Harry Potter and the Scīenra Cwēna
AN: Well, this was rather a long time coming. No excuses, but I must apologize. Leaving it on a cliffhanger for a year is really quite a terrible thing to do. Thank you to all those who have reviewed, followed, and favorited this story; without your support, I likely would never have continued it.
"Many die too late, and some die too early. Yet strange soundeth the precept: 'Die at the right time!'" - Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
"Based on what Fleur Potter reported, the Unspeakables think it must be the Ritual of Asclepius. It's the only thing that matches up with this time of year and the specific date tomorrow. That still doesn't mean You-Know-Who is alive, just that Crouch Junior thinks he is." Amelia Bones sat in her chair and waited for a reaction.
"And what does Minister Fudge think about this, Madam Bones?" Charles Delacour's voice was sharp. Amelia was expecting the question, but she was not looking forward to answering it.
"He believes that the abduction was carried out by Crouch Junior working with Sirius Black, both of them mad after their time in Azkaban." She closed her eyes in frustration. "Mad enough to think their master is still alive."
Charles Delacour said nothing. Amelia was positive he was infuriated. He was just very good at hiding it. She couldn't blame him; if this meeting were about Susan's husband she would be hard-pressed to look as calm as he did.
"This is unfortunate news, but not unexpected I'm afraid. Cornelius has been most resistant to any notion that he might be wrong about things," Albus Dumbledore commented from behind his desk.
"Speaking of things the minister is wrong about, Albus, why did you not bring Harry Potter's story about Sirius Black to me before? I heard nothing about the matter despite the fact that it happened months ago. Did you discourage him from contacting us?"
The French minister's eyes narrowed, but still he remained silent.
"It was an unfortunate situation, Amelia, as I'm sure you can understand. We were fortunate that young Harry escaped from the ordeal unharmed. With Peter Pettigrew gone, we had nothing to present to prove Sirius' innocence, and everything to lose if you forced Harry to cooperate in locating him so long as Cornelius kept up the kill on sight order." The headmaster smiled softly. "Sending him to your department might have brought Sirius into greater danger."
"Do you honestly think I would lie to Harry Potter if I asked for his cooperation? Or that I would deny Sirius Black a fair hearing with testimony under veritaserum? You cannot really believe that, Albus." The witch struggled to retain her temper.
Dumbledore spread his hands in a gesture of uncertainty. "Of course I trust you, Amelia, but there are many in the ministry and indeed in your own department who might not be so deserving of that trust."
"That might have been useful for Harry Potter to know." She replied through clenched teeth.
"I did not think it prudent, particularly under the very emotional circumstances. Now, as for the matter of Cornelius and the issue of the ritual." The old man leaned forward. "I think this would be best kept to ourselves for now. There is no need to unduly trouble the young Mrs. Potters with this."
Amelia Bones was about to reply, but she was cut off by Charles Delacour's soft voice.
"I think that is about enough, headmaster. I will be advising my daughter and her wife about everything we have discussed as soon as I leave this office. Is that clear?" He asked, his eyes never moving from the older wizard.
"Ah, yes, Charles, of course. It is your daughter we are discussing." Dumbledore replied with a strained smile.
"Good." The French wizard stood and offered a polite nod to Amelia Bones. "Madam Bones, thank you once more for your time. I will let you know immediately if either of the girls learns anything new." He turned to offer Dumbledore a curt nod before leaving the office.
"Well Albus," Bones said as she stood to take her leave, "I'm sure we'll meet again very soon."
After she had departed as well, Dumbledore sat quietly in his office, staring at the wall. The portraits were silent. After a few minutes alone, he picked up quill and parchment and began writing a letter to Sirius Black.
The old house had a sterile sort of cleanliness about it on the inhabited floors, the product of too many scourgify spells and not enough care. This was not lost on Peter Pettigrew as he walked away from his master's quarters, away from the monstrous thing that had taken a child's body. The house was smooth and dry as Nagini's dark scales, but just as cold and uncaring.
It was not a house of death, exactly. Just a house with no life.
Pettigrew had just finished his hourly care of Lord Voldemort and now, in the kitchen, he found himself under the disapproving gaze of Barty Crouch Junior. The Death Eater's partial success in bringing Harry Potter into their custody was not especially rewarded by the Dark Lord. In fact, since the ritual itself had to be altered to accommodate the new time frame, the Dark Lord was in a foul mood with regard to Crouch.
Consequently, Pettigrew's even-handed treatment came off looking like favoritism. Crouch was not happy about it.
"Hey Peter. Only a little more than a day to go now, eh? The master will be back. The others will be back. Everything's going to be back like it was then, eh?"
Pettigrew turned to look at the other man. Crouch was better when he pretended to be someone else, he reflected. Here, as himself, the wizard was wild-eyed and twitchy. It made Peter uncomfortable.
