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Acknowledgements – Thank you all for coming along for the ride. Thanks to all those who edited the chapters of this story. Thanks to all that offered suggestions. Thanks to all that reviewed.
Chapter 24 – Cry Havoc
"Kill the werewolf! The boy is mine!" The Dark Lord possessing Marcus Flint's body screams.
I'm already in motion. A swish of my wand scoops gallons of water from the fountain. Voldemort leaps out of the way. The water crystallizes into a jagged spear of ice catches the far left Death eater in the side as he's trying to cast something.
"Avada Kedavra!" I scamper out of the way of Riddle's killing curse and it slams into a pillar with a shattering crack. The sounds of other spells fill the air. I can't spare a look to see how Lupin is doing – I've got all I can handle in front of me. At least I know why my wand arm was deliberately attacked.
"Tonare!" My blasting curse passes harmlessly beyond him and digs a chunk out of the steps. I keep dodging and animate the fountainhead. It turns into a stone claw and leaps for him. He pivots and vaporizes it, never taking his eyes off mine. Instead of ropes, I shoot twin strands of barbed wire.
His butchering curse rips through the wire and digs into my useless arm. Flint's crazed voice rises above the din. "That's it! Bleed Potter! Bleed!"
He's only as powerful as Flint! Even with his skill, I can wear him down. I subvocalize a pair of bludgeoners and a bone breaker. The second bludgeoner wings him and unfortunately knocks him out of the way of the breaker. If I had my druthers, I'd rather the third spell hit. But that forces his counter to go wide right.
There's a thrust of Legilmency. I brush it off and don't bother with eye contact. It's his wand I'm focusing on right now. The sounds of battle tell me that Remus is overmatched by the three remaining Death Eaters.
"Here boy, catch this!" Voldemort banishes the frozen healer at me and sends a nasty curse directly behind her. I try to shield her, but my angle is off. The spell hits, blackening her skin on the left side of her face.
A whipping motion of my wand and I raise a wall from the ground to protect her. I follow through and vanish the length of animated chain he hurls at me. That's when he starts a series of patently unrecognizable shit coming my way. I have no doubt that everything is Dark as all get out.
I move – as fast as I can, but it's not enough. A hand made completely of fire explodes from the ground tripping me and searing my ankle. With a scream, I roll and send a jet of acid in his general direction. My right hand leaves a bloody print on the stone and it catches my attention.
My blood! It can hurt him. It can really hurt him. I ignore his pack of conjured mongrels and banish the bloody stone right at him. He casually tries to magically repel it, but it flies straight through his efforts and slams into his gut. The look of surprise alone is priceless.
Using my blood as a weapon is rather inventive. The only problem is that the blood has to be on the outside of my body. Understandably, I'm reluctant to part with too much of it.
"Lucius! Your assistance! Now!" Flint barks. That at least identifies one of the participants. My firewhip slices through four of the six dogs. The other two leap past my slashes. I wandlessly banish both and vivisect them in time to avoid Malfoy's killing curse whizzing by my head so close my body practically vibrates with death magic.
My whip drives him backwards forcing Malfoy to dodge. I can't fight the two of them at the same time! Voldemort is back on his feet, probably with some rib damage, and just in time for me to unload on him. He has no choice but to shield it. The blasting curse impacts on his mage shield and there's a strange pull on my entire body.
Something definitely weird is happening.
Our wands seem to lock and a tendril of energy links the two. That's right! Dumbledore mentioned this in one of our conversations. Both wands have the same core. A cage of light envelopes the two of us and I can hear Fawkes' song. Malfoy tries a curse, but it rebounds off the surface. The energy is closest to Riddle. I spare a glance at Remus and see him staring at us.
That look is frozen on his face as a killing curse strikes him. The Death Eater that struck him down pulls off the mask – Severus Snape with his face twisted in demented rage. The death of my friend costs me as the force connecting Voldemort rushes in my direction.
Fierce determination makes it stop. I'm locked in a contest of willpower with a demented madman. My hatred of Riddle, Malfoy, and Snape boils through my veins and that pushes me onward. I will have my revenge! He will fail!
Snape stalks towards the cage and tries to send a Cruciatus Curse at me. I feel a muted sensation of pain, but surprisingly, so does Voldemort.
"Snape! Release your spell!" He bellows. Flint must not have my tolerance for pain. The bead of force continues its march towards the body of Marcus Flint. Our eyes lock and he tries to force his way into my mind. My defenses thwart him for a moment, but he gets a glimpse of something before I break contact. Whatever it was, it startled him and the link is almost at his wand.
The third Death Eater removes his mask–Wormtail. "Hello again, Harry. You should just give up. There's no way you can win. Just drop your wand … I'll make sure it's painless … I owe you that much."
Malfoy, Snape, and Pettigrew circle me hurling insults, but my focus is on making that pile of energy get ever closer to Riddle.
Malfoy scoops Poppy up. Her entire face is crawling with that curse. "Drop your wand, or the bitch dies right now!"
"I should think not, Lucius!" Another voice interrupts. It's Dumbledore. Fawkes flies over our cage as the Supreme Mugwump brandishes his wand. I can practically feel Riddle's desperation. He spots the injured Poppy and then the deceased Remus Lupin. Even through the cage, his anger is tangible.
"Surprise, surprise, Riddle! I'm not the pushover you thought I was, and your little trap isn't working." I play on Peter's words, "You should just give up. I'll make sure it's painful."
Snape, Malfoy, and Pettigrew are collectively getting whipped by Dumbledore. Pettigrew lasts maybe ten seconds before he is trussed up by ropes, frozen out of his Animagus form, and glued to one of the pillars. The Headmaster advances on the two remaining opponents and addresses his former employee, "I am most disappointed in you, Severus. There was a time you begged for my help. There will be no mercy this time."
The greasy bastard sends a barrage of Dark curses at my ally as Fawkes bolsters my efforts and the energy reaches the tip of Riddle's wand. It vibrates and seems to be fighting his two-handed grip. The air crackles with magic. What happens now? Does it explode?
