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

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8233288/1/Faery-Heroes

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47. Unforeseen Challenges

"Well, bugger," Harry muttered as he put down the Omnioculars. "Pack it up, loves; this is a no-go."

Hermione crept forwards and crouched next to him, the long grass of the hill they were stationed on blocking them from the sight of the people inside the house. "So Dobby was right? The Bulstrodes have a couple of other Death Eaters with them?"

"Oh, I'm sure he was right, but there aren't two extra people there anymore. There are seven thanks to all the Notts."

"That's… irritating," Luna commented from behind them.

"That it is. I had hoped that after the Carrows' misadventure, they'd assume 'safety in numbers' didn't apply here, but it looks like they instead made the right call and decided there simply wasn't enough backup."

"So what are we going to do?" the brunette asked. "Winky noted the same thing about the Crabbes; what's to say the rest haven't done this, too? We're good, but I don't want to try laying siege to a warded house with nine combatants lurking around inside."

He shook his head. "No, that would just be plain suicidal. Maybe we can attack at night, like we did at the Notts' place?"

"We could," Luna allowed, "but I'd feel better if we had him or Winky do surveillance tonight to make sure they aren't emulating the Carrows and sleeping in shifts. If they are, it'd be just as dangerous to attack at night as in the daylight. Of course, if they aren't, we'd have to use a Time Turner to go back long enough for us to get a full night's sleep."

"Either way, there's nothing we can do here and now. Let's go." Tucking the binoculars back into the pouch on his belt, he spun on his heel and felt himself be squeezed through a too-tight tube before appearing in the refurbished study of Potter Manor. Two sharp cracks heralded his lovers' arrival. He did not bother looking at them at the moment, though, instead focusing his attention on the enlarged map of Britain hung on one wall. Scattered across the landmass were push pins correlating to the location of their future targets, each one connected by red string to a sheaf of paper and parchment tacked on the outer edges of the map.

These assorted documents were the results of Dobby and Winky's periods of reconnaissance: the number of people present at their targets' location, types of wards – further descriptions and arithmantic analyses of which were later added by Hermione and Luna – internal layouts when the elves could make them out, the residents' weekly schedules, and anything else the trio could think of that they felt could be helpful. Not for the first time, Harry was a little unnerved by just how much research they had done on these people; in addition to burglary and larceny, he was quite sure they had broken a few laws on stalking and invasion of privacy, too.

Oh, well. If they didn't want us to spend so much time finding a way to get to them, they shouldn't have engaged in rape, torture, and murder. 'What goes around, comes around' and all that.

His blonde partner sidled up beside him and stared a the map for a moment. "I say we just burn them all out. They've nowhere to hide if their houses are ash and ciders."

"Luna!"

"Hermione!" she retorted with a broad grin. "Come on, it isn't like we haven't made enough money already. Where are we; three, four hundred thousand galleons?"

"Closer to four, what with emptying their Gringotts accounts and pawning off all their belongings," he admitted. To be honest, they spent more time selling their accumulated possessions than they did procuring them; they had a bad habit of filling their pouches with everything that was not nailed down, and sometimes even a few things that were, and they did not have a reason or the space to keep all of it. With glamours to allow them to visit the same shops multiple times in a row without arousing suspicion, offloading their ill-gotten gains wasn't difficult, per se, but there was just so much of it that they could not drop it all off at one place.

They had made it a habit to visit what felt like every pawnbroker in England, Scotland, and Wales, and they still had stockpiles of stolen junk lying around!

"See? We don't need any more gold; bloody hell, we have enough that we could live off of it for the rest of our lives and still be able to give each of our kids a hefty inheritance! At this point in the game, the rewards are rapidly being outweighed by the risks," Luna concluded.

Hermione raised a pair of fingers. "Two things. First, we technically don't have four hundred thousand in the bank; I converted about fifty grand to cash and had Dad invest it, so we're down a little gold and up a lot of pounds sterling. Second, you'll have a hard time burning the Death Eaters out of their holes. They all have fireproof enchantments on their properties, remember?"

The blonde paused for a long moment. "Oh, right. That would make things more difficult."

