Harry Potter and the Litany of Blood Chapter 19
Harry Potter… (Young) Orlando Bloom
Hermione Granger…Emma Watson
Ron Weasley…Jon Foster
Luna Lovegood…Summer Glau
Susan Bones…Jessica Simpson
Psyche Malfoy…Dakota Fanning
Blaise Zabini…Kiera Knightly
Draco Malfoy…Tom Felton
The Order of the Phoenix
Kingsley Shacklebolt…Bob Marley
Albus Dumbledore…Richard Harris
Nymphadora Tonks…Natalia Tena
Severus Snape…Alan Rickman
Sirius Black…Clive Owen
Fleur Delacour…Gisele Buncheon
Evil Unhooded Death Eater #1…Christopher Walken
All Evil Hooded Death Eaters (voice only)…James Earl Jones
Bellatrix Lestrange…Helen Bonham Carter
Narcissa Malfoy…Portia De Rossi
Lucius Malfoy…Jason Isaacs
Author's notes: Well JKR has put out another book so I figure that I should at least come out with another chapter. This has been a difficult one to write and I've rewritten large sections of it numerous times trying to make it sound right. It's still not perfect but I think it is as right as I am going to get it.
The prisoner sat in the ministry interrogation room, counting the dingy tiles in the ceiling. It wasn't as though he had better ways to pass the time. He had worn the ill-fitting prison robes from for what seemed like an eternity. The plain robes blended into the background, creating an endless lack of color that irritated the prisoner's eyes. Briefly he wondered if he would ever see color again or if the ability had been taken from him. Maybe he was going mad.
Without warning, the door creaked open and tall, handsome black wizard with long dreadlocks entered into the cramped space. The prisoner was familiar with the man: Auror Captain Kingsley Shacklebolt, a powerful, honorable wizard and a member of the Order of the Phoenix.
"Peter Pettigrew," he said in a deep and resonant voice that echoed in the cramped space, "You have been charged with innumerable crimes against the Wizarding World and the Ministry of Magic, including the murders of James and Lily Potter and aiding and abetting You-Know-Who." Grinning, Kingsley revealed impossibly white teeth. "Beginning now, you are going to aid and abet us."
He reached into a pocket in his robe and removed a small vial. Popping the wax stopper with a deft flick of his thumb, he grabbed Peter's jaw in a powerful hand and forced the prisoner's lips apart before pouring the contents past clenched teeth.
"Veritaserum." Peter coughed, trying vainly to spit the remnants of the potion from his mouth. "How… intelligent of you. I suppose that shows that even the Ministry of Magic learns eventually. Pity for you it couldn't have been fifteen years ago, before Sirius went to Azkaban. Might have saved him a lot of pain," he finished with a rat-like smile.
"Sirius Black was your friend." Kingsley spat angrily. "How could you betray him?"
"James and Lily were my friends, too." Peter said quietly. "I have lots of betrayed friends."
"Well, now you get to betray Voldemort. Beginning with the reason he's gone to so much trouble to find some dusty, historical relics. Our historians assure us that Fleur De Sang was quite mad, so you're going to tell me what Voldemort thinks he's going to find in her journals, and why."
The words flowed haltingly from Peter's mouth. "The Journals… De Sang wasn't crazy… at least not any crazier than the Dark Lord, or Dumbledore, or any truly powerful wizard… the Dark Lord learned that she succeeded in a ritual—some kind of experiment that the Dark Lord wishes to duplicate." The Rat Animagus shook his head, fighting in vain against the effects of the truth potion. "It's related to the Litany of Blood. De Sang was working with Vampire magic. But it won't work as long as Harry has his necromantic powers. The ritual will only work for a necromancer."
"How many Death Eaters know of this ritual?" Kingsley snapped.
"Most of the Death Eaters have heard whispers. Only Lucius and I know that he can't perform it until he gets his necromancy back."
"We'll come back to the ritual. Now, tell me why he's been so quiet lately. Why hasn't Voldemort acted openly, or attacked anyone." Kingsley demanded.
"He waits to break out his most loyal, still in Azkaban. And the Golem hasn't finished growing."
"When does he plan to attack Azkaban?"
"I don't know. Soon." Peter asked after a short struggle with his mouth.
"What of the Golem? Tell me." Kingsley asked.
"I don't know. It's been growing for months; The Dark Lord doesn't speak of it, he tells me only that it is important, and made from his own—"
Sirius burst into the cell, and before Kingsley could react he had the tip of his wand held to his old friend's temple. "Enough. I have a question of my own," he growled. "Why, Peter? Why betray your friends? We loved you."
An ugly look passed Peter's face. "You were never my friends. You and James just… you mocked me, and picked on me. I was just little Peter Pettigrew, the tagalong. The extra."
"Bollocks!" Sirius protested. "We protected you; we helped you with your form. You helped create the Map, and with our pranks. We spent summers together. You stood with us at James and Lily's wedding, and you were there when Harry was born. You were always one of us, Peter."
Peter suddenly lunged at his friend. "SHUT UP! I WAS NEVER ONE OF YOU!"
Kingsley pushed him back, and the fat wizard abruptly regained his composure. "You and James, you never respected me. You never liked me. Lily, too. She pretended to be kind. Nice. But she was no better than you lot. No real time for Peter. Only James was worth her time." Peter said, bright-eyed and feverish. "I wanted her so badly, and her empty kindness… she was teasing me. She would never have looked at someone like me. Never. You all laughed behind my back—James, Remus, you. You thought it was so funny: 'Powerless little Peter and his ridiculous crush on the great Lily Evans.' But Voldemort showed me the truth. He promised her to me. He showed me the way things really worked, about how people respect power—how she only respected power." Peter stared off into space, his eyes focused on something that he alone could see. As he continued, his voice was a pained mixture of joy and loss. "Prongs respected my power in the end. It turned out that I had the power to see him dead."
No matter what Sirius or Kingsley did, Peter refused to speak afterwards.
Narcissa Malfoy rubbed her eyes wearily as she compared the ancient writing in dusty tome to the pages containing her careful translation and notes, yet again. The dry, scholarly work—recently uncovered in the catacombs of a Pureblood family that had died out during the first war—had cost a literal fortune; for the book itself and for keeping the knowledge of it's discovery from the Dark Lord. Discretion was not purchased cheaply, but was worth every sickle when her life and freedom hung in the balance. The author—the bookish, third son of an ancient pureblood clan who fancied himself a magical scholar—had apparently decided to secure his place in history by recording the body of magical knowledge of his time. Tucked among many pages of banal (and obsolete) magical theory was a passage that had piqued her interest. For the hundredth time, Narcissa re-read the chapter for which she'd risked so much.
CX. – THE ARCHMAGE STAFF
The staff is the defining characteristic of an archmage, and the greatest of wizard-kind have always been identified by the staff they carried. The methods and craft of creation have remained been a closely-held secret, and the historical scarcity of talismans of this type for study by interested parties has long served as the primary stumbling block to lifting the veil of secrecy—which has doubtless served the average archmage quite well in maintaining their air of mystery and prestige.
I approached the problem of the archmage staff by working backward from characteristics (both verified and speculated) described by historical accounts of staffs of this type, the most well-known of which in the modern era was wielded by the archmage Merlin.
CX.I – DESCRIPTION
While minor physical characteristics differ, all known records of staffs report them as being wooden and similar in appearance to a stout branch or walking staff for which, presumably, the name is derived. Most recorded staffs are wielded by fully human casters and are generally narrow wood cylinders of approximately 2 meters length (material and finish varies), capped by a magical focus. The shortest staff on record was wielded by the last Goblin Archmage, Bonekiller the Bloodthirsty (whose notable defeat led to the prohibitions on Goblin wand-magic contained in the Human-Goblin Accord of 1042, and the eventual role of Goblins in finance), and was reported as being constructed (ironically) from the offshoot of a Giant Redwood tree less than 1 meter in length. The largest recorded staff, at over 4 meters, was wielded by the Half-Giant Sweeney the Short, who lived in Germania from 400(est.)-692 AD (the staff material is not recorded, although the lack of transportation magic in the era in question suggests the use of local flora for construction material). Regardless, it appears that the length and material of the staff varies according the user (in the same manner as a standard wand) and is not a vital consideration in construction.
