The fallout from last chatper continues...
Disclaimer - Harry Potter belongs to someone else. This is a work of fanfiction.
Acknowledgements - All the usual folks IP82, ChuckDaTruck, Nukular Winter, Sirius009 and Nonjon helped to make this chapter what it is. Beta work by FairyQilan. Though this chapter is being posted prebeta.
Chapter 24 - Divided Loyalties
"Come on Abbott. You were willing to kill me a minute ago. I'm giving you the chance you didn't give me a second ago. Go ahead Remus. Give him his wand back. I won't hurt him - much."
Everyone in the room looked upon the cold expression on the face of Harry Potter. His luminous green eyes were narrow slits of anger. A trickle of blood ran down his cheek gashed from the glass window he had been tossed out of a moment ago. Several scrapes and other minor cuts decorated his arms.
"I don't think I should give him his wand back Harry." Remus Lupin said each word very slowly. "We need to take a step back and calm down."
"Indeed, Mr. Potter. Harry please lower your wand. Peter exercised poor judgement. He was under the impression that you were threatening his eldest daughter." The still raspy voice of Albus Dumbledore intervened.
Harry ignored both of them. "What makes you think you could succeed where Voldemort failed? I told your daughters to stay out of my business, but they couldn't follow a single, simple request could they? I'm out trying to stop Voldemort and end this war. The way my so called 'allies' treat me is making me wonder why I am even bother. I killed two men tonight, if you can call Lucius Malfoy a man. I fought Voldemort again tonight. Look at Dumbledore. That is what happens when you try to go after him in a stand up fight. Why am I even justifying myself to you? I come back only to find that Ginny is in agony because your daughters can't leave well enough alone. Breaking into her mind, for something this stupid! Thinking I was cheating on Susan! I barely have time in my life for her! I don't even want to subject her to my life - much less somebody else!"
"What did you do to my daughter?" Peter Abbott said with false bravado trying to steer the conversation in a different direction. Potter's wand wasn't pointed directly at him at the moment, but that could change anytime now.
"The same thing they did to Ginny. Showed her what it is like when someone breaks in to your mind. Hannah at least had the means to defend herself. Apparently, I got the wrong sister. Hannah only stole Ginny's wand and bound her while Chelsea mind raped Ginny. Obviously, blatant overreacting to a situation runs in the family. You could have stunned me or bound me. Instead, you banished me right out the window. Give me a reason not to make it three men that I've killed tonight."
"Harry!" came Molly Weasley's distinctive shrill cry. Other's joined in with shouts of shock and surprise that Harry had killed someone.
"Mr. Potter!" his head of house shouted.
"Enough!" Dumbledore croaked trying to regain control of the situation, while trying to analyze Harry's statement.
Harry spun to the group of wizards and witches surrounding him. "No! It's enough when I say it's enough! Which one of you almost died tonight? Which one of you fought Voldemort tonight? Most of you can't even say his fake name without quivering in fear!"
Dumbledore started to speak, but Susan's loud voice carried over the rest of the others as she limped towards Harry and put her hand on his shoulder. "Harry, stop this now! There's been enough fighting, anger and dark magic! You don't want to duel Mr. Abbott."
"Who says I want to duel him? I just want to show him what being banished out a fourth story window feels like."
"Harry, please calm down. We have other matters to discuss. There is no need... ." The headmaster started.
"I'll handle this if you don't mind." Susan said coldly cutting off Dumbledore. She looked back at Harry in exasperation. "If you and Mr. Abbott fought, they would be scraping pieces of him off the walls. You'd destroy him, which is exactly why you will not fight him. You don't need to fight everyone, Harry. Not every second is a life or death situation. Violence can't solve everything!"
"Funny with no Portkey, I would have gone splat a minute ago. So, I am just supposed to let this go? Walk away? Like nothing happened?"
"Yes! No! Fuck! I don't know Harry, but what's it going to solve? Is he really your enemy? Is he the one you want to kill? Beating the snot out of him proves what? That you're stronger? Might doesn't make right! Is what you just did to Hannah any more right than what they did to Ginny? You were wrong! She was wrong, but dammit, she's my best friend! I'm practically a part of their family! If Hermione did anything like this would you look the other way while I went berserk? Leave here now! Go back to your house and calm down!"
"My house huh? So you're choosing them over me?" Harry's anger had a new focus.
"No, you idiot! Didn't you understand a word I was saying? Don't be so thick!"