Though he had kept an eye and ear on the girls' back-and-forth, most of Harry's thoughts involved how to get around this newest hurdle. Suddenly, inspiration struck. "Huh. That could work."

"What was that?" the brunette asked. "What could work where?"

"One way to potentially deal with the more concentrated firepower. Dobby."

"Yes, Master Harry?" Dobby said as he popped into the room.

Harry indicated the map. "You and Winky did an excellent job getting us all this information"—the elf swelled with pride at the praise—"but unfortunately, the Death Eaters caught on to our strategy and have moved more people into the houses we haven't hit yet. I need you two to go and get a more recent headcount; take Floppy with you if you need another pair of eyes. Check each property twice a day if you can, noon and dinner, and take note if they change out who's where. We'll look over your results next week."

When the elf snapped his fingers and disappeared, Luna asked, "Are you going to explain just what all that was about?"

"I thought it was fairly obvious," he replied, a wide smile making its way onto his face. "I just recalled that I was made an offer we could take advantage of.

"By the way, do you still have that book?"

Thunder rumbled overhead, and Hermione glanced up from her breakfast to again check the sky as seen through the Great Hall ceiling. All three of the trio had Herbology that Thursday – Luna for first period, and she and Harry for fourth – and it looked like the storm overhead would not be moving on until after the day's classes were done. She sighed; drowning on her way to and from the greenhouses was not how she wanted to spend the afternoon.

Due to the downpour, most of the owls were hiding in the owlery rather than work as couriers, so it was a bit of a surprise to see one of the very few flapping over the assembled students head in her direction. It dropped heavily in front of Luna and shook like a dog to dry itself.

"Poor thing. Who would be so mean as to send you out in this weather?" the blonde cooed as she untied the letter the bird was carrying. Tearing the envelope open and reading the letter enclosed, she continued, "This had better be… What? That's not… Oh, Daddy…"

"What is it?" Hermione asked, beginning to worry as her girlfriend's face grew progressively paler. "Your dad's not hurt, is he?"

"No, no, he's fine. The rest of town, though, maybe not so much." Luna nibbled on her lip for a moment before asking, "Do you recall the cuddlepus you two saw this summer?"

From his place beside her, Harry shuddered. "Do you mean the crime against nature and all that's decent in this world that you had trapped in your basement?" Hermione winced as the memory threatened to rear its ugly head. The creature, monster, thing was terrifying in the most visceral sense, just so inherently wrong that a brief glance had caused her to have nightmares for three nights straight.

"Yes, that one. Apparently it might have, maybe, possibly… gotten loose?"

Harry gaped in disbelief, and she was not in much better shape. "I'm sorry, could… could you repeat that, please? I could have sworn you said there's an eldritch abomination running loose around Ottery St. Catchpole."

"…Yes?"

"What I'd like to know is how the damn thing got out in the first place," he muttered.

Luna blushed. "Well, according to Daddy, he spent last night visiting an old friend of his who only recently reentered the country – he didn't come out and say it, but I'm pretty sure he spent the night with her – and when he went back home, he noticed the front door was smashed apart. At first he thought it was Death Eaters, but all the debris was outside our house, and the only other damage on the ground floor was to the trapdoor. All the bear traps we had set up had gone off, and the room we kept the cuddlepus inside was empty, so now Daddy's trying to figure out where it went and wrote to say that he wouldn't mind me, and you two if you want, going back home for a bit to help. We could do that, right?"

"No offense to you or Xeno, love, but I'm really not seeing a reason we need to take care of this ourselves," Harry commented. "Call in the Regulation of Magical Creatures to recapture the thing. That'd be easier than us worrying about it."

"Ah, yes, well…" The youngest of the trio looked down at the table and muttered, "We kind of can't do that."

"And why, pray tell, is that?"

Luna looked up at her question. "Because Josephine Whately, the friend Daddy got the cuddlepus from in the first place, has been a persona non grata in Britain ever since she was caught arranging the sale of a breeding pair of Albino Penguins a few years back. If they found out that he's in contact with her and that she's whom it belongs to, they'd label it a dark creature and then arrest him for keeping it."

