Disclaimer: When you are wrestling for possession of Harry Potter, JK Rowling always wins.

A/N: I just want to be clear: "Winter is coming!" was a little joke and not implying anything directly. If you look at the prophecies in total, you'll see that they were a metaphorical reference to Ragnarok, as is pointed out early in this chapter.

Chapter 20: The Battle of Britain, Part I

Harry, Hermione, and Cho ran up to the Headmaster's office. Cho had a standing invitation in case of just such a situation, so she knew the password to get past the gargoyle, but when she knocked on the door, the voice that issued from within wasn't Professor Dumbldore's, but Professor Snape's.

"Dammit," he scoffed. "Private business! Come back later."

Cho stared for a moment outside the door, taken aback. She hesitated. Dumbledore usually knew who was outside his office, but she didn't wait long before she called out, "Professor, I have a prophecy!"

The door opened at once, and the trio hurried into the room. At his desk, Professor Dumbledore looked grave, while Snape, standing over him, looked uncommonly surprised. "You have a prophecy?" Snape demanded.

"Yes, sir. Why? Did something happen?"

"It certainly did. Madam Fan gave me a prophecy not five minutes ago—the most useful one she's made all month."

Harry gasped: "That must've been at practically the same time Cho made hers."

"Two at the same time?" asked Snape.

"It would seem to signal a very great upheaval for a natural prophecy to channel itself through two Seers," Dumbledore spoke up at last.

But Snape cut back in: "Albus, I've been too long already, and I don't need to hear more. I must go. Now."

Dumbledore nodded. "See to it, Severus," he said, but Snape was already on his way out the door.

The three students watched in confusion. "Professor, what's happening?" Hermione said.

"Professor Snape was called by Voldemort while Madam Fan's prophecy was in progress, Hermione. The timing would appear to be significant. Now, quickly: I take it you two were the witnesses to Miss Chang's prophecy?" Harry and Hermione nodded. "Good. What did it say."

Harry closed his eyes and recited, "Winter is coming. The Wolf has broken from his bonds. The demon of fire rides forth, his heart set on conquest. Tonight, they will come against the rulers of the land. The shields of the rulers will be broken, and London will fall."

"London?" Dumbledore breathed.

"Should we warn them, Professor?" Hermione asked.

"The Ministry has its own ways of learning these things. Even as we speak, I suspect the Keeper of the Hall of Prophecy is making his way to Minister Fudge's office. But your prophecy is curious, Miss Chang. In several ways. Your earlier visions suggested that the attack would come here, at Hogwarts."

Cho shrugged uneasily. "I didn't See anything this time, sir," she said.

"No. This would seem to be an ordinary prophecy," he replied, "but it is unusual in one other way. Your great-great-grandmother's prophecy ended with the words, 'Winter is coming,' which would suggest it is connected to yours. However, the rest of its content is very different. To wit, it referred to four great cats who would seem to represent the dark forces arrayed against us. No offence to you, Harry, of course."

"Then what does the prophecy mean, sir?" Harry asked. "'London will fall.' That sounds bad."

"Indeed, it does," Dumbledore said. "I have a plausible interpretation but I am as yet not certain—"

But what that interpretation was, they didn't hear, for at that moment, Hagrid barged into the office with a thunderous stomping. Fawkes screeched and flapped away from his perch as it toppled over. "Headmaster, sir!" he said, out of breath. "I had ter tell yeh right away. Got here quick as I could…"

Dumbledore rose to his feet. "Hagrid, what is the matter?" he asked.

"It's Professor Trelawney, sir. She's just made a prophecy. I'm sure of it!"

Dumbledore paled, and Harry and Hermione gasped. "Another one?" they said.

"Another one?"

"Yes. This is the third prophecy to be heard at virtually the same time," the Headmaster said. "What did Sybill say, Hagrid?"

"Oh, right. Well, she's got her talisman, so she'll have the exact words, but it talked about the sea coverin' the land, and fire rainin' down, and the legions o' Hell comin' out. It sounded really bad…Er, should I go get her? I wasn't thinkin'—"

"No need, Hagrid." He waved his hands, and his Pensieve floated out of the cupboard. "If you wouldn't mind lending me your memory of the prophecy…?"

"Huh? Oh, o' course."