"I must be, because I think you've made yourself perfectly clear." Harry said brushing her hand off his shoulder. "Fine, I'll go back to my house unless you want to curse me again, Susan. Peter wasn't the only one to curse me this evening was he? If I hadn't been blinded by you, that banisher would have never gotten near me. You can stay here with your family. I don't need you. I don't need any of you." Harry's voice spit out her name with a rancor normally reserved for Snape or Malfoy. He went right back to the floo and disappeared.
Susan stood there with an ashen face and angry tears in her eyes staring at the flickering flames. She slowly turned and looked at all the silent faces in the infirmary, most of which stared back at her in shame.
Peter Abbott moved up next to her and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Susan, you should rethink you relationship with him."
He had barely finished the sentence when her cane smashed into his gut doubling him over. "How dare you! I just saved your life and you have the gall to say that! He was going to kill you! I had the situation under control and then you come in here and almost kill him. Harry thinks I betrayed him by stopping him. Try and hurt him again and you won't have to worry about what he will do to you. You'll have to worry about me!"
Utter silence followed her outburst as she used her cane and moved slowly to the door. Supporting herself with one hand on the stonework beside the entrance, she turned again to the crowd. When she spoke her voice was a straining with barely repressed anger, "He's trying so hard to save you all. How many sixteen year olds are willing to become killers for people they barely know? I'm trying to save him from himself. Don't make my job any harder than it already is."
Harry stumbled out of the floo and caught himself. Sturgis Podmore stepped in from the parlor. "Harry are you okay? You're bleeding. What happened?"
"Stupid bloody wankers! All of them!" Harry yelled and began casting some minor first aid charms on his arm. Sturigs offered to take care of the wound on his face as he tried to clear his head. If he had a choice between cursing Peter Abbott or Severus Snape right now it would be a tough decision. He wanted to destroy something or someone. There was nothing immediately available and destroying his property didn't sound like fun. However, Harry had a better idea.
"Want to talk about it? If you don't want to that's okay. We could also see who can drink the other under the table?"
"No. Thanks for your offer though. I'm a lightweight when it comes to alcohol." Harry shook his head. "I need to go firecall the Minister. I have some information for him." Harry fully intended to attach a price tag to his information. He was going to destroy something tonight.
"Did you let Dumbledore know?"
"No didn't get a chance. The Order is so short on fighters that they wouldn't be able to do anything about it. Besides, I have had about as much of the Order as I can stomach tonight. - present company excluded." Harry liked Sturgis. The Minister was still pushing through his pardon. Rufus had promised that it would be finalized within a week. The hamster animagus was looking forward to meeting up with his family in Switzerland after his pardon. Until then he had been keeping Harry company, giving some transfiguration and animagus pointers. "Tomorrow, I want your help. I might have found a way to make some substantial progress on becoming an animagus."
"Harry, we haven't even finished the potion to determine if you can become one." Sturgis said conjuring a temporary comb. "Here, brush your hair. It looks like there is still some glass in there. People don't just decide to become an animagus in a week."
Harry just shook his head and brushed some of the glass from his hair. A quick word to Dobby and a moment later Harry's body armor appeared in its holding case. He grabbed some floo powder and whispered the Minister's private floo address. For a brief minute, Harry spoke with one of the aurors assigned to Scrimgeour's protective unit before the Minister was summoned into the room.
"Harry, I am temporarily lifting the restriction on access. As soon as the flames turn blue on your end you can come through."
A minute later Harry stepped through into the Scrimgeour parlor. Two aurors had their wands trained on him. "Apologies Harry, security precautions and all that. We've had to increase our protection level lately. If you would be so kind as to surrender your wand to one of my bodyguards and well sit down and have a chat."
"What happened?" Harry said handing his wand to the waiting auror and was checked for a second wand.
"Mother In Law problems."
"Someone used an imperio on my dear Mother in Law. I always used to joke with Laura, when we first married that her mother would kill me if she had the chance. I never dreamed it would actually happen. What can the ministry do for you this evening Lord Potter?" Rufus casually dismissed the attempt on his life and gestured for the aurors
"I have learned some information that I need to share; the location of three of Tom Riddle's safe houses. It's guaranteed reliable."
"May I ask where you got this information?"
"The mind of a death eater - Peter Pettirgrew was Riddle's secret keeper. He should be dead now. Blaise Zabini and Marcia Compton have been freed and are at Hogwarts. They had Viktor Krum and some other witch as well. Lucius Malfoy is dead. You should be able to use this for some favorable press."
"I was under the impression that Dumbledore was in no position to launch any assaults right now after the last one." Scrimgeour said clearly amazed at the developments. He allowed himself the luxury of a moment to savor how this could be spun to his advantage.
