I realized I completely forgot to include this so...
Before you guys read, yes, I fully intended to throw you all into confusion. But I did not intend to...rip your minds to shreds and force you all to re-read previous chapters.
This chapter...as the story progression goes, takes places at the official end of 5th year canon. So...a good 5 months at least has passed (in the story).
I do time skips every now and then but never to this extent so I can understand the initial confusion. Hopefully this will show you guys that I never intended this chapter to flow with my previous one.
Other than that, have fun scratching your heads at the end of this chapter nevertheless.
Many times I would ask myself…did I ever mean anything more than a means to an end for Death?
I never thought to wonder what I was to Fate.
"How bad is it?"
"12 dead." Came the flat reply. He raised an eyebrow but made no comment. "23 severely wounded. We suspect some of them will take weeks if not months to return to active duty."
"What's the count on the Death Eaters?"
"Was I not clear enough?" He asked quietly, his voice carrying over the sudden hush that had settled in.
"2…2 bodies sir."
"Bodies." He repeated. "So…16 Death Eaters broke into the Department of Mysteries, met with a group of 25 highly trained Aurors, proceeded to incapacitate or kill the whole lot of them and managed to get away scot free leaving just 2 dead in their wake." He looked disgustedly at the man in front of him. "Identify the bodies. I trust your team is competent enough to look under a mask?"
"Yes sir." He waved them off without another word before pushing past the reporters who were crowding the atrium. Flashes of light from their cameras kept going off and they all kept firing questions at him but he ignored all of them.
Rufus Scrimgeour was not having a good day.
To think Death Eaters could sneak into the ministry itself and battle a whole squadron of Aurors, not only managing to defeat them outnumbered but escape? The Ministry was done for. Fudge was done for.
And this was only the beginning. He shuddered to think of what the evening will bring when news about the attack had finally spread throughout the country.
"Where's Fudge?" He barked at the woman sitting in the desk at the side. Umbridge.
Merlin he hated this woman.
"He's inside." She replied.
"Alright…and, may I ask what you're doing here?"
"Here, the Minister's office. Why are you here?" He asked irritably. She glared at him.
"I am the senior und-"
"Not anymore. Fudge is not the Minister anymore. I am now the acting Minister and I do not remember appointing you my secretary." A small sense of satisfaction rose in him as he looked at the stunned expression on her face. "Get your things and get out."
"But it's my job! I can help you!" She squeaked.
"No, you cannot. Times are changing Miss Umbridge. While Fudge may have tolerated you, you are not useful in any way to me. So kindly clear out."
"You can't just fire me! I-"
"I just did." He said shortly, cutting her off. Before she could say anything more he pushed the door in front of him open and stepped inside, slamming it shut behind him.
Fudge was still the same as he'd left him. In a small state of shock, surveying the damage at the atrium with a disbelieving look in his eyes through the glass panels. Dumbledore on the other hand, looked completely at ease.
"Well?" Fudge asked, turning around slowly as he slowly sunk into the chair beside Dumbledore. "Any luck?"
"None. We've suffered some major casualties with nothing to compensate for it." The color on Fudge's face drained. If this were any other time, he would've found it comical.
"You're sure it's De-"
"Asking that question again and again will not make the answer different Cornelius." Dumbledore said sharply. "Death Eaters. Voldemort. They finally made their move. We are now at war whether you like it or not." A long silence settled in as Fudge looked helplessly between him and Dumbledore.
"And my resignation…Albus, please…the boy, we-" Here Dumbledore chuckled softly.
"The boy is no longer part of this Ministry. You made quite sure of that Cornelius….or need I remind you it was your actions, your very own actions that forced you into where you are now? He told you, I told you over an year ago of what was to come. You refused to believe it, choosing instead to ridicule and slander us."
He smirked slightly, watching the desperation enter Fudge's eyes.
Dumbledore just pressed on. "You could have done so much more. Perhaps you could have prevented this from happening; you could have saved all those lives and not torn so many families apart because of your incompetence."
There was no trace of anger or resentment in the headmaster's voice. The cold disappointment was enough to make a man shiver. "We all pay for our mistakes Cornelius. It is your time now. Even if I could arrange a meeting with Harry I wouldn't. The boy's done enough already and I really doubt he would stand by your side for anything."
For a brief moment it looked as though Fudge was going to argue but seemed to think better of it.
Scrimgeour inwardly sighed in relief. He could tell that the old headmaster's patience was all but gone. Despite what many people may say, Albus Dumbledore still remains one of the greatest mages of the light and as such he is still one of the greatest assets to the Ministry as well as being a rallying point for many of the wizarding kind of Britain, especially now that the proof is clear that all he had been saying over the past year had been nothing but the truth.
"Cornelius, I think it is time you left." He said grimly. Fudge looked up in anger but before he could utter another word he pressed on. "You are no longer the Ministry of Magic. You are nothing to the Ministry. You have no business here anymore."
The ex-Minister seemed to deflate at this while he felt a small surge of pleasure. Dumbledore's words were still ringing in his ears; "You could have prevented this."
Some of those dead Aurors were ones he himself had trained. Young. Barely even in their 30's. He was not going to go pinning all the blame on Fudge, he shared an equal if not greater amount…but…they could have been better trained. They could have been more vigilant.
After staring at him and Dumbledore mutely for a few moments Fudge nodded slowly. He almost felt sorry for the man…almost. Without another word the ex-Minister left, his head bowed low.
