A/N: Well hi there! Back as promised, no pages accidentally deleted and all set for your educational update.
Let us say again, for old times' sake, that we do not own any characters, locations, previous events, etc so on and so forth, that are from the original Harry Potter fandom, as J. K. Rowling still does. We're just practicing Mixed Martial Arts on it.
There will be some violence and bloodshed, some slash, but not enough to get us in trouble. HP/NT/LL/GrW/FW, HG/BW, NL/CW, RL/KS.
On with the show!
Chapter 13: Why COULDN'T It Have Been Butterflies?
The high pass through the Carpathian Mountains was wind-swept, cold and known, not only for its number and quality of bandits, but also for the sheer number of persons killed there on any given day. Ghulman Ali Veis studied his bleak surroundings and sighed. It had been a most difficult trek. No matter what attempts he had made to speed his progress, it seemed as if the earth herself was doing everything possible to prevent his meeting with the Old Woman of the Mountains.
He had grown middle-aged and experienced in the service of individuals not unlike his current employer, and he knew that in spite of what his senses told him, that there was nothing magical for miles in any direction, the entire area around where he stood was actively alight with magic, but not a kind he could either interact with or utilise.
With a few well-practiced flicks of his wand, Ghulman packed up his meager campsite, storing everything into the moke bag he always wore, and, without a backward glance, he continued on his way up the mountain.
Hours later, bathed in sweat, Ali Veis paused to catch his breath and took a drink of water. It was then he had his first physical encounter with the locals, as a young man, who had clearly yet to learn proper fang etiquette for he was smiling broadly enough to display his abnormally enlarged teeth, appeared for a moment on the path, about twenty yards ahead, before disappearing...only to reappear right beside him, stroked his face with one long-fingered hand, then disappeared again. ^It seems^, Ghulman thought darkly, ^that I am well out of my comfort zone^.
The path ahead became steeper still, and here and there in nooks and crannies, snow had gathered. As he turned a sharp corner in the trail, Ghulman looked up and caught his first glimpse of his destination - a foreboding, in fact brooding, many-turreted castle perched upon a towering crag, at least another half-day's travel away.
Touching the medallion he wore, Ghulman murmured, "I am in sight of the Old Woman's Fortress, my Lord, and will alert you upon my arrival." With that, he hitched up his robes and continued forward.
-}- - -
"I am really starting to hate this place," Sirius Black muttered to himself. Grateful for the small mercy of no hunger or need for toilet breaks, still the monotony was really starting to get on his goat. He stood, stretching his long legs, and inadvertently knocked a small rock loose from its precarious position against the arch of the Veil. He watched, as if in slow motion, the lump of stone roll noisily towards the sharp and defined edge of the island.
Before he could do anything to stop it, it reached the edge and dropped from sight.
"Oh shit!" Sirius breathed to himself. Even as the words left his lips, off to his right, there was a roiling in the clouds that filled the channels between the islands.
Preceded by a bow wave, SOMETHING responded to the falling rock, charging towards the island. Sirius, with rising panic, scrambled down from his perch, and around to the far side of the arch, while still trying to be as quiet as possible. A stench of rotting fish, stale urine and certain noxious potion ingredients wafted over him and he shuddered, just as the still unseen creature collided with the underside of his island.
The impact almost knocked him off his feet and he pressed himself against the ancient curve of stone, barely breathing. Behind him there was a series of muffled grinding noises and then again the entire island shuddered as the unseen behemoth smashed its head against it.
Sirius gripped the edges of the arch until his fingertips bled, fighting to keep his footing. His hope of rescue was fading and he had the horrible feeling it would not be long before his massive tormentor worked out how to force him close enough to the island's edge to snatch him to his doom.
-}- - -
Bleary-eyed, panting with exhaustion, Harry Potter looked around at the destruction wrought in Diagon Alley. Some fires still burned, but already the magical locals who had survived the attack were banding together, using water and ice charms to quell the flames.
Recently arrived teams of Aurors were spreading out in pairs, checking the bodies of the dead and putting portkeys on them, before banishing them to some part of the Ministry, where Harry had no doubt they would be examined thoroughly. He could see his wives being attended by two green-robed healers who seemed to be rather surprised by their apparent health, given the state of their garments and the amount of blood splashed over both of them. Bill and Hermione were in deep conversation with a pair of Aurors whilst Kingsley and Remus were helping a team of shop-keepers and locals levitate the massive giant corpse out of the remains of the tea shop next to Gringott's.