"It wasn't Dumbledore sanctioned."
"I didn't realize you had your own group of supporters. May I be so bold as to ask how many you have?" Rufus considered this an even better turn of events.
"You're looking at all of them. It's just me, myself and I." Harry said with a hint of disgust in his voice.
"Going solo, isn't advisable Harry. You are a very powerful wizard, but even the powerful one's get in over their heads. If you ever find yourself in that situation again, contact me and I'll get you the back up you need. Now that I have given you a token scolding, damn fine work! Give me the locations and I will have strike teams ready to go in two hours."
"I want to go along."
"Harry, it sounds like you've done enough this evening. Let someone else shoulder the burden. My aurors should be more than capable."
"Call it excess rage. I want to blow something up tonight. I'd rather it be a Death Eater safe house. Otherwise, I am going to destroy a bunch of stuff I own. This seems more practical."
"Still, I do not think this is wise." Scrimgeour said halfheartedly. He already knew where this was headed.
"It's my price for the information. Besides, we could be there together and really help your cause." Harry offered an olive branch.
"Very well, have you set a price for your retainer?" Scrimgeour asked knowing that this indeed could go a long way towards furthering his cause.
"I'm sorry. I don't understand."
The Minister rummaged around in his pocket. "I made you a hit wizard. They don't work for free. I'll need to retain your services for this raid. I have two galleons, three sickles and a knut. Will that suffice?"
Harry smiled and pocketed the money. "Sir, you've just rented yourself a hit wizard. I've already got my armor with me. I haven't thanked you for it have I?"
"No, if you've sent a thank you note it hasn't reached my desk yet, but I'll excuse the social faux pas. You have been very busy it seems. I'll grab my kit, kiss the wife, and we'll floo to headquarters and get this raid going."
Susan buried her head in the pillows. The room she had been sharing with Harry in the Ravenclaw tower seemed even emptier devoid of his presence. Her weak link with Harry had allowed her to feel his out of control rage. She thought her heart had stopped as he was thrown through the window. She couldn't sense him seconds after that and thought he was gone. For those brief seconds scanning out into the darkness, she felt like she had lost her Mum and Aunt all over again , only to have him come flying out the floo looking to kill Hannah's father.
She stopped him. Susan doubted that anyone else could have gotten him to back down. She knew she had paid a price for stopping him. He saw what she did as a betrayal. That much was certain. When he calmed down she would reason with him.
"I heard a little of what happened. Want some company?" Hermione Granger's voice came from the doorway.
Susan wiped her tear streaks off on the pillow and looked at the girl most of the school assumed Harry was destined to end up with. "Not particularly, but come on in Hermione."
"Thanks. Ron will be along in a moment." The female Gryffindor entered and sat on the bed next to the one Susan was occupying. "Funny, I always figured I would be having these conversations with a different red head. How is Ginny? I heard that she was in the hospital wing."
Susan began to explain as Ron entered carrying a tray bearing a tub of rocky road ice cream and three bowls. Susan didn't leave anything out, but made sure they put up privacy wards before continuing. Both were shocked to learn what Harry and Ginny were up to. She described watching Harry through the enchanted mirror free the hostages, kill Lucius Malfoy and encounter Voldemort. She couldn't hear the conversation and had no explanation why Harry sat down and talked to him. She finished with the encounter in the infirmary and Harry's angry departure. They were repulsed by Harry's use of Dark Magic, but seemed to shake it off rather quickly.
"Ron, take the ice cream back and bring two six packs. This calls for more than comfort food."
"Mione, you've already had a couple. Are you sure you want more?"
Ron nodded and called for a house elf named Sappy. The little house elf took the ice cream away and reappeared with two six packs of something called Kirin.
"What's that?" Susan wondered if it was a new flavor of butterbeer.
"Oh that's a brand of Japanese beer. Here have one."
"How on earth did you get the house elves to bring you alcohol?" Granger was capable of doing some amazing things, but this was every Hogwarts student's fantasy.
"It's really Ron's doing. Sorry, I get a little giggly when I am tipsy. Do you remember how I kept campaigning to free all the house elves?" Susan cringed recalling SPEW all too well. "I see you do. Well, eventually the elves stopped doing things for me like my laundry, my sheets, ruining my food at mealtime and whatnot. I responded by trying even harder. I didn't mind doing my own cleaning, but then they started hiding my books and my notes. Right before the OWLs, I was just about prepared to start hexing some sense into them. When we got here for the summer, Ron decided to intercede and negotiate a peace treaty between myself and the house elves of Hogwarts. For my part, I am allowed to make a two hour presentation four times a year to the elves on the benefits of seeking their freedom provided I no longer try to free them against their will."
