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To Fight the Coming Darkness
A Lesson in Uncomfortable Truths
To Fight the Coming Darkness
Disclaimer - Still no ownership of the Harry Potter Universe. This is purely a work of fanfiction.
Acknowledgements - The whole Alpha Fight Club crew (IP82, Nukular Winter, ChuckDaTruck, FairyQilan and Sirius009) are a great bunch of people. They have helped shape the story into what it is. Kokopelli also deserves kudos for the whole rebeta process adding another coat of polish to the story and helping to smooth it out.
Chapter 25 — A Lesson in Uncomfortable Truths
"Thank you for taking me in on such short notice. You are too kind." Fleur thanked her again and wiped the tears out of her puffy eyes with a handkerchief.
"Nonsense, Fleur. We Beauxbatons girls need to stick together!" Aimee Beaucourt pasted a sincere looking smile on her face and patted Fleur comfortingly. In the confusion following the gargoyles going on a rampage in the Bank’s lobby, Aimee had kept her head and not gone for her wand. While milling around she came across her old classmate, Fleur Delacour. Aimee had been fairly close to the part Veela. She had been cordial and kind to the prissy she-whore, where most had been jealous and vindictive. On the other hand Aimee had been envious of only Fleur’s power. She was a pretty young woman, but her short brunette curls paled in comparison to Fleur’s golden locks and magical aura. She often asked herself what would it be like to have that power over a man. She watched for the last three years as Fleur moved from one boyfriend to the next. Fleur was spoiled and a brat. She quickly became bored with her newest â€˜toy’ and moved on to the next one. It was morbidly amusing to watch the many stages of Fleur as she went through various stages of having a boyfriend. She usually was a bit infatuated herself; talking about her latest conquest endlessly. That was the first stage. The chatter would gradually die off and a mild annoyance at all the smothering attention she was getting would begin. How long this stage lasted was usually determined by how good looking the boy was and whether or not the physical part of their relationship could hold Fleur’s attention.
The longest Aimee had seen Fleur in the second stage was a full month, but the specimen had been exceptional. Eventually, the annoyance would reach a breaking point and Fleur would dismiss the poor confused boy. There would be begging, groveling and gift giving. It was Fleur’s power that had made Aimee embrace her â€˜alternative lifestyle’. After watching the begging and groveling going on around her for years, she had no respect left for the male species in general. The one boy at school who could actually resist Fleur’s advances, well he was heinously ugly. A few weeks would pass and it usually required an intervention from Madame Maxine, but the stalker phase would end. Without fail within a month, the cycle would begin anew.
Aimee Beaucourt would have loved to wield Fleur’s power. She would have enthralled diplomats and powerful, wealthy men and used them for all that they were worth before discarding them. Instead, she watched it wasted on this vapid and utterly useless beauty currently in front of her crying her eyes out. The most use she had ever seen Fleur get out of her power had been to â€˜improve’ her grades with the male members of the staff. Her guest lacked any ambition wanting to find someone who would love her despite her gift. From the looks of things she had found one and she turned out not to be equipped to deal with a real man instead of a love slave. Fleur was like some preteen, who thought she would run off into the sunset with Viktor Krum or something so foolish. She would have had pity for this William Weasley, but the Weasleys were enemies of her Master.
Aimee had come to England wanting the power promised by her Master and his followers. Her family was wealthy and provided for her, but she yearned for more than just baubles. The Dark Lord promised a world where those with the ambition to rule, will seize power and rule with a mighty hand. She wanted to be feared among witches. Other girls dreamed of the being princesses and such. Her line was distantly connected to the last links of the Le Feys. She wanted to be Le Fey and this pretender in front of her was going to help her do that! She had spent an all too brief time in the company of Bellatrix. The fearsome witch had been rather expressive with Aimee. Aimee soon hoped to be doing those things to Fleur.
After their first luncheon together listening to the endless drone about how William would not consider her request to see a cosmetic healer, a plan began to form in the back of Aimee’s mind. Here she was a Death Eater with easy access to an Order member. One of the Master’s biggest problems was how to attack an Unplottable target. The answer delivered herself this evening. It wasn’t so much about breaking thorough an unbreakable charm. It was about controlling people who already had the access to the Order’s Headquarters. The plan was brilliant in its simplicity. The Master promised her a reward, when the plan succeeded. She would ask for this little bitch in front of her. She would dominate the little slut, like she should have been a long time ago.
Aimee had continued to see Fleur regularly and offered conflicting advice to Fleur who was ill prepared for someone that wasn’t compelled to cater to her every capricious whim.
The result sat in front of her bawling in an undignified manner.
"I cannot believe that pig had the nerve to speak to me like that!" Fleur said in rapid fire French. "No one speaks to me in that manner. I will show him not to insult me!"
"Calm down, Fleur. Here have another glass of wine. It will help relax you."
"Thank you. He is a pig! Next time I see him I shall do like Circe and turn him into the swine that he really is." Aimee laughed at the declaration. From everything Fleur had said about her latest ex-boyfriend was that he was a very accomplished curse breaker. She doubted Fleur’s chances in a hexing match between the two of them. Were it not for the plan, she would have encouraged it to see just how badly William would humiliate her.
Fleur began to look tired. The drugged wine would be affecting Aimee as well, if she hadn’t already taken an antidote and a sobering charm. Minutes later her companion was sleeping and snoring softly. Aimee smiled and floated Fleur towards the Floo. After all, Aimee had just promised Fleur a place to stay. Fleur assumed it was here in Aimee’s flat. No, her new little bitch probably wasn’t going to like her accommodations, not one bit.
"Feel better now?" Harry mumbled massaging his jaw from the ground. Bill had patiently listened to his explanation, carefully absorbing every word. There had been a momentary pause and Bill had placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder. For a moment, it seemed like it would be a brotherly gesture of support for someone who had been having a rough go of it lately — fighting Dark Lords and whatnot. No, instead it was to steady him so that Bill’s punch had a bit more oomph to it.
"Marginally," Bill said offering his hand to help him up. "Harry, what the fuck were you thinking dabbling in possession? More importantly, what the fuck were you thinking involving Ginny in your plan?"
"I wanted to kill him, now — before anyone else died! I offered your sister a chance to help me and she accepted."
