AUTHOR'S NOTE: And we're off to Azkaban for a sauntering picnic! Wait… Anyway, thanks again to all who continue to support this story, be it through Favoriting it, Following it, Reviewing it, or just plain reading it. (Yes, I know you're out there, lurkers who don't even have a ffnet account. Yes, you!) Please continue. Also, a brief reminder to those this would confuse: since Lord Voldemort didn't come back for good in this story, Dumbledore never yet had cause to "update" the membership of the Order of the Phoenix, though he will in time. This means Shacklebolt isn't yet a member, and Hermione thus has no idea who he is. There. Moving on…

Chapter LIV: Fighting Fire With…

Hermione had read of Azkaban. Once the fortress of the vilest Dark Wizard to ever live, the bleak castle lay atop a black rock, surrounded by thick gray fog and the raging, inky waters of the North Sea's least inviting section.

As she neared the island, she was forced to admit that the books had been entirely wrong about that. Or at least, they had to be out of date.

…By a few days, admittedly.

But the contrast was striking between the gloomy gaol of dimly-lit doom she had been expecting, and a blazing red sun sinking into the shining sea.

"Bloody hell…" said Ron.

Hermione, never too keen on flying her own broom, had strapped herself behind Ron on his sturdy old broom, and they had flown together from the point on the coast where her Fudge-obtained Portkey had gotten them, with Harry and Ginny leading the way.

For most of the flight, the four friends had reviewed the plan. They'd taken all of Saturday going over it, all save for their shared Occlumency lesson with Dumbledore — during which hiding their planned weekend outing had been an added incentive to work very hard. (Either their few lessons so far had paid off, or Dumbledore, upon seeing their plan, had seen nothing wrong with it, for he didn't say anything.) But you couldn't risk being too careful when you were dealing with an immortal firegod.

But the closer they came, the more speechless they became. Even her.

The Fiendfyre was, to put it mildly, awe-inspiring.

From a distance it was like a crashed star that had engulfed the island. Closer, and it was a raging inferno covering every inch of ground. Get close enough, and you could see the shapes, the crawling, writhing, galloping shapes within the flames, a thousand different flickers of cursed life, erst boar or eagle or lion, maws of dragons whose tongues shot out, slithered like snakes, took flight like big smoke-spewing bats only to land back down as lizards, who rose on hind legs, and, for a moment, were men, who melted back into formless flames… it was mesmerizing.

And terrifying.

"Bloody hell indeed," Hermione replied to Ron, already short of breath.

The four students may have benefited from especially-modified Weasley jumpers, exuding tiny bits of frost and ice the closer they got to strong sources of heat; but this sort of makeshift system could only go so far, unless you stretched the jumper over your entire body, face included — and the broom-drivers among them, at least, couldn't have afforded that luxury if they'd wanted to. And Hermione had been rather peeved to realize that her other 'brilliant' idea (teaching everyone the Bubble-Head Charm) was useless because Fiendfyre didn't actually release any smoke.

As they swooped closer to the burning isle, however, Harry suddenly shouted.

"BROOMS!"

Slowing down, Ginny, Ron and Hermione exchanges puzzled looks before Hermione stated the obvious:

"We are riding brooms, yes. I think we all know that. If you—"

"No!" Harry cut her off, distressed. "Non-us! Brooms! There!"

Holding down his broomstick with his left hand, the Gryffindor Seeker made wild gestures in the air with his freed right.

This was when his three friends noticed the two dots zooming in their direction, fast coalescing into a pair of broomstick-riding wizards in dark purple robes.

{Rats,} Hermione cursed in Parseltongue. "Aurors. Should have known. Why don't they mind their business?!"

"Hermione," Ginny retorted, "handling dangerous dark magic is kind of their business, by most accounts."

"Confirmed," said Harry.

"They may be Aurors, but we're Gryffindors," she argued. "And also Junior Marauders. And I've come back from the dead once. We're clearly more qualified."

"Yes, that's right," Harry ironized, "we Fourth-Year schoolchildren are clearly more qualified than the trained law enforcement people. Okay."

