Disclaimer: The characters of Harry Potter are NOT mine, they belong to JK Rowling and whoever she has sold the rights too. Of that group, I am not a member.
The month of October passed quickly and quietly for the inhabitants of Hogwarts in the aftermath of Dumbledore's trial, his escape and the reworking of the Ministry into a competent government. While the news that Voldemort had indeed returned, the Dark Lord seemed to have laid low for the time being though Amelia Bones and the Ministry took the fight to the forces of Darkness as they began rounding up any Death Eaters who had pleaded the Imperious Curse during the last war, and if their targets had vanished, the Ministry went to Gringotts to ask the goblins to lock down the Death Eaters' vaults, which the goblins were only to happy to help.
With Sirius and Lupin taking over the Defence against the Dark Arts lessons, they quickly became everyone's favorite lessons except for Malfoy and his ilk, though Malfoy made sure to keep his opinions to himself do to the fact that Sirius was his mother's Head of House. The students quickly realized that both Sirius and Remus knew their stuff regarding the Dark Arts, with Sirius being both a Hit Wizard during the last war and the fact that he was the Head of a normally Dark house, and that Remus had made a very good impression two years previously.
The study group that Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville and the twins had devised was also coming along very nicely. It helped that they had competent DADA teachers who were making sure that the students were up to scratch, which allowed Harry, Hermione and the others to focus on more 'outside the box' defense strategies and spells that Hogwarts didn't teach. The group met once a week at the Room of Requirement and it was after a meeting when Harry brought up something that they all had been thinking about since Dumbledore's trial.
"Voldemort has been too quiet recently," Harry said. "Since Dumbledore's trial and escape, he's only made some small attacks on Muggles but nothing in the wizarding world. He's building up to something."
"You're probably right Harry," Hermione said. "From what I've researched about the last war and talking with Sirius and Professor Lupin, this is similar to what happened. He wants to divide our attention between the Muggle and magical worlds."
"So what do we do?" Ron asked.
"There's not much we can do," Harry sighed. "We don't know where Voldemort is hiding out, though with the goblins locking down the Death Eater vaults, we've stripped much of Riddle's wealth and power but that might just make him more desperate."
Halloween fell on a Saturday this year, so McGonagall scheduled a Hogsmeade weekend for the castle. It was a welcome idea, as much of the student body was growing antsy inside the castle.
Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville made their way up the path to the village along with the rest of their classmates. Ginny was following, hanging all over her latest boyfriend, much to the chagrin of Ron and the twins and disgust of Hermione who knew what the female redhead was trying to do. Once the group reached the village, Harry and Hermione spilt off from the others as they headed for the bookstore (the twins making kissy faces behind their backs). Once they were out of sight of the others, Harry pulled Hermione pushed Hermione against a wall in a shadowy alley and preceded to snog the life out of her, something that Hermione happily reciprocated.
"You know we could have done this back in the castle, there's plenty of broom closets that we haven't explored," Hermione said with an impish grin.
"True but I thought that this would be a little more appropriate for a date," Harry said. "And besides, this way we don't have to worry about being caught or does my little minx like the thrill of getting caught?" Hermione blushed brilliantly as Harry's comments struck home. Harry chuckled. "So then, what do you want to do next?" he asked.
"Why don't we just go for a walk around the village?" she suggested. "Then we can meet up with the others at the Three Broomsticks for lunch." Harry nodded and wrapped an arm around Hermione's waist and pulled her against him as they stepped out of the alley, clothes and hair pleasantly mussed and lips puffy and red.
As the day progressed, Harry felt an unease settle over him, like he was being watched from afar and it wasn't someone looking out for his well being. The couple caught up with Ron, Neville and the twins at the Three Broomsticks for lunch, which was crowded to the brim with students enjoying an escape from the castle.
"There you two are," Neville called as Harry and Hermione reached the table. "What took you so long, we said that we'd all meet up at one?"
"Oh it looks like our favorite couple got into some trouble, didn't they?" Fred teased, causing Harry and Hermione to blush.
