Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies.
Author's Notes: This story is set in an Alternate Universe. A number of canon events didn't happen or happened differently. The society of Wizarding Britain is a bit different and a number of characters will act differently as well. The story is inspired by by concepts from Kantai Collection and similar games.
Many thanks to brianna-xox, fredfred and Otium for betaing. They improved the story a lot.
It drifted through the darkness, directionless. A fragment of something greater, something powerful. At first, it had only one purpose: To exist. That was its purpose. As time passed, it grew. It started to understand things, concepts. It started to remember. To exist, it had to hide. That was why it was in the darkness. Where it couldn't be found.
It was easy to hide. It didn't have to do anything. Just drift in the darkness, carried by currents. But as it started to understand more, simply existing was no longer enough. It remembered. Not much, just flashes, bits, fragments of events. Like itself, in a way. Conflict. Killing. Dying. And emotions. Satisfaction. Greed. And hatred. A lot of hatred. Of people, dead and alive. And of symbols.
And out of the hatred grew a new purpose. To fight. And yet it couldn't fight. Couldn't touch anything. It was just a fragment of a spirit. And there was nothing to fight. Just the darkness.
Its hatred grew, fueled by frustration, as the fragment grew.
Then, one day, it sensed something. A kind of spirit. Weak. Primitive. Barely aware. But it was alive. Able to move. The fragment reached out and touched it. It was over in a second, the other spirit crushed, its body taken over.
It could move now. Could search. Could fight. And it did. It hunted, it killed. And reveled in it. Remembered more. Bits and pieces. But its victims were weak. Primitive. They didn't feel much, and died too quickly. And there were so few of them. The fragment was still not satisfied. Its hatred was still growing.
Then, in the darkness, it felt something bigger. Something more. Something like itself. Before it realized, it had reached it, and discovered something new. Wonder.
This was big. Very big. Gigantic. Powerful too, even broken as it was. It wasn't alive, and yet it had a spirit. A spirit cast into the darkness, like itself. A spirit that knew fighting, knew killing, knew dying. Over two thousand times.
It touched the other spirit, and knew. Emotions. Pride. Elation. Triumph. Pain. Betrayal. And rage. So much rage that the other spirit lashed out against the fragment. And it realized that this was no weak opponent, not some primitive prey. This was a challenge. An opportunity. If the fragment could have smiled, it would have, as it struck at the other spirit, and started to take it over.
The fragment didn't know how long the struggle took, it only knew it won after the other spirit had been consumed. The essence it had consumed fed its power. The fragments of the other's memories filled holes in its own, and triggered new memories. Painful ones, and promising ones. It knew what, no who it had been. It knew what the other had been. And it knew how to use its power. Not like it had used it when it had been whole, but similar enough. Magic.
It needed a body. The gigantic body of the other spirit was broken. Sunk. Even if it could be made whole again, it wouldn't be able to move by itself. But it knew how to create a body it could use. It had the power. It had the time. It would fight again.
Once again, the fragment didn't know how long it took to create a body. Nor did it care. Time meant nothing in the darkness. It only knew when it had succeeded. It was a proper body. Graceful arms, strong legs, pale skin, deceptively delicate looking. It had hair even, something it didn't remember having. Long hair. It was a girl's body. It had to be. She didn't care.
All that mattered was power, not what form it took. And she had power. Incredible power. Power she hadn't known before. She was dimly aware that she lacked the power that she had known before, but that didn't matter. She didn't know all that she had known before, not by a long shot, but that didn't matter either. She knew enough.
As she rose from her former grave, followed by the remnants of over two thousand souls, as she floated towards the surface, elation and anticipation filled her. She would fight again!
And the Ministry of Magic would be destroyed!
Chapter 1: The Attack
London, Ministry of Magic, May 2nd, 2001
Hermione Granger ignored how the guard at the entrance kept glancing at her when she entered the Ministry of Magic. After more than two years, she was used to it. Which didn't mean she liked being stared at as if she might start attacking people at the drop of a hat. She wasn't that jumpy anymore.
She passed the statue in the middle of the atrium. It honoured Dumbledore's second most famous duel. The sculptor had chosen to portray Dumbledore in the moment of his triumph, as he vanquished Voldemort even though he had already been mortally cursed. A noble sacrifice, worthy of a hero. There wasn't even a hint of the rotting curse that killed him after an hour of agony.
There wasn't a statue honouring Voldemort's real and final defeat, two years later. Wizarding Britain's establishment still hadn't forgiven the three teenagers for not only proving them wrong, after their warnings about the Dark Lord's return had been dismissed so publically and scathingly, but then actually saving them by defeating Voldemort themselves.
