Not that far away, Harry blinked, realizing that it was growing quite dark around. Looking around, he noticed it was dusk and that clouds had hidden the winter sun.
/It will snow tomorrow, Astyan./
Harry raised an eyebrow.
"If you say so… I have to go back…" he paused "Thank you for being here with me today."
Rexeran let out a soft grumble.
/This is what a dragon-rider bond should be, Astyan, do no thank me for something you are due./
Knowing he wouldn't win Harry shook his head.
"Will you be there tomorrow, Rexeran."
/I will Harry. I still have much to teach you./
Harry stretched a little then stood up as the dragon did so. Looking at Rexeran, Harry was awed once more at the fact that the Sowaroc had chosen him.
As if sensing his thoughts, Rexeran lowered his head that was bigger than the young man's chest.
/There wasn't any doubt for me, Astyan, from the first time I met you./
Harry closed his eyes and rested his head against the reptilian neck, trying to forget about that night.
/Learn from your mistakes, Astyan. Do not flee from them for you'll never escape them./
"Unfortunately it's often easier said than down."
/Go rest, Astyan, tomorrow is a new day./
/I will guard your dreams. Rexeran opened his wings and sprang in the air./
Harry went back to the castle slowly, trying to prolong this moment of peace for as long as possible.
As he entered the palace, he headed for the Healing Wings and found his friend sitting in her bed, her eyes a little less lost than before.
He turned to the young Healer standing at her bedside talking softly to her.
"Athar Harry," she answered calmly, bowing her head. She turned toward the young woman in her care. "Hermione, there is someone that has come to see you."
The brown-haired witch started trembling
"Who is it? What is he doing here? Why did I not hear him enter?"
Xaelle smiled reassuringly
"It's Harry. He is perfectly safe. He came everyday to see you since you arrived here."
Hermione's face scrunched in thought as she kept wriggling her hands nervously, her eyes fixed on her hands.
"Harry?... Harry… I can't remember! Why can't I remember?" Her last question was laced with growing panic.
Xaelle slowly raised her hand and carded it trough the young woman's hair.
"Shh Hermione, you will remember with time." As she spoke she motioned to Harry to sit next to her. "Won't you say hello to him?"
Hermione slowly looked up her eyes widening as she took in Harry's appearance.
She started trembling as pictures rushed through her mind.
A scrawny boy dressed in overly large clothes talking with a red-head with a dirt smudge on his nose.
A Troll, a three headed-dog.
Black flames and watching the young boy dressed in black robes walk through them.
A huge hall with young people cheering as red tapestries with a golden lion fell from the ceiling.
Walking through a corridor with a mirror.
A black dog.
Riding a mix of an eagle and a horse.
Watching the same boy reappear bloody and exhausted with a corpse in the middle of a maze.
Harry Potter missing.
Slapping a young dark-haired young man.
Emptying vials of a golden potion in the sink, tears in her eyes.
A fire, a monster.
Entering a room and seeing the young man in a bed unmoving.
She blinked as a hand grabbed hers.
That voice… That voice saying she had let him down, abandoned him to die.
"Harry?...Harry, I'm so sorry, please forgive me. I didn't mean to leave you. I should have tried harder, I should have-"
Arms circled her shoulders as she started sobbing.
"You did not fail me, Hermione, you did not."
For the next hour, Harry held Hermione, whispering soothing words to her, trying to reassure her that she did not fail him.
As she fell asleep, emotionally drained, he rested her against her pillows, bringing the covers above her.
"Sleep, I will be back tomorrow."
"I won't fail you again," she whispered sleepily.
"You never failed me Hermione, you are my friend. Sleep now."
Her breathing evened out and once he was sure she was sleeping he got off the bed and rolled his shoulder.
"Your visits always help her greatly," said the healer standing up.
"She was quite lucid for once."
"She's making huge progress and today's outing in the garden did her a whole of good. The contact with the unicorn seemed to help heal her too."
"I just wished she never had to go through this…"
"She'll come out all the stronger from this. You are already doing everything possible to help her."
Harry looked at his friend and shook his head.
"No use wasting life away wishing for the impossible."
He went to his room and to his bed. The next day was spent between meeting with Reald and his peers, visiting Hermione and spending time with Rexeran.
The night came before Harry realized it. As the sun set, he left the castle, having warned Teneb of where he was going and walked away.
The landscape was covered by a thin layer of snow that creaked under Harry's feet.
He stopped by a lone willow overlooking a small pond and sat at the feet of said tree. No sooner had he sat down that the ground under him spun and he felt him fall down a black pit crying out in surprise. Then the pit transformed into a rather steep slide. As he spotted some light, Harry got himself into a tight ball and rolled to his feet as soon as his descent ended, one of his knives out and looking around for potential enemies.
A low chuckle got his attention as well as a slow clapping. He whirled on his heels and met with the amused eyes of Adrien.
The Vampire was surrounded by his usual companions though Harry spotted three others standing back.
"What an entrance, Athar…"
Harry shot him a dirty look which Adrien ignored.
"I trust you remember my companions."
Harry eyed the three other Vampires with a wry look.
"I do, if you don't count those three others," he gestured towards the right corner.
Adrien's green eyes glinted in the dim light. From the surprised look one of the three unknown vampires shot the Ancient, Harry gathered that he shouldn't have been able to see them.
The Vampire said nothing but gestured to the other Vampires to come out.
"Athar, this is Lorna," he pointed to a tall, skinny red-head "next to her are Stefanov and Angharad."
Harry saluted the three Undead who returned it, still slightly puzzled.
"Your magical awareness is growing quickly. How did you know they were with me?"
"Now, Adrien, you know that a magician never reveal his tricks."
Adrien sent him an amused look.
"You know you will tell me eventually…"
Harry rolled his eyes. Could he get any more arrogant?
"But why make it is easy for you?" he replied. "Now, no matter how… stimulating this conversation might be, I think people are waiting for us."
"True, young Harry," stated a gruff voice from behind them.
Harry turned around with a smile and went to greet the dwarf, crabbing his forearm trying not to wince as the dwarf nearly broke his.
"Strength and Wealth, Terio."
"Strength and Wealth Harry. I see that your stay among the tree-hugger gave you some more white hair… Not good for your health, you know?"
Harry let out a snort.
"Good to see you too, Terio. I hope you've been well."
"We've been busy. I have not seen that much agitation in our cities since that earthquake a century ago."
"Yes, the one caused by a quarrelling couple of Earth Elemental."
Harry's eyes widened.
"I don't think I want to know."
Terio snorted and while muttering about bird-brain Elementals, he guided them through tunnels. They walked for about ten minutes. After the five first ones, Harry had completely lost count of how many turns they had taken. They finally stopped by two solid stone doors guarded by four mean looking dwarves.
"The Elders are waiting for us," grunted Terio.
The four guards looked them up and down, sneering a little as they took in Harry's lithe form. The sneer however faded as they noticed his weapons and his mark on his temple.
They parted grudgingly and pushed the doors opened, their muscles bulging out.
Adrien and Harry followed Terio inside, the other Vampires following.
Harry repressed a snort as he took in the place they had entered. Dwarves really compensated their short height by the majesty of the architecture. Harry even wondered how they could make ceilings that high… The wonders of magic again no doubt.
Columns spiraled high up supporting elegant gothic arches. Dwarf runes were engraved up their whole length. Shields, mass, axes were hung on them. A luminescent stone was layered all around the place, bathing it in a white light. Stones tables and chairs were spread around. A stage was standing in the back of the room, a long table placed on it with seven chairs placed around, the central one being a throne.
All but two of the chairs were occupied and the five dwarves were looking at them shrewdly. Harry repressed a sigh, feeling a headache coming.
Four hours later, Harry exited the room, sore, sporting several swallow cuts, head pounding from the bargaining the Vampires had driven regarding the coming shipment of weapons.
However he had managed to secure a deal with the Dwarves, no matter how loose it was. They had seemed as concerned by his news concerning Voldemort's doing as the Vampires. Adrien had immediately sent messengers to the locations where the different members of the bloodline had been spirited away.
It might have had something to do with his duel against one of their Champions too… For someone this burly he sure moved quickly not to mention that his weapons had been dreadfully real.
