This is a work of fiction, based on the book series by J.K. Rowling. Neither do I claim ownership nor do I intend to.
Chapter Eighty-Two - Prison Break
Once Harry and his war council had come up with a plan for the fight that would decide Magical Britain's future, tasks were assigned to get everyone and everything ready for the day of days.
Daphne had taken over as the main instructor for the combat lessons for Harry's friends who could focus on other tasks. While she was nowhere near as skilled as he was, she had learned a lot under his tutelage and was happy to train Susan, Hannah, and occasionally Ron as well as the members of the Resistance stuck at Hogwarts. The youngest Weasley, Daphne was quick to notice, had a similar attitude as her brother, but she was also more willing to adapt and work with others. Luna Lovegood proved she deserved her place in Ravenclaw and learned at an alarming speed, and Longbottom was determined to prove his worth.
Hermione spent her days brewing the Strengthening Draughts Professor Snape had suggested to get the freed prisoners from Azkaban combat-ready within hours. Both Weasley and Sarah helped Hermione with some of the easier steps, and Hermione had told Daphne in private that she didn't think she'd manage without that help. In addition to her potions work, Hermione also helped Harry with his latest invention and trained for combat about as often as Susan or Hannah.
Weasley was tasked with keeping an eye on the well-being of the prisoners as well as helping out with the day-to-day business. On the other hand, he also spent a lot of time working on his duelling skills, and he was finally catching up to the others. While Daphne could see he would never be a duelling champion and his stubbornness was still an issue, he had come a long way in the past month.
Susan and Hannah were eager to help with the fight and were quickly catching up in strength and spell-casting thanks to Daphne's lessons.
While they hadn't told Kreacher about the details of the breakout, he had picked up on the importance of their plans and his role in them. His eyes were shining with pride ever since that fateful meeting, and he took better care of himself than before. His work around the house and his cooking had improved, and he worked tirelessly to make life for everyone as comfortable as possible. In fact, Kreacher had given Daphne quite a shock when she had walked into the kitchen, only to find the old elf and Harry's cousin Dudley in a friendly conversation, each trying to learn more about the master of the house.
Dudley was well on his way to befriend the elf, determined to become a part of Harry's world in any way he could. He also helped taking care of the prisoners.
Sarah had taken to reading. Professor Lupin had brought a few books on Magical culture, and they provided the distraction the girl needed after months of fear and misfortune. Only time would tell whether Sarah would adjust to the new circumstances and the life as an outcast in both worlds. While Daphne didn't pry, it was obvious just how hard the young werewolf was taking it, how much she needed the support, and how willing Dudley was to help her.
Harry was about as busy as Hermione, if only because he liked to keep an eye on every part of the preparations. He taught two or three lessons each week, mostly combat training with a handful of obscure spells thrown in; he lent Hermione a hand in the make-shift potions lab whenever he had a free moment. He spent hours working on new trinkets and tricks for the upcoming fight, and he left the safety of the house occasionally to visit the other safe houses of the Resistance. Sometimes, he returned with wands he claimed to have found somewhere he didn't specify. With a goal to work towards, he had become an impressive leader. Calm and in control, it was easy to forget just how young and inexperienced he should have been, and easy to see why seasoned fighters like Alastor Moody didn't dismiss his opinions and why Harry seemed to have little trouble getting the key figures of the Resistance to back him.
Harry and Hermione had also spent many hours putting together four lists of Azkaban prisoners – one for each pair of elf and witch or wizard – and discussing individual risks and advantages. Daphne didn't quite see the point of it considering they were planning on getting everyone out, but Hermione and Harry saw it as a necessity.
While he did spend a lot of time on the preparations, Harry hadn't forgotten about his wife. Sharing a bedroom definitely helped with that, and those hours were one reason Daphne was coping with the situation as well as she was. As frightening as preparing for a battle with an army of ruthless killers was, it was easy to ignore and push out of her mind whenever they were alone. The shared bedroom had become something of a sanctuary for her. Two worlds met at the threshold – in one, Daphne was a fighter preparing for a decisive battle, in the other, she was a teenager blissfully in love.
