Chapter 15: Faustian Gamble
"I'm a portion of the part that was once everything, a part of Darkness that gave birth to Light, that haughty Light which now disputes rank and the ancient sway of Mother Night."
Control Centre, St Mungo's, Basement One
Her eyes were glued to the little flashing lime-green dots on the map of the High-Dependency Confinement Ward. There were a few black dots and orange dots among them: guests and the patients respectively. The ward, which was at the end of basement one, was rectangular, with smaller rooms for the patients along three sides of the hall.
There was only one entrance into that ward, which was through the Medium-Dependency Confinement Ward.
Tonks would have admired the neat magic of this map if they were not here for a time-sensitive mission. She was hungry for updates within the ward ever since Sirius and Remus entered that ward by themselves—the two black dots that appeared next to the single purple in a small room at the end of the high-dependency confinement ward were the evidence of their presences.
Director Bones was represented by a purple dot on the map due to the device that was assigned to her when she registered at the control room. That device could not be removed until they return to the control room.
"We have Director Bones' location," reported Tonks, tapping on the purple dot in the high-dependency confinement ward.
Her dark eyes shifted to the maps spread out on the large desk. The other two wards were quite empty—saved for a few rooms near the control room. In a short while, the DMLE could secure the two wards completely and proceed to the third ward where their boss was trapped.
"Good," returned Kingsley, taking note of the position. "Good work, Tonks. He reported the position to Rufus, the overall-in-charge of this mission.
Due to their access to this map of the three wards on the basement, they were given a field promotion to be a part of the decision-making process of this important mission by acting as the eyes for Rufus. They had a bird-eye view of the mission, so they could make well-informed decisions. Technically, neither Tonks nor Kingsley had sufficient rank to perform this role. However, after the recent betrayal and the discovery of spies within the department, Rufus and Sirius could only rely on themselves to remain on the ground to direct the mission.
Tonks ignored the high-ranking Auror who had taken charge of the operation in the control room.
Her eyes returned to the cluster of green, black and orange dots in the High-Dependency Confinement Ward. Her stomach knotted painfully knowing that civilians were caught in the conflict.
The spiky hair girl shifted uneasily in her seat.
Tonks was too young to participate in the Wizarding War, besides having to hide because of her identity. She knew the fear of war but was unable acclimatised to the moral dilemma of participating in a battle with civilians. She questioned her ability to fight in such circumstances when her enemies did not nicely fit into that category, like the Death Eaters.
It was easier to take up her wand, knowing that she was melting justice.
However, war seemed very different from what she was taught.
The doctrine of Auror school advocated a monochromic world, demarcating people into two ends of a dichotomy: Good and Evil. Her mentor, the esteemed Moody shot a blasting spell through that bubble—her naïve worldview—by introducing the blurred lines of a battlefield.
That lesson was particularly memorable.
Her mentor had both eyes pinned on her–an eerie and alarming experience—and he huffed, "Your so-called enemies and allies are essentially the same, merely differentiated by virtue of their choice. Essentially, you only required focussing on your mission, not the moral fancy stuff. You'll understand this soon." He tapped on his temple with his gnarled finger. "Your mind will be jammed. Yes, you will be considered a full-fledged Auror after you get your feet soaked with the blood of the battlefield. It's the final test of your commitment to your duty. Many Aurors don't make the cut. If they do, they're never the same."
The blank gaze in his eyes made her uncomfortable.
However, she knew what he meant when he said that Aurors who had seen battlefields would never be the same: Amelia and her drinking, Moody and his paranoid, Rufus and his callousness.
It was all about the mission.
Now, she was on the doorsteps of the Temple of Mars.
Tonks sighed aloud.
She returned her attention to the map spread out across the desk.
Tonks was too inexperienced to know the subtleties of warfare, but she could tell that the DMLE were fighting from a poor position to rescue their Director. They were taught that it was better to secure a room or a building from a distance, rather than invading that building.
Her legs bounced up and down the seat apprehensively.
"Relax," smiled Kingsley, sliding into the seat next to her. His face was relaxed as he folded his arms, watching the map closely."Everything is proceeding well. We have Director's position. Rufus has evacuated the civilians and secured the Medium-Dependency Confinement Ward and the Rehabilitation Ward." The high-ranking Auror tapped on the map with a finger, directing her inquisitive gaze to the reduction of black, green and orange dots in the two wards he had mentioned. These dots disappeared when they reached the lobby of the Rehabilitation Ward, indicating that they had left the premise. "Look, they're commencing the second part of the plan."
There were four teams of three in the Medium-Dependency Confinement ward, securing the exit in and out of that ward.
The younger Auror followed Kingsley's determined gaze to the neat lines of purple dots representing the DMLE. They had broken into groups of three, advancing through the empty rehab ward into the medium-dependency confinement ward to join the rest of the team rapidly. Due to the wards, they had the assurance that no one else could enter except the main exit of the basement one.
A part of her was eager to be part of the mission and join her colleagues in the battle. Tonks had a feeling that this would be one of the most important battles after the Wizarding War with Voldemort. However, the task that Sirius had entrusted them was very important to their mission. Sirius had tasked them with the duty of maintaining control over the wards in the basement so that they could secure the level.
Kingsley turned to face Stefani and two other colleagues. "You could execute the plan we have discussed just now."
Stefani nodded at him.
A smattering of French could be heard as they discussed reconfiguring the wards in the basement of St Mungo's to achieve their objective. They were communicating with the team of ward-breakers in basement two. They were reinforcing the wards on the outside of the wards to prevent others from entering the basement from the ground level, securing the area fully.
There was only one exit from the wards of basement one, which was near the control room.
Their French ally had fulfilled his promise and supplied a team of English-speaking ward-breakers to assist them in their mission in recovering Director Bones.
Sirius and Remus had abandoned them to attempt their own subversive mission to recover Amelia—that was how she was certain that that purple dot was her. According to Kingsley, Rufus was hopping mad that they had been as reckless as Amelia. The young Auror could not blame Sirius for playing the hero. They could not leave her boss alone in the High-Dependency Confinement ward, knowing that Voldemort was there. Besides, the situation did not look good—Amelia appeared to be trapped in a room, guarded by some healers.
Now, they were waiting for them to exit from the High-Dependency Confinement Ward.
"If the communication mirror worked, why didn't Director escape out of the ward first? She could direct an attack on Voldemort from a safe point right?" Tonks frowned, rubbing her chin contemplatively.