"Sure, Barty. Tomorrow." He replied noncommittally.
Crouch frowned. "Is it all ready? The soil's ready, the boy's locked up, the time's going to be right. You've gotten everything else ready, right?"
Peter repressed a shudder at the other man's feverish tone. "Yeah. It's all ready."
"That boy's going to squirm. I can't wait. He was such a little prick at school. Acting like he didn't care what anyone thought. Prick."
Peter grunted in reply. There was no point worrying about Potter. He was going to go the way of James and Lily shortly. Sure, Wormtail felt a bit of grim pleasure at the boy's impending death, but he really didn't feel that much. It was just one more thing to be done before he could take his place at the side of the ascendant Lord Voldemort. He smiled calmly, listening to Crouch's prattle. Tomorrow would get things started again.
He was looking forward to it.
Nothing, just like the last twenty times he had tried. Harry sighed in resignation. He had figured it wouldn't work, but with nothing to do while the girls continued to work on their new spells he had finally mastered a silent finite shortly after noon. He couldn't disenchant the ropes (finite had its limits after all) but he had been able to dispel the silencing charm.
Even though he had expected it, Harry was crushed that Dobby could not hear his call. It wasn't that surprising though; he was being held captive by Voldemort of all people. Harry didn't expect him to miss much.
"Well, still no luck with Dobby I'm afraid." He reported to Fleur and Hermione.
"It's all right, Harry. We're getting close here. Don't lose heart." Hermione replied.
"Try to rest for now, love." Fleur advised over the bond.
Harry sighed again. He didn't think he'd be getting any sleep, but it was worth a shot.
There was nothing else to do but wait.
"You know I really can't believe that the tempus charm already worked with celestial observation and centralized time reference. Why on earth were we never taught that? I mean three centuries of spellbooks and we were practically at the very end before the arithmantic derivation of the spell was-"
The brown-haired witch's rambling was interrupted by a voice from across the library. "What the bloody hell is that? You've got a window on your face, Hermione."
"Mr. Weasley, will you lower your voice?" Madam Pince's harsh whisper brought an immediate silence from the redhead.
Silent or no, Ron Weasley was even more perplexed when Hermione turned to face him and he saw lettering across the strange window. "Really Hermione, what is that thing? I could see it all the way across the library."
At this Hermione frowned, then turned to look over at the silvery-blonde haired witch sharing the table. "Fleur, you know I think Ron might be on to something. Harry can't have this thing flying around his face; they'll be sure to know something's up."
The older girl looked contemplative for a moment, then brightened. "Ah, 'Ermione, but zere is an easy way to render ze construct visible only to the caster. If you check in Lasch-"
"Lasch-Merleau! Of course! Synaesthesia and Internal Projection, the section on sensory charms. Thank you Fleur! I think it's right over here, and I seem to recall it being in G-32 on the table…" Hermione fell off into muttering, completely disregarding both Fleur and Ron.
Fleur glanced at her wife and took in the wild hair and circles under her eyes. Hermione's enthusiasm was being carried away by her exhaustion. Looking over at the young Weasley, she offered an explanation. "Apologies, Ronald. We are both very tired. I promise to explain better in a little while."
Ron nodded and watched his friend worriedly.
A few moments later Hermione seemed to have found what she wanted and turned furiously toward recasting her spell.
The little construct faded away, leaving her face tired, but still triumphant.
"It works! It really works, Fleur! With your spellwork we're there! Now we need to get Harry to learn it, and cast it, and then compare with ours, and probably cross-reference with relevant muggle mapping data. We're almost there!" "Harry, it works! I'll need to start working with you on how to cast it in a moment. Just let me finish up my notes."
"What about Madam Bones? You'll need her help with the muggle information at least, and probably with getting around the country. You two need to be safe." Harry replied immediately.
"We will go see her now, 'Arry. Don't worry. We will be safe."
"Excuse me? I hate to interrupt, but there's something you might want to know." Fleur and Hermione were startled to see Daphne Greengrass standing next to Ron.
"Oh, sorry Daphne. We got a little carried away." Hermione commented as she turned her attention back to the notes Fleur had just passed across the table. "What is it?"
The girl lowered her voice slightly. "Draco Malfoy made a trip to the owlery this morning. I'm pretty sure he's reporting what you two are doing to his father."
"I do not think that 'e has anything of value to tell, 'Ermione," Fleur commented immediately.
"That git. Keeping tabs for his dad, just like always." Ron grumbled.
"Hopefully you're right, Fleur. Anyway, we need to see Madam Bones as quickly as possible." Hermione pulled her notes into a neat pile and began packing her bag. "Thanks, Daphne. I appreciate it. Will you let us know if anything else happens?"
"Sure, Hermione." The Slytherin offered a tight smile. "Good luck."