"You took advantage of her, pure and simple. Don’t try to deny it. She was looking for a way to get back in everyone’s good graces. She’s young and has been coddled and now she thinks everyone hates her. Then, you came along with this wild ass scheme after she lost her second brother in less than a month. What did you actually expect her to say, no? Give me a break, Harry! You knew she wasn’t going to refuse you, didn’t you? You played on her need for revenge and guilt at what happened to her friend Luna. She might be stuck in the middle of this war, but she is not an adult! If you had come to me, I would have helped you no questions asked. I’m of age! I can make those decisions. It’s my right. Ginny is just about to turn fifteen. She doesn’t have the right to make those choices."
Harry met his glare with an angry glare of his own. "Do you really want to know why I picked Ginny? I thought about asking you, but do you really want to know why I did? Fine! I had to choose from you, your father, your sister and Susan. I’m marrying Susan and I didn’t think it was a good foundation for a marriage. Your dad is Dumbledore’s man through and through. He wouldn’t have approved and would’ve turned me in the moment I mentioned it. So that left you and Ginny. The book I read was by Tarazed Black. His portrait hangs in my parlor. I spoke with the portrait. He told me that my chances were greater if the target had a weaker mind. So, I had to choose the weaker of the two between a schoolgirl and a curse breaker. If I had been trying to go after a target like Snape, I would have trained against you. I’ve been told he owes me a debt, but I was going up against the Rat. Pettigrew was a weakling. The biggest problem I had holding on wasn’t because of his strong mind or great powers; he is fucking insane! Do you really think I wanted to do this?"
"No, I’m sure you didn’t. That still doesn’t excuse you from using an under aged girl in your plan. You didn’t really care about that, did you? The ends justify the means, don’t they Harry? Doesn’t matter who gets trampled over in the meantime, does it? Who does that sound like to you, Harry? Maybe the thing you’re fighting? Maybe Dumbledore? One of them does anything they please, because he can. The other does everything out of his sense of the â€˜greater good’. What about you Harry? Where’s your moral compass?"
"That’s a nice speech, Bill. I tell you what. If I survive this war, I’ll answer your question. Until then, I’ll do what I have to do to survive. I am sick and tired of being lectured about my powers and responsibility. Riddle took Dumbledore apart, piece by piece. I watched the memory of it. In a fair fight, I won’t even make him work up a sweat! The kicker is, somehow I’m the only one that can kill him. You know it, so don’t give me that moral high horse shit. I didn’t want Ginny to get hurt. I didn’t make her violate her oath. You want to lash out at someone, lash out at the Abbotts. I’ve got bigger problems than you!"
"Oh if you want to challenge that Abbott wanker to a duel, I’ll be your second in a heartbeat. Hell, you might end up being my second if I see him before you. I’m just telling you this; don’t try fighting this war with kids. The more you involve them, the more they are going to get hurt. Hermione’s smart, but don’t you think there are people in the Ministry that know just as much as she does? Ron’s loyal as hell, but do you want him taking on a Death Eater right now? How about Susan? Are you willing to send her into the slaughter as well? Look around us. There is a whole group of professionals out here tonight. These are the people you want to fight with. It’s better to count on luck when you are with a whole bunch of people who are trained for a fight, rather then a bunch of half-trained kids!"
"Dammit Bill, that’s not fair!"
"No kidding! You’ve got a shitty hand, Harry, but it’s the only one you’ve got. The only thing you are going to get with involving your classmates is the opportunity to speak at their funerals. If this war drags on, it’ll be their turn to fight, but don’t drag them in now. It’s like that Auror auxiliary force. The first couple of times they got slaughtered. The Death Eaters chewed right through them. They are starting to hold their own, but there’s a rumor that the Death Eaters don’t want to crush them and give the Minister grounds for his draft."
The two of them sat there in silence for a minute. Finally Bill stuck his hand out. "I’ll fight beside you and if necessary die beside you, but I won’t let you use kids and send them to their death. They all look up to you. Yeah, I know you’re just sixteen year old too, but they haven’t seen what you have. They don’t have a clue what it is really like. You do. Hell, Ron practically worships you. Watch how the other students behave around you this year. Even if you don’t like it, you are their role model. Don’t abuse that power."
"Does that mean you’re applying for the moral compass job?" Harry said taking Bill’s hand.
"I’ve just shy of thirty. You’d be better off listening to Remus, but if you need one, then yes. I’ll have to start wearing gloves. Your jaw is boney. Glad I used my non-wand hand. Are we good?"
"Yeah, you made your point." Harry said scanning around and pleased to see Rita was still up by the house. He doubted that she would try to use her Animagus form in front of the Minister and Director of Magical Law Enforcement, but this is Skeeter.
"Alright then, relax for a few minutes and get ready for the next location."
Hestia Jones was glad to be back in England, even with the war on. There was something comforting about being home. Her husband and children Ryan and Emily were still in Greece with the rest of the family for their annual â€˜Jones family vacation.’ She had asked Dumbledore if she should stay, but he insisted that she go for appearances sake. Thankfully, Sturgis had been able to take up her shifts at Headquarters. She was still supposed to be gone for another week, but her guilt that Sturgis had been imprisoned in Azkaban and was now separated from his family until she returned. She couldn’t enjoy Greece and begged off returning home early. Marcus and the kids would be fine without her.
She would check in tomorrow after she unpacked. This evening, she intended to take a long bath have a spot of tea and read a good book with only her wireless set for company.
Her houses perimeter wards activated. Her dueling skills weren’t bad. She had fought Death Eaters in the first war and this one. A white misty fog seeped under the door and reformed into a large fruit bat. One of the Order members was outside and trying to contact her. She adjusted her robe and slid her shoes on. She was surprised that anyone would come here. Most everyone knew she was on vacation.
As she headed towards the door with her wand idly in her hand, she wondered out loud, "I wonder what Snape wants this evening?"