He repressed a groan as someone slapped him heartedly on his right shoulder, hitting a bruise dead on.
"Well done, lad!"
Harry took a deep breath, trying to dull the pain shooting down his arm with his magic.
"Why, thank you Terio…"
The dwarf smiled toothily. Harry had to keep himself from taking a step back. Dwarves should not smile… Terio continued to talk.
"You impressed them quite a lot, Harry."
Harry's eyebrow rose to his hairline. Recalling the stony faced dwarves in the room that had stared blankly at him for the whole duration of their talks, he could not think back of anything that indicated they had been impressed…
Terio seemed to read his thoughts as he let out a gravely laugh.
"Believe me, lad, they were or they would have never agreed to the deal…"
Adrien smiled, letting his fang shine in the torch light.
"Never try to understand dwarf facial expressions, Athar. I've been trying for centuries and am still getting a headache."
The burly looking Vampire snorted.
"That might have something to do with their faces too, Adrien…"
The Vampire Lord let out a small laugh.
"You Vampires have no appreciation for true beauty. You only admire what is delicate and frail-looking. Now, us Dwarves, like solid healthy looking female with stocky bodies, large hips..."
"- and a beard?" cut Adrien, amusedly.
"- and a beard, yes…"
Harry was looking at the both of them, slightly alarmed at the turn of the discussion.
Adrien shot him an amused smile.
"Why, Athar, you wish to add your thoughts?"
Harry blanched slightly.
"No! I just wanted to ask you if all the families had been placed in safe places."
"They were. I will however check on all of them to make sure we didn't overlook distant relatives."
Harry nodded, relieved. They had to prevent Voldemort from completing this ritual at all costs.
They soon reached an exit and climbed out. They found themselves in a small glade. Harry took a few deep breaths, enjoying the chilling cold air. He turned to look at Terio.
"Thank you for arranging this meeting. I'll get started on my end of the deal as soon as possible."
"Good, we'll await your words and will be ready should you need us on Solstice."
Harry brought his right fist to his chest.
"Strength and wealth, Terio."
"Strength and Wealth."
Terio nodded to the Vampires and then made his way back underground. Harry turned to Adrien.
"Thanks for your help."
"Think nothing of it, Athar. It is after all in our interest to see that man defeated once for all."
"Indeed, it wouldn't do for him to wipe your food source."
Adrien let out a small laugh.
They walked for a few minutes in silence.
"I wanted to ask you something," said Harry, his eyes fixed forwards.
Curious, Adrien spared him an interested glance.
"And what is it, Athar?"
"I would like to know if one of your men would be interested to practice with me. Teneb has been my only sparring partner for the past year, but we're starting to know each other too well and dummies are quite predictable."
The burly looking vampire, Max, if he remembered well, chuckled.
"Well, I see no harm in that… One of us could meet with you tomorrow night for some practicing. However, I would like to gauge your power level to see who could be an even match for you."
Harry nodded and relaxed the grip he had on his power, letting it flare briefly.
All the Vampires took a step back, a dazed red light entering their eyes. The Asiatic looking wizard and the dark one quickly shook it off, as did the women.
"Adrien? So what do you think?" asked Harry eyeing slightly confused.
Adrien looked Harry up and down, a hungry look in his eyes.
"You've grown since we last met, Athar." His voice had deepened a little.
Harry's right eyebrow shot up.
"What do you mean?"
"Your power. You can't understand, but to us vampires, power is like music. Before yours was a gentle humming; now it is the most enticing melody," he explained, taking a step forwards.
He looked at the other vampires who were looking at their leader worryingly.
The Asiatic one stepped forwards while the black one sent a shock through Max and the women did the same to the blond vampire.
"You should go now, Athar," he said, tense.
Harry shook his head, confused.
"What is going on?..."
Adrien smiled, displaying his fangs.
"Nothing at all, Athar…" He took two more steps towards him.
Harry was starting to get rather uncomfortable.
Hien-Na was joined by Max who seemed to have come to his senses.
"Athar, you need to leave, now. We will be back tomorrow night for some practice."
Harry's green eyes shifted back and forth between the two vampires.
/ Do what he says, Astyan, you need to leave, now! /
Harry was shocked by the mental urging from Rexeran and obeyed immediately. With a soft pop, he transformed into his raven form and flew away, back to Horevald.
It took him a few minutes to reach the clearing near the city. He landed and transformed back to his human form.
A large form landed next to him.
/ Are you alright, Astyan? He didn't harm you?! /
Harry frowned, feeling completely lost.
"What is going on, Rexeran?"
The Sowaroc brought his huge head against Harry's chest, not answering.
The dragon curled up around Harry, bringing his wing out to cover the both of them in a protective shield.
/ You have to promise me to be careful around Adrien, Astyan. /
"Why?" Harry asked, soothed by the magic coming from his bonded.
The Magical creature let out a mental sigh.
/ Adrien is one of the eldest Vampire roaming this world. He learnt many things, though his preferred field was the Mind Arts. However, he is also a Wielder. /
/ He can manipulate magical energies, store them and mutate them. But it makes him susceptible to raw power. High levels of magical energies act like drugs to him. If he doesn't shield himself beforehand, he loses all self restraint until he has siphoned that power. That's why you needed to leave. You couldn't stay! I can't bear to loose you once more! /
Through their bond, Harry could see that the dragon was highly upset at what had just happened. He leaned against the golden body, letting Rexeran shield him, knowing he needed the reassurance his rider was well. They stayed like this till dawn, the Dragon's heat protecting the young man from the winter cold.
The sun rays woke Harry.
He stirred like a cat, cocooned in Rexeran magic.
"Are you alright?"
The Dragon smiled.
/I am, Astyan. Forgive me for last night./
Harry petted the huge head.
"There is nothing to forgive. You were just looking out for me. I assume that it is not the first time that one of your bonded is faced with a crazed Adrien."
/Partly, yes. Adrien and I have a lot of history between us. He never learnt not to get involved in matters that didn't concern him./
Harry nodded, knowing better than to push for more information.
"That does sound like him."
Rexeran looked at him with concern in his rainbow eyes.
/Promise me to be careful around him, Astyan. I do not want to lose you to him./
"I will, Rexeran."
The young man rose to his feet while Rexeran shook the snow from his body, getting some on Harry in the process, earning a glare from his rider followed by a fistful on snow behind his ears.
Harry had barely the time to take deep breath as Rexeran used his wings to propel snow towards him, burying him to his waist.
The Dragon, just flicked his tail, sending more snow his way.
/If you're going to play with fire, you should be ready to get burnt, Astyan./ he answered his voice tainted with amusement.
Harry got out of the snow, using his fire element to vaporize it and dry his clothes. Then Rider and Dragon headed back towards Horevald in comfortable silent. Harry enjoyed the peace of the snow covered land and forest. With a start, he realized he had completely forgotten about his small fox. He just hoped that Hagrid had taken good care of the little troublemaker.
They reached the city's door. Harry made his way inside, while Rexeran took flight and disappeared in a small flash of magic.
Harry resumed his walk back to his rooms, deep in thoughts. Once there, he went to take a shower and changed clothes before slumping in a chair with a sigh.
He kept running everything in his head, trying to think of something he had missed, something he should have done. He was then a bit startled to hear someone knock on his door.
Standing up from his chair, he went to open the door.
Teneb shot him a small smile.
"Good morning, Harry. Can we come in?"
Harry stepped aside, letting them in.
"Have a seat. Is there a problem?"
Teneb looked at Celen.
Harry raised an eyebrow.
"Meaning there is. What is going on?"
Celen racked a hand in his hair.
"You know your friend has a communication stone?"
"I gave it to her."
"Well, apparently she left it in your world with someone else. He used the stone last night."
"Who was it?" cut Harry.
"Your red-haired friend," answered Celen.
"What did he want?"
Teneb held up his hand to reassure his friend.
"Nothing is wrong. The Elemental Masters would have called us is there was any cause for worry. He just wanted some news. I must say he was less than pleased to learn of what had happened."
Ron's temper might have cooled down drastically since he left, but that didn't meant it had disappeared.
"I get the picture."
"Indeed, He asked to talk to you as soon as possible."
