Wanda: (shoots canons everywhere, one of which hits Umbridge and sends her into a piranha pit) I'm back from the border of life and death called school! Summer vacation is here, and I'm finally getting into the good part of this story - the blowing up death eaters part! Sorry for the amount of thinking in this chapter, but I wanted to get some information straightened out. And yes, there will be eventual Harry/Rachel but as he says here he's a bit preoccupied. I do not own Harry Potter and I'm sorry I kept you waiting!
Chapter 8: The Beginnings of War
Training went on for six months.
Harry watched the changes with his own eyes, both in his friends, his classmates and with himself. Given his circumstances, he bounced between training with the rest of his classmates and training with the praetorian guard along with Rachel, Sirius and Remus. It was brutal, and grueling, and he was essentially learning everything that he should have learned over the past four years, along with skills that were mostly held by adults, within the constraints of a few months.
However, time was of the essence. Some times, Sirius and Remus would hurry down to Earth and return with information as to what was going on. Apparently, the purebloods had reacted to Harry spiriting away their children and their victims by calling him a kidnapper, the 'real' enemy, and making him Undesirable Number 1. The other students were outraged, especially Rachel.
Harry had expected himself to become very angry, but he found that he was, if anything, quietly amused by this response. Even when the results of their villainy and complacency was staring them in the face, they still looked for someone to shoulder the blame other then themselves. It was tantamount to Scar blaming the hyenas after freely admitting that he had murdered Simba's father, and the idea that the vaunted purebloods were expressing the general intelligence of a cartoon villain made Harry feel more inclined to laugh then swear and curse in anger. They had lowered their danger in his eyes, and he felt more prepared then ever to take Magical Britain by storm.
It was a shame that Dumbledore was falling for that party line as well, but at this point nothing would surprise Harry. The man was playing the waiting game again, and it was lucky that Voldemort wasn't, for some incredibly absurd reason, taking advantage of it. Dumbledore had clearly passed the age of a clever war general, and it would be better for him to retire quietly after this whole mess was over. Harry certainly wasn't putting any of his people's safety in Dumbledore's hands again, after how colossally he had failed many of his students.
Hestia and Flora were back on their feet, having been treated for extensive cruelty thanks to their parents that had somehow run under the radar of everyone who was supposed to take care of them. It still blew Harry's mind that Dumbledore saw himself as a champion of those who were 'light' but consistently failed to really save anyone, or protect them from Voldemort.
It was a miracle that Harry himself hadn't been killed by Voldemort; Vernon had thrown him out of the house on a whim over a dozen times since he was a child, making Dumbledore's 'blood protection' (Remus had told him what he had overheard in the Order of the Phoenix office a while back, and it still blew Harry away the conclusions those people managed to draw from vague information) even more useless then it would have been under normal circumstances. Given that both Vernon and Petunia had hated him, all Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy would have had to do would be to ask for his custody in exchange for a sack of gold, and Harry's death warrant would have been sealed. And it wasn't as if the Ministry didn't know who Harry's guardians were, Narcissa's lack of mark would have allowed her to approach the house, and the fact that the Death Eaters apparently hadn't realized this was the sole reason Harry was still walking around.
Then there was putting the stone, something a multi-murderer was after, in a school of vulnerable children. Add the Cerberus and the troll and its amazing Harry and his friends were the only one to end up in mortal danger during that year. Then there was the basilisk, and the rest of the parade of chaos that had traveled through the 'safest place in Britain'.
If Dumbledore was so determined to defeat Voldemort, he could have started by stopping every last one of the man's associates who needed a job done from entering his school. It wasn't as if the man was blind to this, he had known many of them personally in the last war, including Lucius Malfoy and Karkeroff, who had put Harry's name in the goblet!
Well, Harry wasn't going to leave his people in danger like that. Something had to be done, but it had to be drastic and it had to leave a message. A message that this kind of war and violence and fear mongering would no longer be tolerated, at pain of death.
Harry wasn't sure at exactly which point the weaker or helpless members of Wizarding Britain had become 'his people', but he was sure it had something to do with his increasing intimacy with Rachel.
Rachel had been at his side through all of his training, and he knew her as well as if they had been friends most of their lives. He liked her laugh, her smile, and the way she talked. She was regal and normal at the same time, two different sides of the same person. That was what Harry wanted to be.