The second site was a complete bust. The wards were there, but no one else was. The safe house was not in use. After some deliberation, the command team ordered the curse breakers to repair the wards and add a few tripwires that would alert someone that the house was occupied. Bill also added a voice-activated ward that would cause the wards to drop if the phrase, â€˜Open up in the name of the Ministry’ was said. It was widely agreed that any Death Eater inside would probably soil their knickers. The rest of the team left when Bill was putting the final touches on the new and â€˜improved’ wards for the Death Eater safe house. Director Dawson and the Minister agreed to get everyone staged for the next fight, if there was to be one.
Harry watched on as the curse breakers continued to perform their work carving intricate patterns into the stonework of the building or etching wards in the air itself with their wands. He would need to learn about warding and how to take down wards. He thought about Bill’s words and the need to avoid involving his generation in the fight. Bill was both right and wrong at the same time. The Death Eaters don’t care about whether a person had taken their NEWTs yet. They will kill them just the same. Then again, the smartest way for your typical Hogwarts student to survive a fight with a Death Eater is not to be in a fight with one.
"We’re done Harry. Are you ready to Portkey to the third safe house?" Harry nodded and went over to grab the Portkey. Five seconds later they were whisked away to a rundown warehouse district.
It was apparent that things were already very wrong. The flashes of light and the screams were the first clue. The sinking feeling of dread was the second. The ominous black shapes darting around the witches and wizards some already on the ground.
"Harry! Dementors! Expecto Patronum!"
Harry concentrated on his lethal Patronus spell. The angry stag burst from his wand and began charging into the fray. Harry could sense them everywhere. He stayed close to the curse breakers protected by Bill’s wolfhound, a gargoyle and some large bird. Prongs had already killed one dementor and was leaping at a second.
"They’re all over the place. How many do you think there are?" Bill asked.
Harry looked and saw the mass in the night sky. He swallowed hard. "I think they’re all here."
"Master, your servant will live. He is weak, but resting at the moment." Georgina Crabbe bowed her head in servitude to Voldemort.
"Thank you for the update, Madame Crabbe." Voldemort took the offered pain relief potions she set on the table before him. He drank them down quickly as the Mediwitch retreated from his study. The others were repairing the damage to the central chamber and Severus was out acquiring the necessary personnel for Ms. Beaucourt’s plan to be implemented. Peter would have to be disciplined, on principal. The lancing pain in his chest caused by his damaged ribs dwindled to a dull roar.
He turned his attention to the latest reports and troop movements. He would have to call another meeting with the Dementors. They had been merely raiding, when he desired slaughter. There was a rumor that Potter could kill them. Thus far, it was unsubstantiated. He should have asked the boy when he was here. Antonin Dolohov was due back in a few days. Penelope had been sent to rendezvous with him on her way to a new name and identity in America.
Voldemort wondered what pressures he could bring to bear against the forces arrayed against him. The battle in the Ministry was now a political holding action. Scrimgeour’s agenda had been halted and the situation was now a veritable quagmire. Dumbledore was licking his wounds. At the same time, his own forces had suffered their share of defeats. The problem at the moment was that no faction had forward momentum. It was a standstill. Ironically the only one making any progress appeared to be Potter, but he has no organization. Perhaps the current climate favored the solo operative with no fixed ties. It had been almost four decades since that description applied to him.
Creating and leading an organization can become a full time mistress. He saw how well his â€˜entity’ had survived in his â€˜absence’. His Death Eaters scurried into the woodwork and tried to hide their service to him. Perhaps it was his own sense of mortality, either from the injuries or the knowledge that Potter had been a bit too close for comfort, but he wondered if his message could survive another â€˜absence’? Voldemort considered several ideas on how best to proceed.
A knock on the door interrupted his musings. "Enter." A tall, thin, and balding man in a traveling cloak entered and performed a deep bow to his Master.
"Welcome back Rookwood. Were you able to acquire the item I requested?"
He received the ornate wooden box proffered by his servant, as Augustus Rookwood’s raspy voice replied, "There were no obstacles that time, patience and currency could not overcome, Milord. My contacts in Nice were able to procure it with very little questions. Mulciber is down in the holding cells performing the preliminary work on the captives. The witch is easily enough dominated. I assume this is for the other one?"
"Indeed it is. Excellent work. I may have another mission for you in the near future."
"I live to serve, Master." The Death Eater bowed and exited.
"Release me; I can make it worth your while, non?" Damien Mulciber listened impassively to the blonde witch coo. He could feel her aura pouring on her charm. Being a specialist in mind control, he took the opportunity to observe just how the Veela aura operates, under low lighting and revealing charms. The hair takes on an unnatural sheen. In the reduced light of the cell, he could actually see it glitter slightly. From his research, he knew that her scent would be changing and releasing thousands of pheromones into the surrounding air to assault his senses. The scent would be designed to heighten male arousal. Other areas of the young woman’s body glittered as the aura attempted to draw his attention to breasts, lips, and eyes. He caught himself wetting his lips slightly, but clinically analyzing her power had a way of detaching him from the experience. Though he noted how the breasts firmed with nipples straining against fabric, the lips became fuller and formed a teasing pout and the pupils of the eyes became larger and more inviting.
The woman’s voice dropped to a sultry whisper, "Maybe I liked to be chained up? Maybe I need a man to take me? We’re all alone right now. There’s nothing to stop you." She arched her body on the bed to indicate submission.
Mulciber chuckled at the display. They were not alone. Two female Death Eaters were outside with a scrying charm watching their entire exchange. The women would enter and stun him if he showed the first signs of falling for the Veela charm. The guard in the infirmary was proof that the Frenchwoman was not to be taken lightly. In his line of work, pure brutal honesty was often the most terrifying thing he could do to a prisoner. He gestured to the scorch mark on the door, "Or perhaps you would like to do that to my face? No I am afraid not. I am impressed that you are able to make a full avian transformation. Many half-breeds cannot and for you being a quarter it is indeed noteworthy. You are an exceptional specimen. I shall enjoy breaking you and turning you into a servant of my Master. Now, this evening I will be taking hair, skin and blood samples. I will also be gauging your ability to resist the Imperius curse. You are adept at manipulating the male species; let us see if you can take what you so freely dish out. Would you like a bit of water before we begin?"
Fleur bit her lower lip. Aimee had betrayed her! Her head still hurt from the drugged wine and the man before her mocked her despite her best efforts.
