After seeing their friends off at the train station, Hermione and Harry accompanied Auror Church to the Ministry of Magic. After a few minutes, they were shown into Bones' office. Her office wasn't cluttered as he might have expected. There was a single photo of herself and Susan taken together on a boat hanging in the wall behind where Harry and Hermione were seated. Harry smiled. It was a nice photo.
Bones began, "I have made the following arrangements, subject to your approval. On Monday through Friday, you will be training at the Bassingbourn military base. You both will learn basic marksmanship, concealment, spotting, and advanced rifle skills. You will be there as government service visitors on an interdepartmental exchange program. Here are your temporary government service identification papers and badges. The birthdates have been altered. At the completion of the first part of the training, you will be issued permits to purchase the weapons of your choosing. I trust that neither of you will misuse them in any way. Auror Shepherd will accompany you and take part in the training with you. You will be there from 9:00 until 3:00 PM. Evenings you will be learning Auror level dueling and fighting techniques from Tom Campbell one of the regular Auror Instructors. Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 to 3:00 PM you will receive tutoring in transfiguration and charms respectively. Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings will be your own time."
She continued. "This Wednesday through Friday, you will be receiving instruction on basic apparation. I am hoping that you can pass your test and receive your license on Saturday. What questions can I answer?"
Hermione, who knew geography a bit better than Harry asked, "Where will we be living?" Bassingbourn was too far from Grimmauld place to drive.
Bones answered, "You can remain at your home at Grimmauld Place. I have made arrangements to have you registered as guests at the Old Bull Inn in Bassingbourn. You can apparate there with Shepherd and drive to the training site. At the end of the day, you can drive back to the hotel and apparate back. There will be the extra expense of the rooms, but I don't think it would be prohibitive." She winked at Harry, knowing that he could afford to buy the hotel if he wished to.
Harry asked, "Who will our contact be at the military base at Bassingbourn?"
Bones replied, "You will report to the main entrance and ask to see colonel McMasters. He believes that Department M1031 is simply another branch of the British secret service. Stick to your cover stories that are referenced in your envelopes."
Hermione asked, "What books will we need to read?"
Bones smiled, knowing that the question had been on Hermione's mind from the start. She handed them each a small bag containing shrunken books, uniforms, and boots, which they would need.
Harry asked, "Who knows what were are working on?"
Bone smiled again, anticipating that the question might have been on Harry's mind. She replied, "Aside from us, Hammer, Shepherd, McGonagall, and Flitwick are aware of all or part of your activities. Anticipating your other question, Dumbledore, McGonagall and Flitwick haven't been told about the training at Bassingbourn. Your school professors have been compensated well, and have agreed not to discuss their tutoring work with anyone. They will co-operate with you fully. Church will be spending weekday evenings at your home. Would you allow Auror Tonks to spend weekends there? If not, I will find a suitable substitute. Before you answer, I should point out that Auror Tonks and Auror Jones both voluntarily resigned from Dumbledore's militia last week."
Hermione was surprised at the news. She glanced at Harry, nodded then said, "That would be fine with us. How else can we help you?"
Bone replied, "Train hard, stay safe, and share your memories with me when you blow up that bastard."
The meeting was over. They shook hands and parted company. Church accompanied them to Gringotts where Harry withdrew 80,000 in Sterling. They took a portkey back to Grimmauld place and were home by 4:00 PM.
At dinner that night, Emma asked, "How was your day, dears?"
Hermione said, "It was strange to see all of our friends off as they got onto the train. I think they all assumed that we were just getting on a bit later. They probably won't be told that we're not there until the opening announcements at Hogwarts this evening."
Molly and Arthur didn't say anything, knowing that there was more to the story.
Harry continued, "We met with Minister Bones for about three hours and agreed on our schedules for the next two months."
Molly asked, "Three hours? That seems like a long period of time to discuss class."
Arthur said, "Molly dear, it's not our place to ask. I'm certain that almost everything that they discussed is highly confidential information."
Harry nodded. "Mostly what we're going to be doing for the next few months is training in techniques that we can use to destroy Voldemort with as little risk to ourselves as we can."
Hermione added, "The ministry will leak that we have traveled to the States to go with our parents. We need your help to stick with that story. If you write or converse with anyone, you'll need to stick to that story. It will make our travel to where we'll be training a lot safer."
Dan and Emma had so far been silent. Dan asked, "In whatever level of detail that you are comfortable using, can you tell us what you'll be doing?"
Harry said, "We'll be learning military training at one of the military bases in England. Our training there will be Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 3:00. We'll travel there and back each day. After dinner, we'll be receiving specialized Auror training upstairs for three hours. We have Friday, through Sunday evenings off. Saturday all day we have tutoring with professor McGonagall. Sunday all day we have training with professor Flitwick."
"That seems like quite a bit," said Molly.
Hermione replied, "We'll get through our sixth year studies in those two classes by mid October. We also have some specialized charms that we need to work on." Molly was certain that she didn't want to know about those magics.
Harry added, "We are taking apparition training for the next few days and testing this weekend. That will make it a lot easier to get to the places that we need to get to."
Hermione said, "Mum, Dad, if you wouldn't terribly mind, we'd love to have you stay here with us, as long as you'd be willing to. You wouldn't get to go out of the house too much, but we could have dinner each evening, and we'd feel better knowing that you were safe."
Harry said, "We'd understand if you'd rather go visit the States for a while, but Hermione's right. We'd love to be able to spend time with you."
Dan said, "We can still get in half a round at the short course three miles away on Saturday evenings."
Harry nodded and said, "We could play skins for a pint a skin."
Dan said, "Emma, if it's all right with you, I'd like to stay, at least through October."
The two Granger women looked at each other and shook their heads. Then they started laughing. Hermione said, "Honestly, you two are so predictable. Why don't you build a putting green upstairs while you're at it?"
Dan and Harry looked at each other like it was a great idea. Emma muttered, "Boys and their toys."
There was a buzz of noise that began after the students got off of the train at 6:00 PM that evening. Broken only by Hagrid's call of "First years. First years over here," it grew as the students piled into the Great Hall. The older students looked around in wonder. Where was Snape? Where was Malfoy? Where were Potter and Granger?
