This fanfiction is not for profit.
Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling
the_scribbler has thrown himself into the breech and beta-ed this chapter. His suggestions for plot, style, and grammar have been a very great help. Any remaining errors are the result of my pigheadedness.
Aboard The Gryffin; Amalfi Coast, Italy August 18, 1992
After the ambush at Longbottom Manor, Moody had detailed Sirius to get all the firearms locked down before anyone could make them disappear. Sirius applied the same interpretive powers to his orders any good NCO would and decided Mad Eye really meant all weapons. He stood next to the Portkeys barking "Accio! Weapons!" over every group of ten before he would tap the Portkey to activate it.
Hermione stood with him, a frown of fierce concentration on her face, making lists. Just names for now, and a check box that they had signed off on the agreement. Everyone who took a Portkey agreed in writing that the offer of shelter could be rescinded at any time, for any reason. They were promised nothing. They hoped for some degree of safety from Death Eaters. They were free to go at any time. 1024 ported away from the Longbottoms. 983 landed.
They had planned the fight, but hadn't the time to plan the rest of the operation. Truth be told, they didn't have a clue how to plan for a thousand souls landing in the middle of their fabulously wealthy lifestyle.
Expansion charms were wonderful, amazing, and powerful. It was trivial to increase the interior dimensions of the yacht by an order of magnitude using some of the keelstone's stored magic.
A thousand refugees, fifteen hundred feet of waterline, three hundred feet of beam. Lots of room for everyone, right?
Right. Lots of empty room. Empty room without toilets. Without kitchens. Without food, or beds, or fucking PRIVACY!
It was a nightmare.
The interior might measure fifteen hundred feet but the outside hadn't changed. In the first hour after the fight, the deck of the Gryffin was as packed as if she had just left Cuba. Remus got busy warding the companionway to block everyone but their little family and the Grangers. He was very grateful they had shipped the Dursleys home. The Gryffin held the Muggleborns and their families, the few left of the Flying Squad. They were all races, all faiths, all hungry and in desperate need of a place to poop. An enclosed place. A place with paper.
It was hot and dark below deck. It wasn't long before it stank. There was no place level to sit, just the gentle curve of the hull and the bilge growing more fragrant by the minute.
Their noble effort would have fallen apart without the gut certainty that they had all just missed being thrown into the fire.
They called Mad Eye 'The Admiral' by the end of the day. He pretended to hate it.
The huddled mass, yearning to be free, landed, looked around at the cavernous dark space and began to complain. Moody was blindingly fast with a wand. He could silence a dozen in half that many seconds, more if he got pissed off.
When he finally had their attention he told them how it was.
"The wards refused entrance to anyone meaning harm. If someone left there and didn't come here, that's what happened. Let Hermione know if you want to leave."
The command group identified all those who had attained at least their OWL levels, put them in charge of work details and divvied up anyone else that could use a wand to work under them.
By the end of that day Harriet's magic ached like an overused muscle. She had cast for hours. Shirt to sleeping bag. Sock to towel. The cushioning charm, over and over. When she couldn't cast any more she was handed tools and a template. She cut the rune for vanishing into slab after slab of sandstone. The stones were dropped into conjured buckets, a bog roll set nearby, conjure some curtains and done; a place to poop. With paper and privacy! Do it again. Do it one hundred times.
By the end of that day Harriet understood the Statute of Secrecy. They needed so much! She had worked flat out and it wasn't nearly enough.
She had collapsed into her bed, totally wiped out after the ambush and the huge effort to bring some sort of order inside the Gryffin. She was deeply asleep in seconds.
It couldn't have been more than minutes before she was jerked awake by shouting, bright lights, and the crash of spellfire. Her training took over, she rolled out of bed and scrambled for cover. As quickly as it started, the hexing stopped.
"Harriet!" It was Padfoot's voice, the growl he used when he was seriously angry.
She stood, grabbed her wand from the nightstand and hustled over to Sirius. He wrapped her into a tight rocking hug, muttering, snarling. Four people were laid out on the floor of her stateroom, a couple, a child about Harriet's age, a crone.
They hadn't thought to ward their area of the Gryffin.
The Demarcy family wasn't evil. Arrogant, they were clearly that, and perhaps greedy, but not evil.
Tom Demarcy had sniffed out a comfy spot for his family. He shooed them into Harriet's stateroom and began to tuck his mum into the nice bed while Agnes took little Sarah for a proper wash up. Plenty of room after all, and the old dear's lumbago was acting up.
Much better than a sleeping bag, cheek by jowl in the echoing dark of the other place. Much better until Sirius stopped to check on Harriet.
Remus stumbled into Harriet's stateroom as Padfoot cast Portus on a scrap of parchment and began to stick the Demarcy's hands to it.
Harriet's voice trembled, "Padfoot, don't… please. They could die out there."
Padfoot stared at his daughter, a rumbling growl just barely audible on every exhale. He looked to Remus. "She's right Pads."
"They can stay here? I can bunk in with Hermione. Well… not them. They shouldn't have done that, just move in like that. But someone needs this?"
"No!" Padfoot flailed at the pile of Demarcys then pointed forward to the huge space.
His hand slashed through the air, cutting, ending, drawing a line he wouldn't allow her to cross.