"It's an abnormality that Sirius and Remus could portkey-ed into the ward. Stefani was surprised that they had managed this feat." The bald wizard rubbed his chin. "Perhaps, there was a reason behind this." His gaze became impassive.
She drummed her fingers on the desk impatiently. The only reason she could think of was that the objective of this mission had changed to ensure the death of Voldemort. She could imagine the fear and the panic if the public knew that Voldemort was not killed in the previous war. Amelia Bones was dedicated to a fault and selfless, prioritising the safety of the society above all. Knowing the threat of Lord Voldemort, she would not settle for anything less than the death of Lord Voldemort.
Tonks admired Director Bones immensely, but she knew that the older woman was not faultless.
That dedication to law persuaded Amelia to permit Sirius to simmer in Azkaban for a decade. That same devotion to Sirius made it easy to clear his name. In fact, the director of DMLE had placed Kingsley, one of her best men, in charge of Sirius's case, hoping that he could help Sirius.
Her devotion to Sirius was another reason she did not have another partner in the DMLE, which meant that she needed to be desk-bounded.
Sirius was a good complement to her since he understood all the facets of her. Perhaps, if fate was kind to them, Amelia and her goofy relative might finally be together.
"Her reason might be personal too." He looked grim as his gaze became contemplative. His clenched jaw was the only sign that he was upset. "I don't know about the members of the HIT team but Moody has visited these wards frequently in the past to interrogate the patients. He should appear on the map as a purple dot, like the rest of the DMLE."
Her bubblegum-pink hair flashed red before becoming pink again.
"W-what…what do you mean, Kingsley?" Her anxious gaze glued to Kingsley, waiting for a confirmation. Was he suggesting that something had happened to her mentor? She was under his tutelage until 1994 when she qualified as an Auror.
He rubbed his forehead nervously, jarring his single gold hoop earring. Kingsley took a cleansing breath, hoping to find a better way to break the news. "There is the possibility," whispered Kingsley. The ache in his voice was apparent. "I believe that this will be a long battle because Director Bones cannot settle for an escape. If anything had happened to the team, she will want revenge."
Her gaze returned to the map spread across the desk anxiously.
It could not be—her mentor would not die. She refused to believe that her mentor could have been killed in duty.
There were changes to the map.
"What's going on?" She grasped the corner of the desk.
The two black dots confined with the purple dot had disappeared. A group of green dots and black dots seemed to accompany the purple dot across the ward to another room in that ward.
"Director Bones is surrounded by unfriendly. Two o' clock from the entrance, over," announced Kingsley, locating Amelia's new position.
The neat lines of black dots burst into the High-Dependency Confinement Ward in threes, moving to take up the strategic locations without issues: a team of three had secured the position at the corner across the ward, the door, and the guard's room within the ward.
Now, Tonks was officially afraid.
The battle had finally begun.
High-Dependency Confinement Ward, St Mungo's
Amelia caught a fleeting glimpse of a team of three heavily-armed men entering the ward in the line before smoke filled the ward. The ward was choked with smoke, blurring their vision, as if a veil was drawn over their eyes. She could barely see the outline of her hands through the smoke. Her eyes and throat were itchy but tolerable.
Some of the healers, surrounding them, coughed when they inhaled that smoke.
Due to her training, the smoke barely affected her.
Amelia picked up the swearing by someone—Parry, no doubt—who was the closest to her. A smirk appeared on her lips knowing that she could escape from them.
Amelia ripped her hand from the cold metal door, triggering the mechanism to shut the door to Snape's room. She did not know if it was her nerves, but it felt as if the door took a protracted time to activate the mechanism to seal it shut. The gears started again, growling and howling before the noises died.
"No! No! No!" Someone, across her, squealed in a high pitch and unnatural voice.
Several bolts of red light flashed brightly, speeding from three locations, boxing them in. These blinding red spells struck the bodies around her and they dropped on the ground like flies. Based on the angle of the attack and her knowledge of the DMLE's strategy, she knew that the DMLE had successfully entered and secured two adjacent corners and the only exit of this ward. Since Snape's room was near one of the corners of the ward and the High-Dependency Ward was an open room, the DMLE had an advantage.
The closest safe point was to the left of her, based on the direction of the stunners. She was certain that a team of DMLE would be there.
All she needed to do was to get to them for safety.
Without delay, the Head of DMLE dropped to the ground.
Another round of stunners followed speedily without a break. The net of red spells zoomed just a hairbreadth away from her. If she was not familiar with their stratagem, she would be caught by the net of red lights. She exhaled a breath she did not know she was holding. The second wave of attack reaffirmed the location of the safe point. Her spirit became buoyant with hope.
"Attack now!" bellowed Parry, the undercurrent of panic obvious in his tone. He tried to organise an effective defence against the aggressive and bold DMLE. "Use any spell. Fire towards the exit!"
Her brows creased. She should have known that Parry would not be disabled by the smoke like the rest of Voldemort's puppets. Amelia considered taking Parry down for a brief moment: no, that was not worth the risk since she was instrumental in this fierce battle. She crawled towards the wall until she could feel the smooth trimmings of the ground where it met the wall. Then, she turned forty-five degrees and scuttled towards that direction, where the closest safe point was.
She fished out the earpiece that Sirius had given her and put it on.
"Continue with the plan, over." It was Rufus! Her second-in-command.
The healers and patients mounted a coordinated attack in that direction specified after they had formed a wall in the rough direction of the door. They had used the bubblehead charms on themselves so that they would not be affected by the smoke—they looked odd with a bowl over their head. "Reducto!" "Confringo!" "Petrificus Totalus!" Their multi-coloured spells lighted up in the fog briefly as they bolted towards the exit, disappearing into the heavy blanket of smoke.
Her heart nearly stopped at the sight of the spells.
Hastily, Amelia scrambled on her knees and elbows, trying to get away as far as she could. She snaked behind the healers, using them as a shield.
Soon, the ricocheted offensive curses returned rebounded off shields at odd angles. It made the situation even more chaotic. Some of the spells struck the roof of the ward, while others knocked some of the healers that she used as a barrier.
Plaster fell from the roof, an effect from the rebounded spells, adding to the mayhem.
Around her, the healers fell to the ricocheted spells. He was so close to her that she could see his face. He looked very young, no doubt a fresh graduate from Hogwarts. His eyes were open—lifeless—and there was a gaping wound in the middle of his chest.
Her gaze became cold.
Her instincts went ballistic suddenly. Amelia pressed her body to the ground. She curled, wrapping her head in her arms as she tucked close to her body. A sickly orange spell zoomed past her dangerously, striking the wall above.