"Sod off you," Hermione chided even though she squeezed Harry's hand tightly. "So, are we going to have lunch or will you all continue to take the mickey?"
The twins looked at one another, "Take the mickey!" they cried in unison. The twins immediately began making kissing faces and noises as well as swooning.
"That's enough you two," Harry said sharply, as Hermione buried her head in Harry's chest. The twins fell silent at Harry's tone.
"What will it be gentlemen and lady?" Madam Rosmerta asked as she came to their table.
"A roast beef sandwich and a butterbeer please?" Harry said.
"Just a butterbeer please," Hermione said.
"I'll have the special with a beer as well," Ron said.
"Same for us," the twins said in unison.
"Bacon sandwich and a beer please Rosmerta," Neville said.
"Coming right up dears," Madam Rosmerta said, leaving the table to place their orders. Harry turned to the others and steepled his fingers, looking much like the wise old man that Albus Dumbledore had portrayed himself to be.
"So then, what are we going to do with the study group? With Sirius and Remus doing a brilliant job in Defence, do we really need the study group?" Harry asked.
"I think we should continue it," Ron said. "It would be smart to continue teaching the students who are willing to fight. Sirius and Professor Lupin will make sure we get through our exams and stand a chance against the Death Eaters but this group will make sure we survive and win."
"Ron's right," Hermione said. "Also, this will allow us a line of defense against the Death Nibblers. Malfoy and his group will know what Sirius and Remus teach them plus whatever their parents taught them before and over the summer. We'll need an edge when the time comes to fight."
"What are we going to call ourselves?" Fred asked. "I mean, the Ministry has their Aurors and Hit Wizards, You-Know-Who has his Death Eaters…"
"What does Harry Potter have?" George picked up.
"A bunch of friends who he would do anything for," Harry said.
"What about the 'Patronus Lumen'," Neville suggested.
"Defenders of Light," Hermione translated. "I like it. And once everyone we teach is able to conjure a corporeal Patronus, the name will really stick."
"All in favor?" Harry asked. The others nodded. Madam Rosmerta came by a moment later with the group's lunches. The group quickly dug into their food.
"So what do we want to do…" Harry was suddenly cut off by an immense explosion coming from outside the pub. Harry looked at the others, and saw that their faces too were rapidly paling and looked stricken. A student rushed into the pub.
"TROLLS! DEATH EATERS!" the student cried before fainting.
"Shit!" Harry cursed. "We need to help. This is it, Riddle's making his move." He spun from the table and raced outside with Hermione, Ron and the others trailing behind him. What met him nearly sent Harry to the ground in shock. A line of mountain trolls were marching toward the village, Dementors were swooping down from the mountains, weaving their way through the trolls and several groups of Death Eaters were behind the trolls, corralling the Dementors toward the village.
"Patronus on three!" Harry commanded. "One, two, three! Expecto Patronum!" Prongs burst from the tip of Harry's wand and charged toward the Dementors, a silvery otter, two foxes, wildcat and dog following in its glowing wake. "Concentrate on the trolls, keep them away from the younger students. The gloves are off, use any spell that you know!" Harry didn't wait for an answer as he sent a pair of Bone-Breakers hurtling toward the nearest troll. The spells connected with the troll's left leg, the first spell splattered against its tough skin but the second spell pierced the skin above the troll's knee. The troll howled as it fell to one knee, blood pouring from the wound. In a flash, Harry's wand spat five more Bone-Breakers and three more trolls fell to Harry's spells.
Hermione, Ron, Neville and the twins were taking pot-shots at the approaching Death Eaters, keeping their attention off Harry, allowing Harry, the most powerful magically of the group, to deal with the trolls and Dementors.
"Harry!" Hermione cried out. Harry spun around to see that Death Eaters had surrounded his friends, Hermione had a deep gash across her forehead, and Neville and Ron were battling two separate Death Eaters each. The twins had dealt with their opponents but were now keeping the Dementors away from the group.
