A/N: This story is technically a sequel/companion piece to Delenda Est. However, I do not think it is strictly necessary for you to read Delenda Est first. The story starts from the end of canon Harry's fourth year and involves travel between dimensions. The Harry you see in this chapter is the canon Harry. The Delenda Est Harry will appear at some later point in the story. Delenda's Harry will of course ship H/B. The canon Harry will be shipping H/G.
Chapter 1: Three Underage Unspeakables
Harry let out a contented sigh as he leaned back in one of his aunt and uncle's kitchen chairs and sipped from a glass of lemonade. The summer following his fourth year at Hogwarts had been uncharacteristically hot and dry. Most of the lawns on Privet Drive were dead owing to water-use restrictions, but Uncle Vernon had been illicitly watering the lawn at #4 during the early hours of the morning. Consequently, it needed mowing, and that was Harry's job.
Setting the lemonade down for a moment, Harry wiped his forehead and tried fanning himself to get rid of the beads of sweat that had built up at his hairline. Ironically, despite being in the cool house, he was still sweating profusely.
Harry had just picked up the glass of lemonade again when the phone rang. Aunt Petunia, who was carefully dusting her treasures of trash in the front room, answered it. Apparently, her hands were full or dirty because she pushed the speakerphone button. The caller's voice echoed through the house.
"Hello. Is that Petunia Dursley speaking?" the female caller asked professionally with a crisp English accent.
"Yes," Petunia answered. "May I ask who this is?"
"Hello, Petunia. My name is Violet White," the caller said, sounding as warm and friendly as any salesperson did when a potential buyer was on the hook. "Petunia, I am conducting a one-question, yes or no answer, survey. Would you be willing to participate?"
Intrigued, Harry pushed himself off the chair in the kitchen and unobtrusively made his way toward the front room where Petunia was having her phone conversation with Violet White.
"I suppose I can answer one question," Petunia said, sounding very put-upon.
"Very good," Violet White said. "Now, here is the question. Mrs. Dursley, is your refrigerator running?"
"Why wouldn't it be running?" Petunia asked back.
"I need a yes or a no answer," Violet White said patiently.
"Yes, my refrigerator is running," Petunia snapped impatiently.
At her words, an enormous crash sounded from the kitchen. Harry, still somewhat close to the kitchen spun around and dashed back to the kitchen where he found the refrigerator gone and a massive hole where the backdoor should have been. As he looked through the window, he was just in time to watch the refrigerator, which had sprouted muscular, chrome legs, jump over the fence and run off.
Petunia arrived in the kitchen a millisecond later. "What happened?" she shrieked.
"Somebody stole the fridge while we were distracted by the phone call," Harry said quite honestly, though he omitted the involvement of magic while fervently hoping that this was not going to result in him receiving a letter from the Misuse of Magic office at the Ministry.
Petunia stalked back to the front room to give Violet White a piece of her mind, but it seemed that Violet White had already hung up. Undeterred, Petunia dialed the phone number of the police.
The police arrived about a half-hour later and solemnly inspected the kitchen. Finding an explanation for how the refrigerator thieves had accomplished the theft proved to be difficult. Eventually, Aunt Petunia and the police agreed that somebody must have run into the kitchen and attached a chain or strap to the fridge while Harry was listening to the phone call. Then, they must have attached the other end to a car and drove off with the fridge in tow.
Nobody was completely satisfied with that explanation because it left too many unanswered questions and seemed somewhat improbable. But, the police and Dursleys lost interest in finding a satisfactory answer when the fridge was located in the backyard of one of Dudley's friends—the same friend Dudley had been visiting all day. The police did not want to bother pressing charges against Dudley, and the Dursleys did not want it noised about that their son stole fridges.
Harry laughed himself to sleep that night, grateful for the amusement and happy that the Ministry had not detected any magic and laid blame at Harry's door.
Over the next couple of weeks, the pranks continued steadily. At an important work presentation, Vernon's pants fell down. While doing her weekly shopping, Petunia found herself experiencing severe flatulence. And, on one Thursday morning, Dudley woke up with a hangover in the neighbor grandma's bed. To Dudley's horror, the grandma was not quite as offended as she should have been.
When in private, Harry laughed uncontrollably at these events and eagerly anticipated the next prank. Harry assumed that the Weasley twins were carrying out the pranks. He was tempted to send an owl to inquire whether this was true, but ultimately decided against it in case Mrs. Weasley found out and put a stop to the fun and games.
Harry's mirth slowly transformed into apprehension after he came face-to-face with the perpetrators of the pranks. It was a Friday evening. No pranks had occurred during the entire day, and Harry was disappointed. Uncle Vernon was watching the news and had kicked Harry out of the house.
Not entirely unhappy, Harry went for a stroll and found himself wandering around a neighborhood park. The sun was just setting when Harry heard the creak of metal on metal from the direction of the park's swing set.
Startled, Harry looked toward the swing set and spotted three teenage girls seated on the swings, slowly swaying back and forth in perfect synchronization. The three girls seemed to be about Harry's age, or slightly older, had identical facial features, and sported midnight-black hair done up in ponytails. Their clothing was also identical: dark blouses, knee-length black and purple plaid skirts, and almost-knee-high black boots.