Fleur called for Winky, and advised her to take a brief note directly to Amelia Bones, and another to her father.
"Dumbledore?" Hermione questioned.
"We'll need his office at least," Fleur assented, before sending Winky away with her three messages. "All right, to the headmaster's office then?"
The younger witch nodded and glanced down at her notes with intense concentration. "OK Harry, the first thing you want to do is make sure you're not silenced. The verbal component here is going to be helpful apart from the conjuration."
"I'm ready, Hermione. I won't let you two down."
"I know, Harry. I know. Now, here is where we begin."
"Oh, I'm sorry for not explaining Mr. Delacour, it's a heads-up display construct. Fleur and I invented it this morning."
Hermione's offhand remark brought a smile to the French wizard's face, a rarity that particular day.
"I see, Hermione. Excellent work, both of you." He offered a smile to his daughter as well. "Now, can you explain in a bit more detail?"
"Fleur, can you continue with Harry while I explain the plan? You're really a much better teacher than I am."
"You're both great," Harry sent with sincerity.
"I'll help 'Arry. You explain this so we can get started."
The brown-haired witch took a deep breath. In Dumbledore's office were presently the headmaster, Professor McGonagall, Mr. Delacour, Amelia Bones, and the two aurors she had met before, Shacklebolt and Tonks, plus herself and Fleur. They were all waiting to hear her plan for locating Harry Potter, something every experienced witch and wizard in the room had failed to do.
Hermione felt very much fifteen years old while they all stared at her, until she began to speak. "Well, the heads-up display can be rendered visible only to the caster. Its purpose is to allow the coherent organization of data gathered by various spells that generate information on one's surroundings, such as the time. That is mostly for convenience however. We should be able to provide Harry's longitude, accurate to a second at least, in just a little while." She paused as the the audience looked perplexed. "That will be the first bit of information. We found out that wizards didn't even have a spell for latitude, which isn't too surprising since we had to basically deconstruct the tempus charm to make one for longitude. Fortunately we managed and now we have a way to get a fairly solid coordinate approximation of Harry's location. From there we can use meteorological data for barometric pressure and temperature to try to narrow things down; we'll need Madam Bones to send someone to get mapping information from the muggle agency in question."
Leaving off, Hermione looked around. Tonks had her hand in the air. "Yes, Auror Tonks?" the young witch said.
"Yeah, so you have Harry's approximate location, and you need someone to get current maps, and then you two are going to bounce around England until your little displays are close enough to his, that about right?"
"Right. The closer we get, the closer the match for pressure and temperature should be. There is no wizarding spell for elevation as far as I can tell, and we didn't have time to make one." The witch replied smartly.
Charles Delacour could not help it: his mouth was hanging open a little in amazement. Looking around, he could see he was not the only one. One day, and she and Fleur have created all of this?
"Hermione, all of this depends on Harry being able to cast these spells, correct?" He asked.
"Yes, Mr. Delacour, but Fleur's working with him now and I'll be helping as soon as we're done here. I'm sure he can do it." The girl's fierce determination was evident to all the adults in the room.
"Brilliant work, you two. I'll send Tonks out to get the map information you need. Shack, grab about a dozen men, six for each girl. You're going to be apparating them around the country pretty soon." The head of the DMLE stood and turned to the French gentleman. "Minister Delacour, we will do everything we can to assist your daughter and daughter-in-law."
Charles stood and shook her hand. "Thank you, Madam Bones. I know we'll get young Harry back."
Across the room, behind his desk, Albus Dumbledore remained silent. Perhaps I've underestimated them all. If they manage to succeed… "A very excellent plan, Ms., rather, Mrs. Potter. I will be happy to help in any way I can."
Hermione nodded, and Amelia Bones nodded as well, if a bit more warily.
"Now Auror Tonks, you'll want to go to the UK Ordnance Survey office…"
"Hey! I think I've got it!"
Charles Delacour watched, fascinated, as his eldest daughter exhibited a panoply of emotions in complete silence. She had been busily communicating with Harry Potter since the meeting in Dumbledore's office, and had not spoken very much since.
Hermione Potter had left to help organize the search with Amelia Bones and the aurors, leaving Fleur to explain the new spell mechanics to their husband.
The Frenchman was cautiously hopeful. The spells themselves were brilliant, but learning to cast them wandless would not be easy. Still, Harry at least had the chance to work on them for now.
Unaware of her father's thoughts, Fleur concentrated on Harry. "Excellent, love! Tell me what it looks like." The heads-up display construct needed to be executed perfectly in order to retain and review the information from the other spells that fed into it.
"Hmm, well, it's… blue, and it moves when I turn my head…"
The young veela was about to ask for more specific information when suddenly something pushed into her vision.