"That doesn't explain how you got them to bring you real beer! Wow, this is pretty good." Susan said taking another swig.
"My dad belongs to a Beers from around the World club, this is my favorite. Anyway in return for my concessions the house elves were forced to make some concessions of their own. Apparently, the agreement they have with the headmaster not to provide alcohol has some loopholes in it. This is coming from my father's basement. So, it's Granger family property. They are merely delivering this cardboard container to me. The fact that it contains six bottles of beer is irrelevant. Also since it is my property, there is no currency transaction taking place. That restriction is in place so that students can't use house elves as personal shoppers during the school year."
Susan regarded Hermione with awe. The unofficial holy grail of Hogwarts was getting the house elves to provide alcohol. "Words fail me. No wonder you are the top of the year."
"I'm not. I'm number two in our class and there is pretty much no conceivable way I'll overtake the other person."
"Who is it then? It must be Padma or Lisa?"
"No. I passed them last year. They are number three and four. Being petrified my second year did a number on my grades. Everyone let me do make up work except for the potions master that shall no longer be named. Even Dumbledore couldn't make him let me do extra credit. So, I got an Exceeds Expectations in second year potions."
"So who's number one?"
Ron looked up with a smug grin on his face and said in a very serious tone, "I am."
Hermione laughed and spun at him giving him a pat on his shoulders, "Sure you are, Ron. You're number one in my heart, you silly delusional boy. No, the top student of our class is none other than Mandy Brockelhurst."
Susan, who had almost snorted a mouthful of beer with Ron's false statement barely controlled her second gagging. "Wait a minute! I have never seen her at our study groups. She's always snogging Terry like the test answers are written on his tonsils and her tongue can read Braille. You've got to be kidding? You're not! How?"
"She has a near photographic memory with over ninety percent total recall. She reads a book and six months later - she can quote you page and paragraph almost without fail. It's sickening, really. She spends all her time working on her practicals so she won't slip up and the rest of her time with Terry. He doesn't seem to mind that he is near the bottom of the class. He's the lowest ranked Claw in the past fifty years and rather proud of it. I'm not disappointed though. She'll have the grades, but I have the fame. The people behind the chocolate frog company owled me, wanting to do Ron, Harry and I on their next set of cards. I'm reasonably certain that Mandy isn't going to end up on a chocolate frog card anytime soon, though you just might."
"Does Harry know about this yet?"
"No, I only got it two days ago. I'll talk to him about it before school starts if he ever gets a break. We're going to get him to donate his licensing fees to St. Mungo's like Dumbledore does. I was hoping to get you in our corner before we talked to him. Harry isn't in it for the fame, but it is still a great honor. Since Ron and I are older, he'd be the youngest person ever to be put on one."
Susan sobered. The tears were threatening again. Quietly she said, "I don't know how much help I can be right now. He thinks I betrayed him. Maybe, I'm the wrong girl for him?"
Hermione crossed over and sat down next to her. Susan thought, 'She's apparently more boisterous, after a bit of alcohol gets in her system.' Ron sat on Hermione's other side.
"Did you ever wonder why I didn't make a play for Harry? Lord knows everyone thought I was going to."
Ron looked on arching an eyebrow, "Should I be listening to this? Do I even want to know?"
"Oh pish, you! We've already had this discussion. You know you're the one for me. Susan, I didn't want to be Harry's girlfriend. I'm his best friend and I know what you're going through. I worry about him enough as it is! He has a way of consuming your life. I'd be an obsessive neurotic mess as his girlfriend, watching him go off and do all those things he does. I'm a control freak and he has authority issues."
Ron interrupted with a mocking laugh. "I disagree. Harry doesn't really have authority issues. They have issues with him, but you're spot on about the control freak thing." He was forced to duck a pillow.
"Prat! Harry deserves unconditional support, while having precious little to spare in return. Don't get me wrong, it's not his fault he is stuck in the center of a war. I'd never be the best I could be in his shadow, which is exactly where I would have been. I want to be known for my achievements first and not for who I happen to be dating. Harry and I would be too competitive together. He's so powerful. We wouldn't have worked. I wouldn't be able to win unless he let me and it would piss me off. Basically, the same reason I can't date Mandy." Hermione stopped to let her last outlandish statement sink in, before laughing uncontrollably for a minute. She proceeded to smack Ron as he mentioned that he was trying to picture it.
