Here's an early update. Merry Christmas!
Chapter 24 – Magical Fire
The next couple of days were quiet for Harry. Per his agreement with Madam Pomfrey, he stayed in the apartment except for lunch and dinner. Breakfast was brought in by Dobby and all studying was done in the apartment, usually with Harry propped up on the couch with a pile of pillows. He missed a couple of Quidditch practices, but Ron ran them fine without him. There was nothing of import in the Prophet until two mornings after his confrontation with Draco and the oath reading. By that time the news had gotten out about the duel, the attack, and the unusual oath. The Prophet was speculative on the legality of the oath, but so far had no reason to doubt it.
The day after the duel, Hermione made a brief trip to the Ministry after classes. Tonks met her in the atrium when she arrived and escorted her to the international portkey office. Once there, it took an hour of paperwork and a fee of eight galleons to arrange the portkey to the Toimisto in Finland for the weekend. When Hermione returned to school and their apartment, Harry had just woken from his nap and started studying so she joined him.
Not long after Hermione's return, Dobby popped in carrying a note from the headmaster's office. Harry thanked him, glad for not having to manually retrieve the note and wondering why they hadn't used the elf in the past. Setting that thought aside, he applied a drop of his blood to the seal that showed the note was from Jean-Louis. The note was brief and to the point:
Myself and the cargo have arrived at the destination. There was a good bit of questioning as expected, but my contacts here helped to move me through customs. The packages are now in a secure holding facility with the local law enforcement office. Your friend will be able to take custody at the expected time later on. Please send word if I can be of further assistance.
As Harry read the note, he felt Hermione's acknowledgement as she heard it through his mind. Jean-Louis was cautious with his wording, despite the seal on the note, and Harry appreciated his efforts. Now it seemed that all was in place for Saturday and he just needed to rest and heal.
On Thursday night, Tonks arrived for the usual defense lessons, which Harry was sitting out of course. She actually arrived early and was waiting outside the Great Hall when the Potters and their friends exited after dinner. Seeing the look on her face, Hermione led everyone to their apartment. Her suspicions were confirmed when Tonks immediately began casting privacy wards before turning to speak to Harry, Hermione, and their allies.
"Alright, thanks for waiting on me. Can't be too careful. Amelia gave me news to bring you directly. I don't need to tell you that it goes no further. First, she has increased Auror activity around certain areas and we are close to determining where Voldemort's base is. Of course, all of the most likely candidates are homes or properties of inner circle Death Eaters and warded to hell and back. She says that when she has more specifics she will let you know where to go hunting. Of course, right now you're not exactly in peak form. Also, there has been a unique development that we've kept a tight lid on, but expect to hit the Prophet by tomorrow. That oath of yours had a greater impact than you probably anticipated. I'd like a copy of the exact wording by the way. Everything we've heard is secondhand at best."
"Anyway, Lucius never should have trusted Draco to take the title of Scion Malfoy and he has now paid for it. There are a lot of guesses as to why, but Lucius died the night Draco took the oath. The consensus is that the binding oath over his house conflicted with the oath that he took to take the Dark Mark. He was at a dinner party at Yaxley's house and collapsed. When he couldn't be revived, Narcissa insisted he be taken to St. Mungo's, but they couldn't do anything for him. A bit of money changed hands with the hospital director and his brief stay at the hospital was wiped out of official records, but the Ministry has sources in the hospital as well. One junior healer confirmed that the only visible sign of injury to his body was that his left forearm was charred. Anyway, the body was removed not long after and the family is keeping quiet, although Narcissa did remove Draco from school. By law, since he was scion, he is now lord and emancipated automatically since his father is gone. Again, this has all been kept quiet. We think the inner circle is reeling from this loss. I don't need to tell you that this only increases their desire to target you. Taking the Malfoy fortune and name from them is a heavy blow. I'm sure they have barristers and solicitors trying to find a way out of it. That's why we want the exact wording. Amelia agrees that this is good overall, but it has really stirred up the hornets. And mad hornets are not a good thing."