As nice as her time with Harry was, it wasn't the main reason Daphne wasn't sick with worry and fear at the prospect of the upcoming fight with the forces of the Dark Lord. She knew the risks – she had confided in Harry, which had certainly helped – but the main reason Daphne wasn't paralysed by fear thinking about the day of Reckoning when their plans and preparations would be put to the test was because Daphne had a goal of her own to work towards. Before the fight, before they would challenge the most powerful dark wizard in ages, they would free the prisoners of Azkaban. Before they would meet the Dark Lord, Daphne would see her father again. It was this thought, the knowledge that she would meet him again and see for herself that he was healthy and whole and safe, that kept Daphne on track. It was this small victory, this act of defiance against the Dark Lord that gave her a sense of purpose.
The days of the full moon of May led to a very sombre atmosphere in their hiding place. When Professor Snape hadn't been able to get the necessary ingredients for the Wolfsbane Potion without drawing attention, Hermione and Harry had created a cage for Sarah in one of the rooms. While it worked as a reasonable precaution, it made Sarah's fate hard to ignore.
The first night left a mark on Sarah and Dudley. She looked terribly ill the next morning; shivering and badly bruised after her fight with herself, she curled up on her bed and slept until late in the afternoon. Dudley hadn't slept all night, too shaken by what he had seen when he had sneaked in to keep Sarah company for her first transformation. None of the magicals in the house had the heart to tell either that the presence of a potential victim had made the werewolf even more furious and bloodthirsty.
The second night, Harry talked Dudley into teaching those willing to learn how to throw a punch. It wouldn't really help much in an actual fight, but it kept Harry's cousin busy. Sarah stayed in her room all day, and Hermione's visits left the the Muggleborn witch quite shaken.
The third night, Dudley spent on a chair facing the door to Sarah's prison. Harry, after failing to get through to Dudley, had returned to his bedroom around eleven. When Daphne awoke the next morning, she found him immersed in some project of his.
Sarah survived, though barely. It took her three days to gather enough strength to join them during mealtime, and the smile Daphne had given her when the young werewolf had stumbled into the kitchen the first time had been as insincere as it had been painful. The knowledge that there were neither words of comfort nor hope Daphne could give cut deep, but they had to focus on what lay ahead.
The daily routine made it easy to lose track of time. One moment, Daphne sat at the kitchen table, passing mashed potatoes to Hannah, the next, it seemed, she was crawling into bed next to a dozing Harry, little more than twelve hours before she would know whether their plans would come to fruition.
The night before the breakout, the nervousness she had refused to allow for weeks had finally taken hold of her. Despite her training, despite preparing for that day, she felt she wasn't ready. It had sounded doable when Harry had explained it – almost impossible, but not quite. He'd done a lot of things in his life no-one should have been able to, but he had done it. Daphne had believed him because she wanted to believe him. But with the moment of truth so close, she couldn't shake the feeling of impending doom. What if the elves drew someone's attention? What if the Ministry decided to move the prisoners overnight? What if the prisoners weren't as well as Harry had been told? What if the guards chose that day for surprise visits?
How could Harry sleep at a time like that?, Daphne thought with a huff and glance at his sleeping form by her side. Didn't he worry as well?
Then again, Daphne knew he wasn't quite as above it as he wanted the other residents to believe. If she hadn't watched him as close as she had and hadn't listened to him as often as she had, Daphne might have missed the hints. She had learned how his mind worked, or at least thought she had, and she knew him well enough to pick up on the little things that revealed his state of mind – little things like his tendency to rearrange pieces of parchment or pick up the salt or pepper to roll them around in his hand while talking. True, he occasionally did it when thinking hard about a topic to buy himself time, but Daphne was sure he had been hiding his nervousness and had projected a calm he hadn't felt.
But if he could sleep now, Daphne thought, resisting the urge to wake him up – they'd find something to do with their time, she was sure – and instead curling up next to him, then her worries might be unfounded. Maybe she should feel reassured by his sudden calm. Maybe Harry could sleep because he knew he'd win. All his life had led to the final confrontation. Harry hadn't accidentally stumbled into the mess one day, so maybe that was why he wasn't tossing and turning or triple-checking every step of their plan.