The names of the Death Eaters killed during the raid on the Grangers had never made the newspapers. Some of the students knew, but the vast majority hadn't heard a thing. After the sorting of the first years, Dumbledore rose to greet the students. "Good evening. Welcome to another year at Hogwarts. New students, welcome. Older students, welcome back. I have many announcements this evening that are worth mentioning. Many of them in some way concern one of our older students, Harry Potter. Mr. Potter's guardians fell victim to an attack from Voldemort's Death Eaters last July. Per Mr. Potter's wishes, Miss Granger's parents became Harry's legal guardians, and welcomed him into their home. During the summer, Death Eaters also attacked the Granger's home. Fortunately, Mr. Potter and Miss Granger were able to capably defend themselves, and two Death Eaters were killed."
The hall was absolutely silent as Dumbledore continued. "The men killed were Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy."
The hall erupted in chatter. There was sporadic clapping, which ended almost immediately under withering looks from the three heads of houses.
Dumbledore continued. "There were several other attacks from Death Eaters during the holidays. Miss Abbot lost her parents, The Creevey brothers lost their mother, and the Weasley home was destroyed."
There was virtual silence. Almost everyone in the school liked Hannah, Dennis and Colin.
Dumbledore continued. "I was made aware that I had failed many of you in the last year. I am truly sorry. I failed to protect your from two professors that had overstepped the boundaries of their authority, and in several cases, the law. Severus Snape consistently elected not to treat all of the students in the nurturing manor that you deserve. More than a few of you were badly mistreated by Delores Umbridge last year. She is currently reconsidering her actions of the past year while residing in Azkaban prison."
There was quite a bit of clapping and cheering, some from the other professors. Only Filch could be seen scowling at the news. Dumbledore continued. "I would say this – If any student is intimidated or mistreated by anyone in the castle, be it student or staff, I ask that you come to me immediately. Such behavior will not be tolerated. Again, I apologize and will strive to serve you better."
He continued, "Many of you may know that there was a battle at the Ministry of Magic last June. Eleven Death Eaters were captured. Unfortunately Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange escaped. The eleven Death Eaters captured were tried, and either executed or sent to Azkaban for life sentences."
There was quite a bit of cheering and applause. It had become common knowledge among Ravenclaw and Gryffindor house that some of their own had been involved in their capture. Lovegood and Longbottom would never again be the butt of any jokes within their houses.
After a moment, the noise had died down, and it was obvious that Dumbledore had a bit more to say. "Mr. Potter and Miss Granger have requested, and been granted a leave of absence to help relocate the Grangers to the States." It was a passable excuse, and something had needed to be said.
Dumbledore introduced Shacklebolt as DADA professor and head of Slytherin and Kim Lee professor of potions. After the feast, and final announcements regarding forbidden items and the forbidden forest, Dumbledore wished them all a good year, and dismissed them to their common rooms.
Next to flying, Apparition turned out to be the hardest thing that Hermione had done and the easiest thing that Harry had done. Like flying, it wasn't one of those things that lent itself to learning out of a book. It was the sheer level of mental focus needed to project yourself being in another location that made it different from other spell casting.
Harry picked it up within minutes. He never let himself get distracted from what he was doing, and almost silently he was gone, then had instantly reappeared where he had projected himself to be. It was simple.
Meanwhile his bushy haired love kept considering the different aspects of the theory, the possible effects of splinching, and the actual travel. After half an hour, all she had managed to work up was a red face and a sweat.
Harry walked up to her and softly said, "Remember last year when your were learning to cast your Patronus form?" She nodded. Harry replied, "I think apparation is the same way – Focus really hard, and just do it. See yourself on the other side of the room, and just be there."
"That's brilliant. I knew that you could do it." He gave her a hug and quite the kiss. Shepherd smiled at the two as they nuzzled each other.
They continued to practice and easily passed their licensing exams over the weekend.
Neither Harry nor Hermione had any preconceived notions about snipers or their craft. Some would compare them to cold-blooded murders, while others would say that they were daring soldiers doing an ugly job that helped save lives.
Sgt James Lancaster was not a big man in terms of stature. He was soft spoken and quite friendly when he greeted Harry. What set him apart was his incredible ability to focus completely on what he was doing. He explained, "The job itself really has several distinct parts. First you have to get to a location where your target is likely to be visible to you. Then you have to set up a location where you can hide and not be seen. Then you have to wait until you see your target. Then you have to hit your target. Finally you have to get away safely. Your mission may take hours or many days, depending on the circumstances. The key is to stay completely focused."
Harry, Hermione, and Shepherd nodded in understanding. Lancaster looked at the three with some doubt. Harry looked even younger than he really was because of his size, but had a steely glint in his eyes. Lancaster had no experience to speak of with training women, and Shepherd looked more like a soft duty policeman than infantry. He asked, "Have any of you ever see any action before?" It was a reasonable question, and wasn't strictly meant to be insulting.
"We have," replied Harry, who Lancaster immediately decided was in charge of the trio, regardless of any actual rank or age differences.
"Did you have to take lives?" asked Lancaster with considerably more respect.
He looked them in the eye and replied, "Then your action helped save lives."
Hermione replied, "It did."
Lancaster nodded in agreement. "If I may ask, how many firefights have you been in?"
Harry replied, "If you're asking how many times we've had to draw our weapon and fire at an enemy who was trying to kill someone, four times in my case." There was no hint of bragging in his voice.
"Twice," said Hermione, softly. She wasn't bragging either, or asking for pity, just stating a fact.
"Not yet," replied Shepherd.
Lancaster had heard people puff up their service records for years, and could spot a liar in an instant. He had not seen the service records on these three, but instinctively knew them to be telling the truth. Since they didn't appear to be military, he asked, "Have any of you fired a rifle before?"
Harry glanced at Shepherd for an instant and replied, "None of us have, Sergeant."
Normally Lancaster would have left them at that moment, but he had been given orders, and they had come through very unusual channels. He asked, "As specifically as you can, explain your mission.