Dumbledore retrieved the memory and played it back in the Pensieve for the room to see. There was silence after it ended. Hagrid didn't comment. Even Cho just waited, not sure what to say. But when Dumbledore finally spoke again, his tone was almost conversational: "Hagrid, go back down and ensure Sybill made it back to the castle safely. Tell Professor Flitwick to prepare for an attack imminently, and then begin locking down the grounds. Tell any students you see outdoors to return the to castle, but try not to alarm them."

Hagrid stiffened, looking more the soldier than Harry and Hermione had ever seen him. He didn't need to question it, having heard Professor Trelawney's prophecy. "Yes, sir. I'll do that right away," he said, and he hurried out.

"Professor, that didn't make sense," Harry said. "Cho's prophecy said London, not Hogwarts."

Dumbledore shook his head and bent over his desk, charming a quill to write something. "On the contrary, Harry, I think this clears things up nicely. I think these were not three prophecies, but a single prophecy in three parts. Professor Trelawney's prophecy forms a clear bridge between the other two. The full prophecy may be read by writing them in the traditional sequence from youngest to oldest. Look:

Winter is coming. The Wolf has broken from his bonds. The demon of fire rides forth, his heart set on conquest. Tonight, they will come against the rulers of the land. The shields of the rulers will be broken, and London will fall. Tonight, the sea will rise to cover the land. Tonight, fire will rain down upon the fields. Tonight, the legions of Helheim come out. They will set upon Hogwarts, great magics will be wrought, and all refuges will be lost. Twilight will fall, and the monsters will come. The Tiger prowls in the shadows, hiding his enemies' sight. The Jaguar laughs and strikes down whom she pleases. The Lynx charges to claim his throne, an army at his back. The Leopard roars and transfixes his foes, hungry for revenge. The enemies of the Leopard will be trapped until the day is done, and Europe will fall into darkness. Winter is coming.

"Ragnarök," Hermione whispered when they read it. She looked up at Dumbledore. "Was that what you were thinking, sir?"

"It was."

"Er…catch me up, here?" Cho said.

"Ragnarök," Harry said. "The End Times in Norse mythology. Luna's told me all about this stuff. The 'Helheim' part makes it pretty clear. 'Winter is coming' must refer to the Fimbulvetr, the three-year winter that precedes Ragnarök. But it must be using it figuratively, right, Professor?"

Dumbledore nodded slowly. "This prophecy does not describe the events of Ragnarök as described in the Eddas. The details clearly refer to events happening here in Britain tonight. Rather, it suggests that the looming battle will be so devastating that it will be as if Ragnarök has come, and the aftermath will be like winter falling on all of Europe."

"Then we have to see if we can get something useful from it," Hermione said, still studying the parchment. "'The Wolf has broken from his bonds' should mean Fenrir Greyback. We've seen that already. The demon of fire. That's not an actual demon, is it? Or a Fire Giant?"

"Almost certainly not, Hermione," he assured her. "You will recall, of course, that Voldemort has shown a great affinity for fire magic of late. He would fit the description of the demon."

"'The rulers of the land…'" Harry muttered. "The Ministry…? Unless it means you, Professor…or maybe the ICW task force—Ugh! I don't get it! Prophecies are supposed to be more straightforward than this!"

"You remember what Grandmother Fan said," Cho told him. "When you put multiple Seers together, things start to get weird. Even my earlier prophecy still doesn't make sense. I don't get the Eagle and the Serpent bit. I haven't seen anything in Ravenclaw. Maybe a couple sympathisers but nothing organised."

"It is possible you were not meant to see them, Miss Chang," Dumbledore said. "Adrian Pucey was searched here at Hogwarts before his death, yet no indication of dark magic was found. He must have been given the Dark Mark during the holidays. The Death Eaters have grown more adept at stealth over the years."

"Okay, well, the first part says London," Hermione reasoned. "It sounds like Greyback and Voldemort are going to attack the Ministry, and meanwhile, the…the legions of Helheim will come for Hogwarts."

Cho shuddered. "What does that mean?" she asked in a quavering voice. "Dementors? Inferi?"

Dumbledore sounded more worried than ever: "I wish I knew, Miss Chang. I—"

"Uh, Professor?" Harry called, pointed out the open window of Dumbledore's office.