CX.II – USE
While specific examples vary, it is widely understood that the primary use of the archmage staff is as a focus in the casting of great and terrible magic's (notably the annihilation of Atlantis at the hands of the Society of Midnight Emeralds, a cabal of Archmages). It is also generally reported that the archmage staff is not vulnerable to either physical or magical attack, although the author suspects that this property is not inherent to the staff itself, but rather a side-effect and result of the relative magical superiority of the wielder and the influence of time and distance on the recollection. In fact, it is documented that an archmage staff shattered when the wielder (Rudolph the Red, circa 1400 AD) had his soul removed in his sleep by a rogue Dementor. It has been documented that an archmage staff can be summoned to the wielder over tremendous distance (this feature is consistent among all accounts of archmage staffs)—some fanciful reports even suggest that a staff can be called across dimensions, although the author remains skeptical for want of independent verification.
CX.III – IMPLICATIONS
While it is impossible to discount the import of the wielder when considering the question of the archmage staff, some consistently reported characteristics strongly suggest a shared mode between talismans of this type. In particular, the inability of a staff to be used by other than the creator (even in the case of the death or defeat in battle) is unique among magical foci (recall from Chapter IX.IX that the brother wand effect exists even for custom-crafted wands). It is my belief that the observed phenomena can only be explained by the use of soul magic. Particularly, that the true power (and secret) of the archmage staff is that it is imbedded with a fragment of the soul of the wielder, infused into wood and contained by various runes and glyphs of power (see Chapter CXI.XII for further discussion of soul-magic). In this way, the Archmage's staff would seem similar to a horcrux in form, although unlike a horcrux, it is my belief that the rituals of creation would render the soul fragment in the staff a wholly separate entity from the soul of the creator, a demi-consciousness unto itself (and unable to be rejoined to the soul of the creator). This limitation would make the archmage staff unsuitable for use as an anchor in the various resurrection rituals (Chapter XV.I).
CX.IV – CONSTRUCTION
As previously discussed, there is no recorded account detailing construction of the archmage staff (Unfortunately, lacking adequate magical potential to perform the various rituals involved, the exercise remains in the realm of speculation). Through careful experimentation, the author believes that he has recreated the theoretical foundation for the manufacture of a typical archmage staff…
If only that were true, Narcissa Malfoy thought wearily.
She sat at her laboratory desk and considered the white ash staff that rested there. It was six feet long and adorned with runes from a dozen human cultures and a few nonhuman ones. Oils and unguents have been rubbed lovingly into the shaft, and the dust of gems and rare metals filled the grooves that shaped the runes of power. Magic crackled along its length. It was truly an impressive magical talisman.
And nowhere near an Archmage's Staff.
Narcissa silently fumed. Months of work, wasted. Risks taken and money spent for nothing.
She stood up and faced her window. Closing her eyes, she allowed the warmth of the rising sun to wash over her face. More importantly, she tried to wash away the worry. Worry for her husband.
She loved him.
As much is it was possible for people like them to love, she loved him. He was a powerful, proud pureblood. He had given her Draco and Psyche. For other people, in other families, her love—their love for each other—wouldn't be a weakness, but it was for them. There was simply no room in their lifestyle for love. It didn't fit into the plans of the almighty Voldemort.
Voldemort. His name was a curse—a summation of what was wrong with the movement. When he had first appeared so long ago, she had encouraged Lucius to join him. To take the mark of his servitude. She had believed Voldemort to be just another pureblooded movement leader. More powerful and charismatic, perhaps, but a man just the same. How wrong she had been. Voldemort had proven to be anything but just another man…
The spells and rituals he had conducted on himself transformed him into a monster. A God-Beast of nearly limitless power and appetite for destruction. While he would probably call himself a higher being, Narcissa had made a study of transcendence and Voldemort had definitely not elevated himself.
It was only when the great Dark Lord had led them on a rampage through the Wizarding world, killing many of the finest minds that studied magic out of the fear that they could turn that power against him, that she realized the grave mistake she had made. She desired a society of purebloods who worked on their art—devoted themselves to it the way she had so that they might exceed their own limitations and become something more—something greater.
While they might seem godlike compared to muggles, she knew just how much potential lay in a wizard's core and how few wizards truly unleashed it. Narcissa wanted more for herself, her family, and her people.
After Voldemort was destroyed by that brat Potter, she had gone through his notes looking for anything worth saving on his transformations. Some of what she found sickened her.
More of it intrigued her.
Voldemort had been searching for a way to become a being of pure magic—a God in all but name, capable of altering reality with the slightest act of will. His notes on magical cores and the experiments he performed on unwilling wizards were a revelation and a testament to his genius—twisted as it was. She had taken his notes and experiments and created a special fertility potion. A solution that—if it acted as she believed it would—would create a new type of wizard. One who didn't require crude implements to focus his magic. One who wouldn't need to rely on uncertain genetics to grant them the unique gifts of magic, but would be born with the potential for them all.
She still remembered her elation when she finally finished the formula. It was all her dreams, everything she could ever want. She would create the great new wizard; the man would usher in a new age. She wasted no time in brewing an actual dose and seducing her husband into engaging in his role in the act of creation.
Psyche had been the result of her experimentation. Her shy, frail little girl was nearly everything that she could have asked for. She had no need for a focusing tool and her raw magical discharges were off the scale using every power measurement she could find. She was an untutored Animagus with a nearly unique form, she had prophetic dreams and there were even signs of metamorphmagi talents. Her powers seemed without limits…
But her daughter was flawed as well. Psyche's magical core was unstable, leading to seizures and ill health. Great expenditures of magic could harm her and possibly even kill her. She was totally unable to find a suitable wand—thanks to her core—and the wand they had eventually found for her reacted poorly with her natural skills. There was no one in the world capable of training her to full ability, so she would be responsible for discovering her powers on her own. Still, she was an important step along the road to perfecting the race of Wizard. Psyche's own children might be born without such weaknesses and they would benefit from her knowledge.
Whatever her flaws, she knew that Voldemort wanted Psyche for study. When he had visited Lucius in secret upon his return, he doted on the little girl in an attempt to win her favor. Merlin only knew what he would do to her precious daughter if he got his hands on her.
Narcissa was broken from her thoughts by a disturbance in the wards. Opening her eyes, she saw two figures trudging towards the front door of Malfoy Manor. She smiled a rare, genuine smile that held no artifice.
Her children were home.
Blaise Zabini flung her bag at the front door of the brownstone she lived in with her father. The house was eerily silent, although this was probably because it was high noon and she was the only one in the house who wouldn't burn to a cinder if she opened the damned drapes.
"Father!" she called out.
His answer echoed down the hall "In the study, Blaise."
She found her father reclining in his chair, a female blood doll sitting at his feet like a good dog. He was sipping scotch from a small glass while smiling at a tall raven-haired goddess of a female vampire. She had full red lips, heavily-lidded seductively blue eyes and tall lean figure. She wore a black vinyl pants and a blood-red corset that served to highlight her various other charms.
Her father's sister. Dear Auntie Siren.
"Hello Blaise." her father said blandly. "I trust you had a good term at school? Learning your Latin and all that?"
"I'm doing well, Father." She answered back in just as bland a tone. She knew he didn't care one wit about her schooling. She was just a brood mare to him—a half blooded embarrassment he wished to be rid of as soon as it possible.
"You can't be doing that well." Siren interjected derisively. "If you were, we would be planning a wedding to Harry Potter." The dark haired vampire grinned wolfishly. "Your failure can only be your human blood telling."
Blaise arched an eyebrow laconically. "Well, since you failed to marry James Potter I can only assume you must be lacking in some fashion as well."
Siren slapped Blaise, the powerful blow snapping her head around. Blaise touched the back of her hand to her bleeding mouth, and lapped up the blood with a rasp of her tongue. "Violence is the last refuge of the slow witted, Auntie." she chided pleasantly.
Siren backhanded her again, this time knocking her into a bookshelf. Blaise thudded heavily to the ground but was on her feet in an instant. Her eyes had darkened to the hue of fresh blood and fangs curved out of her mouth. Hissing, she threw herself at her full-blooded aunt.
Damien bolted to his feet, catching his daughter in mid-leap with a powerful arm. "Enough, you two!" he ordered, his powerful aura filling the room and commanding their obedience. "Siren is right, Blaise. Your mission doesn't seem to be going particularly well." Damien said, placing his daughter back on her feet. "It would seem as though all those expensive lessons in the arts of seduction weren't all that useful."