Harry began, "We are assigned to track down and kill a highly dangerous terrorist who is living in Britain. He has several dozen followers who are all killers. I have some reason to believe that he is going to attack a small village in northern Scotland in two months time. The best estimate that we currently have is the afternoon of Saturday 26 October. There are some foothills immediately to the north of the village, and there is a small cave that were could use as a hiding position. It's about 800 yards from one possible position and 900 from the other. We can get there without being seen, and can leave very quickly if we need to."
Hermione added, "It's absolutely critical that the target be killed instantly. It would be disastrous if he were wounded. There may be other targets, possibly up to twenty-five. There will likely be civilians, most likely school children in the area. The terrorists won't hesitate an instant to kill any of them."
Lancaster considered their words for a moment and replied, "800 yards is a long shot. 900 yards will seem like forever. The L96 has an effective range of 1,000 yards, but might not have enough punch to put your target down if he's wearing any armor".
"How about a .50 calibre BMG?" asked Hermione. "The slug is four times the weight of the 308 and has seven times the energy at 1,000 yards."
Lancaster was impressed at the young woman, and replied, "It would be a good choice for the situation that you described. Unfortunately, we don't have one here."
"I'll get four," replied Harry. "Our department has a pretty large budget."
"I suggest the M-82A1," replied Lancaster. "It has a ten round magazine."
"What size scope?" asked Hermione, thankful that she had done enough reading to be able to ask reasonable questions.
"42 power," replied Lancaster. "We have those here. Get the rifles, 800 rounds of match grade ammunition and the scope mounting rings. I'll get the rest. When can you have them?"
"Two or three days," replied Shepherd, as Hermione was carefully writing the specifications that Lancaster had mentioned.
"Do you need the money now?" asked Harry to Shepherd.
Shepherd nodded yes, and replied, "I have the approved purchase permits already filled out."
"They would be about 10,000 sterling each and another 4,000 for the ammunition," said Lancaster.
Harry nodded and asked Shepherd to pick up the funds that evening.
Lancaster asked his original question differently, "Would it be possible to be safely hidden and be a bit closer to the target? It would make your job easier.
Hermione asked, "Would the noise be heard from 800 yards?
Lancaster replied, "Yes, but the sound might not be recognizable to someone that wasn't familiar with rifles. "Will there be a lot of noise in the village?"
Harry replied, "Loads. Unfortunately most of will be from innocent people screaming for their lives."
Lancaster nodded, and asked, "Will your targets be standing or running?"
Harry thought back to the night in the graveyard and the evening in the Department of Mysteries. He replied, "Standing still. We really can't get any closer and safely remain hidden."
He said, "You might do best with one shooter and two spotters."
For the rest of the day, Lancaster covered the basics of shooting a rifle, the concepts of drop, velocity, distance, the wind and how to best use the range finders. He demonstrated various shooting positions.
Harry replied, "I will investigate the cave more over the weekend and see how much room there is and get some exact distances. We'll also look at sightlines."
Lancaster replied, "Very good. Be back here tomorrow at 0900. Dismissed."
While Harry and company was learning the basics of marksmanship, Amelia was meeting with the PM discussing the threat that Riddle represented to the British population, and recommended launching simultaneous air strikes against four specific properties. She met with much resistance and finally received approval due to the isolated location of the four properties, after exhausting the alternatives. She was given an authorization document and a contact within the SAS to make the arrangements with.
The Riddle house in Little Hangleton was not in one of the highly populated areas of West Sussex County. Malfoy Manor located some twenty miles to the west wasn't either. Mulciber and Dolohov had both live north of Leeds about fifteen miles apart. Like the Malfoys, they were out of the city in country estates. Bones carefully considered this information before making her decision. She would meet with the SAS colonel and advise him of her mission.
After dinner, Harry and Hermione went up to the third floor. They met Amelia and the Auror Instructor Tom Campbell. He reminded Harry a lot of Lancaster. Both men were small of stature, and giants in the courage department. Amelia made the introductions and left a few minutes later. She had told them that from her viewpoint, they each had top security clearance.
After Amelia left, Campbell reintroduced himself. "I'm Tom Campbell. My students always call me Instructor Campbell. None of my other students have captured or killed Death Eaters before. In all honesty, either have I, but I have faced my share of bad wizards and witches. Please call me Tom, Mr. Potter."
Harry smiled, and replied, "Only if you call me Harry."
Tom, said, "Sir, you've earned…"
Harry shook his head, and said, "Tom, so have you. Let's just go on a first name basis. OK?"
Campbell replied, "Very good, Harry, Hermione." He looked around the large open room and said, "First with your permission, I would like to cast some charms to expand the area and seal the walls, floor and ceiling to prevent spell damage. Please give me an hour."
Hermione asked, "Would it be OK if we just watched?"
Campbell replied, "Of course." He proceeded to expand the room until it was about the size of a football field with a 30 feet ceiling. Next he cast impervious charms on each section of the walls, ceiling and floor. Finally he carefully etched some runes on the different corners.
When he was done, Hermione asked, "I understood how you expanded the dimensions of the room and I understand how you cast the charms on the walls, ceiling and floor to resist damage. What were the runes for?"
"Very good Hermione," replied Campbell. Minister Bones told me that you wouldn't miss a thing. The will mask the spell signatures to mask the actual spells that are performed in this room."
Hermione nodded, smiling at the compliment.
Campbell conjured three stools for them to sit at and motioned them to sit. Getting to the point, he asked, "Minister Bones asked me to cooperate completely with the two of you, and I intend to. What would you like to learn?"
Hermione looked at Harry, who shook his head. Harry replied, "In short, it had been prophesized that I will be the one to kill or be killed by Voldemort. I believe that it will happen yet this year."
Campbell remained silent, but thought, 'Mr. Potter, it sucks to be you;.
Harry smiled, guessing Campbell's thoughts. He continued, "In no particular order, we need to learn, Occlumency, Legilimency, spell accuracy, adding power to our spells, advanced shields, and if possible wandless magics."
Campbell replied, "I'm glad that I asked. Given what you said, the regular law enforcement class pretty much goes out the window. Arrest and investigative techniques really don't make much sense in your case."