The others turned and looked. A spark of light was outside, flying toward them from over the Lake. It was incredibly fast. Harry had barely had time to alert the others, and for a split second, Hermione thought it was a meteor before it flew in through the window. Suddenly, a shining lynx Patronus stood in the middle of the office, which made them flinch because of the prophecy, but it opened its mouth and spoke in a deep voice, "The Ministry of Magic is under attack. La Pantera is here. We think Voldemort too. There are too many—"

The Patronus winked out, and the students stared up at Dumbledore in horror.

"It seems the battle has begun," the old man said. "I must see to lending them aid while we still have time."

Unfortunately, at that moment, Harry spotted another flicker of movement out the window. "Uh, sir? I think our time just ran out."

This time, he was pointing down at the Black Lake. Far above the grounds as they were, they couldn't hear the sounds of the arrival nor the shouts of surprise from stragglers on the grounds and students watching from the windows, but they could definitely see it. In the middle of the Lake, ships were rising up—not a single tall ship like the one that appeared last year, but a dozen of what looked like Viking longships. Each ship was armed with a catapult on its bow, and each one had a sail emblazoned with the coat of arms of Durmstrang: a double-headed eagle.

Kingsley Shacklebolt ducked around a corner to avoid a nasty-looking curse. He and his team were pinned down, and he hadn't been able to keep his Patronus going long enough to tell Dumbledore everything. He had to hope it would be enough.

He didn't even know for sure if Voldemort was here. He hadn't come down with the first wave, and Kingsley just couldn't imagine Voldemort standing around in a muggle alley waiting for his Death Eaters to blast their way in. But La Pantera was here, and according to the reports, so were Fenrir Greyback and his pack, and they were bad enough.

They'd brought up the Anti-Apparition Wards, locked down the Atrium, and shut off the lifts the minute the Death Eaters first appeared. That blocked all of the normal ways into the Ministry and out of the Atrium. Unfortunately, that also left the hundreds of Ministry workers with no way out, but that was better than the alternative. It did slow the Death Eaters down. It should have put them in a killing box with them all trapped in the Atrium, but La Pantera was down there, and her protections were keeping them safe. Meanwhile, the entire Ministry was open to the Atrium, and the same feature that should have given the Aurors the advantage could soon prove fatal; the better-protected Death Eaters could just curse up through the windows.

Yes, the windows were warded, and the corridors all ran behind the offices, putting an extra wall between them, but it sounded like a hurricane down this. He didn't think this respite hiding in the hallways of the DMLE would last long.

An interdepartmental memo flew towards him down the corridor. He swatted it away, but it came back and poked against his forehead. Growling in frustration, Kingsley snatched the parchment airplane out of the air and unfurled it so fast he nearly ripped it. It was a blank patent application. He nearly threw it away, but he turned it over first.

There in the scrawling handwriting of Nymphadora Tonks were three words: Mad Eye's leg?

Kingsley's mind spun for a moment as he put context around the words, then struggled to understand what good it would do to send them. Suddenly, he smiled. "That kid is brilliant."

"What is it, Shack?" Lutetia Savage called from the next alcove.

"It's Tonks. She's down on Level Five," he called back. Then, with a little-used writing charm he wrote on the memo: U tried 2 switch w/desk lamp.

He was sure Tonks was celebrating down in the Patents Office, but there was no time for that in a message. Only a little smiley face showed up, and as he'd expected, the next thing to appear on the Protean Charmed parchment was: Where R U?

He wrote back: 2N38 Hall, the short code for his location.

I got 20+ climbing wall 2 your loc.

"They're climbing the wall," he told his team.

"The wall?" Devins said in confusion.

"The Atrium wall!"

"Werewolves?" Savage asked. They were the only wizards who were likely to get up to feats of acrobatics.

"We'll have to hope it's only that," Kingsley said, thinking of Inferi or other such monsters. "Cover me. Shield Charms—Go!"

The three Aurors barged into the nearest office, shields raised in front of them. Sure enough, the Atrium-side windows had been partially shot out. Devins and Savage held their shields in front of Kingsley while he leaned out to look down the sheer wall to see about two dozen ragged-looking people climbing up the side. Some of them looked feral, but most of them simply looked like people who had fallen on hard times. He could see La Pantera on the floor, surrounded by Death Eaters and a whirlwind of debris, but he wasted no time casting Stunning Spells and some nastier hexes down at the werewolves, knocking a couple of them off. Savage joined him for a few seconds before Devins hauled both of them back from the window by their robes just as his Shield Charm was shattered by a volley from below. They heard snatches of what sounded like German shouted from below.

