Stage 04 - (Almost) Everyone Wins
From her vantage point nearly a kilometre away – disguised the mundane way, of course; no magic to trip alarms involved today – Kallen watched the elder Dursleys climb into their car together through a pair of binoculars. The most vindictive parts of her lamented the absence of their son, but perhaps this way was better. He was just a stupid kid with the unfortunate luck to be born to a pair of horrible role models. He didn’t need to die.
Kallen surveyed the street for innocent bystanders. A woman stood just outside the neighbouring house carrying a strange cat with large ears, but the only other problems were further off. No other cars were coming.
She waited until the Dursleys had pulled out of the drive and moved a little ways off from the cat woman. With perhaps more eagerness than she should, she mouthed, “Sayonara,” and then triggered her detonator.
The car exploded in a great ball of fire. Shrapnel flew everywhere. Black scorch marks painted the road.
Huh. Maybe I should have used a lower grade explosive. Kallen shrugged. Oh well. It’s not like I could pass this off as an unusual petrol leak or something.
After a few seconds for the wind to clear the smoke away, Kallen got a better look at the Dursleys’ remains. The bodies were mostly intact, though seared, blackened, and utterly lifeless. If magic could heal that, well, she would have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to spirit Lelouch away.
Satisfied with a job well done, Kallen packed up and left for the nearest railway station. She needed to get home in time for supper.
Through the haze of his injuries, Lelouch slowly put together what the muffled thunder and momentary shaking of his cupboard meant. Disjointed wheezes escaped him in the crude approximation of laughter. He was finally free.
“Kallen, you wonderful woman,” he mumbled as let go of his tenuous grasp on the waking world.
When Lelouch next awoke, he felt more alive than he had since that awful Halloween night when the Potters died. The cause wasn’t just his freedom from his primary tormentors. No, he felt whole in body, too. Someone had taken the effort to heal him well enough to function properly. He could hear the chatter of voices and the pounding of many feet from a distance away.
Hmm, regular police or magical police? On the one hand, I’m healed, so someone magical has been by. On the other hand, I’ve been isolated here for seven years now. Not that it really matters either way, I suppose.
Lelouch ran through his usual mental exercises to break compulsions to prepare for the coming confrontation. If the magical police were downstairs, he suspected there would be none on him for perhaps the first time since he’d been dumped here. Indeed, he felt none shatter under his introspection, but then they might simply be more subtle than usual.
Regardless, not hearing anyone nearby, Lelouch cracked an eye open. Someone had put him to bed upstairs in his aunt and uncle’s bedroom. Now seeing that he was alone – but not discounting invisible watchers – he sat up and investigated his body. The scars remained, each and every one of them, but his bones had knit together well. He could still see his ribs, but that could be fixed easily enough so long as no one tried to shove food down his throat too soon. What a horrible mistake that had been during the Invasion of Japan.
With tentative hope, Lelouch swung his legs over the side of the bed and hopped onto his feet. None of the familiar jolts of pain accompanied the act. A few experimental steps and then leaps confirmed his body’s working order.
Lelouch’s attention next landed on a folded pile of black cloth on a wing chair with an accompanying pair of shoes which looked as though they’d been ripped from the nineteenth century. The cloth turned out to be an elaborate set of robes in roughly his size.
Well, this answers the magical or mundane question. Shrugging, Lelouch donned the outfit. It wasn’t like he had anything better fitting.
Not long after he finished changing, a light knock came on the door. It parted the next moment just enough to peek inside before swinging wide open. A woman strode into the room, wand in hand, wearing lime-green robes with a crossed wand and bone embroidered upon her chest. Her head snapped back at someone hidden outside the room with a sharp glare, her long brown hair flying about her. Whoever remained behind had obviously gotten the message and stayed put.
Now that Lelouch got a closer look at the woman, he noticed her move with an aristocratic bearing. Her features held many of the hallmarks of this world’s nobility. Indeed, her diction matched, but she spoke with a gentle warmth and, if she could be trusted, not as a politician. “Good morning, Harry. My name is Andromeda Tonks. I’m a…doctor.”