Harry was rather surprised by how resilient everyone seemed, given the furious nature of the attacks, but then he shrugged, smiling to himself. It was better they were all pitching in together like this rather than weeping and wailing uselessly.
He could feel within himself that his magical reserves were already almost completely refilled, and even as he thought about it, he was aware the tiredness and crushing exhaustion was gone, and he was once again feeling thoroughly energized.
Closing his eyes, Harry reached within himself for the five-fold strand of energy that was his connection to his husbands and wives. The ones to his wives were strong and deep in color, cyclamen pink for Dora and silvery blue for Luna. But the two to the twins looked pale and washed out, the normally vibrant shade of orange bleached to a sickly peach.
With his mind, Harry reached out to touch those two strands, and felt the rage and fear and determination Fred and George were feeling. Not quite sure how he knew to do it, but knowing he was doing the right thing, Harry poured energy along these two pale threads, willing it to his husbands, and as he did so, their strands shone brightly for a moment, before settling into a pale but much improved shade of orange.
At the sound of his name, Harry withdrew his awareness from within and, opening his eyes, focused on the approaching form of Aksaki, who hobbled towards him, a deeply worried expression on her face. Rising to his feet, Harry stamped himself into his boots properly and moved forward to meet the diminutive goblin healer. As she reached him, she grabbed him by the wrist, peering up into his face, an expression of horror, disgust and fear on her features.
"What is it, Lady?" Harry asked, feeling the goblin's claws digging into his wrist sharply enough to draw blood.
"It is an abomination! You must go, Harry, you must go now. The dragons' battle and death is certain, but I am not certain for whom. Here," she said, thrusting a pouch into his hands. "These are energy and healing draughts, cleansers and purifiers. Lady Hermione will know which is which. Go! Before you lose all that you love." With that, she snatched her hands away from him and hobbled off as rapidly as she could, leaving Harry staring after her for a split second, before he started yelling for his wives and friends, for Dobby, the Phoenixes and Crookshanks.
Within moments they had all gathered, and seeing the look on his face, no one asked him anything, they all simply reached out to touch the portkey he had made from a discarded goblin helmet, and at his muttered 'Hogsmeade' the entire group vanished in a swirl of magical energy.
-}- - -
Filius Flitwick was taking a turn about the battlements of Hogwarts, enjoying the sunshine and the balmy air. He rarely stayed at the school during the long break, but this year something had prompted him to remain, ostensibly to repair, revamp and extend the Charms Classroom, and upgrade his teaching plans from some of the precious new volumes Madam Pince had acquired for the school library.
He had spent a most productive morning and had, in fact, enjoyed the Will reading, especially the opportunity to take Snape down a peg or two, something he had been dying to do for almost the entire time the younger man had been a member of the faculty. Refusing to allow the greasy bat to invade his personal space any further, Fillius dismissed him from his mind and continued his stroll.
As he reached the point on the walls surrounding the main school buildings that looked towards Hogsmeade, the half-goblin professor saw what appeared to be two dragons fighting above the town. Taking of his pince-nez, he tapped them with his wand before settling them back on his bulbous nose, his now magically augmented glasses allowed him to see it was in fact two dragons - one an enlarged Welsh Red with two heads, which for some reason forcibly reminded him of the Weasley Twins, while the other was... "Dragon-litch!" he snarled.
With baited breath, the diminutive professor watched the titanic struggle and was practically dancing on the spot cheering the red dragon as it managed to overcome its vile and corrupted opponent. With no small degree of horror, Flitwick also watched the final moments, as various repulsive monstrosities fell from the gutted dragon-litch, even as it fell from the sky towards Hogsmede, whilst the courageous, but clearly seriously injured, red dragon plummeted down towards the Dark Forest.
Flitwick followed its path until it crashed among the trees and marked in his mind where its landing point was...then gasped in horror. "Its right near the acromantulas!" He breathed.
