Warnings: Spoilers for the seventh Harry Potter book
Chapter 23: Battle's End and a New Beginning
"Look," Harry said as if answering. He was indicating at the green flash of light that had been flying mercilessly towards Sirius.
The fog lifted infront of his godfather, and swallowed it.
A long howling sound made the blood in his veins freeze!
And then Harry gasped when he saw the fog stare at Bellatrix with a pair of yellow eyes…
"What is that?" he and the pin-haired guard both asked in unision.
"Roku-sama," the small brown pug whispered almost fearfully.
"What is a Roku-sama?" Harry inquired.
"He's a demon."
"A demon? What would he want here?" Sakura queried. Harry wanted to know the exact same thing, but chose to stay silent. Instead, he just watched as the silvery fog continuued to shift, and raise itself above the ground. More eyes stared around the hall, yellow and green ones. Barking and growling filled the Entrance Hall of the Ministry, and the sound of scraping claws over marble. Harry looked back at Pakkun. The dog shook his head as if exasperated by their stupidity. "Pakkun, why would a demon come to this place? And how do you know him?"
"He was summoned."
"Summoned? Like you?" A sinking feeling churned through Sakura's stomach.
"Like that giant toad?" Harry added.
"More or less."
"Explain, now," the young woman demanded.
"You see… Normally summons are like me or Gamabunta- entities. However, there are also some shinobi clans- including Raven's and Eagle's clans by the way- who have a contract with demons, and are thus able to summon these creatures. Demons, you have to know, are, depending on their rank, much more powerful than normal entities. In fact, Roku-sama and his tribe could probably face off Gamabunta as equals, and no matter who would win in the end, they would surely tear some parts of him into a thousand pieces. Good old Gamabunta would most likely never be able to fight again."
"If they are so powerful, shouldn't you be happier to see them?"
Pakkun shook his head frantically.
"Demon summons come with a high price."
Sakura's sinking feeling only grew.
"You don't mean… They take away the person's soul, don't they?"
"Don't be ridiculous! You shouldn't believe everything they write in human fairytales. Demons can actually be quite gentle creatures… They might just take your life, though, if they stay too long."
There was a burst of green flames and then…
"What THE HELL is that?!?"
"Pakkun was just telling us, Pig. What are you doing here anyway? Shouldn't you stay with the kids?… Whatever. Just be quiet now, so he can finish," Sakura grumbled at her blonde friend.
"You mean there's a time limit?" Harry wondered aloud.
"You could put it that way… Look," he added when he saw their confused expressions. "Lynx, when you summong me, you use some of your chakra to do so, right?" He didn't even wait for her answer, just continuued with his explanation. "Once I'm here, though, I stay out of my own will, and with my own energy. Demon summons are different in that point. No doubt they have more than enough energy to stay with us for longer than any of you mortals will live, even without food and such. But, and that is the major difference to normal summons that makes demon ones so dangerous, part of the bargain is that they feed upon large amounts of your own chakra reserves to stay. Consequently, if they stay too long, they drain too much from you, and you die of chakra depletion."
"And who was stupid enough to summon these beasts then?" Ino snarled.
"Wolf," Lynx deadpanned, the threat in the undertone of her voice clear anough to make everyone back away from her slightly. "The baka!"
She looked back at the fog, which wasn't fog anymore now. Instead there stood five demon hounds in between the wizards, witches and shinobi, and were being stared at by all of them. Even the Dark Lord himself didn't seem capable of tearing his eyes from the beautiful, yet frightening creatures that had dispelled his invisibility charm. The summoned beasts were tall, big enough to ride on them, though Sakura was sure they wouldn't take kindly to the idea. Impossibly soft-looking, silver fur covered their bodies, and swayed a little in a breeze that she could not feel. Sakura felt reminded of their encouter with a Boggart at the HQ of the Order, where the creature turned into something with silver fur when Sayuri faced it. Was this what she had been afraid of, the pink-haired girl asked herself as she watched the demons survey the room. Pairs of clear yellow or green eyes gave the Entrance Hall of the Ministry of Magic one analytic glance each, before settling on a spot near the elevators.
Following their gazes, Sakura, Ino and Harry quickly found the silver-haired guard there with his black scroll in his hands, being held up by the two brown-haired ANBU. The other shinobi stood behind them, carrying the fallen or unconscious Death Eaters, and throwing them together on the floor infront of them. A low growl came from the demon that had swallowed the Death Curse, and it held a strange similarity to the understanding grunt you sometimes got from Kakashi when he was too lazy to open his mouth, and talk to them. In a split-second, the demons had moved from their positions, and drove or dragged the black-clad wizards over to where their comrades had been 'seated' on the ground. Frightened, the Dark Lord's followers didn't do anything to prevent it, and even Voldemort himself seemed wise enough, not to interfere. He just stood there, still fascinated by the foreign sight, but anger already seeping into his facial expression.
