Faery Heroes

Response to Paladeus's challenge "Champions of Lilith". Harry, Hermione, and Luna get a chance to travel back in time and prevent the hell that England became under Voldemort's rule, and maybe line their pockets while they're at it. Lunar Harmony; plenty of innuendo, dark humor, some bashing included; manipulative!Dumbles; jerk!Snape; bad!Molly, Ron, Ginny



29. The Grass isn't Always Greener

"Can we take these things off now?"

"Sorry, Harry. Just a little further."

The raven-haired teen sighed as he once again wished the blindfold wrapped around his head would spontaneously vanish itself; Luna was enjoying this far too much. It was finally Saturday, and that meant it was time to take on their first 'live' heist. All that was certain was that robbing the Greengrasses blind was going to be much, much different from picking through the empty houses of dead or imprisoned Death Eaters.

His stomach was fluttering in a way it hadn't since the morning before his first-ever Quidditch match.

Beside him, Hermione sighed. "Couldn't you have waited to put these on us until we were closer to the room you've been using?"

"Oh, poor, silly Mione." The tugging on their hands disappeared, indicating that Luna had stopped in her tracks. "Wherever would be the fun in that?"

"You've been dragging us since we left the Room! That is on the seventh floor; we're on, what, the third now?"

"First, actually. And we're here!" Luna quickly added at Hermione's growl. The hands wrapped around their own were suddenly gone, and a squeak signaled a door opening. "Now, walk forwards."

One, two, thr— and a sudden impact with something solid caused him to fall hard to the floor. The consequent giggling did not make him feel any better.

"No, Harry, that's a wall. Get up, take a big step to your left, and try again."

A second attempt had him inside the room, though that had not stopped Luna's laughter. "Okay, you two can take off the blindfolds."

He did so with no small amount of relief and blinked in surprise at the outfits clothing three manikins labeled with their names. These were not the robes he had been half-expecting. Instead, the Ravenclaw's creations looked very much like catsuits, leaving only the manikins' heads and hands uncovered by the dark-dyed…

"Leather?" he asked in surprise. "Not that I'm saying I won't enjoy watching you two girls move around in these, but I thought we had decided to wear outfits made from Acromantula silk for their magical resistance."

"We did, but I realized when I started designing them that silk is just a bad material for protective garb, no matter how resistant it is. The original plan would have dampened the effects of curses, certainly, but the first banished object to hit it would have torn it to shreds, and then we'd be screwed. Leather, on the other hand, is lightweight, provides decent protection from moderate physical blows, and can be replaced at a much lower cost than the silk lining it. It's also easy to charm for temperature regulation to keep us cool when we're inside and warm when we're outside breaking wards in the middle of winter. It was this or we take a break from our heists for a few months; I don't know about the two of you, but I'm not going to stand around in knee-deep snow and freeze my baps off."

He stepped closer to better examine the disguises. Pouched belts wrapped around their waists, and a quick check involving opening one of them and sticking his entire arm down it proved that they were charmed with space-extension like the sacks the trio had been using before now. Hermione had approached with him, but she was fingering the hood attached to her suit. "Preventing anyone from seeing what our hair looks like is a good idea, but how do we keep them from remembering our faces and body shapes? We don't look quite like adults just yet, and tipping the DMLE off that the Hooded Foxes are students would make all this a moot point."

"Excellent points," Luna replied, picking up a small bag from behind an overturned table. "If I may address the second first, I spent some of my downtime in Siberia tinkering around with the notice-me-not charm. While it would keep anyone from spotting us on the outset, I quickly realized that not only would it make it difficult to find each other, but casting it on ourselves and then making a big enough disturbance to attract people's attention would cause them to look hard enough that they would eventually see through it. However, if they can see us just fine, they'll be too busy with the thought that they're being robbed and their attempts to catch us to pay too much attention to our figures. When they try to describe us to the Ministry investigators, their minds will fill in the details with their preconceived notions, and who honestly expects three teenagers to be master thieves? Originally, I considered that we might wear cloaks, but those have a bad habit of getting in the way at the worst possible time. All that said, I'd much rather that we not put my theory to the test.