He couldn't escape the burden of being the 'boy-who-lived' and therefore the people's champions against those like Voldemort, but he could turn it into a banner and a leading man against the darkness without loosing his identity and the worth of his life.
He wouldn't have thought that possible a year ago either. He knew that he wanted to protect other people. He had an innate sense of protectiveness to those who shared the fear he had felt after ten years with the Dursleys. Now, Harry channeled that feeling, that 'saving people thing' as Hermione had christened it, as he prepared to go to war to win them a better future.
Rachel taught him about strategy on their off time, and Megan/Mandy's propaganda had been printed and was prepared to be dropped at a moment's notice. She was a princess, after all, and she had prior to this been learning to take over her mother's position when she herself came of age. Many of the traits she had learned would be good for any leader, so she had shared them with him without him even having to ask.
Harry finally knew what she was talking about with Rayne making 'boyfriend' jokes. The idea was an appealing one, but his current duties demanded his full attention, so he did not address them. Besides, he was a commoner, no matter how extraordinary his life.
At least, that's how he felt.
Megan and Mandy, despite admitting that they were rubbish at direct conflict, were excellent speakers. Harry had listened to some of the stuff they had written and had found it very convincing, and appealing to anyone who was staying there despite blatant mistreatment and positively medieval laws. Rachel said that they would make good diplomats one day.
That would come in handy when they finished the war.
Harry knew the time to invade was coming soon, and the others seemed to know it too. He could see it in the way his friends walked and talked after meals, during practice, and in the way they viewed certain situations.
Harry was proud of how far his fellow classmates had managed to improve and prepare compared to how they had been before. Despite being wrong-footed at the beginning of training, since what they were faced with was a much higher grade then anything they had used before, they had recovered with impressive quickness and took the job very seriously.
Rachel would walk among them, looking extremely pleased, shouting instructions or corrections or encouragement, and at the end of the day she would rave to her mother how well everyone was doing. Whenever Harry had a break from his own training, he would join them. It was a mark of how much things had changed that virtually everyone greeted him with friendliness and familiarity as opposed to uncertainty and doubt.
Harry knew that it this set up, mixing the others together and putting them in classes depending on their strengths and aptitudes as opposed to any strict 'characteristic' allowed for growth that would have been restricted or virtually impossible otherwise.
He had experienced this freedom for the first time when he had arrived here, and his first thought had been to share it with the others. If it hadn't been for houses, Harry probably would have been more prepared to make more friends over the years. How many friendships had been broken apart when children were slated into 'opposing' houses?
No one's future was decided when they were defined by such rigid rules, rules that made such things look otherwise. There was no fate but that which you made yourself, and Harry had been determined to make that clear to those who had thought previously that they had no choice but to accept the lives that had been laid out for them by an uncaring, backwards, hypocritical world.
Before, the former Hogwarts had been crippled by house rivalries, by favoritism, uncertainty and fear. Their fighting spirit had been crushed by inaction and by fear mongering, fear mongering that everyone had refused to respond to.
Here, none of that existed. Now, they were becoming a well-oiled war machine.
The Weasleys, as a family unit, had proven to be particularly devastating in virtually all of the simulations Edmund had prepared for them. Fred and George, as Rachel had predicted, had taken to tanks and flash grenades like a duck to water, and Ginny was one of the best fighter pilots that they had. Ron had taken some time to find a role that suited him best; but once he was introduced to the bomber planes he was right at home. Ron had an affinity for chess, but he was also a big fan of using a hammer to solve all the problems he faced with. Except, instead of a hammer he could use military grade bombs.
Susan Bones and Hermione had struck up a quick friendship, which didn't surprise Harry in the least when he had stuck his head into the tactics room and listened in on the discussions. Susan had a very sharp mind, and Hermione possessed a wealth of information. Hermione would give the information, Susan would apply it. They were learning to be infiltrators on the side under Blaise Zabini as a secondary job. They weren't quite front liners, but they were good warriors nonetheless.