She was seeing through Harry's eyes. Her jaw dropped in astonishment. "'Arry, how are you doing zis? I can see what you're seeing." And, she noted to herself, it appeared that the construct was indeed perfect.
"Well, I wanted you to see it, so I suppose you could since you wanted too as well then?"
"Amazing!" Hermione chimed in. "I was listening in to you two, but I'm able to see it too Harry. This is excellent! Your spellwork is perfect."
Fleur felt Harry relax a bit through the bond. "Great. I think I need a minute to rest before we continue though. Don't want to pass out."
It was thin humor, but it helped. They were all tired, and there was much to do.
High noon on Sunday found Neville Longbottom in an unusual situation for him: he was surrounded by pretty girls. The situation was becoming more and more common over the course of his fourth year at Hogwarts, something which usually would have engendered both great apprehension and great excitement in the Gryffindor. On this particular day, Neville was not worried at all about the girls in his company; he was worried about his friend Harry Potter, and was endeavoring to distract himself with some spellwork.
"Depulso! Depulso! Depulso!" Three iron balls flew across the Room of Requirement and directly into the center of the conjured targets at its far end. Neville did not even change his expression as the spells went off perfectly. His eyes focused on the targets in the distance, he called out, "Accio! Arresto Momentum! Accio! Arresto Momentum! Accio! Arresto Momentum!"
When all three of the heavy spheres were again resting at his feet, the young wizard took a moment to close his eyes and take a deep breath. Only a few seconds had gone by. Fleur and Hermione had already been gone for hours, and no word yet. More practice was in order, it seemed, to pass the time.
Unbeknownst to Neville, his careful, deliberate spellcasting had drawn an intensely interested audience. Daphne Greengrass, Luna Lovegood, and Ginny Weasley were all sitting at a conjured table together, but all conversation had trailed off in favor of observing the dark-haired wizard. After a few minutes of blatant staring, Daphne cleared her throat and glanced at the other two girls.
Ginny was following the projectiles with wide eyes, clearly hoping to demonstrate similar mastery herself, while Luna seemed content to stare directly at the wizard with a calm smile on her face.
Daphne's mouth twisted in a half-frown, half-grin. She was still not sure whether she should try to compete with the younger girl for Longbottom's interest, but there were definitely times when it seemed like she ought to. Like now, for instance.
It was clear that the young man's close association with Harry Potter was working greatly to his benefit. Neville was much more confident in his bearing and his spellcasting than he had ever been, and Daphne was not alone in noticing. Lovegood, however, seemed to have her hooks in the boy, and the Slytherin in her had to admit that he did not seem inclined to budge.
With Harry Potter totally off the market, things in Hogwarts were changing rapidly, and it wasn't just the boys. Hermione and Fleur had been getting some very long looks from the other students; the pair's casual affection for one another and for Harry was rather alluring in its maturity. One could hardly be a fawning fourteen or fifteen with that sort walking around for comparison. This most recent business was going to shake things up even further.
The spell crafting and reasoning that Hermione and Fleur had demonstrated was really astonishing. Both girls were really too busy and apprehensive to think it over, but Daphne could see the signs in their professors. McGonagall had been flabbergasted by the work they had done, and Daphne had overheard Professors Flitwick and Vector already discussing publication of the two girls' spells and theoretical arithmantic applications once the business with Potter was settled.
It was as though they could see past the current dilemma easily, like Harry Potter was as good as rescued. That was entirely due to Fleur and Hermione's devotion and confidence. It was infectious. Daphne felt it herself, the pull to follow the leaders; clearly Neville was feeling the same way.
If Harry Potter escaped, if he could evade this most recent attempt on his life, he could well find himself and his two wives inspiring their whole generation. Daphne Greengrass was not about to let the opportunity to be in such exalted company pass her by.
If the Boy-Who-Lived managed to survive, that is.
Hermione felt the ground slam into her feet as her stomach twisted again. Shaking her head, she waited for the spells to update with their most recent surroundings on her HUD.
"The very first thing I want to do when this is all over is figure out a way to teleport that does not make me feel sick."
Fleur's amusement came over the bond. "Eet is not so bad when you are not being side-along apparated, love."
Hermione merely grumbled in reply, then watched as the spells fed new information in. "Harry, and changes on your end? Are you all right?" She asked anxiously.
"Tired. Just tired. And no, same readings as before."
Harry Potter was tired. It was nearing five in the afternoon (which he now knew precisely thanks to Hermione's HUD spellwork) and although the girls were closing in, it was a slow process. In addition, there was still the matter of the fidelius to deal with once they were in range.
He sighed and tried not to move. The ropes had already scored his wrists and ankles enough as it was.
It had taken most of the entire night for him to manage the spellwork Fleur and Hermione had created. A part of him had been terrified that he would be unable to replicate the results without his wand; in fact, it had led to him finally passing out from exhaustion shortly after midnight. Happily, they had made clear progress once he had gotten the spells under control.