"I do not intend to make the same mistakes he did." He muttered under his breath, moving to sit behind the desk, gesturing towards the seat Fudge had just vacated at Dumbledore.
The headmaster remained as he was. "Everyone makes promises Rufus…I remember what Cornelius told me when he first took this office. Now look at us…where we are."
"Those are my men there." He growled. "I will not allow their deaths to be in vain…nor will I spit on their graves by pretending nothing happened."
A long moment of silence passed as their eyes met. He hated it…the feeling the old man gave him. As if he was seeing right through him. Then, he saw him give the barest hints of a nod.
"What's your move then…Minister."
Nymphadora Tonks heaved a long, low sigh of relief. This was the first time she'd managed to step inside Sirius's place without alerting the entire house of her presence.
"Gotcha this time." She sang under her breath, directing a venomous look at the troll leg just beside the entrance. Every single time without fail she would trip over it causing Sirius's dear old mother to wake up and start screaming.
A slight, triumphant smirk on her lips she started forward confidently….only to feel something tug at the tip of her boot.
And all hell broke loose.
"TONKS IS HERE!" She heard one of the twins shout gleefully before Mrs. Black began her screaming, drowning everything else out.
"Another abomination! Such filth desecrating my halls. I'm ashamed to even call this place m-" Looking up she felt the heat rush to her face when she saw who had 'saved' her from the wrath of Walburga Black.
"You know I've spent more than enough time here when I can shut her up without batting an eye." Remus muttered quietly, pocketing his wand before offering her a hand which she accepted slowly, trying to hide her face. Well…hopefully he wouldn't read too much into the fact that her hair was slowly turning red.
She had no idea why this man made her feel this way. Or when he even started to make her feel this way…
All she knew was that Remus Lupin was turning her into a teenager with a crush. She generally never got along well with men her age…they were all way too mature for her.
Remus…he is the same…if not more so given how he is the complete opposite of her cousin…not to mention the age gap between them. But there is just something about him that she found appealing.
"….Tonks? Can you hear me?" His concerned voice cut through her musings.
"Y-yes. I-" She faltered when she realized how close they were together in this narrow corridor.
"You look tired." He said softly. Yes…that was it, she was tired.
"Yeah." She breathed. "Yeah…I'm beat. Dumbledore and the rest are here?" She asked quickly, hoping to sound normal.
"Yes. They're all inside. The gang's all here." He answered with that damned half smile. She snickered slightly before falling into step beside him.
It had been roughly a month now since the Death Eaters had attacked the Ministry. The kids were back from Hogwarts for their summer holidays much to Sirius's annoyance, but it was understandable. Number 12 Grimmauld place is one of the safest places to be…just in case.
Things had changed ever since word got out about the Death Eater attack. It seemed their new Minister, Rufus Scrimgeour, was not taking any chances. Security was being doubled in the Ministry, Diagon Alley, numerous wizarding settlements around Britain.
There were even plans to add Aurors to protect Hogwarts.
Still though…something felt off. Despite the Death Eater attack it felt like things had gone right back to the way they were before. It was almost as if the attack had never happened. It was almost as if Voldemort had gotten everything he wanted and was now quite content to slip back into the shadows.
It certainly did not help that no one apart from Dumbledore, herself, Moody, Sirius and Remus had been the only ones to even catch a glimpse of Voldemort before vanished in a swirl of darkness before their eyes with a triumphant smirk.
The Death Eaters had been nothing but a distraction to hold off reinforcements from the Ministry. They, the Order had failed. What they had been working tirelessly to protect for over an year now was ripped right from under their noses…and the Minisitry's.
Voldemort had gotten the prophecy.
She had no idea what it meant really. A lot of the Order didn't. It was one of the pieces of information that Dumbledore refused point blank to share. All she knew was that if Dumbledore was worried that Voldemort had finally gotten his hands on it and if Voldemort himself was content enough to leave Britain alone for the time being, they had far more to fear than an open war breaking out.
Her musings were interrupted when Remus knocked on the door in front of them. A moment later they started hearing voices from within, signaling that the silencing charms had been temporarily lifted.
"Oh…hey Tonks." Bills smiled, opening the door to let both of them in.
"Wotcher." She offered him a brief smile before dropping into the seat beside Remus.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Molly who was sitting right next to her asked quickly, getting to her feet.
"It's alright dear, it'll only take me a second." She shrugged, turning her attention back to the table where Sirius, Dumbledore, Moody and Kingsley were all seated. Catching Sirius's eye identical smirks appeared on both their faces.
There was a reason why Molly was so…eager to get her something. Well…eager to leave her spot in the chair beside her.
Sure enough, Bill dropped into it with an annoyed look on his face.
"She still hasn't given up?" She asked quietly, leaning towards Bill as soon as Molly was out of earshot.
"Hah. As if. She's driving me crazy." He muttered irritably under his breath. "She keeps thinking she can play matchmaker."
It was obvious to everyone how much Molly Weasley wanted to make something happen between her and Bill. So obvious in fact that both her and Bill had caught on to it along with the others.
"Well…in any case at least I know I won't have much problems with the in laws." She whispered earning a smirk from him.
"If the two of you are done flirting…" A voice growled making their heads snap up to find Moody scowling at them from across the table. "Can we get this meeting underway?"
