Here it is! The last instalment! For the disclaimer, see the beginning. -GF and The Frau
ps. thank you again, Phil for all your help and advice. It was greatly appreciated.
Quoth the Raven
Chapter 47: Shall Be Lifted – Nevermore!
The Tower Deep was a pit that had been created long before Azkaban was built for those witches and wizards that ran afoul of the Monarch's justice. Magic-siphoning runes, which fed from the victims cast into the dark pit, had been carved into its very foundation, and there was no escape. Water was the only thing accessible because of its proximity to the river. There were no runes to keep the water out, and so it seeped down the walls constantly, only to disappear when it reached the floor. Even the air was recycled by clever use of runes. The floor itself was covered with mud and debris as well as the crumbling bones of previous prisoners that had been left to their fate.
Where exactly the Deep was located, no-one knew; the knowledge had been struck from the maps of the Tower by past Royal decree. So there could be no rescue, which was why it was so seldom used and why Azkaban was the more 'humane' option.
Tom Riddle, and those with him, had doomed themselves. The Deep's runic array was ancient and very effective in draining Riddle and those with him of their magic.
This was the one possibility he had not planned for when he split his soul and made the Horcruxes. Now, all over Britain, his evil essence slowly faded as Tom's soul fought to remain on this plane of existence. As the imprisoned wizards fought to escape, using magic only increased the drain.
Time was on the Deep's side.
The soldiers and guards in attendance waited to see if any of Riddle's followers escaped their fate before clean-up began. The PM and Harry decided to wait until daylight before making any decisions on what to do with the rest of Riddle's followers.
To those with magical awareness, the Tower wards were going crazy. The ancient wards were snapping and crackling like mini fireworks for those with 'the sight.' They were blinding, and most of those on the Green who could see them were suffering from dreadful headaches.
John and Wolf made a hasty retreat to the barracks when they could stand no more. Maggie, Hermione, Amanda, Sirius and Remus were waiting for their return. All had been warned not to leave the protection of the barracks.
The PM got off the phone to Buckingham, and followed the team inside.
John soon found himself holding Hermione as if his life depended on it. They all knew there had been a very slight chance of failure, as it was extremely dangerous to meddle with wards as ancient and dark as the Tower's. There had been no way to predict how they would react to being awakened after being dormant for so long.
Maggie waited with Ben as the young couple reassured each other. And if the very passionate kiss the adults witnessed was any indication, then there might be some very strict rules of etiquette to be laid down - at least until both were legally capable of handling a more 'adult' relationship.
No-one really got any sleep that night. Security personnel milling through the compound stirred up more than just the wards. Many of the spirits were restless, as they all sensed the dark taint coming from the Deep. Many wondered if there would be a new spirit or two added to the plethora of souls trapped within the Tower walls.
The PM left, after a cup of tea laced with brandy, for Number 10 Downing Street to write up his report to Her Majesty. John and Wolf had their own reports to write, which they did in the comfort of the Ravensmaster's office. Hermione remained at John's side to reassure herself of his well-being.
Throughout Britain, many of Riddle's followers were either waking up with sore arms and nagging headaches, due to magical exhaustion, or not waking up at all. Lord Voldemort, when he marked his followers, tied their magic to his own. Depending on their distance from the Tower, and how magically strong they were, Riddle could draw on their magic to sustain himself. Many who were too far away, were not as affected by the desperate pull of their master on their cores.
Lucius Malfoy felt the pull on his magic from his Dark Mark. However, he was too far away for his lord to drain him. The Malfoys, the moment Lucius sent a doppelganger in his place, headed for their chateau in the north of France. Draco and Narcissa protested, but Lucius refused to listen. The senior Malfoy had taken his friend's advice; it was not wise to anger a deity as bloody-thirsty as She.