"Alright, anything else?"
Celen spoke up.
"Yes. You know the Council have been gathered for two days now, don't you?"
"I do, I don't envy you having to sit those meetings," said Harry with a disgusted with a twitch of his lips.
Celen rolled his eyes.
"Anyway, after much - discussion -, they -"
"- You mean yelling?" cut Teneb.
Celen ignored his friend's jibbing.
"They decided that the situation needed to be evaluated once more given these new developments. They have chosen Reald and three other Masters to go to your world. Kesle will also come. They want you or Teneb to escort them along with a full wing's protection."
"I'll go then, Teneb and I will ask for volunteers to come with me."
Teneb handed him a piece of paper.
"I've already asked and all the members of your wing agreed to follow you."
"How long would we stay there?"
"A day, two at most. This ritual is supposed to take place on the 21st. If there is no problem, then it won't take much more than a day for Reald and his peers to evaluate the situation. There is also the Demons' matter. Apparently Reald might have come upon a warding ritual to protect your towns."
Harry massaged his temples.
"Alright, I'll leave tonight."
"I'll warn your riders to be ready. You'll have a few others coming along."
Harry turned expectantly towards his friend.
"What do you mean?"
"Healer Orian is sending two volunteers and two apprentices with you and Hysten has two Elites coming too," explained Celen, hoping that Harry would not inquire as to why.
"By the way, did the Vampires have something to say regarding those families they were supposed to hide away?" asked Teneb changing the subject.
He suspected that telling Harry that those four had been ordered to go to the Wizarding World as a punishment for distressing his friend in the Healing Wing would not go well with him.
"They told me they had all been hidden. But they will check to make sure no one was missing or that minor branches of those families were overlooked."
Teneb relaxed a little.
"This is good news at least."
"I hope so." He paused for a few seconds, debating whether or not telling Celen of his deal with the Dwarves. His decision made, he spoke up once more. "Last night, I met with the Vampires but also the Dwarf Council."
He repressed a snort at the gaping look on Celen's face.
"Terio sends his regards Teneb."
The Elf shot him a wry look.
"I don't doubt that or the fact that those were not his exact terms."
"Anyway, they agreed to help my people should worse come to worse. The deal is quite loose but the core facts are clear."
"What did they ask for?"
Harry shot Teneb a wry look.
"What makes you think they ask anything?
"Please, they are dwarves…"
"True. However they didn't drive that hard of a bargain."
"Their request was perfectly reasonable."
"Meaning a certain quantity of various metals and a power stone," answered Harry calmly.
There was a second of silence, then:
"WHAT?! How could you agree to such terms? To let them get their greedy paws on a power stone?!"
Harry just watched the young elf prince, slightly amused.
"I think they could have asked for far worse things. Moreover this stone will be engraved with warding, protection and healing runes. They won't be able to use it for anything else."
Celen racked his hand through his blond locks.
"I don't know… I mean… dwarves…."
"I could say the same… I mean… elves…."
Teneb repressed a smile as did Celen.
"Alright, though I don't think I'll inform the council of that particular deal," said the Prince, standing up. "So, you'll leave at dusk?"
"I just need to gather my things and talk to a few people. I also need to see to Hermione."
Tened walked to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I'll watch her, don't worry."
Celen looked at Harry, his eyes solemn.
"She'll be protected, you have my word, and nothing will come to her again. Hysten's men already volunteered to guard her."
"Alright, have everyone ready at the Dragons' landing area. Celen, how can I talk to my friend to warn them of my arrival?"
"Just use your stone. The destination code is Imnielen."
Harry nodded and watched Teneb and Celen leave the room, deep in thought.
Taking out his communication stone, he spoke up.
The stone started to shine gently and after a minute as Harry was about to end the communication, Ron's recognizable voice.
"Who is it? Hermione? Is it you?"
There was a slight pause.
Harry smiled a little.
"Yes, it's me, Ron."
"How are you? How is Hermione? What's going on? Why are you calling?"
"Whoa, slow down, Ron. I'm fine as can be in the current situation. Hermione is healing, she's getting better."
A sigh of relief was heard at that.
"Good, I hope you got whoever did that to her, and got them good…"
Harry repressed the feeling of rage that rose in him at the thoughts of Hermione's torturers.
"They will be punished accordingly to their crime, Ron. I won't let them get away with a slap on the wrist."
"That's good then. Now, why are you calling?"
Harry quickly explained what had happened leaving no time for Ron to start on one of the famous Weasley rants.
"So, if I understood everything, you're coming back tonight. Apparently, Voldemort is really really close to performing that big bad ritual that could open the gates of Hell and condemn us to an eternity of Darkness and those Elves admitted that he might be able to complete it, though they said it was impossible a few months ago. You are bringing more of those stuck-up pricks here to see if we're going to die in a few days. Moreover you made a deal with the Dwarves to get them to help us… Right?"
"Right in one."
There was a slight pause.
"I don't know how you can stay sane, Harry. I'll warn Dumbledore and the others of your arrival."
"Thank you, is there anything going on at Hogwarts?"
"You mean other than the Death Eaters attacks on the Muggles, the fact that Hogsmeade has become a no wizard land, that the Forbidden Forest in swarming with Dark Creatures? Or do you mean other than the fact that we have reports of Werewolves attacks in the North, of Kelpies and Chimeras running through the country."
Harry closed his eyes, trying to control the panic rising through him.
"Alright, the other riders and I will try to do what we can to help you. We'll arrive at dusk. How are things at Hogwarts?"
"Not that great, but we're holding up."
"Were there attacks?"
"No, a few scuffles here and there, but for now, I think they are trying to surround us and cut all communication lines."
"We will help as much as we can. How is everyone?"
"Tired, stressed, but we're fine for now. Except for Blaise and a few other students that is."
Harry felt himself grow cold.
"Blaise, as in Blaise Zabini?"
"Yes, you know, the Slytherin. They've been confined in the Infirmary for a few days. Apparently they all made an allergic reaction to something in their food... Nothing to worry about."
"Who were the others, Ron."
"Well, there was Blaise, his little sister, two cousins of his, a guy from Beaubâtons, another from the Spain school."
Harry started cursing quietly.
"Ron, it's extremely important, you have to place a 24/7 guard on them. You need to have Mrs. Pomfrey check them for any cuts or needle mark."
"What do you mean Harry? They've just eaten something that didn't go well with them, that's all."
"Ron, you don't understand, they are all members of the Enchanter's line. And the only thing Voldemort needs now is some pure blood from this line before he can complete his ritual. The vampires were supposed to get everyone into safe houses!"
"But Harry, admitting that someone managed to get some of their blood, how would they have get it out of Hogwarts to the Dark Lord. I- oh… I see what you mean. I'll go do as you said, Harry. I'll see you tonight."
"See you, Ron, take care."
The stone dimmed but Harry didn't waste time looking at it. Quickly, he packed everything he thought he would need.
At first he had first thought that nothing particular would be needed, this changed everything.
He looked at his battle outfit before placing it in another bag along with his poisons, their antidotes, his daggers, his sword, his darts and even his knives and bow.
He also took two leather bound manuscript and carefully placed them in his bag with other clothes for a week at least. He also placed a small chest filled with various precious or semi-precious stones to be used as focuses or during rituals.
That done he took the three large bags and gathered them on his bed. Then, he took out Terio's gift and activated the Flame.
There was a few seconds of silence before the gruff voice of the dwarf echoed in the room.
"Yes, can I talk to you for a few minutes?"
"You already are, but I can give you a few moments. I can say that between you and Snow White and his undead, I've never been so busy."
Harry repressed a snort at the picture of Adrien dressed as a fairytale princess.
"Well, I'll make it short. You must warn your Council that the Dark Lord of my Lord seems to have gathered all the components for his ritual."
There was a sharp intake of breath followed by a few grunts.
"I thought those idiots of Vampires were protecting those carrying the blood!"
"Thought so too, but apparently several were still residing in Hogwarts. They were all sent to the Healing wings this morning for food poisoning."
"But you don't believe it."
"No at all, it's too convenient and they would suspect nothing should someone come and take some blood to do some tests…"
"Convenient indeed, I'll warn the Council and warn those Vampires of that development."