Not interested in acting like a child – no one would ever believe him, and the Dursleys had never cared – Lelouch instead chose to act like a child acting like an adult. “Good morning, Dr Tonks. I’m assuming you’re the one who patched me up?”
“I may have sped the process along, but from my observations, you seem to have a remarkable talent for self-care. Do you want to become a doctor when you grow up?”
“I’ve considered it,” Lelouch replied truthfully. He hadn’t given much thought to the future in this new life beyond reuniting with his queen and his witch, but the idea had crossed his mind. “Is doctor the correct term for a magical healer, then?”
“You know about magic? With what I’ve heard of your aunt and uncle, I’d have thought, well…”
Lelouch waved Dr Tonks’s faux pas away. “When, after every time you perform some remarkable feat, you’re beaten and told magic isn’t real, it’s natural to assume the opposite.”
“Ah, yes…” A tinge of distress showed in Dr Tonks’s expression due to the very clinical response. She cleared her throat and banished it for a more neutral look. “To answer your question, my official title is Healer Tonks. Now why don’t you make yourself comfortable on the bed while I verify your health.”
Not having a reason to object despite how much he didn’t want anyone casting spells he didn’t know on him, Lelouch kicked off his shoes and complied. Healer Tonks then began waving her wand in intricate patterns, mumbling to herself all the while.
“How are you feeling?” Healer Tonks eventually asked.
“Malnourished but otherwise well enough.”
“Well, we’ll see what we can do about that. You’ll be happy to know you’re recovering quickly.”
Having confirmation from an actual healer was reassuring, but it now left a larger looming question for an innocent Harry Potter to ask. “I appreciate all your efforts, but please indulge me. Why are you here now?” Lelouch neither could nor wanted to keep the bite from his voice.
Healer Tonks wore an unexpectedly hurt expression. “From what I’ve been told, it’s a complex legal matter.”
“Try me,” Lelouch replied.
Almost immediately, another woman’s voice cut in. “Allow me to answer that.” A middle-aged witch in immaculate robes, clearly dressed to impress, came into the room from just outside the door. Lelouch could tell at a glance that the woman was a politician. Healer Tonks shot her a glare for all the good it did. “I’m Millicent Bagnold, Minister for Magic. A pleasure to meet you Harry.”
Lelouch arched an eyebrow. What was the head of the magical government, he assumed, doing here? “Likewise,” he said. “So? What brings the illustrious Minister for Magic here?”
“As Healer Tonks mentioned, it’s complicated. You see, Harry, the magical world was at war until only a few years ago. A very evil wizard tried to take over the government. He came very close, too, but remarkably, he died when he came after you. It’s made you very famous in our world. Everyone wanted to adopt you.”
That…explains a lot. Lelouch needed time alone to fully process this revelation. He’d always assumed his escape from death had come as a happy accident or some convolved plan. Instead, it must have been the result of whatever spells Lily Potter had laid on him as her last hurrah. He’d have to revise his opinion of his second mother considerably. Still, that left one important question. “Why did I end up here?”
The minister sighed and levitated a chair over next to the bed for her to fall on heavily. A touch of drama never hurt even in this world, it seemed. “Harry,” she began, “how do you feel about muggles?”
What on Earth was a muggle? Apparently, they were nonmagical humans. “Why do you ask?”
“The war we fought, the one you ended–”
‘I’ ended? Lelouch packed that away for later analysis.
“–we fought it over whether muggles and witches and wizards born to muggles should have the same rights as anyone else.” At Healer Tonks’s scoff, Minister Bagnold added, “More or less.”
Lelouch saw where this was headed. “I see. And if I were to make a few careless comments, it would be like hurling a firebrand into the country. Your war isn’t exactly over, is it?”
This earned Lelouch an evaluating eye from the minister. “You’re a very sharp child. You’re not wrong.”