Amelia expelled the breath she was holding.
Her heart pounded loudly. She took a deep breath to calm down, ignoring the pumping of adrenaline through her body. She needed to get to safety so that she could delay Voldemort's discovery of Snape's disappearance. Frowning, she continued crawling with more vigour.
"Continue, over." The steady and gruff voice of Rufus announced over the earpiece. Ah, Rufus was continuing the room-clearing drill.
The DMLE maintained a fierce and steady barrage of stunners, trying to disable their enemies completely from the locations they had already secured.
"Shield up and continue the attack—" Parry's voice—it was a distance away from her.
"No, you idiot! Revive the others on the ground. Cease all offensive and gather all the forces. Find Director Bones!" The high-pitch voice rang in the ward, amidst the panic. "Find her now! Now!"
Blood pulsed loudly in her ears.
Amelia was in trouble.
Should she warn Rufus of the change of plans? She deliberated over the risk she would take if she announced his plans over the communication device, giving away her location. Around her, she could hear the healers reviving others as their partners cast shields to protect them. No, the rebounded stunners would be a clear sign that the enemies had changed their plans.
All she needed to do was to escape to safety.
Her heart thumped wildly.
The Head of the DMLE forced herself to consider her situation so that she could use the situation to her advantage. Her mind calmly assessed the situation. How would Voldemort and his cronies try to find her? Voldemort sounded quite distant from her position, no doubt holding the position of Snape's room. He would not travel too far away from the room given his weakness. She was certain that he was afraid that Amelia would rescue the Potions master right under his nose.
Would Voldemort assume that she was making a beeline for the only exit to regroup with her men? That would be logical since she was trying to prevent Voldemort from recovering Snape.
There was a glaring issue that she could not figure out: how would Voldemort leave the ward? It would be strange if he did not plan for an escape plan. Was he too confident that no one would learn of his plans? It did not sound likely so the Dark Lord must have another trick up his sleeve.
No, it was better for her to be out of the ward.
The Head of the DMLE picked up her speed, trying to crawl as fast as she could, knowing that she was racing against time.
Her only consolation was that Voldemort needed her alive.
A hand grasped her painfully on her ankle, preventing her from moving. "Caught her!" An overly-stretched eerie smile appeared on that man's face when he gripped her painfully by her ankles. His partners had set up shields to defend them from the attack of the DMLE.
She activated her earpiece effortlessly. "I'll not cave in to you!" Amelia rolled away from the body-binding spell, trying to get into a better position to fight against her assailants.
The healer swore loudly. "She's a slippery thing!"
"Location, over." Rufus's harsh response followed.
Amelia withdrew her spare wand from her thigh. "Relashio!" The purple spell struck the captor on the chest, causing him to grunt in pain. Immediately, that healer dropped Amelia, allowing her to scamper into safety. Without hesitation, she fired a blasting spell on the assailant, point-blank.
That spell knocked the attacker off his feet, after blasting a hole through his chest.
She scrambled to her feet, running towards the safe point.
"To the right of Team A, over." A familiar deep and slow voice announced over the communication device.
"Don't let her get away!" yelled another healer, firing another body-binding spell at her. Another attacker fired a stunner at her. She dodged the two spells, relying on her instincts. She allowed them to zoom over her shoulder.
Amelia spun around and fired two successive blasting spells in the direction of the attack. She crouched, another spell on her lips, ready to put up a fight with the attackers.
They did not return fire.
A temporary sense of relief washed over her.
"Team A, affirmative."
She was buoyant with hope, knowing that they were close to recovering her. Now, she had more luck of mounting an attack against Voldemort. That man would pay for the death of her men. She continued to run to the safe point.
Three members of the DMLE, dressed in full combat suits, appeared in front of her, their wands out.
They lowered their wands at the sight of their Director.
She nodded sharply at them. "I'm with Team A, over."
"Team A and Director are together, over," Kingsley announced at the same time.
The shoulders of the leader relaxed visibly after receiving that confirmation. Amelia was glad that Team A leader was so vigilant.
"Team C and D move into position, over. Team A regroup, over."
They flanked her on two sides wordlessly, while one of them cast a shield against any attack. It was clear that they were very familiar with the drill since they looked so well-practised. The team quickly drew to the wall, so that they would be properly shielded. However, they remained vigilant, knowing that the walls were capable of reflecting spells.
The team retraced the route that they had taken when they arrive at the ward to regroup with the team that was securing the exit of the ward. She expected the return to be less dangerous since the DMLE would have secured the routes.
"Duck!" One of the Auror pushed her head towards the ground as they covered her bodily.
A net of spells flew over them, barely missing them. They bounced off the wall, scattering in different directions. One of the stray spells hit one of the members of Team A covering her side. He collapsed next to her.
Amelia scrambled to her feet mechanically, engaging the attackers in battle, so that the rest of the team could assemble.
"Hurry! Protect the target."
The rest of the team were on defensive, shielding Amelia with their bodies and their magic. They focused on putting up a shield to protect Amelia. Their eyes scanned their surrounding closely, ready for battle.
"Man down, over." Team A leader announced calmly.
The team walked sideways, like a crab, facing the direction of a possible attack, towards the exit. All they needed to do was to maintain on this route until help arrived.
Another barrage of spells sped towards them, fired from two different positions. Caught by surprise, the spell took out of her men. Amelia dropped and rolled to the side, returning a volley of spell towards one direction, aimed to permanently disable them.
She could not tell if she felled any of her assailants.
Next to her, Team A leader had fired a volley of spells in the other direction. They drew towards one another, back to back.
"Team A flanked on all sides, over. They are outnumbered." Kingsley's urgent voice was heard over the communication device. Her heart pounded furiously.
Voldemort had located her position.
She swallowed visibly.
"Team C and D are moving into position! Team A regroup. See to Director's safety!"
"Keep moving," commanded Amelia softly. "Don't use a shield unless necessary."
Instinctively, the Director dropped into a roll, sensing the surge of magical energies. A glowing magical shield materialised before her, a solid translucent wall. The barrage of multi-coloured lights ricocheted off, rapid-fire. It provided them with the means to escape.
Her head snapped towards the direction of the spell into the exhausted face of Remus. He wore a mask, covering his mouth and throat. His shoulders were slumped, his face pallid. "Let's move. Voldemort is organising the attack."
A sickly and strange purple spell sped towards Remus.
Immediately, the werewolf threw himself out of the way.
The spell exploded, releasing fumes into the air. The powerful impact threw Amelia off her into the wall behind her. Her head knocked on the wall hard, causing her to see stars. Pain skyrocketed through her as she fell on the hard ground.
