The grotesque monster created from the corpse of Lilly Potter stalks her son. Albus and Voldemort clash for the second time and the Halloween offensive begins.
Disclaimer - I still don't own Harry Potter, no big surprise there.
Acknowledgements - To those wonderful folks at Alpha Fight Club who continue to keep my writing honest. Kokopelli's beta work reminds me that I still have much room to improve. Finally, you the readers who have stuck with this story now over the 300,000 word mark - thanks.
Chapter 38 - An Overdue Reunion
Saturday October 5th, 1996
The taste was magnificent; he swirled the mixture over his tongue as he savored the complex flavors. In truth, it was only abowl of French vanilla ice cream, but for the first time in over a century he had a flavor other than the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. Darius Longbottom was eager to indulge in all the pleasures that his new life offered. For now, the simple dessert in front of him would suffice.
Closing his eyes, he basked in the warmth of the sun on his face. It was no longer something to be feared and avoided at all costs. Magic flowed through his veins again! A year ago, this would've seemed like a foolish delusion, an impossibility that should be cast into the darkest corner of his mind and not allowed to intrude upon his conscious thought.
"I take it from the expression on your face that Ihave another satisfied customer," said the voice of Florean Fortescue.
"Indeed, it is like a tiny slice of perfection," he replied easily.
The shop owner replied, "That's probably the nicest thing a customer has said to me all month. In these troubling times, we must cling to what little happiness we can find."
Darius quickly finished the rest, tucked the half gallon he had ordered to go under his arm, and stood to leave. Two men approached him. They wore armbands indicating that they were part of Minister Scrimgeour's auxiliary force. "Good day to you citizen, would it be possible for you to show us your papers?"
"You'll forgive me if I am not sure what you are speaking of; I have just returned from my summer holiday on the continent and am unaware of these papers."
Darius surveyed the two men. The first was an older wizard who appeared to only be making a token effort at his assigned duty. The other was a young go-getter, eager to please. He would be trouble.
"What is your name?"
"Davies, cut the man some slack. This isn't an inquisition. We're sorry to have disturbed you."
The one called Davies protested, "Our orders say that we are to bring personal without papers to Auror Headquarters. I don't recall there being any exceptions."
It reminded Darius of the times he had frequented the battlefields and towns during World War Two. History does in fact repeat itself. He addressed the younger man. "Tell me, Mr. Davies, how many Death Eaters have you caught utilizing this method. Had I been a Death Eater, Iwould have Apparated or Portkeyed out of here already."
"But we would have your facial features recorded and added to the 'wanted for questioning' list."
"And if I were wearing glamours to disguise my appearance?"
"Then I would dispel them like so, finite incanteum! See! You're obviously not wearing glamours."
Darius sighed and looked at the other man who was desperately trying to ignore the spectacle his partner was creating. "I suppose that would work if I were wearing glamours from your average beauty catalog, but don't you think any Death Eater worth his salt would have disguises that would hold up to a simple dispel magic? Here, let me show you adifferent and more effective technique."
He drew his wand; it was the best match to be found within the Dark Lord's storeroom which meant that it was only mediocre at best. "Now, more potent revealing spells like /Ostendo sum Expiscor/, will take down all but the best disguises. Here let me show you the wand movements, a gentle swish to your left and then a tapping motion with your wand. See? Now you try."
The young man was suitably impressed, "Where did you learn that spell?"
"Auror training, a long, long time ago. Now please, Mr. Davies, the wand motions."
"Yes of course, /Ostendo sum Expiscor/, what!"
Darius shoved his wand in the young man's face as the glamours disappeared and cast a jet of acid squarely in Davies' open mouth. A quick severing charm then decapitated his partner as the older man struggled to pull his wand out. He summoned both of the men's wands to him. The wand belonging to Davies was a much better match; it was a pity that he couldn't ask him what it was at the moment. Taking a moment to enjoy the first kills since his return to life, he chided himself as the screams started. Old habits were hard to break. He wasn't a vampire any more. They weren't his food; he shouldn't play with them. Besides, the finite cast earlier had removed the cooling charms on his ice cream. It would be a shame to waste such a treat by standing here, watching the man's face dissolve into goo while his ice cream did the same. Darius' last thought as he Apparated was, I should have gotten some cherries.
