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White Knight, Grey Queen
8 - Finishing
Pansy stirred, sleepily opening her eyes and looking around in the dark. Something had disturbed her; she just didn’t know what.
Harry was fast asleep beside her; his chest rising and falling with a comforting regularity. She reached out and brushed his hair back softly, checking that it wasn’t him that had caused her to wake.
After the meeting, Harry had moved Ron, Hermione, and Ginny back into the Room of Requirement. He hadn’t actually told anyone, but with Dumbledore’s surprising announcement, and how he had talked to Molly earlier, he’d known that no one would stand in his way.
They’d all gone to bed after the meeting; she had been exhausted and knew that Harry and Ginny were as well. Their absorption of Nott’s powers had tired them out, and spending the rest of the evening bringing the Order up to date had finished them off.
Ron had gone straight to his room, keeping to his promise of leaving them alone.
She sighed softly. If it had been her choice, Ron would be out of their lives so fast his feet wouldn’t have touched the floor. He’d hurt her, and he’d hurt Harry and Ginny. Her instinct was to take steps to make sure he’d never do it again; no matter what it took. But he was still Harry’s best male friend, and that did concern her a little. He needed more male friends, but he seemed more comfortable around girls.
She felt the same thing that had awoken her again, so she crawled out of bed. She straightened her silk pyjama top and padded quietly out into their living room. The stone floor was cold, so she danced over to Ginny’s door, and placed her ear to it.
Pansy could hear a low muffled sound, so she slowly opened the door. Ginny was tossing violently on the bed, asleep, and in the throes of a nightmare. She walked over to the bed and gently touched Ginny’s hair, brushing it back.
“No, you can’t,” Ginny whispered in her sleep. “I won’t let you.”
Pansy frowned and whispered, “Legilimens.” She carefully sank into Ginny’s mind, wanting to see what was causing her nightmare.
She looked around mentally and then pulled out quickly. She ran from the room and into her own. She jumped on the bed. “Harry!” she called urgently.
Harry was out of bed, standing in a defensive position before she could blink. “What?” he growled, looking around for anything that might be a threat.
“Ginny’s having a nightmare.”
Harry relaxed a little. “And?” he asked dryly.
Pansy shook her head slowly. “Voldemort’s in her mind. I could see him.”
“You went into her dreams?” Harry asked, his hands moving to his hips.
“She woke me,” Pansy shrugged, not really concerned about the lack of Legilimen ethics she had just displayed. One of her family needed something, and no silly rule was going to stop her doing whatever was needed to help.
Harry sighed softly and looked vaguely amused, as he headed toward Ginny’s bedroom.
“I want us both to go into her nightmare and get Voldemort out of there,” Pansy stated firmly.
“She might not want us in her mind.”
“Tough,” Pansy said firmly. “No one wants him in their mind. And he doesn’t get to play with Ginny anymore; she’s ours.”
Harry nodded slowly. “Okay, let’s go.”
They walked together back to Ginny’s room. It was smaller than theirs, with a single bed in the corner. The clothes she had been wearing earlier were lying on the back of a chair, and the bags full of the clothes they had purchased were still unopened.
Ginny was tossing and turning restlessly in her bed. She’d kicked the covers onto the floor, revealing the short t-shirt and a pair of men’s boxer shorts that she slept in.
Harry walked over to her and sat on the side of the bed. Like Pansy had earlier, he reached out and brushed Ginny’s hair back. Pansy walked over and sat on the other side of Ginny.
“Ready?” he asked softly, looking at her.
“Damn right,” she smiled.
“Legilimens,” they whispered together, sinking into Ginny’s mind.
They were in the Gryffindor common room. It was completely empty without even the fire roaring, as it normally did throughout the year.
“I wasn’t here before,” Pansy said slowly. “I was somewhere else. It was dark, and there was a big statue.”
Harry nodded. “The Chamber of Secrets,” he said. “Let’s go.”
They jogged out of the room and down the stairs, heading toward the bathroom. As she followed Harry, she watched as his clothes seemed to blur, and he was suddenly fully dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.
It took her a few seconds to realise that since this wasn’t real – they could look however they wanted. It was a mental projection of their physical forms. She copied Harry, replacing her own sleepwear with more comfortable clothes.
They entered the bathroom, and the entrance to the Chamber was open. Harry dove straight into it, and she followed him without hesitation.
They fell for a distance, until Pansy felt herself slow and she looked down. Harry had his hands out, and his lips were moving as he whispered under his breath. They landed gently, and he sprinted off. She could feel his worry now, and his desire to protect both her and Ginny. It was mixed with a sense of determination as he mentally prepared himself to do whatever was needed.
He skidded to a halt and placed a finger to his lips.
“Give in to me,” they could hear a voice croon.
“Voldemort,” Harry mouthed.
“Never,” they heard Ginny reply.
“Oh, you will,” the form of Tom Riddle whispered intently. “After giving me so much power earlier, you can’t fight me forever. I will wear you down. No one can get me out of their mind. And just think, no one will ever believe you. They’ll think you’re just being silly; a silly girl in love with another woman’s man.”
“No,” Ginny whispered, sounding upset.
“Oh yes,” Riddle’s smirk was audible. “But I could help you. She’s a dark witch, you know that. You stop fighting me, and I’ll get rid of her for you. You’ll be able to have him then. He’ll be yours, and you’ll have what you’ve wanted all these years. Your only rival will be gone.”
“No,” Ginny said, sounding firmer. “I love Pansy, and I won’t betray her.”
“Stupid girl,” Tom hissed. “I offered you what you wanted, and you throw it back in my face. So now, you’ll have to pay for it. Maybe I’ll kill your mother or one of your brothers first. Because I will win, and as soon as I do, I’ll start killing your family, and all you’ll be able to do is watch the expressions of betrayal on their faces as their darling Ginevra kills them.”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Pansy said calmly, walking into view. She was not going to let him do anything else to Ginny. “Ginny has friends this time around, friends that love her, friends that believe in her, and friends that will fight your ugly arse.”
“Ugly?” Riddle asked, rearing back. “I have it on good authority that I’m very good looking.”
Pansy stared at the form of Tom Riddle and shook her head slowly. “This isn’t real, Tom; this is a dream. And even in a dream, you can’t hide the fact that you’re ugly.”
“Oh, Pansy,” the future Dark Lord sighed sadly. “And you had so much potential. You could have been one of my favourite servants. You would have had so much power.”
“I’m going to have more power than you can ever believe,” Pansy said softly, moving over so that she was standing next to Ginny. “And I will have it without having to kneel to anyone. I will help rule with my husband and my family, and we shall bring forward an era of peace and prosperity the likes of which have never been seen, and we shall be immortal. When you are nothing but a forgotten, unmarked grave, we shall be remembered throughout time as heroes. You will be nothing but a footnote to our place in history.”
The figure in front of her reared back as if struck.
“You can’t defeat me,” Tom hissed. “I have her, and I will have you soon, too. You gave her to me. You gave me the power I needed to return when you took the Death Eater’s magic. And now you will pay for what you have done. You will pay for interrupting me. You will pay with your life.”
“No!” Ginny yelled, jumping to her feet. “I won’t let you!”
“Sit down, foolish child,” Voldemort roared, pointing his wand at Ginny.
Ginny collapsed against a ledge and struggled, trying to rise.
“You’ve not got your wand,” Tom smirked at Pansy. “A mistake you will pay for with your life.” He pointed his wand at Pansy.
“Why would she need a wand?” Harry asked. He was leaning casually against the wall, his arms crossed.
She smiled. She hadn’t been worried. She knew that Harry would protect her; he would always protect her and Ginny.
“Potter,” Riddle sneered, “you’re wandless as well.”
“And you’re an idiot,” Harry sighed. “None of this is real and neither are you.”
“What?” Riddle hissed.
“You said so yourself,” Harry smirked. “You never left; you just got a power boost so you could return. You’re a bit of magic, a remnant of a spell. You’re nothing but a bad memory.”
“I am Lord Voldemort!” he hissed.
“You were never Voldemort,” Harry sighed. “You’re a teenager with delusions of grandeur. How does it feel to know that your plans are falling apart, again, and soon you’ll be dead? You will never know what it’s like to be immortal.”
“I can not be defeated!”
“You can,” Harry corrected, calmly. “You couldn’t even take control of Ginny. She would have fought you and she would have won. She’s stronger than you will ever know.” He paused and turned his head and looked at Ginny. “Stand up,” he told her simply.
Pansy watched as Ginny turned toward Harry and stared at him for a few seconds. She slowly nodded and turned to face Tom Riddle.
“This is my mind,” the red-haired girl said slowly. “You have no power that I don’t allow you here.” She started to move, struggling, and then surged to her feet.
“You’re nothing but a memory,” Pansy said. “And we are experts at dealing with unwanted memories.”
“Crucio!” Voldemort yelled, pointing at Harry.
“No!” Ginny yelled, and the spell stopped in mid-air. “I said no!” Ginny whispered, walking forward. “They are right. I’m not a child anymore. I’ve lived through your possession. And you’re wrong about my life. I have friends; I have friends who will save me from you when I need it. I have friends willing to help me face you. I have friends who will never think I am silly or laugh at me. I have the sort of friendship with Harry and Pansy that you can never understand, that you can never even believe exists.
“I would die for them,” she whispered and walked over to Tom. “And you know something? I know they would die for me as well.”
Ginny turned and looked at Harry. “How do I kill him?”
Harry smiled faintly. “He’s only a spell, Ginny.”
She nodded slowly and turned back to Voldemort. “Goodbye,” she said cheerfully.
“Wait!” Voldemort yelled.
“Finite Incantatem,” Ginny said softly.
“No!” Tom yelled. “You can’t do this. You can’t do this to me. I’ve been your best friend forever. I can still be that friend.”
“I have better friends now,” Ginny said. “Finite Incantatem,” she chanted again.
Pansy smiled faintly as Riddle’s image started to waver.
“No!” Riddle yelled. “No!”
“Yes,” Ginny whispered. “Goodbye, Tom.”
There was silence as Voldemort vanished completely.
“Is he gone?” Pansy asked.
“He is,” Ginny whispered. “He’s completely gone.”
“And he won’t be back,” Harry added. “Good work, Ginny.”
“He was waiting for me,” Ginny said. “I didn’t expect him, but as soon as I fell asleep, he pulled me here. I was so scared.”
“You fought him,” Pansy said firmly, pulling the smaller girl into a tight hug. “You were so brave.”
“How are you here?” Ginny asked.
“You’re family. We’ll always be where you need us. I think I felt that you weren’t sleeping properly, so I came to check up on you and used Legilimency to see if you were okay. When I saw that you weren’t, I grabbed Harry and we both came to help.”
“Not that you really needed us,” Harry smiled. “You were doing a good job on your own.”
“I needed you,” Ginny said firmly, looking out from Pansy’s arms. “I believed him.”
Harry smiled softly. “It’s late. We should get out of your mind.”
“You two are welcome inside my mind at anytime,” Ginny said seriously. “I’ve got no secrets from you.”
Harry smiled. “When we vanish, it will be time for you to wake up.”
Pansy hugged Ginny one last time and looked at Harry. As he nodded, she cancelled the spell and found herself looking down at Ginny on her bed.
Ginny opened her eyes and burst into tears. “He’s gone,” she whispered. “He’s really gone.”
“Of course he is,” Pansy smiled, hugging the smaller girl.
“Thank you,” Ginny sobbed.
“You’re welcome,” Harry said softly, reaching out and stroking Ginny’s hair. “Come on, Pansy, we need to get back to sleep.”
“I’ll be there in a second,” Pansy replied.
Harry nodded and walked out the door.
“How long has he been there?” Pansy asked.
“All the time,” Ginny shrugged. “I could handle it, and there didn’t seem to be anything anyone could do.”
“Don’t hide anything from us,” Pansy said softly. “No matter how silly you might think it is. If we can’t fix it, we can find someone who can. You’re family, Gin.”
She walked to the door and then turned and paused, looking at Ginny. The girl had a forlorn expression on her face.
She smiled softly, realising that Ginny didn’t want to be alone. “Come on,” she said, holding her hand out.
“Huh?” Ginny asked, but Pansy could see the hope in her eyes.
“You’re not spending the night alone.”
“Come on, you’re sleeping with us tonight. You don’t want to be alone.”
“Thank you,” Ginny whispered and climbed out of the bed fast.
Pansy took her hand and guided her silently into her room. She could already feel that Harry was asleep, which was a good thing. She wasn’t sure how he’d react to this. She climbed into bed next to Harry and gestured Ginny in next to her.
Ginny climbed in and snuggled down into the bed. “Thanks,” she whispered.
Pansy smiled softly, “Sleep.”
Ginny smiled back and closed her eyes.
Pansy stared at the ceiling, feeling a little too awake to just drop back off into sleep. She wanted to know why Ginny was allowed to continue with Tom Riddle’s spell in her mind.
Why had no one bothered to check to see if he had been completely removed?
Why hadn’t Dumbledore done something, anything about it?
She didn’t trust the headmaster and didn’t trust his earlier declaration that he would follow Harry. Something didn’t seem right with the whole situation. She was pretty sure that Harry hadn’t just accepted it blindly either.
She felt Ginny move against her and wrapped an arm around the other girl. Ginny was so courageous to deal with Voldemort for so long, and at the same time, she never gave into him. She was so impressed that Ginny had resisted him for so long. But it was what she expected from the younger girl.
She yawned and closed her eyes, letting herself drift into a light sleep. She wanted to be able to react if Ginny had any more nightmares.
Pansy woke again and inhaled. The smell of flowers filled her nose, and she smiled slightly. “Ginny,” she whispered softly. The younger girl had pressed against her during the night and was lying across her.
“Hmm?” Ginny asked, not opening her eyes.
“Let’s get up early,” Pansy said. “It will save questions later.”
Ginny opened her eyes and looked around. “Thank you,” she said softly. “I needed that.”
“I know,” Pansy replied. “Now, let’s get you out of here before Harry wakes up.”
Ginny nodded and rolled out of bed, wincing as her feet touched the floor.
“Harry needs to put some carpets in here,” Pansy agreed, sliding out of bed herself.
They walked out of the bedroom to find that Ron was already up and was sitting on the couch, looking out a window. He turned and gaped at them. “You spent the night with them?” he demanded, looking shocked.
Pansy growled and stalked forward. She grabbed the front of Ron’s shirt and threw him against a wall. She shifted her body, shoving her arm across his throat and pinning him against the stonework. “If I had my way,” she spat angrily. “I’d do something permanent with you and make sure you never got near my family again. Instead, I’m going to give you one last chance.
“Absorbing Nott’s power last night woke up the spectre of that damn diary in Ginny’s mind. It had been waiting since her first year. I heard her fighting with him, I got Harry, and we both entered her mind. Harry showed Ginny how to defeat him permanently. And she did it; she killed the spell. Unsurprisingly, she was upset and didn’t want to be alone, so I invited her to sleep with me. Harry doesn’t even know, as he’d already gone back to sleep. I made damn sure that Ginny was okay, and what she doesn’t need is another stupid reaction from you when you don’t know any of the facts.”
“Why?” Ron choked out. “Why would you do that?”
“Because she’s family,” Pansy snarled.
“What… what does that mean?”
Pansy paused for a second, thinking it through. “Everything,” she said simply. “Now,” she continued, glaring at Ron again. “You have a choice. You can stop being a git, or you can find out what happens to people who hurt my family.”
“I’m sorry,” Ron said. “I just reacted.”
“You always ‘just react’,” Pansy sighed. “Reacting doesn’t work. You have to find out what is happening first, and then act.” She let Ron drop to the floor and she walked over to the couch, sitting down. Ginny curled up next to her.
“You’re on the edge,” Pansy continued. “You can go either way. It’s simple; you’re either with us or you’re not. Hermione’s with us. Daphne spent a long time persuading her to give you another chance, whether you deserve it or not, because Hermione does like you. You came within an inch of losing her. And don’t think that Harry wouldn’t make the hard decision. He sent someone to their possible death last night; cutting out a friend doesn’t even rank on the same scale. This group of people here is the future of the Wizarding world. With Harry in the background, we will take over, and we will launch the world into a period that historians will call Utopia. Every revolution starts with a bloodbath as the old system is removed. We’re lucky in that we don’t have a moral battle to fight, because the old system is obviously corrupt and evil. We even have a face for the evil: Voldemort. He will go down, he will be defeated, and we will start anew. The sheep will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the future; the future that we will provide. You have a place in that future, something most students here would kill for, but you are not irreplaceable. None of us are, and if he needs to, Harry can and will replace anyone of us. He is the only one we need, and he is the only one with the strength and courage to do what is needed.”
Ron slumped into a chair.
“It’s a simple question, Ron. Do you want to be in or out?”
“In,” Ron said without hesitation.
“Then you need to act like it,” Pansy snapped. “You need to curb your temper and learn to ask questions and think things through first. Appearances to the contrary, you’re obviously not stupid; you just have to start using what intelligence you do have. And you need to stop being such a bloody hypocrite.”
“What?” Ron demanded.
“You were upset that your mother instantly thought the worst of you, yet you did exactly the same thing to Ginny. You just presumed the worst based on the flimsiest of evidence.” She sighed and looked at him thoughtfully. “Spend another day away from us, Ron. You obviously didn’t think hard enough about what is happening, so go. Read a book in the library or in your room. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Ron got to his feet and looked at her slowly. “I think you are wrong,” he said slowly. “Harry’s not the only one who is indispensable. Without you, he wouldn’t have the focus he does now.”
Pansy shrugged softly.
“Ginny,” Ron said. “I am sorry.”
“You always are, Ron,” Ginny said gently. “If you decide not to do it again and let me live my life however I want, then you’re forgiven.”
Ron nodded and walked into his room.
“So, taking the world into Utopia?” the amused voice of Harry said from the corner.
“How much did you hear?”
“All of it,” Harry shrugged. “He didn’t listen to me that closely, because we’re friends, so he needed to hear it from you.”
“I didn’t see you,” Ginny half-asked.
Harry smiled and ignored the question. “So, are you going to join me on my morning run?”
Pansy looked at Ginny, who nodded. “Sure,” she said, giving a long-suffering sigh.
“Well, get dressed then,” Harry smiled. “It’s beautiful out there.”
“Yes, master,” Pansy said slowly. “Come on, Gin, go get changed.”
Ginny nodded and walked to her room, and Pansy followed Harry into theirs.
“Why was Ginny sleeping with us last night?” Harry asked from where he lounged casually on the end of the bed.
“How did you know?” Pansy asked.
“One of the pillows smelled like flowers, and there was a long red hair on the covers.”
Pansy smiled faintly. “She needed us last night.”
Harry nodded. “Didn’t want to be alone?”
“I can’t believe she’s been carrying him around in her mind for so long. I hated it when I had him in mine for just a few minutes.”
“He’s gone, now; she’ll never be taken by him again.”
Harry nodded. “Damn right. I think we need to go and see your parents today – all of us. Last night has changed things, and we need to talk about it.”
“Okay,” Pansy smiled. “I’ll write Dad a note on the pad and get him to owl us a Portkey.”
Harry nodded. “Do you actually want to join me for a run this morning?”
“No,” Pansy laughed. “But I need to.”
“Come on then,” Harry smiled and walked back into the living room. Pansy followed him closely. Ginny was already waiting for them, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing some of the clothes they’d bought for her the day before.
“What about Daphne and Hermione?” Ginny asked.
Pansy paused and frowned. “You wake up Daph and ask her,” she said to Ginny. “I’ll wake up Hermione.”
“Are you sure?” Ginny asked, looking a little surprised.
“I want to try and make proper friends with her,” Pansy explained. “And I can’t do that by avoiding her.”
Ginny smiled and nodded.
Pansy walked into Hermione’s room and smiled slightly. The room itself was lined with books, with a small fireplace in the corner. Two chairs sat next to the fire; opposite was a large four-poster bed. She walked over to the bed and looked down at Hermione.
The girl was lying flat on her back, her head to one side, looking completely at rest. “Hermione,” she called softly, reaching out to touch her shoulder.
Hermione opened her eyes, jerking into wakefulness. “Morning,” she whispered, her voice sounding a little raspy.
“Morning,” Pansy said, taking a seat on the side of the bed.
“What’s the matter?”
“We had another Ron incident this morning,” she sighed. “I think that Ron thought he would be forgiven because Harry always does, if that makes sense?”
Hermione nodded, sitting up and resting her back against the headboard.
“I gave him one more chance.”
“Why?” Hermione asked softly.
“For Harry and for you,” Pansy replied. “Otherwise, I would have thrown him out.”
“Is it hard?” Hermione asked after a few seconds of silence.
“Acting differently for someone else?”
“At times, yes,” Pansy nodded. “It’s difficult to think about what you’re doing when all your instincts are to protect your family. It’s easier because we’ve always been ‘grey’, and at times, you need to be able to see the bigger picture. Ron can be valuable, both to you and to Harry. But he doesn’t get another chance.”
Hermione nodded slowly. “He hurt me,” she said softly. “And it scares me, you know? It scares me for the future.”
Pansy sighed softly. “All I can say is that it’s happened now. See how he reacts to it. You’re still both so young; you have an eternity in front of you.”
“And you’re not?” Hermione asked.
“Young? No. I’ve not been young since I saw my cousin die because of a stupid dare I gave him.”
Pansy shrugged. “I’m over it now. Time is the only healer; well, time and Harry. Anyway, I didn’t wake you to talk about the past or Ron. We’re going for a run and we wanted to invite you along.”
Hermione smiled slightly. “Thanks, but I’ve never really been athletic.”
“Oh please,” Pansy grinned, rolling her eyes. “You’re a Gryffindor, of course you are.”
“I’ve not got any clothes,” Hermione tried again.
“You can borrow some of mine.”
“I’m not going to get out of this, am I?”
“Sure, if you just say ‘no’ without an excuse.”
“I’m too much of a Gryffindor to do that,” Hermione sighed.
“I know,” Pansy grinned. “I’ll go get you some clothes.”
“Pansy,” Hermione called.
She paused in the doorway, looking back.
“Why are you trying so hard with me?”
Pansy turned and leant against the doorframe. “I wasn’t going to,” she admitted. “But I didn’t realise that you were Harry’s family. When I saw you together, I realised it. He needs you as much as he needs anyone.”
Hermione blushed softly. “I need him as well,” she said quietly. “I’ve never had a brother, so I don’t know if that’s the right word, but I think I like your words better. He’s my family.”
Pansy smiled at her. “I’ll get you some clothes.”
After the run, they showered and headed for breakfast. Pansy was the last out of the shower. She wrapped a robe around herself and with a towel around her hair, she walked to breakfast. She wanted to send a message to everyone else that Harry was hers, and that she was completely comfortable at school.
She had an idea of what was going to happen today, and she wanted to make it very clear that she was with Harry all the way, no matter where he went or what he did.
She opened the door to the Great Hall and hid a smile. Everyone turned to stare at her, as it was unheard of for someone to come to breakfast in only a dressing gown. She strode confidently over to the Gryffindor table, ignoring the look she could feel from Draco.
Harry looked at her and smiled. He turned and hopped up so that he was sitting on the table. She sat between his legs and pulled the towel off her hair. Harry clicked his fingers and started to go through her hair with the brush that appeared.
Dobby appeared and handed her a bowl of cereal. The elf winked at her and vanished in silence.
She sighed happily, as she felt Harry’s magic hands work on her hair. She ate her breakfast quickly, so that she could close her eyes and relax.
She felt some gentle tugs on her hair and realised he was braiding it with quick competent movements.
“Hair dressing? I always knew he was gay.” She heard Draco sneer. The Slytherin was probably trying to be quiet, but with no one else talking, his voice echoed around the Hall.
Pansy laughed softly. “Calling Harry gay in front of his girlfriend is remarkably stupid,” she said quietly, letting her own voice echo around the hall, “as I’ve had many incontrovertible examples of just how heterosexual he is. But you wouldn’t understand how to treat a girl properly, as you’ve never had one. You’re a sad little boy, Draco, desperately looking for approval and finding none. It’s because you’re an incompetent. Everyone knows it. You can’t even say the name of your Master.”
Draco went silent; obviously, he’d learnt the lesson about talking about Voldemort.
Pansy felt Harry finish and stood up. She bent forward and touched his jaw softly. She raised it and leant down and kissed him softly, lingering against him. “Thank you,” she whispered loudly and turned, walking back out to get dressed. She was pretty sure that she’d passed on the message. And she’d manage to do it without actually breaking any rules.
Harry watched his girlfriend walk out the room and smiled slowly. He turned and dropped back into his seat, wondering when the conversation would start again. He wasn’t quite sure what message Pansy had been trying to send, but he was pretty sure she’d been successful. It had been a close thing, because the robe hadn’t been far from being indecently short, and he was pretty sure she hadn’t been wearing a bra either. How she’d managed to sit so comfortably without flashing anyone, he knew he’d never know.
The doors opened, and the post owls flew in, as they did every morning. He held out his hand calmly, knowing that Hedwig would find him. A few seconds later, she did. He could feel her claws dig gently into his arm and heard her hoot merrily at him.
“Enjoy your flight?” he asked.
Hedwig seemed to nod, and held out her foot imperiously.
“Help yourself,” Harry said, as he removed the small parcel, indicating the leftover food below.
Hedwig chattered merrily and jumped down to the table, nabbing a sausage.
“You’re welcome,” Harry said casually as he scanned the letter.
Hedwig paused in her eating to chatter again.
“Nah,” Harry remarked casually. “I’ve got nothing else for you to do.”
Hedwig cocked her head and hooted.
“Go ahead,” Harry said as he finished the letter. Hedwig jumped up onto his shoulder, and nipped his ear affectionately, before flying out of the hall.
Harry looked around at his friends to see them staring at him in shock. Around him, the hall was in silence again.
“What?” he asked, looking down to see if he’d spilt some food on himself.
“You were talking to her,” Hermione said slowly.
“Who?” Harry asked.
“Hedwig. Your owl. You were talking to her.”
Harry blinked and mentally rewound the last few minutes. He hadn’t exactly understood Hedwig, but he’d known what his owl was saying. “She was hungry,” he explained.
One of the things he’d picked up from Malcom was to never admit ignorance in public.
That sort of thing was best done in private.
“Of course,” Daphne said dryly.
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed. “And I think it’s time we had a little talk.”
“Agreed,” Hermione said. “And I’m sure Pansy will want to join in as well.”
Harry sighed softly, hiding his smile. “Well, let’s go then,” he said, standing and striding toward the exit. He could feel the three girls flank him.
They walked through the corridors in silence, heading back to the Room of Requirement. They entered, and he flopped down onto one of the couches. Daphne and Ginny sat on the couch opposite him; Hermione sat on the couch to his right.
“What’s going on?” Pansy asked as she entered the room, now dressed properly.
“He was talking to Hedwig,” Ginny said, waving her hand at Harry.
“He does that,” Pansy replied with a confused shrug. “It’s kinda cute.”
“Hedwig was talking back,” Hermione elaborated. “And they were having a conversation.”
“Ahhh,” Pansy smiled. “And you think that it’s what?” she prompted Hermione.
Hermione blinked. “You aren’t asking Harry?”
Pansy shook her head, “He doesn’t know.”
“That’s spooky,” Daphne pointed out.
“A little,” Pansy agreed. “But then, we’re witches – we’re allowed to be a little spooky.”
“Well,” Hermione interrupted. “I think it’s the Mark of the Spiders helping out. We may have our own Dr Doolittle on our hands.”
“Woo,” Daphne cheered. “Can I get a Pushme-Pullyu?”
“A what?” Ginny asked.
Harry looked blank, “I agree. A what?”
“Sometimes I wish I had set fire to the Dursley’s house,” Pansy grumbled. “It was a two-headed llama.”
“I can think of at least two things wrong with that,” Harry said with a smile. “But what has it got to do with the Mark?”
“Dr Doolittle could talk to the animals,” Hermione said. “And you should be able to do the same. I had to dig quite deeply yesterday to find any books on this, and the one I found appeared to be written by a virtually unlettered incompetent. I haven’t seen anyone butcher the English language that badly since I corrected one of your first Potions essays.”
“Hey!” Harry protested.
“Shush,” Hermione smiled. “I kept a copy you know, for blackmail purposes.”
“I’ll give you anything you want for that copy,” Pansy offered. “If you’d seen some of his homework for our Weapons and Tactics lessons, you would’ve been shocked. I actually thought he’d been hiding his light at school.”
“Pansy,” Harry protested again. “What is this, pick on me morning?”
“Yes,” the four girls replied instantly.
“I really need some more guy friends, so I can do all the belching and scratching the guys do,” he grumbled.
“Right,” Pansy drawled. “And you can talk about how you’re sleeping with me and discuss Ginny’s boobs at the same time.”
“Why my boobs?” Ginny asked curiously.
“Because talking about Hermione’s would be wrong on so many levels,” Harry explained.
“Well, what about mine?” Daphne asked. “Aren’t they good enough to be talked about? Should I be insulted?”
“There’s nothing wrong with yours,” Harry groaned.
“So you have been looking?” Ginny asked.
“Yes… no…” Harry said, looking around and feeling his cheeks heat up.
“Finally!” Daphne yelled, as she walked over and gave Pansy a high-five.
“Huh?” Harry asked intelligently.
“We just wanted to see if we could get ‘Mr Self Possessed’ to blush,” Ginny grinned. “And we succeeded.”
Harry blinked and shook his head in disbelief.
“Think of us as your own ego-busting squad,” Hermione smiled.
“I didn’t think I needed it,” Harry pointed out.
“You don’t,” Pansy agreed. “But it’s always good to be prepared. And to remind you that you are only human. Out there, you will always be Harry Potter, Boy Who Lived, Saviour, Hero, and Sex God. With us, you’ll just be Harry, our friend and love.”
“And Sex God,” Daphne added with a grin.
