A/N: You really shouldn't read anything into whom I left on or off the potential to die list in the last chapter. At one point or another, I had all of them potentially lined up for death, save for Draco, Caliban, Harry & Hermione. In fact, one of the "reasons" I mentioned in an earlier author's notes as to why this isn't an H/G fic was, at the time, because Ginny was going to wind up dead at this point in the story. If I don't write slash, you can certainly bet your bottom dollar I won't write necrophilia. My intention on Molly is to hammer home the point that you might not have enough time to change your ways. May be a bit preachy, but there it is.
Chapter 20: A Death in the Family
The silence of death lingered over the room for several seconds, as the dust settled from what had been a quick, but costly confrontation with the band of Death Eaters. Harry simply stared down in disbelief at Molly's lifeless body, his mind not quite fathoming what was happening. Her deathly gaze stared up at him in a state of surprise...a look all to reminiscent of Sirius.
"NO!" came a high pitched wail from behind Harry. He turned, wide eyed, seeing Ginny with her hand to her mouth, tears rushing out of her eyes. All at once she rushed past Harry, and he moved to the side in a mechanical fashion. Ginny fell to her knees, seemingly incapable of seeing what was lying in front of her. As Harry and Hermione stood by, Ron and Arthur moved quickly around Ginny, hugging her fiercely., tears readily apparent in their eyes.
Time slowed down for Harry, this time in a figurative sense as opposed to a literal one. He kept a close eye on Molly Weasley, how close she was to him...more importantly how close she was to Hermione. If the beam had gone the other way, if she hadn't of been there than...
He tried to silence such thoughts for now. It would not do to dwell on them in their current situation. His friends needed him. Following Hermione's suit, he too came around the Weasley's, comforting them as best he could, and sharing in their grief. Somewhere in the back of his mind, it dawned on him that he had lost one of the closest things he'd ever had to a real flesh and blood mother.
She had died, without a singular thought from that Death Eater. The one named Caliban. He had killed her without even a second gesture. As Harry sat there with his arms firmly planted over Ginny's shoulders, the face of Caliban de Montesquieu was etched into the dark corners of his mind. Revenge was sworn by the more shadowy part of his soul.
And he was not the only one who made this vow then and there.
Harry tried to say something, to try and break the grief-stricken silence, but he was interrupted by several pops around him. Instinctively he and Hermione stood up and had their wands at the ready, in case the Death Eaters had returned. Harry was able to catch a flash of who it was out of the corner of his eye, catching a dark skinned man in blue robes appearing a few feet from him.
The next several seconds moved in a blur. Spells flew back and forth as the group of assembled witches and wizards, Harry and Hermione doing their best to shield both themselves and the Weasleys. Ron finally came to his senses a few moments later, joining the fray on his friend's side. After several misses and blocked shots, which left the Weasley living room in a state of great disarray, Harry decided he had just about enough of this. Dropping down to the ground, and motioning for Hermione and Ron to do the same, he performed a series of complicated motions with his wand, while Hermione shielded them all.
"CONGELO!" There was a bright blue wave of energy that flew across the room, and the attackers were quite literally frozen in their tracks, as small blocks of ice encased the feet of every one of them. They all stopped their onslaught momentarily in response to this new attack...only to be met from rapid fire disarming spells from both Harry and Hermione. The five attackers were thus left disarmed, partially frozen, and staring down the business end of the wand held by a rather annoyed Harry Potter. Harry scanned the crowd, instantly picking up a few faces he off handedly recognized. Only one face stood out amongst the others though, one he could put a name with. His identity made Harry's lower lip snarl in disgust.
He kept his wand pointed straight ahead, and pointed right at the gaping mouth of Kingsley Shacklebolt. "And what do you think you're doing here?"
"Harry!" Kingsley shouted out in somewhat genuine surprise. "What are you doing here?! We've been looking everywhere for you."