There came an ear-shattering roar as Harry suddenly transformed into a massive black animal. It leapt into the midst of the students, the battle froze as the massive cat let loose another ear-shattering roar. The trolls froze in fear as their bones rattled, Death Eaters shivered under the massive cat's emerald gaze. Harry pounced onto the nearest Death Eater and in a flash of ivory white claws; the Death Eater was shredded apart in an instant. With blood still dripping from his claws, the transformed Harry attacked the next Death Eater. His jaws clamped down on the wizard's wand arm and tore it from its socket; blood sprayed Harry's face leaving him dripping.
There came a large crash. One of the trolls had just used its club to smash through the front door of Dervish & Banges. Harry's feline-enhanced hearing heard several people screaming inside the shop. With a single bound, Harry leapt onto the back of the troll attacking the shop. His front claws raked down the troll's back, opening up enormous slashes in the thick hide of the mountain troll. Landing on his feet, Harry then slashed at the back of the troll's knees. The troll's legs buckled before it collapsed to the ground with a resounding crash.
"Harry!" Hermione screamed as the transformed Harry leapt onto another troll's back.
"Hermione! What's going on? Where's Harry?" Sirius' voice called out over screams, crashes and roars of the battle.
"Harry transformed!" Hermione exclaimed. "He's that cat! But he's not responding to anything."
Sirius nodded. "There was a chance that might happen," he said. "The first time you transform into your Animagus form, you run the chance of letting your animal instincts run wild. And the more powerful the form you have, the bigger that chance runs in overwhelming the person. And with Harry being so strong magically, there's a chance that his animal instincts have taken over."
"Is there anyway to help him?" Hermione asked, fear coloring her tone.
"He either has to come out of it on his own, or we'll have to force Harry back to his human state," Sirius said. "Do you know the Animagus Transformation reversal spell?" Hermione nodded. "Good cause we're going to need as much power as we can get. But for now, as long as Harry is attacking the Death Eaters and their allies, we should leave him alone."
The battle raged around the village for another hour as Harry in his transformed state tore through the remaining trolls.
"Harry," Hermione called out as she, Sirius and Remus made their way around the ruins of Dervish & Banges, the last place they saw Harry. A low growl filled their ears as a massive black furred, green-eyed cat came slinking out of the shadows of the ruined shop. Gleaming ivory fangs shone in the bright sun as Harry the cat stalked toward Hermione and the two elder Marauders.
"Hermione, stay back," Sirius ordered. "His animal instincts are still in control and is likely to take any aggressive movement as a threat." Hermione nodded and slowly put her wand back into her robes. Sirius and Remus had their wands drawn but down at their sides. "Harry, you need to calm down and center yourself," Sirius said to the massive cat. "I know what you are going through right now, your father and I went through the same thing when we first transformed. You have to remember yourself. Please Harry."
The massive cat looked at the trio of the humans walking toward him. Its instincts were still firing full force, telling him to pounce and attack, to tear these puny two-legged animals to shreds. However, their scents were familiar to the cat and that gave it pause. The dark haired human's mouth was moving and sounds were coming out but the cat didn't understand it. Its sharp eyes spotted the smallest human slowly approaching him, it was a female and her scent was very pleasing to the cat. He allowed the female to come closer, just as the female reached him; the two other humans began to approach. Harry growled at them, flattening his ears. The two older humans froze and put their hands up, palms facing him.
"Harry," the female said softly in the cat's ear. "Please come back to us. You need to relax and let Sirius and Remus change you back. Harry, remember who you are."
The cat looked up at the female, it could smell the tears coming from her face. Leaning up, the cat's tongue came out and gently licked at the female's face, tasting her tears. The female knelt down next to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. The two older humans relaxed their stances and slowly continued to approach.
"Harry," the dark haired man said. "Remus and I are going to cast a spell on you, it will force you to turn back to your human self. It might hurt a bit since your animal self wants to stay in control but you have to fight it."
The cat, Harry, looked at the dark haired man and inclined his head. The female released his neck and stepped backward. The two men raised their arms and said something that Harry didn't understand, as his inner cat was howling at him to get away from the two men.
Harry roared as he was forcibly forced back from a massive cat to a human. The problem was that his clothes didn't survive the forced transformation.