The three girls were staring directly at Harry, their eyes boring into his. It was in their eyes that Harry finally found a distinguishing feature. One of them had emerald-colored eyes, just like Harry's own eyes. The other two had ruby-colored eyes.
Harry was trying to decide whether he should approach these strange girls or continue on his way when his focus was interrupted.
"Hey! It's Harry!'
Harry groaned and turned around to see Dudley and his cohort of idiots coming into the park. He turned back to see how the girls would react and was startled to discover that all three of the girls had disappeared, though the swings on the swing set still were moving back and forth in perfect synchronization.
Harry gritted his teeth and turned back to deal with Dudley and his gang. "What do you want, Dudley?"
"I don't know. Maybe we can have some fun. Maybe some Harry hunting," Dudley half said, half guffawed.
"Hey, boys," called a sultry, feminine voice.
Harry, Dudley, and Dudley's gang turned their attention to the sidewalk. Standing there were the two girls with ruby-colored eyes. Dudley and his gang were immediately smitten. Visibly, Dudley swallowed as he gathered the gumption to flirt with the dangerous-looking beauties. "Uh, hello there. Who are you?"
"You may call me Ivy," said one of the girls.
"Holly," the other said simply.
"What are you two doing?" Dudley asked.
"Looking for some fun," Ivy replied. "We saw you and thought you might be able to help us."
"We know some good places to hangout," Piers, one of Dudley's friends offered.
"Good," Ivy said. "We were thinking that a . . . private place might be best."
"Right this way," another of Dudley's friends volunteered, gesturing with his hand down the street to where Harry knew the local primary school's playground stood in a largely abandoned and secluded place.
"Lead the way," Ivy said, her smile almost looking predatory.
Shocked and confused, Harry watched as Ivy and Holly mingled with Dudley's gang and began walking away. Just before they got too far away, Holly turned back to Harry and winked at him slowly and deliberately. Harry stood frozen and watched until they were out of sight. When they were gone, Harry let out a gasp and shook himself, almost as if some spell had been restraining him from moving until that particular moment.
Confused and a little bit scared, Harry made his way home as quickly as he could, looking over his should often. Harry knew it was his imagination, but he could not shake the feeling that the girl with green eyes might be following him home.
Dudley did not come home that night. Or the night after. The Dursleys called the police. The police commenced a half-hearted kidnapping investigation that was quickly downgraded to a runaway investigation after interrogations of Dudley's friends produced unbelievable stories. Each of them vehemently denied ever having seen Dudley that evening, but multiple neighbors had seen the gang together. The police concluded that they were covering Dudley's runaway attempt.
Petunia was frantic. Vernon was angry. Child protective services visited the Dursley household to inquire what horrid conditions might have driven Dudley to run away from home. Harry gladly cooperated with the Dursleys in accepting a better bedroom and furnishings so as to put on a good show for the government.
The tense situation in the household continued for two weeks. Harry sorely wanted to find things to do outside of the house, but each time he left the house and walked out of sight of it, somebody would begin following him. Although Harry never could see the person no matter what he did, he could always hear the footsteps on the sidewalk behind him.
In the end, Harry barricaded himself in his new bedroom and waited for further developments, while wondering if he should perhaps contact Professor Dumbledore or the Weasleys. He had just worked himself up to sending an owl when Dudley was found. Apparently, Dudley had been sold to the captain of a North Korean freighter and had managed to escape from the ship in Panama.
The Dursleys were on the next plane to Panama. They left Harry alone in #4. Shortly after the Dursleys' departure, Ministry of Magic officials were swarming the neighborhood. Harry watched from his bedroom window as Ministry investigators, dressed in odd combinations of Muggle attire visited each house in the neighborhood and talked to whoever answered the door. Harry wondered what they were asking about, and hoped the Ministry workers would visit #4, but nobody came.
Harry's curiosity was at last gratified when somebody knocked on the door several hours after sunset. Through the peephole, Harry saw Remus Lupin. With a sigh of relief, Harry opened the door and greeted his former professor.
"Is everything all right?" Remus asked as Harry stepped aside to let him, Alastor Moody, and two others into the house.
"Well . . . yes," Harry said, deciding not to bring up the mysterious witches that had spent the last month or so tormenting the Dursleys. "But why was the Ministry all over the neighborhood today?"
"There may have been an attempt to assassinate you," Moody said gruffly.
"I don't know that I would go that far," Remus said as Harry shut the door and led everybody into the main room of the house.
Harry reached for the light switch, but Moody stopped him. "No! It's best if nobody knows that anyone is even awake in the house."
"Okay," Harry said.
Remus carried on as if everything was perfectly normal. He introduced the other two that Harry did not recognize. "These are Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks," Remus said.
"Tonks, just Tonks," Tonks said crossly.
"We're going to take you out of here tonight," Remus said.
"So you best get packing," Moody said, his magic eye spinning wildly.
"I can do that for him. It'll be faster," Tonks said, leaving the room and making her way up the stairs.