Tonks was watching down the corridor when Remus came out of the Potter suite. "How is he?"
Her werewolf lover shrugged, "He's exhausted. He'd dueled Minerva this morning and was in no shape to get into a scrape like that. Right now he is arguing with his wife. She wants him to take a calming draught and get some rest. He's insisting on taking a pepper-up potion. I'm not sure which of his stubborn parents are to blame."
She laughed at his attempted joke. Ironically enough, she'd met both James and Lily Potter at her sixth birthday party. The party had taken an interesting turn when her black hair suddenly altered to match Lily Potter's auburn mane. They had thought it was a standard bout of accidental magic until her mother found she couldn't reverse it. It was the day they discovered her special talent.
"Things are getting bad and I'm not just talking about here in the castle. I got an owl from Mum yesterday. She's saying that it's only a matter of time before the Minister's Mobilization Act is passed through the Wizengamot. Diagon Alley already resembles a military camp. They're pretty close to getting out. I'm already an Auror, so I'm exempt, but what are you going to do, Remus?"
"I'll likely purchase an exemption. From the wills of Sirius and the Potters, I have more than enough to afford the ten thousand galleon fee. They'll likely pay attention to anyone who purchases one, but unlike others, I'm a known quantity. I was speaking to Bill and he said that the Ministry is leaning on the Goblins very hard. They're seeking a report of any transaction of more than a thousand galleons. So far, the Goblins have refused."
"Do you think we should get out too?" Tonks asked,"We could head to South America or Australia. Sirius told me about that little island he lived on in the South Pacific. That could be us, what do you say to sandy beaches as far as the eye can see?"
Remus shook his head, "I can't. I owe too much to Albus and Harry."
"What about us? You and me? Where do I fit in? I was a wreck after Azkaban fell and you put me back together. Now that I'm'fixed,' is that little project over?"
His voice was thick with emotion. "That's not it, Dora, and you know it! You want to hear me say it? I'll say it. You - mean -/everything/ - to - me. That's why I'm asking you not to run away just yet, because if you just say the word, I'll do it. I'll hate myself, but I'll do it in a heartbeat. I'm tired of all this loss. I have more dead friends than living ones left and I damn near lost you as well."
Tonks was instantly sorry that she pushed it this far. "Remus, I..."
"Dora, I have two things left in this world that Ivalue: my honor and you. Honor doesn't keep me going anymore. It doesn't warm me in the night. You do."
Tonks buried herself in his arms both ashamed of her behavior and inspired by his words. They held each other for a few moments before she sniffled loudly and broke away. "Why don't I see if one of the other Aurors in the castle can stand guard here for a while and you and I can go some place and talk?" Normally, this would be followed by a saucy wink, but Tonks knew her lover had just bared his soul to her. She really did just want to talk - at least for a little bit.
He reached down to recover the map that she had discarded. "Let's see, all the dorms are full for a change. Where are our good friends, the Aurors? Oh no! Tonks, get your wand!"
"What is it?" she squeezed in next to him to look at the parchment. Most of the Aurors were on the outside of the castle, facing scores of dots all labeled, "Lily Potter."
"Warn Harry and Susan, I'll try to help the Aurors!"
She heard voices around her, "I caught one! It's some kind of flying beetle, but it's registering on the map as Lily Potter. It's some kind of trick!"
"Most are headed towards the castle. Ignore the ones going for the lake and the Quidditch pitch. Brogans! One's right next to you!"
"I don't see a bee...ahh!!!!"
Lily slashed the one in front of her and hurled him to the side; nothing would get in her way.
"Donaldson! See to Brogans! Focus on that area. Bracket her. Ropes, chains, and chalk cloud we have to negate the invisibility."
A rope hits her and starts to wrap around her arm. She shredded it. This was taking too long. She needed to hunt. Her prey was inside, but these others kept getting in her way. Only her prey should be able to see her. Only those that shared the blood, but still these others interfered with their glowing sticks and screaming noises.