The next moment, she was shaken awake – or it felt that way.
"Time to get up," Harry whispered in her ear. His breath tickled, and snorting, she pushed him away.
Rubbing her eyes, Daphne sat up. "What time is it?"
"Quarter to six," Harry replied, drying his hair. "I need you to get Hannah and Susan. I'll check on Hermione and Ron. Kreacher is already working in the kitchen."
Three hours left, Daphne thought, wishing he had woken her sooner. Three hours meant no time to spare. If this could very well be their last morning together, she would have liked to have a bit of time for just the two of them first.
Then again, they were already on a tight schedule – as much as she would have enjoyed it, Daphne knew from experience that they were prone to losing track of time or falling asleep, and for once, they couldn't do either. Judging from the looks Hermione had given them the last time, Daphne suspected the other girl had come to the right conclusions. While the Muggleborn might have chosen to ignore it back then, Daphne had a feeling Hermione wouldn't turn a blind eye to it if Harry and Daphne's couple-time caused any delays in the carefully-laid plans.
They'd have to make up for it some other time, Daphne told herself. Some other time when there'd be nothing and no-one waiting for them.
Her thoughts had to have shown on her face. Harry caught her eye over the top of his glasses. Grinning sheepishly, Daphne began to get ready for the day.
Not even half-an-hour later, everyone was gathered in the small kitchen. Some fought to stay awake, Weasley fidgeted on his chair, and Hermione seemed torn between eating breakfast as if it were a day like any other and storming out of the room and house. Or maybe Daphne was just projecting her own feelings – the wait was harder than she had imagined. Harry ate his breakfast in relative silence. Once he was done, he stood up, drawing everyone's attention.
"So," he began, glancing around before looking at Susan and Hannah, "I've already told you that we'd do something bigger than normal today, and that's true. However –"
"Is this the moment you tell us the bad news?" Sarah sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Why Hermione and I were so busy brewing all those -" She broke off, waving her hand around uncertainly.
"Well, yes," Harry admitted. "Although I wouldn't call it bad news. I was busy the last few weeks, keeping in contact with other groups, preparing for the first real strike against our enemies –"
"Today?" Hannah asked, frowning.
"Before the next full moon, I'm guessing," Susan put in, keeping her eyes on Harry.
"We're doing it today," Harry continued, "and we're counting on your help. I won't order you to help us –"
"As if we'd sit this one out," Susan scoffed, receiving nods from around the table.
After a silent conversation, Dudley and Sarah shook their heads.
"It's probably best if we stayed here," Sarah told them. "We'd probably get in the way of whatever you'll be doing."
"We'll look after your – guests," Dudley added with a shrug.
Harry nodded. "Well, if that's what you want. I can work with that. Just don't burn the house down or anything.
"Hannah, Susan, you're," he sighed, "with Team Butterfly." Seeing their expressions, he shook his head. "I was all for Team Kiwi, but the Weasley twins insisted.
"There will be two phases – during the first, you'll help the Peaches and the Plums wherever help is needed, so just follow their orders. Only a handful of people know about the second phase or even its existance, and with good reason."
"We'll keep quiet," Susan replied.
"Good. For the second phase, I want you to come with us. You'll understand everything in time, and I'm sure you'll do great," Harry added.
"We'll leave in about a ninety minutes; be ready and wear something sturdy. Any questions?"
"Peaches? Plums? Butterflies?" Hannah asked, failing to keep the amused tone out of her voice.
"It's unlikely people will forget those," Hermione explained, "and neither is a word we're likely to use much over the next few hours."
Susan shifted in her chair. "So we'll be given further instructions once everyone is there?"
Harry nodded, and while neither Hannah nor Susan looked particularly happy about the lack of information, both left to get ready for the day. Harry followed them, and Daphne knew he was about to get the word out to their allies at Hogwarts and elsewhere. He was also recruiting the two Hogwarts elves. It was the first of many gambles, but Harry had assured them it would work. Hardly anyone cared about the disappearance of a single house-elf, and from what Daphne understood, Harry was sure both elves would rather work for a family than the faceless entity of Hogwarts.
