That's right everyone! I talked about it and here it is, the fifth book in the Guardian of Azkaban series, telling the story of Esdras Demnin in the second year of his reign as King of Azkaban. For those of you not familiar with my work, I request you read the first four Guardian of Azkaban stories. They will give you the background you need. While you're there, review it, too.
Since things have been so hectic here lately, I'm going to update once a week, on Saturday, for the foreseeable future. Wish me luck as I keep writing the story, and pray that I get free time!
Remember, like the HP books, if you start in the middle, you're going to be confused about a few things. And as always, I offer my standard warnings. Text in italics is in Azkabaaner, the native language of Dementors and I don't own HP.
All that said, I proudly present to you…
The Guardian of Azkaban
Book 5: Endgame
Chapter 1 – You Are Cordially Invited
Esdras Demnin truly missed the relaxing summers he enjoyed as a student. The three hundred sixteen year old Dementor, flag admiral of the Azkaban Navy and King of Azkaban had, just weeks before, graduated from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This seemingly unusual occurrence was due to the fact that Esdras was an animagus, a Dementor capable of taking human form. In his four years of mortal schooling, which started while he was assigned to guard the school when Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban, he had seen and done many things. He had survived a five man Triwizard Tournament, two Death Eater professors, Dolores Umbridge, an Azkaban prison break, renegade Dementors, and the total evacuation of his island home, which was now in a state of civil war.
However, the Dementor believed that his greatest accomplishment was one that the late Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, would be most proud of. Esdras Demnin was in love and engaged to be married. His fiancée, Katie Bell, was a fellow classmate and graduate of Hogwarts. They had been almost inseparable from the start of his assignment at the school and, after a brief shock when his Dementor nature was revealed, they had grown even closer. Now, she worked alongside him as a captain of the Azkaban Navy, and even held nobility among the Azkaban families.
Indeed, their very souls were intertwined, as was their fates. The former was thanks to the work of Kara Grim, the now powerless Oracle of Azkaban, who had joined them together by their very souls. This action provided Katie with the ultimate protection from Esdras' terrible powers. The latter was due to a prophecy, itself given by the Oracle. Esdras was destined to become the preordained saviour of Azkaban, heir to his ancestor, the very god of death. Katie, as a result, would be taken down this path with him, herself now destined to take on the power of mortal Death.
To this end, the pair no longer looked like your average Dementor or mortal. Esdras, after a terrible show of his nascent divine powers, no longer had the featureless black eye sockets of his kind. Instead, his eyes were pools of mirror calm, reflective mercury, a trait that held over beneath his green animagus form eyes along with streaks of Dementor white hair dusting his blond locks. Katie, likewise, changed as a result of the bonding of their souls. She found her blonde hair streaked with deathly black and her eyes were now inky black pools supplanted by her chocolate brown irises.
Yet despite this and the knowledge of their fate, the pair was happy so long as they were together. The world was closing in around them, with the Dark Lord Voldemort in constant action, his Death Eaters on attack, and the renegade Dementors under his control in constant motion. But still, the pair was happy.
This morning was no different from any other. The skirmish could have taken place at any time in early Azkaban history. The two forms circled each other slowly, warily. The early morning sun glinted off the brightly polished metal of their armor cloaks, shields, and swords. The form on the left, the Dementor, hovered steadily, awaiting an attack from his mortal opponent. His shield bore the coat of arms of the royal house, the crest of dragons and swords surmounted by an armored hood and crown. The form on the right, the mortal, bore a shield with her own Azkaban coat of arms, the crest of bells and griffons was surmounted by a mortal helmet and coronet. Off to her side was a small vial of bluish potion, a particular formulation designed to give her Dementor strength for hours at a time. She carefully gauged her opponent's response to a few feigned attacks before launching her action. When she moved, she moved with a Dementor's unnatural speed.
Katie quickly rushed Esdras, her sword clashing against his as she swung at his legs. He parried her attack effortlessly, and replied in turn. For a few moments nothing was heard in the calm morning air save the clash of metal on metal. Esdras parried one of Katie's neatly performed attacks, but she quickly spun out of the block and attacked his side. The Dementor deflected it easily with his shield, but was shocked when the mortal rammed her shield into his. The extra leverage she gained from planting her feet in the ground caused him to spin like a top in midair. He was only mildly aware of Katie spinning as well before his rotation was stopped by a sword, neatly thrust through his chest.
Esdras coughed softly and felt blood trickle from his lips. He nodded quietly, and Katie pulled the sword from his body, eyeing him nervously. The Dementor took mortal form and wiped his mouth with his sleeve before smiling. "You're getting better, my love, but you need to remember that a lethal strike for a mortal is a mere inconvenience to a Dementor." To prove his point, he swung his sword powerfully. The silver sword that Katie held flew from her grasp and flipped end over end in midair until it landed, tip buried deep in the ground. Esdras, however, still held his sword, tip pointed under her chin. "Name the two standard Azkaban sword attack profiles."