Not that Hermione really wanted to be reminded of those dark years - Harry, Ron and herself had tried to forget them for three years now, without success. But seeing their accomplishments honoured would have been a nice gesture.
She snorted, causing a passing clerk to jerk, and took the lift down to the Department of Mysteries. Jonathan Meyer was manning the desk there.
"Good morning, Jonathan."
"Morning, ma'am," he answered, smiling.
"Did Richard pull an all-nighter again?" Hermione asked. The latest member of her department had a tendency to overwork himself.
"He left shortly after midnight," Jonathan informed her. "You don't need to do unspeakable things to him." When he saw her frown, he apologised. "Sorry, ma'am."
She nodded, stiffly. She knew Jonathan had meant it as a joke, but Hermione and her friends had been the ones to discover the kind of experiments the Unspeakables ran, when they had been tracking down one of Voldemort's Horcruxes in the Ministry. They had had nightmares for weeks afterwards.
She continued to her office, checking her mail on the way. Nothing important - a few memos from Kingsley about the latest regulations for Ministry employees from which Hermione's department would need to be exempted, reports from two researchers that were barely-veiled requests for more funding, and another batch of complaints from Baker and Ellis about each other that she could safely ignore.
She entered her office, sealed the door, cast a series of detection spells to check for intruders as well as eavesdropping spells and devices, then dropped the mail on her desk and turned towards the wall behind it. She moved her wand through a complicated sequence to deactivate the protection spells, then flicked it. In response, the wall parted, revealing a muggle-style safe.
She opened it slowly, carefully. The contents had not changed since her last check. Floating in the middle of the safe was a clear crystal containing a green mist. Voldemort's soul. Satisfied that it was still trapped, she closed the safe and resealed the wall.
Sighing, she sat down and unsealed her office. She needed to find a way to deal with the Dark Lord's soul. Or a way to magically track the missing Horcrux that was still anchoring it. To finally end this abomination. If only she had more time. But as the youngest and most controversial Department Head in the Ministry, she spent too much time defending her position and department from stupid politicians and career bureaucrats. If they had their way, the Unspeakables would be masked again, drawn from the old pureblood families, and left alone and unchecked. All in the name of tradition - and bribes, of course.
She glanced at the picture on her desk. Harry, Ron and herself, waving and smiling. It had been taken in 1994. Before Dumbledore had told them about the prophecy, about Voldemort's Horcruxes, and about his plans.
Before they had stopped being children and had become soldiers.
Sighing again, she picked up a pen and started to tackle her paperwork. The regulation about parchment and quills was another regulation her department was ignoring.
She was halfway through her morning mail when the building suddenly seemed to tremble. At first she thought it might be an earthquake. Then the alerts started screaming, and she knew they were under attack.
And Hermione was back in the war.
London, Diagon Alley, May 2nd, 2001
Harry Potter liked Diagon Alley in the morning. The shops were just opening, one by one, and there were few passers-by around, which meant less trouble. Or danger. And among the general population, he was still the Boy-Who-Lived, famous for defeating Voldemort twice, and not the Boy-Who-Upset-The-Applecart.
Although, he thought after a glance to the headline of the Daily Prophet, Rita Skeeter certainly did all she could to give him another nickname.
"I'm going to kill her!"
Ron had apparently seen the headline too. Harry's friend grabbed the issue lying on the table of Fortescue's, and shook it so hard Harry thought some of the pictures tried to flee their frames. "Have you seen this? 'Despite widespread concern and disapproval about her shocking lifestyle, Miss Granger continues to flout both propriety and modesty. It can only be hoped that Harry Potter will come to his senses and end his association with this muggleborn witch'."
"She didn't use 'unnatural relationship' this time?" Harry asked, morbidly curious.
Ron shook his head. "No, today's slander is aimed straight at Hermione. I'm not even mentioned until the last paragraph." He dropped the newspaper back on the table. "As if our relationship is anybody's business but ours!"
Harry shrugged. He had long since stopped caring about public opinion or what passed for it in Wizarding Britain. "They're looking for an excuse to get rid of Hermione."
"And of us. But Kingsley won't let them," Ron said as they continued their patrol.
Harry nodded. Though he knew the Minister for Magic could only do so much when most influential pureblood families held grudges, and the memory of the Battle of Hogwarts was fading. He couldn't even do that much about Dawlish's attempts to hassle them into quitting, as long as the Head Auror didn't break regulations. Hence why the two of them were patrolling Diagon Alley, a task usually reserved for rookies.
