The Master of Life
By Mr. Intel
Chapter Nine — Dead End
The Weird Sisters woke Harry from his slumber the next morning. He’d been dreaming about the Department of Mysteries for the first time since his fifth year at Hogwarts. Instead of many themed rooms, there was a single large, dark room. It had on display every one of the things that was puzzling Harry. A moving portrait of McIsenrod that matched the wanted poster they’d seen hung on a floating nail. His own wanted poster was next, with the reward now ten million galleons. Crackshot’s confident face was splashed across an open, levitating Daily Prophet next to it, the caption reading "Minister Captures Potter, Rewards Self With Elder Wand". The last and most discomforting was a portrait of Draco Malfoy. He leaned his sneering face out of the frame, down to Harry and opened his mouth as if to say something. That was when the music blared from the kitchen, banishing the dream.
Harry shook his thoughts clear and groped for his wand to turn off the wireless. With a pang of regret, he realised it was still in his jean pocket from the night before. His regret was short-lived, however, as the lump of red hair obscuring his vision began to lightly snore on his chest.
He brushed his hands along her pale arms until he reached the curve of her freckled shoulders. It never ceased to amaze him how beautiful she was. The snoring stopped, but her breathing was still deep. His fingers felt along the base of her neck until they were buried in her tousled hair. He gently massaged her scalp until he heard her answering moan rumble in his chest. She squirmed a little and then rolled over, taking the covers with her. She was not a morning person and so was obviously conflicted between accepting the attention and going back to sleep. She must have been extra tired to choose sleep, Harry mused.
Careful not to disturb her further lest he receive more than a stern look in return, Harry slipped out of the bed and put on his dressing gown. The wireless was still blaring, so he quickly closed the door between their room and the kitchen and began working on breakfast. Years of living with the Dursleys as their personal slave had made cooking this meal second nature for him. It wasn’t long before the small flat was filled with the smell of pan-seared ham, toast, and fried eggs. He was setting the table when the music was traded for the morning news.
"Good morning, Victoria! Rockin’ Johnny Cornellis here with your forecast and sports update."
Harry shook the orange juice and poured two glasses.
"It’s a balmy fifty-two degrees at the harbour, but Charmaine the weather muse predicts a high of seventy-five. And a breeze out of the south picking up later in the day. If her predictions hold, those patchy clouds hovering over the island will turn into rain later tonight."
Good day to check out the Tall Ships Festival, he reflected. Probably best in the morning, though.
"The Tall Ships Festival begins today. Tickets can be purchased at the Info Centre on Wharf Street. Ship boarding times are ten a.m. to five p.m. There will be a mock gun battle on Friday, so you won’t want to miss it."
That did sound fun. Harry tried to imaging what it would have been like to be on the Swan with guns blasting around them. He didn’t fancy their chances.
"Last night’s Quidditch match ended in a shocking defeat for favourite Haileybury who lost to our own Vanguards two-hundred sixty to a hundred and ninety. This sets up another match between the rivals on Friday morning for the regional playoffs. The winner will go on to face the victor of the Eastern Canadian region for the national title."
Ginny appeared, rumpled and adorable. Harry clicked off the wireless and met her in the doorway with a hug. "Morning, sleepyhead," he said and bussed her crown. She replied with a yawn, which she unsuccessfully stifled with the back of her hand.
"Mornin’," she said and sniffed appreciatively at the set table. "Breakfast?"
"Just for you," he said and led her to her seat. She plopped down and pushed her hair behind her ears.
By the time they were done eating, Ginny was much more alert, but that could have had something to do with the mug of tea she was cradling in her hands. All of a sudden, her eyes grew large.
"Harry!" she said, setting her mug down. "It’s your birthday!"
He froze for a second, doing some mental arithmetic in his head. "Oh yeah...."
"I got you a present!" she said and was gone in a flurry of pink cotton.
Before Harry was finished with his tea, she was back, a small something wrapped with green paper in her hand.
