It's always darkest...just before the dawn
Daphne had Transfigured back to her normal looks and Disillusioned herself after joining Michael, Professor Sprout and Ron in the hallway outside the Hufflepuff common room. Tonks, Mad-eye and Bill made their way down to the Slytherin dungeon, where they found Cissa, also back to normal, throwing the oversized Slytherin uniform she’d “borrowed” to Tykey, who took it away, returning a few seconds later.
“Missy Cissa, if you is needing Tykey, you is just to call.”
“Yes, thank you, Tykey, you’ve been a great help. Good luck and be careful.” she answered, bending over to shake the house-elf’s hand.
Blushing furiously, he ducked his head. “You is to be careful, too, Missy Cissa; Dobby is telling me to tell you.”
“Oh, I just bet he did.” Cissa laughed as, ‘pop’, Tykey disappeared.
“I see you’re a hit with the house-elves, Aunt Cissa,” Tonks said, grinning as she walked over to give her aunt a hug.
“Obviously Dobby has put in a good word or two for me.”
Cissa turned toward Mad-eye Moody and greeted the old Auror, “Good evening …morning …night …what time is it anyway, Mad-eye?”
“Getting on to 3, I should think. Don’t use a watch, myself. So, I’ll say good early morning, Cissa,” Moody replied.
“And how are you, Bill?”
“Ready.” Bill looked around, checking the hallways and common room. “Let’s get into position, everyone. Mad-eye, Draco thinks you’ll just fit on the other side of that drinks cabinet. He put a strong shield charm on it, for safety sake.”
“I don’t need no shield charm, laddie!”
“It’s not for you, Mad-eye…it’s for the booze!”
“HA!HA!HA!HA!HA!” Tonks, Bill and Cissa exploded in laughter as they took their places. Then… they waited.
“After you have all assembled in the bathroom, each group will start toward their assigned position. Kill anyone who resists…EXCEPT…Harry Potter or Draco Malfoy, IF he has managed to somehow elude those two young fools I sent to the Slytherin dungeon. Bella?”
“Yes, Master?” she answered, bowing at his feet.
“Remember, I will enjoy seeing you rid yourself of your traitorous sister, so if you wouldn’t be too hard on her before you bring her and her son to the Great Hall?”
“No, Master, I will bring them to you and then exact my revenge for her actions.”
“Yes, and I will discern the location of your daughter, also, before you finish the job.”
“Oh, yes, Master, thank you, Master.”
“Yes, Master,” replied Bella’s husband as he knelt beside her.
“See to it she doesn’t go overboard, won’t you? I’d hate to have to orphan little Miss Malfoy altogether.”
“Yes, Master, I understand.” Rodolphus stole a sideways glance at Bella and saw she was seething at the Dark Lord’s insult.
Very well, then. All of you proceed, now, to…‘Moaning Myrtle’s’ bathroom, as I believe it’s called,’ Voldemort added with a smirk.
“Yes, Master,” they all chorused.
“Yes, Master?” The werewolf stepped forward.
Voldemort held out a sweater, which Greyback took and raising it to his nose, breathed deeply. The Dark Lord smiled.
“You have the Muggle’s scent?”
“Yes, Lord; I’ll have no trouble finding her.”
“Then the trip to that little hovel of a cottage belonging to Doctor Jones was worth the effort.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Draco and Gwen had just dealt with the third giant and he had dropped to the ground, face first. Arthur, Anna, Percy and Theo were casting concealing and silencing charms on the fallen figures and moving them off of the path. Working steadily, they had managed to stay down wind and out of hearing of the largest, still advancing two.
Suddenly, the second one stopped and turned around, looking for the others, who should have been right behind him. Puzzled, he took a few steps back toward the hillside. The group on the ground froze in their tracks. With a grunt, he swiveled and called to the leader, who halted and turning, growled a response.
Waving his arms, the other giant indicated the empty space between them and the surrounding landscape. The leader roared, calling the others…no answer. He started back toward the head of the valley when a huge rock whipped past his head. Spinning, he saw a figure by the Quidditch pitch; it was Grawp, who yelled a taunt at the two and then turned and ran off around the outside wall of the spectators’ stands.