Severus Snape felt nothing. His Mark had been replaced with the mark of the goddess he served. He knew that, this night, his former lord would meet his end at the hands of the Potter spawn. So he held a quiet vigil in Her clearing in the forest. A small fire near the stone altar was his only companion. His offerings for the goddess had long since been accepted. His only prayer had been that Potter was successful and that he came out of it alive. She was a very blood-thirsty goddess, after all.
By the flickering flames that cast a pale light on the snow around him, and with a bottle of Ogden's finest in his hand, Severus Snape waited. The ravens were busy elsewhere, so the forest was quiet. However, on the breath of the wind came his goddess' voice murmuring instructions to him of what she expected in the future. He wouldn't refuse Her.
The sun rose, casting away the night shadows and ominous forebodings. John had finally managed to sneak into his bed to catch a few hours of sleep. Hermione had crawled into the bed beside him. Both were too tired to do more that exchange a few kisses and words of affection before the sands of Morpheus claimed them.
Wolf looked in on the tender scene before him. It reminded him of the time he had found them asleep when Ben had suffered his heart attack. He really hated to wake them, but duty called. Her Majesty was waiting at Buckingham Palace. What their sovereign wanted was anyone's guess, but Wolf and Ben had a rough idea.
The Noble Houses and elected representatives gathered in the first assembly of the Wizengamot for the New Year. There was much to do for this session.
First on the agenda was to replace Albus Dumbledore as the Healers gave no hope of the old wizard's recovery.
The second was what to do about the call to reform from Her Majesty. Many of the old bloods still balked at the changes she was calling for. Many had been stalling by tying the sessions up in legal wrangling. If they stalled long enough, it was hoped, they wouldn't have to change anything and life would continue on as usual.
As for Cornelius Fudge, he had remained Minister of Magic by a very slim margin. One more mistake and he would be out. Her Majesty would no longer tolerate any incompetence.
As members of the Wizengamot filed in to take their seats, the rotund Minister mentally ticked off who just might take over as Chief Warlock. Several pure-bloods on the governing body had been reported 'under the weather' and would not be attending this session. Lucius Malfoy was reported to have fled to France and wasn't expected to be back in the near future.
Lord Potter, and the Muggle-born witch that he seemed to favour at the moment, filed in. Fudge watched as they parted at the door. She headed up to the gallery, while his lordship headed for his seat among the members of the wizengamot. In Cornelius' mind, that young man was too young to be taking his seat, but Her Majesty had made it quite clear that Lord Potter was well able to perform his duties.
Just as the last person took their seat - and before Cornelius could open the session - the great doors were thrown open and trumpets blared. Cornelius groaned. Not again!
Behind the heralds in royal livery came a squad of Royal Guardsmen in full dress. Each one, carrying Muggle arms, marched in. Behind them came a man wearing a Muggle suit. Cornelius recognized the British Prime Minister and inwardly groaned again. Now what?
John Major stepped up to the lectern and nodded to Cornelius.
"Minister Fudge, I bear with me a missive from Her Majesty the Queen," Mr Major said as the room grew quiet. Fudge nodded and stepped grudgingly aside. The PM took out a parchment from his briefcase and unrolled it. He looked around the chamber before he began to read.
"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, To all Lords of the Wizengamot and all other of Our Magical Subjects to whom these Words shall come, Greeting!
"Be it known that on the twenty-first December of this year of our Lord, the terrorist known as Tom Marvolo Riddle, who styled himself as 'Lord Voldemort', along with 5 others, Portkeyed onto the Green of the Tower of London, whereupon he and those with him were detained for crimes against the Realm. Tom Riddle and his companions have been consigned to the Tower Deep in perpetuity.
"There will be no parole, no leniency. In times of old, wizards were detained in such manner within the Tower Deep. On the night of twenty-first December treasonous wizards once again met that fate. Make no mistake: the prison known as Azkaban will still be used to house those of the wizarding world who commit lesser crimes against the laws of Our Realm, but terrorists such as Riddle and his ilk will be sent to the Deep.