He smiled as he took it. "You didn’t have to get anything," he said, but excitedly tore the paper off.
"Of course I did," she said simply. "It’s your first birthday since we’ve been married. I wasn’t likely to forget."
Harry was suddenly aware that her birthday was in eleven days and that he had yet to get anything for her. "Well I think you’re the best present a bloke could ask for."
Her cheeks turned a faint pink. "So open it already!"
The lid was pulled back and inside, Harry found a picture frame, fitted with a photo of him and Ginny dressed in their wedding finery. "How did you get this so fast?" he asked, reaching out to touch her photographic counterpart.
"I made arrangements with the photographers and Mum slipped it in the bag when we were dancing. I had already bought the frame."
He pulled her onto his lap and they shared a kiss. "Thank you," he said. She wiggled free and moved back to her own seat, picking up her still warm mug.
"You tell Hermione and Ron about last night?" she asked, savouring a long sip of her tea.
Harry looked up, tearing his eyes away from the photo as she Banished the dishes to their small sink. "Which part of last night should I be telling them about?" he asked with a smirk.
She was properly shocked and, her wand still in hand gave it a speedy flick, sending a sofa cushion flying at him. He caught it and set it sailing right back where it came from. "I haven’t written a thing since we first arrived," he said without missing a beat.
Ginny finished her tea in a single swallow. "I’ll do it," she said and Summoned the journal and a quill. "My handwriting is much more legible than yours."
Harry watched her as she began to scratch the details of their close call last night. "I’m not as bad as Ron," he replied. Her eyes traced Hermione’s reply and she smiled, ignoring his comment.
"They want to send Aiden to us now, is that all right?" she asked, looking up at him, a twinkle in her eye. "They say there’s a birthday present coming along with him."
Suddenly, Harry had an idea. "Do you mind if they come along, too?" He knew that having their friends visit on their honeymoon wasn’t exactly the most romantic overture, but Harry needed to get their input on things that even the replicating journal couldn’t properly convey.
Ginny raised an eyebrow. "As long as they don’t spend the night...."
Harry laughed. "Here?" he said, gesturing to their tiny flat. "I don’t think they’d sleep very much if they did."
"All right," replied Ginny, who was already writing to Hermione. "I told them to give us a minute to clean up." She put down the quill and hurried to the loo. Harry followed, and when they returned to the kitchen dressed for the day, a bright ball of flame appeared in the middle of the living room.
Aiden glided around their heads carrying packages that were much too large to be borne by any normal bird and dropped them in Harry and Ginny’s room. He re-emerged and found his cage, happily settling on his perch to watch the humans.
"Hermione," squealed Ginny and they were quickly hugging and giggling. They sat on the sofa and the girl talk commenced immediately.
Ron rolled his eyes and slapped Harry on the back. "They’re mental," he said. "Happy birthday, by the way."
"Thanks," said Harry, who retrieved a salmon filet from the refrigerator and slid it onto Aiden’s cage. The red and blue bird immediately began to snap it up. "Been busy cavorting around the world as Harry Potter?"
Ron sat at the kitchen table and Harry followed suit. "I don’t envy you in the slightest," Ron said and poured some tea in a fresh cup. "The authorities are easy enough to avoid." He glanced sideways at Hermione, who was laughing at something Ginny said. "It’s the witches that want to steal you away from Ginny. They’re almost unstoppable."
Harry smirked knowingly, "You didn’t... Not with Hermione with you..."
"No!" he said vehemently. "I wouldn’t do that. Besides, that’s not the point. The point is you better be careful when you come home. Ginny’ll be hexing girls left and right if she catches wind of it."
Harry nodded. "Luckily, no one seems to know me here."
"Yeah? Must be nice," Ron replied. Aiden was warbling softly as he finished off the filet. "Where is here, anyway?"
"Canada," said Harry. "But I have a feeling our honeymoon is about to get cut short."
Ron didn’t reply to this, as Harry called Ginny and Hermione over to the table.
