This is it, the final chapter of this story! I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. But don't think there's any rest for us, there are more years to go! I've already posted the first chapter of the next story. Read down to the bottom to get the name.
Thanks to those of you who have read, and even more thanks to those of you who have reviewed:
To the ever faithful KRP – Yes, the 45th have met their end as all traitors must. And it's not a fleet, just a division less Dementors. But no worries, this will not turn into a war of extinction. There are over ten million Dementors in the world, they will carry on. Besides, there are many things that Esdras has yet to realize and powers he has yet to unleash… As for how Katie and Snape have gotten on, fairly well. Remember, Snape is in charge of the castle; Katie is in charge of the Dementors. With the 13th Infantry is away, she is in charge of almost 250 Dementors (50 Hospital, 50 Research, 70 Infantry x 2).
To the ever faithful Snood – I'm glad you liked this chapter. I'm also glad you like my choice of lines. For the "whatever else will stick" line, I was trying to convey Esdras' desire to see Voldemort answer for everything…all of it. I liked the irony that befell the 45th, too. It's especially ironic because they can all fly and have to think in three dimensions and they were taken advantage of by being flanked from above. Writing the scene for Corinth was difficult, and I'm glad you think it came out well. The Dementors in my stories are just like normal people. They have emotions just like anyone else. The only trouble is the Ministry has been against them for a millennium. As for Snape and the fireplace, you can assume coincidence since I temporarily forgot all about the more sophisticated ways of communication. Heh…
All the rest of y'all should review, too. Anyone reading this story long after I've finished posting should review, as well. I'd love to hear your opinion on it.
As always, my standard warning. Text in italics is in Azkabaaner and I don't own HP.
Chapter 21 – Fight the Good Fight
Admiral Esdras Demnin, who had recently stepped down as Military Commander of Hogwarts, sat on the ramparts of the castle next to Katie Bell, who had recently stepped down as Acting Commander of the Fourth Fleet. Between them sat two empty takeaway containers of Admiral Sachiel's chicken, which had been delivered by a surprisingly cheerful Dementor, considering the late hour. Esdras raised his wand. "Pull."
Katie hurled the object in her hand and Esdras tracked it with his wand. He fired a Reductor which shattered it to tiny pink shards. Katie smiled. "Good one."
Esdras smiled. "Thank you. How did you find command?"
The mortal sighed and fell back onto the cool stone. "I don't understand how you're able to balance it with being a student with being in a relationship with me. It was crazy. I was lucky that Micah was there to help me."
The Dementor laughed softly. "It does get easier. And it's not as bad when you're in peacetime conditions. At least you didn't have to deal with the paperwork."
Katie groaned. "Well, I'm just glad it's over." In the darkness, her expression suddenly became serious. "And what about you? You had to destroy an entire division of marines. How many was it?"
She was met with silence for a few seconds. Finally, Esdras replied. "Seventy two. But it served a purpose. Voldemort has less Dementors under his control and those still on the island know the penalty they will be met with for desertion."
The mortal scooted closer to the Dementor and wrapped her arms around him. "You did what you had to do. There was no other way."
Esdras would have said something, but he was interrupted by a cold voice. "What are you two doing out here?"
The Dementor turned to see the approaching form of Severus Snape, who had recently stepped down as Headmaster of Hogwarts upon Dumbledore's return. Esdras, uncharacteristically, smiled at him. "We're eating Chinese food and blowing up Umbridge's plates." He held up a disgustingly pink kitten plate. "Last one. You want to do the honors?"
Snape glared narrowly at the pair. "All students are supposed to be in their dormitories. You two are no exception. And I doubt the headmaster would agree with you destroying Professor Umbridge's possessions, no matter the circumstances."
Esdras sighed and stood up, offering Katie a hand. He turned to face the potions master. "I understand, sir. There's an egg roll here if you want it." The pair vanished their empty takeaway boxes and walked off, leaving the black cloaked mortal alone on the rampart.
They reached the door and started to descend the stairwell. They had not made it five steps down before they heard, from the rampart they had just left, the satisfied voice of one with his mouth full cry out into the night. "Reducto!"