"The 'hiding our faces' problem was actually easier to take care of, and a whole lot more fun as well." She reached into the bag and pulled out a dark red mask that was shaped like a fox head and was large enough to cover the entire face. Passing it to Hermione, she explained, "They have sticking charms to attach them to your skin and anti-summoning charms to keep people from magicking them off. That's not the best part, though. Remember when I said I wanted to try something my spell-crafting Master had mentioned? Well, at one time he lectured about how working through our calculations may lead us to unusual spells that have nothing to do with the problem we're trying to solve. He gave a couple of examples, but the one that really stuck with me was a self-enchanting spell."

The brunette pulled her eyes from their examination of the mask. "I'm sorry, did you just say self-enchanting? How in Merlin's name does that work?"

"The spell gives the material it is cast on a… memory, for lack of a better word, for other charms laid on it. The more often you use one particular spell, the better it will 'stick', until that magic is so familiar that it eventually binds with a containment rune cluster etched on the object to turn it into a quick-and-dirty enchantment." She smiled at their shocked expressions. "Wicked, right? I put eight of those clusters on the masks, though I already filled three up with that enchantment and the other two I mentioned, so it can learn five more. That should be enough to let us customize them to our hearts' content, not to mention make them much more valuable in the field. I thought about doing the same to our outfits, but I was worried that too many spells would overwhelm the Acromantula silk and take away that level of protection."

"How do we keep track of whose mask is whose?" Harry asked. His younger lover was spot on in how useful these would be, and he already had a good idea of his first two enchantments: the passive magesight he normally put on his glasses and a charm to render his voice unrecognizable. Perhaps a supersensory charm would make a good third, though the side-effects from using that spell for long periods left him cautious. Constantly mixing the masks would defeat the purpose and was therefore something he wanted to avoid.

Luna reached into her bag again and pulled out two other masks; these, however, were blue and yellow. "Three thieves, three masks, three colors. I'm going to let the two of you fight over the Gryffindor masks while I claim the blue one. This also means we won't have to ruin our disguises by calling each other by our real names, instead we just use our colors."

"You really outdid yourself, dear," Hermione said as she wrapped the girl in a loose hug. "We need to be moving soon, though. Dobby's notes said both Greengrass parents were going to be out of the house from ten to one today, and it's already half past nine. Show us how to put these disguises and masks on so we can get to work."

With a nod, she put the masks in her hands on a nearby desk. "It's simple enough. Step one: strip." She flushed at their questioning looks. "When I started working on these, I was going by the measurements I took from pensieve memories of us naked so they wouldn't be too loose. Instead, I think I made them a little on the tight side. We might have some trouble getting them on and off at first, but it's nothing a quick lubricating charm can't fix."

She wasn't kidding about how tight this outfit is, Harry reflected as he dampened the open ward struggling valiantly to alert the homeowners to the presence of intruders on their property. If I didn't know better, I'd think she painted it on me. That's not necessarily a negative, though; this way, there's no material billowing out to catch on things, and the thin gloves sticking to us like a second skin means they don't diminish our dexterity. It could definitely be worse.

I'm just glad she made the crotch area looser than the rest. This would be torture otherwise.

"And down," said blonde sighed in relief, and this time he managed to suppress the urge to glance over at the strange voice. "Double-check me if you would, Yellow."

Hermione nodded, her wandtip slipped inside her hood. "I see the same. Red, I'm going to need you to set up the wardtap. This next one's going to be interesting."

"What is it?"

"I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but I think it prevents anyone with 'impure' blood from passing through it."

He stopped as he was about to push the tap into the ground and turned his head towards her. "Seriously? Didn't you say that your attending Healer proved to all of you early on in your studies that there was no magical difference in blood, no matter what your social status? I'd think that would prevent this ward from working."

"So would I, but I'd also rather not test that theory and be proven wrong, especially since it's been stressed and rigged to a dark ward that would flay all our skin off."

He sighed and proceeded with her directions. Only the Potter family had figured out a means of linking open and closed wards so the defenses would activate under specific circumstances, but that had not stopped others from trying to duplicate the feat. Ward stressing was one common — if perilous — method that involved setting up two closed wards so that a prohibitory ward inhibited a second, generally lethal defense. The first barrier was then weakened by careful defacement of the relevant runes on the wardstone. This meant that the ward could no longer fulfill its intended purpose, but would instead collapse when its internal condition, such as the absence of halfbloods and Muggleborns, was violated, which in turn would allow the following ward to activate and harm the transgressors.