"Happy birthday, Harry," Hermione said and gave him a firm hug.
"Thanks," he said and they all found a chair. "We may have to cut our honeymoon short." Ginny made a face as she picked at a piece of bacon. "With the incident with Broadmoor last night, I’m guessing we’ll have wizards from our D.M.L.E. showing up to search for us very soon."
"We could make Harry appear in another country," Ron suggested. "I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand."
Harry shook his head. "It needs to stop. Crackshot’s taken this too far and I’m going to run any more."
Ginny was chewing hatefully on her bacon while the wheels were turning in Hermione’s head. Hermione opened her mouth to speak. "To get Crackshot off your back, it’s going to take nothing short of handing over the Elder Wand."
Harry snorted. "Not likely."
Hermione’s lips pursed. "Quite. He’s completely obsessed with it. Take this McIsenrod character..."
"Oh yeah," said Harry. "We found a wanted poster with him on it. He killed my great-great grandmother."
"No he didn’t," contradicted Hermione and she produced a book from her bag. After turning to the correct page, she handed it to Harry. "Polemon McIsenrod was a wandmaker from Scotland, who toured the world to document international wand lore. He was friends with Gregorovitch’s grandfather, Vasili."
In the book, there was a picture of McIsenrod with a man that very much resembled the Gregorovitch Harry had seen in his visions, each displaying a box of wands with pride, as if they were their firstborn children.
Hermione continued. "McIsenrod heard about a wand that was very unique and went to Canada to find it. I’m guessing your great-great grandmother had the Elder Wand, but it isn’t clear in the book. When Vasili found out, he used McIsenrod to meet her. After gaining her trust, he poisoned her and took the wand, framing his friend for the murder in the process."
Harry looked down at Vasili in the book and felt his anger flare. "Why didn’t they lock him away if they knew he’d set McIsenrod up?"
"It was too late," said Ron, who had obviously been helping Hermione research. "By the time they found out about the double-cross, McIsenrod had been sent through the veil and Vasili was making Elder Wand ripoffs in Russia."
Harry closed the book and stood, pacing around the small coffee table in the living room. A dozen possibilities were swirling through his mind and as he considered each one, a picture began to develop. "We’ve been looking at it all wrong," he said and stopped pacing. "I don’t have to surrender the wand to Crackshot, I just have to lose it to someone else. Then all the attention will move to that person and I’ll be free."
"But who would want that?" asked Ron, who Harry assumed would have jumped at the chance to take the wand from him. "As nice as it would be to have an unbeatable wand, I don’t fancy my chances duelling every witch or wizard who wants to take it from me."
"Exactly," said Harry, feeling more of his plan slipping into place. "That’s the beauty of it. I don’t actually have to give it up." He turned to Hermione. "How much Polyjuice do we have left?"
Her eyes went wide as she caught where Harry was going. "Enough for four more doses, but Harry... You still have to give the wand to someone for it to look real. They could lose it in a non-magical way and..."
Harry waved off her concern. "That won’t be a problem," he said and called Aiden to him. "There’s a certain wand maker that owes me a favour and if I’m right, he wouldn’t miss a chance at seeing the Elder Wand firsthand."
"Ollivander?" asked Ron.
"Right in one," said Harry. Aiden was preening his feathers feeling remarkably light on his shoulder. "We’ll need to contact a few other people for support as well..."
"Harry," said Ginny, who until this moment hadn’t taken part of the conversation. "Our honeymoon isn’t over."
He balked at the smouldering look on her face. "Ginny," he said defensively. "It’s not like I planned on being seen at the Quidditch match last night."
"I don’t care about bloody Crackshot or the stupid Elder Wand. That can all wait until we’ve had our time together."
Harry looked around for support, but Ron was busy staring at the ceiling and Hermione was fiddling with Historical Wandmakers and their Remarkable Stories. "Okay. We can probably fudge a few days. That will give us time to finish our honeymoon and contact some allies." Her eyes seemed to soften a little. "What else would you like to do?"
