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Chapter Forty: A Final Magic
Harry, it's time to wake up, love.
The voice sounded familiar, but he couldn't place it. It felt like something in a dream he could not quite remember. He wanted to—he yearned to be able to remember whose voice it was—but he just couldn't.
Harry, open your eyes.
Against all reason, he did as he was asked. He stood on a mountain top, surrounded by an endless sea of clouds below, and an endless expanse of painfully bright blue sky above, and standing in front of him was a stunningly beautiful young woman with long, copper-coloured red hair and bright, shining green eyes.
She looked exactly like her picture in the book. "Mum?"
Hello, love, she said. Her voice did not come to his ears, but rather formed as a vibration all around him and within him, as if his blood, bones and skin acted as the medium to transmit her thoughts.
"Am I dead?"
Mostly, she said with a sad smile.
Yes. Again, she smiled sadly as she walked toward him. The hand she placed on his cheek felt blessedly, beautifully warm.
"You didn't have to die," he said. "Voldemort said so. You could have lived. He would have let you live."
Like he let you live? She responded with a wry smile that Harry had seen almost every day in the mirror at Hogwarts. Like Cedric? Cedric arrived at Hogwarts just long enough to speak a single world before Voldemort had him killed. He would have killed me no matter what, just to keep his secret. He wanted me to help him make something, Harry. He wanted me to create a vessel to hold a portion of his soul, something only I could do.
"Then why didn't you?"
Because you were to be his vessel, she said, looking him deep in the eyes. He felt a strange falling sensation looking into her eyes that reminded him a little of when he saw Healer Carlisle. You were always more than just my son, Harry. You were hope for a better future. All my plans, hopes and dreams I poured into you. I made you everything you are and gave you every power I had against the day you could make the world better, and somehow Voldemort knew it. And so did the covens. Voldemort admitted that he only knew about Horcruxes because someone owled him the information. They told him how to create one, and who could help him, but in return we both had to die—you and I both. But Harry, the future I saw was worth dying for. You were worth dying for. I'd die a thousand deaths to save you.
Sobbing, Harry said, "I'm sorry I messed up, then. Now you died for nothing."
No, Harry, not for nothing. My last gambit did not work entirely the way I wanted. My final magic was supposed to protect you, but it granted him the very thing he wanted as well. You became a vessel for his soul fragment in your scar. That's why he lingered, and why he was such a powerful spirit.
Harry remembered the hat telling him about the foreign Slytherin magic. "Does it really matter, now?"
Yes, love, because the killing curse does not kill your body, it rips away your soul. If Elezeta Malfoy had killed you, you would be dead. But Voldemort's magic was attuned to his own soul first and foremost. He did not rip out your soul—he ripped out the portion his own lodged in your scar. He destroyed his own Horcrux, Harry. The very instrument that allowed his spirit to linger and retain magic is gone now. He's a mortal wizard again. And you, Harry…you will live."
Harry started to collapse when her soothing arms caught him. "I wanted…I thought I wanted to die, but I really didn't," he sobbed.
I know, love. I know things seem terrible. Read the messages I left you. Seek out the friends I left behind. Know you are not alone.
"How did you know to leave the messages, though? How could you?"
She leaned forward and kissed his forehead. Harry, I knew you long before you were born. I had very few visions, not like you do, but I had visions of you and your life from when I was sixteen until I died. I thought I was seeing James Potter, but when I got older I realized I was seeing my son. I was seeing the future of the magical world. Everything I have ever done, I've done for you. I love you, my son. I always will.
She started to pull away. "Mum, please don't leave me. Please!"
Harry, I'll never leave you. The light of my soul is within you. My hopes, my dreams and my love are inside you. Every time you hurt, I will soothe you, and every time you laugh, I will rejoice with you. I will always be with you, my son. I love you. Go now, it is time to live. Go, and change the world. Oh, and tell Petunia I said hello, and that she should stop being such a heinous bitch.
"Mum, please don't leave me again!"
"Potter, wake up!"
The voice most definitely did not belong to his mother, being rather gruff and masculine. And he was definitely not on that idyllic mountain top any more, given the feeling of cold and wet that seemed to be permeating his body. With effort, he opened his eyes only to squeeze them shut against the rain falling on his face. He sputtered at the rain in his mouth and turned onto his side, where he was loudly, painfully sick.
