Fred returned it was really Tonks. It took him a minute to discover the ruse. It was a very costly minute, as he suddenly found himself defending a barrage of spells. Susan hadn't thought it was very sporting, and made no secret of it.

At dinner, Harry knew he was in trouble as Parvati made a beeline towards him and Susan at the Hufflepuff table. She had clued him in about the rumors circulating about him and Susan. He was actually quite grateful. The most alarming one was that Scrimgeour had Umbridge killed as part of a deal with him, or that vigilantes set on avenging Harry's good name were out there killing people who had wronged Harry in some way. One look at the Slytherin table was all that had been required to know where this whispering campaign had originated. Parvati was quickly becoming his unofficial press secretary. He wondered what news tonight would bring.

Parvati sat down in front of Harry and Susan during dinner. "Harry, I just heard the most awful lie was being spread about you?"

From a girl who took her gossip as seriously as she took her Divination, this was a dire warning indeed. "What are they saying this time?"

"That the boy in Ravenclaw, the one who fell from his broom, saw you killing Goyle on the train. I told them that it was utter rubbish."

"Thanks for telling me. I haven't been outside all day."

"Just so I can refute this, where were you at six-thirty this morning?"

"Um, I was probably in the shower about then." Harry looked to Susan for confirmation.

She nodded and smiled back at him blushing slightly.
She winked at Parvati and said, "I believe that's where we were at the time."

This left the gossip queen momentarily wide-eyed and speechless, providing both Harry and Susan with a good laugh later that evening. The most amusing rumor was that they were throwing sex parties for both Gryffindor and Hufflepuff in their private suite.

Harry's course load was extremely light. Under other circumstances, he'd probably be facing the wrath of Hermione for only having three courses. He only had Potions, Transfiguration and Defense. His dueling lessons with the Charms Master would cover his Charms work, albeit at a ridiculously accelerated rate.

The next morning, Harry sputtered, blowing hair out of his face. The only downside to being married to Susan that he had discovered to date was that her hair would on a life of its own during the night.

"Morning sleepyhead, are you ready to face another day?"

Susan grunted at him and burrowed under her pillow. She had two morning modes: frisky and comatose, with nothing in-between. It was fair to say that she wasn't a 'morning person'.

It would be strange today. The first ever Potions lesson without Snape. Last week's class had been cancelled, while the Ministry responded to complaints about a 'Dark Creature' teaching their children. He morbidly wondered where were these protests last year when they had Umbridge? Harry didn't have a problem with Coedus. He regretted that the events that ended the summer had prevented him from forging more of an alliance with the Vampire. The fifth-years had already had him last Friday and were suitably scared of him. Colin had complained that he was harder than Snape, but without the favoritism. Harry was somewhat pleased to see that everyone was getting the same treatment from the Vampire.


The aforementioned Vampire stood in his private quarters with his relative. "You would tell me if you knew anything about these mysterious deaths, wouldn't you Neville?"

"Of course, I would Uncle."

"You lie!" Neville again found himself lifted effortlessly into the air and pinned to the wall. "Do you think I am an idiot! Do you think I wouldn't notice someone distilling Gillyweed, or you practicing that broom curse? What are you doing?"

"I'm bringing the war to the enemy!" Neville hissed. "I would have left Goyle for later if the fool hadn't accosted me. He created the opportunity. I used it to my advantage."

Coedus gave a derisive snort, "And the Ravenclaw?"

"Brother of one of the Death Eaters who killed my family. He'd hazed Luna for years."

"So, what should I do with you Neville? I could turn you in. You'd be in the Ministry's hands by lunchtime."

He looked at his relative's momentarily horrified face, which turned cold. "But Uncle, what would happen when I told them who had taught me the broom curse?"

"Ah, you are learning, Neville, to use leverage. Perhaps, there is some hope for you yet. Still, you are sloppy. Already, there are whispers and suspicions amongst the students and staff and what have you achieved? Two meaningless targets eliminated. Should another die so soon, this place will be crawling with Aurors."

"What do you propose, Uncle?"

"Since my rise into the afterlife, my specialty has been Potions. There are poisons that can kill slowly. They can take weeks or months to do the deed. Some are harmless, lying in wait until a second potion comes along to trigger the dormant poison. If you are going to weed this school of junior Death Eaters, you need to do it correctly, and do it smartly."

"Teach me, then. I will do whatever you ask."