Harriet never learned a harder lesson. She struggled to take in that she didn't have to give everything, always. Dumbledore would have been appalled had he known what she was learning. It was completely the opposite of what the Greater Good required.
They met in the gray light of predawn the next morning, Mad Eye and the girls. It was time for training. He stumped back and forth in the half finished room, part dueling chamber, part gym.
They knew the work out, the physical part, they did that on their own. He drilled them on casting, speed and accuracy, drilled them on dodging, stealth, evasion, tactics.
"What about the others? Shouldn't they be here?"
His beady human eye squinted at her. She began to fidget. "Sorry Admiral."
"Aye Hermione, they should be here."
He shuffled a few steps away from them, thinking.
"The whole thing is a lash up, nothing planned. We're making it up as we go. Easy enough to tell damn Gryff's are running this thing, we charged in without a damn thought to getting out."
He stumped back past them headed the other way.
"We'll have to fight again. Not right off, we pounded them flat."
He took another spin around them, talking as he went. "No telling what they will come up with. Dark creatures… Weres, trolls, maybe giants, and beasts for sure. Will they go Muggle though?"
Alastor had been mightily impressed by the damage a tumbling bullet did. The Death Eaters might not understand just what happened to them but Moody did. A combined arms defense had proven devastating. We won't have to steal grenades again, easy enough to make something like that.
He didn't think the Death Eaters would bring themselves to ally with Muggles or Muggleborn troops but Mad Eye fully expected Death Eaters to adopt firearms. And Tom Riddle? Did Riddle want power more than he cared about his rhetoric?
Impossible to know, he's insane. He could refuse to adapt, make it easy on us.
Moody shivered with self-loathing at his disgusting leap into optimism.
He's never made it easy on us. It was Hermione, of course, that asked the question. "What's the worst that could happen?"
Hogwarts Infirmary, August 19, 1992
Poppy returned to her domain gray with exhaustion, nearly staggering. She set about gathering what she needed as quickly as she could. She had come for supplies to treat those still in her care after the fight at Longbottom Manor.
She hoped to be back with her patients before Dumbledore caught her, but it was Albus' school and she knew it was a faint hope.
Dumbledore arrived in a ball of flame, hanging from Fawkes' tail. With just a quick look at him she was sure lemon drops weren't on offer. It did my heart a world of good to see Augusta refuse to cater to him.
The Headmaster had been very put upon when the Longbottom wards refused him passage. He had stood at the ward boundary and barraged Augusta with Patronus messages demanding information and entrance, finally stopping when she began to volley back with howlers.
"Where have you been?"
"Hello Headmaster, nice to see you as well. I have been with Augusta."
Albus put great store in manners, in the rituals of civilization. Clearly irritated, he made a visible effort to calm himself, or at least to appear calm. He donned his manners like a well -loved cloak.
The only first hand information he had came from Severus. His Potions Professor had taken part in the fight at Longbottom manor but Snape knew very little. Albus had only managed a bare few minutes with him before Bones had ended the debriefing.
Snape had met the others at the Rosier estate. They had donned full Death Eater garb, disillusioned themselves, then Portkeyed to just outside the Longbottom estate. The Death Eaters had barely gotten into position when another group, a gaggle of Muggles and Mud-bloods, arrived at the exact spot their Auror informant had said they would. They were taken down in a hail of killing curses.
Immediately, all around Snape, dark wizards began to fall. Some were dead, some were terribly wounded. Snape's group charged the opposing force. They had never gotten close enough to engage their enemy. Severus had taken three rapid blows to his torso; hard, hot punches. He had been shocked to realize he had bare seconds to live. He Portkeyed himself to St. Mungo's.
In his hurry to save himself he had forgotten to get rid of the mask.
Of all the times to get stupid! Bones has him locked up tight along with the rest of them.
Albus forced himself to concentrate on gathering intelligence. "Perhaps I can be of assistance Poppy?"
"Thank you Headmaster. I shall need all the Skele-Gro, all the blood replenisher, all the pain potions please."
"What can you tell me, my dear?"
"It was fast, fast and brutal. It was all over by the time I could run from the manor to the ward line."
Pomfrey glanced at his very pale face, "Didn't you know? They Portkeyed the wounded and bodies away, I assumed you would be informed..."
Albus shook his head sadly. "Have they turned so dark that they toss aside their fallen?"
She stopped rummaging for whatever esoteric potion she was hunting to look quizzically at him. "They were Death Eaters, Albus. Not our forces. Four fell defending the light with another seven wounded."
"Do you recall who was port-keying the wounded and dead away Poppy?"
"I'm not feeble Dumbledore, I'm just tired. Of course I recall. They were a mixed lot but all Hogwarts students."
She took a deep breath, recalling the scene with pride.
"I was working on Dan Granger, Hermione Granger's father you know. His left leg was badly shattered, probably got caught on the edge of a Reducto. I had to control the bleeding, vanish the bones, and then heal the tissue-damage. He wasn't the only one wounded, just the worst to live. Moody was checking our lot. A group of our students went out to check the others. That nice Hufflepuff boy was leading them, Stebbins?"
"By the time I got Granger stable enough to move back to the manor there were only a few of our bunch left to treat. The Death Eaters were sent on."
