DISCLAIMER: Hey, great job there, Wizarding World! Y'all are some really upstanding guys! I mean, Voldemort returns, he starts indiscriminately attacking muggles, and you guys realized what a bad reaction that could cause for you all! You stepped right up and made the muggle leaders aware of the growing danger, and you worked hard to coordinate your efforts so that the muggles could be protected as well as the wizards! That was a real class act! Oh, wait, you guys didn't think to do that? Even though you're terribly outnumbered and those attacks could have revealed the existence of magic, and the muggles could have decided to just nuke the shit out of all of you? You still never really bothered to fill the Prime Minister in on every detail? Well, fuck you, Wizarding World! If I'd written those books, you assholes would have taken some damn responsibility for the mess you helped create! But, I didn't. And therefore, you didn't.
Chapter 11: Cry Havoc
The ticking of the grandfather clock in the hallway was the only noise in the silent home.
Hermione sat at the kitchen table with Fleur by her side, one hand holding the blonde's and the other compulsively circling the mouth of her tea cup with her finger.
Ron, Neville, Luna and Ginny sat with them, each lost in their own worries. Each trying to think of something…anything else. Each trying not to worry about what was happening down in the cellar.
"It's been three hours. I'm going down there." Hermione stood, drawing her wand.
"SIT." Fleur commanded in a voice that brooked no argument. Hermione obeyed, looking embarrassed at her outburst. No one begrudged her for her behavior. They had all had a similar moment at some point in the past few hours.
"I'll need a week to prepare for the exorcism." Father Dunbar told the group, which now included the Lupins and a pale and tired-looking Harry, an hour later. "In the meantime, please prepare a room with restraints strong enough to hold Mr. Potter still while I perform the ritual. Harry, you will also need to think very carefully about who you wish to have in the room with you. It will need to be people that you trust and who you know care for you. You may have as many people with you as you want, but they need to understand that they are not to interfere with the ritual."
Harry nodded dumbly, slowly regaining the color in his face.
"Do you think the ritual will work?" Hermione asked, her brow furrowed in worry.
"It's difficult to tell." The middle-aged man admitted, looking down at his weather-beaten hands as he spoke. "I've done many magical and muggle exorcisms, but I've never seen anything like what Riddle's done to Mr. Potter. I believe the trick will be to concentrate the spells on his scar, rather than the whole body. I'm also unsure about how the exorcism will affect the spirit. If it doesn't destroy it instantly, we will need to have a living being nearby to re-anchor it to."
"Could we use the snake?" Neville asked.
"I would rather not risk what could happen if we put two soul pieces into one container. Better to just get something else to use." The priest advised.
"I vote for a spider." Ron muttered.
"We can do that." Father Dunbar responded, making the redhead smirk with glee.
"I'll get a hold of an animal to use." Remus offered, to which everyone agreed. "In the meantime, I suggest that we use the time between now and the exorcism to make plans on how we will handle Riddle. We have weakened his more skilled forces, but he always has untrained bigots and cowards willing to flock to his cause."
"Useless in a fight, but great for cannon fodder." Hermione agreed. "Thank you, Father Dunbar. We have a portkey for you to use to get back to Italy. If you need anything, or if you're attacked for whatever reason, please just squeeze this coin and think of your location." She handed him an old D.A. coin. "I promise you, we will come running."
"I don't doubt that for a second." The older man commented with a wry smile. "I hope this works out for you all. Please know that Magical Europe is supporting you."
"Fat lot of good their support is doing." Ron grumbled angrily.
"No, he is right." Father Dunbar cut Hermione off. "Believe me, there are many wizards and witches in Italy, Ireland and France who are very unhappy about the International Confederation's embargo on England. There are many political leaders who are working around the clock to try and change their minds."
"Well, hopefully they won't have to." Harry stated, joining the conversation for the first time. "Hopefully we'll be able to deal with it on our own. Besides, the last thing that we want is Riddle gaining access to all of Magical Europe." Several heads nodded in agreement with that surprisingly insightful comment.
"Well, I'd best be off, my friends. God be with you all, and I will see you in a week…hopefully." Father Dunbar took the portkey from Tonks's outstretched hand, and with a small flash was gone, leaving behind a mostly silent house.
The week flew by in a surprising contrast to the previous one, as everyone worked hard to prepare. Harry and Remus continued to train hard, with the occasional break to consult with Hermione and a few select Order members about battle plans. Ginny and Fleur decided to help out with Hermione's Runestone project, their potions stock filled and overflowing. Luna, meanwhile, continued to fly through her reading material like a woman possessed, while Neville and Ron had been relegated to sorting the books and keeping an eye on the coin connected to Father Dunbar. The group had been a bit hesitant to attempt to break the international embargo by contacting the priest, but it was a risk that was already paying off.