The mortal stood calmly with the weapon at her neck. "First profile, attack to kill by targeting the supersolenoid, located ten inches below the ribcage. Second profile, attack to incapacitate by dismemberment, decapitation, or disembowelment."
The Dementor nodded and took the sword from her neck, sheathing it effortlessly. "Correct."
Katie sighed and unclasped Esdras' armor cloak. The hole in his chest was already glowing silver with ichor as it began to mend itself. She smiled and launched herself into his arms, kissing him deeply. "Am I really getting better?"
The Dementor grinned as she pulled away. "Of course you are. Look at how far you've come. A few weeks ago you could barely parry a blade and now you've already come up with a new style of combat. No Dementor would ever expect a ground based attack. You'll be unstoppable!" Katie blushed as Esdras continued carefully. "You need a little polish and some training from a master swordsman, someone who is an expert, but I'd put even money on you against any of the renegade Marines."
The mortal smiled brightly and leaned in to kiss her fiancé again before a voice from the house interrupted them. Mrs. Bell stood on the porch, calling to them. "Katie, Esdras, breakfast is ready."
The pair waved and Katie walked over to where her sword had buried into the ground. She sighed as she struggled to pull the blade from the soil. "I never thought I'd have to learn bladed weapon skills."
Esdras sighed and nodded. "Had you taken the full ten year program at the Azkaban Guard Academy, you'd have had six months straight of blade training." The Dementor laughed softly. "No one ever took it seriously, but now with the Castcloth cloaks…"
Katie grunted as the sword finally pulled free. She cleaned it off and sheathed it. "How exactly did the renegades develop Castcloth cloaks? I thought the Quicksilver projects were all under your command."
The King of Azkaban nodded sadly. "They are. But remember there was a time when they were spread out among many different research divisions. During that time, many people worked on the research and design of the Castcloth project, including Marines. We're just lucky that the renegade refugees brought news that they were so close to breaking the Castcloth secret so we could refresh our weapons training. The balance of power is again on our side."
The mortal smiled softly. "Small miracles."
Esdras nodded. "The best kind." He smiled and took her hand. "Come on, let's get some breakfast and then we can work on your polearm skills." He looked down at his still glowing chest. "Once I heal up…"
If one was to be completely honest, there was still much happiness to be found, even with the terrifying shadow of the Dark Lord hovering about the land. In fact, people were still singing, laughing, and dancing. One such place was at the wedding reception of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks. Esdras and Katie, both in the formal dress uniform cloaks of the Azkaban Navy, sat politely at a table, each with a glass of champagne, watching the newlywed couple share their first dance.
Both mortal and Dementor had their hoods up, and were listening to the chatter that was coming through the communication charm embedded within. High overhead and hidden in the trees around the garden of Tonks' parent's house were three full Dementor fleets to provide protection. With both Lupin and Tonks being members of the Order of the Phoenix, the wedding was considered a high profile event and warranted the highest level of security the Azkaban Navy could provide, an offer which the Tonks family was happy to accept.
Thankfully, all was quiet and it looked like that was not about to change. So it was that both Esdras and Katie were able to happily greet Mad-Eye Moody when he sat down next to them, flask in hand. He gave a raspy laugh and smiled as his magical eye span wildly about beneath the brim of his bowler hat. "You two both look like Dementors, you know. Some of Nymphadora's Muggle relatives are starting to look at you rather oddly."
Esdras smirked, his eyes of green on mercury shining from beneath his hood and over the rim of his sunglasses. "Constant vigilance, Mad-Eye. You of all people should understand that."
The pair relented, however, and lowered their hoods. Katie smiled brightly to the war torn ex-Auror. "How are you, Professor Moody?"
Mad-Eye stared at her eternally deep brown on black eyes before shaking his head and taking a sip from his flask. "As well as can be expected with all the stuff You-Know-Who has been up to. And with Snape a turncoat and without Dumbledore…" He sighed and shook his head before changing the subject. "So what did you get them?"
Moody indicated the still dancing newlyweds and Esdras smirked. "Five pounds of dark chocolate and a week at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, all expenses paid." At Mad-Eye's curious expression, Esdras shrugged. "We talked it over with them and decided that there is no place better for them to honeymoon than in a Muggle hotel in a Muggle city-state on the mainland continent, far away from his sphere of influence. They ought to be far safer there than anywhere else."
The grizzled ex-Auror looked suitably surprised and impressed. "I can't believe you got them to agree to all that."