"Not that anyone with any sense couldn't tell it's a dark creature all on his own," Harry muttered. "How bad would things be if we didn't get involved and it took him a while longer to find the thing."

Luna handed Xeno's letter over.

"Let's see… Special wards in place, psychic emanations, night terrors, longer exposure leads to insanity and homicidal mania?!" His eyes shot up to stare at Luna. "And you were keeping it in your house?"

"Daddy knows what he's doing with creature-related wards, and we only learned about what all it could do during the Christmas holidays," the blonde huffed.

He turned back to the letter. "Carnivorous, predatory, main prey theorized to be humans – because why not – implicated in the disappearance of hikers who entered their territory. No, this thing most certainly needs to be studied and protected. Luna, I know your dad has a problem with the Ministry, but in this instance I think they have a very valid point. This Whately woman sounds like a menace, and this thing is way too dangerous to be studying close to a town. Or near any living thing, really."

"All the more reason for us to take care of it quickly, don't you think?" Luna glanced at Harry and Hermione for a few seconds. "Please? I know Daddy agreeing to this was a bad idea in hindsight, but that doesn't do anything about the problem we have right now."

The eldest of their little family grimaced as she weighed their available options, few of them that there were. "How long is it supposed to take for the cuddlepus to start having an effect on people nearby?"

"We didn't test that, and according to Daddy, Whately was less than entirely forthcoming on that point." Luna shrugged weakly. "Maybe a couple of days for the effects to start, a week before everyone starts hacking away at each other?"

"And of course there'd be some hard time limit," Harry muttered.

"I'm going to help Daddy anyway, but would you two please, please come, too?"

Hermione looked up again at the sky. "I suppose it'd be dry, at least. That's some benefit."

"Well, this is cheery," Harry muttered darkly as he and his lovers walked side by side through the path of broken limbs and crushed bushes that ran through the woods next to the little hamlet of Ottery St. Catchpole. Classes at Hogwarts were boring, no mistake about that, but he would much rather sit in the castle being lectured about spells he already knew than traipse around a dark forest hunting some lethal monstrosity. "Why does you dad need help if the cuddlepus leaves tracks this wide?"

Luna shrugged. "That is a very good question."

"With a very bad answer," came a voice from behind them. They leapt and whirled around, coming face to face with the very man they had been searching for. "Why are we stopping? Come along."

They shared unamused glances and followed the wizard in his tie-dyed robes as he led them to a small clearing. In the middle was a puddle of green goo, still glowing faintly. "This is as far as I could manage to track it. If you look," he pointed to a number of wide trails running away from them, "you can see why things got more difficult. I'm not sure which path the cuddlepus took, or if it took none or all of them."

"What do you mean, 'all of them'?" Hermione demanded.

Xeno gestured again. "None of these paths are as wide as the one we just walked down. Josephine mentioned to me that there was some debate over how a creature without noticeable sexual organs would be capable of reproduction, and the idea that it could split apart into multiple entities that would then be capable of further growth cannot be ruled out."

"So there could now be lots of nightmare-inducing terrors running around?" Harry summed up. "Fantastic."

"Oh, I quite agree. A most fascinating species," Xeno said with a nod, totally oblivious to the sarcasm dripping from the time-traveler's words. "Unfortunately, it would just be unneighborly to let the cuddlepuses – cuddlepi? – prey on the Muggles in town. Luna, did you bring your broom like I asked you?" Suiting words to actions, he unshrunk a broom he pulled from his pocket and looked at her expectantly.

"Daddy, you know I don't own one." She removed a thin object from her own pocket and enlarged it into Harry's Firebolt. "So you should be very glad that my boyfriend doesn't mind me riding his broomstick whenever I want."

The eccentric wizard nodded. "Just so long as you're staying safe."

"Of course, Daddy. I talked with Madam Pomfrey, and she made sure I knew the appropriate charms. She doesn't like it when people come to her after a tumble because they weren't thinking ahead. Why, she told me one girl didn't listen to her and suffered the same accident three times before finally deciding to use protection."

"Most unfortunate," Xeno agreed before sighing wistfully. "Oh, if only your mother were still alive. She would have made sure you knew everything she could teach you on the subject. Why, there was nothing she loved more than spending a lazy Sunday afternoon riding my broom."

