Voldy plots, Nagini schemes, Ron almost kills Harry, Harry finally announces his plans, Harry talks to Remus. Abe helps, Snape goes down hard and other arrests are made, Ron and Luna get married, ...
Soon, nearly every Death Eater was present…almost three hundred of them. Though a good many had been recruited from the continent, and most were untempered by battle, they were all as fanatical as the dark lord himself.
Lucius noticed that Severus Snape had not arrived. Perhaps after that disaster in the Ministry, he would once again become the master’s most trusted…
“Our servants!” Voldemort emoted, strutting back and forth before his kneeling minions.
“We have received information the like of which we have not seen in far too long! Our enemy, Harry Potter, will deliver himself into our hands! He has made plans to attend his parents’ graves on the solstice. You, our loyal servants, will capture him there, and bring him before us, that we may properly punish him for his defiance!”
He turned and glared at his silent troops. “Well?” He asked. When no response was forthcoming he growled: “Cheer!”
Instantly the room was awash in noise as his captive audience erupted in ovation. He sighed and shook his head ad thought: ~Good help is so hard to find these days!~ completely ignoring the fact that he would have likely killed any of them who dared to cheer before he gave his leave.
“Lucius, on the solstice, you will take thirty of our servants to Godric’s Hollow, and capture Potter. Bring him back here…untouched. We would show the world, who is the greatest wizard alive! He escaped his death at our hands before, but that duel was interrupted by shades of the dead. That will not happen again! This time, we shall kill the upstart and hang his body from our standard as we march on the rest of the world!”
This time the Death Eaters needed no prompting. They erupted once more in wild applause. Lucius found himself wondering, and not a little fearful, by the dark lord’s recent adoption and frequent use of the majestic plural.
Voldemort finally noticed his familiar’s anxiety. “What is it, my pet?” He crooned as he lifted the massive snake. “What troubles you?”
Nagini met his gaze and tried to project the idea that Potter would destroy her bonded…she no longer thought of him as ‘master’
“There, there, my pet. There is no reason to be upset, our time comes. We will destroy the usurper and…” He gazed deeply as she made her self seem more nervous. He made the connection. His ego did the rest.
“You fear for your master, my pet? You fear this is an elaborate trap for us?” Nagini again pushed the idea that he was being a fool by allowing such a dangerous enemy so close to him.
Voldemort smiled as a parent would to a child’s nighttime fears. “No, my pet. He shall not harm us. We are invincible. We are far too clever to be caught in such a trap. No, Nagini, we have thought of everything, considered all aspects of this and we are certain he will prove no more a hazard than his master, Dumbledore. Do not trouble yourself, my sweet. He is as good as dead! Our faithful servants will bring him before us, and we shall make his death a memorable one…and when he is well and truly dead, we shall take his master’s stronghold. First, Hogwarts will fall before us, then Britain will bend their knee to us, and when Britain has fallen, we shall conquer the world!”
The mutated lunatic set his familiar on the ground with a condescending pat on the head, which rather insulted her, and turned to find a fresh bottle of the pain soothing elixir his minions had provided. He had…a mild headache. Just a sip would ease the pain.
He sipped…and sipped again…just to make sure.
Nagini slithered out the door, hoping Potter would keep his promise, and her new home would be warm and dry.
On the fifth of June, after their mutual shower, Harry and Hermione were just leaving the office when Ron came trotting up the hallway.
“Hey, Harry! Whaddya think?” Ron called out. The force warned Harry and he shoved Hermione away and shifted to the side, just as Ron thumbed the switch of his newly constructed lightsaber, and the glaring orange beam flashed to light. Hermione let loose with a tiny shriek of outrage.
Fortunately, Harry evaded the shaft of energy before it speared through him. In one swift move, he stepped in, spun so his back was to his friend, gripped the hilt of Ron’s lightsaber and twisted it out of Ron’s grasp.
Shutting down the weapon he again turned to face the embarrassed redhead.
“Sorry, mate.” Ron flushed in embarrassment at nearly doing what Voldemort had so often failed to do. Harry handed the weapon back.
“First, You have to be more careful with that, Ron. Second…I must say, I’ve never seen that particular shade of orange anywhere.”
“Not just orange, mate, but Chudley Orange!”
For in truth, Ron’s beam was the same vibrant orange the Chudley Cannons favored.
More, the shell was also an anodized version of that color, with the words: CHUDLEY CANNONS emblazoned on either side.
Hermione began to snicker, then laugh, and finally, fled the room in hysterics. Harry closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“You used too much iron oxide, didn’t you?”
“What’s iron oxide?
“Rust, Ron. The reddish brown powder.”
“Oh…that stuff. Umm…maybe.”
“How long did it take?”
“Five days. I was all in after. I think I slept for the next day or two, but I got it together.”
“And the diamond shell? You did encase the stone with the diamond shell, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, It’s all there, just like you told us. Don’t worry, Harry. I followed your instructions to the letter, and Sparkey was there with me to make sure I did it right.”
“Ron, I’m going to examine your focusing stone. Not because I don’t trust you, but because of the large amount of iron oxide you used in the inner stone…ruby or garnet?”
“Actually I used the citrine. I just added a little extra…for color, y’know.”
“The problem there, is that the more impurities you use, the weaker the stone itself gets. With the diamond surrounding it, there shouldn’t be a problem, but I’d like to examine it in the force…just in case.”
“Hey, mate…” Ron sounded a bit upset, as if Harry didn’t trust him. In truth, Harry did, trust him…but only so far.
“Please Ron. I do this for all the stones you lot, make.” Harry lied, knowing his friend would accept it as truth. “Nobody is exempted…not even Hermione. I did hers before she mounted it in her ‘saber. In fact, I’ll guide you into the stone and teach you what to look for, so you can check for yourself, and when the academy really starts going, you can help the new apprentices with their stones. Is that OK?”
Ron mulled it over, then nodded. “I suppose. A second set of eyes, and all.”
Harry led his first friend to the workshop and disassembled Ron’s lightsaber. The shell was a copy of his own…except for the garish color. He found a few minor errors in its construction that would have degraded its performance under heavy combat use, but those could easily be corrected.
Settling himself in the lotus, he directed Ron to do the same, and placed the stone in a crystal holder between them. When they had both sunk into the force, he joined his mind to Ron’s and directed his friend deep into the crystalline matrix of the composite stone.
He was surprised to find no defects, but carefully kept that thought out of their joined minds. He showed Ron exactly how to look, in order to ensure new focusing crystals would each be perfect.
An hour later, they both emerged from their meditations and Harry said: “Congratulations, Ron. A perfect first effort.”
“Uhhh, Harry.” Ron flushed. “It wasn’t my first. I balled up my first stone. Luna showed me how it was flawed, and I really had to work to get it right.”
He sighed and then added: “I guess I can’t have ‘Chudley Cannons’, written along the blade.”
Harry stared at Ron for a long minute before he broke down in gales of laughter.
When he finally recovered, he discovered that the rather miffed Ron, had taken his crystal and reset it into the clamps of his new lightsaber. Carefully inspecting the weapon, he showed Ron where the few minor errors were, told him how they would degrade performance, and watched as his friend corrected them.
“Good job, Ron.” He handed Ron the power cell as Ron slid the assembled guts into the orange-tinted cylinder.
Ron happily sealed the weapon; double checked it and locked the powercell into its base, ensuring it was watertight.
“Let’s go test it.”
Harry didn’t hold back. He fought like Ron was a Sith and he had to destroy him for the sake of the galaxy. Ron had been practicing. Apparently Luna had discovered a way to make him focus on the force. Given the system of ‘rewards’ she’d used before, Harry really didn’t want to know. Ron’s control had greatly improved since the seventeenth and he met Harry’s blade with his own.
Energy flashed, and blades struck with deadly intent until Harry was convinced of both the weapon’s and Ron’s capability.