Katie held her laughter until they reached the base of the stairs, then let out a great peal, leaning against Esdras as they walked down the hallway. Finally they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. "Will you come in for a bit?"
Esdras shook his head slowly. "No can do. Dumbledore wants a group of Dementors to help him search the forest for Umbridge. He's not in any rush, but I do think he wants it done before the end of the night."
The mortal smiled. "Well, I suppose this would be your big chance to show her the nobility of the Dementor species by rescuing her from the Centaurs."
The Dementor smirked before taking his natural form. "Like hell, we just don't want the Centaurs to have all the fun."
Esdras and Katie had gone up to the Hospital Wing to see the bedridden Hermione and Ron after breakfast. They were not alone. Harry was already there along with Luna, Ginny, and Neville. After exchanging pleasantries, Katie took the opportunity to regale the pair with the tail of how the newest addition to the Hospital Wing came to join them. "So then, she comes running into the Great Hall, screaming at the top of her lungs about how the Dementors are after her and that Dumbledore has to hide her. Well, this morning I had put on my nice summer cloak that Esdras had gotten for me. She takes one look at me and starts screaming that I'm a Dementor, spins around, doesn't look where she's going, and slams right into the wall. Knocked her out cold."
The real Dementor smirked. "We figure she thinks anything in a cloak is a Dementor now. She also has something about the sound of hooves. That sends her into a cold sweat."
Ron and Harry were laughing hysterically. The redhead finally managed to calm down enough to ask a single question. "What did you all do to her?"
Esdras shrugged. "Nothing really. We got her from the Centaurs, told her that we would kill her, started to feed off of her, and then let her go. All we did was chase her for a few hours. She couldn't see anything in the dark, so every time she'd bump into one of us she'd run even faster the other way. Around sunrise we finally took her out of the forest and then we started dropping her from heights. We'd catch her before she hit the ground, but we must have dropped her about ten times from maybe two or three miles up. The school's anti-Apparition wards extend upwards indefinitely so she was pretty much powerless. Then we let her go near the edge of the forest, pointed her towards the castle, and told her to have a pleasant day."
As the others laughed uproariously, Hermione looked on in horror. "Esdras, that's absolutely awful."
The Dementor shrugged. "The other option was to rip her still beating heart from her chest and eat her soul."
The bushy haired mortal paled. "Never mind."
Esdras sighed and steeled himself before turning to face the scarred mortal sitting on the edge of Ron's bed. "Harry, I need to talk to you for a minute in private."
The mortal looked up and nodded, accompanying the Dementor out into the hall. Sensing Esdras' discomfort, Harry started. "Look, I'm sorry for casting my Patronus at you."
The Dementor shook his head and sighed. "You have nothing to apologize to me for, Harry. But I have to tell you something. I had a choice; I could have either gone after the 45th Marines or gone after you in the Ministry. I chose to go after the marines because I have a duty to my people. And a rogue marine division is a danger to my people and to yours as well. I'm not sorry I made the choice I did, but I am sorry that your godfather died."
An angry fire burned in the mortal's eyes which the Dementor met with an even gaze. Finally, Harry spoke. "We all had choices to make that night."
In the uncomfortable silence that followed, Esdras had one more confession to make. "I know of your prophecy."
Harry went from anger to shock in a split second. "How? When?"
The Dementor sighed and spoke reluctantly. "Near the end of my first year here, once I told Dumbledore everything that we knew about Sirius and that we had let him escape, he really began to trust me and my men. That was when he told me of your prophecy and how important you are." Esdras looked square into Harry's eyes; his voice was calm and level. "You have just found out that you will have to kill a man. That cannot be an easy thing to hear. In my years in the Azkaban Guard, I have probably killed close to three thousand mortals. I'm here if you need someone to talk to about it."
The mortal looked slightly sick at the number of people his friend had slain, but nodded. "Thank you. I'll think about it." He opened his mouth to say more, but quickly closed it. There was a moment's pause, and the mortal sighed and changed the topic to something completely different, something which had obviously been bothering him since the evening before. "You snogged Ginny?"