THAT tore it! Both of the giants took off in pursuit, the head one yelling for his companion to go to the left while he followed Grawp off to the right.
The Inferi were struggling up the stairs, pelted with wax balls and dripping with lighter fluid. As they made it to the last landing below the terrace they found the way blocked and the stone balusters topped with wire fencing. Crowding onto the round landing they couldn’t find a way to continue toward their goal and milled about, kicking the charcoal briquettes lying thick under their feet, pawing at the fence and trying to climb the wire mesh. Unseen behind them, a gate had been closed, locking them in.
“Now!” Flitwick yelled.
“Incendio!” called the D.A. members, flames shooting from their wands, catching the Inferi on fire. George and Angelina dropped their load of fireworks and backing off quickly, watched the inferno blaze even higher.
On the other side of the school the Inferi had been herded into the stone monolith circle which was also surrounded by high wire fencing, several inches of soaked charcoal impeding their shuffling about.
“Incendio!” rang out from this group of defenders also, even as Fred and Katie added their supply of pyrotechnics to the rising flames.
The D.A. members stationed on the roof tops of Hogwarts had seen the fires erupting and understood that Voldemort would know he’d lost the element of surprise. The Dementors also watched as the billowing smoke and flames shot skyward. Silently they took flight and streaked across the lake, headed to the courtyard.
“Look!” Zack pointed at the swarm of grey figures flying toward the castle. He raised his wand.
“Wait! Something’s not right; they’re all sticking together, not splitting off the cover the school and it looks as if they’re headed…..right down there!” Harry added, with a quizzical look, pointing to the base of the Dark Tower.
Harry and Zack stood watching over the edge of the wall, down into the courtyard where the Dementors had landed. And the strange thing was they were just standing there, as if they were waiting for the Knight Bus. The two boys looked at each other, puzzled.
Dumbledore, who had been keeping an eye on things by way of the Marauder’s Map, was furious, but not really surprised, that Voldemort had sent the Dementors into the school grounds, but he was as puzzled as Harry and Zack as to why there weren’t advancing through the hallways.
“ ‘Mischief managed’ ” said the Headmaster, as he tapped the map and headed to the doors, placing the folded parchment in his pocket. “Dobby!”
“Maybe they’ve been told to wait for further instructions,” Zack ventured.
“Harry Potter, sir, I is having a message from Professor Dumbledore for you, sir.” Dobby tugged on Harry’s sleeve to get his attention.
“Yes, Dobby, what does he want?” Harry pulled his gaze from the Dementors and focused on the house-elf.
“Professor Dumbledore says you and the others is to fly down and stand on the roofs of the walkways, Harry Potter and keep the Dementors from leaving, sir. He is coming to the courtyard, now.”
“Ok, Dobby, you tell him we’ll take care of it. I’ll have to signal the others, first, though.”
“No need, Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby assured him. “He is sending some of the other house-elves to tell them, sir; you is to just lead them.”
“Alright then, Dobby, we’ll do it. Thank you.”
“That is quite welcome, Harry Potter, I is proud to be of service, sir.”
‘pop’ and he was gone.
“Right,” Harry said as he returned to the wall and looked down at the Dementors below. “Well, I guess there’s nothing for it but to put our Patronus spell to good use.”
He and Zack grabbed their brooms and took off. Colin, Dennis, Padma, Parvati, Lavender and Anthony joined them, circling high over the courtyard.
“Colin, Dennis, you take the side toward the greenhouses. Padma, Parvati, you land under the library windows. Anthony and Lavender, you two go right there opposite Padma and Parvati. Zack and I will be opposite Dennis and Collin. As soon as we land, we’ll get them covered so they can’t take off and get away. If you see any of them trying to get into the hallways, one of each pair send their Patronus to block the way while the other continue to keep them grounded.”
“What’s the Headmaster going to do with them?”
“Haven’t a clue. Let’s go before they spot us.”
The others nodded their heads and rode their brooms down to the roofs of the covered walkways surrounding the courtyard.