Ninety minutes later, everyone was ready to leave. Harry and Hermione wore their combat attire they had during their visit to Umbridge; both were busy discussing some last-minute changes that Hermione wrote down on a piece of parchment for both to read. Susan and Hannah had chosen a training outfit.
Harry and Weasley went first, Hermione following only moments later with Susan. Daphne apparated last, taking Hannah with her.
They arrived in an abandoned warehouse.
"This is it?" Susan asked, sounding wary.
"It'll do," Harry assured her, adding, "Two minutes, everyone!"
Weasley and Hermione spread out, putting up rudimentary protections just in case, and Daphne began conjuring tables and creating a small stage, but before the time was up, the first groups arrived.
Soon, the room was filled with loud voices as people greeted old friends or shared what little they had heard about the outside world. The many unfamiliar faces making Daphne nervous once more, she noticed the glances sent her way; people were looking at the odd one out, the one who hadn't been a known member of the Resistance. She was surprised to see some familiar faces; as it turned out, quite a few former Slytherins had gone into hiding, especially those with ambitions of their own.
When the arrivals came to a halt, Daphne knew it was time and joined Harry, Hermione, and Weasley under the watchful gazes of some. Side-by-side they walked onto the stage.
"Hello everyone," Harry began, and once the murmurs had died mostly down, he added, "and thank you all for coming. Without you, we couldn't get this done.
"I know you're probably wondering what this is all about, and I'd like to apologize for not being more forthcoming in the past. I'm honoured by your trust in me. We'll get to our plans for today in a bit, but first –"
Hermione waved her wand, muttering an incantation under her breath that put the last of the protections in place.
"Yes," Harry continued, "thank you. That should keep out unwanted visitors. One can never be too careful, right?
"Most of you didn't know what was going on when you were dragged here. I apologize for the secrecy, and I know I owe you an explanation. We asked you here because we want your help for what is to come and the reason we gathered here. We will free the prisoners of Azkaban."
It took a moment before people seemed to understand what he was saying, but once they did, people started shouting over each other, some nervously looking around as if to search for exits, others gesturing wildly. However, some kept quiet, watching Harry and the others on the stage. His friends knew him well enough to be familiar with his talent for doing the impossible. Daphne had come to terms with it, and those who knew him longer were probably the same. Harry Potter just did the unimaginable. Perhaps that was the reason – he could do it because no one could imagine someone trying it.
When he felt enough time had passed for everyone to come to terms with his statement, Harry cast a spell as loud as a cannon. Almost everyone fell silent and stared at him expectantly, unaware that Harry was fighting the urge to roll his eyes at them. Without leaders, they would have been lost and killed long ago, yet they still wasted time instead of getting the job done. One unpleasant-looking woman with a face like a rat scoffed, sending Harry an ugly look.
"He's lost his mind," she said, loud enough that everyone could hear her. "It can't be done. You ever been there? Eh? Seen it? No. I have, and I'm telling you it can't be done. There's no escaping from there. Azkaban's –" She broke off, shuddering.
"It can be done," Professor Lupin spoke up from his corner.
"We're not nearly enough to storm a high-security prison –" the witch argued almost at once, but Harry cast another thundering spell and held up a hand to catch everyone's eye.
"Two minutes to explain is all I'm asking of you," Harry called out. "Two minutes and you'll see what we're talking about. Azkaban's security is no longer as powerful as you might think. We've found a loophole we will take advantage of. We do not have to storm the prison; we do not have to fight the guards. Aren't we witches and wizards? Don't we have magic and bend whatever rules we do not like?" He saw some in the crowd smirk or slowly nod their heads. Fred and George grinned and gave Harry a thumbs-up.
He stood straighter, calling out, "Kreacher! Dobby! Winky!"
Some laughed, having caught on, but almost at once, three house-elves appeared on the stage.
Kreacher bowed deeply to his master, well-aware of the task waiting for him. Without even meeting him, Daphne had no trouble recognizing Dobby. Bouncing up and down, he seemed absolutely delighted to answer Harry's call. Winky looked the worst, droopy-eyed and shivering slightly, but she bowed to Weasley as well as her state allowed.
"House-elves?" someone asked disbelievingly.