"If he didn't have this war hanging over his head, all those other things, and Snape for five years, he probably could have been top of the class, or more likely a pranking plague that would put his father's little group to shame. I wonder who his little helper would have been? Any ideas, oh boyfriend of mine?"
"We would have been better than his dad, easily. Anyway, what my slightly drunken girlfriend is saying is that with me, she only has to worry about being the second prettiest person in the relationship, getting over her chess inferiority complex, and being humbled by my vastly superior knowledge of what matters the most - quidditch. I plan to support her quest for world domination every step of the way."
Hermione paused shaking her head at Ron's false pompousness taking another long drink from her beer and giving her boyfriend a sidelong glance before again smacking Ron playfully on the arm. "But I'll still have plenty of time to worry about Harry, while curling up with this pillock."
Susan noticed Ron swell with pride at Hermione's statement. She was surprised how a little alcohol could make Hermione so feisty. "So where does this leave me with Harry?"
"You're doing the right thing. Standing by him and stopping him from doing something he'll regret. He'll realize it to eventually, though getting him to admit it will be a feat in itself. Harry isn't good with his feelings as a result of upbringing. He has authority issues. Hmm I already said that didn't I? Well it's worth repeating. He has attachment issues. I had thought he would have intimacy issues, but that seems not to be the case. Next time you see him, you show him that you have no intentions of turning on him. He'll resist you, but I've seen you can hold your own against him and for Merlin's sake don't be a push over. He'll lose respect for you. Stand your ground in a fight with him. If you're wrong, admit it and take your punishment. If you aren't then don't you dare roll over on him and give up without a fight! Now do you see why I didn't want to get involved with him? Susan, you've signed up for your own personal war and it will outlast the current war for a few years. Ron and I will be here for you as well as Harry."
Ron smiled at Susan, "Don't ever make me say this in public, but I think you're doing a better job than Ginny could have. After Hermione told me all this, I sat back and thought about it. I don't think she is up to the task - maybe in a few years, but not now. I hope this oath breaking isn't too serious on her. There's still twenty-five minutes before lockdown, I'm going to get Fred and we'll go check on Ginny. You two stay here and do that 'Girl Talk' thing. If you need me to try and talk some sense into Harry, just let me know."
"Thank you both. I just hope Harry isn't doing something rash and stupid right now." Susan said giving them both a hug.
"So that's it. You're leaving. The first sign of difficulties and you're going to bail. Can't say I'm surprised. Well good riddance!" Bill muttered with a hint of frustration and anger. It had been a bad idea to get involved with a teenager - a really bad idea. He had been the envy of the other guys at the bank, but having a nineteen year old girlfriend wasn't without a downside. It was especially difficult when his soon to be ex-girlfriend was not used to someone being able to resist her charms and stand up to her. In a way, she was not as mature as he had expected. It probably came from having males cater to her every whim. Bill wondered if the only thing she was attracted to had been his looks and his ability to resist her. The young beauty in front of him looked suddenly superficial. The sex had been good, great even, but it wasn't worth begging over. Nothing is worth that.
"I have already given my notice to the bank and told the Headmaster that I will work for his agenda back in France. The Veela remain neutral at the moment, but may very well follow the way of the French Vampires. We had fun William, but I am not ready to settle down. I also don't like being in a war zone." Fleur said. Both knew she was lying. It was his scars. The wounds inflicted by that vampire and contaminated with the creature's blood hadn't healed very well. Bill noticed that on the few occasions since his injury that they had gone out on the town, she had walked on his opposite side refusing to look on his wounds. She had canceled three dinners with him last week and the best reason he could come up with was that she was ashamed to be seen out in public with his scarred visage.
In the days following his injury, she had smothered him with affection and talked of taking a vacation to a villa owned by her family. That talk died when the bandages came off. It was replaced with talk of seeing cosmetic specialists. Bill mentioned that he couldn't afford it. His monies from Sirius Black had already been invested in some high yield short-term ventures and could not be liquidated for twelve months without a substantial penalty. Fleur had replied that he should ask his parents, or Harry for the money, perhaps getting a loan, and she even went so far as to hint that she could ask her parents. He didn't consider the matter that urgent, but apparently she did. It was their first but not last fight on this topic. The smothering affection ended shortly after that.
"That doesn't explain why you are moving out of here now. If I hadn't gotten off shift early, I wouldn't even have known. Let me guess, you were going to leave a fucking note, weren't you?"