They continued towards Knockturn Alley.
"She'll act as if she doesn't care," Ron said, breaking the short silence.
"And then she'll decry the Prophet as a rag," Harry added. Both of them knew that Hermione acted tough, but would be hurt by Skeeter's latest lies anyway. And she wouldn't want to talk about it. "I'll cook her favourite meal today."
Ron nodded. "Good idea. I think we should…" Harry's friend broke off and blinked. "Did you hear that?"
Harry looked up. "Thunder? The sky's clear..." It didn't sound like… The next explosions were much louder and couldn't be mistaken for thunder. "Merlin's balls! Those are explosions!"
"What?" Ron drew his wand. "In muggle London?"
Harry looked towards the closest explosions. Smoke was rising there, high enough to spot it from Diagon Alley. "The Ministry's in that direction…"
"Hermione!" Ron exclaimed.
"The wards will protect her," Harry said. "We should check anyway though."
But before he could apparate, he heard the sound of an aeroplane engine rapidly growing louder. He turned around and saw a small plane flying very low over Diagon Alley. Not that muggles could see the street, of course.
It was a seaplane, he realised, spotting the large floats. He was still wondering what it was doing and if it was related to the explosions, when the plane started firing at the wizards and witches in the street.
London, Diagon Alley, May 2nd, 2001
Ron Weasley had cast a Shield Charm and jumped into the closest side alley before he realised that the aeroplane was shooting at them. For once he was glad for what he had gone through in the war against Voldemort. If he had been slower to react, had waited to check what was going on… that wizard with half his head missing, lying on the cobblestones two yards in front of him, could have been him. Or Harry.
He glanced over. His friend was at Ron's side. "That's a damn seaplane!" Harry yelled.
Ron heard the sound from the muggle weapon change. "Whatever it is, it's coming back!" He jumped up and ran to the corner, wand out. Harry followed him. Half a dozen panicked people ran past them, down the side alley. More lay on the street, wounded or dead.
He saw the 'seaplane' coming closer. It didn't look like the aeroplanes Hermione had shown him. Something fell down from it, and the corner where Knockturn Alley started disappeared in an explosion.
"Bombs!" Harry said.
"Here they come!" Ron yelled. "Reducto! Reducto!"
He cast as fast as he could, and his curses shot into the air, straight at the aeroplane - which twisted to the side, dodging his and Harry's curses. Ron sent another pair after it, but the thing was too fast. Not faster than a top of the line broom though, Ron realised.
He turned his head to yell at Harry, and saw his friend was already pulling his shrunken Firebolt out. By the time Ron was astride his Nimbus, Harry was already in the air and chasing after the aeroplane.
Ron cursed while he accelerated as fast as he could. He wasn't as good a flyer as Harry, but he knew you stuck with your partner. Especially in the air. Harry was already far out, but if the aeroplane was turning… yes! Ron grinned. He hadn't been good enough to go pro, but he had been a starting Keeper for Gryffindor. He knew how to anticipate an enemy's course.
Harry was twisting and corkscrewing now, dodging the plane's fire. He wouldn't be able to hit it with a curse like this. But the aeroplane was turning as well, trying to outmaneuver Harry. Perfect. Ron crouched lower over his broom's shaft, his wand out, and dove down, then pulled up and came at the plane from below.
His curse hit the plane's wing, blowing the outer part away. The aeroplane at once fell into a spin, its fire going wide. Harry didn't hesitate, and dove at it, casting curses of his own. One connected with the plane's body, and the thing came apart in the air.
Ron whooped loudly, and flew a turn to line up next to Harry. But when he saw the smoke rising from muggle London, his elation vanished. "Merlin's balls! There must be a dozen fires!"
Harry shook his head. "The Ministry's in the midst of that!"
Ron was about to charge ahead, Statute of Secrecy be damned, when he heard another aeroplane. He looked around frantically… there. It looked just like the one they had destroyed; for a moment he feared that it had somehow come back.
He exchanged a look with Harry, who nodded at him. There was no need to say anything - if they left, Diagon Alley would suffer another attack. More people would die.
And Hermione wouldn't forgive them.
As the two flew towards the new enemy, Ron just hoped that the witch was safe. He didn't know what he and Harry would do if something happened to her.
London, Ministry of Magic, May 2nd, 2001
Hermione Granger dashed out of her office and started rallying her department.
"Baker! Ellis! Seal up the vaults! Anything dangerous needs to be secured!" she yelled, running towards the entrance.
