Ballroom dancing had never been Harry's forte. In the other world, he had learned the basics during his fourth year at Hogwarts, as he had been required to open the Yule Ball held that year, and had stuck strictly to the basics ever since, whenever an occasion had demand that he hit the dance floor. In this world, his mother had once attempted to teach him how to ballroom dance, but she was no better at it than he had been in the other world.
As Harry danced with the beautiful brunette in his arms, he found himself wishing that he knew how to properly execute something a bit more impressive than keeping them in tempo with the orchestra and the other dancers around them. His dance partner, however, didn't seem at all concerned that he was only capable of the most basic of dance steps, merely guiding them confidently about the dance floor withoutinjuring her toes or bumping them into any of the other couples. Her smile was content and her hazel eyes were bright with silent curiosity, as she stared up at him. After the many excitable and flirty girls he had ended up dancing with throughout the course of the night, Daphne Greengrass was a surprise, as well as a welcome breath of fresh air.
With the last wine of the violin fading softly, bring with it the end of the movement, Harry spun Daphne to a stop, bowed, and kissed the knuckle of her gloved right hand, as tradition dictated. Straightening, he made to lead her off of the dance floor.
“My lord,” Daphne said, pulling them to a stop.
The next movement began, flutes rising in harmony with an upbeat tempo.
Daphne cast a furtive glance in the direction of their Hogwarts peers gathered at the edge of the dance floor a short distance away, her eyes narrowing ever so slightly at the group of older year males attempting to woe the prettiest girls into dancing with them. “I know it is improper for a lady to request a dance from a lord, especially one she barely knows, but would you grant me one more dance?”
Having not been looking forward to selecting another dance partners anymore than she appeared to desire to be selected by another of their peers, Harry smiled. “It would be my pleasure,” he said and pulled her close to him once more, his left hand retaking her dainty right and his right hand moving to cup the warmth of her bare shoulder blade.
As the current movement was far more upbeat than the last, the two fell swiftly into a fast pace waltz, gliding across the dance floor in step with the couples around them. Satisfaction radiated deep within Harry at seeing Daphne's eye light up with enjoyment, as they circled the dance floor faster and with more energy than they had previously.
They danced in silence, both following the crescendos of the orchestra and enjoying the reprieve of having the other to dance with.
“Thank you, my lord,” Daphne said with sincerity, upon the dance ending, and allowed Harry to lead her off the dance floor. “You dance well,” she said, once they were clear of the dance floor.
"You are a poised dancer yourself, my lady,” Harry complemented in return.
“Lady Daphne,” a wiry framed young man with a pompous air about his person interrupted, offering his hand to Daphne with clear expectation for her to take it shinning in his intense blue eyes.“May I have this dance?” he asked, sounding very much like the question was only perfunctory. His angular features set with arrogance that only came from being born into excess.
Looking like she would really rather not, Daphne placed her hand in Dunhan Talvace's extended hand and allowed him to lead her back onto the dance floor, casting a longing glance over her shoulder at Harry.
Harry stared after the pair, a part of him disgust with Dunhan for how much he reminded him of a dark haired, slightly older version of Draco Malfoy, while a entirely separate part of him longed for the man he had known in the other world.
“He was most displeased that you stole a second dance, my lord.”
Harry looked down and to his right. None other than Romilda Vane batted her eyelashes up at him. He cringed internally. She was barely older than his baby sister, making her so very extremely young and very much off limits in his eyes. Daphne and the other girls he had dance with so far had at least had the beginnings of curves to their hips and well forming breasts.
Spotting Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy chatting with a well built, auburn haired man and a willowy, dark haired woman in the shadows of the balcony not far from where the youngest of generations in attendance of the ball had gather – the four casting surreptitious glances in his direction – Harry excused himself from Romilda and made a beeline for the four. All four adults fell silent at his approach.
Harry put on his most charming smile and met Lucius Malfoy's superior, down the nose gaze with an unperturbed air, before flicking his eyes to meet Narcissa and Lachlan and Elodia Burke's down the nose gazes in turn. While Harry's nerves had been all over the place at the start of the ball – having only ever gotten used to having all eyes on him, never truly enjoying it, and having been not entirely sure about how good of an actual noble he'd make – he had settled into his role as Baron of the Peak with relative easy as the night had progressed and he steady grew more comfortable and confident of his new title, finding that the transition from war general to Lord Peverell came almost naturally to him.
“Lord Malfoy, Lady Malfoy,” Harry greeted Lucius and Narcissa with a half bow. “Lord Burke, Lady Burke.” He bowed to the Burkes.
The greeting Harry received in return was stiff. Lachlan, his square jaw tense and dark eyes narrowed, looked almost physically pained at having to acknowledge him as Lord Peverell, while Lucius, Narcissa, and Elodia were a bit more gracious about doing so.