"Thank you. Tell them that I won't be able to meet them at Horevald tonight, but that they can find me at Hogwarts."
"You're leaving again then?"
"Yes, Should something happen, it will take place in my world. Moreover the situation here is as stable as it'll get for now."
"Alright, I'll keep you informed of the Council decision. Should a battle take place, we'll probably see each other then."
"Not that I don't want to see you, Terio, but I hope it won't come to that to have you visit my world."
"Me too, Harry, me too. I'll go talk to the Council. Keep informed if things change."
"I'll do so, Health and Strength."
"Health and Strength"
The Flame went back inside its locket as Harry closed it. Closing his eyes, he racked his hand in his hair, mechanically tying it back while thinking over all that he needed to go over.
Rising to his feet, he went to his bags, adding a few more things to them.
That done, he exited his room, locked it tightly before heading to find Valera to inform her of what he had just learnt.
He found Valera along with Doryan, Celen, TEneb and several councilors in the Queen's office, going over the rebuilding of the Isles cities.
Valera looked up.
"Athar? Is there a problem, Reald and his peers are still readying themselves."
"None for now, your Majesty," answered Harry with a small bow. "I contacted my world to warn them of our arrival and learnt that several members of the Enchanter's line which had been guarded at Hogwarts had fallen ill at the same time due to an alleged food poisoning."
"You don't believe it."
"It's too convenient and it would be easy for someone to disguise himself as a healer and go take some of their blood with the excuse of running analysis on it."
Valera's frown deepened.
"I'll warn Reald of this new development. Do you think?..."
Harrry nodded grimly.
"I told my friend to have people guard them 24/7. However, I think it's already too late. As I speak, Voldemort must be readying himself to carry out his ritual."
A councilor cleared his throat.
"Let's not be hasty, Athar. The situation might not be so dire. After all they might not have had the time to take some of their blood or took too little."
Harry gritted his teeth, biting the words he wanted to say.
"We will take what we just said into account in our preparations, Athar."
"Thank you, your Majesty."
Bowing sharply, he left the room quickly before he blasted that councilor through the wall.
He then went to warn Jihar and Hysten before heading back to his rooms to contact Demenor.
On his way he stopped by the Healing Houses. Upon entering, he saluted the few healers there. He made his way to the room where Hermione had been placed. Two guards were standing by its doors and nodded to him as he passed them.
He found Hermione sitting on her bed, leaning against fluffy pillows. Healer Xaelle was at her side, talking quietly with her.
They both looked up as he closed the door.
"Look Hermione, you have a visitor again today."
Hermione smiled at him.
Harry smiled back.
"Hello Hermione, how are you today?"
Since the day she had broken down in front on him, she had started to improve dramatically. She was undergoing three to four Mind Healing sessions a day to heal the scars on psyche as well as right her memories that had been corrupted by the spiral. Her moments of lucidity were more and more frequent and longer. She sometimes fell back into incoherent panic attacks upon hearing a word that she could associate with her torture but it was getting rarer.
"Tired, still confused, but things are starting to get clearer."
"That's good. What are you reading?"
"Some book I had brought with me for light reading."
Harry eyed the thick book and read its title: "Comparative study of wandless versus focused magic."
"Only you, Hermione," he replied, chuckling.
"So, Harry, why are you here? Not that I mind your company."
"I came to tell you good bye."
A distressed expression made its way on her face upon hearing that.
"What? What happened?"
Harry went to sit on the other side of the bed.
"Do you remember the ritual Voldemort was trying to perform?"
Hermione's face scrunched up as she racked her jumbled memory to find this particular piece of information."
"I remember researching it a lot. It was something involving blood… The Enchanter's blood… and someone called Luctan."
Harry saw the healer go white upon hearing the name but motioned to her to stay silent.
"I was put on a day and night watch because of something I found in a diary, Grindelwald diary… It was something about Hell…. Gates…. The Opening of Hell's Gates!"
She nearly shouted the last phrase, so glad she was to have managed to remember it.
"That's right. Voldemort was only missing one key element, Enchanter's blood."
"That's right. I remember Vampires coming to the school to take some people away but Dumbledore refused, saying that Hogwarts was as safe as it could be. Apparently they managed to come to a compromise but then Blaise was placed under watch, his sister too…"
Harry gritted his teeth, so it was Dumbledore.
"That's true, Hermione. Ron just called me and told me that Blaise and all those people had been sent to the Hospital Wing due to food poisoning. That's why I'm going back. I think he managed to get enough of their blood to get some undiluted Enchanter blood. Should it be true, he will probably perform the ritual on the 21st."
"That's the best time for him to do so, spare Halloween. The longest night of the year."
"Yes, I'm going back to see if he managed to get some blood or not. If he did, then we'll have to prepare for the worst."
Harry squeezed her hand.
"We'll do all we can to prevent this from happening."
She offered him a trembling smile.
"I know you'll do, Harry. I assume I'm not allowed to come with you."
Harry shook his head.
"You still need to recover, Hermione."
"But I need to do something, or I'll go crazy trying to guess what is happening."
The young wizard bit his lip trying to think of something.
"I'll talk with Celen to see if you can help with the research. After all if you are well enough to read that," he pointed to the book, "you should be well enough to help the scholars. Provided that the healers agree to it, of course," he added after Xaelle shot him a pointed look.
"It's not like I have a choice."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"I'll send a message everyday to keep you informed."
"Thank you," she answered gratefully.
They talked for a few more minutes before Harry stood up to leave. Xaelle said a few more things to the witch before following the Athar.
Once the door was closed, she spoke up.
"Is it true, Athar?"
"If you mean what I told her about that ritual, then yes it is."
Xaelle took a deep breath.
"Then my prayers will be with you and my skills should you have need for them."
Harry bowed to her in thanks.
"My deepest thanks, but by guarding and helping my friend as you are doing, you are already helping me more than you know."
Xaelle crossed her arms in front of her chest and bowed low.
"Then I wish you luck in battle, Athar, May the Nine guide your arm."
"May they guard you."
He then left the Healing House to go back to his own. After talking with Demenor to warn him of this new turn of events and organize the wings.
It was already noon when he ended the communication with the Headquarters. Stretching a bit, he looked around trying to think of something he might have forgotten. His eyes fell on Pendragon's diary he had left on one of the shelves.
Opening it, he went to take a quill and started writing in it.
-What do you now of the Hell's Gates Opening Ritual?-
The diary glowed dimly for a few seconds before writing appeared.
This ritual was first tried by an Elf called Luctan. Only the combined effort of all the races managed to stop him from succeeding. Later on, Djaira also tried but failed to free what should be forgotten.
-What would happen should someone manage to perform the ritual?-
Should the Gates open, it would free all those who dwell in the Underground and unleash a wave of Darkness not even the one who freed them would be able to contain. For Demons recognize no master but themselves. Such an act would also broke the seal upon those who must be forgotten and terrors like never seen since the fist Age would spread across the worlds.
Harry frowned, who were those "who must be forgotten"? Coming to think of it, he had heard that phrase before…
-Who are "those who must be forgotten"? –
Evils. Devils that were sealed forever in the Depths of Hell while the First Dragons and the Nine Riders were protecting those Lands. It took the power of the Nine and of their bonded to trap them.
- What were they?-
The perversion of a Magis driven insane by greed and power. Nine children and nine dragons who were molded from birth to his perverted visions. They were tortured, broken and remade, transformed until nothing was left of what they had been and only darkness filled them. They killed their creator and started to kill and destroy.
Harry bit his lip. As if one insane killer was not enough. However that had to be what was driving Voldemort to open the Gates. He surely thought he would be able to bind those Nine devils to his will. However from what he had just read, Harry did not think they would follow him. Voldemort might think he was using them but in truth it was them that were using him.
Sighing, he started writing once more, having one more question.
-Why was Pendragon's line so important?-
I do not know the answer to that question.
Rolling his eyes, Harry closed the diary and put the quill aside. Looking at his watch, he decided that he would use the little time he had left to center and anchor his magic and powers. Settling himself comfortably on the thick rug near his bed, he closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, pushing inside himself to see his own power and ready it for what was to come.