"I think we know what happened to the werewolf victims in Saxony," Kingsley said. The retreated to the hallway, and he took out Tonks's note and wrote across it, Need backup.

Everyone pinned was the reply.


"We can't hit them through that, and they're above Level Six," Savage observed. "Where are they going?"

"Probably Fudge or Bones," Kingsley said. "We'll have to risk the werewolves roaming the halls. If it's only them…"

"Where is everyone?" Devins demanded. "Aren't we supposed to be organising a defence?"

"We haven't been able to finalise the procedures. Paperwork keeps going missing. Something wrong with the routing spells."

"Well, who's getting the Minister out?"

"It's supposed to be Scrimgeour, but I haven't seen him." Indeed, he had seen no one going the direction of Fudge's office since the lockdown.

"Does it matter?" Savage asked. "If they take over Level Six, we're done for!"

If the Ministry was locked down, then, barring unusual methods like phoenixes, there were no easy ways in and only one easy way out: the office of the Floo Network Authority itself. But that was only if the Aurors held control of it, and it was down on Level Six, two floors closer to the Death Eaters than they were. The Portkey Office could work in a pinch (though international Portkeys were supposed to be routed through Dover), but that was on Level Six, too.

Kingsley took only a moment to consider. "We're too far," he decided. He wrote another message to Tonks: All pts—sec lvl 6. All points, secure Level 6. If everyone was pinned like she said, it wouldn't do much good, but he hoped she could send someone. "We may be closest to the Minister," he told his team. "We have to secure him."

Kingsley Shacklebolt had a bad feeling the Ministry wouldn't hold today.

Four Grand Mages stood on the battlements of Old Hogwarts Castle, what was now the West Wing, looking out over the Black Lake. Harry Potter and Hermione Granger stood by their sides. A few of the other older students did too, the teachers only making a token effort to bring them inside just yet.

Nothing like this had ever happened at Hogwarts in living memory. Twelve ships had appeared in Lake, seeming bearing a large contingent of the upper years of the Durmstrang Institute. Ravenclaws leaned out their windows to see, and Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs crowded around the windows in the corridors on that side of the castle. Only a few Slytherins were there, and they were given a wide berth by the others.

"The Eagle and the Serpent!" Harry said as they watched the fleet. That by itself didn't look too worrying, but there was every chance there was more to come. "The eagle wasn't Ravenclaw at all; it was Durmstrang. We weren't thinking!"

"I don't think anyone could have predicted this, Harry," Hermione said.

"We should have. We knew Dolohov was at Durmstrang."

"Yes, but an entire war fleet? Durmstrang is a school, not a military base."

"Yeah, well, tell them that." He motioned out to the Lake.

So far, nothing was happening. The stragglers on the battlements looked to the school's first and last line of defence. Fan Tong, leaning on a cane with Xihe on her shoulder, was far too old to fight. She didn't really figure, in the end. The three Grand Sorcerers were studying the Durmstrang fleet, each in their own way.

"Dolohov is on the lead ship," Professor Dumbledore said, looking through a telescope. "I don't see Karkaroff anywhere. I suspect Dolohov has already disposed of him, or else sent him to Voldemort. Edward, on the third ship on the left, do you see who I see?"

Edward Grayson's eyes glowed as he chanted something under his breath. After a few minutes, he reported, "Yes, that's him. Kinani Ngeze. Almost certainly the biggest threat in the fleet, but I don't see any of the others yet. Albus, if I could lure him away—"

"No, Edward. He is here for both of us," Dumbledore replied. "He will not leave while either of us remain. Master Coyote, you will have to suffice for the Ministry. They will need help, too."

Old Coyote had been looking through some kind of ghostly orb. "I'll do what I can, Albus," he said with a sigh. "By the way, the catapults are magical, as you've probably guessed. I'm not familiar enough with European warfare to determine more, but you'll need your siege wards…and you'll need to be prepared for them not to be enough." The American turned around and vanished in a swirl of colour that wasn't quite Apparition, but still probably shouldn't have been possible at Hogwarts.

When he had gone, Harry spoke up: "Professor Dumbledore, what if it's not enough? Cho's prophecy—"

"We are doing all we can, Harry," Dumbledore cut him off. "And you and your sister should get back inside. This is no place for you out here."

Harry and Hermione moved toward the door into the castle, but Harry stopped them before they went through it, trying to listen in, though nothing seemed to be happening. "I don't like this," he said. "Cho's prophecy said London will fall. We need to do something about it."