He felt hands on his back holding him steady, and heard other voices shouting. "All right, there, lad?"
Nodding weakly, Harry settled onto his back. The rain stopped, though Harry realized quickly it was simply a conjured umbrella holding it at bay. Kneeling beside him was a tall, lean, horrifically scarred wizard with thinning red hair. He had one normal eye, and one oversized, spinning blue one that seemed to be completely independent of his normal eye.
Behind him came a more familiar figure—Amelia Bones. Both were wearing the crimson robes of Aurors. "How is he?" she asked the scarred man.
"Alive," Moody said.
"How? There was AK magical residue all over him!"
"Damned if I know," Moody said, "but the lad seems to have a history of surviving killing curses."
Moody and Amelia both helped Harry sit up; just doing that made everything hurt. Harry moaned at the pain. "Come on," Amelia said.
Before Harry could say anything, he felt the familiar squeezing sensation of apparition. A moment later, he heard a familiar voice screaming, while a male voice shouted. Blinking, Harry looked up to see his Aunt and Uncle rising from their sofa, spilling their frozen dinners from their trays. Vernon continued to shout until Moody turned and stared.
The wizard was so hideous in appearance Petunia shrieked and Vernon sat down abruptly. In the silence, Moody said, "Bloody Merlin's balls, man, how can you be so fat?"
"Moody, now isn't the time," Amelia snapped. She turned, flicked her wand, and to the startled shrieks of the Dursleys, summoned a Patronus. Her silver thestral raced through the Dursley's walls.
"Why am I here?" Harry moaned.
"Blood wards," Moody snapped. "Strongest things short of Hogwarts itself. Dumbledore might be a right bastard sometimes, but the man knows magic like no one's business." He turned back to Petunia and took two awkward steps. "Petunia Dursley? My name is Alastor Moody. I was a good friend of your sister's, which means I know what kind of woman you are. We're going to be in an out of this house for the next day or so, and you and yours won't say a bloody thing about it, are you?"
Petunia shook her head, while Vernon just blubbered.
"Good," Moody said with a grim nod.
"Can you walk?" Amelia asked Harry.
With her help, Harry tried to stand, only for his knees to give out.
"What's wrong with the boy?" Petunia asked.
"Voldemort killed me," Harry said between gritted teeth to her. "By the way, Mum said hello, and that you should stop being such a heinous bitch."
Petunia actually cried out and collapsed to the couch, holding her hands over her pale face. Even Vernon stared incredulously. "That's impossible, she's dead!"
"So was I," Harry muttered.
Moody snapped a levitation charm off and just floated Harry upstairs, with Amelia following behind. Before they made three steps the door slammed open and Arabella Figg ran in carrying a satchel.
"You!" Petunia hissed.
"Yes," Arabella said without looking at her neighbour. "How is he, Amelia?"
"Not dead anymore," Moody answered instead. "Come on, lad, let's get you to bed."
Harry hurt too bad to argue and let the other wizard levitate him into his room. The floor in his room was crowded with boxes filled with Dudley's old toys, but there was room enough for the three adults to get him to the bed. The feeling of the mattress was pure bliss, though he did squawk a tad when Moody banished his rain-soaked robes all the way down to his pants.
"Shush, Harry," Arabella said.
He stared at her, shocked, as she reached into satchel and removed a strange tablet of granite aglow with magical runes. "You're a squib!"
"You're right," she said, grinning. "And you're a mess." She placed the granite tablet on his chest. Behind her, Moody sucked in a breath when the tablet's runes began to glow.
"Bloody hell, the boy really was dead," he muttered. "How?"
"I don't know," Figg answered.
"Harry, you have to tell us what happened," Amelia said.
"It was Voldemort," Harry said. "I had a vision last summer that he possessed a man and killed a witch. Professor Dumbledore said you discovered the witch's body and said it was Barty Crouch Jr. who did it, but you weren't going to investigate because he was dead. But he wasn't—he lived with his father under the Imperius. Voldemort possessed him, and he brought Cedric and me to the cemetery. He wanted me to bind him to Crouch's body."
"Did you, lad?" Moody said.
Harry nodded numbly. "He gave me the Unbreakable Vow that Cedric would get back to Hogwarts alive if I did. But Mum said Cedric died right after."
