Disclaimer – I solemnly swear that JKR owns everything Harry Potter. Whether or not I am up to no good with her characters is for you to decide.
Author's Note:This story, Castle Voldemort,follows Harry, Hermione and co.'s sixth year of magical education. Please note that Castle Voldemort is the sixth book in the Cupboard Series. The full series so far consists of:
Book 1: The Cupboard Under the Stairs
Book 2: Hermione's Book Nook
Book 3: Potter Haven
Book 4: The Fourth School
Book 5: United We Stand …
I caution you that without having read the five previous stories, much of this story may be hard to follow. Enjoy.
Bright eyes peeked out from under the low-hanging branches. From the position that they were in, it was impossible for the men and creatures patrolling the expansive grounds in front of the castle to see them. It helped that tonight, what little light the crescent moon would be putting out, was hidden behind some convenient clouds.
Ahead of him, maybe less than three or four body lengths away, were the great wards that had protected these lands for millennia, wards that had recently had a major upgrade. To cross them would mean instant death. Usually. Thankfully, there was one flaw, a flaw that was soon to be utilised.
Seeing that the grounds were as sparse as they were going to get, the eyes shut briefly, a silent prayer going up.
Opening his eyes, the mongoose looked left and right, taking in the shapes of those around him, both big and small. Small eyes; sharp eyes; hard eyes; fierce eyes; and even eyes doing their best to hide their fear all looked back at him.
Heads nodded, giving the agreed upon signal.
It was time.
Six days previously …
Harry Potter stood on the great platform staring out at the sea in front of him.
If it wasn't for the way his black hair with its red tips whipped about his face and neck, one would almost think that he was a statue. Well, the hair and the eyes. His bright emerald eyes were fixed on the progress of the hovercraft as it slowly navigated its way through the labyrinth-like wards that surrounded Ynys Crochenydd, otherwise known as Potter Island, the home of Diricawl Academy of Magical Studies.
This was not the first time that the school's hovercraft had crossed through the wards to reach the island. Just under a year ago had been its first crossing, still when the island school had been in the construction stage. It'd made a second crossing a couple of months after that to bring some of Diricawl's new students to the island.
After that, the hovercraft had been driven into its purpose-built shed at the end of the very platform that Harry was currently standing on. Theoretically, the vessel's next outing should have been the day that the school year ended and it was pressed into service to take those students who were due to return home that way across to the mainland.
Instead, the school year had ended and every one of those students had remained on the island: it simply wasn't safe for them to leave.
Less than a week ago, magical Britain had received the shock of its life when the Hogwarts Express, the great scarlet steam train that was used to take the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry between London and Hogsmeade, had arrived back in the country's capital devoid of students.
As the train had come to a stop, a charmed message had been broadcast to all of the parents and families on the platform, a message that had quickly been played across the Wizarding Wireless Network for every witch and wizard within the country to hear: Lord Voldemort had come to Hogwarts with his Death Eaters and captured the castle, staff and students and all.
According to the message, there had been blood spilled when the castle was taken. Exactly what that meant was anyone's guess. Hope, however vain, abounded that it was only injuries, not deaths that had occurred. The message went on to say that, with the nation's magical children in Voldemort's 'care', it was expected that magical Britain – the Ministry and every witch and wizard – capitulate to the Dark Lord's rule.
Within an hour, the then Minister for Magic, Delores Umbridge had resigned and offered the Ministry of Magic to Lord Voldemort's representatives. And when those representatives walked into the Ministry building, they simply took over, installing new Department Heads where necessary or having hidden Death Eaters reveal themselves and continue in their positions.
The Dark Lord's top lieutenants had sequestered themselves in an office along with Umbridge and a number of Department Heads for close to an hour. When they'd emerged, they announced to the assembled reporters that Lord Voldemort wished for Umbridge to retain the Minister for Magic position, as his representative, of course.
And though the Ministry was under new 'leadership', the fact that it was near impossible to tell the difference from the previous week, meant that, for all intents and purposes, the coup was seamless, bloodless and created barely a stir, even overseas.
There hadn't even been any riots in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or any of the other magical districts. The fact that the nation's children were being held hostage assured that. Shops remained open. People continued with their lives, albeit in a more subdued or hurried manner.