When he came out of his meditation trance, having been careful not to even think of going to the First Plan, the sun was starting to set.
Standing up slowly, wincing as his muscles protested against having spent hours in the same position, he stretched once before changing into his Athar clothes. Waving his hand, he closed the tunic before placing his knives and his dagger in their holsters. Putting on his belt, he checked on his darts and the small potion vials hidden in it. Finally he took his sword and after checking its length once more sheathed it at his left side. Finally he clasped his cloak around his neck and grabbed his three bags before making his way outside. He ignored the eyes following him on his way out.
He stopped by the stables to check on Shadow.
The stallion seemed to sense that something was amiss as he kept pushing against his chest as if sensing a battle was nearing and he wanting to be part of it.
"I'm sorry, Shadow, but you can't come this time."
He turned to Erin who was watching from the sides.
"Take good care of him, will you? And if I don't come back, I made it so that he would be yours."
He ignored the wide eyes of the young man. It was strange to call him boy since he was only a few years younger.
"He seems to like you and I want him to belong to someone who'll treat him as he deserves."
With a last pat against the muscled neck, he left, trying to ignore the neighs and the sounds of kicking coming from the stables.
He made his way to where the dragons had landed. Reald and five other people as well as the two apprentice healers escorted by another healer and the two volunteers. Harry repressed a snort.
As if! He knew those two must have done something to be sent to the human world, but didn't pry.
He went to tie his own bags to Rexeran's scales before making his way to where the riders where standing. They all looked up as he joined them.
"Evening, Athar," said Kobalt, extending his arm with a smile.
Smiling back, Harry took his arm.
Then he turned to face all the riders.
"I know you volunteered to come, but I must ask you once more if you are sure of your decision. You must know that there is a high chance that the Dark Lord managed to acquire blood from the Enchanter's line. It is then highly probable that he will try to complete the ritual on the Solstice. Knowing that, I need your decision now."
The riders looked at each other, a small smile on their lips, nodding before turning to Kobalt who shot a wry smile at Harry.
"Demenor already warned us before we left, Athar. All of us know why we are here tonight."
Harry returned his smile.
"Then, call me Harry, and let's go."
All the riders put on their helmets and walked to their riders, a few of them helping their passengers to climb behind them.
Reald was waiting for him next to Rexeran with Teneb, Celen, Ysela and Delia.
"My mother apologized for not being as well as Doryan, but they had several people to meet, Harry."
The young wizard turned to the Elf Prince.
"You don't have to apologize. Thank you for coming."
"You didn't think we would let you leave without saying good bye, Brother."
Harry shook his head, chuckling.
He turned to Ysela and bowed.
"Thank you for being here, Lady."
Ysela waved his words aside.
"Call me Ysela, young man. And Delia would have never forgiven me if we hadn't come tonight."
Harry crouched down to kiss the young elf hand.
"Then thank you Delia."
"You have to come back real quick, Harry! You promise me to show me how to make fireworks!"
Shaking his head the young man ruffled her hair before standing up again and clasping his forearm with Teneb's.
"Desen hela athia" (Death and life)
"Lith tarx jomi" (Linked through all)
"You better not die without me, Astyan"
"I would not dare, Heldren"
Harry turned to Reald and saluted him, ignoring the cool edge of the man's voice. It seems the elf would never fully trust him. He helped him on his dragon after having transfigured some trappings out of a twig to make it easier on the elf.
Leaning against Rexeran, melding his mind to the one of his mount, he signaled to his wing to take flight. Twenty Dragons shot in the night skies, quickly becoming shadows before disappearing to the human world.
They reappeared high above Hogwarts, a thick cover of snow was spread over the grounds of the school. The chill air bit their skin as they quickly dove to land on the grounds. A small group came out of the castle, melting the snow to make a way.
Harry recognized the bright Weasley red hair among them. He quickly slid to the ground, helping Reald down then untying their bags.
He saw Ron, Kingsley, a woman and two other men approach.
Ron quickened his steps and was soon in front of him, grabbing in a strong hug.
The red-head shot him a smile.
"You're back just in time. The order will meet after dinner. The Vampires are here, as well as the Goblins."
Harry nodded as they started to walk towards the castle, while the rider kept looking around, taking in the difference and similarities to their world.
"How is Hermione?"
"Better, she was reading the comparative study of wandless versus focused magic when I left."
"She must be better then."
"And how are you holding up here?"
"Not much more than what I told you this morning. We checked Blaise and all the others. They all suffered from a severe anemia from what the healers told us. It wasn't present on their first scan when they were admitted. Two of them showed a puncture wound on their arm."
Harry's face turned somber.
"Did someone leave the school since they were admitted in the Hospital?"
Ron shook his head.
"No, not to my knowledge, the school has been on a lock-down for the past four days since we got report of chimeras and two Basilisks roaming the Forest."
"I'll have to check the wards and the school. If nothing or nobody left the school, then that means that the blood is still inside the castle and we can't let Voldemort get his hands on it."
Ron nodded as well as Kingsley who had been listening to the whole conversation.
"I'll get as many people on it as possible. There are several spells which can be used to find blood," said the Auror.
"Good. Kingsley, may I present you, Kobalt," he gestured to the Elemental on his right, "Water-Elemental and my Second. They'll be more time later on to introduce all the members of my wing. Just know they all volunteered to come."
Kingsley shot an appraising look at the riders following them.
"Thank you all. Any help will be appreciated in these times. Those masters of yours have finally realized we were at war and have started making themselves useful. The Swordmaster is holding a lesson to teach some basics in hand to hand fighting, knives and dagger. Same for the Archery master. The Horse Master has taken a liking to the herd of Thestrals living about the forest and has started taming them. The mind master is taking care of the compulsion check up as well as getting rid of any mind influence that might by pass the wards."
Harry repressed a smile.
"That's good to know. What about the Elemental Masters?"
"I think Hooch nearly killed them when Charlie burned two posts to ashes and some Beauxbâtons guy turned another into a giant oak. Since then, they've been working in the RoR."
Kobalt shot a look at Harry.
"The Room of Requirements. It's a room that provides you with what you need."
The Elemental nodded, a bit spooked by such a thought.
They finally reached the castle doors and stepped inside.
Harry immediately noticed that the hall had at least tripled in size. It was filled to the last chair with a colorful crowd. Harry could make out the grey robes of the Unspeakables, the blue ones of the Aurors, the red ones of the Order of the Phoenix and so forth.
The students were eating on the right side of the Hall and all the leaders at the Teachers' table which had been expanded too.
He noticed a wall was inscribed with names.
"It's the names of all those that died in the war, vampires, Goblins, wizards, elves, Magis or Elementals," explained Ron, having caught his gaze to the memorial.
Meanwhile, Kingsley had hurried to the Head Table and spoken quietly to several men who talked to the thin bracelet on their wrists, before standing up and leaving the hall. Immediately fifty people stood up and followed them out.
It was then that Harry noticed that silence had fallen on the Hall, spare some hushed whispers and that they had stopped in the hall entrance.
They resumed their walk inside.
"Harry, it's good to see you again."
The old man had stood up and walked up to him, embracing his former student.
Harry returned the hug before pulling away, noticing for the first time how frail the aged wizard was.
"It's good to be back too, Headmaster." He turned to Kobalt and motioned to him to come closer. "May I present you my second, Kobalt, Water Elemental, as well as all the riders of my wing who volunteered to come here today?"
Dumbledore smiled to them, eyes twinkling.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, young man. Welcome all."
He clapped his hands and the hall seemed to grow again as a new table appeared on the left side.
"Do you need to eat? House Elves will set up quarters for all of you next to the wing were some of their people already live."
Harry turned to the riders. He himself had not eaten but couldn't talk for all of them.
"Thank you for your hospitality, Wizard. We had yet to eat," said Joal.
They all walked to the new table and tried not to look too startled as food suddenly appeared in front of them.
Harry turned to Ron.
"I'll eat with them and come talk with you afterwards."
The red-head nodded and headed to a table on the right side where Harry spotted Cho, Susan, Justin, the Twins, Padma next to a blond girl with big dreamy eyes.
He went to sit next to Kobalt, starting to fill his plate and eat quietly.
He looked up to see Kobalt eyeing the food strangely.