"So, what was this about somebody trying to kill me?" Harry asked, directing his question to Lupin and Moody, both.
Moody did not respond, he was too busy patrolling the perimeter of the room and peering into the kitchen. Lupin was happy to explain.
"Late last night, the Ministry detected an explosion of arcane magic one street over from here," Lupin said. "They responded immediately and discovered a Dementor. To be more specific, a dead Dementor."
"What?" Harry asked, feeling shocked and confused. "I thought you couldn't kill Dementors."
"You can't," Moody barked from the kitchen, where he had opened the fridge was casting anti-stealth spells.
"Well somebody or something did," Lupin called back. "The corpse they found was that of a Dementor. Somebody had mutilated it, too. Probably harvesting parts of it for Potion ingredients. It was a sloppy job. Whoever it was knew the Ministry would be coming and did not waste time."
"So why aren't I a suspect in this? Don't they usually blame me for anything that happens around here? And what was a Dementor even doing here?" Harry asked. "Aren't they all supposed to be at Azkaban?"
Lupin shrugged. "There has been some internal inquiries at the Ministry about the Dementor. Dumbledore has especially been pressing that particular question, but he hasn't gotten far. As for you being a suspect, you're off the hook because the Ministry detected some arcane magic earlier in the summer—about two weeks after the school year ended. They know that wasn't you. It was off in the middle of nowhere at a place called Ravenbourgh. There's also the fact that, generally, the only people who know arcane magic spells are Unspeakables."
Moody let out a laugh from the front of the house where he was inspecting the door and windows. "The Ministry suspects Sirius, not some rogue Unspeakable. Ravenbourgh is what is left of the ancestral manor of the Black family. Perhaps if we can figure out who sent the Dementor, we can argue that Sirius was protecting you and make him look good. The arcane magic is not purely illegal or anything. It is just that the Ministry wants to know who is using it, and why. It can be very dangerous."
"Who do you think was using the arcane magic?" Harry asked.
"Probably You-Know-Who," Kingsley Shacklebolt said solemnly.
Tonks came down from Harry's bedroom. "Got everything, and some extra, too, I should think." She winked at Harry and handed him a small box and his Firebolt. "You can get somebody to unshrink your trunk at the place we're going. I sent your owl ahead."
"Thanks," Harry said, pocketing the trunk, and taking the Firebolt in both hands. "Are we flying?"
"Yes," Moody said gruffly. "We'll leave from the backyard as soon as we get the all-clear signal."
"Terrific," Harry said, excited to fly his Firebolt.
Harry found Ron and Hermione waiting for him at #12 Grimmauld Place. They retreated to the bedroom Harry would be sharing with Ron, where Hermione apologized profusely for not having had time to write. Ron explained that Dumbledore had advised his family to move most of their things into the Order of the Phoenix's headquarters and that the move had been difficult—especially the thorough deep cleaning Mrs. Weasley had insisted upon before they actually moved their stuff into Grimmauld Place. Sirius had been glad to offer the ancestral Black home for the Order and Weasleys' use, but had not been terribly helpful about cleaning it up. He seemed to have a deep-seated contempt for the house.
Harry was quick to forgive; the strange activities at Privet Drive had occupied his time and thoughts anyway, and Harry wanted to tell his friends about what had happened. Predictably, Hermione was very concerned. Ron thought the pranks sounded fantastic.
"Kidnapping one of your family members is very serious!" Hermione admonished Harry. "What if Voldemort had wanted to use your cousin's blood against you?"
"I'm pretty sure we're well past the risks of Voldemort getting his hands on my blood," Harry said and then reminded Ron and Hermione of how Pettigrew had taken some of his blood to help revive the Dark Lord. "Now, tell me, what is being done about Voldemort?"
Ron and Hermione quickly explained that Professor Dumbledore had organized the Order of the Phoenix to help coordinate certain activities against the Dark Lord. "So, that's the good news," Hermione said. "The bad news is that Minister Fudge is refusing to acknowledge that Voldemort is back and isn't doing anything at all to prepare against him or to stop him."
"What kind of stuff does the Order do?" Harry asked, curious. The part about Fudge did not surprise him. Harry had harbored a certain amount of dislike for Fudge after the politician arrested Hagrid on suspicion of being the Heir of Slytherin responsible for the Chamber of Secrets attacks.
"We're not sure," Hermione admitted. "All sorts of witches and wizards come to meetings, but the meetings are secret. We're not allowed in. That's where all the adults are now. In a meeting."
Ron nodded. "We'll have dinner, and you can catch up with Sirius and everybody once this meeting is over."
"Perhaps Sirius will tell me what they are doing," Harry mused hopefully.
"Maybe," Hermione said doubtfully.
To Harry's frustration, not even Sirius would reveal information about the Order's secret meetings to Harry. Sensing Harry's frustration, Sirius had endeavored to explain that it was better that Harry did not know details unless it was necessary. Sirius did promise, however, that he would inform Harry of anything that he thought Harry ought to know, even if Dumbledore or Mrs. Weasley disagreed.