“Then you need not fear. I have nothing against the nonmagical.” Of course, even if he did, Lelouch had no power in this situation to say otherwise. The last thing he needed was to invite these people to modify his personality.
“Excellent,” the minister said with relief thick in her tone. “To answer your original question, your parents left no will behind. Or at least not one that we could find. The cottage they left you is in need of some, shall we say, repair. Regardless, after much debate, the Wizengamot, our highest governing body, eventually settled on placing you with your closest living relatives. At the time… Well, let’s just say that you’re related to a number of very bad people.”
Oh, fantastic. “So you dumped me with my mother’s sister to avoid something worse?” Lelouch received a nod. I see. This calls my gaoler’s motives into question. Is it purely for politics, or is there some darker plot at work? If it’s the former, I can’t trust anyone in the government yet, neither enemies nor ‘allies’. For now, he put the matter from his mind.
“And now you’re here,” Lelouch continued. “I’m going to go out on a limb. My relatives are dead?”
“Yes, Harry. They were killed on Halloween.”
On Halloween? “How long have I been out?”
“A little over two days,” Healer Tonks answered, “although you slipped in and out of consciousness during your recovery.”
“The head of our law enforcement is downstairs waiting to personally interview you. We haven’t caught the killer yet.”
Lelouch snorted. “Don’t try too hard.”
Both women shot him troubled looks.
“What?” Lelouch asked. “For as long as I can remember, they’ve treated me as a slave and a whipping boy. Why should I show them any more care or concern than they’ve shown me?” That didn’t much soothe either woman’s worries, but he paid them no mind. “What happens to me now? As far as I know, I have no other relatives on my mother’s side by blood.”
“Yes, well, fortunately, if you wish to use the term, although distant, your current closest living relatives able to care for you are the Weasleys.”
Healer Tonks cleared her throat, very clearly offended.
“Ah, yes, your closest living relatives able and not ruled ineligible.”
While there were other conclusions to be made, Lelouch guessed, “We’re related?”
“Second cousins once or twice removed, I believe,” Healer Tonks replied. “Your grandmother was Dorea Potter née Black. I was expelled from the House of Black for marrying a muggleborn, a technicality that has ruled me ineligible to take you in according to some. Arthur Weasley’s mother, Cedrella, was only unofficially disowned.”
“I see…” It would take some time to see how trustworthy this woman would prove to be, but having actual family in this world could prove invaluable. That she was a professional healer only made it more appealing to recruit her. “Should I call you Aunt Andromeda, then?”
“If you’d like. Cousin Andromeda or just Andromeda might be more…appropriate.”
Lelouch managed a friendly chuckle. “Don’t worry. I’m not soured on the idea of aunts just because of Petunia.” Uncles, on the other hand, had been uniformly horrid to him. “So I’m to be placed with Arthur Weasley next? Have you actually vetted him first this time?”
If the minister took offence to that, she didn’t show it. “Arthur is a good man with seven happy children. You’ll be well taken care of with his family, I assure you.”
The eighth child and not even one of his own, eh? Well, at least I won’t have to suffer much active parental supervision in the chaos if I don’t cause trouble.
“There is one more thing,” the minister continued a little hesitantly. “It will be to everyone’s benefit if your cousin stays with you.”
Lelouch was distinctly unamused.
Lelouch’s first view of his new place of residence left him distinctly unimpressed. What once had been a quaint little cottage beside a pond had developed a tumour. As if some cruel god had dumped a series of smaller buildings atop the home, the growth extended upwards and over the original roof several storeys. Multiple chimneys jutted out of the several roofs – four by his count, though he may have missed one or two. Without any visible support beams, the entire monstrosity should collapse under its own weight. Indeed, without magic, it probably would.
On the grounds, a small brood of chickens idly wandered about in search of food. He couldn’t see their coop anywhere, but he assumed it existed independently of the main building and the shed filled with a seemingly random assortment of nonmagical objects. In the garden, he caught a glimpse of a small, ugly creature resembling a potato in a roughly humanoid shape before it disappeared underground.