"Where does the food come from?"
He tried not to laugh at the question every first year pondered at their arrival at Hogwarts.
"The school owns several lands and farms around from which the House-elves fetch food. Everything else is bought and brought here by the House Elves."
"So it's real food."
"As real as can be," he assured, biting in a chicken leg.
The riders started to fill their plates and eat, talking quietly among themselves.
As he ate, Harry noticed that several faces were missing, more particularly Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson.
He frowned at that.
As the dinner drew to an end, he motioned to the riders to follow him.
"I'll show you your rooms."
They all stood up and headed for Hall's door. Ron, Susan and Cho stood up and met with him on his way.
"We'll show them their rooms, Harry. The twins told me they needed your help in the dungeons. Nobody seems to be able to go inside the Slytherin Dorms. Not even Snape's password seems to work, neither the passageway from his rooms to the common room."
A grim expression made its way to Harry's face.
"I saw that Malfoy and Parkinson were missing. Does anyone else?
Ron looked around along with Cho and Susan.
"Yes, Morgain and Damien are missing, they're seventh year transfers from Beauxbâtons and Durmstrang," said Cho.
"Natasha is missing too," added Susan, "She's a fifth year from Beauxbâtons."
Joal went to Harry.
"You think that children might have taken the blood to that Dark Lord?"
The thought seemed to bother the Magis.
"Indeed. I think they might have been inducted during the summer and sent back to school to undermine the wards and steal the blood."
"Why let them come back then?"
It was Ron that answered.
"Because our Headmaster believes in second chances and didn't want to judge the children by their parents actions. Unless they wore the Dark Mark, they were allowed inside the school."
"Well, my friend will show you where you'll live. You are free to do whatever you want once you have settled down in your quarters."
Vanylle looked at her peers.
"I don't know for my comrades, Athar, but I would like to help with the search."
Several other riders nodded in agreement with the Elf.
Harry hid his surprise.
"Any kind of help will be welcomed, Ron," he pointed to his friend, "will answer any question you might have and point you to where you will be the most helpful. Thank you."
The riders nodded to him before following Ron and Susan.
Harry turned to Cho.
"I need to see Zabini."
"He's still in the Infirmary like all the others. Mrs. Pomfrey refused to let them out."
Harry racked a hand through his hair.
"Alright, I'll go see him then join the search."
"I will inform the Headmaster of this."
They started to walk away when Cho called his name.
The young man turned around.
"It's good to have you back."
Harry smiled and turned back, striding to the Infirmary.
He found Zabini and the others sitting in their beds, all of them reading some kind of book, or playing cards.
The young Slytherin looked up when he heard the door open.
"Potter? So you're back?"
Harry nodded sharply.
"I am. I came with some scholars and a full wing of Dragonriders."
Zabini's face turned somber.
"So the situation must be quite dire if those snobs deigned to loan us some assistance."
"It is. But I must ask you something. Did the vampires come to you to bring you and your family to some safe places?"
"They did, my whole family, even second degree cousins were spirited away. Only me, my sister and two of my cousins stayed here. We were all involved in the war effort and the Headmaster managed to convince the Vampires we would be safe. Why? What was so important about my family or theirs?" He pointed to a young man and a teenaged girl playing cards on another bed.
Harry looked at him piercingly.
"Your blood. It was your blood that Voldemort was after. All of you carry the Blood from the Enchanter as you are more or less direct descendants from Le Fay. He needed a large quantity to refine it and extract some pure Enchanter blood for the ritual."
"Thus the food poisoning… But who?..."
Harry raised an eyebrow at him and Blaise snorted.
"Draco and Parkinson… They must have already left by now."
Harry started to pace.
"People are searching the castle as we speak. The wards seemed not to have been disturbed so there still subsists a small hope that they are still in the castle.
Blaise shook his head.
"I wouldn't count on it. They must have left as soon as they got what they wanted."
"I think so but we're searching the castle as a precaution. Do you know how they might have left? To my knowledge, the school wards were reinforced and Ron told me the school has been on lock down for several days."
"I know as much as you do. All the passageways, at least all those known to us were sealed, owls are filtered, portkeys and apparition are impossible, Floo access is heavily controlled, not to mention password protected. The wards prevent Animagi from entering and exiting while in their animal form."
"Then it means they were given a way out. Probably by Voldemort."
Blaise couldn't repress a shiver upon hearing the name though Harry didn't comment on it.
Harry talked a little more with the Slytherin before going to help with the search. As he had expected, they found nothing. They even took some blood from Blaise as a last resort. The Magis cast different spells bordering on Blood Magic to try to locate the blood, but nothing came up on the maps meaning it had been brought to an unplottable place.
It was on that conclusion that they all went to sleep a few hours before the sun started setting. Adrien had sent word that he and his people were checking on the other safe places and were going to snoop around to get a feel of the Dark Creatures situation and would meet Harry on the next night.
Harry was woken by movements around him.
His year in the dorm with the other Daryns had made him a very light sleeper.
He opened his eyes and saw Ron and Cho standing up while the others were stirring. He looked at his watch.
He stood up and went to his bag to find some training gear he quickly put on.
"I'm going to train for some time, I'll see you at breakfast," he warned Ron who nodded yawning.
Harry spent an hour in the Room of Requirements, training himself while making sure he didn't drain himself. As he stretched while cooling down, he went through everything he had to do.
They were the 18th of December. Should Voldemort go through with the ritual, he would start as the sun set on the night of the 21st.
That left them with little more than three days to ready themselves to whatever Voldemort had in store for them.
He needed to talk with the goblins and Vampires regarding the help they could lend them. He needed to meet with the Centaurs. He would have to talk to Rexeran to see if he could rally Magical creatures to them to help with the Dark Creatures Voldemort had managed to gather.
They needed to find out what that madman had in store for them. Harry didn't doubt the fact that he would set his army to attack Hogwarts while he went to fulfill the ritual.
Stopping by his rooms on his way to the Great Hall, he took a quick shower and changed to his less formal Athar clothes. It consisted in black pants, a red tunic with his Athar mark over the right breast.
The atmosphere was subdued at breakfast.
Like every secrets in Hogwarts, it had not taken long for the rumors of what had happened during the night to make their way through the school.
Harry had sat with the other riders, talking a little to make sure they had settled well. This time none of them hesitated to fill their plate with food.
"No news?" asked Kobalt.
"No. In my opinion Voldemort is refining the blood his servants brought him and he'll have pure undiluted Enchanter blood in time for his ritual."
"We should get ready for the worst then…"
Harry closed his eyes with a sigh.
"I fear so. I was told there had been unrest among the Dark creatures for the past months, that there had been a lot of disappearances. The bodies were often found a few days later, quite horribly maimed in most cases, they were all killed by a slit throat."
Joal's face turned grim.
"He is gathering power, isn't it?"
"He is or was. Some of it must be linked to the ritual, but he will probably use some to summon Demons again."
"You think he will attack here, don't you?" asked Rensha, pushing some of her silvery grey hair out of her face.
Harry nodded, dabbing his mouth with his napkin.
"I'm sure he will. This is the last stronghold, save for all the undercover resistance cells. Moreover, it is a symbol. Should he overtake Hogwarts, it will be a hard blow to the Light. He will also get access to the school power and nodes, not mentioning all the work of the Founders that are still lying around. Add to that that he is obsessed with killing me and Dumbledore and invading Hogwarts and you know why I'm sure he will send his army to attack us."
"What can we do, Athar? None of us came here to stay cooped up in this castle," stated Xend, waving his four-finger hand in the air.
Harry shot him a smile.
"You are free to train here, or help the masters here train my people. I will go with Rexeran to check the grounds and lay some traps of my own. You're welcome to come and help me with that too."
The riders started to talk quietly among themselves. By the end of breakfast, two third of them had decided to go with Harry, while the rest would check the grounds on foot as well as the castle for spying devices, magical anomalies and some would join the warders' team to reinforce and add their own expertise to the wards surrounding the schools and its grounds.
Passing Kingsley on their way out, Harry stopped to talk to him, motioning to the rider to continue.
"Auror Shaklebolt, we're going to scout the grounds."