Esdras nodded and blushed a deep grey. "That was your distraction. Ginny and Katie staged a catfight over me. It was incredibly effective."
Harry nodded and seemed to be at war with himself. Finally, looking through the door of the Hospital Wing, he asked in a nonchalant voice. "How…how was it?" In reply, the Dementor merely shrugged, floated into the air with a smile on his face, and glided into the Hospital Wing. The mortal narrowed his eyes and quickly walked after him. "Well?"
It seemed that almost overnight, the Dementors that surrounded Hogwarts had become heroes. The students knew that the cloaked protectors had stood guard outside of the castle during the period of martial law and Esdras had made sure that everyone knew that it was Katie who had commanded them. Most students also knew that he had had some small part in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, as well. However, he did his best to deflect any questions, saying truthfully that he had had no part in the battle aside from telling the Dark Lord to surrender or die.
Even with all this, it was an incredible surprise for the Dementors when they were greeted so warmly by the students exiting the castle on their way to the Hogwarts Express. Indeed, for the first time in recorded history, a division of Dementors received applause from mortals. As Esdras and Katie walked from the castle, Aaron floated down, curiosity written all over his hood. "What did you tell them? They think we're heroes."
Esdras merely shrugged. "I just told them the truth. They made the decision as to our heroism on their own."
Aaron nodded slightly and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Well, the respect is nice. However, you might want to have a few words with Ensign Tabris about not letting it go to his head."
The admiral followed the direction the captain was pointing and smirked slightly. Ian Tabris had floated down to ground level and was proudly floating around a fifth year Hufflepuff girl. They watched as he said something in Azkabaaner which she didn't understand. Finally, he simply conjured a rose for her. Katie stifled a laugh. "That's the sweetest thing I've ever seen."
Esdras and Katie walked up behind the young ensign and listened for a second. Finally, Esdras sighed and addressed the girl. "He says that he thinks that your black hair is exotic. All Dementors are born with white hair, you see."
Ensign Tabris turned around and his hood shot up in surprise. He quickly snapped to attention and saluted. The girl, however, merely blushed and went to giggling quietly. Katie, leaning against Esdras' arm, regarded the young ensign. "I don't recall you saying nice things about me like that when we were first dating."
Esdras rolled his glowing green eyes. "I had been a guard for nearly two centuries. Blond hair wasn't really exotic anymore since I had already seen my fair share of mortals." He paused for effect. "However, that didn't make yours any less beautiful."
Katie grinned. "Nice save."
Esdras smiled and turned to the young ensign. "No orders prevent you from making new friends, but I do expect some level of professionalism. She will be here next year. I suggest you use the summer to practice your English. You have a minute to say goodbye, then I expect you back in position."
Ensign Tabris saluted again. "Yes, Lord Admiral."
The pair walked off towards the carriages. It was a moment before they were joined by the Hufflepuff girl. She held a scrap of parchment in her hand. "Esdras? I'm Ellen Riley. He gave this to me and I can't read it."
The Dementor looked at the scrap and smiled slightly. "He's asking if you will write him letters so that he can practice his English. And his name and address are below it."
The black haired girl smiled brightly as she read the name on the sheet of paper. Her voice was dreamy. "Ian Tabris…" She giggled again. "I once had a quill pal when I was younger. This is much more exciting."
As she rushed off to share her good fortune with her friends, Katie nudged Esdras in the side. "What do you think will come from that?"
Esdras smiled brightly, the sun warm through his black cloak. "Nothing bad, that's for sure."
Stepping off the bright red Hogwarts Express, Esdras sighed and looked around. The Dementors assigned to protect the train had weathered the trip well. Each car had five of the cloaked guardians floating overtop, most stretching their backs after the long period of inactivity. Katie stepped off the train beside him and smiled. "Another year over."
Esdras nodded as they moved forward through the crowd, dragging their trunks along behind them. There was still no sign yet of Katie's parents, so they relaxed near one of the many columns. The Dementor looked around and saw a curious sight. "Is that Ginny and…Dean Thomas? What happened to Michael Corner?"
Katie smirked. "Apparently he spent too much time complaining about you guys losing the Quidditch match to us. She dumped him and took up with Dean a few days before the battle."