Albus knew the only injured Death Eaters to arrive at St. Mungo's had traveled by means of their personal Portkeys. He scurried over to Poppy's fireplace and tossed in a pinch of Floo powder, stuck his head in the green flames and called for Barty Crouch.
Crouch was seated at his desk, stiffly erect, as precise as ever; "Dumbledore."
"I hope you don't mind my intrusion Bartemius. There were quite a few unregistered international Portkeys used yesterday. What can you tell me about them?"
"It was far more than 'quite a few'! Over a hundred to a hidden location, somewhere in the Med is as much as we know. Nearly fifty to Sicily, inside Mt. Etna to be exact... The Italians are furious."
Crouch was a smart man. He had to suspect what those Portkeys into an active volcano meant.
"Yes. Thank you Bartemius."
Dumbledore's students, his boys and girls, had sent every Death Eater they could, living or dead, straight to hell. Hell or close enough, to fire and brimstone. There is no victory at such a cost. They have become their enemy. They are my enemy now.
Dumbledore considered his options as he saw Poppy on her way before heading to his office. He didn't feel he had a lot of choice, the law had been broken, murder had been done, murder most foul.
He threw a bit of Floo powder into the fire, called out his destination, and stepped through to the Ministry.
Ministry of Magic, August 19, 1992
It was good to be Albus Dumbledore. His name cleared his path to the rulers of Magical Britannia. Less than an hour after he set foot in the Atrium he sat at a table with Cornelius and Amelia.
"I had expected that Lucius would accompany you Minister."
Fudge fluffed himself. His corpulent face reddened, his eyes narrowed. The Minister and the Headmaster had been at loggerheads since their failed attempt to control Harriet by influencing Gringotts.
"I'm well able to pilot the ship of state in these troubled waters, Dumbledore. Lucius would have been welcome of course. A wise ruler accepts counsel from all quarters, but his lady wife informs me he's indisposed. Now what troubles you? Having trouble filling the potions chair are you? Not good form to have one of your Professors caught in a Death Eaters mask Dumbledore. Come a cropper have you?"
Amelia began working on her Occlumency in hopes of putting off a migraine.
"Over one hundred fifty unregistered international Portkeys were used yesterday Minister."
Fudge rolled his eyes. "What a tragedy! Sound the alarm! Yes, of course Dumbledore, I've heard the news. Bit of a dust up at the Longbottom place. Amelia, make sure to fine Augusta as much as possible, can't have scofflaws tearing apart the very fabric of society! Was there anything else Dumbledore? Any other burning emergency?"
"There were two targets for the Portkeys. Approximately one hundred to an indeterminate location somewhere in the Mediterranean. Nearly fifty into the caldera of Mt. Etna. My sources tell me that the wounded and dead of the attacking force were Portkeyed away from the Longbottom estate."
"Great Merlin! Are you saying that…?"
Fudge blanched, swallowing convulsively, eyes flickering between Dumbledore and Amelia.
"Are you suggesting that…?"
Dumbledore nodded, "I fear that any fallen that day were sent to their doom."
"Who, Dumbledore, who sent them?"
Amelia cleared her throat. "I interviewed Augusta. She gave me a memory of Miss Hermione Granger compiling a list of everyone that left. Here are their names."
Amelia gave each of the wizards a listing of over a thousand names. The men flicked through the pages of parchment rapidly. Dumbledore spoke first.
"If memory serves, these are all Muggleborns and their families? Who Portkeyed the opposition wounded and dead away?"
"I don't have those names Dumbledore, not with any certainty. I suspect it was Stebbins and his Flying Squad, what's left of them."
She drew a small vial from her robes as well as a shrunken Pensieve. With quick, deft movements, she enlarged the Pensieve then poured the memory into it and set it to play. The memory showed small figures, distant, moving steadily across a battlefield, dropping Portkeys, the flash and fall of rainbow colors as body after body vanished.
She froze the memory. "This boy." Her quill pointed to a young man in Hufflepuff colors, "This boy looks very like Jimmy Stebbins. I suspect the others are the remnants of his Flying Squad. From what I can tell the command group left the Longbottom estate for an empty field near Calais, France via legal Portkey last night. Augusta gave me her witch's oath that no one remains at the Longbottom estate."
Dumbledore stroked his beard, thinking for several minutes.
"It would be for the best if you allow me to handle the investigation Amelia. Some very sensitive information may come to light, information that must be handled with the greatest delicacy to ensure the greater good."
Fudge glared at him, "You forget yourself Dumbledore! I am Minister here!"
He glared at Madam Bones, shook an admonishing finger at her and began to shout.
"We cannotallow such blatant disregard of our laws! Amelia, I demand your utmost effort be put forth so that these wretches may be brought to justice! For too long have we suffered the rot of criminality destroying the very fabric of our society! It must stop! It will stop!"
The Minister slammed his open hand onto the table with an echoing boom. Amelia groaned as he drew back his arm to do it again. As quickly as she could she made her way to DMLE.
The Ministry of Magic, August 20, 1992
It had taken a while to arrange via a convoluted communications channel that involved mirrors, elves and owls, but eventually Madame Bones was able to secure a meeting with the group that had fought at the Longbottom estate.