Ginny relaxed her shoulders. "I just want to be with you. That’s the most important thing, but since you asked..." She smiled. "The Tall Ships Festival is the only thing left on my list."
"You have a list?" asked Ron, who was rewarded with a smack on the arm from his sister.
"Ooh," replied Hermione. "That’s supposed to be very interesting. They have an article in the Prophet every year with pictures of the winning boats and everything."
Harry’s eyebrows curved upward. "The Prophet covers this?" he asked, interested.
"Definitely," said Hermione. "They have a special edition on it as half the boats come from Wizards and half of those come from Britain."
Harry smiled as the final pieces of his plan fell into place. "Interesting, indeed, Hermione."
The plan was good enough that when he explained it to Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, they all agreed that it could work. It called for Harry and Ginny to attend the Quidditch semi-final match between the Hammers and the Vanguard. Joss Woodall was happy to provide them with tickets and they found themselves in the same box next to the announcer. Although Harry brought his Invisibility Cloak with him, he didn’t bother using it to enter the stadium, nor did he resort to Transfiguring his hair and glasses as he did the last time. They were supposed to be seen.
It was an afternoon match, which meant that as long as the match went quickly, they would have plenty of time to head over to the festival afterwards.
Ginny’s demand to finish their honeymoon had affected Harry greatly. He realised she wasn’t being petulant, but was demonstrating her wisdom. They would only ever get one honeymoon and she wanted to make the most of it despite their circumstances. This made him more determined to spend their remaining time with her. Since part of Harry’s plan involved Ginny, he spent a couple of hours a day leading up to the semi-final match teaching her some of the things he learned from Kingsley. By the time Friday was upon them, he had a new appreciation for her reputation as such a powerful witch.
The teams were taking turns warming up and when the Hammers took the pitch, it didn’t take Broadmoor very long to spot Harry. He spent a few minutes in the air, half-heartedly practicing with a Bludger before he slumped over his broom and was carried off by his teammates.
"There’s been a change in the line up," said the announcer once the crowd realised that he was missing. "Broadmoor has taken ill and will be replaced with the reserve Beater, Henningly."
The Hammers’ half of the crowd booed while the rest cheered.
"Taken ill, my foot," said Ginny, who was focusing her Omnioculars on the doorway that led to the Hammers locker room.
"I have a feeling he’ll be as healthy as an ox by the time the game is over," Harry said with a smirk.
Without one of their starting Beaters, the Hammers fell by an even larger margin. The Vanguard were celebrating their victory mid-pitch when Harry and Ginny left their box and began to walk to the designated Apparition point. As he expected, six wizards began to trail them as they exited the stadium.
Harry knew they wouldn’t risk an attack with hundreds of other witches and wizards around, so they took their time, acting oblivious to their trailers. When they left the wards, the pops of departing wizards masked a spell Harry sent behind him, temporarily disabling Broadmoor. The five other pursuers yelled and began to run at Harry and Ginny, who, smirking and waving at them, Disapparated.
Harry appeared in a deserted alley just off Wharf Street. He knew that they would trace his Apparition and not Ginny’s, so the plan called for them splitting up. Harry pulled out his Invisibility Cloak and walked quickly out of the alley and across the street, hiding behind a large wooden sign. The time he had bought himself in disabling Broadmoor paid off as the hem of his cloak had just settled when several pops like children’s firecrackers announced the presence of wizards in the alley.
"Split up," yelled Broadmoor in his gruff voice. "Two each down the street. Bobbin’s with me. Potter can’t have gone far."
They did as they were told and as the sound of their footsteps diminished, Broadmoor raised his wand. "Homenum Reveleo," he intoned, pointing his wand back down the alleyway. He and the man named Bobbin made a methodical circle of magic to expose Harry’s presence.
It was only a matter of time before they found his magical signature. Harry pointed his wand at Bobbin and waited for the perfect moment. "Somnus," he whispered and Bobbin collapsed in a heap from the most powerful sleeping spell known. Not even Ennervate would wake him.