"Er… mates?" Ron said, fearful. "Joking's all fine and good, but they're… still coming towards us? Shouldn't we… do something?"

"Of course we'll do something, Ronald," Hermione answered with a knowing smile.

"What?"

"We'll do what I always do. We'll talk."


The two men were, indeed, Aurors. The first was a muscular, bald, dark-skinned man with a no-nonsense air about him, called Kingsley Shacklebolt; his companion was an older witch with short blond hair tied in a ponytail, a rather large nose, and large brown eyes, who emphatically introduced herself as Auror Celestina Ophelia Withecombe-Greengrass.

"Alright," led Shacklebolt, "what are you four children doing here?"

"Stopping the Fiendfyre, obviously," Hermione answered.

"Wh—"

"My turn, my turn," Withecombe-Greengrass cut him off. "You, the girl with the hair."

"Yes?" Hermione replied. "And I assume you're referring to me, but my friend Ginevra Weasley is also a girl possessed of hair, you realize."

"Yes, yes, whatever. The question — oh, where did you get these beautiful emeralds?!" the Auror asked, a hungry look in her eyes.

Both Shacklebot and Hermione stared at the blonde witch in utter disbelief.

"…I move that we ignore this ever happened," Shacklebolt stated, calmly.

"Motion seconded," Hermione answered in kind.

"All in favor," Ron, Harry and Ginny completed, in chorus.

"But no, wait," the adult witch insisted. "Auror Shacklebolt. A young girl shouldn't be allowed to handle such a large necklace of emeralds. She might get hurt, or… or…"

Kingsley Shacklebolt did not need to interrupt his hands-wringing partner, simply content to give her a heavy look. (Hermione was starting to like him.)

"…or, it might… be cursed? So for her own safety, we…we…" Withecombe-Greengrass continued, quite pitifully.

Auror Shacklebolt kept his glare steady, and his contrite partner's voice broke away into nothingness.

"Right," he concluded. "Miss Granger, Mr Potter, Weasleys — the necklace isn't it, but you are committing a crime, here, I'm sorry to say."

"What, trying to save everyone from evil fire?" Ginny huffed. "That's a crime?"

"It is if you're not an Auror, Miss Weasley" the broom-riding Auror answered, his voice harsh and stern. "For your information he D.M.L.E. has already formed plans to sink Azkaban into the sea, taking the Fiendfyre with it. Withecombe-Greengrass and I are here both to keep an eye on things, and to scout ahead for safe spots to undermine."

"Oh," said Ginny, mollified.

"So," he continued, "the one thing we professionals don't need is a bunch of teenagers interfering for no good reason and getting themselves killed on our watch."

"Alright, Mr Shacklebolt," Hermione stepped in, though only figuratively, of course, as she was still clinging to Ron and his broom (which she was afraid undercut her attempt at a firm, unflinching stance). "First, we're not going to get ourselves killed; you called us by our names earlier, you know who we are. I've come back from the dead once already, Harry is literally the Boy Who Lived, and Ron and Ginny are our trusted friends. I also have a plan."

"Be that as it may—"

"Second," she continued without letting him finish, "your plan is a stupid plan. You can't just sink Azkaban."

"I assure you, we had experts look things over, and—"

"Yes, of course, it's theoretically possible," Hermione once again cut him off, "what I mean is that it would be a spectacularly wrong move. Unless you've forgotten, Wizarding Britain doesn't actually own Azkaban; the Dementors do."

"What? No! That can't be right," spluttered Withecombe-Greengrass. "They're—"

"—recognized, and rightly so, as an autonomous sapient species by wizarding law. And since, as far as anyone could tell, the first Dementors on Azkaban were either bred or adopted by Ekrizdis, who built the thing ex nihilo, then it should be obvious that they are the rightful heirs to the land."

"…Even if that made any sense," Shacklebolt rumbled, "— which it doesn't —, the monsters are hardly going to get any use out of their 'ancestral home' when it's acting as a snack for Fiendfyre. Out of our way."

"You're missing the point," Hermione stressed. "The Dementors have to live somewhere."

