Disclaimer: I fear I shall be proclaiming my utter lack of rights to Harry Potter until I go blue in the face. Ack, oxygen!
A/N: I feel like I'm on a roll ^^! It's so nice being on vacation and having free time, but I must warn everyone- I'm going back to work and school in a week *sob*. But when hasn't life been busy, I ask? I want to thank all who reviewed the past couple days: TwilightsCalling, Kirby77DP77, Cowabunga, JustAnotherParallelDimension, Valid User Name, anypotter, cyiusblack, harylovesginny5, and oldhollywood (yes, I know there's a period between the words in your pen-name, but for some reason when I include it, Fanfiction's system deletes it o.O Sorry!).
It Ends Now
Part 33: "Blood"
Dumbledore cleared his throat, blue eyes finding Harry. "The protection I set up around the Burrow was not unlike the wards around the Dursleys' home. The survival of these wards was dependent on blood- blood from Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, courtesy of a potion made by Professor Snape." The Headmaster sighed heavily here, looking for all the world to have been burdened with a millstone. Harry sympathized with his old professor's guilt- he knew perfectly well what a suffocating feeling it was to be responsible for the lives of many people. One wrong decision could cost them all... "I never thought, for an instant, that an attack of this magnitude would end up launched against us. I took every precaution- sequestered Molly and Arthur in their home, only let Order members contact them... but I fear I overlooked the possibility of a traitor."
He sighed again, and Professor McGonagall spoke up, "It was not your fault, Albus. None of us were prepared to believe a spy might be hiding in our ranks."
"And yet, we should have," Remus intoned sadly from beside Harry. Harry glanced sidelong into the man's haunted features. "It happened once; it can always happen again. Not every person is as they seem."
Harry glared into his lap, frowning angrily. Wormtail... rat who not only brought down the first Order, but his parents and Neville's as well... He felt Dumbledore's eyes on him again, and lifted his head. The man gave Harry a very apologetic look.
"P-professor," Ginny voiced shakily. "How... how did the wards come down if my parents' blood was the key to maintaining them?"
"I've been wondering that too," Kingsley nodded. "It had to have been Christmas night... the whole Order was there."
Dumbledore gazed almost inquiringly at the eldest Weasleys. "The spy would have needed a few drops of your blood. In this case, I would not rule out a simple memory charm being utilized... But, for the record- Arthur, Molly... did any member of the Order approach you Christmas night, perhaps acting oddly?"
"No," Mr. Weasley replied automatically, shaking his head. "No one seemed suspicious, and I can't recall being accosted at any point. You, Molly?"
"Me neither," the plump matriarch concurred, eyes pensive as she wracked her brain for clues. "And if someone wanted our... blood..." The woman suddenly let out a shuddery gasp, trailing off, and the room stilled.
"Molly?" Albus prompted, staring solicitously at her reaction.
"Oh, Albus... dear Merlin," Mrs. Weasley moaned, clawing at her white face. "I made it only too easy," she murmured.
"Molly! You must tell us what happened," Dumbledore pressed gently, but there was the merest suggestion of... something, in his tone. Harry furrowed his brow; it sounded like panic, or maybe worry. He could not tell for sure; those emotions sounded foreign when inflected in his Headmaster's voice. "Do you know who took your blood?"
Mrs. Weasley seemed to come back to herself at this, though her countenance was no less agonized. "No, because no one confronted me. I... I'm afraid I surrendered my blood only too easily, though. I got distracted in my dinner preparations, and cut myself on the knife slicing potatoes. Harry was there, he wanted to help, and I... I think I tossed the towel I'd wrapped around the nick back on the counter after healing it. I was very busy and... oh God... I just left it there! Merlin, any one could have stolen it... and I don't remember seeing the towel again after that, but I didn't even think to check... Merlin, I'm the reason the Burrow... the Burrow is..."