In rapid succession Flitwick cast three raven patronii, one to the Headmaster, one to Minnie and one to Hagrid, before he ran with surprising agility back the way he had come, robes flapping. Something in his heart told him there was a very good reason the two-headed dragon reminded him of Fred and George. And if what he thought was the case, there was no time to lose. The severely damaged dragon would be completely vulnerable to the swarms of acromantula.
-}- - -
His hands shaking violently, Peter Pettigrew managed to down his second blood replenishing potion. He threw the empty vial onto the table in the kitchen amongst all the other used medical paraphernalia.
The Dark Lord had been utterly enraged by the death of his beloved Bella.
Peter, by virtue of his short stature, had managed to avoid being beheaded, as the Dark Lord's wildly cast severing charm had taken the heads of three recent recruits, but only clipped Peter's scalp, causing a wound that bled like a stuck pig and required considerable magical effort to close it, but he had survived.
Many had not been so lucky.
The utter failure of Bella's mission to Diagon Alley, her death and the loss of what amounted to a third of the Dark Lord's available human servants had left Voldemort in a frothing rage.
As he magically cleaned all the blood from his clothes, Pettigrew shuddered. He was just glad he'd managed to get out of his Master's audience chamber when he did. He wasn't even sure if Malfoy and MacNair were still alive. In spite of his own injury, one thing Peter had noted during the Dark Lord's tantrum was every drop of blood, every nearby corpse had been absorbed or consumed by the demonic chest that was always at Voldemort's side. To Peter's jaundiced eye, the chest was actually bigger and more heavily decorated now than when it first arrived, and whilst he could not be certain, Peter's gut said that this was not a good thing.
"WORMTAIL!" His Master's amplified voice echoed through the entire manor, while simultaneously the jolt of pain through his Dark Mark had Pettigrew collapse to his knees, clutching his arm against his chest until the agony eased. Only then was he able to get to his feet and, with great reluctance but equally great speed, he took off for his Master's presence.
-}- - -
Harry and his companions arrived near Hogsmede station, only to find it was a melted ruin of slagged metal and what appeared to be some kind of fecal material that quivered and twitched in a most disturbing manner. Under Hermione's direction, they worked together to cast Fyend Fire to purge the area, but almost lost control of the spell due to the particularly volatile nature of the bizarre dung.
They could all smell the terrible stench of sickness and corruption left behind by the Dragon-Litch, and it was only Hermione seeing the bag of potions Harry was carrying and commandeering them, then distributing the appropriate ones, that stopped all of them from becoming violently and possibly terminally ill, due to the massive degree of plague and filth still about.
It was at this point that Fawkes gave an odd warbling cry before he and Hedwig leapt into the air and disappeared. Before anyone could say anything, Dora put her hand over Harry's mouth and said, "Hang on everyone, the right healer for this job is on the way." And within moments, the phoenixes reappeared, clutching the disheveled, stunned but uninfected Neville and Charlie.
On gaining his feet, Neville spun towards Harry and grabbed him roughly in a bear hug. "Thank Merlin you're here, we need to destroy some of the spawn of the Litch-Dragon that Fred and George were fighting. It's crashed near where the Three Broomsticks used to be, and we must destroy its body and quarantine its remains and all of Hogsmede."
Hermione her eyes glittering silver, looked at Neville and said "Nundu" and Nev nodded.
"It was a Dragon-litch we fought," Charlie interjected. "But it had an attack weapon like a Nundu's breath. Everything in town is either destroyed or infected."
Neville nodded vigorously in agreement. "There's no one left alive in Hogsmede, and I believe the entire place needs to be sealed off." He looked at Harry. "I've had to do similar things at home on a smaller scale in my Greenhouses to prevent some contaminated cuttings from destroying all my plants. I know what we need to do Harry, but I need your power to do it."
Nodding slowly, Harry removed his glamor bracelets, handing them to Luna, and looking at his fellow Gryffindor, said, "Whatever power I have Nev, I will gladly give you, what do you want to do?"
The last of the Longbottoms looked at his friend and sighed. "We need to enclose the entire town, the earth under it and around it, the air, the remains of the people, the buildings and the dragon, inside a sphere of energy as none of this land will be useful for at least a couple of centuries. There's no way to speed up the cleansing process, all we can do is to create an impenetrable barrier, link it to the node at either end of town and leave it to Nature to cleanse this place in Her own time, or until we can get the Department of Mysteries out here to take a look."