Her wand, knocked out of her hand by the impact, had disappeared out of sight.
Suddenly, a pungent and acidic scent choked her. It smelled so rancid that it scorched her throat, nose and eyes. Her head was spinning wildly, and her heart began to beat quickly.
The director of DMLE coughed violently, her eyes tearing from the sharp smell.
Merlin! There was a chemical in the smoke.
"Retreat now. Retreat out of the ward. Chemicals." She coughed uncontrollably. She scanned her environment and spotted the bodies of her men. Team C which had convened with them had also collapsed from the detonation. Some of the members of the team that had survived the explosion had collapsed.
Instinctively, she pressed her hand to her mouth and held her breath. Using all her energy, she pushed herself into a standing position.
She was bleeding profusely, burnt in several places. Amelia ignored the agony, trying to find her bearings. Amelia was glad that she had her communication device.
"Rufus! Team A and C are down. All but two men, over."
Fear constricted her throat.
She was certain that she was the only survivor.
Immediately, she prepared herself for a fight, knowing that there was no way she could escape without avoiding a battle.
Remus materialised before her, with a large bubble around his head. His combat robes were altered to cover all his skin.
She heaved a sigh of relief at the sight of him.
"Director, regroup over. Regroup now!"
"Affirmative." Her voice was hoarse.
Remus pointed the wand at her, ready to do the same for her when she caught an outline of a person lurking menacingly behind him.
Deciding instantly, Amelia swept her leg across Remus's legs. Her leg connected with his, causing the werewolf to lurch forward, away from harm.
Shock crossed Remus's face as he fell, a distorted yell on his lips. He did not expect her to attack him suddenly.
Amelia hastily rolled away into safety. The sudden burst of activity caused her to inhale sharply. Her throat scorched, and it felt as if something was dislodged in her throat.
Her skin felt like it was on fire.
Within seconds, a bolt of green light slammed on the door inches above her, causing the door to quake violently. The metal door shone a bright green, absorbing that powerful spell slowly.
Her sudden gasp forced the rancid gas into her body. Immediately, she coughed uncontrollably as if she drank burning ashes. She blinked violently. She needed another wand desperately.
Despite the haze of her mind, she could faintly register Kingsley's report of the decrease of numbers. Her heart raced furiously.
"Director, regroup now!"
She fell on her knees, searching the ground for another wand. Cold sweat beaded on her forehead. There was an oppressive silence. She could barely pay attention to the noises around her: someone seemed to be engaged in a fight.
She could barely concentrate on her surroundings, blinking violently.
Spells bounced off the wall periodically—brief flashes of light of different colour.
The burning pain of her skin and the increasing giddiness forced her to fumble around the ground, trying to find a wand. However, her search was to no avail.
There was no wand around her.
Her heart sank like a boulder.
Sudden, a violent bout of a cough gripped her. Amelia lurched forward, coughing loudly. A feeling of suffocation, as if she was drowning overwhelmed her. Her senses went ballistic as if sensing her impending doom. When Amelia removed her hand from her mouth, she was surprised to see fresh blood on the palm of her hand.
Was that from her?
She was shell-shocked.
Energy was draining from her quickly, leaving her feeble. It seemed as if her body was not in her control—she collapsed on the ground, unable to pick herself up. Breathing became more laborious and she felt as if she did not have the energy to struggle to take in more air.
"Director, respond, over!"
She had a mission to complete!
She could not… She could not give up here!
"Merlin, Director, respond, over!"
Amelia couldn't stay down when everyone was putting their life on the line. She could not stay down when her partner was still fighting. She didn't know where Sirius and Remus were but she knew that they were out there, doing something to bring this to a final end. So was young Harry and Hermione.
The Director of DMLE steeled herself, pushing herself into her elbows and knees so that she could move.
The world spun around her wildly.
Her stomach clenched and unclenched uncomfortably.
She suppressed the violent urge of turning to the side to throw up.
In her efforts to move, the communication device slipped from her ear and shattered on the ground.
Amelia stared at the broken communication device helplessly.
She was cut off from the world.
Her heart fell.
Despair, embodied by that little voice in her head, told her that she had expanded all her usefulness and could no longer rise above the storm. She allowed the despair to swallow her, knowing that no amount of efforts could help her break free from those manacles that were chaining her down.
No, she could not give into that persistent voice that told her that she had hit her limits.
She had a duty to her men and the society.
Besides, she owed him a proper apology. Images of his goofy and mischievous smile appeared in her mind. She could feel the warmth of his embrace on her skin as if his arms were around her. She remembered the heart-warming future he painted of them: wrinkly skin, grey hair, arguing over breakfast in their kitchen over another prank he had pulled on one of their friends.
Gentle warmth blossomed in her chest, powering her to go on.
Amelia steeled herself.
She must fight on.
Death Chamber, Department of Mysteries, Level 9 of the Ministry of Magic
Moments after Harry's encounter with Death had concluded, the Portal began to emanate wispy tendrils of ebony-black magic. They creep out of Portal, an inky mess, curling around the grey stone frame of the Portal. They were so dark that they seemed to be absorbing all the colour and magic around them. Instantly, the Portal began to blink furiously, as the Chamber became charged with malicious magic that sent shivers down their spine.
Hermione felt uneasy, watching the Portal flashed totteringly. She swallowed visibly, feeling a strange sense of oppression and unspeakable dread. Her hands became clammy, sensing that something was going to happen.
The magical black vines were destabilising the Portal, draining the magic of the Portal like a parasite to sustain themselves. These vines of magic hissed and slithered like a nest of living serpents into the Portal.
Then, the pungent scent of blood filled the chamber as the vines became bright crimson. These transformed vines flowed languidly into the Portal and down the grey arch slowly until they covered the arch completely.
They could no longer see the stone arch.
"What is happening?" demanded some of the observers, looking fearfully at one another. They could not comprehend the strange events that were unfolding.
"Blood! It's blood!" Someone squealed.
"Blood. So much blood." Another person whimpered, afraid.
That atmosphere of fear and panic heightened.
"Oh hush, calm yourself down," Hestia commanded quietly, observing the changes impassively. She was the only voice of reason. Her eyes flashed with determination when her gaze fell on the arch curiously.
Everyone held their breath, waiting for her to decide.
Hesitantly, the former Head stepped closer to the arch. However, the reflux of the magic threw her backwards. She stumbled backwards, her eyes wide.