"They can go where we can't," Harry explained with a nod and a small smile, "even past anti-Apparition wards. Do you think the Hogwarts elves walk around the castle?"
"Hogwarts isn't Azkaban," the rat-faced witch hissed. "Do you think the Ministry's that dumb –?"
"Yes," Harry interrupted. "They do not care how house-elves' magic works or treating them as anything other than things with welcome uses. Their arrogance is our advantage. We have gone through trial runs; we know it will work."
That had the intended effect, and people were looking at each other. Maybe it had been the slight edge in his voice that made it sound as if he wasn't only talking about the Ministry. Murmurs broke out as people argued back and forth.
Daphne took the moment of distraction and did what she hadn't dared at their hiding place – call Carrie for the first time in almost a year.
The elf appeared looking not nearly as anxious as Daphne felt and instead staring with wide-eyed awe. "M-mistress Daphne called?"
Daphne nodded, swallowing the cheer of happiness at seeing the elf healthy and whole, focusing instead on the pressing matter of security. "I need your help for an hour or two. If you get called away, you are forbidden from telling anyone of this place, what we are doing here, what I asked you to do or that I called you. If you are called away, you are to return here once you have completed the task you were called away for."
Carrie nodded. "Carrie understands. Mistress Daphne, your family was worried about you –"
"They won't have to worry much longer," Daphne told the elf with a smile.
"Master Cyrus –"
"I'm sure he was worried," Daphne interrupted, noticing the crowd started to calm down again. "Thank you for taking care of them. For taking care of all of us," she amended almost at once. "It's nice to see you again."
Not really knowing what to do, Carrie busied herself with tugging at her improvised, self-made dishrag-turned-apron.
"As you can see," Harry spoke up again after a quick glance at Daphne and Carrie, "we have four elves to assist us today. Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, Daphne Greengrass, and I will each order an elf to fetch the prisoners one at a time and bring them here. That's where your help is needed, and that´s why we've gathered you here – to make sure the freed prisoners are taken care of and the break-out can go as smoothly as possible.
"I can tell some of you have your doubts. If it's that easy, why hasn't anyone tried it already? Maybe we'll never learn the answer to that question, but I can show you that it works. Let me demonstrate with someone many of you will know and recognize. Someone you know has been imprisoned.
"Kreacher, fetch Madam Bagnold, D 16!"
The elf bowed and disappeared, and many stared with bated breaths at the spot Kreacher had vacated moments before. Others were whispering, their glances at Harry showing pity, worry, and doubt. At the same time, it was easy to pick out Harry's friends who were quietly waiting for Kreacher's return. And some of Harry's most trusted allies, those he had chosen as team leaders of sorts, were calmly observing the crowd.
Kreacher returned with a Pop! age-long moments later. Madam Bagnold was with him, pale and dishevelled, but alive. Almost at once, she let go of Kreacher's hand to stand up straighter and hide whatever she was feeling behind the mask of professionalism.
"Thank you for joining us today, Madam Bagnold," Harry said into the stunned silence and with barely a hint of smugness. Something about his posture was off, though – as if he wasn't as happy to see the woman as he tried to look. "I'm Harry Potter, and this is the Resistance."
Politician that she was, Madam Bagnold managed a weak smile. "Harry Potter. I've heard quite a bit about you. It's a pleasure to meet you. I suppose it was your elf that brought me here?"
"Kreacher, yes. It seemed like the fastest and safest way to free those in Azkaban," he replied a bit louder than necessary.
"I'll take it from here, Potter," Moody grumbled, stomping towards the stage with a couple of stern-looking witches and wizards. "You've got a prison break to get to. Madam Bagnold," he added with a curt nod in her direction.
"Right. Us four," Harry said, pointing at those on stage, "will stand in the centre of the room. Everyone else around us. Stay out of our way.
"You were all assigned to a team. Peaches, you are to take the prisoners off our hands. Guide them away from the arrival zones, tend to their needs, feed them healing potions.
"Team Sunshine, you'll guard our perimeter. Make sure we don't get any unwanted visitors. Go to your team leaders."
Some grim-faced men and women nodded, not hiding their doubts about the plan, but also keeping quiet. These were seasoned fighters, some former Ministry personnel, and they knew an order when they heard one.