Everyone looked at Tonks, shocked at the news. Harry analyzed his thoughts on Lucius' death and couldn't bring himself to grieve the man. Then he thought about Draco. He may not like him, but he did feel for a young man who had lost his father, but that passing bit of compassion was his only real concern.
The fact that you can even feel that shows how much better you are than Draco. He wouldn't feel the same for you and never has.
I suppose. Your idea on the oath certainly worked out better than we imagined.
Except that the words I wrote killed a man.
No, the Dark Mark and the oath he gave Voldemort killed him. It was his fault.
Harry's mental soothing helped Hermione a bit as they each let the news settle. While she regained her focus, Harry turned back to Tonks.
"Well thanks for bringing us the news directly. I'm following orders and resting up so hopefully I'll be in peak shape as soon as possible. I'm sorry I have to skip training tonight."
"No worries. As soon as Madam Pomfrey clears you, I'll make sure you make it up. Oh, one other thing. The charges against Nott are to be formally filed on Monday. His father has been making a hell of a lot of noise, but attempted murder of another lord isn't something you shut down. He's hired Marius Rowle, cousin to Lord Rowle who we are fairly certain is in the inner circle. He wasn't just hired for his family connection though, he's one of the best barristers in England. I'm sure his price is steep. The legal department is trying to push this through as quick as possible. You should expect to have to testify in a month or so."
"Really? That seems quick, but I'm fine with it. Best to get it over with. Do you know what punishment he can expect?"
"I asked Amelia that. She'd like life, but his age makes that unlikely. She thinks ten to twenty years in Azkaban."
Harry nodded. He supposed that would have to do. Ten years in Azkaban would give the war time to be good and over and would certainly change Theo Nott. Of course, they had to get a conviction first. Harry's thoughts were interrupted when Tonks declared it was time to leave. Hermione settled Harry on a couch and then followed all their friends as they left to train.
When Hermione returned to the apartment a couple of hours later, she found that her husband had fallen asleep with a book across his chest. She stood and gazed at him for a minute. He was still healing and was much more affected by the injury than he let on. She ached when she thought about the pain he had endured and wished that he would delay the trip to Finland, but she knew that was a lost cause. Sighing, she stepped over to the couch to gently wake him with a kiss. She was in desperate need of a shower after training and he happily joined her. The warm water was good on his aching back and they took time to allow the water to wash away a bit of stress. They took turns washing each other and traded a few kisses, but both were too tired for much else. Still, the intimacy in the simple moments was as precious in a different way as when they made love. They also dried each other slowly after the shower and then Hermione applied the salve to Harry's back before they crawled into bed and were quickly asleep.
Harry had one more full day to recuperate that he spent primarily in the apartment. Thanks to Hermione's notes and their bond, he still managed to keep up fairly well in his classes and planned on using Sunday after they returned from Finland to do some more intensive work. On Friday night, all their allies gathered in the Potter apartment after dinner to enjoy several rounds of butterbeers procured by Dobby. With heavy privacy wards in place, the details for the next day were discussed at length. The camaraderie of the group was easy, although there was tension in the air as everyone was worried about the following day. Shortly before ten, everyone began to disperse and the Potters turned in not long after to get the rest they needed for the next day.
Saturday dawned a bit grey and cloudy, but Harry was energized. Except for the oath with Malfoy, there had been no tangible progress in the fight against Voldemort lately and he looked forward to killing more pieces of Tom's demented soul. He and Hermione ate breakfast quickly and then dressed carefully in multiple layers, with the final layer being their formal House Potter robes. The layers were too warm in the castle, but cooling charms resolved the issue. Harry had his Firebolt in hand while Hermione added several potions to her bag, preparing in case Harry didn't handle the trip well. Twenty minutes before the portkey was due to leave, they walked to the headmaster's office. Dumbledore was waiting, with the horcruxes in their various containment devices on a table to his left.