Finally ready, Amelia marched into the Auror ready room and called for attention.
"I am about to serve arrest warrants on those thought to have taken part in the fight at the Longbottom estate. I require a detail of four Aurors."
She watched carefully who pushed forward. "We will meet with some of the principles at a secret location outside Magical Britannia. We will be passing through war wards that will kill any who wish to harm the following persons; Remus Lupin, Alastor Moody, Sirius Black, and Harriet Potter."
She noted all those who suddenly lost interest.
Amelia and her guards took the first Portkey. Moody met them with his own security team, a hugely suspicious group. The Aurors were stunned before Moody's team stripped them of everything before spending a good deal of time and magical energy searching for and dispelling various tracking and monitoring magics. Finally the Aurors were dressed in nice robes that were provided to them.
Eventually they ported through some of the strongest wards Amelia had ever felt, landing in a large room. It was a nicely appointed space, simple and comfortable but with no windows or doors. She moved to the long table and took a seat. She had to make an Unbreakable Vow with Moody that she would cast no offensive magic before he returned her wand. Mad Eye kept her guard's wands.
Remus glanced around the table. Everyone was seated, waiting. He rapped the table with his knuckles.
"Let's begin. Who would like to start?"
Amelia fussed with her monocle, sighed, and then did her duty.
"I have been instructed to arrest those persons listed on this document. Those listed are suspects involved in the alleged murders of nearly fifty wizards. Suspects will be incarcerated pending questioning and possible trial. You should know this is a preliminary list, by no means complete. As DMLE gathers evidence more names may be added."
She tapped a piece of parchment, creating copies, and with a flick of her wand she sent them to the others.
Alain Delacour, France's Deputy Minister of Magic, compared her list carefully to a different list. It was as they feared, the lists matched. He tapped his papers into neat alignment. His voice was calm, precise.
"The French Ministry of Magic is one of several Ministries offering asylum to all those named. We will carefully review any requests for extradition from Magical Britannia. Does your Ministry really plan to arrest all your Muggleborns citizens as well as their families and throw them into that barbarous hellhole? Tell me, Madame Bones, have you arrested every known Death Eater on suspicion in the murders of nearly two hundred people this summer?"
Amelia was ashamed to tell them that the Ministry hadn't made an arrest in those cases. Delacour nodded. "France believes your country is in the opening stages of a civil war."
John Stoats, one of the representatives of the refugees, coughed and raised his hand, looking very uncomfortable.
"Pardon sir, for our part, those of us that got out, we aren't fighting a war. We had to get away to survive so we fought to do that. If we have to fight to get others out, we will. But fight to change the damn Ministry? No, we won't do that. Let them rot. I was a Brit sir, proud and plain, not any part of that damn Ministry. None of us care enough about it to die fighting it. Looks like my kids won't be Brits. Damn shame."
Amelia didn't like having to do it but someone needed to set the man straight. "You're a Muggle Mr. Stokes, you have no say in magical affairs."
"That's pretty much what I just said, yeah. My family will head to New Zealand as soon as everyone that's coming gets out."
"You must know that your magical children have a magical guardian once they are made aware of the magical world, usually the Headmaster of Hogwarts. The magical guardian's rights supersede your own. You are guilty of kidnapping."
"Guilty according to your Ministry ma'am, which has no authority over me or my family."
Amelia drummed her fingers on the table. "This is circular foolishness. Magical Britannia was granted self-rule by treaty with the Crown. All magicals born in the United Kingdom are automatically under the rule of the Ministry."
"That must have been an exceptionally stupid monarch. You aren't the first to talk about that treaty. Little Hermione was very thorough from what I could tell when I was awake. She convinced me to apply for asylum and temporary citizenship in France. If I'm not a Brit, my minor children aren't Brits and your damn Headmaster isn't their magical guardian. The Ministry has no pull if we leave the UK. It's for the best ma'am. Your Ministry won't stop the Death Eaters. We don't want to turn our country into a war zone. Let the Elitists have Magical Britannia. Two generations, maybe three, they will have died off. Genetics, little Hermione told us a lot about that as well. If they are stupid enough to start something against the United Kingdom some of us will fight. I will. And we will kill every last one of the fuckers."
"It wouldn't be that easy sir. Not nearly that easy."
"Easy? No ma'am, it won't be easy. But it will be done. We won't go in as mundane troops. We will go in as a mixed force, and we will be unstoppable by magical forces in any engagement with approximately equal numbers. At the Longbottom's estate we had thirty-six riflemen and ten fully trained magicals. There were about sixty Death Eaters. We lost four. What were their casualties?"
"You snookered them into a set piece battle. They will be very reluctant to allow that again. Using their usual tactics they killed two hundred over the summer without a loss." That ended a lot of the macho posturing. Amelia shrugged, it was a bitter thing, but true.
"As far as their casualties at the Longbottom estate, we think that they lost fifty of the approximately sixty they sent. It's difficult to know for certain as we have located very few survivors. Three wounded reached St. Mungo's. What happened to the other wounded? What can you tell me about fifty Portkeys into the lava of Mt. Etna?"
"Nothing I was involved in ma'am."