"There! Damn it! She's fast. Seal the castle doors!"
A spell hit her, pushing her away from where she needed to go. The monster that was Lily Potter gashed the one shouting orders and with an unnatural strength, hurled him a dozen meters. Something else hits her! Pain! She could feel pain, but she did not bleed. Several more glowing lights flashed at her, but she was fast enough to dodge. This one wasn't in her way anymore. There was nothing between her and the castle where her prey was hidden from her. So, she ran as the colored lights swept past her, towards the closing doorway.
She was much faster, but even she was not fast enough to reach the door in time. She pounded at the door with her clawed fists but they did no good. Her claws dug into the wood as she pulled herself up. Above her was a window. Part of her knew that glass was weaker than wood and so she climbed up a surface enchanted to prevent exactly what she was doing. She smashed through a window thought to be unbreakable. She was inside. Her prey was here and she was coming for him.
A half moaning grunt was heard by the paintings, who wondered what the sudden disturbance in the second floor corridor was.
"Bloody hell, I just got him to take a calming draught!" Harry heard Susan's voice through the fog in his mind.
"Then hit him with a double dose of pepper-up. We need to get moving!" Harry knew he should be more curious about what they were talking about, but he felt so strange. Susan pressed something to his lips and he drank the liquid. She pressed another vial to his lips. Halfway through, he started gagging and clutched his chest as he felt excruciating pain go through his body.
Harry fell from the chair onto the floor and emptied the contents of his stomach. His first words came out awkwardly. "Whatzz goin on?"
"Harry! That thing that they made from your mother is in the castle. We have to go! It's going to try and kill you!"
The words didn't make any sense. His mother was dead, a long time ago. Still, he wasn't in a position to argue. How could she be here? Why were they running away? Where were they going? It was hard to think.
He heard Susan ask Tonks, "Should I try another dose?"
"Only if you want him dead before his mum gets here! Get him moving towards Dumbledore's office. I'll rearguard. Nigellus! Is Dumbledore in his office?"
"No, he's at the Ministry. One of the other paintings is alerting Professor McGonagall in Gryffindor tower."
Susan pulled him towards the door as his feet wavered unsteadily beneath him. "Instead of the office, we'll head for the Room of Requirement and have it make a sanctuary that she can't get into!"
Tonks agreed and told the paintings to pass word to Professor McGonagall to meet them in the 7th floor corridor. Fear and a pounding heartbeat were helping to clear his mind and he staggered less as they ran through the hallways towards the moving staircases in the central atrium.
Lord Voldemort stood amongst the burning wreckage from a Ministry recruiting station. Scrimgeour was so confident that he would get his army that he had already opened several offices around Diagon Alley to encourage those who wanted to be in on the "ground floor" of such a mighty endeavor to go ahead and sign up. It was the second one he had destroyed today.
He regretted having to use Lily now, especially in light of recent news received, but the magic powering the Revenant could not last much longer. The damage done when Potter had destroyed his father had weakened the spell's binding power. He had hoped to use her on the night of his Halloween offensive, but that would not be possible. Tonight's raid, coupled with Peter's charm work to defeat their precious "Marauder's Map" would give an opportunity for success.
His men were under strict orders to avoid damaging the buildings around the recruiting stations. It needed to be symbolic to show that this was a conflict of Voldemort versus the Ministry.
Four broom riders circled above him. He swatted their feeble curses aside and sent a burst of magic that knocked one from her broom and scattered the rest. "Is that all you have?" One of his more potent transfigurations turned the flailing witch's body to glass. She shattered on impact with the street. "Is there not one among you that can stand against my power?" His wand emitted gale force winds, driving Scrimgeour's peons high into the sky as they fought to control their brooms.
"Perhaps a rematch is in order, Tom." The voice was like a whisper in his ear, but the owner stood over a hundred meters away with his Phoenix hovering above him.
Voldemort started towards his enemy, barely conscious of the duels being fought around him. There was a sense of casualness in his stride while he blocked an occasional errant spell. "What makes you think you'll fare any better than last time Albus?"