For some reason, I don't think they're talking about flying anymore. Harry coughed to regain the Lovegoods' attention. "While that information is… good to know, we really should be getting on with the search, don't you think?"

"Good point, Harry. Yes, we should. I'll take the path that leads towards town," Xeno said, pointing out the route in question. "As the one who knows most about the cuddlepus, I'm the best equipped to deal with it should it go after other people. Luna showed you both the basement, yes?" Harry and Hermione nodded. "I took the portkey wards down for the day, so when you find it, just tag it with one and send it back home."

"Um, Xeno? Why would you think we know how to make portkeys?" the brunette asked. All three of the time-travelers did know, of course, but that was something they wanted to keep secret. Portkey creation was highly regulated by the Ministry, which was not a great surprise. Considering how seriously they took allegations that Dumbledore was building an army of underaged and undertrained wizards and witches with which to lay siege to the government, the idea that someone could move a force of dozens or even hundreds without any warning would be absolutely terrifying. All it would take was a single mole gaining access to a secure location – like, say, the Minister's office – for an insurgent group to take full control.

Which, now that I think about it, could be exactly how Voldemort took over during the Second War. Scrimgeour wouldn't have time to react if his enemy just suddenly appeared in front of him and hit him with a spell.

The Lovegood patriarch blinked at Hermione's question. "Well, I figured it was a safe assumption considering that you've done it before. Don't worry about a thing; as long as you do the same thing that you did last time, you'll be just fine." Without waiting for her reply, he leapt onto his broom and took to the skies.

Hermione, in turn, looked at Luna. "I know you love your dad, but there are times I have to wonder if he's all there."

"I know. He occasionally has trouble remembering what's when and when's where. He thinks it was due to dating a nymph when he was twenty." Throwing one leg over the Firebolt, she asked, "Well, aren't you coming?"

"Sure, give us a minute," the elder of his girlfriends answered with a grimace.

Harry had to bite back a laugh at that. Not everyone necessarily enjoyed his or her Animagus form, and Hermione was most definitely a member of that group. She only transformed when she absolutely had to, and never stayed in her other shape for longer than it took to complete whatever task she set for herself.

With a thought, his bones twisted and his flesh compressed as he assumed the guise of a Peregrine Falcon, and he turned to watch the end of her significantly slower shift. A few seconds later, where there once had been a woman in a sixteen-year-old body now stood an adult Little Owl. Only nine inches tall and with a brown and white color scheme, she furrowed her 'eyebrows' at him before puffing up at his no-doubt amused gaze. He screeched gently at her and took wing; she hesitantly joined him in the air a few moments later.

Someone who was afraid of heights having an avian Animagus form was a bit of a waste, he had always thought, but the other connections Luna had noted more than made up for it.

Both birds perched on the tip of the broomstick, and the blonde pointed at two of the remaining trails. "Harry, you take the path on the left; Hermione, you on the right; and I'll go the middle route. If you find a cuddlepus, change back and let me know via your earrings, okay?" They bobbed their heads and took off.

How in the world am I supposed to find one of these things if it's hiding?, Harry wondered after nearly three hours spent searching the forest. He was not soaring over the trees, which would have been easier; falcons did not actively fly nearly as much as they glided, taking advantage of thermal updrafts to keep them aloft. Unfortunately, that would have forced him to peer through the canopy from a couple of hundred meters up, and though that was normally sufficient for noticing the movement of prey, he was doubtful that he could spot a motionless abomination with that method. That meant he was forced to expend a large amount of energy flapping around tree trunks as he stayed only a half-dozen meters off the ground. Close enough to spot the monstrosity, far enough away to – hopefully – be out of its reach.

He was seriously contemplating taking a quick break to catch a squirrel or rabbit – it would not be the first time he had had to hunt in the middle of a search to regain lost energy, and woodland animals would taste infinitely better than the rats in London – when a phosphorescent glow to his right caught his attention. Swerving towards the light, he was shocked when the cuddlepus came into sight. Rather than the tree-like shape it had previously been in, it was now something not too dissimilar to a gigantic slug, albeit one still made of twisted bones and covered in slime. Corrosive slime, he amended as he saw the thin trails of smoke wafting up from the ground and the leaves and twigs on the forest floor wither away to nothing. I would not want to be caught by this thing.