Tiny jets of light fire out the sides of the wand, traces of the spells he has cast in this duel and before. One of them hits the ground and assumes a phantom human shape. The phantom swoops around me, whispering in my ear. "Said he was a wizard and then he killed me. You fix him, boy!"
When the second form appears, it's a female – not Lily. "My name's Bertha Jorkins, from the Ministry. He killed me in Albania. Tell my family, at least they'll know and can move on with their lives."
"I will," I promise. I leave off the assumption that I live through this. Riddle's screams intensify.
As each spell strikes the ground, my anxiety builds. Will it go back that far? Is the answer to my existence about to appear? Will a baby Harry Potter appear? Lily? James?
I hear several killing curses in a row and from the midst of them step a woman with a beauty that defies even death. Swallowing hard, I watch the specter of Lily Potter approach me – no Harry, no James.
"Hello," I croak. She's as beautiful as I remember. Other ghosts including Dorcas Meadows appear, but I ignore them. Lily Potter fills my vision.
"I'm not really Lily's ghost. I'm just a shadow, Harry – residue of the foulest of magics. There's no cause to be frightened." Lily looks over and sees Lupin's crumpled form. Sadness crosses her face before she returns her gaze to mine.
Whispering, I ask, "What am I?"
She tilts her head and smiles, "All my hopes, all my dreams, the two men that matter the most to me in one package. I never meant to hurt either of you … forgive me. Be strong. Be brave. We'll distract him for a moment and you can break the connection. Take that chance to run."
"The hell I will!"
Lily looks over shoulder one last time. "Somehow, I knew you'd say that. In that case, avenge me and live a long and happy life."
The half-dozen specters assembled rush towards Voldemort. His wand clatters to the stones as he tries to protect himself from their clawed attacks. The connection between us fades and I'm already in motion. I finish slicing through the blood-soaked leathers on my right arm and banish it at him. My wand work Transfigures it into a rope that flies through the fading spirits. He sees it as his wand is being summoned back to his hand. The rope wraps around his neck like a huge bullwhip and his face explodes into flames.
Flint's limbs flail uselessly and he collapses in a heap, consumed by the ancient blood magic. The wraith emerges, jettisoning the useless teenager like so much rubbish. It starts towards me in anger, but Fawkes blocks his way, screeching what must be the phoenix equivalent of, "I don't think so!"
It rushes away with Fawkes clawing at it as I spin looking for more foes, only to find the blazing eyes of Albus Dumbledore regarding me.
"Well done, Harry." Snape and Malfoy are pinned to the ground before him by an invisible force – unable to move.
"Not well enough," I gesture to Remus before dragging myself to Poppy. She's in bad shape.
"This is a nasty curse." Her face is completely black and puss boils leaking greenish fluid. "I'll start a counter curse chant. It won't be enough, but maybe it can stabilize her until we can get her to St. Mungo's."
"What's going on here?" Karkaroff demands dismounting from a broom.
I immediately train my wand on him. "Leave the wand where it is, Death Eater."
He holds his hands in supplication. "I had nothing to do with this."
Dumbledore assesses the man. "Then you must prove it, Igor. Your knowledge of Dark Curses is formidable. Assist Harry with Madame Pomfrey."
The tall, thin man strides over to me, "I am going to do a diagnostic, Potter. Continue your chant."
After a few motions of his wand, he declares, "The fifteen minute plague. How long has she been afflicted?"
"Maybe five minutes." I answer.
"Dumbledore, you must summon your familiar to transport her to St. Mungo's. There isn't much time!"
The Headmaster closes his eyes and seconds later a slightly bedraggled version of Fawkes appears. The bird must have been giving Wraithmort a sound thrashing. I attach a note detailing the curse to Poppy's robes and Fawkes grabs her and disappears.
I sigh and take a moment to feel the exhaustion setting in.
Dumbledore is beside us, "When Fawkes returns, you need to go to St. Mungo's as well for the curse on your arm."
"I'll manage." I respond as the Headmaster stands and starts walking in the direction of Peter.
"Yes, I'm certain you would, but the sooner this gets looked at the better. Now, for our dear friend Mr. Pettigrew…"
"Avada Kedavra!" The words below in my ear as Karkaroff used the distraction. The bolt of green energy strikes Dumbledore in his side, as he turns back. The spell was too close for even someone with the Headmaster's reflexes. His body collapses and the light is gone from his eyes. One of the greatest wizards ever is gone in the span of seconds! I don't have much time to process it, because Dumbledore's assassin, that son of a bitch, uses his other hand to pin my wand arm to the ground.
"So dies the great fool! Now for his apprentice!" He starts to bring his wand up, but my diseased limb is quicker. I jam my bloody palm into his face and amplify it with a wandless banisher that sends him rocketing backwards. I bring my wand up to finish the bastard, but the freed Malfoy shields him.
"Not so fast, Potter!" The silver-maned man says. Both he and Snape are up and armed. I can see Snape hesitating.
Karkaroff pushes himself back up and blocks my next attack. "Snape! Get out of here! Take Dumbledore's body to the Master! Your debt to the boy makes you a liability. Malfoy, don't attack until Snape is gone."
I throw a blasting curse trying to goad them into a fight as the greasy bastard runs for the old man. I shoot a curse at Snape, but the chickenshit blocks it. Karkaroff raises a stone wall between me and Snape to protect his bloody backside! Seconds later the Halfblood prince is flying away on Karkaroff's broom, carrying a small doll that must be Dumbledore's shrunken body.
"I will take great pleasure killing you, whelp!"
"You act like you beat Dumbledore in a duel. You didn't. On the other hand, I did just beat your pathetic Lord Voldemort."
Good keep talking. The longer this takes the greater chance more people are going to show up. Time's on my side.
"Be careful, Igor. I'll free Pettigrew and the three of us will take him."
"No, Pettigrew may owe Potter as well. Severus wasn't certain. Only the power of the Master could suppress those debts. Either way, grow a spine you sniveling maggot!"
It's actually somewhat refreshing hearing Karkaroff speak to Malfoy in that manner. They argue and I get inspiration. I roll to the Death Eater I skewered at the onset and shove my wand into his Dark Mark. "Morsmorde!"