"Quick, tie them… up… I'm… not sure, how… much longer I… I can…" Wolf told the aurors (or ex-aurors), Lupin and Sirius, before going limp in Cat's and Eagle's hold.
The wizards quickly bound the Death Eaters together with a charm while the demons dissipated into silvery fog again. Every one of them but the first. His yellow eyes watched the ANBU who had summoned him as he walked over to where the unconscious man was being held up by his comrades. Roku crouched a little to be eye-level with the silver-maned Copy Nin, and sighed, apparently mumbling something like "Reckless whelp!", before brushing his muzzle over the side of the human's masked face in an almost affectionate gesture.
Then, he disappeared as well.
"Damn!" Harry could hear Lion curse, and turned around to him.
"My thought exactly," Bear admitted, sighing.
"What's wrong?" the Boy-Who-Lived asked.
"What's wrong? Wolf's unconscious, Potter, that's what is wrong," the ANBU with the longer brown hair grumbled. "Last time he used that goddamn scroll, he was out like a candle. For almost two months!"
Harry's eyes widened. The silver-haired guard wouldn't wake up for months? That was way past the end of their school year, which meant that they wouldn't be able to even thank him for helping them out so many times. The raven-haired boy felt he owed the guards much for quarding the castle, and helping him talk with Sirius when he needed it, and of course for saving his godfather's life just now. But if Wolf was going to be in coma for the next few months, the guards would've long returned home before he woke up again, and Harry didn't really think he would ever see them again, afterwards. He could, of course, give them a letter to give to Wolf, once he regained consciousness, but that just wasn't the same.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. The scarred boy looked at the end of the hall to see that Voldemort had raised his wand, and all the windows broke into a thousand pieces, assembled themselves behind him. He was ready to attack. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Bear and Lion directing all the other wizards towards the nearest fireplaces. A fight ensued as none of them wanted to leave and look like a coward, but the two men just growled menacingly, and shoved them into the green flames if necessary. Meanwhile, Cat and Eagle had handed their silver-haired comrade over to the blonde and the bluish-haired guard, and quickly jumped infront of all of them. Not a second later a myriad of shards poured ddown onto them. Two loud yells of "Kaiten!" could be heard, before both brown-haired shinobi started to spin at a maddening pace. Two blue swirls meshed into one, and extended until it went from one side of the hall to the other, effectively shielding them from being sliced to pieces by broken glass.
Once the attack was over, the both of them fell to their knees.
"They've used up too much of their chakra," Pakkun commented worriedly. "They won't be doing that again… We better think of a solution, fast."
Deer, who had been standing on the sidelines since they arrived in the Entrance Hall, was the first to react.
"Oi, Raven, Fox! Get Wolf out of here," he ordered them. "Cat, Eagle, you two better leave as well. Half-dead you won't be of much use."
His two superiors seemed about ready to protest, but quickly relented after a second thought.
"And take the brat with you, this time," Deer admonished them, and received dirty glances from the other ANBU. "And make sure everyone stays there!"
"I don't think so," Voldemort hissed, and dragged Harry into the middle of the room with a flick of his wand.
"Ahh!" the boy screamed.
"Damn!" Sakura cursed as she failed to grab hold of the black-haired kid. She jumped to her feet again, and stormed over to Harry, but with another flick of his wand, Voldemort sent her flying backwards into the wall. Groaning, the pink-haired medic acknowledged her broken shoulderblade, and ushered Ino to heal her already. The blonde set to work immediately, while continuing to watch as the scene unfolded. The unconscious Copy Nin had elready been handed over to the flames with a clear adress to where he was supposed to come out. Hopefully, the kids would take him out of the fire, once he got there. Naruto and Sasuke quickly followed, under murmured protests. Sayuri and Neji seemed somewhat reluctant to go, what with the new developments. Yamato had made a jump for Harry as well, and, Voldemort being distracted by Sakura, had actually succeeded at getting to him. He placed the young boy behind himself, shielding him somewhat with his body, and was ushering him to retreat further towards the other end of the hall.
"I shall kill you first, then," Voldemort said quietly. "AVADA KEDAVRA!"
Before anyone could react, the flash of green was already right infront of them. However, the golden statue of a wizard that had been standing in the nearby fountain, had suddenly come to life, and had jumped down from it's pedestal onto the ground between Lion and the Dark Lord. The curse just bounced off of the statue's chest as it extended it's arms to protect the ANBU and Harry at the same time.
"What-" Voldemort shrieked, and turned to look around. When he found what he had been looking for, he whispered only one word: "Dumbledore!"
Harry looked behind him, his heart racing. Dumbledore was just stepping out of one of the fireplaces. Voldemort raised his wand again, pointing at the headmaster (or former, anyway) this time, and another green flash of light broke from it's tip. Dumbledore swirled once, and was gone. He reappeared behind Voldemort, directing his charm at the fountain from which the first statue came. Now the other ones came to life as well, the house-elf hastily making it's way to a fireplace, and disappearing into it, while the centaur and the witch attacked the Dark Lord. Said man disappeared himself, only to stand upon the brink of the fountain in the next second.