Coedus set the boy down and dismissed him. He returned to his desk and withdrew the crisp sheets of parchment and returned to studying them. Only a few minutes elapsed before there was a knock at the door. Frustrated at the interruption, he pushed the documents into a folder in his desk. "Enter!"

The tiny young woman wearing the Head Girl badge entered. "Good morning Professor. I was asked by my father to come to you this morning for a reply to whatever offer has been extended to you."

"What do you know of this?"

"I know that an obedient daughter does not question her duty to her father, nor does she seek answers to things that clearly do not concern her. I do know that he will be in the castle today concerning an inquiry into yesterday's death and that he will find time to speak with me in private at some point."

"You may tell him that I am intrigued by the possibilities, but I would need to see the actual documents and not incomplete copies."

"Sir, I will relay the message exactly as you have said."

"Very well, Miss Caruthers you are dismissed."

He watched the young woman leave. The inspection of his lab and inquiry concerning his teaching at Hogwarts that occurred last week had apparently been a partial ruse to allow this mysterious envelope to be delivered to him with a most unconventional and tantalizing offer and a promise that someone would contact him for an answer soon.

Apparently, his adopted clan of Vampires had been eager to avoid any hostilities with the Dark Lord's forces. They told them all they knew about his background and used this knowledge to craft an offer that was difficult to dismiss out of hand. After all, Voldemort did have a proven track record for returning the dead to life.


Lord Potter,

An inventory of the Black real estate holdings showed that there are no dwellings suitable for a Wizard of your stature. To that end, acting in the interests of your vaults, I have procured a suitable dwelling for yourself and your wife.

The property formerly held by Lucius Malfoy was purchased two days ago at a distressed rate further increasing the value of your holdings. The delay was waiting for the final bids to be unsealed. You will be pleased to know that several parties withdrew from the proceedings, when I expressed the active interest of the Potter-Black estate in acquiring this particular property. It can be assumed that other humans are not interested in crossing your path. This fact can be utilized to further increase your financial prosperity.

I have contracted a team of our finest Curse Breakers to protect the property.

Of course, I am aware of the animosity existing between yourself and the Malfoy family. Revenge is an art among my people and you are worthy of our respect. It is this level of excellence that I wish to deliver as your personal account manager.

Guardian of the Potter-Black Vaults

Harry reread the message before wordlessly handing it to Susan. He waited for her to read it.

She bit back a laugh. "Well, this certainly is a surprise! I won't complain. I went with Auntie there once for a formal party when I was eight. The mansion is a veritable palace. As I recall, it had a regulation Quidditch Pitch, three greenhouses, and a massive swimming pool. Can I send Trixie over to start making the place ready?"

Harry mulled it over. "Why don't we wait until the Goblins tell us that the new wards are in place? It sounds like Scarmaker used my name to scare off some of the bidders."

Ron had been listening in and decided to comment, "Wait a sec! You now own Malfoy's house? Oh that's the best one ever! It's even better than the rumor that he's supposed to be a girl. Just wait until I ...."

Harry stopped him. "Ron, don't. I don't want to gloat."

"Don't worry Harry, /I'll /gloat for you. Malfoy was nice enough to point out that my home was gone last week. I'll just be returning the favor. In fact, I'll even mention that if Charlie comes back with his Mum, that you'll let them share a room together there!" Ron chortled. Harry saw Hermione follow him from the table, shaking her head, no doubt trying to talk him out of it.

He wondered if and when Narcissa and Charlie would return to England. Her knowledge of the secrets of the estate could be invaluable. As he pondered this, an owl dropped a copy of the Daily Prophet in front of him. His eyes widened in surprise at the Headline.


"Checking in?" The man asked in English with a very thick French accent.

Narcissa found it difficult to resist the urge to smack the man. Somehow she controlled herself. "Yes we are. The reservation is for Byron and Michelle Ashland."

She saw Charles arch an eyebrow and allowed herself a small smile. This was the first time the pair had checked in under the guise of being a married couple. She had even transfigured a simple wedding band and gave it a golden glamour to commemorate the occasion.

After an exchange of currency and more than a few not-so subtle leers from the man behind the counter, they headed for the honeymoon suite. The French Mediterranean coast was much like they left it three weeks ago, rather idyllic and quite pleasant. What had brought them back to Toulons was anything but pleasant.

"Are you sure about this?" her man asked her. He was so boyishly charming and such a complete buffoon about some things. She pulled him into an embrace, brushing her lips against the side of his neck, delighting in the goose flesh that formed there and relishing the low growl from him.