"Did I do that? The clock's ticking gentlemen, for you at least." I say diving out of the way of Malfoy's blasting curse as Karkaroff works to dispel the Dark Mark. It doesn't matter what kind of distraction they've engineered over in the stadium. The Aurors aren't going to ignore this. Death Eater parts splatter everywhere. Makes me wonder if there's anything left to identify.
Coming out of my roll, I assume a dueler's stance and launch my opening salvo, a bonebreaker, followed swiftly by a laceration curse known affectionately as "The Butcher's Delight."
"Odds are, the two of you will be dead before anyone gets here," I say offhandedly to goad them to rashness.
Even with my left hand, the powerful curses slam into Karkaroff's shield. It might be enough to make him wish he had more than just Lucius Malfoy as back up. For the record, I am Harry James Potter!
He curses in Bulgarian and sends his spells along with Malfoy's, forcing me to take cover behind the shattered remains of the fountain. I come up conjuring steel discs instead of the rubber ones I use for training. My focus brings them into existence with razor sharp edges. My aim is wild, but one burying itself into a pillar a few feet from the head of Lucius is enough to give him pause.
Malfoy responds by transfiguring the pillar into a grizzly. His wand gestures send it racing towards me while Karkaroff tries to pin me down with a series of cutting and explosive curses. The rest of the fountain becomes another animated claw that digs its hand deep into the side of the rushing bear.
I grunt under the power expenditure, but use the hand to whip it around and fling it back at them. Malfoy staggers out of the way and I wing him with a cutter that opens a nice gash on his right side. A mage shield that's too slow lets Karkaroff's bludgeoners through and I'm knocked back at the pillars. I jab my wand over my shoulder and use a cushioning charm. Karkaroff and Malfoy both send blasting curses, trying to drop the pillars supporting the stonework, but my rebound sends me rolling back into the courtyard and out of harms way as the masonry kicks up a dust storm.
Pulling deep within myself for the power I need, I hurl a few of the larger slabs of rubble at them, crushing the skull of the recovering bear. With the sounds of its death scream, I dig further and create a vortex of rubble and direct the cyclone at Malfoy. Igor quicksteps to his left firing spells at me forcing me to dodge, but I keep it bearing down on Malfoy.
I whirl and dance out of the path of Karkaroff's curses as my maelstrom bears down on the other Death Eater. Reflexes, honed by hours of training and dueling come to me like second nature–there's no time for thought, only actions.
Lucius sends curse that passes through it harmlessly. In desperation he tries to disenchant it. Someone really should remind him who has the "Power the Dark Lord knows not." The stones shred his flesh and toss him like a child's plaything.
He makes no move to get up. And then there was one.
Between all this and the duel with Krum, I've used so much magic in the last twenty minutes that I'm literally shaking. The pain in my cursed arm defies description. I feel like I'm running on empty. Even so, I turn to the relatively uninjured Igor Karkaroff, eyes blazing, and brush the dust off of me. He's had free reign for the last decade to practice the Dark Arts to his heart's content. He's the Headmaster of one of Europe's leading schools of magic. He obviously believes he can kill me.
None of that means a damn thing! There's a hint of fear in his eyes. That fear makes me his master.
"You killed Albus Dumbledore. You're not getting out of here alive."
He unleashes his most vile spells: the Killing Curse, the Cruciatus Curse, bone crushers, and the like. I dodge and shield my way through it, triggering a flash of light to throw his aim off. He struggles with my counterattack, raising a mage shield.
Karkaroff's shields buckle under my relentless assault. He tries to respond and seize the initiative, but I keep pounding away, leaving him reeling against an onslaught. The creatures he tries to Transfigure are destroyed before they're fully realized. Foul curses fail to find there mark and his fear continues to grow.
"You're nothing but a boy!" He screams, mostly to convince himself, while vaporizing the ice spear that nearly skewers him. I barely notice his ravings and just keep advancing on him firing spell after spell.
I am Igor Karkaroff's judge.
Karkaroff strays close to Lupin's body and I animate my deceased friend, treating him like a statue or any other inanimate object. My actions are slightly revolting, but I'll worry about that after I've killed Karkaroff.
The Death Eater spins to see the body leaping at him. His banisher dies on his lips when Lupin bowls into him and begins grappling. The Durmstrang Headmaster manages to roll the animated werewolf off of him, but the moment I release the magic controlling Remus, I land a bone shatterer that turns his forearm into a bloody useless hunk of meat. He screams in pain. A quick disarming charm sends his wand spinning away from the flailing hand.
"It's over you miserable bastard!"
I am Igor Karkaroff's jury.
He spits at me, "I've survived your prison before, Potter. I will again."
"Do I look like an Auror? Maybe you didn't understand me when I said you're not getting out of here alive. You murdered Albus Dumbledore."
His eyes open wide as he finally realizes what's going to happen next. The last words he ever hears as my cutter removes his head are, "He will be avenged."
I am Igor Karkaroff's executioner.
A spell fired from behind me goes well over my head. I hear a gurgling scream as I spin to face this attacker.
The Sorting Hat is holding Lucius Malfoy in the air by the head with one of the golem's three-fingered hands. The Death Eater flails for a moment and tries to bring his wand around at the hat.
It clenches the fist and there's the sickening sound that reminds me of Dudley, a sledgehammer, and an overripe pumpkin. Malfoy's legs stop kicking and dangle uselessly. There's a drizzle of bile swirling around at the back of my throat, but I savor the taste. It won't balance the loss of Dumbledore or Lupin, but I'll take what I can get.
"I still need to work on not overdoing things," Hat comments like it just killed another conjured cat instead of a human. "I'd have liked to have heard that scream for a few seconds more."
"Thanks for the help. I'm impressed that Malfoy could even get up. That's quite a grip you have there, Hat. What took you so long?"