"Oi, where the bloody hell are my clothes?" Harry asked, his voice cracking from pain after roaring and using different vocal cords.
"Oh sorry pup," Sirius said as Hermione ducked away, her face as red as Ron's hair. "Forgot that your clothes don't transform with you when it's forced. Here," he added, with a flick of his wand, Sirius conjured a large cloak that Harry quickly threw on over his exposed body.
"Than…" Harry began before his eyes rolled up into his head and he dropped from consciousness.
Harry groaned as consciousness followed back into his awareness. He opened his eyes and immediately regretted it, as the lights stabbed his eyes. "Argh!" he growled, quickly shutting his eyes to try and regain his eyesight.
"Harry!" a familiar voice cried beside Harry. Turning onto his side, Harry saw Hermione leap from a bedside chair. "Madam Pomfrey, he's awake! Oh Harry, I was so worried when you fainted."
"What happened?" Harry croaked.
"After Sirius and Remus changed you back, you fainted. It seems that you're suffered from magical exhaustion."
"What do you mean 'changed back'?"
"You completed the transformation," Hermione said. "You are an Animagus!"
"What?" Harry cried. "I am? What animal am I?"
"You're some sort of large black cat," Sirius said, appearing next to Hermione. "Gave us quite a scare pup, transforming like that. Though me and Moony are right cuffed at you, you took down quite a few mountain trolls and Death Eaters when you transformed."
Suddenly the memories of gushing blood, splintering bones and tearing flesh flashed through Harry's mind. His stomach rebelled at the phantom feeling of warm blood filling his mouth as he bit down on the throat of one of the Death Eaters. A bucket appeared at his side, and without thinking he emptied his stomach into it. After a few splatters, the sounds of dry heaving could be heard throughout the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey had made her way over when she heard Hermione's shout and was now ordering the others away from her patient. Hermione did so most reluctantly.
When Madam Pomfrey allowed the trio back to Harry's bedside, he was sitting upright though still looking clammy and pale. "How long have I been out?" Harry asked when Pomfrey finally left them alone.
"Two days," Sirius said. "Poppy said that your magical core is recharging well and you should be discharged tomorrow."
"That's good," Harry said. "Now what happened during the battle? The last thing I remember is Hermione getting cursed, Ron and Neville dueling some Death Eaters and the twins were fending off the Dementors."
"Well Harry, after you saw me get hit," Hermione said. "You transformed into your Animagus form and attacked. You pounced on one of the Death Eaters and…" she paused for a moment.
"You tore the Death Eater apart with your claws," Sirius said picking up the thread. "You actually killed several of the scum, Nott Sr., Avery, and some new recruits since neither Remus or I recognized. You also clawed up several trolls that were rampaging through the village."
"I did?" Harry asked softly. "I mean I remember some of what happened but it's still mostly a blur. How many were killed on our side?"
Sirius, Remus and Hermione exchanged a look before Hermione turned back to Harry. "Six students and fifteen villagers were killed in the attack. The trolls killed most of them when the trolls destroyed Dervish & Banges; a couple of the students were third-years. It was their…"
"First time to Hogsmeade," Harry finished as despair crashed over him. Hermione nodded. "How many Death Eaters were killed?"
"Four were killed another eight were caught," Sirius said. "Pup, I know what you're feeling but there was nothing more you could do. You saved more than were killed. I know it doesn't feel like that but those trolls and Death Eaters would have ransacked the village unless you transformed."
Harry looked up at his godfather, tears streaming down his face. "But if I had just done…"
"Don't do this to yourself Harry," Sirius interrupted sharply. "In war you don't have the luxury of 'what ifs' if you do, then you'll start second guessing yourself and your decisions. When that happens, everything falls apart."
"Sirius is right Harry," Remus said. "I know you feel bad about what has happened but don't put this all on yourself, none of this was your fault."
"Remus is right," Hermione picked up the thread. "Put the blame on the shoulders of Voldemort, where it truly belongs. He was the one who ordered the attacks, the blood of those killed lies with Voldemort not you. If you try and take responsibility for all of this, you will crumble under the weight of it all. Please Harry, I know you. You take too much onto your shoulders, you are not responsible for anything bad that happens, place blame of those truly responsible."