Here Katie smirked deviously. "Oh, Professor Lupin flat out refused, as did Tonks. But after the reception, they'll be hijacked by the 630th Fleet and flown directly to Monaco. I'm afraid that they have very little say in the matter except to graciously accept our gift and enjoy their honeymoon."
Moody roared with laughter at this and took another sip from his flask. "That's my Nymphadora, always one to do things on her own and not take help from anyone else." His magical eye spun lazily in its socket before he sighed and turned to Esdras and Katie. "There will be an Order meeting once the Lupins get back from their honeymoon. I think you know where."
Esdras and Katie both nodded easily, betraying nothing. The Dementor king spoke quietly. "I will tell the ministers and admiralty. I assume we'll be discussing cargo transport?"
Mad-Eye nodded briefly and then changed the subject, a smile gracing his scarred face. "You know, I'm surprised Tonks agreed to a string quartet for the reception."
The communication charm squawked to life and Esdras spoke a few brief commands into his hood before settling down to finish his glass of champagne. "It was her concession to Professor Lupin in order to have a small, outdoor, informal ceremony where she could wear her combat boots." The Dementor idly summoned a bottle of champagne and refilled both his and Katie's flutes. "However, the professor did tell me he wanted to give an appropriate gift to his bride, so I helped pull a few strings for him…"
Overtop of the string quartet came the amplified sounds of guitar, bagpipe, cello, and bass. On the center of the dance floor, one could easily see Mrs. Nymphadora Lupin scream in sheer joy and jump into her husband's arms, kicking her boot clad feet in merriment. Moody looked suitably impressed. "The Weird Sisters, I see…"
Esdras nodded and rose, carefully smoothing his dress cloak before extending a gloved hand to his fiancée. "May I have this dance?"
Katie grinned, black eyes shining in the sunlight. "I thought you'd never ask."
The house outside of Ottery St. Catchpole was warm and inviting in the evening sun. It was the ranks of Dementors hovering around the perimeter that gave it a slightly foreboding air. But these Dementors were doing their job, standing guard outside the perimeter of the massively shielded property. The Burrow, home of the Weasley family, was protected by the best shield charms and wards available to the Ministry, the Order of the Phoenix, and Azkaban.
So it was that Esdras and Katie, joined by Lord Admiral Aaron Reaping and Lord Admiral Malachi DeCay Apparated at the head of the path leading to the Burrow's front door. They were met by two well armed Dementor lieutenants who snapped to attention at the sight of the king, future queen, prime minister, and defense minister. Esdras set them at ease and glided quietly down the path. As the floated, he looked back. "Bill and Fleur will be here tonight, we should ask what kind of security they want for their wedding."
Malachi chuckled. "Haven't had enough weddings yet, Divine Majesty? First the Lupins, now the Weasleys…"
Esdras laughed. "Then the DeCays."
The Defense Minister of Azkaban nodded idly and looked from Esdras to Katie. "And then the Demnins."
The King of Azkaban knocked on the door and looked back at his subordinate. "All things in time, Malachi. Let's not get ahead of ourselves."
The door was answered by a set of twinned voices. Fred and George Weasley spoke together. "Who is it?"
Katie grinned at this and lowered her hood. "It's Katie, Esdras, Aaron, and Malachi."
Fred scoffed. "Not likely. Prove it."
George made a sound of agreement. "Where was the first place we caught you two snogging?"
The mortal blushed bright red while Esdras blushed deep black. Still, Katie answered the question. "On the common room ceiling."
The twins laughed wildly and threw open the door. They were met with a solid thump on the arm each from Katie before she leapt into their arms and hugged her old teammates tightly. Fred smiled brightly. "Well, if it isn't our favorite Dementress to be."
George nodded. "How goes life among the cloaked kind?"
Katie smiled as she slid from her cloak and hung it by the door. "It's wonderful. Division command is a little hectic at times, especially with the war, but it's worth it. And with my free time, I get to practice with the Azkaban Quidditch team." Here she grinned outright. "Once this war is over, I'll be able to fly circles around anyone on the pitch, even Viktor Krum."
Esdras smirked at this and quickly redirected the conversation before they were all lost in a Quidditch discussion. "When is the meeting to begin?"
George shrugged. "Kingsley is running late. He had to tie up a few loose ends at the Ministry. It shouldn't be too long, though."
The Dementor nodded and floated off idly. "Good, then I'll have time to talk security with Bill and Fleur."
Five minutes and four green mint beers later found the three Dementors and one mortal seated at the kitchen table with the next two members of the Order of the Phoenix to be wed. Esdras smiled at the two and tapped a quill lightly against a scrap of parchment. "Well, I thought we'd see what you want first before making any suggestions."