"No!" Hermione said. "That was Voldemort's mistake, Harry. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you try to interfere…"

"Bollocks!" he snapped, making her jump. "Fine, maybe that one was, but what's the point of having prophecies if you can't do anything about them?"

Hermione shrugged uncomfortably. "I don't know, Harry. In fact, even if we'd taken Divination, I don't think we'd know. Professor McGonagall always said it was a very woolly subject."

"But there has to be something," Harry insisted. "Cho says prophecies are supposed to come to those who can influence them—possibly prevent them. Like Trelawney's original prophecy. That Death Eater who heard it was the one who set the whole thing in motion. Cho gave her prophecy to us. But what good does it do us to know that London will fall?"

"A prophecy?"

They spun around to find Luna standing right behind them in the doorway. Neville was looking over her shoulder. "Uh, hi," he said.

"Luna? Neville? What are you doing here?" Harry asked.

"Professor Flitwick asked me to come and find you, Harry," Luna said. "I ran into Neville on the way."

"There's another prophecy going on?" Neville said worriedly. "How bad is it."

"We don't know," Hermione said, stepping closer and letting him hug her reassuringly. "It could be pretty bad."

Harry sighed and took Luna's hand. "I just wish I understood what it's about. What good does it do us to know that London will fall. And what good does it do for Hagrid to know that 'great magics will be wrought' that are honestly way above his head? And—" He looked around suspiciously and lowered his voice. "What good does it do Snape to know no help is coming from Hogwarts if he's stuck fighting with Voldemort at the Ministry anyway?"

Luna leaned sideways against Harry's. "I don't know, Harry," she said. "We just have to—"

But she was cut off by a loud CAW! that reverberated around the grounds. A raven flew up to the castle from the ships and dropped a letter before Dumbledore. Harry was surprised, but after what seemed only a cursory check for curses, he opened it and read to himself, showing it to Grayson. Harry couldn't hear what they were saying even with his ears, but soon enough, it didn't matter, as Dolohov's gravelly, accented voice boomed up from the Lake under a Sonorus Charm:

"Antonin Dolohov, Headmaster of the Durmstrang Institute, in command of the Durmstrang War Fleet, demands that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry surrender at once to the authority of Lord Voldemort, The Dark Lord of London. Failure to do so will bring the wrath of the Dark Lord's army down upon Hogwarts."

They could hear screaming. The whole school had heard, and it was just about the most terrifying thing he could have said short of Voldemort himself coming there. Some of the students were surely panicking, especially the younger ones.

"Come on, we'd better get inside," Neville said, but Harry stubbornly kept watching.

Dumbledore raised his wand to his own throat and gave his answer. "Dolohov!" he called. "Tell your master there will be no surrender at Hogwarts. We will never hand him the hostages it would provide." Then, he did something with his wand—it couldn't have been a simple spell—and a dome like a transparent soap bubble surrounded Hogwarts Castle.

Moments later, the bombardment began.

There were werewolves roaming the halls of the Ministry of Magic.

Or to be more precise, there were enemy werewolves press-ganged into Fenrir Greyback's pack at the last full moon roaming the halls. Aurors in the North Wing had taken out a few, but there was too much cover fire from the Death Eaters down below to get a good shot. Nymphadora Tonks could barely get a good shot at them as it was, and the longer they were there, the worse the hurricane around that Jaguar Lady got.

Next to that, a couple dozen werewolves scattered around the Ministry weren't so bad. They seemed to have spread across the various floors instead of going for the strategic locations. They weren't familiar with the building or the pack structure—just curse fodder. Though that didn't make them any less dangerous, she reminded herself. Human as they were, there were few things more dangerous than a cornered animal.

"Have you seen anyone else?" Tonks yelled at her partners as they hurried through the halls.

"I don't even know who's here today!" the rookie said, and Tonks grumbled.

They'd passed a couple other Auror teams and a lot of panicking employees along the way. Tonks had yelled at everyone who would listen that they had to secure Level Six. Some of them were fighting, but they had to mount an organised response. Kingsley had gone dark, but was trying to help the Minister.

"We should just get to the Floo office," Proudfoot huffed. "Worry about the others when we can make sure things don't get worse. And I'll bet my wand there's Death Eaters trying to tunnel in from the surface."

That was what she was worried about. The Ministry wasn't designed for a siege nearly as much as Hogwarts.