From a distance, the ethereal glow of the Patroni shined like tiny points of light amongst a wave of darkness. Harry had used a second killer Patronus after the first faded from view. It wasn’t very taxing at all; nowhere near the exhaustion he had felt prior. Several of the Aurors were down. Hearing pops to his left, Harry spun with his wand an offensive spell on his lips, but stopped upon seeing the Minister and the surviving members of Delta command. It looked like they lost the photographer and one of the Minister’s bodyguards. Rita was still there looking frightfully pale, which morbidly amused Harry. Up until now, he wasn’t certain she had a soul.
"Figured over here was safer. They’re afraid of you Potter. Can’t say I blame them!" Scrimgeour said shivering visibly and casting his Patronus. Harry could tell it was a dog of some kind, but was far too busy guiding Prongs to play the â€˜guess the Patronus game’. The Minister raised his wand and magically enhanced his voice. "Everyone form here! Quickly!"
The pops of apparation could be heard as the cloud of Dementors shifted like enraged insects after prey. Harry noticed that everyone else was shaking and quivering, but he felt no different than normal. It was a far cry from the frightened boy who fainted in their presence nearly three years ago. The most interesting thing is instead of his mother’s voice, he was hearing the voices of Susan, Bill, Dumbledore, The Order and the rest of the Weasleys condemning him for turning into a Dark Wizard. He had a new darkest fear, but their aura no longer affected him.
Harry turned and barked an order. "Everyone get inside that warehouse. We can evacuate from in there."
The Minister looked at him. "What are you playing at Harry? We’ll fall back from here."
"I’m immune to them. If we lure them in, you can leave and I’ll trap them inside and slaughter them."
"Right then, everyone inside. Leave the door open so they can follow us. Cast unbreakable charms on the windows and seal everything but the front door. Are you sure about this Harry? Okay, you heard him."
The group moved in under the cover a various Patroni. Upon entering the warehouse, the Aurors cast unbreakable charms and Colloportus on everything they could find.
The Minister took an item out of his pocket, a small ivory bracelet. "Harry, this is a special Portkey. Once you put it on you will need to say â€˜cancel’ every minute to prevent the Portkey from activating. Just because they can’t affect you doesn’t mean they can’t kiss you. If you say emergency activate, it will trigger. You’ll end up in a small cottage near Dover. The Floo is connected to Auror Headquarters. Good luck!"
Harry accepted it and watched everyone depart and put it into his pocket. He didn’t cast his Patronus; instead he let the swirling mass flow into the room. The Dementors stopped moving and floated in the air. Two of them dragged a body of one of the kissed Aurors towards him. A third one moved towards the body and breathed black mist into it.
The voice came out devoid of any emotion, "You are the one who can kill us."
Harry couldn’t think of a justification for lying, so he merely nodded his head and said, "What of it? You’re in league with Riddle and his Death Eaters."
"You are unnatural." It certainly was an ironic statement coming from a floating hellspawn.
"What do you mean?"
"The one you fight. He linked himself to us long ago, to prevent death from claiming him. The link was transferred to you when he attempted to kill you as a child. The ones you encountered years ago sensed the wrongness about you and tried to consume you. They were wrong."
"Your aura doesn’t affect me anymore. I’m not scared of any of you." Though Harry didn’t like how many were floating around him. It made him nervous.
"Let us strengthen the link. You are already able to draw from our strength. If you haven’t already you will be able to call upon our powers. Perhaps, in time you will become one of us. We will join you in conquest. You will take us to larger feeding grounds. Let us grow stronger and you shall grow stronger."
Harry paled the thought of becoming a dementor. The idea was repugnant. Harry asked the question no one knew the answer to. "What are you?"
"Once we were the war mages of Lemuria, whom the Atlanteans defeated. Our souls were used to rebirth us. We were then used against our own people, but eventually we rebelled and destroyed our creators. Most of our kind perished with the destruction of Atlantis. The one you call Merlin tricked us and bound us to this land using blood magic. Only a few of our kind exist elsewhere in this world. If we make you strong enough you can break the magic, which binds us here and we will be free to roam the world for the first time in a thousand years."
Harry paced ignoring the Dementors around him. His mind whirled at the implications. It was disgusting on so many levels. In a small group he had felt the strain on his magic casting the powerful Patronus, but tonight with so many around him he barely felt it. He began to wonder if the Power the Dark Lord Knows Not would be supplied to him by the Dementors. What kind of monster was Harry Potter?
"Are you all here tonight?"
"No, there is another nest elsewhere. This is the majority of our number. Will you join us and wield our power?"
Harry stared into the lifeless eyes of the Auror propped up by the skeletal hands of two dementors. The eyes accused him. In them he saw the price of power, let the dementors free to consume souls and use that power to destroy Riddle. In his mind he saw images of whole cities filled lifeless husks with him turning into a dementor and joining in. He felt violated on a basic level.
He waved his wand at the large sliding door of the old warehouse. "Colloportus!"
"What are you doing?" The dead Auror asked. Was it Harry’s imagination or was there a hint of fear in it?
"I’ll never become one of you! You may have been around for thousands of years, but that ends tonight! Expecto Patronum!" In the morning the Muggles would falsely report this as a small earthquake measuring three point two on their Richter scale. Harry felt the ground tremble beneath his feet as a stag the size of a small dragon erupted from his wand. He heard the Auror scream for the dementor controlling it as it and the two next to it became the first but not the last victims.
Harry watched as Dementors rebounded of unbreakable windows. Some started clawing at the wooden walls of the old warehouse trying to escape into the night. Others tried to pry the door Harry had sealed open. Perhaps the magic holding it would weaken as the Prongs began destroying more and more dementors.
Eventually, they turned towards him. Unable to perform their kiss, they slashed at him with bony claws as Harry backed into a corner and shielded himself with dragon hide gauntlets while transfiguring a chunk of wood into an axe similar to the one he had given to Hagrid. He tried disillusioning himself, but they could still sense him. Still the giant Prongs raged against the soul sucking monsters. His blows were moderately effective at keeping the clawed hands from reaching him. He banished debris to knock them backwards. Fortunately, the long dead mages did not consider finding weapons of their own. Prongs circled around him clearing the ones closest to him.