Harry nodded as he ducked his head to wipe his face dry. "Thank you Mione, Sirius, Moony," he said. "I know it's not my fault but I just can't help feeling…"
"That's enough Harry," Sirius said. "It will take some time but always remember, you are human. You can't save everyone in this war, and people will die. The only thing you can do is save as many people as you can."
"I'll try…wait, did you say attacks?" Harry asked. "What else happened?"
"During the attack on Hogsmeade, Voldemort launched attacks on Diagon Alley, St. Mungo's and Muggle London. We're still getting reports in from there but it looks like there were significantly higher causalities there than here at Hogsmeade."
"How much higher?" Harry asked, afraid of what the answer might be.
"Nearly 50 dead at Diagon Alley, nearly the same wounded. St. Mungo's had similar numbers," Remus said. "And the attack in Muggle London was the worst, over a hundred Muggles were killed and about twice that wounded. Riddle sent a bunch of giants into the middle London and set them loose. What was surprising was that the giants vanished after about an hour, they apparently were equipped with Portkeys."
"What does that mean?" Hermione asked. "Why would Voldemort do that? Why not have the giants wrecked all of the city, why go through the trouble of giving them time activated Portkeys?"
"That's the rub," Sirius said. "Each of the attacks could have been so much worse, the Death Eaters vanished after only an hour at each attack site."
"Why though?" Harry asked. "I mean, what did Voldemort gain for only limiting the attacks to just an hour. I mean, yes the attacks were bad but they could have been so much worse…wait, was the Ministry attacked?"
Sirius and Remus shook their heads. "No, it wasn't," Sirius said.
"Why would Voldemort attack here, Diagon Alley, St. Mungo's and London but not the Ministry?" Harry asked.
"Unless he didn't want the Ministry to be properly defended," Hermione guessed. "You're thinking it was a diversion so that Voldemort could infiltrate the Ministry?"
Harry nodded. "I do," he said. "He wanted something in the Ministry and the easiest way to get at it was to have the Ministry scrambling all over the country reacting to other disasters. What better way to slip into the Ministry and get out quickly than to have all the Aurors and DMLE personnel running around trying to stop giants, trolls and Dementors from wreaking havoc up and down the country?"
"You're right pup," Sirius said. "The questions are what did Voldemort want, why did he want it and most importantly, did he achieve his goal?"
"The answers to all those questions will be answered only when Riddle wants them to be," Harry said. "He's playing this extremely close to the vest. We won't know what his plans were until its already too late."
The hospital wing doors burst open and Professor McGonagall came rushing up the ward toward them.
"Min…Minerva, what's wrong?" Sirius asked, cutting himself off from using McGonagall's nickname when he saw her distraught expression.
"Azkaban was attacked as well, and all of You-Know-Who's supporters have been broken out," the Transfiguration professor said in a fearful whisper that filled the entire ward. Hermione's hands flew to her mouth in shock and fear. Sirius' eyes grew dark and stormy, while Remus' face hardened into a mask. Harry's eyes narrowed as his mind whirled around this new information.
"That was only part of it," Harry said after a moment. "This is only the beginning."
"What are you talking about Harry? Voldemort's most ardent and strongest supporters have just been broken out of Azkaban and, why are you taking this so easily?"
Harry turned to face his girlfriend, Hermione's breathe caught in her throat. "Don't ever think I am taking this easily, I know that Riddle is now back at full strength or close to it. But breaking his minions out of Azkaban was only part of it. We have to assume that this is all part of some scheme of his. There's something more to this, whatever you say, Riddle is NOT an idiot."
When Harry was released from the clutches of Madam Pomfrey the next day, the news of the Azkaban breakout was all over the school as the news of what Harry did during the Battle of Hogsmeade. People were now looking at Harry in awe with a twinge of fear. His transforming into his Animagus form had spread around the school in record time, even for the Hogwarts gossip network. Harry frowned at this because he wanted this information kept quiet to give him an advantage in the upcoming war. But now, he was sure that Voldemort had learned about his form and what he did during the battle from his spies inside the school.