The Dementor blinked for a few seconds, and then shook his head to clear his mind. "Okay. That's why I don't complain about losing Quidditch matches." He quickly changed the topic. "You know, it seems like only yesterday I was hiding behind a pair of sunglasses, trying to make sure no one found out about my secret identity."
Katie laughed and wrapped an arm around his waist. She looked around and pointed a little farther down the station. "Is that Professor Lupin and Professor Moody?"
The Dementor nodded and grinned. "It is. And Tonks is there, too!" He took her hand and pulled her quickly along. "Come on!" He guided them easily through the crowd before grasping the pink haired auror about the waist and hugging her. "You're all better!"
The young witch laughed brightly and hugged the Dementor tightly. "Wotcher, Esdras!" She smiled happily. "Those Death Eaters at the Ministry did a number on me. I just got released from St. Mungo's a few days ago. I'm a little wonky sometimes, though, but Remus is looking after me."
Esdras nodded and placed the auror down carefully. He put an arm around Katie and pulled her forward. "Auror Nymphadora Tonks, this is my girlfriend Katie Bell. Katie, this is Tonks, and you already know Professor Lupin, but you don't know Mad Eye, really."
Tonks smiled brightly and extended a hand. "Wotcher, Katie."
Katie shook hands with the colorful auror. "I remember you. You were one of the ones Umbridge assigned to expel Esdras."
The auror grinned. "That I was. It was a wonderful piece of acting, wasn't it?"
Katie nodded happily, then turned to the two professors and greeted them as well. Esdras looked around and sighed. "I guess you three are here for Harry?"
Lupin nodded. "Naturally. The Order's work is never done."
In time, they were joined by Harry and the usual suspects. Ron and Ginny and Hermione all laughing merrily and bragging about the spells they had cast on Draco Malfoy and his group, all in self defense, of course. Katie's parents came through the wall onto the platform and immediately ran to embrace their daughter, then Esdras. Mrs. Bell looked especially worried. "You were actually in the same room with…you know who?"
Esdras nodded calmly and put a comforting hand on the matriarch's shoulder and gave her a bright smile. "I was. And don't worry, he was in more danger than I was."
The large group all crossed together through the barrier and into the Muggle portion of King's Cross station. The Dementor paused to remove his cloak and slip on his sunglasses to hide his glowing eyes from the unsuspecting Muggles. On this side, Esdras and Katie were again faced with the guardians of Harry Potter. The pair grinned to each other and walked up to stand beside Harry. Katie wrapped an arm around the scarred wizard and smiled. "Now Harry, you just let me know if you have any trouble over the summer. Esdras and I would love to come over and have another movie night."
Esdras nodded, pulling his sunglasses down on the bridge of his nose to cast his burning green gaze at Vernon Dursley. The mortal wisely took a step backwards. "In fact, we might come over anyway, unannounced, just to make sure things are going well."
Moody let out a rasping laugh. "Hell, I won't be as delicate as those two. If these Muggles aren't looking after you, let me know and I'll put them in their place."
Vernon glared. He spoke loudly enough to make passers by stare. "Are you threatening me, sir?"
Mad Eye grinned and looked impressed that the Muggle had figured it out so quickly. "Yes, I am."
Leaving his fellow Order members to deal with the unruly Muggles, Esdras pulled Katie along and the Bells followed along with them. Katie sighed happily as they stepped out into the warm sun. "I think Harry will have a very easy summer this year."
Esdras nodded and smiled. "Between a Dementor and Mad Eye Moody, the Dursleys should be sufficiently terrified of the repercussions of any actions taken against Harry."
Katie laughed and leaned against her Dementor's shoulder. "You know, days like today make you forget that there's anything wrong in the world."
The Dementor at her side nodded, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close to Apparate them home. "Days like today are why I fight."
The mortal smiled and stood on her tiptoes to give him a kiss. "Then fight the good fight."
THE END of IN SERVICE OF THE ORDER
But don't worry, Esdras Demnin will be back in…
CROWN OF THE KING
The fourth book in the "Guardian of Azkaban" series.