"Remus, leave off. I'm recovering from an injury, I'm not a child." Dora had been very patient. She'd accepted her parents' hovering over her for the past four days. She'd accepted the constant presence of a member of the Family in her and Remus' rooms. She'd accepted many things, but if Remus really thought that she was going to let him help her in the toilet, he was fucking crazy.
"But Dora, your Mum said…" Remus protested.
"My Mum said I was to take it easy for the rest of the week. No shifting, no magic and no exercise. She didn't say that you were to carry me to the loo for crying out loud. And she most certainly did not say that you were to help me use the toilet." Scowling at her beau, the usually even tempered witch ordered, "Get out of here and send Hermione in to help me. I'll call you when I'm ready."
Meekly, Remus exited the room. Dora flopped back on the bed, feeling like a complete heel. He loved her and was reacting in the same way that ninety percent of the male population would if their significant other had been wounded or hurt. In fact, he was acting the same way she had when Remus had been attacked by those bastards outside Orleans. For the full period of their 'rest' day, she had hovered over him as he ingested a superhuman quantity of the stopgap all-purpose healing potions.
Her lip curled into an unconscious snarl as she remembered taking her vengeance on the small coven of Vampires who thought it'd be funny to 'toy with the Wolf'. Vampire ash is very fine but gritty. It takes forever to get out of your hair.
After thirty seconds of musing, Hermione opened the door with a quick rat-a-tat knock.
"He's just trying to help," Hermione chastised in a soft voice.
"I know," Dora replied as she glared at the ceiling. Turning to the young woman she considered to be a sister, she asked, "But would you want Harrikins to help you take a piss?"
"Ah, that would be a big 'No'," Hermione replied with a smile.
"Thought so. Get over here," she beckoned with a wave, "I gotta go."
Two minutes later, a much more comfortable Dora Tonks settled back on her bed. "How's the abdomen?" Hermione asked.
"Sore, but getting better." Glaring at the the potion rack next to her bed, she cursed, "I'll be really glad to get rid of that shite."
They sat in silence for a long minute before Dora announced, "I'm going to ask Remus to marry me."
A big smile broke on Hermione's face. "Waiting for him to get off the stick might take a while, eh?"
With a muted braying laugh, Dora agreed, "That's the truth." Tugging at the edge of her sheets, she asked, "How did you know that Harry was 'the one'?"
A soft smile replaced the happy expression on The Smartest Witch of the Age's face. With real emotion in her voice, she explained, "When I realized that I really couldn't be the me that I wanted to be without him. When I realized I wanted him to be the father of my children. When I realized that I wanted him to be there when I woke up every day for the rest of my life." Sighing, she looked out the window. "In the end, all that was overwhelmed by the fact that I just knew. There was no doubt, no hesitation about if he was the one. It was merely a matter of when I was going to shag him senseless,"
Dora smiled at the humour before sobering. "Yeah. The other stuff is just icing. He's…he's my best friend, you know?"
Nodding, Hermione replied, "Yeah, I do."
BLACKMOOR DENOUNCES You-Know-Who
"He makes me sound like a moron."
Hermione kissed Sirius on the cheek, "You don't need a reporter to do that. You do an excellent job all by yourself."
"Har-har," Sirius mocked.
"You don't sound like a moron," Harry countered as he set down the paper. "It's a good article that raises quite a few valid concerns. As the pureblood head of a notable pureblood house, your condemnation of Voldemort and his values is controversial. This point about losing touch with traditional wizard values is not just a smoke screen for pureblood mania."
When Sirius pulled a doubtful face, Hermione asked, "Did your parents impart nothing of value to you?"
Scowling, Sirius admitted, "Not all of it was disgusting pureblood mania, just most of it."
"And the valuable parts?" Hermione persisted.
"They were insistent that family was vital."
"But that's not a wizarding value. I'd like to think that's a universal value," Alice interjected.
"True, but the family magic is important for the wards." Waving his hands, Sirius explained, "Rowan Hill is older than any of the Black homes, but the wards here were very weak because a Potter hadn't lived here since Harry's grandfather. James and Lily lived here for maybe six months before going into hiding. Uncle Charlus and Aunt Dorea had been dead for a few years before that. So for over twenty years, the place was uninhabited by the Lord and Lady. As a result, the wards failed over time."
"But that firm you hired fixed everything," Steven asked Harry.
Nodding through his porridge, Harry swallowed. "Yes, we've nigh on unbreakable wards, but I spent over a million sterling to get them up to scratch."
Steven silently shook his head at the amount of money Harry casually spent, but followed up with a valid question, "So how does Harry living here affect the wards?"
Smiling smugly, Sirius emphasized, "With Harry and Hermione living here and as magically strong as they are, the wards are spiralling up in strength and durability. By this time next year, it's unlikely anyone could breach the wards here."
"Why then have you all been bringing down others wards? Those people have been living in those homes, sometimes for centuries."
Sirius smiled, "Because we've had two ArchMages living here. When Longtooth brought down the wards at Macnair's house, I bet she expended more magical energy in the five seconds it took to cascade the wards as most wizards will expend in ten years."
Turning his head to his blushing daughter, Steven whistled, "Remind me not to brass you off, Pumpkin."
"Getting back to Sirius," Hermione interrupted. "What else did your parents do that was worthwhile?"
Shrugging, Sirius replied, "They made a big deal out of respecting magic."
Frowning, Alice asked, "What does that mean?"
Sighing, Padfoot explained, "Most magical persons use magic as a tool. They casually do everything with magic. Dictation quills instead of writing a letter, magical doors and the like in lieu of servants or whatnot. My parents looked down on 'the commoners' who had no respect for magic and its role in our lives."
"Magic is to be respected?" Steven asked.
"Most definitely," Harry replied. "I didn't grow up with it, but I've come to realize that magic can give the illusion of invincibility when what it really does is make life easier. Magic can be perverted to do what we ought to do ourselves. I can talk to my wife about a problem we have or I can cast a spell, bending her to my will. There's a lot more, but it's all in the same vein."
Alice had heard far too much about Orion and Walburga Black to think they had been pure of heart, so she was a bit sceptical, "Your parents taught you to not overdo it with magic?"