They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, then Campbell asked, "You're really not as concerned with disabling or stunning the Death Eaters as putting them down. Is that a fair statement?"
Harry replied, "Tom when we were fighting for our lives in the Department of Mysteries, between the six of us, we took down each of the Death Eaters except Voldemort at least once. In almost every case, they revived each other, and continued coming after us, and a good man got killed. So to answer your question as honestly as I can, the next time that I put one of them down, I don't expect them to get back up."
Campbell and the teens discussed the lesson plan that they would use for the next month and called it an evening. They had a very full schedule.
The rifles that Shepherd had bought were huge! With the magazine full they weighed nearly 35 pounds, and were nearly 5 feet in length! They had a carrying handle near the center. Then again the metal boxes of ammunition weren't exactly light either. Each bullet that Lancaster examined one by one was the size of a Churchill cigar. Harry had no idea what he was looking for as Lancaster set the seemingly identical bullets into different piles.
Lancaster handed Harry a thin drinking straw and said, "Hold this." Then he proceeded to ask Hermione to help carry over a table with little molded plastic soldiers, a few toy buildings and a toy tree. He said, "Hermione, arrange the soldiers buildings and trees any way that you want."
To no one's surprise, she set them up in a neat order. Lancaster said, "Harry come up and take a quick look at what she set up." Harry did, noting the red house and the green house that she had set up.
Lancaster said, "Now Harry take about 5 steps back and look through the little straw." Harry's side to side field of vision shrank to almost nothing. Instead of being able to see the entire table that Hermione had set up, he could see a tiny spec. It was like looking at a page of paper and only being able to see one letter at a time.
Lancaster continued. "Hermione, I want you to identify one of the soldiers in your mind. Pick one out and tell me when you are ready."
She selected one and replied, "OK."
"Now, I want you to describe where he is for Harry. Harry tell her what you see and she'll direct you to look left, right closer or farther back." They started.
Hermione said, "Harry tell me when you have found the red house."
Harry looked and a few seconds later, said "Got it."
She said, "Look to the left and farther back. There are two guys."
Harry carefully looked back diagonally from the red house and a few seconds later said, "Got em."
Hermione said, "He's the guy on the right."
Lancaster said, "Good. You two seem to work well together."
They tried it again with Shepherd directing Harry, and eventually took turns with each person directing another. They all concluded that it was harder than it looked.
Lancaster looked at them and said, "You three seem to work well together. The spotter's job is to point the shooter. You can't see very far from side to side with the 42 power scope, but you'll need the magnification at that distance to pick out the detail. The spotter will be using 15 power binoculars. That should be enough to be able to pick out an individual face at your distance. The second spotter will also have a set of binoculars, but mostly they will be looking not at the target area, but all around you to make certain that you haven't been compromised. In your situation the good news is you'll be in a cave, the bad news is you'll be in a cave. He handed Shepherd a good quality camera and said, "Take some pictures of the area and the place where you think you'll be hiding. We'll look at them next week. Dismissed."
A few weeks later on Saturday morning, Harry and Hermione were surprised to see Amelia bones and Director Hammer being led into the training room rather than McGonagall. Harry greeted them saying, "Good morning, Minister, Director, can I get you a coffee or tea?" Winky immediately appeared carrying a tray of each along with several bottles of butterbeer. Bones conjured a table and six chairs and they sat down. Shepherd joined them a moment later.
Amelia asked, "Harry, what do you know about airplane bombs?"
Harry had read about the bombings of London and other cities in Britain during World War Two. He replied, "They're not too accurate, but you don't want to be on the receiving end of one."
Hermione smiled at his simplistic, yet accurate answer.
Bones said, "Right. The problem with bombs is getting them to fall on the object that you want to hit. The advantage of them is that the people delivering them are already safely away by the time that they fall. Consider this - the jet that drops the bomb is moving at a high speed, say six hundred miles per hour. From altitude, the bomb will fall for about two minutes. So the jet has to drop the bomb before it gets to the target so it can fall down due to gravity and forward due to the momentum and airspeed that it started with."
Harry nodded, more or less understanding. To no one's surprise, Hermione grasped the concept immediately. Shepherd and Hammer did about as well as Harry.
Bones continued, "The military has developed methods of steering the bomb slightly as it falls by means of adjustable fins."
Hermione who couldn't contain herself another moment asked, "How does it get guided to its target?"
Bones smiled, knowing that she had the concept perfectly. "By pointing a laser light at the target that the guidance system uses as a bull's-eye, the bomb knows where to go."
Shepherd asked, "How does the laser light get pointed at the target."
Bones took a large object out of the bag that she was carrying. It looked quite a bit like the spotting scopes that they had been using with Lancaster. She set one up and pointed it to the wall and turned it on. A brilliant red light the size of a small coin shined on the wall. It was uncomfortable to look at for any length of time. She shut it off.
Hermione asked, "What are the targets, Minister?"
"The homes of four known Death Eaters that we believe are harboring Death Eaters, illegal items, and possibly Voldemort himself."
No one said anything, so she continued, "Riddle manor is in Hangleton in Sussex County. Malfoy manor is about twenty miles to the west. Dolohov, and Mulciber's manors are near each other about twenty miles north of Leeds. The plan is to have you operate in teams of two. You will need to be within 500 yards of the target. Harry, you will need to be on the west side of both targets so the bomb will be able to see the laser painted on the side of the house. Connie, you will need to be on the south side of both of your targets. After the first bomb hits, you'll have two minutes to apparate to the second location and shine the laser on that target. You cannot be late getting to the second target. Hermione, you'll go with Hammer, Harry you'll go with Shepherd. Riddle and Mulciber manor are first then Malfoy and Dolohov manors. The first bombs will be released at 7:00 and should hit at 7:02. The second bombs will be released by 7:04.
No one said anything, so Bones continued. "The four backup raiding parties will be on site at 7:05 and 7:10 respectively. They will do a damage assessment, recover any gold, and banish any dangerous items that they find. They will be at each site ten minutes then leave, with instructions not to get into firefights. You need to be gone before they get there. Do not let them see you. They will not be told how the homes exploded, only that they did. Hammer and Shepherd will banish the laser scopes and radios before they leave the second sites. They must not be found. What questions do you have?"