He was just very tired, and on edge. The stillness of the empty cellar gnawed on him after these days, and occasional visits by a hateful Wormtail did not improve the situation.
Also, he knew things were coming rapidly to a conclusion. Whatever ritual Voldemort was going to perform, it was going to be very soon. The girls would have narrowed down his location in the next half-hour or so, he expected.
"It won't be long now."
"Don't worry, Harry. It will be all right, ok?" Hermione tried not to sound worried, but he felt her deep anxiety over the bond.
"We are very close, love. Do not lose heart." Fleur too sounded afraid. They both sounded exhausted, that period when too little sleep and too much adrenaline made one frenetic and twitchy.
Harry tried to pull himself together and was about to offer some reassurance when he heard the creak of the cellar door opening.
"He's here. Pettigrew's here."
"Well Harry, looks like it's about time to get started. Petrificus totalus. Locomotor." Bound and frozen, Harry's form followed Pettigrew's wand up the stairs. "The Dark Lord is waiting. Best not keep him."
"I don't think we're going to get any closer, Mrs. Potter," Kingsley Shacklebolt advised soberly. "The place under fidelius must be around here, but we aren't going to be able to break it. I've sent a missive to Madam Bones."
Hermione bit her lip. The auror's assessment was probably entirely accurate. Fleur was less than a hundred meters away. They'd narrowed down the location from practically anywhere in Britain to this one isolated area of Northern Wales, but it still wasn't good enough. Harry was still in danger. Wormtail was bringing him up to see Voldemort even now.
"Darling, try not to panic. We need to pay attention. 'Arry is being moved, so he may have a chance to escape. If he does manage to get out of these wards, the faster we spot him the safer he will be."
The brunette witch took a deep breath. "OK. I'll tell the aurors to fan out. Harry? We're close. If you can break away you can cross the ward line pretty quickly; Madam Bones told us that the fidelius can only be effective over a fairly small area."
"I'll keep that in mind, Hermione. Right now it looks like we're in a courtyard or a garden of some kind, and I can finally see the sky. Crouch is here."
Fleur and Hermione quickly compared the fading sunlight and clouds to their own fields of view. "That's it! We must be right next to you Harry! I can see the same cloud formations and everything."
"Auror Shacklebolt, Harry's been taken outside to an interior courtyard. From what he can see, it looks like we're in the right place." She looked at the older wizard, not wanting to anger the man. "I think we should have the other aurors fan out between Fleur and myself. From where he's oriented, it looks like this is the best area to wait."
Shacklebolt nodded, then turned to address the others. Hermione looked away with unfocused eyes, seeing what Harry was seeing. "Harry, Madam Bones is on her way. Just…"
"Just wait for a chance, 'Arry."
Through Harry's eyes they could see the twisted form of a grey infant in Barty Crouch Junior's arms, its deep red eyes focused on a shallow grave in the earth of the courtyard.
Hermione wrapped her arms around her chest and trembled. Across the empty expanse of the countryside, behind the treeline, Fleur did the same. All they could do was wait, now.
"The hour is struck, Wormtail. Begin the ritual." Voldemort's sibilant whisper carried through the courtyard and chilled Harry to the bone. Wormtail left Harry tied to tree as he strode over to Crouch.
"Yes, master. Crouch, place the master into the grave. Do not cover him with the earth yet." Pettigrew looked carefully over the proscribed area, checking for any imperfection in the rune-inscribed bones already cornering the grave.
Nagini hissed as Crouch placed the infant form into the grave and stepped back with wide eyes.
"Ready the bag of earth, Crouch." With only a flicker of unease, he drew a blade from a sheath at his side, then knelt to pour liquid over it from a small bottle.
Harry watched with forced calm, trying not to drive Fleur and Hermione mad with the fear he felt. Seeing Wormtail ready the blade, he called out.
"Wormtail! Don't do this! You don't have to be his creature! You can-"
"Silence you little bastard! I'll cut your tongue right out of your-" Crouch stepped forward with a snarl but was arrested by Pettigrew.
"Shut up, both of you." The traitor of the Marauders turned and walked calmly over to Harry, his voice even. The damp blade of the knife in his left hand caught the light of the waning sun. He smiled softly. "Harry Potter, do you think I follow Lord Voldemort out of fear? You're such a stupid child. I took his mark freely. I sought him out. I followed him for the same reason I once followed your father."
Wormtail was standing over him now.
"Your father was the most influential wizard of his generation, or at least he might have been. But Voldemort was more, and I knew that by going to him I would benefit from it. But that's all ancient history now. All that matters is that you'll be dead and the Dark Lord will be alive, Potter."