For the trio, however, this was little more troublesome than if the skin-melting ward had been left on its own. Rigging the shields like the Greengrasses had tied them together so closely that draining one would simultaneously power down the second. Harry shoved the tap and their static amplifier into the ground where his own magesight showed the barriers ending. A muttered "Epoto" soon had the magic swirling back into the earth.

Several minutes passed in silence, though Harry had to restart the draining process a few times when the ward developed visible cracks in its pink surface. Finally, Hermione waved him to stop. "That's as far as we can safely take it, I think; I'd rather not keep going and risk that ward collapsing with us next to it. Could one of you make a thick wall we can bunker down behind?" She began flicking her wand in sharp, harsh movements, all the while stepping backwards until she circled around the stone fortification the other two had conjured and reinforced. With a long stroke downwards like dropping a hammer on top of the house, she leveled her wand and cried, "Confringissimo!"

She dropped to the dirt the instant the deep yellow spell left her wand, and Harry and Luna were a scant moment behind her. They may not have been able to see what she had done, but they certainly heard it; loud groans and bangs erupted from the ward until a flash of light informed them that it was down.

"Merlin's soggy socks! What was that?!"

Hermione panted for a bit before answering the blonde. "Chain blasting curse. I read about it in a book on siege magic you stole from the Lestranges. It took a bit more effort than I expected."

"Next time, please don't try out a new spell like that without giving us a heads-up beforehand," Luna politely demanded. She popped her head over the now-crumbling top of the barricade and examined the defenses with active magesight. "Well, no matter how startling it was, it certainly worked. Go ahead and rest. There's a portkey ward and maybe one more behind that. Red, will you stick around with her?"

"Not a problem, Blue."

"I told you, it's Ultramarine. What is it with boys not knowing their colors?" Shaking her head, the youngest of the three drew a set of wardpicks from one of her pouches and walked towards the house.

He, too, could use a break to catch his breath; the wardtap was a hungry beast, and the magic sucked from the wards was not enough to sate it. From now on, we need to carry something sugary with us for quick boosts. A few seconds later, Luna returned and dropped between them. "Animagus-detecting ward," she explained, and he nodded wearily. This open ward would be quick to get rid of, but it still meant draping a net on top of it to keep it quiet while they neutralized it.

Fifteen minutes later, they were standing safely in front of the entrance to the Greengrasses' mansion. This family clearly took their security seriously, as the door was charmed as much as the wood could handle so as to resist most of the simpler ways of demolishing it. Unfortunately for them, and for reasons none of the trio could fathom, they had forgotten to protect if from the simple unlocking charm taught to first-years in Hogwarts. With a group nod, they split up to begin their ransacking.

Harry had drawn the ground story when they plucked their floors from a hat, and so he started in the formal dining room. He lifted a fork from the table and tapped it with his wand. "Materia revelio." He smiled behind his mask at the word displayed in smoke; they had found that it was less irritating and more profitable simply to melt down anything gold and silver and then sell the metal than to argue with pawnshop owners that something, such as a sterling silver utensil set, was the real McCoy and not a cheap knock-off. A quick gesture had all of the precious metal as well as the plates and crystal goblets summoned into a pouch, and the twenty-place table as well as the chairs and surrounding cabinets soon found themselves shrunken and stored in their new, temporary homes within another. There were no portraits in here, but a firebird volley hex quickly immolated those in the corridor to the kitchen.

Working his way through the house, he eventually entered the Lord Greengrass's study. He pulled drawers out of the rolltop desk the man owned and rifled through all his papers, but other than a well-worn signet ring, he did not find anything with immediate monetary value, especially not the vault key he had been searching for. "Blue, Yellow, their Gringotts key is still in the wind. They might have taken it with them, but keep an eye out for it anyway."

"Understood," they both replied, their distorted voices becoming more recognizable the more they spoke.