"Mum?" Arabella said, stunned. "Harry, you saw your mum?"
"She said she left me information in her book, and that I should trust her friends."
"It's a good thing we're here, then," Moody said. "Welcome to the Order of the Phoenix, lad, what's left of it anyway. Your mum put the Order together to change the world, but in the end our final mission came down to this."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, before downing a potion Arabella handed over.
"Protecting you, of course," Amelia said. "And you haven't made it easy. Harry, listen to me now. A lot of things are happening. Minister Fudge was killed by You-Know-Who's bomb with Cedric. The Wizengamot and the Sabbat are both in a huge uproar right now, so no one is safe. Whatever you do, do not leave this house, do you understand? When the time is right, we'll send someone to fetch you, just as soon as we have someplace for you that's safe. Do you understand?"
"Is Hermione okay?" he asked.
"I don't know," Amelia said. "I hope so. The students are returning today. In the meantime, you need to rest. Just sleep. Arabella, I have to get back. No one can know I was here, or was involved."
Arabella handed Harry another potion, and even if he wanted to stay away, he would not have been able to. He tasted a dreamless draught even as he threw it back, and he didn't hear another word spoken.
Hermione and Justine walked up to the edge of the train platform together, intimately aware of the many looks being directed their way late the next morning. Only half the students were leaving by train—so many were injured that St. Mungo's was accepting patients by Portkey directly from the Hospital Wing of the castle. Jessica had gone with Deanna, but only so that she could fetch Deanna's mum to the hospital and stay with her.
The Daily Prophet that morning was massively thick, but among the many headlines was one that said Harry Potter was alive but in seclusion despite demands from both the Wizengamot and the Sabbat for him to step forward for testimony of what happened. Hermione only cared that he was alive, wherever he was.
Now, two hours behind schedule, she and Justine walked alone amidst the other students who were not too badly hurt, intimately aware of the stares they were receiving from several of the older witches around them. The stares continued throughout their dinner, though no one said a word. She couldn't tell if the stares were threatening, or pitying; nor could she say what would have been worse.
She would take care of it. Ginny's words kept the girls up that night with the promise of danger.
When they were on the train, the two girls found a cabin near the last of the cars for the free students. No one else joined them, not even their other friends.
Midway through the interminable trip home, they heard a knock and turned to see Susan Bones slip into the cabin. She made a shushing motion with one finger before she began casting a truly astounding amount of secrecy wards and charms about the cabin. When she was done, she sat down beside her fellow Hufflepuff and looked intently at Hermione.
"Is it true?" she asked bluntly.
"Is what true?" Hermione said. While Susan wasn't a close friend of hers, she was a friend of Justine's, and for that mutual friendship Hermione always tried to be nice. However, Susan did not appear interested in the niceties.
"Did you offer to bond with Harry?" Susan asked.
"We both did," Justine said, blushing.
Susan shook her head and leaned back. "I can't say I blame you, he's turned into quite the looker this year, hasn't he?" Turning to Justine, she added, "A little on the short side for you, though."
Justine blushed and ran a hand through her short, styled hair. "It's not how big he is, it's how good."
Susan snorted, but then turned serious again. "My aunt wanted me to deliver a message to you. He's alive and back at his Muggle home. There are blood wards there—the strongest kind of wards outside of Hogwarts itself. He'll be safe until we figure out what to do."
"What about us?" Hermione asked.
Susan shrugged. "I wish I knew, Granger. I've heard some right scary rumours this morning, though, so keep your eyes open and don't hesitate to use your wands if you have to. Better a warning for underage magic than a knife in the back."
Her words rang ominously when Hermione thought of Harry's vision. "So why haven't you tried with him?" Justine asked. "You're cute enough."
Susan shrugged. "He told me I was going to bond with Neville—Hannah and I both. He saw it right before…something big. I've been Obliviated, but something big happened last summer. But I do remember him saying Hannah and I had to bond with Neville, so that's who I've been working on. He's a good bloke, too. I think he'd make a good husband, and if Hannah is Elder wife, I can retain my name and maybe continue our family."
She stood and dismissed her protections. "Be careful, girls. Something big is happening, and it's not good."
"Thank you," Hermione said.
Susan nodded before she turned and left the cabin.