"Team Plums, you're our security down here. If anyone acts up, you stun them. Don't hesitate, don't wait for them to argue. Everyone else, you are to help wherever necessary to keep things running smoothly."
Having said what he wanted to, Harry jumped off the stage and strode towards the spot he had chosen for himself - far-left. The crowd parted for him, awe visible on many faces. Many didn't even seem to notice Kreacher proudly following his master.
Daphne tried her best to show a confidence she didn't feel. People were milling around, trying to find friends or a good spot for themselves, but almost everyone Daphne passed stopped to watch her.
When she reached her spot to the right of the stage, Daphne found herself face to face with the Weasley twins.
"Thought you might like someone with talent in your corner," one of them said with a grin.
"So he brought me along," the other added.
"There'll be so many Weasleys over there," the first one continued, pointing to where their mother was fussing over the youngest brother.
"Hermione will have to do without us," the second twin put in with a sigh.
"And Harry –"
"Will be swarmed by eager helpers," Daphne interrupted them. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a clipboard flying her direction from where Hermione was standing.
"Didn't expect this to happen," one of the twins said and both waved their arms around, continuing more quietly, "Harry does know how to make things interesting, doesn't he? Makes you wonder what he's got planned next but I guess we'll be there to see it."
"He asked us to be at his side," the other twin added, "for whatever's next."
Daphne gave a non-committal shrug. She knew Harry trusted the twins to know their way around the castle and be at least competent in combat.
The brothers exchanged a look that told her they had seen through her act, but she didn't care. She was done with waiting and didn't need to look at the list she had been given, knowing who she'd get first no matter what. She leaned down to an expectant Carrie.
"Now, go and fetch your Master Cyrus," Daphne told the elf.
Carrie bowed so abruptly and deep she almost hit her head before vanishing with a Pop! of Apparition.
Daphne stood back up, wringing her hands anxiously. It had been over nine months since she had last seen her father in anything other than pictures or her dreams, and as much as she had looked forward to that reunion, she suddenly felt horribly unprepared. How was she to explain what had happened since September? How would she explain the changes?
The sound of Kreacher's return on the opposite side startled Daphne enough to make her squeak and flinch.
Helpers ran over to an older, hunch-backed woman. Harry was already giving Kreacher new instructions.
To Daphne's left, the elf Winky dropped off a befuddled wizard with greying, wild hair. To Daphne's right, Hermione watched Dobby leave while a milky-eyed boy of maybe fourteen was led away by Susan and Hannah.
Kreacher returned with a girl Daphne recognized as a former Gryffindor Chaser. Winky dropped off a haggard-looking Barnabus Cuffe, dressed in rags and with an arm in a sling. Dobby brought a fearsome-looking, bald witch with scars criss-crossing her head and face.
And then Carrie returned, bringing a battered Cyrus Greengrass with her, silencing a traitorous voice in Daphne's head she hadn't even been aware had existed. Harry had been right; her father did look better than the other prisoners so far. And yet, Daphne saw at once that he wasn't all right. Bags under his eyes, one swollen shut and at least two of the fingers on his left hand bent, broken, and healed improperly either through incompetence or malice, he looked around in disbelief.
"Oh, Dad," Daphne breathed, swallowing hard, but too shocked to actually move.
That got his attention – he lunged at her and engulfed her in an almost painful hug.
It did pain her, she realized a moment later, because she could feel just how thin he was.
"I knew it," he mumbled into her hair, "I felt it. Knew you weren't –"
Shuddering at hearing his voice, Daphne forced herself to not cry. If she started, she knew she wouldn't stop. She knew she couldn't – not with people around, not when people depended on her to do her part in the prison break.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Weasley twins relaxed upon realizing there was no danger. Over the shoulder of her father, she saw Kreacher returning with yet another prisoner and leaving at once.
Her father's embrace ended almost as suddenly as it had begun. He stumbled back, really looking at her.
"Your eye," he mumbled, aghast as he absent-mindedly caressed her cheek.
"It – it's all right," she tried to reassure him. "Harry and Hermione healed it. Well, sort of, but –"
"Harry?" Cyrus Greengrass interrupted, suddenly a lot more focused. "Potter?"