The statue of the wizard pushed the Boy-Who-Lived back as Yamato slipped away, bringing his hands together in a quick seal. He made a few wood clones, sending one of them off to get Neji and his aunt to the nearest fireplace, and accompany them back to the castle, and another to do the same for Sakura. The other two clones grabbed a kunai each, and ran towards the red-eyed wizard. A flick of Voldemort's wand, and he had them explode in a puff of smoke. Genma took the opportunity to 'poof' over to Harry, and drag him towards another fireplace to finally get him to the school. Curious, but having achieved his goal, Harry relented without a word of protest, and let himself be led to the green flames.
Meanwhile, Shikamaru was desperately trying to get his hands- figuratively- on Voldemort's shadow, in order to paralyze him for the time being. However, with the on-going battle between the two most powerful wizards of the world, and it's disappearing and reappearing nature, he found that to be an almost impossible feat. He had used up a lot of chakra before, and if he didn't get Voldemort soon, he would be completely out of any more to spare. The pineapple-headed boy was a bit torn between just leaving, since he wouldn't be of much use if he didn't succeed in a short amount of time, and the troublesomeness of being berated for just leaving a battlefield, once this was over with- and again when Wolf finally woke up in who-knew-how-many months.
Ino didn't have this problem, as she was the only medic left, and had to stay with the team. She was worried, though, because she hadn't seen Sai in quite some time. Wherever could the ink-user have gone to at such a crucial point of the battle? Maybe Dumbledore had sent him to get help, or something? Or he'd gone with Kakashi? Her questions stopped when the black-haired boy appeared by her side, and whispered something into her ear. Turning to see his masked face, she nodded once in affirmative that she agreed with his hypothesis and counterplan.
"It was silly to come here tonight, Tom," Dumbledore told his former student calmly. "The aurors are already on their way-"
"By which time, I shall be long gone, and you… will be dead," Voldemort tried to taunt him, but the old professor remained unperturbed.
Instead of answering, Dumbledore gave the slightest flick of his wand. Harry, who had been about to be shoved into the flames by a disgruntled Bear, felt the hair on the nape of his neck stand to attention at the sheer power of the spell that had just been cast. By the way the brown-haired guard stopped in mid-motion, he seemed to have noticed it, too. Turning ever so slightly to see what was happening, they both gasped a little as the Dark Lord had to summon a silver shield to repell the attack. The spell didn't seem to damage this shield in any physical way, but made it shake and tremble, the sound of one deep jingle of a big bell filling the room. The noise held something dark and dangerous. So much it made both, the student and the shinobi, shudder.
"You don't intend to kill me, Dumbledore?" Voldemort yelled at the other wizard, red eyes narrowing. "You stand above such brutality, do you not?"
"We both know there are other ways to break a man, Tom, " Dumbledore replied smoothily, moving towards the Snake-Face at an unhurried pace. "I'll admit that just taking your life, would not be enough for me-"
"There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!" the red-eyed man hissed at him.
"Baka!" the remaining guards all mumbled in unision.
"You're wrong," Dumbledore retorted, still closing in on the Dark Lord as if they were long-time friends, and discussing this over dinner. Harry was frightened to see Dumbledore walk so casually through a battlefield, without any protection. The ANBU were standing on the sidelines, watching, waiting, not interfering. For whatever reason, they didn't seem to be the least bit concerned to step in, and protect their client. "Your incapacity to understand that there are things far worse than death has always been your greatest weakness."
A green flash of light was shot at him from behind the silver shield, but the golden centaur came to shield him.
Dumbledore flicked his wand like a whip, and a small line of flames broke from it, enveloping both Voldemort and his shield. For a moment it looked like Hogwarts' most famous headmaster had won, but then the flames changed their form to become a snake. It let go of Voldemort, and raised itself to attack Dumbledore. Meanwhile the Dark Lord changed his position to one behind Dumbledore, and was about to charge another Death Curse at him when he was paralyzed. A quick glance around told Dumbledore that Shikamaru had finally been able to grip onto Voldemort's shadow, but would be unable to keep him much longer. Using the water of the fountain to put out the flames, he nodded for the guard to let the Dark Lord go, and get himself to safety. Shikamaru didn't need to be told twice as he had already positioned himself next to the fireplace, and disappeared in it, before retreating his shadow. Voldemort wasn't given the time to spin around, and curse him, because Dumbledore had already converted the steam back into water, and enclosed the red-eyed wizard in it. A few seconds later Voldemort disappeared.
The guard seemed to have gotten his senses back when he saw Deer jump into the fire, and finally shoved Harry all the way into the flames. At that point, though, it was already too late. A burning pain made itself known in his scar, dancing in wave upon wave of agony over his entire body.