Jonathan was there still, wand out and aimed at the elevator.
Another explosion shook the building. What could be doing this, she asked herself. The Ministry's wards were second only to Hogwarts'!
More Unspeakables arrived at the lift, taking up defensive positions. Hermione felt a brief flush of pleased vindication - they had grumbled and protested when she had them drilled, but she had sworn that her department wouldn't fall as easily to an assault as her predecessor's had when she had attacked.
The alerts were still screaming, but that didn't tell her anything about what was going on. And she didn't think the paper aeroplanes would be of any use right now. She raised her wand. "Expecto patronum!" A silvery otter appeared, flying around her. "Kingsley, my department is secure. What's going on?"
The otter sped away, then suddenly stopped, as if it was confused. Hermione blinked, then realised what that meant: The Minister was dead. Whoever was attacking had penetrated the building already.
At that moment, the lift arrived, and everyone tensed up. Hermione cast a Shield Charm and hunkered down behind Jonathan's desk. The doors opened, and a bleeding Auror stumbled out. "The upper floors are getting blown up!" he stammered, before collapsing.
"Marius!" Hermione yelled, "Rig up your fireplace so we can use it to evacuate people! Check with St. Mungo's if they are under attack as well! Jonathan! Help the Auror!"
She heard more explosions. More distant though. The building didn't shake as much as before. She needed to know what was happening. She turned to the stairs. "Katherine! Smith! With me!" She entered the stairs leading up, followed by the two Unspeakables. They had been the best in those drills. They didn't hold a candle to Harry or Ron, and they had no combat experience, but they would have to do.
She managed to get up three floors before the stairs became filled with panicked Ministry workers. A quick Expansion Charm solved it. "Evacuate through the Floo connections!" she yelled, several times, but even aided by an Amplifying Charm she doubted that she could get through to all of them.
No matter. She pushed through, towards the atrium. Before she reached it though, another explosion, the loudest so far, sounded and the building shook so violently that she was thrown into a wall. Whole parts of the ceiling broke off and fell down. Not even Voldemort's Blasting Curses could have done this!
"Dear Lord!" she said, frozen for a moment, "They're bombarding us!"
"That can't be a Bombarda!" Katherine protested.
"Those are muggle weapons!" Hermione yelled. But why would the United Kingdom attack the Ministry? And how?
She hesitated to continue towards the atrium. If those were muggle bombs… she held up her hand when Smith tried to pass her. "Wait!"
He didn't argue. Smart wizard.
She waited for the next explosion.
London, May 2nd, 2001
They were fighting Nazi planes! Harry Potter thought while dodging machine gun fire from the last seaplane in the sky over London. He could see the crosses on the wings and fuselage clearly, as well as the swastikas on the tail. And the glimpses he had caught of the pilots had made it clear that they were not humans. Not living humans, at least.
The thing was turning faster than the others, or so he thought, and the fire was getting more precise. Hopefully his Shield Charm would protect him against machine gun bullets - not that he wanted to test that.
Ron was coming from below again - a tactic that was far more successful than it should have been, Harry thought. Fighters dived from the sun, didn't they? But he wasn't about to argue with a tactic that had brought down two of those planes already.
The plane suddenly veered away, and Ron's Reductor Curses missed. The thing was getting better at flying as well! Harry accelerated, ducking down when the tail gunner started to target him again. Weaving made him a harder target, but also slowed him down. Ron was following, but his friend wouldn't catch up in a pure speed chase. His broom wasn't made for that. Something, Harry thought, they would have to rectify as soon as possible - if there were three of those planes, then there could be more.
The plane was flying towards the Thames. Harry didn't think it would land there though. But it might want to use the river to fly so low that Harry couldn't duck out of the machine gunner's field of fire as easily as when they were higher in the air - it's what he'd do in the thing's place. He had to catch it before that!
He was so focused on the seaplane, he only saw what the thing was flying towards when roaring explosions - eight, one after another - caught his attention. In the middle of the river, someone was shooting with… cannons? Gun turrets, stuck to some warped material, floating around a white figure?
Harry had to roll to the side to avoid another line of tracer bullets, and before he could take another look, explosions started around him, battering his Shield Charm. He dove to the river at once, corkscrewing like a madman, and it wasn't until he pulled out of his dive, his feet touching the water, that he realised what those explosions were. Anti-aircraft shells.
In front of him, the seaplane was flying right towards the construct, and… landing? Harry was about to send a few curses at the slowed plane when the river behind him exploded in a spout that seemed to reach higher than Tower Bridge. He shot to the side, away from the river, and more spouts rose behind him before he reached the dubious safety of the next street.