Flapping to a sturdy tree branch, he reverted to his human form. "Luna Lovegood."

"Reading you loud and clear, darling. Did you find a cuddlepus, or did you just need to hear the dulcet tones of my voice?"

"Please remember that I've heard both you and Hermione singing, or at least trying to. It's not Umbridge bad, but you still sent Crookshanks fleeing like the kitty Grim Reaper was on his tail."

"Did you find the damn thing or not?"

He grinned at her frustrated tone. Luna was exceptionally good at sidestepping barbs, making poking fun at her less than entertaining, but the rare times he or Hermione could tag her always made him happy. She'd get him back, he knew, but that just made their game all the more fun. "Yeah, I'm looking right at it. Turns out it actually looked better as a tree-thing, hard as that is to believe."

"I wouldn't know; I'm still looking for mine. Daddy's helping since he spotted his a bit ago."

"Where was it? It hadn't gotten into the town, had it?" he asked worriedly.

"Not that he could tell," she answered. "Oh, there it is. Hermione already got hers a couple of minutes ago, so catch yours and head on to the house. Do you want to spin back a few hours or go straight back to Hogwarts?"

He narrowed his eyes at that question; Luna had placed just slightly more emphasis on the second option. "That's right, you have Herbology this morning, don't you?"

"I'm quite sure you're mistaken."

"Considering the heat we still have on us from Ron's little 'surgery', it'd be best if we portrayed ourselves as model students for a while," he said with a smile. Indeed, the redhead had not been in the best of spirits when he finally returned from a week in St. Mungo's. While Harry was sure the Healers had patched him up as best as they could, and with magic that was pretty well, someone who would remain nameless but had a planet-sized grudge against the little shit had revealed to Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, the gossip queens of Hogwarts, just what damage was done to the boy. The whole school had known by lunchtime the next day. "That means not missing a class inexplicably."

"Damn it. Damn Dumbledore, damn Ron, damn Voldemort."

"All this because you want to skip Herbology?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes."

Okay, that was a bit more vehement than I expected. Harry shook his head in surprise before noticing that the cuddlepus was oozing away from him. Summoning a rock and visualizing the Lovegoods' basement, he incanted "Portus" and banished it at the fleeing abomination. As soon as the stone hit it, it let out a monstrous scream before vanishing as if it had never been.

He shivered at the lingering echo of the scream before commenting, "Luna, if your dad loses this creature again, I'm going to burn the blasted thing to ash."

"If he loses it again, I just might help you do that."

"Mr. Potter, thank you for making it to this meeting. I do apologize for cutting into your class time."

Harry waved away McGonagall's apology. "Not a problem, Professor. I am… less enthusiastic about Divination now than I was as a third year, so an excuse to skip it was quite welcome."

The witch nodded in understanding and waved the door closed; her distaste for Divination as a subject was well known. He could not help but smile as he compared this career counseling session with the last; thanks to the compulsion he had placed on Umbridge in January, she was quite useless outside of her classroom, which alongside her not taking over for Dumbledore in this timestream meant she could not squeeze her way into the meeting and throw out sycophantic comments while vowing that he would never become an Auror. Speaking of which, I really need to remove those spells at some point; just because she doesn't know what's caused them doesn't mean someone else wouldn't. Then again, it's already late April and she still hasn't seen anyone about them, so I doubt I need to worry about it just yet.

"Now, this meeting is to talk over any career ideas you might have and to help you decide which subjects you should continue into sixth and seventh years," the Scotswoman said from behind her desk. "Have you any thoughts about what you would like to do after you leave Hogwarts?"

He opened his mouth to respond, and then closed it as he actually considered the question. You know, there isn't much I really want to do, at least not that I would admit to her. 'Professional burglar' isn't exactly a job that Hogwarts staff could condone even if they wanted to. And in all honesty, the only 'job' I really care about, the same one I was more or less planning for before the Third War kicked off, is being a stay-at-home dad. Hermione was going to be a Healer, and Luna was about through with her spellcrafter apprenticeship, so along with the rest of my family's money it wasn't like we were hurting for gold. That's doubly true this go round thanks to all the money we stole from the Death Eaters.