"Harry doesn't take kindly to manipulation." Blaise said. "And he's getting worse. He commanded me to stay away from him and I can't get within twenty feet of him now." Blaise snarled. "If it hadn't been for that bitch Ginny, I might have better news. He was finally warming to me before she pointed out that I had used a blood gem as a focus for my powers."
Damien mused aloud. "The fact that he is a powerful necromancer will make training even more imperative. Hopefully, that fact alone will lead him to you even though your charms have apparently failed."
"You should train him anyway." Blaise said desperately. "He needs it. The power inside of him is going to kill him. Or at the least the part of him that makes him great."
Siren smirked. "Oh, this is rich. You actually care for the little human. How utterly pathetic."
"It's difficult to believe you couldn't keep James Potter, Auntie." Blaise said sarcastically. She turned to her father. "You must agree to train him, Father. He needs his powers leashed. At least give him a taste—after all, he did warn you about Voldemort's attack on the temple."
Damien slammed his palms down on his desk. "No! I owe him nothing for that. His family owes us much and that warning was but a small part of it. No, I will not train him. Not until he fulfills his father's obligation! Blaise, I cannot believe you would deny your heritage to the point that you would sacrifice family honor for him—the grand scion of the man who nearly wiped us out."
"Our family honor will mean nothing if we allow Harry to be consumed by his magic. He is a center point in the coming war. We need him." Blaise pointed out.
Damien sat down. "We need him to be ours, Blaise." Her father said wearily. For a moment he attempted to be other than a king as he spoke to his daughter. "We cannot have a trained rogue necromancer in play. Not even if it is your Harry."
Amelia Bones sipped slowly from her oriental tea cup while assessing her current guest. He was a tall, feline man with long, lean limbs, green eyes and mane of cinnamon hair not unlike the color her own had been in her youth. She thought that they might be distant cousins on her father's side. Rufus Scrimgeour, the head of the ministry's hit wizards. A competent, dangerous wizard and a political animal with almost no equal in the current government. Amelia detested him, but she realized he was far too influential to deny a simple request for tea.
"The tea is quite lovely." Her companion murmured. "An eastern blend, unless I'm mistaken?"
She nodded. "I became positively addicted to it while stationed in China when Charles was Ambassador there." She smiled. "It is reputed to have all manner of magical properties, but I have yet to see any of them manifest."
He laughed gently and shook his head. "I will never understand how wizards can still be so provincial and superstitious with all that they can do."
"Why are you here Rufus?" Amelia asked bluntly.
He took a long drink from his tea before he answered. "Who are you supporting in the election?" he asked.
Dumbledore had used his influence to get a no confidence vote passed against Minister Fudge. That meant that there needed to be an election to vote into office a new minister, and quickly. Fudge was running again, of course. He desperately wished to maintain his grip on power. Surprisingly, Arthur Weasley had also thrown his hat into the ring, although he was polling poorly and seemed destined to fade back into obscurity—of course the support of Harry Potter could actually change that if Weasley was smart enough to use his family connection to the Boy-Who-Lived. Several lesser known officials were also running and, thankfully, diluting the Ministry vote between them. The entire election seemed to be going nowhere fast.
"I haven't decided."
"Would you be willing to support me?"
"Do you plan to run?"
He leaned back in his chair. "I'm considering it. I would hate to burn my political capital without a guaranteed win, but your endorsement would go far to help me. You are well respected, and there are some that wonder why you are not running yourself. You could dominate the field."
Amelia smiled calmly. "Those who know me do not wonder, Mr. Scrimgeour."
"Will you endorse me?" he asked again.
Amelia was about to answer when her beautiful niece walked into the room, blushing as she realized she was interrupting the meeting.
"I'm sorry Auntie, I didn't realize…" Susan Bones stuttered.
Rufus stood up painfully. An old leg wound caused his leg to seize when it was locked in one position for too long. "Nonsense, my dear." he interjected with a pleasant smile. "You aren't interrupting anything. I was merely asking your aunt a question."
Susan looked between them. "Oh, and which question was that?"
"Susan," her aunt chided. "You know better than to ask."
Rufus held up his hand. "I don't mind in the slightest. Hogwarts students are the voters of the future and I value their insights." He smiled at the young Hufflepuff. "I was asking your aunt if she would be willing to support my bid for Minister in the special election."
"Are you, Auntie?" Susan asked.
"I haven't decided." Amelia Bones answered truthfully.
Rufus smiled. "Perhaps you can convince her for me Susan."
"Do you believe that You-Know-Who is back?" the blond asked bluntly.
"I do not, Miss Bones." Rufus answered gravely. "You don't remember the war. I and your Aunt do. Voldemort was never one to hide in the shadows and lay low; he wanted to cause fear, to cripple our world with it." His hands tightened on the arm rests as he spoke. "If the Dark Lord had actually returned, we would know about it. The bodies he'd leave would be evidence enough."
"Then, Sir, I'm sorry to say that I can't support you." Susan said respectfully. "I'm dating Ron Weasley and I would try to get her to support Mr. Weasley. He believes Harry Potter, and so do I." She smiled impishly at both adults before stating, "I'm going to go check on Mother, Aunt Amelia. Have a nice afternoon Mr. Scrimgeour."
Rufus frowned at the retreating backside of the young Hufflepuff. "You have a very interesting niece, Amelia." He said blandly.
"I'm proud of her." Amelia answered placidly as she sipped from her tea.
The rest of the school term had passed uneventfully for Harry. Moody had stopped training him, complaining that he needed to rest; he even seemed to be going more easily on the students in class. He and Ginny had spent a lot of time together—something that hadn't escaped notice by either Ron or Hermione. Both seemed happy for him, if surprised by his choice, so he was content. Fleur had retreated to the hospital wing, rarely seen by anyone other than Madame Pomfrey. Blaise, thanks the necromancy fueled order, couldn't get within speaking distance of Harry. Others still treated him like rubbish because they didn't believe him, and the Daily Prophet had started making noises about his and Dumbledore's role in the Minster's recall.
All in all, it was an unremarkable end to the winter term for Harry.
Remus Lupin was supposed to be the one to fetch Harry from Platform 9¾ once the teen disembarked from the train. Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny walked together for a short distance before going their separate directions.
"So you'll be at the rally before Christmas then, Harry?" Ron asked for the thousandth time.
"Yes, Ron." Harry said in exasperation. "And you'll all be at the Manor on Christmas Day?"
Percy had written to Harry to ask him if he would be willing to make an appearance on behalf of Arthur's Ministerial campaign. Harry had of course agreed, and they had come up with an open-air rally a few days before Christmas in downtown Diagon Alley. In theory, the Alley would be packed with potential voters for Arthur to meet. In turn, Harry had invited the Weasleys to spend the holidays with him and Sirius, who should already be back from his Order mission.
"Of course we'll be there." Ginny answered with a sweet smile. "We wouldn't miss it for the world." She reached out and touched a few strands of Harry's wild hair. The Boy Who Lived leaned into her touch and smiled warmly.
Ron nodded in agreement. "I have to find some time to meet up with Susan, too." He mused.
Hermione sighed. "This is where I get off. Have a good Christmas." With that, she walked off towards her waiting parents.
"It was something I said, wasn't it." Ron asked.
Harry nodded. "You mentioned Susan in front of her—you probably shouldn't do that, I'm guessing. I wouldn't worry though. A good vacation should sort her right out."
Ron and Ginny both gave Harry hugs and departed to meet up with the twins and their parents. Harry watched them for a minute and then left the platform to wait for Remus.
Only it wasn't Remus who came to pick him up.
Harry blinked. And then blinked again. His eyes weren't deceiving him. His godfather was striding up to him like he didn't have a care in the world, wearing the biggest smile Harry had ever seen.
He looked at least ten years younger, too. He wore muggle style clothing cut out of Wizarding materials. Black jeans, a man's dress shirt made out of Aracumantala silk and a calf-length Dragon hide jacket gave the impression of causal elegance and wealth. And for the first time Harry could remember, Sirius face didn't show the weight of his haunted past.
He stopped a few feet away from the gaping Harry. "Happy Christmas, Harry." he said softly.
"But… how… the Ministry…"
Harry couldn't think. He couldn't react. This was a dream. A fantasy.
"It's real, Harry." Sirius said softly. "I swear it. I'm finally free."
A dam burst in Harry and the Boy Who Lived bolted into his godfather's waiting arms. For one brief second on the wintry sidewalk of London, the shadows passed from Harry's mind and he was just a boy who finally had a guardian who loved him.