Harry shook his head slowly, “Thanks,” he said, feeling strangely touched. As long as he ignored Daph’s addition. “Okay, let’s get back on track,” he said firmly. “Hermione, what did you find out?”
“The Mark of the Spiders has two purposes. The first, and most obvious, is the mark itself. It is a visible sign that you have been accepted by one of the Acromantula clans. Like all intelligent species, the Acromantulas are well respected by other animals, so by default, you will find that all animals pay attention to you and will be willing to help.”
Harry nodded and started to lightly stroke Pansy’s legs as she sat next to him and draped them over his lap.
“The second purpose is much more magical, and I’m afraid that I don’t know how it works. As I mentioned, the book I read was almost impenetrable at times. Basically, it somehow changes your magic to allow you to communicate with animals.”
“It wasn’t like I could understand what Hedwig was saying,” Harry said thoughtfully. “I just knew what she meant. The nearest I can describe it is that it was like talking to someone in a foreign language and recognising the root foundation of some of the words.”
“You mean like recognising the Latin and Greek in English?” Hermione asked.
“Exactly,” Harry nodded.
Hermione smiled and looked at Pansy. “So he really did do his homework over the summer?”
Pansy smiled and nodded.
“It was just another way to be prepared,” Harry explained with a shrug. “I’ve got to meet with Croaker early this afternoon and then with the Aurors after that. As Voldemort knows that most of you are involved, you can come along as well. Hermione, it’s your choice.”
“My choice?” Hermione asked curiously.
“Yes,” Harry nodded. “Voldemort doesn’t know that you’re part of this yet, so if you want, you can stay here.”
“Or I can go with you,” Hermione prompted.
Hermione smiled slowly. “Do you even know how much you’ve changed?” she asked.
“Harry, I don’t think you’ve ever offered someone the choice before,” she explained. “Normally you try and keep things to yourself; to try and do things yourself.”
Harry smiled slightly. “I had some good teachers. I can’t do this alone, and I want people I trust very close to me at all times. When you kept the Order quiet last night, you proved that you trust me, so I have to trust you to be able to make your own decisions.”
“What did happen from your side of things last night?” Pansy interrupted.
“Well, when Harry cast the spell, I recognised it, and it took me a couple of seconds to realise what he was doing. I play acted trying to break it, casting a couple of illusion charms and then I turned to the others.”
“Who weren’t impressed,” Daphne said dryly. “Quite a few of them got to their feet, demanding to know was going on.”
“And sat back down very quickly,” Hermione laughed. “When Malcom told them to ‘sit’.”
“Even Mad-Eye,” Daphne added. “Malcom basically told everyone to shut up, pay attention, and remember what happens, and everyone did as they were told.”
“It was weird,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “Malcom didn’t raise his voice, but it was like he shouted it.”
“I wish I knew how he does that,” Pansy grumbled.
“Stand up,” Harry said, carefully modulating his voice, so that it was just a few octaves lower than normal. At the same time, he tried to blend some of his magic into it.
The four girls shot to their feet and then turned to gape at Harry.
“How did you do that?” Pansy demanded.
“I’m not sure how it works,” Harry admitted. “Or even that it would. I basically tried to lace some of my magic with my voice, while trying to talk a little lower than normal so that your brains would concentrate more on what I was saying. Of course, Malcom has the gravitas to do that without cheap magical tricks.”
Hermione frowned thoughtfully as she sat back down. “Bene Gesserit as well, Harry?”
“That one’s lost on me,” Daphne said.
“I was lost both times,” Ginny agreed.
“It’s not important,” Hermione said dismissively. “It’s a clever mix of magic and psychology. The lowering of the voice does exactly what Harry said; it forces you to listen harder to what he’s saying. By interweaving it with magic, I suspect that it adds a level of command, vaguely similar to the Imperious but very short-acting.”
Harry nodded. “I doubt it would work for anything more complicated that a short command, but it could be useful. And that’s not how Malcom does it.”
A brown owl flew into the room and landed next to Harry.
“Thanks,” Harry smiled at the owl, as he took the message and a small package from the animal’s leg. “Malcom’s Portkeys,” he explained to the others. “Shall we go?”
“Wait a second, Portkeys?” Pansy asked.
“Yeah, I’m inviting someone else,” Harry explained. “I told Malcom to send two when you were in the shower.”
“Oh, okay. Just let me put some shoes on,” Pansy said, jumping up and vanishing into their room.
“I’m ready,” Ginny said cheerfully.
Harry threw one of the Portkeys at the red-haired girl. “I’ll see you there,” he smiled and vanished.
He moved back through the Other Place outside Professor McGonagall’s room, and he knocked on the door cheerfully.
“Good morning, Harry,” the professor said as she opened the door.
“Morning. I wanted to invite you to a meeting this morning with pretty much everyone involved. We need to discuss some of the things that we found out last night.”
McGonagall nodded slowly. “Just let me put some more comfortable clothes on.”
Harry handed her the other Portkey. “This will take you to Parkinson Manor. Just hit the top when you’re ready. I need to pick up a few things beforehand.”
“I’ll see you in a bit,” McGonagall smiled.
Harry moved through the Other Place, arriving outside a bakery. He walked in and picked up a dozen doughnuts and a variety of coffee and tea for the others. It didn’t take him long to get back to Parkinson Manor, and he walked into the main meeting room, carefully balancing his purchases.
“Morning,” he said cheerfully to Malcom. “How’s your guest behaving himself?”
“Are those doughnuts?” Malcom asked, ignoring the question as he looked at the box in Harry’s hand.
“I did say that you have my full backing to marry my daughter, didn’t I?”
“Of course,” Pansy said, as she walked into the room. “If I’d known you’d have sold me for a doughnut, we probably wouldn’t have had the same relationship.”
“Shush, you,” Malcom said absently. “I’m negotiating for doughnuts.”
“The great Malcom Parkinson does have a weakness,” Harry grinned. “We better keep this to ourselves; we don’t want Voldemort knowing that he can get rid of his enemies simply by offering pastries.”
“Let me help you with that,” Ginny said, taking the doughnuts.
“Thanks, Ginny,” Harry smiled and moved the precariously balanced tray of drinks to both hands.
Ginny walked over to Malcom and popped the lid, offering him one.
“Hey,” Harry complained.
Ginny turned and stuck her tongue out cutely at him.
“Okay,” Malcom stated, as he took an apple doughnut in one hand and wrapped an arm around Ginny. “That’s settled; we’re definitely keeping her.”
“Keeping who?” Gruoch asked as she walked into the room.
“Ginny,” Malcom explained.
Gruoch looked at half-eaten doughnut and sighed. “Are you selling the crown jewels for doughnuts again?”
“Not at all,” Malcom complained. “I’ve not had one in ages. I’m normally surrounded by cruel, heartless wenches. Just because I’ve found one that has taken pity on an old man, doesn’t mean that you have to interfere.”
“Right,” Gruoch snorted. “And your trouser size will go back up soon.”
“He’s on a diet?” Ginny asked.
“Whoops,” she said and slid around Malcom, lifting the remaining half of a doughnut from his hand. “Sorry,” she apologised.
“Infamy!” Malcom cried. “Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!”
Everyone else in the room groaned. “So Gruoch isn’t the only one who watches TV,” Hermione smiled.
“Erm,” Malcom said, looking around. “What is this, pick on me day? Can’t we pick on Harry instead?”
Harry smiled. “It’s your turn. They did me this morning. Daphne, Professor McGonagall is going to arrive in a few seconds, can you meet her and bring her in?”
“Sure,” the blonde witch smiled and walked out.
“He got up late,” Gruoch said. “He’ll be down in a few seconds.”
Malcom sat down at the large round table. “Pass the coffee, Harry,” he sighed.
Harry sat opposite him and floated him a drink over. Daphne, McGonagall, and Remus joined them shortly afterward. When everyone had a drink and a doughnut – including Malcom who had re-appropriated his from Ginny – Harry pulled out a sheet of paper and a biro. “First up,” he said. “How’s our guest doing?”
“Devastated,” Gruoch sniffed. “He was crying when we placed him in the dungeons last night and he hasn’t stopped since. We pointed out that without magic, escape was impossible – as the cell he is in has no door – and he seemed to accept that.”
“Good,” Harry nodded. “Pansy, do you remember the first thing our Weapons and Tactics teacher taught us?”
Pansy thought for a few seconds. “No plan survives the first encounter with the enemy,” she stated.
He smiled warmly at her. “Exactly. Last night changed a lot of things for us, so we have to change our plans, and I’ve got a few ideas.”
“Hold on a second,” Malcom ordered. He finished off his coffee and settled back into the chair, gripping the arms tightly. “Go on, hit me,” he smirked.
“Ginny,” Gruoch said calmly. “Be a dear and hit that husband of mine.”
Ginny looked thoughtful for a few seconds and then leaned closer and lightly slapped the back of Malcom’s head.
Malcom smiled and relaxed. “Go on, Harry.”
“Last night, Nott told us that there are only around eighty trained Death Eaters. Another thirty or forty lackeys. They have a few of the malcontent Giants, but most are staying out of it. They do have the Manticores and the Banshees.
“We, on the other hand have the Acromantulas, the goblins, the house-elves, and after this evening, the Aurors. And that’s not to mention the rest of the Order of the Phoenix.
“We also have Tonks infiltrating the Death Eaters, and she will be able to tell us soon where their main base is.”
“And?” Pansy asked softly.
“And then we should get everyone we can and launch a full out attack. And I’ve got an idea on how to deal with the creatures as well.”
“Which is?” Pansy asked again into the stunned silence.
“We get Paddy to bring up all the Marines from Lympstone,” Harry explained. “We have them armed to the teeth and let them use some of the more exciting Muggle weapons to blow the hell out of the base, forcing them to come out and fight us. At the same time, we’ll trap them with Anti-Apparation wards, so that they can’t escape, and force them to meet us on a level playing field.”
Harry reached forward and helped himself to another doughnut, relaxing back in his chair as he looked around the table at the stunned expressions. Malcom looked thoughtful, as he went through the idea.
“You want to attack?” Hermione asked. “What about training the D.A.? And everything else?”
Harry shrugged. “They won’t be ready in time, no matter what we do. The plan before was to use them, but we can’t wait for them to be ready. We have a chance now to act quickly and we need to take it. The longer we wait, the more Death Eaters Voldemort can train, and the harder it will be.
“We’ve said all along that if people just stood up to them, this whole mess would have never happened. Well, this is our chance to do exactly that. We can stamp them out completely. We should have superior numbers.”
“What about Voldemort?” Gruoch asked.
“I’m ready,” Harry said simply. “I’ve got a chance of beating him now, and more time won’t really help that much. There is nothing more that can prepare me for meeting him. I’m in the best shape of my life, all my training is still fresh in my mind, and this way, we’ll have the element of surprise over them.”
Daphne whistled slowly. “You know,” she said slowly. “As insane as it sounds, it actually makes sense.”
“That’s what scares me,” Hermione said. “It makes too much sense.”
“Does anyone have any better suggestions?”
“Couldn’t we use bigger weapons to take them out?” Pansy asked. “Peirce said that Muggles have all sorts of bombs. One of those Nukler ones?”
“Absolutely not!” Hermione stated. “Those things kill everything for a fifty mile radius and poison the land for hundreds of years.”
“Fifty miles?” Ginny croaked.
“Uh huh,” Malcom nodded. “Muggles are nothing if not inventive when it comes to killing each other.”
“Okay, that’s out,” Pansy sighed. “I do kind of like the idea of attacking them, not the other way around.”
“So do I,” Malcom agreed thoughtfully. “We were saying the other day that we wanted to get rid of these silly little confrontations, and one big one would certainly do it. We could crush them in one go.”
“Or lose everything,” Gruoch pointed out calmly.
“Without risk, where’s the challenge?” Malcom grinned.
“I know,” Gruoch smiled back at him. “So, the question is, can we organise it and keep everything we need quiet, quiet?”
“You’re serious about this?” Hermione asked, sounding a little surprised.
“We promised to back Harry to the ground,” Malcom explained as he leant forward. He intertwined his fingers and rested his chin on the back of his fingers. “That plan is sound. We hit them hard with numbers, and with tactics they won’t know how to deal with, and we do our best to wipe them out.”
“Can you think of a better way, Hermione?” Harry asked, keeping his voice level. “The floor is open to suggestions.”
Hermione looked down at the centre of the table, and frowned. “Logically,” she said slowly, “I think you’re right. But the Gryffindor inside me says that there is something wrong with it.”
“Turn down the Gryffindor,” Harry said softly. “And turn up the other three houses. Try and merge them together and see what happens.”
Hermione looked thoughtful, before she raised her head and stared directly at Harry. “Do you really think you can handle Voldemort alone?”
“He won’t be alone,” Pansy and Ginny said at the same time and then smiled at each other.
“That’s it,” Harry agreed intently. “I won’t be alone – none of us will be. It won’t be kids against full-grown wizards. It will be a lot of full-grown wizards, with help from Muggles, Acromantualas, and all of our other allies.”
“Okay,” Hermione said abruptly. “Let’s do it. What do I need to do?”
“Professor, Remus? Anything you want to add?”
McGonagall pursed her lips and let out a small sigh. “Harry,” she said slowly. “You are going to have to start calling me Minerva when we are like this. I’m working for you, not the other way around.”
“Now is not the time to argue,” she said with a small smile. “Your plan is well thought out and very risky. But, it is something that we haven’t tried. I have lived through Voldemort’s original reign of terror and through his second, and I am fed up with seeing my students’ lives end early because of him. The idea of finishing this, once and for all, is one that I find attractive.”
“Remus?” Harry asked.
“I agree,” he shrugged. “What do you need me to do?”
Harry smiled and relaxed back into the chair, looking at Hermione. “How do you feel about politics?”
“I need someone to help Remus start his campaign at the moment, and I just realised that you’d be perfect.”
“I would?” Hermione said doubtfully. “And how does that help with the attack on Voldemort?”
“Distraction, mainly,” Harry explained. “After S.P.E.W., people know that you can often champion unpopular causes.”
Hermione smiled faintly. “The politest way I’ve heard that put yet,” she said.
Harry smiled back at her and shrugged. “Anyway, everyone also knows that you’re my best friend…”
“…And heart breaker,” Pansy interrupted.
Hermione rolled her eyes at Pansy. “Yes, thank you.”
“Voldemort should think that is how we’re planning on attacking him. He’ll think that I’m helping you with this, and he’ll work on trying to fight it with his own candidate.”
“While you are actually planning the attack,” Hermione nodded slowly. “You know, as much as I hate to say it, this whole thing might just work.
“But I do have one more question,” she said, turning toward Pansy. “Ginny mentioned this morning that you are planning on changing the world?”
Pansy smiled slowly and looked around the table, meeting everyone’s eyes. “It started as a dig against Voldemort.” Her eyes flickered to her parents, and she gave a quick rundown of what had happened early that morning. “So, knowing what Voldemort is like, I fed his fears and told him that he would be forgotten as anything but a footnote to the history that we are going to create.”
“What is that history?” Daphne asked curiously.
Pansy took a deep breath. “We will have Remus controlling the law, Dad controlling the money, and Harry controlling the peace. We will force all the laws we’ve thought about through and create a fully open market place with heavy fines for corporate malpractice. In effect, we’ll make everyone play by the same laws. At the same time, we’ll make all forms of racism completely illegal and stamp down on anyone who practices them – and to avoid the obvious charges of running a totalitarian state, we’ll launch some public information campaigns to educate the sheep. We’ll also enshrine in law the rights of the press to be free, but with one major caveat.”
“What?” Harry asked, more than a little impressed with her plan so far.
“We’ll call it the fair-apology law or something. If they print something that isn’t true, they will be forced to retract it.”
“That’s the same as it is now,” Daphne pointed out.
“The same size,” Pansy continued. “If they plaster false allegations all over the first four pages, their apology will have to be the same size.”
“Embarrassing them to triple check their facts,” Hermione said slowly. “It’s a much better punishment than just fining them.”
Pansy nodded. “The rest I haven’t thought out yet, but you get the general idea, right? We just end the uneven playing field and stop anyone’s group from claiming the high ground.”
“Because we’ll own it,” Malcom smiled proudly.
“I’m not sure if I like it,” Hermione pointed out. “Like you said, it does appear to be a little totalitarian. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
“The problem we have, Hermione,” Gruoch said slowly, “is that the way things are running at the moment do not work, in any shape or form. We have rampant corruption at every level of government. All the major businesses are owned by a few old pure-blood families who use any means necessary to stifle invention and new ideas so that we can continue to make money. We used to do it ourselves before we got involved in the Muggle world. And what’s worse is that we are being left behind by the Muggles. They have people in space, and us? Most wizards have problems even leaving the country. The magical world itself is an anachronistic throwback to a feudal system. We’re just looking at taking that to a new level and creating a council for the benefit of ourselves. But, everyone around this table knows that you make the most money through a system of enlightened self-interest. You make more money in the long run if everyone is pulling the same way and making things work together.”
“And that will be our legacy,” Pansy said eagerly. “We’ll have set up a system for the ages that works, and as long as we are replaced by people who understand the same principles as we do, we can go down in history as the architects of a golden age.”
Hermione placed her head down on the table and banged it several times. “I need time to think about this,” she said slowly.
“Take all the time you need,” Pansy said softly. “We need you, and we don’t want you to change.”
“You don’t?” Hermione asked doubtfully.
“Absolutely not,” Malcom agreed. “Having someone who questions us and forces us to think things through a lot harder and will ensure that we get things right. Most of us are a little less concerned about the sheep.”
Hermione laughed softly. “Thanks, I think.”
“Moving on,” Harry said smoothly, “we need one more piece of misdirection for Voldemort.” He paused and looked at Minerva. “You might want to turn your professor ears off about now.”
Minerva smiled slightly. “They have been turned off for quite some time,” she said.
“What have you got in mind?” Ginny asked.
“I think we need a messenger to tell Voldemort that we are preparing Hogwarts for his attack. He’ll respond by getting ready to launch an attack at us, but he’ll take his time as he’ll want to make sure he gets it right.”
“Malfoy?” Pansy asked.
“Yep. I think we need to send him to Voldemort and let him reveal all our secrets. So we need to let him overhear us talking about our plans, which should be easy, and then do something to make him go over the edge so he has to go running to Voldemort.”
“Leave that to me, Ginny, and Daph,” Pansy said confidently.
“Not me?” Hermione asked.
Pansy shook her head, “You can help with the set up if you want, but I don’t think you’ll want to take part in the second.”
Gruoch groaned softly. “I really don’t want to know. Just be careful!”
“I will be,” Pansy said. “Don’t worry.”
“When you say that,” Malcom sighed, “I really do begin to worry.”
There was some general laughter around the table, before they moved on to the next subject.
Harry arrived in Malcom’s office in the Ministry of Magic and sat down comfortably. He was due to meet Croaker in a few minutes to talk to the Unspeakable’s friends before they met with the Aurors later. Pansy and his friends were all having dinner together, and he was a little irritated to be missing it.
Malcom’s Floo opened, and Croaker stepped through. “I hear you’ve started the revolution,” he said dryly.
Harry smiled. “Maybe a little. We had a change of plan this morning. We’re going to need Paddy’s help; can you get in touch with him for me?”
Harry smiled as coldly as he could. “Because I’ve got a spy in the Death Eaters, and as soon as we find out Voldemort’s location, we are going to attack. I want Paddy and his group to help launch the attack and provide cover.”
Croaker whistled slowly. “Have you heard of the SBS?”
Harry shook his head.
“Paddy’s a member; they’re the Navy’s Special Forces, and they are some of the toughest bastards in the world. I think we can get Black Squad involved easily.”
“They’re the counter-terrorist guys.”
Harry smiled. “So, can you set up a meeting as soon as possible? I’ll deal with talking to them; I just need them in a room.”
“Will do,” Croaker replied. “And this will make your chat with my friends easier now as well.”
“Who are they?”
“The other Unspeakables. They’re going to be wearing concealing charms, so you can’t recognise them. Our rules say that we’re not allowed to help out with Domestic issues, so you’re asking them to break the law to help.”
Harry nodded slowly. “Why not?”
“Domestic issues are the remit of the Aurors,” he explained.
“But you’re much better trained?”
“Originally, we were all trained the same,” Croaker said. “But the Aurors were almost completely wiped out in the last war with Voldemort, and the new people never got back up to standard.”
“Okay,” Harry said, climbing to his feet. “Shall we go?”
Croaker nodded. “Your destination in the Floo is Omni Persicon 8.”
Harry threw some powder into the fire and stepped in. As he tumbled through space, he wondered when he was going to get used to this method of travelling.
He appeared in a room that took the word nondescript to new levels. It was grey – all the furnishings, all the fittings, even the paint. Everything was grey.
In front of him were eight stationary figures all appearing as featureless blobs. He squinted his eyes softly, but stopped as he started to see through their charms. If they wanted their privacy so badly, he’d give that to them. He sat at the front calmly and surveyed them slowly.
“What can I do for you?” Harry asked, a slight smile on his face.
“Why should we follow you?” the second one from the left asked.
“There is a prophecy that states that I am the only person alive who can kill Voldemort. If I fail, he wins, and you all lose.”
“And,” Croaker added, “Harry has machinations in place to have Fudge replaced with someone he trusts and has given the promise that our jobs will be changed to how we want them.”
There was a general shuffling. “I’m not sure that I’m happy following a teenager,” the third from the right pointed out.
“Why is it that it always comes down to a test?” Harry said with a slight smile. “I’ve not really got time at the moment, so if you don’t mind…” He launched himself out of the chair and across the room. His chosen opponent reacted instantly, the nondescript body moving into a defensive position, but Harry had expected it – it was exactly the way Croaker responded the first few times they had fought, and he’d guessed it was how they were trained.
When you knew how someone was going to react before they did, it made the rest easy, and he simply asked, “Any more questions?” from his position behind the Unspeakable, his knife at his opponent’s throat.
“You taught him?” one of the other Unspeakables asked Croaker.
“I made him the best,” Croaker said proudly.
“Why didn’t you just tell us that?”
“You wouldn’t have believed me,” Croaker replied with a shrug.
“True. So, basically, what do you want us for?”
“How much can I trust them?” Harry asked as he moved back to the front.
“I trust them,” Croaker said. “They are the best of the Unspeakables. The ones I don’t trust aren’t here.”
Harry nodded. “Within the next week, I’m going to be launching an all out attack on Voldemort’s headquarters. We should have superior numbers and some non-human allies.”
“Non-human?” a new Unspeakable asked.
“Acromantulas for an example,” Harry explained.
The Unspeakable whistled slowly. “What did you do to get them on your side?”
“I did them a favour a few years ago. And I promised them all the dead Death Eaters they could eat.”
Harry wasn’t sure exactly why, but he suddenly got the impression that a lot of them were smiling. “I could also do with a couple of you helping Croaker over the next few days.”
“I’m putting Croaker in charge of the Aurors and making sure that they are ready for the battle. I already know that a lot of them have tenuous loyalties, so we won’t be telling them much – apart from the fact that their idea of a Monday to Friday job is no longer acceptable.”
“I’ll help,” one of them offered.
“Me too,” the original Unspeakable to speak said.
“And the rest of us will be there for the battle,” the one on the far right said. “It sounds like fun.”
“Excellent. I’ll leave Croaker to arrange the details with you. I’ll need you all to be ready with about an hour’s notice.”
“Can I ask how you are going to find out where to attack?”
Harry smiled apologetically. “Sorry, there are some things that I am unwilling to divulge at this moment.”
“Good,” another Unspeakable grunted. “Loose lips sink ships and all that.”
Harry nodded and stood, offering them a half-bow, before he turned and walked into the Floo, returning to Malcom’s office.
He was joined a few minutes later by Croaker and two now-unconcealed Unspeakables.
“This is Lauren Jones and Hywell Robertson,” Croaker introduced the two.
“Nice to meet you without the masks,” Harry smiled.
They smiled at him, and stood at parade rest, flanking Croaker.
“Okay,” Harry said. “I need you to keep up the strong silent act when we go in there. Let me do all the talking, as there may be some spies, and until I can get rid of them, I don’t want them knowing what is going on. Croaker, I might use you for some object lessons.”
Croaker smiled coldly.
“Actually,” Harry said slowly. “Are either of you two any good at healing spells?”
Hywell nodded. “I’m a trained field paramedic.”
“Excellent. Croaker, you can now break some bones. Hywell, you can mend them. There will be four girls with me; they’re not to be touched.” He looked at his watch. “And they should be here any minute.”
Croaker and the other Unspeakables moved to one side. With immaculate timing, the Floo opened and Pansy, followed by Ginny, Daphne, and Hermione walked in.
“Kingsley should be coming by in a minute to let us know the Aurors are ready,” Pansy said. “Dad told me that he arranged it this morning. Some of the Aurors are not going to be happy to be working on a weekend.”
“Poor babies,” Hywell said dryly. “As Harry apparently doesn’t know how to introduce us properly, I’ll do it myself. I’m Hywell; this is Lauren. We both work for Croaker.”
“Wait a second,” Harry interrupted. “Work for Croaker?”
“You didn’t tell him?” Lauren smiled at Croaker.
“Never came up,” Croaker shrugged. “I’m the senior Unspeakable,” he explained. “I’m basically in charge of all the field agents.”
“Cool,” Pansy grinned. “So how are we handling this meeting?”
“I’m going to be irritable,” Harry said with a smile. “Croaker is going to hand out some object lessons, and when they are ready to listen, we’re going to let these three put them through their paces so that they are ready. We can’t tell them why.”
“Are you really this calm, Harry?” Ginny asked.
Harry looked around the room slowly. “No. I’ve suddenly realised that by this time next week, this could all be over.”
“Good,” Daphne said with a grin. “It means that you are still human.”
“True,” Hermione agreed.
“Croaker, Lauren, Hywell,” Harry said dryly. “Meet my personal ego-busting squad. The brunette closest to me is my gorgeous girlfriend, Pansy Parkinson. The elegant blonde is Daphne Greengrass; the girl with the amazing hair and perfect skin is Ginny Weasley, and the other beautiful brunette is probably the smartest witch you’ll ever meet, the notorious Hermione Granger.”
The four girls blushed together, causing Harry to smile and look a little relieved that he could make them blush as well.
There was a knock on the door, and Kingsley’s bald head poked through it as it opened. “I’ve got them ready for you,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough crowd.”
Harry nodded. “Whatever happens, don’t show any reaction,” he said to the girls. After they had all nodded, he smiled at them. “Ready?” Hearing no dissenting voices, he led the way out of Malcom’s office and down the corridor to a large room with a padded floor. In front of him were over a hundred Aurors, in various different outfits. Most were lounging on the floor.
Harry walked to the front, still flanked by the others, and waited for the noise to die down.
Harry sighed under his breath and cast a sonorous spell on his throat.
“Ten Shun,” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “Line up, now!”
Most of the Aurors jumped to attention, a few more climbed to their feet slowly. The rest didn’t stop their conversations.
“I take it you gentlemen on the floor think that you are too good to be here?” he inquired acidly.
“I ain’t listening to some punk kid,” an Auror with brown hair sneered from the floor.
“And you are?”
“Adams, Stephan Adams,” he drawled.
“Well, Mr Adams,” Harry said, his tone clipped. “You’ve just volunteered to be an example. Mr Croaker, would you mind demonstrating on him?”
“Of course not, Mr Potter,” Croaker said, an evil smile on his face. The Unspeakable strolled straight toward the prone Auror, who scrambled to his feet.
“Wait a second,” Stephan protested, as he watched the implacable march of his opponent.
“Would a Death Eater wait a moment?” Harry asked. “Would Voldemort?”
There was a collective gasp from the Aurors at the name, and Harry scowled.
Croaker’s wand jumped into his hand, and a second later, Stephan flew half way across the room and collided with a wall. There was an audible crack as his left arm broke.
“Mr Robertson,” Harry said coldly. “Will you fix his arm please?” As Hywell walked over to the prone Auror, Harry looked around at the shocked Aurors.
“I believe I told you to be at attention,” he whispered, just loud enough to be heard.
There was a scramble of movement as every Auror snapped into place.
“That’s more like it,” Harry growled. He walked to the side and turned, so he was facing everyone. “Ms Weasley,” he said. “How old are you?”
“Fifteen,” Ginny replied.
“Who are we fighting?”
“Voldemort,” Ginny said firmly.
“Ms Granger,” Harry continued. “Are your parents wizards?”
“They are not,” Hermione said clearly. “To use a pejorative, I am a Mudblood.”
“Who are we fighting?”
“Voldemort,” Hermione replied.
“Why look at that,” Harry said, walking back to the centre and facing the Aurors again. We have a fifteen-year-old girl and a sixteen year old with Muggle parents both quite happy to say Voldemort. Voldemort. Voldemort.
“And look at you, the Wizard police, scared of three syllables. Is it any wonder that the Wizarding world is in the state it is in?
“You,” he pointed to someone in the first row. “What is your name?”
“Amanda Lampkin, sir!” she replied in a shout.
“Who are we fighting?”
She seemed to struggle with herself, and then in a voice that was almost a whisper, said, “Voldemort.”
“I can’t hear you,” Harry snapped. “Who are we fighting?”
“Voldemort!” Amanda shouted.
Harry looked around theatrically. “Look, no Voldemort. People are saying his name, left, right, and centre, and he hasn’t appeared. Imagine that. So, to start with, anyone who can’t say Voldemort, leave now. You are dismissed from your job. The door is over there.”
He waited, but no one moved. “Good, perhaps there is hope for the Aurors, after all. Some years ago, the Aurors were as good as the Unspeakables. However, this is no longer the case.”
“That’s not fair,” one of the Aurors shouted.
“Choose four of your best,” Harry said abruptly. “In thirty seconds, I want the four you have chosen in front.”
The Aurors moved from attention and started an intense whispered conversation.
“Four, Harry?” Croaker whispered, sounding amused.
“You want me to make it challenging and go for eight?” Harry offered.
“No,” Croaker said dryly.