Huh. Is there anything else I could possibly see myself doing with my life?

"Mr. Potter?"

"Sorry, Professor," he answered, stirring himself from his introspection. "Your question caught me off-guard. What I want to do after graduating isn't something I've spent a lot of time considering."

She sighed and pulled a sheet of parchment in front of her. "While that's disappointing to hear, I can't say I'm really surprised. This is probably the first 'normal' year you've had here since you started."

"No possessed professors after immortality, no giant venomous snakes, no escaped mass-murderers and soul-sucking demons, no deadly tournament." He nodded. "Yes, normal took a bit of getting used to."

"Indeed," she replied, her lips pursed. Glancing at the parchment, she commented, "Now, Professor Lupin commented that you had great aptitude in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and your scores in that class have been consistently high with the exception of this year, though I think we both know that that is due to, shall we say, unexpected circumstances. Perhaps you would enjoy working in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement? Speaking confidentially, Moody and Tonks both had very good things to say about you following your stay at Headquarters this Christmas."

He smiled to himself; the idea of joining the Aurors and at the same time continuing their thievery did have a certain amusing irony to it. Even better would be if he was placed in charge of his own manhunt. Nevertheless… "Professor, I've already spent the last four years fighting Dark wizards. That isn't something I want to do any more than I absolutely have to."

McGonagall winced the slightest amount at that retort; obviously she had not looked at her suggestion from that point of view. "I see. Professor Slughorn has praised your Potions talent multiple times, but he also said that it was not a subject you enjoyed?" He nodded, and she gave him a knowing gaze. "Well, then. What about… teaching?"

"What?" he demanded sharply.

"Mr. Potter, I do have eyes. When someone like Mr. Longbottom, who his entire time at this school has had significant problems with spell-casting, steadily improves over a span of months until he is in the top quarter of his class, I naturally take a look to see what has changed. Imagine my surprise when, after following the pair of you in my Animagus form and under a disillusionment charm, I discovered that you, along with Miss Granger and Miss Lovegood, were tutoring five students in Defense, and doing it exceptionally well." She laughed at his shocked expression. "It was a good thing I changed so no one would notice my form wavering as I moved around. You three were very thorough in making sure you would not be discovered. Mad-Eye would have approved of your paranoia."

Damn it, we never checked for Animagi hiding in the room! Homenum revelio works just fine on people, but she was a cat at the time. There was no way that spell would expose her!

"How long have you known?" he finally asked.

She shrugged. "Two months. It was just after that that I added you to the group of students I ask to assist when others are struggling with a spell; I wanted to see if your ability to teach could extend to Transfiguration, as well. I was quite happy when it did."

There was not much he could say to that, really. In the old timeline, none of the professors had said anything to him about him teaching, and the idea had never entered his mind on its own. He had been too focused on qualifying to be an Auror to consider anything else, at least until his inevitable burnout following the Second War. After that, he had just been enjoying his relationship with his girls until the Third War broke out.

Would I enjoy teaching? Actually leading the D.A. last time was fun, and this time even more so, though some of that is, or rather was, knowing that we were pulling it off without the risk of anyone else finding out about it. I doubt I'd do Defense – too many chances for someone to use what I taught to bully someone else – but I did fall in love with Charms after we graduated.

Eventually finding his voice, he said softly, "I must admit that teaching is something I had never considered. Is there any way we can reschedule the rest of this meeting? I… I need some time to think on this."

"Of course, Mr. Potter; my door is always open." He nodded and rose from the chair. Halfway to the door, she added, "But just in case you were curious, the requirement for teaching a subject at Hogwarts is having a Mastery in that particular field, though some of the other schools in this country will accept an O in the relevant NEWT. Looking at your marks throughout your time here, I expect you would find attaining a Mastery in Defense, Charms, or potentially Transfiguration to be a challenging but rewarding experience." He twisted around to look back at the professor's smile. "Do consider it, Mr. Potter. We always need good teachers."

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