Off on the road to Wales. But the road has a slight bump in it.
Harry Potter and the Holyhead Harem 2
By Big D
Disclaimer: Not Mine. No Profit. No Shit.
Green fields and the occasional stand of trees sped by the window to my right as the train chugged its way through the English countryside towards the Welsh border, about an hour away. It had been sheer luck that we'd found a direct line from London to Bangor, and I expected to arrive just past nightfall. After that, it would just be a matter of crossing the bridge to Anglesey Island and then making our way to Holy Island. Godric's Hollow had been on the outskirts of Holyhead, and my parents had been buried there at St. Cybi's. From what I'd read, the church had been there for a thousand years or more, so it shouldn't be too hard to find.
I shifted in my seat, trying to get more comfortable, and my arm brushed against a long, wrapped bundle on the seat next to me. London had been full of surprises, not the least of which was learning that Dumbledore had named me one of the heirs in his will. Thankfully, he hadn't bothered leaving me another big pile of gold that I wouldn't know what to do with, although what he had left me with was nearly as bad.
I pulled the long bundle into my lap, and undid the laces at the top just enough to reveal the ruby-mounted hilt of a sword... Gryffindor's sword. What he expected me to do with it was anyone's guess, but he had thought it important enough to specifically mention it in the will, and insist that it be wrapped up and ready for me to take as soon as I'd signed for the total inheritance. The rest of it had consisted of everything that had been left behind in his office, and a second bundle, to be given to me along with the sword. I didn't doubt that everything he'd left me would turn out to be very useful, but it felt too much like he was laying his hand on my shoulder, and saying that it was all up to me now.
Which was true, but being reminded of it was no comfort.
All of the tools, machines, and assorted knick-knacks from his office had been moved into my vault. His pensieve and stored memories were also in there somewhere, but I wasn't ready to look through them yet. There would be time for that someday, but not now. And if something happened to me, I'd already made arrangements that the entire collection would go to Hermione. She'd stand a better chance of deciphering it than I ever would.
The second bundle was in a knapsack in the overhead compartment. I hadn't opened it yet, and wasn't sure I wanted to. The Gringotts goblins had brought it in on a rolling table, and when I had picked it up I'd realized why they hadn't wanted to touch it. The thing practically throbbed with magical power. It was obviously a book of some kind, about the size of a large bible, but like nothing I'd ever encountered before.
At Hogwarts, I'd dealt with my fair share of enchanted tomes, but none of them had been so strong that they'd nearly burned my fingers when I'd picked them up! The thing scared me a little, and scared me more for the fact that Dumbledore had thought that I would actually need something so awesomely powerful.
I set the sword aside and looked across the compartment at Hestia. She had stretched out along the seats on her side, and was leafing through some magazine with a woman wearing a red dress and an overly-enthusiastic smile on the cover. By the time we'd gotten to London, lack of sleep had caught up to me, and I'd barely made it to my room at the Leaky Cauldron before I'd passed out. I still hadn't gotten around to explaining to her exactly how I planned to stop Voldemort, and so far she hadn't pushed the issue. The hours after I finally woke up were a whirlwind of activity, and between dealing with the goblins, getting some shopping done, and avoiding notice by the general public, there had hardly been time to breathe.
"Are you sure you want to come with me?" I asked her suddenly.
She let out a put-upon sigh, and sat up to face me. "For the tenth time, yes." she said, "I can't think of anywhere more important for me to be." She made a show of lifting her arm and sniffing her armpit. "Nope, don't stink. So why are you trying to run me off? Am I bad company? Not pretty enough? What?"
I rolled my eyes at her even while a grin tugged at my lips. "You're fine company, and you're very pretty." I assured her. "It's just that, when you find out what I'm up to, you won't be able to leave. You'll either help me stop Voldemort, or you'll get killed, there is no other option. I can still release you from your Vow, if you want."
"I don't want you to release me from my Vow. I wouldn't have given it if I didn't mean to keep it. Of course, if you really want me to go, all you have to do is say the word... literally."
She watched me for a moment, waiting to see if I was going to take her up on her suggestion, before nodding to herself in satisfaction. "Now that that's settled, maybe you can finally let me in on the big secret. How are the two of us supposed to kill You-Know-Who?"
I doubted that I would find a more secure place to tell her. A muggle train to Wales was probably the last place most wizards would think to look for someone, and even if they did think of it, the fact that the train was moving would disperse any listening charms from the outside. The compartment had already been warded for sound, and Hestia had placed a muggle-repelling charm on the door.