The four lined up were all large men, and from what Harry could tell, were pretty powerful as well.
“Gentlemen,” Harry addressed them. “You are fighting for the jobs you obviously enjoy so much. If you beat my representative, you will go back to your jobs as you have had them for the past fifteen years.” He paused and smiled slowly. “Mr Croaker, would you be as kind as to demonstrate just why the Unspeakables should also be known as the Untouchables?”
Croaker bowed formally to Harry. “I would indeed, Mr Potter,” he grinned.
“Oh, Mr Croaker,” Harry smirked. “No magic.”
Croaker started to smile and turned back to the Aurors.
The Aurors seemed to collectively inhale as they looked at the man in front of them.
“You may start when ready,” Harry said.
As Harry finished the word ready, Croaker started to move. His left hand dug into his jacket and emerged with a vicious looking knife. Without seeming to look, his hand flashed out and the knife rotated through the air, before going straight through the first Auror’s wand hand, leaving him on the floor, holding his hand in shock.
The other three Aurors now had their wands out and started to launch spells at Croaker. Harry held up his own wand and cast a shield spell so that everyone on his side wouldn’t be hit.
Croaked launched himself into a dive and a roll and he came up in front of two of them. His left knee shot out and into the Auror on the left’s stomach, while his right elbow smashed into the jaw of the Auror next to him. Two more quick movements left the two Aurors incapacitated.
Croaker grabbed one of them by his robes, and held him up while he approached the last Auror.
The remaining Auror cast several wild spells at Croaker, some of which hit the unconscious Auror he was using as a shield.
As Croaker got nearer, he threw his shield forward and darted around him. A sickening crunch informed everyone that Croaker’s left foot had found his mark.
“Forty-four seconds,” Harry stated into the silence. “Four of your best Aurors wiped out in forty-four seconds.”
He let the silence grow, as Hywell walked around, healing the Aurors and doing what he could to those he couldn’t heal.
“What is your job?” Harry asked softly.
“To uphold the law and protect the people,” Amanda said loudly.
“How are you doing your job when you don’t work weekends, when you are nothing but target practice for Death Eaters?”
“We’re not,” Amanda said, speaking for the group again.
“Do you want to be more?” Harry demanded.
“Yes,” Amanda said.
“All of you. Do you want to be more?”
“Yes,” the Aurors said.
“I can’t hear you. Do You Want To Be More!?”
“YES!” The Aurors roared.
“Good,” Harry smiled. “There is hope for you after all. You have the potential inside you to help us beat Voldemort. To help us beat the Death Eaters. To avenge the deaths of your colleagues. We can teach you to fight. We can teach you to win. We can teach you to be able to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror with pride, knowing that you are an Auror. That you are part of the team keeping people safe. And that you are the best. We can make you the best, and if you put the work in, you will be the best.”
The Aurors started to cheer.
“Fudge has given me carte blanche to make changes here, and change I will. Consider the first an incentive scheme. Anyone who passes the course that Mr Croaker and his two assistants put together will get a fifty percent pay rise. If you are going to be the best, we will pay you as the best.”
The roar that followed his statement was the loudest yet.
“It will be hard work, but at the end, you will be able to face the Death Eaters and know that at the end of the fight, you will be able to defeat them!”
Harry held up his hand and waited for the noise to die down. “Croaker, you’re in charge.”
“Thanks, Harry,” the Unspeakable replied cheerfully. “I’ll give you a report tomorrow on the progress.”
“Excellent. Hywell, Lauren, it was nice meeting you.”
He turned to the girls. “I’ll see you back at Hogwarts?”
They nodded and gathered around Pansy, vanishing as she activated a Portkey. Harry saluted the Aurors and vanished on the spot, to the shock of the Aurors. He cast a spell quickly, and in the corner of the room, a Quick Quotes quill started to write silently.
“You can’t Apparate inside the Ministry,” Amanda gasped. “The wards!”
“The normal rules do not apply to Mr Potter,” Croaker said firmly. “I think we will start with defence. Let’s see what your shields are like. Line up.”
Harry smiled as the Aurors obeyed him instantly. He’d taken a large gamble by telling Croaker not to use magic, but it had worked spectacularly. It had impressed upon the Aurors that they weren’t nearly as good as they thought. They weren’t as bad either, but he felt that they would work extra hard to make up for it.
He waved his hand and the Quill and parchment vanished. He turned and moved toward Hogwarts, appearing in Dumbledore’s office.
“Harry?” Dumbledore asked as he looked up from the paperwork he was reading.
“I’ve just given the Aurors to Croaker to whip into shape,” Harry said casually as he dropped onto a couch. Dobby appeared a second later with a large sandwich and a drink, vanishing again immediately afterward.
“Oh?” Dumbledore said as he leaned back slowly.
“And tomorrow, I’m going to be sending Draco Malfoy to Voldemort. I need some misdirection done, and he’s volunteered.”
“Yeah, by being a supercilious, racist git for the past five years.”
“I still have hopes that he won’t become a Death Eater,” Dumbledore said quietly.
“Do you honestly believe that you can change his course?” Harry asked curiously.
“I have to believe,” Dumbledore said softly. “There must be something inside him that is scared of Voldemort and doesn’t want to do it.”
“Possibly,” Harry grunted. “But given the chance, he will take it in an instant. Draco is delusional enough to believe that everything is about him. He sees himself as Voldemort’s right hand man. He’s a pure-blood and wears it like a cloak. He can’t handle anything that interferes with his closed minded view. He, in a microcosm, is exactly what is wrong with the Wizarding world. He is exactly why it has been so stagnant over the past hundred years. Where are the great advances? Where are the new spells? They don’t exist. Voldemort has done us a huge favour and grabbed all the arch-conservatives in one place. Everyone who fears change and fears difference is with him. Everyone who wants things to remain the same is there. This fight isn’t me against Voldemort. It’s not the Order against the Death Eaters. It’s a fight for the future of the Wizarding world. Voldemort has already lost. Even if he wins the battle, he can never have what he wants. The world is changing too fast around him; Muggles are too strong, too quick. If he wins, every wizard loses. But if we win, we can change things, we can make things better, and we can fix things. We can bring innovation back to the Wizarding world. We can bring back fairness, hope, and tolerance. We will drag society into the Utopia we can provide.”
“That sounds very extreme, Harry,” Dumbledore said softly. “What if people don’t want your Utopia?”
“Over the last twenty years, has the number of students entering Hogwarts gone up or down?”
“Down,” Dumbledore replied.
Harry shrugged expressively. “How many years will it be until there are none? A hundred? Fifty? Our population is in decline, and if we don’t do something now, it will be too late.”
Dumbledore frowned, looking like someone swallowing something unpleasant.
Harry ran his fingers through his hair and smiled slightly. “Think about it,” he advised. “And tell the professors to stay out of the way at breakfast tomorrow.” He looked at his watch. “I’ve got to get to the D.A. meeting,” he sighed. “It’s times like this, I wish I could clone myself.” With a nod to Dumbledore, he vanished.
Harry arrived outside the door to the Room of Requirement and took a deep breath. He didn’t like the idea of lying to everyone, but it was the only way to keep a secret. The more people that knew about it, the less secure it was.
He walked through their living room and into the training area. He was quite amazed; it looked like the D.A. had doubled in size since the last meeting. There were a fair number of Slytherins to one side, looking nervous, so he walked over to them first.
“Glad you could make it,” he smiled at Blaise.
“Yeah well, we can’t let the rest of the school have all the fun,” Blaise smiled.
Harry clapped him on the shoulder and walked to the front of the room where Pansy, Ginny, Hermione and Daphne were waiting for him. “Have you eaten?” he asked them quietly.
They all nodded, so he turned to face the crowd of students.
“The Defence Association was set up last year to help us practice exactly that: the skills that can keep us alive when Death Eaters attack. Every student who took part last year passed their O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts. The skills we teach here will be valuable for the rest of your life. This year, more than ever, it is vitally important that we work hard, we work together, and we become one as a school, not as four houses. We will help you, but the drive to be the best you can be must come from deep inside you. It must be fuelled by the knowledge that it could save your life, or your family’s lives. If you don’t want to work or if you don’t want to learn, turn around and leave now. We’re not going to force you.” Harry paused and waited to see if anyone would take up his offer. No one did.
“Excellent,” he smiled. “So, why don’t we start with a little contest, just to get the blood moving, and so we can see what skill level you are at. We’re going to have a duelling competition for all the new members. The standard school rules apply. Last year’s D.A., members will be judging. Hermione, can you pair people off?”
“Of course, Harry,” Hermione said moving next to him. In her hand was the big book that all the new members had signed with the new anti-communication charm built in. She started reading out names, and as a pair was announced, Harry nodded to a long-term member of the D.A. who went to invigilate.
When everyone was paired off, including Daphne and Pansy, Harry gave the command for them to start.
He stood at the front, pretending to watch everyone duel, but his main attention was on Pansy. She was fighting a fifth year Slytherin he’d never seen before. It was hard to hide a smile as he watched his girlfriend clumsily dodge the sort of curse that would normally have her laughing in contempt. She tripped forward as she launched a woefully under-powered curse at him.
The fifth year dodged it easily and sent back a stunning charm that was going wide, till Pansy leaned into it.
“You’re out,” he heard Luna say quietly and he smiled. He could always rely on Luna to understand things that others wouldn’t. It was why he had picked her for that match, knowing that she had seen Pansy train.
“Bad luck,” he said a little loudly as Pansy walked over to him.
“I’ll do better next time,” Pansy sighed and hugged him, her face sad, but her eyes were laughing with him.
“Good work,” Harry nodded to the boy who had beaten Pansy, noticing the way his chest puffed out slightly at the praise.
In a way that didn’t really surprise him, the final duel was between two Slytherins; Blaise and Daphne. As he watched them fight, he decided that he would continue the D.A. after defeating Voldemort. Some of these students would make great Aurors, but more than that, it was giving them confidence – confidence they would need as his group shook the Wizarding world by the ankles and changed it.
“Congratulations, Blaise,” Harry said loudly when the boy won by dropping to the floor to avoid a nasty combination of hexes and shot his own out at the same time. Daph hadn’t expected it and had been caught.
“Do I get a prize?” Blaise asked as he got back to his feet.
“What do you have in mind?” Harry asked.
“You. In a duel,” Blaise grinned.
Pansy laughed softly. “That’s not such a good idea,” she advised.
“I know,” Blaise replied. “But I think everyone wants to see what Harry can do in a real duel, so I’m volunteering as a practice dummy.”
“No offence,” Pansy said dryly, “But you’d be about as effective as a practice dummy. How about you have some help?”
“Pansy,” Harry said.
“Shush, honey,” Pansy interrupted him. “Neville, Padma, Luna, Justin, why don’t you join Blaise?”
“Five of us?” Padma asked. “Is he that good?”
“Better,” Pansy replied. “But it will show you what he can do. Harry, no wandless magic.”
Harry nodded and stepped off the small stage. The students separated, leaving a circle where Harry stood opposite his five opponents. He knew what Blaise was trying to do; it was actually pretty clever, and it made him adjust his thinking slightly. He wanted to show the others that Harry had a chance against Voldemort.
He stood still, slowly sinking into his fighting mindset, blocking everything irrelevant to the duel out. Once again, things started to turn grey. He felt Pansy send him a quick mental thought of love, even as he shut that down.
Everything was still.
Nothing else existed but his opponents.
He didn’t hear the command to start, but he saw them start to move, and he moved himself.
As Croaker had earlier, he didn’t wait for them but launched himself forward as fast as he could. He pulled his wand out, as if it had been in his hand all along, and launched a spell straight at Padma. She didn’t even get the chance to raise her shield as the spell hit her, holding her in place and out of the duel.
Luna was reacting faster than he had thought she would, and cast a spell at him. Unfortunately, he didn’t stop moving, and her spell hit Justin straight in the face.
That left three. Luna fired another curse at him, but this time he simply cast a spell to reflect it back at her. She ducked and dived over toward Neville and Blaise. The three of them trained their wands at Harry.
He paused, evaluating the situation coldly. Normally he would have a variety of curses he could use, but this wasn’t the time to make public the knowledge that he had curses that were as effective as the Cruciatus.
In a repeating pattern, his three opponents started to cast spells at him. The first few he used a shield spell to absorb, before he decided to take out Blaise next. With a wave of his wand, his shield vanished and he started to move again.
The spells seemed to be moving in slow motion as he ducked and dodged his way through them, till he grabbed Blaise’s arm and twisted it carefully, applying just the right amount of force to send the boy crashing to the floor. A quick spell left him immobile.
He looked up, diving to the right automatically as a couple of curses fizzled through the space he’d just vacated.
There were just two left now. He’d never stayed in fight mode this long before, and he was starting to find it difficult to remain in it. He’d been moving too fast, and his body was trying to tell him that.
As Neville launched a fresh curse at him, he decided to try something different. He took a step forward and jumped over the curse, thrusting his wand down into the curse, and moving his arm, so that the curse traced a semi-circle in the air, and flew straight toward Luna.
Luna just blinked as the curse hit her, her face registering mild surprise at what he had done.
Harry landed in a tight shoulder roll and came up in front of Neville. Harry’s left hand redirected Neville’s wand, as his wand rested between Neville’s eyes.
“Yield?” he asked softly, as the room abruptly returned to normal in a violent rush that made him want to vomit.
Neville nodded slowly, his face pale.
Hermione, Ginny, and the other D.A. members quickly helped the others back to their feet, cancelling the curses, as Harry returned to the small stage and stood next to Pansy.
She wormed her way into his arms, standing in front of him and holding him tightly. It looked like she was resting against him, but she was actually holding him up.
Blaise was the first person to break the unnatural silence. “This was why I joined,” he said loudly, obviously addressing the rest of the D.A.. “To learn from the best. He just took out five of us, and he’s not even breathing hard. This is what I aspire to. I’ve seen Death Eaters, and I can’t wait until the next time I see them. Because I will see what Death Eaters look like scared. I will see them frightened. I will see them face Harry and realise with their last breath that they made a mistake and followed the wrong person. I wanted to see what Harry could do. I thought I might be a little disappointed. That he couldn’t live up to the rumours. Well, screw the rumours. The reality is a hundred times more impressive.”
“At the next meeting,” Hermione said, “we’ll start to train properly. Feel free to bring along anyone else who wants to join.”
The students started to talk among themselves as they filed out, leaving only Harry, Hermione, Ginny, Pansy, and Daphne. Blaise was the last to leave, and he paused at the door and looked back, shaking his head.
“Tell me one thing,” he asked. “Were you holding back?”
Harry nodded slowly.
Blaise grinned. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell,” and he vanished out the door.
Harry groaned and rested against Pansy. She took a step back for a second as she tried to hold him up, but a second later he felt another pair of arms around him, and he was gently lowered to the ground by Pansy and Ginny.
“He’s exhausted,” Pansy said quietly. “He’s never been in that hyper-extended state of his for so long before. It’s normally only useful for short periods, but because he couldn’t use most of his curses, he had to rely on the speed to make it so impressive.”
Hermione shook her head softly. “That was pretty amazing; I didn’t really realise just how seriously you had been trained, even with Croaker’s demonstration earlier.”
Pansy smiled slightly. “Harry pushed himself harder than you can believe,” she said quietly. “He did it to protect us. Now, help me get him up and into the living room, Gin. Daph, can you get a blanket for him? Hermione, can you talk to Dobby about getting some hot chocolate and a snack?”
Pansy sighed softly and lightly stroked Harry’s forehead. He was having a quick nap to try to regain some of his strength. Ginny was sitting on the floor next to them, as close as she could be, while reading one of her textbooks.
Hermione and Daphne were at the table, talking in a low voice as they poured over some tomes that were so thick they needed magic to lift them.
Sometimes, she forgot that he was only a teenager. That he was barely sixteen. His mannerisms and attitude were that of an adult, not an insecure teenager. It was only when he pushed himself so hard that it showed.
He’d tried to describe the hyper-extended state he was able to sink into a few times, but she hadn’t really grasped it till she’d gone into his mind with him and seen it. It was somehow pure – all its focus on defeating the enemy.
The state itself was pretty benign; it was just concentration. But it was when he moved that the problems started. The human body was simply not meant to move that fast, and certainly not for a sustained period of more than a few seconds. It took so much energy and willpower to do it.
But one thing Harry Potter had never lacked was willpower.
There had been an almost visible feeling of hope in the air as the students had walked out, talking amongst themselves.
More importantly, Draco would hear about it. It was what they wanted. For Voldemort to get a little scared that Harry would be his equal and prepare the attack as soon as he could.
It was a dangerous game they were playing, but the risks were worth it; as were the rewards.
She had reluctantly admitted to herself that her plans for doing more than sleeping with Harry were going to have to wait, what with them seriously planning for the final battle; they were both going to be too tired to do things properly. Neither of them wanted a quick screw. They wanted to do it properly, and she wasn’t going to rush – neither was he – even if they might not get the chance. She knew deep inside herself that if Harry died, she might not, but no one would ever replace him in her heart.
She lightly ran her fingers over his scar, marvelling that it could have once been the source of so much torment for him, and she wondered once more why he wasn’t taught Occlumency at an earlier age. Still, with the damage Snape had done, it was probably a good thing.
She felt Harry wake and smiled. “Hey,” she whispered.
“Hey,” he said back, a little huskily. He turned and smiled at the girl sat near them. “Thanks for helping, Ginny,” he said softly.
Ginny just turned and smiled radiantly at both of them.
Harry sat up and stretched. He looked at his watch and sighed. “Accio Marauder’s Map,” he said quietly. “As much as I want to go to bed and sleep for a week, we need to sow some seeds with Draco. It looks like he’s on Prefect Patrol tonight. Pansy, do you know his path?”
“Yes,” Pansy said, sitting next to him. She traced it on the map.
“Okay,” Harry nodded. “It looks like this classroom will be perfect for an impromptu meeting between us. You guys are going to have to sneak down there under my Invisibility Cloak. Daph, I think you’re going to have to stay behind, as it can probably only fit Pansy, Hermione, and Ginny because she’s smaller.”
“I hate logic,” Daphne grumbled. “And I’ll want a full report when you get back!”
Harry smiled gratefully at her. “I’ll meet you all down there,” he said and vanished.
Pansy walked into their bedroom and pulled out Harry’s Invisibility Cloak. She carried it back into their living room and looked at the other two girls. “I take it I’m the only one here with little experience in this.”
Ginny and Hermione smiled and moved next to her. “Just follow our lead,” Hermione said softly.
“Like when dancing,” Ginny added. “Just relax and let us worry about everything else. You don’t grow up with Fred and George without learning a thing or two about sneaking.”
“I’ll bet,” Pansy said dryly.
The journey down was uneventful, except when they had to freeze as Draco, accompanied, as always, by his Neanderthalian bodyguards, Crabbe and Goyle, walked past them.
With a relieved sigh, they entered the classroom to find that Harry had conjured four chairs, and he was sitting in one comfortably, the map in his hand.
They sat down near him and waited silently while Harry watched the map intently.
“It’s not bloody fair,” he said loudly. “Dumbledore won’t listen to me – he seems to know whatever is going on during the day.”
“We shouldn’t be out so late,” Hermione said, her voice was as loud as Harry’s.
Harry sighed audibly. “It doesn’t matter,” he stated. “In four weeks’ time this place will be impenetrable. Voldemort can attack all he likes and he won’t get anywhere. And we only have to hold out for two more weeks after that, and then the prophecy will kick in.”
“It’s about time you told us about the prophecy,” Ginny said. “We fought in the Ministry for it.”
“It’s simple,” Harry said cheerfully. “I can’t remember the exact quote, but the general gist is that at the moment, Voldemort will kill me the next time we meet.” He paused as the three girls gasped in unison. “But, if I can hold out for another six weeks, it changes, and I’ll kill him.
“Voldemort was supposed to find the prophecy, but he failed. So he’ll continue to hide wherever he is, unaware that his doom is sneaking up on him.”
“Perfect,” Pansy laughed. “It’s a good job he doesn’t know.”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “Do you hear something?”
There was a sound of footsteps trying to be stealthy outside, and they waited for a minute until Harry, who was still watching the map, gave the signal, and they started to laugh.
“I can’t believe he fell for that,” Hermione said, wiping her eyes. “It was so childish!”
“I know,” Pansy agreed. “But Draco has all the sophistication of a three year old. It told him everything he wanted to hear. I’ll bet he goes to sleep tonight dreaming of the praise Voldemort will give him.”
Harry nodded and yawned. “Let’s go back to our rooms,” he said. “We do have lessons tomorrow.”
Hermione stood and nodded. “Cloak?”
“Nah,” Harry shrugged. “No one’s going to give us detention, so why bother?”
Hermione pouted. “But sneaking and breaking the rules is half the fun.”
“Hermione!” Harry said, looking shocked.
Hermione just smiled a little smile and kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t ever change, Harry.”
She looped her arm in Pansy’s and Ginny’s, and they walked off together, leaving Harry scratching his head in bewilderment.
“Go for a run, then pop home for a shower, and then have breakfast,” Pansy said, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I wish you’d tell me what you have planned.”
“A girl has to have some secrets, Harry,” Pansy said softly. “Now scoot.”
Harry rolled his eyes at her and then walked out the door.
Pansy shut the door firmly and turned to the three girls. “Any idea what I have planned?”
Daphne pursed her lips slowly and looked directly into Pansy’s eyes. “I have an inkling; does it mean I get to do what I think I do?”
“Can you handle it?”
“Sure,” Daphne grinned. “I’ve been dying of curiosity for some time now.”
“Ahhh,” Hermione interrupted. “So that’s why you don’t want me involved.”
“It’s because of Ron,” Pansy explained. “Do you really think that he would be happy seeing that?”
Hermione sucked her lower lip as she thought. “No, damn it. You and Harry have given him warning after warning, so we’ll consider this a test. Let’s see what happens.”
“Are you sure?” Pansy asked.
“Yes,” Hermione said decisively. “Having me there will add to the effect.”
“What are we planning?” Ginny asked. “I’m a little lost.”
“Draco has never shied away from giving his opinion. He’s stated a few times that he’d like to ‘show the Mudblood what a pureblood can do.’”
“Eww,” Ginny muttered.
“Think how I feel,” Hermione agreed. “I’ve felt his eyes on me a time or two.” She shuddered. “I normally had to have a shower shortly afterward.”
“He also has inferred that with a bit of attention and a bit of cash, you’d fall for his charms as well,” Pansy said to Ginny.
“Tell me the bloody plan,” Ginny said, her eyes flashing. “Castration is sounding really good about now.”
Pansy laughed. She shrugged off her dressing gown and walked over to the table, dressed only in her knickers. She pulled on a shirt, but instead of doing the buttons up, she simply tied it in a knot under her breasts, leaving most of her stomach bare. Next came a flared skirt which was so short it showed nearly all of her legs. “I’ve got it charmed to keep it down,” she explained with a slight smile. She bent and pulled on some white ankle socks, followed by some black heels. She finished the outfit with one of Harry’s ties.
“How do I look?”
“Like you just stepped out of every fantasy every boy in this school has ever had,” Daphne said.
Ginny nodded in agreement. “And some of the girls,” she murmured, before blushing.
“I wouldn’t do this for just anyone,” Hermione sighed. “A thousand feminists are probably turning in their graves about now. But it is for a good cause.” She reached around her back and undid her bra under her shirt. A few contortions later, and she dumped it on the table. She quickly undid the buttons of her shirt and tied it up like Pansy had. She grabbed her wand and shrunk her own skirt till it was the same length. “Can you do the charm?” she asked.
“Of course,” Pansy smiled and pulled her own wand out. She whispered under her breath and pointed at the skirt. “There you go.”
“Thanks,” Hermione smiled. “I’ve got some heels in my room.”
“So we’re all going to look like this?” Ginny asked.
“And we’re going to walk into the Great Hall at breakfast, and we’re all going to snog the hell out of my boyfriend.”
Ginny’s eyes went wide. “And everyone is going to think the worst,” she said softly. “And Draco will go absolutely insane seeing Harry get everything he wants,” she added with a pleased look.
“Yes,” Pansy agreed.
“You are completely and totally evil,” Ginny whispered. “And I think I love you.”
Pansy laughed and hugged her for a second. “Going to take part?”
“Try and stop me,” Ginny grinned, undoing the buttons on her shirt. “I knew I should have worn a normal bra” she said as she turned her back on them and quickly pulled off her shirt and sports bra, before putting the shirt back on and tying it up the same way as Pansy and Hermione.
“Can one of you shrink my skirt?” she asked. “My clothing charms have never been that good.”
Pansy nodded and quickly cast a couple of spells. “There you go. You know, you might find that you get more unwanted attention after this.”
“I know,” Ginny nodded. “But you and Harry will protect me.”
“Always,” Pansy promised. She turned to look at Daphne, who had cast her own spells, and was ready.
“What size shoe are you, Ginny?” Pansy asked.
Pansy moved into her room and picked up her spare pair of black heels, shrinking them a couple of sizes. “Have you worn heels before?”
“A few times,” Ginny said. “What are we going to do if anyone takes photos?”
“I dunno, charge a licensing fee? Hex the idiot? I guess in the end, I’ll leave it to Harry to deal with. I’m going to walk in first with you three flanking me. I’m going to kiss him, and at the same time tell him to relax and just go with the flow. I know my boyfriend, and he’d try and talk us out of this. If we present him with a fait accompli, he’ll play along.”
“It must be nice having a boyfriend you can allow three other girls to kiss, knowing that he’ll not read anything into it, other than a way to annoy Draco,” Daphne sighed. “Still, at least I get to satisfy my curiosity.”
Pansy smiled. “It will be fun,” she said confidently. “Hermione, Ginny, do you know how to strut?”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked.
Pansy walked to the far side of the room and then turned. She walked toward them deliberately, one foot moving directly in front of the other. She had a sultry expression on her face, as she moved her arms and shoulders in unison. Her chest bounced a little with each step. “Strut,” she grinned. “You try.”
Pansy watched as Ginny and Hermione tried to imitate her walk. “Put your shoulders back a little, Hermione. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you are a lot sexier than I thought. Have confidence in yourself.”
Hermione straightened her back and look directly forward, a small smile on her face.
“That’s more like it,” Pansy cheered. “Ginny, don’t look at your feet; they’re not going anywhere. Head back, like the other day when you walked into the Hall. You’ve got a great new haircut, and anyone who sees you like this will never think of little Ginny Weasley again.”
Ginny smiled and put her head back, imitating Hermione perfectly.
“Brilliant,” Pansy smiled. “Okay, let’s put on some make-up.”
Harry sat at the table and finished his breakfast when Dobby appeared suddenly and handed him a mint and a note. The elf winked at him and vanished again, and he suddenly got a feeling of unease.
He opened the note quickly and smiled in relief.
I’m in, safe, and a nice elf has already introduced himself and promised to help.
Hugs ‘N Kisses (or there would be if I wasn’t scared of your girlfriend)
He folded the note absently and tucked it into his trouser pocket. It was good to know she was safe and in; he just hoped that she wouldn’t have to be in there for too long. The sooner this ended the better.
He tilted his head to one side. He could feel Pansy was excited, very much so, and he suddenly worried about just where his girlfriend’s flair for the dramatic was going to take them. He thought about warning Ron, who was sitting on the other side of Seamus, but he decided not to.
The door to the Great Hall flew open with a bang that attracted the attention of everyone, including the Professors.
The attention was followed by am audible gasp – one he joined in on, as he watched the four girls stand in the doorway. He almost missed the spell that Pansy cast, but saw the effects a second later as a strong breeze blew against them, causing their long hair to fly dramatically behind them.
All around him, he could see two reactions. Most of the boys and some of the girls too, were looking at them with pure teenage lust. The rest of the girls had extremely jealous looks on their faces.
Pansy strutted forward, flanked by a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead, and he knew, without a doubt what she had planned.
He opened his mind a little and heard her telling him to relax and just go with it. He sighed; he should have thought of this earlier and put a stop to it. But it was too late now, and judging by the look on Draco’s face, it was going to work.
The uniforms they were wearing would give everyone at the Ministry a collective coronary. Either from outrage or desire, he wasn’t sure which.
Pansy led the way, always the ringleader. Her skirt was probably the shortest of the four, and her legs seemed endless before they vanished under a skirt that, in some cultures, would be classified as a belt. Her stomach was smooth with just the faintest outline of the muscles she had developed visible under the skin.
The way her chest bounced with each and every step showed clearly that she was bra-less and wasn’t ashamed of it in any way. She had a challenging look on her face as she stared at him, as if she was personally daring anyone to stand up to her.
Daphne was to her right. The tall blonde, made taller by the black heels she was wearing, had a confident strut to her walk, as if she had accepted that she was going to be stared at and was now determined to make sure that people would never forget her. Her skirt was a little longer than Pansy’s, but to almost compensate, her shirt was tighter, revealing the shape of the breasts Draco had drooled over for several years.
As much as it pained him to admit that Draco was right about anything, Daphne did have an amazing set.
Next to her, and behind Pansy, was Ginny. He didn’t think that anyone, ever, would ignore her again. He’d been attracted to her for over a year now, and when she looked like this, he had a tiny pang that he would never get together with her.
Her long red hair flowed like liquid fire down her back, emphasising both the white shirt – that showed that she, while not quite as developed as Daphne, certainly had nothing to complain about – and her pale skin.
While Daphne and Pansy were suntanned, Ginny had some amazingly translucent skin that seemed to glow in the light streaming into the Great Hall. And judging by some of the awed faces around him, some of the boys were currently kicking themselves for overlooking her. Just because she was more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt didn’t mean that Ginny couldn’t polish up as well as any other girl in the school.
Hermione was the biggest surprise – the fact that she was even taking part in this was the first, and just how good she looked was the second. It was an almost uncomfortable moment for him, as he admitted that his old friend had grown up in ways that he hadn’t really noticed.