The inaudible whisperings grew louder and louder. It sounded like the buzz of an incoming plague of locust.
Hermione looked at Hestia worriedly, not comprehending the change of circumstances in the Chamber. From the look of fear on the older witch's face, it was clear that this change was odd.
The magical suspension bridge swayed violently as if a fierce storm had struck it.
Her voice became urgent. "Try to stabilise it, Hermione."
Hermione gritted her teeth, trying to channel all the magic into steadying the fraying bridge. However, she could feel that her control over the bridge was slipping quickly.
She panicked, anxiety gripping her.
Hermione was exhausted. By the power of her will, she pushed her magic to its limits to stabilise the bridge and the collapsing portal. Around her, sounds of beeping alerted her that everyone was nearing their magical limit. Her anxiety grew when she looked around and saw that their bracelets were flashing an angry red.
A realisation came upon her: Death never intended to allow Harry to leave his realm unharmed when they made a mockery of him.
Fear constricted her throat.
Her heart pounded violently in her chest, knowing that she needed to fight for Harry. She needed to find a way to fight for him so that he had a chance to live. If she had lost the battle, she would lose Harry. That thought was simply unthinkable.
There must be another way!
She forced herself to calm down. The anxiety in her was replaced by an anesthetised impassiveness. What else could she do? Could she convert some of those magic for her own use? However, she did not understand the nature of this magic besides sensing that it was malicious. Since this idea could not work, she was left with the option of overcoming the disruptive magic with more magic? Hermione chewed the bottom of her lip, knowing that magic was very limited. What if she changed the purposes of her magic? Instead of merely channelling magic into the maintenance of the bridge, she could use her magic to amplify what they have given her while channelling all that magic into maintaining the bridge.
"Everyone, just hold on for a little longer!"
With gritted teeth, Hermione took out her wand and pointed it towards the Portal. She was barely maintaining the bridge, flickering in and out of existence. Now, she could only gamble and leave it entirely to fate. Hermione closed her eyes, trying to reach for her magic deep within her.
It was easy for her to detect two different magical entities running through her body like a live wire. She suppressed the innate curiosity of exploring more. The first magical entity was easy to detect: it was a massive and overwhelming yarn-ball of foreign magic passing through her. The second entity felt more familiar to her, but it took her time to trace it. It was so weak that it felt like a trickle, connecting to a deeper and richer reservoir.
She lifted a brow. Was that her magical reserve?
Taking a deep breath, she imagined expanding the channel of that trickle, so that it became a deep and wide river. She manipulated that river of magic to weave with the messy mass of magic that was surging through her.
Suddenly, that messy mass of magic expanded threefold. It glowed before taking the colour of her magic—a fierce and bright orange that lighted the Chamber.
"W-What did you do, Hermione?"
Hermione was stunned when she saw that the bridge was brighter. The black tendrils, drowned by the new magic, began to fade.
She could feel a reduction of the malign vibes in the air. It was replaced by warmth, that sort of warmth she associated to huddling under the covers in her bed, safe.
The pungent scent of fresh blood started to fade.
Yes! Her reckless gamble was working.
Suddenly, there was another tidal of powerful magic from the Portal, as if Death did not want to bow down to them.
The whisperings grew more adamant and aggressive, threatening to drive them insane with the senseless and relentless mutterings.
She tried to channel more magic into her spell, but she was past her limit. There was very little she could do to combat the wild magic pouring out of the Portal in powerful and frequent surges.
Her head throbbed painfully.
Despite the agony, Hermione could begin to pick up different voices from the meaningless buzz. What was going on?
Was someone calling for her?
Why did that voice sound so familiar to her? Was that her grandmother's sweet voice that she had heard, calling for her?
No, she shook her head violently.
This was a delusion.
That familiar voice was joined by other voices. They sounded affectionate and warm, encouraging her to join them in the Portal. They also provided her with suggestions on how to maintain the Portal and the bridge.
Her insistence that they were merely a figment of her imagination wavered. As if sensing her curiosity and worn-down will, the voices became more distinct as if the owners of these voices were speaking to her face to face.
"Join us, Hermione Granger…" A female voice sounded.
Hermione squeezed her eyes shut.
"Take a step forward, Mione. It's OK, my dear, my sweet Mione… It's the only way to keep the Portal open. Why don't you join me by taking a step forward, sweetie?"
Was it really the only way to maintain the portal open?
"Don't be afraid, sweetie. Your Nana is here."
How could she win this fight against Death? The malevolent magic seemed to increase with every second, forcing her to stretch beyond her limits. She could feel that she was weakening from the drain of the magic.
"You don't have to fight this. It's natural to give in," said her granny. "Sweetie, don't fight this anymore."
Magic was draining from her rapidly, sapping all her energy. Her body was protesting violently against this struggle.
It felt so easy to give in and to cease this fight.
Cold perspiration dotted her forehead as she clung to her wand with two trembling hands. Her wand was quaking too violently in her hand.
Suddenly, the wand became scorching-hot.
Agony skyrocketed through her as the magic burnt through her skin. She wanted to fling the wand away in shock, but she resisted. There was an unpleasant smell of cooked flesh. Her eyes widened when she saw how burnt her flesh—they were bleeding profusely, the skin touching the wand was completely mangled. She took a deep breath, soldiering through the pain and the exhaustion as her strength gave out.
"What makes a good wizard, Mione? You never did complete your sentence…"
"Friendship, bravery, trust…"
"Yes, and love."
No, Hermione could not let him down.
He had placed his trust in her.
Harry loved her.
She…she loved him with a consuming passion that she could not put in words. Hermione could not envision a future without him by her side. Her mind drifted to the image of Harry feeding her carefully when her fingers were injured by a malicious prank. He made her feel like she was the one getting a better deal from the prank—all the misery and loss from the inability to function independently was overshadowed by Harry's willingness to care for her. Harry made such a miserable experience a delightful encounter.
How could she disappoint him?
She would do anything to ensure that he returned to the world of the living safely.
Harry Potter finally had a bright future ahead of him.
She couldn't let him down at such a critical hour.
"Child, do you mean what you say, Hermione Jean, daughter of Daniel Granger?"
Chills went down her spine when she heard that authoritative and cold voice. Her body shuddered violently at the sheer power of his ethereal voice. She recognised that voice, although she was certain that she had never conversed with him before.
Desperation clawed deeply in her.
She ignored her rising fear that threatened to suffocate her.
"Yes. I do." Her mind drifted to the idea of the Exchange—the very reason for the celebration of Good Friday—which was the death of God's only son for the sins of the world. Her eyes gleamed with hope. She knew how to save Harry!