"That was murder sir. Murder. And nothing excuses it. It was murder committed on British soil. It is my duty to find and prosecute the guilty, and I will do my duty." Amelia looked around the table. Delacour appeared to have fallen deaf. The others had a stubborn closed look.
Finally Stokes had had enough. "Ma'am. No disrespect meant... but good fucking luck with that. Some Death Eaters died in battle trying to kill us. Thirty mundane born magicals, all school children mind, died this summer. One hundred seventy mundane parents, brothers, sisters died with them. You have made no arrests for questioning. And you come here to arrest and imprison a thousand people on suspicion of involvement in defending themselves? My duty is to protect my family and if that means killing every last bastard that wears one of those stupid masks, then that's what I'm going to do. Here's a fucking idea. Keep them away from us. Keep them away from the mundane born still in country. I bet we hardly kill a one of them."
Remus shook his head and wondered what was going to happen, now that the man had basically said what was on the mind of every single one of the Muggles and Muggleborns that they had rescued. Surely the shit was going to hit the fan, as Muggles often said. Nonetheless, he signaled for the floor. The others nodded.
"Madame Bones, we would like to invite Susan to join us. She will be a target for the Elitists if she returns to Hogwarts. The Coalition will have far fewer members this year. We suspect that many of the most rabid Elitists are dead, either at Brixton or at the Longbottom estate, but safety in the school is still a concern. Harriet and Hermione would love to have Susan join them at Beauxbatons. There will be quite a large influx of transfer students this year, possibly as many as three hundred."
In the Great Hall; Hogwarts, September 1, 1992
Dumbledore was shocked. He looked out over the Great Hall from his golden throne, looked at Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. The house tables showed great gaps, long empty stretches.
Hogwarts usual census hovered near a thousand students. This year would be lucky to number half that. Slytherin house was well represented, at least in the lower years. The upper years had been radically thinned. Many of the Slytherins looked lost, scared. Not little Malfoy. The odious little cretin was crowing and puffing about, booming on about 'great changes' and 'things as they should be'.
In counterpoint to Malfoy, young Longbottom was banging on about inbred idiots and what a lovely party his gran and the Coalition had thrown just days ago.
This is not Hogwarts. This is a disaster.
"Very, brother, very grim."
"What to do?"
"Bugger on, brother mine. Keep calm and bugger on."
The Weasleys were gathered around Neville, seated so they could keep an eye on the snakes. Across from them were two empty places, where Harriet and Hermione normally sat. Neville wound down from his latest rant and glanced at Ron, then at the empty places across from them. The girl's absence hurt a shocking amount.
"OI! Gin Gin! Alright?"
Nervous, shy, unsure, their little sister got her balance back enough to hiss at the twins, telling them to "Shut it!"
Ginny had been looking forward to Hogwarts for as long as she could remember, looking forward to escaping her mum, to making friends, to learning magic. Sitting next to her a small boy was bouncing and chattering like a squirrel. She hadn't been paying the least attention.
"What did you say Colin?"
As quickly as he began to talk she tuned him out. He was just a boy, immature and squeaky. He wasn't at all like Tom, older, and far wiser. She hurried through her dinner, eager for some privacy. Eager for some journal time.
At the Ravenclaw table a tiny blonde girl sporting turnip earrings and a necklace made of butterbeer corks sat dreaming of friends and Snorkacks. Hogwarts wasn't at all as she had hoped it would be. It wasn't a place of beauty and light. It stank of loss and pain. It was much like home that way. She hummed and drew pictures in her pudding. The other first years edged away from her.
Aboard The Gryffin, off the coast of Cannes, France; September 1, 1992
Jimmy grunted as he finished counting the away team that had just thumped to the deck then filed below.
The night's missions were over, they were all back safely. Their intake, the newest refugees, were below being processed. If it had all gone to plan they had pulled out another two hundred, about average for a nights work.
They always went out a full company strong, hoping by their show of force to intimidate the Elitists into passivity. It had worked so far.
In that first mad rush after the Longbottom fight they had raided Enfield Loch hard, liberating hundreds of SA80's, and nearly a million rounds of ammunition. The Marauders had been able to knock together the magical equivalent of a fragmentation grenade easily enough and with all the idle hands about the Gryffin they soon had more than enough of those.
One of the first spaces created aboard the Gryffin was the firing range. It was also the most heavily modified space. When they had the intel, Moody would configure the range to mirror their objective. He drove them hard every day to improve their performance, to help them survive. If everything went on as it was they would be able to evacuate all the Muggleborn families in a year's time.
Jimmy moved to the rail, leaned against it to watch the glittering lights of Cannes, delighting in the warm smell of the cooling land mixing with the sting of salt on the night's cooler sea breeze.
She seemed to materialize next to him. Her hair was an uncontrollable cloud of chestnut, she was wearing that very pretty lemon colored sundress.
"Jimmy. All right?"
"Yeah, everyone's back safe Hermione."
"Good. Any news from school?"
"I had a mirror call from Susan. About a third fewer students at the feast. The usual suspects are distributing rings tonight. They have enough to cover the maps properly. The upper years of Slytherin are looking very thin. We have some more details on how dear old Lucius died. The little turd is telling everyone he found his father days later. Lucy bled out while having a wee dram apparently."
She looked sick, swayed a bit, and swallowed. He winced, "Sorry."