“You freaks expect me to live here?” Dudley asked, accusation lacing his tone. Lelouch agreed with the sentiment but kept his thoughts to himself. “I want to live with Aunt Marge!”
“Now now,” Minister Bagnold said in a futile attempt to mollify Dudley. “I’m sure you’ll be very comfortable here once you get used to it. Magic is a wonderful thing. You’ll see.” Not that the boy had any choice. The magical government had faked both of their deaths to pull them out of the nonmagical system.
Lelouch tuned out the rest of the conversation in favour of observing his new surroundings. He had no idea where in England he was or even if he was in England at all anymore. He’d only been given the name ‘The Burrow’ and a brief description before being teleported to the dirt road leading to the building.
The front door led immediately into the family room. Five redheads inside rather than the expected nine welcomed Lelouch and his entourage into their home. He immediately identified Arthur Weasley, his cousin of some variety, as the eldest male. The man was already balding and wore glasses, oddly enough. Perhaps the financial burden of such a large family had prevented him from visiting a healer to correct either problem. Regardless, he had an easygoing air about him and looked happy enough.
The man’s wife, short and slightly plump, introduced herself as Molly Weasley with a comment on how dreadfully thin Lelouch looked and promises to take care of them both. The youngest child and only daughter emitted an eep, blushed, and fled when Lelouch looked at her. This prompted Molly to introduce her as Ginevra Weasley, or Ginny as she preferred.
As a first impression, the girl reminded Lelouch of a younger Shirley. He hoped growing up with him would trigger inbreeding avoidance in her. It would make his life much simpler. He didn’t need the drama nor whatever marital pressures a society which cared so much about bloodlines might be able to bring to bear upon him.
A pair of twins introduced themselves as Fred and George Weasley under the stern glare of their mother. Even so, they seemed unable to resist reintroducing themselves as Gred and Forge in alternating dialogue. That would quickly grow annoying, Lelouch was sure.
Lastly, there was Ron Weasley. He looked a bit lanky for his age with somewhat large hands and a long nose. Unlike the rest of the family – although perhaps Ginny shouldn’t count – his eyes immediately drew up to Lelouch’s forehead and the lightning bolt shaped scar peeking out from beneath the fringe of his hair.
“We’re sorry the whole family couldn’t be here, Harry dear, but Bill, Charlie, and Percy are off at Hogwarts,” Molly said.
Upon enquiring, Lelouch discovered that Hogwarts was the premier school of magic in the world. He glanced at the present and very much school-aged children in the Weasley family with a wary eye. Although already certain of the answer, he asked, “Do they have important exams coming up, then? I only ask because the rest of your children are here.”
“Blimey, do we look eleven to you?” Ron asked.
“No. No, of course not,” Lelouch said with a sigh. The lack of education suited him just fine. He’d been through the school system already in a more technologically advanced civilisation. Dudley’s already bleak future, on the other hand, to say nothing of the wider magical population, had just taken a major downturn. Not that he really cared about the former. And the boy himself, poor fool, expressed his delight at the prospect of not having to go to school anymore. With no magic and no education, his prospects were slim.
The minister exchanged a few words with Arthur and Molly before departing with the rest of her entourage. That left the family alone with their new boarders. They offered a tour of the house before getting them settled into their room.
Their room. Singular.
One pleasant surprise of all this, it turned out, was the deluge of gifts. Apparently, Petunia and Vernon had demanded that the freaks stop sending things to their nephew, and their wishes had been respected. But now? Now Lelouch owned more clothes and toys than he knew what to do with and had entirely too much fan mail. The Boy-Who-Lived, they called him. Ridiculous.
Amelia Bones, the current head of the DMLE, had explained that she’d ordered her people to screen all of his mail to remove everything dangerous for him. While Lelouch didn’t appreciate having his incoming mail intercepted, he did admit to not knowing how to protect himself even remotely well enough to have it remain unfiltered.