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” the D.A.s yelled. The white shapes of their various Patronus animals shot from their wands and started circling over the Dementors, who turned their hooded heads skyward in shock and confusion.
The Death Eater groups exploded from Myrtle’s bathroom, heading in half a dozen directions, even as Voldemort ascended the stairs from the underground tunnels, Wormtail with Nagini draped over his shoulders, following close behind.
Draco had Buckbeak swoop down past the giant circling the pitch on the left side and just as Gwen was leaning around him to take aim, the figure below stopped suddenly, causing Buckbeak to squawk and veer off to avoid colliding with him. Whirling, the giant saw the hippogriff and swung his club, with amazing speed, just missing the airborne trio…but Gwen, thrown off balance, lost her grip on Draco and, screaming, tumbled off of Beaky’s back.
“GWEN!” Draco yelled, grabbing his wand, but he quickly lost sight of her as Buckbeak swerved, flapping his wings to gain some altitude in order to avoid the giant and his club. Draco only just kept himself from falling off, too.
Tumbling, Gwen was taken aback by the fact she hadn’t hit the ground yet, but then realized she was, somehow, falling away from the ground! Swiveling her head, she spotted Percy Weasley, wand out, pointed directly at her. She waved and in the next moment, was seized by Draco and yanked back onto Buckbeak.
“Sorry, Draco; should have fastened my seatbelt.” Gwen gave him a hug as she settled back into her place behind him.
“If you say so. Please don’t do that again; I promised Anna, you know!” he chided her.
“Lucky Percy was paying attention.”
“Yeah, but now we’ve been seen by this one. Wait, I have an idea.”
Professor Dumbledore met Professor Flitwick and his group as he came onto the terrace outside the Great Hall.
“Filius, could you come with me please?”
“Of course, Albus.” Turning to the students, the diminutive Charms teacher instructed the D.A. members to continue to their secondary assignments. “Be careful and good luck,” he called after them, as he and the Headmaster started across the bridge toward the courtyard where the Dementors were milling around.
Even as the group split up, some of the Death Eaters were racing across the far bridge, heading for the student dorms.
“Look!” Luna pointed.
“Death Eaters,” Seamus muttered, counting quickly. “I count about 3 dozen.”
“Let’s get to the stairs and try to figure out where they’re heading,” suggested Dean, grabbing Hannah’s hand and heading back into the building. “We’ll send our house-elves to warn everyone when we figure it out. SUNNY!”
“Yes, Mister Thomas?” The house-elf trotted along beside the teens as they entered the corridor leading to the great staircase hall.
“Death Eaters are coming over the center bridge and are probably heading for the dorms. We need to get word to the groups that are waiting, as soon as we see how they are dividing up.”
“Let’s get hidden and then call your house-elf. Seamus, you check for Ravenclaw, Luna…Hufflepuff, Hannah…Slytherin and I’ll cover Gryffindor.”
“Right.” “Ok.” “Got it.”
“ …be very quiet!” added Dean.
They scattered to the predetermined lookout points.”
Draco leaned forward, taking quietly to Buckbeak. With a shrill cry, the hippogriff started flying straight at the giant, but weaved at the last second, made a tight circle around him…and then another…and another. The giant was turning, swinging his club, enraged he couldn’t see clearly enough to hit this pest buzzing around him. He made a few swipes with his club and then stopped…weaving, dizzy from trying to follow Buckbeak.
The hypo-dart found its mark and the giant sat down and then fell over backward, arms flung wide.
“Four down, one to go,” Draco threw back over his shoulder, with a grin.
“And here he comes! RUN GRAWP! RUN!” yelled Gwen.
Grawp was, indeed, tearing around the end of the Quidditch pitch’s outer wall, the biggest giant steadily gaining on him. He looked up when he heard Gwen’s shout, spotted the trio flying in front of him and also saw the giant lying on the ground. He put on a burst of speed, jumped over the prone figure and spun around to face his pursuer. Raising his arms, Grawp roared in triumph and defiance, startling the fast approaching giant into skidding to a halt.