Snorting, Sirius replied, "Hardly. They taught that because we are magical we're superior to the rest of the planet. Muggles were no better than cattle." Shaking his head sadly, Sirius elaborated, "I came to the idea that magic is to be respected on my own. Out of the ravings of my lunatic family, there was a nugget of truth." Nodding at his godson, Sirius added, " James' parents helped me the most with that bit."
"There's more, some of the customs regarding the solstices and Yule are very specific to magical Britain. Much of the mundane world takes them to be pagan practices, but the origination of the solstice festivals, Beltane, Samhain and Yule are rooted in magic. It would be a great loss to lose touch with what makes us magical Britons as opposed to Brazilians." Quaffing his drink, he quipped, "Where do you think Carnival comes from?"
Nodding, Steven agreed, "That makes sense."
Remus made his way into the room. His legs still pained him so he was moving slowly. Harry scurried to slide a chair out for the wounded werewolf. Narrowing his eyes, Midnight asked, "Moon bothering you on top of the legs?"
Moony nodded absently. It was three days until the full moon. Harry's gifted Wolfsbane potion had been arriving on time every evening in the post, so the deleterious effects of the lunar cycle had been moderated somewhat.
"Dora?" Remus asked.
"Still sleeping," Hermione replied. "We were up late talking last night," she smiled as she cut her eyes to Harry. In his turn, The Boy-Who-Lived smiled into his plate. Hermione had no secrets from her husband, so he knew all about Dora's plans.
When Remus' worried look didn't evaporate, Hermione softly added, "She was pretty sorry about snapping at you, though."
He nodded, the tension evaporated from his face as he settled into his meal. Sirius asked, "How long until you're up to full speed?"
After swallowing his bite of toast, Remus replied, "Probably a week for the both of us."
Sirius scowled at the delay before looking to Hermione for her opinion. Without looking up from her morning reading, she replied to Sirius' unspoken question, "We'll need the whole family. We'll have to wait before moving forward."
"I hate waiting," Sirius grumbled.
Harry checked the clock over the mantle. "What time was the meeting with Amelia?"
"Half seven," Steven replied.
Alastor and Minerva were meeting with Amelia Bones to lay the groundwork for the plan that Hermione had devised. Remus and Alastor had both made improvements to the plan, but it was much as she had envisioned it.
"Voldemort will think no one can stop him," Hermione had postulated the day Remus and Dora had returned from their inconsequential 'shopping trip'. "Albus is dead and Harry is still a child in his eyes. Fudge is an incompetent boob, so that leaves Amelia as Voldemort's only real hurdle. He has two stumbling blocks: The child of prophecy – Harry - and the only leader who could rally the government against him - Amelia. We give him what he wants, but on our terms. We bring both of his targets to the same place at the same time."
Harry had narrowed his eyes, "Are we going to be fighting in the Department of Mysteries again?"
With a saucy wink, she kissed her husband's cheek, "Yes, we are. But this time, it's our trap, not theirs."
After breakfast, Remus disappeared into his girlfriend's room. As soon as he was out of sight, Alice asked, "Is she going to ask today?"
Hermione smiled, "She didn't say when, just that she was going to ask."
"Ask what?" a befuddled Padfoot queried.
"Dora's going to ask Remus to marry her," Harry replied with a smile.
"Really?" Padfoot replied with a smile to match his godon's. "Wait. She didn't ask me for permission."
Rolling her eyes, Hermione threw a fork at her husband's godfather. "Don't be dolt."
"Remus' parents are dead, so I'm the closest thing he has to family," Sirius objected.
"Padfoot?" Harry asked.
Minerva and Alastor arrived via Floo around ten o'clock. A quick Communication charm assembled the Family in the Lord's study. Remus Levitated Dora into the room as she lay on her lounger while the rest settled.
"How'd it go?" Hermione asked.
Moody's grunt in reply wasn't very inspiring.
"Mixed," Minerva replied more coherently as she stirred the milk into her tea. "In general she liked the idea of drawing Voldemort into the open, but voiced a few salient objections."
"What Minerva's pussy footing about is that Amelia is convinced that Voldemort is going to probably plan a big assault the day we advertise Potter and Amelia meeting. This diversion will draw off most of the Auror forces leaving the Ministry building mostly defenceless."
"Except for us," Harry added.
"Aye, but she asked what the fuck good two third years are." When Hermione tutted, Moody growled, "I was quoting the Department Head, lassie. Keep your knickers on."
Interrupting the grumbling maimed Auror, Minerva carried on, "Obviously, we did not discuss your abilities or the contents of the prophecy."
"But you think we need to," Hermione summarized. Minerva merely nodded in reply.
Harry leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. "If we do make a public to-do in the Prophet about me going to the Ministry to fetch the prophecy orb, Voldemort will come."
He was thinking aloud, walking through the scenario, so the others were silent. Closing his eyes, he ruminated. "Voldemort wants the prophecy. He's afraid of the prophecy." Sitting up, he shot a panicked look to his wife, "What if he got it from Albus before he died?"
"Albus Dumbledore was many things, but it is unlikely that he'd betray that secret," Minerva stated with Moody's nod of agreement.
"Even under the Cruciatus?" Sirius asked.
"Even so." They all paused in thought. Harry couldn't help but grudgingly agree with Minerva's assessment. With an amused grunt, he wondered if Dumbledore's secretive nature had helped in his final moments.
Sobering, Harry contemplated the last hours of Albus Dumbledore's life. To say that they were most likely unpleasant would be an understatement. The Cruciatus curse was Voldemort's favourite torture tool, but hardly the only bolt in his quiver. As Harry's imagination plumbed the darkest spells and curses, he shivered when he realized that most, if not all had been used on Albus in his final hours.
In that moment, he decided to forgive the old man. Nothing Harry thought or cared could affect the old wizard. In the end, Albus Dumbledore was dead and didn't matter any longer. Hatred is an acid that damages its vessel, so said Mark Twain many years ago. It was true then and true now. Casting the vestiges of his resentment to the wind, he hoped that the manipulative old man had found a measure of peace after his intense suffering.