Here he smiled invitingly at the couple. Fleur pursed her lips in thought, but Bill spoke immediately. "I want something that will keep everyone there safe. Most of the Order will be at the wedding, so the last thing I want is not enough protection."
The blond Frenchwoman looked to her scarred fiancé and nodded. "Oui. But we must not forget eet eez a wedding. Our guests must feel comfortable. I do not want it to look like a military parade."
Esdras winced at the grating sound of the Veela's voice to his Dementor hearing, but nodded and began sketching a plan on the parchment, consulting with Malachi every few seconds. When finished, he slid the scrap over to them. It showed a drawing of the Burrow property and wards, with neat boxes around it, each bearing a number. "I believe our best bet would be to put only a few units on the ground and have the majority in the air."
Malachi continued. "By having an aerial force, we can play to our natural advantages as well as being out of sight unless someone looks up. But since you're having the ceremony and reception in a marquee, this no longer becomes an issue." He pointed to a series of boxes flanking the tent. "The ground divisions will wear full dress uniform and generally be there for show. They'll provide a physical presence that should act as a deterrent if anyone comes looking for trouble."
The Dementor king nodded. "Total troop deployment would be seven fleets, totaling seven thousand troops." He smiled hopefully. "Do you like it?"
Fleur looked over to Bill, who nodded happily. The quarter Veela smiled brightly. "Oui. It is perfect."
Esdras took the scrap of parchment and handed it to Malachi. "Work up a duty roster and assign the appropriate troops."
The Defense Minister nodded sharply. "Yes, Divine Majesty."
By this time, the flow of people into the room meant that the meeting was getting ready to start. And, indeed, it was not two more minutes before Kingsley Shacklebolt and Mad-Eye Moody both entered the Burrow kitchen and took seats at the long table. Esdras was only mildly shocked to see the window open from the outside and the enormous face of Hagrid peer into the kitchen. The giant was his normal, jovial self. "Katie! Esdras! Good to see you both!"
The pair smiled happily but they were unable to reply before Mad-Eye tapped his staff on the table. "Alright then, let's get this figured out. We have to get Harry out of his house before his birthday on the 31st. We already have plans established for hiding those Muggles he lives with, but we need a plan to get him out Surrey."
Kingsley nodded and continued with his calm, slow voice. "I came across evidence today that shows that the Floo Network is being constantly monitored along with all underage Apparition Traces in the Surrey area. Pius Thicknesse knows we have to move Harry by his seventeenth birthday and he's not taking any chances."
Esdras sighed. "So it's confirmed then? Thicknesse is in league with the Dark Lord?"
Moody nodded sharply. "Imperiused, most likely."
The Dementor nodded and lowered his hood. "How does this affect our timeline, then?"
Kingsley shook his head. "It doesn't. We're still planning on pulling him out early. Hopefully they'll believe all the misinformation we've planted and think we'll wait right until the last minute to squeeze all the time we can from his mother's protection."
Moody nodded. "That still leaves us with how to get the boy out of Surrey without anyone knowing."
There was total silence around the table before the most unlikely voice spoke up. In the corner sat Mundungus Fletcher, hair matted and smelling of bad tobacco. He shrugged. "Why just one boy? Why not a whole mess of them?"
Again, total silence reigned. Finally, Moody spoke. "Dung, I believe that is either the stupidest or most brilliant idea you've ever had."
Katie, at Esdras' side, laughed out loud. "I'm leaning more towards brilliant. We have Polyjuice Potion, don't we?" Moody's nod confirmed her suspicion. "Then there you go. It's simple diversionary tactics."
The meeting began to move quickly and smoothly. Volunteers for the surrogate Potters were accepted, or in Fletcher's case, assigned, modes of transportation were planned, and safe houses and portkeys were discussed for the final trip to the Burrow. One key point was causing problems. Esdras had his hood narrowed in frustration at Moody. "He's got Dementors, too, you know. In terms of active duty troops, he only has about twenty thousand fewer troops than we do. If he's putting all his resources into getting Harry, he'll have Dementors there."
Moody shook his head. "And if he's observing the house like you know that he his, the sight of thousands of Dementors assembling above is going to raise a major red flag."
The Dementor sighed, and ran a hand through his hair and looked over at Aaron. The Prime Minister shrugged and shook his hood. Finally, Esdras nodded and returned his attention to Moody. "Fine, but I want to have a few fleets on standby, just in case. They can wait on the outskirts of Little Whinging along the flight path of the seven Potters and, if nothing else, provide escort to the safe houses. Is this acceptable?"
Mad-Eye nodded gratefully. "That will be just fine. The last thing we need is anything to tip our hand to the Death Eaters."