“My lord,” Harry said, his focus settling on Lucius, “I was hoping –”he began, but was abruptly cut off.
The sudden and terrified screams from the dance floor had Harry whipping around so fast that his wand was only just hitting his hand, snapping out its holster strapped to his wrist, as he turned to face the onslaught. He couldn't even begin to assess what the source of the disturbance was, swarmed by frighten people as he was. The masses pushed in on him, rushing out and away from the dance floor in hopes of finding safety.
The orchestra screeched to halt up on the balcony, replaced by the snaps, bangs, and shouts of spell fire.
Looking up to the balcony across from him, Harry saw that the Aurors working security for the night, who had been station up on the balcony and at the doors, were locked in heated battle with dark robed men pushing their way into the hall, none of which sported the masks of a Death Eater but all of which fought just as dirty as Voldemort's elite had. It appear that the hostiles had rushed doors. And yet …
Harry gritted his teeth, as he pushed his way forward into the oncoming, fearful crowd, warm bodies crushing in on him on all sides and screams puncturing his ears. As he struggled through the crowd, his heart settled into a steady, purposeful rhythm in his chest and his every sense expanded and opened fully to the chaos around him –taking in not only the fear of the crowd and the ozone of dark magic scorching the air, but the tangible, hyper, free and uncontrolled magic pouring off of nearly every being within the hall. When he finally broke through the crowd, he stopped dead, met with a sight that he had known in his gut would be the one that would greet him.
A man with the familiar sleek gray hair and gnarled features of Ferdinand Macmillan had a hold of Neville with his walnut wand jab firmly under the boy's throat. Scanning the now nearly empty dance floor, Harry saw that his father, Frank Longbottom, and Kingsley Shacklebolt were the only Aurors on the floor and that the three were severely out numbered by the enemy. The entire Macmillan party: the elderly Agatha Macmillan, Joffrey Macmillan, a supposed Hit Wizard, Delphi and Serena Macmillan, Serena's date Vidal Harkiss, who was also supposedly a Hit Wizard, Louis Macmillan teamed with his date Katie Bell, Henry and Anna Macmillian, even Ernie had their wands split between the three Aurors and randomly aiming into the panicked crowd still attempting to flee, yet finding nowhere safe to retreat to with the hall's only exit blocked.
Acting on every bit of past experience he had with similar situations, Harry jabbed his wand straight up at the ceiling and fired off a sound blast. The resulting /BANG!/that resonated throughout the dance hall bordered on eardrum shattering.
A very still and deadly silence dominated the hall in the blast's wake, the loud bang having cut through the heated battles up on the balcony and the flight instinct of the ball attendees.
“Now,”Harry said, his voice normal volume, yet sounding extremely loud in the silence that had encompassed the hall. He stepped onto the dance floor, earning the complete and full attention of the enemy, the Aurors present, and the crowd around them. Glancing quickly up at the balcony, he took note that nearly two-thirds of the the Aurors had been captured or incapacitated, while the few who remained free and standing had been backed into the orchestra with no ground to give. Lowering his gaze back down to the situation at hand, he found himself facing several wands. Presenting the air of unconcern regarding the open hostility, he looked to his father on the opposite side of the dance floor. The man met his gaze steadily and Harry slipped into his surface thoughts without meeting even the slightest bit of resistance. He projected a single thought into his father's mind. 'Back off, or people will get killed.'
If there was one thing Harry was sure off at the moment, the last thing that they needed was for a full out battle to breakout with so many innocents to get caught in the crossfire. With how high tensions were running between the enemy, his father, Frank, and Kingsley, one wrong twitch by any one of them would be all that it would take to set off a devastating melee.
“I'd ask who you're working for, but considering your target, I believe it would be redundant and a waste of time, so let's just get down to it,” Harry said, as he returned his piercing gaze back to the impostor, who he suspected had polyjuiced himself as Ferdinand Macmillan, seeing as every last one of the Macmillan's eyes were clear of the Imperius Curse's influence and the attempted kidnapping of the Boy-Who-Lived was way out of character for a family that held Progressive values.
“I'd back off as well, my lord.”The impostor tighten his grip on Neville, causing Neville to flinch. The blond's blue eyes were wide with panic and fear and plainly begging for help.
Observing out of the corner of his eye that his father had been successful at getting Frank and Kingsley to back up a few steps, Harry took three powerful strides to his left, bring him closer to the center of the dance floor, yet maintaining an even distance from the impostor holding Neville captive. As he had hoped, the impostor's gaze followed him. The eye contact was so blatant that Harry could practically sense the man's mind, before he even reached out for it. The subtlest of brushes against the man's mind informed him that the man was an Occlumens; a poor one, but one that was decent enough to recognized a straight-up mental attack.