"An old classmate of mine is putting me up for the remainder of my time here in England. Staying here would be too uncomfortable for us both. It is for the best. Don't make this harder than it already is." He wondered how many other of Fleur's boyfriends had been on the receiving end of similar lines. She wasn't even slipping into her French accent, which she did almost every time she started to get emotional. Bill knew enough to understand that she was just 'owling in' this performance.
"Well as long as it's what's best for you, have fun with that Aimee girl. Don't let the floo burn you in your ass on the way out." He said with a hint of bitterness. She chose to ignore his comments.
"I think I have everything. Here is the address where I will be staying if you come across anything else. Only use it, if you consider it to be urgent. I will do my best to maintain a professional relationship for my last two weeks at the bank. I hope you will do the same. I really wish you the best and don't want our breakup to affect your future with the Goblins."
Bill laughed. She expected him to turn into some kind of lovesick stalker. "Fleur, don't flatter yourself! I'm not one of those simpering boys that follow you around all the time. Your little charms don't turn me into a gibbering baboon. Without them you're just a pretty face with an immature personality. Trust me, even if I do get these scars fixed, it will be a cold day in hell before I take you back. Go back to dating people you can control, but you know you'll never find something that lasts with them. Maybe one day when you grow up, you'll realize that."
Bill watched as his verbal slap penetrated her well-practiced and rehearsed break up speech. She hurled a string of French vulgarities at him so fast he couldn't keep up and apparated out of his flat with a very loud crack. He watched the empty space where she had been for a minute or two before his glowstone started flashing and emitting a whistle. Gringott's was reactivating his team of cursebreakers at this time of night after just getting off a shift. He slipped on his body armor back on and wondered what the latest crisis was.
Director Dawson stood up in the front of the room. "Condition One operational security is in affect. No members of this briefing will be allowed near a floo. You are not to leave the building except via the Portkey pad. This is a Search and Destroy mission. We have three targets tonight. The first and highest priority is a small country manor in Essex near Chelmsford. It is the area in which we should expect the most resistance. Our intel suggests that the Dark Forces have been quartering some of their foreign fighters there. An agent was dispatched there an hour ago and confirms that there are wards in place consistent with the wards used by other havens of the enemy."
"How many Death Eater's are we expecting?" A voice from the crowd asked.
"Eight to ten. Alpha and Beta Strike teams will consist of eight aurors in each Perkins and Lydell are in charge. Charlie Break will consist of three cursebreakers from Gringott's and their hitwizard escort, Mr. Potter with Senior Cursebreaker Weasley is in charge. Delta Command will consist of myself, Minister Scrimgeour, two additional aurors, a combat photographer, and Ms. Rita Skeeter - who is here as a special guest of the Minister to cover tonight's festivities. The Minister and I are in overall command. Echo Forensics will consist of four DMLE evidence recovery personnel."
Harry met Bill's shocked eyes. He could feel the weight of the gazes on him. He looked over at Rita, who looked very uncomfortable in a DMLE issue combat vest. Harry didn't let the glares bother him. He had fought the Dark Tosser tonight. Lavender had been just as stunned to see Harry follow the Minister and his two aurors into Headquarters.
"Beta Strike will run the floo jammer, anti-portkey, and anti-apparition wards while Charlie Break drops the enemy wards. When the wards are down, Charlie Break will assume responsibility for the anti-escape wards and Beta Strike will shift into assault mode. Alpha Strike will lead the assault from the east. Beta Strike's best approach is from the South. Delta Command will be positioned to the Southwest and commit only if necessary. Echo Forensics will remain at Auror HQ until summoned once the hostiles have been neutralized. Elimination of the threat is first priority. Take prisoners where you can, it is important that we learn the extent of his foreign recruitment, but the priority remains elimination of the target. Orange sparks followed by three cannonblast charms is Sauve Qui Peut. It will be signaled from the Southwest by Delta Command only. Fallback via portkeys to Headquarters, if it becomes necessary. When target one is secure, the Minister and I will confer and make the decision to proceed to target number two. Questions? None? Very well, target number two is a ..."
Harry listened trying to soak in every detail. He was moderately impressed by the professionalism of the acting Director of Magical Law Enforcement. The aurors asked several questions and received various answers. The Minister and Director Dawson agreed to use one strike force rather than trying to assemble more personnel and risk the possibility of losing the element of surprise. The briefing concluded after ten more minutes with the Director announcing Assembly on the Departure pad in five minutes. Several aurors stepped behind partitions to don their protective gear. Bill moved in on him like a hawk.
"Evening Harry, what in blazes are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you to Bill. I am your hit wizard escort this evening."