Percival Weasley loosed a long-suffering sigh.
For all his virtues, his father was just not a great politician. He was too obvious while he read from cue cards, he stumbled over words in his speech, and his voice was as far from commanding as it could possibly be.
He didn't much look the part either. His tall gawky figure didn't look Ministerial in his cheap robes, his balding head was freckled, and that along with his long nose gave the impression of great balding vulture.
Carrion birds did not get votes.
Percy stood on the stage behind his father with the rest of his family. His girlfriend of some months stood at his side with her arm wrapped around him. Tonks watched Arthur with wide-eyed wonder. Her hair was currently Weasley red and she had given herself a few purple freckles smattering across her nose—an in effort to fit in more with the family she proclaimed.
Percy didn't have the heart to tell her that freckles weren't really purple.
They all stood beneath a great open air tent in the central square of Diagon alley, protected from the winter cold by a complex network of warming charms. Rows of conjured benches in front of the stage and foodstuffs for those shoppers who chose to stay awhile to listen to Arthur Weasley filled the tent.
At the front of the great tent was a raised dais where Arthur stood with his wife, five of his seven children, Tonks, and Harry Potter. The young boy wizard had a prepared a few remarks to introduce Arthur before he turned the dais over to the tall redheaded ministry worker.
Everything was ready; his father had a great speech written by several very well paid former Prophet Employees who were known for their turns of phrase. People were packed in the streets for last second gift purchasing and a few had drifted in, curious about the tent. Reporters had come, looking for a story involving the reclusive and publicity shy Harry Potter.
But absolutely no one was paying attention to his father.
"—Sirius Black is the last in a long line of examples of the incompetence of the current administration." Arthur spoke, with his wand magnifying his voice to reach the back of the tent. "For too long we have allowed corruption, bribery, and incompetence to influence the Ministry of Magic. We have allowed mediocrity to flourish because we do nothing to force improvement. While the Ministry will not say this, I will. Voldemort has returned and we no longer have the luxury of maintaining the status quo. We need change now, before inactivity begins to cost lives."
Arthur Weasley looked up from his prepared speech and the light went out of his eyes as he saw how few people were watching him and how even fewer were taking him seriously. A few reporters with Quick Quote Quills were writing furiously on long rolls of parchment—probably about the abysmal turnout. He could write the headlines himself.
Boy hero Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived gives endorsement to long shot Ministerial candidate Arthur Weasley…
He sighed. It wasn't fair. Of all the people for Dumbledore to approach, why did it have to be him? He had spent too much time in his cubbyhole, keeping his head down. Yes, he knew what was wrong with the Ministry. Yes, he would solve it if he could, but he wasn't a baby kissing politician. He didn't have the fire in him that the job needed. He was Arthur Weasley, muggle technology fanatic, not Arthur Weasley, future Minister of Magic. Why had he ever thought he was?
He flung his papers to the ground and stalked away from the podium. He could hear the murmurs erupting behind him, the scratch of quills chronicling his embarrassment.
Percy ran up and circled around to head him off. "Dad, where are you going?" he asked with hurt in his eyes.
"You did the best you could with what you had." Arthur said flatly, "But it wasn't meant to be."
"You can still win, dad." Percy insisted. "Dumbledore is going to give us all the money we need to run the campaign."
"So we can be the candidate bought and paid for by Albus Dumbledore?" Arthur said with a bitter laugh. "I think not. He tried that with Fudge and look where that got him. All the talk of being Albus's puppet ate him up and left him a shell. Same thing'll happen to me."
"You aren't going to be a puppet, Dad. Dumbledore wants you to be a real minister. Get reforms done."
Arthur waved his hand around the tent. "I am never going to win, son. This isn't a political campaign; it's a pathetic attempt of has-been ministry worker playing at Sisyphus. I wanted to do this for you. I really did, but I can't… I just can't." Arthur smiled sadly at his son. "I'm tired Percival. I'm tired and I'm going home."
Percy watched as his father walked out of the tent and up the street, not even bothering to apparate away. He looked around vainly, looking for someone, anyone who he could look to for guidance. He wanted to cry, to scream, to hit his father to make him see what he was doing, what he giving up. It was fear, that's all that was holding him back. Fear.
He shivered as the cold winter morning bit through his warming charms. His bones felt like they were turning to ice. Clutching his wand reflexively, Percy looked around. People were stopping on the street, shivering despite the warming charms that coated their bodies. Children began to grab their mother's hands. The very youngest began to cry. Looking up in the sky, Percy saw grey clouds roll over the bright winter morning casting the whole alley into dark shadows. A chill wind began to blow
Something was wrong.
Tonks appeared at his side. Her hair was black and sensible with no hint of Weasley red. Her eyes were flat and professional.
Susan Bones sat on her bed, listening to the Wizarding wireless and thumbing through a book on the Animagus Transformation. She had discovered that she had the form of a golden parakeet and wanted to study up on the process. She, like everyone else, had brewed and taken the potion for the transformation under the watchful eyes of Professor Snape, but she had yet to attempt her first transformation. While her animal wasn't exactly a battle form that could help in the war against Voldemort, she'd be able to fly and that sounded like a lot of fun. Besides she really wanted to be able to help Ron with his form. She hadn't been kidding when she'd told him that he could write his own ticket in the ministry if he could master the change. She'd told her Aunt Amelia about it and she was very interested in meeting the boy who might be a dragon.
A small smile played about her face when a scream rent the air.
Susan reached for her wand and raised it barely in time to deflect the bolt of a Death Eater who burst into her room. The young witch had learned a few things about dueling thanks to Harry preparing her for the upcoming tournament, but that was competitive dueling, not fighting for her life.
The shield she erected collapsed under the weight of a second burst. Susan rolled off of her bed, using it as cover from the death eater in the doorway.
"Accio wardrobe." she shrieked.
The heavy mahogany cabinet crashed into the skull masked wizard standing in the doorway, crushing him flat. Susan stared at the still twitching legs of the man she just killed before forcing her eyes away from the image and moving away. Her mind raced. What was she supposed to do? Why hadn't the Ministry wards done anything? Her mother's screamed kept coming from the downstairs.
Then they stopped.
Fleur was in Hogsmeadee when the attack happened. She hadn't yet departed for her family's ancestral home in France. Since she wasn't a Hogwarts student, she didn't get the same holiday schedule that the students enjoyed. As an apprentice, she had a duty to helping her mistress brew potions and stock shelves for the students return.
She had gone to the potion shop in Hogsmead for supplies when, on a whim, she had decided to go to Salenestra's Sultry Silks, an upscale clothing store that had a few things she might buy for her mother, grandmother and aunts—veela women tended to age well and have expensive tastes in clothing. She was standing at the counter paying for her packages when she heard the explosion.
"Did you 'ere zat?" She asked the owner.
She barely notice the shopkeeper nodding as she lifted her wand up. Quickly shrinking the packages she moved towards the window so that she could peak out. She saw a half dozen death eaters walking brazenly down the center of the street, jets of multicolored spells flying from their wands. The masked wizards were flanked by four huge creatures. The man-things carried clubs bound with rune-marked silver bands and they swung them with great enthusiasm at anyone who came near—and failing that, the walls of the buildings they passed by. She could see spells bursting over the roofs of other building and she knew there had to be more of them.
She froze. She couldn't think, couldn't breathe. What she was seeing was impossible. Her father had told her stories about his time in the French Auror corps but this…this was beyond the young girls understanding. Words were one thing but seeing it was something else entirely. Fleur was barely able to decode the scene with her eyes. Her mind wouldn't wrap around the images. Fleur could see that several people were lying in the streets behind the marching invaders, badly injured. One man in particular seemed to stare straight at Fleur, even though she knew that he couldn't possibly see into the darkened building. Despite that, she saw his accusing eyes.
You're a healer
So she did.
Even in the warm tent, the well remembered cold struck Harry like a physical blow, and he recognized it instantly.
He began searching for the distinctive black-cloaked figures. The other Weasleys on the stage were looking around as well; most of them in confusion—they could tell something was going on, but not what. Mrs. Weasley was staring after her husband, her homely face furrowed in sorrow. Absently she rubbed her arms, trying to massage warmth back into them. Ginny had a faraway look in her eyes and she thumbed her wand. Without looking back at her family she jumped off the stage and moved into the crowds. The twins were ribbing each other and didn't seem to notice anything. Ron and Harry exchanged dark looks. Both of them had felt this before, and they knew they only had moments before they would be crippled with the black memories that accompanied the evil creatures.