The Hat lets the body drop and glances down at the bloody mess as it flexes the hand. "I left as soon as that bloody bird came for Dumbledore! This body isn't built for speed. Wash this off. I don't want it to stain." Hat's gaze turns to Pettigrew, still stuck to the column where Dumbledore left him. "Looks like someone finally invented a better mousetrap."
After a second it sees I'm not laughing. "What's wrong, HJ?"
"Dumbledore's dead. Karkaroff killed him."
Hat pauses shaking the open hand of the golem and watching the bits of Malfoy's brain drip off. I found the one thing that leaves it at a loss for words. Finally it says, "Which of us kills Pettigrew?"
"Harry," Peter whines, "Please, have mercy."
"No. We don't get to kill him, yet. Peter's going to tell us where to find Voldemort. Then he's going to clear Black's name. What happens after that is anyone's guess." Mercy is in short supply at the moment. It's time for some answers.
"Stay still, Mr. Potter." The healer orders me.
The courtyard is still a mess and chaos reigns supreme. Three Aurors are keeping the students back. After entirely too much time, Scrimgeour receives his vial of Veritaserum from the Ministry to use on Peter. Somebody probably had to file a damn authorization form or something.
"We're wasting time!" I growl. Already, forty-five minutes have passed and my tolerance for Britain's Aurors is at an all time low. I could cut them some slack, it's not every day Scrimgeour finds out that Dumbledore is dead, Death Eaters are killing people, and Lord Voldemort may be performing a ritual to get a new body any second now.
Then again, I'm not feeling particularly charitable right now.
"If you want to keep the arm and use it anytime soon, you'll let me finish."
I cast an eavesdropping charm, so I can hear the conversation between the Aurors and Peter.
"Are you Peter Pettigrew?"
"Are you a Death Eater?"
"Is He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named alive?"
Peter smiles, "I am not sure."
I shout, "Ask him if he knows where the blasted resurrection ceremony is supposed to take place!"
That draws angry looks from Scrimgeour and his cohorts, but he asks while another cancels my charm.
I stare at the Healer. "Done yet?"
I stand from the conjured stool. "Keep working. We're walking."
"You will sit back down!"
"Listen! I've killed three Death Eaters today. I will damn well hear what that bastard says and I'm in no fucking mood for your bullshit. Do you get me?"
The Healer silently follows as I walk over to the Aurors.
"You're not authorized to be here, boy. Don't make me remove you." Scrimgeour gives me some of his surliness.
I ignore him and say, "Pettigrew, were you really the Potter's secret keeper instead of Sirius Black?"
I turn to Scrimgeour. "There, he's party to the death of my parents. As the last remaining and thus the head of the great and noble house of Potter, I stay. Did he say where the ceremony is going to take place?"
"No, he's fighting the serum and only offering yes and no answers."
Looking into Peter's face, I say, "Feel like squaring that debt you owe me, you filthy traitor."
He sneers and mocks me, "If I told you, Harry, you might get hurt. I don't want that to happen."
"Mister Scrimgeour, do you have a Legilimens on hand?"
"Sorry Potter, without a Wizengamot order, I can't do that without Minister Fudge's authorization."
"Sir in the interests of expediency, why don't you and your officers step over there for a minute or two?"
The Head of Law Enforcement looks at me for a moment and makes his decision. "Givens, go help with crowd control. Crawley, you and I will take a moment and positively identify the bodies. I want that location in five minutes, Potter."
I shoo away the stunned healer and stare a nervous Pettigrew in his eyes and say, "I'm better with Occlumency, but you're a pretty weak-minded person, so it's a wash. This can hurt a little, or a lot. It's really up to you, Wormtail."
He tries to close his eyes, but I spell them open. I whisper, "Legilimens."
Getting into someone's mind isn't as easy as it sounds. Experienced defenders can try and fool, distract, or eject you. That's where I excel. The sad truth is that I'm nowhere near Dumbledore's level, or even Snape's when it comes to breaking in. When a duelist learns the mind arts, it's more about watching the other's eyes for the slightest hint of what they are doing while masking your own intentions. There's a more passive element to it.
Here, I'm trying to rummage around in his thoughts like an untrained burglar on his first attempt.
I'm getting images. First I see Peter, a guy who looks like Flint's father, and Flint and using the passage from the Shrieking Shack to come out at the Whomping Willow where they're met by Snape and Malfoy. I push back further. I see Peter meeting with Karkaroff and Snape on the ship–interesting, but too far.
Then I see a cauldron, a graveyard, and a massive looking snake … named … Nagini. A decrepit old house overlooks the cemetery. This is the spot! I feel Wormtail fighting me as I search for the name and location of this place. Like a bull mastiff, I lock my mental jowls around that memory and start shaking until the traitorous piece of filth gives me the answer.
Our little tug of war ends a minute later when I discover – the Riddle House in Little Hangleton.
I verify that the Veritaserum is still working. "Peter, is the ceremony taking place at the Ministry of Magic?"
"Is it taking place in a graveyard in Little Hangleton?"
"Scrimgeour! Got it. How soon can we move?"
"We aren't going anywhere, Potter. I'll head to the address and investigate as soon as my reinforcements and the Minister arrive."
"What?" I can't ruddy well believe this fool. "He probably doesn't have a body yet. If we stand around here with our hands in our pockets, he will."
"I have no intentions of walking into a trap against someone who can go head to head against Dumbledore." Scrimgeour walks away with his tail between his legs.
I'm tempted to summon their map and make my own bloody Portkey, but reality and exhaustion keep me from making that bold act. The replenishing draught still hasn't taken effect, and I could go running headlong into a fight against his entire Inner Circle–minus a few blokes–and Voldemort, for the second time today.
I shout after him, "Give me five Aurors and I'll go right now!"
"Coward!" Probably not the most persuasive word in my vocabulary, but I'm not exactly in the mood to deal with bureaucrats unwilling to risk their hindquarters. I turn back to Pettigrew. "Does Voldemort have Death Eaters at Little Hangleton?"
Peter replies, "Yes." I can see him searching for something that will get him out of answering.
"How many? More than five?"
Pettigrew bites the front third of his tongue off and spits a mouth full of blood at me. I dodge away in anger and frustration? Fuck! The sniveling bastard actually found a way to beat truth serum!