Looking down at the snoring body of his companion, stretched out in front of him and then at Grawp, who was standing there laughing, he raised his club, waving it angrily. He opened his mouth to roar his battle cry at Grawp, but only a grunt came out, as Gwen’s well aimed dart hit its mark. The giant’s eyes rolled back in his head and he toppled, face first, across the body of the other giant.
“I believe Fred and Katie can keep watch over this. Let’s get into the school and take up our secondary positions, shall we?” suggested Severus, as he waved to the two former Quidditch teammates, who were hovering over the still towering flames of the Inferi inferno.
“Right, Professor,” Ginny agreed, throwing her brother a kiss before turning to cross the wooden bridge to the clock tower courtyard.
Halfway across, they heard running footsteps and looked across the courtyard to see half a dozen Death Eaters burst though the open door, heading straight toward them. The D.A. looked at Professor Snape, who signaled them to get up onto the railings of the bridge and let the Death Eaters rush past them.
“Hey! Look at that!” cried Augustus Rookwood. “Something is on fire out there!”
Ginny turned and waved at Fred, telling him and Katie to fly higher to avoid being seen in the firelight. They nodded and shot up and repositioned themselves over the bridge, out of sight of the advancing Death Eaters.
“What IS that smell?” asked another of the Death Eaters, a sallow faced witch who covered her nose.
“Inferi, burned to cinders. This isn’t good; Dumbledore knows we’re here…this was a planned defense,” growled Rabastan Lestrange. “Nott, go to the Great Hall and tell our Master what we’ve found.”
Severus and the D.A. had climbed down from the railings and moved silently into the courtyard and spread out, waiting.
Theo’s father turned and started back over the bridge but as he got halfway across the courtyard, he was hit by a stunner spell and fell silently to the cobblestones. He was quickly gathered up by a half dozen house-elves and carried away. The other Death Eaters, still watching the bonfire in morbid fascination, never heard a thing happening behind them over the crackle and pop of the fire.
Buckbeak alighted next to Grawp and Gwen and Draco climbed down off of his back.
“Good flying, Beaky, Let me get you a treat from Hagrid,” said Draco, patting the hippogriff’s neck. He headed over to where Hagrid and Arthur Weasley were standing, to retrieve a dead ferret from the bag hanging on Hagrid’s belt.
Gwen threw he arms around the beast’s neck and praised and petted him.
“You were superb, Beaky, just superb!” Then she turned and called to Grawp, “Grawp, come here!”
“GEN! GEN SEE GRAWP? GRAWP RUN FAST!”
“Yes I did, Grawp and you were splendid! I am SO proud of you! Bend down here, please!”
Puzzled, Grawp knelt down and bent over, hands on the ground to bring his face down to Gwen’s level. Without hesitating, Gwen walked up to him and planted a big noisy kiss on his nose, patting his cheeks as she did.
“Thank you Grawp, you saved the day, getting their attention and out-running that one,” she said, pointing. “We all want to thank you for helping us!”
Grawp straightened up, totally surprised and then grinning, put back his head and laughed. But he suddenly stopped and pointed toward the school.
“LOOK! FIRE!” Grawp had spotted the glow from the two bonfires of Inferi.
“Oh, dear,” Anna gasped. “It’s started at the school, too.
“We’d better get back and help,” Draco said, even as he tossed the ferret treat to Beaky.
“Arthur, Hagrid, Percy, are you three going to be able to handle everything if we head for the school?” Anna inquired.
“We’ll be fine, but you four be careful!” Arthur replied. “Good luck!”
“Same to you!” Anna beamed as she, Draco, Theo and Gwen turned and started off at a run, cutting straight through the Quidditch stadium toward the school.
“You will stay here in this bathroom and guard the entrance to the Chamber.”
“Put Nagini down and let her explore. She will stay here with you to guard…you.”
The hunched over man cast a baleful look at the giant snake as she slithered off under the partition of the nearest toilet stall, tongue flicking, searching her new surroundings. Voldemort turned and stalked out of the door, heading for the Great Hall.
“Sunny, go tell Remus he has six Death Eaters heading his way.” Dean whispered.