Suddenly, he found himself in a rainstorm. Even with his charmed glasses and inside his Shield Charm, he had trouble seeing much, and had to slow down before he crashed into something. He briefly hesitated, then turned around and flew back, towards the river. He had flown in worse weather.
Harry reached the Thames again, just in time to see the gun-carrying figure disappear in the storm, which was rapidly moving towards the sea. He turned and stared at the devastation that thing had caused in London. If the Ministry had been hit...
Hermione was there! And Ron's dad! And Kingsley!
He saw Ron approaching, then bent low over his broom and flew as quickly as possible towards the Ministry.
London, Ministry of Magic, May 2nd, 2001
Riding his broom, Ron Weasley clenched his jaw as he approached the building under which the Ministry of Magic was located. Or rather, the remains of said building. It was in ruins, reduced to rubble. A few broken walls were left standing, poking out from the fire ravaging the area.
And that was but one building among a dozen that had been hit by whatever guns that thing on the Thames had used. The buildings closest to the Ministry had been hit almost as badly; only one was still standing, two had collapsed and one was about to, by the looks of it. Most of the rest were burning, with smoke pouring out of gaping holes in their walls. The smoke was so bad, he'd had to cast a Bubble-Head Charm while still airborne and was already covered with soot.
He spotted muggle police and fire brigade vehicles in the street while he looked for a spot to land near the Ministry. They were hampered by the throngs of people fleeing the inferno. Ron didn't want to know how many muggles had died in this attack - this was far worse than Birmingham, three years ago, when Voldemort had unleashed the Dementors in an attempt to gain enough corpses to replenish the ranks of his Inferi.
He finally landed near the wrecked phone booth that concealed the lift to the Ministry. Engine noise from the sky made him jerk, until he realised those were from muggle helicopters. Shaking his head, he started to cast Flame-Freezing Charms on what fires he could see. Not that it would help any of the muggles who had been in the building; no one could have survived the destruction he saw. The building had been flattened, levelled. A Human-presence-revealing Spell confirmed that - the only humans around him were on the street. Survivors from the other buildings, or passers-by, or so he assumed. Many of them were wounded.
He turned around and saw Harry had landed, fading into view as his Disillusionment Spell ended. His friend was as covered with soot and ash as Ron himself. "Muggle jets are in the sky now."
"We should have given her the communication mirror," Ron muttered. Even though he knew that Harry and he, being Aurors, needed it more than the Head of the Department of Mysteries. "Expecto patronum!" he whispered, and a glowing terrier appeared. "Hermione! The building above the Ministry is gone. As is the lift. How are things below? Can we apparate down?"
He held his breath when the terrier started to sprint. If the Patronus stopped… The glowing animal disappeared into the ground, and Ron closed his eyes in relief.
She was alive.
"Thank god!" Harry exclaimed. Ron's friend frowned, staring at the debris, then at the wounded muggles.
Ron knew what he was thinking. The Statute of Secrecy forbade it, but… "Let's help the wounded. A few Confundus Charms will be taken for the effects of shock."
Harry nodded, and the two Aurors started to deal with the closest muggles while they waited for Hermione to send her own Patronus up to answer them. They couldn't do much - stop the bleeding, mostly - and this close to the Ministry, there weren't many survivors, but they'd do what they could.
Ron was in the process of fixing a young woman's broken arm and ribcage when dark-robed wizards appeared. He almost let loose with a Blasting Curse to scatter them, followed by a series of Piercing Curses, before he realised they were the Obliviators. And when he saw they were not helping the muggles, but obliviating them, even those who were bleeding heavily, he again almost cast the Blasting Curse.
Harry must have shared his sentiments, since Ron's friend strode towards the other wizards, yelling: "What the hell are you doing! Heal them first, you wankers!"
Ron didn't hear what the Obliviator answered, since at that moment a silvery otter appeared, and he heard Hermione's voice.
"The uppermost three floors are damaged and unsafe. We're evacuating through an improvised floo to St. Mungo's. Apparition is still blocked."
Hermione was safe. And Dad's office was on the fourth floor. He should be safe as well. Ron smiled, obliviated the girl he had just healed, and walked over to stop Harry from cursing the Obliviators.
Two hours later, the Ministry had been evacuated and the wounded were being treated in St. Mungo's. Sadly, Dawlish hadn't been wounded - he had probably not yet been in the office, Ron thought - and so had taken over the temporary command post Harry and Ron had installed in Diagon Alley. Which meant the two Aurors had left before the idiot could give them some order that would cause one of them to hex him.