Shepherd asked, "How will we get there?"
Bones replied, "You and Hammer will go this afternoon and select the sites. Hammer will make portkeys. Harry, I trust that I can leave this equipment here for a few days?"
"Of course Minister."
"We will do a short radio check. The Harrier call signs are Mug one and Mug two. The call sign for the Riddle crew is Flashlight one. That's you Harry. Flashlight two is Shepherd for the Malfoy crew. Flashlight three is Hermione for the Mulciber crew and Flashlight four is Hammer for the Dolohov crew. Obviously the air crew does not know that we're witches and wizards and really the same crews are going to both places."
She demonstrated how to turn on the radios and press the button to talk. She said, "In five minutes, we will do a radio check. You'll press the talk button and identify yourself then let up on the button. The SAS radio operator will acknowledge you by your call sign. Then Flashlight two will go, then three, finally Hammer. Ready?"
Everyone nodded. They switched their radio on and adjusted their headsets.
Harry began. He pushed the button and said, "Flashlight one."
A few seconds later he heard the radio operator reply, "Flashlight one, clear." Bones nodded at Shepherd.
Shepherd said, "Flashlight two."
"Flashlight two, clear."
Hermione said, "Flashlight three."
"Flashlight three, clear."
Hammer said, "Flashlight four."
"Flashlight four, clear."
Bones said, after you have aimed the laser to the side or the roof of the house and the Harrier has acknowledged seeing it, do not move it, but be flat on the ground. Transfigure some cover if you need to so you don't get injured, and wear your hearing protection. If the bomb hits the home, you will confirm the hit by saying Flashlight one confirmed. If the bomb missed you would say Flashlight one denied. Don't say anything else."
Everyone nodded. Hermione took notes and put them in her book. All of the equipment worked well, and the radios were switched off.
Bones concluded saying, "You don't want to be seen, and it's extremely unlikely that you would be. If you are, you are authorized to stun any muggle that you encounter. Anyone near the homes is considered an unfriendly." Bones specifically looked at Harry and said, "There will be no heroics here. If a busload of school children were to drive up to the door one minute before the bomb was to be dropped, it would be their bad luck. Do not call off the strikes. Do not get into any sort of firefight and expose yourself. It is critical that they all happen as planned. Can you each do this?"
Everyone nodded, yes.
Bones decided to give them her rationalization. "Harry, I told you that I would do everything that I could to end the war this year. Voldemort has two major weapons that he's using against us – people and financial resources. Since the goblins began helping us, there have been some very large withdrawals made from several accounts that we believe were fronting money that Voldemort has been using to wage war on us. We believe that the funds are being held in one or more of these locations as well as fugitive Death Eaters. We believe that Malfoy manor is being used to hold meetings and serve as a staging point for raids."
Hammer, said, "You don't need to rationalize your decision, Minister. We all support it." The others nodded in agreement.
Bones thanked them and said, "Mr. Potter, professor McGonagall is patiently waiting for the two of you in your library. Hammer and I will see our own way out. No one is to know of these raids prior to their happening."
Harry and Hermione nodded and they left to greet McGonagall.
Bones had previously informed McGonagall and Flitwick that they were to offer the standard sixth and seventh year curriculums to Potter and Granger each week and not to assign them much in the way of homework. She specifically told them that in the event that the students asked them to deviate from the normal lessons with a special request, they were to do everything that they could to honor those requests, and not discuss them with anyone else. For their services they were each being paid an additional twenty five thousand Galleons from Ministry funds. In reality, each of them would have gladly volunteered their time.
As such, Minerva was not surprised when Hermione asked if they could review how to transfigure a pebble into a solid stone wall that they could hide behind. She asked what they needed and in general terms were told of its use. Two hours later, they had transfigured and banished several dozen barriers and were satisfied that they could create them as quickly as they would need.
Minerva didn't feel her time had been wasted when Hermione and Harry asked how Ron and some of the other students were. She realized that under different circumstances, both the witch and wizard that she was talking with would rather be in the Great Hall with their classmates at this moment. After an hour of small talk and catching them up on the events of school, she got up to leave. She hugged them both when she left and wished them both a good week. She wasn't surprised, and didn't ask questions when Harry told her that they wouldn't be available for lessons the next weekend.
The next day, Hermione worked with Flitwick. He had not been surprised when she had asked for information on soul binding charms the previous week. Her request had been a bit more specific. She needed to cast the soul binding charm to Riddle within five seconds of his death to ensure that he didn't wander off in spirit form like had happened fifteen years before.
Like McGonagall, the little wizard wasn't surprised at her request. In fact, he had been researching it for over a year, realizing its eventual need. The only surprise was that the request had come from the Granger girl, not Dumbledore or Potter.
The teens had not made arrangements to cancel class next Sunday, but per Bones' instructions, Flitwick and McGonagall would not discuss the change of schedule with anyone. The only difference would be that Minerva would be able to enjoy the outing to Hogsmede the following Saturday. Neither of them had been told that about the teens' plans for the day.
Wednesday at 0500, SAS Harrier pilots Stevens and Lee met in the briefing room and received their orders. They were going to bomb four estate homes, dropping one 1,000 pound Paveway III laser guided bomb from an altitude of 20,000 feet on each target. In total, they would be in the air about an hour each. Their call signs would be mug one and mug two respectively. They were told that the estates housed international terrorists considered too dangerous to take out with land-based troops.
At 6:30 the two pilots took off and went their separate ways. At 6:45 they received the confirmation call. "Flashlight six. Mission confirmed."
As the call was being confirmed, Shepherd and Harry had finished adjusting the tripod holding the laser light and switched it on. The red beam shined against the roof of the Riddle house looking like an oversized laser pointer. If you weren't looking for the beam, you would never notice it. Harry clicked on the radio and said, "Flashlight one. Target painted."
Moments later he heard, "Mug one, received."
Moments later Hammer and Hermione finished adjusting their laser light and switched it on. Hermione clicked on her radio and said, "Flashlight two. Target painted."
