This is genslash, so it is not a love story at its core. Love is a part of it in more ways than one, but this ain't romance. Harry/Draco and other pairings (het and slash) are imminent. If you're the type to get bored if Harry and Draco aren't USTing all over each other by the fifth chapter, this story will bore you to tears. Overall, it's rated NC-17 with a blanket warning for dub-con, D/s, and violence. Additional warnings will probably show up as I go along, but they'll only be listed if relevant to the current chapter.
This story is AU because it ignores the epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It assumes a Muggle world where J.K. Rowling never wrote the Harry Potter series: I suppose it would be the same Muggle world we see in the books, except I'm going to try and write it true to "our" life rather than the caricatures JKR painted of Muggles in canon, so perhaps it can be called AU for that, too.
Oh, and it's going to be pretty long. :S
Title: Interregnum [Prologue]
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Harry/Draco and others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Length: 3000 words
Summary: Without contraries there is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence. [William Blake]
Note: Regarding the subject matter of this prologue: please forgive glaring factual inaccuracies, if any, and allow for a bit of artistic licence. :S
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Missile silo N-8, nine miles west of New Raymer, Colorado. July 12, 2003, 13:03
The man was smiling, his mind an oasis where peace reigned like thunder. A voice whispered to him, and the man did everything it said, because it was the voice of God. He moved across the sun-scorched grass, approaching the fence with relaxed grace, his face tilted skyward as though he trusted God to guide his feet. The concrete silo cover jutted from the ground beyond the fence like a giant pustule.
What sort of enchantment protects this weapon? Anti-Intruder Charms? Tripwire Jinxes? asked the voice.
There were cameras and motion sensors. They detected movement within the fence perimeter and alerted the Launch Control Centers...
Not to worry. The voice held deep satisfaction. We have those men in hand. They will not disturb you. You need a way down, yes?
The earth in front of him parted, a neatly layered column of soil and rocks and dirt floating up like a cork. The silo's concrete wall rippled outwards, forming a hole large enough to admit one. A silvery, ethereal ladder spiralled out of the air, and the man climbed down without a moment's hesitation. The column of earth shimmered and faded into the surroundings.
The man re-emerged several hours later, his face shining with sweat, his large backpack flat now, empty. "It's done," he said.
The man nodded, wiping his forehead. He had done good work, God's work. What exactly had he done? It didn't matter, as long as God was pleased. He smiled again.
At that moment, ten ballistic missile analyst technicians stood outside ten Colorado silos, identical masks of bliss on their sweat-streaked faces.
The November 1 Launch Control Facility, one and a half mile north of New Raymer, Colorado. July 12, 2003, 15:53
One garage of the vehicle storage building stood open. Inside, a man in army fatigues rooted through a Humvee's guts, pausing from time to time to swipe an oil-stained sleeve across his forehead. If he had looked up at that moment, he would have seen the air ripple above the road, as it sometimes did on hot midsummer days. But it was neither wind nor heat haze that moved across the cracked asphalt. A small group of people under invisibility cloaks marched silently between November 1's stretchy vinyl-sided bungalows.
They entered the facility's main building through a rippling hole in the eastern wall. As the last one emerged inside, the wall reformed itself smoothly, down to the last errant speck of dust. The soldiers in the rec room, whose backs were turned to that wall as they watched television, noticed nothing: there were no windows or doors in that end of the building, no chance of quiet intrusion. A burst of laughter from the television followed the cloaked men as they passed the soldiers.
An elevator took the intruders underground, and a sinister mural greeted them as they stepped out into the tunnel junction: a pale man in dark robes with a missile in his beringed fingers, grinning without remorse, his hooked nose like a falcon's beak. One of the men started at the mural, but his companions hustled him away through the tunnel, past white walls with consoles and teetering stacks of emergency food rations. The smell down here was empty, deathly.
A peace sign adorned the launch control capsule's blast door. Below it, block letters proclaimed that PEACE IS BEST MEASURED IN MEGATONS. As the men approached, the door swung outwards with a groan, revealing a tiny room chock-a-block with humming equipment. In the two chairs by the main consoles, officers sat with their eyes trained, doglike, upon the hooded man in front of them.
"Took you long enough," the man shouted over the mechanical din.