The skittish healer comes back and starts working on my arm again. After a minute, he looks up at my face and gets a puzzled expression on his face. He says, "Did the Death Eater get blood on you?"
"What? No, I got out of the way. Why?"
"Your forehead has blood on it," he answers.
With my left index finger, I trace my curse scar and it stings. The scar is split open and oozing blood. Peter sees it and starts laughing, foaming blood and spittle drip from the corners of his mouth.
There's a sinking feeling in my stomach and I want to vomit. We're too late–Voldemort lives again. The healer cleans the wound and is flustered when he can't close it. Eventually, he simply covers it with a bandage and a timed sticking charm. Another ten minutes pass while Fudge gets briefed and Scrimgeour gets his dozen Aurors together. I barter the location for the right to go with them.
The sun has broken through the ominous clouds as we arrive in Little Hangleton. It seems out of place that such foul magic would be performed in broad daylight. It takes a few minutes to locate the graveyard and Obliviate some Muggles, but in short order, we find ourselves cautiously approaching the graveyard.
Fudge tries to comfort me, "Now, if there's any trouble, young man, stay close to me and the Aurors. Mr. Shacklebolt will see to your personal protection."
I spare a glance at the broad-shouldered Auror and reply, "If I'm right, he'll still be weakened from the ritual and not ready for a fight. This will be the best time to hit him. If there is any trouble, your men will need to stay out of my way."
In the end, the point is moot. I was right, we waited too long. All that's left waiting for us is a cooling cauldron filled with a foul concoction, the defiled grave of Tom Riddle, Senior, and the most disgusting sight I've ever laid eyes upon.
With the midday sun glinting off his glasses, I see Albus Dumbledore's body, held in the arms of an animated statue in a mock crucifixion. He is naked, pale, and stripped of his dignity. They split him from throat to crotch and drained his blood into the cauldron.
"Merlin's ghost!" Fudge exclaims. "Someone, get him down!"
As one of the Auror's approaches, Dumbledore's head jerks up. In a voice that sounds more like Voldemort's, it says, "So much for the only one I've ever feared! Tell Potter that I'll be coming for him soon enough. Enjoy your final days, boy!"
It breaks off into a cackle and falls silent after a moment and the Auror causes the statue to drop him like so much rubbish.
I push the man aside and hiss at him, "Show some damn respect!" I step past the useless fool and struggle against the tears in my eyes. My wand mends the wound on the dead body and moments later I conjure a cloak to wrap around him.
He was Albus Dumbledore! He deserves better than this!
A fireball explodes above me and I immediately raise my wand ready to attack. It's Fawkes, hovering in the air and quietly crooning an incredibly sad song. There's a very pregnant pause and I think it is saying goodbye to Dumbledore. A minute later it circles above his body and lands on my shoulder.
Scrimgeour finally pulls his head out of his arse and orders the Aurors to search the house on the hill and the surrounding area.
I float Dumbledore's body so that I can get my arms under him. Magic makes the corpse light and manageable. "Take us back to Hogwarts, Fawkes. He belongs there."
Fawkes jumps off my shoulder and hovers by my side. It pulls Voldemort's wand from where I'd stashed it in my belt. It holds the yew and phoenix feather in its beak for a moment before there's a crack. Nimble claws catch the two pieces and it drops one in each hand of the statue. It then disappears leaving me curious. Within moments, the house on the hill is burning. The fire is spreading rapidly, very rapidly.
Riddle is going to need all the help he can get. I'm not sure which of us he needs to worry about more. Fawkes is probably angrier than I am and I certainly wouldn't want an immortal phoenix as an enemy.
Fawkes reappears and lets out a squawk before landing on me, again. A blink of the eye later and we're back in the courtyard. With most of the Aurors at the graveyard, only the teachers are left to maintain order. Naturally, that means that the courtyard is full of students looking at the damage. Our appearance is understandably sobering and a startled silence descends on the crowd as I walk with tears streaming down the sides of my face through the remnants of the battle in the direction of the stairs. The silence is broken by the strangled cry of Minerva McGonagall, who drops to one knee, abandoning her trademark composure.
The Hat meets me at the steps. "I'll take him to his office, Potter. Come up when you're ready. The gargoyle will be told what will happen to it if it tries to stop you."
Fawkes trills at it and leaps onto the golem's body. The Hat pauses to say, "I suppose I'll have to put up with you and Potter together, now."
The two ascend the steps and I bow my head. When I raise it, I find Fleur standing next to me. She says nothing and gathers me into her arms. I let her lead me into the castle, away from the crowd, while I fight the urge to scream. I'll share my grief with her, but not the rest.
I'll fight a war for them. I'll save them if I can. But I don't have to do it with a damn smile on my face!
Sitting at Dumbledore's desk, I tap my wand against the Triwizard Trophy–in reality; it's just an empty cup. Eternal glory? Yeah, right. My cursed arm rests in a sling. Even with the help of a phoenix, it'll be weeks before it's right again.
I will get better in time. Others will never have that luxury.
It's no surprise to anyone that with two of the judges dead, one by my hand, there is no one interested in the rest of the duels or even the tenth and final task. What remained of the competition committee announced their decision at dinner and declared me the winner to the subdued applause of those who haven't already been taken off the grounds by their frightened parents.
Hurray for me. To the victor go the spoils.
Instead of the customary week after exams to decompress and prepare for the summer, the train is leaving at the beginning of May and students taking their OWL and NEWT exams will be brought to the Ministry. I stood next to Fudge while he announced that there is no intention to close Hogwarts and that everyone should expect the school to reopen next year. He disingenuously declares this is only a "bump in the road."
Fudge doesn't know how to fight a war. He looks more Chamberlin than Churchill in his demeanor. The older generation believed their lies that the darkness was gone, never to return – and now they're flopping and twitching like a fish out of water. A fat lot of useless, frightened church mice!
My price for playing show pony at Fudge's press conference–Sirius Black is a free man with his name cleared.