He’d never seen her move like this – she was moving the same way as the others. It made him think about just how lucky he had been to have her as a friend, and how well she understood him and his moods that she would dress to ensure that he felt comfortable, as much as she dressed for herself and for Ron.
He was a little shocked at just how beautiful she was. The promise that had been evident when Viktor had taken her to the Yule Ball had been completely fulfilled.
Pansy paused in front of him, and he stood. She reached up and kissed him thoroughly, mentally telling him once more to go with the flow.
She stepped to one side, and Hermione stepped up. “I wouldn’t do this for just anyone,” she whispered softly. “But you know I love you,” she finished. She leaned in and kissed him as Pansy had.
Kissing Hermione was very different to kissing Pansy. There was a familiarity to it, but nowhere near as much passion, as if they were just friends exchanging an intimate moment and nothing more.
She pulled back and lightly brushed his hair back, before moving to the other side.
Daphne slinked forward and hugged him, whispering, “I’ve wanted to do this since I met you,” in a wicked tone. She kissed him harder than the other two girls, her tongue delving deeply into his mouth.
He kissed her back, matching her, knowing that he would never do it again.
“It was as good as I hoped,” she whispered, as she moved next to Hermione.
Ginny moved up to him last, and for a second, he was aware of just how absolutely silent the Great Hall was. He could see Draco’s face was changing to some interesting shades of red.
Ginny kissed him as hard as Daphne had. There was a curious innocence to her kiss, with a longing and desperation that went right through him. He closed his arms around her, lifting her onto her toes and he kissed her back as if she was his girlfriend, and not because his girlfriend had told him to.
She pulled back eventually and looked at him, her dark brown eyes peering into his, searching for something, although he didn’t know what, before nodding slowly and moving next to Pansy.
He could see the four girls as they all looked at Draco and smirked at him – sending the same message: that Harry had all of what he would never get.
“Harlots!” Draco yelled, almost incoherent with rage; as he pulled his wand and pointed it at them, but Harry was already moving. His hand dipped into his pocket, flicking off the catch for his knife, and pulled it out.
“Cruc…” Draco started, before yelling in absolute pain as Harry’s knife impaled his hand.
He fell to his knees with a wail of agony, pulling the knife out and dropping it on the floor. He stared at his bleeding hand and stumbled to his feet.
“You’ll die for this, Potter!” he half screamed. “You and your whores. I’ll make you all suffer. Just you wait. I hate you, and I curse you for eternity.” Draco stumbled to the door after picking up his wand, and he stumbled out and onto the grounds of Hogwarts.
Harry walked over calmly and picked up his knife. With a casual contempt, he wiped it clean on Crabbe’s robes. He took a long look at the two boys, who looked at each other and then lurched to their feet, following Draco.
“Anyone else going home to Voldemort?” Harry demanded.
No one else moved.
Pansy started to giggle, and a few seconds later, she started to laugh. “I thought he was going to have a stroke,” she spluttered.
“It was beautiful,” Hermione agreed. “I’ve never seen that particular shade of red before. If we’d only been able to dye his hair, he’d have looked like a tomato.”
Daphne laughed and shook her head. “I think that was fitting revenge for all the years worth of torture he put us through, Pansy.”
“And for thinking he can buy me,” Ginny muttered through her teeth. “Good riddance to bad Death Eater spawn,” she grinned. “Daddy,” she said, doing a pretty good impersonation of Draco’s whining voice. “I saw all the girls I fancy kissing Potter, so I lost my head, tried to cast an Unforgivable, and Potter cut my hand, so I ran away crying like a little girl.”
Hermione, Pansy, and Daphne laughed even harder. “I hope he says that to Voldemort,” Pansy gasped. “Imagine how pleased he’d be to lose a spy at Hogwarts for something so obviously set up.”
“Wait,” Seamus interrupted. “This was a set up?” His eyes were wide with surprise and awe.
“Of course,” Pansy smirked. “Revenge and all that.”
“Remind me to never get on your bad side,” Seamus mumbled.
“Well, that and some of us really wanted to kiss Harry,” Daphne said cheerfully, ignoring Seamus’ second comment. “And this looked like it was going to be the only chance we’d ever get.”
“At least Draco didn’t know anything about our plans,” Pansy grinned.
“True,” Hermione nodded. She hugged Harry briefly. “Friends?” she asked softly.
Harry looked down at her and recognised the fear in her eyes– that she thought she might have hurt their friendship. “Always,” he said simply.
Harry finished his breakfast alone; the four girls had vanished to change into less revealing clothes, and all around the room, low voices were talking about what they had seen. He could feel some jealous looks from most of the other boys (and a few of the girls, surprisingly), but he ignored them.
They had no idea what it was like being him and they never would. All they saw was the public side; never the side that had to send a close friend into a situation where one wrong slip – literally, in her case – could be the end of her life.
They would never know the loneliness of command, of being responsible for launching an attack directly at the enemy. They would never know the deep-seated fear that they might have ordered someone to their death.
He groaned suddenly as he realised he hadn’t actually remembered to tell Dumbledore what had happened since they had last talked.
He pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and scrawled a quick message on it.
Can you please arrange an Order meeting for tonight? Things have changed, and you and everyone else needs to know what is going on.
He cast a spell and watched as the paper floated over to Dumbledore. The Headmaster read it, and then nodded solemnly.
Harry smiled and stood, walking out toward the door.
Hermione sighed softly and sat in her favourite chair, waiting. She had an hour free before lunch and knew that Ron did as well, and that she was going to have to talk to him.
She didn’t know what was going to happen, and perhaps even worse, didn’t know which way she wanted it to go.
Kissing Harry earlier was not something she regretted at all. In a way, it had settled her mind with him. She loved him; completely, but not as a romantic partner. They just didn’t have the spark between them for it to ignite. But what she did know was that they would have their incredible friendship for the rest of their lives.
It gave her a warm glow to think about it, but also an inkling of what the problem was going to be with Ron.
The door to the Room of Requirement opened a few minutes later, and Ron walked in and sat opposite her.
She looked at him quietly. He was good-looking, tall, and when he actually used his brain, quite intelligent.
She met his eyes and waited. He was going to have to make the first move because she still wasn’t sure she was going to forgive him for what he had done. Harry already had, Ginny had, and Pansy was reserving judgement.
It had been Daphne who had really surprised her, as she had talked about psychology, and how Ron’s childhood had affected him in different ways. She had underestimated the blonde and now enjoyed working with her on some pretty esoteric research ideas.
“I’ve been thinking,” Ron said with a slight smile. “All it took was being thrown across the room by someone six inches shorter than me and then having piercing grey eyes stare into mine to do it.”
Hermione nodded, tilting her head a little to one side as she listened.
“And then I watched you this morning. You were beautiful.”
Ron nodded. “It helped me make a decision. I didn’t lose my temper when I saw what you were going to do, and I actually thought it through. Sure, I was jealous of Harry; I think everyone there was. But I knew Pansy had put you up to it because Harry wouldn’t even think of messing with Draco’s head like that.
“And I watched you kiss him. I know what you’re like, and I knew that you both enjoyed the kiss, but that was it, and it rammed home the problem I have. Hermione, I am very sorry for ignoring you. If I had listened, I wouldn’t be in this place I am now. But in a way, I think we’re both glad it happened. It brought what we’ve both avoided to a head. I love you, I really do, but I don’t think we should go out anymore.”
“Why?” Hermione asked, willing herself not to react in any way.
“Because you can’t give me what I need,” Ron said simply. “I want and need someone who will be mine and mine alone, and you will never be able to do that. There is a part of you that belongs to Harry and always will.
“It’s the same for me. A part of me will always belong to him as well.”
Hermione nodded slowly. He was right, which wasn’t really a surprise; whenever he used his brain, he usually was.
“So where do we go from here?” she asked, smiling at him.
“Well,” Ron said, a smile appearing on his face, “The first thing to do is for you to persuade Harry that I haven’t hurt you again.”
Hermione laughed softly. “Good idea,” she said. “Where does this leave us, Ron?”
“As friends?” he asked hopefully.
She smiled and stood, opening her arms to him. He moved into her, and she hugged him tightly and then gently kissed his cheek. “I do love you, Ronald Weasley.”
“I know,” he said. “I love you too, but this is the best way for us to keep that friendship.”
She nodded and released him, sitting back down on the couch. “So, who have you got in mind?”
“I just broke up with one of the hottest witches at school, I didn’t exactly have a backup plan,” Ron said with a slight grin and a rueful shrug.
“Have you thought about Hannah?”
“Hannah?” Ron asked, sounding surprised.
“I think she’d be good for you,” Hermione smiled. “She’s intelligent enough to be a Ravenclaw but has the loyalty of a Hufflepuff. I think she’d understand that a part of you will always belong to Harry.”
“I hadn’t thought of her,” he said. “And I certainly didn’t expect to be talking about this with you.”
Hermione nodded. “Daphne did everything she could to make me want to stay with you,” she explained. “And I did think about it, but I came to the same conclusion you did. You’d always be jealous of the fact that Harry’s got a piece of my heart, that he’s my family. And in the end, it would tear us apart, and it would hurt you a lot more than me.”
“Literally,” he grinned his agreement. “Because Harry would let me know in person how disappointed he was. I didn’t expect you to make friends with Pansy so well either. You’re even talking like her.”
“I know,” Hermione agreed. “She understands my relationship with Harry – and how important it is to both of us – and she’s happy about it. When I realised just how genuine she was about wanting Harry to be happy, I couldn’t resent her anymore.
“She’s put an amazing amount of effort into making friends with me and Ginny, an effort she didn’t have to do. But she decided it’s the best way for her to get what she wants – a happy partner, Voldemort dead, and all her dreams come true. It’s a very mature attitude.”
“What about Ginny?”
“What about her?”
“Why? I mean, I don’t think she’s torturing her or anything, but it’s well, weird.”
“It is different, but Pansy sees something in Ginny, something that none of us ever bothered to look for, and she’s as protective of her as she is of Harry. And Ginny is happier than I’ve ever seen her. You know that Voldemort was left in her mind from the diary?”
“Harry and Pansy showed Ginny how to defeat him; they went into her mind and helped her out. Can you imagine what it must have been like? She had lived for so long with that tainting her existence, and then her friends saved her with that casual elegance and grace with which they do everything? Harry has always been Ginny’s White Knight, and now Pansy is her Grey Queen. Have you noticed the changes in your sister?”
“You mean the way she’s got that same self-confidence as they do now? The way that she seems at peace? Yeah. I still remember everything we went through after the diary, and I never thought I’d see her like this. Of course, we also thought that Voldemort was gone. Ginny is a lot happier than I’ve seen her in a long time, but it’s weird that it’s Pansy Parkinson that’s responsible. The same Pansy that helped torment us for years.
“That was part of my problem, you know? I couldn’t get away from what happened in the past. I have now. It is the past. Realising that far from Pansy hurting us, it was me that was hurting everyone that was unpleasant,” he smiled slightly. “You know what Harry said to me that night?”
“That all you had to do was ask?” Hermione asked.
“Exactly. Simple, isn’t it. He also said a few more things that rammed home the truth. You know, hearing that Harry was dying at those Muggles’ was just kinda what I expected, you know? I never thought about how bad it was for him, or what it’s like to be like that. He’s the hero, so of course bad things happen to him. I guess I forgot that Harry Potter is also my best friend, Harry. Well, never again.”
“Good,” Hermione said cheerfully. “So, who are you apologising to next?”
“Ginny,” Ron said decisively. “Can you talk to Harry at the same time?”
“I will,” she promised. “Ginny should be coming out of class in a few minutes; why don’t you go meet her?”
“Thanks, Hermione,” Ron said as he got to his feet. “Are you sure about Hannah?”
“Don’t mistake her loyalty for softness, Ron. She has a core of steel inside her, and she’ll need it, just as the person I fall for someday will need to be strong.”
Ron nodded and grinned. “Of course,” he grinned. “He’d have to be barmy too.”
Hermione laughed and threw a pillow at him. As Ron left, she clicked her fingers and called for Dobby.
“You rang?” Dobby asked.
“Do you know where that comes from?” Hermione asked curiously.
Dobby stiffened his limbs and lumbered about slowly making a low grumbling sound.
Hermione laughed and clapped her hands.
The house-elf grinned and bowed cheerfully.
“Can you find Harry for me? I need a quiet chat with him.”
“Dobby would be delighted,” he said as he nodded and vanished with a click.
Hermione started to countdown from ten. She had only reached four when Harry arrived.
“What’s up?” he asked, sitting next to her.
“Ron and I just agreed to break up,” she said. “And before you jump to conclusions, it was amicable and mutual.”
Harry froze, and with a visible effort, he relaxed. “Why?” he asked simply.
“Because a part of me will always belong to you,” she said. “Just as a part of Ron will. We both need to find our own Pansy, because we can’t be that for each other.”
Harry sighed softly. “I wondered how soon you’d realise it – I’ve been dreading it for most of the summer. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Hermione said, shifting so she could sit against him. “I’ve already suggested Hannah for Ron, and he’s intrigued.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll find someone, Harry, but I’m not in any rush. You have to remember that I was raised as a normal Muggle. I have more human expectations of my life, and I probably won’t find anyone for years, and I’m happy with that. No one will get in the way of my studying and my learning, and then when I’m ready, I’ll find someone who will love me and accept that I love you.”
Harry wrapped his arms around her. “Did you ever think we’d be having conversations like this last year?”
“Never,” Hermione said promptly, relaxing against him. “Last year if I’d even mentioned the word love it would have taken you a week to stop running.”
“Hey,” Harry protested, but she could feel him laughing. “It would have been at least two. I would have had to stop and sulk for a bit as well.”
“I do prefer you as you are now,” Hermione admitted.
“I do as well,” he said. “I would never have been comfortable sitting with you like this before Pansy, but now I am. I think I’ve finally accepted that touching people you love is good for you.”
“It is,” Hermione agreed. “But we need to talk to Pansy to ensure that she doesn’t get the wrong end of the stick and do something permanent to Ron.”
“She’s on her way up here, but she’s going to take it slowly to give us time.” He paused for a few seconds, “I asked Dumbledore to arrange an Order meeting for tonight; we need to tell them about the plan.”
“I looked at him, you know.”
She felt Harry nod against her. “He is. Very old and very tired. He always appeared so indomitable growing up. But things have changed, and he’s been holding on for so many years.”
“The pressure he must have been under…”
“It was immense, and I think it made him start to believe in his own publicity. You know, I wonder why he never married, because I think he wouldn’t have made half the decisions he did if he’d understood human emotions properly.”
She twisted a little to look at Harry. “You think he really didn’t know better?”
“Not that he didn’t know,” Harry clarified, “but that he didn’t understand. He knew that my childhood was bad, but he didn’t really understand, and because of that, he continued to do what he thought was best.”
Hermione exhaled slowly. “What are you going to do?”
“Marginalise him,” Harry said softly. “I already have. It’s not about revenge; it’s more about me not trusting him not to make another strange decision because he thinks its right. He might know it – I don’t know. But I know that he will be happy when he can finally be just the headmaster, when all the pressure is gone, because I think then we will see the return of the slightly barmy Professor Dumbledore that we loved in our first year.”
She shifted again, relaxing once more. “Are you so very sure of yourself?”
“No,” he admitted. “But unless someone else can come up with something better…”
“They won’t,” Hermione said. “I’ve thought about what you said yesterday, and while I do have some reservations about Malcom and Gruoch, I suspect they will vanish as I get to know them better. I stayed up late last night, and flipped through Hogwarts: A History, and I found out that you were right. Every century there was something big – an improvement in Magical Theory or Practice that made everyone’s life better. Apart from this one, that is – the one that has been dominated by two Dark Lords. And any culture that stagnates is going to die.
“Our world needs a kick, Harry, and there’s no one in the world I would trust more than you to do it.”
Harry smiled and hugged her again. They sat in companionable silence until Pansy walked in and smiled at them.
“First you kiss my boyfriend, and then I find you two canoodling on the couch?” Pansy cried dramatically.
Hermione poked her tongue out at the girl.
“Is that an invitation?” Pansy asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Pansy!” Hermione said, feeling herself blush.
Pansy grinned and dropped down onto the floor in front of them. “So, apart from stealing my seat on my boyfriend, what happened?”
“Ron apologised, we made friends and decided to go our separate ways as we can’t give each other what we need.”
Pansy nodded. “So you’re saying I don’t get to hurt him?”
“Meany,” Pansy pouted. “Okay, once he’s apologised to Harry, he’s forgiven and can join in. Harry really does need more male friends.”
“I know,” Hermione agreed.
“I am here, you know,” Harry protested.
“I know,” she said, hearing Pansy echo her at the same time.
“So,” Hermione said, shifting out of Harry’s arms and reaching down to pull Pansy up and onto his lap. She sat at the other end of the couch and smiled as Pansy immediately snuggled into Harry’s chest. “What’s the plan for the Order meeting tonight?”
“Ginny, can we talk?”
Ginny looked up at her brother and studied him carefully. “In here,” she said, turning around and walking back into the classroom.
McGonagall looked at them and smiled. The professor turned and walked into her office, shutting the door firmly.
Ginny hopped up onto the desk and swung her feet. “So talk.”
“I’m sorry,” Ron said. “I chose to drink too much, and the more I did, the clearer I thought I was thinking. I’m not offering an excuse, just an explanation.
“I was jealous; of Harry, of you, of everyone.”
“Of me?” Ginny asked, feeling surprised.
“You managed to make friends with Harry’s new girlfriend instantly. And you were so accepting of his actions. I hated Harry for not wanting you, and I wanted you to fight.”
“Exactly,” Ron sighed. “What was there for you to fight? Harry loves Pansy. Harry pointed it out to me quite firmly. You are nothing like what I said; I just wanted to provoke you into fighting for him.”
“Not a good way to do it,” Ginny pointed out.
“I know,” Ron agreed. “What did Pansy say to you?”
Ginny shook her head softly. “That’s between me and her, and it will remain that way.”
“Okay,” he said. “I broke up with Hermione.”
“Oh, Ron,” Ginny sighed. “Why?”
“It was the best for both of us.”
“Really?” Ginny asked doubtfully.
“Really,” Ron confirmed. “Hermione agrees and she is hopefully now talking to Harry and Pansy so they don’t hex me on sight.”
Ginny shook her head sadly, privately convinced that Ron and Hermione would be good for each other. “So where do we go from here?”
“I stop trying to run your life,” Ron offered. “I stop being jealous of you for making friends with my best friend. And I stop jumping to conclusions about everything.”
“It’s not the jumping I mind, Ron,” Ginny said. “It’s the judgement that goes with it. I have no idea what is going on in some aspects of my life, none of us do, but I’m enjoying it all the same, and I want to continue doing that.”
“Don’t you think it’s weird though? Being so close to Pansy and Harry.”
“From an outsider’s perspective, probably, but I’m not on the outside, I’m inside the biggest thing to hit the Wizarding world in centuries. All I know is that I’m having a lot of fun, and I’m at peace. I feel like Pansy’s been my friend forever, and she is my friend, you know? Someone who chose to befriend me because she likes me, and not because of who I am or who I know.”
Ron nodded. “I do love you, Ginny. And you looked amazing this morning.”
“Thank you. I never doubted that you love me, Ron. I just couldn’t stand how you chose to show it.”
“I’m trying,” he smiled.
“You’ve always been trying,” Ginny grinned.
“Thanks,” he groaned, rolling his eyes. “So, friends again?”
“We never weren’t. You might be a big, heavy-handed git at times, but you are always my brother.”
Ron smiled and took a few steps forward, and she slid off the table and hugged him briefly.
“So, you’ve got to talk to Pansy next?”
“Yeah, I think I should apologise to her before Harry.”
“Good plan,” Ginny agreed. “Come on, they’re in the Room of Requirement.”
“How do you know that?”
“I just do,” Ginny said and walked out the door. She didn’t think he needed to know that she could feel them, and she was pretty sure that they could feel her as well.
She walked through the school, noticing that people smiled at her a lot more these days. Mentally, she was calling it the Pansy effect. She’d always been happier in jeans than a dress; it was a natural response to having grown up with six brothers. But now she was being taught how to be a girl by a couple of experts, and it was definitely a lot of fun.
She walked into the Room of Requirement and smiled at the couch.
Pansy climbed to her feet and grabbed her hand, pushing her down onto Harry’s lap. “Keep my spot warm,” she grinned.
Ginny shook her head and laughed as she landed on Harry.
“Come on, Ron,” Pansy said. “I’m willing to listen.”
“And not hex me?” Ron asked in mock-surprise.
“That’s not decided yet,” she said as she grinned, and led Ron into the bedroom she shared with Harry.
“So, is everything alright?” Harry asked.
“Yep,” Ginny smiled. “For now. We’ll see what happens next time.”
“You think there will be a next time?”
“I hope not. But he is being smart about it for a change, and that’s a good sign.”
“Yeah, he’s apologising to all of us before you. You’d not listen to him while we were upset with him.”
“True,” Harry agreed. “I asked Albus to call an Order meeting tonight.”
“Oh, are we gonna let them into our plan?”
“Good idea. Most of them can fight.”
“That’s what I thought,” Harry agreed. “Hermione, did you talk to Remus yesterday?”
“Yes, I did,” Hermione replied cheerfully. “We’ve got a few ideas to start his campaign with.”
“Like what?” Harry asked.
“Oh, something simple like ‘Remus Lupin - Policies for Understanding, Caring and Equality.’”
“P.U.C.E?” Harry groaned as he pronounced the acronym.
“Yes,” Hermione grinned. “It’s what you wanted isn’t it?”
“I guess,” Harry said doubtfully.
Ginny could feel him holding in the laughter, so she poked him firmly. “Don’t worry, he likes it,” she assured Hermione.
“I know,” Hermione grinned. “Malcom’s going to send a Portkey for me tomorrow, to go to his office after class. Remus and I are going to meet with some of the press to announce his candidacy.”
“Good,” Harry smiled.
Pansy walked out of the bedroom and over to the couch. “Right. Ginny, up. Harry, bedroom.”
Ginny stood and watched as Harry stood and walked into the bedroom. Pansy dropped down into the place Harry had vacated. “Sit,” she said.
Ginny smiled and sat as she had with Harry.
“So,” Pansy smiled. “What are we gossiping about?”
Hermione and Ginny laughed. “PUCE,” Ginny said with a slight lisp.
“Puce?” Pansy asked. “Do I really want to know?”
Harry walked into his bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed he shared with Pansy.
“Do we need to do this?” Harry asked.
“Yeah,” Ron said with a grin. “I’m scared of your girlfriend.”
“We could always lie and say we did,” Harry replied.
“Nah, I need to say it anyway. You were right; I should have just asked.”
“I don’t mind teaching you.”
“You wouldn’t,” Ron agreed. “The problems were mine, not yours. Hermione explain everything?”
Harry nodded. “It’s why your jaw is still in one piece,” he laughed.
“I thought so. I’m sorry.”
“I like what Ginny said,” Harry said. “If you don’t do it again, you’re forgiven.”
“You heard that?”
“Yeah,” Harry shrugged. “I was in the doorway.”
“I didn’t see you.”
“I was being still,” Harry said dryly. “So, we’ve apologised. Is there anything else?”
“Yeah,” Ron said. “We need to do that hugging thing.”
Harry laughed and rolled to his feet. “I’m glad you apologised to everyone,” he said simply. “It makes it easier for me.”
“I know,” Ron replied. “It’s why I did it.” He moved forward and hugged Harry briefly.
“Right, when we tell the girls later, we can say we had a big fight. Now, sit down and I’ll bring you up to date on what’s happened recently.”
When he had finished, Ron whistled slowly.
“This is going to be a lot of fun,” he grinned. “Does Pansy have any ideas for Malfoy Manor?”
“She wants to turn it into a Muggle Hotel.”
“You know, I really should like that girl; she’s just so creative.”
“I noticed that myself.”
“Right,” Ron snorted. “And I’ll bet that’s all you noticed.”
“Not even close, Ron; not even close.”
After their classes in the afternoon, they all decided to have dinner together in their living room. No one really felt like going to the Great Hall and dealing with anyone else.
“The meeting is at seven,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair.
“What’s the plan?” Ron asked.
“Keep it simple, I think,” Harry replied. “We walk in, I explain what is going on, we answer any questions, we come back here and do a bit of training.”
“And that’s the bit Harry likes most,” Pansy grinned.
“Shush, you,” Harry smiled at her.
“Is anyone else going to be there?” Hermione asked.
“You mean Malcom and Gruoch? No, they’re both running interference at the Ministry, gathering support for Remus and irritating the elder Malfoy.”
“They do seem to be working hard,” Ginny said.
“Mum and Dad enjoy it,” Pansy said. “It keeps them occupied and they have a lot of fun. Dad will be stern and imposing, while Mum will be wandering around like a wisp, winning people over without them noticing.”
“It does kinda make me realise what I missed,” Ron sighed. “Hearing you talk about people I’ve never met as if they were old friends.”
“We know them through Harry,” Hermione said. “And they are impressive in person. They’re adults, but they’ve spent a lot of time with Muggles, so they’re not really eccentric like a lot of magical adults are.”
“Weird,” Ron said, a teasing grin on his face.
Pansy poked her tongue out at him.
Ron shook his head and laughed.
Harry looked at his watch. “Okay, let’s go down there. I hate waiting for things when I could be doing something more interesting.”
They trooped out of the Room of Requirement and down toward the headmaster’s office.
As they turned a corner, a water balloon filled with a blue liquid flew past Harry and hit Ginny.
Ginny squeaked as the balloon exploded on her, coating her, and spraying Ron, Hermione, and Daphne.
“Peeves,” Harry growled.
“Go get him,” Pansy commanded, as she pulled her wand out and moved toward Ginny.
Harry raised his hand fast and cast a spell at Peeves.
“Oh Potter, you rotter, you’ve got the magical ability of a brain-dead otter,” Peeves sang as he danced around the hallway.
Harry paused for a second and then threw both hands forward, two spells erupting from his fists, spiralling toward the Poltergeist.
The ghost dodged the first but was hit by the second; he fell to the ground.
“Peeves,” Harry said as he stalked forward. “You are going to learn a very important lesson. You do not touch my family!”
“What are you going to do with me?” Peeves demanded fearlessly.
“Simple,” Harry smirked. He whispered under his breath, pointing his wand at the immobile ghost.
Peeves started to scream, as his body changed colour and lost its translucency.
“The spell will last a week,” Harry said tiredly.
“What have you done to me?” Peeves screeched.
“Made you somewhat human,” Harry replied flatly. “If I were you I’d go and start apologising to the house-elves, because you’re going to get hungry soon.”
“You can’t do this to me,” the non-ghost raved.
“I already have,” Harry said as he shrugged and turned around. He suddenly noticed that a lot of students and quite a few ghosts were staring at him in shock.
“The easiest way to get on my bad side is to touch my family,” he announced quietly. “Don’t do it.”
“You’ve changed,” Padma accused him. “You’re not the same person.”
Harry shrugged. “One day you’ll understand. But today is not that day.”
He walked over to Ginny. “Are you okay?”
“It was only water,” Ginny explained. “I should have ducked. It was just a shock – the water was cold.”
“I’m glad you didn’t,” Daphne said with a small grin. “It would have hit me otherwise,” she said, casting a drying charm on her friend.
“Come on,” Harry said as he put one arm around Ginny. “Let’s go.”
Pansy moved next to the other side of Ginny and put an arm around her as well, and the three of them continued toward their original destination.
Harry whispered the password, and they ascended the stairs. They walked through the office quickly and into the meeting room of the Order of the Phoenix. Everyone was there, but this time there were extra seats at the opposite end of Dumbledore.
Harry sat at the end, Pansy and Ginny flanking him on each side, the others moving on down.
“Harry,” Dumbledore said. “I believe you asked me to call this meeting for a reason.”
Harry waved his hand casually, and the door slammed shut. “What is he doing here?”
“Severus is still a member of the Order.”
“Stupefy,” Harry said, his wand in his hand, pointing directly at the ex-Potions Professor, who flew back against the wall and then slumped into unconsciousness.
“You might trust him; I don’t,” Harry grunted unapologetically.
“I think I might love you, Potter,” Mad-Eye Moody said.
“Sorry, he’s taken,” Pansy grinned.
Mad-Eye grinned. “I’ve been telling Albus that if he doesn’t like someone, he should just deal with it and be done with it for some time.”
Harry nodded at the ex-Auror.
“Okay, let’s cut to the chase,” Harry said as he stood at the end of the desk. “I’ve taken control of the Aurors and put the Unspeakables in charge of getting their training up to scratch. Tomorrow, Hermione and Remus will be announcing his candidacy for Minister of Magic. It’s going to look like a publicity stunt to start with, but it will distract Voldemort. If you’re interested, I will be removing Fudge and the other Candidate before the election, so that Remus is elected.
“Earlier today I sent a message to Voldemort, using Draco Malfoy. We fed him a steaming pile of bullcrap that impressed the hell out of him but wouldn’t fool anyone with two brain cells to rub together. Luckily, Lucius Malfoy had the family brain cells today. Voldemort will believe him because by the time Draco tells the story, it will be an adventure of daring-do and spying that will make him seem like the greatest spy since Mata Hari, except she had better legs.
“The message I gave him was that the Prophecy states that Voldemort has six weeks to confront me. If he does, he wins and I lose. If he waits longer, then I’ll win and he’ll lose. I also told Draco that Hogwarts is planning for the invasion, and that our defences will be complete in four weeks’ time.”
There was a stunned silence around the room.
“Brass, I think, and heavy, very heavy,” George said slowly, breaking the unnatural silence.
“And that’s why he always has Pansy and Ginny with him; he needs other people to carry them around for him,” Fred exclaimed softly, as if he’d just discovered the secret of life.
“What on earth are you two talking about?” Molly asked. She sounded vaguely reluctant to ask the question, as if she knew that she wouldn’t like the answer.
“Harry’s balls,” Fred said innocently. “Because they must be as big as a house and made of brass.”