Harry was moderately satisfied, but in a fit perverseness, he decided that he would not bring up the incidents perpetrated by the three mysterious witches at the Dursley house. Hermione thought that this decision of Harry's was frustrating, but Ron was supportive.
"Think about it, mate," Ron said. "If these witches killed a Dementor, they were helping you. If they kidnapped Dudley, they were helping you."
"It doesn't matter who was benefited, Ron!" Hermione exclaimed as the three made their way through one of the upper floors of #12 Grimmauld Place. "What they did indicates that they have disturbed minds!"
"They're gone anyway. Harry will probably never see them again," Ron said, rolling his eyes.
Harry, who had stepped to a window overlooking the street below, let out a sigh. "I'm afraid you might be wrong, Ron. At least about never seeing them again."
"What makes you so sure?" Ron demanded, a little offended that Harry would turn on him.
Harry pointed to the street. "See that girl standing next to the streetlight? The burned out streetlight? I think that might be one of them."
"Are you sure?" Hermione asked after stepping over to the window and peering down. Below, a woman stood next to one of the streetlights. She seemed nonchalant, but about once every ten seconds or so she would look toward #12 Grimmauld Place.
Ron let out a noncommittal noise as he looked down. "It's too dark and she's not very close. I'll go grab my omninoculars." Wasting no time, he strode out of the room, brushing past Ginny in the doorway, who was just coming into the room.
"Dinner is almost ready," Ginny announced to Harry and Hermione as she passed the heavy, wood doorway and stepped a few feet into the room. "As soon as the meeting ends, Mum will serve it to everybody."
"Oh, good," Hermione said, still looking down at the solitary figure near the streetlight with a frown on her face. She seemed too focused on the mysterious person to give Ginny any attention.
"Hi, Ginny," Harry said, prompted into action by the awkwardness of standing in the room with Ginny and Hermione as Hermione looked down at the street. Harry forced himself to say more. "Have a good summer?"
"Yeah," Ginny said, blushing faintly. "You?"
"It was entertaining," Harry said.
"Well, I'll see you down at dinner, then," Ginny said, turning to leave and retreating through the doorway.
"I don't understand," Hermione said after Ginny left. "This house is under the Fidelius Charm. There is no possible way they could know we are here unless they are part of the Order."
"Maybe they are part of the Order," Harry suggested. "Maybe Dumbledore assigned them to protect me."
"Perhaps," Hermione said skeptically. "It seems like he would at least tell you."
It was at this juncture that Ron returned with the omninoculars and handed them to Harry. Harry put them to his eyes and turned the knobs to focus and zoom in on the woman standing below by the streetlight.
"Well?" Ron asked.
"Well, it doesn't look like any of them," Harry said, "but that woman's posture and attitude really reminds me of them."
Hermione grabbed the omninoculars and looked through them at the woman below. "Yes—older and short, blond hair. That's not who you described. What do you mean by the posture and attitude, though?" She handed the omninoculars to Ron, who took his turn to look down.
"Just . . . I don't know," Harry said. "Look at her when anybody walks by. She kind of gives them a predatory look as if she considering whether she should attack them or something. And it isn't the sort of decision based on self-defense or fear. She would enjoy the opportunity."
"Hmmm," Ron said.
"Logically," Hermione mused, "the person down there can't who you think it is, or if it is, they must be acting on Dumbledore's orders. I don't see how the girls from Privet Drive could possibly know where this place is. It is protected by magic."
Ron shrugged. "If she's there tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that, we'll have an answer."
"We will have only eliminated the coincidence option," Hermione said. "That will leave us with more questions. Perhaps we should talk to Dumbledore about this."
Harry shook his head. "Let's not. I mean, if we tell, and it is something stupid, then we look stupid. But if we don't tell, we can always tell later."
"Good thinking, mate," Ron said.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
Long after dinner, Hermione was making her way to the bedroom she shared with Ginny when she was tempted to check the street below. Peering through one of #12's front windows, she spotted a solitary figure standing near the burned out streetlight. The same woman was still standing near the streetlight. Letting out a shudder, Hermione left the window and went to her bedroom.
Ginny was sitting on her bed in her pajamas, half-heartedly flipping through an old Quidditch magazine. "Is she still there?"
Hermione let out a small smile as she sat down on her bed. "It would be easier if you would just start hanging out with us."
"Kind of hard when I can't stop myself from blushing when he's around," Ginny retorted, setting down the magazine on a bedside table.
"I thought you were over the hero-worship stage," Hermione said.
"Now I blush because I'm embarrassed there ever was a so-called hero-worship stage," Ginny sighed.
Hermione nodded and did not speak for a moment as she stood up and quickly changed from her day clothes into her own pajamas.
"Have they told Harry anything, or is he in the dark like us?" Ginny asked.
"They've told him nothing," Hermione said, throwing her clothes in the hamper and then climbing under the covers of her bed. "In retaliation, he has vowed to not inform them that he has three creeper witches stalking him."
"They haven't actually harmed him," Ginny pointed out.
"True," Hermione admitted. "That and the wards around this place are the only reasons I'm not going to Dumbledore with this. We'll be at Hogwarts, soon, as well. I doubt they could get him there."