Resettling in his chair, Harry leaned back again to muse on the ceiling. "So. Voldemort will want the prophecy, as he's afraid of what it does or does not say. To wit ,, does it spell his doom? My going to the Ministry puts Amelia and myself in his grasp at the same time."
"But he'll want the Aurors out of the way," Hermione inserted. "It would make sense that he'll clear the field first. Last time, he laid the trap for us after hours so there was minimal staffing. This time it'll be in the middle of the day, so he'll need a reason for the Aurors to be somewhere else."
"Fire," Dora announced from her chair.
The rest goggled at her before a look of understanding melted on to Hermione's face. "He'll want to sow confusion in the building, so expect a fire, or an explosion or some such. It will confuse the people in the facility so that he can strike with ease." Dora nodded grimly, Hermione's thoughts matching her own.
"We're going to have to come clean with Bones, aren't we?" Harry asked the assembled.
"Yes," Minerva answered.
"Will she consent to a Vow?"
"No," Moody replied.
"Can we trust her?" Harry asked.
"Do we have any choice but to trust her?" Remus asked pointedly.
There was silence as the Family all considered the position. They would expose themselves and become vulnerable by disclosing the truth about Harry and Hermione. "I really don't like this," Harry observed.
"You must be mistaking me for someone who gives a shit," Moody growled. "So far, you've taken very little risk. In all your raids, you've had not only the advantage of surprise, but also superior fighters. You've got in, killed them and got out. Hell, you required Unbreakable Vows before even saying word one about your story. Well, news flash here boy," Harry glared at the old Auror with the use of that Vernon Dursley special term, "This is war. Your risk is actually pretty low with Amelia, so quit your fucking whinging and make an appointment to meet with her before I drag you down there."
Harry and Hermione were caught flat-footed while Minerva regarded the children of her heart with a raised eyebrow. "He has a point," the new Headmistress of Hogwarts observed.
"Alastor," Harry began, "When this is all over I'm going to kick the fong out of you."
With a disturbing smile, the old Auror replied, "I look forward to it."
Dinner that night was subdued. Harry had sent Hedwig off with a missive to the Head of the DMLE, requesting an appointment in the near future. All expected a response inviting them to meet the next day. First thing in the morning, at that.
Toying with his Beef Wellington, Harry stared at his plate. Fear was creeping into his gullet, banishing his hunger. It had been an emotionally tiring day.
The long sigh from Dora caught his attention. When she cleared her throat, Harry smiled. The mischievous expression on her face could only mean one thing. Darting his gaze to Hermione, he saw her eyes twinkling with humour and affection. Neither had known Dora Lupin in the Future that Was, but the young metamorph had thoroughly wormed her way into the hearts of the Potters.
"Remus," Dora called, trying to get her beloved's attention.
"Hmm?" the Lycan muttered around a mouthful of potatoes. He was reading a tome he'd found in the back of the library which turned out to be a first-hand account of the life and reign of Charlemagne. The studious man had been lost to the world for the previous six hours.
"Lupin," Dora reiterated. She was becoming a bit testy.
"Hmm?" Moony repeated, still not putting down the book.
"Dammit Remus! Put the fucking book down and pay attention to me!"
Shocked, the former professor dropped the biography as he turned to his girlfriend. His eyes wide at her outburst, he asked, "What's wrong? Is your injury acting up?"
"No goddammit, I'm trying to ask you to marry me but you keep screwing around."
His expression imitating a punch-drunk boxer, Remus could only reply, "Hunh?"
"Yes, you," the now heavily blushing witch continued. "I love you and you love me. I want you to be next to me every morning as I wake up for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?" she finished with a hint of a scowl.
The stunned expression on Remus' face melted into wonder. The rest of the occupants of the room might as well have been on the moon as far as the young couple was concerned. Sirius watched the entire amusing exchange with a benevolent smile on his face. Hermione sniffled back a happy tear while Harry just smiled at all the love in the room.
Dora and Remus looked at each other for a long moment. Her scowl became a hopeful smile while a goofy grin grew on his face. "Yes. Yes, I'll marry you woman."
"WAHOO!" Sirius called as he jumped out of his seat. The room broke into cheers and laughter as Sirius danced a spastic jig around the embracing newly betrothed couple.
The reply from Amelia did come later that night. They had an appointment for nine AM the next day. While sobering the party some, the Family still gave themselves over to celebrating the engagement of Dora and Remus.
Harry leaned back in the seat, nursing his bitter as Hermione snuggled into his side. She'd done some fancy transfigurations to shift his chair into a loveseat. Apparently, Alice had used the Floo, because Minerva had just arrived to celebrate with Remus and Dora.
The usually staid woman was embracing the betrothed couple. "You know," Harry mentioned to his own bride, "Minerva's loosened up quite a bit."
Hermione nodded while she sipped at her coffee. "It took a war last time to force her out of her shell. This time, it just took a family who loved her as much as she loved them in turn."
Caught up in the mood, Harry turned to his wife, "I love you, babe."
She smiled up at him. "Love you too." She frowned when his face got a funny expression.
"Be right back," he shouted over his shoulder as he stood up and sprinted out of the room.
The party paused as everyone looked to Hermione for an explanation. Shrugging, she snarked, "You expect me to really keep him under control?"
"Yes," the chorus of voices answered her.
Blowing a raspberry at them all, she settled down to wait for Harry to return from wherever he'd absconded.
She was in the middle of listening to a very humorous recitation by Sirius of one of Mr Moony's more dastardly escapades when Mr Midnight skittered into the room.
Harry's expression was determined as he marched up to his bride. Hermione gave him a friendly quizzical look. He ignored her unspoken question as he moved in front of her. Standing silently in front of his mate, Harry caused her to sit up straight. "Love, what are you on about?" she asked.
The rest of the party paused to watch the time travelling couple. Slowly, Harry knelt on both knees in front of Hermione. Taking her hands in his, he told her, "I love you. I've bent the laws of time and space for you and would do much worse if that's what it took to be with you. You are my rock and my fount. You are my everything. Without you, I wouldn't be me and without me, I'm fairly sure you wouldn't be you."