So I told her. I told her about the private lessons with Dumbledore and his revelations about Voldemort's past. I told her about how he'd taken me to the cave where Voldemort had hidden one of the Horcruxes, and how he'd been so weak from drinking the potion inside that he hadn't stood a chance when Snape had finally betrayed him. I told her about the three still-missing Horcruxes and what Dumbledore had deduced about them. And I finished with a firm order that she was never to discuss any of it, except with me and anyone I allowed her to. There was no turning back now, she was tied to me until the end.
Afterwards, she was uncharacteristically silent. "So what do you think?" I asked.
Light brown eyes flicked up to meet mine. I could see nothing but honest truth in them. "I think we're buggered." she said.
I snorted. "Nice to know you have so much faith in me."
"Oh, don't get me wrong, I have faith in you," she said. "It's just... Dumbledore spent a couple of decades looking, and even with all the resources at his disposal, he was only able to find and destroy one Horcrux. And even then it nearly cost him his hand. There are still three of those things out there... where are we supposed to even start? You-Know-Who might've hidden them in places that had special meaning for him, or he could've put them where no one would ever think to look. There's no way to know."
"Professor Dumbledore seemed to think that Voldemort's past was the key to figuring out where the other Horcruxes are. It could be that they work best in places that mean something to him. After all, they are pieces of his soul." I said.
"That seems rather... convenient, don't you think? Besides, the diary wasn't hidden in some secret place, where only You-Know-Who could get at it." she said.
"Yeah, but the diary was also much easier to destroy than the ring was. What if not being hidden in a special place had weakened it?"
She quirked an amused eyebrow at me. "You call fighting a hundred foot long basilisk, and getting bitten in the process, easy? I'd hate to see what you think of as challenging."
"Dumbledore could've handled it easily enough." I told her.
She frowned at me slightly, but decided to change the subject. "What about this R.A.B. wanker? Any idea who he is?"
"Not a clue. Voldemort spent a lot of time traveling after he left Hogwarts, he could've made all kinds of enemies that we don't know about. Or it could be someone he wronged during the war."
"So what do you think happened to the real locket?" she asked.
I didn't answer right away. That question had been gnawing at me ever since I'd found out that someone had gotten to the original locket first. "We have to assume it's still out there. R.A.B. said that he was going to destroy it, but anything could have happened after that. He could've been as weak as Dumbledore was after escaping the cave. He might have died before he had a chance, or been killed trying."
There was a soft click, click as Hestia tapped a fingernail against the armrest thoughtfully. "So that makes three for sure." she said, "Hufflepuff's cup, something of Gryffindor's, and something of Ravenclaw's. And maybe another, if R.A.B. couldn't get the job done with Slytherin's locket. So, four Horcruxes we have to destroy before we can even hope to face him directly." She sat back in her seat and sighed. "Like I said, we're buggered."
"What we really need to do is find out if anything that belonged to Gryffindor or Ravenclaw is still around." I said, ignoring her pessimism.
"You mean aside from your pretty new pigsticker?" she said, indicating the bundle on the seat next to me. She frowned in thought for a moment. "Now that I think about it, a really powerful book would be just the kind of thing Lady Ravenclaw might leave behind, and the Headmaster also left you one of those."
I picked up the sword bundle again. Standing up, I undid the laces and pulled off the leather wrappings. The scabbard was plain unadorned black, and obviously wasn't original, but the sword itself was made from some type of silvery metal that seemed to shine more brightly than the ambient light should allow. There was a ruby the size of a hen's egg set into the hilt, and two more, about the size of small coins, at either end of the crossguard. It seemed larger than I recalled, but was clearly meant to be wielded with one hand. It let out a satisfying "shink" as I drew it free. The thin, tapered blade with "Gryffindor" etched into it was the same as I remembered.
"I don't think so. Professor Dumbledore was pretty sure that Voldemort had never gotten his hands on the sword." I said. As for the book, I still didn't want to think about it.
Hestia gave the weapon in my hand a doubtful look, and edged away slightly. "Just don't start swinging the bloody thing around in here. I like both of my eyes where they are, thank you."
I was about to respond when I noticed something odd about the rubies in the hilt. They seemed to be brighter than before. "Do you see that?" I asked her, showing her the jewels. "I think they're glowing."
"It's a wonky magic sword, who knows what kind of special effects it has." she shrugged.
Over the rhythmic thump and rattle of the train, I noticed a sound off in the distance, like a high-pitched wail. "You hear that?" I asked her.
She stopped and listened, then shook her head slightly. "Hear what? I don't hear anything."
"It sounds like..." The noise grew louder, and I felt a chill go through me. "It sounds like a woman screaming."