Still, there was that niggling doubt. Would Ron face the Death Eaters with all his focus, or would he try to show off? He hadn’t in the test, but the doubt remained.
Dobby escorted Amelia into the large training hall of Potter castle. Alastor Moody stumped along beside her. She greeted several of the Jedi apprentices by name, and took a seat at the table on the stage. Winky poured her a cup of tea and set the condiments before her. The little elf offered tea to the paranoid old Auror, and surprisingly enough, he accepted…after he’d thoroughly tested it for poisons and the like, of course. A look at Harry told Amelia that he was up to something, and she braced herself for anything. He stepped up in front of the long table, faced his students, and made his announcement.
“Today’s the tenth, June. We strike at midnight on the twenty-first. To that end, I’m going to allow the Death Eaters to capture me an hour or so before that.”
Amelia had to amend her previous thought. ~Except that!~ Moody was just as shocked.
Harry’s statement was met with utter silence and unbelieving stares, until, from Hermione’s lips, came: “Are you fucking crazy!?!” echoed through the room. Other outraged voices immediately joined hers, until the room rang with noise.
Harry cast a soundproofing charm and the roar became a whisper. He took a seat and sipped his tea, and allowed his friends to vent their frustrations.
It took less than a minute before Luna understood what Harry was doing, and a few more seconds before Hermione caught on. Glowering at her husband, she sat beside him and waited. Harry passed her the tea. Luna also sat and sipped. It was only then that Amelia understood what Harry was up to. She chuckled at his stratagem.
Ten minutes after Harry’s announcement, the argument had faded to the point that Harry knew he’d be heard.
“Now you’ve got that out of your systems…” His assembled Jedi all flushed in embarrassment.
“Hey, Harry…” Ron began, only to hold up at Harry’s raised hand.
“I have some very good reasons for this, Ron. First: Voldemort always strikes on or near the summer solstice. “The time when the darkness conquers the light.” He’s rather predictable there. He sees it as his duty to include as many of the ancient rites as possible, even while he derides them. Now he’s been planning something anyway, so I’ve let it ‘slip’ that I’m going to be undefended that night. He’ll have his munchers grab me and bring me to him.
Second: If he’s got me in his clutches he’ll be less inclined to ‘celebrate the Solstice’ somewhere else. You lot, recall the last time he went full-out?”
Each person there did. More than four hundred British citizens had died during Voldemort’s ‘recruiting drive’. Not a few of them were children. That Voldemort had lost eighty of his own, made little difference.
“I have it from my spies, that he intends to kill the Queen and the entire royal family on the solstice. I won’t let that happen. To prevent it, I’ve given him a better target.”
The room was deadly silent. Several of the Jedi present disagreed with the British government’s policies on several things, but for the most part, they all revered the Queen. Especially after she had come personally to wish them luck in their upcoming battle.
“Third: With the exception of ‘Rufie’, I’ve publicly exposed or eliminated most of his support in the ministry, and without the, as Hagrid would say, ‘interestin’ laws, that Fudgasaurus Wrecks used to push through, now he’s only got the gold that he managed to get from Fudge, the night he died, plus what little Malfoy and the few really wealthy Deez still have on hand.
Since I’ve filed ‘Writ of Conquest’ on all the Death Eaters I or we, might kill, and I have promised Gringotts thirty percent of the seized assets if we win, the goblins have tied up most of the known Death Eater’s money in procedures. By now, his coffers should be nearly empty, so he’ll be clutching at straws. He needs that gold to prosecute this war. Defeating me is his only realistic chance of getting it.”
Moody was actually pleased by the plan. It was simple, but it played on Voldemort’s weaknesses.
There was also no other way to get close to him.
“On top of that, Voldy is no slouch when it comes to wards. The…well, I was about to say ‘man’, but I suppose I should just stick with ‘Terrible Undead Reincarnated Dirt-bag’, shaddap, Hermione!” Hermione had, indeed snorted at Harry’s appellation for the deadliest dark wizard in many generations. Amelia was laughing out loud. Moody allowed himself a few chuckles as well.
“Anyway…” Harry mock-glared at his tablemates. “As I was saying, the T.U.R.D. has some very well established wards. If we march on the place, he’d see us a mile off. We’d be cut down like the yanks at Omaha Beach.”
“So we just let you walk into an ambush? Harry, you’ll be killed!” Susan protested vehemently. Amelia agreed with her grand-niece, but understood Harry well enough to give him the benefit of a doubt.
“Oh, I never said I was going to close my eyes and toddle off down the cobbled lane. I have a carefully thought out plan. I told you last year, that I intend to use everything at our disposal to destroy this monster, and now, is when it happens! Voldemort’s got weaknesses we can exploit…plenty of them. Most important of them, is that he sees himself as untouchable. I intend to change that opinion. That’s why we’ve been training so hard. This is our opportunity…”
“The big one…” Fred intoned solemnly, mimicking Oliver Wood’s pre-Quidditch match speech.
“The one we’ve all been training for…” George completed the ritual.
“Shaddap!” Oliver growled with a smile. Both redheads fell back in feigned terror. Everyone there, laughed. Amelia was heartened to see the levity, even if the atmosphere was still tense.
Harry chuckled and them continued.
“What I intend, is to allow myself to be captured. The Deez have orders to bring me in alive. And before you ask, yes, I do know what a person can survive, but Voldemort will want to duel. Our last duel ended in a draw. He can't have liked that. He’ll want to prove to his goons that he’s the superior man, as it were, and he would consider it beneath his dignity to duel a wounded opponent. That’s my safety. It’s not much of one, but it’s there. He’ll want me whole and unharmed…at least until he strikes. After that, all bets are off.
Now, Mr. Turd is such an arrogant bastard, he can’t even imagine that somebody would dare to attack him in his own house, so his wards are mostly detection…and their edge is a half mile out. He didn’t bother with anything stronger since his anti-apparation wards are keyed to his dark mark. Simply put, if you try to apparate in and you’re not marked, the wards will kill you. The same thing goes for regular portkeys, but you won’t be going in that way either. We can get through his wards using a source he’d never even consider.”
“What would that be?” Amelia asked.
“Dobby!” Harry called softly. Instantly the energetic Jedi-elf presented himself.
“We is ready, Harry Potter sir!” He piped.
“House elves?” Hermione protested.
“Hermione, for this to work, each of has to do what he can. House-elves can get us through those wards safely and undetected. There’s no other way of doing that without being caught. Am I using them? Yes. I am. I’m using them in exactly the same way I’m using every single person here. We each have our role to play, no part is more or less important than any other. Dobby and his crew have all volunteered, knowing ahead of time what they can expect…both the good and the bad. As it turns out, every one of the ninety-four house-elves here, have volunteered. Dobby and I have carefully screened them all, selected the twenty-five most able, and trained them specifically for this task. Their job is to get you all through the wards to my position. After that, except for Dobby, they have the strictest orders to bug-out. They’ll actually be safer than anyone here.”
Hermione deflated slightly at Harry’s explanation. She hated including the elves. She understood the reasons behind their devotion and their servitude, but she didn’t want to see the diminutive people ill-used, or harmed. She also understood that the house-elves had as much to lose under Voldemort’s reign as she, herself. Eyes glistening, she smiled at Harry. He smiled back.
“All right.” Ron interrupted. “The house elves get us in, what then?”
Harry was glad of his tactless friend. Still he was certain Hermione was going to hand him a ringing ear that evening.
“Until I call, you lot, and the Aurors chosen by Madam Bones, will remain outside the wards. If you detect any Death Eater, you take him or her out…by any means necessary. We only have one shot at this, so we cannot allow this attack to be uncovered…period. I know that’s harsh, but this is a war for our very lives.”
“OK, we wait outside the wards until you call. How?”
“Dobby and I both have comlinks. His will be locked open. You lot, keep as quiet as possible. If Voldy discovers they work in a magical field, he’s sure to make the connection to my lightsaber.