"Mum." Ron called out. "We have to go."
Mrs. Weasley shook her head. "No… No. We can't leave without your father."
Ron's eyes hardened. "He's already left, mum. Walked off the stage." Taking his mother's hand, Ron lightly leapt off the stage and helped her down.
Harry followed a moment later. He stared after Ginny, a mad desire to chase after her overwhelming his thoughts. He took a single step forward only to shake the desire off. Instead he turned around. "Guys," he said, calling out to Fred and George. "We have to go. Something's wrong."
The twins looked up, for the first time noticing the cold and the grey skies. While they were undeniably silly people, neither was stupid and they recognized the signs instantly. They jumped off the stage and walked up to their mother and youngest brother.
"Take her." Ron instructed. "Get mum out of here."
"You take her." George countered. "We're older. We should stay." The twins finished in unison.
"Take Mrs. Weasley and get out of here." Harry ordered. "We have to go after Ginny. She's run off."
"She did?" Ron asked. He looked around and blinked. "Huh?"
At the mention of Ginny the two older brothers nodded. "Okay. We'll take mum and leave." Fred said. He turned to his brother. "Wood's?"
"Wood's." George said in agreement. They each grabbed their mother by the elbow and ducked out through the tent.
The two young men drew their wands and walked out of the tent in the opposite direction to Fred and George.
"Point me, Ginny Weasley." Ron said to his wand. The stick of wood quivered and spun around but didn't settle on a direction.
Harry grinned. "Still can't get that to work? Point Me, Ginny." The wand spun and pointed down the street.
As the two began walking in the direction the wand was pointing the sky overhead grew even darker and the shadows of Diagon Alley lengthened.
"We have to hurry." Harry said, staring down the street.
Ron nodded, but it was too late. Animated swirls of darkness gathered and tiny bits of darkness spun out of the heavens. As they grew closer they revealed themselves to be the rotting robes of Dementors.
"Harry, mate, I'm a bit scared." Ron muttered. His pale skin looked even more pallid as he fought against the rising tide of fear that was bubbling unchecked from his subconscious. "If you've got any of those necromancer tricks handy, now would really be a good time."
"Yeah," Harry muttered back, "I'll get right on that."
Diagon Alley experienced a pregnant pause as cold and fear in the minds and bodies of the hapless wizard shoppers. A Pause that shattered when the first emerald blast shot from a side street, dropping a middle-aged witch in robes while her young daughter still held her hand.
A moment later the Dementors touched down and the battle for Diagon Alley began in earnest.
Susan blew the wardrobe off the crushed wizard and fragments flew into the hallway. A scream let her know that there had been a second wizard coming up the stairs but the explosion had knocked him over the upstairs railing.
The blond witch rushed out of her room. Sounds of battle filled the lower level of the house and—worried about her mother—she leaned over the rail to see what was happening. She had barely peeked her head across the banister when an invisible knife slashed her cheek. She fell backwards and quickly crabwalked back to the safety of her room.
The sounds of footfalls thudding heavily on the stairs startled the young witch and she fumbled for her wand, only to have it fall from her nervous fingers when she saw her aunt.
Amelia Bones breathed heavily, sighing in relief at the image of her nice. Strands of hair hung loosely from her ruined bun and scorch marks stained her robes.
"Quickly Susan, we have to get help," she barked.
"Auntie, what about mother…" Susan asked, thinking only of the delicate woman who she loved above all.
Her aunt only pursed her lips and shook her head before ushering her through the door to her room.
Fleur looked around quickly. Where were the aurors? Why hadn't anyone come? There were wards all over Hogsmeade. Alarms should have sounded in the Ministry.
"Iz there anozer way out of 'ere?" She quickly asked the shopkeeper.
"Through the storeroom," the owner of the store said, "But you can't go out…"
Fleur ignored him and raced into the back room and out the door. Quickly applying a disillusionment charm, Fleur crept carefully along the alley until she could see the old man that had spurred her into action.
He laid the street, alone. As she got closer she realized he wasn't dead, although the blasting charm that had struck him probably made him wish that he was. Luckily, much of the violence and battle had carried along to another part of the town, leaving only a single large Ogre to stare confusedly at the buildings.
Ogres were related to both men and Trolls. Some believed them to be the ancient remnants of Neantherdals. Twice the size of man with hirsute bodies and humanoid features, Ogres possessed a great deal of resistance to magic and incredibly dense bones and muscles. They were killing machines and this particular specimen seemed both particularly large and particularly stupid.
Of course, the many formidable defenses that Ogres possessed did not include immunity to veela charm. So Fleur made herself visible to the creature and before it could react, she unleashed her aura.
The raw emotional magic struck the Ogre with far greater force than any cutting charm or cannonball. His dull eyes widened and his broad, brutish nose flared with desire. He took a clumsy step forward and reached out longingly with a rough hand.
Fleur schooled her features and allowed him to touch her face. That only strengthened her hold over him.
"What is your name?" The young veela asked in a voice of golden light and honey.
"Gog." He grunted. "You pretty," he continued.
Fleur smiled softly. "Will you do something for me?" she asked.
"Me do." He answered eagerly.
"Take him inside." Fleur ordered. "Gently."
The Ogre carried the man carefully through the doorway and deposited him on the floor. Fleur passed her wand over him murmuring a few diagnostic spells.
"Is he going to be alright?" the shop owner asked.
"He will." Fleur said decisively. Whispering more spells she stabilized him—praying that it was fast enough to halt the permanent nerve damage that might result from the attack.
She glanced out, through the doorway to the battle beyond. Wizards and witches dueled with death eaters and monsters in the streets of Hogsmeade. The man in front of her had been the first person to really need her healing spells, but he would not be the last.
"Gog, I would like you to go outside and kill every masked man." Fleur ordered calmly.
The Ogre grinned at her, revealing broad, yellow teeth and complied.
Fleur looked around again
A jet of orange light spat past Harry. He recognized the spell from Moody's lessons, but he didn't have time to wrack his memories for the name.
Death Eaters fought amidst the swirling cloud of Dementors. Somehow the masked wizards were able work through the chilling cold. It had to be a spell or shield of some kind, and Harry lay odds that it was locked in his mind, in the memories and magic of Voldemort that he had sucked out.
But the chill seeped through his bones and it was all he could to keep moving, concentrating on one of Moody's first pieces of advice.
Always move. Never stay in one spot.
He could sense more than see Ron at his back. The two of them moved like dance partners, covering each other. The dueling practice they had worked so long on was paying off. Even if it was only sport dueling, it was more than most wizards could do.
Flecks of cold sweat dotted the redhead's face as it tightened in concentration. "Expecto Patronum." Ron shouted. Silver light flashed from his wand, driving a Dementor back.
Scattered throughout the alley, other wizards fought. Silver flashes, Patroni or something very much like them, detonated soundlessly from the wands of wizards capable of handing the spell.
Where were the thrice-damned Aurors?
As if in answer to his unspoken question, apparation pops sounded in the alley as the wizard enforcers began to make their presence known.
Harry ducked behind some barrels near an open-air fruit stand, Ron dropping next to him a moment later.
"What are we going to do?" Ron asked. He looked around. "We'll never be able to find Ginny in all this."
"I have no idea." Harry responded. He rubbed his head. He couldn't think. Worry for Ginny consumed him. Every kissed child, every stunned witch had her face. She was in trouble. He knew it. With deep even breaths like Dumbledore showed him, he locked away his worry for the redheaded girl. Twisting, Harry fired red lighting from his wand. A death eater barely deflected the spell only to fall pray to a similar spell from an Auror.
The Boy Who Lived looked around. The battle was utter chaos. The average witch or wizard just wasn't equipped to be a warrior; most didn't know battle magic beyond what might be used to dispose of house hold pests. A few brave ones were fighting, but they were dying for their bravery and inexperience. And the thin cries, the wailings of children in a hell beyond what they could imagine, filled the air between spells.
It was the most awful thing Harry had ever seen.
"Harry, we have to get rid of the Dementors. There aren't all that many Death Eaters, but the Dementors, they're crippling everyone." Ron said insistently.