Harry nodded, then looked at his friend very keenly. "I will stay here and help you Nev, but I need the others to go and find the twins."
Just at that moment, there were two loud pops of Apparition and there were Minerva McGonagall and Filius Flitwick. "Thank Merlin you're here, Mr. Potter...all of you!" McGonagall exclaimed, absorbing the sight of the new, improved Harry with nary a blink.
"Neville and I are just about to enclose Hogsmede in a quarantine zone," Harry said, and both his teachers nodded.
"Excellent idea, Mr. Potter," McGonagall stated firmly. 'And might I just say, you have lovely wings?" A comment which made everyone laugh, breaking the tension somewhat.
Harry ruffled said wings and said "As soon as Nev and I have finished here, we'll follow you to wherever the twins are."
"You may wish to hurry Mister Potter," Flitwick piped in. "They fell all too close to the Acromantula nest, and Hagrid is already on his way there with Professor Dumbledore."
His face paling, Harry and his wives gripped hands for a moment, fear for their husbands almost choking them, before Harry pulled himself together and nodded. "The rest of you, please go and help the twins. Nev and I will be along as soon as possible."
-}- - -
In the many years he'd been the editor of the Daily Prophet, Bernard Cuffe had had to work with many reporters - some temperamental, some boring, some bordering on illiterate. But in all that time there had only ever been one he'd despised.
Wiping his jowels on a not-too-clean handkerchief, Cuffe stood outside the door of Rita Skeeter's office. It had been several days since anyone had heard from her, and Cuffe was beginning to wonder what had become of his 'ace' reporter. As much as he despised her, he had to admit she was exceptionally good at digging up the gossip on all those in the wizarding communitty that were deemed newsworthy. He had always wondered when she would finally piss off the wrong person and he was beginning to think she had done exactly that.
With that thought in mind, Cuffe took out his master key that allowed him access to every room, office and cupboard within the Daily Prophet building and used it to open Rita's office door. Familiar as he was with her particular nasty sense of humor, and her territorial additude, he eased the door open very carefully, and with considerable trepidation, peered around it.
What he saw jolted him out of his concerns for his own safety as the entire office was bereft of any kind of magic, any of the protection or spying charms he knew Skeeter was so fond of, indeed any magical signature at all.
The only way he knew such a lack of magic could occur was through the caster's death.
He felt a cold ripple pass over his skin, leaving him chilled and nervous. He sidled into the office, ignoring all the various items, articles and pictures Rita had plastered across the walls, and slowly approached her desk.
On it was an unusually ornate copper auto-quill, lying atop a partially completed page of notes. Neatly stacked beside this were more pages, and Cuffe leaned forward to glance at the top of the stack, only to almost give himself whiplash as he he jerked back in shocked surprise.
"It couldn't be", he thought, then leaned forward again and continued to read. Here was everything about Harry Potter's upbringing with the Muggles...every nasty little secret, every single abuse against The Boy Who Lived, every dirty trick and crime perpetrated against him - by his relatives and by his magical guardian.
Hands trembling, Cuffe picked up the stack of notes and read through them with every ounce of speed he had.
On one hand, he was amazed by the depth of Rita's perfidy, her total lack of morals and decency, but on the other, thrilled with the information she had managed to gather. He had to control the little sniggers of glee that kept escaping. This was going to see the end of Albus Dumbledore, which, in Cuffe's opinion, was long overdue. If Rita had thought the Mugwump to be an outmoded dingbat, that was but a pale version of what Cuffe thought of the old man.
With great care, Cuffe proceeded to search the rest of Rita's office, finding numerous stashes of notes, money and food that to his mind clearly indicated Skeeter had already been on the brink of a break down. He briefly picked up the copper quill, but on seeing that the delicate nib had broken, he simply left it. Although he might wish to reproduce whatever magical means Skeeta had employed to spy on the Muggles, it seemed he was to have no easy way to obtain such a journalistic tool.
Even as he prepared to leave the office, Cuffe wondered why he felt nothing about Rita's disappearance, and probable demise...