"They were reports of several Death Eaters settlements not far from here. The Vampires have been taking care of the Werewolves packs roaming the forest but there are always more that come."
"So they sided with Voldemort."
Kingsley shuddered upon hearing the name.
"They did, Remus barely escaped with his life from his last attempt at swaying them to ours. The Dark Lord was most convincing."
"At least the Vampires sided with us."
"Yes, though they seem to like scaring our people to death."
"Well, I'll best be going. I'll see you for Lunch"
The Auror nodded and resumed his way to the Hall
Harry met the riders outside and they all met with their Dragons.
Greetings, Astyan. Rexeran's voice filled his mind, accompanied with a warmth and joy.
He placed his head against the huge draconian one, relishing in the safe feeling filling him. Gently, he pulled back after a minute or two and looked at the Riders.
"We'll go in teams of two or three. Look around for any enemy settlement, anomaly in the magic or landscape that would suggest a trap or a concealment charm. I was told Death Eaters and Werewolves might be around so try not to be seen I would like our presence to be as much of a surprise as possible."
"What if we find something?"
"Nothing for now, we will all meet back here at noon and will decide together on the best course to follow."
All the riders nodded and climbed on their Dragons, disappearing into thin air as riders and dragons concealed themselves.
As Harry and Rexeran merged their minds, the young man was startled to be able to see all of them again as colored shapes shining before him.
/What is this?/
/Dragons can't hide from me, Astyan./
Harry chuckled as they rose in the sky.
/Alright, Rexeran, let's see what those murderers have in store for us./
Harry and the riders spent the whole morning flying around the school, noting everything that seemed out of the ordinary.
They all met at Hogwarts at noon and went to eat in the Great Hall. They ate quietly before Harry signaled to them to follow him. He had been one of the first back along with Kery who had come with him. As soon as he had been back, he had asked Kingsley to get some people together for a meeting after lunch. They would discuss their findings and try to come up with a plan.
They stepped in the Room of Requirements that expanded and created an appropriate set up for a meeting.
Harry went to sit down at the large circular table that had appeared in the center of the room and looked at the map of the region that was displayed over it. Meanwhile the riders all took a seat around talking among themselves as they did so.
A few minutes later, Kingsley and ten other people entered. The Auror, quickly introduced his companions, though Harry recognized Valyan, the Head Unspeakable, Perry, the Head Auror and Richardson, the VWF leader. Two others were part of the intelligence team, two from the coordination one, one a liaison to the Muggle world, another to the beings allied to the wizards. Dumbledore was the last one to arrive, his bright yellow with turquoise stripes robes nearly blinding everyone in the room.
The doors closed on him.
"So Harry, what did you all find?" asked Dumbledore.
"We scouted the castle and the area around for Death Eaters or spying devices."
One by one, they told what had seen while Harry added it to the map. By the time Kery finished telling what he and Harry had seen, he was putting the final touch to his work.
Leaning back in his chair, he eyed the enlarged map of Hogwarts grounds he had been colouring as the riders spoke.
Hogwarts northern and eastern sides were lined by the Forbidden forest. The Lake was on the Southern one. That left the western side as the easy access for on-foot armies.
He however couldn't dismiss the access from the Forest as it would protect Voldemort's troops from early detection. Should Demons join the attack, they might come from anywhere, their powers enabling them to journey through the shadows.
Four packs of Werewolves were roaming the forest, as well as many other Dark creatures. Harry had even spotted chimeras, quintaped, kelpies and at least one nundu.
There were five settlements of Death Eaters: three on the western side and two on the other side of the lake.
Two more packs of Death Eaters were camping with the troops in the west. Several aerial squads had been seen training. Apparently the Dark Lord had also had his minions build siege weapons.
All in all, the situation was looking bleak for the Light side. Harry could only hope that they had upped the training since he had last been here and that their allies would be the ace up their sleeve that would tip the balance in their favor.
Following the report, they all started to discuss what to do.
An hour later, Harry was ready to go to sleep. For the past twenty minutes, they had been going in circles saying the same things over and over.
Harry and the riders would set up traps with the help of the Elemental Masters and those who had gained enough control to help. The Vampires had agreed to thin the Dark creatures' ranks as much as possible. The Centaurs, unicorns, phoenixes and various other creatures had also agreed to help. The Vampires would concentrate on the nundus. Being Undead, they weren't as affected by their breath as others.
The Goblins were to help with the traps as well as giving a hand to the castle defenses should it be attacked. The different wizarding factions were going to scout the grounds some more, help with the traps when they could, and relay the Vampires during the day to deal with the Dark Creatures.
The Merepeople living in the Lake had come to an agreement with Dumbledore. They would help defend their lake against invaders. Many Kelpies had already met their wrath as well as the Giant Squid's.
As Perry was about to repeat himself for the fourth time, Harry spoke up.
"I don't know about the others, but I don't think we need to have the plan explained once more."
"Young man, it is essential that all of us know what we have to do," stated the man.
Harry repressed the spike of annoyance shooting through him.
"And I think, Mr. Perry that all of us are intelligent enough to understand it the first time, not to mention the third one."
The man flushed and would have spoken out had Harry not cut him.
"Now, if no one has anything to add, my men and myself will retire to get ready to do our part. W will meet with the Elementals to discuss their parts with them."
Harry stood up, followed by the riders, Dumbledore, Valyant, the intelligence representative, the muggle liaison and creature liaison.
"Now see here, young man..."
Harry held up his hand.
"Mr. Perry, when you start treating me as an equal I will do so."
He made his way outside the room, followed by all the other riders who had repressed a smile upon seeing their Athar putting the wizard in his place.
The Muggle liaison followed him quickly.
"Mr. Potter! Mr. Potter!"
Harry turned to face the man, Jason Thompson, a Muggle-born wizard from Salem that had left the Wizarding world to work in the Muggle one. He was working for the Crown.
"Mr. Potter, a pleasure to meet you."
"Like wise, is there something you wanted to talk about?"
"Indeed, though we should wait for Headmaster Dumbledore before I tell you more.
"I told you to call me Albus, Jason," said the aforementioned man, eyes twinkling as he joined them.
Harry shook his head, rolling his eyes.
He motioned to the riders to go on without him before giving the two wizards his full attention.
"What is the matter?"
Jason turned to Albus.
"Perhaps we could have this conversation in a more private setting?"
"Of course, my office is not that far," answered the Headmaster.
A few minutes later, they had reached the man's office and were settling in their respective chairs.
"Headmaster?" asked Harry, curious.
"Lemon drop, Harry? Jason?"
Harry gritted his teeth.
"Excuse me, Headmaster, I have a lot of things to do, so if we could get to the point?"
"Well said, my boy, well said. Jason, if you would?"
"Well, Mr. Potter," the man paused to gather his thoughts, "as you know Voldemort's attacks against the Muggle world have outed our world to them. Moreover, they have carried an extremely negative image of Wizardry. Anger is brewing and I don't know how long our governments will manage to prevent a full-out war against Wizards to break."
Harry repressed a sigh. He really didn't want to get involve in this. He had already enough on his plate as it was without shouldering this burden.
"What is it you want from me, Mr. Thompson? You have to keep in mind that I'm not really the one you should be talking to. Our Minister or the Headmaster would be those aptest to help you."
The wizard smiled.
"I know that, Mr. Potter. However you are own of the main figures in this war and my employers would like to meet the one the wizarding world is looking up to as their 'Saviour'."
Harry was about to protest that particular name but didn't have time as the liaison spoke up again.
"There will be a meeting of the various leaders of the Muggle world tomorrow night. A representative was chosen by all the wizarding communities for each continent. Mr. Dumbledore was chosen as Europe's but the Muggles specially asked for you to be present."
"I really don't think…"
Dumbledore's blue eyes sent him a piercing glance.
"I'm afraid your presence is mandatory, Harry. The Muggles were quite insistent."
Harry shook his head.
"Headmaster, mandatory or not, I think we all have much more important things to do for now. We've only got less than three days left to get ready for the Solstice."
"But the Muggles…"
"If Voldemort completes this ritual, the Muggles won't have anything to worry about, as there won't be much of their world left…"
Thompson's shoulders slumped down.