The middle-aged priest was eager to help the Order find a way to get rid of Riddle once and for all, even if international laws forbade him from interfering. When the Order had explained to him what exactly they wanted to do, his curiosity was piqued to new levels. He'd successfully performed over a hundred muggle and magical exorcisms in his years in the priesthood, but never had he attempted the exorcism of a Horcrux. He was grateful that the Order had managed to procure another live soul container, though he was a bit afraid to ask how they'd managed it. He could be arrested by the International Confederation for his actions, and he could be removed from the priesthood for performing an unsanctioned exorcism, but it would be worth it to be able to help defeat Riddle before his power base could spread.
Finally, the night came for Father Dunbar to perform the exorcism. The group waited in the kitchen for the man to come through the floo, the ever-present silence permeating the room.
Occasionally, someone tried to make small talk, but any conversation quickly floundered and died. Hermione checked her watch every five seconds, waiting for 7:00PM to finally arrive. Fleur held her other hand, trying to keep her calm and grounded.
Finally, 7:00 rolled around.
Then came 7:05PM.
"Something's wrong." Hermione said worriedly, looking back at nervous faces. "He should have been here by now. We need to contact him."
"He's still got the coin, right? He'd tell us if something was wrong, wouldn't he?" Neville reasoned, doing nothing to ease any fears.
"He could just be running late." Ginny suggested. "I mean, he is doing this without telling anyone. Maybe he's just trying to find an empty area to-"
All eyes turned to the coin on the table as it vibrated and heated up. Father Dunbar was under attack.
"Shields on, everyone." Hermione ordered as they prepared to enter the battle. "Scatter as soon as we land. Remember, one person is a waste of magic, a cluster is a juicy opportunity. Harry, be careful. We need you to stay alive. Game faces on, people! This is the real thing, and we don't know what we'll be facing!"
The original group (minus a pregnant Tonks), plus a few of the Weasleys and other Order members cast their strongest shielding charms on each other. With a deep breath, they all formed a web centering on Hermione, who grabbed the coin…
…And portkeyed the group into the sight of a destroyed house and the smell of burning flesh. As soon as they landed, they were attacked on all sides by Death Eaters. Harry, Hermione, Bill and Remus quickly summoned any debris they could find into the paths of the flying curses. The group scattered, a few getting grazed by the shattered rocks. Ducking behind whatever cover they could, they shot whatever spells they could think of at the attackers.
"COVER YOUR EARS!" Hermione yelled, tossing a few sonic Runestones into the group of Death Eaters, causing them to explode with an ear-bursting BOOM. The few who didn't react quickly enough were tossed off their feet, ears bleeding, and found themselves unable to get back up due to the sudden change in equilibrium.
"Dumbasses still haven't learned how to spread out…" Hermione muttered to Remus as they sent cutting and piercing hexes into the crowd, severing limbs and creating holes in places holes should never be. The other teens focused on casting "distraction" hexes that would inconvenience the Death Eaters long enough for one of the others to take him out permanently.
"GRANGER!" A hated voice screamed insanely. "I KNOW IT WAS YOU! I KNOW YOU KILLED MY SON! I SWEAR I'LL KILL YOU!"
"A fine day to you, too, Mr. Malfoy! Shall I regale you with tales of how your son died crying like a baby?" She called back, trying to goad him into a fit of rage. One thing she had learned long ago was that uncontrolled rage made for sloppy dueling.
"DAMN YOU TO HELL, YOU MUDBLOOD BITCH!" Spittle flew from the senior Malfoy's mouth as he fired curses randomly at Hermione's direction. She moved faster than she'd ever moved before to dodge them, but she knew it was the best way to wear the man down. The rest of the Order could handle the other Death Eaters. Malfoy seemed pretty focused on her, and she was willing to accommodate the man.
"STAND STILL, DAMN YOU!" Malfoy's red face clashed horribly with his platinum locks, but Hermione still couldn't help but feel that it was a look she'd prefer to see more often on the man. She fired a cutting curse that just nicked his hand, and growled in frustration as she dodged while trying to line up a better shot.
Then Malfoy did something that any Auror would never do, even in the most dire of situations: he apparated. He was off his mark by a few feet, but somehow managed to complete the apparition without splinching or being hit by spellfire. He'd become the worst kind of enemy: the kind that no longer cared whether he lived or died. With an evil, twisted grin that looked so out of place on his face, Malfoy aimed his wand at Luna, who he was now standing over.
"I'll kill you all!" He snarled with a ferocious glee.
"LUNA, NO!" Hermione screamed, running as fast as her legs could carry her, wand raised.