Scraped, bloodied and mostly beaten, Harry Potter bore sole witness to the destruction of most of the dementors still in existence. He sagged to the ground certain that he looked like he had just dove naked and head first into a rose bush.
"You look like you could use a hand, not to mention a healer." Rita’s voice broke through the silence. He could see her in the faint moonlight coming in through the unbreakable windows. Apparently, Harry hadn’t been the sole witness.
Harry’s coughed and choked back some of the bile that had worked it’s way up into his throat. Accepting her hand, while feeling for signs of the Dark Mark on her he said dryly, "Here I thought all the soul suckers were dead. Why did you stay?"
"Now Harry, that was uncalled for! I heard that your godfather was able to use his unregistered â€˜talent’ to evade these things and I simply couldn’t resist staying to see the showdown between Lord Potter and the Dementor Horde. I never knew how they communicated; in a way I wish I never found out."
"So you heard everything didn’t you?" Harry wondered if he should Obliviate her or have Scrimgeour do it. At least she didn’t have the mark on her.
"I always wondered why there were so few dementors outside of England. Do you realize that we are probably the only two people, who know that little tidbit? So when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named tried to kill you, he transferred a link he created with them to you."
After pondering these things for a moment, Harry began rapidly putting these facts together. The blood magic his mother used to save him was probably derived from Merlin’s magic used to trap the dementors in England. Somehow, the magic of Riddle’s killing curse, the blood wards and Riddle’s connection to the Dementors combine to reflect the killing curse and transfer both the dementor’s link and the Parseltongue into Harry. He suspected that both of those abilities were blood magic based.
"I guess that’s pretty much the story. How much of this are you planning to write?"
Rita sighed dramatically, "My deal with the Minister says he gets to proofread and edit tonight events. I’ll have to save it for your Unauthorized Biography, unless of course, we can work a deal for your Authorized Biography? I’d be willing to take a vow of silence about this fact in exchange for your exclusive rights? You’re looking rather peaked right now so if you’re thinking about Obliviating me, I’d seriously consider another option. I am notoriously resistant to mental charms and one of the fastest at Apparation you will ever see."
"How do you know you’re resistant to mental charms?"
"Dear boy, I dated Gilderoy for three years coming out of school. Without going into details, let’s just say I acquired immunity along the way, shall we. One of the biggest things I’ve held against you is that you ruined my complete and utter humiliation of him a few years back. I had a total exposition of him almost finished and then he goes and runs into you and ends up drawing with crayons in St. Mungo’s. It’s really hard to sell a publisher on printing that book. We’re talking over a year of painstaking research down the drain, Harry. I had the first ten chapters written!"
Harry laughed at her shrill proclamation. "Sorry to disappoint you by not ending up a mental midget."
"Harry, are you frightened by what that thing said — that you could become a dementor?" He looked at her. If she was faking concern, she was very good at it. Then again, there was a rumor that Rita Skeeter could have sex with a man and fake his orgasm.
"I’d be a fool if I said I wasn’t. I’ll take you up on that vow. What’s my cut of the biography?"
"Twenty percent," she answered perhaps a bit too quickly.
"Fine twenty-five, the publisher’s get fifty and I get the other twenty-five — useless sodding bastards!"
"How’s your Occlumency?"
"Again notoriously resistant to mental charms, Harry. Why ever do you ask?"
"No reason. This can’t get out. There’s still another nest of dementors out there and if Riddle brings them into battle with him, I’ll stand more of a chance against him. In fact, it would be a great help if you could play up how fatigued I looked and felt at the end of the fight. Anyway, if you swear to never write, speak of or imply my connection to the dementors, I’ll let you write my authorized biography after Riddle is dead."
"Considering you look like you tried to take a shower with a mother kneazle and her litter, it won’t be stretching the truth so much, but what happens if you die and not Riddle? Sorry Harry, you’re a sweetheart, but this is business. A girl’s gotta make a living, you know?"
"If I die, do you really think he is going to let you write a biography about me?"
"Of course he would, it will be full of all these positively juicy lies about you. It’ll probably take ten or twenty years, but eventually he’ll want to rewrite history to paint himself in a better light for the next generation. You know what they say revision is so much better than just plain old vision! Honestly Harry, it’s not about good and evil or right and wrong — it’s about image. The sooner you learn that the better off you’ll be."
"Fine! After me or Riddle snuff it, you can write my biography. If I do turn into one of those things, make sure they figure out how to cast the spell."
"What?" Rita looked confused.
"Tell someone to kill me. Now let’s swear ourselves an oath."
Harry learned a surprising fact; her full name was Francine Amorita Skeeter. He also learned that he should never even in a jest refer to her as Francine. She went back outside and retrieved the camera from the Ministry photographer and snapped a quick shot of Harry with his face half in darkness and half illuminated by the moonlight. The scratches and marks were clearly visible. His cloak was frayed and tattered.
"Was that really necessary?"
"If you want to play the young wizard who just barely got out of this alive. Well, we best be going. Rufus is probably worried sick about you and nervous about what I am doing. Plus, I have an entire story to write and get approved in four hours! These things don’t write themselves."
"So now that we have our little deal, how much do the publishers really take?"
She flashed him a smile that was both dazzling and predatory at the same time. "Never more than thirty percent, dear. Consider it a valuable lesson in doing business."
"Thanks Francine. Ow! Still bruised there! Should we Apparate back or do you want to Portkey to his cottage and Floo from there? It’s kind of a long way to London."
"Let’s use the Portkey. I wouldn’t miss a chance to see Rufus’s little hideaway. You never know when I might need to use Scrimgeour’s secret love nest in a story."
"Good morning, Susan. Were you able to sleep last night?" Dumbledore ignored the loudly snoring form of Hermione Granger on the other bed. Fortunately, the elves had cleared away both the containers and the bottles of alcohol from the room.
"Some, Headmaster. I kept waking up last night, like I had a nervous energy. What can I do for you?"
"Having escaped the clutches of our resident healer, I am headed back to headquarters to speak with Harry. I was hoping you would accompany me." Albus held the breathing mask to his mouth to take some breaths. He obviously shouldn’t be up, but stubbornness seemed to be a common affliction amongst magical people. One of his eyes was covered by a patch. She thought of asking about his health, but opted against it.