They kept running. Tonks jumped over a body, not even stopping to investigate; just seeing that it wasn't anyone she knew. They turned the corner, and there was a ratty-looking man there, splattered with blood. His eyes were wide and terrified and unthinking.

"Surrender," Tonks said. "Don't do this."

The werewolf shouted something in German and raised his wand.

Tonks acted on instinct, diving to the side and pushing the rookie out of the way of a curse she didn't recognise, but that she could feel was a potential killer. Proudfoot cast back fast with Tonks less than a second behind him. The werewolf was as vicious as any animal, but three on one, he didn't stand a chance. They left him in a state where he might survive, but they snapped his wand.

"Thanks, Tonks," the rookie said.

"Don't mention it, Truman. Just stay alert," she said.

"Stairwell," Proudfoot announced.

"Finally!" she said. They bounded into the stairwell and stumbled down one floor so fast they nearly fell. There was no one in there they could see, but Tonks didn't want to take any chances. When they reached the door to Level Six, she stopped and called "Mind your ears!" in the echoing space. She then cast a Muffling Spell on herself and pointed her wand down. "Bombarda!" She cast as hard as she could and blasted a chunk of the stairwell away. She motioned her partners to join her.

The stairwells in the Ministry could be blocked from the Atrium the same as the Floo. They could be locked down internally too, but they were a lot easier to bypass than the spells on the Atrium, so the better option was just to cut them off manually. Even with just the one, it might save their lives.

They ran out onto Level Six and into a firefight. At least some people had the right idea. Half a dozen Aurors and a couple random Ministry workers were pinned down in the offices off the hallway against several werewolves and even a couple Death Eaters. Neither group had reached the Floo Office yet, but this skirmish might decide it. Tonks's team quickly ducked into the nearest office and joined the fight.

Unfortunately the terrain of the hallway and offices made it too difficult for either side to get the upper hand. They were pinned there for long minutes. Tonks honestly lost track after a while. Two Aurors fell, and she barely saved the rookie from getting himself killed again.

Suddenly, the world distorted, and the enemies' spells seemed to turn back on them. They went wide, and a powerful force raced down the corridor at them. They still didn't go down without a fight, but after a few spells that fell like thunderbolts, the corridor was silenced. Their saviour stepped forward, a Native American man with a weathered staff and long, white hair in a ponytail.

"Master Coyote," Proudfoot greeted him.

"Yes. I understand you needed assistance on this level?" he said.

"Yes! Thank Merlin!" Tonks said. "Floo Office. That way."

Old Coyote led the way against the Death Eaters. They would at least control the exit—and the enemy's possible entrance.

She still feared it wouldn't be enough.

Wallace Selwyn was more sure than he'd ever been of anything: this was the signal.

The Death Eaters had said when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named attacked, it would be big and impossible to miss. Well, You-Know-Who wasn't actually here, as far as he could tell, but that Dolohov character was speaking in his name. And boy, was this something he'd never expected! An entire magical war fleet, sailed by Durmstrang students. That meant Durmstrang had already been suborned.

As the bombardment outside shook the castle, he considered his options. He knew his mission—his and presumably other sleeper agents in the school: help the Death Eaters take control of Hogwarts without spilling magical blood. Sabotage the defences so they could get in and win without a fight. He shivered. He knew now why Pucey had been so confident of victory. Pucey was dead now, but it was clear the plan was going forward. And Selwyn had never imagined the Dark Lord could bring these kinds of forces to bear.

Selwyn didn't particularly like the Death Eaters. But they had never seriously impacted his own family, he reasoned, and once things settled down, they would still be pretty decent for most of the wizarding population. Next to that, he cared a lot about reducing the bloodshed tonight. He would do it.

There was a grinding of stone outside—a sound he had heard once before, when the Durmstrang ship had arrived last year, and Dumbledore had moved the stairway from the boathouse over to the main entrance. He must be pulling it up now to cut off the entance. Yes, that was a clue. The West Wing had one major vulnerability, and that was that the boathouse was directly beneath it. And even with the staircase gone, that might mean a way in.

Severus Snape was not in a good place tonight, he reflected as the Death Eaters worked to dig into the Ministry.