"Ah, good morning Lord and Lady Potter. I see you are well prepared for your long travels this day. I have the horcruxes right here. The ring is in the Dankov contraption, while the locket is in a this small box with the runes. The diadem is here in this larger box. Finally, as promised, the goblins delivered the cup two nights ago per your instructions. Ragnok was upset that they couldn't cleanse it themselves, but they wrapped it in platinum mesh and bound it with runes of their own. Let me show you how to deactivate each containment and remove the items…"
The next several minutes were spent with Dumbledore giving them both careful instructions on each device. Hermione found it quite fascinating the different methods of containment that were all designed to do the same, but with a different design and approach to each. Once he finished, he pulled an ebony box from a cabinet and then carefully packed each item into separate compartments inside. Hermione offered to take the box, but Harry refused and instead placed it inside an empty book bag that he had slung across his chest, wanting to keep the items close where he could monitor them. He was a bit cautious at first, but was glad when he felt no resonance from any of the items.
The time to discuss the containment devices used up most of their extra time and they had just two minutes after arranging everything before the portkey began to glow. With a final goodbye to Dumbledore, they each clutched the portkey and began the journey to Finland.
A few minutes later they arrived in a large vaulted room that was lined with floos on one end, then had an open area for portkey arrivals, and on the other end featured a line of customs desks. The room was bustling with wizards and witches in a variety of robes and even a few muggle style outfits. There was a buzz to the place and Harry noted the sound of several different languages. He and Hermione had their hands in their robes, ready to draw wands, but no one seemed to be paying them much attention as they moved toward one of the customs desks. After a couple of minutes spent waiting, they reached an agent who took their portkey and then began to look over their paperwork. When he saw Harry's name, he looked up for the first time and his eyes did the familiar flicker to Harry's forehead. He asked several questions in excellent English while continuing to seem a bit unnerved at who was standing front of him. Harry would normally be annoyed, but the distraction was useful as the man stamped their papers and never asked to inspect Harry's bag, which would have caused more questions and was something that he had been concerned about.
Once they were cleared, the Potters left the international arrivals hall and stepped out into the main corridor of the Toimisto. As soon as they did, a glimpse of familiar ginger hair appeared when Charlie stepped over to them.
"Lord and Lady Potter, welcome! No issues with the portkey?"
"No, everything went well Charlie."
"Excellent. I arrived a short while ago. Now, our in country portkey leaves in a half hour. I have a contact that Jean-Louis sent me in the Law Enforcement Office where your packages are waiting. Shall we?"
Harry nodded and followed the burly dragon handler as he followed signs through the Toimisto. Helpfully, the signs were in Finnish, but had a fascinating charm that caused the language to morph for whomever was viewing them. Hermione muttered about studying that as they moved to the lifts and went three floors up to the office they needed. Once there, Charlie stopped to speak to a young witch at the reception desk and she was more than happy to help the charming young wizard. Hermione smirked as she and Harry watched Charlie flirt just enough so that their contact was quickly fetched. The young man's name was Edvin and he appeared to be not much older than Harry. He was efficient though and quickly led them to the storeroom. Once there, Charlie took the four containers that had been shrunk slightly and stacked them two high before placing a small stone on top of each stack. Seeing the questioning looks, Charlie turned to Harry.
"I planned ahead since we knew these were going to be hefty. I don't want to wear myself out levitating them, so I borrowed some float stones from the reserve. We tie them to cows when we send them into the dragon enclosures. The stone contains metal the dragons don't like and they won't eat them and we collect them after."
"Interesting, and good thinking."
Charlie nodded and they thanked Edvin as they left the office and proceeded to one of the larger lifts. As they crowded in with the boxes, Hermione paid especial attention to the float stones and studied the runes carved into them. Soon they were exiting the lift and were just steps away from the in country travel hall. Charlie and Harry went to present their papers and they had a few minutes to wait until their next portkey was ready to go. They chatted companionably about news from the family and tried to lessen the tension they felt about the day. Once the portkey began to glow, Charlie grabbed hold of one stack of boxes, while Hermione grabbed the other. Then they all touched the portkey and felt the familiar tug.