With that, he cut a deep gash in Harry's left forearm, carefully collecting the spilled blood in a small wooden bowl. He did not speak as he turned away. Near the grave, Crouch was silent.
Harry felt his head getting very light as Wormtail walked over to the grave. He heard words, a chant of some kind, and blood, but it all seemed very far away. Even Hermione and Fleur's voices seemed distant.
"Maybe he hit a bigger artery than he meant to. I feel cold."
"Harry! Harry, don't pass out! You have to stay awake!"
"We're here, 'Arry! Focus on us, stay awake!"
With a great deal of effort, Harry lifted his head and tried to focus. Near the grave, Wormtail was holding his arm tightly against his body, a pained expression on his face. Near him, Crouch stood with a fearful gaze fixed on the grave, and empty bag in one hand.
A minute ticked by, then another. Harry was still cold, but he was struck by the fact that the wind seemed to have died away completely.
Then Nagini hissed, and a grey, clawlike hand appeared from out of the shallow grave.
Voldemort stood. He hardly looked human.
"My wand." The voice was toneless and ugly. Harry grimaced.
Crouch handed over the wand to its owner with a simper. "Master…"
Again, the command was obeyed without hesitation by Crouch. Voldemort turned to Wormtail, who had remained silent with gritted teeth. "Rise, Peter. Show me your arm."
Harry's eyes widened as he saw the exposed wound. Pettigrew must have cut through the middle of his forearm for whatever the ritual had required.
"You've done well, Peter. Here." Voldemort delivered a complicated series of wand motions, and a silver hand grew on the traitor's arm to replace his sacrifice.
"Thank you, master," Pettigrew offered with a bow. "What would you have me do?"
"Your mark, Peter."
Pettigrew hissed in pain as Voldemort pressed his wand into the mark. "Well Harry," Voldemort said, "We'll have company in a moment. Until then, why don't you enjoy your last few moments." He smiled thinly. "Barty, do you have his wand?"
"Yes, my lord," the man scurried to hand it over.
As Voldemort examined the holly wand, robed figures appeared one by one around the courtyard, each respectfully silent. The dark lord waited before acknowledging them. None would dare to question him, not after they had felt the call from the dark mark. Those who had answered were those most faithful or afraid; those who had not had forfeited their lives.
Finally Voldemort broke the silence. "It has been a long time since I have seen you, my friends. Thirteen years. Quick to say, but not quite so quick to pass. Not so quick to live through. Not when one waits for the faithful to return to the fold."
His narrow eyes passed over the crowd and he sneered. "How many of you have turned against me? How many now believe the words of those who would destroy us?"
Harry could feel the anger in Voldemort's magic as he spoke.
"How many of you cowered and simpered and lived your sad little lives while I was gone? How many?" As some in the crowd began to cry out, Voldemort silenced them with a gesture. "Barty Crouch here was faithful, and came to my side as soon as he escaped Azkaban. Wormtail came to me and served me. What of the rest of you? MacNair? Serving those fools in the ministry all these years?"
"My lord, no, I, I..." a large Death Eater stepped forward only to fall to his knees.
MacNair's screams tore away the haze of blood loss from Harry's mind, and a stab of real terror hit him. "He's here. The Death Eaters are here. He's torturing them, then he's going to kill me while they watch."
It was almost overwhelming enough to make him laugh.
"Pitiful. What about you, Malfoy? No excuses can make up for your failure to find me. What will you say to defend yourself?"
Rather than listen to Malfoy's stammering reply, Harry instead tried to focus on the words of his two wives over the bond.
They could offer little reassurance.
Eventually they fell silent, and Harry could sense them watching the scene through his eyes.
Four of the Death Eaters were on the ground suffering the after effects of the cruciatus curse. Wormtail and Crouch were looking on with undisguised glee. Voldemort halted his torment for a moment and turned to his left, abruptly noticing Harry still tied in place.
He smiled. "Well, Harry Potter. Now that my followers are all here, perhaps they would enjoy watching your end." He gestured and the ropes and binding curses fell away from Harry. The young wizard stood and rubbed at his wrists.
"You'll need this, of course," he said, obviously amused, as he threw the holly and phoenix feather wand at Harry's feet. "You do know how to duel, don't you, Potter? We can be civilized about this, after all."
Harry felt his scar hurting, and he was not sure whether it was his imagination or not. The weekend of isolation, the hours of spellwork, the anguished thoughts of Fleur and Hermione all threatened to overwhelm him.
Then he bent to pick up his wand, and cleared his mind for a moment.
"I'm going to try to make the best of this. If I can, I'll run. If I can kill some of them, I will."
"Be careful, Harry. Please. Fleur and I should both be roughly in an arc with the aurors outside the property behind you."
"We love you, 'Arry. Do what you 'ave to do, love."
With that, both girls were silent.