"Can you give me about fifteen minutes to clean myself up?"
"Certainly; take all the time you need." Dumbledore retreated from the room casting one final suspicious glance at the sleeping Gryffindor.
Susan waited for a moment and then headed off to the shower. Her limp was much more noticeable today. Last night’s excitement hadn’t done her rehabilitation any favors. As she cleaned herself, she wondered how she was going to deal with her fiancÃ©. The weak bond between them wasn’t something that could be thrown off in anger. She reckoned in her position, Ginny Weasley would use the attraction against him and seduce him out of his anger. Hermione would probably use some cool logic with big words to demonstrate her vastly superior position and bludgeon him into submission. Hannah would just snog him until he forgot what the argument was about. She didn’t even want to think about Megan Jones’s tactics of â€˜Oral solves everything.’ Then again, Megan was enormously popular and easy to get along with, although that reputation was going to follow her after school. Millie Bulstrode would place him into a headlock until either he gave up or passed out. Back to the subject at hand, what exactly was she going to do about Hannah anyway? This wasn’t exactly one of those tiny things that could be easily forgiven?
Pulling a dress out of her wardrobe, she slid it on. She shuddered at the thought of trying to get into pants at the moment and the pain it would cause. The dress was one of her favorite sundresses. Normally, she would take the time to dry and plait her hair by hand. This was out of habit because up until now she had been under-aged. One very self-satisfying wave of her wand and her hair dried. She was still trying to get the hang of the spell that would plait her hair the way she liked it, so she settled for a long ponytail. She wouldn’t be any of those girls. She would handle Harry as plain old Susan Bones.
Muttering to herself, "Course it would help if I knew just how I handle these things."
Leaving Hermione to her slumber she exited the room. Fortunately, these dorms were the first set and there was only eight short steps into the Ravenclaw common room. Her attention was immediately drawn to the Headmaster standing in the middle of the room. The three current heads of house were practically circling him with unreadable looks on their face. A copy of the Daily Prophet floated in the air in front of him.
"Albus, you have to talk some sense into Potter. His escapades are getting out of control!"
"Agreed Minerva, however I do believe that I am not the best person to address this with him. Ah Susan, it appears we need to take in a bit of light reading before we head out."
Susan moved to where she could see the front page. On the front page was Harry looking worse for wear with a grim expression on his half illuminated face.
The headline proclaimed in large bold type — â€˜Potter and Minister Lead Massive Counterstrike Against Dark Forces!’ Susan shook her head and blew her bangs out of the way in frustration as she began scanning the story.
Rita Skeeter reporting. Your fearless finder of facts found herself in unexpected peril in the predawn hours. Accompanied by over a score of Aurors, including the Minister and the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, as well as a crack team of Curse breaker’s protected by the one and only Harry Potter, we set off in search of the hidden sanctuaries of the Death Eaters.
"We had reliable information on the location of several of their hideouts. Critics of my administration are always quick to falsely accuse me of not trying to gather enough intelligence and being slow to respond. I say that is complete and utter rubbish! Tonight’s results speak for themselves. We are winning this war. We are capable of bringing the battle to our enemy and we will be victorious!" Minister Scrimgeour responded forcefully after debriefing the troops.
And what results you ask? Only the capture of seven Death Eaters, the death of three more and the utter devastation of the traitorous Dementors — formerly of Azkaban. Minister Scrimgeour was unable to comment on the reports that several rumored hostages had also been freed only to say that there would be more good news as soon as the parties involved could be contacted.
From my vantage point on the front lines of the War Against Darkness at a country manor in Essex, I witnessed The Boy Who Lived outfly and out perform a fleeing Death Eater who turned out to be none other than ex-Bulgarian Quidditch star Piotr Levski. The chaser on his Firebolt was no match for Harry Potter’s incredible death defying acrobatics. The harrowing chase ended as the Bulgarian tried to fly into a heavily wooded area against the person already being considered for a position on the English National Team. The conclusion — Lord Potter emerged without a scratch and the forensics team carted Levski away in a body bag.
When asked about the death Lord Potter was stoic beyond his sixteen years. ""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."
I had thought it was simply tough talk from the boyish Lord trying to establish himself as a player in Magical Britain, but I was corrected by William Weasley, leader of the Gringotts Curse breakers attached to the assault force. He is the brother of the recently deceased Percival and George Weasley. His youngest brother Roland is one of Harry’s closest friends.
"Make no mistake, Ms. Skeeter, Harry is a tremendously powerful wizard. Underestimate him at your own risk."
With such statements of seemingly false bravado, we left our first target and arrived at the second target only to find it overrun with all the Dementors of Azkaban. Those of you who have ever been in the presence of a single one of those foul creatures can tell you it is an experience most won’t wish to share. Overhead, at one point blotting out the half moon were hundreds of them. Both the Minister and Lord Potter rallied the troops as I watched in amazement at the Patronus belonging to Lord Potter kill several dementors. That’s right faithful readers believe the rumors we reported on over a week ago in this very column, Harry Potter can kill a dementor! The stag Patronus, a magical representation of his father, sources close to Lord Potter informed me, didn’t merely drive them off. It reduced them to smoldering ashes! See Picture on Page 3 of Potter’s Killer Patronus in Action! See Picture on Page 5 of Potter taking to the sky against Death Eater Levski! See Potter and Minister Scrimgeour on Page 2 congratulating Director Ada Dawson for a well executed and successful raid.
Seeking to minimize any losses, the Minister and Potter led our group into a nearby warehouse, where they laid a clever trap for the Minions of Darkness. The brave Aurors and curse breakers sealed all the exits except for the main entrance. Like moths to a flame the Dementors entered the building. Everyone save Lord Potter retreated with Portkeys. Shirking my own safety, I Apparated outside and watched the epic confrontation unfold.
Lord Potter, seemingly immune to their debilitating aura of despair, sealed the entrance and began destroying the foul wraiths with his Killer Patronus. History speaks of such legendary events like the fall of Atlantis and the Wizard King Beowulf triumphing against Grendel’s troll army. This reporter stood in awe and watched a wizard only considered a man through a legality unleash a magic that might only be rivaled by Merlin himself.