Neville was a front-liner like Harry had rarely seen, once he built up on his growing confidence. Harry was the strongest duelist of his age group, but Neville was one of the few good enough to give him a run for his money. Hannah, his friend and secret admirer, had opted to go into healing. They made a powerful duo; Neville would defend while Hannah stopped to help anyone who had sustained injury. Neville wasn't good with planes, but he was one of the best shots in the entire fifth year demographic, surpassed only by Tracey Davis.
Tracey had thrown herself into the training regimen with a fever, learning to shoot just about everything that Elysium had to offer. When it came to magic, she had some of the highest ending scores in the entire congregation, which was impressive given the numbers and the sprawl of capability across the spectrum.
She was the one who told Harry about Lilith Moon's abilities. Once Rachel had heard about Liltih's (often questionable) control over the elements, she had moved the silver-haired girl to a more specialized assistance lead by the praetorians. Lilith, who had labored for years under the fears that she would never be able to control it, that she would burn herself out trying to keep the moon at bay, had been delighted. Upon seeing some of what she could do in person, Harry had thought her one of the most dangerous people he had met.
Sirius and Remus had stepped out of training with the praetorians looking much better for it. At some point, Tonks had seen Remus about to slip back to Elysium and had demanded to go with him. Remus had caved when she insisted that she had told Dumbledore nothing and wanted to stay with him and Harry. Now, attitudes towards werewolves on Elysium were decidedly more nuanced and friendly then those back in Britian. Remus's confidence had been rising ever since his arrival, so when Tonks confessed and asked to go out with him, Remus didn't turn her away.
Sirius was having the time of his life, both being out of Grimmauld Place and being able to contribute to taking down the man and the society who had killed his best friend and thrown him into Azkaban to rot for twelve years. It hadn't taken him long to work himself into a deadly fighter.
Harry, in his off time, spent hours with his godfather, talking to him about anything from movies (which Sirius had seen a surprising number of – the more his family had tried to stop him from seeing muggle culture the more he managed to integrate himself with) to stories of pranks Sirius and his father had managed to pull back when they were students. The more they talked, the more Harry felt he knew his godfather. Sirius, personally, felt that during these times he started to see more of Harry and less of James. He was glad to see his godson for who he truly was.
Blaise and Daphne were assassins and quiet killers through and through, and their ability to adapt their skill set to larger battles and invasions was impressive.
They were his top infiltrators, and Harry was prepared to deploy them soon. Susan and Hermione had a plan on how to start this, and once the end of the month was through, it would begin.
Harry's own training had been finished prior to the rest of the former Hogwarts students, since he had officially started sooner given his early entry to Elysium. Now, he was relaxing, watching the sun go down, a feeling of certainty deep in his chest.
Rachel came and sat down next to him.
"Are you worried?" She asked.
Harry gazed across the evening sky and said, "Well, I'm not not worried – there's always a chance something can go wrong. I hope everyone is careful. But to be honest? I do believe we can win this. We will win this. We're ready for it and they'll never know what hit them."
Rachel grinned. "Nice to hear some confidence from you. You used to worry about...well, just about everything."
"I was used to having everything go wrong," Harry admitted. "The first few years when I was really out in the world there was always a disaster dogging my heels. And before that I was living with the Dursleys. I wasn't sure if anything that went right would ever stay that way, and often when it did something would go wrong. Like when I first rescued Sirius."
He looked at Rachel. "But then I came here, and I'm finally in control of my life. I'm not wondering what will go wrong next or floundering around because I'm not sure of what to do. I have purpose, but even more then that I have direction. My own direction, not a direction given to me by Voldemort or Dumbledore or Uncle Vernon."
Rachel nodded, watching him with deep green eyes. "Even when things were going wrong you managed to pull yourself out on top every time," She said. "When you weren't sure what to do or when something blew up in your face you managed to bounce back from it and stop Voldemort from getting what he wanted. Not everyone in your position would have been able to pull that off, especially someone who lived in a house where they were constantly told that they were stupid or wouldn't amount to anything. I'd say that's a promising start."
Harry smiled. "Thanks Rachel. I probably wouldn't have gotten here without you."
"I think you could have," Rachel objected.
Harry shook his head, "After a lot of people got hurt. I used to be pretty reckless Rachel. Looking back at myself I'm amazed I managed to achieve what I did, because I always had directions from a man I'm starting to think has gone legitimately senile. In many ways, I had my own prejudices that I was blind to."