Now, as soon as he takes my lightsaber, I’ll activate the homing beacon. When Dobby gets the signal, he and his will grab one of you and bring you in. Madam Bones has some goblin made portkeys that target my beacon as well, and her troops are all hand selected for this job. They’ll arrive about two minutes after you do, but goblin portkeys are a bit different than human ones. Senior ward-smasher Breaklock, has designed portkeys that will tear a hole right through Tommy’s wards. Now, that’s gonna alert everyone inside, but by then, Voldemort will be dead, or nearly so, and you lot, will be keeping the Deez busy.
The Aurors will be wearing armor, but to avoid any casualties, each of them will be marked by a white belt and collar, and the cuffs of their sleeves will also be white. For God’s sake, don’t kill any of them! Don’t even take them on unless you absolutely have to. If you do, try to keep it non-lethal. Some Deez might have slipped through the cordon. It’s not likely, but it’s possible. On the other hand, if one or more of the Death Eaters have managed to get a control lock on an Auror, we cannot afford to lose them. Knock them out, bind them, and - take - their - wands!”
“What about Kingsley and Tonks?” Ginny asked. Next to her Seamus nodded his head. Harry was happy to see the girl with the horrible crush was now a bit more relaxed. The lighthearted Irishman had had a lot to do with that.
Amelia Bones stepped up.
“Kingsley has to arrive with the Aurors. Both he and I must appear to be as neutral as possible. He also claims to be “far too old to begin training in such strange magics as you lot are using.” Tonks on the other hand, will be accompanying your group. As you know, she’s been placed on detached duty for the past year…as a bodyguard for Mister Potter…not that he needs one.”
Harry grinned at the older woman in thanks.
“So, Potter…” Moody growled. “Now that you’ve gotten in, how do you plan to handle Voldemort?”
“Well, since so few of the Deez have ever seen my lightsaber, and since I won’t be using it in the first part of this, they shouldn’t think to take it from me. Since they’re not familiar with non-magical weaponry, they shouldn’t see it as a threat. They’ll take my wand, but not that. On the other hand, Voldemort will. Even if they do take it, they’ll turn it over to him anyway.”
“How is that a good thing, Harry?” Padma asked. Most of the young people arrayed around Harry also wondered how losing his lightsaber could be anything but disastrous.
“Voldemort will recognise the power within. He’ll want to examine it closely for any indication of how to release that power.”
“But if Voldemort has your wand and your lightsaber…?” Orla Quirke asked. The shy little girl had grown into a powerful dynamo. She was quick and light-footed, and nearly as good as Harry in a ‘saber-duel, and could out fight almost anybody else.
“Orla, hold out your lightsaber.”
She did so and the demonstration was…convincing.
Orla smiled and re-belted her weapon. Those around also saw the point of the demonstration.
“Nasty, Harry.” Ron muttered.
“This is a war, Ron.”
Again, Moody smiled his frightening smile.
Harry was wrong. Hermione did not tear him a new one for using the House-elves the way he intended. Instead, after dinner they went to their room and she showed him in no uncertain terms how very much she loved him and how she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
The Death Eaters actually caught a break. As soon as Harry and Hermione had started, Voldemort tipped his little brown bottle to his lips and swigged. The Deeters all decided that the dark lord was sleeping, was a good thing and truly, none of them was willing to disturb him.
The next afternoon, Ron knocked on Harry’s office door. He entered with Luna next to him.
“Heya Ron. Hello, Luna.”
“Erm, Harry Wewannagetmarried.”
Luna spoke this time. “We wish to be married. We’ve been seeing each other for nearly as long as you and Hermione and we want to make it permanent. It doesn’t have to be elaborate…just legal…and before the mission.”
“Are you sure about this…both of you?” Harry stared into Ron’s eyes. His redheaded friend was distinctly nervous, but at the same time, he seemed…pleased with himself.
“Yeah.” Ron managed to say without stuttering. Harry smiled. “OK, I’ll get Madam Bones to officiate.”
“Ummm, Harry…” Ron was suddenly more than nervous. He blurted out: “Madam Bones would tell dad and he’d tell mum and I really don’t want to explain to mum why I’m getting married so suddenly.”
Harry understood. He looked at Luna. “When are you due?”
“In February or early March. Just like Hermione.”
“Ron’s right, Luna. Molly would have a whole basket of kittens! How about your dad?”
“Daddy’s fine with this. I’ve written him already and told him what I intended to do, and why. He understands.” Luna refused to elaborate further and so, Harry had to let it lie.
“Alright, Ron, I’ll still have to talk to your dad…hold on…!” Harry interrupted his friend’s outburst. “He’s the head of House Weasley, Ron. He’ll have to know, but I think I can convince him to keep this quiet.”
“Thanks, mate!” Ron smiled widely in relief. He turned to leave but found Luna held a sheaf of parchment in her hands. He asked Luna: “You coming?”
“I’ll be there shortly. I have something to discuss with Harry first.” She lifted the parchment she held.
Ron paled at the thought of the stacks of parchmentwork on Harry’s desk, so he nodded and departed.
Hermione entered the room and smiled at Harry, then at Luna, who whispered something into her ear.
Hermione’s eyes grew wide, and she squealed in delight, wrapping her friend in her patented spine-cracking hug. Luna whispered something else, and for a moment it looked like she was going to object, but Luna whispered a third time, and a naughty grin appeared on her lips. She nodded and pushed Luna towards Harry where the esoteric blond expressed her thanks in her own, unique, and more-than erotic fashion, and had Harry not already been married, he would have had a difficult time keeping their clothing on. The smirk she gave him as she was leaving, told him that that had been intentional!
Hermione gave him a repeat performance and told Harry there would be more coming that evening. She sashayed out, leaving a stunned and quite aroused Harry behind her.
Swearing, Harry headed to his quarters for a cold…very cold shower.
When he’d calmed down, Harry flooed to the ministry. There he spoke first, to Amelia Bones, and then to Arthur Weasley, to arrange a marriage for his friends.
Amelia Bones smiled when he’d asked her to officiate. Her only question was: “When?”
“Let’s do it tomorrow afternoon…at, say…four?” Amelia checked her schedule book, found she had no appointments, and nodded. Harry went on. “I think they just want to ensure that if he doesn’t survive, their child will be recognized as legitimate. They said they don’t want anything flashy. They just want it recorded, and the more traditional bonding ceremony can take place afterwards, assuming we all come out of this in one piece.”
“Alright.” Amelia replied with a smile. Then, she turned serious and rather unsure. “Harry…? Do you think Susan…?” He caught on.
“Honestly, I don’t know. Given her reaction to killing that Deeter in the atrium, it’s possible, but Neville hasn’t approached me as his liege, so it’s not likely. I really don’t think you have anything to worry about though. I’m certain that if Susan were pregnant, Neville will be having a chat with you long before we face Voldemort. Would you like me to put a bug in his ear?”
“Hmmm…no. No. If he’s going to do it, it should be on his own…and you’re right, he’s far too well versed in pureblood tradition to ignore something like that. Augusta would never tolerate such a lapse.”
“Alright. I’ll see you tomorrow, four PM, in my office.” Amelia nodded and Harry departed for the Magical/Mundane Liaison Department.
Arthur wasn’t too happy that Ron had gotten Luna pregnant, but he understood. He knew what the teens were facing, though he wished it weren’t necessary, and he understood that in such close proximity and under such conditions, things like this happened. Pureblood society placed a great deal of emphasis on marriage, where legitimacy and succession were concerned. If the child were to be acknowledged, his son would have to be married. He also agreed that it was best to keep this from Molly…for the time being at least, as she would definitely raise the roof.
Dobby brought him directly to the castle, where he took his son into a side room for a ‘discussion’ that left Ron’s ears red and his face pale.