With the precious manuscript clutched to his bosom, Cuffe exited the office, locking it behind him, already working out in his mind who he would have act as cleaners and who of those he could trust to turn all that they found over to him...for he had no doubt the manuscript he held was only the tip of the recorded iceberg.
Scuttling back to his office, Cuffe ordered his secretary to hold all calls. He placed the precious notes in his wall safe, then, taking some Floo powder, he placed a firecall to his old Squib drinking mate, Johnny Smythe, at the Muggle newspaper The Daily Star. If anyone could find out what had happened to Rita and the Dursleys, it would be "Johnny the Nose".
-}- - -
Molly Weasley was not happy.
In fact, Molly Weasley was furious.
The Weasley matriarch had returned from the fiasco of the will-reading enraged to the point of silence, a state her family knew well...and also knew to avoid her, because in this mood, Molly hexed first, and yelled as a second resort.
Deeming discretion to be the better part of valor, Ron and Ginny were ensconced on the stairs, just around the first corner, so they were out of their mother's line of sight. From their perch, they could clearly hear the numerous sounds of smashing glass and china, the ripping of fabrics and the breaking of furniture.
"Wow, mum's in a right snit," Ginny murmured. "Not that I can't understand why. How could Fred and George betray me like that? They knew Harry was mine!" Her eyes gleamed dangerously. "I will never forgive them," she hissed with enough venom in her voice Ron had no doubt she meant exactly what she said.
He, on the other hand, was struggling to find a comfortable way to sit, as, for all the healing spells his mother and father had performed on his nether regions, they remained unpleasantly swollen and very uncomfortable.
"Never mind the bloody twins," he whispered, wincing at a particularly loud crash from downstairs. "Charlie's a poofter and with that bloody squib Neville? I feel sick thinking about it."
"It's not them that's making you sick, it's the boot to the bollocks you got from 'Herms'." Ginny snorted with amusement and her brother gave her an excellent dose of stink eye.
"Not funny, Gin!" He snarled, half under his breath. "Bill's a bloody craddle-robber, and whatever they've got going on, I bet their whole story about being married was some kind of sick joke."
Ginny glanced at him, a mixture of amusement and contempt in her expression. "Whatever you say Ron," she muttered, then scooting forward down a couple of stairs, she carefully peered around the corner, down to the lounge to check on her mother's destructive progress, just in time to see Molly hurl several vials of very familiar potion into the fireplace with enough force to shatter them, releasing the distinctive curlicues of silver vapor. This first lot of vials were followed by the second, and Ginny caught the faintest wiff of treacle tart, broom polish and Quidditch leathers. This did little to assage her rage about her brothers' betrayal.
'Oh Harry!' She thought disparingly. Once again peering carefully downstairs, Ginny saw her father appear in the kitchen doorway, a piece of parchment clutched in one hand. She elbowed Ron in the ribs, and gestured for him to also look.
Framed in the doorway, Arthur Weasley was much the same color as the piece of parchment he held, his pallor making his hair seem even more red than usual. The two siblings saw his eyes track around the kitchen and lounge, taking in the destruction caused by cyclone Molly. Then, as if he felt their eyes upon him, Arthur looked straight at his two youngest children, and seeing the suppressed rage in his eyes, they looked at each other, knowing there was going to be one of the rare but devastating fights between their parents.
And with that thought, they got up and scampered off to their rooms as quickly as possible, for neither had any wish to witness this, or inadvertently be involved.
Arthur moved slowly into the kitchen, pausing near his regular seat at the head of the long table, and fixed his gaze upon his wife, who, panting heavily, stood in front of the fireplace, in which a mass of broken glass, spilled potion and various other items were burning merrily, thanks to the Incendio she had just cast.
Clearly Molly had not realized her husband was there, because, when he said her name, she jumped as if she had been jabbed with a cattle prod. Spinning around, she wrestled with her temper and managed to give Arthur a sickly grimace.
"Oh, Arthur, there you are, if you just wait a moment, I'll make a cup of tea."
She went to walk past him towards the stove, but he reached out and grasped her wrist, bringing her to a halt beside him. When she looked into his face, she was shocked by the combination of rage and grief that she saw there.
"I have no wish for tea, Molly. Sit down, we need to talk."
"Oh, but Arthur..."