Ginny picked up the magazine and made as if she was about to read it some more. Hermione was just reaching for a textbook when Ginny put the magazine back down. "I might have heard something the Order was talking about when my Mum called me in and told me to get everybody for dinner," she admitted.
"About Harry?" Hermione asked, now on the alert.
"I don't know if it is about Harry. There is some sort of prophecy," Ginny said. "The Order members are trying to ensure that Voldemort does not learn about it."
"How would Voldemort learn about it?" Hermione asked.
"The Ministry records each prophecy," Ginny said.
"And Fudge probably is not taking precautions against visits from Voldemort," Hermione mused.
"What do you think the prophecy is about?" Ginny asked.
"Probably about Voldemort," Hermione said, quirking a smile.
"Couldn't it be about Harry, too?" Ginny asked.
"Very likely," Hermione said.
"Should we tell Harry?" Ginny asked.
Hermione shrugged. "If we do, he'll go to Sirius. If Sirius has not already told Harry about the prophecy, he is not likely to do so then. And then, with the Order alerted, it would be harder for any of us to learn more. Let's wait and see if we can find out more."
"Okay," Ginny said, sounding a little doubtful.
The next two weeks were uneventful. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and sometimes Ginny, would frequently congregate together near one of the front windows. At all times, they could spot at least one woman on the street below, loitering. The women never looked the same, and they did not always stand motionless under the burned out streetlamp. They found various activities to keep themselves entertained. The nature of these activities confirmed to Harry that the women watching #12 Grimmauld Place were the same witches that had tormented the Dursleys.
On one afternoon, the witch on duty conjured a severed arm and laid it on the sidewalk and then walked across the street and sat casually on a street bench. The occasional Muggle would walk by and be horrified. They would scream and run when the hand would begin twitching and using its fingers to drag itself across the pavement.
Harry and Ron, the ones to witness that particular spectacle, laughed until they cried. The antics of the witch when the Ministry officials swarmed the street and disposed of the severed arm also made them laugh. They wished they had a way to hear what the witch, posing as an innocent bystander, said to the Ministry.
On one night after Harry had been at Grimmauld Place for two weeks, Harry, Ron, and Hermione came back from dinner to discover that there was nobody on the street below.
"I hope nothing bad happened to them," Harry worried.
"We've been sitting here afraid that they were going to do something really bad, and now you're worried when they don't show up?" Hermione said scathingly.
"There's nothing wrong with them," Ron scoffed. "They're just pranksters like the twins."
"That doesn't give us the answer to the essential question of why they are stalking Harry!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Good Samaritans," Ron declared stubbornly.
Ron was forced to reassess his opinion of the three witches at approximately 3 o'clock in the morning when Professor Dumbledore and Mad-Eye Moody awoke the residents of #12 Grimmauld Place for an emergency Order meeting. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and the twins were camped for half an hour outside the Order's meeting room before Arthur Weasley emerged to run an errand and stopped long enough to explain what happened.
"Bellatrix Lestrange has been broken out of Azkaban," he told them.
"How?" Harry demanded loudly as Arthur jogged down the hallway.
"Three witches who impersonated Unspeakables," Arthur called back.
Ron, Hermione, and Harry shared panicked stares. They received no further information until the Daily Prophet was delivered. A little bit of a scuffle ensued, but Hermione ended it by promising to read aloud:
Bellatrix Lestrange Broken out of Azkaban by Rogue Unspeakables
Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent
At approximately midnight, Azkaban guards erroneously released Bellatrix Lestrange into the custody of three witches identifying themselves as Unspeakables and claiming to have orders from Minister Fudge to remove the infamous Death Eater from Azkaban and move her to a more secure location.
"These witches possessed genuine Unspeakable credentials," Azkaban Warden Steward Cratcher declared in response to this reporter's inquiries. "Moreover, under the influence of Veritaserum, these witches affirmatively said they were acting on orders personally issued by the Minister of Magic."
Despite Warden Cratcher's averments that he did nothing wrong, this reporter wonders why he relied on Veritaserum when contacting Minister Fudge for confirmation would have been easier. There is also the inconvenient truth that Warden Cratcher cannot seem to remember the names or facial features of the witches allegedly at fault. Were there witches? Despite the cloud of suspicion that hangs over the Azkaban guards, the problem may be within the Ministry itself. Warden Cratcher and the purportedly existent Unspeakables answer to higher authorities.
"I am commencing a very serious internal investigation," Amelia Bones informed the press corps. "A lot of untoward things have happened in the past couple of months, and I have not been satisfied with Minister Fudge's reactions. If these so-called Unspeakables had credentials, and if they vowed under the influence of a truth potion that they had orders from Minister Fudge, there are some questions that need to be answered by the Department of Mysteries and Minister Fudge.
The Chief Unspeakable and the Minister of Magic declined to comment before press time.
Aurors have been alerted and are out in force searching for Lestrange and the rogue Unspeakables. Anybody with information should contact magical law enforcement promptly.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were subdued as Mrs. Weasley served breakfast to them and prepared brown bags for Order members to take with them as they joined the hunt for Bellatrix Lestrange. They dug into potatoes, bacon, and eggs slowly as Ginny watched with concern and the twins made various jokes about the wanted poster the Ministry had produced for Bellatrix Lestrange.