Hestia opened her mouth to speak, but I was already moving. I didn't want to leave the sword on the seat where anyone could take it, so I shoved it into my belt as I left the compartment. In the hallway, I listened again, trying to determine which direction the scream was coming from, before running towards the back of the train. I hardly even noticed the people I was bumping into and knocking down.
By the time I'd reached the last car, my mother's final scream was echoing in my ears. One look out the rear window confirmed my worst fears. I felt Hestia come up behind me and look over my shoulder.
"Sweet mother of heaven," she whispered, a hint of Irish brogue that I hadn't noticed before creeping into her voice, "There must be two hundred of them, maybe more."
The dementors were probably still a half-mile behind us, but there were so many of them that they looked like a single mass of writhing black flesh. And they were gaining on us, fast.
I quickly weighed my options and found them decidedly lacking. The shrunken Firebolt was still in my pocket. I could pull a hundred and sixty miles an hour out of it with a decent wind at my back, but that would be cut considerably if I had to double up with Hestia. Not to mention the fact that it would leave the muggles on the train completely helpless if some of the dementors chose not to follow me. That pretty much left fighting as the only viable choice, and I wouldn't have time to make more than the most basic plan.
Which, now that I think about it, was more of a plan than I usually had.
I looked around the carriage and spotted a hatch in the ceiling that led outside. I whipped out my wand and fired a Reductor Curse, blowing it off its hinges. The few muggles in the back carriage watched slack-jawed, but I ignored them. If any of them survived this with their souls intact, the Ministry would make sure they didn't remember it.
"Give me a boost." I told Hestia. To her credit, she didn't ask questions. She positioned herself underneath the hatch and made a stirrup with her hands. I stepped into it and she was able to pick me up enough so that I could grab the rim of the opening and haul myself up the rest of the way.
The wind outside was strong, but not so much that it would knock me off easily. I got on my hands and knees and looked back into the carriage. Hestia held out her hand so that I could pull her up with me, but I shook her off. "Go to the front and get them to speed up as much as they can. I'll try to keep the Dementors off of us." I shouted down at her. She looked like she wanted to argue, but the Vow forced her to obey.
"Don't get yourself killed!" she yelled over her shoulder as she moved off.
"Good advice." I muttered, then pushed myself to my feet.
The train rumbled and rattled beneath me, but it was nothing compared to balancing on a broom. The dementors had closed to within about a hundred and fifty yards and had spread out somewhat. I cursed under my breath. That was the last thing I wanted them to do. So long as they were together, then I stood a slim chance of turning them back. Spread out, they would be able to swarm the train from multiple directions, and I'd be fucked. My best chance was to cast my Patronus now, while I still had a shot of catching them in a group.
"Expecto Patronum!" I yelled. A massive stag made of the purest white light imaginable leapt from my wand and charged into the heart of the oncoming monsters. Prongs crashed into the center of the mass, swinging his horns from one side to the other like a great scythe, trying to scatter the beasts.
It only worked for a moment. The dementors shifted away from Prongs like a school of fish avoiding a shark, but soon regrouped and continued chasing the train. Prongs rounded on them again and charged, but it was too late. Some of the dementors had gotten between him and the train and the others were running interference, delaying him from getting back. A flash of fluttering black cloth in the corner of my eye alerted me to a dementor trying to get into the cabin through a window that some foolish muggle had left open. I moved towards it and fired a stunner, but the spell passed through the creature like it was smoke.
It yanked its head out of the window and glared up at me, hissing angrily before launching itself at my face. I tried to dodge, but my foot caught on something and I tripped. I grabbed the side of the roof to keep from falling off, but dropped my wand in the process. It clattered across the roof of the train and I made a desperate grab for it, but the dementor was quicker. Long, bony hands covered in rotten meat snatched up the holly rod and snapped it like a twig.
I felt my heart stop. I didn't have to look back to know that the magic that held my Patronus together had been violently dispersed, leaving me totally helpless.
The dementor tossed the useless fragments of my wand over the side. It looked down at me, and even though I couldn't see beneath its hood, I could feel the smug smirk on its horrid face. It knew that it had me, and that I could do nothing to stop it. Slowly, almost arrogantly, it settled over me and breathed in deeply.
I gasped as what little warmth left in me was violently drawn out. The dementor breathed in again and my heart felt like it was being sucked through of my ribcage. I tried to get up, but my trembling arms wouldn't support me. My vision began to grow hazy as I rolled onto my stomach and tried to crawl away from a fate worse than death. There was something trapped underneath me, digging into my side. I reached down to move it, and when my fingers brushed against it a wave of warmth shot up my arm.