As an added benefit, passing off all of the gifts he didn’t need first to his hosts and then to charity seemed to earn him major points with the Weasleys. If nothing else, they at least usually respected that he preferred to read the books people sent him over playing silly children’s games or riding broomsticks. In a rambunctious house with few books outside of his own and little regard for intellectual pursuits, that could not be taken for granted. Perhaps life here wouldn’t be so bad.
Curled up in bed, an open book atop the blankets in his lap, Lelouch contemplated his current priorities. He needed to learn how to protect his mind. He needed to establish a line of communication with Kallen. He needed to determine who his enemies were. He needed a wand.
Lastly, he needed to decide what he wanted to do with this second life. In a case of cross dimensional irony, it appeared his second mother’s actions had made him the de facto Prince of Magical Britain. He had more power than any child should, but he also knew his star wasn’t yet so bright that it couldn’t be extinguished if he acted too far against the grain. He’d need to be careful.
Regardless, his more immediate goals had a common solution: contact Kallen. He could rely upon her. He only needed to find a way to send a letter to her without being noticed. Sending brief replies to all of his fan mail and slipping one to her into the lot was the obvious solution, but it could backfire on him if he tried to send a mail owl to someone nonmagical. Besides, he didn’t particularly wish to pen thousands of letters by hand with a quill of all things.
Wandering down to the local village, Ottery St Catchpole, to send off regular post was an option, but it would draw attention. The last letter he’d sent her he’d gone to no small trouble to insert into the postal system without raising alarm.
With some amusement, Lelouch considered striking up a mutual exchange of fan letters between the two of them. It wouldn’t work except in the unlikely scenario where she was a witch, but the idea got a laugh out of him nonetheless.
The door to Lelouch’s room opened, and Ron walked in unannounced with a chess board in his hand and a determined look on his face. The boy had struck up a rather one-sided rivalry with Lelouch. In all honesty, although he lost every game they played, he had talent and skill for his age. It wasn’t his fault he was out of his league.
Lelouch closed his book and invited Ron to sit across from him on the bed. He liked to drag these games out and make instructive commentary. As far as connections to his previous life went, it wasn’t much, but it was far more than he’d been allowed the last eight years.
Today was the birthday of one Pandora Lovegood, and every resident of the Burrow had been invited to the celebration. The Lovegoods lived in what Ron described as a giant rook a short walk from the Weasleys’ own home. Beyond that, all Lelouch knew about the family came from Ginny and Ron expressing their mutual dislike of the Lovegoods’ daughter, Luna, who preferred to go by her initials.
“Xenophilius is a bit dotty,” the man with a strange obsession with the nonmagical largely rooted in fantasy explained to Dudley. As if Arthur had room to talk, he continued, “Remember your manners. If he says anything unusual, don’t be rude.”
As they climbed the hill leading up to the Lovegoods’ home, Lelouch observed that the building did indeed resemble a black rook. Despite Ron’s objections, it looked like a lovely place to live. The local biota included such novelties as actual rooks and the dirigible plum. A real living and breathing fairy flew past the group on their trek, drawing Lelouch’s gaze along in its wake and away from their destination.
Thus did his eyes fall upon a barefoot girl his own age moving almost perpendicularly away from their group. It must be the Lovegood daughter, L.L.. She had lime-green hair – not at all natural for this world – sprawling down her back and something of an orangish-yellow colour clutched to her chest.
Lelouch froze in place midstep. It couldn’t be.
He took a step toward the girl. In the back of his mind, he acknowledged the Weasleys saying something to him, but he only took another step forward. All thoughts of secrecy and subtlety left him as he ran to catch up with the girl.
As he approached, the girl turned her head to look back at him. Her blank expression was so very familiar even if another face wore it now. Cementing his belief, he recognised the object in her arms as a Cheese-kun. He had no doubts now.
Lelouch wrapped the bemused girl in his arms and whispered into her ear, “I know where Kallen is.”
The response was immediate. “Lelouch?”