The arrival of owls with Hogwarts letters did little to cheer the trio up, though Mrs. Weasley was beyond proud to find that Ron had been named prefect. Harry felt bad about not making prefect himself, but tried to assuage his feelings with the hope that he would be Quidditch captain in his sixth and seventh years.
After breakfast, Harry met with Ron and Hermione, and they jointly decided that there was no point in telling the Order about the three witches at Privet Drive or loitering outside of Grimmauld Place. They reckoned that the Order and Ministry was already searching for the witches and Bellatrix Lestrange.
Collectively, the three vowed to themselves that they would not hide important information from the Order again and resolved that if they spotted any watchers on the street below, they would inform the Order immediately.
As it was, they did not spot the witches again, and the whirlwind of preparing for another year at Hogwarts occupied most of their attentions. The annual trip to Diagon Alley was enjoyable, even if half a dozen Order members accompanied the teens and insisted they stay together. All too soon, the teens found themselves being escorted by another half a dozen Order members through Kings Cross Station to the Hogwarts Express.
On the way through the train station, Harry noticed that even the Muggle government was displaying wanted posters featuring Bellatrix Lestrange. The group had to stop and wait at the barrier between Platforms 9 and 10 so that everybody could go through in ones and twos. Harry took the opportunity to study one of the posters.
"She looks like them," Harry said to Ron and Hermione, the realization dawning on him for the first time.
"What?" Hermione asked.
"The three witches. That time I saw them in the park . . . they look just like her. They could be her daughters."
"That's impossible, Harry," Hermione said. "Bellatrix Lestrange has no children."
"I still think there is a resemblance," Harry said stubbornly. "The witches were younger and leaner and had different eye colors, but they really looked like her."
"Whatever," Ron said, "it's nearly our turn."
Eventually, the entire group was on Platform 9¾.
"Let's find a compartment," Hermione suggested, shepherding Ron, Harry, and Ginny toward the train. "Ron and I must attend the prefects' meeting, but we'll be back with you for the rest of the journey."
They found an empty compartment near the front of the train and the prefects' compartment. Hermione bundled Ginny into it while Harry and Ron manhandled everybody's trunks. Just as Hermione and Ron departed for their meeting, the train lurched, and Harry and Ginny found themselves sitting next to each other.
Just as Harry was trying to think of something intelligent to say to Ginny, somebody else broke the ice for him.
"Hi, Harry!" came a feminine voice.
Startled, both Harry and Ginny stared at the bench opposite where two of the three witches from Privet Drive were now sitting. They were both wearing black pants and red blouses under windbreakers that looked too big for them. At some subconscious level, Harry noted that they both had red eyes. It was Ivy and Holly—the ones that had walked off with Dudley and his friends.
"H-h-how did you get here?" Harry stuttered.
"The door was open," one of them said, nodding to the open compartment door with a smirk.
Ginny stood up and tried to dart out of the compartment, but the door slammed shut.
"What's your hurry?" asked the one on the left.
"Yes, do stay a while," the one on the right suggested, gesturing to the seat that Ginny had just abandoned.
"Our friends are going to come back, and then your game is up," Ginny said with a huff as she sat down.
"I doubt it," said one of the witches, extracting a piece of bubblegum from the pocket of her Muggle windbreaker and popping it into her mouth.
"Yes, your precious prefects will soon discover that they cannot get the door to their compartment open," finished the other as she produced her own piece of bubblegum from her windbreaker, placed it in her mouth, and began chewing. "Or the windows for that matter," she added in between chews.
Harry was not sure what to say, and the mysterious witches did not seem to have anything to say either, for they merely stared at Harry and Ginny silently while synchronizing the movements of their mouths as they chewed their bubblegum and listened to the clackety-clack of the train beneath them.
It was after they blew simultaneous bubbles that Ginny finally exploded. "What do you want?"
"We're just here to see to it that you get to Hogwarts safely. Nothing else," the one on the right responded.
"You're Ivy, aren't you?" Harry asked to the one on the right.
"Yes, how did you know?" Ivy inquired.
"There's a subtle difference in your demeanor," Harry said.
Holly smiled at Harry. "Not even our mother can tell us apart."
"Actually, it does make sense that you'd be able to differentiate us," Ivy observed.
"How is that?' Harry asked.
Ivy and Holly did not answer, but merely continued chewing gum and blowing bubbles as they stared at Harry and Ginny.
"There's a third one of you, isn't there?" Ginny asked.
The two witches both nodded.
"Violet, isn't it? With the green eyes," Harry said. At their nod he continued. "Where is she? With Bellatrix Lestrange?"
"Suffice it to say that she is supervising the train driver," Ivy replied.
"What did you do with Bellatrix?" Harry asked.
"Killed her," Ivy said.
"Really?" Harry said, shocked.
"Maybe," Holly said.
"Did you kill her or not?" Ginny challenged.
"You don't seriously expect us to answer that, do you?" Ivy asked.