"Do they know you are here?"
"Well since you are a member of 'they' and you know I am here, then the answer to your question is yes. Oh don't give me that look Bill. Where in Merlin's name do you think they got this intelligence?"
"Later. I'm about to get a bug problem. I'm surprised it took her that long to get over here. Never a fly swatter around when you need one." Bill turned to see Rita Skeeter approaching.
"Well, well, Hit Wizard Potter, I am impressed. It's so very nice to see you again Harry. Do you have a moment?"
"Perhaps later Rita. I was just discussing my role with the Cursebreaking team leader. We have details to finalize before we depart, so if you will excuse us. I am sure the Minister will want to speak with you. He did arrange for you to come along on such short notice." Harry smiled and dismissed her. "What do you need from me Bill?"
"Once we begin chanting keep us covered. We're mostly immobile while we are doing the anti-escape curses. Use spells, rocks, wood and anything else you can find to shield us. If nothing is going on, watch me. I'll be doing the floo jammer. By the end of the night, I might need your help with it. It is one of the most draining chants you can do. As for breaking down the wards, if I signal for you to do it I want you to unleash you're biggest, nastiest stuff against their shielding. You're one powerful lad. We could knock their wards down by stealth, but it would take hours. We don't care if they know we are coming, so this is all about brute force."
"I'll use the same spell Susan used in Gringott's."
"Oh the one that destroyed one of the Gargoyles? That'll do nicely. Remind me sometime and I'll swing by and teach you some basic ward hammers. How are the two of you getting along?"
Harry shook his head and muttered. "Not so great right now. Some things happened tonight. Ginny is in the infirmary. She's out of danger, but someone forced her to violate an oath of secrecy that she swore to me. There were some angry words exchanged, I was thrown out of the infirmary window, and to make a long story short - I am here and I am looking to blow something up."
"When this is over, I want the long story. You said Ginny's out of danger. Is she hurt?"
"I don't know. The moment I got into the ward, I released her from her oath. She's with Poppy and she's resting. That's all I can tell you. How's Fleur?"
"Wouldn't know. Bitch just left me five minutes before I got here. Want's to go back to France. Aren't we a pair of lonesome losers? When they signal for the forensics team, we'll have about fifteen minutes before moving on to the second target. I'll put up a privacy ward and you'll tell me as much as you can, deal?"
"Deal. I promise you, I wouldn't have made her swear the oath if it wasn't necessary."
"I know. Come on. Let's go to the platform. You ready for this?"
Harry took his position with the rest of the Charlie Break team. They were handed a small hoop. Five seconds later they were whisked to their staging area.
"Okay team, let's tear them down! Geoff, Sandy take down the perimeter wards. I'll scan for traps." Harry watched the two cursebreakers start chanting a long and complex incantation. A faint glow began surrounding the property. Bill fired a ward hammer. It slammed into the shields with a resounding gong. "Harry, blow through that shield." He said and launched into his own chant making several different auras glow. Harry felt the anti-apparition wards slam down from the Beta strike team.
"/Tero atque Contrucido'!"/ The slow beam of energy started moving towards the property. Harry felt the same pull on his power Susan described. The aura's flared and pulsed as the siege engine spell started pushing through wards and hitting the shield protecting the building.
The female cursebreaker whistled while taking a deep breath to prepare for her next incantation. "I apologize Mr. Potter. I thought you and that reporter being here was some kind of stupid publicity stunt. That spell is no publicity stunt." Harry could only grunt in reply, as he poured his energy into the siege engine spell. Bill instructed the two to destroy the layers of traps he had illuminated while he joined in with his own spells. Blasters and other spells joined in from what could only be Alpha Strike team. The wards lasted only another minute under the combined assault. Several curses started coming out the windows. Harry and Bill's spell collapsed the shield. The spell smashed through the door and continued into the house.
Harry sagged into the ground from the effort of smashing the wards. Bill, Geoff and Sandy started chanting the anti-escape curses. Harry organized some debris in front of him. He shielded a couple of curses, including using a rusted wheelbarrow to block a killing curse. It probably wouldn't have threatened anyone, but Harry didn't want to take a chance. A broom rider shot out of the second floor window dodging curses.
"Bill, the broom rider!" Harry said pulling his firebolt out and enlarging it.
"Alpha and Beta have breached. I am going to let up on the anti-floo and provide cover. Harry, run that fucker into the ground."