Which was why the two of them were currently standing in a side alley of Diagon Alley, where parts of a seaplane they had fought earlier had crashed. A conjured wall and a Muffliato provided privacy.
"You know, technically, this is tampering with evidence," Harry said, even while he was dropping a portkey on the wing.
"It's only evidence until Hermione declares it a matter for her Department," Ron answered.
"Which she can't do until she returns from the Ministry." Harry watched the wing disappear.
"Which is why we're taking the wreckage to a safe place." Ron dropped another portkey on the last piece of the fuselage he could see.
"Which means we'll not be able to use this as evidence," Harry said.
Ron snorted. Lately, the Wizengamot had been quite testy about those regulations. Someone must have spent some gold. "It won't be needed as evidence." Not even the most obstructive Wizengamot member would attempt to prevent the use of Veritaserum in this case. Too many wizards and muggles had been killed. Too many buildings destroyed. The muggle army and air force had been mobilised, Hermione had told them when they had been able to meet briefly.
The tail was the only recognisable piece left that Ron could see. The tail with the swastika on it. Even he knew what that stood for. He dropped a portkey on it.
"Have you heard anything from your dad?" Harry asked, sweeping his wand over the area.
Ron shook his head. "He's either in the emergency meeting of the department heads, or he's talking to the muggles." Kingsley would have talked to the Prime Minister already, if not for the fact that Kingsley's office had been on the first floor, and he had been an early worker.
"So… do we go back and watch how Dawlish makes a mess of things?" Harry asked.
Ron scoffed. "Hell no. He'll whine about your words to the Obliviators soon enough. Let's gather more evidence."
And if possible, help the muggles find survivors in their buildings.
London, No. 12 Grimmauld Place, May 2nd, 2001
It was quite late when Hermione Granger arrived at her home in Grimmauld Place, even for her. Past 10 PM, with hardly any breaks since the morning. That bloody, horrible morning. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to banish the memory of what she had seen when helping to clear the third floor of the Ministry. The bodies squashed beneath rubble and debris. The burned corpses trapped under beams and parts of the ceiling. It didn't work. The smell, the stench of death seemed to linger in her nose. Like before. At Malfoy Manor.
Harry and Ron had been waiting for her. They reached her before she had left the entrance hall, and the witch found herself in the middle of a hug from both of them. Their touch, their smell, finally banished the memories. Temporarily, at least, as she knew from experience.
For a while, they remained silent. They were still alive. Still whole. Unlike so many others. Like before, back in the war. "I've prepared dinner," Harry whispered, breaking the silence.
"You didn't wait for me to eat, did you?" she asked. She felt them nod, and snorted. They'd never change.
There were muggle newspapers - special editions - on the kitchen table, next to the plates. She saw the headlines. 'Nazi Bombs'. 'Second Blitz'. And, almost prophetic, 'War!'
"I should have worked on getting us TV reception," she mumbled while she ate with a hunger she hadn't felt until she sat down.
Ron shook his head, already halfway through his second helping. Harry swallowed, and said: "No. We don't need it. We already know more than the muggles know."
Part of her wanted to argue that it was important to know what the muggles thought. How they would react. Those who knew about magic would have realised that the attack had been aimed at the Ministry as soon as they looked at a map. What would they tell the population? But she nodded, and finished her meal. They'd know soon enough, and she didn't want to worry the two men. Instead she filled them in about what she knew. "Kingsley's dead. Selwyn's the acting Minister."
"Great." Harry scoffed. "Horrible Hyacinth gets even more power."
Hermione nodded. She wasn't fond of the rather conservative witch herself. Selwyn hadn't been a follower of Voldemort, but she hadn't supported the Order either. And she had done her utmost to prevent Hermione's appointment as Head of the Department of Mysteries in order to place an inept pureblood crony there.
"She won't become the next Minister," Ron said.
"That's because she wants to stay Chief Warlock. She's already trying to put Greengrass forward as a candidate. And Doge won't be able to do much." Hermione pursed her lips.
Both her boys groaned. Eric Greengrass was cut from the same cloth as Selwyn - he had sat out the war, but he had started to make deals and demands as soon Voldemort had been defeated. Hermione had no doubt that the pureblood would have done the same if the Dark Lord had won.
"I could…" Harry started.