"Come now Alastor…leave them be." Dumbledore said amiably, his eyes performing their signature twinkle. "But…as you said, it is high time we get started. So…Tonks? If you will…"
She rolled her eyes before proceeding to present her findings. She'd been tasked to dig around the Department of Mysteries, try and find exactly how the Death Eaters had managed to get to where they'd wanted.
The hall of prophecies was buried deep within the heart of the DoM and it wasn't the most…easiest place to get to…and that was putting it mildly.
The DoM is huge, far bigger than the Ministry itself. The Ministry was just a part of it…not the other way around as so many people were lead to believe, herself included. The Ministry was built around it…well, on top of it to be exact. The underground structure which is now known as the Department of Mysteries had existed for almost as long as Hogwarts. Secrets of Magic…anomalies, relics, and yes, mysteries which had been collected over the years by the Unspeakables were all locked up somewhere inside. Plus the Unspeakables are notorious for enacting innovative means of guarding the secrets of the Department.
So how did a group of Death Eaters manage to infiltrate the Department and get to where they wanted? How did Voldemort know he could take the prophecy? All this was adding up to one clue; They got help from the inside.
This was worrisome for many reasons. Firstly, this meant one or more of the Unspeakables are allied with Voldemort. There was no way they could question them, the Ministry didn't exactly have complete jurisdiction over them so they couldn't just go in interrogating them.
Secondly, no one really knew just who the Unspeakables are. There are no records of their personal information available to anyone but themselves. This only made it all that much harder.
This is where she came in…her unique talents as a Metamorphmagus. No one could disguise themselves as thoroughly as she could. She could change her anything and everything about her.
For the past week she'd been donning the Unspeakable's robes complete with the mask they used (courtesy of an unknown benefactor, a 'friend' of Dumbledore's) and disguising herself as a dark haired male in his early 30's with a low guttural voice, a brand new recruit into the ranks of an Unspeakable.
Again, this persona was supplied by the mysterious benefactor. She had spent hours reading up on this person's background in order to mimic his personality. The only thing she didn't know about 'him' was his name. Which turns out to be a good thing…plausible deniability seems to be something that the DoM practically runs on.
Despite all this she had accomplished her mission. She hated how…easy…it had been.
"I think we've been led by the nose on this one." She muttered dejectedly after finishing her report.
"Why do you think that is?" Dumbledore asked, leaning forward with his hands clasped under his chin.
She frowned. He didn't look disappointed in the least. All around the table the rest of the members were all showing signs of resigned acceptance…all except for him.
"It's the same as before." She sighed. "The only reason I even found the body was because there is nothing more to be found. Nothing that mattered." It was true, all she had to do was spend some time 'fitting' into the norm of the Unspeakables and familiarize herself with the 3rd level enough to know her way around without alerting the others.
"Don't put yourself down Tonks." He said sternly. "Because of you we know Bode was tortured for information on his co-workers. We know who they used, we know how they got in…we were even able to expose a spy within the Ministry."
"Runcorn is no Death Eater." She muttered.
"A spy's a spy." Moody suddenly growled. "It doesn't take the mark to differentiate the bad from the good. You have done well."
She felt a small surge of pride within her at her mentor's words. It was very…very hard to get Mad-eye to compliment someone.
"But…sir, isn't there some part of you that realizes that we might have been wasting our time on this?" She asked quietly.
Dumbledore gazed silently at her for a few moments. "Sometimes it is necessary to do one thing in order to do another."
Silence fell as she stared mutely at him. "So…" She cleared her throat. "You mean to say I spent the last few weeks doing all this for nothing-"
"Not for nothing." He said evenly, the tone of his voice cutting out whatever retort she had. "You accomplished far more than we hoped for. Despite how it may seem to you, by making it look as if we were looking elsewhere it in turn convinced Voldemort to lower his guard."
At that moment there was a faint chime in the room that immediately had Sirius groaning. "The doorbell…who keeps ringing that thing and waking that old-"
"It's alright mate I got this one." Mundungus coughed, getting up from the corner of the room which was nothing but a cloud of smoke. From the corner of her eye she caught Molly glaring fiercely at him. If looks could kill, dung would be nothing but a pile of…well…yeah.
"Do me a favor and shut that old bat up alright?" Sirius muttered irritably.
"Will do." With that he opened the door lifting the silencing charm for a brief moment making everyone wince as Walburga's screams filled the air before the blessed silence returned.
"There is also going to be a Ministry-wide sweep of all its employees." Kingsleys' deep voice cut in as if there had been no interruptions. "It is something that we needed but Scrimgeour needed a reason to conduct one, a proper one. Your work gave exactly that."
She bit back another retort and forced herself to calm down. She hated how they were all trying to play up her 'accomplishments'. So the Ministry now had grounds to use Veritaserum on anyone they wanted to. Big fucking deal…as if Scrimgeour couldn't have done it already what with all the changes he's been making.
"I'm sure that Tonks would feel better if you told everyone what we found out with this…diversion of sorts." Remus said quietly, breaking the silence that had settled in.
"Of course." Dumbledore said genially, nodding at her.
Before he could utter another word however, there was a deafening bang followed by a muffled thump as if something was thrown against the door. A scream had everyone instantly on their feet, 6 wands at the ready and pointed at the door.
"The enchantment…" Sirius muttered. The silencing charms on the door were gone and they could hear voices from outside. She could hear the kids voice's along with someone…was that…whimpering?
"No. Molly, stop!" Dumbledore said sharply, grabbing the distressed woman's arm and stopping her from running outside.