The new arrivals removed their invisibility cloaks, but they, too, wore hoods. "There isn't much time," said the leader of the group. "This," -- he waved at the white consoles -- "will send information to the Muggle government whether we want it to or not."
The two officers perked up, both nodding eagerly as their God told them what to do. One of them unlocked a small red safe and retrieved two keys, handing one to his companion. They stepped to two consoles twelve feet apart and inserted the keys.
"Ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... one... launch."
The keys turned in unison, but nothing happened until a radio erupted in static and squawked, "November 2, confirming missile launch."
Thirty miles away, November 2's combat crew wore slack-jawed expressions, too. No launch could be completed without at least two facilities performing the same procedure.
One of the screens began to flash with LAUNCH IN PROCESS.
Missile silo N-8, nine miles west of New Raymer, Colorado. July 12, 2003, 16:01
Explosive gas generators pushed open the launch doors covering the silo. A large smoke ring rose into the air, and the missile blasted out. Its upper umbilical cable severed, and the first stage rocket motor roared to life. It was a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, carrying a single nuclear warhead with a yield equivalent to three hundred and thirty kilotons of TNT. Forty-nine armed Minutemen called the plains beneath north-eastern Colorado home. Ten of them had just erupted from the earth and now headed skyward, already turning gently towards their targets.
NORAD - Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, Colorado. July 12, 2003, 16:03
A silent chill enveloped the control room for a full minute before disintegrating into muffled oaths, barked orders, and the frantic clattering of many fingers on keyboards.
"Ten Minutemen are airborne, sir. A November 1-2 launch."
"Where in the hell are they going?" The commander sounded as though asking about the hi-jinks of teenage hooligans. Sweat shone on his forehead.
"November 1, respond. November 1, respond. Over."
"Britain, sir. Ground zero coordinates show London, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Liverpool, and Bristol."
"November 2, respond. November 2, respond. Over."
"Those are not pre-approved targets-- they have not been coded--"
"November 1 is silent. November 2 is silent."
"Looks like someone reloaded the hardware, sir."
"Self-destruct won't engage. The MGS is cut off. We can't redirect any of them, sir."
"Distress call from November 1, coded."
"Twenty-eight minutes to impact, sir."
The Department of Mysteries, Ministry of Magic, London. July 12, 2003, 23:10
Hermione Granger sat with her head propped in her hands, eyelids drooping, when the Transsieve -- a device she'd been testing that would intercept and translate the coded messages of the Muggle military -- exploded in terrified squawks.
"--interceptors have shot down three but we can't get them all. I repeat--"
"--the EMP wiped out the East Coast power lines--"
"--terrorist alert, we are going to DEFCON 2--"
"--RAF Fylingdales. NORAD alert of seven ICBMs headed for UK cities--"
Blinking, Hermione stared at the Transsieve. ICBMs? Weren't those nuclear bombs?
"--their pants down. Launch fighters, alert the Prime Minister--"
"--four launch crew officers are down--"
"--twenty-one minutes to impact--"
"Oh my God," breathed Hermione.
Kingsley Shacklebolt's residence, Baker Street, London. July 12, 2003, 23:15
"Minister, there's an emergency."
"H-Hermione?" Kingsley groped for his wand as the silvery otter went on. What was that infernal noise outside his window?
"The Muggles have started a nuclear war. Am waiting in your office."
"What?" But the Patronus vanished.
Nuclear war? Suddenly, the source of the shrieks outside became obvious. Air raid sirens. Still in his pyjamas, Kingsley Apparated into his office. Hermione stood by his desk, gripping the edges of it with both hands. Harry Potter paced the floor behind her, horror etched upon his face.
"What happened?" asked Kingsley.
"There isn't much time, sir," said Hermione. "From what I could piece together, the missiles were launched without prior orders from the US government, and someone had reset their... uh... hardware to make them come here instead of Russia. I thought the Muggles had done it, but they couldn't have. The launch crews are dead. They're all awfully confused, but one report made me think of the Imperius Curse--"
Behind her, Harry made a strangled noise and resumed pacing.
Hermione went on. "The Muggles have destroyed six of them, but four are still coming and they're too close."
Kingsley sagged in the chair. "There's only one thing we can do."
He pulled out the bottom left drawer of his desk.