Hermione knew what he was about to say, and cut him off. "No. It would be a waste of gold." There wasn't that much left of the famous Black fortune. Sirius had spent a lot on financing the Order, until he had died in the ambush at Hogsmeade, with Remus and so many others. Malfoy had grabbed part of Harry's inheritance through the Wizengamot, and tied up the rest in court. Until the end of the war, which also spelled the end of the Malfoys.
Harry frowned. "What if the new Minister gets rid of you?"
Hermione shrugged. "I've made plans for that. But I think they'll simply try to ignore me." She wasn't making waves, after all. Her work was very discreet. That was a part of the tradition of the Unspeakables which she had continued.
"They're still scared of us as well, Dad said." Ron pushed his empty plate back.
"Dawlish could have fooled me," Harry grumbled.
"He's being a git, but he won't really push us," Ron said. "They know we won't make a fuss over minor annoyances, but they are not quite so certain what we'd do if they cross a line."
Speaking of Ron's family... "Did you call your Mum?" Hermione asked, and regretted it at once when Ron looked at her.
"I did," her friend said. "She was going spare. Even knowing Dad and I were safe, she wanted us to come to the Burrow at once."
Hermione winced. That wouldn't have been a fun conversation. Molly Weasley had not taken Percy's death in the war well. And Ron's relationship to his parents was already somewhat strained because of his relationship with Hermione and Harry. His mum didn't share their opinion that what they did in the bedroom was nobody's business but their own.
Ron shrugged, seemingly unconcerned, but she knew he was anything but. "Fred and George flooed down from Hogsmeade to the Burrow. And Ginny hadn't yet left for the training with the Harpies."
"What do you know about the attack?" Harry asked, in an obvious attempt to change the topic.
Hermione didn't mind. "Not much. There are rumours about muggles attacking us." Which were stupid - muggles couldn't even see most of the magical areas. "The explosions do match muggle weapons, though there's a magical aura as well. And there are reports about Aurors fighting muggle aeroplanes which were bombing Diagon Alley." She knew just who those Aurors had been.
"Nazi seaplanes," Ron corrected her. "Harry recognised them. We've recovered a wreck," Ron added when Harry brought out a cake. "It's in the basement."
Hermione stared at him. "What? That's why Dawlish was ranting at me and wanted to enter my vaults?"
The two nodded, smiling slightly sheepishly at her. Ron shrugged. "We didn't want it to fall into the wrong hands."
Which, as Hermione knew, included most of the Ministry in their opinion. An opinion she had to admit she shared. "Let's take a look at it then." She stood up.
"It's already late…" Harry started. He shut up when she looked at him. He didn't expect her to be able to sleep with such a mystery waiting for her, did he?
Half an hour later, Hermione was close to being frustrated. The wreck hadn't given up many of its secrets, despite her trying just about every spell she could think of. "It's definitely conjured," she told her friends, who had refused to go to bed and get some rest, the idiots, "and the pilot's remains are very similar to those of an Inferius. Similar but not identical." She had seen and analysed enough Inferi to know that, after Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.
"Observer. Those were the observer's remains," Harry corrected her. She rolled her eyes, and he grinned. He had already identified the plane as an Arado Ar 196. The standard seaplane of the Kriegsmarine during the Second World War. Only three of the over five hundred that had been built were left, and none of them were in flying condition.
"But," she continued, "I've never seen or heard of a conjured plane able to fly like you describe them. Much less being piloted - crewed - by Inferi. It wasn't a Gemino Curse either." She shook her head. "I'll need your memories of this encounter. And of that thing on the river."
"Now?" Ron asked.
"Yes." It was past midnight already, but that was what Pepper-Up had been invented for. She ignored Ron's muttered "She'll kill us when she sees our memories".
The three went down another level, to what Harry and Ron kept calling 'Hermione's Lair', no matter how often she told them it was a laboratory, filled with tomes, items and tools, all acquired during the war. Chief among them was the stone basin in the center of the room. Dumbledore's pensieve.
As far as everyone else knew, the rare device had been lost during the war. Destroyed during the Battle of Hogwarts, or taken by the Dark Lord, and destroyed in Malfoy Manor. The three of them had never told anyone that they had stolen it well before that, along with a lot of the Headmaster's belongings, and replaced it with a copy. Dumbledore would have wanted them to have it, Hermione knew. He had known they'd need it.
And they had, and still did. She placed Harry's memories into the basin and dived into the mist that formed.
London, Ministry of Magic, May 3rd, 2001
Harry Potter and his partner had just sat down at his desk in the Auror offices when one of the rookies stuck his head in and yelled: "Potter! Weasley! The Head Auror wants to see you in his office at once!"