"No, no. That's quite alright. I would rather know."
They could put that on your headstone.
Harriet clambered off the netting attached to the bowsprit. She liked to do her Occlumency practice there, suspended over the sea with the chuckle and burble of the ship's passage for company. She wandered back along the deck to stand at the rail with Jimmy and Hermione, tucked in tight against the taller girl, leaching warmth against the chill of the dark sea, bumping hips and shoulders.
Our first day at Beauxbatons!
Harriet joined Hermione in a skittering nervous dance around the cockpit table, checking the time compulsively, fidgeting with their book bags. Emma fussed with their uniforms, patting ties flat, fluffing hair into order. Finally it was time. They touched their necklaces as they said, "Schooltime!" and vanished in a rainbow fall of color.
Emma turned to Dan who wrapped her into a soft rocking hug. "Much better than that damn platform, yeah?"
Her response was low and fierce, "I hated that platform!"
Dan released his wife and made his way below. Moody was training his section today, his primary role was medic for the 2nd platoon but he was still expected to be as combat capable as any other fighter.
He shut the warded door to the private section behind him and took a second to look around the enormous space forward of the family bulkhead. It was changing fast, visibly different every day.
2nd platoon was running ambush scenarios today, setting them, springing them, having them sprung. Dan was kept busy all day treating minor injuries.
Several Healers had joined the exiles and had proven to be a godsend but they didn't have nearly enough Healers, not for the company level extractions. They were making it up as they went.
Aurors didn't deploy with dedicated medical personnel but Mad Eye immediately took to the idea, muttering about no one else having to leave parts behind. Those with mundane medical skills had a knowledge base that made learning magical healing, at least so far as a mundane could heal magically, relatively quick.
Dan was always amazed at the efficacy of potions. It did get a little old seeing his troops look past him hoping for a 'real' Healer. Still, he knew how they felt. Poppy Pomfrey would be forever on his Christmas card list.
It had been an exhausting morning, a new school, a new language, not a little resentment at the huge influx of Brits. Their classes had been packed.
Packed or not, the quality of instruction was much higher in many of the classes, if not quite up to snuff in some of the core classes. Whatever her other faults, McGonagall was a wonderful Transfiguration teacher, Flitwick and Sprout were excellent as well.
Potions had been punctuated by Gallic histrionics at what they hadn't been taught as well as British demonstrations of relief that they were actually being taught, which is to say, some rather startled-Brit-blinking. The girls hadn't had History of Magic yet but had heard it was not a sleep aid. Defense was challenging according to rumor, perhaps not up to Shack's DCM but certainly much better than Quirrellmort's stuttering hash of DADA.
It was lunch time, the major social time of the day since most of the Brits were not boarding. Madame Maxime had asked that the students not segregate themselves. She wanted to meld her students into a cohesive unit and lunchtime was when much of that would happen.
The girls thumped down at one of the large tables that made up the seating in the Beauxbatons dinning room. Harriet prodded a dish, trying to guess the ingredients by look and smell with only a bit of success. Hermione rattled off what the dish was, it's usual preparation, regional variances in the recipe and that it wouldn't taste at all like chicken. Even though it was chicken. At least some of it.
It wasn't shepherd's pie.
"It's very nice. You should try it." Harriet looked up to see a vision of feminine grace and beauty float into a seat across from her. The girl seemed to glow, to be surrounded by a soft radiance that gave off lovely by the bucketful.
Harriet indulged in a good deal of rapid blinking. Wow. God really does make skin without pores. She spooned a serving of the not chicken tasting chicken onto her plate.
The girl introduced herself, she was Fleur Delacour, daughter of the Deputy Minister and newly minted prefect. She seemed very nice, in a haughty entitled way, dispensing largesse to the peasants and all. As they exchanged names Fleur studied the girls, especially Harriet, carefully. She smirked.
Fleur's beauty abruptly became a force, an almost visible presence. Harriet felt as if she was swimming in honey. She struggled to stay in her seat when all she wanted to do was crawl into Fleur's lap and tug the older girl's arms tight around herself. Why though? I barely know the girl. Emma would twist my ears off. I might hurt Hermione?
In a sudden rush, the rest of the places at their table became filled by an assortment of boys. Boys draped casually radiating cool, boys hunched menacingly giving off bad-boy vibes, boys perched primly ready to be introduced to mama. Slack jawed, sniffing, drooling boys. Boys with a single purpose. Their heads tracked every movement of the older girl in perfect synchronization. Desire wrapped around them so thick in the air Harriet felt she should sneeze.
This is too good. Where is Padfoot when you need him?
Harriet giggled as she imagined Padfoot happily humping the poor girl's leg, head thrown back, howling.
"Hello gentlemen, I'm Hermione Granger. The giggling ninny is my friend Harriet. Thank you for joining us, I have so many questions, do you mind?"
Her words came out in a pressured rush. The Granger lacked knowledge, measures must be taken to correct the situation immediately. Fleur rolled her hand, a casual open gesture inviting Hermione to continue, "Your questions Hermione?" The various boys didn't seem capable of speech.
Hermione and Fleur volleyed question and answer, moving quickly from Gallic magical society to some odd corner of intermediate transfiguration theory. Hermione was delighted to find that Fleur was much more than a pretty face.