Minutes later, they found themselves outside the door of a wooden cabin on a gravel path steps from a roaring river. Harry caught Hermione as she stumbled a bit due to the extra weight of bringing the boxes along. Charlie faltered just a step, but righted himself quickly. The landscape around them was stark with scrubby grass and rocky terrain that was still dotted with patches of snow. Harry immediately cancelled the cooling charms he had needed to counteract his warm clothing, now glad that he had dressed for the colder weather. Off in the distance he saw the rise of the mountains that they would be heading for, but didn't have long to analyze before an enormous man stepped out of the cabin to greet them.
"Welcome friends! I am Jaakko and this is Munnikurkkio."
"Jaakko, you scoundrel! How have you been? And it is my pleasure to introduce Lord Harry Potter and Lady Hermione Potter."
"A lord and lady huh? Well that's definitely unusual around these parts. Well, you're as welcome as the rest. It's been too long Charlie. You must come visit more, not just when you've got mysterious experiments to conduct. Anyway, I suppose we best fly while the weather still agrees."
Harry smiled at the warm man whose backslap had managed to almost knock Charlie over. He was well over two meters tall and almost as wide, with a shock of wild blond hair and ice blue eyes.
"Thanks Jaakko, and we're just Harry and Hermione among friends."
Jaakko nodded and then produced a broom for Charlie. The brooms were thick and sturdy models and the two dragon handlers opted to carry the boxes with them, looped in holsters and hanging from the brooms. As they situated, Harry climbed on his own broom and then took Hermione's hand as she climbed on behind him. He knew she didn't like flying, but she was remaining quiet and focused on the goal. Once they kicked off and followed Jaakko on a path toward the mountains, Harry felt the apprehension leave him as he relaxed in the air, happy to be back flying. Behind him Hermione gripped harder at his hips and he reached to rub her hands reassuringly.
While Harry enjoyed the flight, after an hour, he was starting to feel fatigued. The mountains looked vaguely closer, but it was obvious they still had a distance to go. A bit over an hour after starting the flight, they felt the familiar tingle and shiver of wards as they began a gradual ascent up the mountain. By the time they reached two hours, Harry was aching and exhausted. Hermione's grip had lessened, but now he felt her concern as she mentally tried to support him. After two and a half hours in the air, he began to slump forward a bit and Hermione grew more concerned.
Harry, are you alright? Do we need to stop? You feel so tired.
Fine Mione…just…just gotta keep…going…
Hermione frowned while she consciously tried to push some of her strength into Harry. It seemed to work as he sat up a bit more. It didn't last long though as Harry used up the strength she had given him. Thankfully, a bit over three hours after starting, Jaakko descended and landed in a clearing. They followed behind him and Hermione had to put her feet down to help brace their landing due to Harry's condition. She was off the broom immediately, wrapping him in her arms as she lowered him to the ground. Charlie and Jaakko joined her, looking concerned.
"Hermione, what's wrong? Do you need me to fetch the reserve's healer?"
"No…no healer. Must get this done."
Hermione frowned at Harry and began to look through her bag. She found the potions she was looking for and tilted the first into Harry's mouth, instructing him verbally for Charlie's sake so that he would know what she was doing.
"Here Harry, this is a pepper-up. You really should have had more time to recover from your injury. I can tell your back is aching, so take a couple of sips of this pain potion. I hope it will help some, but the small amount won't put you to sleep."
Harry took the offered potions gratefully and immediately felt a bit of the ache and burning in his back lessen. The pepper-up had the usual effect and soon he was standing straighter while steam came out of his ears. Once Jaakko saw that he was looking better, he led them past the first cabins and into the heart of the reserve. He gave them a bit of a tour on the way, but soon led them off to the east side and the cabins gradually thinned as they started to work their way up a trail.
"Just a bit farther to the Tulen's lair. This group of four are some of our youngest and are more social than the older ones. The male is protective of his brood, but I think he may work for your experiment. Just don't go near his girls."
The hike up the trail was significant, but soon the path leveled off and they could see down into a small dip in the hillside. There was a cave off to the left, but in the bottom of the depression lay a magnificent dragon of pale blue color. When he lifted his head to regard them, waves of purple rippled across his hide. Harry was glad when he saw that the dragon was much smaller than the Horntail he had faced. In actuality, he was only half again bigger than a hippogryph. Jaakko held them back and arranged the four of them along the edge of the depression so that they could all be viewed as he yelled across to the dragon.