“Yes, Mister Dean.” Squeaked the house-elf.
“Jilly, tell Ron there are four Death Eaters coming up the stairs,” Luna told her assigned house-elf, who nodded and ‘pop’, disappeared.
“Ok, Pokey, it looks like a nasty bunch heading for Slytherin, including Bella Lestrange, so tell Mad-eye to be careful!” Hannah bent over and whispered in Pokey’s ear.
“Blimey! I count five of the buggers, Wally, so shake a leg and get up there and let Neville know.”
“Yes, Mister Seamus.”
Albus Dumbledore and Professor Flitwick walked straight out into the courtyard, wands drawn and faced the Dementors.
“What are you doing on these school grounds and who told you to come here?” demanded Flitwick.
There was no response.
“Very well, since Voldemort didn’t see fit to warn you of the possibility of your own capture, and only because you have done no harm to anyone here at the school, I will not call the Ministry’s Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures,” Dumbledore announced.
The leader of the Dementors bowed slightly.
“Perhaps the more prudent thing would be if you all go back to Azkaban, as I believe there will be a large influx of prisoners this day and your services will be once more needed there. Is that agreeable?” Albus sounded quite pleasant and amiable, as if arranging a school field trip.
Again the leader nodded.
“However,” he continued, and his voice took on a thunderous tone, “be very sure you understand me…if you do not leave immediately and stay away from Hogwarts in the future, there will be nowhere for you to hide that you won’t be found and eliminated…all of you. Do I make myself clear?” the Headmaster’s voice was hard and cold….he really meant what he had said.
The entire group bowed at that ultimatum. Dumbledore looked up and signaled the D.A. members to rein in their Patronus animals. As soon as the last wisp of white dissolved, the Dementors shot straight up into the night sky and were gone from sight almost immediately. The temperature rose dramatically.
Voldemort walked into the Great Hall and looked up at the flags hanging from the ceiling.
“Gryffindor? I think not.”
With a wave of his hand, the colors changed from red and gold to silver and green and the lion became a snake.
“Ah, much better; makes my home coming so much more festive!”
Out of the corner of his eye, Colin saw someone running between the greenhouses. Death Eaters were moving toward the gate that leads to the road to Hogsmeade. But they were positioning themselves facing the school.
“What are they doing?” he muttered.
“Who?” asked Dennis, turning to see what his brother was watching. “Oh….wait, why are they just standing there, Colin?”
“I know! They blocking off any escape routes; to catch anyone trying to get out of Hogwarts. Come on, we have to tell Dumbledore.”
Jumping on their brooms, they swooped down and landed next to the Headmaster and Professor Flitwick.
“Hello Colin, Dennis,” Dumbledore smiled at them. Harry and the others were landing all around them.
“Sir, there are Death Eaters out by the greenhouse gates.”
“Is that so? Well, let us check and see what they are up to, shall we,” Albus replied calmly, as the boys bounced up and down with excitement in front of him.
They all crowded around and studied the map.
“We think they’re there to stop anyone trying to get out of Hogwarts, sir.”
“Good deduction, that.” Harry clapped Colin on the back. “But look, there are small groups of them everywhere,” he added, pointing to the gate facing the Quidditch pitch and the group at the end of the wooden bridge, plus the ones heading toward the dorms.”
“It seems as if everyone is in place, though, and Severus’ group has these Death Eaters covered. Harry, why don’t you all take care of this group,” suggested Dumbledore, indicating the ones directly in the path of the group approaching from the Quidditch pitch. “Clear them out of the way of Anna’s group first and then deal with these four.” He pointed to the group Colin and Dennis had spotted. “They won’t be going anywhere and nobody is likely to go out that way for a while, in any case, at least until the Aurors arrive at the gates. That reminds me, I must send word that the attack has begun and that we may need some assistance. Fawkes!”
With a flash of red, the magical bird appeared and landed on Dumbledore’s shoulder.
“Sorry to disturb your sleep, Fawkes, but could you notify Dawlish at the Auror Office of our situation, please, and request their assistance.” Reaching into his cloak, he pulled out a small rolled up piece of parchment which Fawkes grasped with one foot. “ I believe he is on duty tonight.”