Harriet amused herself watching the boys fail dismally, listening as they hissed and growled at the other boys who circled the table hoping for an opening, fluttering, moths to Fleur's flame.
One of the boys completely lost his head, bursting into braying, roaring, barking laughter. It was obvious he was trying desperately to stop the horrendous noise but couldn't.
Harriet was overwhelmed by the Marauder compulsion to increase chaos and embarrassment at all times, at any cost.
She did her best Basil Fawlty impersonation, popping up erect and brittle, pointing dramatically at the poor sod trapped in his fit of hysterical laughter, booming out, "Manuel! You laugh like someone machine gunning a seal!"
From various spots around the dining room she heard the hesitant reply of kindred souls, first one, then another, then a rapid flurry, "Que?"
Detention! Bit severe.. Still, well worth it as a cultural icebreaker.
She couldn't wait to tell Padfoot. She watched with a great sense of accomplishment as the lunch hour spiraled into vast disorder. The crowd began spirited call and response tributes to the siege scene in The Holy Grail. The finale was given by a slim blond boy, a trés elegant boy, the boy Malfoy wished he was, standing and flailing at Justin, "I fart in your general direction!"
Croissants were not even close to being a decent projectile, not like a solid English dinner roll.
At Hogwarts a very bright girl wrote in a battered diary. She grew a bit dimmer as she wrote.
Beirut, Lebanon; September 19, 1992
The Gryffin was holding station just offshore. Two full companies were prepped and ready for deployment in seconds. Mad Eye was going to do a bit of shopping.
The summer's lessons he had learned well. Muggles could hit hard from long distance. After action conversations with his men, the idle tension relieving chatter about other fights in other places, had put him on the trail of a dandy weapon, an RPG7. As near as he could tell, the thing might put a giant down.
His troops had shown him what they called tanks, huge lumps of metal, damn intimidating for a Muggle machine, and told him the RPG7 was well able to destroy such a behemoth. It was worth trying.
Mad Eye slid through the hot dusty streets, moving in the middle of his security, his best around him. Not Aurors, but good lads, mostly careful, usually alert. Lupin was on point, he had worked as a bodyguard in this region, it was his contact they were to meet.
It wasn't often he met someone so paranoid. Moody was impressed. Lupin's man lived in that shadow area between Muggles and wizards, searching out the most profitable opportunities, eliminating competition, closing off chance and luck, leaving only cold calculation.
He was a small brown man, not someone to draw a second glance, completely forgettable. He sat in shadows across from Alastor, his bright white teeth glimmering in the dusk. He seemed to be enjoying himself far to much.
"The legendary Alastor Moody. I am honored sir. I don't often deal in the goods you require. But how could I turn down selling Mad Eye RPG7's?"
"Well.. Shall we get on with it?"
Hogwarts, September 19, 1992
Tom Riddle was, for the most part, delighted, as delighted as a soul given to the darkest magic could be. Ginevra Molly Weasley was not the person he would have given his diary to but she was the perfect choice. She was powerful, she was innocent, and she was rapidly becoming his. She was becoming his just as Hogwarts was.
He had thought that the Mudbloods, the lesser beings, the apostates, would have to be driven from his school. He had never imagined that they would leave of their own free will. But most had, there were only a smattering of first year Mudbloods left. A fair few half-bloods still attended as well as most of the blood traitors but one couldn't have everything.
He pulled at the girl's essence as they wrote back and forth, gaining strength and information, biding his time.
Riddle had feared that the other part of him, the part that had arranged for Malfoy to plant the diary, would enter the diary in an effort to gain a corporal form as quickly as possible but his elder self hadn't dared to risk the small chance that the Horcrux would be detected and destroyed before it's magic claimed the new user.
Tom Marvolo Riddle would not fade away. Not for anyone, not even for Lord Voldemort. Voldemort would be a most formidable opponent when the struggle began, he knew that. Lord Voldemort had undergone rituals, taken risks, worked and studied until his power was unmatched, his knowledge of dark magic far beyond any other.
Tom thought Lord Voldemort most likely regretted putting the diary in play. At the time the diary was planted it wasn't clear that the Mudbloods would be leaving of their own free will. Once begun the plot would run to it's conclusion. This Malfoy person, obviously someone of influence and Voldemort's contact, had been removed from the game along with a shocking number of others.
What resources did he have that Lord Voldemort didn't? How could he arrange the fight so his victory was inevitable? To his advantage he had much more of the essence than the other, and he would command Slytherin's pet.
Slytherin's pet. That was the answer. Tom smiled as he thought of the basilisk's killing stare turned on Lord Voldemort, petrifying him. A perfect solution. Once petrified the elder portion of himself could be left in the Chamber forever while Tom walked the path of power again. How to lure Voldemort into the Chamber? Difficult, a difficult task to be sure, but such an elegant solution.
Aboard The Gryffin, September 19, 1992
One, two, the girls ported onto the deck of the Gryffin. School was done for the day. A warm breeze, typical of late afternoon, fluttered the sails and swirled around them as they linked arms then strolled towards the cockpit, chattering and laughing, talking as fast as only girls their age could.