"But the kids are still out there Albus!" She yelled.
"And what help would you be to them if you run out like this?"
Tonks on the other hand, was hearing something strange. "Isn't that…Dung?" She asked uncertainly, looking sideways at the rest of them. If they really were being attacked there would be far more screams. From the voices outside it seemed like the children were all alright.
"Erm…professor Dumbledore…?" She recognized Hermione's voice. "You might want to come outside."
Dumbledore strode past them quickly, waving his hand towards the door which glowed blue before the locks gave way making it open slowly.
Almost as soon as it did Mundungus scrambled in looking as if he'd been scared the wits out of him. Before anyone could say anything their attention was drawn to the figure that appeared at the doorway; his wand trained right at them. Or more specifically, at Dumbledore.
Sirius's eyes widened. "Harry?"
Shock coursed through her as the figure stepped into the light. They could all see exactly why dung looked like he'd only escaped with his life.
If this was indeed Harry Potter, the image of the young, easily embarrassed teenager she had in mind was completely shattered from this moment on.
There was a powerful, almost oppressive feeling pressing on her when her eyes met his briefly as they swept around the room and almost unconsciously she found herself wishing to be nowhere near this person.
The scariest part for her was how unexpressive his eyes were.
As an Auror they are taught to always maintain eye contact. It is something that had been drilled into her from day 1 at the academy. It is a method used to erase intimidation as it allowed them to 'connect' with their target. It made them more human, something they could relate to and thus gain confidence.
But this, she'd never had this happen with anyone before. Not Dumbledore. Not Moody. Not even with any of the Death Eaters she had to face. She could see nothing in those cold grey…wait…were they always…?
"Harry, please, lower your wand." Dumbledore said.
He turned slowly, shifting his gaze to the old headmaster, his wand arm shaking slightly but still held in place.
"No…" He said shakily. "I-we, must talk. Get everyone out."
Dumbledore nodded swiftly "Of course. Just-"
"Lower your wand first boy." Moody growled, limping forward and drawing out his wand, ignoring Dumbledore who tried to move in front in between him and Harry. It was common knowledge how badly he reacted to wands being pointed towards his general direction. Especially given what had transpired with him the year before.
"Stay where you are!" He snapped, backing away swiftly. "Don't you dare come any closer."
"Harry...what's gotten into you." Sirius said weakly. "It's us! None of us are going to hurt you."
"No…NO! Get away!" She could see fear in his eyes now. This was not a good sign. He was getting more and more agitated with the way they were closing in around him. With the way the tip of his wand was starting to glow, it wasn't going to end well.
"Alastor! Stand down." Dumbledore said warningly. "You're making this worse...just lower your wand."
Barely a second after Dumbledore said it, Moody fired off a silent disarming charm without any warning. There was nowhere near enough time for Harry to even retaliate to that given the proximity between the two…or so she thought.
It was as if a dam broke at that moment as something…something large erupted around the boy, wrapping itself around him protectively as the jet of red light hit it, disappearing into its body harmlessly.
For a few seconds all they could do was stare in awe as that…thing…as it reared its head. It's serpentine body glowing a translucent blue, its draconic head with pits of flaming white in place of its eyes.
And then, it moved. Or rather, its…maw…opened. A flash of red later, Moody was thrown back against the wall, his wand falling to the floor in a clatter. It seemed like this...creature…or whatever it was, had fired Moody's own disarming charm right back at him.
"I'm not going to hurt you." Dumbledore said slowly, stepping forward as the thing watched him unwaveringly. "I won't." He repeated, drawing out his wand before slowly laying it on the ground, ignoring the sounds of disconcert from the others behind him. Sirius made to move but she quickly grabbed his arm, holding him in place.
Harry…he was still eyeing them all as if he wanted nothing more than to curse them all into oblivion. This was a further reason for discomfort. It was almost as if he'd momentarily forgotten who they were. There was no recognition in his eyes at all. Whereas she hadn't been able to read anything from him at all just a few moments ago, there was now the barest hint of fear.
"I-I don't…" Harry stammered, backing away slightly as the creature unwrapped itself from around him before nudging at his arm with an odd crooning noise as if trying to get his attention. It might have looked cute had she not just witnessed that thing throw Moody around like a rag doll.
"Take a few deep breaths." Dumbledore said slowly, still edging ever closer to him. "It's alright."
"What are yo-No! Get away!" He yelped, his wand raised again and pointed straight at Dumbledore just as the creature growled, turning its attention back to them.
Before anything else could happen however, Harry suddenly slid to the floor without a word, the creature disintegrating before their eyes. For a few moments silence followed as another Albus Dumbledore stepped out from behind him just as the one standing frozen next to them flickered slightly before disappearing.
"Illusions." Dumbledore muttered into the silence when he caught them all looking at him. "It's not something I've ever found much use in until now."
"What did y-…" Sirius said began when she released him.
"I just put him to sleep Sirius." The headmaster said softly from his place beside Harry.
"He didn't look alright to me." Moody growled. Despite the situation Tonks couldn't help but smirk slightly. It seemed her mentor was still sore about being disarmed by the boy. Well…indirectly at least.
"We can put him to St. Mungo's if…" Kingsley began uncertainly.
"There will be no need for that." Dumbledore said firmly. "Molly, get the children back upstairs. The rest of you, this meeting will be put on hold for now. Kingsley…I will meet with you and Alastor with the Minister back at the Ministry once I've seen to Harry."