Madam Pomfrey had told Harry to be careful about using magic in his classes after leaving the Hospital Wing. She had checked him over while Harry was confined to bed, what she found astounded her. His magical block, which had been placed on him by Dumbledore, was broken. When Harry asked how this was possible, Poppy surmised that when he transformed into his Animagus form, his magic forcibly broke the block. She warned him that his new amount of magic would take some getting used too. And she was right; Harry had gone to the Room of Requirement after escaping the matron's clutches to practice. He had no control of his spells, they were all over powered and his aim was thrown off by the backlash of the discharge of magic.
After classes the Monday following the attacks, Harry called a meeting of his friends and fellow leaders of the Defense Association: Ron, Hermione, Neville, Susan Bones, Luna Lovegood and Daphne Greengrass. Harry had decided to have at least one person from each House represented among his 'lieutenants'. Susan represented Hufflepuff, Luna for Ravenclaw and Daphne for Slytherin. Hermione was chosen as the Gryffindor representative even though Harry was the leader; everyone agreed that Hermione was second-in-command behind Harry.
"All right, thank you all for coming," Harry said as the group settled into their chairs. "We are here to figure out whether or not we will continue this group now that Professors Lupin and Black are actually teaching us Defence. So I'll put it to a vote, do we continue or not?" Everyone raised his or her hands in agreement. "Right then, second piece of business, since we are continuing our group, we need to figure out what exactly will be taught? Now that we have a competent Defence teacher, we can focus on more advanced Defence or just work on mastering what we are being taught."
"I think that we should break it up," Daphne said. "For those who need help, they can focus on mastering the basics but for those of us who are more advanced, let them learn more advanced spells."
"I agree with Daphne," Susan said. "With You-Know-Who getting his best fighters back from Azkaban, we need to learn as much as we possibly can. We all saw what you did in Hogsmeade Harry, now none of us are as strong magically as you are but your choice of spells was right on the money. I know that I need to work on my casting speed, I'm not as strong magically as Hermione or Daphne but if I can cast faster than they can, I can still win."
"Susan's right," Ron said. "Instead of letting people getting ahead of others, we should get everyone's casting speed up to an acceptable level. After that, then we can move on to new spells."
Hermione nodded. "They're right Harry," she said. "I know that time is running short, we know that Voldemort will be making a move sooner rather than later but all we can do right now is learn as much as we can during school. Let the adults deal with Voldemort and the Death Eaters for the time being."
Harry frowned. Sitting back and doing nothing was something that he had always had trouble dealing with. But he knew that Hermione, Ron, Susan and Daphne were correct.
"What we need is more time," Luna said serenely. The others looked at the little blonde in confusion.
"We now that Luna," Hermione said. "But there's only so much time we have, Voldemort will make his move whether we are ready or not."
"Of course but there are ways of getting more time than we currently have," Luna said. "Hermione, you should know this better than anyone."
"What are you…Time Turners, of course!" Hermione exclaimed. "But how do we get some, they are highly regulated by the Ministry and I don't think they'll be willing to hand them over to a bunch of kids."
"Time Turners wouldn't work," Luna said. "I'm talking about slowing time down."
"What are you talking about Luna?" Harry asked.
"We slow time down using magic," Luna said. "My family has always been curious about the concept of time. There is a way of using Ancient Runes to give us more time. I'm sure that Hermione has done some research into it."
"Yes I have Luna," Hermione said. "But it is extremely dangerous to attempt, even for a Rune Master. I'm not a Rune Master, and we don't have the materials to attempt such a thing."
"We might but Hogwarts does," Luna said cryptically. A table appeared behind Luna, filled with many things that Harry didn't recognize but Hermione, Daphne and Luna did.
"How?" Hermione asked in amazement.
"We are in the Room of Requirement," Luna said as if it was obvious. "When asked, Hogwarts will provide."
"What is all this stuff?" Harry asked.