"I said SIDDOWN!" He roared, using his grip on her arm to literally thrust her into one of the chairs.
Before she could protest, for all that an angry flush had mounted in her cheeks, Arthur slapped the parchment he was holding down in front of her. "Read it...out loud," he snarled. When she made some move as if to either get up or verbally object, he slammed his fist down on the table, making all the items on it jump and rattle.
Wetting her lips with her tongue, Molly glanced at her enraged husband. She did not think she had ever seen Arthur angrier, and the possible reasons for it made her stomach clench. She looked down at the parchment, noting the Black crest emblazoned at the top, and the neat lines of Sirius' handwriting.
Without saying anything, Arthur simply pointed at the letter, so clearing her throat, Molly began to read.
"My Dear Arthur,
For all that we have not been overly close friends, we have, through the years, been close comrades in the Order of the Phoenix, and have on various occasions protected each other whilst out on missions for Dumbledore.
I have left a file for you at Gringott's, to be collected at your convenience, that explains much about the Mugwump's machinations and how they have impacted Harry, you and myself, amongst others.
This letter is of a more personal nature, detailing issues of which you are unaware, but that, in my opinion at least, you need to know sooner rather than later. I only regret I am unable to share these with you in person. I hope that as I believe you to be one of the most honest and upright men I have ever met, you, in turn, will accept my truthfulness in these matters. I swear all I have written here is true, to the best of my knowledge, and I take this oath on Harry's head, and on my love for him.
It is with deep regret I must inform you that your wife, Molly, has been, since only a few days after the death of James and Lily Potter, receiving a stipend taken from the Potter school vault, by Albus Dumbledore, on the understanding that she would raise your daughter Ginevra to believe herself destined to be Harry Potter's wife.
Also, this regular sum of money was increased at the time Harry rejoined the magical world as it was Molly's duty to ensure Harry met Ron with the intention they became close friends. It was also at this time Molly began her process of becoming a mother substitute or figure to Harry, as she had been ordered to do.
It is also my sad duty to inform you that as of the beginning of first year, your son Ronald also received money taken from the Potter vault to act as both a spy on Harry and as a means to prevent him from achieving his full potential at Hogwarts, and to do all that he could to ensure that Harry would remain as isolated, inferior and insecure as possible.
In second year, this process was aided by the presence of your daughter, and it is my sad belief that a good part of her involvement in the Chamber of Secrets affair was organized by Dumbledore, although I am unsure as to all the means by which he did this. It was done to ensure that there was a life debt between your daughter and Harry, that was to be, over time, utilized to bring them closer together and to potentially begin a relationship I believe either this year or next.
I am most concerned that the next phase in this process would be to use Amortentia or similar, and whilst I cannot prove this, it is the next logical step.
Arthur, I have left you a considerable sum of money as I believe you deserve the chances that such will bring you. I know you are quite capable of utilising these funds in such a way as to benefit your entire family. I can only say that I have no issue with Bill, Charlie or the twins, and in fact I believe it highly likely that Fred, George and Harry will come to some arrangement, given their feelings for each other. I do hope that this will meet with your approval.
I believe you love Harry as one of your own, and would never wish him harm. However, I cannot say the same for your wife, Percy, Ron or Ginny.
I am writing this letter at a time when I have the forboding sense that my death is near. I'm asking that if this comes to pass, you will watch out for my boy.
Once again Arthur, I am very sorry for having to bring these things to your attention.
Yours most sincerly,
Molly fell silent and reluctantly raised her eyes from the parchment to look at her husband. She opened her mouth but he raised his hand.
"Do not speak." With that, he got up, strode over to the fireplace, cast several revealing charms, then returned to sit again opposite her, only now his face was a mask of grim fury.
"Well, Mollywobbles, you have a great deal of explaining to do."
Molly gulped. This was not going to be a good afternoon.
-}- - -
A/N: Suspense! Drama! Cliffy! What about the acromantula nest? Will we be hearing from a divorce lawyer? Will Ron's nads stop hurting? Join us next time for Chapter Fourteen; "Incy Wincy Spiders... Plural!"
While you're waiting for the next chapter (sorry about delay), go take a squiz at "Harry Gets His Gurg On!" and "Lara Croft and the Trail of Kratos" found in our list of published stories.