"Let me bear the wages of Harry's deeds, please. I know that you…you never intended to let Harry go. You guard your territory too zealously." She paused, hesitant. Could she live with her decision? Hermione knew that she was standing on the precipice, a step into the abyss—a point of no return.
"Have faith in our family and friends, Mione. I do not need you to sacrifice yourself for me."
A minute part of her felt guilty, knowing that Harry would be upset with her. She closed her eyes, her jaws clenched with resolve.
There was no turning back, Gryffindors only charged forward.
"I am…I am willing to offer myself in exchange for Harry's safe passage to the world of Living." Her voice was unusually calm.
"Foolish girl, you would offer yourself in exchange for a safe return of the young Harry Potter? Just months ago, he was convinced that he was in love with another girl. His feelings are transient and shallow. Are you so foolish that you would give up everything for a little boy like him?"
Hermione frowned, indignant.
"I have never expected anything from Harry. I cannot…no… The Wizarding world needs him. Mortem, take what you desire from me and let him go."
There was a pause as if Death was contemplating her words.
Her pulse raced with anxiety, wondering if he would accept this hasty exchange.
"I do not understand the motivations behind this imprudent exchange. Your soul already belongs to me, Hermione Jean, daughter of Daniel Granger. You have nothing valuable to offer to me."
Her eyes flashed furiously.
"No! Death, you're wrong. You may only claim my soul when my time is up: not a moment earlier or later. You're nothing more than a glorified thief that cometh to steal, and to kill, and to destroy! I'm willing to give up anything that it is in my power so that Harry can live."
"What audacity! Who gave you that tongue!"
She trembled in fear as his voice resounded in her very being.
Death's anger burned violently against her, sending shivers down her spine. She suppressed that spike of fear, trying to maintain composure.
There was tense silence after that tongue-lashing. The silence became pensive. Was Death considering her words?
"Very well, foolish Hermione Granger, I accept this fortuitous exchange." There was an undercurrent of glee that she did not understand. What had she bargained away? "The exchange will be nullified if the conditions of the bargain are not kept a secret. Do you wish to continue with that exchange with full knowledge of this condition, Hermione Granger?"
"Yes, I do," returned Hermione firmly, gritting her teeth.
Death told her in a whisper what she had bartered away for Harry's safe return.
Hermione agreed in a heartbeat.
Death was impressed with her conviction."You're very brave, foolishly brave to make a deal with Death. Nonetheless, I'll uphold my side of the bargain, Hermione Granger. I'll be looking forward to meeting you in person when your time draws to an end."
His farewell was like a whisper in the wind.
Before she could react, she felt the disappearance of the dark magic in the Chambers.
A fierce wind began, drawing them into the portal.
The collapsing Portal spat an unconscious Harry out of itself before absorbing all the energies in the room like a Blackhole.
She cut off all the magic immediately, collapsing on her knees.
Hermione's chest was heaving from exhaustion.
The bridge flickered violently, growing fainter as the Portal absorbed the energies that formed it. The pieces fell on the fading bridge which was flicking unsteadily. At the last second, the Portal sucked in all the remains of the bridge before becoming still. The winds around them had also died down immediately.
Everyone shared a puzzled glance with one another, unsure of what to do.
Suddenly, the Portal exploded outwards, sending a blast of powerful magic centrifugally. The wizards and witches were flung on the ground by that explosion of magic.
Then, there was silence.
All that remained was the lifeless grey Arch, with an unconscious Harry lying near it. He lay by the arch, still and pale.
Slowly, they climbed on their feet, rubbing their sore backs.
They could not believe that they had survived the explosion of raw magic.
Most of them sprang into action to attend to Harry's wellbeing. Some of the participants remained on the ground, exhausted.
There was no time to celebrate their Pyrrhic victory since there was a lot to see to.
Running on pure adrenaline, Hermione threw herself into the heat of things, directing them to attend to Harry. With the help of the Unspeakables, Hermione brought Harry out of the Chamber to recuperate in the office of Hestia. Hestia had conjured a comfortable bed for him besides hooking him up with a variety of strange-looking devices to monitor his magic closely.
After Harry received treatment to stabilize his condition, one of the Unspeakable saw to her mangled hands.
Her hands were badly mangled by the raw magic that she had channelled foolishly. The areas that had come into contact with the wand suffered the worst damage: the wound was deeply inflamed, bleeding and black around the edges. The surrounding skin was in no better condition since they were equally inflamed, cracked and swollen.
Tears filled her eyes when the Unspeakable tried to clean the open wounds on her hands.
The Unspeakable gave her a numbing potion before treating her. Wounds as serious as hers would require skin grafting to repair the damage. However, all the Unspeakable did was to give her a potion for the pain and another to regrow the skin after bandaging her hands.
In a week, she could remove the bandages.
Hestia sent everyone off to rest, leaving herself to monitor the condition of Harry.
Despite her exhaustion and injuries, Hermione could not leave him alone. A part of her was still amazed that he was next to her. Hermione chose to sit next to him on the bed, watching over him. Seeing him alive and resting was a balm to her soul. Her eyes grew misty at the thought of just how close she was to losing him.
Harry's eyes were shut as if he was resting peacefully on the bed. His long lashes were against his cheek. There was a slight curl of his lips as if he was having a good dream. The corners of her lips lifted in a gentle and indulgent smile. Her heart was at rest: it was good that he was happy.
She couldn't help but notice that his bottom lips were fuller than his upper lips. They were slightly shaped into an 'o' as he breathed in and out.
The thought that she could have lost him made her gripped one of his hands desperately.
All that mattered was that he was safe. No price was too high to have him back with her, alive and well.
She wouldn't regret it even if her selfish decision created an abyss between them.
She was never the type who would regret a decision that she had made after considering all options. She had weighed the pros and the cons at the moment and knew that she could not live a life without Harry Potter by her side.
Hermione squeezed Harry's hand tenderly as she levelled her worried gaze on him
Harry was worth it.
She blinked owlishly when she found moisture on her cheeks.
Was she crying?
Why was she crying? Her vision grew blurry with that thought. There was a growing pain in her chest, threatening to suffocate her.
A voice caused her to snap out of her ruminations.
She took a deep breath to regain her composure.
"You need to rest, Hermione," murmured Hestia quietly, worry lacing her voice. "I don't think you should move your hands much. You might break the newly-grown skin." She put a comforting hand on her shoulder, wondering how the young witch lasted so long. This witch had earned her respect. "Aren't you tired? I would imagine that you used a lot of magic to strengthen our magic. You know, Harry's fine." She looked at Harry meaningfully.