"If death is meaningless, kill the boy," he heard himself say, but it was not him.
It was Voldemort.
"There goes our plan…" was the last thing Harry heard Squirrel grumble.
(In Harry's mind)
The Boy-Who-Lived was trapped in his own subconscious, standing infront of the memory he had of the mirror Erised (the one in the first book). The mirrir wasn't showing him his parents, though. He wasn't showing anything the raven-haired boy desired at all. Because on the other side of the mirror was Lord Voldemort himself, smirking at him, taunting him as he spoke the words. As he taunted Dumbledore, and the guards who had all risked their lifes for him.
"If death is meaningless, kill the boy," Voldemort said, winking at Harry.
"Kill me now, Dumbledore…" he continued.
'Make the pain go away,' Harry thought, and it resounded in his mind.
Voldemort's smirk grew.
"Do it, Dumbledore!" the Dark Lord demanded.
'Allow… that he kills us,' Harry thought.
"What are you waiting for?"
'… put an end to this, Dumbledore…'
"I thought death was nothing, Dumbledore."
'Death is nothing compared to this… this pain…' Harry decided.
"DO IT!" Voldemort yelled at Dumbledore with Harry's voice.
'And I'll see my parents again,' Harry reminded himself.
Feelings rushed through him at that thought, and the grip Voldemort had one him dminished. Not enough to break him away comepletely, but at least the pain was gone. It would be a painless death. For that, at least, Harry was grateful. He wanted Dumbledore to kill him, kill them. If Dumbledore killed him now, while Voldemort was in his body, the Dark Lord would die with him, and no one else would have to suffer because of him again.
"Giving up so easily, Potter?" a third voice inquired.
Looking up, he saw that someone else had appeared within the confines of his mind. A hand on his shoulder showed him that the new visitor was with him, , though her reflection could be seen in the mirror as well. It was one of the guards. The blonde one. The female blonde. The medic. Swan. She stood behind him, her hand squeezing his shoulder in an encouraging manner.
"Do you really want to die already?"
'…No,' he thought. 'But if he will die with me-'
"He won't… Now tell me, do you want to live?"
"Then let's get him out of here," she said grimly.
And without another word, she punched the mirror.
"Are you alright, Harry?"
The raven-haired boy found himself lying on the floor, his glasses missing, so that he was barely able to see anything. He could, however, make out the slumped body of the blonde ANBU, being held up only by Squirrel's arms around her. The girl suddenly jerked when she got back from his mind into her own. Next, he noticed several voices that did not belong to the guards, or Dumbledore. Someone put his glasses over Harry's eyes, Lion it turned out to be, and finally the scarred boy noticed all the people standing in the Entrance Hall of the Ministry, including the still tied-up Death Eaters, and one very baffled Cornelius Fudge.
"Harry?" Dumbledore inquired again.
"Huh?… Oh, yeah. I'm fine," he said, turning to Swan. "Thanks."
"My pleasure, but we share the seven years of bad luck evenly," the blonde joked back.
Harry didn't mind at all, as long as everyone was safe.
"I saw him, Minister," a man in a scarlet cape yelled. "You-Know-Who! I saw him with my own eyes, Mr. Fudge."
"I know, Williamson, I know. I saw him as well," Fudge, who was still wearing his pajamas, stuttered back and gasped. "By Merlin's beard – here – here! – In the Ministry of Magic – Dear Heavens – I can hardly believe it – how could this happen – and Death Eaters – Dumbledore, you – here – what – I – I – "
"Cornerlius, I'm ready to fight against all your men, and win again," Dumbledore replied as some of the aurors were raising their wands, "but just a few minutes ago you saw the proof that Lord Voldemort is back as I have been telling you for the past year. You have chased the wrong man for the past twelve months, now, please, will you listen to reason."
"I… well…Dawlish, Williamson, get these people to Azkaban… Dumbledore, you'll tell me exactly what happened here – "
Harry didn't here anything else of this conversation, because this time Bear really did drag him to the fireplace, and accopanied him back to Hogwarts, where his friends, and the other guards were already waiting impatiently for him. As soon as he stepped out of the green flames and into Dumbledore's office, he was yanked over to Lynx, so she could check him for any injuries again. Right after him and Bear, came Swan, Squirrel, and Lion. Dumbledore followed half an hour later, and decided to finally unravel the mystery of why he hadn't even looked at Harry this whole year after sending everyone else off to the infirmary. The poor boy had been mad at the headmaster, but couldn't hold on to that grudge for very long as he was told about the content of the Prophecy, and why Dumbledore hadn't told him sooner.
Harry was doomed to either kill Voldemort, or die by his hand!
And Dumledore hadn't told him sooner, because he cared too much about Harry.