“Are you sure you want to do this? The full moon is going to be the night before. You’re not gonna have much time to recover. Are you sure you’ll be up for it?”
The quiet man answered: “I have to, Harry. He will be there and if nothing else, I can see to it that he’s destroyed.”
“All right then.” Harry nodded, understanding completely. “Hermione will brew up your Wolfsbane. Don’t forget to drink it!”
In Aberforth’s quarters, Harry seated himself at the table, across from his host. Also seated, Hermione, Dobby and Tonks all sipped their teas.
“Abe, this evening, we’re going to round up the last of Voldemort’s unmarked supporters…and a few of his marked ones too. Snape is chief among them. The problem, is that your brother…”
Aberforth growled. “The only thing we have in common is a name!”
“Sorry. Anyway I’m picking up Snape, but Albie has him well protected.”
Aberforth smiled…a vicious and terrifying smile. If he could use the force, Harry would have been worried. “So, what d’you need?”
“We’ve tracked him to a house in the Cotswold’s. That house is owned by either you or Albie. I need access.”
“Done!” Aberforth grated. At Harry’s surprise, he added: “I’ve seen what Albus has been doing. Seen it a long time ago, I did. That particular house belonged to me, but Albus pulled some trick in the Wizengamot and managed to ‘appropriate it' for his personal use. He told them he’d paid me, for it, but somehow I don’t think a wagonload of turnips is an appropriate payment for a house that’s been in the family for over three hundred years! Problem is, with that ridiculous story he’s passed about me and the goats, nobody will listen to me.”
“Yeah, that’s Albus.” Harry sighed. “Half-truths and misdirection.”
Harry had learned long before, that Dumbledore was fond of using blood magicks but Aberforth told him that Albus wasn’t particularly well read on the subject. The wards around the house were set up so that only one bearing Dumbledore blood could enter.
“OK, So how do we get past his wards?” Tonks asked.
With a smirk, Abe stood and walked from the room. He returned with a crystal phial, opened it, and cut his thumb. Blood began to drip into the tube. A minute later, the phial was full. He stoppered it and healed the cut on his thumb. With a grin Aberforth handed the crystal to Harry. “There you go.”
Hermione began to snicker and Harry barked out a laugh, and Abe snarked: “He uses magic like he writes laws. He always leaves a loophole for himself, but never expects anyone else to be smart enough to find it.”
Harry divided the blood into ten smaller phials, handing one to each member of the capture team.
With the blood filled phials in their pockets, Harry led the team of Aurors to Dumbledore’s safe-house. At Snape’s door, he signaled them to wait. He used the hilt of his lightsaber and pounded on the oak, the sound echoing through the night.
Severus Snape started at the pounding. When that bloody troll had taken his wand, Albus had refused to procure him a third. Fortunately, a few days after he’d escaped the castle, he’d managed to find a way to Knockturn Alley where he’d paid a usurious amount for a ‘reasonably’ well-matched wand. When he’d returned from his errand, the old man had twinkled sadly, berated him, like a misbehaving child, for taking unnecessary chances, escorted him here, and tasked him with the brewing of several potions and poisons. He’d also told him the place was protected, but not how. Given the old man’s fascination with blood magicks, he suspected the answer lay therein. He also discovered that whenever he tried to leave the house, Dumbledore was there instantly, demanding to know his plans. He could apparate to the master on command, however, following the debacle in the ministry atrium, and his punishment for failing to kill Bones, and despite his unveiling of the two deserters, Voldemort hadn’t called him since the end of May.
Earlier that evening, the twinkling old madman had informed him, that his network of spies had located his weapon, and he was leaving to reclaim his pawn. As he’d departed he’d instructed Snape top brew a controlling potion to render the arrogant boy docile.
That had been five hours before. Snape had gleefully brewed the potion, and it sat on the table, awaiting its use.
And now, for some reason the old man was pounding on the door, like a common muggle! Why hadn’t he just apparated into his room like always? Even carrying an unconscious Potter, he was more than capable of such a simple task.
In a fury at the unfairness of the world, Snape set down the glass of firewhiskey, stomped to the door and yanked it open, glaring at the old wizard for daring to intrude on his sulking…erm…meditations.
What he found shocked him to the core.
Dumbledore was nowhere in sight, but there, standing smugly on the dimly lit porch, was none other than that infernal Potter, looking every bit as arrogant as his misbegotten father! The brat was dressed in some strange tan clothing. Strange, even for him! Behind him, stood several people Snape didn’t know and some he did. Amelia Bones, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Nymphadora Tonks and Hestia Jones.
“What are you doing here, Potter?” He snarled. “You should be with your filthy muggle relatives!” He grabbed for Harry’s collar only to find himself thrown backward into the room. Scrambling to his feet, he snatched out his wand. Harry, in the meantime, had entered, followed by the Auror team. Shacklebolt and Tonks glared at the potion’s master. Each held a wand in a definitely threatening posture.
Shack snarled: “Severus Snape, you are under arrest. The charges are belonging to a terrorist organization, namely the Death Eaters, murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, espionage, thievery, the use of all three unforgivables, providing aid and succor to a terrorist, namely Tom Marvolo Riddle, known as Lord Voldemort, the brewing of illegal potions, for the aforementioned Voldemort and the diversions of stolen funds to the aforementioned Voldemort! Surrender now or I shall be more than happy to take you by force!”
“You will do nothing of the sort! I don’t recognize your authority over me!”
“You might want to change your tune…Snivellus.” Potter smirked.
“You’re as arrogant as your father, boy!” Snape whipped up his wand and fired off the first curse he thought of. “Terbero Arania!” His hiss was almost inaudible. It was a piercing curse with some rather nasty side effects. It not treated within seconds, it began to eat its way into the tissue surrounding the wound, liquefying the muscles and organs like a spider’s venom would, and within a few days the victim would die a rather horrible death. The burst of light sprang forth, and sped to his victim. Suddenly, he gaped in horror as a humming shaft of emerald light erupted from Potter’s hand and deflected the curse into the wall. He’d seen that lancet of magical energy before and its reappearance boded no good for him now! In a second, his fears were borne out. The lightsaber flashed twice and Severus was lying on the floor, armless, and screaming in agony.
“As Director Shacklebolt said, you’re under arrest.” Harry deactivated the weapon and hooking it to his belt, drew his wand to cast a sealing charm so Voldemort’s spy wouldn’t bleed to death. He also cast a spell to mute the pain of his injuries, and one Snape didn’t recognize, which was quite a shock in itself, as he was one of the most accomplished duelists in Voldemort’s arsenal!
“His potions stores are in there.” He pointed the wand towards a closed door in the far wall. “His books and scrolls are over there, and I can feel several items below us, you’d definitely classify as ‘dark’.”
Shack had Tonks and Jones pull aside the rug, to expose a trap door under. They tried to open it, but the door wouldn’t budge.
“How do you open it?” Amelia growled. Snape just shook his head and sneered: “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Very well then.” Kingsley said in his deep basso. “Aurors, on three, one…two...”
“Hold!” Harry ordered, one hand held up. “He wants us to try that. I wonder why?” Harry pondered aloud. “Could it be that the floor is booby trapped?” He turned to the crippled Death Eater.
“Snivellus, you are of no further use to Voldemort. You have no arms left, so you can’t brew potions. You also can’t use a wand to torture people. You can’t feed yourself, you can’t dress yourself…hell, you can’t even wipe your own arse! He’ll just kill you off, assuming you can get to him. If not, he’ll send someone to do the job…Draco, perhaps?”
Snape paled, but he’d been a Death Eater for far too long to show any uncertainty. He simply sneered once more. “You don’t know what you are talking about, Potter. You have assaulted and horribly wounded a valuable member of the wizarding community and I shall see you executed for it!”
“Not gonna happen. Director Shacklebolt?” Harry turned to face the Minister and the head of the DMLE.