She nodded wetly as a tear of love rolled down her cheek.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a small velvet box. "When we last married, we didn't have rings. We both agreed it was too dangerous to draw attention to ourselves. Now, though," he paused as he opened the box. "Now, we can do it right."
Holding up the box that held a solitaire two carat diamond ring in a Tiffany setting, Harry asked, "We've considered ourselves married since we came back in time, but I want to do it right, this go round. Will you marry me?"
The crowd was all smiles. Steven was beaming as he pulled Alice close. Remus and Dora were grinning and sharing soft kisses. Minerva watched the children of her heart with a warm smile. To the surprise of the other observers, Sirius had tears running down his face. Remus silently handed his friend a handkerchief. "Fuck you Moony," Sirius blubbed. Remus merely smiled.
"Oh, yes, Harry. A thousand times in a thousand lifetimes. I'll marry you."
In a moment of silent appreciation, the Family watched Harry reverently slide the ring on to Hermione's finger. With a delicacy that was fitting, he softly kissed first her ring, then her hand before placing a soft kiss on her lips.
In the silence, Minerva observed loud enough for all to hear, but still very softly, "It's fitting that we celebrate life and love."
It was unspoken that it was fitting to celebrate life and love with the prospect of loss and death coming in the near future.
At eight fifty three the next morning, Harry, Hermione and Sirius arrived in the Ministry atrium via the Floo. Met by Dora and Alastor, they silently made their way to Amelia Bones' office. The atrium was fairly busy so the group of five caused a buzz as they wended their way through the crowds.
Entering the executive wing of the Ministry, Harry admired the portraits of famous wizards and witches from Britain's past. Unthinkingly, he reached out. Entwining his fingers with Hermione's he calmed. She always calmed him, regardless of the situation.
Mad-Eye paused at a secretary's station, mumbling to the young witch behind the desk. The blonde girl popped up from her chair when she noticed who was in the party to see the Director. Not only was it The Boy-Who-Lived, but also Sirius Black and old Mad-Eye Moody. Scurrying back out from Bones' office, she announced, "The Director will see you now."
The Director of Magical Law Enforcement for Her Majesty's Subjects in Great Britain and Northern Ireland was an imposing woman. Not in body, for she was a mere five foot three inches tall and very petite. No, the sheer force of her personality flooded any room she occupied.
Short hair that had once been a shocking red was cut in a conservative style that topped a monocled face. Hermione reckoned that at one time Amelia Bones had been a beautiful witch, but now, her looks were weather worn and tired. Still a very pretty woman, her personality was vibrant and powerful.
With a genial nod of her head, Bones indicated the seats across from her desk. Moody conjured his own off to the side, where he could see all the people in the room at the same time. Dora stood to the side of the old Master Auror, her presence in the meeting was solely due to her relation to Harry.
Bones gave The Boy-Who-Lived an evaluative look before greeting them all, "Minerva and Alastor tell me some interesting things. She tells me that I need to talk to the two of you and trust what you tell me."
With a humorous expression, she glanced at the grumbling Mad-Eye, "I didn't think that Alastor trusted anyone, but when he categorically stated that he trusted the two of you with his life, I knew that I had to talk to you."
Stunned at the support from Mad-Eye, Harry glanced at his disfigured comrade only to see Mad-Eye determinedly inspecting the door with both his magical and human eyes. With a soft smile, Harry told Bones, "I consider that one of the highest praises I can imagine, Director. I shall endeavour to live up to Alastor's confidence in me."
Another evaluative look from Bones preceded her blunt statement, "You don't talk like a fourteen year old."
She'd obviously been expecting more of an explanation than Harry's agreement and her annoyance was plain. Rolling her eyes, she chided, "Look, I'm a busy witch and don't have a lot of time to waste. You wanted to talk to me. Talk."
Hermione began the explanation. "We've only told nine other people this information. Of the nine, seven are magical and we've required Unbreakable Vows from five of those seven. Can we trust you to keep our secrets?"
Since they all figured that Amelia wouldn't agree to a Vow, they decided to appeal to her honour. Alastor and Minerva had both concurred that Amelia Bones had a strong sense of honour and enough pride to get her back up in a good way should her integrity be challenged. So challenge it they would.
"Lives would be lost should this information become public," Harry continued. Leaning toward the now scowling Director, he added, "Thousands and even millions of lives."
"Enough with the melodramatics you two," Bones snapped. "Get on with it. I'll take your secrets to the grave only so long as they don't cause me to go against my conscience or any other Vow I've made."
Harry nodded, "That's good enough."
Hermione began the now familiar recitation, "We have the memories of our twenty seven year old selves…"
Five minutes later, Amelia had cancelled all her before lunch appointments. Ten minutes after that, she cancelled all her appointments for the day.
"Bloody buggering shite," the DMLE head muttered when the Potters had finished their story. Summing up the purpose of the entire visit in one sentence, she exclaimed, "We need to kill him now, before he become too powerful."
Pleased that Amelia had said 'Kill' as opposed to 'Arrest' or even 'Stop', Harry nodded. "I'm not sure if the prophecy told all those years ago is worth the orb in which it's housed, but I think I need to be the one to engage Voldemort."
Without missing a beat, Bones countered, "Can you finish him?"
Frowning, Harry asked, "Are you asking if I can kill him or if I can kill him?" the emphasis on the different words told different stories. The first questioned his ability to kill anyone. The second questioned his ability to kill the highly proficient, skilled and vicious wizard who styled himself as Lord Voldemort.
"Unfortunately, killing isn't a real problem. Do I have the skills necessary to kill him?" Turning to his once and future wife, Harry nodded.
"Hopefully, we won't need to have a full on engagement where wands are drawn at twenty paces and so on."
Narrowing her eyes in concentration, Bones ordered, "Tell me."
Remus and Dora were awake and waiting for the Potters and Sirius to return. It was nearly midnight when the exhausted group Apparated into the entrance hall. Stumbling into the family sitting room, all three collapsed on the couches. As if on cue, Steven Granger ambled into the room. His forced nonchalance fooled no one.
"So?" Dora asked.