“I assure you, impostor, that there is only one way that this is going to turn out.” Harry spoke with frigid clarity, using all the danger and authority that had he had ever possessed as Porteur Demort, Grey Lord of Europe, in the other world. All the while he maintained a ready, yet loose grip on his wand and steady eye contact with the impostor. As he spoke his next words, he added a tonal inflection laced with his intent to his every word, using the most effective tactic that he knew of to externally generating a specific thought stream within the man's mind. One which he could use to slip into the man's mind undetected and ultimately mask his presence with. “You are going to tell me whether the Macmillans are alive or not and what you've done with them. You're going to order your men to surrender peaceful to the DMLE Officers present. And, lastly, you will release Neville Longbottom into the custody of Auror Longbottom here without so much as having drawn a drop of blood from his veins.”
“You think so?” the impostor asked mockingly.
Harry only faintly heard, let alone acknowledged that he had heard the man's jeer. Like a knife slicing through butter, he slipped into the man's mind, echoing his words amongst the man's surface thoughts and surrounding his presence with them. He could feel the man startle slightly before doing as most people generally do with a train of thought that they are uncomfortable with or don't care or want to think about. The man pushed the echo of Harry's commanding words towards his subconscious, rejecting them from his conscious mind with derision.
Harry silently assisted him with the endeavor, taking the express lane right into Idriz Demachi's essential existence. His passing between the man's conscious mind and subconscious mind went entirely unnoticed.
Being so close to Demachi's innate life force, Harry felt his stomach squirm queasily back in his body. Just reaching the slightest bit deeper, Demachi's very soul would be his play thing, if he so chose. He didn't care what any Necromancer said, just being close enough to touch another man's soul was plain wrong. As it was, his presence was encompassed with the feeling of Demachi's tainted and twisted essence radiating a stretch away from him – encompassed by the dark, deep hurt left by an abusive childhood, the helplessness and fear of what had once been a young child who had had no understanding of why what was happening to him was happening to him, and the rage and desperate need to reclaim control of an adult life that was still haunted by said terrible youth and the resulting guiltlessness of a man who had committed terrible atrocities without so much as batting an eye. Demachi's soul was in agony and it hurt Harry's soul to be so near it.
Desiring to free himself from the influence of Demachi's subconscious mind as quickly as he possibly could, Harry swiftly set about weaving his command into the man's vulnerable subconscious, making it a subconscious command for Demachi in its own right, as well as tapping into the fear Demachi had once felt as a child and associated it with an image of himself – effectively creating an undetectable, extremely powerful compulsion, one that wouldn't even be questioned in its origin once it was felt. Demachi would naturally attempt to resist it at first, but only a man with extreme mental discipline could win against his own subconscious and Demachi's mental discipline was far from perfect.
Once back in the present, having only missed but a few seconds, Harry pinned Demachi with a dark, sinister look – his face emotionless, yet his eyes filled with malice. It was a look that had sent Death Eaters running in terror in the other world and made all who fell under it question just how far he would go to get what he desired.
The subsequent flicker of fear across Demachi's face was impossible to miss. The man's unconscious loosing of his grip on Neville was even more noticeable.
Deciding to let the compulsion do the work for him, Harry stood still and silent, leaving the consequence of Demachi failing to comply with his demands to be made up by Demachi's imagination.
One second passed, then two … five … ten … twenty, then thirty. The hall remained silent, onlookers watching and hoping with baited breath. The enemy shift nervously, as the seconds stretched into a full minute.
“My patience wanes,” Harry warned, feeling the tension in the hall mounting to a break point. If Demachi didn't cave in the next few seconds, there was a very good chance that Demachi's men would take action of their own accord, setting off the melee that would injure, if not kill dozens of innocent bystanders.
“They're alive,” Demachi uttered so quietly that Harry barely heard him. The man looked momentarily stunned and somewhat panicked that he had betrayed himself, before he seemed to collapse in on himself and resign to the fear pulsing through him and the compulsion that his subconscious pushed upon more intensely by the second. “The Macmillans – they've been dosed with the Draught of Living Death,”he said louder, quickly and with a sense of urgencey. “They're –”
“Çfarëjeni duke bërë?”Serena Macmillan demanded of Demachi hotly, rounding on him with disbelief. “Vrasin këtë fëmijë dhe të bëhet me atë! Ja, unë do të bëjë atëpër ju!”
While Harry was capable of speaking and understanding seven languages and was fully fluent in three of those languages, Albanian was not a language he was all that familiar with. He knew enough about the language to recognize it, as well as to know that vras translated to kill or murder, depending on the context, but that was about as far as his knowledge of the language went. As Serena turned upon him with her wand raise, as if ready to strike, he got the hint that she was talking about killing him. He tightened his grip ever so slightly on his wand and prepared for the assault, hoping that her attack wouldn't spur the others to attack as well.