“Would you have your Aurors set up a multilayered, dome-shaped shield, directly above the trapdoor, to deflect any curses, hexes or spells back inward?” He phrased his request so precisely as to prelude any last minute efforts by any ‘supporters’ to get Snape off through ‘mishandling evidence’ or somesuch.
“I could. Why?”
“I’m going to open the trapdoor with my lightsaber. When the shield goes up, I’ll open the floor.”
“You’ll see.” Harry grinned, setting his lightsaber on the trapdoor and sitting cross-legged on the floor several feet away. Shrugging, Shacklebolt directed the Aurors to do as Harry had requested. The dome went up and Harry held out his hand. The lightsaber floated upwards. All there gasped in shock at such a display of wandless magic, Severus included. Only Shack’s presence prevented a breakdown of discipline.
Amelia ordered. “Steady on there! Hold the shields!”
Harry aligned the weapon and then activated it. Again, the weapon surged to life. Plunging the lightsaber downward, so the blade entered the floor but the grip remained above the shield, he carefully cut a hole in the floor. As soon as the blade penetrated the wooden floor, a burst of noxious energy filled the dome, almost blinding them all. Harry continued to cut. The light faded, and he lifted out the wood, exposing a small trove of objects. With the floor and it’s magical shielding gone, they could all feel the malignancy emanating from the artifacts. Snape knew he was well and truly buggered, so he attempted to activate the emergency portkey he had in his molar, only to find it did nothing.
“Something wrong, Snivellus?” Harry smirked. “I deactivated your portkey when I ‘disarmed’ you. Sorry. You’re not going to escape that easily.”
As they plundered Snape’s cache, Harry was facing the spy.
“I want to know what you’ve done to the Wolfsbane Potion you’ve been brewing. And I know its not being properly brewed!”
“I shall tell you nothing, Potter!” The spy sneered. “Your pet werewolf will die in agony.”
“OK. Have it your way.”
Harry did something he was positive Yoda would have vehemently objected to. He leaned into the force, formed a mental probe shaped like a spear and crashed through Snape’s shields.’ Snape shrieked in agony.
~Wolfsbane Potion!~ He shouted mentally. Snape desperately tried to hide the procedure, but it was like trying to hold back the Thames with a tea towel!
Harry found the directions and ingredients to brew the potion…and the things he’d done as ‘experiments’. He felt sick. Snape had been brewing a slow-acting, silver-based poison mixed into the potion…a poison intended to drive the werewolf insane within a few years.
He also learned that Snape had a 'hobby'. Over the years, he'd injected dozens of children with saliva from any number of werewolves, and then given them a variety of poisons, just to see how long it would take them to die. His meticulous notes were all carefully preserved in the spy’s personal library.
Harry very nearly fell to the dark side there and then. Only Yoda’s words kept him from doing so.
~Anger leads to hatred! Hatred leads to suffering! Suffering leads to death!~
Focusing on the words of the Jedi Master, Harry fought hard to compose himself before he did something that Snape would regret…for a short while. When he had…mostly…contained his rage, he mentally bellowed: ~The antidote!~ into the spy’s mind. By now, Snape eyes were unfocused, and he was drooling and shaking. The poison came to mind and Harry snatched that too. When no antidote appeared, he understood there was none. With a growl of fury he withdrew from Severus Snape’s mind leaving the master spy shuddering.
“Harry, what have you done?” Amelia had been horrified at Snape’s reactions and could only assume Harry had been using some violent mental arts on him.
“I needed information and he refused to give it up. I took it.”
“What if he dies?”
“No real loss there, but don’t worry. He’ll recover. I just bumped him up a bit. Add the charge ‘illegal experimentation’ to the rest. He’s been intentionally misbrewing the Wolfsbane Potion…adding a poison to drive the werewolves insane.”
“Voldemort told him to do that? I thought he needed the were’s!”
“Actually no. Those were Dumbledore’s orders. Werewolves aren’t part of ‘Uncle Albie’s pureblood utopia’.” Harry took a deep breath and gripped Amelia’s arm, forcing her to look at him. Looking directly into her eyes, he growled: “He’s also been kidnapping muggle and muggleborne children and…‘experimenting’ on them…” He made ‘air quotes’ “…just to see what happens. He gets their names and locations from the intake book, or sometimes he just goes hunting.” Harry choked back his anger and added: “Those pieces of wood in the firebox, are the transfigured bodes of this victims.”
~Children?~ Amelia wanted to vomit. Like most witches, she revered children.
She picked up one log and set it on the floor. “Finite Incantatum!”
The chunk of wood became the body, quite dead, of a small, partially transformed, werewolf…a little girl who couldn’t have been older than six. She wore a rictus of agony on her face. In the box were more than a dozen other pieces of wood. Amelia sank to her knees in horror. The little girl’s pain-contorted eyes accused her…accused them all, of failing to protect the future of the world…from a monster!
Snape was damn lucky Amelia was as good a Minister as she was. Her force of will was all that kept her Aurors from vivisecting Snape on the spot! From the anger and barely contained hatred coming from Kingsley, Tonks and Jones, he could tell they all wanted to use the double agent for target practice!
Harry held himself firmly in check, as well, as he desperately wanted to help!
As they dragged the struggling poisoner from the little cottage the last thing Severus saw was his mother in the frame over the fireplace, her arms folded across her breasts with a furious, disgusted, yet somehow…satisfied look on her face.
From his place of concealment, Albus watched as another of his pawns was removed from the board. It was unfortunate. Severus was a valuable tool, but he was, after all, merely a tool. If he survived his incarceration, perhaps he could see the potions master released into his parole once again.
Just before they portkeyed away, he recognized Harry. The young man had grown…a lot. He stood proud and strong, and positively glowed with power. This was not good!
Dumbledore swore viciously as a follow-up crew appeared and began to ransack the house. He knew his own secrets were safe, but Severus’ were not.
Turning his thoughts to another matter, he wondered how the Aurors had entered the wards in the first place. He’d arranged them so only someone bearing the Dumbledore blood could…
And then he understood. ~Aberforth! That miserable, goat-loving bastard gave them his blood! ~
It was only his proximity to the Aurors that prevented a tantrum of epic proportions. Still, he fumed, knowing his brother had betrayed him.
~Well!~ He swore to himself. ~We’ll just see about that!~
Plotting dire vengeance, Albus apparated away, knowing this place was now useless to him.
Delores Umbridge had just returned from Knockturn Alley, when there came a pounding at her door. Casting a recognition spell, she identified several Aurors. Curious to see why the Aurors would wish to talk to her, she opened the door. Standing on the porch, were Amelia Bones, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and that insufferable Harry Potter!
“Good evening, Minister. It’s so nice to see you. Why don’t you come in and we can have some tea?” She smarmed, ignoring Kingsley entirely. Then the toad-woman turned a sneer on Harry. “What are you doing here, Potter?” She asked in her saccharine voice. “Aren’t you supposed to be at your home? Why, an underaged wizard could get into a great deal of trouble for being out after curfew.”
Harry took a half step forward and spoke clearly. “In the first place, I’ve been considered emancipated in both worlds for the past year, so there is no curfew for me. Second, I am here on official business.”
“What sort of ‘official business’ could you possibly be doing, Potter? You don’t work for the Ministry.”
“That’s Lord Potter, and I’m here to arrest you.”
Delores suddenly realised that as Amelia Bones stood behind Potter with a smirk on her face, he could actually be there for that. The charges she had had faced the previous summer, had been set aside, when Potter had vanished. Since they had not been dropped, they could still be reopened. She slammed the door shut, and stumbled back. She knew she’d have to destroy her quills. A shame, really, since those quills had been in her family for generations, but there was nothing else for it.