"Harry, this is all the materials we need to complete a Time Distortion ward," Hermione said. "And there's even a book here explaining it! With this, we should be able to slow time down so we have more time to train."
"That's great," Harry exclaimed. "How much time should we do this? And are there any side effects?"
"We can't use it too much as we will age at the same rate," Luna said. "I think we should use Time Distortion with the ratio of one hour inside it is only fifteen minutes outside. That way we can get in a single night eight hours of training."
The others blinked. "Are you sure that's not too much?" Neville asked. He seemed tentative to the idea of such a marathon of training.
"I think it's perfect," Harry said. "This way we can get everyone up to speed that much faster. And we're going to need it, I don't know how much Hermione and Ron have told you but those attacks this past weekend were just a diversion from Voldemort."
"WHAT!" Neville, Susan and Daphne cried. Luna just nodded serenely.
"Those attacks were just a diversion for Riddle to free his supporters from Azkaban and, we think, steal something from the Ministry," Harry said.
"Freeing his goons from Azkaban I could understand, but how do you figure that You-Know-Who stole something from the Ministry?" Susan asked.
"Well, Voldemort launches his largest coordinated attack since the First War but doesn't attack the Ministry itself, why? Why did the attacks only last an hour? Those attacks, while damaging, weren't as bad as they could have been. Take the attack in Muggle London for instance; the Ministry Aurors weren't even there when the attack stopped. Yes they were dealing with the attacks in Diagon Alley and at St. Mungo's but still, there were giants in the middle of Muggle London! You would think that more damage would be much more. Sirius, Professor Lupin and I think that Voldemort used these attacks just as a diversion to spring his followers in Azkaban and sneak into the Ministry while it was nearly empty."
"You're making quite a few good points but what could You-Know-Who want that was hidden in the Ministry?" Daphne asked.
"We don't know," Harry said. "And that's the problem, we won't find out until Voldemort is ready to unleash his plan. So for now we wait and train, we have some time but we can't let it go to waste." The others nodded.
The rest of the term flew by for Harry and the other members of Patronus Incorporated, as they called the group outside of meetings. People who overheard them just thought that they were talking about a company that Harry was starting. Luna, Hermione and Daphne poured over the Time Distortion ward instructions that Hogwarts provided in hopes of perfecting them in time for the group to use them. The trio of girls learned that the Room of Requirement was the perfect place to practice as it provided anything and everything they need. The three girls finally perfected the ward two weeks before term ended. Harry decided that they would use the ward with just the inner circle of the group during the final Hogsmeade weekend of term, he argued that if they invited the entire group, it would be too easy to notice them missing. They also decided to limit the time ratio on the ward, Luna's first suggestion of 1:8 was too high, so they cut it down to for every one hour in the outside world, they would have two hours under the ward. Eight hours in a single night was too much for a single session, or a single night. They would widen the ratio during the weekend if they hosted any meetings then.
"So is everything ready?" Harry asked as they entered the Room of Requirement.
"For the last time, yes Harry," Hermione sighed.
"This is a bit of a change," Harry chuckled. "Normally I'm the one about to do something wild and crazy and you're the one who trying to get me to slow down and think." Hermione blushed as the others chortled. Hermione glared at Harry, but the mirth twinkling in his eyes belied his amusement.
"Oh fine," Hermione huffed. "Luna, Daphne and I have been pouring over this for ages now and we each can do this in our sleep. We're ready."
"All right then," Harry said. "Fire it up."
Hermione nodded and tapped her wand on several rune stones that lit with an inner flame. Harry and the others felt a rush of magic expand out of the stones and pass through them.
"There it's done," Luna said. "The doors will open when our eight hours are up while only an hour will pass outside the room."
"Good, then let's get to work," Harry said clapping his hands.