I grasped the hilt and felt a cleansing fire fill my veins as my strength returned. The dementor above me make an curious hissing noise and halted its advance, but I didn't wait for it to figure out what had happened. With unnatural skill, I vaulted to my feet and drew the sword in one smooth motion. This time, it wasn't just reflecting too much light, it was actually glowing brightly enough to notice, even in daylight. Oddly, the powerful silvery light didn't affect my eyes, but it did cause the dementor to flinch away and cover its face. I didn't let it get far, dropping into a perfect fencer's stance and stabbing the foul thing directly in the heart.
White fire erupted from the wound and it howled in absolute agony, a sound like broken glass and needles being shoved into my ears. It pulled away from me, trying to put out the flames with its hands, but every part of the creature that the fire touched instantly became engulfed as well. In a matter of seconds, the dementor had been reduced to greasy black ashes that were rapidly blown away by the wind.
I stared, wide-eyed and amazed, before remembering that there were still many more dementors. When I raised my head, I realized that, they too, were staring at what had happened in disbelief. For a few brief seconds, the rattle of the train was the only sound, as I looked at them and they looked back at me, neither of us really understanding what had just occurred. It was hard to read the dementors, but something about the way they held themselves told me that, maybe for the first time ever, they were truly afraid of something. It didn't last long. A ripple seemed to go through the assembled monsters, and fear was abruptly replaced by a new emotion.
They howled like rabid dogs and rushed at me in a seething mass. Again calling on skills I'd never had before, I settled into a defensive stance; sword held out before me and weight resting lightly on the balls of my feet. Four of them reached me at the same time, and I whipped Gryffindor's sword around and over my head before swinging it in a great arc that decapitated the first wave. I continued the momentum of the slash, spinning around to slay another dementor who was following on their heals, then reversed the blade to stab one more who had tried to sneak up behind me.
Time and thought melted away, until all that was left was instinct. The instinct to fight, to survive. Again and again, the dementors threw themselves against me, and each time they were turned back by a flashing blade and gouts of pure white flame. They tried to circle around me, but I continued to back up the length of the train, until I found myself standing on top of the lead car, with nowhere left to go. Gryffindor's sword thrummed in my hand, filled with seemingly limitless power, but the arm that held it was beginning to tremble with fatigue. My mouth had gone dry from exertion, and my breath was coming out in raw, ragged gasps.
I cast my eyes out at the remaining dementors and cursed. I must have killed fifty or sixty of them, but there were still more than a hundred left over. They knew that I was tiring, and moved as if with one mind, streaking in and backing off before they got too close, feinting, trying to wear me down before they closed in for the kill.
My mind raced, but I couldn't see any way out. It was a death trap, and the jaws were ready to come crashing down on me. Oddly, I felt a sudden calm come over me at that realization. If I really was going to die, then there was hardly a better way to go out than this, facing down impossible odds against an nightmare enemy, in order to protect dozens of innocent people in the service of a noble cause. It was a good kind of death, a true Gryffindor death. I felt a feral grin slide cross my lips, baring my teeth. If it was going to be a fight to the finish, then so be it... but it wasn't going to be on their terms, and I sure as hell wasn't going to be the only one to die.
I gathered my strength, preparing to rush at the swarm of dementors, and cut down as many of them as possible before the end, but just before I did, I felt a shift in the energy that was streaming from the sword. Before, it had been hugely powerful, but alien to me, like the feeling I had gotten at Ollivander's shop before I came to Hogwarts, when I had tried to use wands that weren't meant for me. Now the thrum of power began to resonate and build, touching something inside of me and joining with it like two drops of water coming together. It was as if the sword became a part of me, it's power becoming my power. I glanced down at it in confusion and saw the rubies in the hilt darken into vivid green emeralds. The blade was no longer etched with the name "Gryffindor", but rather had changed to a stylized "Potter". I didn't know how I knew what to do, but I took the sword, no longer belonging to Godric Gryffindor, but now fully mine, in both hands, and raised it to the sky.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!" I roared.
The entire world was annihilated by white light. Over the sound of the train and the wind rushing through my ears I could hear high-pitched, tormented screams, like the sound of a million souls roasting in the fires of hell. The smell of burning, rancid meat assaulted my nose as the power of the sword reached out to wash away the unnatural monstrosities. I could feel it, like a living thing, hunting them down and scouring them from the face of existence. The power built to a crescendo and began to fade, it's work finished.
Suddenly, the ground was jerked out from beneath my feet. I felt myself sail through the air and the back of my head came crashing down onto something that didn't give an inch. More white light filled my vision, but there was nothing magical about it this time. Vaguely, I was aware of flipping over backwards and tumbling head over heels, my limbs flying in every direction, until I landed face down in a heap.
Darkness rushed out to meet me, and I gladly welcomed it.