"Mr. Potter, please try to understand that…"
"Mr. Thompson, I can understand you predicament, but we are days away from a battle that will probably decide the outcome of this war. I'm sure the Muggles can understand that."
"They are afraid, they want assurances that…"
"And I want to be alive come Christmas and to do so, everything needs to be ready. I will agree to a meeting but only after the 21st, that is to say if I'm still alive."
Thompson opened his mouth to try to convince the young man but Dumbledore shook his head.
"What was decided anyway? I sure hope you had the Ministries work on that," asked Harry.
Dumbledore nodded gravely.
"Indeed. We all agreed that we would help the Muggles rebuild their cities. However what they don't know is that we all decided to use a massive Obliviate. It is an Enchantment that will target all being without an active Magical core, or without the right shields to protect their minds. The Squibs with knowledge and or involvement in our world have been provided with protective amulets. As we speak there only remain two hundred of them unprotected."
"What will be the replacement memories?" inquired Harry.
Thompson let out a small sad smile.
"Our experts have been working with our department to find an acceptable scenario to explain all the death and damage. The Story will be that the global warming was worse than what scientists had predicted and that several natural catastrophes occurred around the same time all around the globe: earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, massive flooding. This led to several epidemics that made hundreds of victims before the governments were able to either quarantine people to underground structures or distribute vaccine. These natural occurrences were also the occasion that several terrorist organizations were waiting for to launch attacks against the occidental powers. That should explain the weapons."
Harry nodded pensively.
"That's quite an intricate scenario. Will it work?"
"Many charm experts are working with Obliviators and Enchanters to come up with the spell needed and the requirements that will allow it to do its job."
Harry rubbed his eyes, sighing.
"Do the Muggles know what you want to do?"
Dumbledore shook his head.
"No, they would try to stop us at all cost if they did."
"What do they think need to be done?" asked Harry, curious.
Thompson cleared his throat.
"From what our Department was told, most are pushing for mandatory registration for all wizards as well as control devices to prevent us from harming a muggle or using to much power at once as well as research being led on us to find where our powers come from and how they could duplicate them."
"They would use us as lab rats or treat us as dangerous creatures meant to be controlled."
"To put it crudely, yes," admitted Thompson.
"Well, I don't really know what you want me to do, it's not like they will listen to a sixteen year old…. I assume you will want me to go all out?"
Dumbledore and the other man nodded.
"Yes, they do not know anything about you, except what they might have found in their own files. They probably got your medical files and school files."
"The Dursleys never took me to a doctor or a hospital. I was never ill enough to be worth such an expense. The mandatory shots were made at a charity. As for my school files, well that will make them underestimate me. I was not allowed to perform better then Dudley. And believe me, that's something."
Thompson repressed a grin.
"It will work to our advantage, then."
"Indeed, it will," agreed Dumbledore.
Thompson nodded and stood up.
"I'll go soothe some feathers then," he said, rubbing his temple.
"Don't hesitate to contact me if you feel they might do something foolish, Jason."
"I'll be sure to do it, Albus. Until then, take care."
The man stood up and left the room. Harry sat back in his chair.
"Is there something you want to talk about, Harry?"
The young man crossed his arm in front of him.
Silence followed his answer as he waited for his former Headmaster to ask.
Dumbledore finally gave in.
Harry uncrossed his arm and leant forwards.
"About the fact that you didn't let the Vampires hide every member of the Enchanter's line like they wanted to and had them remain in a school where known children of Death Eaters are also residing."
"Harry, my boy, you can't judge someone by his parents' actions. You should know how that feels."
"I'm not against second chances, Headmaster, but not when they endanger our whole world! Zabini and the others should have never stayed in the castle!"
"They were quite implicated in the war effort. Their sudden disappearance would have been a blow to the school's morale."
"So it has nothing to do with the fact that Zabini has become a leader of the "light" Slytherin and that you need him to bring the more hesitant or neutral SLytherin to your side."
Dumbledore brought his hand together on his desk.
"I must admit that young Blaise proved to be a strong young man that convinced many to join us, in particular among the more hesitant."
"That wasn't worth the risk! Without the Blood, Voldemort couldn't do anything!"
"Harry, Hogwarts is one of the most secure places in England. There was nearly no risks at having them remain in the castle."
"Hogwarts might have been secure, but that didn't prevent Malfoy or Parkinson from leaving to join their master with the last thing he required."
He held up his hand, preventing Dumbledore from giving him one more justification.
"I don't know how you convinced Adrien of this and I don't want to. However is you had really wanted to save Malfoy and his friend, you should have never allowed him back to his father."
That said, he stood up and left, making his way outside to meet with his team.
He spent the rest of the day in a blur, overseeing the different of riders and wizards as they reinforced the school's defenses and layered the land surrounding the school with their own brand of trap.
A few teams were sent to spell away several of the traps Death Eaters had set up and set some of their own, the Elementals and their students going with them to add their final touch to the work.
As dusk fell and dinner passed, Harry went to his room to fetch his sword and some of his knives and daggers. He then put on a simple tunic and a pair of pants before walking calmly up the Tower he had used to practice.
He met very few people on his way up, the entrance being close to Filch office, a part of the castle the students tended to avoid.
He climbed silently not wanting to attract the twin ghosts residing there. Once up there, he started to stretch methodically.
For the first time in several weeks, he wondered how his guardian was faring, he hadn't been contacted by Arxeren for quite a long time now and would probably wouldn't see him until things were over, that if he survived.
It was only the slight shift in the air around him as well as the magical ripple signaling someone's arrival and the slight whistle of a blade being brought down that warned him of the attack.
He whirled around and raised his own blade to meet with Adrien's.
The Vampire's face was sporting an amused smile.
"Good, Always be on guard," he said as he stepped back, sheathing his sword to his side, imitated by Harry.
"Good evening to you too, Adrien," said Harry, nodding to Maximillien, Optah and Hien-Na. "Are the families safe?"
"They all are. I wish to apologize for our oversight, Athar. We should have never let Dumbledore convince us."
"What is done is done, Adrien, no use crying over spilled milk. I know how convincing Dumbledore can be…"
The Vampire nodded.
"Indeed. I have gathered the Clans. Our army will be here on the night of the 20th. We thought it best that way. Vampires tend to get restless if confined for too long. Do you know of a place that will be able to house us and protect us from the sun?"
Harry quickly went other the various rooms inside the castle.
"How many vampires are we talking about?" inquired the young wizard.
Adrien shot him a dark smile.
"A little more than eight hundred vampires, among them one hundred Ancients. It will be the larger gathering of the Covens for the pas millennia."
Harry could not stop himself from gaping.
Eight hundred Vampires!
Adrien smiled, showing white fangs.
"Your Headmaster and Minister made a good deal with us, one they signed in blood."
"Isn't it dangerous for your race's survival?" asked Harry, frowning.
Adrien shook his head.
"The Keepers of Tradition and some warriors will stay behind to guard and teach our fledglings should worse come to pass, no matter what, our race and our legacy will survive."
"I only have one place in mind that is big enough to house all your people and shield you from the sun…"
Adrien raised an eyebrow.
"And pray tell where would this place be?"
Harry repressed a pleased smirk at being able to surprise the Elder.
"Why, but The Chamber of Secrets of course. You might want to get rid of the Basilisk carcass, the bones and dirt down there but it should house all of your people."
The Vampire Elder nodded.
"If what I heard is true, it should."
"You've never been there? I thought you would have…"
"You forget there is one requirement I do not fit to open this chamber, Athar."
Harry nodded while leaning against one of the wall.
Adrien took out a small disk out of his pocket.
"I'll need to be shown the Chamber to key my people in. It will probably be a good set up for the duel you asked of me a few days ago."
Harry shot him a shrewd look.
"I hope you are aware that wards will stop you from going into the school from the Chamber," he stated pushing himself from the wall. "As for that duel, you won't freak out again, will you?"
"No, Athar, I won't freak out as you put it." He bowed mockingly. "Now, lead the way, Athar…"
Well, these two chapters are now over with. Not that much action, but the next ones will compensate for it I hope.
Next chapter will show the last set up before the 21st of December as well as the start of the ritual.
Thanks for reading an I hope you have enjoyed these two chapters.