"Further, let it be known that, for services rendered, Harry James Potter, His Grace the Duke of Gryffindor, has been appointed as the Crown's Royal Wizard. When His Grace has completed his studies, he will assume the role of Chief Warlock of Our magical governing body known as the Wizengamot. Until that time, Lady Augusta Longbottom will act as Regent and will train His Grace in his duties.
"And whereas Miss Amanda Kensington, Head of the Department of Muggle Liaisons, is deemed to have done great service to the Crown and Our subjects in bringing to Our attention the deplorable state of a Royal Ward, and for her part in bringing down the terrorist, Tom Riddle, she is hereby appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. Dame Amanda will assume the position of personal envoy to Lord Potter.
"We further admonish Our Wizengamot to be aware that time is running out. If the laws of the wizarding world laws are not brought into compliance with Our wishes as expressed when We last attended a Meeting of the Wizengamot, We remind you that We retain the authority to disband said Wizengamot. Do NOT give Us reason. Remember that the Treaty of 1692 still holds, and it can and will be called into abeyance if Our words are not heeded.
"May God have Mercy on us all.
"GIVEN at Our Court in Westminster on this day, the 22nd December in the year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety-Five, in the Forty-Third Year of Our Reign.
"By Her Majesty's Command,
The PM rolled up the parchment and handed it to Cornelius Fudge before he stepped off the platform and exited the chamber. The only sound that broke the silence was the perfect marching cadence of his escort.
Minerva McGonagall was in a quandary. The wards that protected Hogwarts had not yet acknowledged her as the next Headmistress! With Albus' incapacitation, the wards should automatically pass on to the next Headmaster or -mistress. They had not done so yet.
She called for a staff meeting to inform everyone that, from the looks of things, Hogwarts was not happy with the current situation.
She stood beside Albus' old chair at the head of the table as the rest of the staff filed in and took their seats. She noted the sad looks on several and contemplative ones on the others. Severus Snape was neither; his face gave nothing away except weariness. While the others took their seats, Severus remained standing at the back of the room.
"'Tis the new year and students will be returning tomorrow from their Christmas holidays," Minerva started to say. "We have a problem. As ye ken, I was appointed Headmistress by the Board of Governors. However, I dinna possess the castle wards, e'en though Albus is nae longer able to attend to his duties and has been dismissed as Headmaster. I am at a loss as to what is happening," she informed everyone. "The wards should have fallen to me when I was appointed, but they hae not."
"If I may, Minerva," Severus said, coming closer to the end of the long table. "I know you have worked hard for the good of the school, but Albus has done a lot of damage with his 'greater good.' More so than anyone realised until now."
The staff members murmured to themselves as Minerva sputtered, "What d'ye mean?"
Severus stood with his head bowed, his long black hair obscuring his face. Minerva was the first to feel it. The magic of the castle seemed to fill the room as the wards settled onto the Potions Master.
Severus raised his head. His dark eyes seemed to glow with power. "I have been asked by Magic, and by the Lady I serve, to take the position of Headmaster pro tem until the rightful Headmistress is mature enough and willing to take over. Until such time, we have our work cut out for us. For too long has Albus ignored the problems within this school; he has played his games and now we are suffering because of it."
Rubeus Hagrid started to object, as did others, but was silenced by the crackling magic within the room.
"You are too much of a follower, Minerva," Severus said gravely, "or you would not have allowed Albus to get away with all he had. You were too blinded to see the man instead of the legend. Magic has had enough!" He stalked around the table to face her. "Magic and the Lady have commanded that I take on the role of Headmaster to repair the damage Albus has done. I shall not be swayed by rhetoric from the Ministry or the Board, and neither shall I tolerate their interference!"
"You said 'pro tem'. Who are we waiting for?" asked Filius Flitwick.
"For the one Magic has chosen. She won't be ready for another ten years. That is all I shall say."
Minerva plopped down into Albus' chair. Well, she wanted answers, and she got them. Merlin help them all.