Moody left without another word followed by Kingsley. It seemed somewhere along the last few minutes Dung had managed to slip out unnoticed by anyone. Molly looked like she wanted to stick around with the way she kept glancing at Harry with a worried expression but couldn't seem to be able to make a valid argument to why she should be here and so followed on.
Tonks slowly moved to stand between Sirius and Remus who were both hovering over Dumbledore's shoulder worriedly as he worked. The headmaster was murmuring something under his breath as he gently brushed aside a few strands of Harry's hair.
"Will he be alright?" Remus asked after a few minutes had passed. Dumbledore nodded with a before taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"For the most part yes. We just have to wait till he wakes up now."
"What was that thing." She asked. "That…creature...I've never seen anything like that before. It even caught Mad-Eye by surprise."
"It did didn't it?" Dumbledore chuckled softly, his eyes twinkling slightly. "It seems young Harry has stepped up his magical prowess considerably since I last laid my eyes on him. To think he can already channel his own magical familiar…one as strong as the one we just witnessed…impressive."
Sirius shook his head before muttering something quietly to Remus. Without another word he'd turned on his heel and left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Where's he going?" Tonks asked in a puzzled voice.
"To call the Delacours."
"Stop it Fleur! Your father has people looking for them, we will find him!"
"I CAN'T JUST SIT HERE!" Fleur screamed, still struggling against her bonds.
"You know why we can't let you go like this! If anyone sees you in this state they will not hesitate t-"
"I don't care!" The heat in the room was getting unbearable. Even for Apolline. If Fleur kept struggling like this she would no doubt break free of the seals placed around her.
"I will stun you if that's what it takes." She said firmly, their eyes meeting for a few moments. "In all the years I spent raising you I never had to raise my wand against you. Don't make me do this. Not against my own daughter."
Fleur glared fiercely at her, still struggling against the seal. It wasn't something she liked; binding her own daughter using magic but the gravity of the situation was calling for desperate measures.
Soon the struggling stopped and Fleur started losing her avian features. Slowly her eyes returned to normal…but when they rose to meet her own she felt her heart clench. The desperation was still there but it was like all the fight had gone out.
"Let me go." Fleur pleaded, her voice breaking. "Please mother…what if something-"
"Nothing's happened to him!" She snapped, trying to keep her voice steady. She was trying to convince herself as much as her daughter. "We will find him." Anger wormed its way into her voice; "We will find him…and that bastard that took him."
It was taking all her willpower to not be out there searching but she knew she could not leave Fleur in this state. She had to trust in her husband, trust that he will not allow any harm to come to Harry. He had almost the whole of magical France searching for the boy; all they could do was hope.
Slowly, albeit a little cautiously she removed the seal binding her daughter, ignoring the spasm of guilt as she looked at just how far she'd gone. Had all this been necessary? Even if Fleur had not been quite herself, could she excuse herself for using magic to contain her?
She knew it was something that would haunt her for a long time.
Nevertheless, it was a good sign that Fleur didn't flinch away from her when she hesitantly touched her shoulder. But before she could utter another word her mother's voice calling her urgently from downstairs made them look at each other for a brief moment before scrambling out.
"What is-" She began as soon as they were at the foot of the stairs when a familiar voice floated in, although not quite the one they were hoping for.
"You two are alright…thank Merlin." Sirius muttered, relief evident in his voice. He was standing beside Alana.
"Sirius…" Apolline began weakly. She hadn't even begun to think about how she was going to explain Harry's disappearance to him. "Why are you 'ere…'ave you 'eard f-"
"Why?!" He interrupted. "I try to contact you through the floo and I find the whole living room looking like a battlezone." It was true, there was broken furniture, scorch marks and more that left little to imagination about what could have happened here.
"And to top it off I could only see Alana and Gabrielle who, no offence to them, don't speak a word of English. So when I see both of them looking like someone had died not to mention Harry bursting into headquarters looking like he's going to murder the whole lot of us what am I supposed to think? Can't tell you how glad I am to find all of you alive."
"'Arry's zere?" Fleur suddenly spoke, disbelief evident in her voice.
"Is 'e alright?" Apolline interrupted. Those were the only two things all of them wanted to hear right now.
"Well…I think so...I mea-"
"What do you mean? 'E's 'urt?" Fleur's voice was getting a few octaves higher.
"No! No, he's alright…I mean, it's hard to explain but…" He sighed in frustration. "Look, I really have no idea what's going on right now. What happened here?"
Fleur was not even bothering to answer as she just strode right past him, vanishing from sight as soon as she'd stepped a foot out the door with a sound like a whipcrack. Sirius just stared at the spot where she'd vanished before turning back to Apolline and the others.
"Should I even ask or am I never going to get some answers?"
"You said 'Arry's at 'eadquarters non? Zat's where she's going. And zat's where you're going to take me."
"Good to have you back Mr. Potter."
Those were the first words he heard as he opened his eyes slowly, blinking as he tried to focus the hazy image in front of him as the face of one Albus Dumbledore sharpened into view.
"Gave us quite the scare my boy." The headmaster said with a gentle smile. "You even succeeded in making Alastor wary of you…congratulations are in order."
He said nothing in return, choosing instead to slowly push himself to a sitting position, carefully assessing his body. He felt drained, but that was only to be expected. It is a wonder he was fully conscious…at least for now as far as he could tell.