Harry laughed and shook his head.
“Wait a second,” Elphias Doge wheezed. “That means that Voldemort is going to gather everyone and launch an attack here. What have you done?” His voice was outraged.
“Are you insane?” Hestia Jones demanded, interrupting before Harry could respond. “Think of all the children that your wild stories are going to kill.”
Harry sighed audibly. “Do you really think that’s my plan? Make the enemy attack and put everyone in danger? How nice.
“Albus, what would you expect his snakiness to be doing around now?”
“Voldemort will call all of his Death Eaters and allies in for a meeting and will tell them to prepare to attack Hogwarts.”
“All of his Death Eaters? Including a certain spy?”
“Sweet Merlin,” Charlie Weasley gasped suddenly. “It’s a bloody diversion, all of it, isn’t it?”
“Moody’s right,” Fred said. “Harry, I want your children!”
“I keep telling you, he’s taken,” Pansy laughed.
“Oh man, this is going to be awesome,” George said, standing and doing a little dance. “How long do we have?”
“We’ll drop everything. We’ll be ready, fearless leader. All these years, and you just wander in and drop it in our lap.”
“Would someone mind telling me what is going on?” Sturgis Podmore demanded. “Some of us are not psychic!”
“Or intelligent,” Mad-Eye grunted with a look of disgust on his face. “Mind if I tell them?”
“Go ahead,” Harry said, sitting down.
“Think,” Mad-eye snorted as he stood. “Distraction one: The ministry. Distraction two: The attack at Hogwarts. Voldemort will gather all his forces, including the spy Harry sent there last time we met. The spy will then tell us where they all are. And when they are least expecting it, we’ll attack the lot of them.”
“And wipe them out,” Pansy said coldly. “None of the half-heartedness of the past; this ends now, once and for all.”
“Good girlfriend you’ve got there, Potter,” Mad-Eye said as cheerfully as anyone could remember. “Don’t lose her.”
“I have no intention of doing so,” Harry agreed.
“Attack them?” Emmeline Vance gasped in shock. “But what about the creatures he has? The giants? And there are more Death Eaters than us. We’ll be slaughtered.”
“Pay attention, Emm,” Mad-Eye snapped. “First thing Potter said. He’s taken control of the Aurors. They will all be there as well; we’ll out number them.”
“Exactly,” Harry agreed.
“But what about the Giants and the other creatures?”
Harry smirked. “Remus?”
“We have the werewolves,” the soon-to-be-candidate said in his quiet way. “After Harry blocked the Werewolf Act, he made a lot of friends with my people. And after he got Fudge to change the law so I could run, the rest joined.”
“And,” Harry continued smoothly. “I called in a favour, and I arranged for an ally for us as well.”
“The Acromantulas. And I suspect they will bring some friends. Aragog likes me.”
Mad-Eye clapped his hands together loudly. “So everyone gets together, we surprise them and start showing Death Eaters some poetic justice.”
“What have you got in mind to stop them Apparating away?” Molly Weasley asked.
“Malcom’s buying up a lot of wards through different channels.”
“That’s going to be expensive,” Mundungus Fletcher whistled.
Harry shrugged. “It’s only money. If we win, we’ll get it all back and more. If we lose, we’re not going to care.”
“Might I enquire as to how you are going to get the wards in place?” Sturgis asked acidly.
“House-elves,” Harry said.
“House-elves?” Dumbledore interrupted, sounding a little surprised. “They’ve never been willing to help before.”
“The Elf Council has promised me its support. You should know, though, that after we defeat Voldemort the elves are going to announce their secession from their slavery and will start to work for me and Malcom under the management of Hermione.”
At the far end of the table, Dumbledore slumped back down into his chair, a look of shock on his face.
Bill whistled slowly. “You have been busy,” he said admiringly. “And you’re planning a revolution.”
“The Wizarding world has stagnated for far too long. We’re going to usher in a new era,” Pansy stated firmly.
“Harry,” George asked. “Are there any more surprises for tonight?”
“No,” Harry smiled.
“In that case,” Fred said. “We need to get to work. We’ll do as much as we can for as long as we can. When we’re ready to attack, every toy we’ve thought of will be ready for use.”
Harry nodded. “Thanks. I’ll pop by and see you later; there is something else you’ll have to know, but it’s not something I can talk about here.”
Fred and George stood up and walked out, a visible bounce in their step.
“More secrets?” Sturgis asked.
“Of course,” Harry shrugged. “You know what you need to know at the moment, and I don’t want to promise what I can’t deliver. So, are you going to be joining in on the fight?”
Most of the people on the table seemed to look at Albus at once.
“I think,” the headmaster said slowly “that you are taking an awfully big risk, Harry. Why?”
Harry climbed to his feet again and rested his hands on the table. He slowly looked up at headmaster. “Because I am tired of seeing people I love die. Because I am tired of the endless pointless battles that get us nowhere. Because I want to spend the next few years having fun and enjoying myself. Because I will not watch the Death Eaters terrorise normal people when I could be doing something about it. Because I am the only one who can kill Voldemort, and I have the ability to do so. I will not have more deaths, more pain, more fear on my conscience, because I did not act when I could. I have no choice; I have to fight Voldemort. So I will not sit here and let him pick the time and the place. I will pick where we fight. I will pick when we fight. And I will come at him with superior force and do everything I can to wipe him out. The prophecy states that neither of us can live while the other survives,” Harry said softly. “And that’s much more literal than I first thought. I can’t spend the time I want to with my girlfriend and my friends. I can’t have fun, relax, or even go out for ice cream while he’s alive. I want to live my life, and I’m not prepared to wait for years, hiding while others fight my fight. I know what it’s like to have no life growing up, and I don’t ever want to go back to it. Voldemort is in the way. He has been in the way for far too long. It’s time to end this.”
Harry sat down again and watched the shocked silence.
In a low voice, Pansy recited the Prophecy. “It’s true,” she said simply at the end. “Harry has to kill Voldemort.”
Albus sighed deeply. “I said I would follow you, and while I never expected this, my promise holds true. This has gone on too long.”
“All right!” Charlie said, jumping to his feet and showing that he was related to the twins by doing a small dance on the spot. “We finally get to do something worthwhile!”
“Get ourselves killed,” Mundungus groaned. “You’re insane, Potter. And I must be as well, because I agree. Let’s do it.”
School was quiet the next day, and they all waited impatiently for the evening, even Hermione. The prospect of starting an election campaign was more exciting than learning, but only by a little.
Croaker had passed a message through Malcom, who had included a couple of Portkeys – one to Lympstone and one to the Ministry of Magic.
After attending classes, and after eating together in the Room of Requirement, they sat around on the couches, waiting for six o’clock.
“Pansy,” Harry said thoughtfully. “I think you should go with Hermione – Daph and Ron, you, too. I want to take Ginny with me.”
“Why Ginny?” Daphne asked.
Harry turned to Ginny, “Show her that ‘I’ve been bad, but look how innocent I am’ smile of yours.”
Ginny turned and lowered her head, and then looked up, peering at Daphne through her eyelashes and smiled cutely.
“Do I sign over everything I own to her now?” Daphne asked. “Or is it better to wait a few days?”
Ginny laughed and settled back down.
“That’s why,” Harry grinned. “I need someone who can look like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.”
“Why?” Ron asked. “I mean, they’re army blokes, right?”
Harry smirked. “Believe me, it’s best you don’t know beforehand.”
“Does anyone trust him when he smirks like that?” Hermione asked.
“We do,” Pansy and Ginny said together.
“How do you two do that?” Ron asked. “Talk like you’re twins or something.”
Pansy shrugged, “Probably something to do with great minds thinking alike.”
“Great minds?” Daphne asked dryly.
Pansy poked her tongue out at her. “I hate this waiting,” she said, abruptly changing the subject.
Harry looked at his watch and shrugged. “Go early then, and introduce Ron to Malcom and Gruoch.”
“Ooo, good idea,” Pansy praised, jumping to her feet. She grabbed the Portkey from the table and kissed Harry.
“Look after him,” she said to Ginny.
“I will,” Ginny promised.
“I know. Come on everyone; let’s get going.”
Harry and Ginny watched as the others vanished with the Portkey.
“Should I ask what you are going to do to me?”
Harry smiled. “I need a quick demonstration of what wizards can do. They already know what Pansy can do, but they are not going to believe me when I tell them how powerful you are. All you have to do is stand there with a shield spell already cast. I’m going to try and break it.”
“You can break my spell, though,” Ginny pointed out logically.
“I won’t be using magic.”
“Oh, okay,” Ginny smiled. “What should I expect from them?”
“A few wolf whistles and the like,” Harry admitted. “But that should stop when I tell them you’re only fifteen.”
Ginny smiled, “Not that I look it anymore. This hair cut is amazing.”
“I agree,” Harry smiled. “Come on, let’s go meet them.”
He took Ginny’s hand and activated the Portkey. There was the usual tug at his navel as they sped through space, arriving in an office in Lympstone, where Paddy and Croaker were waiting for them.
“Paddy, this is Ginny Weasley,” Harry introduced her. “Ginny, this is Paddy, my physical training instructor over the summer.”
“Hi,” Ginny said, offering her hand.
Paddy took it. “My God, you’re tiny,” he said peering down.
“Maybe,” Ginny shrugged. “Tell me, do you have different weather up there?”
Paddy laughed. “But not a pushover.”
“Pay attention to the hair,” Harry advised. “Anyway, what’s going to happen tonight?”
“I’ve got a group in the mess room waiting for you,” Croaker said. “They’re under my command for the duration.”
“How did you manage that?” Harry asked curiously.
“I’m a commandant; I just asked,” Croaker said innocently. “And the admiral might just owe me a favour or six.”
“As always,” Harry grinned. “Ginny, cast a shield spell now. Oh, Croaker, Paddy, don’t flinch when I start my demonstration.”
Croaker groaned loudly. “Another one?”
“It’s the quickest way,” Harry said, shrugging carelessly.
Paddy led them through a hallway and into a large mess room. In four rows of five sat twenty men. They were all dressed in a nondescript black uniform and stood to attention as Croaker entered first.
“At ease,” Croaker said. “Most of you were around when Mr Potter here smashed the course record, were you not?”
“Aye, sir,” one of the sailors said, “and when he kicked your arse in a knife fight.”
“I was hoping we could forget that,” Croaker sighed.
“Not bloody likely,” another one snorted. “Impaling himself on a knife so he could disarm an opponent isn’t something we’re going to forget in a hurry.”
Harry walked over to the front of the mess table. “I think,” Harry said slowly, “that I’ll start with a demonstration. It might make what I’m about to say easier to believe. Can I borrow someone’s gun?”
One of the Marines looked at Croaker, who nodded. The Marine un-holstered his gun and passed it to Harry.
Harry looked it over; it was a Browning 9mm, a standard issue for the SBS. He clicked the safety off and pointed it directly at Ginny.
“Err, what are you doing, sir?” one of the Marines asked nervously.
“Remember what I told you earlier, Ginny?” Harry asked.
She smiled softly at him, an expression of absolute trust on her face.
Harry took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.
The heavy gun jerked in his hand, as the 9mm bullet went from a standing start to travelling at over a thousand feet per second. There was a crack and a shout from the Marines.
An instant later, there was a soft tinkle as the now deformed bullet fell to ground in front of Ginny.
“What The Fucking Hell Just Happened!?” one of Marines shouted. “She should be dead.”
“What is this, some sort of trick?” another asked.
“Sit down!” Croaker yelled. “And shut up. You might learn something.”
Harry walked over and hugged Ginny. “Nice work,” he whispered.
“Just wait till I tell Pansy that you took a shot at me,” Ginny whispered back teasingly.
Harry winked at her and sat on the desk in front of the Marines.
“What you have just seen is a practical display of magic.”
The sounds of disbelief that would have normally met such an announcement were tempered by the fact the Marines had just seen Harry fire a large gun at a very small and very innocent looking girl, without any harm befalling her.
There were still many looks of shock visible on most of the faces.
“You don’t appear shocked, sir,” one of them said to Croaker.
Croaker pulled out his wand and casually created himself a chair. “I’m a wizard,” he said simply.
“Paddy?” another one asked.
“No, I’m not a wizard,” Paddy sighed. “My parents were though. I’m normal.”
“And is he a wizard?” he asked Paddy, indicating Harry.
“I don’t know what the term for Harry is,” Paddy laughed softly.
“Wizard,” Harry said bluntly. “To get back on track here, though, you’re probably wondering exactly why we are telling you that magic exists.”
“Please save your questions to the end,” Harry said. “The Wizarding world is all around you, a hidden society that co-exists in the same land, but it is completely separate. We use illusions to hide that we exist. For countless centuries, since before the time of the Romans, we have been separate.
“However, we have a problem. A major one. A wizard named Tom Riddle grew up in a normal orphanage; and unfortunately, he was abused. This left him with an absolute hatred of everyone. Unlike most lunatics with a grudge, he is also one of the most powerful wizards alive. He started to try and take control of the Wizarding world, so that he could rule it with an iron fist. And he did it through a campaign of murder and terror, somewhat similar to the IRA, but with the intention of killing more innocent people and less political targets, and with the goal of taking absolute control. He’s surrounded himself with an army of pure-bloods, who called themselves Death Eaters. They are responsible for the killings and acts of terrorism. His first reign of terror ended around fifteen years ago when he first tried to kill me and failed. I was a baby at the time. My mother cast an ancient spell on me to protect me and sacrificed her life so that I might live.”
There was a visible shifting in the audience, as they all leant forward and paid closer attention.
“The spell he used to try and kill me is normally fatal. In this case, it backfired and hit him. Unfortunately, Riddle didn’t die; instead he became a wraith. The Wizarding world, in one of the most remarkable acts of self-delusion ever seen, convinced themselves that he was gone – never to return. Over the next eleven years he started to regain his power – slowly – while I was growing up.”
“In a bloody unpleasant place,” Paddy interrupted. “Remember that fuss about two parents confessing to abusing their nephew – who was never found?”
“Dursleys,” One of them spat. “Yeah, it was all over the papers.”
“Meet the nephew.”
Harry shrugged. “Over the next few years, I guess you could say that Riddle and I engaged in a series of running battles.”
“Wait a second; you were fighting him when you were eleven?”
Harry nodded. “He was co-inhabiting a body with one my professors at the time. He was trying to steal an object hidden at my school that would have given him the immortality he craves. So, along with two friends, we went to stop him. We bypassed the traps meant to protect the item.”
“By the way, I’m Stephan,” the talkative one said with a nod. “Let me see if I have this straight. Your school was hiding a key to immortality that a wraith of a terrorist was after, and they secured it so well that a couple of eleven year olds could get to it and prevent this wraith from getting it?”
“Right. Not impressed with this world of yours so far.”
“You’re not going to like it much better when he tells the rest of the story,” Paddy grunted.
Harry smiled slightly and launched into an abridged version of the battles he had had with Voldemort, and the deaths he had seen. He finished with a run down of the training he had received over the summer.
“So,” Harry said, absently pulling his wand out and conjuring a bottle of water. “We finally get to the point. After years of little battles which left too many civilians dead, I now have everything in place to launch an attack on him and wipe him out for good.”
Stephan smiled coldly. “And where do we come in?”
“Perimeter control and taking out some of the creatures. As I demonstrated with Ginny, a wizard can easily cast a spell to block a bullet. It can weaken them, though, but that’s not going to be your major focus. There will probably be all sorts of creatures that you thought were myths with them, from manticores to harpies. These can be killed by bullets.
“It’s going to be pretty easy for you to tell who’s who, because everyone on our side will be wearing a charm that you will be able to see. Just shoot anything or anyone else.
“The main fight will be between my people and the Death Eaters. They will be dressed completely in black and they are the terrorists.
“One of our allies will be giant spiders, and by giant, I mean human size. I agreed to let them take care of the remains of the Death Eaters, so don’t be surprised if they start taking corpses off the field.”
“I like the plan,” Stephan grunted. “Get them all together, kill them all, and go out for a massive party. There is going to be a party afterward, right?”
“Of course,” Croaker smiled. “And as a special treat, I’ll introduce you to firewhiskey. A drink so strong that steam literally comes out of your ears.”
There was a general grumble of approval from the Marines.
“I want your help partly to defeat Riddle – and by the way, he likes to go by the name of Voldemort.”
“Flight of Death?” one of them asked. “Pretentious git.”
Ginny laughed softly. “That describes him very well.”
Harry shot her a quick grin. “Anyway, I want your help not just because you are valuable, but because the rest of the Wizarding world needs to realise that you are just as strong as they are. For far too long our culture has stagnated in a period of self-congratulatory fervour, convinced that we are the top of the tree. We’re not, by a long way. But most wizards don’t care enough to find out – even the ones with normal parents. When Riddle is dead, I will be having someone I trust elected as our Prime Minister, and we are going to push the Wizarding world forward, perhaps even toward integrating our societies in the future. There are a lot of opportunities for magic and technology to combine; we just have to get our people ready for it, and at the same time, work out how to do it without destroying the basic belief system of the normal world – and how to make sure that we don’t become victims of a witch hunt ourselves. But those are very long-term plans. Short-term plan is kill Voldemort and have a party.”
There was some laughter from the group.
“What can you do with magic?” Stephan asked.
“For most wizards and witches,” Croaker said, “not that much. Some spells for light, for transporting things over distances, and basic charms for housework, for flying broomsticks and the like. The good wizards can change form, can alter things at a molecular level, and can fight. The best can do pretty much anything they set their mind to. There are thousands of years of spells you can use, and over that time, throughout all the cultures in the world, nearly everything has been tried at least once. For people like Voldemort and Harry, there is close to no limit on what they can do. That’s what makes him so dangerous. The only person who can kill him is Harry, and if Harry loses, Voldemort gains control of the Wizarding world, and then he will come after this world, and you won’t be able to stop him. He will be as close to a living God as you are ever likely to see. He hates the normal world as much as he hates half-blood wizards, and if he wins, he would work to eliminate everyone who is not a pure-blood. The Wizarding world has failed to protect itself, but we lucked out with having Harry – someone dedicated enough to go through everything he has, and still want to save everyone. For the first time, we have the chance to wipe Voldemort and his Death Eaters out.”
“Cool,” one of them grinned. “It sounds like fun.”
“It will be dangerous,” Harry admitted. “Stray curses could hit you, and you’ll experience them like a wizard would.”
Stephan shrugged. “Most of us were in the Gulf a few weeks before the war started. We did a beach landing and started preparing the area, until we were discovered. That was a little hairy, as we were alone, without support, being attacked by some of Saddam’s best troops. We’re used to danger, and it sounds like you guys really need us.”
“There is one thing, though,” Harry said softly. “I’m going to have to cast a spell on you to make sure that you can see the things that are hidden, and part of that spell will make it so that you can not talk about the Wizarding world to anyone but each other.”
Stephan shrugged. “We’ve all signed the Official Secrets Act,” he explained. “So we’re used to it.”
“Okay,” Harry smiled. “Any questions?”
“I thought you were dating the brunette?” one of them asked.
“I’m looking after him for her,” Ginny said with a smile.
“Do all witches look as good as her and the other one?” another asked.
“All of my friends do,” Harry laughed. “But in general, no.”
“How did you get so lucky?”
“By being himself,” Ginny replied for Harry. “We’ve seen for years what you are only seeing now. We know that Harry will be there for every one of us, regardless of the cost to himself or anyone else.”
“Any questions not pertaining to my personal life?” Harry asked.
“Was that a real wand you used earlier?”
“Yes, all wizards carry them and use them to cast the spells – pretty much like wizards in stories.”
“What happens if you lose your wand?”
“Most wizards lose the ability to do magic.”
“All wizards,” Croaker corrected. “Apart from Harry and Voldemort, who don’t really need them.”
Harry shrugged, accepting the correction.
“Is David Copperfield a real magician?”
Croaker snorted. “Not even close.”
“Well,” Stephan drawled. “This does explain why the commandant is so bloody lucky in the field. Never lost a single man under his control, no matter how suicidal the mission.”
Croaker smiled slightly and nodded.
Harry looked at his watch. “Okay, I’m going to have to leave you with Croaker and Paddy for a full mission brief. I need to find out how my other distraction is going. Ginny, use the Portkey; it will take you back to Hogwarts. I’ll see you there.” He vanished into the Other Place, and as before, cast a spell so he could read what they were saying.
Ginny didn’t vanish instantly and smiled as she looked around the room. “Harry glossed over a lot of what he did,” she said, “and made a lot of it seem like he was just lucky. He was lucky, but he backed that up with raw ability and an innate sense of nobility. Most wizards are not like him; they are normal, and from what I can tell, equivalent to normal humans. But with the evil we have in Voldemort, we needed a balance, and we got Harry. I can still see Harry when he was twelve – a basilisk, a snake that was over forty foot long, was between him and my safety. A twelve year old facing something that any grown wizard would have run crying from, and he was facing it for me. For me. And he won. And that was when I knew. More than anything else in my life, I knew that Harry would eventually win. It wouldn’t matter what the odds were against him, it wouldn’t matter how bad it looked or how dark it had become, because Harry would stand there, and he would fight. He would fight until he had nothing left, and then he would fight some more. He will not give in, he will not stop, and he will not be swayed. He will do everything he can to keep his allies alive, but he will make the hard decisions if necessary. A few nights ago he sent one of his friends into a situation where one mistake will mean her being tortured to death.”
The soldiers were nodding, looks of approval on their faces.
“For all his life in our world, he’s been treated poorly by most of the adults, used for political gain by some, treated as a hero or a villain by others reliant upon his reputation. He doesn’t really trust many people, except his close friends. And we trust and support him fully. It’s possible that others will object to him asking for your help; not that he’ll care, but they might be a bit prejudiced against you.”
“That’s why he’s trying to change things, right?” Stephan asked.
Ginny nodded. “It is hard for us, as we were brought up thinking a certain way, but when you’re friends with Harry Potter, you have to have open minds, or you lose that friendship.”
“Don’t worry,” Paddy said with a shrug. “By the time Harry is ready, I’ll have told them everything they need to know.”
Ginny smiled and walked over to the big man. She reached up and pulled him down, giving him a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks for helping Harry over the summer,” she whispered.
Paddy blushed slightly and then scowled at the sniggering men.
Ginny walked over and did it to Croaker as well, before grabbing the Portkey and vanishing.
Stephan wandered to the front of the table with Croaker and Paddy. “So, Sarge,” he grinned. “A big man like you knocked on your side by a redhead who is knee-high to a grasshopper.”
Paddy snorted, “And you wouldn’t be?”
Stephan grinned. “But I wasn’t, so let’s not worry about it. All this does explain why you were so unwilling to tell us anything.” He looked at the Marines. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m willing to follow him. And not just because the Commandant and Paddy are doing so, but because of the speech the china doll just gave. I’ve not seen that sort of loyalty and dedication in a long time, and you know, it will be nice to fight for someone that understands, rather than the usual REMFs.”
The other Marines nodded in agreement, and Stephan continued, “I think tonight we should have a few drinks and ask these two all the questions we were too embarrassed to ask in front of those two.”
Harry smiled to himself and returned to Hogwarts.
“So, how did it go?” Pansy asked as she entered the Room of Requirement, accompanied by the others.
Harry was relaxing on the couch; Ginny was leaning against him, her homework on her lap.
“You know why Harry wanted me there?” Ginny said, looking up at Pansy and smiling.
“No,” Pansy said slowly. “What did he do?”
“He borrowed a gun and fired it at me.”
“He did what!?” came back the chorus.
Harry sighed, “I was proving that Ginny is a witch. I had her create a shield beforehand, and I know that bullets are stopped by them – we practised using guns with Paddy during the training. She wasn’t in any danger, but no one who saw it had any doubts after that.”
“True,” Ginny agreed.
“Besides,” Harry grinned. “You should have seen Paddy when Ginny gave him a kiss on the cheek. The big man blushed.”
Pansy blinked, thought about that image for a moment, and then laughed, hard.
Ginny turned and looked at Harry. “So you didn’t vanish immediately, and you heard what I said.”
Ginny blushed slightly. “You weren’t supposed to hear that,” she grumbled softly.
“He does that a lot. Lift your feet up,” Pansy said.
Ginny raised her legs, and Pansy sat down, pulling them back over her lap. “So, did everything go okay?”
“Croaker’s taking them out tonight to get them a little drunk, so they can ask the questions they didn’t want to ask me.”
“Why not?” Ron asked.
“How do you ask questions of a man who just shot a bullet at an innocent girl, and seen her survive?” Ginny asked. “You don’t. Add Harry’s look, the fact that he broke some sort of course record, and did something with a knife that sounded heroically stupid, and they were intimidated.”
Pansy laughed and grinned at Harry. “Heroically stupid pretty much describes it. He was in a fight with Croaker, and well, you know Harry, he didn’t want to lose, so he impaled his arm on Croaker’s knife to disarm him to win.”
Hermione put her hands on her hips, while Ron and Daphne gaped at him. “Harry James Potter,” she said in a tone of long-suffering disgust. “I’d be delighted to hear your logic for doing that.”
“I am going to fight Voldemort,” Harry stated coolly. “When I do so, I will need to throw everything I’ve got at him. Fighting Croaker was a perfect training exercise for that. I will take out Voldemort, no matter what it takes.”
“Oh,” Hermione said meekly. “Okay.”
There was a moment of stunned silence before Harry started to laugh, while Ron walked over and high-fived him. “Five years, Harry, five years,” Ron said sounding stunned. “If your girlfriend or my sister wouldn’t kill me, I’d kiss you.”
“What have I missed here?” Daphne asked.
“In five years, this is the first time anyone’s beaten Hermione at logic,” Ron sighed dreamily. “Don’t mind me, I’m just going to sit here and savour the moment.”
Hermione picked up a pillow and launched it at him.
“See,” Ron smirked. “As soon as her logic is gone, she reacts with violence like the rest of us.”
“Shush, Ronald,” Hermione said primly. “Or I’ll tell Hannah that you’re not a very good kisser.”
Ron groaned and sat down quietly.
“Back to the point,” Harry said dryly, “because I really don’t want to know any more about Ron’s kissing habits, regardless of the truth of the matter. The SBS is going to help, and to be honest, I’m glad to have them. They looked like the sort of people you really want on your side.”
“I would have been scared if Harry hadn’t been there,” Ginny admitted.
“Anyway, how did the press conference go?” Harry asked.
“Brilliantly,” Pansy said. “Hermione was fantastic. It started a bit slowly, with the press thinking it was all a big joke. Remus was doing his normal ‘I’m a dignified werewolf’ routine and wasn’t prepared to stop them.”
“And then,” Daphne took over. “Hermione stood up and started to talk. She talked for twenty minutes straight berating them for their lack of respect, for the inequality in the Wizarding world, how Remus was a good friend of yours, and she basically gave a masterful performance in how to manipulate the press.”
“The whole place gave her some applause at the end,” Ron added. “And then they asked some serious questions about policies that Remus answered calmly. By the end, the press liked him and were taking him seriously. There won’t be much support for him, as he is a fringe candidate, but he should get some headlines as the first Werewolf to run for office.”
“Perfect,” Harry grinned. “Should make Lucius Malfoy a little uncomfortable and get Voldemort’s attention. Good work, Hermione; I knew you could do it.”
Hermione blushed slightly and beamed at everyone. “It was a lot of fun,” she agreed. “Harry, can I still help when Voldemort is defeated? I learned so much today.”
“I don’t see why not,” Harry said. “You’ll have to work with Gruoch, but I couldn’t think of a better person to teach you how to do that sort of thing.”
Hermione smiled and bounced in her seat happily.
“Barmy,” Ron pointed out with a grin.
With great dignity, Hermione ignored him.
Harry looked around the room. “You know, I like this,” he said softly. “We’ve started the final phase tonight. In the next few days it will be over, and instead of sitting here talking about a stupid Dark git, we’ll be talking about school, potions and everything else people our age normally talk about. And I can’t wait.”
“We’re going to stay in here after Voldemort is dead?” Ron asked.
“Can you see going back to Gryffindor Tower?” Pansy asked.
“Actually, no,” Ron said. “But if we’re going to stay here, just the six of us, I need to raise an important point.”
“What?” Harry asked.
“Are we going to get one more person and form our own Quidditch team?”
There was a moment of silence, before Harry said slowly, “You know, that’s not a bad idea.”
“We already have the best Seeker, the best Keeper, and a fantastic Chaser,” Daphne said slowly. “I can play chaser as well.”
“I like the idea of being a beater,” Pansy admitted. “And I think with my training, I’d find it pretty easy.”
“I’m not very good at flying though,” Hermione pointed out. “And we’d still need one more. And that’s not to mention the whole problem with getting the professors to agree to a fifth team taking part.”
“I can help with the flying, Hermione,” Daphne said. “I can teach you how to fly properly – and unlike these two,” she indicated Ron and Harry, “you don’t need to be embarrassed with me. What do you say?”
“Come on, Hermione,” Harry urged. “At least try it to see why we love it so much.”
“I’ll try,” Hermione said with a long-suffering sigh. “But who is going to be our other Beater?”
Harry blinked and shook his head.
“What?” Ginny asked.
“Nah…” he said slowly.
“Come on, Harry,” Pansy said. “Spill the beans.”
Instead of answering, Harry clicked his fingers and called, “Dobby.”
Dobby arrived with a pop. “Dobby was not realising that everyone was back,” he grumbled. “Dobby will be getting drinks.”
“Wait,” Harry called. “Could you get Winky to do that? I want to ask you something.”
Dobby beamed and snapped his fingers, quickly asking Winky to get them drinks.
Harry concentrated for a second, and a scaled down chair appeared next to Hermione. “Have a seat,” he offered.
Dobby looked proud as he took the seat.
He paused while Winky passed them all drinks and vanished quietly.
“Dobby, do house-elves ever fly with a broom?”
“Sometimes,” Dobby said. “We is not being as good on big brooms, but some elves are having small brooms.”