"I can't summon my Patronus." Harry hissed. "I've been trying, but nothing happens. I think it's the powers that I took from Voldemort. I don't think I can do it anymore." Harry glanced down ashamedly. It was one more thing that Voldemort had taken from him, along with his Animagus form. Being able to cast a Patronus had made him special—it was something he could do on his own, and not some piece of celebrity fluff that didn't matter. And now Prongs was gone.
Ron frowned and nodded. Squaring his shoulders, he stood. "Back away, Harry. I'm going to try and transform. See what they do against a dragon."
Harry scrambled back. "You can't do that Ron, you just took the potion. You haven't had any training!"
"Sirius says it's just concentration." Ron said with his jaw set squarely.
"He also says the first time hurts. And it'll hurt more with a bigger form." Harry pointed out.
"You sound like Hermione, mate." Ron said, ignoring Harry as he closed his eyes and screwed up his face. Harry watched his friend while keeping an eye out for any stray spells.
Ron screamed. His eyes widened and he gasped, his chest moving rapidly trying to suck in great gulps of air. The redhead's hands flexed convulsively and they started to shift from dragon talons back to human flesh. Harry knew that something was wrong. The transformation was supposed to be smooth. First you were in one form and then you were in the other. You weren't supposed to see the transformation. It was happening too slowly.
Ron fell to the ground, veins pulsing in his neck, eyes flashing from shimmering gold lizard slits to human brown and back again. Over and over again.
Harry realized that his friend was trapped in a Transfiguration Lock. He couldn't make the complete transformation, but his mind was so fixated on completing it, he couldn't stop it either. He was just locked in placing, moving from partial form to partial form, his muscles and organs straining and tearing with every partial change.
If Ron didn't get to medical assistance soon, the stress on his body would kill him.
"Susan, we have to get out of the house." Amelia said without preamble as she led her niece into her bedroom.
"Apparate us out."
"I can't." Amelia said grimly. "I already tried moving upstairs by apparating and I nearly splinched. They have wards up." Amelia raised her wand and with a motion Susan's antique bed flung itself into the doorway.
"Auntie, where is mother?" Susan asked in a very small voice.
"She was cursed in the back. She had just gotten home from shopping when they attacked." The old Auror said kindly.
Susan held her hands to her mouth. "Is she…"
"I don't know sue. It all happened so fast…" She laid a companionable hand on Susan's shoulder. "But she's very strong; my brother didn't marry a weak woman."
After speaking Amelia looked out the window and seeing that the grounds seemed to be clear of attackers, grabbed her niece by the hand. "We're going to jump, dear, and I'll slow the fall. When we get to the ground, just run. Run as fast and as far as you can. Get to the broom shed and take the fastest one we have and leave. Get to the ministry or Hogwarts." Amelia instructed.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to apparate to the Auror office, grab some friends and come back for your mother." Amelia said flatly. "Now, chin up."
Susan nodded and took her aunt's hand. Together they jumped.
Fleur flicked a drop of blood off her forehead and stared at the witch on the ground before her. Passing her wand over the woman's midsection, she muttering every chant, spell, and trick she had learned from Madame Pomfrey, hoping in vain that this time she would get a different result. Unfortunately for her patient, nothing she did had the power to turn back time.
The woman had lost her baby.
Smashed in the stomach by a stray troll blow, the young witch who was the clerk of Potions for All Occasions had lost the child she had been carrying for two months. She might not have even been aware of her impending motherhood. Fleur wanted to weep, to cry out over the injustice that just devastated this young mother-to-be. But she pushed her emotions from her mind and drew her healer's duty around her heart like a shield. This is why she had become a healer. She wanted to be like the woman who had saved her father's life as he had fought for the French hit wizards in the days before he became a vintner. And there were more people to help.
Always more people.
Muscles protesting, Fleur dragged her patient underneath the overhang of the store. She might have used magic but she was growing weary and she needed to preserve her magic for more important tasks. After making the woman comfortable as she could and placing her in a healing sleep, the young healer stood up to find someone else to help.
There was no shortage. Spells and weapons flew back and forth. Aurors had come. Not many of them to be sure, but they had come. And with them came the Professors of Hogwarts. The old teachers fought with grace and skill, seemingly everywhere around the battle all at once. There was tiny Professor Flitwick, somehow dueling five death eaters at once to a complete standstill. Here was McGonagall and Alastor Moody fighting back to back, the aged witch moving with surprising skill and grace while the wizened Auror at her back fought with overwhelming power, using his superior skill and experience to crush younger, less competent wizards. And Dumbledore… was everywhere, a being more of spirit than flesh, wielding a staff of power that rained devastation wherever it was aimed. Fleur's gaze eventually settled on two Aurors who had been knocked unconscious in the midst of the running battle that drifted through the streets of Hogsmead.
One had been the victim of a rather vicious cutting charm and the other had no mark on him. If he wasn't clearly breathing, Fleur might have thought him a victim of the killing curse. With a motion of her wand she levitated the two wizards and dragged them back to her makeshift medstation. She was so enthralled by her work that she was caught completely off guard by the explosion.
Fleur was flung backwards by the blast, her world reduced to a maelstrom of heat and smoke. Her horrified eyes saw two Aurors she tried to help blacken and shrivel in the blast while she, somehow, had been thrown her clear of the center.
She hadn't escaped unscathed of course. The ends of her long, silver hair was seared in the blast and she barely found the presence of mind to activate a fire dampening spell on herself. Her lungs burned and her eyes teared as she tried to peer through the smoke. Forcing the flames away with her spell she stood up.
Through the smoke a death eater carelessly strolled through the fire towards her. Hidden behind robes and the characteristic skull mask, Fleur couldn't even tell if her attacker was a man or a woman. What was clear was that whoever the attacker was, they were clearly skilled. Brandishing their wand in the classic German dueling style, the attacker wasted no time in flicking a second fire spell in her direction.
With the instinctive reactions of a French dueling champion, Fleur leapt into the spell, using her wand to reflect it back in death eater's face. The orb of fire splashed around him and she could hear sepulchral laughter from behind the mask.
"You killed zem!" Fleur shrieked. In a rage she flung a stunner at the death eater. Parrying the spell with an exaggerated slash the death eater laughed again.
"Don't trying playing with me, little half-blood." The death eater chided in a deep and resonant voice. "I'd be forced to kill you. And that would such a…" the death eater stopped to take an exaggerated moment to look her up and down. "…waste."
Fleur smiled. A man. She could deal with a man. Shaping her veela charm in to a dagger of lust she launched it at the wizard.
"You will do as I say." She cooed. "You love me. You want me."
"While you are indeed beautiful, I think not." The death eater said. But there was strain in his voice. Fleur smiled. She was getting to him, regardless of what he said. "But enough of that. Let's play, little girl. See what you have in that pretty little head of yours." he continued.
The two began trading spells in earnest. Fleur spun and ducked, launching an array of hexes and jinxes in her opponent's direction. Deflecting them with casual swishes of his wand, he sent jets of fire in her direction.
"You like zee fire too much." Fleur said. "Eet will be your undoing." With a wave of her wand she reflected the blue jet of fire in the wall of the nearest building, flinching as she did so. Fire was being deflected but the heat was still gathering around her.
In a flash of black smoke the death eater apparated in front of her, covering the distance in the blink of an eye. With his gloved off hand he grabbed Fleur by the jaw. "I have other tricks."
"So. Have. I." Fleur forced out. She twisted her body to reposition her wand and a flash of red shot from her wand, striking the wizard cleanly in the center of his chest. The spell forced him back. Fleur expected him to fall. That was the strongest stunner she knew.
But while the mysterious death eater was driven to his knees, he was definitely not out of the fight. His robes must have been layered with defensive charms. He slashed diagonally with his wand and forced a whip of living blue flame to erupt from the tip.
He had made a mistake. The Flame whip spell prevented the wizard from casting any other magic while he was using it. He couldn't defend himself while it was up. Her smile died as he sidestepped her next stunner and lashed her across the shoulder burning her badly.
Of course, if he was an expert with the flame whip, he didn't need other spells.
Fleur danced backwards and the Death Eater laughed again as his whip grew in length. He snapped it towards Fleur and the young healer screamed in pain as the flaming tendril wrapped around her wand wrist.
With an agonized gasp, she dropped her wand. A second snap wrapped around her knee and she collapsed to the ground in anguish.