The headmaster it seemed, was completely undeterred by the lack of responses from him. "I asked the others to leave us be for the time being...I had a feeling you would not take too kindly to most."
Still he said nothing. Without another word he picked himself up off the floor, moving towards the door before he tried turning the knob only to find it wasn't giving any signs of budging.
"Harry…" He turned back, narrowing his eyes at the old man. "Talk to me. Please."
"Talk?" He asked slowly. "Fine then...talk. What do you want us to talk about?"
"What ails you? From what I see…or saw, you are not quite yourself." Dumbledore put a hand up defensively as his eyes narrowed. "Before you ask, I did not intrude on your privacy. I did not have to. The discord in your magic was enough to give the general idea." He suddenly smiled, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "Alastor certainly did not see that coming."
Harry was so taken aback at the meaningful look that Dumbledore was giving him that he was staring at the old headmaster in silence for well over a minute.
It started slowly. Perhaps it was just how unexpected it was...but despite all that had happened he found himself unable to stop the grin that was slowly tugging at lips as for the moment he let go of everything and allowed himself to smile.
It was a few moments before either of them spoke.
"I apologize for earlier." Harry muttered finally. "I didn't really know what I-"
"No apologies necessary." The headmaster said gently. "Are you sure you're alright now?"
"Yeah." He answered quietly. "I'm fine."
"What happened to you Harry? I've never seen you lose control like that before." Dumbledore said hesitantly. "Did something happen? Miss Delacour…?"
"She's fine." He paused before adding; "I need to go back. I know she's worried."
"And you will. I believe she will be here soon. But till then...if you cannot speak to me about it then at least inform your godfather."
Harry shook his head with a small sigh, glancing down at his arm before tightening his fist. "Telling them won't accomplish a thing." He muttered before laughing humorlessly. "To be honest, I don't know what I'm hoping to accomplish really…I just...don't know what to do anymore."
"There are times when it happens to the best of us." Dumbledore said. "It takes courage to admit it and that is the first step."
"Courage…" He repeated quietly before shaking his head. "You always have an answer to everything don't you sir."
"From what I've learnt over my life…it's that you should always have something to say. And so yes…I will always try to have something to say."
The corner of his lips twitched upwards for a brief moment before it was gone almost immediately afterwards. "Even if it is not necessarily the truth?"
A pained look settled over the headmaster's features. "I have never lied to you Harry."
"I wasn't accusing you of anything." He countered. "And I know you have not lied to me about anything. Negligence and dishonesty are two very different things."
Silence followed but he could see just how much his words affected Dumbledore. The regret, the guilt…everything was reflected plainly in those electric blue eyes.
He knew he was not being honorable. Hitting the old man where it hurts…especially given the respect he held for him. He was no fool…he knew how much Dumbledore had done for him ever since they'd talked that night back at Hogwarts. He knew that despite Dumbledore's promise to not meddle in his life again, the old man had never stopped watching out for him.
But…this was the only way. The only way he could ever find the answers he was looking for.
"Sir…" He began quietly, meeting Dumbledore's eyes as he slowly walked towards him. "I did not come here to poke at old wounds. Rather…I just want you to promise me something."
"Just be honest with me this time." He said simply. At Dumbledore's nod he pressed on. "The whole business with the prophecy…is it true? I can never hope to lead a normal life without first taking care of Voldemort?"
"It is not as if you have no choice here. It's up to you if you will choose to believe its contents and take it upon yourself to rid the world of Tom Riddle…just as he believes you are the only one capable of bringing about his downfall. Yes…" Dumbledore added at the disbelieving look on his face.
"Voldemort truly believes you are the only real threat Harry. You may choose to ignore him and all of magical Britain for that matter and none of us will blame you. But as long as you live, he will always come after you." He sighed before looking at him sadly.
"I know how much you care for Miss Delacour and the rest of her family and I know how important you are to them. Sooner or later you'll be given the choice; to fight or flee and no matter which option you choose, they will stand by you. So ask yourself this, would you rather stand and fight in order to protect those you care about or would you rather ignore all this and spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder and living in the constant fear that one day, someone you care about will be taken away from you?"
"No…." Harry whispered before looking up at him. That was it, the look of desperation that Dumbledore had seen from the beginning. "Why…why would Riddle choose me of all people? Just because a prophecy says I can destroy him does not make it true! A prophecy does not give me a spell that I can learn to kill him! I can never hope to match up to him or you in power just because a fucking prophecy said so!"
"But you are working towards that Harry! With each year you only progress onward. Look at where you are now and where you were back then! You've grown so much; both magically and as a person…and you will only continue to grow. Voldemort recognizes the potential in you and that is what scares him." As he said this Dumbledore walked towards the door and locked it before casting a strong silencing charm on it.
"That night in the graveyard he expected to face a fourteen year old boy armed with nothing but what is expected of a wizard going through his fourth year of study. He believed as you did, that all those previous attempted he'd made on your life that had ended in failure had been attributed to your luck. You proved to him that you are far more than that and fought back."
He came to a stop in front of Harry, grabbing his shoulders with both arms and gazing into those swirling emerald green depths. "Believe me when I say that Voldemort does not fear you for what you are now. He fears you for what you will become if left unchecked."
"So that's it then…just because he fears what I could become, I have to take it upon myself to kill him." Harry murmured.
"What are you saying…do you mean that if Voldemort was no longer seeking you out you would be content to just leave him be? After everything?"