A buzzing hum filed the air and within a second, a lancet of green energy had sliced the door from top to bottom. The heavy panel fell in as Potter nudged it. He entered her home wearing a nasty smirk. In his hand was a shaft of brilliant emerald light, about a meter long. Being a pureblood, Delores had never seen Star Wars, but there were a very few noises in nature that signified immanent danger in such a fashion. The hum of the lightsaber was as distinctive as the sound of a rattlesnake or the latching of a shotgun…and all promised immediate death.
“As I said, I am here to arrest you, on the charges of abuse of authority; of dispatching two dementors to Little Whinging, for the express purpose of murdering me, and incidentally, my cousin; of using a dark arts artifact on children, specifically an occamy quill; of attempting to use a ministry controlled potion with neither the training or authorization, in lethal dosage, on a student, namely me; and of attempting to use the Cruciatus curse on a student, also namely me.”
“You have no proof!” Umbridge cried. She whipped out her wand only to find it torn from her grasp and floating in the air before Amelia Bones. Madam Bones carefully held an open ‘evidence’ bag under the wand, and when it dropped in, she sealed the bag with her star.
Harry shut down his lightsaber with its characteristic hiss.
Delores knew she was screwed, and so did the thing that would get her into the absolute most trouble. She tried to run.
She didn’t get far.
Harry grabbed hold of her with the force and held her against the wall, until an Auror could place magical binders on her flabby wrists. Amelia immediately called for Tootles, who checked Umbridge’s forearms, but found no mark. The house elf made her report and when Amelia dismissed her, popped away.
Sighing, she had two Aurors shove Delores into a chair and stand guard over her, and then signaled her people to begin to search the place. Harry pulled a chair into place and sat directly in front of the enraged Umbridge, and began to probe her memories. He was seeking memories of her association with Voldemort. He didn’t find any, though she was clearly in line with his goals.
“You think you’re so smart!” She screamed. “I have friends in high places, Potter! When they find out about this outrage, they’ll have you executed!”
“Now why does that sound so very much like Draco Malfoy invoking his daddy’s name?
You have no ‘friends’ left…Delores. Your ‘good friend’ Cornelius, is dead, killed by Death Eaters in December. The Death Eaters…well, I’ll deal with them on the Solstice. The rest of your ‘friends’, are being arrested as we speak. Hopefully, they’ll do the honorable thing and kill themselves. If not, they’ll be sitting right next to you when you face the Wizengamot.”
Somehow, Delores didn’t feel very comforted.
Harry cast about her mind for the familiar feeling of the bloodletting quills. He found them. Turning to Amelia he said: “The occamy quills, are in that box. She’s got half a dozen.”
Kingsley stepped across the room to the box indicated. It too, had security wards on it.
“Open it!” Amelia ordered.
“I have no idea what you are talking about Amelia. I have nothing to hide, that box holds nothing but some old and very valuable family heirlooms. However, when the Wizengamot hears about this unnecessary and unauthorized attack upon my home and my person, you will be looking for a new position! Perhaps in Azkaban?”
“Azkaban was shut down…on my orders as Minister of Magic.” Bones shot back with a nasty smirk. “And Augusta Longbottom, an old family friend, is now the chief of the Wizengamot.”
“Why don’t you just put her on the floor with the box on her lap, and cast that nifty shield around her. That way, when I slice open the box, the only one killed will be her. Nice and tidy, no trial, because the suspect committed ‘suicide through stupidity’.” Harry’s last words were growled in a tone more fitting to an animal than a human.
Umbridge still refused to open the box, so Amelia did as Harry had suggested. Thinking it a bluff, Umbridge smiled her smarmy smile…until she saw Harry’s lightsaber ignite and begin to float towards her. Then she screamed: “No! Please! I’ll open it, just keep that thing away from me!”
Harry smirked and called the weapon back to him. Amelia smirked as she had her troops drop the shield. Umbridge smirked…until she saw the look on Harry’s face. He’d purposely left the blade ignited.
“Mafalda Hopkirk, you are under arrest for supplying aid and succor to Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.”
Surprisingly, Hopkirk came quietly. She was immediately isolated and checked for the mark. Like Umbridge, she was unmarked. She also had an unusual look to her face. Harry leaned into the force and began his probe.
“She’s under Imperius, and looks to have been for at least three years.”
“Any idea who…?” Amelia asked. Harry nodded absently as he continued to probe for information.
“Yup. Several people, most notably, Fudge, Umbridge and not surprisingly Lucy. Oh, here’s another one. Edgecomb…and someone named Pius, somethingorother. Didn’t you sack her?
“We couldn’t.” At Harry’s raised eyebrow, she explained. “She invoked the pureblood acts, and unfortunately that guarantees her a position at the ministry for as long as she wants one. Fortunately, it doesn’t say where at the ministry. I transferred her to maintenance and repair. Though we’ve repealed that act, she’s done her job properly since, and has given no indication of malfeasance, so we had no cause to sack her. Now we do. As for Pius ‘Somethingorother’, Pius Thicknesse is a senior Auror. I’ve long suspected he was either a Death Eater or closely affiliated with them, but unfortunately I couldn’t do much. Fudge and Malfoy would always turn aside my investigations. What did surprise me…until our little chat, that is, is that Dumbledore would back them. I used to think he was the epitome of the light, when all the while he was just as deceitful, as the Deez themselves.”
“How did he manage to get by the Veritaserum questioning?” Harry asked. Amelia had ordered a top-down questioning of all ministry employees in July, for activity in support of Voldemort or his Death Eaters. That questioning, had garnered several arrests. Apparently Thicknesse had slipped the cordon.
“I don’t know. I suspect that more than one Death Eater or sympathizer did. Perhaps questioning our now ‘disarmed’ Potion’s Master, will shed some light on the situation.”
“We’ll send a detail to Edgecombe’s office to arrest her.” Shacklebolt spoke up.
“Well, Edgecombe is marked, so I’d suggest you stun her from behind. That way, Voldemort can’t really know what has happened…maybe.”
“And for Thicknesse?”
“He made his choice. If it were up to me, I’d just shoot him and have done with it. In my book, there’s nothing worse than a dirty cop, but you’re the boss, not me. Be advised, however, his mark is a direct link to Voldemort.”
Pius did not come quietly. As soon as he’d seen the incoming Aurors, he’d fired lethal curse after lethal curse, and when his opponents had all fallen or had sought cover, he dashed from the room directly onto the blade of Harry’s lightsaber. He gaped in shock as he felt the life drain from him. Harry plucked his wand from nerveless fingers, and then entered the room to see if he could help any of the Aurors there. Three were dead, the rest were wounded.
Amelia wasn’t happy. She walked into the room to examine the scene. Like Harry, she was a hands-on leader, and the death of even one of her people was just like losing a child of her own.
“Three of my men dead for one deeter is not what I call an equable trade!” she snarled.
“I’m sorry, Amelia.” Kingsley was as angry. “We took every precaution, but he was ready for us anyway.”
“I know.” Amelia sighed in frustration. Those three Aurors were all husbands and fathers, and it fell to her to explain to their widows and children, why they died. “I’m sorry, Shack. I’m just angry.”
Shack nodded his head at Thicknesse’s body in the corridor. They left the room and stood next to the dead man. Harry stood back to give them the space they needed.
“He was a very good Auror at one time.”
“Yes. He was.” She held up Thicknesse’s sleeve. The evil mark was there, plain for anyone to see. “It’s too bad he was also a terrorist.”
Moody was even less pleased when he found out. His growl about ‘teaching those fools how to deal with psycho Aurors’ promised much pain for the recruits.
Dobby brought Amelia to Harry’s office, just before four. Arthur was already there, chatting with Ron and Luna. Xenophilius Lovegood was also talking quietly with Hermione, who seemed to be trying to control her disbelief in his fantastic animals.
Augusta was present as witness for the Wizengamot. And Carolyn stood ready to file all the necessary parchmentwork.
Neville and Ginny were there. Neville had provided the binding cords…again, living vines, and Ginny had taken the job of ring bearer. Thankfully, for the sake of all of their eardrums, Molly was still ignorant of the proceedings.