He watched Dumbledore discard a potion flask as he approached. What was the old man's game this time? "Hoping for enhance speed and reflexes? My rituals place me beyond any potion you could possibly brew."
Dumbledore staggered slightly and conjured a wall in the path of his first volley of curses. The dust cleared and a shorter figure emerged from the cloud of particulates. It was still Dumbledore's voice that spoke to him, but it faced him in the two armed body of Harry Potter. So, it was polyjuice that the fossil hoped would help him.
"Magic is a truly wonderful thing, Tom. Perhaps, there is a prophecy to be fulfilled today? I haven't felt this good in ages."
A furious dance began, cutting curses mixed with bludgeoners and spells of a slightly darker variety. Voldemort noticed that Dumbledore's style had changed noticeably. He still mixed in Transfiguration, but he was using more direct effect spells.
Breaking a sweat, the Dark Lord vanished a dozen Bludger-sized hailstones arcing towards him, returning fire with a bonebreaker that he had once used in Africa to snap an elephant in two. This was taking too long. He spared a glance behind him. More ministry forces were arriving. It was time to leave; he sent a burst of energy into the air, signaling his minions to disperse.
"I think I must bid you /adieu/, Albus. Ithank you for the preview of your latest amusing trick. Farewell."
He activated his Portkey as a trio of lethal curses approached. It occurred to him that now it was Dumbledore who had something to prove.
Harry clumsily followed the constant pull of Susan's arm as they entered the main atrium. He was still having a hard time focusing his vision, but there, three levels below was a pair of people struggling on the steps.
"One of them got inside. She's on the stairs with Remus! Where is she? I can't see her! You two go ahead, I've got to help him! Go! Now!" Tonks commanded ushering them up the steps.
"Come on Harry." They went up while Tonks went down. Entering the seventh floor they heard Tonks scream loudly. That shook the rest of the cobwebs out of Harry's skull.
"Susan, it's me she's after!"
"Welcome back Harry! Now can you please move faster?"
"I have to stop her!"
"You're not in any shape to fight. Circe! You can barely stand."
Harry quickly countered, "I'm not going to get any better while she's around!"
"We're going to the Room of Requirement." Susan commanded forcefully.
"Remus and Tonks are both probably hurt. I can't run. I'll use my Animagus form and draw strength back to me."
Susan protested, but Harry'd already chosen his course of action. He transformed into the ebony raven and flew back down the corridor, carrying his holly wand with his foot.
The sight in front of him was both shocking and bizarre. Two barely human creatures fought against each other near the body of Remus Lupin. Tonks was recognizable only because of her pink hair. She must have lost her wand sometime during the fight. One of her hands had lengthened into claws that rivaled the red haired abomination. Tonks' other hand was swollen like a melon and struck like a sledgehammer against a creature who didn't seem to feel it. Her blows were wild and random.
Returning to his human form, he tossed his wand up and caught it with his right hand. "Up here Mother!"
The thing looked up, giving Tonks a chance to smash it with her mallet hand and send the creature over the railing.
"Harry, where is it? I can't see it?" Tonks spun in a circle. Her robes were ripped and blood-soaked. He couldn't see any open wounds - it was well known that Tonks could use her morphing skill to close her wounds, but still, she must have lost quite a bit of blood.
"You sent it over the side," Harry answered.
"Help Remus first!" she screamed at him.
Harry screamed back, "Tonks behind you!" Moving more like a simian than something once human, his mother leapt back over the railing and pounced on Tonks, driving the Metamorphmagus' face into the stairs with a painful crack. It barely paused for a moment before it came charging towards him. All of Tonks' fighting had delayed the thing for not much more than a minute.
This horror wasn't his mother! He drew deep within himself and hurled a blasting curse right at it. "Tonare!"
The spell hit the thing in the face and fizzled. He tried a Reductor when it was only two meters in front of him. The creature slammed painfully into him. He now knew his magic was having no effect.
He was in deep trouble.