I'm going to die
She was never going to see her mother or father again. She would never watch her little brother and sister grow to become heartbreakers. She'd never get the chance to make Harry understand why she had pushed him away…
With a flourish, the wizard dropped his spell and aimed his wand. "Avada Ked-
With instinct born of desperation, Fleur summoned the strength to roll away. The sickly green light flashed from the corner of her eye. Bouncing to her feet, Fleur called on her veela heritage one more time.
But this time she didn't want to charm him.
She wanted to burn him.
Red fire flashed from between her fingers and she flung a ball of fire at the death eater. The orb caught him in the shoulder. The death eater casually brushed the flames away with a glove. "Do you believe I would use fire magic if I could be burned, little veela." he asked confidently.
"Let's test zat." Fleur replied sweetly.
She flung a second and third fireball at him, one from each hand. All thoughts of healing flew from her mind as veela instincts, honed over millennia took over. Fleur, like many women of partially veela heritage considered herself to be civilized. Relying on their beauty and the subtler gifts, many veela women denied their baser instincts. Fleur knew that purebloods considered mating with a veela only a few steps above mating with a dog and she wanted to make sure that everyone knew that she was a person, not a beast with uncontrollable instincts. But she could feel her carefully constructed veneer falling away. She wanted burned flesh. She wanted to blacken his bones and feast on the marrow. She could feel her features sharpen, becoming more avian, more predatory. She could sense his wards weakening.
The death eater scrambled backwards. He raised his wand only to have it knocked from his hand with a well aimed fireball. A final orb struck him center of the chest, driving him to his knees.
"Please." He begged. "Don't…"
"Don't what?" Fleur mocked. "Don't kill you? Don't rape you? Don't eat you?" The young part veela raised her hands. "Zat is what you think of veela, oui? We are beasts that should be put down, yes? So we do not tempt good purebloods with our evil beauty? Don't worry. I'm not going to tempt you." She whispered seductively. Blue fire raced up and down her arms and a torrent flashed around the death eater. "I'm going to burn you…"
Fleur watched him burn, her fire growing hotter and hotter until it was blazing white and she could no longer see his body in the center of the storm. But she still didn't stop. She couldn't stop. She wanted to burn him to ash…
Until strong old hands grasped her shoulder. "Miss Delacour, it is time to stop." A kindly voice whispered in her ear.
No. Not time yet. Has to burn more…
"Miss Delacour. Fleur." He said again. "We need your healing now. Not your fire."
Shaking from the bloodlust which had gathered, she turned around to gaze into the twinkling eyes of Albus Dumbledore.
"I believe you dropped this." Dumbledore said, holding out her wand.
Fleur took several deep, calming breaths. She couldn't believe that she had lost control that badly. "Zank you."
Dumbledore shrugged. "It was nothing, Miss Delacour. The battle is nearly done. I believe your pyrotechnics have frightened many of the surviving attackers."
Fleur looked around. The battle drifted off to a different part of Hogsmead and the sounds of spells going off were growing fainter by the second. She had been so engrossed with her attacker she hadn't noticed the rest of the battle moving.
"Are you well Miss Delacour?" Dumbledore asked solicitously.
Fleur nodded. "I weel be fine. Zere are people who need 'elp. We must fine zem."
Dumbledore nodded and took the young healer's arm before both dissolving into light.
Susan landed on the ground and raced for the broom shed on the other side of the property. Sparing a glance towards her aunt, she saw a pair of Death Eaters appear. From the corner of her eye, she saw Amelia began to duel them, moving with fluid grace that belied her advanced age.
Susan darted around a large oak and took a second glance back toward her aunt. She saw that both attackers were down and her aunt was nowhere to be seen. Smiling and wishing that she could be exactly like her aunt when she grew up, Susan took off again.
It would prove to be a moment that would haunt her for the rest of her life. With a pop, a Death Eater apparated less than a dozen feet away, shooting a rapid stunner toward her in the next blink.
Ducking behind the tree, Susan let the great oak absorb the spell. Her breath came in short nervous gasps. Oh Merlin. She gripped her wand tightly. She'd been working in the dueling group with Harry, and she and Ron had gone at if a few times. She could do this…
Susan hardened her heart by thinking of her mother and darted out from behind the tree. She did what Harry had shown her, loosing a barrage of weak hexes at the lone death eater in an attempt to strip away his shields.
Caught off guard, the wizard fell backwards then stumbled as a jelly legs jinx caused him to tumble to the ground. Seizing the advantage, Susan shot a stunner at the Death Eater.
Too excited by her advantage, Susan overshot the spell and it missed the wizard. Laughing, the wizard dispelled the jinx and sent a stunner back at the pretty Hufflepuff. Deflecting the spell away from her, Susan threw up a frantic shield.
"You should have run when you had the chance, pretty girl." The Death Eater said in a guttural tone. A pass of his wand over his face caused the bone mask to melt away revealing an old man with a pale, scarred face and a heavy brow that held deep set eyes. Susan noticed that the Death Eater's eyes burned with an unnatural brightness. Spittle flew from his thin lipped mouth as he spat, "Crucio."
Agony flared in Susan's body. She collapsed to the ground, doubled over in pain. Distantly she felt her bowls weaken and warmth spread down her legs.
"Pissing yourself, little girl?" The old wizard drawled. "What would your dear mother say?"
With a careless twist of his wand, Susan flipped onto her back. A few flicks and her robe were reduced to tatters. "You are a pretty little thing, aren't you?" the Death Eater whispered. "Bet you have all the boys after you. Teasing them with your body. Making them do what you want." The wizard's eyes gleamed madly. "You're a naughty little thing aren't you? Just like my daughter was."
Susan couldn't answer. The spell had been lifted but it was all she could do to focus on the man in front of her. She tried to change, tried to become a tiny golden bird so that she could fly away.
"I'll fix you the way I fixed her."
She continued trying to fly away, in vain, even after the spells started cutting her.
Harry looked around frantically. Everywhere was chaos. The few Aurors who had appeared had their hands full as they fought Death Eaters and Dementors. A few brave citizen wizards had joined in the fight, but most of them were down and injured—perhaps even dead.
The part of him that was Voldemort exulted in the destruction. He wanted to see more death, more defilement of the average, happy wizard. Harry pushed that dark little voice down as best he could and focused.
He focused on a dark-garbed Dementor that had swooped down on a small child. Decaying hands pulled down its frayed hood. Harry watched as rotting lips pursed, forming a macabre lover's kiss as it bent over the small child and began drawing her soul out. An innocent little girl, too young for even her first year at Hogwarts.
No. That was too much. Something broke inside of Harry.
Not thinking about what he was doing, Harry flung out his hand, splayed fingers weaving threads of magic of unconsciously spun from his own life force and wrapped them around the creature of death. With a violent tug, he yanked the Dementor from the little girl. The creature struggled and shrieked in the invisible tangles.
Harry sagged, for the first time in months feeling the weakness of a purely mortal body, as the Dementor tore at his life energy in its frantic attempt to escape. He knew what he had to do. The knowledge poured forth into his thoughts and a dark smile graced his features. Twisted words issued from his mouth and the invisible strings glowed with red energy. Wisps of smoke curled from the Dementor's cloak as the creature struggled harder and faster, fighting for its existence. The light grew brighter until no one could bear look directly at it. Even Harry was forced to avert his eyes as his straining fingers slowly closed, sealing the Dementor's fate.
Exhausted, Harry fell to his knees. He couldn't breathe. Couldn't think. He fumbled for his wand, a part of his mind realizing how vulnerable he was. Why wouldn't his fingers work? Somehow he closed his resisting fingers around his wand. Muttering a spell that came unbidden to his mind, new energy surged through him and he stood again.
People stared at him, Death Eaters and Aurors alike. Witches and wizards on the street pointed at him in horror, like he was a freak. And he was. Dementors couldn't be killed, it was impossible. But he had just done it. Done the impossible, one more time.
And it was going to get him killed.
Silently Dementors left their prey, converging on his position. The cold fear that forewarned of Dementors filled him—overwhelmed him. He could hear his mother screaming, pleading for his life as he raised his wand. Trying to call upon his power, whatever he had summoned to kill that first Dementor proved futile. The words. The power. Nothing came.
Except for the Dementors. Closer and closer, they came.
Dimly, Harry heard someone summon a Patronus, but it failed to drive away the cold. He clutched his wand, blue lips trying to mouth a spell.
But he was just so cold.