The goblins of Gringotts had kept their bank open, after all, closed doors did not equal profits. Their one concession to the change in the magical landscape was the presence of an additional squad of twenty guards in full armour and carrying halberds and shields, swords and axes on their hips, stationed in the main lobby of the bank. The question of how many more were ready in the tunnels behind closed doors was anyone's guess.
The only instance of rebellion of any sort consisted of those at or allied with Diricawl Academy of Magical Studies.
Madam Bones, once head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, had absconded from the Ministry with the handful of aurors that she trusted and holed up on the island.
Beth Pemberton, one of the Diricawl's part-time teachers, had had her staff hurriedly pack up the entirety of Hermione's Book Nook, the small bookshop cum café that she ran and moved to the island.
The magical parents of Diricawl's students had flooded the FLOO with frantic calls, ensuring themselves that their children were alright before either moving themselves and the rest of their family to the island or simply bunkering down under the strongest wards that they owned and hoping for the best.
As for the non-magical parents of Diricawl's students, they had been warned of the danger through the actions of Sirius Black and his accomplices Fred and George Weasley. The three had taken the school's hovercraft out, after carefully disillusioning it, of course, and proceeded to travel up and down the country as quickly as they could, contacting and in many cases, evacuating the families from their homes.
As it was, this was the fourth time that the school's hovercraft had returned to the island, filled with people and luggage and, mostly likely, even with the odd pet or two. Only the fact that the disillusionment charm had needed to be dropped before the hovercraft entered the active magical field of the ward labyrinth had allowed Harry to see its progress.
Finally, the hovercraft straightened and headed in for shore. Seeing this, Harry stepped back, away from where he knew that it was headed and leant on his rowan staff, a look of relief on his face. It was rare to see Harry without his iconic staff these days, even on the island behind what were arguably the strongest wards in the country he constantly carried it with him.
The rowan staff, found by Harry in Hogwarts' Chamber of Secrets when he was battling the shade of Tom Riddle and the basilisk that lived in the Chamber, was a very powerful magical device. Even though Harry had been practicing with it and using it for three years, he usually still preferred his faithful wand for most of his spell work. But when it came to raw power, the staff was magnitudes ahead and a definite ace in his hand.
The fact that Harry had been training for more than eight hours a day with the staff on not only his accuracy but also on more powerful and destructive spells since Hogwarts had been taken had also increased his affinity for it. The extra tips that Mad-Eye Moody gave every now and then weren't anything to sneeze at either.
With a great blast of air that it pushed before it, the hovercraft fairly leapt from the water to the shore to the great platform before quietening to a halt a bare few metres from its shed.
Harry watched as the door in the side slid open and a set of stairs magically appeared leading from it down to the platform.
"Welcome to Ynys Crochenydd," Fred said with a great flouring bow after appearing in one side of the doorway.
"Home of Diricawl school and the free magical population of Britain," George completed with a bow identical to that of his brother.
"My daughter was certainly right about you two," a pudgy, balding man laughed as he paused to slap the two red-heads on the back. "Now, which way to my Katie?"
Before either could answer, a slim woman with dark shoulder-length hair appeared and grabbed the man's arm.
"Come along, Bert," she said as she began dragging the man down the stairs. "If I know our daughter, she'll be somewhere in the thick of things, either on the quidditch pitch or in the common area of their dormitory."
Harry grinned at the man's demure "yes, dear" as he was led from the platform up the hedge-lined path towards the school.
"Good to see you, old bean!"
"You're late," Harry stated, ignoring the twins' exuberance.
"We had to make a slight detour," Sirius stated as he descended the stairs from the hovercraft.
Harry cocked his head in question, but kept silent until the last of the passengers had reached the ground and had been directed up towards the school.
"Why the detour?" he finally asked.
"There's a small group of Death Munchers watching the island from the mainland," Sirius stated grimly. "Don't worry, they're not on Potter ground, at least, not yet, but they're there."
"Did they see you?" Harry asked anxiously.
"Nah, not with the disillusionment charm," Sirius replied. "But just to make sure, we took the scenic route, going out in a wide arc out into the bay."