Far below the conflict two people stood with their heads close together in the twisting passages of the Slytherin dormitory maze. If anyone were to stumble upon them, they would assume the couple was snogging. Draco's lips appeared to be greedily roaming the Head Girl's neck. The silencing spell was obviously a courtesy to any people wandering by one of the more well known "snogging spots."
Melissa had protested being locked in the dormitories by the Aurors and had made her case to Professor Vector. Denied yet again, she pretended to sulk before dragging Malfoy off into the maze.
In between kisses she whispered, "What do you know about what is going on?"
"Little more than you. Yaxley received an owl from his mother. I saw him destroy the message immediately afterwards. It was likely instructions to manufacture the disturbance at the ceremony."
She choked back down a slight moan. It was hard to focus on not enjoying this, but there were matters to attend to first. "It wouldn't be so obvious. My bet is on a charmed piece of parchment with ablood-based compulsion. That way they could question him under truth serum and not get a hint that he was ordered to do it. Hands Draco, mind your hands."
Draco's hands moved up her back and away from her bum. "Were you able to pass my information on to your father?"
"What I meant by 'hands' is if you're going to stoke my bum, do it right. Don't just squeeze - knead and caress. I'm not some engorged sex toy for Morgana's sake! Parkinslut might enjoy being handled like a slab of beef, but you'll find I've slightly higher standards." Draco's hand returned to where they'd been. "Much better - there's hope for you yet. I was able to exchange a word or two when my father arrived, but they are watching me more closely than ever. I had to ask him a few questions to make certain he wasn't the Metamorph in drag, but the information is passed."
"So what do you think is going on?"
She felt herself flush as Draco continued his ministrations. This might not be so bad after all. He wasn't hard to look at and seemed to follow basic instruction, but he still talked too much. She moved to his lips, silencing him. "You ask too many questions. Until we are calling the shots, it's best to be more obedient and less curious. Unless, that is, you're curious about how flexible I am." She pulled her tiny frame up into his arms and brazenly wrapped her legs around him, making his eyes and other parts of his body bulge. She allowed him to press her back against the passageway wall and rhythmically ground against him. She grasped his hand, preventing him from unbuttoning his pants.
"No, no. This is good for now. This is a preview of what you can expect, if you continue to impress." Melissa resumed her motions, relishing his groans of pleasure mixed with frustration. She'd enjoy bending this one to her will. Perhaps father would let her keep him...
Harry struggled against his mother's grasp, but she was too strong. He kicked at her knee, but it did nothing but put him off balance as she spun him back into the wall and raked her disfigured hands along his chest, drawing blood. Did his spells fail against it because his magic is what animates her corpse? He couldn't worry about that now! She was pulling his hands together so she could hold him with one claw.
Harry did the only thing he could think of and grabbed one of the shrunken vials attached to his enchanted bracer. Smashing it into her face as her claws filleted his left arm, opening it all along his forearm, the world exploded in a blast of flame that washed over him and hurled the monster back down the steps. He struggled against the flames that had splashed onto his arm while pulling at his spare wand - the all consuming flame could only be extinguished by magic. It would burn him alive.
He doused his arm and saw the burning corpse racing towards him like a living fireball. He charmed the burning rug and tried to use it to stop her. It tore through it like tissue paper. Harry transformed and tried to fly, but his injured arm translated into an injured wing -- he flapped feebly on the stairs as the burning death prepared to engulf him.
"Conicio Telum! Pello Hostis! Atrreo Glacis!"
The ballista bolt stopped the monster's progress, the banisher sent it careening into the wall behind it, and then jagged shards of ice ripped into its flesh. Susan Potter descended the steps like an avenging angel, hurling a volley of destructive spells at the abomination. Severing charms began tearing whole chunks out of what had once been his mother. Still it struggled forward. Harry returned to his human form and grabbed his spare wand. It was like his fight with Voldemort. Direct magic from him wouldn't work. He conjured stones and his wife banished them into the creature. After the third one, it was too battered to rise and Susan stepped past him and began using her cutting curses to hack it into pieces. Harry slouched onto the steps and started closing the bloody gashes on his arm and chest while he marveled at the savage Hufflepuff fury of his wife. He felt weak from the blood loss, but that was offset by a thundering surge as his magic returned to him.