The monsters must have realized that this was their end. They started trying to physically assault Lord Potter. He was backed into a corner with only his wand and a conjured axe to defend himself like some warrior of folktales, as his Patronus raged like a wild beast through their ranks. Seconds turned to minutes as I watched the brave lad fight for not just his life, but his very soul! Never before, and hopefully never again, will I witness something so glorious and terrifying at the same time.
When it was done, our hero stood on unsteady legs, bleeding from numerous wounds, his clothing frayed and torn. The air was thick with the disgusting smoke the creatures emitted in their death throes. Harry used my arm for support. The legendary warrior had suddenly vanished and only a brave but weary young man remained. He was physically, magically and emotionally exhausted. I’m not ashamed to admit it touched a maternal chord in my heart as I helped him leave the warehouse. Despite the warmth of the summer night, I could feel him shivering.
His voice was barely rose above a whisper as he said, "It’s done. I don’t think I could fight those things again. I’m glad they’re gone."
I complimented him on his victory as we prepared to Portkey back to the Ministry, but he was gracious to all those involved. "Rita, this was a team effort. The Minister, the Director, the Aurors, the Curse breakers and even you, Rita were all part of the team."
The Minister echoed Lord Potter’s sentiments, proclaiming a monumental victory against the enemies of the Ministry. He said that the prisoners and the deceased were all foreign born nationals. "The Witches and Wizards of Magical Britain sent a message today. That message was do not come to our country with the intent of making war on us. Our enemy no longer finds willing recruits in England and instead imports the scum of Europe to do his fighting. Let the word go forth to those who would consider coming here to fight under our enemies banner, we will not tolerate you. We will find you. We will bring you to justice."
Minister Scrimgeour went on to imply that foreign born fighters should expect to find mercy in short supply here in Britain. He is considering asking the Wizengamot for new restrictions on persons seeking to enter our country.
Susan looked up from the paper. All the adults in the room had been watching her face as she read the story. If she had a moment to look at herself, she probably would have been amused by the shade of color on her face. "Here I was worried he would do something sensible, like go home and cool off. No! He goes and does something like this! You might want to talk with him first, Headmaster because he isn’t going to like what I have to say to him right now! Of all the stupid idiotic…"
"You should calm yourself Susan. Ms. Skeeter does have a way of taking artistic license with her work. Why don’t we give Harry the benefit of the doubt for the moment and hear his side of things. Come, why don’t we walk outside and get some morning air before I have Fawkes transport us to Mr. Potter?"
They walked slowly in relative silence the portraits watched the strange pair pass. Stopping periodically for the headmaster to breath from his mask. Reaching the open air outside the main gate. Dumbledore asked her, "As a result of her actions Ms. Abbott will be forfeiting her prefect’s badge. I would like you to consider taking over."
"Thank you sir, but I don’t think so. Harry is my number one priority. I don’t think I would be able to perform my duties to the level that would make either of us happy. Megan or Sally-Ann would be a better choice. Is that all that is going to happen to Hannah?"
"In a sense I am both disappointed and relieved at your decision. Harry is indeed fortunate to have your support. I shall approach Ms. Jones next. To answer your question, both of Peter’s daughters will be operating under various restrictions if they wish to continue their education here. Their tutoring of others in Occlumency and Legilimency will be monitored by staff and they will be swearing oaths to prohibit them from using their skills on an unwilling subject for as long as they remain at Hogwarts. They will be assisting Nurse Pomfrey in any recovery or rehabilitation of Ms. Weasley and their participation in any and all extracurricular activities will be subject to my approval."
"How is Ginny? Harry will want to know." Susan thought of the Weasleys. The first thing that popped into her head was that Ron would probably be unhappy being called Roland in Rita’s article.
"She is recovering. The oath damaged her magically and it may be months before she will be able to perform at her previous level. More disturbing is that she had a seizure indicating some neurological damage that will take longer to heal if in fact it will heal. We are sending her to St. Mungo’s for more in depth testing and should know more within a week."
Susan absorbed all this. She wouldn’t say that she cared about Ginny’s welfare, but she knew Harry would. Mostly out of guilt that he made her swear the oath to begin with. "Is Hannah okay?"
"She is recovering. Mr. Potter was quite thorough in his demolition of her mental defenses. She should be able to get her barriers repaired in time for the start of the school year, if she applies herself. I ask that when you visit her, you be supportive rather than combative. She is in a fragile emotional state and probably needs a friend rather than an accuser. I hate to place you in such an awkward position, but you may need to be the one that brokers a truce between your fiancÃ© and the Abbott family. I already have to keep Remus and Peter Abbott away from each other."
"Right. One problem at a time. I need to salvage my relationship with Harry first. I know we aren’t planning on the wedding until the holidays at the earliest, but I think it would be best if we made use of the suites of rooms for visitors and married students. I can’t very well give him support from the Hufflepuff dormitories."
"Indeed. I agree that the two of you need time together. I will have to expend some political clout with the Board of Governors, but I believe that what you propose is in everyone’s best interest. Are you now in the proper frame of mind to speak with him? My ears may be quite old and I am not exactly certain what I heard you mumbling, but I don’t think Harry would appreciate what you intended to do with you cane?"
"I’m ready as I am going to be. I promise that I won’t do that thing with the cane unless he truly deserves it. Sir, I think it is best that only I go for the moment. I need to speak with him alone, first. If the two of us go there, it will seem like we are teaming up against him. Have Fawkes bring my Pensieve and I’ll send it back with the memories Harry wants to share." Susan replied with a bit of a blush that the Headmaster had heard her plans for clubbing Harry with her cane until either it or his thick skull broke first.
"Very good. I understand your logic completely. Fawkes! Please take Miss Bones to Mr. Potter. I shall return to my office to await my recapture by our resident healer."
Emmeline Vance sat at her breakfast table taking in the morning paper. She was certain that there would be an Order meeting soon with so much happening. She hoped Bill and Harry were really okay with their encounter with the Dementors. Things were heating up. She felt like somewhere, a damn was about to burst. It scared her. The Order was in poor shape. Many of their best fighters were gone or injured. There was much to worry about.
Aristotle, Hestia Jones’s owl landed on the table startled her. She took the letter off the leg and tossed him a treat. The older witch and Emmeline got along like sisters. She was shocked that Hestia had cut short her vacation.