Back to back, Percy and Tonks fought. Taking advantage of the fact that his girlfriend was a trained and physically fit Auror, he had convinced her to work with him on his dueling. Practice which was currently paying dividends. He had already conjured a Patronus shield to save several children from Dementors, and Tonk's chameleon had driven off several others. Like everyone else fighting in the Alley, they stopped to witness Harry Potter annihilating the Dementor that had stopped to menace a child.
"Blimey, Perce. Did you know that Harry could do that?" Tonks asked.
"No." Percy said tersely. He pointed at the gathering Dementors. "And I don't think they appreciate having their mortality demonstrated for everyone."
"We have to help him." Tonks raised her wand and shouted "Expecto Patronum!"
Silver light swirled and became a chameleon the size of a small dog. It materialized for a second before dissolving before the might of the collective undead.
Tonks sucked in her breath. "I'm not strong enough. There are too many of them. I can't…My Patronus isn't strong enough."
The young Auror's spell, however, shattered the moment of calm that had drifted over the battlefield. The Death Eaters rejoined the battle in earnest, doubling their efforts and Percy saw a dozen Aurors fall to stunners and killing curses.
"Perce!" Tonks whispered. She grabbed his hand and dragged him around the corner—away from the battle. "We have to do something. The Deaths Eaters are preventing anyone from helping Harry. If we don't get him away—
A great silver Stallion appeared, racing down the street. Rearing, silver hooves drove off the Dementors that had clustered around Harry. Percy Weasley followed the trail of the stallion with his eyes to find to origin of the spell. He couldn't believe his eyes.
It was his father.
Arthur Weasley stood at the head of two dozen goblins; standing tall in a perfect dueling stance, his wand extended and silver light still trailing like smoke from the tip. Sirius Black stood at his side, the normally jovial man flat-eyed.
Arthur held a wand to his throat. "GET THE CIVILIANS TO GRINGOTTS!" he commanded in a booming voice.
At once the goblins rushed forward, the small creatures brandishing swords, axes, and other weapons. The Death Eaters turned to meet this new threat.
Only to realize they had turned their backs on the Aurors.
The death eater dispelled the Patronus with a wave of his wand. He casually walked over to Harry Potter. The boy who lived was struggling to his feet. He had his wand out, but his grip was shaky. The Death Eater pointed his wand. "Avada Ked—
A dark blur barreled into the wizard, carrying him to the ground. In the blink of an eye, Sirius black sat on the death eater's chest with his wand out. Leaning down, he hissed in the death eater's ear, "Get away from my Godson."
Maneuvering his wand Sirius pressed it to his opponent's temple. "Stupefy," the former convict cried out. A red flash stunned the wizard. Not sparing him another glance, the Marauder leapt up. "Harry, are you alright?" he asked.
The Boy Who Lived nodded. "Better, now that the Dementors are gone." As he spoke Harry's voice grew stronger. He stood up straighter and tightened his grip on his wand. "We have to go after Ginny. She disappeared just before the fight."
Sirius nodded in understanding and shared a quick smile with Harry. "You dad liked redheads too." he said with a wink. Looking around, Sirius asked. "Speaking of redheads, where is Ron?"
"Ron? Oh god, Ron!" Harry suddenly remembered his friend and his predicament. It had only been moments but a lifetime had happened between Ron falling and now. Harry grabbed Sirius by the hand. "He tried to change." Harry rushed out. "But he got trapped in the middle of the change."
"A transfiguration lock." Sirius said grimly.
"I think so."
The battle raged around them but Harry only had thoughts for his friend. Even the all consuming thoughts of Ginny drifted into the backdrop, as his worry for Ron overwhelmed other concerns.
The pair darted through the battle zone. Sirius dropped beside Ron while Harry stood behind him, using his wand to deflect stray spells.
Ron lay on the ground, moaning. His skin had cracked, blood slowly oozing the fissures that had split around his wounds. It had become pebbled and scaly. Serpentine eyes stared blankly out from his friends face.
"Is he okay?" Harry asked worriedly.
"No, he isn't." Sirius said. "But he will be." The Animagus pointed his wand at the comatose redhead. "Stupefy."
"How does that help him?" Harry shouted.
Sirius responded grimly. "He isn't changing anymore, is he?"
Forcing a grin at his godson, Sirius stood levitated the comatose body of Harry's friend. "Take him to Gringotts and Floo to Saint Mungo's and get a healer to transport him. Don't take him through the floo with you. It'll kill him.
Harry nodded and accepted the transfer, but had only managed to move a few feet before an explosion of pain burst from behind his eyes.
With a gesture of his wand, he decapitated the Auror. That was the last of them.
"Mother, where is father?"
Draco Malfoy walked into his mother's private study. He wasn't supposed to be in there but he hadn't seen his father all day and Psyche was pestering him with questions. Draco thought he knew where his father had gone but he didn't want to worry his little sister.
His mother's study was her private workroom. Shelves covered three of the four walls and various glassware and alchemical equipment filled a table in the center of the room. Narcissa stood near the table, holding a white staff in her hand and consulting a book that lay open before her on an elaborately carved lectern. She had twisted her white blond hair into a bun and wore her customary plain white robes. For her various faults, Narcissa Malfoy was not a clothes horse. She had better things to spend her considerable time and fortune on than the vagaries of fashion and high society.
She looked up as he entered. "He has gone out on a mission for the Dark Lord, Draco."
Draco hesitated. "Is he… is he well?"
Narcissa smiled briefly. "He is fine, my son. I placed tracking and warning charms on him myself. I would know if here were to fall into any danger." With a whispered word, the staff shrank until it became a wand that she tucked it into her belt.
"I am glad you are here, Draco. I have something very important to talk with you about." Narcissa sat down in a chair and with a swish of her wand conjured a second one for her son. She patted it comfortingly and Draco hesitantly took the chair.
"You know that your sister is special?"
Narcissa looked up at the ceiling and frowned slightly, as if she were trying to divine secrets that lay there. "The Dark Lord has taken a… an interest in her. An interest that will not prove safe for her."
"But the Dark Lord…"
"…Is not more important than family." Narcissa interrupted.
Draco bowed his head. "What is it you wish?"
Narcissa pressed a ring into her son's hand. "I wish to give you a Yule present early. It has a few protective enchantments on it and it bears the Malfoy crest. More importantly it is a portkey. A portkey that will activate with a voice command only by yourself, Psyche, or me." Narcissa held her hands over her son's. "You must promise me. If the Dark Lord comes for your sister, you will do your family duty and get her away."
"Where does it go?"
"It will take you to a safe place that I have created. A charm will alert me when you have used it and I will arrive there as soon as possible." A furrow carved itself out of the marble perfection of her face. "I hope not to use it, but I fear that will be needed."
Draco stood up. "I understand mother. Thank you for the gift."
Narcissa called out as Draco was leaving. "And Draco? Don't worry your father about the gift. He has enough on his mind."
He had come alone.
His minions were elsewhere, doing their duty, and most of the prison guard had been pulled away to deal with the simultaneous attacks… leaving him to deal personally with the few that remained.
As he walked through the halls he used wandless magic to unlock the doors. Hesitantly, so hesitantly, the prisoners crawled from their holes. With cries of thanks and offers of fealty, he gradually grew a train of followers, both old and new.
But there was one he was going to free personally. His most loyal. She had endured much, and he felt her power as he approached her cell. It was different. He felt that her magic had changed, been altered by her time in prison.
With a wave of his hand the cell door burst inward. With eyes that pierced the darkness as easily as an eagle pierced distance, he treads over fractured bones and knelt in a corner.
The thing that lurked there had once been a beautiful woman, one the greatest beauties and mightiest witches of her generation. But her face, once so strong and defiant, was hollowed and pale by the ravages of time and incarceration. Her long dark hair, once immaculate and silken, had grown impossibly tangled and shot with grey. A torn gray shirt revealed sagging breasts and wasted musculature. Yellowed, broken nails scratched reflexively over the stone.
But the worst were the scars. Every inch of pale, flaccid skin was covered in tiny scars that formed runes of power and magic. They wept blood and whispered of terrible power. She had mutilated herself—gone mad and carved words of power into her own flesh.
"My Bellamorte." he whispered. "My killer angel, I have come to free you…"
The thing that was once a woman looked upon the wizard as she shifted into a servile position. Her voice was hideous and raspy with disuse but the fawning tone he had so loved still imbued every syllable.
"Master…," Bellatrix Lestrange hissed. "I am ready to serve…"
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