Harry was at his desk, signing the forms Arthur had bought with him. The Weasley patriarch had explained to Harry, that as Lord Gryffindor, Ron’s liege, he was required to authorize this marriage. Arthur would still have to look them over, and Carolyn would well.
Harry had also contacted the goblins and quietly arranged for a vault, with a respectable amount of gold. Since he’d already been awarded sixty percent of the estates of the Death Eaters he, and his people had killed to date, he could afford to be generous.
Amelia cleared her throat and announced: “This is going to be a civil marriage. Is that alright with everybody?”
When all the participants had agreed, Amelia unrolled a scroll of parchment. “This is the official ministry ceremony for marriages not dealt with through other means. Is everybody agreeable with its use?” She aimed this question at Ron and Luna as they were the ones getting married.
When Ron and Luna had signaled their assent, she asked them to stand facing each other. As with the more elaborate ceremony Harry and Hermione had shared, it involved cutting the palms and binding the wrists together. The invoking of the forces of nature, and the large circle were purely Druid and so, were omitted. Harry jokingly offered to use his lightsaber to make the cuts, but both participants wisely decided to forego that particular pleasure.
Amelia spoke quietly. “We are gathered together to witness the bonding of this man, Ronald Bilius Weasley and this woman, Luna Selene Antosha Lovegood, in matrimony. Is there any here who would object for whatever reason to the binding of these two?”
When no answer was forthcoming she went on.
“Who gives this man to this maid?”
Arthur replied he did as blood kin.
“Who gives this maid to this man?”
This time, Xeno replied, also as blood kin.
“Ronald, Luna, please face each other.
Do you present yourself to your intended of your own free will?”
Both answered: ‘I do’, at the same time. Amelia smiled. She’d intended to ask each but this was as good.
“Are you prepared to join your lives, blood, souls and magic?”
Again, they answered as one.
Amelia dipped the blade of the athame into the bowl of purest water, and swiftly nicked both Ron’s and Luna’s hands.
As before, the binding was done with the vines rather than cords. Neville stood beside Harry, as it was his skill with plants that made this possible.
“As your blood runs together, flowing and mixing, as your magic joins, bonding and embracing, so too do your lives become one.
Ronald, repeat after me: “My blood to your blood, my heart to your heart, my magic to your magic, my soul to your soul, I come to you as your equal, and take your hand as mine. I swear as my friend, my mate, and my lover, I give you my life of my own free will.”
Ron repeated the words, gazing into the soft grey eyes of his lover.
“Luna, repeat after me: “My blood to your blood, my heart to your heart, my magic to your magic, my soul to your soul, I come to you as your equal, and take your hand as mine. I swear as my friend, my mate, and my lover, I give you my life of my own free will.”
Luna also repeated the traditional words, though Harry could see a wistful sadness in her eyes. He hoped she wasn’t regretting her pregnancy.
Unaware, Amelia went on: “With the binding of your hands, so too I seal the bonds of your love. May the elements, of earth, air, fire, water, and magick, watch over you, this day, and forever more.
Do you both give your oath before and upon your magic to forevermore keep your vows?”
“We do.” Both chimed.
As with Harry’s wedding, the vines glowed silver. The glow spread to engulf their hands and part of their forearms, and then to encompass their entire bodies. the glow was soft, and yet filled the room with love. For the two, it was enough. Fawkes crooned from Harry's shoulder.
“With your oaths, we welcome you into a new beginning in life. As the bond around your hands joins you physically, so now do your separate paths become one. Though you are separate people, with your own ideas, thoughts and will, together you will become a whole, both working for the good of that whole. May your journey bring you wisdom. May it strengthen your love for each other, and may the magic of the earth guide you, strengthen you, and shed upon you peace and light, and the courage to journey through life together.
You have chosen to represent the eternal circle with bands of gold. Have you the rings?”
Ginny presented the rings on a blue pad. Harry had volunteered his family's collection of wedding bands, but Ron had refused, saying he could provide for his wife. Even after the past year, he was still too prideful to accept ‘charity’. Harry spoke to Arthur and offered him a plain wedding set, the one he'd originally intended for Hermione, as a 'Weasley' heirloom. Arthur had accepted with a smile at the generosity and cunning of his 'seventh son', and passed it to Ron during the 'discussion' he'd had the day before. Now, each picked up a ring and waited.
“Place the rings on the hand of the other and speak your vows.”
Ron eased the simple gold band onto Luna’s slender finger as he said: “Luna, we’ve known each other since we were kids. I never understood what a friend you were, but you have taught me that love is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I will love you for the rest of my life.”
Luna smiled and slid the ring onto Ron’s finger.
“Ronald, I have loved you since I was a small girl. I have seen you grow into the man you are and I will always love you.”
Harry’s ears perked at that. Something was off, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
Amelia took over. “By the power vested in me as Minister of Magic, and by the laws of the magical community of Britain, I pronounce you married until death you do part.
You may kiss your bride.”
As they kissed, Amelia sprinkled the pinch of salt and the drops of water on their heads, and then wafted the incense over them both, invoking her personal blessing.
“Ronald, Luna, may the goddess bless and join you, and keep you safe as you go forth, together this day and forever more, as husband and wife.”
The kiss ended and Amelia addressed the small group.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Mr. Ronald, and Mrs. Luna Weasley.”
The applause was heartfelt and enthusiastic, but not overly boisterous.
They both signed the appropriate places and Carolyn took the 'Dobby Express' to the ministry to file them. Amelia remained for a bit but begging the duties of office, called Tootles to bring her back to her job.
Ron escorted Luna from the office to find the twins had gotten wind of the marriage and had gone all out to ‘celebrate’. The corridor was decorated with garish pink and orange bows, glittery hearts and silly looking cupids. Rose petals carpeted the floor and the path led in one direction…the dining hall. Ron’s ears glowed but Luna only laughed brightly as she skipped down the petal-lined path.
In the common area, the students all stood and applauded their most unexpected marriage. On the tables, was a banquet, far more than Harry normally allowed, but he decided what the hell! It wasn’t going to kill them to let loose once in a while.
Hermione cuddled in beside him. He turned and kissed her softly, lovingly, and passionately.
“I love you, Hermione.”
She smiled brightly enough to light the room.
“And I love you, Harry.”
Neville provided the toast, as for some reason Harry was disqualified. Ron probably thought he was going to say something embarrassing.
As it was, they didn’t need Harry. Neville and Ginny both managed to embarrass him thoroughly, without any assistance.
The party lasted until four the next morning, and while Harry and Hermione were up at five for their morning’s run, they were the only two. Harry decided the hate and discontent that would surely result by his making the students run after an all-nighter, was counterproductive, so he let them sleep in.
Over the next week, Harry pored over his latest culling of the volunteers. He still had too many. The problem was they were all well qualified. They all wanted to come…even Susan volunteered. When he’d seen her name he’d called her into his office for a little chat.
“Susan…” He’d begun. “You had a pretty bad reaction to killing that Death Eater last month. It’s going to be the same here…only worse! There’re going to be a bunch of them!”
“I understand, Harry, but I’ve been talking to some people. Mack, Hermione, Tonks, Remus, Neville, Auntie…they’ve all told me the same thing. They showed me the difference between killing and murder. Those men are murderers. We…” She spread her hands to encompass the entire academy. “…are…like healers. Sometimes a healer has to cause pain to prevent more pain from being caused. Neville told me about what the Lestranges did to his parents. Harry, that’s worse than what Voldemort did to yours. The Malfoy’s, the Parkinson’s, the Nott’s, Mulciber, Macnair, Avery…they are the worst sort of bigots, and if they had their way, you, Hermione, Hannah, Dean, Lavender, Colin and Dennis, the Montgomery twins…the list is too long, but none of you would be allowed to exist. Hell, even Padma and Parvati, as long as their magical lineage is, the purists consider them to be little more than mugglebornes. Voldemort has made it his stated goal to eliminate…to kill, all the mugglebornes in the world, and most likely all the half-bloods too. He wants to enslave the muggles and we can’t allow him to do any of that, Harry! We just can’t! People are people, magical or not, pureblood, half-blood or muggleborne, makes no difference. We all deserve the right to live the lives we want. If Voldemort wins, they’ll die, and the purebloods who won’t kiss his feet, will die too.”