Hermione was surprised that Hestia was able to guess what she had initially done to maintain the bridge.
Sounds of a chair drawn up filled the room. Hestia lowered herself into the chair, placing a hesitant hand on her forearm. "You know what you did was reckless. You could have emptied out your magic quickly just to accomplish that feat." Her brows furrowed.
"What happens when you drain all your magic?"
"You'll die," explained Hestia matter-of-factly. "There's magic in all of us—it's what gives us life." She tapped on bottom lip contemplatively. "A better way of explaining would be the breath of life. I believe the only difference between us and a non-magical is that visible manifestation of the breath of life."
Her eyes gleamed with understanding before the light in her eyes went out.
"The fact that you were burnt by magic shows that you drained too much of your reserve that your body cannot offer any protection." Hestia's gaze was fixed on her hands gloomily. She could not imagine the agony that the young witch had endured to ensure Harry's survival. Was this sacrifice any lesser than Lily Potter's sacrifice of her life to save Harry's life?
That look of acute sorrow and her concern for her felt so weighty on her soul.
Hermione's gaze drifted back to the slumbering Harry swiftly. "I'm OK, Hestia. The Unspeakable gave me a Pepper-Up potion too." Her gaze softened immeasurably. She resisted the urge to brush the irritating fringe away from her face with her injured hands. "I've rarely seen him at rest. The last time he could sleep so peacefully was that night when I was with him." That was merely a few days ago but it seemed as if it was a lifetime ago.
Hestia shifted in her seat uneasily, her brows furrowed deeply. "I… I don't understand."
Hermione fixed her attention on Harry, waiting for her to elaborate on her discomfort.
She rubbed her face with a hand absently. "It doesn't make sense. Why would Death let Harry go? He didn't seem willing at first and He isn't kind."
Hermione swallowed visibly. She did not expect Hestia to approach her with that question soon. She should not surprised that the older witch would look for her since she was intimately involved with the whole process.
Her heart pounded loudly.
Did she suspect something? The younger witch was careful to avoid her gaze. What should she say? She knew that she was a terrible liar, although she managed to deceive their Head of the House in her first year. The cold promise of Death rang in her mind. She took a deep breath, knowing that she needed to devise a way to hold up her end of the bargain with Death lest Death rescinds on his promise.
Hermione hesitated for a moment, before turning to look at Hestia calmly. No, she was not going to lie to the older witch.
"It's probably a bargain. Harry had a long conversation with Death." It was the truth.
She brushed the errant hair away from her face carefully, ignoring the stinging of her hands. "You know the nature of such… bargains," added Hermione breathlessly, looking away. Another truth. "Harry's safety is what that matters." Another truth. Harry's safe return from the realm of Death was the most important thing to her.
She would give up anything to protect him.
Stillness filled the office as Hestia contemplated her words.
Hermione held her breath, hoping that she would accept that simple explanation.
There was an indescribable look on her face—her brows were bunched up, a dark and menacing gleam in her eyes. Hestia pinned her with her penetrating gaze, causing Hermione to shift uneasily on the bed.
Unconsciously, she placed her hand on Harry's as if she was trying to anchor herself.
However, Hermione did not back down from Hestia's unnerving and accusing stare.
She repressed the urge to swallow visibly.
That intimidating look was replaced by heartfelt contrition. The older witch rubbed her face with a hand tiredly, exhaling loudly. For a moment, she looked older than her age. "Yes, yes, yes, you're certainly right. I-I'm sorry. For a moment, you reminded me of…" She rubbed her face again, avoiding her earnest gaze.
"Of?" Now, Hermione was curious. What could incite such complex feelings in this carefree witch?
She chuckled self-deprecatingly, giving her a one-arm shrug. She reached to take Hermione's hand away from Harry's, returning it gently to her lap. She tucked the errant fringe behind Hermione's ear attentively—a tender gesture that surprised Hermione. "Sirius." Her gaze became gentle as she smiled. "Strangely of Sirius. Is this a Gryffindor thing?"
Her brows furrowed. "What do you mean? How am I like Sirius?" The younger witch could not see the similarity between Harry's godfather and her.
"That courage to be devoted to someone—a brother, a friend, a lover," elaborated Hestia indifferently. "You reminded me of a conversation I had with Sirius in the past. He had that same gleam in his eye when he spoke about James, you know before the Potters went into hiding." Her gaze was piercing when it pinned Hermione. "I digress, I'm sorry for asking such a question. It's just so difficult not to be curious." She rubbed her chin contemplatively, folding her arms. "It's difficult to wrap my head around the idea that all that was needed was an exchange." Her eyes grew distant. "Nonetheless, what Harry did was an incredible feat. I mean it's bloody incredible. He has done the impossible again."
Pride and wonderment filled her eyes when Hestia's eyes fell on the slumbering Harry.
Hermione let out the breath she had held by reflex, glad that she managed to satisfy Hestia's curiosity.
Ludo Bagman burst into the office, panting. He leaned forward, his arms akimbo, trying to catch his breath.
Hestia rose to her feet, levelling a glare at him. "Would you lower your volume? What in Merlin—"
"—Th-th-the Wizengamot has seized power! M-Malfoy led the proceedings. They have suspended Amelia from duty—" His eyes darted frantically.
Hestia swore under her breath. "What in Merlin's name…"
It was clear from the shocked expression on her face that Hestia did not know how to respond to this new issue.
"What does that mean?" questioned Hermione sharply, her gaze vacillated between the two adults. Judging from the worried expressions of these veteran politicians, she knew that it did not bode well.
"It means that the council of Inquiry's ruling is overruled." Hestia inhaled sharply, rubbing her temples as if trying to relieve the pressure built up. They had barely resolved a matter and another problem had cropped up. "They are ignoring the authority of the Ministry and declaring itself to be the interim government. I'm afraid that they might jeopardise the mission of the DMLE."
The mission of the DMLE was to rescue Amelia Bones from the hands of Voldemort. Sirius and Remus were also participating in that mission.
Hestia cocked a brow.
"They want Amelia to answer to them, even though she sits on the Wizengamot as a member. I do not know who would be representing the Wizengamot but I'm certain that it is someone that could overpower her." He frowned angrily, his hands balled into his fists.
"What? Good Merlin." She slammed her hand on the desk. loudly. "Those good-for-nothing fellows. The DMLE must be informed now."
"H-how?" Ludo asked. He was confused at how they were going to pass the information since there was no one they could contact.