"Susan, it's over. You've destroyed it."
She turned back to him, eyes ablaze, panting heavily. The mask of fury faded as she looked at him.
"You're a mess Harry, here." She fished a vial of blood replenisher out of her bag. "I'd give you something for the pain, but that can wait. You need a lesson or two on not bloody well running off on me!" She started to say something else, but stopped as Professor McGonagall and others rushed onto the stairway. As McGonagall's group checked on Tonks and Lupin, she leaned in close and hissed at him, "Listen up, Harry Potter, you're going to live long enough to be a father to these children; I will not be raising them alone. You're not getting out of it that easy. You don't get to die until Isay so!"
Despite the pain, he managed a slight laugh and threw his undamaged arm around her.
Albus knew he should feel more remorseful as the tears of his Phoenix dripped over Lupin's wounds. Initially, Madame Pomfrey had thought that both Remus and Nymphadora would not survive. Fortunately, due to their unusual constitutions, they were able to weather their grievous injuries that would have been mortal for ordinary humans. The good of their survival coupled with Harry's restored power and his own performance against Tom outweighed the other losses.
He cast a privacy spell, isolating this area from the other persons injured in the brawl earlier this evening. Addressing those still conscious, which consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Potter, "One thing has vexed me in the hours since I determined that the creature was a Revenant. How is it that you were able to see it Susan? The Aurors could not and it was only Mr. Lupin's heightened senses that allowed him a marginal perception of the creature."
Susan shrugged against his twinkling eyes, "Harry set it on fire. I couldn't see it, but I could see the flames. I aimed for the center."
He laughed, allowing a smile to cross his face. "Of course, that makes perfect sense. Otherwise, the only people that would have been able to see it would have had to share a blood link to Harry. The bond between the two of you would not have sufficed; if, however, Potter blood were present in your body, say through a placenta, then you'd have been able to see the Revenant as plain as day."
Susan was a horrible liar and her blush gave away far too much. "No, I was aiming at the center of the flames."
He sounded truly like a Headmaster casually humoring a student caught in a lie. "Of course you were, Mrs. Potter. Allow me to offer my sincerest congratulations."
Albus waved off both of their protests. For the first time in months, he felt content.
Rita sat at her desk trying and failing to write astory that would pass her censor. It had been nearly four weeks since the attack on Diagon Alley where the Auror Auxiliary force with the "token assistance" of Albus Dumbledore had thwarted the "massive thrust" from the enemy forces.
Officially, that was the last reportable action undertaken by the Dark Forces. No one seems to mention the four recruiting stations that had been put to the torch. Scrimgeour finally had his Mobilization Act. Thumbing his nose at the Vatican Accords, the Minister had created a de facto army. Though in truth, it is more of an armed mob and less of a true army. Quietly swept under the rug was the large group of Auxiliaries who spent an hour or so "requisitioning" half the inventory inside Quality Quidditch Supplies especially the five Firebolts in the owner's inventory.
The various shopkeeper's complaints that the units now patrolling the Alley were forcing them to pay protection money or offer substantial "discounts" to the squads was an obvious no-no. Then there was that matter of the twenty recruits who were taken out on a training exercise and haven't been seen since. No, that's not "allowed" in any articles either.
She was used to gross distortions of the truth, but this was getting ridiculous. Instead of the handful of Aurors that had started the year at Hogwarts and the other, smaller schools, there was a full contingent stationed near each with a full time recruiter and propagandist there to spread the Scrimgeour gospel. Rita wistfully smiled at the impressive drivel she managed to churn out on how those recruiters are helping to heal the injuries at Hogwarts.
There certainly wasn't a lack of news, just a lack of news that she could actually write a story about. From the active topics board, she selected, "Ministry's Security Precautions Ensure a Festive Halloween for All" and began to rearrange the insipid press release. She'd need to find some idiot shopkeeper, obviously other than the ones moaning about the protection rackets and at least one or two fanatical Ministry officials, who she and a few of her other reporters had taken to calling"Scrimsuckers" or "Scrimblowers." It was that tiny bit of humor that made her job still tolerable.