Sirius makes the funeral arrangements for Remus. I'm torn how I feel about Lupin. There was no resolution between the two of us – no chance to say that it no longer matters. Water under the bridge doesn't matter if the bridge has collapsed into the river.
Sighing, I push the cup away from me and focus on things that unfortunately require my attention. Moody's calling a meeting of the Order later today. He's already staking his claim as the next leader. I'll probably have to put him in his place at some point. AlastorMoody, skilled fighter? Yes. Nice to have his wand at your side? Definitely. Leader? No. Borderline psychopath? Very much so.
Aberforth stopped by and collected his brother's remains in preparation for the funeral. His only comment was, "I swore an oath after our sister died that I'd spit on his grave. Over the years, I kinda hoped that I'd go first, so I wouldn't have to go through with it."
The aging phoenix waddles across the desk and tugs at my sleeve.
"What is it Fawkes?"
It paces over to the corner of the desk. There must be something in there for me. I pull the top drawer open. Instead of Dumbledore's playbook to beating a Dark Lord, there is only a small paper bag. Fawkes drags the bag onto the table and spills the contents–dried peppers of some kind. Greedily, it starts chomping on them.
Crestfallen, I say, "Oh, sorry. I didn't know you're hungry."
In the empty space where the bag was, I notice a small book–not much more than a pamphlet. I pick it up and see that it's a handwritten affair in Dumbledore's writing. The title brings a smile to my face.
Ten Things You Must Do When Caring for Fawkes and Six You Absolutely Must Not!
Inside, there is a dedication.
Harry, you'll forgive me if I hope you're an old man when you first see this book, but even I cannot be that much of an optimist. The ten things will make your partnership with Fawkes run smoothly and the six are things I've discovered through much trial and error. I would recommend that you add to both lists for the benefit of those who will follow you. In this and in all other things, I hope you learn from my successes and my failures.
Long life and prosperity to you,
Smiling in spite of myself, I realize that Hagrid was right all those times when he'd say, "Great man that Albus Dumbledore."
I look at the list. The first thing on the Must Nots stands out. Though Fawkes loves dried habaneros, never let it have more than five in a single sitting. You will most assuredly regret the smell that inevitably comes later. Don't say that I never warned you.
Only then, do I see that the bird has already polished off half the bag. "Bloody hell!"
"This changes everything," Hermione says quietly, sitting on my left as Minerva fights her way through her eulogy. She turned down the job on the continent to stay and ensure Dumbledore's legacy continues. I'm not certain Fawkes chose the most loyal of Albus' supporters. Minerva outclasses me by leaps and bounds.
I squeeze Fleur's hand and smile at her before turning to my best friend and saying, "This was always my war. I'd hoped to have his help. His brother says that Dumbledore sat for a painting a few years ago, but no one seems to know where it is. Hopefully, we can find it at some point. It won't be the same, but it will be something."
"I'll help," Granger answers with her trademark determination.
"If I thought I could stop you, I would. It's going to be dangerous."
"I'm a big girl."
"It would probably be more effective if you weren't crying at this moment."
"You should see yourself, Potter." She whispers, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. "You're a bloody mess, and you have to speak."
Either the universe bows to the will of Hermione Granger, or she is a tool of the universe, because the moment she utters that Minerva ends her emotional effort and says, "… and now, Harry Potter would like to say a few words."
I release Fleur's hand and stand up from the front row, surveying the dignitaries, the herd of centaurs, representatives of Gringotts, and the students from Beauxbatons and Hogwarts. Somehow, the Durmstrang contingent felt uneasy about staying for the ceremony and sailed their half-repaired ship home. With the exception of Athena, good riddance to the lot of them, especially Krum. I pass McGonagall on my way to the podium and squeeze her arm gently. "He would want us to be strong … for the students."
She nods, "Yes that is precisely what he would say. I keep telling myself that, but it sounds much better when you say it. He was very proud of you."
I'd hoped for a "changing of the guard" over alcohol and jokes, while the two of us reminisced about how easily we'd dispatched Riddle. Instead, my time is now, far sooner than either of us would have liked. If his spirit is somewhere listening, then I hope my words do him justice. He once told James that, "Words that come from the heart have a magic unto themselves."
Gripping the sides of the podium I say, "The last thing Albus Dumbledore said to me, before he was cruelly cut down, was that I needed to get to St. Mungo's for treatment of my injuries. That was after he made certain that Madame Pomfrey was safely on her way."
Stopping, I smile at Poppy in the second row. She's weak and has lost considerable weight. I threatened to put her under my care in the infirmary if she didn't take it easy. It was kind of refreshing. Draco Malfoy was nowhere to be found. According to the Marauder's Map, both he and Peter Yaxley left the school grounds and haven't been seen or heard from since. They were the likely suspects for the Imperius curse on Poppy.
"That says all you need to know about Albus Dumbledore. He put his students and his staff ahead of himself at every turn. That is how much he cared! He loved this school. He lived and breathed this school. Ultimately, he died for this school. When the four founders built Hogwarts, I'm sure he was what they had in mind as a headmaster. With a wand in his hand there were few that could match his skill and power. Even the so called Dark Lord, who is really just a man named Tom Riddle, was reluctant to face Albus Dumbledore in combat. In the end he wasn't bested with a wand, even by three opponents. No, it was base trickery–a curse from behind from a man Dumbledore welcomed into this school with open arms as an equal, an assassin's blow from a craven coward."
I pause to clear my throat, "Albus Dumbledore represented the best attributes of the houses of Hogwarts, the traits we should all attempt to emulate. He was a courageous man willing to battle when necessary and show restraint as well. He was intelligent and possessed a keen wit most would envy. He was a cunning man, able to navigate the world of politics both here in England and abroad. He checked his ambition with a sense of responsibility to the greater good. Albus Dumbledore was well passed the age where most go off and enjoy retirement. His work ethic would impress Helga herself. And loyalty? Just look around; he believed in equality for all, whether you were Muggleborn, Pureblood, Werewolf, Goblin, or Centaur."