“Dobby,” Harry said directly. “When Voldemort is dead, we’re thinking of forming our own Quidditch team. We were wondering if you would like to play as one of our Beaters?”
Dobby gaped at him, his mouth moving, but with no sound coming out.
“I’ve seen how tough you are when you are protecting something,” Harry explained. “And I know you’re a bit small, but size is no indication of power, and I think you’d be good.”
“The great Harry Potter sir wants Dobby to play with him?”
“Dobby is never being so honoured as he is now,” the elf said, tears running down his face. “Dobby will be being the best beater possible!”
“All right!” Ron shouted standing and doing a little jig. “We have a Quidditch team!”
“Might I remind you that some of us have never played before,” Hermione reminded him. “We might not win.”
“Hermione,” Ron said with a long-suffering sigh. “With Ginny as a Chaser, me as the Keeper, and Harry as the Seeker, we already have the basis of a brilliant team. I agree with Harry that Dobby will be great, and well, having been thrown across the room by the woman of steel over there, I think a Bludger hit by her will stay hit. And I’m willing to bet the Daphne is a more than competent Chaser, and I know you Hermione. As soon as you get into the game, you will have studied every move known to man, and probably a few not known, and we’ll have strategies that will be completely bonkers but will work perfectly. This will be better than winning for Gryffindor!”
Pansy laughed softly. “But you know,” she said, “It might be a good idea for us to go a step further and agree to have house points. None of us cares what happens to our own houses, and at the moment, we won’t turn up to detentions, so it leaves us outside the rules. If we agree to have our own house points, we then have a guarantor of our behaviour.”
“Is it be possible for us to beat the rest of the school?” Ginny asked.
“Well,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “Daphne and I do tend to accumulate a lot of points as it is, and not only would we be gaining them, but Slytherin and Gryffindor would not be getting them. And there are a lot of points awarded for winning Quidditch matches.”
“Which is a very good point,” Harry added. “If we pitch this as us having some fun and not being insular, and at the same time, point out how it is going to equalise things so that the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs have a chance to win as well, then it might work.”
“It wouldn’t be popular with Gryffindor and Slytherin,” Pansy mused. “But the other houses will love it, and the Gryffindors will come around quite quickly when they get over their knee-jerk reaction.”
“And without Malfoy, we might be surprised by the Slytherins as well,” Daphne added thoughtfully.
“Okay,” Harry said. “After we defeat Voldemort, I’ll pitch the idea to Dumbledore. I could go over his head, and I still might, but I think it will be the first thing I give him to make him focus on the school. But, it’s late now, and we could be called out to fight any day now.”
Dobby stood and bowed. “Dobby is thanking you all,” he said. “Dobby will not be letting you down.”
“We know,” Daphne smiled. “Good night, Dobby.”
Dobby smiled radiantly and vanished.
“Night, all,” Daphne said and walked to her room.
Hermione stood and smiled at them, walking to her room.
“Hermione, wait up,” Ron called, hurrying to catch her. “Can I have a word?”
“Of course,” she said and led him into her room.
Ginny got up and stretched. She turned and looked at the other two, a hesitant expression on her face.
Harry felt Pansy lightly brush against his mind. He turned, and caught the pleading expression on her face.
He sighed and nodded.
“Go and get changed then,” Pansy ordered. “You’re sleeping with us again.”
“Thank you,” Ginny beamed and dashed to her room.
“Do I want to know?” Harry asked.
“She slept better last night than she has in years. She hides it better than pretty much anyone bar you, but she needs us.”
“Okay,” he shrugged. “I’ll get in bed first.”
“Thanks, honey,” Pansy smiled and kissed him gently.
Harry shook his head and walked into the bedroom, stripping quickly and getting under the covers. Despite himself, he found he was sleepier than he thought, and soon drifted off into sleep.
Hermione sat on her bed and looked at Ron. “What’s up?”
“Well, first, you were right about Hannah. She’s at least agreed to think about dating me.”
“You asked her already?” Hermione asked.
Ron nodded, “After dinner. After wasting so much time asking you out, I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.”
Hermione smiled. “Sure, we could have done all this a year earlier, but we were having fun.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” Hermione said gently.
“I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made with you when I am with Hannah,” he said softly, pulling one of the chairs from the fireplace near her bed.
“I guess I want some advice on how to act like a grown up.”
Hermione nodded slowly. “Well, I guess the first thing to do is something I know you’ve been told before. Keep a tight grip on your temper. Don’t just react. Think things through before going off the handle.
“I’m not trying to say that you should change that much, but think about how it would feel to know that you can lose your temper at something and have it be justified, rather than wondering if you are being a prat again.”
Ron smiled faintly. “Again,” he agreed. “I think I take after mum more than anyone else. She has always had a temper. The others deal with it in a different way. Ginny was worse than I was before she met Voldemort, and that all changed.
“I guess it taught her restraint as it robbed her of her childhood. I think I had that same thing with Pansy. She scared me, you know?”
“Really?” Hermione asked, more to keep him talking than from any deep sense of surprise.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “There was no forgiveness and a complete ruthlessness. I finally understood that she would do anything for Harry and for her family. The normal rules don’t seem to apply to her.”
“They don’t,” Hermione agreed. “Or rather, she thinks that rules are merely guidelines for her to ignore as she wills. Her family is the only thing that matters to her – more than money, fame, anything. I’m not sure how Malcom and Gruoch managed to instil that iron will in her, but they did.”
Ron nodded, “Yeah, that’s it exactly. And you know, seeing her with Harry and the relationship they have, it did kinda help me with my decision earlier, you know.”
“I know,” Hermione said softly.
“I don’t regret anything;” Ron assured her, as he got to his feet and put the chair back. “This summer was a lot of fun.”
“I know,” Hermione smiled. “Good night, Ron.”
“Night,” he said and walked out the door.
Hermione sighed softly as she watched him go. While she knew he was right, she was hurt that he had moved on so quickly. She looked around furtively, and reached into a drawer and pulled out a big bar of chocolate. It was times like this that she was really grateful for the changes Pansy had made because never before had she had someone she could do this with.
She waited a few minutes and opened the door to her room silently. She quickly padded across the floor and knocked on Daphne’s door.
She heard Daphne call out and entered the room. The blonde was sitting in bed, reading idly.
“Hermione?” she asked.
Hermione held up the chocolate in her hand. “Can we gossip and badmouth some boys for a bit?”
“With chocolate, we can do whatever you want,” Daphne replied seriously and patted the space next to her. “I’ve got some books on Quidditch,” she offered.
“Don’t you dare tell Ron or Harry,” Hermione said as she sat down next to Daphne, “but I’ve been studying Quidditch for years. I just didn’t want them to have any encouragement.”
Daphne laughed softly and held out her hand. Hermione quickly broke a piece of chocolate off and handed it to her.
“In that case,” Daphne said, as she munched the chocolate. “You can read this.”
Hermione looked at the book and laughed. “Flying for non-fliers,” she read out loud.
“Exactly,” Daphne grinned. “So, what has Ron done now?”
Ron walked out of Hermione’s room and looked around at their empty living room. Acting on a hunch, he walked over to Ginny’s door and knocked softly, opening it a few seconds later. As he thought, it was empty.
He walked into his room and shook his head. If it had been any other guy in the world, he’d be thinking the worst, but this was Harry. And Harry really was the picture book definition of honourable.
“You have all the luck, Potter,” he whispered into his room. “But I don’t envy you it, not anymore. I’ve got great friends, a fabulous ex-girlfriend, a new one on the horizon, and the chance to help change the world. And I don’t have that world resting firmly on my shoulders.”
The next evening, they were gathered in the living room of the Room of Requirement. Only there were now over thirty doors leading off it.
“Harry?” Hermione asked. “What’s going on?”
“This is why I wanted this room,” Harry explained. “I don’t know how long we’ve got, but until Tonks gives us the word, we’re going to be using the Time Turner, and Pansy and I are going to train you properly. We’re not going to do everything, just what you need to make sure that you survive the fight.”
“Why so many doors, though?” Hermione asked.
“We’re going to double what Pansy and I did, and we’re going do ten days for each one. Dobby’s got the house-elves ready, and he’s looking forward to the challenge of feeding us. We’ll cram as much as we can in.”
“Can’t we use this to… you know, clone you so that Voldemort has to fight you twice?” Ron asked.
“Nope,” Pansy said. “Basically, time travel can only go backwards, so Harry would have to win before he was able to come back to the right time, but if he won and then came back, something might change, causing him to lose.”
“Which would mean that he never won, so he didn’t come back, so he won?” Ron asked, going cross-eyed.
“Welcome to a paradox,” Hermione said. “Some Muggles think that if you create a paradox you can destroy the universe.”
“And we don’t want to do that,” Ron exhaled slowly. “So, when do we start?”
“Tomorrow. We need the rooms to be here for a day before we can use them. Because if we tried now, when we went back, we’d go to places that don’t exist.”
“This gives me a headache,” Ron complained, causing Harry and Pansy to burst out laughing.
Before they could continue, Dobby appeared and handed Harry some parchment.
“Guys,” Harry said. “Listen to this.”
First for the good news. Nott does not sleep with his wife. I can’t tell you how pleased I am about that – especially as she’s an ugly cow.
When I arrived back, we were in a small building somewhere, where Voldemort was waiting for me. He is one seriously scary bloke. Anyway, I grovelled like anything and told them that I’d been captured. I figured that keeping to the truth as far as I could would be the best idea.
I told him I’d used the button; and that while they had threatened torture, I didn’t give in and then managed to escape with a back-up Portkey I had.
V was a little suspicious, but then I told him about Snape being there, and he went nuts. I’ve not heard that much swearing since Auror training camp. Anyway, he told me I’d done well and to go home and rest.
He called a meeting yesterday, and Draco Malfoy turned up, looking very pleased with himself. So much so, he forgot to bow before he talked to Voldemort.
One painful looking Cruciatus curse later, Draco had remembered his place. Anyway, he told V that he had deliberately left school to tell him the news. That he’d found out about the prophecy. If it was true, what Draco did was pretty impressive. I can’t believe he’d take Polyjuice Potion to turn into Ron.
I was a little worried, and then he started to talk about you’re turning Hogwarts into a fortress and V having a time limit to defeat you. That’s when I knew that A, he hadn’t taken the potion, and B, that you’d set him up like a kipper.
V believed it and started to swear, calling for Lucius. Well, Lucius turned up, apologising profusely. V was pretty damn quick, and didn’t let him know that he hadn’t got a clue what was going on. Lucius confessed everything about Remus, and how he had plans to stop it.
Another Cruciatus later, and V tells Lucius that he should be more like his son, who is obviously the competent one in the family.
Long story short, because there’s some sort of Death Eater party tonight, V is gathering all his troops to meet up Monday morning. I won’t know where until then, but one of the house-elves here is going to try and track me down. As part of the Inner Circle, I’m going to be there first, so you should have time to get everyone here.
So, it’s not been too bad so far. It’s a bit of a strain keeping this form for so long, but I’m relaxing when I can.
Tell R I love him, and he looked sexy in those photos.
“I don’t believe it,” Hermione said slowly. “Your bloody insane plan is actually going to work.”
Harry nodded. “Right, and that means we’ve got six days in real time. In sixty days, believe me, you will feel like different people. All of you get an early night tonight because you’re going to need it.”
“What about you?” Pansy asked.
“I’ve got to go and talk to the twins, Malcom and Gruoch, Remus, Croaker, and Dumbledore,” Harry said, shrugging. “It’s a pity we won’t be able to use the Thestrals, but they won’t have time to get in place, and it would be too much effort to get them there magically.”
He kissed Pansy quickly and vanished, walking through the Other Place to Dumbledore’s office.
“Are you using Elf Magic to get through the wards?” Dumbledore asked, as Harry popped into view.
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “Dobby taught me – and sorry, it’s a secret I can’t divulge.”
Dumbledore sighed and peered over his half-moon glasses. “What can I do for you, Harry?”
“Pass on a message to the Order. On Monday, Voldemort is going to be gathering his forces somewhere. We should get about half an hour’s notice. So we’re going to need a lot of Portkeys ready so that we can add a destination at the last minute.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows slowly. “I see,” he said.
Harry nodded. “I’ve got a busy evening ahead of me,” he sighed. “I guess that’s the burden of command, right?”
Dumbledore nodded. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time, Harry. I can’t say I’m happy about not being in charge anymore.”
“You’ve been in charge for far too long,” Harry said bluntly. “And with no one to tell you when things are going wrong. You need more friends and less people who look at you as a deity.”
“Perhaps,” Dumbledore said. “It had been some time since someone had said no to me, quite as forcefully as you have.”
Harry smiled slightly. “I’m good at that.”
“Did I really let you down that badly?” Dumbledore asked, staring at his desk.
“In many ways, yes,” Harry sighed. “You could have done many things very differently, but you didn’t. And right now, I’ve not got time to go through everything with you.”
“Harry,” Dumbledore said, looking up. “I wasn’t lying when I said I’d had a lot of time to think. I’m scared to think that you might be right. I was so concentrated on everyone else that I really didn’t think about you – and when I did, I felt some guilt.
“You’ve turned into a young man that I have no right to feel proud of, but I do anyway. Will there be a chance to apologise more fully after the battle?”
Harry paused and looked at the old headmaster. He smiled slightly. “Probably,” he said. “Because when Voldemort is gone, you will just be the Headmaster of Hogwarts and supreme Mugwump.”
“I am looking forward to that more than I can say,” Dumbledore admitted.
“I know,” Harry said. “I’ll catch you later,” he offered a cheeky salute and popped away, heading toward the Ministry next.
He appeared in front of a group of tired-looking Aurors and looked them over.
“I think I hate you, Potter,” Amanda Lampkin said as she spotted him. “I’ve never worked so bloody hard in my life.”
“Are you having fun, though?”
“Yes, but that’s not the bloody point. They’re slave drivers.”
Harry shrugged, “But you’ll be thanking them when what they are training you keeps you alive.”
“Still not the point,” Amanda sighed. “I need a bath, a massage, and a good night’s sleep.”
“Then go get one,” Croaker said, as he walked into the room. “But be back here at six a.m..”
“Six a.m.?” one of them groaned. “I didn’t even know there was a six am ‘til recently.”
The tired Aurors filed out, leaving Harry and Croaker alone. “How are they doing?” Harry asked.
“A lot better than I expected. They have a lot of the skills; they’re just lazy.”
“Well, you’ve got six more days to get them into shape.”
“Six days?” Croaker asked.
Harry grinned. “On Monday, we attack.”
“Cool,” Croaker grinned. “They’ll be ready. Thanks for letting me know.”
“You are doing some great work here, Croaker,” Harry said seriously. “I really do appreciate it.”
Croaker smiled and shooed him away.
Harry laughed and vanished, moving toward Fred and George’s shop. As they had promised, they were hard at work; Fred was stirring two cauldrons, while George was reading from a large spell book.
“I never realised how much work was involved in these things,” Harry said as he popped into sight.
“Sweet Merlin on a bike,” George said as he jumped. “How, in the name of Hades, did you get past our anti-Apparition wards?”
“Boy-who-lived, remember?” Harry asked.
“Right,” Fred snorted. “And you’re lying, but it’s not important. What have you got for us, oh fearless leader?”
“You have until Monday, and then you’ll need to be ready.”
“We should be able to do that,” Fred said, looking relieved. “We might even get some sleep.”
“Do you guys want some help?” Harry asked.
“We could do with another set of hands,” George admitted. “But where are you going to find someone to help us?”
“Wait right here,” Harry said with a grin and vanished, appearing outside the Burrow. He knocked on the door politely.
“Harry?” Molly asked. “What are you doing here?”
“Recruiting,” Harry said dryly.
“What do you need?”
“Tell me,” Harry said as he followed her into the kitchen. “Just who exactly do the twins take after, you or Arthur?”
Molly blushed and looked away. “Arthur?” she half said, half asked.
Harry grinned. “I knew it!”
The Weasley Matriarch sighed, “I’ve kept that secret for so many years,” she explained.
“I know,” Harry agreed. “But the twins really need some help, and I can’t think of anyone else I’d trust to be with them. They’re working their quadruplicate socks off at the moment.”
“I know,” Molly said. “And I really am proud of them. And I do owe them a bit of an apology for doubting them when they were expelled last year.”
“So you’ll help?”
“Absolutely,” Molly said seriously. “They’re putting together weapons, aren’t they?”
Molly looked angry, and Harry caught himself almost taking a step back. “It’s about time those Death Eaters discover what happens when you annoy a Weasley.”
“Let me just tell Arthur where I am,” Molly said. “And I’ll start immediately.”
“Thank you,” Harry said. “I’ll see you there.” He popped into the Other Place and spent a few minutes observing them, till he saw Molly Apparate outside their shop.
“I’ve got you some help.”
“Who?” Fred asked, still stirring his cauldron.
“Someone with more years pranking experience than pretty much anyone else alive.”
Fred and George looked at each other. “Who?” they demanded. “We know all the pranksters!”
“Not the one who never got caught,” Molly said smugly as she entered the room.
“Mum!” Fred and George said together.
“You think you got it from your father?” she asked. “I don’t think so.”
Fred and George looked at each other.
“And all this time we thought she was just lucky,” Fred groaned.
“She knew what we were doing,” George agreed. He turned to his mother. “You even let us prank you with silly things, so we wouldn’t get suspicious, didn’t you?”
Molly bowed gracefully.
“Damn it, Mum,” Fred said. “We could have done with your help.”
“I know,” Molly said softly. “But I wanted you to do it yourselves. I wanted you to feel like you succeeded on your own. It was too important to you. I’ve been so proud of you this year. You’ve worked harder than I ever imagined you could, and look at you both, such wonderful successes.”
A second later, there was a three-way hug. Harry popped out, absently brushing his eyes, and walked toward Remus.
“Evening,” Harry said as he sat down. “I’m just on a flying visit to let you know that Tonks is safe and loves and misses you. And that we’re going to be fighting on Monday.”
Remus relaxed and sat back in his chair. “Harry, are you sure that I am the right person to run the country? I’m starting to realise just what I so blithely agreed to.”
“Absolutely,” Harry said seriously. “As Malcom said, it’s far better to have a decent, honest man in power than anyone else. But you won’t be alone; you will have all the help you need. Yes, you’ll have to make decisions, but is that really so hard?”
Remus shook his head. “It’s just…” he started and then paused. “Daunting.”
“If it helps,” Harry grinned. “For the first year you’ll be loved as you’ll have helped defeat Voldemort; but in the second, you’ll be almost universally hated when we free the Elves.”
“Well,” Remus laughed, “at least I get a honeymoon period.”
“Anyway, I’ve got to go the Acromantulas, before going to see Malcom and Gruoch.” He said goodbye and popped out, appearing in the Forbidden Forest.
He whistled under his breath as he strolled along, heading toward Aragog’s lair. Unlike before when he had been captured by the spiders, he was allowed to walk unheeded.
He did have an honour guard of spiders on both sides of him.
“Evening, Aragog,” he said casually as he entered the clearing.
“Harry,” Aragog replied, inclining his head.
“In six days’ time, in the morning, we will be attacking. I hope you’re going to bring your appetite.”
The giant spider’s laughter was accompanied by the clicking sound of the other spiders.
“My children are looking forward to some revenge. The Enemy ate many of my children, and they want to avenge their deaths.”
“They will be most welcome. I will have a rather eclectic group there, including Muggles. They have been warned not to attack you and to hit everyone on the other side.”
“Muggles?” Aragog sounded a little surprised. “With their thunder sticks?”
“Indeed,” Harry said, surprised that Aragog knew about guns.
“We have seen them in many places. We will be ready, Harry.”
Harry bowed formally. “Until Monday,” he said.
“Until Monday,” Aragog agreed.
Harry stepped into the Other Place again and appeared in the book-lined study in Parkinson Manor.
“Harry,” Gruoch said, walking over and hugging him. “You look like you’ve been through the wringer and back. Come and sit down, have a cup of tea, and forget that you’re in charge for a few minutes.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, sitting down in the high-backed leather chair comfortably. Grouch passed him a cup and sat down next to Malcom.
There were no words for a few minutes, just a comfortable silence that Harry found very refreshing.
“How can we help you, Harry,” Malcom said eventually.
Harry smiled at the phrasing. “Be ready for Monday, and no dying,” he said quietly.
“Monday? We’ll be ready,” Gruoch said confidently.
“And we have no intention of dying – Gruoch’s not yet the richest woman in the world, and that’s the sort of thing that would just completely spoil my enjoyment of the afterlife,” Malcom added with a grin.
Harry laughed, “That’s good to hear. How’s the Ministry coming along?”
“Lucius is still in the dark. Most of the Ministry is avoiding him. Whenever he enters the outer office of any important official, they jump in the Floo and come to my office. It’s childish, but a lot of fun.
“They’ve not got their candidate ready, yet; they weren’t expecting us to steal a march on them, and they’re playing catch-up.
“We’ve also got enough Anti-Apparition wards to cover a large field, so that’s ready as well.”
“Brilliant,” Harry smiled. “I hate to say it, but it looks like we’re going to be ready.”
“There is one slight problem,” Malcom said. “The Goblins want to stay out of the battle. They’re a little too afraid of the Wizarding world’s reaction to the knowledge that they can fight.”
“They think people will accuse them of being ready to start a new rebellion?” Harry asked.
“I swear,” Harry grunted, “that if this world was any more backward they would have just handed it straight to Voldemort.”
Malcom and Gruoch laughed.
“Are you nervous?” Gruoch asked.
“Terrified,” Harry admitted. “I’m scared I’m not making the right decisions, that I’m putting you all in danger.”
“And that’s why we follow you, Harry. You care about everyone under your command, and you are working yourself as hard as anyone to make sure everyone survives. You will make mistakes, Harry, as you have already. But you’ve learnt from them, and you never made the same one twice. No one can ask for more than that.”
Harry nodded slowly.
“Don’t feel that you have to do it yourself,” Malcom continued. “That’s what we are here for – to give you advice and support.”
“Thanks,” Harry smiled. “I needed to hear that.”
“Let me go and get you one of my special hot chocolates,” Gruoch said. “And we’ll tell you some stories about your parents.”
“That would be great,” Harry smiled.
When he eventually got back to Hogwarts, it was past midnight. He walked silently into his room to find that Ginny was curled up next to Pansy, who had an arm protectively over the younger girl. He admitted to himself for the first time that he had similar feelings for them both. Not that it really mattered; he had Pansy, and she was more than enough for anyone.
He looked at them both and shook his head slowly, amazed at how innocent they could both look when asleep. He stripped out of his clothes and climbed into bed next to Pansy, feeling strangely at peace with himself.
The next six days followed the same pattern. The first day they would go through school, a little quieter and more subdued than usual. Then for the next nine, they would all push themselves as hard as possible. They worked in pairs; Ron and Ginny, and Daphne and Hermione.
Harry found his skills as a masseur in great demand after the physical training, so he taught Pansy to do it as well.
He took Ron and Ginny, while Pansy did Hermione and Daphne.
During the training, he covered a lot of the basics, including Muggle weapons like Paddy had with them, showing them how to use the guns as a last resort.
But the main focus was magical duelling and staying alive. He pushed them as hard as he had pushed himself over the summer and stood still, as one by one, they broke down and cursed him. Of course, the cursing was usually followed by a period of quiet introspection, and then a heartfelt apology.
He understood their frustrations and accepted it, knowing that it was a combination of stress and exhaustion.
On Friday evening, he stopped the training earlier on the final repeat of the day and had everyone sit in their living room. He turned down the lights and stoked the fire, letting it crackle and crinkle merrily.
Pansy was sitting on the couch with Ginny, Hermione was with Daphne, and Ron was sprawled over the last sofa.
He picked up a high-backed chair, reversed it, straddled it, and rested his arms on the back.
“Have any of you thought about what is going to happen on Monday?” he asked.
“In what way?” Hermione asked.
“That we will be fighting for our lives, and that we will probably have to kill, as the Death Eaters will not be there for a picnic, nor will the Banshees, the Trolls, or any other allies of Voldemort.”
A log in the fireplace broke, sending sparks into the air and onto the stone floor.
“I have,” Ginny said softly. “And I’m ready.”
“You are?” Ron asked, sitting up. “I don’t know that I am.”
“I’ve had Voldemort inside me,” Ginny explained. “I’ve seen how evil he is; I have memories of some of the things he’s done. He is not human, anymore – none of them are human. The Death Eaters sold their souls to Voldemort in return for the ability to act without regret.”
“Ginny’s right,” Pansy said in a calm voice. “It’s them or us. They’re standing between me and a long life, lived the way I want it, with my family around me. If they left and stopped this, I wouldn’t touch them, but they won’t. They have chosen to bring this fight to me, and I will not let them have a second chance. They die.”
Ron shuddered softly. “It’s times like this that I’m really glad I’m on your side,” he muttered. “Death is something I’ve thought about,” he admitted. “Killing or being killed. It’s easy to say that I’d die for you guys, or that you would die for me, but does anyone ever really think that they are going to die? It’s almost an empty promise. But Ginny and Pansy are right. The Death Eaters chose to do this; they chose to become murdering bastards, and if that means they pay with their lives, then so be it. I won’t lose too much sleep over it.”
“So he is intelligent,” Daphne said dryly.
“I told you,” Hermione grinned.
“But I thought you were exaggerating.”
“I am here, you know,” Ron said, his face flushing bright red.
“We know,” Daphne and Hermione said together, identical grins on their faces.
“I guess it’s my turn,” Daphne mumbled. “I’m a Slytherin, like the Grey Princess over there; I knew it was going to come down to this when I joined you. I could spend ten minutes listing friends and relatives they’ve either killed or scared. I won’t stand for it anymore.”
“Hermione?” Harry asked softly.
The bushy-haired girl shifted slightly. “I’ve thought of little else since you told us the plan,” she admitted. “I don’t like the idea of killing; I almost think that we should stun them and give them a trial afterward. But I know that they won’t be giving us the same privilege. And even if we could, we’ve seen so many examples of them escaping and causing more havoc – we couldn’t even keep Lucius Malfoy incarcerated – that I came to the same conclusion. We have to do this, so that we can have the life we want, so that you will be safe, so that everyone will be safe, so that my parents will be safe.”
“What about you, Harry?” Ginny asked.
“I’ve seen Voldemort kill my parents, kill Cedric, kill Sirius. I’ve seen him torture; I’ve seen him mutilate; I’ve seen him do things that make me sick to my stomach. I’ve seen Death Eaters attack and kill Muggles, Half-bloods, even Pure-bloods who wouldn’t follow him.
“He is like a rabid dog, and I will put him down. It’s the same with the Death Eaters; I’ll save my mercy for people who deserve it. Anyone who stands against us on Monday is my enemy. They’re trying to hurt the people I love, and I will not stand for it anymore.
“This ends once and for all, and from there, we move on and live our lives as we want to.”
They sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes, before they all separated and went to their bedrooms.
By Sunday, they had all come along in leaps and bounds. They were much better fighters than they had been.
“That’s it,” Harry said. “You’re as ready as you’re going to be.”
“Thank you,” Hermione said, falling to her knees in exhaustion.
“Damn right,” Ron said. “Man,” he grinned. “I’ve got muscles that will scare Charlie the next time I see him.”
Harry laughed and shook his head.
“I just want to sleep,” Ginny said, “and for tomorrow to be done with, so I can have fun.” She paused for a second. “Fun that doesn’t include duelling,” she clarified.
Dobby appeared in the room and handed Harry another note from Tonks.
I found out today that Voldemort will be sending a couple of Death Eaters to help the Dementors get to Hogwarts. I think that if you can arrange for those Death Eaters to fail, the Dementors will not do anything and will stay out of the fight.
Eeek, GTG, N.T.
“GTG?” Pansy asked, looking confused.
“Got to go,” Hermione guessed.
“Oh, right,” Pansy nodded. “That makes sense though.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “It’s another stroke of luck. I’m glad we won’t be fighting them. I’ll get a few Aurors to deal with them. Let’s get a good night’s sleep, have a big breakfast tomorrow, and then kick Voldemort’s arse!”
The others laughed and headed toward their bedrooms. Over the past sixty days for them, Ginny had practically moved in with them, not that Harry really minded. He’d realised that he was going to wait until Voldemort was dead for some serious time where he’d want some privacy. And Pansy seemed happier having Ginny where she could look after the red-haired girl.
There was a nervous tension between them at breakfast the next morning. The other students knew something was up – they’d cancelled the D.A., and they all looked fitter than ever.
It was almost with relief that Dobby arrived and handed him another note. Harry read it, and looked at Dobby, before pausing. He scribbled on the parchment quickly and duplicated it, handing one back to Dobby.
“Are you ready?”
“Dobby has been speaking to the Council, and they is being ready to help.”
“Go to Parkinson Manor; see Malcom, and good luck.”
“Harry Potter is a great and powerful wizard,” Dobby said solemnly. “Harry Potter sir is not to be doing any dying, nor is any of his friends.”
Harry smiled and nodded at the small elf as he popped out.
“Albus,” he called.
“Was Tom Riddle a student of History?”
“He did like the subject. Why?”
“Because for a Muggle-hater, he’s got a really twisted sense of humour. He’s in Hastings.”
Dumbledore smiled slightly. “Filius, you’re in charge of the school. Lessons are cancelled today; keep them safe.”
“Headmaster?” Flitwick asked, looking confused.
“Come on, Min,” Dumbledore said, looking almost cheerful. “Let’s get going.”
Minerva smiled and got to her feet as well.
Harry and the others stood, preceding them out of the Great Hall.
“What about us?” Blaise and Luna asked together.
Harry paused and looked at them and smiled slowly. “Now is the day to understand,” he said clearly. “Everything that Pansy and I have done since we came back to school, the displays, the showboating, the fighting, has been done with one thing in mind. The defeat of Voldemort. We know who the Death Eaters are in the school and the ones with those sort of leanings, and we’ve used them to pass on messages that we controlled to Voldemort.