"Hello Harttu! I brought some friends. They have a task they wish assistance with. They brought special rock for your fire."
The dragon raised his head and watched them before slowly rising to his feet and crossing closer to them. Hermione clutched Harry's hand and felt his nervousness, but they were both eased by the fact that neither dragon handler seemed alarmed. Charlie glanced at them and flashed a quick smile.
"It's alright. He's just curious. If we were in danger, he would warn us. Unlike the myths, dragons rarely attack without warning or provocation."
The dragon had stopped for a moment and Harry tried to remember what Charlie said as the dragon seemed to focus on him. Then he did something terrifying when he suddenly ran straight at Harry. Hermione's hand was on her wand when Charlie held her back just as the dragon stopped in front of Harry and nosed his book bag before making a noise that could only be described as a very loud growl. Jaakko raised his eyebrows as he watched.
"Well Harry, whatever you've got in that bag has him upset. He's one of our most docile. Mainly because he's well fed and lazy. But he doesn't like your bag."
"Actually Jaakko, I'm not surprised. What's in the bag is part of the experiment."
Harry was a bit torn at this point. He was tired and wanted to get the task over with, but hadn't planned on Jaakko being with them. Hermione was about to offer her opinion when Charlie spoke up first.
"Lord Potter, perhaps it would be best if we got on with this? I've known Jaakko for years. He worked on a research project at the reserve in Romania a couple of years back. I believe he can be trusted. And he needn't know the full details. Perhaps he would even offer an oath?"
"Oh, aye, I figured something was up more than just a bit of an experiment. And I know who you are Lord Potter, so I'm sure that the less I know the better. Still, if I can help, I'm happy to. I'll offer you my oath."
Jaakko then drew his wand and made a small cut in his palm as he offered an oath of secrecy. Harry felt a bit relieved, despite the fact that he trusted Charlie's judgement.
"Thanks Jaakko. I need to have Harttu chew some stone and flame a few items I brought. They are dark artifacts that need his special flame. How should we go about this?"
"Well, we don't want to singe the hillside, so let's go over toward the rocks…"
Jaakko led the way a few dozen meters across the trail to an area where there had once been a small landslide that now featured a pile of rocks and not much greenery.
"Alright Harry, go ahead and offer your rock to Harttu. He understands us fairly well and I daresay he will be happy to flame whatever you've got in that bag."
Harry nodded and Charlie took and lined up the four boxes of rock, expanding and opening them as he went. Harry turned to the dragon and regarded him with reverence. He was about to speak when something in his mind sensed another presence and he suddenly felt that his usual speech was not correct for this situation. Instead, he went on his instinct and began to speak in the hissing tones of Parseltongue.
"Mighty Harttu, do you understand me?"
"A speaker…interesting. Your language is of the lesser, but yes I can understand you. Why do you bring the great evil to my home?"
"This evil is unique and not easily destroyed. Only great fire or great poison can destroy it. That is why I come to you and humbly ask your assistance. I have been told that this rock we bring will give your flame the heat needed for the task."
Harttu didn't say anything, but instead went and nosed around in the box before turning back to Harry.
"Yes, this rock will do well. I sense no malice in you and also wish to destroy what you bring. My help you will have."
The dragon then turned back and began to empty the first box, chewing rock as he went. Harry took a step back and looked to Hermione and the dragon handlers. Jaakko's eyebrows were raised to his hairline.
"Harttu has graciously agreed to assist. I was getting ready to talk to him and suddenly felt that Parseltongue would be more appropriate. He calls it the 'lesser language', but he does understand it."
Jaakko was speechless, while Charlie shook his head.
"Really? You would be a huge help at the reserve. Anytime you want to come visit, you're more than welcome."
Harttu had finished the first box and turned back to Harry.
"My flame is almost ready. Show me the items of evil."
Harry suppressed a shudder as he removed the book bag and pulled out the ebony box. When he opened it, he wondered for a moment where to start.
Perhaps in the order they were found?