The train ride seemed to take forever, but eventually they came to King's Cross. The girls employed their newly learned shrinking charms and pocketed their trunks while Hermione placed a feather-light charm on Crookshanks's cage. As they were emerging from their compartment, they ran across Denise and Demelza, Fourth Year Gryffindor Muggleborns.
"We'll call you if we can," Denise said.
"If not, our parents will email you," Demelza added. "Just be safe, okay?"
"Thanks, girls," Hermione said, before giving each of them a hug. When the train stopped, she and Justine were among the first out, almost running toward the Muggle entrance before most students had even started to gather their things.
On the other side of the barrier, Hermione sighed in relief when she saw a group of Muggle parents waiting, including her mother. "Do you see your parents?" Hermione asked Justine.
"No," the other girl said in a tight, tense voice.
"Hello, darling!" Hermione's mum said.
"Mum, we have to go," Hermione said. "We have to go now."
"Don't run, though!" Justine said.
Calliope Granger blinked in alarm. "Hermione, what is it?"
"We have to go now, Mum," Hermione hissed. "NOW!"
Truly alarmed, Calliope nodded and walked with them. "Justine, your father called and asked that you come home with us. They'll pick you up shortly."
"Okay, thanks Mrs Granger."
"So, does this have anything to do with that letter your Mr Potter sent to Edwin?"
Hermione almost came to a screeching halt. "Harry wrote to dad?"
"He did, and Edwin is acting like a prat and refusing to tell me what it's about. I've never come closer to slapping your father as I have when that damned letter came."
They emerged from the station amid heavy crowds. Hermione found herself scanning faces nervously. "Where are we parked, Mum?"
"We're going to take the Underground to our office, love, and then drive home from there," Calliope said.
As they walked, Hermione stopped on the side of the building long enough to pull out a bracelet from her trunk. Almost as soon as she had it on, it took on a bright white glow. She, Calliope and Justine all blanched as she put the light to herself, moving it around her body until she reached a point near her shoulder where the crystal in the charm began to blink repeated before going out.
It came back on a second later. This time, they found the charm on Justine—three of them in fact. They found a fourth on Hermione's trunk. When at last the charm bracelet stayed black, Jessica said, "When did they put them on us?"
"Last night, maybe? Maybe during the game? Who knows. We'll have to scan our homes, too."
"What is this about, Hermione?" Calliope said.
"It's a long story, but I think we might be in real danger," Hermione said tightly. "Both of us. Mum, I think rather than the Underground, maybe we should take a cab."
Calliope stared from one pale face to another, but slowed as she reached up to touch the bruise that was barely visible in Hermione's hairline. "Oh God, Hermione, were you hurt?"
"There was a bombing at the school," Hermione said, using terms that her mum would understand. "A lot of people died. Deanna Thomas was badly hurt and had to go to the magical hospital. And…it was really bad. Justine carried me back to the castle."
"She's okay, Mrs Granger. The bruise will be gone by tomorrow, and she has potions in her trunk," Justine said quickly.
"I don't understand," Calliope said. She took Hermione's arm firmly in hers and said, "Talk to me, Hermione. Tell me everything!"
Hermione sniffed, but held back tears as she told them of the Ball, Harry's invitation, and the danger he knowingly placed her in. She explained about the attack in Hogsmeade, and how Harry defended her, only to get in even more trouble for destroying his wand. She then told them about the Sabbat's judgment that he bond before age fifteen, and how she and Jessica both offered to bond with him if he couldn't find anyone else.
"Hermione!" Calliope finally said. "You are only fifteen years old! You are not bonding with anyone!"
Because Hermione was listening to her mother rant, it was Justine who spotted the man first. She happened to glance behind them as they walked and saw a tall, pale figure wearing an odd set of black clothes that stood out from the people around him. He walked at a fast, steady clip behind them, closing in fast. He met Justine's gaze squarely. He could have been wearing a mask for how unemotional his long, sharp face looked. As she watched, the man slid a long, serrated knife from his black sleeve.
"Oh my God," Justine whispered. Louder, she shouted, "Hermione, Mrs Granger, run!"
Mrs Granger looked back but couldn't see anything; Hermione did, though, and paled. She grabbed her Mum and pulled hard; the man burst into a hard sprint as they tried to run. He pushed people aside or even knocked them down, and yet no one seemed to be able to see him, while the thick crowds made it hard going for Hermione, Justine and Calliope Granger.