"But you just did answer," Harry said, feeling confused.
"Harry, because we love you, we're going to let you in on a little secret," Holly said.
"Yes," Ivy said. "You see, whenever we say something, there is a very good chance that we're telling a lie."
"Then what was the point of even answering Harry's question?" Ginny said, clearly outraged.
"It would have been rude to not answer," Holly said cheerfully.
"So, you might have been lying about getting me to Hogwarts safely."
Holly and Ivy nodded solemnly.
"And you might be Ivy instead of Holly, and you might be Holly instead of Ivy," Harry said, beginning to feel severely annoyed.
Holly and Ivy nodded again, and punctuated it with the crack of bubblegum bubbles popping.
"Are you Unspeakable like you told the Azkaban guards?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Ivy said.
"No," Holly added.
"Define what you mean by "Unspeakable," Ivy said.
"Ivy is the one who talks more," Ginny concluded, having deduced a rule for telling the two witches apart.
"No," Ivy denied, "I'm just the one parroting Violet's response in her absence."
A long and awkward silence passed as the occupants of the compartment stared at each other, and in the case of the mysterious witches, made funny face. Eventually, the train had left London and was passing through rural areas of England.
"What are we supposed to do, now?" Harry asked.
"Whatever you normally do on these journeys," Ivy said.
"We won't interfere," Holly added.
The two stared at Harry and Ginny expectantly.
"Seriously, you can snog each other. We won't tell anybody." Ivy said.
"And for this time only, we will not take pictures or make recordings of any kind." Holly said.
Harry and Ginny did not accept that particular invitation, though if they had, Harry suspected it might have been less awkward.
Ginny broke the most recent silence. "How old are you?"
"Thirty-three," Ivy said.
"That's funny, you look just like you are sixteen years old at most," Ginny retorted.
"We get that a lot," Holly confided.
"Then why did you bother asking if your powers of observation are so powerful?" Ivy demanded.
Ginny looked like she was ready to say quite a few more rude things to the mysterious witches, but the train abruptly lurched at the same time that a magical explosion ripped through the air outside the train and broke the windows in the compartment.
Ivy let out an expletive that would have left even Ron blushing.
"We were afraid of this," Holly sighed, a wand appearing in her hand. She flicked it and the glass repaired itself. Another flick, and the glass was transfigured into a strong-looking metal.
Ivy, who had leapt to her feet and opened the compartment door, motioned to Harry and Ginny. "This way, if you please."
Harry, who had also drawn his wand, followed. Ginny followed Harry, and Holly brought up the rear.
"What are we doing?" Harry asked.
"We're going to hop onto the locomotive, unhitch the rest of the train, and then haul hell for leather," Ivy announced.
"Wouldn't it be safer to hide in the compartment?" Harry asked as the group made their way through the train car as explosions sounded around it. Students through the car were screaming, but for some reason, they could not get their compartment doors open.
"We would be sitting ducks, and everybody in the rest of the train would probably get killed," Holly explained.
"The Aurors would get here eventually," Harry pointed out.
"Do you really think the same Ministry that could not protect its high-security prison from three teenagers is going to be much help here?" Ivy shouted, trying to be heard over the magical explosions outside the train.
Harry was going to admit that she was right, but the train suddenly lurched and sped up dramatically.
"Brace yourselves!" Holly shouted, leaning herself against the front end of the train car to the side of the door.
"What's happening?" Ginny yelled as Holly grabbed her.
Ivy had grabbed Harry and was leaning against the front of the train car on the side of the door opposite Holly and Ginny
"That increase of speed is something that Violet, our self-appointed train driver supervisor, would describe as ramming speed," Ivy announced. "Let us hope the locomotive is bigger and stronger than whatever we're about to hit."
Despite being protected, Harry felt the whiplash as the train collided with something at high speed. Every individual piece of wood the train was made from shuddered as the train slowed—but only for a moment. Soon, the train was moving faster than it had been previously. The students, locked in their compartments were screaming hysterically. Suddenly, Harry could see Hermione staring at him through the window of one compartment. She was trying to shout something.
"Let's get going before the next ramming opportunity!" Ivy yelled, taking Harry by the hand and pulling him through the door.
Harry tried to wave at Hermione, but Holly got in the way as she brought Ginny out of the train car. At Holly and Ivy's urging, Harry and Ginny climbed onto the locomotive's tender and then crawled into the locomotive's engineer compartment. There, they found Violet manning the controls.
"What happened to the driver?" Holly, or Ivy—Harry had lost track of who was who—asked.
"I gave him a peaceful, early retirement," Violet answered as she pulled on a lever and used her wand to cast some spell in the firebox. "Unhitch the rest of the train, already. Unlock the doors to the compartments, too."
"Where are the attackers?" Harry asked Violet as Holly and Ivy left to unhitch the train.
"We lost them at their little barricade," Violet snickered. "They weren't expecting me to plough through like that. They'll catch up soon, though. Be ready to fight back. Probably will be on brooms or something."