The Grangers hugged their daughter, then folded Harriet into a welcoming embrace while Hermione went on to collect hugs from the men she had grown to consider uncles, the Marauders and Mad Eye.
The chart table held a pile of presents as well as an assortment of Hermione's favorite foods. It was her birthday dinner after all and a little indulgence was warranted.
"Go change girls and put away your school things. As my genius daughter has likely guessed, we will be eating on deck tonight."
Harriet nudged Hermione and they raced away, leaving the adults on deck to enjoy their end of the day beverages.
Harriet was waiting at the foot of the stairs, fidgeting from foot to foot, when Hermione bolted from her stateroom minutes later. "Alright Harriet?"
"I umm.. I wanted to give you this, just us? The others would have too much fun teasing us. It's a friendship bracelet."
Harriet was holding a woven band made of red, yellow, and white strings knotted together in a geometric pattern. The band was clearly handmade and the maker clearly nervous.
"Of course it is. Did you know they originated in Central America? Traditionally you think of a wish as you put it on, when it falls off the wish comes true."
Harriet's heart hammered in her chest, she felt as if her body shook with each beat. This was important to her, desperately important, for reasons she didn't understand. She was awash with love, hope, and a fierce, hot protectiveness, a wonderful painful mishmash of emotion. If she had known how perfectly normal such tumult was for a twelve year old girl she would have been both mortified and pleased.
"Make a wish."
Hermione closed her eyes as her friend tied the band around her wrist, her fingers cool and deft.
I want… I… I want to know my heart. I wish for more than books and cleverness. I wish for a great love.
The girls made their way up to the cockpit, arm in arm, silent now.
Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire, England, September 19, 1992
Narcissa sat back in her chair with closed her eyes. It was nearly a month since Lucius had bled out in a hidden room far below her. A month since many like her had been removed from the great game.
The rules had changed.
I am a Black, she told herself, and a Black always faces facts.
Ten centuries. A thousand years and we finally have what we wanted for so long. We have won. The Mudbloods are leaving our blessed realm to its rightful rulers at long last. We need rally to the Dark Lord's flag no longer.
She took a long breath, very glad she need never bow to Voldemort again.
It's clear that to pursue our agenda by force is a path to a grave. And why should we? We control the levers of power, our society cleanses itself more every day.
She knew not all was sweetness and light of course. She thought of the dwindling number of businesses opening each morning only to serve no one. She thought of the rents not being paid, of her income slowing to a trickle, of the lack of simple things like potions and robes. The shortages became more acute every day, the magical economy was in free fall. She dismissed her worry as a concern over a passing phenomenon.
A period of retrenchment. Soon all will blossom as we enter our golden age. We shall shine down the centuries brighter than Avalon, brighter than Atlantis. We step at last into the Blessed Realm.
She was unprepared for the shade of Voldemort to ooze into the room. The red of his eyes provided the only stable point in the misty outline of what could be a body. His voice was high and cold with sibilant overtones. She wondered if any actual noise was made or if it was another manifestation of his prowess at the mind arts.
"Plotting the next squandering of my resources Narcissa?"
"No. It appears there is no cause for further struggle. All we have worked for falls into our hands."
Narcissa smiled brightly. It was invigorating to be the equal of this thing, to in some ways have the upper hand. She sounded very amused as she stood and said, "I must attend to the wards, it seems they need a bit of strengthening to keep out unwanted spirits."
"You forget yourself. You swore an Unbreakable Vow to me when you accepted my mark."
"The vow was sworn to your living body. You died. The vow ended."
"I am not dead!"
"Your soul left your body which was destroyed. That defines dead, Tom Riddle. Vows sworn grasping the hand of your living body are finished. You obviously didn't pass over. You may manage to come back but I will no longer blindly obey. I certainly won't be compelled. A daughter of the Black's sworn to a half-blood? The idea is ludicrous. History has moved on from Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters."
He crashed against her mental shields without causing more than a tightening of her eyes. His vast hammering rage could affect nothing, he bothered her less than a two year-old's tantrum. In seconds he was cast from Malfoy Manor as the wards became seamless. Narcissa took a pain relief potion then ignored the mild burning in her Dark Mark for the short time it annoyed her.
The spirit of Lord Voldemort spent what little energy it commanded slaughtering the small creatures it could possess, the rats and squirrels, the small snakes of the hedgerows.
Eventually, exhausted, Voldemort began to plot how to return to power. It was clear that championing pure blood supremacy was no longer a ticket to wealth and influence. They knew he wasn't one of them on the one hand and they felt they had won on the other.
Idiots. The sky was falling and they hadn't the wit to notice.
He could retreat and wait for an opportunity. Eventually some hapless wretch like Quirrell would come along, some power hungry fool rebuffed in the struggle to apportion control of the new Magical Britannia. The Light wasn't a threat. Their fighters either hadn't the skill or hadn't the will to end him in his present state.
Lord Voldemort would win. Sooner or later his spirit would be housed in a body capable of magic and the apostates, the Mudbloods, the countless millions of Muggle beasts would know fear and slavery or they would know death.
I am immortal. With infinite time all things are possible. Even now a vessel is being prepared at Hogwarts.
Small things scurried north, dying quickly as Lord Voldemort consumed their essence before jumping to the next little struggling thing and forcing it towards Hogwarts.