I don't mention that it is unfortunate that he looked too hard for the goodness in Snape. It's a nice change, Sirius free and sitting there in broad daylight and Snape forced into hiding. His days are numbered and Padfoot and I are the ones doing the counting.
"The Headmaster's beliefs weren't conjured-on-the-spot platitudes. You knew he meant every word that he said. Dumbledore's word was as certain as the money in Gringotts, as definite as the stars in the sky, and as enduring as the castle I'm looking at right now. That is what Albus Dumbledore stood for. If he were here right now, he would encourage all of us to realize our potential. He would say to look for greatness, not in the amount of money in our vaults and not in the spell books we have on our shelves. No, he would smile and say that true greatness comes only from within; it is measured not in power, but in lasting friendships and good deeds. He would challenge us to find the greatness that lives within each of us. That is the currency our Headmaster most coveted, and that is why his departure leaves the world a poorer place."
I turn and salute the mausoleum where he now rests. I will find that greatness in myself. You may not necessarily agree with how I intend to fight this war, but I will do all that I am capable of to rid this world of Tom Riddle.
"Mistress Maxime is looking for all her students!" Dobby shrieks after popping into my workshop where I'd had a bed installed. Minerva said that I could keep the room until she decided she needed it for something. I thank the elf for the interruption and dismiss him.
Fleur sighs and looks at her clothing on the floor, "Were it up to my father, I would already be back in France. The Headmistress fought him to stay until the day after the funeral. I am afraid, our time is up."
She starts to rise, but I pull her back to me. Call me greedy, but I like as much of my flesh as possible in contact with her.
"Harry, you know I must leave. You're not making this any easier."
"I don't want you getting accustomed to leaving me."
Fleur mutters a few nasty words in French while she wiggles her delectable derriere in just the right spot. The wiggling goes on for several seconds.
"Not that I'm complaining, but what's this all about?" I ask as she keeps going.
"Well, I could try to leave right now. You would argue. I would cave and we would have sex again. Let's skip ahead to the sex. This way we both get what we want and the Headmistress does not have to wait longer than necessary. It's simpler that way."
There is no argument for that logic. We maneuver into a much more comfortable position, "I'll try to make some of your races, but I'll be on the move this summer. I may end up using a bit of polyjuice as well."
She laughs, "It is odd. Some of my former lovers would use that very line, but it would have a decidedly different meaning."
"A bit of a faux pas to be talking about previous lovers and polyjuice. It doesn't really help the mood," I comment while picking up the pace.
She uses her hands on my rear to slow me and says, "And that is why I simply adore you, Harry. Those others, if I asked them to use polyjuice would do as I asked. Even now, like this, you scold me."
"Well if that's what you like, flip over and I'll give you a proper spanking."
Fleur laughs, "Perhaps another time, Harry. We will use those mirrors your godfather made to rendezvous over the summer. You have already seen how flexible I can be. Let us play things by ear."
"I've spoken by Floo to Lady Flamel. She was going to leave her estate to Albus. Now, she's giving it to me to use as a base against Riddle."
She frowns, "I don't think my father will like you waging war from France."
"Technically, Louis the Thirteenth and Cardinal Richelieu granted the Flamel estate indefinite autonomy. It is a country unto itself like the Muggle kingdom of Monaco. I may have to remind your Ministry of that particular treaty."
Fleur reaches up and runs her fingers through my hair. "You are going to give my parents no end of trouble. They are so used to people catering to their whims and seeking their favor. Hurry up and dispose of this Tom Riddle, so that you can pursue your life's true calling."
"And what might that be?" I ask playfully, part of me worrying that what she says next might propel our relationship along too fast. If she says she's in love with me, I know I'll say it back, but I don't know if I'm ready to say it out loud … not yet. My life has been one big lie. She's a truth, an unmovable, unshakeable truth … the one truth I know I'd be willing to die for.
Grinning, she says, "Providing me with entertainment and companionship."
"I'll get right on it." I'm relieved that she's still keeping it lighthearted.
"Not just yet, you are in the middle of something."
"Oh, right you are. As you command, milady."
I let them wait for a minute and take a slightly perverse pleasure in having them stand there, paralyzed, frozen in the pitch blackness of the cave and listening to the rustlings in the dark. The Marauders could be bullies and my memories provide me with a unique perspective of being on both sides of the argument. So far, Fawkes hasn't objected. Who knows where an immortal firebird draws the line?
Lighting my wand, I keep it dim and smile. It's a delight to see their eyes bulge in fright, but they haven't seen anything yet. I'd practiced this holier than thou over the top speech, but it sounded like the kind of thing Riddle and Snape would do, so I'm not going there. "Okay, everyone's awake. Look, we really don't have much time. I'm keeping a group from their meal. You know who I am, and I sure as hell know who you are."
I walk in front of the man and roll the sleeve back on his pajamas revealing the Dark Mark beneath it. "Mister Greengrass, that's an interesting Dark Mark you have there. It matches your wife's quite nicely. May I call you Dominic? Blink once for yes, twice for no. Good. There's no reason this has to get nasty. Tonight's discussion is just for us. Your half-breed master doesn't need to know. He'd just get angry and try to take it out on you."
Moving to the lady, I conjuring a robe, and wrap it around her. "Anika Greengrass, sorry, you'll forgive me for transporting your family to this location on such short notice. Assuming you return to your house, you'll find that none of your expensive wards have been tripped. That means we can have this discussion again any time I find it necessary."
I can see the eyes darting around searching the shapes in the darkness for the noises that they hear as I move to the two young witches. Dumbledore wouldn't approve, but the children of Death Eaters are impressionable, and I want to make certain they know the consequence of joining Riddle's organization.
"Hello Astoria. Just finished your second year didn't you? Don't worry. I'm just having some words with your parents. This will be over in just a few minutes."
She responds to my words with terrified rapid eye movement as I drape another conjured robe around the goose-fleshed girl. Continuing on, I stand in front of my classmate. There definitely isn't a Dark Mark on her. For the record, there isn't much clothing either. I've seen better and, assuming Fawkes is up for a trip back across the channel, I'll see it again tonight. Still, the view is certainly nice and deserving of a compliment.