The Boy-Who-Lived felt numb when the headmaster dismissed him, a single tear falling into his silver beard. Harry did not know what to think. Kreacher had betrayed Sirius, and made sure Harry would go to the Ministry. Sirius had never treated the house-elf right, so maybe it was his own fault, a bit at least. Dumbledore had given him to the Dursleys in the first place, because Petunia was his only living blood-relative (technically, Dudley was now, too), and her blood would make Voldemort unable to do anything to him in their home. And he hadn't become Prefect, because Dumbledore thought that he had already enough problems as it was.
The thoughts were jumbled in his head, popping up, and disappearing into the back of his mind again.
It was already day by the time, he finally left Dumbledore's office, and arrived in the infirmary, where Madam Pomfrey grabbed him, and tucked him in immediately. He was grasped by slumber the moment his head hit the pillow, and didn't awake for another three days. His friends were already up when he finally made it back to consciousness.
On the beds beside him were Hermione, and Ron. Further away were Ginny, Luna, Neville, and Sirius, and on the opposite side lay Wolf, unmoving. Hermione was reading a newspaper-article to them, surprised at how fast the Ministry had published the knowledge of Voldemort's return.
"Ha! But now you're the Boy-Who-Lived again, and not some crazy maniac looking for acknowledgement anymore," Fox cheered. He was sitting at the end of Harry's bed, the bluish-haired Raven leaning against it beside him, while their pink-haired comrade patched them up after their latest 'argument'. Eagle and Deer had already seated themselves with a game of wizard chess infront of them, Swan was giving Umbridge a sceptical once-over as the woman was sleeping in her bed, and Squirrel was drawing the whole scene from where he stood at the door. Meanwhile, Bear was currently talking to Lion about something or other, while shaking his head in the direction of their silver-haired friend. Narrowing his eyes and glancing over, Harry could make out a second person laying on the bed, curled into the man's body, and quickly recognized it to be Cat.
Blushing, Harry resumed listening to Hermione as she told him, how they were flattering him in the article now.
" 'A lonely voice of truth… made out to be manic, and unstable, he still insisted on the truthfulness of his version of the story… forced to endure scorn and slander…' Hmm, they never stop to mention that it was them who scorned you, though," Hermione said, huffing. "Well, at least they're telling the truth now. And the interview, they're so proud of, isn't theirs. It's the one that appeared in the Quibbler months ago."
"Daddy sold it to them," Luna admitted from her bed. "It's why we are going to travel to Sweden this summer. Maybe we'll find some Crumple-Horned Snorcack…"
Hermione seemed to fight with herself for a moment, but in the end she just said:
"Sounds like fun."
Fox ruffled the bookworm's hair in appreciation.
Hermione giggled slightly.
"By the way," she said, "what has happened in school. Madam Pomfrey won't let us go."
"Flitwick-san has erased Fred-san's, and George-san's swamp," Sai said, walking over to them after finishing his artwork, and handing it over to the students and guards for an opinion. "But he left a little bit of it, and blocked it off with tows."
"Why?" Hermione asked.
"He seems to think it's a 'neat piece of magic'," the emotionless boy answered.
"I think he left it as a memorial for Fred and Geor- Wow!" Ron stopped in mid-sentence as he received the picture from Raven. "This is really good. Look, guys, it's so realistic!"
The other students shifted in their beds to look at the painting, and found it to be, indeed, a miniature copy of their current situation.
"You can keep it," Sai said. "It's a gift for 'Dumbledore's Army'. Your first battle wounds…"
"Thanks," the kids cheered.
"Wow, that's so nice of you, Squirrel."
Everyone turned around.
Wolf was sitting up on his bed- or rather, trying and failing miserably- while everybody stared at him as if he had two heads. Didn't the guards say he would be out for moths to come? What had happened to that? Sakura rushed over to her sensei to check his vitals, and found nothing amiss, except maybe for the slightly erratic beating of his heart, but that may just be, because Sayuri was still leaning her head against his chest.
"Ha! A Pepper-Up Potion has always gotten people back up!" Madam Pomfrey smiled in triumph.
"Hmm. Apparently, combined with the chakra therapy I gave you, it's pretty effective. You haven't even been out for a week," Lynx mused. "I'll let Pomfrey-san give me the recipe."
"I feel horribly weak, though."
"Yeah, well… you've barely had any chakra left, and it's not like I can give you all that much either. I have other patients to take care of, you know," Sakura answered him, indicating with her head at the other two members of the original Team Seven. Wolf nodded, and growled weakly at them, not to strain her so much.
Naruto pointed out that there wasn't much he could do in his state.
"Then just wait, until I'm back to health. You shall experiece 'A Thousand Years Of Death' once more," Kakashi threatened in a breathless voice, but the prospect was enough to send the blonde up to the ceiling.
"Get down from there, young man! This is an infirmary, not a circus!", Madam Pomfrey growled at him, and tried to hit him with a broom.
The other inhabitants of the Hogwarts infirmary laughed maniacally.