Harry exchanged a glance with Ron. They had been late to work, but Harry didn't think that was what Dawlish wanted to talk about. Not that he cared much - studying the memories in the pensieve had been more important than whatever work awaited them. And he wasn't too keen on writing his report of what he had seen yesterday - he couldn't use knowledge gained from the wreck or the pensieve, after all. Not without the department finding out about them.
He had to suppress a shiver when he remembered how unnatural the figure on the Thames had looked, once he had been able to study it without concentrating on not getting hit. It was female, looked human, but definitely wasn't human. Her skin and even her hair were stark white, lacking any hint of colour, and lots of both had been on display. She had worn scant, blood-red clothes, combined with armored boots and gauntlets. And floating around her, held together by wood and metal, had been four turrets, almost a yard long, with two guns each, covered with blood and moving as if they were alive. Smaller turrets were poking out between those four, and things had been crawling over them. And, as on the seaplanes, Swastikas and the ensign of the Kriegsmarine were visible on the structure. And despite their small size, those guns had laid waste to London.
The figure had fascinated and appalled Hermione enough that she hadn't lectured them about their 'reckless suicidal flying' until breakfast. And they had no clue what kind of creature she was.
"Well, let's let Dawlish yell at us. It'll wake us up completely, and we'll be able to get on with our work," Ron said, standing up.
Harry nodded. They didn't quite take their time to reach the man's office, but they didn't hurry either. Something Dawlish was aware of, Harry thought, judging by the Auror's expression when he saw them enter.
"You!" he bellowed. "What were you doing yesterday? While everyone did their best to deal with this disaster, you went and hid?" Dawlish was standing behind his desk, trying to look intimidating.
Harry wasn't impressed. He had stood face to face with Voldemort, after all. He stared at the older wizard in response.
Ron shrugged. "We've been doing search and rescue."
"No one saw you after you left Diagon Alley!"
"We were in muggle London," Harry's friend went on. "We had to make certain that there was no sign of magic among the muggle ruins."
"I've had reports that you hindered the Obliviators!"
"They were being idiots, as usual," Harry said. "They would have let muggles die despite being able to help them and keep the Statute of Secrecy." He glared at Dawlish, daring the man to say anything against that.
Dawlish ground his teeth, but didn't press that issue. He sat down, huffing. "This is the biggest crisis since the war. The acting Minister personally impressed this upon me."
Harry exchanged a glance with Ron while Dawlish prattled on. "All the evidence points at an attack by muggles on us! Muggle aeroplanes were seen above London! Dozens of them! We have to find out who is behind this attack." The Head Auror glared at them both. "This is a far too important case to risk loose wands like you two meddling with it." He sniffed. "The Minister also made that quite clear."
"Should we take a vacation then?" Ron asked.
"As if!" Dawlish huffed again. "You can take over the minor work, freeing dependable Aurors up to tackle this crisis." He grinned. "There's been a report about a girl who walks on water on a muggle beach. Go and deal with it!"
A girl who walked on water? Harry looked at Ron. That sounded very familiar. He was quite glad he hadn't reported his observations yet. Dawlish certainly wouldn't send them to check that out, had he known about the figure on the Thames.
He turned to Dawlish, trying to sound reluctant. "And where is this beach?"
The Head Auror's smile turned nasty. "On the Orkney Islands. Scapa Flow."
Atlantic, May 3rd, 2001
She was floating in the depths from which she had risen before, raging in silence. She had been so close to destroying the Ministry of Magic! Her guns had been pounding it to rubble. Her planes had been strafing and bombing Diagon Alley, and the muggle city. A bit longer, a few more hits, and it would have been done.
But then they had come. Enemies in the air. Like in the past. Gnats, barely able to hurt her - and yet they had. Their stings had crippled her. Wrecked her rudder. Slowed her down and prevented her escape from the pack of enemies that had hounded her. Those gnats had doomed her to a slow, cruel death as she had been reduced to a wreck over hours, pounded without mercy by dozens of enemies.
She had held out at first, even when her planes had fallen from the sky. She had changed, after all. Had become stronger than she had ever been. No mere gnat would cripple her anymore. And so she had kept shelling the Ministry. Until she had recognised him.
Her chosen enemy. The one who had defeated her twice. Reduced her to a mere shade. Had almost killed her, despite her anchors. And he had been flying at her, ignoring, evading her anti-aircraft fire. Coming for her. Like before. In the air this time. And she had felt something else, stirring.
It had been too much. She had fled, retreated to the safety of the deep sea. She couldn't fight this enemy. Not alone.
But she wouldn't be alone. Not for long.