"Well, everyone does," Rachel responded. "No one's perfect, Harry. We can all look at the past, but either we can run from it or learn from it."
"I know." Harry leaned back on the bench. "I'm just...glad I got an opportunity. I mean, what were the chances of us running into each other that day? To be honest...I've been wondering lately what might have happened if I hadn't met you."
Rachel's face took on a slightly mischievous look. "What do you think might have happened?"
Harry chuckled. "To be honest, I'm kind of scared of the stuff I came up with. I wasn't in a good place, back then. I would've made bad decisions. I might have trusted the wrong people. I might have let the helplessness I felt interfere with my judgement. People would have been hurt."
Rachel thought about that, before saying "I've been there. I've made my own set of bad choices. I mean, objectively it was pretty stupid of me to go down there, to the Surface, without any backup in case something happened. Good things came out of it, but it was a close running."
Harry knew she was right. Elizabeth was regal and thoughtful, but Rachel was her daughter, and if she had lost her soul to that Dementor on Wizarding Britain's grounds, and Fudge refused to accept responsibility for it...
He didn't doubt that Elizabeth would have leveled the country.
"Sometimes I look at the things that have happened to me," He remarked, "And I have to wonder if I'm lucky or unlucky."
Rachel snickered and rested her head against his shoulder. "That is the question of the year, isn't it? I'd say it's probably both."
Harry's smile widened slightly. "I think so too."
They sat together in silence for a while, watching the sun go down. "Elysium looks beautiful in the evening," Harry said.
Rachel made a noise of agreement. "Especially in the gardens," She said. "Sometimes, when I have nothing else to do I just go out and sit against the bark of the thousand year tree and look out across the garden. The light of the sunset makes it look like a painting came to life. Heaven can be a place on earth after all."
"There's a thought," Harry said softly. "I wonder if Britain was ever like that."
"It was, a long time ago." Rachel said softly. "Before Morgana."
"The muggles in Britain have a legend that says King Arthur and his knights would return in their darkest hour," Harry recalled. "Do you think that's true?"
Rachel thought for a moment. "It sounds rather like a magical vow...but there would be the question of what constituents as Britian's darkest hour. It's possible. It sounds like something Merlin would have cast, and Avalon wasn't destroyed. It just...disappeared."
Harry hummed and thought about that. "Well, the bloke hasn't shown up yet. I guess they'll have to take us as replacements."
Rachel snickered. "I would have thought they'd be a bit put out to get a scruffy bunch of teenagers instead of King Arthur."
"We're all that's available right now. We apologize for the inconvenience," Harry said in his best muggle airport guide voice. Both of them broke down laughing.
One Week Later: 42 Hours to Invasion
"Are you two ready?" Susan Bones asked, standing just behind Harry.
Blaise Zabini and Daphne Greengrass weren't dressed in their undercover Death Eater robes yet, but Harry knew they were schooling their faces into the cold indifference that was characteristic of many young purebloods. It never ceased to amaze onlookers how easily the two of them changed from their actual personalities into their covers.
"Yes." Blaise said. "The wait is almost over. Training has finished. It's time for things to change."
Daphne nodded. "Our families are fairly high in pureblood society, and my parents are high in Voldemort's personal esteem. We're virtually guaranteed high placements in his army. Expect information on the Death Eaters and Riddle himself by tomorrow at the latest."
Harry had kicked himself for not sharing Voldemort's origins with the rest of Elysium sooner, which he did on the third month of training. Needless to say, many people were shocked to discover one of the biggest muggleborn haters in history was a halfblood with a muggle father.
"I have faith in both of you," Harry began, "And I know I don't have to remind you to be cautious, but I will again for my peace of mind."
Blaise's lips twitched into a split-second smile. "You worry too much, Potter. We know."
"We'll be watching the sky for you're arrival." Daphne added with a catlike smirk. With the bright flashes of their portkeys, the two spies disappeared.
Harry clapped his hands and turned his attention towards Susan, Hermione and Rachel. "All right, it's time to get everyone mobilized." He said.
And the invasion will begin soon! I'm a bit held back because my prior attempts at writing battle scenes were clunky at best, but I will get the next chapter out in good time, and the vaunted pureblood society will go down in flames with it! Ha!
Read and Review please!