On one hand, the Dark Lord had not dismissed him after the debacle at Gringotts, instead choosing to believe that Dumbledore had played both of them. But the Dark Lord was no fool. Hence why he had called Severus away from Hogwarts, where he could do the most good, to the attack on the Ministry. And why he had summoned him in mid-afternoon when he wasn't expecting it until evening. Right now, he was just glad that the Dark Lord had accepted that it took him a few minutes longer than usual to get out of the Hogwarts grounds, but Fan Tong's prophecy was still drumming in his head: The enemies of the Leopard will be trapped until the day is done, and Europe will fall into darkness.

The Leopard was Kinani Ngeze, Severus was certain, and the bit about his enemies meant the Ministry could expect no help from Dumbledore tonight. The Dark Lord confirmed some of the Death Eaters were attacking Hogwarts itself. Worse, the prophecy suggested he would win this battle and a few more after it.

So what the bloody hell was he supposed to do about it?

In a miracle, he'd been handed another prophecy—directly into his lap this time instead of listening at the keyhole. The first time, sixteen years ago, he'd made a terrible mistake, and he was determined not to make the same mistake again.

But what was he to do with the information? He'd already told Albus, and that didn't seem likely to do much. Should he tell someone inside the Ministry to evacuate the place and throw all their defences behind Hogwarts? It might work, but he had no idea of the consequences, and it would be hard to pass a message to any member of the Order at this point. Should he make a final break with the Dark Lord and fight for the Ministry? He wasn't totally opposed, but so far, he hadn't seen any opportunities worth his life. Certainly not Nagini; she wasn't here.

Should he just keep it to himself? Stay silent and continue trying to work his way back into the Dark Lord's trust? Difficult, but he was already doing that anyway. Or…if he—he shuddered to even think it—if he told the Dark Lord this one, would it make him complacent to let his guard down? It might, but Severus didn't think he could ever do that again.

Blasted prophecies! Never giving any clear instructions!

What was it he had read in muggle school all those years ago? We shall never surrender, and if the Island were subjugated, then the Empire beyond the seas would keep up the fight until the New World came to our aid. Or something like that. But Magical Britain had no empire, and if the prophecy came true, there was every chance the ICW would cut and run, too.

Not permanently, though. No more than they had for Grindelwald.

No, he decided. There was only one thing he could do that would really help, and it still might cost him his life, but that was to make sure there was an "Empire beyond the seas" to keep up the fight.

He had to make sure the Minister got out of the country alive.

Harry, Hermione, Luna, and Neville watched the bombardment from one of the castle windows. The siege wards seemed to be holding steady, but no one knew how long they would last. It wasn't like muggle medieval wars, where castles were physically almost unassailable, and you had to wait the enemy out. Dolohov had enormous firepower at his back, and that was before you counted Ngeze. Every so often a massive volley would be thrown up from his ship to smash against the wards, or down from the battlements only to shatter against Ngeze's defences. He was getting his rematch, little by little.

"I feel like we should be doing something," Harry said.

"Like what?" Hermione said. "Unless they get into the castle, there's no fighting for students like us to be done. And if they do…" She didn't have to finish the thought.

"I think we should prepare," Luna said.

"Prepare?" Hermione said. "For what?"


"Fighting," Neville insisted.

Luna nodded, but she added, "Or running. I don't want to abandon Hogwarts, but the prophecy sounded bad. I think we need to be ready if…if the worst happens."

"Cho's vision," Harry muttered, remembering what she had said back in January. "The Quidditch stadium burning and students fleeing across the grounds."

Hermione, Neville, and Luna all shuddered. "Oh, Merlin's pants," Hermione said. "Should we pack the books?"

The others stared at her. "Sis, I don't think we'll be able to carry all your books across the grounds," Harry pointed out.

"Oh, right…" she said, and Harry suppressed a snigger. "But I wasn't just thinking about my books, Harry. What about your books? You've got the Daemonologie in your dorm, don't you?"

Harry's eyes widened. "Yeah. And I've got Rare Arcane Faunae up there, too. And—oh, no. My Gringotts vault. The other books!"

"Well, those should be safe in your vault, right?"

"Yes, but we might not be able to get them. If London falls and Hogwarts falls…"

Suddenly, Luna stiffened and shot to her feet.

"Luna? Are you okay?" Harry asked.

"Yes, Harry. Er, I was just thinking. Your vault should be safe with the goblins, but you might want to get anything from it you think you might need."

"Yeah, you're right. We should call Mum and Dad, Mione—no, scratch that. Sirius. He can get in and out of Diagon Alley a lot faster."