"Charles, these past few weeks have had a sense of exhilaration to them. The two of us, on the run, looking over our shoulders and the ever present danger drawing us closer in ways I hadn't considered. Even though Lucius is rumored to be dead, we are still hunted. I grow weary of being the prey. The information our little Goblin friend has provided says that the Dark Lord's man will be here in this city conducting a bit of recruiting. The death of Antonin Dolohov will send a clear message back to his Master that says, 'You have better things to do than annoy Narcissa Black.' It should also help Harry's cause back in England."

"He's a dangerous man and not to be taking lightly."

She smiled at his caution. It was rather ironic coming from a wizard who used to work on the Dragon Preserves. Reaching behind her and unzipping her dress, she allowed it to slip off her shoulders and fall to her feet. She enjoyed his reaction, trailing her hand down the length of his shoulder and continued, "That's why we'll take him together. Now enough of this! There is a rather large Jacuzzi in the other room and I am rather sore from the ride in that uncomfortable contraption. Order some room service and then join me."

Even in his days as a Seeker, Charlie had never moved as fast as he did right then, diving onto the bed and grabbing the phone.


/Manifesto of a Dark Lord/
/Rita Skeeter/

Yes, faithful readers, your eyes do not deceive you. I, your intrepid darling of danger, summoned my courage and sat down for an interview with the Wizard, whose name can make even a battle tested Auror tremble in fear.

There in a hovel, previously own by the notorious Severus Snape, (recently slain in a brutal battle with Harry Potter) I interviewed the Wizard who would rule us all. It required magically reinforced nerves to not fear for my own safety, but I persevered, because my readers deserve all the truth I can bring them.

Those that have been in his presence and lived to speak of it would readily agree that he exudes an air of confident power. He has a sharp mind and a disarming wit that can put even a skeptical Witch like yours truly at ease. Still, I was not so foolish to overlook his serpent-like, ritual enhanced features or as he described them, "The Telltale Signs of a Wizard's Journey to the Precipice of Greatness."

We exchanged simple pleasantries and he thanked me for being willing to be objective about his view of the world. I started with the simplest and most obvious question, "Why do you want to conquer the Magical World?"

His answer was thought provoking, "Rita, my dear, the Wizarding World has been in peril long before I was even born. Backward, ineffective, and inflexible leadership dating from the times when the Americas were under Colonial rule has created what could be the greatest threat to our people that has ever existed. Yet, we do nothing. No, that is not correct, we do less than nothing! The Muggles are everywhere. They now fully infest six of the seven continents. Their technology grows ever more ominous, everyday. What protection do those who call themselves leaders offer? They offer nothing. They seek no answers, only better ways to conceal ourselves from the Muggle menace. For over fifty years, the Muggles have possessed a weapon that can level entire cities. Mark my words, the day will come when they turn on each other. What will those leaders do then, when confronted by fiery Armageddon? What clever little spells keeping our lands and homes hidden will protect us from their insipid technology?"

He paused for a moment to allow my furious quill strokes to catch up and continued. "I am not trying to conquer the Magical World. I am trying to save it from its own folly. Our population and culture is stagnant. We ignore the changing world. What horror will have to occur to make our society wake up to the very real threat out there? In the Dark Ages, we lost our way and cowed ourselves out of fear that the Wizards and Witches aligned with the Vatican would lead a vast army to wipe out our people. Much like that fossil Dumbledore, the Church is now a shade of its former self, as Muggle governments with secular ways have replaced it. That might sound like a good thing, but let me assure you it is not."

When asked to expand upon that, he gladly continued with fervor. "If the Statues of Secrecy were ever to fail and knowledge of our society can no longer be Obliviated from the Muggles at large, what will we do? A more pressing question is what would the Muggles do? How would they react to learning that they are not the pinnacle of evolution on this planet? There would be fear, mistrust and terror. They would seek to control us to their own ends. We would become a servant race ordered to solve every malady in their miserable lives. Our healers would toil away, fixing their infirm. Our protected magical species would become their sporting trophies. We would become the new House Elves! How much and what we would be allowed to learn would be controlled to a level well beyond anything the Ministry could ever envision."