"Still say that you should have gone faster," George pouted.
"Those waves were ripe for shooting over," Fred added.
"We could have easily hit ten or twenty feet up, I reckon," said George.
"Another time, boys," Sirius laughed. "When we don't have a bunch of people on board who are likely to get sea-sick."
Fred and George shared an evil look.
"But imagine the mayhem …"
"When they 'heave ho' …"
"Or feed the fishes …"
"With their technicolour yawn …"
"That's enough, you two," Sirius laughed. "Don't worry, I'm sure that they're be other opportunities to make the janitor get out the ol' sawdust bucket after some epic chundering."
"I'm supposed … to tell you … that there's a meeting … as soon as you get back," Harry wheezed through his laughter while leaning heavily on his staff.
Instantly, the laughter dropped away as Sirius became serious.
"Then we'd better get up there," he stated.
"Now that we're all here," Mad-Eye pointedly grumbled, his real brown eye fixed on the late arrivals while his blue magical eye continuously rolled about his head, "we can finally get started."
Harry quickly crossed the room and took his seat beside Remus, Sirius sliding in on his other side.
Diricawl's Dining Hall was empty save for those seated around the large round table. The doors had been magically sealed, to Moody's approving standards no less, not that Harry understood why. After all, everyone on the island had declared themselves enemies of Riddle and his regime simply by being there.
As he glanced around the table, Harry wondered who it was that was going to take the lead.
Moody, of course was a prime candidate, as was Amelia Bones. Both were aurors and had been for a long time and had a wealth of experience. Shacklebolt, too, was an auror, but Harry couldn't really see the quiet man leading the group or resistance or whatever they were.
Madam Longbottom had been on the Wizengamot for decades, but she was a politician, not a war-leader. Croaker had positioned himself in such a way as to ensure that his cowl cast deep shadows over his face, a natural sort of position for the Head Unspeakable, a group who prided themselves on operating in the shadows.
Minerva McGonagall was, of course, the Headmistress of Diricawl, and in a natural leadership position, especially considering where the meeting was being held. Remus, Sirius, Cyrus Greengrass and Harry himself rounded out the group at the table.
"Harry, if you would call for Dobby, please," Minerva said.
Harry started. Dobby? If he was being asked to call for Dobby …
Instantly, Harry half-turned in his seat, a hopeful, expectant look on his face.
A slightly louder than normal pop signified not one, but three house elves arriving. Dobby was there, swaying slightly in the middle as Jaxom and Nerri helped him stand.
Instantly, Harry slid from his chair to the floor in front of his friend.
"Dobby," he said, reaching out a careful hand to gently touch the elf on his shoulder. "You're looking better. How do you feel?"
Great green eyes the size of tennis-balls looked up and it was almost as though, for an instant, Dobby was his old self again. But then, that instant passed and the tired, pain-filled look in his eyes returned.
"Dobby is feeling well enough to tell Master Harry Potter Sir and his friends what Dobby learnt," the elf replied.
"Master Harry no push Dobby," Nerri stated, a stern look in her brown eyes. "Dobby not strong yet. Dobby still has much healing to do."
Harry nodded eagerly, instantly agreeing with the fierce-looking elf.
Really, how could anyone not agree with Nerri's assessment? Dobby's skin was decidedly pale, apart from where the bruising along his jaw and around both eyes were very apparent. One arm was in a sling and both of his large, bat-like ears were heavily bandaged.
Slowly, hesitantly, Dobby began to tell his story.
"Dobby was able to get into Hogwarts okay. The wards felt different to Dobby but not strong enough to stop an elf. No one saw Dobby arrive, not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or bad dark men or professories or students.
"Dobby found Lizzie in the kitchens. All the elveses were in the kitchens. But as soon as the other elveses saw Dobby they rushed at Dobby and began hitting Dobby. Dobby could tell that they didn't want to but elveses did it anyway."
"The Hogwarts elves must have been ordered to attack any other elves that enter the castle," Moody grunted.
"Yes, Mister Whizzy Eye," Dobby agreed with an emphatic nodding of his head that almost overbalanced him. "When the other elveses were hitting Dobby, they told Dobby what they could. It was the only way that they could rebel."