Various wizarding households, Great Britain. July 12, 2003, 23:21
"This is the Minister for Magic. There has been a Priority Nine attack on the Muggle population of Britain. There are powerful bombs heading for London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Newcastle."
The voice boomed from the walls, and shocked wizards and witches scrambled out of beds, looking for wands, shouting for loved ones.
"All overage wizards and witches are to Apparate to the nearest affected city immediately and cast Shield Charms as high and wide as your magical ability will allow. No anti-Muggle precautions are necessary. This is Priority Nine. You have eight minutes to comply."
Ground Zero, various locales. July 12, 2003, 23:25
"Protego!" cried Neville Longbottom, arm thrust so high it hurt. Beside him, ten seventh-years stood firm, wands aloft. They had Apparated to the outskirts of Edinburgh seconds ago. Five other Hogwarts groups were spread through the city.
From a nearby house, Kingsley's voice bellowed, "You have four minutes to comply," and then fell silent. A shrieking fire engine roared past, and a Muggle who'd been trying to pull out of his drive slammed on his car's brakes. The high-pitched scraping sound made Neville's spine and jaw tingle.
"The Minister's probably gone out to cast his own charm," said Neville, willing his voice not to shake. Bombs! Muggles were fleeing in all directions, clutching children and possessions.
"Will this work, sir?" asked one of the students, a round-faced Slytherin boy.
Neville gave him a firm nod. "It must."
Glasgow's Hit Wizards Apparated across the city in short bursts, guiding the witches and wizards to positions that would spread the Shield Charms out as far as possible. The goal was to make a Shield Dome around the city, high enough to rise above the sky, to prevent the worst of the bomb's inevitable detonation from reaching the people below.
"If only we could link our magic somehow," murmured Millicent Bulstrode as she stood with her wand raised, watching the scurrying Muggles with some interest. "I suppose they'll know all about us now," she added under her breath. Hit Wizards were exempt from the Minister's Priority Nine order, because someone needed to oversee the formation of the Shield Dome. But the Obliviators, Millicent included, would cast only Shield Charms tonight.
Patrick Vaisey was not going to stand around with his wand in the air like an idiot, thank you very much.
He didn't want to be obliterated by crude Muggle weaponry any more than the next wizard, but what was with this standing business, really? It wasn't as though he needed to stand in order to cast an effective Shield Charm. He sat on the back of a stone lion in Leazes Park, wand trained on the dark canopy of leaves above. There were several other wizards and witches about, but Patrick hadn't recognised any of them. No one important ever came to Newcastle, not even on the eve of total annihilation.
Naturally, he'd not bothered to approach the others. Besides, if this bomb thing got through the Shield Dome, it would be every wizard for himself. Patrick didn't have any real idea of what the bomb could do, but from the terrified way the Muggles leaped about, it was probably dreadful. Mustering the last of his concentration, he raised his Shield Charm just a little higher and waited.
"Blimey, Hermione," said Ron. "Remind me never to complain about your late hours again."
Hermione gave him a tight smile and squeezed his wand-free hand. She, Harry, and Ron stood back to back, maintaining their Shield Charms, watching the skies. A Hit Wizard appeared, directed them to move their wands just so for more area coverage, and Disapparated. A Muggle onlooker fainted.
"This is going to be a right mess," muttered Harry. The onlooker's wife fell to her knees and started to shake him, casting suspicious glances in the three friends' direction.
"What?" asked Ron, who hadn't noticed the Muggle collapse. It was a wonder he'd even heard Harry's mutter over the air raid sirens.
"The Muggles," began Harry, but could not finish. A great boom came from far above, rolling across the sky in shuddering gasps. A moment later, all the lights winked out, and the sirens stopped, plunging the city into an eerie, wheezing silence.
The Transsieve at Hermione's belt gave a great burst of static, then another, as though someone clearing a throat before a long speech.
"--destroyed! People in the streets with... sticks, sir--"
"--the EMP. Power loss--"
"--talking about something called a Shield Dome, but--"
"--don't understand, the fighters weren't even in range--"
"--copy that, Delta Four--"
Hermione lowered her wand and gave a weary sigh. "Now comes the hard part," she whispered.
Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, London. July 13, 2003, 17:37
Hermione stood very still in the middle of the drawing room. "Everything's going to change now, isn't it?" She'd already said that twice before, but neither Harry nor Ron felt the need to point it out. The idea of what they'd done, the enormity of it, was simply too much to process at once.
Harry touched Hermione's arm and pointed to the television, where Kingsley floundered in a sea of reporters.
"I think it's important that I clarify one thing," said Kingsley. "We are the only wizarding community on the planet. There are no others." His dark eyes gazed straight at the camera, and there was no doubting his sincerity.
"But he's lying," said Harry, half to himself.
"Article XVII," replied Hermione in the patient tones of a household appliance. "We've compromised ourselves out of necessity. Now we must do all we can to protect the global wizarding population from discovery--"
"Kingsley can do what he wants," interrupted Harry. "I'm going to America."
Hermione and Ron gaped at him. "America?" they said in unison.
"A witch or wizard was behind those bombs," said Harry. "Maybe a whole group of them." He had been able to think of little else since he'd got the news: Muggle soldiers, Imperiused and forced to start wars. Unfathomable. "We have to find them before they try it again."
"But we can't reveal that there are wizards in America," protested Hermione. "Kingsley's trying to convince the Muggles that there had been an escape from Azkaban. Naturally, we'll be investigating, but--"
Harry's sharp glance made her fall silent. "We don't need to convince them of anything. Why would American wizards attack the UK?"
"I... can't think of a reason, actually," said Hermione, frowning. "We've never had anything but good relations with them. If anything, it's Russia they'd..." She trailed off, her mouth still open as she gazed at Harry. "You don't think Death Eaters had anything to do with this, do you, Harry?"
"I think they had everything to do with it," said Harry. "Think about it," he said, turning to Ron. "The Muggles have had these bombs for decades. If wizards wanted to cause a nuclear war, we could have done a long time ago. Why now? Why here?"
"Revenge," said Ron.
Hermione's mouth still bore a sceptical twist. "Why would they go all the way to America? There are nuclear bombs here, too. Why didn't they use them? Why didn't they go to Russia? It's closer."
"Misdirection?" suggested Ron.
Harry shook his head. "The Ministry protects the UK nuclear arsenal. The Muggles don't know it, of course." Hermione didn't have the necessary security clearance to know that, but Harry thought she'd have it soon enough, after what had just happened. If it hadn't been for her... "I have no doubt the Russian wizards protect theirs, too. We never knew if the American wizards protected theirs by magic. I suppose now we do."
Hermione sank down onto the sofa, mouthing "protected" to herself.
"Why would Death Eaters do something like this, though?" asked Ron, rising. "We know who they all are, don't we?"
"We'd have to prove it was them first," said Hermione. "And we can't afford to send anyone out right now. We broke the Statute of Secrecy, and Kingsley's going to need everyone on deck..."
"I'm going," interrupted Harry. "Whether Kingsley likes it or not. My job is to catch Dark wizards, not to soothe Muggle anxieties."
"You're talking as if Kingsley's already forbidden you to go," said Hermione. "Shouldn't you talk to him first?"
Harry sighed. "I suppose. But the trail will grow colder the longer I wait." He scowled at the reporters on television. "And talking to Kingsley is a bit of a job, in case you haven't noticed."
"Hold on," said Ron. "What makes you so sure the Muggles hadn't done this? These were Muggle bombs, after all."
"If the American Muggles had done it," said Hermione very patiently, "Do you think they'd have bothered to warn the Muggles here?" Ron didn't reply, and she went on. "It was all done quietly until it was too late, but that's impossible through Muggle means. There are hundreds of checks and balances to prevent accidents and sabotage. The only thing the Muggles can't defend against is magic."
"The Imperius Curse," said Harry, fury roiling in his stomach like poisonous snakes. "No Muggle can withstand it."
Hermione nodded. "They Imperiused the Muggles they needed to make it happen, and killed them afterwards. It's the only explanation that makes any sense."
"But the Death Eaters have never had any respect for Muggles," Ron protested. "Why would they use Muggle weaponry against wizards?"
"Well, they must've wised up," said Hermione. "Figured out that they could use the Muggles instead of simply killing them. We need to find out how they went about it."
"It'll be a walk in the park," said Harry, grimacing. "I'll just follow the dead bodies."