Mrs. Weasley buried her face in her hands, crying softly. Harry watched her being comforted by Mr. Weasley, struck by a memory of that night-
Feeling full, Harry watched his friends socialize before deciding he'd help lone Mrs. Weasley prepare dinner as she shuffled around the tight space. Her wand was constantly moving as she directed the stew to broil and onions to dice themselves. Her other hand was slicing potatoes nimbly. He halted her frenzied chopping to inquire,
"Mrs. Weasley? Need any help?"
"No, dear, I- ouch!" She dropped the knife with a cry, spots of blood leaking from her cut. Mrs. Weasley grabbed a dishtowel and wrapped it around her finger to staunch the flow. Harry asked if he could do something for it.
"Thank you, Harry, you're very kind... but I can handle it." She unwrapped the towel and tossed it to the side, brandishing her wand. With a muttered incantation, the wound healed instantly, leaving her finger as unblemished as before. The motherly woman smiled at Harry. "One of the useful charms to know being a mother of seven- especially, of boys." Harry laughed, seeing her point.
"Are you sure you can't put me to work with something?"
Mrs. Weasley gave him an appraising look. "You really want to help that badly?"
"Alright. You can help chop the rest of the potatoes; I need to get Albus' mince pie and brandy to him."
"Molly... Molly! Molly, please... look at me," Albus encouraged softly; calmly breaking through the worst of her sobs with a firm demand. She complied after a few seconds, sniffing. "Listen to me- it. was. not. your. fault. Mistakes happen; I, of all people, can attest to that fundamental truth. The blame you seek to burden yourself with lies solely with Voldemort, for it is he who plucked one of our members and managed to turn them to the Darkness."
Mr. Weasley, who still had an arm wrapped around his wife's shoulders and appeared ashen under a mop of bright red hair, queried, "Is it possible the Imperius Curse could have been involved, Albus? I mean, maybe this 'traitor' isn't really a traitor after all, but an unfortunate member who was forced into succumbing to You-Know-Who's wishes."
"It is possible," Dumbledore admitted, but he was cut off by Snape's sharp,
"Nevertheless, Imperiused traitor or not, this leak is a liability. Who knows what information the Dark Lord has managed to procure from their mind?"
Silence proceeded this morose fact. Nymphadora Tonks sighed. "At least Headquarters is still safe. Thank goodness Professor Dumbledore was made Secret Keeper..."
Dumbledore smiled weakly at Tonks. "Thank you for your faith, but I regret to think of what dangerous repercussions might follow if we do not act on this revelation. Botched assaults, and not to mention everyone in this room is now at greater risk for discovery. If Voldemort has obtained knowledge of the Order, then he would learn names, homes, any future plans at heading him off..."
"What are we going to do?" Mrs. Weasley whispered.
"What we have always done, only now, with tighter security, false leads, less full member meetings, a touch of Veritaserum, and the intent to catch our spy," Dumbledore proclaimed seriously, but any elucidations that may have followed were interrupted by Harry's scar exploding. In one fluid moment, the boy was clutching his head and jerking around, screaming. The kitchen seemed to freeze in equal surprise and horror as Harry arched violently backward. The chair made a loud scratching noise as it was forced away from the table. Within a second, Harry's body slipped beneath the wooden surface and he was on the floor, writhing in pain. Only then did the Order mobilize, shaking themselves from shock and lunging for the seeker.
"What's wrong with Harry?" Ron's tremulous voice exclaimed as the Keeper, no doubt roused by his best friend's cries, entered the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley made a grab for her son, trying to keep him back as Ron attempted to go to Harry's side. "Harry- no, let me go! Mum, let me go! He needs me; he always needs me after these spells-"
"STAY BACK!" Dumbledore shouted to those clamoring closer, a hand raised in alarm as he knelt to crouch beside Harry. With a flick of his wand, the chair impeding Harry's movement was banished and everyone seemed to quiet- watching; waiting for their Chosen One's most recent episode to end. Dumbledore grabbed Harry's hand, muttering something only the boy could hear.
To Harry, unwilling conduit to Voldemort's fury, the torment seemed to go on forever as he was drawn unconsciously into a vision.
Lord Voldemort was not in a forgiving mood.