"Yeah, he –" Daphne couldn't stop the small smile showing on her face. "He came for me." She glanced in her husband's direction, and her father followed her gaze.
Kreacher had returned once more with a freed prisoner – at least the fifth so far, if Daphne was right. As if he had read her mind, Harry turned and sent her a meaningful look that had her blush in shame. She was allowing her feelings to get in the way of the mission; she was falling behind.
"Carrie," she told the elf after a quick glance at the list still in her hand, noticing the first name had been her father's, "fetch me Abrams, Michael.
"It's a prison break," she said to her father. "We're getting everyone out. Dad, I – I'll explain later, but –"
Cyrus Greengrass stood up straighter as he turned back to his daughter. "What can I do?"
"For now," she told him, "let yourself get looked over. We've got potions, and new robes, and healers –"
Carrie returned with a wiry man in his thirties and a weird glint in his eyes. He tore his hand away from the elf the moment he arrived and jumped at Daphne.
She reacted without thinking. She dropped the list, ducking and darting under Abrams' left arm, she managed to catch one of his legs with her left hand, tripping him up and coming up behind him, her wand having slipped into her right hand. Her Stunner knocked him out before he hit the ground, the body skidding a foot or two until the momentum was spent.
Around her, many people seemed frozen in shock. The Weasley twins sent her impressed looks as they picked up the unconscious Abrams. Their brother Ron shock his head and avoided her eye. Her father stared at her with renewed disbelief, and out of the corner of her eye, Daphne noticed Hermione smirking as she gave Dobby the name of another prisoner.
Chuckling nervously, Daphne summoned the list. "So, get yourself looked over, all right?"
Cyrus Greengrass allowed himself to be led away, but Daphne could feel his eyes still on her. Blood thundering in her ears, she told Carrie the next name – Kettleburn, Delilah.
As people returned to their tasks, she relaxed enough to take a few deep breaths and glance across the room to Harry. He nodded at her, but returned to his own list.
Constant vigilance, she remembered Alastor Moody's impostor saying in their fourth year. She supposed she was lucky Abrams had been relatively slow to react or she would have been in serious trouble.
Carrie returned with a woman way past her prime who refused all helping hands and waddled over to the table to get herself checked over.
As more and more prisoners were freed, the Abrams incident repeated itself. Whether confusion or something else, some of the rescuees reacting violently, but they moved sluggishly, were slow, and quickly dispatched. Hermione proved to be brutally efficient in her take-downs; Weasley resorted to a mix of brawling and wandwork.
It took Daphne a while until she realized her error of judgement, and it took her seeing Harry taking out a burly woman with short-cropped hair before she understood. The ease with which they dominated each fight wasn't because the prisoners were weakened or slow – after months of training with Harry, Daphne was simply used to his speed. They had all become formidable duellists. She knew what Harry was capable of, and she could tell he was holding back at the moment. What did it mean that people were still awed by his skill?
After a while, people stopped doubting and started believing they could actually do it. With that thought in mind, they worked harder than before and started trusting others to do their job. Team Plums turned its attention to keeping an eye on those rescuees that had been processed already; Team Peaches settled into a routine that sped up their part noticeably. So far, Daphne hadn't seen or heard anything from Team Sunshine, which she considered a good thing.
Just before an hour had passed, Daphne was done with her list. Carrie was visibly tired and quite glad at being dismissed. Weasley and Winky had finished a few minutes before, and he had sent her away with clear instructions to not tell anyone what they had done. Hermione looked about ready as well, and Dobby would likely welcome a bit of rest. Across the room, Kreacher swayed dangerously whenever he arrived, but seemed to refuse any breaks.
She'd have to think of something nice to do for him, Daphne mused. The old elf had to have taken great pride in his contributions to the prison break and had gone above and beyond his duty.
Luckily, Harry also seemed almost done with his list.
"We'd better get going," Hermione spoke up, approaching Daphne with a nod towards the stage just as Cyrus Greengrass made to split from the group he was standing with.
Later, Daphne reasoned. If she talked to him now, she might not be able to tear herself away from him. Just a few more hours, she told herself, sending him an apologetic smile before following Hermione.