"…Do they, really?" Shacklebolt asked, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"I won't even dignify that with an answer," she seethed. "Look, they aren't very picky about living quarters, so if we can get the Fiendfyre off the island without resorting to these sorts of measures, then they'll go back to live on it as is their prerogative, and everything will be fine. On the other hand, sink their home, and at best they'll be sticking around at Hogwarts for month, and I am not dealing with that, are we clear? Not to mention the worst-case scenario: they see your sinking Azkaban as an act of war, rip the old treaty to shreds, and start destroying random people's souls until we're forced to hunt them down to the last."

"…Hogwarts," Withecombe-Greengrass said. "You did say the Dementors are at Hogwarts."

"Yes!" Hermione shouted in answer. "Honestly! Does no one read the Other Paper? I'm starting to wonder where all those dividends are coming from in the first place!"

"And am I hallucinating, or did you say something that implied that Hogwarts… is your responsibility?"

"Hm-hm," Hermione nodded primly. "More or less, anyway. …Er, don't you recognize me? Purple, big hair and teeth… I believe Mr Shacklebolt mentioned my last name at some point?"

It was really interesting, to the four Hogwarts student, how Celestina Withecombe-Greengrass's big brown eyes suddenly widened after a few seconds of thinking.

"Yep," Ron confirmed, "you're talking to the one and only Lady Macbrains."

The witch was livid.

"I trust you've read about me?" Hermione asked with a smile that, she had to admit, smacked of unbridled arrogance — but damn if it wasn't fun.

"Not read, not just-just read," the woman stammered. "I - my daughters in Hogwarts. Stories. Madness."

"Ooh!" she answered, "you're the mother of Daphne Greengrass, aren't you? Yes, I do suppose she'd have a few tales to tell, being a Slytherin. Though I'm probably not as horrific as she makes me sound. I'm pretty sure she must have left out all the jokes."

"Oh no," the other woman shook her head, "oh no. The jokes were the scariest part."

"Okay, since you're here and mentally disturbed—" Hermione said quickly and more to herself than to her interlocutor, "I might as well get a new perspective on the goings-on of Slytherin… I do have Douglas but I can never be sure whether he's a spy or not… though I suppose that's sort of the fun. Erm. Mrs Withecombe-Greengrass, do you know anything about Lady Helen Monroe?"

"My daughters know nothing about Helen Monroe!" the Auror woman answered in an outraged screech. "The Greengrasses do not serve, they do not bow, they do not take sides, they do not, as a matter of fact, state their opinions. My daughters would never get involved with someone like the Monroe girl!"

"Alright, alright," Hermione tried to placate her. "Just asking. …Say, you do realize that standing by Mr Shacklebot's decision of stopping us, as opposed to siding with us, constitutes 'taking side'?"

"Nonsense," she answered, automatically. "I'm a Greengrass only by marriage. I am not bound by—"

"No, no, no need for false pretenses, dear colleague," Shacklebolt interrupted her with a conciliatory smile and a warm voice, "you are within your rights to choose your family's honor over my dubious friendship. Overpower me and let the youth pass, if you must. Oh dear, is your trembling wand straying somewhere in my direction? A threat! Heavens! I surrender!"

Harry, Ron Ginny looked utterly gobsmacked, but when Hermione gestured for them to pass the two stunned Aurors, Harry finally snapped out of it and led Ginny into doing so.

Hermione patted Ron on the back and he too gave a sharp nod and flew ahead.

As they passed Shacklebolt, Hermione leaned to the side and asked in a whisper:

"Alright, why are you helping us now?"

"I'm no Greengrass, miss," he answered with an amused grin. "I can take sides if I want to. And anyone with your kind of gall, I'm willing to let have a shot. Besides, I'll still be keeping an eye on you from afar, just in case. Good luck!"

The three brooms flew out of hearing range of the two Aurors', who remained static in the air, Celestina still not having recovered from her shock and general confusion. Hermione gave a slight chuckle that only Ron heard (and he knew her too well to bother to ask). If all went according to plan, then Kingsley Shacklebolt really, really didn't need to 'keep an eye out' just to spot their progress.