Harry nodded while Hermione curled into his side. The Smartest Witch of the Age closed her eyes as she relaxed into her husband. She had to smile. He was also her fiancée. And her best friend. Wasn't that how it was supposed to be?
"Amelia believed everything," Sirius explained for the wiped out teenagers. Grimacing, he cut to a late breaking development during their discussions, "Shacklebolt's in the know, now."
Frowning, Remus asked, "How much in the know is he?" Obviously, he was asking if Shacklebolt knew of the time travel.
Shaking his head, Sirius rubbed his temples, "He knows of the upcoming trap and our involvement. It was rather amusing; he looked at Midnight and Longtooth with this confused expression. Then he turns to Bonesie and starts to question why the youngsters were there when she gets this glare that just shut him down like Minerva does a firstie. It was fantastic."
"Padfoot's in love," Harry teased. "He called Amelia 'Bonesie' for the rest of the meeting." With a weak guffaw, he needled, "He flirted with her so much I think her hair was dyed red from all her blushing."
"She's a damn fine looking woman," Padfoot protested.
"Anyway," Remus interrupted, diffusing the situation. Part of him was happy that Padfoot was beginning to warm up to the world. At the same time, he remembered all too well Harry's accurate admonishment that he should stay the hell out of Sirius' personal life.
"Anyway, what was the result?"
"The short of it is that she's on board. We've taken Longtooth's plan and started to make it practical based on the Ministry's layout and our known personnel and capabilities."
"Who are you planning to be there?" Dora asked with more than a hint of anxiety. Since her injury, she'd been plagued with guilt about her inability to help the Family in the fight in a more active manner.
"You're on the team, cousin," Harry reassured her through his closed eyes. He was leaning back while resting his head on a pillow. Hermione was asleep on his shoulder.
"Minerva, Moody, us," Sirius twirled his finger to include all gathered, minus Steven, of course. "Amelia insisted on being included," he added with a smirk. In an undertone, he repeated, "Damn fine woman."
"Anyway," Moony interrupted.
"Yeah, Amelia, Shacklebolt and maybe one or two other Aurors. She agreed that Snake Lips will probably have a massive off site diversion to clear out the Aurors from the Ministry. Hogsmeade is the best bet. We'll have to be ready. At the same time, Voldemort will only be able to show at the Ministry with a small force because of that. He'll have to make the big throw of his forces at his diversion or else it won't be credible enough to suck all the Aurors out of Headquarters."
Harry's stuttering snore jolted them all out of planning mode. With the delicacy that all fathers learn, Steven stepped to his children. Nodding to Sirius, Steven scooped Hermione into his arms while Padfoot gently picked up his godson. Together they took the couple to their bedroom. After placing the Potters in bed, minus their shoes and socks, they quietly left the master suite.
"Long day for them?" Steven asked.
Sirius nodded absently. After a moment, he turned to Hermione's dad, "How do you do it?"
Jerking his head toward the Master Suite, Steven asked, "About them?" When Padfoot nodded his reply, Steven replied, "I'm not sure. Some days my fear for their safety grows into terror. Those days I don't let Alice out of bed. That closeness with her helps. Some of those days I cry my eyes out."
Steven didn't make eye contact after that admission, but Sirius didn't think badly of the man. In fact, he respected Steven for his courage to admit it.
"Once I got sotted, but that just made everything worse. Alice harangued my arse while the hangover was bad. Wasn't worth it." Sighing, he added, "Physical exercise helps some. You know how I run every day?" Sirius nodded. "It helps."
"So what you're saying is that you're hanging on by a thread. Some days you shag your wife blind, other days you're a trembling wreck and every day you try to exercise the demons. In the end, you're just hanging on until this is all over."
"Christ, I need to get laid."
Steven laughed. Clapping his hand on his friend's shoulder he corrected, "No, you need a girlfriend."
Understanding Steven's meaning, Padfoot barked a laugh as he nodded.
Deciding to set the pace of the build up to confrontation, Amelia arranged the first move. It began with a simple throwaway comment during the standard weekly interview with the beat reporter from the Prophet. After covering the proposed agriculture stimulus package in front of the Wizengamot, Amelia dropped her little bomb.
"Oh, a little tidbit for the gossip mongers. The Boy-Who-Lived will be coming into the Ministry on Friday. Apparently, there's an old prophecy on record that we believe may pertain to him. We're hoping he can shed some light on the situation."
Months later, while on a dinner date, Amelia later told Sirius that she had to suppress a laugh at the reporter's expression. The poor boy looked like he was on the verge of peeing his robes in his excitement.
Needless to say, the headlines of the paper the next day didn't focus on the effort by the Ministry to force magical Britain to become more self-sufficient by relying on magical farmers as opposed to muggle food suppliers.
Boy-Who-Lived; prophecy bound?
harry had to laugh, "And once again, I become 'The Chosen One' in the media. Joy."
Hermione had given him a shove before dragging him to the practice room. The Potters and Sirius had been duelling hard the last week or so. Honing the edge of their skills to a razor sharp edge, they duelled each other in a melee fashion, occasionally co-opting Alastor into their drills. What the beaten up old Auror lacked in mobility he more than made up for in craftiness and downright meanness.
Eventually, Dora and Remus joined them. Steven had watched from behind the safety of a duelling shield. When the entire family, Minerva and Alastor included, let go for an hour long go, he'd been agog. Even when he was at the top of his form in 2Para, he'd never seen such a deadly fighting force.
"How can any stand against you?" he muttered as they all left to get cleaned up.
"Because Voldemort is better," Harry replied.
The week had passed quickly. While the Family was honing their battle skills, the Prophet was working itself into a frenzy approaching religious fervour.
HAS The Boy-Who-Lived ALREADY SAVED US?
WILL POTTER SAVE US AGAIN?
And so on.
"Load of tripe," Alice commented as she read the morning paper. "Look at this crap," she exclaimed, pointing to a section of the paper "Our expert Divination team has incontrovertible belief that The Boy-Who-Lived will one day save not only all of magical Britain, but the entire world."
Dropping the news rag with a loud crunching of paper, she stared at Harry, "How do they have 'incontrovertible belief'?"
With humour, Harry snorted, "Because the Prophet paid the team to say that?"