I must say, he painted a chilling picture of a world I certainly wouldn't want to live in, but I soon realized there was more. "Sadly Rita that is the best scenario. If they can control us, they will. If not, they will study us and dissect us. They will seek to learn why we are special and they are not! They will try to duplicate our blessed gifts and if they cannot, they will strive to take our gifts away. Our wands will be confiscated. We will be persecuted and driven to extinction. Our families will be separated. Our history and heritage will be annihilated! We will be destroyed. Tell me Rita, when faced with all this, how can I not try to stop this? The only thing worse than being powerless to save us all, is having the power and doing nothing about it! Our inaction will be our downfall!"

He paused after his impassioned plea, seemingly spent. I had let my subject control the tone of the interview so far, but that was about to change. My long time readers know that I do not shy from the tough questions. "I understand your concerns for the future, but let us discuss the here and now. Tell me about the War that you are fighting now and not the one that looms in the future. The Minister is quick to point out your reliance on foreign fighters. Dumbledore speaks passionately about what he calls 'a Dark Lord's flawed ideology'. Finally, tell me about your relationship with Harry Potter. How has your life and his become so intertwined?"

After complimenting my choice of questions, he answered. "I'll start with the Minister. I suppose I should be careful in my answer. The Minister's detractors and opponents have been having a rough go of it as of late. The opposition from the Fudge regime has been eliminated with a vengeance that leaves me rather envious. I salute his creativity."

I had to interrupt, "Surely, you aren't implicating the Minister in the recent spate of murders?"

"Rita, you have to look at who benefits from these circumstances. With the loss of dissenting voices, the Scrimgeour Agenda moves forward without any opposition, save my followers. Not twenty-four hours after Madame Umbridge stymied his efforts to exile her, she was brutally murdered. On the subject of foreign fighters, Rita, the fact is that people are in fear from the very government that is supposed to serve them. Look no further than the notices of seizure and auction in your own paper. The proceeds of the sales of Scrimgeour's ill-gotten booty fund his war machine. Did not the Magna Carta guarantee certain rights to us all?"

I reminded him that these new laws applied to persons convicted of crimes, "Ah but Rita, forgive me if I do not place that much faith in the justice provided by this Ministry. Their track record is slightly less than stellar. So, I must rely on brave and ambitious Wizards and Witches from outside the Isles, who have answered the call to action. Now, you asked me about that old relic, Dumbledore? 'The Only One I've Ever Feared.' I think our last encounter put that myth to rest. He's a meddling old fool, who got lucky a generation ago, facing an overconfident Dark Wizard. Perhaps he should concern himself with the safety of his charges. Already two students have died since the beginning of the term. Where is the outrage? Where is the accountability?"

His eyes flashed dangerously red and for a moment, I was reminded exactly how frightening the Wizard before me was, "As for the Potter boy, supposedly there is a Prophecy that links us. If you believe the public has a right to know, you should bother them."

I asked what I could tell me about this prophecy; "I know the first two lines for certain. Everything else is conjecture. It states that, 'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...' Apparently, it could have applied to either Harry Potter or another boy named Neville Longbottom. Prophecies are magic's way of making certain we do not become complacent in our power. It could be that this was fulfilled during our first encounter. I can't be certain."

With that our interview drew to a close. I asked him for a parting statement, for his message to the population of England.

"I am a liberator. The failed policies of those who claim to lead, but never explain where they are leading us to, endanger us all. Those who oppose me will face my wrath before we deal with the threat posed by the Muggles. I shall quote Albus Dumbledore. For a change, I happen to agree with him. 'Dark and Difficult times lie ahead of us. We must all choose between what is right and what is easy.' It would be easy to dismiss the Muggles. That's what your leadership has been doing for hundreds of years. Are we a great people, are we a civilization, or are we nothing?"

Harry slapped the paper down onto the table; he was furious. He ran through his Occlumency drills to calm himself - he felt stifled in this castle full of people. Many watched him stare at the paper in disgust. He had to do something; the life of a bystander didn't suit him.

'I need to do something about this!'

In a fit of accidental magic, the paper burst into flames.

Susan's dry wit broke into his thoughts.

"Hmm, I never knew your eyes could actually burn a hole through something. Maybe I need to buy some fireproof knickers? Now Harry, be a dear and lower the table back to the ground; you're scaring some of the first-years."

The table dropped six inches to the ground with a loud clatter.

Author's notes - Hope you enjoyed it. Visit my threads on DLP and FFA for the full version of my author's notes and additional discussion of the story. Does it say something about me that I enjoy writing like Rita Skeeter?

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