"Alright," Hermione ordered in a Sonorus-amplified voice. "Spread out!"

Immediately, the three broomsticks split up from their close formation and positioned themselves in the shape of an equilateral triangle, about thirty feet above the raging flames.

"Good. Now, the spell!" she then said.

"Ignidracos!" three young voices cast at once.

The Fire-to-Snake Spell was the first part of her plan. It was a rather complex fire spell which shaped preexisting fire into a snake of black fire, which would then obey the caster. She had first seen references to it when researching Serpensortia, to which it seemed to be a less morally-dodgy alternative. One might think a spell within the reach of Hogwarts Fourth-Years, albeit complex, would fail when opposed to something as powerful and willful as Fiendfyre; but what Hermione had glimpsed was that the Rule of Resemblance of Transfiguration applied, and would counterbalance the Fiendfyre's resistance. Fiendfyre already had a tendency to take the form of a serpent, among many other ephemeral shapes; and it was already within its purpose to obey a caster during a magical battle, for all that this particular Fiendfyre no longer operated on anyone's orders. Thus, Ignidracos wouldn't so much change its fundamental nature as force it into one specific form that it might already have taken of its own free will.

It wasn't that easy, of course; the four friends had to hold it with a lot of strength, a lot of willpower, and for quite a long time; but after several minutes of imposing their magical will onto the mass of fire, it shrunk and shifted and crumpled into a single, pulsating snake of black fire coiled around the ruins of Azkaban.

The snake of Fiendfyre writhed and wriggled, and a hint of antlers, the barest suggestion of fangs, a stump of a wing broke away from various parts of its body; but the magic held and all shrunk back into the solid mass of the serpent.

{WHATHAVEYOUDONE?!} it roared in Parseltongue, lashing out at the air with a large red tongue of flames. {BURN! CONSUME! BE FREE! YAARGHH!}

{Silence!} Harry, Hermione and Ron ordered in chorus. {You are ours now.}

{BURN! CONSUME! FIRE! GRRRH!} the Fire-Snake thundered.

{Not the best conversation, are you,} Hermione commented. "Alright, men! Order it to shake the tip of its tail like a rattle!"

She and her three friends concentrated on ordering the Fire-Snake to act in that particular way. Between their Occlumency training and their testing the Fire-to-Snake spell on regular fire the day before, it was hard, but far from insurmountable. Soon the monster showed indubitable proof that it was under their control, balancing its vast tail from left to right.

"Okay…" Hermione muttered. "It's docile. Now order him not to burn us, not ever. Make him. Make it a part of him, forever."

{Fire-Snake! You will never harm us! Obey!} the three who knew Parseltongue chorused, and Ginny echoed this in her thoughts. {You are our plaything, our servant, and you will not burn us, ever! We are not fuel, we can never be burnt, we are as water! Understand, and obey!}

The four held their spell for a moment, panting. Finally, Harry gulped, and said:

"Alright… time for testing…"

The Gryffindor's three friends really wanted to say 'you don't have to do it,' but they knew someone must do it, and it was in Harry's nature to volunteer himself over his friends, for the very same reason that they were now feeling. Thus they said nothing as the Boy Who Lived dove down on his Firebolt into the Fire-Snake… only to come out, unharmed and his clothes not even slightly singed, though also gasping for air.

"It works!" Harry announced once he'd regained their level, panting and clutching his forehead. "It really, really… it's safe. I wouldn't want to do that again, but… I'm okay."

"Just as expected," nodded Hermione.

"…Well…" said Ginny.

"…shall we…?" Ron continued with an eager look.

"Oh, yes," Hermione confirmed with an enthusiastic nod. "Marauders… take our your straws."


Teriarch Technique (The): Also Fire-Swallowing. Magical technique whereby a mage may 'drink' a well of magical fire under their control, holding it within their bodies as a familiar they can then call upon as needed, for any length of time. The Teriarch Technique requires perfect control of the fire to begin with, but is not a complex spell in itself.

Adalbert Waffling's Dictionary of Obscure Spells