Harry had to duck when Broadmoor’s counterattack blasted a hole in the sign he’d been hiding behind. He rolled on the pavement and fired off two quick Stunning Spells, his Cloak falling to his feet. Broadmoor dove out of the way and Harry was able to grab his Cloak and run down the street toward the docks.
A powerful Shield Charm repelled all of Broadmoor’s hexes. Harry was sure that the man wouldn’t use an Unforgivable just yet. Breathing heavy and grateful more than ever for the time he spent working at the casting range with Kingsley, Harry turned onto the rough wooden planks that led out over the water.
"Go!" Harry yelled, and turned just as a red bolt of light missed him and caught the side of a fishing trawler on fire. An engine roared to life and as he thundered down the dock, a familiar white boat began to leave the quay. He slowed just a little to time his jump and with a tiny backward glance at Broadmoor, Harry pointed his wand down and nonverbally propelled himself over the lengthening gap of seawater. He sailed in the air and rolled to a crouch on the waiting deck of the accelerating Isabella Swan.
Broadmoor cursed and sent two more Stunners at Harry for good measure, but Harry easily deflected them. Behind him, the four other men that had been pursuing Harry turned the corner of the dock and motioned for Broadmoor to follow.
"All in one piece?" asked Captain August, who was directing his boat out of the harbour at the highest speed that wouldn’t attract notice from the marine patrol. In the distance, Harry heard the dull thunder of canon fire.
"So far, so good," he said. "Everything ready here?"
August nodded and twiddled his wand so the boat made a slight turn to the west. "Let’s just hope your friends take the bait."
There was a low growl from behind them as another boat began to slip from its moorings. A smaller, but fast looking ship was turning to pursue the Swan. "Bingo," said August. On the deck of the smaller boat, Broadmoor was urging his men on. They began to gain on them.
"Gun it," said Harry.
The Swan lurched as the engines roared to their full capacity and Harry had to grab hold of a rope to keep from losing his balance. They cleared the harbour and August began to unfurl the sails. Out in the Strait, a large mock gun battle was being waged. Hundreds of puffs of smoke floated through the air from cannons being fired in simulated anger.
The sun was sitting low on the horizon, not far from sinking beneath the waves; this caused the wind to pick up on most days and today was no exception. As the sails snapped taught, the Swan leaned over and soon pushed her past the top speed of the engines. The sound of the motors died away and Harry looked back to see Broadmoor’s ship impossibly gaining.
"Keep going into the heart of the battle," said Harry and August grunted as he did the work of ten men, adjusting sail and rudder in complicated movements that made Harry glad he’d picked the Swan for the scene of his escape.
The boats of the festival were scattered around the Strait. Those with guns fired volley after volley of gunpowder to the delight of the spectators on the boats in the periphery. The Swan, along with her smaller pursuer barrelled directly into the middle of this scene, instantly gaining notice from the wizards in attendance. The Muggles only saw the splashing of the waves as the Swan’s hull cut the water.
Sweat beading on his forehead, August pulled the Swan around a large three-masted sailing barque, who wasn’t firing guns, but was full of waving witches and wizards. Harry waved back.
Suddenly, an angry purple light shot across the gap between the Swan and her pursuer. It missed them, but impacted the ocean in front of the ship, spraying them with water.
"Warning shot?" asked August, who was gaining fast on a brig, who was cheerily firing her four guns into the fading sunlight.
"That’s my guess," replied Harry. They were close enough that Harry could see their lips moving as they spoke. "We’ve got about five minutes. Are you ready?"
August gave a quick nod and swivelled the mast and rudder, causing the Swan to lean the opposite direction and turn hard to port. Broadmoor, in his smaller ship began to cut the corner.
"Make that two minutes."
Harry jumped down from the wheelhouse and onto the main deck. Another blast of light, this one yellow streaked at him and he batted it away. The booms from the canons were deafening.