"Have you now," Harry snidely asked. He had nothing against Kingsley in principle, and actually respected the man slightly, but at the moment he was pretty much distrustful of anyone outside his core group of friends and loved ones, particularly those who belonged to the Order. He raised an eyebrow at not seeing Tonks anywhere, figuring that she would be with any Order contingent if they followed procedure like he thought they would. "Now explain why you're here, and why you're trying to take our heads off." Harry said, turning back towards Kingsley, his wand still focused on the Auror.
"We heard a disturbance in the wards on the Burrow," Kingsley stated, his eyes darting slightly to the side as he explained. "Albus told us to..." Kingsley stopped the moment that he mentioned Dumbledore's name, seeing the look of sheer anger come over Harry's face. He then turned to Hermione again, and tried to break free of the ice, pleading with Harry as he did so. "Harry you have to snap out of it! She's got you under some kind of spell!"
Harry's anger quickly turned to confusion. "What in the bloody hell are you talking about?" he asked, looking at each of the five Order members in succession, stopping on Kingsley again.
"They think Hermione is a Death Eater," Ron said from behind Harry, "It's the load of tripe that Dumbledore has been feeding everyone since you disappeared."
"It's not a load of tripe!" Sturgis Podmore shouted defiantly from the side. "She murdered her parents and..." he never got the chance to finish the sentence, as a full powered Reducto landed right in front of him, blasting him from his frozen prison and sending him hard into the wall, where he slumped to the ground. Harry turned and gripped Hermione around the shoulder, trying to calm her frayed nerves slightly.
"I would have thought better of you Kingsley," she scolded, lowering her wand slightly. "What possible shred of proof did he have that I was a Death Eater...other than his own conjecture." Kingsley thought for a moment, hanging his head slightly.
"None, just something Severus said that gave him the idea."
The threat neutralized, Harry summoned all of the opposing wands and laid them at his feet, content to leave the members of the Order frozen to the floor for the moment. He turned back to Arthur, who was still cradling Ginny, who had cried herself into a state of sleep and shock at what had just transpired.
"We need to get her to St. Mungo's," Arthur solemnly stated, gesturing to his deceased wife. "It's merely a matter of record, but they need to perform a magical autopsy to determine the course of death, and we need to file a report with the Ministry." He looked up at Harry, "Please stay here with Ginny. I'll see to this." Harry nodded, taking Ginny in his arms as Arthur fought back the tears in his eyes, scooping up his wife. As he vanished with a pop, Harry couldn't help but understand fully why it was that Arthur Weasley was a true Gryffindor.
Hermione placed a hand over Harry's shoulder, as Ron cradled his sister in a comforting fashion, as she sobbed in her sleep, and Kingsley and company merely stared at the scene. There was another pop, this one a bit louder, and Harry turned to see who had come in, his wand at the ready should it be another Order member.
Every muscle in his being froze at the sight of Albus Dumbledore in the Weasley living room.
/ - / - / - /
The screams of young Draco Malfoy could be heard throughout Riddle Manor in Little Hangleton. Inside the self-made throne room of Lord Voldemort, the young man withered away under the power of the cruciatus, held on him by his lord and master. Draco managed one pleading eye to open slightly, staring at his mentor Caliban, who merely stood next to Voldemort with an expressionless mask on his face. Finally Voldemort lifted the curse, maintaining his composure as he did so despite an obvious wince at the end.
"Let that be a lesson to you, young dragon," Voldemort sneered, "Never fail me like that again. Now get out of my sight...all of you." Draco managed to get back to his feet, keeping his mind blank for the moment as he stumbled out of the throne room. Out of the corner of his eye as he saw Caliban block his view of Voldemort, though not before a pained expression crossed Voldemort's face. The oak door slammed shut behind Draco, as he shivered in lingering pain and the ambient cold of Riddle Manor, wondering to himself what in the world was going on.