Harry and Ginny needed no further urging. They stepped back to the area between the locomotive proper and tender and looked up in to the sky. Ivy and Holly soon joined them, and the group watched as the locomotive sped down the track, leaving the train behind. Just as the train faded from sight, dark specks appeared on the horizon.
"Flying in lightning is bad," Ivy commented.
"Yes," Harry agreed, "but where is the lightning."
Ivy's lip curled maliciously as she flipped her wand in her hand and began plunging it down like a dagger. Lightning began striking from the clear blue sky as the locomotive sped down the tracks at over a hundred miles per hour.
Holly was also waving her wand around, but the effects were not immediately apparent.
Harry aimed at the dark specks in the sky and shot a few stunners, but they missed. Ginny followed suit, and soon, Harry and Ginny were peppering the sky with various hexes.
Ivy continued with the lightning as Holly began waving her wand in great loops. Thunder sounded, and suddenly, the sky was dark with violent-looking clouds. Now, not all the lightning was coming from Ivy's wand.
"They're holding back!" Violet yelled as the dark clouds began to shower rain upon them and the speeding locomotive. "Your Dark Lord doesn't have enough Death Eaters to risk this early in the war. Maybe we can hold them off until we get to Hogsmeade station and then Hogwarts."
"How long until we reach Hogsmeade?" Harry yelled.
"Even at this speed, an hour at the least," Violet answered.
"Even this pathetic Ministry will have figured out something is up by now," Holly declared as she continued to work the weather.
"We can probably hold out, then," Ivy said, sounding cheerful.
Harry felt a twinge in his scar and his heart froze. "What if Voldemort showed up?" he asked.
"That would be very, very bad," Violet said solemnly.
"Then, I think I have some awful news for you," Harry announced.
As the train cars slowed, the spells holding the compartment doors faded. Hermione, who had been indiscriminately blasting at the wood and glass was relieved to be able to finally slide it open. Other students did likewise and spilled out into the hallway. Hermione, followed by Ron, pushed through panicked crowd and to the still-open door at the front end of the train car. Just on the horizon, they could see the locomotive barreling down the tracks at full speed.
"You-Know-Who has Harry!" Ron exclaimed as he and Hermione stood at the open door and watched the locomotive steam out of sight.
"I don't think so," Hermione said as several dark figures on brooms whizzed past the train. "Those Death Eaters wouldn't be chasing the locomotive if that was true. I think there is a good chance those two mysterious witches were protecting Harry and Ginny"
"Maybe," Ron said doubtfully.
"We have to hope that's the case," Hermione said as she sat down dejectedly.
Seeing that Hermione was near tears, Ron switched course. "Harry will be fine. He always comes out on top. Ginny, too."
"I sure hope so," Hermione said.
Voldemort had made his appearance. He was floating in a dark stream of smoke that was keeping speed with the train. He was leering down at Harry. "We meet again, Potter."
Harry shot a stunner at him. The red beam of light passed through the black smoke, harming nothing.
Voldemort laughed. "Stunners and disarmers will not always save you, Potter." The Dark Lord produced a wand and stabbed it toward Harry. Harry responded, and red and green bursts of energy connect the wands. Voldemort gritted his teeth with anger.
Harry focused on pouring his strength into the contest of wills. Harry's red beam overpowered Voldemort's green and the Dark Lord's wand exploded. Without his wand, the spell holding the Dark Lord in the black stream of smoke failed, and they left Voldemort in an explosive heap next to the tracks as the train raced on at full speed.
Harry was feeling relieved until one of the mysterious witches shouted. "Duck!"
Before Harry could react, he was pushed to the ground. He looked up to see that it was Ginny. With horror, he watched as a nasty, purple spell exploded into the back of Ginny's torso. Suddenly unconscious, Ginny slumped on Harry.
Harry scrambled to get out from under Ginny without harming her further as Ivy and Holly fended off the new attacker. Harry was shocked to discover that it was Voldemort, except that he seemed slightly different—and had another wand.
Voldemort sneered as a barrage of spells from his prospective victims raced toward him. He disappeared and reappeared atop the locomotive's cab. Viciously, he lashed out with his wand, but his magic was blocked by combined shield charms cast by the three witches. Several more spells from the witches and Harry managed to force Voldemort off the locomotive and into the air where he flew with no visible means of support—not even black smoke or a broom.
"Tunnel up ahead," Holly reminded Ivy and Violet.
"Thank Merlin," Violet muttered, pulling a shiny object out of her windbreaker.
Harry was casting shield charms as fast as he could, but he still managed to get a good look at what Violet was holding. It appeared to be a diamond Rubik's cube.
"No!" Ivy yelled as Violet clutched the Rubik's cube and checked the track ahead for the upcoming tunnel. It was within sight.
"If there are two Dark Lords in this dimension, then it won't hurt if there are two Harrys in our dimension!" Violet shouted to her sisters. She stabbed her wand at the controls of the locomotive, and suddenly it was coming to a screeching halt, sparks showering from the stopped wheels as the locomotive plunged into the railroad tunnel. Seconds after the locomotive disappeared into the tunnel, a short flash of blue and white arcane magic preceded a thunderous explosion that marked the end of the scarlet steam engine.