They were allowed out of the infirmary only three days to the end the school year, and the only reason Wolf didn't try to get out before was, because he could barely move until that time. Even as he was discharged he still needed crutches, and sometimes a bit of help, but that's what you have friends for. Harry and the others thanked him and the guards profusely for saving them, which the ANBU dismissed with a wave of their hands, saying that it was what they had been hired for. Sirius renewed his offer for Harry to stay with him from now on, since his name had been cleared, and the Boy-Who-Lived was only too happy to accept, though his godfather insisted he say goodbye to the Dursleys.
The guards chuckled as Sirius wished him goodbye to return to the Order.
Umbridge left Hogwarts on the last day before the summer break. Apparently, she had snuck out of the infirmary during dinner time, probably hoping that no one would notice until it was too late, but not counting in Peeves. Seeing that this would be his last possibility to do as Fred had asked him to, he chased her out of the school with immense pleasure, while throwing pieces of chalk at her, or hitting her with a crutch. Many students ran after them, cheering at Umbridge's departure. Professor McGonnagall barely tried to stop her, before letting herself fall back into her seat beside Dumbledore.
Meanwhile at the Griffindor Table…
"I would run after her myself to cheer, but unfortunately Peeves borrowed one of my crutches," Kakashi admitted smugly, which earned him a vice-like group-hug from the majority of 'Dumbledore's Army' that still resided in the Great Hall. He took it like a man, though he was more than grateful when they stopped once he started coughing uncontrollably.
(The next day)
Their return home with the train wasn't at all uneventful. First of all, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle, who had waited for the whole time to be out of the sight of teachers, tried to attack Harry as he just came back from the toilet. It could've worked, if they hadn't unknowingly tried it right infront of a compartment full of DA-members who saw what was happening through the window glass. Once Ernie Macmillian, Hannah Abbot, Susan Bones, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Anthony Goldstein, and Terry Boot were done releasing the various spells and curses Harry had taught them, the three wrongdoers looked more akin to giant slugs (no offense intended, Harry thought, in case Lynx's summons were listening) than human beings. It didn't help much either that, apparently hearing all the commotion, said pink-haired medic's head popped out of Harry's compartment, and, assessing the situation, stomped over to punch the three of them down the hallway with a loud shout of "Shannaro!"
"I have to say I'm curious as to how Malfoy's mother will react when they get out of the train," Earnie admitted. He never quite coped with the fact that Malfoy took points from Hufflepuff…
"Goyle's mommy will probably be happy," Ron said as he walked out the door of their compartment behind Lynx. "It's defintely an improvement… By the way, Harry, the snack cart has arrived. If you want something…"
Harry thanked everyone, and moved back to his own compartment with Ron, and the kunoichi on his tail, where he bought enough candy for all of them, and both ANBU Teams. The silver-haired man sitting with them as he could hardly do much else during this ride, thanked him softly, and knocked against the window. A moment later, Bear's masked face appeared as he leant over the side of the train from his position on it's roof. Wolf took the little bag Harry was presenting him with, and handed it over to his brown-haired comrade. The man opened the bag, took a look, and waved in a quiet thanks, before disappearing from sight again. Harry killed the travel time by either playing wizard chess against Ron, and losing, watching Lynx lose against him in the same game, or watching Ron lose against Wolf or Deer (when the latter came by), which was oddly satisfying. Meanwhile Hermione read the newspaper which was full of articles about how to defend yourself from dementors and such.
"It hasn't really started yet," she said when she was done, "but it will soon enough."
The others nodded. For a moment their was an uncomfortable silence, then Kakashi spoke up.
"You know…" he said, facing Cat, who sat beside him, "I always wondered why your name doesn't begin with 'H'…"
"…" She didn't answer anything for a moment, then… "What?"
"Yeah, I mean…" he replied sheepishly, "… almost everyone of your closest relatives has a name that begins with 'H'. Your father, your mother, your brothers, your nieces-"
"My nephew's name doesn't," the woman protested.
"I said, almost. Anyway, why not yours, too?"
"Actually, I have two first names. It's my mother's doing. She was a little tired of that tradition, but my father insisted, so… I use my second given name, though."
"What is your first given name, then?"
"Hey, that doesn't start with 'H'!" Ron huffed.
"The japanese equivalent does," the brown-haired ANBU told him. (Note: Firefly in japanese is 'Hotaru')
When their train arrived in King's Cross it was time to say goodbye to the ANBU. The guards helped them get their suitcases down onto the platform, before announcing that their contract with Dumbledore ended here, and that Moody and the other members of the Order, including Sirius, would wait for him outside. The majority of the students came to say their farewells to the shinobi, some giving them chocolate, or other small gifts. The ANBU humbly accepted, while Genma drew the necessary patterns onto the floor again. However, this time, there was another circle around the square. After being hugged goodbye by almost every student, Kakashi, Sakura, Ino, Naruto, Sasuke, Shikamaru, and Sai moved to stand in the middle, just above the symbol, while Sayuri, Genma, Yamato, and Neji sat down in the spaces between the biggest circle, and the square. Their hands moved together as if praying, they started to mumble a few words in their native language, and the whole pattern glowed in a green light. The guards in the center took that as their last opportunity to wave at the kids, before they disappeared in a flash of green.