Steven laughed as he reached for the salt, "Too true, son."
"But it doesn't even make sense!" Alice objected as she resumed reading the paper.
Hermione rolled into the room, her curls still damp from her shower. Kissing him atop his head, she muttered, "Morning, love."
Handing her an opened letter, he told her, "Bones wants us to meet tonight, after hours."
Hermione read the letter as she poured tea for herself. "Hmmm, makes sense…familiarization of the facility…meet with the other defenders…don't like that part."
"Neither do I," Harry agreed. Turning to Sirius, he asked, "Can you get that turned off?"
"Bad idea, Midnight," Sirius countered. Slathering cream on his scone, Sirius took a big bite. After swallowing, he explained via a question, "Do you want to go into a fire fight where you're unsure if all the good guys know if you're a good guy?"
"But…" Harry objected but was cut off by Remus.
"Harry, you don't have to explain your presence. Amelia isn't an idiot, she won't tell the Aurors any more than they have to know."
"Damn fine woman," Padfoot muttered.
"Would you just go shag the woman already?" Harry teased.
Sirius expression was affronted, "I'll have you know that if the lovely Director Bones would ever be so gracious to turn her affections in my direction, I would never be as crass and crude as to 'shag' her."
There was a long moment of silence before the entire table burst into laughter. "Ok, ok," Sirius admitted through his chuckles, "I'll stop praising her if you all leave off. Deal?"
"Deal!" the rest of the table exclaimed.
Strolling through the semi darkened corridors of the Ministry of Magic brought back unpleasant memories for both Harry and Hermione. More than one time, one or both would check to make sure that Sirius was still with them.
"I really am not liking this plan," Harry muttered.
Hermione knew that words were useless at this point. She didn't want to hear anyone tell her, "Oh, it'll be alright," or "Everything will be fine." This was war. It was a very high possibility that someone she loved would die in the upcoming operation and the idea scared her witless. Based on his mutterings, it did the same to her husband.
Turning the last corner, they saw a room with light pouring out into the darkened hall. Tonks was leading the group so she turned in first, followed by Remus and Sirius. Harry and Hermione were last.
There were a half dozen Aurors in the room clustered about a sand table. Amelia Bones was discussing something in the corner with Kingsley Shacklebolt. Both ended their discussion when they saw the Family arrive.
"Good. Let's get started." The Aurors flowed to the seats while the family filled in the empty spots among the crowd. With a no nonsense tone, Amelia announced, "Lord Voldemort has assumed human form again. Our objective tomorrow night is to destroy him once and for all."
"Nothing like jumping in the deep end", Harry muttered into Hermione's ear. She gave a short nod accompanied by a small sigh to agree with him.
The stunned silence from the Aurors gave Amelia a moment to elaborate, "The how or why isn't the issue at this point. Trust me when I tell you that he is returned and we shall destroy him and his most devoted followers.
"As you may have noticed in the Prophet over the last week, there's a bit of a bother about a prophecy and young Mister Potter, here." She waved nonchalantly at Harry with her left hand. As the others turned to stare at Harry, he gave them a jaunty wave and smile.
"It's true," she stated baldly. "There is a prophecy and it says that only Mister Potter can kill the Dark Lord, hence his inclusion in this discussion and tomorrow night's operation." When the Aurors all frowned en masse at the idea of a thirteen year old boy confronting the most dangerous wizard in a score of score of years, she waved her hand at their worries. "He has the full backing of Alastor Moody. Mad-Eye even said he'd go into battle with Harry."
That was good enough for the Aurors. The worried expressions regarding Harry's ability became worried expressions of how they'd survive the engagement twenty four hours hence.
"The Prophet shall run a story in the morning edition tomorrow explaining how Mister Potter shall be here tomorrow early in the afternoon to examine this prophecy. This is the bait to lure the Dark Lord out of hiding so we can kill him. We fully expect there to be a massive distraction off sight to empty the building so that he can infiltrate the facility to intercept Mr Potter. When this distraction happens, Head Auror Scrimgeour shall react with any and all forces necessary. Everyone shall go, except those in this room.
"No one else knows of the situation or our plan and it shall remain that way. Therefore, every one of you shall make an Unbreakable Vow with Auror Shacklebolt before leaving. If you'd like, you may remain in the barracks until tomorrow evening. That ought to remove you from the opportunity to accidentally disclose this information."
Pausing, Amelia looked down at the table. Gathering her thoughts, she was interrupted by a bold question, "Ma'am, does Head Auror Scrimgeour know of this op?" When she focused her gaze on the man, he visibly quailed, "I just want to know if he asks why we aren't following his orders."
"I've dealt with that. No one knows and no one shall know. Now, back to the plan…"
Waiting. It sucked.
Harry slouched back in the standard issue government chair, staring at the intersection of the wall and the ceiling. They were plaster, so he couldn't even count the holes in the suspended ceiling tiles like at muggle offices.
Hermione had just headed off to the toilet with Dora, leaving the Marauders and Midnight to their own devices. Not a good plan.
"So, I'm thinking that I'm going to take Bonesie to dinner tonight," Sirius stated without preamble.
"Hope springs eternal for fools," Harry mocked in a deadpan tone. "Do you pray to Saint Jude, too?"
"You're just jealous that a hot number like Bonesie is on the trail of the immortal sexy beast that is Padfoot."
Thoroughly amused, Harry looked at his godfather. The preening expression on Sirius' face was so genuine, Harry couldn't tell if the man was joking or not. A glance at Remus gave away nothing. As usual, Moony was unreadable.
Harry's low chuckle was infectious. Soon Padfoot had joined him, followed by Moony. By the time the girls had returned from the WC, their men plus Padfoot were howling like loons.
Minerva strode into the Ready Room at four in the afternoon to find the balance of her family pouring over blueprints of the facility. The goal was to entrap Voldemort and his Death Eaters in a murderous crossfire as they entered the lift to descend to the Department of Mysteries. Dark Lord or not, it's human nature to congregate in front of a lift and therefore the perfect place to cut down their quarry.