"Content? No. But if he wasn't so demented then yes, I honestly couldn't care less."
"You don't mean that." Dumbledore said at once. "You're letting your hatred for the people here blind you. You are not the kind of person who would stand by and watch while people suffer."
"What kind of a person do you think I am then?" He shook his head. "I'm tired of this…of everything. I'm tired of being the person…the chosen one. When do I get to choose my own fate?" He sensed Dumbledore was going to speak and raised his hand, interrupting him. "And the people here? I honestly do not care about any of them apart from that I consider family…and that is a very small number. I don't have any obligation to be the supposed 'savior' to these people just as I never had to be the one they could direct all the blame on."
Dumbledore was staring dumbstruck at him the whole time while he was speaking. It was only after a few moments did he seem to regain the ability to talk.
"What changed? This is not you Harry…I know it isn't. What changed?" There was a hint of plea in his voice that Harry wasn't used to hearing.
"What changed? To be honest sir…I'm not so sure myself. I'm becoming nothing more than a pawn."
"I don't want to use you. As unbelievable as this may sound to you, I'm only trying to keep you alive." Dumbledore said sadly.
Harry smiled slightly although it didn't reach his eyes and for the first time, Dumbledore could see a hint of the emotions hidden behind those emerald depths. "I know." He said simply. "Which is why I'll need your help." He pulled a sealed envelope out from his pocket and handed it to the old headmaster who looked at it curiously.
"I...have nowhere else to turn to." He said quietly, looking up so that their eyes met for a brief moment. "I trust you."
"Wait…Harry, what…" Before Dumbledore could even make sense of what had just happened, he was gone, shutting the door quietly behind him. There was still so much more he wanted answers to; What had happened earlier? Why did he seek him out? What had the boy seen before coming here to make him this way?
Was this letter it?
Turning the envelope over he felt a sense of dread settle over him as he felt his blood run cold. There, etched in place of where the seal normally is, was the cursed mark that he hoped would never have to see again. And it was not addressed to the boy.
The name Albus Dumbledore was inked at the back in elegant writing.
He closed his eyes, realizing the implications. Harry…why did it have to be him?
During that brief moment when the boy's mask had slipped? It was not fear as he'd initially thought. No…
It had been desperation.
"Ow! Hermione!" Ron gasped, looking at her incredulously. "What was that for?!"
"Someone had to stop you from embarrassing yourself." She hissed, pinching his arm eliciting another sharp yelp of pain from him making the twins and Ginny giggle behind her.
"You know what dear brother? I think someone's a little jealous." A voice said slyly from behind her making her round on them just as Ron and Ginny noticeably backed away.
"And what do you mean by that?" She growled, narrowing her eyes at Fred who was smirking back at her.
"Come now Hermione…" George waved his hand airily. "'jealous', 'jealousy'; the state or feeling of being jealous! Aren't you supposed to be…you know…"
"Smart?" Fred supplied.
"Wait, aren't those two synonyms?" Fred asked, glancing curiously at his twin.
"No they're not!"
"'Course they are!"
"Do you even know what a 'synonym' is?"
"Good, neither do I." Fred said brightly before both of them suddenly burst into laughter.
"Morons." She muttered under her breath before turning her attention back towards the bottom of the staircase. They were all watching the proceedings below from their vantage point up on the first floor.
"Oh come on Miss-know-it-all." George hitched his usual evil grin back in place. "Stop acting so high and mighty and admit it. You're so jealous of that woman."
"I don't have reasons to be." She snapped, ignoring the bubble of anger welling up inside of her as she recognized part of the truth in their words.
"Yeah, you do." Fred said firmly. "Nothing to be ashamed of though…you and practically every single woman in this household apart from her particularly fine mother."
"You two are disgusting."
"Hey! I never said that! Why am I disgusting?" George whined.
She forced herself to ignore them and instead turned her attention back to the two Delacours who were currently right below them, standing in the corridor in front of the kitchen with Sirius and Remus.
Why though…why was she getting this sinking feeling whenever she saw that girl? What she felt…is this really jealousy? If so, why? Is it because of how Ron always stared at her?
She chanced a glance at Ron before looking away. He had come a long way…he really has. No longer was he as immature as before. He had changed a lot over the span of the last few months at school. However…contrary to popular belief, she was not nursing any romantic feelings for him. That is not to say he is not unattractive...the recent growth spurt he went through did make him look a lot more pleasant to look at than before.
So if Ron was not the reason why she disliked Fleur for no rational reason, there is only one answer.
Before coming back to Grimmauld Place, they'd had a long talk. Just her and Ron. Both of them agreed that they wouldn't return to Hogwarts next year without seeing Harry again…without clearing things up between them. Both Ron and her had been able to feel the weight of not having their other best friend with them.
While they'd not exactly 'had' Harry with them ever since their 4th year, the hope had always been there. The hope that everything would go back to the way it had been…the three of them together.
But when they'd learnt that Harry'd left Hogwarts, it just made them both realize how far they'd driven their friend away. Despite how much Ron tried to deny it and keep up with his outward show of dislike for Harry, she knew he missed him.
Also from talking to Ron she began to understand the reason for his hostility towards Harry. Putting herself in his shoes she began to wonder just how it felt, being the best friend of someone who continued to outshine you…it was not a good feeling. It served only to lower your own self-esteem, made you question yourself...made you angry…both at yourself and the person making you feel that way.