Just another day, keeping her delicate derriere from getting further crushed under the thumb of oppression. She'd be a good girl and buy her war bonds and wear a charmed pin supporting the troops.
The duo walked through the former Malfoy Manor, soon to be rechristened the Potter-Black mansion. A full team of Curse Breakers moved with deliberation through each room. Bill finished tracing a complicated series of runes and watched them fade into the wall and was satisfied with their placement. Looking rather tired, he turned and joined them.
"The grounds are done. We're layering wards from room to room. This will be the most heavily defended household in all of England. Only three more days of sixteen hour shifts, I'll be glad when it's over."
Charlie laughed. "I'm sure the money doesn't hurt either."
"No, but Emmeline's getting better..."
"The two of you getting serious again?" Narcissa listened to the banter of the brothers recalling Charlie's stories of how his brother and the Vance woman dated in school and then drifted apart.
Bill's demeanor changed. The normally cheerful smile disappeared. "One thing I've taken out of all this loss is to hold on to what you value and get what happiness you can out of life."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Charlie said before he squeezed Narcissa's hand. Bill nodded and made an excuse to leave.
"Does it feel strange to be back?" Charlie asked with a sympathetic tone.
"It's just a place, Charles. In this house, I've entertained Heads of State, Diplomats, Quidditch Stars and the highest levels of society. I've also hosted parties of a different sort where it took hours to wash the blood off the walls. I've served tea to the Dark Lord and watched as artifacts were stored in our vaults. Part of me would rather see this place put to the torch."
Charlie gave her a strange look. Narcissa knew that he accepted her unconditionally, but he would probably never truly, fully understand her.
"Have you given any more thought to my suggestion that we spend the winter holidays in New Zealand? We could leave right after the official Potter wedding. I can handle all the arrangements."
Charlie uncomfortably answered. "I know what you're thinking, but with everything that's happened I need to be here this year. What's left of my family needs me."
She smiled watching a house-elf scrubbing the railings of the 15th century Italian marble staircase as they walked through the main entryway and into the ceremonial hall. She'd make the arrangements anyway. Charles would have to trust her judgment on this one.
"Hello, Mother. Father asked me to stop by. Unfortunately, it seems that he will be working late, again, this evening."
Molly instinctively stood to hug Percy, but stopped, recognizing the futility of attempting to hug a ghost. "It's alright dear. Idon't feel much like celebrating this evening." Arthur had been coping by working even more. Her life seemed so hollow now. She didn't even feel like this place was a home. It wasn't the Burrow. This was merely Aberforth Dumbledore's house!
She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, "When Arthur and I first moved here, I worried where we were going to fit everyone for the winter holidays. Now I worry that there will be too many empty rooms." Almost mechanically, her eyes wandered to the battered, but still functional Weasley family clock which had survived the destruction of the House of Black.
Percy attempted to reassure her, "Well I've noticed that with the lull in the fighting all the hands had moved back to normal. Ronald is in school. Father and William are at work, Charles' hand seems to move between 'work' and 'dating,' and Fredrick is, ahem, '/making mischief/.' They both looked at the hand for Penelope that stayed on 'missing.' A week ago, it had surprisingly moved to 'mortal peril,' staying there for an entire day before returning to its current position. There had been much speculation as to what had happened.
"Has there been any word on her location?"
"No, the last lead had her in Italy, but that turned out to be a Polish witch on vacation with her family. The Minister sadly informed me that for the duration of the war, he could no longer spare the resources to search for her. Though she is his goddaughter, locating her is not a national priority."
"No, I suppose it's not. Rounding up children and convincing them that they are an army is..."
"My new existence has given me a pragmatic outlook. Were I still flesh and blood, I would no doubt have been vehemently arguing all the positive merits of Mobilization and ignoring any potential flaws. With my new found clarity, I can only say that it is an ugly solution to an even uglier problem."
Seeing his mother's reluctance, Percy continued, "I saw the paperwork approving the exemptions for Bill, Charlie, Fred and Angelina. That was a nice gesture on your part."