Hermione had the family studying the layout of the rest of the Ministry facility in a twofold effort. First off, it staved off the combined boredom and tension. The second reason was thoroughness in the vein of Mad-Eye: Constant Vigilance.
Alastor was explaining to Harry and Sirius how the lift worked as Hermione caught the new Headmistress of Hogwarts attention. Following the teen/twenty something year old witch to the corner, she had to smile. While not the child of her body, Hermione was most definitely the child of her heart.
When Hermione reached out and took both her hands in her own, Minerva frowned. "I love you, Minerva. Then and now, you've been far more than a teacher and mentor. A second mother, a friend and a wonderful person. I want you to know that I love you."
The Scot's frown deepened. "No more of that, lass," she scolded. Her burr was pronounced, as she was het up. "Neither of us is going to die, so none of this saying goodbye."
The reproachful expression on Hermione's face accentuated the gentle rebuke, "Minerva…"
Sighing, the older woman took the younger in her arms. Since her rape, she'd barely touched another person, but in the last months, she embraced and been embraced more times in the all the years since she'd been violated. It was a good thing; healing and loving at the same time.
Hermione hugged Minerva with all her might. There was no role that accurately described the woman's role in her life. Mother, friend, confidante, comrade, teacher, mentor, Grandmother. All were true, and yet, none were true. Her importance and role in her life defied description or classification. She was merely Minerva.
The family and the accompanying Aurors waiting in teams of two. Harry and Hermione, Remus and Dora, Sirius and Minerva waited in pairs in a semi-circle ringing the lift, while Amelia and Shacklebolt had the most dangerous location, just to the left of the lift itself. The balance of the Aurors filled in the gaps between the family, but to be honest, Harry didn't consider them to be of any account. He'd seen Star Trek far too many times and these men all had 'red shirt' painted on their forehead.
The plan was simple. Wait until the invading Death Eater force clumped about the lift then kill them. Whether Voldemort would accompany his Death Eaters was an unknown, though. In the previous timeline, he hadn't accompanied his minions. This time, though, he had both Amelia Bones and Harry Potter within his grasp. His indigenous support had been decimated, forcing him to rely on foreign fighters. Hermione had reasoned that the Dark Lord had to be nearly desperate to quash his opposition so as to rebuild his British support base. It was unlikely that the wizard born Tom Riddle would trust foreign-born support for very long. A bigot is a bigot, is a bigot, she'd reasoned. He hated muggleborns and foreigners with an equal passion.
The Communication charm sounded in their ears in Amelia Bones' voice, "We were wrong. His distraction is to burn Central London. Over twenty blocks are burning with reports of three Dragons overhead. Hold your positions, they'll be coming soon."
Wrapping his arm around his Disillusioned wife, Harry shuddered. He heard her soft voice gasp, "Dear Lord. So many…"
All around them, groups of people sprinted to the Apparition area. Obliviators, Aurors, Magical Creature Control personnel, administrative personnel who could perform basic first aid. Anyone and everyone were leaving. It looked like the entire Ministry was emptying to deal with this massive catastrophe. Not only was it an epic breach of the Statute of Secrecy, but also a human cataclysm as well. It was likely that St Mungo's was clearing decks in preparation for a massive influx of wounded.
When the wave of leaving humanity trickled to an end, Harry heard Sirius snicker, "Wonder if the last person out turned out the lights?"
Smiling slightly at the joke, Harry waited.
He only had to wait for ten minutes. In a flicker of pseudo motion, a group of twenty Death Eaters appeared, probably by Portkey. All were masked and robed, so Harry couldn't identify any of them. Eyes searching, Harry looked for his target. His only required target for the engagement.
In the back of the group was Lord Voldemort. Tall and pale, he glared about the atrium.
Tension spiked in Harry. He was so close. Thirty metres and Voldemort was dead. Thirty metres and it was all over.
He was so wrong.
The Death Eaters fanned out slightly as they traversed the open space, their boots clicking on the obsidian floor. The lead minion of Riddle reached the lift and waited. Without looking back, he stood there, staring at the closed metal door.
Frowning at the odd behaviour, Harry shook it off as irrelevant. Twenty metres to his destiny.
Harry held his breath as he watched the Lord Voldemort pass his hiding place.
Harry had first shot. Amelia had threatened her Aurors with dismissal and decapitation should they fire before The Boy-Who-Lived. Voldemort's death was paramount. It turned out to be the easiest of the day, as well.
It is very difficult to cast a spell accurately when Disillusioned. One cannot see their own wand in order to line up the spell correctly. Therefore, as soon as Tom Riddle passed Harry, the time traveling teen raised his wand.
The Dark Lord exploded like a pumpkin.
Before the bits of gore and blood hit the floor, the rest of the ambush team was casting. Ten more Death Eaters died within moments before the survivors scattered.
Four Aurors died to a wide area Cutting curse.
Harry dodged a Killing curse.
He felt Hermione roll in front of him as she evaded a Cruciatus curse.
Screams from across the way sounded vaguely like Kingsley Shacklebolt. In the back of his mind, Harry hoped it wasn't' the big burly Auror, he seemed like a good sort.
Cast, cast, cast. Reductor, Bone Breaking, Bone Exploding.
Shielding a Slicing hex, he smiled. Minerva was at work as the Atrium came alive. Rubble transformed to attacking wolves. The fountain of magical brethren became trolls. The columns became animated trees..
Overwhelmed, the shrinking Death Eater force began to fall as wheat before the scythe.
It had been forty seconds since Harry had killed Riddle.
A blow from the side sent Harry sprawling. The next thing he saw was a masked Death Eater hoist Hermione over his shoulder. As the Disillusionment charm faded on The Boy-Who-Lived, the Death Eater turned to Harry and laughed.
"Got your bitch, Potter! First I got Dumbledore, now you!"
Before Harry could stand, the Half Blood Prince reached into a pocket before vanishing, taking Hermione with him.
Panic flooded Harry with adrenalin. Sprinting to one of the few Death Eaters who remained standing, he tackled the man. Punching the man in the face repeatedly shattered the mask and subdued him. Moving to straddle the Death Eater's chest, he began searching his captive's pockets for any item which could be a portkey.
The man's rasping, gurgling laughter forced Harry to focus on his face.