This last was said in a near whisper, awe and respect filling Dobby's voice.
"What did they tell you, Dobby?" Harry prompted.
"Hoggywarts elveses must hurt any other elves that come into the castle. Hoggywarts elveses not allowed to leave the castle for any reason or to go to any of the professories or students if they call, only He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his men," Dobby replied.
"That scuppers that plan," Amelia noted.
"That not be all that Dobby be learning," Dobby said. "Hoggywarts elves able to tell Dobby some of what has happened at Hoggywarts, too. Professory Snape is now Headmaster and the studentsies are locked in their dorms unless it be meal time or lesson time."
"Has anyone been killed?" Moody asked.
"Yes," Dobby replied, his ears drooping slightly even with the bandages. "Professory Plants and Filchy and cat, house elvesies say."
Gasps could be heard all around the table.
"What about Dumbledore? Did they say anything about Albus?" Minerva asked intently.
"Not dead. Banished. Dobby not know more than that," the little elf replied.
"Was there anything else?" Harry asked. "Did the Hogwarts elves say anything else?"
"Dobby sorry, Master Harry Sir," Dobby replied, wearily shaking his head. "That was all that Dobby could learn."
"How did you escape?" Croaker asked.
"Dobby could tell that the Hoggywarts house elveses were trying not to hurt Dobby, only following orders. When Dobby learnt what he could, he simply popped home," Dobby replied.
"The elves don't like this anymore than we do and did what they could to tell the outside world," Augusta summarised. "They are to be commended."
"Wouldn't have thought that they'd have it in them," Moody grunted.
"You'd be surprised exactly what house elves are capable of," Minerva retorted. "Stay here long enough and you'll learn."
"Thank you, Dobby," Harry smiled at his friend. "Go back to bed and rest up. I don't want to see you up and doing things again until you're completely healed. Understand?"
"Yes, Master Harry Sir," Dobby replied.
With that, the three elves popped away.
"Did you note that he said that they've changed the wards around Hogwarts?" Cyrus asked.
"That matches the information that we have," Amelia replied. "It seems that Voldemort has added a ward that only allows a person to pass through them if they are carrying the Dark Mark."
"That information came at great cost," Moody added, his magical eye spinning to pierce each one of them. "One of Croaker's men tried to sneak in to get some information. The wards fried him to a crisp."
"So, there's no way to get into the castle? Or to get the children out?" Augusta asked.
"Not saying that," Moody replied. "Only saying that people can't pass through those wards."
"What about using one of the secret passages? There were seven of them originally – of course, four have collapsed but we could dig them back out?" Sirius suggested.
Even before he had finished making his proposal, Remus was shaking his head.
"Wormtail knows that castle and all of its passages just as well as we do," he pointed out. "Every one of those passages will be warded and guarded."
"Hey! The Marauder's Map!" Harry blurted. "We can use that to at least have some idea of what's going on inside the castle. I've still got it; it's in my trunk."
"Map? What map?" Moody asked, both eyes fixed on Harry.
"James, Sirius, Wormtail and I created a map of the castle when we were at school," Remus replied. "It's tied into the wards and shows every room and passage in the castle. And exactly where everyone is inside the castle at any given moment."
"Sounds like a useful tool," Moody acknowledged.
"But that still doesn't help us rescue the children held hostage there," Augusta stated.
"Nor the staff," Minerva added.
"No, but it's a start," Moody countered. "Once we work out a way to get past the wards, we'll have a way to move around the castle without being caught. Assuming that this map is as good as they say it is, of course."
"Don't worry, it is," Sirius grinned. "The amount of detentions we avoided and pranks we pulled using it …"
He trailed off at that point seeing the stern look and extremely thin lips that Minerva sported.
"Looks like our focus has to be on finding a weakness in those wards," Moody stated. "And the subtler the better – wouldn't want to have to face the Dark Lord's forces if they know we're coming."
"Not to mention the fact that they'd probably use the children as shields," Croaker added.
That thought was enough to make everyone around the table pause and still into silence, a silence that was eventually broken by the old, grizzled auror who had seemed to have taken charge of the meeting.
"Well, who's got some ideas?" he asked.