“We’ve not been available for the last week because we’ve been training, and this is it. We’ve got an ambush planned for Voldemort, and we’re about to spring it. But this isn’t your fight; it’s the fight of the people who allowed Tom Riddle to become Voldemort, who allowed him to get back into power.
“I know you wanted to help, and if we’d had the time, we would have taken your help gratefully. But we haven’t. This is our chance to wipe Voldemort out forever, and never have to worry about it again.
“I need you to sit on Nott, and the other Death Eater wannabes. No one leaves this Hall when we’re gone.”
Blaise and Luna looked at him and then nodded slowly, drawing their wands. “We won’t let you down,” they said and then grinned at each other.
“I know,” Harry smiled and started to walk again.
“Ron, wait,” Hannah called, running down the hall. She grabbed Ron and kissed him firmly. “You better not die,” she threatened. “Or I’ll never speak to you again.”
Ron smiled and hugged her tightly.
They walked out, the doors of the Great Hall closing behind them. Curiously, Harry stepped into the Other Place and watched what happened, his reading spell cast. The Great Hall doors were immediately sealed by Luna and Blaise, before every member of the D.A. joined them at the front, their wands ready.
“Everyone will sit still and talk quietly,” Blaise said firmly. “And Nott, if you don’t take your hand out of your pocket now, you’ll regret it.”
“Oh yeah?” Nott sneered, proving his intelligence was similar to his father’s, as he was hit by over thirty stunning charms at once.
“Anyone else feel an overpowering need to talk to Voldemort?” Blaise asked dryly.
No one else seemed to feel that need.
Harry laughed to himself as he cancelled the spell and rejoined the others. “Blaise has everything in hand. But Blaise and Luna?”
“Not something I expected,” Daphne grinned. “But fun all the same. What do you do while you’re in the Other Place?”
“I cast a spell to create a Quote Quill and some Parchment, and read what they say.”
Hermione paused and then turned to look at him slowly.
“What?” Harry asked, raising his hands defensively.
“House-elves can hear what people are saying, correct?”
“Yes,” Harry replied slowly.
“And magic works in the Other Place?”
Harry nodded his agreement.
“Then why didn’t you just cast a spell to allow you to hear what was going on?”
Harry opened his mouth and then shut it. A second later, he began to blush as he realised that he had missed something so obvious.
Hermione laughed softly and reached out and hugged him tightly. “Don’t ever change,” she said, before releasing him.
“Okay,” Harry said, as he regained control and checked his watch. “Activate the Portkey to Hastings in exactly fifteen minutes.”
“We will,” Pansy promised and kissed him firmly. “Stay safe,” she whispered.
“You too,” Harry replied.
Pansy grabbed Ginny, who was standing watching them, and pulled her into the hug. Ginny reached out and kissed Harry as well, whispering the same words Pansy had said to him.
Harry kissed her back and told her not to die as well.
He nodded at Ron and Hermione, knowing that no words were needed between them anymore, and vanished into the Other Place.
As he had six days ago, he started at the Ministry with Croaker. The Aurors were sitting at tables, enjoying breakfast and the morning off, when he arrived.
At the back, all the Unspeakables, now unmasked, stood looking emotionless.
“Aten Shun!” Harry yelled.
Almost as one, the Aurors jumped to their feet, standing to attention instantly. They were all dressed in their battle robes.
“It is time to let you in on a secret. In twelve minutes, you will be Apparating with Croaker to a field. Once there, you will be met by members of the Order of the Phoenix, some of the most highly trained Muggles you will ever see, some werewolves, house-elves, and the Acromantulas.
“Once there, you will be beneath one of the biggest concealment charms ever created, so you will not make a sound, but you will be ready to fight.”
Amanda looked at him and gasped audibly. “You’ve done it, haven’t you?” she demanded.
“Done what?” Harry asked innocently.
“You’ve found Voldemort’s base, and we’re going to attack him.”
Harry smirked, “Ten points to the Aurors.”
“That’s why you’ve been training us so hard… but why not tell us beforehand?”
“Loose lips sink ships,” Harry grinned. “Oh, and anyone who tries to do anything silly like warn Voldemort will find themselves entertaining the Acromantulas as their lunch.” The last was said in an ice-cold voice. “Do not let us down!
“Croaker, you have a map?”
Croaker nodded toward a large table.
“Here,” Harry pointed. “The house-elves are going to set up the anti-apparition wards around here, and the camouflage charms along here.”
“No problem, Harry.”
“Hywell, can you take eight Aurors and Apparate to Azkaban? There will be a couple of Death Eaters showing up to tell the Dementors what to do. Stop the Death Eaters from getting near the Dementors.”
“Will do,” Hywell said calmly. He pointed to a row of Aurors. “You heard him, let’s go.” Together, they Apparated away.
Harry smiled and then reached out and hugged Croaker for a second. “Don’t die,” he said seriously.
“You either,” Croaker nodded.
Harry vanished into the Other Place, arriving in the same Mess Room in Lympstone. The SBS members were sitting on chairs, watching some yellow people on a huge TV.
As he appeared, they jumped to attention, Paddy moving to the front, a man Harry hadn’t seen before next to him.
“Ready for the fight of your lives?” Harry asked.
“Where do you need us?” Paddy asked once the vocal agreement had died down.
“Hastings,” Harry said. “You have a map?”
Paddy picked up a remote and pressed a few buttons. A second later the cartoon was replaced by a large map that soon zoomed into Hastings.
“Satellite photography,” Paddy grinned.
Harry shook his head, smiling. “And that’s Battle Abbey,” Harry said. “That’s where Voldemort is staying.”
“But tourists visit there all the time. Why haven’t they ever been spotted?”
“Notice-me-not Charm,” Harry explained. “Keeps Muggles from getting suspicious, and keeps them from noticing anything they might need. We’ll be fighting on the field in front, but don’t worry about damage to the building; we can repair it later.
“I’m going to have to give you a Portkey there; we’ve not got time for Muggle transport.”
“Croaker already thought of that,” Paddy grinned. “He’s borrowed a few toys from the Americans down the road. Unspeakable Jones, here, is going to make sure we get there on time.”
“Do I want to know?”
There was a low level of laughter from the members of the SBS. Paddy pressed another button on the remote, and a new image filled the screen. Harry whistled under his breath. He’d seen them in his training manuals, but never thought he’d see one up close.
“This calls for a new plan,” he said decisively, reaching into a pocket and pulling out the notepad he shared with Malcom.
He wrote as he talked and then looked at his watch and winced. “Ten minutes, gentlemen,” he warned. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
“We’ll be there,” Jones grunted. “Been looking forward to this for a few years. Damn stupid idea keeping us separate. Croaker was right to trust you.” He saluted Harry.
Harry returned the salute, turned to Paddy and blinked. “Just what is that?” he asked, looking at the gun on the table behind the large man.
“This?” Paddy asked, picking up the huge pistol. “This is Betsy.”
“Betsy?” Harry asked doubtfully.
“It’s my Magnum – an American Super RedHawk from Sturm, Ruger & Co. I have it for self-defence.”
“From what, a tank?” Stephan asked dryly.
Harry laughed and shook his head. “One more thing,” he said to Paddy as he shook the big man’s hand. “Don’t die.”
He stepped into the Other Place, heading toward the Forbidden Forest.
He didn’t have time for pleasantries, so he appeared directly in the cleaning. “Morning, Aragog,” he said cheerfully.
“Ahh,” Aragog said, rising to his feet. “It is time?” he asked eagerly.
“It is,” Harry said. “We need to move fast.”
“Will you allow me to see into your mind?” Aragog said formally. “I will take the destination.”
Harry nodded and walked over to the spider, and knelt before him.
Aragog reached out with one leg and touched Harry’s forehead. The sensation was a little like Occlumency but had a very alien feel to it. He automatically tightened his shields, only allowing the spider to see the destination and the plan
“Impressive,” Aragog said as he pulled back. “You can keep secrets. I like that. We will be there on time, and will follow commands. Won’t we, my children?”
There was a sound of clicking that sounded positively bloodthirsty.
Harry bowed. “I would take it as a favour if you were to avoid dying; I don’t want to lose any more of my friends.”
Aragog paused and then bowed back to Harry, the movement a little jerky as if it had been a long time since he had done so. “I will do my best, Harry.”
Harry nodded and vanished again, moving to Hastings. He could see that the Aurors were there, as were Remus and the werewolves. Most of them looked a little disconcerted, and all of them looked like they had seen better days. Harry absently swore at the Ministry for their condition.
Malcom, Gruoch, Croaker, Remus, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Daphne, Ginny, and Pansy were standing around a table, looking at a map.
He could see the twenty house-elves waiting for his signal. Dobby was standing in the middle of them all, keeping an eye on them. He nodded to Dobby, who nodded back.
He looked out across the large field and winced. There were twenty giants, each towering over the hundreds of beasts beside them. Nearby, several Death Eaters were erecting what looked like a giant transport gate.
“There’s more Death Eaters than we thought,” Harry whispered as he appeared next to them. “And we didn’t know about the Orcs!”
“I know,” Croaker shrugged. “But we should still be able to take them.”
“I wish I hadn’t sent eight Aurors,” Harry sighed softly.
“Don’t worry about it,” Croaker said quietly. “It’s too late to do anything about it, and while we would rather have more numbers, it doesn’t matter. They are not ready for the fight yet. They’ve never actually had to fight in a straight battle – they’ve been strictly terrorists. We will win. We will need to take out that gate though, we don’t want them escaping.”
“No problem,” Harry said confidently.
“Yes.” Harry nodded and turned to Ron. “Do we have a plan?” he said a little louder.
Ron looked down and then at Harry. “What have you got?”
Harry grinned. “Attack, fight, win?”
“Sounds good to me. But how about a little more detail?” Ron asked.
“Well, get to work then, Ron.”
“Before I forget, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Take these.”
“What are they?”
“Something the twins came up with,” Malcom said with a gleeful smile. “Ear protectors – will eliminate the Banshee’s wails, but will allow all other sound in.”
“Remind me to make sure that they’ve got all the investment they need when this is over,” Harry said to Malcom. “Genius like this could make us all very rich.”
“Good point,” Malcom said approvingly. “And with your initial investment, they should be more open to us helping out.”
“How can you two talk about money right now?” one of the Aurors said a little loudly, from a nearby position.
Harry turned and looked at him. “Because we’ve got to have something to do when Voldemort is dead, right?”
The Auror blinked and looked thoughtful for a second. He suddenly stood to attention and saluted Harry formally. “I was wrong,” he apologised. “It’s an honour to fight with you.”
Harry returned the salute and smiled. He turned back to the table and listened as Ron started to talk.
When Ron had finished, and a few suggestions had been accepted, Harry walked over toward Mad-Eye Moody.
“Got a special job for you, but you’re not going to like it.”
“I don’t have to like it,” Mad-Eye grunted.
“I need you to work with the Acromantulas and keep track of everyone who gets killed; we don’t want to miss anyone.”
“You’re right,” Mad-Eye scowled. “I don’t like it; I don’t like missing the fight.”
“No one else here would recognise as many of the Death Eaters and would have the right attitude about what is going to happen to them.”
Mad-Eye snorted. “What do I do if the Death Eaters aren’t dead?”
Harry looked at him coldly. “Every Death Eater they bring will be dead. If not immediately, they will be shortly afterward.”
Mad-Eye grinned. “I like you, kid. I’ll do it.”
“Thanks,” Harry smiled. “I’ve got a battle to start, so if you’ll excuse me.”
Tonks stood proudly in the middle of the Inner Circle of Death Eaters. Voldemort was giving a speech about how today was the day that everything would change. And how the Potter brat would have no idea what was going to hit him.
She was having trouble not sniggering. If she knew Harry, it would indeed be a day where everything changed.
Tonks had been lucky, in that she hadn’t actually had to do anything really scary at all. Once she had got past Voldemort, she’d been pretty much left alone to “recuperate” from her ordeal. It seems that Voldemort wasn’t quite the sadist after all and was quite prepared to reward loyalty as much as he punished failure.
She’d only seen Wormtail once; for the first time, her biggest worry had been getting bored. There was only so much one could do while impersonating a recuperating Death Eater.
“Now,” Voldemort finished, his voice ringing triumphantly. “To Hogwarts and our Destiny.”
She cheered, along with everyone else, and then followed him into the bright sunlight outside, where a few Death Eaters were preparing a transport gate that would act as a giant Floo, allowing them and their allies to all appear in Hogsmeade as they walked through it.
It was the sort of day that could only happen in September. Not too hot, not too cold, and with hardly any clouds in the sky.
Something seemed to blur in front of her, and when she had blinked, she realised she had a Portkey and a note in her hand. She looked down at it surreptitiously.
“At the sound of distant thunder, distract Tom and get out of there,” it said.
She looked around at the massed ranks of the Death Eaters. At the Manticores, the Giants, the Banshees, the Mountain Trolls, the Orcs, and she shuddered to herself. She didn’t think there’d be so many of them.
From the distance, she heard a faint rumble and guessed that was Harry meant.
“My Lord,” she screamed in Nott’s voice.
“Nott?” Voldemort sneered, his hand reaching for his wand.
“A spy!” she yelled.
“Where?” Voldemort demanded, looking around. She walked out so she was in front of the other Death Eaters, standing alone with Voldemort.
“Right here,” she said triumphantly, and let her disguise drop, along with her Death Eater robes and mask. As Voldemort screamed with rage, she activated the Portkey, leaving behind only her mocking laughter.
Harry stepped into the Other Place as he watched Nott move out in front. “Now, Dobby,” he shouted. “While Voldemort is distracted.”
He watched as the house-elves all stepped out of the Other Place, ramming the wooden staffs into the ground, and pressing the button that activated them. He could see a huge dome arc over them – visible only in the Other Place. He grinned, saluting Dobby.
The elf saluted him back, and he stepped out of the Other Place, and stood in front of Voldemort and his entire Army alone.
“Potter!” The Dark Lord spat.
“Tommy,” Harry said back amiably. “Nice day, isn’t it?”
“You will address me as Lord Voldemort.”
“That’s your problem, Tommy; you never stop to smell the daisies. But anyway, let’s get to business. I’m afraid that I can’t let you attack Hogwarts.”
“It’s too late,” Voldemort sneered. “You will be dead within seconds, your school shortly afterward.”
Harry listened, and he could hear the noise getting a lot closer. “That’s not going to happen,” he yelled and sent up a large orange magical flare, before hitting the deck and raising a shield over him.
Voldemort looked shocked at his actions, ignoring the noise.
The gate in front of him suddenly exploded in a giant ball of fire.
Harry looked up and smirked.
Two AH-64A/D Apache Attack Helicopters flew into sight. Smoke was trailing from the weapons’ wing of the one on the left.
The one on the right fired one of its Hellfire missiles. The missile seemed to drop for a second, before a bright trail of light appeared out of the back, and the missile hissed across the field, hitting a giant.
The giant looked down at its chest in surprise and went to remove the pesky thing, when it exploded, sending slightly seared chunks of giants over everyone nearby.
“Shields, you idiots,” Voldemort yelled. Harry watched as the Death Eaters, loyal to themselves first, did exactly that and cast shields on themselves.
“Curse those Muggles!” Voldemort yelled next.
The helicopters started to fire in unison, more Hellfire missiles spewing out, each one locked onto one of the giants – killing them almost instantly.
The Death Eaters sent a volley of spells at the helicopters. Only to find that the Apache Helicopter was one of the most nimble aircraft in the world, and wasn’t going to stand around to be hit by some long-range curses.
The curses that did get near it were easily blocked by the Shield spell cast by the Unspeakable inside.
The two Apaches swung out to the side, and then approached the terrified creatures that had just seen their biggest allies cut down to almost nothing in mere seconds. Two M230 chain guns started to chatter, spewing over six hundred rounds a minute in a deadly lead rain storm that further cut down the creatures.
The Death Eaters, finally realising what was happening started to cast shields to protect their remaining allies.
The two helicopters, thin smoke emanating from under the turrets, flew to the side; and ropes appeared with Muggles in blue uniforms sliding down, landing and dropping flat to the ground, their machine guns pointed at the enemy.
Harry stood and shook his head, absently brushing himself down. They’d managed to destroy sixteen of the giants – far more than he could have hoped for.
“Sorry about your giants, Tom,” Harry said cheerfully. “I do hope they were close friends.”
“Don’t call me that,” Voldemort yelled, throwing a curse at Harry. “You attack me with Muggles? No Muggle can stand up to a Pure-Blood!”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “But as we all know you’re a half-blood, it’s hardly going to be a problem is it?”
“Capture him,” Voldemort ordered his Inner Circle. “We can rebuild the gate, but let’s have some fun with him first.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” Harry said casually.
Harry grinned. “Because it would be the signal.”
Harry looked over his shoulder and then cast a spell.
The camouflage spell vanished with an audible pop. “The signal to attack!” he yelled.
There was a high pitched whistling sound, as what looked like a mortar shell flew high into the sky and then exploded, trapping the Death Eaters underneath them in what looked like silly string. It was only when they tried to move that they found that struggling simply made it grip tighter.
Harry whistled slowly. The Twins and Molly had certainly come up with something impressive.
That was the start, as the Aurors, the Unspeakables and the Order of the Phoenix ran past him, taking on the startled Death Eaters.
Harry could see Pansy and Ginny hanging back, as planned, and launching a quick spell at Voldemort, distracting him from shouting orders.
Voldemort threw back a Cruciatus curse, and the battle began.
Tonks ran with the other Aurors, morphing as she did into the biggest form she could manage. It was modelled after a Muggle she’d seen on a film once, and she had been impressed with his sheer strength.
The fact that the character’s name was ‘Bear’ amused her.
She dodged the first spell thrown at her and launched herself straight into the line of Death Eaters. She grabbed one by the throat, and threw him hard into another.
A shouted warning later, and she morphed into a small child, using a cutting curse to chop through the robes of the Death Eater in front of her. She ran through his legs, before changing back into ‘Bear’. As she was underneath him, she pointed her wand up and launched a cutting curse. The Death Eater’s high-pitched screams distracted the Death Eater next to him. She grabbed the new Death Eater, her huge hands on each side of his head, and twisted violently. Hearing the snap, she launched the body into the massed ranks and looked around.
A Death Eater was aiming a wand at her, so she morphed into a tall thin shape, allowing the curse to pass her by and hit the Death Eater behind her. She took a few steps forward and started a punch.
By the time she had finished it; she’d changed again, and the punch had the force of over 300lbs of pure muscle.
Sensing another Death Eater attack, she dropped back and threw out her hand. It was much harder on her to form non-human shapes, but she could do it. And the razor sharp bone that appeared out of her left hand penetrated straight through the startled Death Eater’s chest.
Pulling her arm back, she could see that the Death Eaters didn’t want anything to do with her.
She laughed gleefully – her own voice sounding out of place in the big man’s chest – and leapt forward.
Tonks grabbed the wand of the Death Eater in front of her, pointing it out of the way and morphed again, first into a wiry, powerful frame that allowed her to jump above him, before she morphed again, into the fattest man she could. 400lbs of fat landed directly on the Death Eater.
She sat on him for a second, letting the body she was in absorb a few curses – it was so well insulated that even the Cruciatus curse hardly touched her. She changed again, this time to into an oriental gymnast, and she started to twirl, a couple of daggers appearing in her hands from her robes. She jumped from one Death Eater to the next, stabbing and slicing as she went.
Pansy looked around from the back and winced as a huge club from a giant whistled through the air, catching an Auror flush. The Auror flew through the air but seemed to be okay. He must have cast a defensive spell on himself.
She threw a few curses into the Death Eaters, staying back with Ginny. It was Ron’s plan, and she did actually think it was a good one. They were to provide back-up wherever they could, and she was not to blow her cover of being useless.
Ron seemed to take to the role of a general – even if he did look disgruntled to be directing the fight from the back, while Harry was definitely a battle-king. Everywhere he fought, people fought harder near him.
At the moment, Harry was engaging in a cat and mouse game with Voldemort, occasionally fighting him directly, other times distracting him and fighting against some of the Death Eaters.
The field seemed to be heaving with magic as curses of all shapes and colours flew between the opposing parties.
The Manticores seemed to have been wiped out by the Muggles, and the rest of the creatures weren’t doing all that well, either. Whenever they were in plain sight, a burst of noise from the Muggles would take care of them.
Some of the Death Eaters were falling quickly as well. Molly Weasley was hanging back, using some of the toys she’d developed with the twins to help protect her family. It was an action Pansy thoroughly agreed with, and one she approved of. She could see Bill and Charlie fighting back to back – they seemed to be having a competition between them over who was taking out the most Death Eaters. And they seemed to be enjoying it, too.
Hermione and Daphne were fighting together and seemed to be in their own personal competition as well, to see who could use the most esoteric curse against an opponent.
As one suddenly found himself made of marble, Pansy could hear Daphne shout victoriously, until Hermione turned another into plaster and then sent a curse after it that shattered the statue.
The Unspeakables were being used as shock troops. Where ever the fighting was the thickest, you could see them, moving like the fighters they were, combining physical fighting techniques with more traditional duelling moves.
Everywhere she looked, it looked like they were winning – apart from the centre, where Voldemort and his Inner Circle were together, fighting in massed ranks.
Her parents were with the rest of the Order, fighting Death Eaters, and they seemed to be okay.
She let off a quick curse, an Impediment Jinx, at a Death Eater who was casting a curse at Gruoch, and smiled.
She turned her head slightly, checking Ginny was okay.
The girl seemed fine, and she turned back, concentrating on the fight and her boyfriend.
He was moving like he had been trained, not in the hyper extended state, but in the way he moved while he practised. Each move was almost balletic in its graceful perfection as it flowed from one to the next, leaving a trail of devastation in his wake.
She winced again as the giants started to fight back, scattering friends and foes as they stomped around the battlefield.
Aragog watched from the side as his children fought with the others. His heart was pounding faster than he could remember in over four decades. It was excitement, it was violence, and it was everything he wanted as his children ran straight through some Death Eaters.
There was no sophistication in their attack; the first wave simply knocked them down, and the second wave stopping to make sure they never got up again.
He turned his head and saw one of those in black standing alone, staring at Harry’s mates. He shook his head and clicked audibly.
One of his children, Bragon, his favourite child, disengaged from the fight, and ran straight toward the figure.
Draco crept forward slowly, his wand at the ready. He could see two of the harlots in front of him. The sound of curses being thrown was fighting for supremacy with the sharp barks of the weapons the Muggles were using.
He absently wiped the blood off his nose from an earlier curse and tried to decide which one to hit first.
First there was Pansy; as normal, she was at the back, cowering from the fight. She was all very brave when her boyfriend was there to protect her, but without him, she was useless, even if she was in a prettier package.
Then there was the Muggle-loving Weasel. She’d have made a good mistress if she hadn’t attached herself to Potter.
And it was obvious that Potter had feelings for them both.
He just had to decide which one to kill first. He ultimately concluded that it would be the Weasel, as she could fight; and without her, Potter would be the most vulnerable. And with her down, he should be able to get Pansy straight afterward, leaving Potter devastated with no one covering his back.
He moved a little closer, concentrating hard as Voldemort had taught him.
He dragged up all his hate for Potter, for Parkinson, for the pain that still throbbed in his hand; he blocked everyone out and started the curse that would forever end Ginny’s life, and put him at Voldemort’s right hand, where he deserved to be.
He never saw the Acromantula that barrelled into him at full speed, but he felt his leg break, and he screamed with pain.
Bragon picked the Death Eater up and carried the boy toward his sire, dropping the body at his feet. “Feed, my father,” he clicked.
Aragog clicked back gratefully, and Bragon ran back to the fight.
The spider looked down at the one in black before him. He could see the slightly greasy blonde hair, and the youthfulness of the countenance.
He poked it with a foot, and it squealed slightly, as its limbs were probably broken.
Harry had said that he could eat the dead ones. This one was a good as dead, wasn’t it? “Don’t worry,” he said down to the human at his feet.
He did hate it when they got all tense before he killed them. It made them so stringy and he always got bits stuck in his fangs.
As he lowered his head, he idly wondered why the young human seemed to think that the word “Malfoy”, would save him.
He did so love the symphony the blond sang to him as he stuck into his lunch, all his other senses trained on his children.
Fred and George looked at each other. “We’ve got to take out those giants,” Fred said, wincing as an Acromantula was trampled by a huge foot.
“Tie its shoe laces together?”
“Fred,” George said admiringly. “Has anyone ever told you how brilliant you are?”
“Not recently,” Fred replied, modestly. “And that sort of thing runs in the family.”
“Well, let’s get started,” George said as he started running toward the nearest giant.
Fred followed him, and as they dodged some curses they jumped, each landing on a foot.
“Whoa!” George yelled as he was lifted in the air as the giant took a step. He pulled some of the string they had used earlier from his pocket and threw one end to Fred.
Fred caught it and, hanging onto the top of the giant’s boot, ran around the leg, trailing the string.
He threw it back so that George could catch it.
George did, and wrapped it around the leg he was perched on, tying it off expertly. He pulled out his wand and cast the activation spell.
“Jump,” he yelled to his twin.
“Timber!” Fred shouted as he landed.
The string did what it was designed to do – as soon as it felt pressure, it shrunk, hard. They’d never stress tested it, and didn’t know how well it would stand up to the extreme pressure.
The string, instead of constricting slowly, reacted and shrunk at an incredible speed.
The giant wavered for a second, before falling flat on his face with an earth shattering thump.
A cheer went up from the Aurors as the Acromantulas swarmed over the fallen giant. It didn’t take long for it to stop moving.
Ron looked around in almost disbelief. Their plan was actually bloody working. It might have been a bit closer than Harry wanted; their intelligence hadn’t been perfect, but they were wiping out the Death Eaters and their allies faster than anyone would have thought possible beforehand.
They might not have had the numbers, but Fred and George, and his Mum – which was still freaking him out slightly – had been worth twenty Aurors on their own. All over the place, Death Eaters, Orcs, and anything else that stood in their way were finding themselves immobilised or transformed into animals that were quickly squished.
And it was causing panic in the ranks of the enemy. Everywhere they turned, they were facing people intent on killing them, and they had no training, no experience on how to deal with it. All they had ever experienced was people running away from them screaming, never had they thought back with such skill and ability.
It really dragged home to him what Harry, Pansy, Malcom, and Gruoch had been saying – that if people had just stood up for themselves, the Death Eaters would never have gained power, and Tom would have been treated as a criminal.
The general public had been afraid of the werewolves, and they had paid for it. He shook his head; they had been right – they were sheep, and Harry and Pansy’s plan for the future was the best thing he had ever heard – and he was going to be a part of it. Harry had trusted him to direct the fight – trusted him, Ron Weasley; not Albus Dumbledore; not Mad-Eye Moody; not even his oldest brother Bill.
Pansy had been right; he was in the most fortunate of positions, and he had never felt luckier. He ducked a stray curse and looked around.
He aimed his wand carefully and cast a spell the twins had taught him many years ago. It turned to pink the robes of a group of Death Eater who were starting to get organised and fight back.
“Unspeakables, take out the Death Eaters in pink,” he roared with the help of a sonorous charm.
The Unspeakables turned, and he winced slightly as the Unspeakables showed the Death Eaters some poetic justice.
“Dobby,” he called.
Dobby appeared in a pop.
“Can you and the other elves keep an eye all around the battle and stop people from escaping?”
Dobby nodded and saluted. “Dobby with the other elves will be doing that,” he promised.
Ron turned back to the fight and whistled under his breath. He’d known that Dumbledore was one of the three most powerful people on the planet, and watching him fight now was proving that, but what was really surprising, was just how deadly McGonagall was. In a way, it was reassuring; it meant that the awe in which the Gryffindor students kept their professor in was not exaggerated.
He frowned slightly, realising that while McGonagall was killing, Dumbledore was merely stunning them. He winced – he knew what Harry had told Mad-Eye, and he didn’t want to be the one to tell Dumbledore that far from being merciful, he was sentencing them to a fate that while richly deserved, was almost worse than death.
“Paddy,” Stephan yelled. “We need to help take down those giants.”
“Any ideas?” Paddy asked.
“Sure, a couple of hand grenades to the back of the legs – hamstring them.”
“I like the way you think,” Paddy grinned. “You up for it?”
“Sure, you coming?”
“Of course. You’d only fail without me.”
Stephan laughed. “Covering fire, guys,” he shouted.
“Aye sir,” the others replied.
Stephan and Paddy looked at each other. “On three?” Paddy asked.
“Nah, let’s just go for it,” Stephan replied.
The two took off, each holding their M16 rifles at the ready, firing as needed. The bullets didn’t do anything against the Wizards, but they were quite effective against the smaller creatures that stood in their way.
As they got to the giants, they both pulled out a grenade.
“In the socks!” Paddy yelled, as he leaped up and deposited the hand grenade where he had advised.
“Some of us aren’t bloody mini-giants ourselves,” Stephan complained, as he shimmied up the back of the giant’s left leg, pulling the sock back, and dumping the grenade.
“Timber,” they heard someone yell, and turned to see a giant fall flat on his face.
They shrugged at each other, “Timber!” they yelled.
The grenades went off, a two second gap between them, causing the giant to fall backward and then down.
Paddy jumped as the creature landed and quickly climbed onto its face. He could see the fear in the giant’s eyes and shrugged. He pointed the gun straight up the giant’s nose and started to fire.
He almost didn’t hear the sound of two more voices shouting ‘Timber’ as the remaining giants were destroyed.
Remus looked around, sniffing some blood back from his nose – an Orc had caught him with a lucky punch.
He smelt something, and as he turned, he spotted a glint of sunlight reflect off a silver hand, and growled to himself. Wormtail.
He hefted the axe he had liberated from an Orc and hid it behind his back as he ran toward the traitor.
“Remus,” Wormtail said, looking nervously around him. “You have to understand, I was under the Imperious. All this time.”