Wand in hand, Harry looked up and met Lord Voldemort's gaze. "I'm ready, Tom. Are you? Lacero!"
Not waiting a moment, Harry threw another hex as well and ducked to the right. No return spells came however; Voldemort simply absorbed both hexes into a silently conjured shield. Then he started laughing.
"Really, Harry? Is that all you've got? That's all Dumbledore's taught you? This is hardly even a show for my allies here," he gestured to the attentive crowd of Death Eaters.
While he was speaking, Harry caught a flicker of motion off to Voldemort's right, away from the other witches and wizards. In a moment, he raised his wand again.
Voldemort idly conjured his shield, blocking the first hex, and was about to make another remark about Potter's poor aim when he felt a moment of sheer horror.
Off to his side, Nagini exploded into a bloody mist, and a horrifying shriek echoed through the courtyard. Voldemort fell to his knees in pain, and much to his surprise, so did Harry Potter.
Through the awful agony Harry heard Hermione and Fleur telling him to get up and run while he had a chance, telling him that Madam Bones and the aurors and Dumbledore were waiting to help him. He staggered drunkenly to his feet; the scar felt like it was branding itself into his skull.
"Potter! You swine! Do you have any idea what you have done!" If the Dark Lord had been irritated before, he was livid now. The Death Eaters as one fell back, unwilling even to speak in the face of his fury. "This ends now. Goodbye, Harry Potter."
With an expression of total hatred on his reptilian features, Voldemort called out, "Avada Kedavra!"
Harry saw it speeding toward him, but he was too tired, and too slow. The curse struck him on the shoulder and the Boy-Who-Lived fell to the ground, limp, deaf to the crying voices of the two young women who loved him.
Across the courtyard, much to the complete shock of the Death Eaters, the thing that had been Tom Riddle fell to the ground along with his foe.
Harry felt two things very keenly upon waking up: he was no longer in pain, and he could no longer hear Fleur and Hermione. He panicked for a moment before he fell off of the couch he was on. The floor was hardwood with a simple rug. It was pleasant and cool in the room, a summer evening with a window open to let in the air.
No answer. Harry picked himself up, noticing that he was in clean Hogwarts robes. He looked around.
The couch he had fallen off of looked to be an antique, and well worn. The rest of the room seemed to match the same decor, a sort of understated wealth, the sort that comes from a family whose antiques are their own from centuries past, of no more account to them than the horses in their stables. It was a house for a noble, Harry thought.
He was alone in the room, but as soon as he established that fact a door opened and two people walked in. They were both young, only a little older than Harry was himself, like university students. The man had unkempt dark hair, a sharp contrast to the straight red hair that framed the face of the woman.
Both of them were looking at Harry with a very strange expression, one that Harry had seen but rarely in his life. They looked on him with affection.
"Who… who are you?" He asked after a little hesitation.
The two glanced at each other, then looked back at him. The man spoke first.
"Harry… I am your father!" The goofy deep voice, obviously a farce, took Harry totally by surprise. He looked on in complete astonishment as the woman turned and punched the man in the shoulder.
"Honestly, James. You never, ever change." Harry noted that the woman did not seem angry, just amused. Her sharp punch to the shoulder had been a warning, but clearly a joking one. She turned to look at him. "Harry, we are your parents. I'm Lily Potter; this fool is your father, James. It's good to finally get to talk to you."
Harry blinked, then blinked again. He heard the words echo in his mind: father, parents, James, Lily. He stumbled, then fell back onto the sofa. "Mum? Dad? Really?"
His father's expression softened, the earlier humor replaced with love. "Yes Harry, it's us. Lily's right, it's great to talk to you, but I wish it were under better circumstances."
Harry was speechless as they moved to sit beside him, and then reached out for a hug. He felt the tears coming as he shook in their arms, and broke down sobbing a moment later. This was the Mirror of Erised made a thousand times better.
"Harry, I've missed you. I love you so much." Lily smiled and kissed his head.
"We both do, Harry," his father echoed.
"I, well, am I dead then? I remember Riddle hitting me with the killing curse. Is that it then? Is that why I can't hear Hermione or Fleur?" Harry leaned back a bit and asked with trepidation.
"Not exactly, darling. This is something of a crossroads. You're here because Tom Riddle did something very foolish."
"When you struck out at his snake, Nagini, with that reductor curse - brilliant form by the way - did you notice anything strange about what happened, Harry?" James asked.
"Well," he began carefully, "There was a horrible scream, then I felt my scar burning. I think Voldemort felt it too."
"He did, Harry," Lily said. "He felt it awfully. Can you guess why?" James smiled at his wife's question; even in death, she remained something of a teacher.
"If it was his familiar, if it had a connection with him, and my scar is a connection too, maybe that is what shared the pain with us?" Harry replied with some hesitation. It seemed to fit the facts, but he had never heard of anything quite so awful happening with the death of a familiar.