"You'll never find them."
Completely panicked, Harry screamed, "WHERE ARE THEY!"
Harry reached down and ripped the man's left ear off his head. Nonchalantly, he tossed the bloody detached appendage to the side.
Screaming now, the man thrashed in pain. A slap from Harry brought him round.
Leaning into his face, Harry snarled, "Where are they?"
"Left…left pocket there's a yellow thread. It's the Portkey," the man panted in pain.
Not bothering to wait for reinforcements, Harry reached with his right hand into the pocket. He knew he'd found the thread when he was sucked into the magical vortex of a portkey.
Harry and the Death Eater arrived in the darkened entryway of an old house. Reflexively, Harry pointed his wand at the Death Eater's throat. "Where are they?" he whispered.
"Don't know," the man whimpered through broken teeth and split lips..
"Reducto," Harry incanted in reply. The man was going to die the moment he picked up his wand in support of Riddle. Now was as good a time as any for him to die. Besides, Harry didn't want to have a live opponent at his back.
Standing, he absently cast a Cleaning charm on himself. "Quarter the house? Room by room? Fuck it. Hominem Revealo!"
Two red lights flashed in the direction of upstairs.
"Silencio." His feet were Silenced.
A tap on the top of his head Disillusioned himself.
A wave of his wand gathered a handful of dirt into his left hand.
Slowly, he moved up the stairs, staying to the side to avoid tell tale noises. At the top, he paused, listening. Another incantation of Hominem Revealo caused him to turn to the left.
The upstairs hall was decorated from another age. Fabric wallpaper was rotting off the wall as his slow footsteps kicked up clouds of dust. Harry noted it all but ignored it as irrelevant.
The door at the end of the hall was shut. A repeat cast of the spell showed two people back there.
After checking the layout of the rooms on either side of the last door, he took a deep breath. Harry then did something very risky. He blind Apparated into the room. Figuring Snape had the door booby trapped, warded and watched, he bypassed it altogether.
His wand up and tracking, he appeared in the room facing his father's nemesis.
Snape dodged the spell, allowing it to impact the wall behind Snape. Two feet from where the unconscious Hermione was bound to the wall.
Harry's eyes widened in horror. If he missed Snape again, he could very well hit Hermione. It was nearly as good as having the witch tied to Snape's chest as a living shield.
"Sectumsempra!" To an experienced duellist, the Disillusionment charm is no barrier. It did give Harry the first shot.
The dark Slicing curse laid open Harry's arm. Blood spurted from the wound as pain flooded his nervous system.
Clenching his jaw, he rolled to his right, casting the dirt in the air as he did so. Mid roll, he cast the transfiguration spell he'd been practicing for weeks.
The dirt became eight circular saw blades, spinning at high speed.
After a momentary pause, they all shot through the air toward Severus Snape.
The man's screams echoed off the walls as he fell to the ground in sixteen pieces.
Trembling in pain, Harry pulled himself across the floor. Grimacing as he passed through the remains of Severus Snape, he used a chair to help him stand. Deciding to try the simple answer first, he pointed his wand at Hermione and incanted, "Finite incantatem."
The witch slumped to the floor, still unconscious.
Harry fell to the floor next to her, pulling her into his lap.
"Please God, don't let her be dead."
It was the same, yet not. He could feel the rain that wasn't there. The non-existent mud chilled his legs.
"Please God, don't let her be dead."
Tears fell from his face to hers. They dotted her white skin and blue lips. An emotional baptism, they did nothing to change the inevitable. With trembling hands, he caressed her face. Sobs wracked his body.
"Not again. Please God, don't let her be dead."
His blood pooled under him, but he ignored it. Leaning down, he placed a hesitant kiss on her lips. He nearly screamed when she returned the kiss with a miniscule movement in her lips.
Shuffling her out of his lap, he leaned over her. His bloody hand on her throat found a pulse. Now his tears were of relief. Taking her in his arms, he stood. A little shaky, he twisted in place. A sharp crack announced their departure.
Turning away from the sea, Harry faced his godfather. "Yeah?"
Nodding, he straightened his tie and jacket. Before following Padfoot inside. Moving behind Remus, Neville and Sirius, he followed them inside the church. Eventually, they all found their way to the appointed spots.
The heavily pregnant Dora Lupin headed the procession. All the men smiled at her as she tripped, nearly spilling onto the Minister for Magic. All smiles, Fudge steadied the woman before she finished her walk.
Luna Lovegood floated down next, all ethereal beauty and grace.
Minerva came last, resplendent in her robes the tartan of clan McGonagall peeking out of her sleeve.
Finally, it was Her turn.
Harry's breath caught in his throat when Hermione came into view.
She was beautiful.
Shimmering in white, she processed down the aisle. It seemed forever and yet took no time at all. Finally, she took his extended hand. Harry finally noticed that Steven was there when he kissed his daughter before nodding to Harry.
Together Harry and Hermione turned to face the priest who began with the ritual words known the world 'round.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…"
1. I own nothing. Thanks to all who reviewed this story. Story status, as always, can be found on my Author's page on FanFiction(dot)net.
2. Recommendation for the chapter is The Harmony Bond, by brigrove.
3. Sorry it took so long, but as anyone else who reads my stuff, Last Casualties has dominated my muse for the last few weeks. That, combined with real life (father of three here!) has eaten into my spare time.
For those surprised by the easy dispatch of the Dark Lord, remember, the story has always been about Harry and Hermione and their love, not the conflict between Harry and Tom Riddle. I was stuck for a while before the Snape kidnapping solution presented itself to me (around chapter 3 of LC). It may seemed to have ended abruptly, but it's always been about them.
4. Many many inspirations during the writing of this story. I listen to music as I write, so nods to Led Zeppelin, the Cranberries, Taylor Swift, Bob Dylan, Wolfgang Mozart, Paramore, Muse, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pat Benatar, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Bullet for My Valentine, Dion, Breaking Benjamin, Pink Floyd and the list goes on.
5. I hope you enjoyed my little tale, it was a lot of fun to write and I do believe that I shall miss writing it. I've come to like and love these characters of E&B. Later…