Fawkes nodded his head and took flight, disappearing with a flash of red and gold.
“Well, off you go then and be careful, they won’t take lightly to being surprised.”
“Yes, sir, we understand,” replied Harry. Turning to the others, he mounted his broom and said, “Follow me; we’ll go up to the top to the roof there,” he pointed, “and take a look before we do anything. See if Anna and Draco and that lot are on their way back.”
“Right,” replied Zack. “Let’s go.”
Bella Lestrange burst through the door into the Slytherin common room, leading the others, looking around wildly.
“Stop, Bella!” Rodolphus grabbed her elbow. “We don’t want to wake up the whole dorm.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” replied a voice from the shadows at the end of the room. “Silencing charms are in place.”
“Who’s there?” Bella demanded, as the Death Eaters all pointed their wands toward the wing chair at the end of the long room.
“My, my, my, how good it is to see you, too, sister of mine,” replied Cissa casually, as she stood and stepped into a pool of lamplight.
“Cissa!” Bella smiled. “Excellent! You’ve just saved me the chore of tracking you down in this dreary old rock pile. Now, I’ll just retrieve Draco and we will go to our Master. He’s so anxious to see you two again.”
“Your Master, perhaps, but not mine. Draco isn’t here at the moment and I’m certainly not going anywhere with you, Bella,” Cissa replied calmly.
The other Death Eaters had lowered their wands, watching how this little scene would play out, knowing Voldemort’s instructions to Bella were quite specific.
“Might I suggest surrendering, now, before you get hurt?” inquired Cissa, tilting her head.
“Surrender…to you?” Bella was astonished, then threw back her head and laughed. “Why would I do that, when our Master in about to triumph over Dumbledore and Harry Potter?”
“Oh, to save yourself and the others, here, any physical harm.”
“From you? HA!”
“Suit yourself, but don’t say you weren’t warned,” replied Cissa raising her wand, preparing to duel with her sister.
“Bella, stop!” Rodolphus grabbed Bella’s arm, which she wrenched from his grasp, hissing at him. “Bella, something’s not right; she wouldn’t face all of us by herself. Think! It could be a trap! One sound could bring others to her rescue and then we’d be trapped down here.”
“Too late, laddy!” came Mad-eye’s voice. “Drop your wands like Cissa asked and you won’t be harmed.”
“Who’s that? Where?” one of the other Death Eaters spun around, looking for the speaker.
“Mad-eye!” Bella spat. “I’ll kill you!” She fired off a spell in the general direction of the voice, sparks exploding when it hit the wall. Although the spell missed its target it did, however, reveal Mad-eye’s shadow, by the drinks cabinet. “There you are!”
With that the battle began, spells flying, furniture exploding as Death Eaters and defenders alike, maneuvered for position amongst the sofas and wingchairs.
“There’s Anna and the others!” Padma pointed across the lawn. “They’ll get to the gate in just a few minutes.”
“Colin, you and Dennis fly around that far tower and come in behind them, but whistle as you approach. Tell them what’s happening and then when you all get close, we’ll have those Death Eaters in a cross-fire.”
“Right, Harry!” agreed Colin and he and his brother mounted their brooms and streaked off to make the wide circle and land near the four fast approaching figures.
Albus Dumbledore stood in the hallway by the door to the stone arch bridge, looking at the Marauders Map, watching his students and staff maneuver around the school. He quickly calculated there were a little over fifty Death Eaters in the school.
‘Tom must have been supremely confident of his element of surprise,’ thought the Headmaster. ‘Ah, speak of the devil; Tom has settled in the Great Hall.’
“Dobby!” Dumbledore called softly.
Dumbledore tapped the map.
He carefully folded the map and looked down at the House-elf.
“Dobby, when Harry gets back from dealing with group of Death Eater guarding the South gate, would you please give him this map, as he may find it very useful.”
He handed the folded, now blank parchment to the House-elf.
“Tell him I’ve gone back to the Great Hall to speak to someone.”
“Yes, Headmaster, sir.”
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