Harry had indeed been almost done. By the time Daphne and Hermione had found a way through the celebrating crowd and past everyone who wanted to shake their hands, Harry handed his list off to Kreacher and sent him away to rest up as well. From somewhere within his robes, he pulled a broom and flew towards the stage and continued hovering above to stay as visible as possible.
It took a while until people calmed down enough that he could be heard.
"Yes, good work everyone," he shouted. "To the newcomers, I'm Harry Potter, and this is the Resistance."
Once the renewed cheers had died down, Harry continued. "I want to offer you a choice. You are free to go home. You are free to leave and never look back – but I'm not done yet. There is still a task ahead. My plan for today wasn't to just free the prisoners of Azkaban. Today I will free Magical Britain."
After a moment of thundering applause, the crowd realized it wasn't a hyperbole. A shocked silence descended.
"Wait, now?" someone asked.
A nervous laughter echoed through the room.
"Yes," Harry confirmed, "now while the Ministry doesn't quite understand what has happened today. Now, while they are the least prepared to face the anger of the people. Now, while they don't know that we are stronger than ever.
"You doubted me when I told you about the prison break but I kept my word. My plan worked. I made the impossible happen, and I can do it again.
"I'm not asking you to do the impossible," he assured them. "I'm asking for volunteers. I've already made arrangements. Team leaders, please come to the front."
A handful of people made their way through the crowd. Daphne noticed the eldest of the Weasley brothers stepping away from his fretful mother.
Harry continued. "The team leaders have been briefed and given individual objectives. They will tell you everything you need to know for us to succeed so I will say this – you are not alone. Even if we're apart for a time, we're all working for a common cause."
The team leaders had lined up in front of the stage and faced the crowd.
"I want to offer you a choice," Harry repeated from his spot above the crowd. "You are free to leave. Or you could stay."
Harry's friends volunteered without hesitation, the Weasleys among the first and joining William, their oldest son and brother. The twins were in a hushed conversation with their parents before joining Ronald on the stage. Susan and Hannah were the last to join them. Professor Lupin welcomed a handful of acquaintances of his in his team, but far too many people looked unsure and torn about what to do next.
There was a tense silence as former prisoners and reluctant Resistance members watched those around them, waiting for the first to leave.
"I'll stay," Cyrus Greengrass's voice echoed through the room, and true to his word, he strode to the front as confidently as he could - he seemed to try to hide some injury.
His act of courage worked in Harry's favour – others who knew Daphne's father one way or another took heart and followed his example, but she only saw her father, trying to commit every detail to memory. His imprisonment had made it abundantly clear that he could be gone in a blink and never return.
He seemed to have noticed her stare and smiled at her.
This had to have been what he had thought and felt over the last months, Daphne realized with renewed heartache. Both stared at each other in silent understanding.
Her feelings must have shown on her face. Hermione leaned over to her. "He'll be with one of our best. It'll be fine."
It didn't keep her from worrying, but Daphne sent Hermione a grateful smile.
Only when she turned back to the room did Daphne notice the crowd had made up its mind. Some Resistance members and many of the former prisoners had left. Knowing their state, Daphne doubted that was a bad thing.
"Right," Harry announced, landing on the stage. "It seems almost everyone has found their group, so let's not waste any time. Before we leave for our destinations, I want to thank you all for doing this. Before this day is done, we'll have sent a message no one can ignore. And remember – you are not alone.
"Team leaders, you've got twenty minutes," Harry told them, turning to his group of friends on the stage. With a few swishes of their wands, Hermione and Harry cast some privacy spells.
"As for us eight," he told them, stepping closer, "we'll go right into the heart of darkness. You and me," he said, pausing with a mischievous smile, "we're going back to Hogwarts."
I should probably apologize for the long wait. I should, but it's not like I owe you anything, so there. I got caught up in other, more pressing business. Before I knew it, I'd gotten used to not writing. I still intend to finish the story.
I did consider having Dudley and Sarah join Harry for the prison break, but decided against it to prevent them from just tagging along for the ride. Both have turned out to be reasonably fun to write about, but I wouldn't want to pad the story with sidestories.