"CRUCIO!" he screeched, for what seemed the umpteenth time tonight. The ninth Death Eater dropped like a toy- they all did- and began twitching in agony. Lazily, the Dark Lord watched as the man howled out the pain of his torture. The throne room of his second hide-out (damned traitor Severus and his pet Potter being the reason for the move from Riddle House) was deathly silent, but shivers grasped at the Death Eaters circling their comrade... they knew they were next. Their insubordination, and subsequent failure, meant none would come out of this meeting unscathed.
"P-please, my Lord... please..."
"You think you have known pain, Dolohov? ... I will show you how wrong you are. Sectumsempra!" Voldemort hissed, using one of his favorites of Severus', gloating inwardly over the ways he would use the professor's curses against him... oh, how sweet revenge would be...
Dolohov made a sound in his throat as the spell sent his blood splattering onto the floor from a chest and face wound.
"Stand up, Dolohov. Rudolph, Macnair... my little... leadersss." There was a collective shudder at the way Voldemort enunciated his final word.
"Crucio," the serpentine Dark Lord uttered venomously, sneering when Rudolph Lestrange hit the ground. His wife shifted almost eagerly in the throng, but Voldemort ignored Bella. He ended the Unforgivable and started in on Macnair, leaving Lestrange to gasp against the dirty ground.
"Stupid, useless, disobedient little servants! How DARE you launch an attack without my say so!"
"M-My Lord," Rudolph whimpered. "M-my Lord, we are sorry, we acted without thinking... but the spy, he had the blood; it was too good an opportunity to pass up, and you- you were away-"
"SILENCE!" Voldemort roared, slashing his wand. Rudolph was suddenly sporting a crimson face, choking through the blood dribbling down from the laceration lining his profile.
"You never do ANYTHING without consulting me first! Your derelictions are not without err, and now you shall reap the price!"
"Harry... Harry, you must force him out. Clear your mind..." Harry heard as if from far away in Dumbledore's gentle baritone. "Fight it, Harry. Occlude!"
"I have now lost ten more Death Eaters to your asinine, unplanned assault," Voldemort growled. "CRUCIENDO!"
The pain... it was destroying all sense, but Dumbledore's voice returned like coaxing, warm phoenix song: "Harry, you can do it... just close your mind; push him out-"
Harry mentally scrunched up his face, shoving the vision's hold on him for all he was worth- it was so exhausting, so futile- Voldemort was still scolding angrily, clear as day... but Harry just wanted to be back in Grimmauld, in his own brain...
"We will never succeed in our ultimate plan; never be rid of the boy and all other threats to my domination if you continue KILLING OFF MY FOLLOWERS IN HALF-CALCULATED MISSIONS!"
"Harry, come on, you are strong enough to do this-"
"I can't... I... I can't," Harry heard himself muttering, and something squeezed his hand tightly.
"I believe you can," Dumbledore countered calmly, the proclamation resounding throughout Harry's brain.
I believe you can...
With supreme effort, Harry yanked himself from Voldemort's raving thoughts. He thought about Ron, Hermione, Ginny... Professor Dumbledore... Remus, Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley...
Sirius. Mum. Dad.
He thought about them all.
He thought about Love, just as he had during the possession Fifth Year. And then, suddenly, it was so much easier to relinquish himself from Voldemort; to clear his mind of all that was burdensome...
Harry mentally built a wall between him and the angry, swirling mass that was Voldemort and the vision. And then he let go-
Harry's eyes seemed to snap open of their own volition, and he breathed a sigh of relief as the pain receded in his scar. Dumbledore's wrinkled but joyful face was inches from his, and there was a wet cloth on his forehead. The Boy-Who-Lived smiled blissfully up at Dumbledore, now gingerly patting at the caked blood over his lightning mark.
"I think I know how to improve my Occlumency, sir."
A/N: Thought I'd end the chapter on a bit of a happier note, seeing as most of them have been downright cruel cliffhangers ^^
Please review, as I tend to be more motivated to write if I'm seeing that people are interested and want more. Hope these last few chapters have lived up to expectation!