New Year's was a quiet, sombre affair, slightly different from previous years. The family gathered, as usual, in Manchester. John and his cousin Charley briefly caught up with events in each others' lives and, as always, promptly left for a game of rugby.
Hermione and her family celebrated the hols in quiet style. They did meet up with John and his family on Boxing Day. He gave her a lovely promise ring of white gold with small diamonds encircling an emerald and pledged that, when they were finished with their schooling, he would exchange it for an engagement ring. Until then, they would take things slowly.
The night before Hermione had to return to Hogwarts, she and John were walking on the Tower Green. They had no fear of the wards within the compound as they had always been welcomed and protected by them since the day they had been accepted here.
The sun had set an hour ago and the crisp winter air had a bite to it. The sky was clear for the most part, and the lights and sounds of the city seemed almost muted.
The ravens had long since been locked up for the night. John knew he and Hermione had to go back inside soon. However, he'd just felt they needed to do one last stroll around the Green before calling it a night.
"Your Grace," came the ghostly voice of Queen Anne as she glided towards them. Several more spirits suddenly appeared. John's old playmates, the two princes, giggled as they skipped closer.
"Your Majesty." John gave the Queen a sweeping bow as Hermione curtseyed. "What may I do for you this fine winter's eve?"
The stately spirit smiled as she motioned for them to rise. "We are most pleased with you, Your Grace, and you as well, Lady Hermione. We wished to congratulate you both on your betrothal. Well done. Well done indeed!"
"Thank you, Your Majesty."
"We are very disheartened that those trapped within the Deep will never be allowed to pass on, nor find peace in the afterlife. They are forever trapped within the rune array that binds them," she said with a deep sigh. The rest of the spirits expressed agreement in one form or another. Even the animal spirits signalled their regret.
"Nevertheless," the regal spirit continued. "We are very pleased that you have elected to remain true to your course and bring compliance to Our wizarding world. You two will be a force for good in a world tainted by darkness. We commend you."
"As do I," came the voice of the goddess as she stepped into the circle of spirits. "You have done well, my Ravenschilde. I am most pleased. You have fulfilled the prophecy given before your birth. Although I confess to great surprise that there was so little blood shed."
John blushed and stammered. There wasn't much he could say to that statement. The two princes giggled, breaking the tension.
"My Lady," Hermione said, bringing everyone's attention to her. "I know there was little blood shed, but today's warfare is far different from the past. Killing at a distance, and with little fanfare, is the norm in today's world. Please forgive us for slighting you; it wasn't our intention. We pray you will continue to accept our offerings."
The Lady Morrigan looked unto her avatar and his chosen and smiled. "I am well pleased that you understand My needs so well. You have given Me much. For that alone, you have reaffirmed the decision I made when I chose you to be My avatar. However, there is still much to be done; but, as you have said, in today's world, there is little call for personal combat as once there was."
She placed a glowing hand on both John and Hermione's heads. "My blessings on your courtship to you both. Carry on the fight. Evil has been undone this day, but there is still much left to do. As long as you two stand together, nothing will hinder you in your fight. Go forth, my Raven and my Otter, for you are well-matched."
She stepped away from them and faded into the night. John and Hermione found themselves alone on the Tower Green as Big Ben sounded the hour in the distance.
"Coming, Aunt Maggie!" John called back as he and Hermione headed inside.
Life would go on as it always does. John knew that one fight was over, and that to bring the Wizarding World into the modern age would be his next 'great adventure'.
Well, this concludes, "Quoth the Raven, Nevermore." It was a long ride and well worth the time. We wish to thank Phil, our beloved Brit-speaker and beta. He kept us on the right track.
We want to thank everyone that read, commented and enjoyed this word. For those that think we ended it too soon, well, that's life. We had to end it somewhere and this was the best place for it.
There will be no sequel. The story stands on its own merits.
Until next time. -GF and The Frau