Two seconds later, she heard, "Mug two, received."
At 7:00 two of the fourteen foot bombs were released. The fins immediately extended and soundlessly they glided to their targets.
On the ground, the witches and wizards waited, covered behind the transfigured barriers, flat on the ground wearing their hearing protection. For two minutes, they waited.
Harry and Shepherd could feel the shockwave from their barrier 400 yards from the target site. They got up to look. The Riddle house was no longer there! Harry clicked on the radio and said, "Flashlight one, confirmed," while Shepherd packed up the laser light. Harry transformed the barrier that he had made back into a pebble and put it back into his pocket.
A moment later they heard "Flashlight two confirmed." Both teams used their portkeys to take them to the second site. Harry immediately transfigured the barrier while Shepherd set up the laser light and they repeated the steps. Shepherd clicked the radio and said, "Flashlight three. Target painted." Immediately they heard the same from Hammer.
Three minutes later, Harry and Shepherd were showered with falling galleons. The force of the blast had sent millions of the coins flying in every direction. They acknowledged the hit and left to go back to Grimmauld place. Hammer and Granger did the same. Hammer banished the lasers and radios and left moments later to return to her office.
Tonks was amazed when she waved her wand and said, "Accio Galleons." Suddenly a swarm of the gold coins came flying at her and landed in the magically expanded trunk that she had been told to bring. She had no idea what had caused the explosion at Malfoy manor and knew better than to ask. Ten minutes later, she and the other Aurors magically lightened the impossibly heavy trunks and used a portkey to bring them back to the Ministry.
The other teams found little evidence of physical destruction of magical objects. In fact dark books had been destroyed, as well as hundreds of illegal wands, and potions. At the site of the former Mulciber site, sixteen bodies of Death Eater recruits were found. Surprisingly at the site of the former Mulciber manor, over forty cloaks believed to have been dementors were found. They were brought back to the Ministry. The bodies were sent to the Ministry morgue to be identified.
There was no evidence that Riddle or Belatrix had been in any of the homes when they had been destroyed. In fact at that moment, they were murdering Mrs. Figg and casting the Dark Mark.
Thirty minutes later, Voldemort and Bellatrix apparated back to what had been their home an hour ago and found a smoldering ruin. After looking around for a moment, they apparated to Malfoy manor and found the same thing. Within an hour they realized that most of their remaining assets had been destroyed. "They will pay," he said.
At that moment, Harry who was sitting in the kitchen having a butterbeer with Dan, Emma, Molly, Hermione and Shepherd felt an excruciating pain in his scar and fell onto the floor, rolling in agony.
Hermione who had been expecting such a reaction gave Harry a dreamless sleep potion and floated him up to his room. She put him to bed and crawled behind him to hold her best friend and the love of her life. For the rest of the day and night, she gently rocked him and brushed his hair until he woke up late the following morning.
The next morning, Hermione sat at the table and suddenly a panicked look crept on her face. She cried, "Harry!"
He put down the pancake that Winky had made and asked, "What's wrong?"
"We need someone else."
Hermione explained "If I'm casting the soul binding charm on Riddle, and Shepherd is spotting you, we need another person for a lookout. I can't be in two places at once."
Harry thought about her words for a moment and asked, "How about Lancaster?"
Hermione shook her head and said, "We can't get him involved, remember? How about Tonks? She'd help us."
Harry declined, "I'd rather not." He still wasn't certain that she could keep a secret.
"What about Dad?"
Harry didn't want to get Dan involved or hurt. He replied, "He couldn't get away if we were seen. What about Remus?"
Hermione had similar doubts about him as Harry had with Tonks, and asked, "Would he keep a secret?"
Harry was certain that if specifically asked to, Remus would carry their secret to his grave. He replied, "I'm sure that he would. I'll get him."
Hermione agreed and said, "I'll do it." She kissed her boyfriend on the nose and went to use the fireplace.
Five minutes later, Remus walked into the library and closed the doors behind him. For fifteen minutes Harry and Hermione explained what they had been doing for the last six weeks as Remus listened carefully. He never interrupted them; rather he waited patiently until they were finished.
Remus had heard from Dumbledore at an emergency Order meeting on Wednesday evening that the four homes had mysteriously blown up earlier in the day. Half deeply impressed, half shocked he asked, "So the four of you called in air strikes and blew up those four houses?"
Harry and Hermione nodded. They hadn't mentioned Shepherd or Hammer by name, but it was obvious that Bones had organized the missions.
Remus smiled, shook his head in amazement and said, "Brilliant."
Harry said, "Unfortunately, you can never tell anyone. No one."
Remus bowed his head slightly and said, "I understand. I'll never say a word."
Harry said, "Here is a spare pare of the watcher's binoculars with a built in rangefinder. "I'd like you to go to the cave tomorrow and practice using them. We need an extra spotter, but we also need a watcher, so we don't get ambushed ourselves."
Remus nodded. Harry asked, "Can you come over Friday evening? "We'll have dinner and get a chance to catch up properly. Bring spare clothing. We'll leave from here early Saturday morning. Unfortunately we have a lot of equipment to bring, and most of it's heavy."
Remus asked, "Can't you charm it?"
Harry replied, "We don't want to do anything that might throw off the optics even the least. We won't have the opportunity to re-sight the rifles once we get there."
After Remus left, Shepherd went up to Harry and asked, "Are you sure about that guy?"
Harry said, "I'd trust him with my life."
Shepherd replied, "That's the point Harry, you will be. Is he reliable? I could get one of the other Aurors."
Harry shook his head, and said, "If we're right, they'll all have their hands full. We don't know if he'll bring five Death Eaters with him or fifty Death Eaters and a herd of dementors. Remus will call Hammer the moment we see them. He was the best defense instructor that I ever had, and he has incredible eyesight and hearing. We'll go with him."
Friday, they went back to the military base at Bassingbourn one last time and thanked Lancaster. True to his word, Harry gave him one of the magnificent rifles and a box of the match cartridges."
Lancaster asked, "I won't see you again or read about this little operation in the newspapers, will I?"