However, that was not to be the last time, Harry met Shinobi.
(Back at Konoha, Hokage's Office)
Kakashi wasn't able to land on his feet, and fell. Sakura, trying to catch him, slipped, and was about to fall as well, when Sasuke caught her arm, and held her up. That, though, did little for the Copy Nin, and he crashed down onto the floor. Blushing furiously, Sakura disentangled herself from Sasuke, and rushed to help her sensei up. Naruto was already by his side, lifting the silver-haired man carefully. Shikamaru and Neji were tackled by two very happy women, both muttering a mock "Troublesome" in unision. Yamato, Ino and Sai just chuckled at them, while Sayuri dusted her pants off, and Genma asked where his wife was.
"In the hospital, Shiranui. Where you should take Hatake right now," a smiling voice said. They all looked up to see the Hokage sitting behind her desk. "You better go see your wife and your son, daddy."
The mockery in her tone didn't bother the senbon-sucking shinobi at all as his mind processed the information. The brown-haired man bounced happily, once, before getting a good grip on his silver-maned friend, and 'poofing' straight into ANBU's medical facility. Ino excused herself as well, stating that it would be better if someone told the medics there what Kakashi was 'suffering' of.
Tsunade nodded at her.
"Shikamaru, Neji, you can both go with your 'koi' to resolve your respective clan problems," the honey-eyed woman told the two young men. Both nodded slightly as they lifted Temari and Hinata off of them, in order to stand up. All four bowed once towards the Godaime Hokage, and nodded at their comrades, before walking calmly out of the office. "And from you I want a first report about what has happened."
Sighing, Yamato was about to speak, when Naruto beat him to it.
"Oh, you should've been there, baa-chan! It was so cool! There were these flying black horses, but you could see them only if you had watched someone die… And there was a giant flame-snake this one wizard conjured… and the Toad-woman was so ridiculous… and teme said 'please'… and then there was…"
"Enough," Tsunade stopped him, quickly coming to the conclusion that Naruto was more of a hinderance than a help. Although his enthusiasm was certainly most endearing. "Uzumaki, Uchiha, you may go as well. The compund needs some dusting off, I think. I want your reports in one week, at the very latest."
Sasuke grunted, fully aware that he was dismissed only so that the dobe would go as well. He turned to Sakura before the blonde could drag him outside.
"We'll see us later, then, I guess."
"Huh?" Sakura asked, confused. Then she blushed (not that anyone could see, what with the mask). "Yeah…later."
Before Sasuke was halfway out the door, Tsunade spoke up again, grinning like an idiot.
"Sakura, why don't you help them? It's a big compound, after all. I'll be getting you guys' reports in a week, anyway, and I think Sayuri and Yamato have been on duty long enough to know how to give me a satisfactionary first report."
And she 'shoo'-ed the blushing girl away with her hands.
"Now, what happened?" the Hokage asked as soon as the door closed. Sayuri and Yamato gave each other a glance, before telling the Hokage the most important events in a short version. Neither wanted to stand their for more than a few hours as the Transportation Circle drained their chakra reserves considerably. The Hokage was actually a good listener, hardly interrupting them, unless it was important..
"We accompanied them on the train ride, and left once we reached King's Cross," Sayuri finished for the both of them.
"Very well, that shall be enough for today. Go get some rest," the Fifth told them, but stopped Sayuri once more, before she could completely leave. The seat turned towards the window, the blonde Sannin asked a question that had just popped up in her mind. "Oh, before I forget… Tell me, Sayuri, what did our scarecrow do with the scroll I sent him?"
"He blew it up," the Hyuuga-woman deadpanned.
"Did he tell you what it was about?"
Sayuri sighed. She was bound to find out, just like everyone else.
"He asked me to marry him. I said 'yes', so I guess you could say that we're engaged."
The seat spun around to reveal a widely grinning Godaime Hokage.
"Then let me be the first to congratulate you!"
"Thanks," Sayuri said. "But are you congratulating us, or yourself that your dirty little trick worked?"
"Both, I guess." Tsunade shrugged. "In any case I can't wait to see what kind of shinobi your rugrats will make."
"I knew it," the other woman muttered as she was sent off.