“So you want to come on this mission?”
“Honestly, no. But you know as well as I do that I’m one of the most qualified students you have. Neville tells me I’m in the top ten. If I can help eliminate this threat to our world, I should go. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to killing, but I know I can if I really have to. Hopefully, after this is all over, I can return to school, finish up there and apprentice under a potions master…who isn’t Snape.” She grinned at the last, and Harry chuckled.
“Alright. I’ll consider you…and I honestly hope you never get used to killing, Susan.”
Now, he was pondering if she should go. He knew her mind, but he’d seen her reactions as well.
A knock at his door alerted him to Mack’s presence.
“C’mon in, Mack.”
“Harry, we need to talk.” Mack said, closing the door and seating himself. Harry raised an eyebrow at the man’s uncharacteristic bluntness, but called for Winky and sat back.
The little elf appeared and Harry requested tea. She popped away quietly.
“What’s on your mind?”
“What do you think?” Mack shot back.
Harry sighed. This was going to be a painful discussion. A discussion he’d had in some way or another with all of his senior lieutenants, had each started out in a like manner. Hermione, Dobby, Tonks, Remus, and even Arthur, agreed that Ron was not ready for this, and all of them urged him to leave his best friend behind.
He got a reprieve. Winky reappeared bearing a tea tray. She set the tray on the desk and popped away again. As soon as he had, Mackenzie spoke again.
“Harry. You have to stop thinking with your heart. You are going to take your troops…including my daughter, into battle with you, against an implacable enemy. One who has no qualms at all about killing children. I agree, Ron has achieved the level he needs to go along, but he is undisciplined and careless. I believe I’ve had this discussion with you a couple times now. He is dangerous!”
“Mack.” Harry objected. “He’s my best friend.”
“No. He’s your first friend. Hermione is your best friend and you know it.” Mack sighed. “Harry, these Death Eaters will stop at nothing to wipe you out, whether Voldemort is dead or not. Hermione once told me that the mark they all carry is a soul bond of some sort. We can only hope it’s strong enough to kill the lot of them without your having to lift a blade…but we can’t count on that. In case it isn’t, you are going to be fighting, face-to-face, with people who consider you to be barely human, and Hermione, not even that. Killing you is nothing to them. I understand you are going to be fighting against some serious odds…five to one, or the like.” Harry recalled the latest intelligence he’d received from Amelia on the convenient disappearance of purebloods from Britain and Western Europe, and thought: ~More like ten…~
Mack went on.
“You have to have your absolute best there. Ron, for all his improvement, and I agree he has improved immensely, is not ready to face combat. Perhaps with some seasoning, but not this time. He’s still taking unnecessary chances. Simply put, he’s a glory-hound. Don’t bother to deny it, Harry, because we both know it’s true. What happens if he decides to show off? How many of your friends could he get killed because he wants the spotlight?” Mack stood and turned to walk out of the room. At the door he added: “Are you sure you want him along?”
Mack left the office, leaving Harry to think dark thoughts.
An hour later Hermione wandered in. “Hey sweetheart.”
Harry had been staring blindly at the evaluations before him. Mack was right. Ron was unsuitable for this mission. Perhaps with some seasoning, but not this one. The problem was, Ron was his best friend. If Harry ordered him to stay behind, he’d be crushed. Harry doubted he’d turn to the dark, but he’d be angry for a long while and that was something he really wanted to avoid.
“Hey baby.” He muttered.
Hermione pulled the chair back and plopped herself onto Harry’s lap, wrapped her arms around his neck and planted her lips on his.
They stayed that way for a good long time, each exploring the other in ways Harry was certain Mack wouldn’t have approved of…married or not.
“So.” She finally let him breathe. Personally, Harry felt that oxygen was overrated.
“Daddy told me.”
“Shit!” He cursed.
“Harry, like you told the others, you can’t take this personally. Ron’s our friend, yes, but you can’t allow that friendship to cloud your judgment. You have the rest of the students to consider. I’ve watched him. Even with Luna’s help he’s still reckless. His katas are good, he knows the moves, and he’s even putting more feeling into them, but he still can’t control the force. Worse, he still can’t control his own ego. Until he can, he’s not ready to face this kind of combat. You know that.” She quoted a line he’d used in the past. “Remove self from yourself.” I recall you saying that more than once.”
Harry was still unconvinced, so Hermione said: “You have to think of the unit, Harry, not just one person. It might help you if you don’t look at him as Ron. Think of him like he was any other student.
Now, come to bed. You’ve been working too hard, and I want to go over page 254 of ‘The Discerning Hedonist’ with you.”
To Albus Dumbledore’s great surprise, a letter arrived on the nineteenth of June, carried by a brown robed Dobby. He’d abandoned his little house in the Cotswold’s when Severus had been arrested and now, hid here in the Shrieking Shack. The elf glared at him for a second before popping out.
Dumbledore scratched his head and pondered the unusual attire Dobby wore. There was something familiar with the way the elf was dressed but he couldn’t place his finger on it. He thought he could dimly recall having seen someone else dressed in a similar manner, but just couldn’t bring the image to the front of his mind.
Giving it up as unimportant for the time being, he turned to the envelope the elf had carried. It lay there on the table like an announcement of the apocalypse.
Wafting his wand he checked for traps and the like. It was clean. He slit the flap and opened the letter within.
If you want to speak with Harry Potter, swear an oath to leave your wand and all magical items behind, and a portkey will be provided. He will be there.”
He could finally recapture his weapon! Smirking, he held his wand aloft and intoned: “I Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore….” He intentionally mixed up his second and third names so the oath would register as a magical promise and yet, would leave him free to violate any or all of it. “…do swear to leave my wand and all my magical artifacts behind when I meet with Harry Potter.”
A second envelope appeared on the table. How, he didn’t know, as the wards he’d placed, hadn’t alerted him to its arrival, but it was there. Scanning it, he discovered there was indeed, a portkey contained within. Carefully opening the parchment, he let the portkey slip out. It was one of his own ‘Order of the Phoenix’ pendants! He was furious that any of his chosen minions would allow his creations to be used in such a fashion! The problem was, he had never gotten around to personalizing the things. He had no way of knowing who had betrayed him, and with Bones having an arrest warrant out for him, he had little chance of calling them.
A note stuck to the portkey read:
“Activate this portkey at five O’clock tomorrow evening. Tap it with your finger in a five-pointed star, thirty-seven times in an anticlockwise motion and then say: “Bippity Boppity Boo!”
In the earliest hours of the twentieth, long after they’d turned in for the night, Harry woke. He left his sleeping wife and stepped into his office, and picked up his finalized mission roster. With a sigh of regret, he scratched a line through Ron’s name.
Majestic plural: the royal ‘we’.
For any of you who think I am being less than respectful of those thousands of soldiers who died at Omaha Beach, I am not. One of my uncles died there. My father had five brothers. All served in WWII, and only he and my uncle Jack survived. Nevertheless, while it could have been worse, for all but a purely military standard, that landing was an unmitigated disaster. More than four thousand people were wounded or killed on that beach…in nine hours.
Antosha is the name of the person on HP lexicon who wrote the essay: ‘Luna’s place in the expanding circle of friends’ and I thought the name sounded cool.
Yes, I altered the marriage a bit to approximate a civil ceremony.
“Bippity Boppity Boo!” belongs to Disney, but I figured it would get under Dumbledore’s skin.