“Really?” Remus said dryly, stalking toward the rat-like creature. “Even when Voldemort was powerless, you were still under the Imperious, and yet now you’re free?”
“Die!” Wormtail shouted, throwing a heavy punch with his silver hand toward Remus.
Remus almost smirked as he jumped backward smoothly and pulled out the axe. As Wormtail overextended, he swung the axe down, connecting just above the wrist.
There was a spurt of blood as the silver hand fell lifelessly to the ground.
Wormtail looked down at his hand, disbelief on his face.
“Goodbye, Peter,” Remus said softly and swung the axe again, this time aiming directly for the throat.
Tonks was starting to get a little worried. She was getting tired, and her transformations were starting to take a lot longer. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d forced herself into so many different shapes in such a short period of time.
The Death Eater numbers were shrinking rapidly into a single group where they were surrounded. She’d seen the shoulders slump of several as they had tried to escape and been blocked by the wards.
A few had even surrendered, and they had been stunned quickly and moved out of the fight. The creatures she’d been worried about earlier had been wiped out by those amazing Muggles.
She thought that she knew how to fight, but they were taking it to a new level. Some of the tactics she’d seen them employ had shocked her. The way they covered each other had proved that without a magical shield the creatures were powerless against the Muggles. It reversed a long held notion of hers.
And the explosion -- she’d seen them throw small objects into clumps of Orcs, and then a few seconds later, parts of the creatures would come through flying through the air accompanied by a loud bang.
She turned, rapidly firing off a couple of curses at a Death Eater, relying more on magic now. She didn’t think she had many changes left, and was actually in her original form because she didn’t need to concentrate to maintain it.
Harry’s plan on bringing in the Muggles had meant that the Aurors and the Order had concentrated solely on the Death Eaters. And from what she could tell, Harry had influenced that as well.
She ducked another curse and threw a couple back in return as she twisted around, checking all angles as she moved nearer to the Death Eaters gathered in a circle.
The Order had always been good in a fight – it’s what they did, after all, but she had never seen her fellow Aurors fight so well before, and noticed some of the moves they were using were Unspeakable moves.
The Unspeakables were giving her the creeps – and she was really glad they were on their side, because they fought viciously, using the same curses that the Death Eaters did.
She turned quickly as the feeling of magic in the air started to grow, and she was thrown backward – as was everyone else.
She groaned as she landed awkwardly and then picked herself up slowly and felt her mouth open.
Voldemort had cast a spell, Pansy and Ginny were being held by some Death Eaters, and Harry was facing Voldemort alone. Above and around them was a red shield spell.
She cast a curse at it to see what would happen, and the shield simply absorbed it.
“Trust Harry! Get the rest of the Death Eaters!” she heard Ron yell, and she turned to help, realising that everything now rested on Harry.
And she couldn’t think of another person she would trust in his place.
Augustus Rookwood turned to his companion. “I’m out of here,” he whispered. “I didn’t sign up to be killed. I can’t believe they’re doing it. When the hell did the Aurors learn to fight like that?”
“People know you’re a Death Eater though,” his companion said, throwing a killing curse at a target and then swearing as it missed.
“I’ll just claim to have been under the Imperious this time,” Rookwood shrugged.
“Sounds like a plan to me,” the other said. “Quick, let’s go.”
They both turned, shrugging off their robes and crawling away, and then they looked up as they heard a noise.
“Dobby is being sorry,” Dobby said formally. “But Death Eaters are not being allowed to leave.”
“Out of the way, scum,” Augustus snarled. “Or I’ll show you exactly how Voldemort likes to play with the Muggles.”
“Dobby is feeling sorry for you,” Dobby said softly. “But Dobby is not letting you leave.”
Augustus pulled out his wand; Mulciber mimicked him. They were about to cast the Cruciatus curse to show the uppity house-elf his place when another twenty elves arrived. Before they could do anything, the elves all threw their hands forward together, and both Death Eaters flew through the air. It was only when they landed painfully that they found that they were back in their Death Eater robes.
And that the Acromantulas were coming for them.
Harry shook his head, trying to clear the ringing out of it, and picked himself off the ground.
Voldemort had started to look worried as they had half-duelled. The Dark Lord wasn’t used to be ignored, and Harry had tried as hard as he could to avoid a direct confrontation.
It was only when the four giants had been taken down at the same time that Voldemort had started to change his tone.
He had cast a stunning spell at Harry that was a lot more powerful than Harry had expected, and he’d ended up on his back.
To his left, Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, and a couple of other Death Eaters were standing in a small group. To his right, Crabbe and Goyle – both generations – were holding a passive Pansy and Ginny.
Voldemort was smirking at him. “You can never win, Potter.”
Harry sighed. “Did you get that from the Big Book of Bad Guys Clichés?”
“If you move, my loyal servants will kill them both,” Voldemort said with a slight hiss of pleasure.
Harry froze, swallowing hard. “What do you want, Voldemort?”
“Oh, now you are polite,” Voldemort hissed. “But I think it’s time you choose.”
“Which one dies. Of course, if you don’t choose, I’ll kill them both.”
Harry glared at him, desperately trying to think of what he could do. He felt something brush against his Occlumency shields, and let them down a little, as he recognised Pansy’s touch. Strangely enough, it appeared to have Ginny’s mind with it.
He looked at them, first Pansy, and then Ginny, and felt their confidence.
“No, I will not choose,” Harry stated firmly. “I will not be forced into this. You can kill them, Tom, but I will not let you play your games with me.” He slid his hand down, reaching for his knife, his thumb flicking off the catch that held it in place.
Voldemort snarled in anger. “Kill them both,” he ordered.
Lucius and Bellatrix pointed their wands at Ginny and Pansy.
“Avada Kedavra!” they shouted in unison.
And everything started to change.
Harry threw his knife in an arc toward Ginny.
Ginny and Pansy, moving in a strange synchronicity, both dropped to the floor, tearing their arms out of their captivity. As they hit the floor, Ginny bounced to her feet, diving to her left and catching the knife Harry had thrown.
She turned – the curses had hit both the Goyles – and darted forward straight at the senior Crabbe, the knife flicking out. She turned to see that Pansy had done the same thing, ending the life of the younger Crabbe.
Ginny pulled her wand from the dead hand of the body in front of her and launched a curse straight at Lucius Malfoy.
Harry watched the two girls move almost dispassionately as he heightened his senses, preparing for the fight.
He moved as fast as he could, faster than in the DA, racing straight toward Voldemort.
The Dark Lord raised his wand in what seemed like slow motion.
He ignored the wand as he jumped into the air, spinning once under complete control. His right foot lashed out, catching Voldemort in the chest, throwing him back.
Harry landed but didn’t stop moving; he ducked and swung his right foot in a sweep kick, smacking into Voldemort as the Dark Lord tried to rise.
Voldemort screamed as he fell backward, his hand flying out, and Harry felt himself thrown backward across the field.
He twisted so that he landed on his feet.
“Muggle tricks won’t stop me,” Voldemort sneered unsteadily.
“How about magical ones?” Harry asked, launching a couple of curses that Croaker had taught him.
The trick was to send them as quickly as you could, one after the other. The first was a powerful stunning spell. It was supposed to be blocked – and Voldemort did that. It was the second curse that did the damage. It burst through the part of Voldemort’s shield that had been weakened by the first curse, and went straight into Voldemort.
The Dark Lord screamed in pain and anger as the curse slammed into his ribs, breaking several with audible cracks.
The shield surrounding them started to shrink.
“Harry!” he heard Ginny call, as she threw his knife back at him. He dived forward, catching it, as the shield locked Ginny and Pansy out, leaving him alone with Voldemort.
He looked down and frowned; the handle had changed, meaning that the knife had absorbed a curse. He really hoped it had been worthwhile, as it left him without one of his back up options.
He looked up at Voldemort and noticed that the Dark Lord looked uncomfortable.
Everything became simple and completely clear. It was him and Voldemort. No one else to interfere – no-one else to distract.
Voldemort had locked them together, and only one would be coming out.
He almost smiled.
Pansy coughed but didn’t move. She’d never been Summoned before, and it wasn’t something she wanted to have done to her again.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ginny next to her. She reached out with her mind, silently casting the Legilimens spell so that she could talk to the girl.
‘Hey,’ she thought cheerfully.
‘Do we fight back?’ Ginny replied. ‘They’re holding me so badly a two year old could escape.’
‘Not now, let’s wait for the moment we can do the most damage.’
She focused back on Voldemort, who was telling Harry to choose. It was obvious that Voldemort was massively underestimating Harry. If he had to, he really would choose, no matter what the cost. Harry would not let Voldemort win.
She kept her connection to Ginny open, as she sent confident thoughts at Harry. He couldn’t lower his shields much because Voldemort would pounce if he did.
Pansy smiled slightly as she met Harry’s eyes, and then as he looked at Ginny.
‘Ready, sweetheart?’ she asked the younger girl.
“No, I will not choose,” she heard Harry say, and she felt a shot of pride shoot through her. He sounded so implacable, and gave the impression that nothing would stand in his way. She could see that the answered surprised Voldemort.
Voldemort gave the order, and she watched as Bellatrix and Lucius pointed wands at them.
‘You can have Lucius, I want Bella,’ she thought to Ginny. ‘I owe her for hurting Harry by pushing Sirius through the veil. And you owe Lucius for the diary.’
‘Pansy,’ she heard Ginny think softly. ‘I love you, you know that, don’t you?’
‘I know. We love you as well,’ Pansy thought back. ‘But we’ll talk about that after we win.’
As the curse flew toward her, she dropped to the ground, tearing her arms out of their hold. She felt the curse flash over her head and hit the body behind her. She bounced back to her feet, reaching under her skirt for her knife and made short work of Crabbe. She didn’t feel any regret over killing a classmate. He was on the other side, a Death Eater wannabee and as far as she was concerned, that was the only thing that counted.
Pansy hadn’t realised she’d left the link open, but now that she had, she felt that she was influencing Ginny as much as she was being influenced.
‘Shall we take out the lot of them?’
‘Yes,’ Ginny said simply, and she launched a curse at Lucius.
Pansy threw an identical curse at Bellatrix, and grinned. There were only six of them, and she hadn’t spent that much time practising to be stopped now.
They both ran toward the Death Eaters, ducking and dodging curses, until they were close enough to attack.
Pansy threw a stunning charm to the left, hitting the first Death Eater. As she passed, her arm flicked out, her beautiful knife flashing through the air and cutting across the immobile throat of the Death Eater.
She jumped at the next one, Avery, her knee flying into his groin, and then her dagger piercing his heart.
“It’s just you and me now, Bella,” she smirked. “And it’s time for you to find out what happens when you hurt one of my family.”
“He wasn’t your family, then,” Bella protested.
“Doesn’t it just make your blood boil?” Pansy asked, as she stalked toward Bella. “All your loyalty reduced to nothing; you gave everything, even your looks, and what have you got in the end? Death on an ancient Muggle battlefield; how fitting.”
“Shut up,” Bellatrix hissed. “You can’t win; the Dark Lord will defeat everyone.”
“Look around, Auntie,” Pansy said mockingly. “Look outside this shield of your Lord’s. What can you see?”
Bella looked around, and her eyes opened wide in shock.
“You’ve already lost,” Pansy said happily.
“Help me out of here, please,” Bellatrix said.
“What about your fabled loyalty?”
Bellatrix looked tortured as she looked from the fighting Voldemort to the people outside. A strange realisation flashed across her face, as Bellatrix Lestrange realised it had all been for nothing.
“Help me,” she pleaded again.
Pansy nodded slowly. “Let me stun you. You’ll have a fair trial.”
“That will do,” Bella said gratefully.
Pansy cast Petrificus Totalus at Bella, who dropped to the floor, completely immobile. She walked over and snapped the witch’s wand in half with a contemptuous flick of her wrists.
She turned to watch Ginny. She’d half seen the younger girl defeat Walden MacNair, using Harry’s dagger much as she had dispatched Avery. Now she was circling with Lucius.
“Ironic, isn’t it,” Ginny taunted Lucius. “That you created me, now I am death at your own door.”
“What do you mean?” Lucius sneered.
“When you gave me that diary, you changed me. Without it, I would still be the shy little girl with a crush on some guy called Harry Potter. I do thank you, Lucius, but you are still going to die for it.”
“You can’t kill me,” Lucius scoffed.
“Look at MacNair – he finally learnt what it felt like to be one of the animals he executed. Look at what I did to Goyle, and I went to school with his son.
“We knew this day was coming – we trained for it, we worked for it, and we knew we were going to have to kill.
“Tomorrow, when we’ve won, will be the time for us to cry about it, but today – today is the day to avenge the pain and suffering you have caused and get on with our lives.”
“Crucio!” Lucius called.
Ginny raised Harry’s knife into the path of the spell, smacking the back of the handle. The Cruciatus spell was absorbed by the knife, leaving Lucius standing still in shock.
That was all the red-haired witch needed, and the knife flew through the air, hitting Lucius right between the eyes.
“Ginny!” Pansy yelled, as she realised that the shield spell was failing. “Get the knife to Harry!”
Ginny looked around and then ran forward, diving over Lucius, removing the knife in one motion. She yelled Harry’s name as she threw the knife at him, the red shield going straight through her as it contracted.
A couple of the spiders moved over to Pansy, one taking away Lucius to be processed. The other spider looked at her and then down at the still form of Bellatrix.
The elegant brunette looked down and saw the terrified eyes of the Death Eater looking up at her. She looked her back in the eye and then winked once. “Take away the carcass,” she told to the spider.
The spider bowed to her and picked up the frozen form of Bellatrix, running off with the body.
Pansy turned to watch her boyfriend fight and frowned. She launched a curse at the shield and groaned as it bounced off. She looked around, and saw Paddy and the other Marines standing around with the Aurors, watching the fight. There were quite a few stunned Death Eaters lying on the ground behind them.
She jogged over to the Marines. “Can I borrow your rifle?” she asked one of them, smiling at him sweetly.
He handed it over without hesitation.
“Me too?” Ginny asked, as she arrived next to Pansy.
Stephan smiled and handed her his. “Look after it,” he requested.
Pansy grinned at him and dashed back. She hefted the semi-automatic rifle to her shoulder, and let off a small burst at the magical barrier.
The barrier pulsed slightly. “Fire, Ginny,” she shouted, and started to shoot straight at Voldemort’s shield.
Ginny stepped next to her, holding the rifle at waist height, and started to fire.
“Come on,” Pansy heard Croaker shout over the gunfire. “You can see what they are doing; just make sure you’re not aiming at the two inside, in case it collapses.”
She watched as the rest of the Marines took up positions next to her.
Stephan walked over to her, Ginny holding out more ammo for when she ran out. It was an automatic movement for her to discard the empty case and jam the new one in.
“Keep it up,” she yelled, sensing that the shield was weakening.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Paddy move nearer to the duelling Wizards.
“It’s just Harry and Voldemort,” Hermione said quietly as she walked over to the Weasleys with Daphne. “After all of this, it comes down to the two of them.”
“Scared?” Ron asked as he joined them.
“Not really,” Hermione said with a slight smile. “I just can’t see Harry losing.”
“Nor can we,” Malcom said, as he and Gruoch joined the growing group. “Voldemort looks like he just can’t keep up.”
“It’s Harry’s balls,” Fred said cheerfully. He looked exhausted as he rested against George and Charlie.
There was a round of quiet laughter as they watched.
“You know,” Bill said softly as he watched Pansy, Ginny, and the Muggles fire their weapons at Voldemort’s shield. “I feel like we should offer to help, but they’ve got it all under control, and we’d probably get in the way.”
“I know,” Molly said with a sigh. “I don’t ever want to know where my little girl learned to fire a gun like that.”
“They look good doing it, though,” Gruoch pointed out proudly. “And they’re going to break through any minute, so we should probably be ready.”
“Do you really think they’ll need our help?” Arthur asked.
Malcom smiled slightly. “Not in the slightest,” he admitted. “But with Croaker and the Aurors cleaning up the last of Death Eaters and their Allies, we may as well catch the show.”
Harry was breathing hard. This was a duel for his life, and even with everything he had been through, he hadn’t quite realised just how powerful Voldemort was. With all his magic and ability, it still felt like he might not succeed.
He dodged a curse and swore under his breath. Voldemort had taken most of his hand-to-hand combat out of the battle by refusing to get near him. He’d tried the hyper-state again and succeeded, but the third time he had tried, Voldemort had anticipated his moves, and he’d suffered a hefty curse that left his chest really sore.
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches,” he said during the break in the fight. “Did you know that’s how the prophecy started?”
Harry grinned. “Didn’t you know?” He could see Pansy firing at the shield, and kept talking, hoping that Voldemort’s arrogance would mean he would never think that the Muggle weapons were weakening his shield.
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies... That’s me, in case you missed it. You marked me. You chose me as your doom.”
“Lies, Potter,” Voldemort sneered. “I expect more from you.”
Harry laughed loudly. “Oh, Tommy, did you really believe that fairytale Draco told you? Did you really think we hadn’t set him up completely? We told him what we wanted you to hear, and then we gave him the reason to leave. We knew that idiot would believe what he heard and that he would exaggerate the story to impress you. He’s always longed to be your right-hand man, Tom, in front of his father. We knew you’d buy that pile of manure and hoped that you’d gather all your Death Eaters in one place to save us the hassle of tracking you and your cronies down, and you did it for me.
“Have you not noticed that all your allies are dead? That all your Death Eaters are food for the Acromantulas, and that you’re alone?
“You’ve lost, Tom.” Harry finished simply.
“Incompetents, the lot of them,” Voldemort sneered. “I can rebuild them.”
Harry could see that the shield was weakening again. It looked like it was about to fail.
“Just so you know,” he said to Voldemort with the same studied casualness, “The Daily Prophet today printed a full page article about you, Tom Riddle, and your half-blood status.”
Tom roared with rage, and Harry started to move. He threw two quick curses, following them with a side kick that crashed into Voldemort’s ribs.
He launched his knife forward, trying to stab Voldemort.
Voldemort caught his hand by the wrist and pushed it up. For a few seconds, they struggled, before Harry’s superior strength started to overcome Voldemort’s desperation. He pushed harder, and the knife sliced into Tom Riddle’s forehead, leaving a jagged cut.
“Now we’re even,” Harry gasped. “You gave me this. I gave you that. It’s the sign, Tom; the sign that this is almost over. You have no one and nothing left; everything you fought for is in ruins, and in a few seconds, you’ll be dead.”
“No!” Voldemort yelled, wiping the blood from his eye. “I am immortal!” he continued, raising his hands to the sky. “I can not be defeated!”
The shield fell, shattering into a million small pieces of magic, which melted into the ground.
Harry threw his right hand out. A harsh underhand throw of his knife caught Voldemort in the throat.
“Harry!” he heard Paddy shout. He turned to see “Betsy,” Paddy’s Super Redhawk arcing toward him. He caught it and spun toward his target. Releasing the safety was an automatic action as he took a two handed stance and squeezed the trigger.
The powerful .44 Magnum jerked hard in his hands, the recoil pushing him back a few steps.
A large hole appeared in Voldemort’s chest, and the Dark Lord looked down, shocked.
“You know, Tom,” Harry said, absently throwing the gun back to Paddy. “I thought that the power ‘you knew not’ at first was cordite. Cordite is the power behind the bullet that just created the hole in your chest.
“Then I thought it was house-elf magic, but we’ll get to that in a second. But do you know what I realised?”
Voldemort didn’t seem to be able to speak – having a huge hole through his lungs and a knife in his throat would do that – so he just glared at Harry.
“That I was being too literal. The power is love. Sappy, I know. But it’s love that made me willing to risk everything to attack. It was love that allowed me to trust Pansy and Ginny to survive when you had them captured. It is love that everyone here is fighting for – love of themselves, of the lives they have, of their family.
“You had people who followed you out of fear, or out of what you could do for them, but not out of love. And so, the end of Tom Marvolo Riddle is here, alone, in a field in Hastings. Oh, I know you’re not dead. I know that you can recover from this, all those immortality spells you cast, right?
“You’ve lost, Tom. You’ve lost, and in the future, when people look back, you will be a small footnote in a history book; you will be mentioned as the catalyst that launched the Wizarding world into a new generation. Children will wonder who the half-blood was, and why he is in their history books.”
Harry sighed softly and looked directly into Voldemort’s eyes. Even with everything that had happened, the blood-red eyes were still staring at him malevolently, and his right hand twitched as he tried to raise his wand.
Harry brought his magic in front of his eyes, now fully aware that there was only one way to kill the Dark Lord.
“Pansy, Ginny,” he called.
As he had with Nott, he started to snip the strands of magic around Voldemort.
Pansy handed the rifle back to the Marine she had borrowed it from and walked over to listen to Harry.
She smiled softly as Harry repeated her own words at the real Voldemort. After everything he had been through, he deserved the right to tell Tom what his future held.
She frowned as he stopped talking, and his eyes started to glow, and she realised what he was about to do.
“Pansy, Ginny,” Harry called.
Ginny looked up, and then at Harry, and she nodded.
They both sprinted up to Harry, just as he started to shake as the flow of magic started.
She put an arm around Ginny and pulled her close, moving against Harry. Together, the two girls hugged Harry hard, and they felt the magic flow into them.
“Don’t hold it,” Harry yelled.
She tried to understand what he meant but couldn’t. It didn’t make sense.
Harry put his head back and roared, a silver light coming straight out of his mouth.
Pansy did the same, seeing Ginny do it as well, and felt the magic flow through her and out her mouth. She screamed as something raw and terrifying travelled through her, and out. She held on tighter to Ginny and Harry, determined not to lose either of them.
The field they were on started to change; the remains of the battle vanishing as the magic swept the bodies of the dead creatures away, fixing the damage the fight had caused.
And then, it was over.
On the ground, the body of Tom Riddle seemed to disintegrate, becoming ash.
Pansy sunk to her knees, utterly exhausted, along with Harry and Ginny.
“What happened?” Ginny croaked, her voice sounding raw.
“We released Voldemort’s magic back to where it came from – everywhere,” Harry said, panting hard. “It was too dark to keep, too corrupted. But it means he is gone. For good. They can’t bring him back – because if they did, he would be a squib. His magic is gone.”
Pansy let her head drop forward. “Are you two okay?” she asked softly.
“I think I am,” Ginny said.
“I think I am as well,” Harry whispered. “I can’t believe it’s over.”
“It is,” Pansy assured him. “But now, we’ve got a stunned audience.”
“I don’t know if I can stand,” Harry whispered.
“Come on, Ginny.”
She moved Harry’s right arm around her shoulder as Ginny moved his left around hers, and they stood, holding Harry up.
In front of them, the Unspeakables, the Aurors, the Muggles, and the Order were staring at them silently.
“What happened?” Hermione asked softly.
“We released Voldemort’s magic back into the wild,” Harry said. “It’s over; he’s dead. That’s it. Did anyone see what happened to Wormtail?”
“I got him,” Remus said.
“In fact,” Tonks said – the Auror had light blonde hair now and was resting tiredly against Remus. “The only person we’ve not accounted for is Draco Malfoy.”
“I think I can help,” Aragog said as he moved over. “My child stopped him from cursing Harry’s mates, and brought him to me.”
Pansy thought for a second and then smiled at him. “I hope he doesn’t give you indigestion.”
Aragog laughed his dry, wheezy laugh. “You were right about your mates,” he said to Harry. “You run a good fight. If you need our help again, we will be there for you.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, leaning forward in a bow.
Aragog bowed back and turned. There was a strong breeze that blew across the field, and with it, went the spiders.
“I still don’t like them,” Ron said. “But boy, were they useful today.”
“How many did we lose?” Harry asked.
“Fifteen Aurors,” Malcom said.
“One Unspeakable,” Croaker added.
“I think I saw about thirty Acromantulas – but they took their own bodies away.”
“What about Death Eaters?”
“I believe, Harry, that your plans were exemplary,” Dumbledore said, a wide beaming smile on his face, his eyes twinkling. “When the Banshees found that their screams were not working, they left the field of battle rather quickly. The remaining giants were all taken out within seconds of each other. The Manticores and the Orcs were dealt with admirably by your friends from the Navy, and the trolls were killed during the battle.”
Harry nodded, sighing. “And the Death Eaters.”
“Twelve surrendered, and are going to face trial. The rest are spider food,” Ron grinned.
“Croaker,” Harry said. “Can you make sure that the Aurors who died are given proper funerals – and that their families are looked after?”
“I will,” Croaker said.
“If I might make a suggestion,” Albus Dumbledore said. “Why don’t we all return to Hogwarts? We have won a great victory today, and it should be celebrated in grand style.”
Harry smiled slightly and nodded. He looked over the field, one arm around Pansy, one around Ginny, and shook his head. It looked pristine, as if hundreds of creatures hadn’t died a few minutes ago. It gave everything a strange sense of unreality.
Ron, Hermione, and Daphne moved closer and joined in the hug.
“We did it,” Harry said quietly to them. “Everything we fought for, we now have. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.”
None of the others said anything, but they all smiled at him.
“Let’s get back and tell Blaise the good news,” he said eventually.
Dumbledore and Malcom had worked together with the twins, and their string was now a massive Portkey that everyone – including the Muggles – took hold of. They arrived outside Hogwarts a second later.
Harry walked in and knocked on the door to the Great Hall. There was the sound of spells being cancelled, and the door was flung open.
“You did it?” Blaise demanded, half questioning, half stating. Behind him, Harry could see the house-elves already preparing for a large party.
Harry smiled at him and nodded.
That was the signal, finally, for everyone to erupt.
Molly, Arthur and the other Weasley brothers were the first to move, grabbing Ginny and congratulating her, celebrating together.
Ron had his own hands full. As soon as she had seen him, Hannah had run down the Great Hall and jumped on him, plastering her lips to his.
Malcom and Gruoch both grabbed Pansy and Harry, hugging them tightly.
“You were brilliant, as was Ginny,” Gruoch said firmly. “We knew from the start that we had done the right thing.”
Harry hugged them back and left Pansy with them as he walked over to Hermione and Daphne. He looked at Hermione. “I’m willing to make that promise now.”
Hermione smiled. “I don’t need it anymore.”
Harry hugged her tightly and then turned to Daphne, hugging her as well.
All around them, people were celebrating. The house-elves were dishing out drinks – non-alcoholic for the children – to everyone, and the noise level was high as they each described how well everyone else had fought.
Neville ran up to him, as Pansy moved over to stand with him. “Did you get her?” he asked. “Did you get Bellatrix?”
Harry smiled faintly and nodded his head toward Pansy.
Pansy leant forward and whispered into Neville’s ear.
Neville went white, and then red, and then lunged forward, hugging Pansy tightly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he chanted and kissed her cheek, before letting her go suddenly and stumbling back, looking at them both.
“I’m sorry,” he stuttered. “I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s alright,” Pansy said with a soft smile. “We understand.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “Don’t worry about it, Neville.”
“Thank you. Thank you both. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, I’ll be there for you. On my magic, I swear.”
Harry felt a little surprised at the depth of the boy’s commitment to them and nodded slowly. “Thank you,” he said, accepting the magical bond he could feel in the air. He couldn’t think of a scenario where it would come in useful, but he appreciated the gesture as it was meant, and Neville was a friend, after all.
He wrapped an arm around Pansy and looked around slowly.
The SBS and the Aurors seemed to be well on their way to getting drunk. Dumbledore was talking to the students, telling them everything that had happened – he already looked years younger and a lot happier as he described the fight.
The Unspeakables were with Croaker. They drunk a toast, and then split up, and starting to mingle.
He could see Stephan make a beeline straight for Amanda, and he smiled to himself.
The Werewolves were slowly coming to terms with the idea that they were welcome participants, and several looked like they were going to have a very good party.
“I can’t stay here,” Harry said suddenly. “I need somewhere to get away from it all, to deal with what happened.”
“Mum?” Pansy asked.
“Here,” Gruoch said. “Portkey to our place in France. Relax there for as long as you need.”
“Thanks,” Harry smiled, taking it.
“Ginny?” Pansy asked.
Ginny looked at her brothers and then her parents and smiled slightly. She nodded and walked over to Harry and Pansy, standing between them.
“And miss school?” Hermione said, looking shocked, before she smiled and winked at them. “Remus still has to beat Fudge in the election,” she pointed out. “And I want to help!”
“Don’t worry about the press,” Malcom said. “I had a reporter at the fight that saw everything. The Prophet will print the truth tomorrow. And Albus and I will take great delight in telling the Wizengamot exactly what they missed.”
“See,” Hermione continued. “I’ve got far too much to do.” She paused for a second and smiled softly at him. “And in the end Harry, it was down to you, and we always knew you wouldn’t let us down. You were the one who had to do all the work, we just helped out and hung on for the ride.”
“And leave Hannah? Hell no.”
Hannah smiled broadly and kissed Ron again.
“Daph?” Pansy asked.
“What? Hell no, you three need some privacy, use the time to deal with your issues.”
Pansy started to blush lightly.
“Come on,” Harry said and activated the Portkey, swirling himself and the two girls away.
As they left, he heard Molly say, “Wait a second, what issues? And what did that spider mean by ‘mates?”
And so, here we are at the end of White Knight, Grey Queen. This is the first big story that I’ve ever completed, and I feel kinda sad about it. For a story that was supposed to be a ten page bet response, it certainly has grown and grown.
Extra special thanks to my beta crew for all their hard work and for keeping me going when I was writing this. John, Cami, Rachael, Susie, Julie, Leslie, and Ellie, and Kokopelli. They all put in an incredible about of work to go through this piece.
To explain one of the terms: REMF’s – Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers, an informal nickname that the troops give the people who sit at the back and order them to their deaths from the safety of their desks.
Paddy’s ‘Betsy’ is a huge gun – and has a kick that comes close to breaking bones, but for the big man, it is the ultimate in self-defence. It would have probably done a lot of damage to a giant at close range.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Tim – Jeconais
(Or as I did editing it – Kokopelli)
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