Molly laughed dryly, "Not so much a gesture as insistence on Fred's part. I know he already has a ring for her. I'm just hoping he'll wait before he rushes into anything, but Angelina has been incredibly supportive of the family. It's the least I could do. I made the same offer to George's Alicia, but she declined, saying that she would pay for her own."
They continued to make small talk, both voicing their subtle disapproval of the relationship between Charlie and Narcissa Black. Although, Percy admitted that he had very little room to talk. Molly felt like she was beginning to feel a bit better when the first shouts started.
"The festivities must be starting early. I really don't see the point in using fireworks until the sun has set." Molly said.
"I must confess that I'm surprised that the celebration has already started. People must be looking for a reason to let off ..." Percy was interrupted by the clock's sound. Both looked up to see which hand was moving with a feeling of anxiety.
The hand with Molly's picture on it moved from 'Home'to 'Mortal Peril.' Percy bolted through the wall and moments later reappeared through another wall.
"Mother, you must flee! There is an army approaching!" The wards Bill had placed on the house activated. The wards held up for less than a minute before they heard pounding on the outside windows and doors. She grabbed George's old broom and headed up the steps.
Darius Longbottom circled lazily through the air on his broom, using another fire spell to keep steering the mass of Inferii towards the town of Hogsmeade. He smiled, watching the other broom riders working to keep the large formation moving. They were approaching from the south. The giants and trolls were following the train tracks in the east and the foreign vampires and rogue Veela clan were waiting for sunset at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
The Ministry fighters were already engaged against the Trolls, Giants and the ten or so broom-mounted witches and wizards. The underbelly of the town was waiting to be slashed open and have its intestines spilt.
Lord Voldemort had stated his battle plan, in a show of force Hogsmeade was to be completely razed. No building is to be left standing and everything reduced to rubble. When the children at the castle looked out here in the morning light, they would see nothing.
The Inferii horde was already attacking houses with various undead creatures disintegrating against warded houses. He used his own spells to speed up the wards' failures. Some of the Death Eaters broke off and began erecting the wards against Portkeys and Apparition as Darius flew over the town, hurling spells at the people who were running through the streets. It was beautiful mayhem and it was only going to get better as the sun set.
From the second floor of a nearby house a window blew out and a plump red headed woman flew out, trying to escape. Deftly, his cutting curse struck like a scythe through the twigs on the rear of her broom causing her to spiral out of control and strike the ground outside of the house. He watched her struggle to her feet clutching a broken arm as the Inferii began to surround her. A ghost bolted from the house and attempted in vain to distract the walking dead as the witch lashed out against the zombies. Fire drove some back, but there were too many. He watched as she tried to Apparate and then clutch at a necklace, which also failed.
For a moment, he considered watching her bravely make her last stand against the lumbering soulless hulks ambling towards her. Then, he changed his mind and hit her with a disarming spell that sent her wand flying through the air. Last stands were terribly overrated and seldom lived up to they hype. He saw her frantically saying something to the ghost, perhaps giving her final messages of farewell.
Darius saw there was no further need to watch. Watching a person struggle against death might be entertaining. Watching them being eaten alive wasn't. Making a tight turn, he brought his broom towards the town looking for the next bit of human drama to catch his eye. Seeing none, he joined a group of Death Eaters moving to attack the rear of the Minister's troops. Hogsmeade would fall. They would level it and wait amongst its rubble for the counterattack. The Vampires and the Veela would then join the fray and the slaughter would be complete.
War was a beautiful thing.
Author's notes - So, why Molly? Throughout the chapter, I sort of teased all of you making you wonder who I was going to off next. Idecided to do an inverse to the Deathly Hallows and spare (for the moment)Remus and Tonks and kill Molly instead. I won't even touch the whole she kills Bellatrix thing in book seven. It's just so wrong on so many levels. Join me on the FFA or DLP forums for discussion of this and my other stories. There are only 2 chapters and the already written epilogue left! It's just a matter of connecting the dots. Thanks for reading~Jim.