"Close, Harry, very close indeed." Lily nodded approvingly and stroked his hair. "There's some information you are missing, though, that should make things more clear. Something Albus Dumbledore has been hiding from you."
He felt a bit of dread. "What is it?"
"You know Riddle wanted to be immortal; to do that, he made repositories, anchors really, for his soul. They're phylacteries, or as most in the wizarding world name them, horcruxes. Every one of them has a little piece of Riddle's soul, and unless they are all destroyed, his formless spirit can incarnate in a new body." Lily looked at him very seriously. "Nagini was a living horcrux, Harry. The snake's destruction caused him terrible agony."
"And me? Why did it hurt me too?" Harry asked.
"What do you think, son?" James asked gently.
"My scar. My bloody scar. It was a part of him, wasn't it?" Harry said, appalled.
Both his parents nodded sadly. "It was indeed. He has others out there too, and Albus may well know where some of them are. But there is some good news, Harry." Lily smiled brilliantly, and Harry felt a little better. "Your scar is just that now, a scar. It will never heal, but the horcrux has been destroyed."
Harry's eyes widened in realization. "Riddle did it himself? He destroyed it himself when he tried to kill me?"
"That's right son. And now you're here, in between worlds, as a result. You will wake up soon, free from the horcrux, but you'll need to move fast. Riddle is gravely hurt after both those horcruxes have been killed so quickly."
"We only have a few minutes Harry. When you escape, find my journal in the family vault in Gringott's. You won't be able to read it at first; you'll need to listen to Tom Sawyer. You'll find out what your father and I were doing." Lily said in a rush.
"We love you, Harry. Keep those witches by your side; Fleur and Hermione both seem wonderful." James said fondly.
"Be happy, Harry. I don't need to tell you to be brave, or strong, because you've already got strength and bravery in spades. Love those two girls. Love yourself. And never forget that your mother and father love you very, very much." Tears fell from Lily's green eyes as she held her son fiercely.
"I love you mum, dad." Harry said with tears of his own. "I won't let you down. I won't forget you."
He pulled back and saw James and Lily smiling and crying. They faded out before his eyes, and then the darkening courtyard faded in around him.
"Harry! Harry Potter! Please say you're all right!"
"'Arry my love, say something! Please! 'Arry!"
The desperate voices of his wives echoed through Harry's mind. Hearing them again felt like opening his eyes for the first time. He wasted not a moment however as he clenched his wand in his right hand and tensed his muscles.
"I'm here, I'm all right. I'm about to run for it. Get ready."
Hoping he had not been too terse, Harry readied himself, hearing the nervous voices of the Death Eaters. Judging by the sound, they were standing around Voldemort's fallen body. He knew he only had a few moments.
Harry did not know how to apparate. Harry had no portkey, and no way to make one. Dobby could not come to him. No phoenix appeared to flame him away. But that was all right. Harry Potter had been running from trouble his whole life before he knew anything about magic.
The Boy-Who-Lived sprang softly to his feet, ignored the terrible pain in his left arm and the dizziness from loss of blood, turned his back on Voldemort and the crowd of Death Eaters, and ran.
He sprinted toward the wall of the courtyard. It was scarcely fifteen meters away. It was Harry Hunting all over again, but this time the pursuers had killing curses and disemboweling hexes.
So he ran, faster than he had ever run before. He hardly even heard the shout of a lone Death Eater as he neared the wall. Five meters now.
A six-meter section of the wall exploded into powder. Harry never broke his stride.
Ten meters past the wall now. He could hear Hermione and Fleur screaming at him to run.
He could hear them. Not in his mind. He focused.
There they were. Hermione and Fleur behind a wall of aurors, Madam Bones, Charles Delacour, and Dumbledore. The wall of witches and wizards threw curses at the pursuers he dared not turn to look at. He heard a few screams, then silence as he ran straight through them and into the arms of the witches who had been waiting for him all this time. Behind him, the aurors closed ranks. A few more spells flew, and then all was quiet except for Harry Potter, gasping for breath in the arms of his two sobbing wives.
"Mr Potter, we are leaving. Now."
He felt a hand on his arm, and then a terrible twisting sensation, and then Harry was in Albus Dumbledore's office with Hermione and Fleur in his arms. He panted a moment, then leaned in for a long kiss with both girls.
Then he started laughing, thinking of Wormtail and Crouch and Malfoy and Riddle all standing around screaming while his mother and father cheered him into the arms of the girls that loved him.
He finally calmed down a moment later to see concerned expressions on the faces of both girls. "Don't worry, really. I've just got quite a lot to tell you both. Have I mentioned that you're amazing, and that I love you?" Harry smiled, and his feelings of relief and joy flowed out to both girls. "God, I missed you both."