And wasn't she guilty of this too? It was her own pride that prevented her from wanting to make amends with Harry last year. As immature as it may sound, it was her schoolwork that made her different…her flair for magic despite being muggleborn. When that was getting challenged by none other than her own friend, one who started on equal if not lesser footing than her? It felt like she was losing her own sense of worth causing her in turn to be bitter at him.
And then there was the Veela.
What did Fleur have that made Harry act like a lovesick little puppy? Back at school when she'd seen them together it had only served to increase her bitterness at the French champion. She disliked seeing him look so happy with that woman…it was a terrible thought but it irked her to no end why he just couldn't have smiled or laughed like that when he'd been with them.
Fleur had the beauty. It was undeniable…even by Veela standards there was something special about her. She'd witnessed enough of the general population's reactions to her to know that there was not a man alive who would find her undesirable.
But Harry is not the type to be swayed so badly by a pretty face. So what was it then that made him so…attached…to that woman?
"Hey! Isn't that him?" Fred's voice brought her back to the present.
Ron, Ginny and George rushed to join her and Fred who'd been quietly observing (or trying to) what was happening downstairs. So far nothing eventful had happened since Sirius had showed up with the two Delacours who didn't seem to want to take the word of anyone down there that Harry was safe and sound behind that closed door.
Sure enough, if the way Fleur'd thrown herself into the arms of the person who'd just joined them was anything to go by, that was indeed Harry.
"Reckon we should head down now?" Ron asked quietly. Looking around she could see the twins were already headed downstairs, Ginny in tow.
"Come on Hermione…we might not get another chance." For a brief moment she stared at him making him chuckle. "It wouldn't hurt you know…to not look so surprised whenever I say something these days."
"That's because you're not acting at all like the Ronald Weasley I used to know." She shot back before smiling slightly as they slowly started making their way down. "But for Merlin's sake try to get some self control? Please?"
"I try alright? I just can't help it…" He shook his head mutely when they got to the foot of the stairs.
Something all too familiar welled up inside her when she saw the two of them. Harry was quietly whispering something to Fleur, his arms firmly entwined around her, his head resting against hers.
She knew it was jealousy. She was envious of Fleur for being in that position. She could see the clear relief on her face at being reunited with him. She watched the way Harry caressed Fleur's cheek delicately…as if he was afraid of hurting her in any way.
For a brief moment she wondered what it would feel like to be Fleur at this moment; having Harry's arms around herself while he was whispering reassurances quietly in her ear. Having his hand on her cheek. She couldn't deny the warmth in her chest as she entertained that possibility.
The question she'd asked herself before was answered at this insant; What was it that made Harry so attached to that woman? It was painfully obvious that Fleur was equally if not more attached to him.
What surprised her…and most of those gathered was the single word Harry uttered when he finally extricated himself from Fleur. That word was not directed at Fleur, but at Apolline who smiled tearfully before moving to embrace him.
The meaning of it was not lost on her. Watching Apolline embrace him was so much like watching a mother reassure herself that her son was all right. She could feel a small smirk tug at her lips as she watched Harry repeatedly trying to convince the woman that there was nothing wrong with him.
Amusing as it was watching Molly fuming at the sight, she was now caught in a dilemma. How could they approach him? Would they get another chance?
Also, her curiosity was peaked and she knew that every single person in the room wanted an answer to the question burning in her mind as she stared at Harry.
It was not going to be easy forgetting what happened earlier. She couldn't blame Moody and Kingsley for looking on at the scene unfolding before them warily from their place in the shadows.
What in the name of Merlin happened?
AN: How's it going my peeps?
Don't really have much to offer other than an apology…its just a formality anyway.
So I ended up taking an extended vacation. Well…it wasn't a vacation. I'm on my vacation now which could mean good news on the story front.
So…the reason why I chose to abandon this for a few months; I did something stupid and took some art classes (3 to be exact). And I had to get a part time job…an actual one rather than the free lance work I've been doing before. To those of you reading this who are Art majors will probably understand the stupidity of my decision...and why I haven't had time on my hands.
Aaaand also I had to work on getting my inspiration back to work on this story. It was harder to get it 'back' seeing as that inspiration was more personal than the usual I guess. But rest assured I got 'kicked' back into it.
Don't really have anything else…I'm changing up the classes I'm taking for next term so that I'll have room to breathe in between work and education so…no more art for me. I prefer having to just cram the night before exams and skip out on lectures.
FAQ's; "Will you let me adopt His Angel?" – No. Freakin…no.
"May I borrow X thingy from your story?" – Depends. Message me about it. If it is something I'm using in my plot, I cannot give you my green light.
As for the direction this story is taking now, I've latched onto one particular direction and I guess I will stick with it. You guys will just have to wait 'n see. I'm turning this story into the official 'book 1'. I am excited for what I have planned for the future but…we just have to get there first aye?
Some people who were concerned with this (those who read my profile page), questioned me about a few things. Rest assured I will always write Harry/Fleur as the main 'pairing'. No, that does not mean I'll write harems. It's….oh you'll see.
Hope you guys are aptly confused with this story now and we'll see each other next chappie sooner than…what was it? 5 months? Yeeeeah. I promise I'll make you guys less confused next chapter.
When have I ever made empty promises? :D
Edit - I was getting late for work when I published this so...before I forget, LOVE ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO STUCK WITH THIS THING 5+ MONTHS!
And watch Godzilla.