His exploration led him next door to a public sitting room; at least, that was what it felt like thanks to the uncomfortable-looking furniture and generally impersonal atmosphere. He glanced about the room, and his curiosity was piqued by the lone photograph on the mantel of the fireplace. Stepping closer to inspect it more closely, he finally noticed what had seemed so strange after seeing so many Pureblood family photos. Of the four people it depicted, he recognized the patriarch and David on sight, and he guessed that the stern woman behind the boy was the lady of the house. The final member, however, was a girl who was at most in her early teens. Where her family was sitting so stiffly that Harry would have been unsure if this image was animated at all were it not for the film of sepia magic covering the photo, she constantly fidgeted, rolling her eyes when the hand her father was resting on her shoulder tightened in subtle admonishment. As if she could notice him looking at her, the picture girl met his eyes and smiled faintly before the expression was wiped away by another rebuke.

This was the first sign of honest happiness he had observed in a proudly Pureblood house since the trio had started their raids, and to see her being chastised for daring to show it lit a fire in his belly. It reminded him far too much of how the Dursleys had tried to remake him into a subservient automaton during the ten years he had spent in their 'care'.

"Here you are, you sneaky little bugger! This is Ultramarine; I just found the vault key."

His mouth moved almost before he realized he was speaking. "Do either of you remember anything about a younger daughter?"

"Vaguely," Hermione answered after a moment. "I think her name was Astoria? All I know for sure is that when the Slytherins cut and ran before the Battle of Hogwarts, she hid until the fight started and joined in. The only reason I remember her at all is that I was shocked to find the body of a fifth-year in green trim lying next to Colin's. Why do you ask?"

"Because I'm looking at a photo of her right now, and I'm not sure she deserves pauperdom even though the rest of her family does." Wizarding photographs captured not just a person's image, but also a shadow of their personality. Try as he might, he could not prevent this cheerful child from tugging on his heartstrings. "Was she a bully like her older sibling?"

Daphne had spent all her time in public orbiting Parkinson, and though David did not, he was part of Theodore Nott's crew alongside Blaise Zabini. The Nott scion might not have ever gone out of his way to antagonize Harry the way Malfoy did, but he took just as much enjoyment out of harassing Muggleborns. If she were a devotee to the Pureblood cause like the elder Greengrass who had simply recognized that Voldemort was a madman, he would have no problem in continuing the heist as planned. On the other hand, if she were not…

"Not to my knowledge," Luna replied. "I can't tell you for sure that she wasn't, but the other Slytherin girls in her year didn't mind causing me trouble, regardless that I was a year above them, so I kept an eye out. I never saw her with them, and I think I've seen even less of her in this timeline."

Harry sighed; so much for the easy solution. The question now became what should they do about it? Leaving the Greengrasses their cash would allow for her continued care, but that also left resources to one of Death Eaters' biggest backers. Stealing all their wealth would silence this voice of the Pureblood movement, but it would do so at Astoria's expense.

Was the sadness of one little girl worth the Greater Good?

He returned to the study and rummaged around until he located a ledger. Flipping rapidly through the pages, he glanced at the current balance. "They have thirty-five thousand galleons in liquid assets as of a week ago. Appraising our goods for market value rather than what we will receive from pawn shops, do either of you predict them having the money to throw around and cause trouble after replacing their belongings?"

"I doubt it," Luna answered. "Unless they're okay with living with much less palatial decorations than they have right now, their account won't pay for all this. Even shopping secondhand might not stretch it far enough to replace everything immediately."

With a sigh, he closed the account book. "Then we won't be visiting Gringotts after this. I want to leave them a message, anyway." He glanced at the clock sitting on one of the desk's shelves before bagging it. "It's eleven-thirty. Let's wrap this up so we can get back before lunch."

"That hungry, are you?"

"No, Yellow, just want to make sure we have at least a weak alibi."

They met in the front foyer, and Luna conjured their mark before handing him the key. He touched it against the wall and glued it there with a sticking charm. Carefully writing his message with flame in the air in a different handwriting than his usual scrawl, he pushed the words into the wall below the key and let them burn for a moment. "There, that should do it. Do you think they'll listen?"

Hermione shrugged. "Considering their house is practically empty? They would be stupid not to. I went back to the girl's room to leave her her diary, gemstone collection, autographed Appleby Arrows poster, anything that looked like it held personal value, but she's still missing a lot."

"You did your best, though," Luna said, wrapping her arms around their shoulders. "We came to rob them, and we did. That we moderated our actions so she suffers less is a good thing. Who knows? Maybe she'll look back on this day and remember that it was when her family changed their ways and her whole life turned around."