“Nuk ka!” Demachi yelled, his eyes going wide with terror as Serena took several steps towards Harry and brought her wand down in a slicing motion, initiating the beginnings of what would no doubt be a deadly curse. “Larg prej tij! Ai do –”
“He is in your head,” Serena hissed with righteous anger, her gaze affixed accusingly on Harry. “He is in your head controlling you. I heard their old man talking to their idiot minister. Getting inside peoples heads, that is what this Peverell is famous for. Why they fear him and whisper about him, while hoping he doesn't overhear! I will kill him and free you from his trickery. You'll see. This child is nothing compared to us.” She raised her wand again, preparing to execute her curse.
As she did, Harry dropped his right foot back and raised his own wand into a highly aggressive, offensive dueling stance. His heart sped by a heartbeat, thrumming an adrenaline fueled tattoo in his chest. He could poignantly feel the magic in the air around him, ready and willing to be used, energized and filled with nervous tension. He immersed himself in it.
Serena brought down her wand for a second time, her eyes wild and filled with the insanity of an undisciplined mind mucking about with the Dark Arts, and in that moment, Harry lashed out so swiftly and suddenly that any attempt to shield against his attack would have been futile. His wrist cut up and curled, jolting his own deadly curse tight and fast and perfectly aim at Serena's heart. She flew upwards, her back arching and her limbs falling limp. Her wand clattered to the floor from her slackened fingers and rolled away from her towards the edge of the dance floor. The dull thud of her petite body hitting the marble floor a heart beat latter – her blonde hair fluttering through the air as she descended and feathering out beneath her lifeless form – echoed throughout the hall.
Once more, a deadly silence reigned.
As if suspended in animation, no one moved. Wands were drawn and poised for attack. Muscles were tensed and prepared to run. Screams were etched on the faces of the innocent, yet released not even a decibel of sound.
Harry let out a slow breath and delicately refocused his gaze upon Demachi.
The man flinched.
“Give the command,” he commanded, leaving no room for argument.
“Surrender.”It was choked and barely audible, but clearly heard. “Surrender,”Demachi repeated, when not one of his men made to follow the order.
The dark robed men up on the balcony and the polyjuiced Macmillan party on the dance floor looked to their closest allies with uncertainty and askance.
“I am your leader!” Demachi exclaimed furiously. “Surrender!”
“A whole contingency of Aurors are waiting outside by now,” Harry projected his voice to the group before him and to the men up on the balcony. “The sound blast I set off would have alerted the wards to something being amiss, calling every able body Ministry official to the Atrium. Attempting to fight your way out is futile. Make things easier on yourself and surrender now, before more people get hurt.”
“'e's bluffing,” a man with a French accent accused, his grip tightening on the Auror that he held captive.
“He's not,” the Auror coughed out weakly. The poor woman looked like she'd been put through hell. Her eyes were bruise, her nose misshapen, and still drying blood glistened on her chin, whether from her broken nose or her visibly split lip Harry wasn't certain. “That blast would have even woken the wards around the Minister's office.”
“Lies!”a man further up the balcony and closer to the doors shouted.
“Then step outside and see for yourself, you imbecile. I dare you. If my godson says there are fucking Aurors outside, then there are god damn Aurors outside. Just give it up already. If there weren't so many people to get caught within the crossfire, you'd all be on the floor and bleeding by now.”
The irate, drunken huff of his godfather from somewhere within the crowd behind him very nearly made Harry smile. As things were, however, he was in the middle of conducting a hostage situation. Retaining his cultivate countenance, he called to his godfather. “Sirius.”
“Shut up,” Harry said plainly and left it at that, as he returned his attention to the task at hand. Looking back to Demachi, but focusing on Neville, he nodded over his shoulder towards where he knew Frank Longbottom to be. “Slowly,” he instructed.
It took Neville a moment to work out Harry's message and gather the bravery to test the waters by pulling away from Demachi. When Demachi didn't entirely let go of him, but didn't pull him back either, he took another tentative step away from Demachi. Then another, and another.
Harry smirked internally, as he watched the faces of the enemy. Some looked ready to grab Neville themselves, as the blond boy passed them, yet they hesitated, casting very wary glances in Harry's direction. The shift of power had been slow and subtle. And as they watched Neville walk past them towards Harry and his father beyond, the reality of just how little control they maintained became incontestably clear. The second flight instinct kicked in, Harry raised his wand.
“Aurors have more mercy than I,” he warned, flicking his gaze from one stolen face to the next, before scanning the balcony with the same deadly look. “Surrender.” The order was calm and quiet, but it's effect was instantaneous.
Defeat rippled throughout the enemy.