"Hello Daphne, hope you've been well in the few weeks since school abruptly closed. Those Hogwarts robes really don't do you justice at all. Here, I should really cover you up and not be rude."
I leave that robe suspiciously open in the front. If she goes to bed in only a warming charm and some panties, who am I to pass judgment?
Pausing, I let those words sink in. "I know that your master has returned, even if Fudge is trying to play this off on Snape, Malfoy, and Karkaroff. My allies and I will find him, and this time he's going to stay dead."
Turning up the light on my wand, I let them see where we are. I give everyone a moment to adjust their eyes. Close by are five cows, magically paralyzed just like the Greengrass family. They aren't what's really frightening them.
The dozens of Arcomantulas lining the walls are. They range in size from the width of a human hand all the way up to the size of the cows. The Sorting Hat stands in the center of the room affecting an air of disinterest. Dominating the back of the room is a mass of eyes and terror that once tried to kill me.
"I know many places like this – terrible places that I only go to because I have to. Many of your fellow mask-wearing friends have already been to some of those other places. The only reason you're not already dead is you seem like reasonable people. Reasonable people know when the tide starts turning and know when to walk away."
Tears are streaming down Daphne's face. I use my finger and brush them away. "Oh don't worry, we're all friends here. Plus, I'm the good guy, remember? Good guys always give the bad guys a warning. You and your sister aren't the bad guys, yet. I'm hoping it never comes to that."
Pivoting, I walk back to the parents. "You two however, appear to be the bad guys – branded like cattle. So this is the one warning you get. I am not Dumbledore. My side will not fight your master like Dumbledore did. This war will be different than the last one. If people suddenly start disappearing again, it will happen to both sides!"
In the extended version of my monologue, I would have gloated about Fawkes burning the Malfoy estate to the ground while Narcissa and I had a chat about the location of her spawn. She didn't lie, but the boy was already gone. I'll catch up to him soon enough. Lady Malfoy and I happened to be on the shores of Azkaban at the time of our chat, and without her wand she only had little old me for protection. On the other hand, I could tell them about the milk in the Parkinson's chillbox that someone tainted with the Draught of Living Death. Riddle isn't the only one who understands how intimidation and terror can be used as a weapon. I just happen to be getting in touch with my Inner Marauder and giving it free reign to teach certain people the error of their ways.
I motion to Aragog and the clicking begins again. The two adults each feel the weight of an Arcomantula climbing up their backs while two others position themselves in front of the girls.
"Now for tonight's demonstration – these cows could be you or virtually any other Death Eater. Let's watch what happens to our test subjects."
The spiders on the Death Eater's backs use them as springboards as I release the cows from paralysis. Several of the other arachnids join in as the cows flounder and scream. The fifth one is quickly immobilized and dragged to Aaragog and his mate. They lean forward and begin dining on the poor creature. I'm happy that I ate lightly tonight.
Turning back to the parents, I sigh. "I trust that I've made my point perfectly clear. My allies and I don't have an axe to grind with you, and I don't like bringing people here, but I will if that's what it takes."
Reaching into my pocket I pull out a slip of paper. "Now for some good news! Albus Dumbledore used to say that people always deserve a second chance and the choices we make are important. On this piece of paper is a secret and I am its secretkeeper. There is a house in London that is under Fidelius. If you should ever fear for your life and decide to flee from his service, that house will be a sanctuary for you and your children. Should he demand that your daughters join his service you can send them there, and on my honor as the Head of House Potter, I will protect them regardless of whether you come with them or not."
I hold it in front of their eyes so they can read it.
A safe haven for Death Eaters
unwilling to serve their festering pile of semen gargling afterbirth
of a master has been opened at #12 Grimmauld Place in London.
Accommodations are somewhat creepy, customer service is downright
awful, and rent is one galleon per day per family, payable to the
Sirius Black sexual favors fund at Gringotts.
"This is an option if you suddenly decide that this war isn't for you. I hope our next meeting is under more pleasant circumstances. So, here's what happens now, I'm going to stun all of you and the next time you wake up it will be back in your beds. Get some rest and think about what we talked about tonight."
Only after I knock them out do I summon Fawkes to take them back. No need to tell my enemy how I bypassed their wards without tripping them. Dobby should have finished installing the box of spyflies in the master bedroom and in the rafters above their Floo connection by now. The pillow talk Dominic and his wife have over the next several nights should be worth listening to. I am left with the Hat and the disturbing suckling sounds of the giant spider clan enjoying a late night snack. Motioning for the Hat to follow, we exit Aragog's domain.
"I still could have done the monologue. It would have been great."
It actually sighs and says, "I heard it and you sounded like a condescending prick pretending to be a minor league villain."
"Everyone's a critic. Sirius liked it."
With a skeptical laugh, Hat counters, "Black can turn into an animal capable of licking his own balls. Consider that before you ask his opinion on anything. You made your point and cowed them, excuse the pun. Maybe the next time they're killing Muggles, they only kill two instead of twenty."
Kicking some dirt and limbs, I wait for the Phoenix to return. "Dumbledore wouldn't do what I just did."
"Yes, the old man wouldn't have approved. Godric would have. Salazar definitely would have. Rowena would have."
"No, but she was a dumb bitch that the other three tricked into doing all the things they didn't want to do themselves. Her legendary work ethic meant that the other three enjoyed life more."
"I didn't want to fight this war. I was okay with having to off Riddle, but let Dumbledore do all the leading," I say as much to myself as to my companion.
"So what are you going to do, HJ?"
I look into the darkness as we wait for Fawkes to return. "I'll fight it the only way I know how – like a Marauder."
Author's Notes – There you have it. Hopefully I've given you something that you'll like better than the original. Yes, I am planning a sequel, but not until the end of the year or the beginning of next year. In the "real world," my first full length novel has just been released! Visit my profile if you are interested in acquiring. If you're really interested, I'll be in Charlotte, NC this weekend at ConCarolinas for the launch. Next up, I'll be putting out the chapters of The Inner Eye of Harry Potter and then the final chapters of Turn Me Loose.