(21 years later)
It was already dark when one Harry Potter stood from his seat behind his desk. Not that he could see that, as the Office of Aurors was deep underground, and it was always magically day there. In fact, if he looked outside the window of his large office, he would come face to face with a perfectly sunny day, magical trees swaying in a gentle, magical breeze. The dark-haired man chuckled. Apparently, the department that was responsible for their weather had finally gotten their raise in salary, because till just the day before yesterday they had had nothing but blizzards outside their windows. He put in order his papers, picked up his coat, and switched the lights off on his way outside with a quiet mumble of 'Nox'. After checking that the door was locked, he made his way towards the elevators to get back up, and into town.
Since the fiasco with Voldemort and his Death Eaters entering the Ministry, it was impossible to apparate in it's halls and rooms. Of course, Voldemort was no more, Harry had killed him like the Prophecy had foretold he would have to during what was supposed to be his seventh year in Hogwarts. Not that he had seen much of Hogwarts that year, what with chasing after the Horcruxes, and running from all the bounty-hunters. Dumbledore had died at the end of the schoolyear prior, leaving Harry and his friends to master such diffcult task alone. They had made it, of course, though they had lost many people on the way.
Pushing those sad, sad thoughts away, Harry Potter hurried down the hall. He pushed the button to call the elevator, but once it's door opened a small airplane made out of paper rushed out, and flew directly into his hand. He opened it, only to groan as he read that he was supposed to meet the Minister of Magic- Shacklebolt- in his office immediately. Not that he didn't like Shacklebolt, they were good friends actually, but it was already half past midnight, he hadn't slept in three days due to unresolved cases of murder, and he really wanted to just go home.
But if the Minister called, the Minister called…
Grumbling, Harry entered the elevator, and pushed the button for the lowest lever, where the Department of Mysteries lay, as well as the offices of the Minister of Magic himself, and his closest assistants. Fortunately, Umbridge was not one of them anymore. He smiled as he remembered how the insufferable Toad-woman was fired shortly after Voldemort was defeated. The elevator stopped before he reached the lowest level, and Hermione 'boarded the ride', smiling at him, and kissing him for a 'hello' (1). Harry smiled into the kiss, before responding.
"Hey," he murmured softly as they separated.
"Could you at least wait until you're home," Ron commented from the door. They had reached the Department of Mysteries, and Ron had apparently already been waiting for them.
"Kingsley called you as well?" Harry asked, disentangling himself from his wife.
"Yeah, you too, huh?"
"Anyone know what this is about?" Hermione spoke up as they made their way to their friend's and boss' office.
The other two shook their heads.
"We'll just have to find out, then."
She knocked at the door, and was answered with a quiet "Come in!" by Kingsley's deep, smooth voice. When they entered, the first thing they noticed was that the older man looked very tired, drained. As if he had just gotten bad, bad news. He motioned for them to come closer, and take a seat. Obviously, this would take a while. Harry felt like groaning again. He was sure Fleur didn't mind at all looking after his and Hermione's children, but he was sure as hell they'd get berated for working till well into the night again, instead of stopping at a decent hour, and pick their children up to spend some time with them. His wife and his best friend seemed to think along those same lines, because both slumped into their seats infront of the Minister's desk.
"I have some good news, and some bad news," the man announced.
"Bad news first, please," all three asked.
"I was going to do it that way, anyway, as you need to hear the bad news to understand the good ones." Kingsley smiled at them sympathetically, like he always did when he was about to tell them that they had to pull extra shifts… "You won't be working on those murder cases anymore-"
"And that is bad news, how?" Ron queried.
"The bad news is… We have a renegade shinobi in our country. A- to S-rank criminal to be exact."
Their ears perked up.
"From Konoha, yes."
"Where the guards in your fifth year at Hogwarts came from, yes."
"And the good news?" Harry asked, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had seen what those guards were capable of, and if this guy was anything like them… they were in deep shit!!!
"We've got help," Kingsley told them, indicating at a shadowed corner of his office. "Tigress has been sent to capture the traitor."
Three heads whipped around simultaneosly as one light step resounded loudly in the whole room. Out of the shadows emerged a young woman, probably just a little older than them when they first met a shinobi, in knee-high black boots, skin-tight black pants, and shirt. A bone-white armor covered her chest, and a feline mask with black swirls shielded her face. One of her gloved hands was casually placed against her hip, while the other was hanging by her side, un-used.
Kokoro almost laughed as she watched the three wizards with closed eyes- her mother's eyes- while they stared at her blankly for a minute. She knew what they were looking at, what made them gasp in realization, once they were done taking in her standard ANBU attire. They were looking at her neck, where her loosely bound, long, smooth hair was laid around her throat like a scarf. It wasn't the only thing in which she resembled her father, but it was probably the most outstanding, especially since they had barely met her a minute ago. So, she let them stare mouth agape at her hair.
And who could blame them?!?
It was silver.
End of "Hogwarts' ANBU" !
A/N: Well, that's it. :) This was the last chapter of HA- also the longest chapter of the whole story- and I hope you liked it. Please leave a review, and tell me what you think.
(1) I just can't see her with Ron, just like I can't imagine Harry with Ginny. Sorry.