"I'll settle for not making an enemy out of her," Harry commented softly.

As the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Amelia Bones was rarely called to the scene of a crime. Along with Dementors Kissing the Potter boy's Muggle relatives — as he had told her rather emphatically at the time that they were not his family — this made twice in as many months, much more than normal. Getting out of the office and keeping her investigative skills polished almost made up for the wagonload of parchmentwork that would inevitably follow.

She noticed the crimson cloaks and strode towards her Aurors. "Shacklebolt, Tonks. Report."

"Madam Bones," greeted the large Africa-born wizard. "We received a floo call from Lord Cyrus Greengrass at 1:12 this afternoon, during which he told Cadet Thompson that his house had been robbed. This information was forwarded to the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol as there was no indication that the situation involved dark magic or wizards. At 1:25, Senior Patrolman Rogers requested that a team be deployed to the scene. Auror Tonks and I arrived at 1:27 and, seeing what had Rogers so troubled, sent for you."

She sighed. Kingsley was one of her best; if he thought she needed to be present, this was certainly going to be interesting, though likely not in a good way. A wave of her hand had the two Aurors leading her into the entrance hall of the mansion, and she immediately realized the problem. "That mark… Shack, you were the one who was called to the Rookwood murder-robbery as well, correct?"

"I was. The image is identical, but the message is new." She knelt to better read the words burned into the wall below the grinning fox head and key.

It is only for your daughter's sake
That you were given a second chance.
Pure blood cannot wash away
The murders your money bought.

Do not make the same mistake twice.

Bloody hell, she thought. This guy is willing to call Greengrass out for his 'alleged' role in funding the Death Eaters during the war, then threatens to come back and finish the job? He's got guts, I'll give him that. No brains, but guts a-plenty. "A house like this is certain to have portraits. Did any of them provide a description of our thief?"

"No, ma'am. All of them had been burned to ash when we arrived."

She looked up at the man. "All of them?"

"Whoever he is, he knows what he's doing. The house was empty, the portraits were destroyed, and the house-elf was found to have been forced into a magical sleep. There are no witnesses whatsoever."

"Damn." I take back the 'no brains' comment. She looked about at the MLEP investigators milling about helplessly. "How did he even get in here? I doubt Greengrass lowered his wards and sent out invitations."

The pink-haired woman piped in helpfully, "He didn't even lower the wards for us. The thief ripped right through them."

"Surely you're joking, Auror Tonks." It was a well-known fact that Greengrass had an intimidating and extremely expensive suite of defenses around his property. For one person to be able to break down wards of that quality like this rather than sneak in some other way implied either a substantial background in curse-breaking or power at Dumbledore's level.

Considering the audacity he had shown, neither of those was a good option.

"I wish she was," Kingsley sighed. "Greengrass refused to let us examine the wardstone at first, but we got a look eventually. So many of the scripts were burned out that the whole stone needs to be replaced; it's nothing more than a crumbling hunk of granite. Coincidentally, he has also been fined 400 galleons for erecting a number of dark magic wards."

She laughed despite herself. "It's a good thing Mr. Fox decided to leave him his key, then." Standing, she gave her people their marching orders. "For now, treat this as the primary crime; the Rookwood robbery might have been just a trial run. Focus on people with a connection to the girl, particularly if they were employed by Gringotts or an independent tomb-raiding team at some point or if they are non-Pureblood. That mark is probably too old by now to lift a magical signature, but check anyway for comparison to the wands of any suspects your interviews point out." She paused before adding, "Also, remind all the MLEP boys to keep their mouths shut around people from the Prophet. The last thing we want is for our fox to bolt like a rabbit."

"What if this wasn't to help the girl?" Tonks asked hesitantly.

"Why would he start out his message like that, then? It's a possibility, I'll admit, but let's wait to see if another house gets hit before we start worrying about it." Because without witnesses or physical evidence, this connection is our only lead. If you're right, we have someone whose movements we won't be able to predict until he has stolen several hundred thousand more galleons worth of property. With that thought, she Apparated back to the Ministry to put another couple of teams on pawn-shop-watching duty.

Somehow, she doubted that even these precautions would be enough.