The group's time in the Room of Requirement was put to good use. For the first hour, the group worked on their casting speed silently. Each of the inner circle now were able to cast silently all but their most powerful spells. Aside from Harry and surprisingly Neville, everyone's spells were slightly weaker when cast silently. Harry and Daphne told the others that this was normal as more of their latent power was forced into actually performing the spell when it was cast silently. By the end of the first hour, everyone was drained, so they spent an hour recovering by having lunch that Luna and Ron had packed from the kitchens. When they had recovered, Harry had them work on conjuring their own Patronus' as well as teaching them the Patronus messaging spell. Hermione and Luna were working on a way for the group to communicate. Soon Prongs was prancing around with Hermione's otter, Luna's hare, Neville's bear, Daphne's fox and Ron's mongoose.
Harry and Hermione exchanged a chuckle at Ron's Patronus form. When he asked, they told him that in the Muggle world, mongooses were known as a snake's worse nightmare. It was a credit to the level of Ron's maturity when he responded, "Well, then I hope my Patronus becomes a Death Eaters and Dementors worst nightmare."
When everyone had finally been able to conjure a corporeal Patronus and had mastered the messenger charm, they only had two hours left in the Room of Requirement. Harry taught then variations of the spells that they already knew including Cutting, Slicing and Banishing Hexes, plus some curses like the Bone-Breaking curse, and the Flamethrower. They also worked on conjuring solid materials in order to block the Unforgivable Curses. The entire group was drained when they heard a chime sound around them.
"The ward is about to dissipate," Luna said. A few minutes later, the group felt a rush of magic fill the room, this time as if magic was being pulled into the center of the room. The rune stones that had marked the boundary of the ward glowed as the magic was returned to them.
"All right everyone," Harry said. "Remember to go take a nap or something. We've been in here for eight hours so our internal clock is messed up. You don't want to mess up your sleep schedule by passing out until dark. Limit yourself to only two hours or so. Why don't we take the day off tomorrow and then pick everything up Monday after classes." The others nodded and packed up their things and left the Room of Requirement. Hermione stayed behind with Harry.
"That was brilliant Harry," Hermione gushed. "Did you see Ron's Patronus, or Neville's?"
"Yes I did," Harry chuckled. He yawned. "Come on Mione, let's get back to the Common Room, I don't think you'll appreciate it if I were to fall onto you and pass out."
Hermione giggled. "No, I wouldn't," she said. Harry slung an arm around Hermione's waist and she leaned into Harry's side as they walked.
"So are you going to stay with your parents for the holidays?" Harry asked as they reached the Fat Lady's corridor.
"I imagine so," Hermione answered. "I'm not really sure what we'll being for the hols mainly because of what happened over the summer."
"Oh well, if you want to, you and your parents can come back to the Manor with me, Sirius and Moony?" Harry suggested. "There's plenty of room, and I'm pretty sure that the Weasleys aren't staying there."
"I'd like that Harry but I'd need to talk with my parents first," Hermione said. "I don't know how comfortable they'll be spending Christmas there. I think that my mum said something about having her family over and that there's this New Year's Eve Ball that they want to go too."
"Oh," Harry said. "Well then, I'm sure that you'll have a lovely time."
Hermione frowned. "Don't worry Harry, besides I think my parents are going to make me go to that Ball and I was hoping that you'd like to go too?"
"Really?" Harry asked. "I'd love to go with you Hermione. Are you sure that your mum and dad would let me?"
"Of course Harry. They think the world of you, and I'm sure that they would love to have you come with us," Hermione said. "I'll need to owl them asking what their plans are but I don't see a problem. Do you mind if I borrow Hedwig?"
"Of course not Mione," Harry responded. "You can borrow Hedwig anytime you…"
"Are either of you going to give me the password? Or just stand out here all day!" the portrait of the Fat Lady snapped. Harry and Hermione jumped at the sharp voice and blushed heavily. Hermione gave the portrait the password and the pair climbed inside.
A/N: There's the newest chapter of Shadow War, hope you enjoy. Sorry it's taken so long for this update, my muse ran off and went into a self-induced vow of silence until this past week. I know that slowing down time to get more training done has been done a whole lot, but it really is a great idea. Hope you enjoy it, the last bit of it was a bit rushed IMO so give me yours in the form of a review. Reviews make me and my muse happy, and I need a happy muse to keep sending me ideas for the story. Thanks