Harry kicked off the ground and headed on an intercept course. The rider was heading towards Delta Command and having to shield against curses coming from the ground and trying to climb to gain altitude. Harry slipped in behind him and concentrated on picking up speed. The other rider was on a fast broom, but it might even be another firebolt. Harry flattened himself on his broom and closed to within 10 meters. Any second, and the rider would be out of the warded area and free to apparate or portkey away. Though everything Harry had ever read said that a person trying portkeys or apparition at high speeds is at a greater risk for accidents. The rider turned just in time to dodge Harry's pair of stunners. With the element of surprise lost, Harry began hurling curses at the rider. He recognized some veteran moves on the broom. The rider was skilled. Harry dodged return fire. It was the killing curse.
'So that's the way he wants to be. Lacero! Impactus!" Harry began countering with violent curses. The cutter missed, but the bludgeoner slammed into the target and almost separated him from his broom. The sudden change in the target's speed caused Harry's next curse and the broom rider's curse to go wide of each other.
His prey pulled into a dive heading towards a cluster of trees. 'Trying to negate my speed advantage huh? Bet he'll be surprised when I don't slow down!' Harry jerked his broom and swerved left letting the jet of flames pass to his side. His opponent tapped his own head using a disillusionment spell and starting to fade from view. The riders broom would remain, but it would be a harder target to spot in the night sky. He focused on the broom like it was a snitch. This one wasn't going to get away. He would have to stop him before he entered the trees, otherwise the thin piece of wood could easily disappear into the night. Harry fired two blasting curses, which were dodged. It looked like his opponent would have a ten meter lead on him entering the forest. Harry prepared the spell he was certain would work. He would need to be closer to the trees. He needed to see which part of the forest he was going to enter. There!
"Animoare Arboris!" Harry yelled seconds before the disillusioned broom rider was to enter the forest. The two trees, which should have been a portal to freedom for the Death Eater instead became a wooden web of death as the limbs of the two trees became alive with magic and meshed together like a net. If Harry had to guess, the Death Eater hit that mess going somewhere in the neighborhood of One Hundred kilometers per hour. He heard a scream and a wet slapping sound. Harry braked and landed where he thought the body would be. Several Finite Incantems later a gory mess of what used to be a human being appeared. /"Accio Broom!" /Harry said gesturing into the forest. He felt a resistance to the spell. Walking into the forest he followed the feeling of resistance. It was either pinned or had anti-summoning charms placed on it. He found the broom. Casting a quick light spell, he found it was indeed a firebolt. A Bulgarian Flag and the name Piotr Levski were engraved on a custom handgrip. He remembered the name Levski from Krum's team. He had been a chaser.
Harry walked out of the forest carrying both firebolts. He shrunk Levski's and climbed back on his. It looked like the battle was all over. He headed towards the house.
"Potter did the broom rider get away?" Director Dawson asked. Over her shoulder, Harry could see Rita writing furiously.
"No. He's dead. The body is right by those trees." Harry said gesturing back behind him.
"Good that means no one got out to warn anyone else. Nice work Potter, we'll have one of the forensic team retrieve the body. Rejoin Charlie Break. Let your team leader know that it will be thirty minutes before we move to our second target."
"Harry! Please a moment of your time. What happened out there? Did you kill that man?"
"Indirectly, he tried to get away from me by trying to head into a forest. He was moving too fast and hit the trees." Harry didn't really feel like telling her the whole truth.
"How does this make you feel, knowing that a man is dead out there?"
"Rita, he was a Death Eater. I'm not happy that he died, but I am not going to lose any sleep over it. He worked for the same man that has been trying to kill me since I was a baby. He made his choice, when he took Tom Riddle's fancy tattoo. If he hadn't already killed someone, he was going to. If you are going to quote me make sure it is an accurate quote Ms. Skeeter - none of your usual embellishing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my team leader."
Harry walked back to alert Bill to the news. The three cursebreakers were relaxing and trying to regain their strength for the task ahead. Bill left the other two and moved over to speak to Harry.
"Bill set the privacy wards really tight. Keep an eye on Skeeter. If she makes one move over towards us, let me know. If you don't know she is a beetle animagus."
"Oh in that case, I'll put an insect repeller around us. That'll keep her back. Now spill." Bill commanded.
Harry took a deep breath. He knew that Bill didn't have the usual prejudices against the use of Dark Magic. He had pulled Harry aside and thanked him for his quick action in using the killing curse to save his life. Then again, last time Bill's baby sister hadn't been involved.
Author's notes -
It would have been a longer chapter, but real life is sending me to a family wedding. I know, like you care. Full discussion on Darklordpotter(dot)net.