"You know, we really need to do something nice for Dobby," Luna idly commented a few days later. "If he hadn't put the Greengrasses' elf to sleep and worked in her stead that morning, our heist would have been over before it ever began."

Harry grunted in affirmation as the ward came down. This was a minor thing, so Luna had elected to hang back and let him work on unweaving the building's wards rather than drain them as he had been doing the past few times. He knew the principles, of course, having read several of the same books the girls had; it was mostly practice he was lacking, though a better grounding in runes would certainly be a benefit. "It's open. Let's get what we came for and return to the other target."

They moved quietly inside, and a tap on their masks improved their night-vision. The object they sought was swiftly miniaturized and summoned into one of his pouches. Checking a pocket watch he had purchased secondhand on Saturday afternoon, he noted, "We still have ten minutes before Mione's portkey activates. You think we should grab anything else?"

"May as well. We won't have a second chance, after all."

After a short time filled with silent summoning, Harry asked, "Should we have tried to help the Greengrasses' elf like we did Rookwood's?"

"I don't think it would have worked. It takes a lot of abuse for a house-elf to want to leave her family like Dobby and Floppy did. Most of the actual Death Eaters' elves would appreciate freedom, but the less fanatical supremacists? Their elves would probably prefer the danger they know to the one they don't." Luna sighed and kicked a small table in front of her. "Mione may have chosen the wrong way to go about it, but I can't deny that her heart was in the right place."

Once everything that looked even remotely interesting was in their possession, the duo moved to the door. They glanced outside quickly to verify that the street was still empty, then aimed their wands at one corner.

"Incendio ingens."

"Differretur thirty minutes."

They closed the door behind them and raced down the empty streets, reaching their second destination just in time to see Hermione arrive, spinning like a top through the wards they had demolished earlier in the evening. She staggered to her feet and ripped her mask off her face to take deeper breaths than the unobtrusive slits along the fox's smile would allow. After pushing her nausea down, she glared at her girlfriend. "That was truly awful. From now on, please leave the portkey-making to Harry."

"Fine." The blonde pouted for a moment, not that they could see it through her own mask. "You could at least say you appreciate where it brought you."

The bookworm finally took note of her surroundings, and her mouth dropped open. "Oh, wow. Is this… Are we where I think we are?"

"We are, indeed." In the distance, a bell tolled midnight. Harry walked up to Hermione while removing his own mask and wrapped one arm around her waist. A soft kiss prompted a smile. "Happy birthday, Mione."

"Happy birthday," Luna echoed, her arms suddenly joining his in wrapping around their mutual lover. "Do you like your present?"

She hummed as she pulled out of the embrace. "It's okay, but I think we can make it better. Silencio. Confringo!" A heavy desk exploded and would have peppered them with shrapnel if it weren't for Harry's reflexive shield charm.

"Would a little warning have been too much to ask for? Besides, there are safer ways to demolish this place." he chastised lightly. A twitch of his wand shattered a cheap chair upon its impact with the ceiling. "See? Not nearly as dangerous."

"Not as much fun, either." Luna fiddled with her ebony stick for a moment, then jabbed it at a pair of tables. Bucking wildly, the now-animated furniture raced at each other. It took a few collisions to demolish them properly, but the amusement in watching them stagger about like concussed cows between their runs made up for the delay.

The trio made their way through the building, smashing, blasting, burning, and crushing every object they encountered. By unspoken agreement, they refused to pocket anything unless it was obscenely expensive, such as the diamond paperweight found in the most opulent of the offices. It was a sudden muffled whump — the conflagration Harry had conjured surging into existence now that Luna's delay charm had run its course — that dragged their attention back to the outside world. The blonde glanced about at the destruction they had caused before turning to her companions. "It needs something, some little detail to wrap it all up. I'm just not sure what."

He pondered for a moment before inspiration struck. "How much do we want to brass off Snake-face and his lackeys?" Hermione's raised eyebrow and the hands on his lovers' hips gave him all the answer he needed. "We'll need to move quick, because this will definitely be noticed."

The girls nodded and twisted to prepare for Apparation. After setting alight the kindling they had created, he pointed his acacia wand at the ceiling and shouted, "Reducto! Morsmordre!" Three cracks signaled their departure.

All they left behind was chaos and emerald sparks forming a snake-tongued skull in the sky.

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