Harry nodded in agreement of Hermione's suggestion and drew out the ring inside the Dankov contraption. Once it was freed of the containment, everyone around could feel the aura coming from it and forced down a shudder. Harry took and placed the ring on a rock in front of the dragon, who stepped a bit closer and then hissed.
"This was once an item of power, but it is beyond with taint. I will begin…"
Harry stepped back as the dragon focused on the ring and then began to breathe out flames that surprisingly were purple in color. Behind him, Harry heard both dragon handlers gasp in shock. He turned to look at them and Charlie answered his unasked question.
"The color of a dragon's flame is very important. Most breathe orange or red, depending on the heat. A few have a magical blue flame. The purple flame is something that is rumored in old texts, but no one I know has ever actually seen it. When this is all over sometime years from now, maybe I can share this memory. I know our entire reserve would be fascinated."
"Aye Charlie. I feel as if this time right here will be the peak of my career. I had never thought…the purple flame…"
Harry was a bit surprised, but turned back as Harttu's flame caused the ring to glow. Then a shrill ring began to sound, followed immediately after by an ear piercing shriek that caused them all to grab their ears while watching as an oily, black cloud spiraled up and off the ring. Gradually the noise quieted and Harttu flamed for another minute before stopping and turning back to Harry.
"That evil is done. Let us proceed."
Harry next released the locket from its containment and placed it on another rock as the dragon began flaming again. This time the fire took a bit longer, but eventually the locket began to glow. The shriek was different, not as ear piercing, but menacing instead. It fled in a similar cloud of black residue. The dragon stepped back and Harry thought he looked perhaps a bit tired.
"Mighty Harttu, thank you for your help. We have two more still though. It seems this is hard work, are you alright?"
"It is more than I thought, but this is a goodness. I will finish the task, but I will need to eat soon after."
With that, the dragon stepped over to the second box and began chewing rock as Harry turned to Jaakko.
"Harttu says he can finish, but this is tiring for him and he will be hungry at the end. He deserves the best meal ever. Can you please get him whatever he would want? I can pay for it."
"Pfft, don't worry about that. We've got a corral of animals not far from here. We have a breed of cows that are a favorite of the dragons. Especially when they are young, they are a delicacy. Let me arrange to have a couple brought up when we are done."
Jaakko sent a patronus off down the mountain as Harry turned back to watch the dragon finish the second box of stone. When he was ready, Harry removed the diadem and placed it on a rock. This time Harttu had to flame for over five minutes before the glow began and it was obvious that the larger item was going to take more time and more fuel. Eventually it reached its peak and the soul fragment fled with a screech. The whole process had taken nearly twenty five minutes and Harttu sat back a bit after.
"Speaker, how many more are there?"
"Just one my friend. Do you need a break?"
"No, let us finish."
The dragon began chewing stone from the third box, emptying about three quarters of it. Then Harry placed the cup on a rock and watched as the last horcrux began to be cleansed. It took as long as the diadem, but the soul left with a wail and then Harttu sat back and didn't even speak for a few minutes. Harry had been so focused on the dragon, he hadn't seen Jaakko leave to meet another handler partway down the trail. He returned with two good size cows that had been petrified and were being levitated in front of him. Seeing the exhausted dragon, he set one down right next to Harttu. The dragon seemed to be re-energized when he saw his meal arrive. Harry felt a bit of apprehension and could feel Hermione's disgust as the dragon snapped off the head of the cow. While they had both been afraid of watching a dragon eat, he was actually quite neat. Another two bites saw the rest of the young cow be devoured with only a minimal amount of mess. Then Harttu used his long tongue to delicately wash his muzzle before cleaning each claw. His fastidiousness reminded them of a cat. Then he turned to regard Harry again.
"Speaker, the task is done. My thanks for seeing to the meal. This was tiring, but a noble effort indeed. I have a feeling that your own task is still long and I wish you well."
"My thanks Harttu my friend. Your power has amazed us all. Now that the items are cooling, they don't even appear damaged."
"I was careful with them, but now they are pretty baubles only. The magic they began with was cleansed along with the evil. That is the way it had to be. Now, I will say goodbye and finish the rest of my meal in the sun."