Inside the throne room, Caliban meticulously looked over his lord and master, who was taking deep breaths at the prolonged effort he had just put forward. "I thought I told you to leave me," Voldemort angrily spewed, causing Caliban to nod.
"That you did, but I can't help but find myself compelled to stay." There were several moments of silence before Caliban added, "It's happening faster than we expected, isn't it." Voldemort was silent for a long time, before he sighed and closed his eyes, nodding his head in affirmation. Caliban nodded back, reaching into his robes and pulling out a beaten piece of parchment.
"I acquired the ingredients for the potion that you require," he flatly said, handing the parchment to Voldemort. "Have Severus brew this by the next full moon, and it should buy you some more time. Though remember that this is far from a permanent solution." Voldemort kept his head down, fighting back some measure of pain, as Caliban turned and took his leave.
"Agamemnon," Voldemort called out after Caliban, causing him to stop dead in his tracks. "Don't speak of this with Draco. We may need him to know certain things, but not this." Caliban turned back nodding his affirmation, before walking out of the throne room.
Draco stood back to the side, waiting on Caliban as instructed. When he saw the man silently walk out of the throne room, he detected the minutest of emotions on his face, something akin to sadness. Draco was about to ask what was wrong, but one glare from Caliban silenced him quickly. Caliban merely stalked off, Draco following close behind. When they were a good distance away from the castle, Caliban finally stopped, and glanced over his shoulder at Draco, staring a hole straight through him.
"The Dark Lord cannot stand for your failure," he simply stated, "Do not let it happen again, or it may soon be the undoing of us all."
/ - / - / - /
When Albus Dumbledore had learned of the wards at the Burrow had been disturbed, he knew immediately what had happened. He had, in fact, designed the wards himself. They were designed to only allow three people outside of the Weasley family into the home without setting them off, and since they were blood wards, they were relatively strong. Only himself, Harry & Hermione...as well as any who would accompany them, would be able to make it in unscathed.
He of course had ulterior motives for making the wards this way. Though Harry & Hermione would be able to get in unscathed, they would trigger a second set of spells that would alert Albus to their presence, should they choose to reappear there. It was this set of wards that had gone off in Dumbledore's office that afternoon. He immediately contacted Kingsley and sent the squadron he had organized for this very reason. He had instructed them to move swiftly, capturing Harry before anyone could tell who they were and bringing him back to Grimmauld, where Dumbledore could personally undo the damage that had been done on him.
All of this was in the name of protecting the boy, of course, and separating him from that growing annoyance named Hermione Granger. Dumbledore was beginning to hate her. The public smearing was going well enough, he had fooled most of the people, though Arthur and Molly had proven to be steadfastly annoying in their denial.
Fifteen minutes after their departure from Grimmauld, Albus was beginning to get worried. They should have been back by now. He stood pacing back and forth in front of the parlor room fireplace, waiting for any word on their return. Increasingly the prospect that something had gone awry was growing in his mind, as was the notion that he would have to step in and do something about it personally. It was not a step he was above taking, but it was certainly one he would like to avoid if at all possible.
Finally, after waiting a couple more minutes, Albus could not stand it any longer. Steeling himself to whatever he might find, he quickly apparated straight into the Burrow's living room, his wand pointed at whatever, ready to stun them.
When the world came back into view, he was momentarily stunned out of his own thought processes when he saw the scene in front of him. There was Kingsley and three of his Order members, their feet encased in solid blocks of ice, staring straight at him. Quickly he turned, and locked eyes with his quarry.
The piercing emerald gaze of one Harry James Potter barreled through Albus Dumbledore, slicing through him like a hot knife through a cold stick of butter. Dumbledore tried to think fast, his mind racing at what he should do. Taking the boy directly was out of the question, he had undoubtedly been the cause of the predicament the Order members now found themselves in. Besides that, there were too many witnesses to his plans at the moment. There was really only one thing to do...talk his way out.