The four of them all got up and hurried to Gryffindor Tower, Luna coming along without comment. Harry thought about what he might need, just in case. The alchemy treatises hadn't come up before, but he had a gut feeling they might be useful. The Shakespeares? It sounded frivolous, but they'd already taken out the First Folio briefly for the Macbeth issue, and the Sonnets was probably the most valuable thing he owned. The other stuff—some of the family jewelry, his mum's wedding dress—he wasn't so sure about, but he could ask Sirius to use his judgement. He still wasn't sure he'd need any of it, but it paid to be prepared.

Kingsley, Savage, and Devins waded through the destroyed administrative offices on Level One. Kingsley had been right. They did seem to be the closest to the Minister. He didn't know where Madam Bones or Rufus Scrimgeour had got to, but they'd fought several enemies on the way, and clearly, a few Exploding Curses had made it up here. The whole level was trashed. That only lent credence to his thought that the Death Eaters were trying to assassinate the Minister.

They weren't that far into Level One when they heard a rustling sound. They pointed their wands, but out of the shadows, stumbling over the mess, came a scraped and bruised and Arthur Weasley.

"Arthur!" he exclaimed.

"Kingsley!" Arthur answered.

They hesitated, wands at the ready.

"Apollyon Pringle?" Kingsley said.

Arthur smiled. "You distracted him with a Winged Catapult."

Kingsley sighed with relief and lowered his wand. His partners followed suit. "What are you doing up here? I'd've though you were getting out by now."

"I won't abandon the Ministry while the Order's still fighting, Kings," he insisted. "And anyway, I'm looking for Percy. He was supposed to be up here." He looked around the floor nervously.

Kingsley did another scan of the floor, but didn't find anything obvious. Percy Weasley had been placed in a low-level position in the Office of the Minister after the war started, but he didn't know exactly where he's supposed to be. "I'm sure he's fine, Arthur. Percy's a smart-lad. He won the all-school duelling tournament, didn't he?"

Arthur didn't answer. Instead, he asked, "What about you?"

"We think Fudge is still barricaded in his office. Someone dropped the ball on his security."

"Fudge? If he's here, he needs to get out!"

That was something they all agreed on. Fudge may not have been the best Minister, but if this all fell apart, someone would have to be left to pick up the pieces. "Stay close, then. Maybe we can help each other."

This high up, most of the activity had gone from the floor as ordinary workers evacuated down to the lower levels. It was entirely possible that Arthur had simply missed Percy and even that Kingsley had missed Fudge, but they had to check. They didn't see Percy on their way, but when they reached Fudge's office, two werewolves were trying to bash their way into it. Against four defenders, one was Stunned immediately, and the other ran for it. Kingsley hurriedly unlocked the door.

Cornelius Fudge was hiding behind his desk. That might have looked cowardly, but considering his usual security was conspicuously absent, Kingsley acknowledged it was a fair point. When it was clear that multiple people were entering the office and not just passing him by, a glint of a mirror and the tip of a wand appeared from beside the desk chair, and the Minister let out a loud sigh of relief.

"Thank Merlin!" Fudge popped out from behind the desk. "Where did everyone bloody go?"

The Aurors goggled. Shouldn't he know? "Minister? Where's Scrimgeour?" Kingsley asked. "He's supposed to be your bodyguard."

"I sent him away!"

"What? Why?" all of the others said.

Fudge sputtered. "Something was going down, and I couldn't trust him! Couldn't you see the man was after my job?"

"What the hell?" Savage said. "What are you talking about?"

"Not now, Savage," Kingsley stopped her. "Minister, right now, Voldemort's after your job. We need to get you out of here. Now."

Fudge yelped in terror at the news, even though he really should have expected it. "Right, right," he stammered as they surrounded him and escorted him out. "What's the situation?"

"Auror Tonks got word through that they've secured the Floo Office, but there's no telling how long that will hold. Most of the regular workers should be evacuating, but I can't reach anyone else reliably. La Pantera is in the Atrium. Voldemort isn't here yet, but it's a good bet he's waiting on the surface."

"Minister, have you seen my son? Percy?" Arthur cut in.

"I haven't seen anything since they blew up the offices! Let's just get out—"

A Death Eater emerged from around the corner.

"It's him!" he shouted. "It's Fudge!"

"Oh, bugger," Fudge muttered and raised his wand with the others.