The dragon trotted off and Harry turned to see three female dragons that had exited the cave and come out to watch from a distance. Jaakko floated the second cow over and set it near the spot where Harttu had been sunning himself when they arrived. The dragon began the rest of his meal and Harry turned back to look at the four horcrux items. All had cooled enough to be handled and they all looked intact. He took each and placed them loosely in the ebony box, while leaving the different containment devices on the side. He then placed the box back in his bag and looked over at what was left of the stone they had brought, wondering what to do with it.
"Jaakko, thank you for your help with this. The stone we brought was specially mined in Russia and obviously has unique properties. Along with its magical properties, it is mildly radioactive. I'm unsure what to do with what is left. Harttu was quite efficient."
"Well, this has all been fascinating. I know you can't tell me what those items were and I'm sure I don't want to know. I am glad they are cleansed. As for the rock, we may be able to use it for experiments. There is an unused cave I can have it moved to if you want to leave it."
"That sounds fine. I don't have any use for it. I would ask that if Charlie wants to use it for something, that it be available to him."
"Not that I can think of a use for it."
"I'll just go ahead and put the lids back on and come back for them later. Now that Harttu has had his dinner, I believe I could use some as well."
Harry nodded in agreement, trying not to show how tired he was, as they began to follow Jaakko back down the trail. The sun was starting to lower in the sky and he realized that the task had taken longer than he realized. Still, four more horcruxes were destroyed, which made the long day more than worth it. The hike down the mountain seemed to take longer than usual and Harry began to drag, but kept trying to push himself. Hermione worried about him and clung tightly to his side, trying to support him and shooting him wary looks. Just as they were in sight of the first cabins, Harry felt the last of his energy leave him as he dropped to the ground.
Harry woke some time later in an unfamiliar bed. Looking around, he groaned as the place had the distinctive feel of a hospital wing, although it didn't look like Hogwarts. He looked to the side and saw the fuzzy perfection that was his wife.
"Harry, you're awake! How do you feel?"
"Tired, fuzzy. Where am I? Wait, we were at the Finnish reserve…"
"And we're still there. Here, let me get your glasses, that will help with the fuzziness. This is the infirmary at the reserve. Their healer is really not happy with you. You pushed yourself too hard, made your back injury worse, and exhausted yourself. It's just after nine the next morning. Your back is a mess. Madam Pomfrey did a good job, but you opened up some of her work under the skin. It looks like a massive long bruise and the ligaments and muscles underneath pulled apart. The healer knit it back together magically, but he's not letting you fly out of here."
Harry saw the barely controlled concern in her face and reached to take her hand, bringing it to his lips for a kiss.
"I'm sorry Mione my love. I hate worrying you."
"I know dear, although you seem to be good at it. The healer's name is Hans and he will be here shortly. I understand why you pushed to get this done this weekend, but of course he can't understand. He's good at what he does, but he's not gentle or reserved in his opinion."
A middle aged man with graying brown hair appeared at Harry's bedside and scowled at him just as Hermione was finishing her warning.
"That is most definitely correct Lady Potter. Hello my young lord. I see you've rejoined us. I don't know why you're here, but it had better be a good reason. Jaakko is mute on the matter. I can't believe your healer let you out of their care…"
Harry was annoyed by the man's condescending tone and had no patience for it as he cut off the healer's rant.
"I am Lord Harry James Potter of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter and heir to Godric Gryffindor!"
"Yes, yes, so I've heard and that title rubbish may work in England, but I'm not British. I suppose that's how you were allowed out on your 'errand'. Your wife has explained that you need to get back as soon as possible and your friend Mr. Weasley has been making use of the fast owls. His connections seem well placed and I've been informed that you are to be discharged as soon as possible. If I had my choice, you need another two weeks not moving from that bed. My opinion doesn't seem to matter though. I did expressly forbid another long broom ride and the reserve's director has authorized one emergency outbound portkey. Mr. Weasley worked with his contacts to make the portkey go straight to England and bypass the Tuimisto. I don't even want to know what kind of paperwork that took. Anyway, I think he almost has the arrangements in place. All I can ask is that when you get back to school, please put yourself in bed for a week at least."