"Harry! Thank Merlin you're safe!" he exclaimed, summing up all the bravado he could. Subtlety, he launched a small probe into Hermione's mind, on the off-chance that Harry might have picked up some degree of occulumency from Severus...
...only to have his probe savagely shred to pieces by the afore mentioned witch, much to his surprise. Hesitantly, though with anger pulsating out of his eyes, Harry walked towards Dumbledore, his wand falling to his side slightly. Albus thought this might be going better than he had hoped, perhaps Harry wasn't as clued into his plans as he thought...
That thought was destroyed immediately. In a quick flash Harry threw a right cross into Dumbledore's face, knocking the elder man backwards at an alarming rate, sending him staggering towards the wall, which he held onto desperately to maintain his balance. Albus took three deep breaths and stared up at Harry, who's wand was fixed on him, an eerie blue glow pulsating on the tip as he literally radiated with power. Things were not as Albus had thought, they were far worse.
Surprisingly, Hermione had her hand on Harry's shoulder, seeming to calm him, making things go even worse in Dumbledore's mind. This was far worse than any power Harry might have unlocked pursuant to his heritage.If they were together than...no it couldn't be. He couldn't be the Heir. It was impossible!
Still, all the same...
"Harry...you have every right to be angry," Albus finally said, resigned to the direct approach, "But understand that anything I did was for your own..."
"DON'T say it old man!" Harry spat out, turning his gaze from Hermione towards him with a crescendo of ferocity. "Don't tell me that it was for my own fucking good! I've had enough of your protections...a lot of good they do people." Albus stood wide-eyed at the display, this was far too eerily reminiscent of a conversation he had with a young Tom Riddle some 50 years prior. "And I've had enough of your lies and half-truths," Harry continued, his fist clenching in anger.
"I have never directly lied to you Harry," Albus said with great affront, "I may have with held information for your...for other reasons...but I have never lied to you." Harry glared at him with no end, and looked to be on the verge of hitting him square in the jaw once more, but something held his anger in check.
"But you have Albus," Harry said with a great lack of the respect he had once given his headmaster. "Maybe not directly as you said, but you have lied to others about me. About Hermione."
"Words cannot express my regret over that accusation. It's quickly become clear in light of new evidence that I was mistaken in that regard." Deep down, Dumbledore was seething, but knew that this mea culpa needed to be done if he had any hope of gaining control of this power. "I will print a retraction in the Daily Prophet tomorrow when we announce your return."
"You'll print your retraction," Harry said in reply, "Or you'll regret it." He sighed, looking back over at Ron, who was gobsmacked by the entire display, "I have friends who need me right now. I have people whom I care about I need to help out right now. I have no more time for you old man. I'll deal with you later."
"Harry, I insist we return to Grimmauld, if the Death Eaters find you here..." Harry winced at that, but turned coldly back towards Dumbledore before walking off.
"I think the way in which we dealt with your little Order of the Roasted Turkey should alleviate any concerns you have over my own well-being thank you very much. Now get out of here, all of you." He glared at everyone in turn, and without a word the ice holding them in place broke and their wands all flew to their hands. Albus turned to Kingsley and nodded, and quickly everyone apparated out of the Burrow.
Once they were gone, Harry let out a deep sigh of both relief and frustration. Hermione placed her arm over his shoulder, hugging him gently in the broad daylight. Ron merely sat in wonder, staring at the two of them. "Bloody hell," he whispered, causing Harry to look straight at him.
"There's a lot we need to discuss mate," he said with a serious tone in his voice, "When your father gets back, we'll tell you all about it if you want to hear it."
A/N: Harry let's Dumbledore go because he wants to be there for Ron and Ginny at the moment, not deal with his own personal issues. Secondly it's for the reason stated in the last chapter, Dumbledore still wields too much political power for him to just up and kill the man.
The Weasleys find out most of the truth in the next chapter, while Harry plans out some of his next moves.