August made one more last ditch effort to thwart Broadmoor’s pursuit by ducking around a smaller sailing ship that was closer to the Swan’s size. To Harry’s happy surprise, there were a cadre of robe-clad reporters on board, who began to snap photos of Harry as he deflected more and more spells. Soon, the boat Broadmoor was manning was even with the Swan and August turned his ship into a circle around the schooner.
Using the angle provided by their turn, Harry Levitated one of Broadmoor’s men off his feet and dropped him into the white wake of their ship. It cost him, however as he was forced to deflect three Stunning Spells that sent him sprawling into the base of the main mast. He jumped up and was caught again with a set of spells that he was barely able to repel in time. Now on the defensive, Harry pulled out the Elder Wand and began to weave shields and hexes in a combination that kept the odds equal. More flashes erupted from the ship they continued to circle.
Broadmoor made a motion with his wand and their boat began to close the gap. Harry used the momentary distraction to Banish one of his men a hundred feet off the deck and into the ocean. Three men down, three to go.
Focusing on Broadmoor, Harry stepped around the deck of the Swan, dodging and weaving through a hail of red, blue, and purple lights. Finally, one of his spells found its mark and cut a gash in Broadmoor’s arm. The man yelled and jabbed his wand at their ship. It lurched sideways and crashed into the Swan in a cacophony of splintered wood and crushed glass, sending Harry sprawling backwards and down the set of stairs that led to the dining deck.
His back on fire, Harry propped himself on his elbows and stared into a set of equally green eyes. "Go!" he whispered and his lookalike rushed up the stairs to rejoin the battle, dressed in the exact same robes and holey jeans, and armed with two identical wands to the ones Harry was still gripping. As soon as his doppelganger was gone, a pair of soft hands pulled Harry to a nearby sofa.
"Harry," said Ginny sternly. "Always have to be the hero, don’t you?" The spells and shouts were much closer by Harry’s estimation, meaning that Broadmoor and his cronies had been able to board the Swan after Harry fell. Their ship was almost stopped now, still crunching into the ruined side of Broadmoor’s stolen boat.
He gasped when Ginny probed his back. "Not so hard," he hissed.
"Baby," she said with a grin and administered several healing spells. "Better?"
He moved his arms experimentally and sat on the sofa. "Much. Did Hermione get off okay?"
She nodded. "She’s on the Rejoice with the reporters from the Prophet, deflecting stray curses." There was another cry above their heads. "How much longer until Kingsley lets one of them win?"
"He’ll wait until two of them are disabled and let the last one disarm him," explained Harry. "That way, the whole world will think I’ve lost the Elder Wand, and you and I can go back to our nice quiet life."
She gave him a perplexed look. "I don’t know about quiet, but it will be nice to have things settle down to a manageable level."
He relaxed and felt her hands checking the rest of his body for injuries. "Are you sure this is what you want to do for the rest of your life?" she asked.
"What?" he replied with his own question as another wizard cried out above them. "Fight Dark wizards?" He thought of his promise to Kingsley. "Would that be okay with you?"
Ginny’s hand cupped his cheek and pulled it softly until he was staring into her warm brown eyes. "I don’t care what you do with your life, as long as you’re happy." He leaned in for a kiss.
"Well, well, well," said a familiar drawling voice, pulling Harry and Ginny apart. "You shouldn’t let your guard down, Potter. Only a pair of pathetic Gryffindors would be foolish enough to snog in the middle of a battle."
Harry’s mouth dropped open as he automatically took up a defensive stance in front of Ginny. Rising the stairs from the berthing compartments, flanked by Broadmoor and August, a smirk of absolute confidence on his face, was Draco Malfoy.
I hate to leave a cliffhanger for you like this, and originally, I hadn't intended to, but the story begged me to split the chapter here, so I did. Chapter
ten is well underway, so I should be able to keep my one chapter per week schedule up until next week at the very least. Please review!