Harry shook his head, and said, "I doubt it, but if we meet again, I'll buy you a beer and we can talk about golf."
Lancaster gave a laugh and said, "I know about golf. Let's talk about beaches and birds instead over a dozen beers. Good luck, Mr. Potter. Dismissed."
Remus arrived early Friday afternoon. They checked their equipment and set them in four individual piles. Harry had cancelled his lesson with Campbell. Dan had grilled steaks and they had a very pleasant evening together. By 9:00 everyone had gone to bed.
Hermione made love with Harry for the first time that night. The exact rationalization for the timing went unstated, but they both felt that it was the right thing to do. Brief, but magical, they both promised each other that they would do everything that they could to keep each other safe the next day, and to take a lot more time with each other in the days and nights to come.
Hermione knew that she was taking an incredible risk intentionally placing herself just feet away from Voldemort. She told herself that if Harry could face him all of those times, she could do it once.
Harry, Hermione, Shepherd, and Remus apparated to Hogsmede station at 4:30 AM. As inconspicuously as they could, they made their way to the cave and set up the two rifles, spotting scope, shooting mats, water and sandwiches. The students would arrive at ten and have to leave by four. None of them knew for certain if the village would be attacked that day, but each believed that it would happen.
The Three Broomsticks pub was about 900 yards from the entrance to the cave. Remus banished several trees that had blocked Harry's view. Using the range finder, Harry took distance readings from that he considered the two most likely places for the Death Eaters to attack – The Hogs Head and the Three Broomsticks.
As the sun grew higher in the sky, they sat in the little cave and waited. By 7:00 AM, Harry had re-ranged the different locations several times. The only part of the plan that he didn't like was Hermione's involvement in the village. She would be there to cast the soul binding charm the moment that Riddle was hit. Unfortunately to do so, she had to be near him which would put her out in the open."
Based on the tests that he had performed with Lancaster, Harry was fairly certain that the sound from the rifle wouldn't carry all the way to the village. As such, he might get a second shot if he needed it.
At two PM Voldemort, Pettigrew and two dozen Death Eaters apparated into Hogsmede in groups of three. Remus was helping Lancaster with the spotting scopes when he saw them. "Harry there are at least twenty Death Eaters between The Hogs Head, the Three Broomsticks and Honeydukes." Hermione immediately apparated to the entrance of the little building across from the Three Broomsticks where she was surprised to be recognized by Ginny.
"Hermione?" Ginny was amazed to see her friend here, and even more surprised to see her wearing military fatigues.
"Not now Ginny," replied Hermione, not taking her eyes off the scene in the street.
"I thought you were in the States with your parents."
"Not now Ginny. Riddle is out there." She had said the magic words. The two women waited in silence. Two months of questions were answered in an instant for Ginny.
Back at the cave, Harry replied, "Find him."
Remus searched frantically as the Death Eaters began killing indiscriminately. Fifteen seconds later, there were bodies littering the street.
Voldemort stood outside as Bagman and Flint entered the Three Broomsticks and gave everyone ten seconds to get out. People began running.
"Got em," said Shepherd. "He's to the left of the Three Broomsticks in the center of the street standing by himself."
A moment later, Ron and Lavender ran out of the pub. Voldemort saw the red head and turned to face him. At that moment, Ginny who had been watching with Hermione from across the street, burst out of the door and yelled, "Hey Tom, you shite."
"Got, em." Harry remembered everything that Lancaster had taught him, breathe, focus, squeeze.
Riddle never cast the killing curse on Ron or Lavender. In an instant, he looked around and raised his wand. "Avada…"
Thwack! Voldemort's head literally exploded. Hermione ran over and immediately began casting the binding charm that Flitwick had taught her. Ginny screamed, "Incendio! Burn you bastard." Flames shot out the end of her wand engulfing Riddle's remains in a fiery inferno. For a minute they just stood there transfixed and watched as the body burned. Hermione added her own spell and the flames shot up higher.
In her anger, Ginny threw rocks at the burning body, and began sobbing over all of the pain the he had caused her over the years. A crowd gathered on the other side of the street watching the scene in morbid fascination.
Neither witch saw Pettigrew come up behind them and grab Hermione. Thrusting his wand into her back, he said, "I don't know what you did to him, but you'll never see Potter ag…"
Thwack! As Hermione had stepped to the side, Harry had a clear shot and hit Pettigrew in the ribcage. He was thrown six feet by the impact and was dead before he'd hit the ground.
Thwack! Harry began hitting the other Death Eaters who were still killing people at different areas of the street.
Thwack! Ludo Bagman flew four feet with a gaping hole in his chest. He had helped set the Dursley's house on fire. Answering Voldemort's call that morning had turned out to be a bad bet. He had just killed Marietta Edgecombe.
Thwack! Marcus Flint's head exploded. He had killed Cho Chang moments before.
Thwack! Narcissa Malfoy flew four feet and flopped over. She had murdered Hannah Abbot's dad.
Thwack! Thomas Borgin' head exploded. The shopkeeper had set fire to the Dursley's home, helping murder Harry's aunt, uncle and cousin.
Thwack! Jackie McNair fell over. She had murdered Molly's sister many years earlier.
Harry had one round left in the big rifle. Thwack! Rookwood's father landed six feet away. He had murdered Susan's parents only days after she'd been born.
The remaining Death Eaters were captured or apparated away, still not certain of what had happened to their fellow Death Eaters. No one had heard the sound of the rifle over all of the noise.
Most of the people in town ignored the fallen Death Eaters or went up and kicked them. They gathered around the fire that was still burning in the center of the street outside the Three Broomsticks.
Moments later thirty Aurors, a handful of Mediwitches, Hammer and Bones appeared at Hogsmede. They took statements from various people who were there, and tended the wounded. There wasn't much to tell. No one who was there except Hermione knew exactly what had happened, or how Voldemort had died. No one except Ginny had a clue what spell had been cast that caused the Death Eaters to suddenly explode or fall. Anyone casually examining their bodies would conclude that they had been hit with a reducto charm.