Behind her friend, Hermione saw the man grip the knife by the tip of its blade and lift his arm to throw it. Desperate, she raised her wand and shouted, "Stupefy!" over her shoulder
As a fourth year, she should not have known any offensive magic, but most students in her class taught themselves the stunning spell, if not more. The man with the knife snarled and ducked out of the path of the spell, and that brief delay gave them a few precious steps to get ahead. Strangely enough, people suddenly noticed the black-clad figure in their midst with the huge knife and shouted in alarm.
"Come on," Hermione said. "We have to go!"
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a black-clad blur slammed into the knife-wielding wizard at a full run, slamming the man hard against the wall. The wizard snarled in rage, raised an arm and backhanded what looked like a soldier in black gear. Hermione stood, astounded, as the blow sent the soldier flying down the street—he did not get up when he landed with a thud on the sidealk.
The wizard removed a wand with his free hand, while retaining the knife in his other. People were screaming and backing away as more black-clad soldiers arrived. One carried what looked like a carbine and opened fire without hesitation.
The wizard snarled again and raised a magical shield, and Hermione stared in shock as the bullets bounced harmlessly away. Realizing that these men were trying to save her, Hermione raised her wand and cast another stunner. Justine, sensing what her friend was doing, did the same.
The wizard, having to choose between shielding between magic or bullets, shifted his shield against the magic. However, at the same time he spun into motion away from the trajectory of the bullets toward a third soldier. The knife flashed out, stabbing at the soldier's shoulder, while somehow he continued to shield against Hermione's and Justine's spell fire. It was terrifying, and astounding as well. It was sheer numbers that got him. While taking out one soldier, evading fire from a second and shielding against the girl's magic, he simply had no more tricks to handle the remaining two black-clad soldiers who opened fire with their weapons. Without the wizard's magic to protect him, he was just as vulnerable as any other person would be.
Blood blossomed in the air as fifty rounds tore into his body in the space of a second or two, and with a last cry of rage, the wizard fell back against the wall before sliding to the ground, leaving a streak of blood behind him and two soldiers immobile on the ground, one of whom was bleeding profusely from a knife in the chest.
A huge black Range Rover screeched up to the curb and two more soldiers jumped out around Hermione, her mum and Justine. "Come with us, ladies," a suspiciously familiar voice said.
"What's happening here?" Calliope cried, shaking as adrenaline caught up with the fear.
Hermione grabbed her Mum's shoulders as the soldiers took their trunks and supplies to the Rover. "Mum, come on, it's okay," she said. She guided her mum into the Rover and followed herself. After Justine climbed in and sat beside her, the two soldiers climbed in, one driving, the other in the front seat.
Outside, behind them, more soldiers were quickly taking the body to a second Rover and cleaning up the mess.
"What's happening here?" Calliope shouted. "I demand…"
"It's alright, love," the driver said. He removed the helmet, visor and ski mask to reveal Edwin Granger. "We're safe now."
"Edwin?" Calliope stammered.
In the passenger side, the second soldier removed his gear to reveal Sir Marcus Fletchley. "Justine, how are you?"
"Scared to shite," she said.
"Don't let your mum hear you talk like that," Sir Marcus said grimly. "Sorry for the fright, ladies. Truth be told, we were hoping the catch the bugger alive, but I begin to see why we had such a hard go of it last time. Those were very good men, and he took out two with his hands. Doubt we would have taken him at all if not for you girls' quick thinking."
"I don't understand," Hermione admitted.
"It was your friend, Potter," Edwin explained. "He wrote us both a letter describing the threat. It's like he'd sat in on its planning—it happened just like he described. Sir Marcus called me, and I reminded him of my army days. I've been conscripted, love. Special Unit; and you saw our first action today."
"So Harry saved us," Justine said.
"And why not?" Hermione said angrily. "He's the reason we're in danger in the first place."
Justine grimaced before looking forward through the windshield of the Rover. "So what do we do now, Daddy?"
"Now, love, we get ready to fight."
Here ends Firebird's Son. The story continues in Book II: The Firebird's Song.
Author's Note: Very special thanks as always to Teufel1987, JR and Miles for beta reading. If there are any major faux-pas, they are entirely of my own doing. Please note that there will be no break between books I will post Chapter 1 of Firebird's Song next Saturday like normal.