"I'll see to that healer. And I'm sure Madam Pomfrey will have something to say as well."
Harry groaned at the idea of being chewed out by two healers, but Hans just shook his head and nodded. He ran a couple of diagnostic spells and gave Harry another potion to drink before leaving them alone again.
I really am sorry about all the fuss love. I guess I didn't realize how much of an injury I still had, but it was worth it.
I understand and I hate to agree, but yes it was worth it. Four more horcruxes gone. Still, I am going to be sitting on you if you don't stay in bed.
Harry briefly flashed her an image of just exactly how he wanted her to sit on him while leering at her suggestively. Hermione beat down the goosebumps the image gave her and tried to frown at him.
I don't think you'll be up to that kind of exercise for a while mister.
Well, I could let you do the work…
Hermione tried to scowl at him, but had a hard time and instead decided to fix his blankets and ignore his naughty suggestions as he chuckled at her. He dozed for a bit longer before Charlie showed up. He looked happy to see Harry awake and looking a bit better.
"Hi Harry. Good to see they patched you up. I really had no idea how bad you were hurt. I know why you didn't want to delay, but gods man! Anyway, you've stirred up everyone around here. Jaakko has been helping to deflect a lot of curiosity. The director is not happy, but Jaakko told him enough without saying anything really important that he has backed off some. He also arranged a special one way portkey out of here. I think he will just be happy to see us gone. The portkey will take us to the international arrivals hall at the Ministry. It leaves in about twenty minutes. Hans just cleared you, so maybe we should get ready?"
Harry agreed and Charlie stepped away for a moment while Hermione helped Harry up and into his clothing. Even that simple task wore him out. Once they were done, she called Charlie back and Jaakko came with him. Hans followed a moment later and made the discharge official before leaving the four of them alone. Harry thanked and apologized to Jaakko profusely, but he brushed it off. After promises to stay in touch, Harry stood up and was ready to take hold of the portkey as soon as it began to glow. He was still weak, so Hermione wrapped an arm around him while Charlie took his elbow. Soon they felt the familiar tug as they left Finland and headed back to London.
They arrived a few minutes later in the international arrivals hall and Harry would have fallen on his face if he wasn't supported. He slowly let himself be led over to the customs desk. The young woman at the desk seemed surprised at who was in front of her, but also noticed how tired he seemed and passed them through with a flirty smile that annoyed Hermione. As soon as they left the international arrivals hall, Charlie led them toward the floos. As they prepared to leave their friend behind, Harry turned back to him.
"Thanks for everything Charlie. We'll have a meeting of all the allies as soon as possible and update everyone. I know you've had to pay extra for the portkeys and all…"
"No worries Harry. Anyway, your lovely wife already insisted on giving me some money for it all. And she is very persistent."
Harry chuckled and nodded as Charlie gave his arm a squeeze and wished them a final goodbye. Then Hermione turned them and they found a floo to take them back to Hogwarts. When they stepped out into the headmaster's office, Dumbledore looked at them with a bit of surprise that changed to worry when he saw Harry's condition.
"Lord and Lady Potter, welcome back! I must say, you look a bit worse for wear."
"Harry's injury was exacerbated during our trip headmaster. That's why we're back a bit later than planned. We were successful though. I'm sure you have questions, but I need to get my husband back in bed to rest and then have Madam Pomfrey check on him."
"I understand completely. I'm glad at least that the effort was worthwhile."
"One second Mione. I did promise him a memory. Headmaster, do you have a phial?"
Dumbledore nodded and drew one out of a drawer as he stepped around his desk. Harry drew his wand and carefully extracted the memory before placing it in the phial.
"Thank you Lord Potter. I will watch this immediately. Now, please get some rest."
Hermione then called Dobby, who took one look at Harry and shook his head before taking them both by a hand and carefully popping them back to their apartment. Hermione led Harry to the bedroom, stripped him to his boxers, and tucked him in. As his head aimed for the pillow, he was instantly asleep.