Bones knew the truth, but didn't say anything. They collected eyewitness reports from twenty people who had seen the last minutes of Voldemort's reign or terror.
In total eight Death Eaters, Voldemort, fourteen students, and twenty villagers died within a four minute avalanche of terror. Thirty students had been injured, and nine other Death Eaters had been stunned by members of the DA.
Shepherd quickly gathered all of the equipment and apparated back to Grimmauld place with Harry. Remus went to the village to see the remains of Riddle, his former friend and to collect Hermione.
Two days later, Azkaban was nearly emptied. All Death Eaters serving life sentences were sent through the veil. Lucius Malfoy refused to ask for mercy and walked through on his own, showing much more courage than his son had ever displayed.
Less than a dozen people knew what had really happened. Remus, Amelia, Hammer, Dumbledore, Ginny, Hermione, Harry, Shepherd, McGonagall and little Professor Flitwick who had asked Harry for one of the big bullets to have as a souvenir.
The truth of the matter was that Harry had had a very difficult time coming to grips with the fact that he had taken nine lives in a four minute period of time. After the battle, Shepherd had portkeyed Harry back to Grimmauld place. Shepherd went back and cleaned up the hide, bringing the two rifles and empty casings back to Auror Headquarters. Hermione and Remus had not returned for several hours, and had miraculously stayed out of the newspapers. She had found Harry curled up in his vomit soaked bed, sobbing. She cleaned up the vomit and curled up behind him. When they got up the next day, Harry didn't say anything to anyone. Dan and Emma had spent the day out in the park with Hermione, thinking that Harry wanted to be alone. He couldn't find the closure that he so desperately needed.
In truth Harry had spent so much time in the last year focusing on ridding the world of Voldemort that aside from an occasional conversation with Dan, Harry simply didn't know what to do next.
Harry and the Grangers went back to Nice for a month. He had wanted to purchase the Villa that they had rented previously that summer. Hermione pointed out that they haven't even been to most of the homes that he did own, and that they should think about it a while before buying another
They tried to find some order in their lives. For Harry, peace came when he was swimming in the shallow waters with Hermione, who had fun pretending to be a mermaid, wickedly seducing Harry in fifteen feet of water.
In December, Dan and Emma moved back into their own home. They made arrangements to resume their practice after the holidays. The time off had been good for their marriage, but they enjoyed their practice.
Harry was still torn with an enormous case of "now what?" Dan and Emma had encouraged Hermione to enroll at Oxford to learn investment management. Amelia had told them that they could have any position within the wizarding world that they wished whenever they felt ready.
A few days before Christmas, there was a knock on the door of the Granger house. Emma answered the door to find Professors Flitwick, McGonagall and Dumbledore standing outside.
"Please come in," said Emma. She was actually pleased to see the old wizard who had infuriated her so much the previous summer.
"Could we possibly speak with Harry?" asked Dumbledore, handing Emma Minerva's traveling cloak.
"How can I help you Professors?" asked Harry, who was pleased to see the three of them again.
"Harry," said Dumbledore. "We have come to formally invite you to return to the castle.
In truth, Harry had always loved the castle, but no longer cared for the idea of being a student. He began to decline.
Flitwick caught the misunderstanding early and said, "Dumbledore, you didn't explain the offer."
Dumbledore apologized. "Harry, I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. We would like you to come back to the castle in the position of full professor, teaching defense to the students. Kingsley has resigned to pursue other interests."
"But I never finished…"
Minerva cut him off, "Potter, you more than finished your studies in Transfiguration, Charms, Defense, and I'm told that your ability to operate sophisticated muggle equipment has earned your four NEWTs, the minimum needed to qualify as a teaching professor at Hogwarts. The board of governors unanimously approved your application."
"But I didn't apply."
Hermione said, "I filled it out for you. Harry, it's what you love to do. We'll have summers off to travel the world, and I'm told that the married staff living quarters are quite comfortable. You can still sneak out on weekends and play a few rounds with Dad."
Harry looked like a fish out of water. "Married?"
Hermione said, "Well, I was hoping that we could wait until spring, but I'm ready anytime that you are.
Harry's eyes lit up like he'd just received the best news of his life. "You are? This is great!"
McGonagall broke into an uncharacteristically wide grin. She asked, "You'll accept the offer then?"
Harry said, "Yes, to both. I mean…"
"Breathe Harry," said Hermione giving him a huge hug and kiss. "Your job starts in two weeks, and we'll get married in June. OK?"
"I do, I mean OK." Everyone smiled at the young couple who deserved so much happiness.
A moment later, they were joined by Minister Bones. She said, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything, but I wanted to make arrangements for the presentation of some small tokens of the Ministry's appreciation for Mr. Potter and Miss Granger's extraordinary work in making the wizarding world a safer place."
Harry said "Thank you Minister, but…"
Bones shook her head, and said, "Harry no one who has been awarded membership in the Order of Merlin has asked for the glory. They did what needed to be done in a way that few people have been willing to do. We know that it was never your or Hermione's desire to kill Voldemort. It needed to be done, and you both accepted the challenge. The award isn't a recognition of the deed, rather than an affirmation about your and, if I'm correct, your fiancé's amazing character. Surely you wouldn't deny her a well deserved moment of recognition?"
"Good. Dumbledore could we combine the awards with the returning feasts on 3 January?"
"Of course. That would be splendid. How many other guests should I plan for?"
"About a hundred."
Dan and Emma sat there together watching the afternoon unfold, thinking about the mysteries of life. How six months ago a young man in ragged clothing stood up to his abusive relatives on a train platform. How he ran into Hermione, who as a little girl never took the time to make friends, and they just snapped together like matching pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
Emma nodded in agreement and said, "Amazing. It's just like magic."
I hope that you enjoyed my little story. I had a lot of fun writing it and so very much fun conversing with old friend and new ones.
There are so many great stories to read – from widely known writers such as Full Pensive, Sloth, Kinsfire, RossWrock, or LS Song and lesser known ones such as ChemProf, OlafR, Bobmin356 and UdderPD. If you have a great story that you would like me to read, please email me.
I promise not to completely ignore or kill Ron off in any more of my stories.
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