She glanced at him meaningfully, lifting a brow archly. Hermione recognised that look as her patent what-do-you-think-stare.
He pointed to himself with a trembling finger. "M-me? What about the Wizengamot?"
"Go! I'll handle the Wizengamot," concluded Hestia firmly, balling her hands into fists. It was obvious that Malfoy and his cronies were up to no good. That was not surprising since they must have a way to know that their master was returning. She wondered why Voldemort did not call them back to his service since he was on the rise.
He frowned."I would be more useful helping you to rally more help to overturn the Wizengamot's decision. I could gather the Heads of the Wizarding families to protest against their decision," offered Ludo, rubbing the back of his head.
"That will leave the DMLE blind-sided," explained Hestia, pacing back and forth in her dark office.
"But you can't go to the Wizengamot! Don't you see? It's a trap! They want to charge you along with Director Amelia! What will become of us? I'm sure that they will find all ways to charge her for the misuse of her powers as the Director of the DMLE."
Hermione blinked owlishly. She did not know that Ludo was that intelligent.
Hesita remained silent, considering his words carefully. She had never seen such a solemn expression on his face.
Hermione lifted a brow, surprised that the two political veterans did not see the obvious solution to this fix. She lifted her hand shyly as if she was a student asking questions in the classroom. "If you don't mind, Mr Bagman, I think you should follow Minister Jones's order and head to the St Mungo's. We're unable to inform Sirius or someone trustworthy from the DMLE. Informing the DMLE in person will alert them of the severity of the issue. As for gathering voices to overturn the Wizengamot's decision, there are people we can turn to who will help us."
Bagman looked at her curiously, surprised by her insight. If he did not remember wrongly, this intelligent witch was of the same age as Harry Potter.
Hestia nodded, agreeing with Hermione's logic. "It is important that the mission of the DMLE is not affected. As the Minister, I order you to go. You can help to gather support after you have completed this task."
A boyish smile broke across his face. "Yes, Minister." He sunk into a bow in an overexaggerated fashion, earning a bright smile from Hermione. "I'll excuse myself now, Minister." Director Bagman exited the office by stepping through the blaze of green fire after throwing the powder into the fireplace.
Without hesitation, Hestia whipped out a wand and sent a Patronus to Arthur Weasley, requesting for his help to gather the allies to deal with the issue of the arrest of Amelia. Her Patronus, a Grim, bounded away. "Do you have any way to contact Gaston?" asked Hestia suddenly, turning to look at Hermione for help. "I need him to speak on the behalf of the Blacks and Potters and request for an urgent appeal."
Hermione's brows narrowed. Despite her inexperience, she knew that that was insufficient to overturn the ruling. Even with the help of Mr Weasley, they may not garner sufficient support to overturn the decision of the Wizengamot. In fact, that action may even diminish Amelia's support because of their Xenophobia.
Hestia paced back and forth in her office, anxious. She did not like this feeling of helplessness. What other resources did they have? "Skeeter! We could use Skeeter!" She grasped Hermione's shoulders emotionally. "I need you, Hermione, to give her the order to make a lot of noise and announce me as Interim Minister."Her eyes gleamed with infectious excitement as if she had stumbled into another research. Quickly, she strode to her desk to withdraw some parchments from the drawers.
Hermione's eyes shone with understanding. The corners of her lips lifted in a mischevious smile. "I'll pass the message to Skeeter. I'm sure Skeeter would be delighted to write an article on how Dumbledore kidnap three non-magicals so that he could remain the magical guardian of Harry." She considered the mechanism of the Wizengamot. She was certain that they would have sent Dumbledore to retrieve Amelia because he had sufficient political clout and power to ensure Amelia's attendance.
Hestia sat at her desk to draft an official letter. She looked up from her letter and flashed a proud smile at her. "You ought to consider a position in the Ministry after you have graduated from school."
Hermione shook her head in amusement. "You seemed to be certain that I would join the Ministry after my graduation." She withdrew her communication mirror from her pocket slowly by sliding it out of her pocket. She frowned at the effort she needed to remove the small device with her bandaged hands.
Holding the communication mirror in her hand gingerly, Hermione rose to her feet slowly. Her tiredness faded away with the excitement that she had tasks to complete.
"Why not?" mused the older witch, lifting a brow. "I know that the Unspeakables have decided that they will employ you immediately after you have graduated."
Hermione chuckled. "I'm flattered. I'm going to step out to speak to Gaston." She gestured to the corridor outside of her office.
There was a flash of gratitude in her eyes. "Thanks, Hermione. Send a message to me if you need me." The older witch cast some spells over a few empty parchments on her desk. The parchment shone a bright pink. "Tap on this with a wand and the parchment will fly to me. I'll leave after sending this letter." She gestured to the letter before her. "By the way, try to get some rest too. Harry should wake up soon."
Her solemn gaze returned to Harry who had slumbered through the conversation blissfully. For a moment, her gaze softened, filled with affection for a younger relative.
"It's our turn to do something now, Harry." Her voice rang with promise. The Wizarding World had looked to a young baby years ago to resolve a pressing problem that plagued their world. They owed it to Harry to solve that problem instead of leaving it in the hands of the youth.
Once again, Harry became the rallying point in their fight against Lord Voldemort. It was strange that he could play such a role when he possessed no incredible skill besides a boorish determination and courage.
Hermione's gaze fell on Harry too, following that determined gaze. She could feel that the end was drawing near since they had destroyed the soul-anchors of the Dark Lord. Now, the curtains to the final act of their battle with Lord Voldemort was drawing open.
The older witch lifted her head to look at her enquiringly.
Hermione smiled. "Good luck, Minister."
The gaze of the older witch softened. "We'll be fine. We've survived the previous war." She smirked at her, waving her off. "I really need Gaston's help. Go see to it before Harry awakes."
Hermione shook her head in disbelief, walking out of the office with her head held high.
She had faith that they would win this war.
They would win this war, no matter the cost.
Hermione's gaze fell on the bandages of her hand wistfully. Ignoring them, she made the call to Gaston, their ally to organise a political counterattack.
A/N: Thank you for reading. I know it has been a long time since I have updated this story and I apologise for the long delay. I hope everyone is doing well. This chapter is interesting because I had to spend several months speaking to people who were military-trained to craft a suitable battle scene for the fight, so that I was familiar with urban warfare and military psychology. I like how one war veteran writes that there is no real victory in war in his personal account. I think that is the feeling I am trying to capture in the scene as the fight unfolds.
Have a good day!