Cut short the trip to Greece. Couldn’t stay away. What in Merlin’s name is going on? Meet me at the usual. I need an update, badly.
Emmeline finished dressing in a hurry. Hestia would be waiting at the coffee shop. She concentrated on her destination and Apparated to the alley behind the little cafÃ©.
The healer on station at Auror Headquarters had healed Harry’s scrapes. They looked much worse than they actually were. When Rufus had asked to see the memory, Harry had provided only the portion from the time he unleashed his Patronus. There were limits to the people that Harry was going to trust with this information. He needed to speak with Dumbledore, but that could wait. Not nearly as tired as Rita’s story would make him out to be, but still quite knackered. Harry, escorted by Bill returned to his house. Sturgis had gone to sleep and Mr. Diggle was there. Bill put a glamour over Harry and the Order member never saw Harry’s shredded clothing and signs of magical healing.
Harry went up to the library and spoke with Bill for a time before begging off to sleep. He didn’t immediately sleep, but summoned the echo of his godfather to the frame in his sanctuary room where they had a long discussion about the minds of females. Far too early for Harry’s liking, Dobby woke him up.
"Harry Potter’s Suzy is here to see you. Miss Suzy can’t open the bedroom door to your private room."
Harry dressed quickly. His anger at her had turned to numbness. He didn’t know what to feel at the moment. He toyed with the idea of simply telling Dobby that he was unavailable for visitors today. Deciding that it would go over as well as a return engagement of the Delores Umbridge educational experience, he finished dressing and opened the door. He could feel the nervous energy radiating from Susan. She hadn’t been working on her Occlumency. He could see the copy of the Daily Prophet clutched in her hand.
"Good morning, something I can do for you?" Harry said attempting but failing to sound casual.
Susan stood and moved towards him. Harry suspected his cheek was about to start hurting. â€˜Well Susan, considering I had dementors clawing at me let’s see what Harry Potter’s Suzy is made of? Give me your best shot.’ He didn’t want to admit it, but old Suzy was pretty when she was angry. By all indications, she was also pretty angry.
She stopped a foot in front of him and stared in his eyes. At five foot six, she was only an inch or two shorter than he was and since she was in shoes and he was not, they looked at each other straight in the other’s eyes. The staring contest went on for a good thirty seconds before Susan opened her mouth.
"I’m not apologizing for stopping you last night. You were wrong to go at Hannah like that and you were out of control. You’re not going to apologize for trying to avenge your friend. It’s what you do. It’s who you are. I get it. I wanted to come over here and crack your thick skull open after I read about your little trip around the English countryside, but then I realized you went and got twenty Aurors to come with you. So, I can’t really be too upset about that, can I? Wait don’t say anything, I’m not finished yet. What matters is what we do now. I’ve accepted the fact that you and probably I are going to end up killing more people before this war is through. It isn’t open season on anyone who gets on your nerves. Mr. Abbott stepped way over the line, but going after him isn’t going to solve anything. Let Dumbledore handle him. Don’t kill anyone that you don’t have to. Don’t lose yourself. Don’t go dark. Don’t become a monster. Stay in the light, and I swear I’ll never leave you."
Susan wasn’t sure how her speech was going to be received. She was prepared for anything from him laughing at her and mocking her up to a â€˜Colloportus the door’ level tantrum. Instead she felt a sharp sensation of anguish come through their bond and suddenly Harry’s arms were around her and his head was buried in her neck. It was selfish of her to savor the power of his hug. He clutched at her as if she was the most important thing in the world. There were no tears, but only some kind of raw need for contact with her. It was both empowering and confusing at the same time.
"Do you want to talk about it? Was it about the battle?" Harry only tightened his grip. It took a few minutes before she could get him untangled from her. She wondered what she had said that broke through his defenses so quickly. "Fawkes is bringing my Pensieve. Whatever it is. It can’t be that bad? Dumbledore asked that you give him the memory of your encounter with Riddle as well."
Harry sighed and removed the memories as the phoenix arrived seeming slightly less hostile than in recent visits, "I’d like to believe that, but I know the truth." Harry knew that the only one in Britain with enough knowledge of blood wards and magical connections to understand would need to see his memories. If there was a way to sever his connection with the dementors, they would have to start somewhere.
"Fawkes, would you please take my Pensieve to Dumbledore."
Harry looked at her, "Aren’t you going to watch it?"
"You’re more important. That can wait." She pulled Harry back to her. She’d watch it some other time. The world needed Harry, but most importantly Harry needed her. At that moment, nothing else in the world mattered.
"Mulciber, how long before the last witch is broken? I wish to proceed as soon as possible."
"The younger witch is tenacious, but her willpower is fading. I anticipate success within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. I have done all I can with the Veela. She is pliable. The rest hinges on how well she responds to Rookwood’s little present."
Voldemort allowed his eyes to narrow, the crumpled morning paper in front of him parts of it scorched by his angry magic. "Return to your labors. I will join you downstairs. You are quite skilled at your profession, but perhaps I have a trick or two you haven’t seen before. Our combined efforts can speed the process along. I will be along momentarily. The sooner she is broken, the sooner we can teach these fools the folly of angering me."
Recognizing the anger emanating from his Master, Damien Mulciber retreated back to the cells and his task of preparing the prisoners. A simple Imperius curse could control someone very effectively provided the caster maintained close proximity to the victim. For greater distance and extended periods of control, there were certain potions and procedures requiring meticulous skill and attention to the tiniest detail. Those were the things he prided himself on. He looked forward to seeing what skills the Dark Lord had to offer.
He opened the cell door and regarded the bound witch in front of him. "Hello again, Emmeline. May I call you Emmy? It’s such a long and traditional name. I’d like us to become very good friends. People don’t usually like me at first, but after a time they come around and want to be my friend. Hestia is already my close friend. She wants you to be my friend as well. She told me how to get in touch with you. Later, we’ll bring her in and let you speak with her. She’ll tell you how happy she is now. Soon we will all be such good friends. I have a special guest coming to see you. You won’t want to be his friend. You will want to serve him, like we all do."
Her screams of fear and terror as the door opened were like a well-performed opera to his ears as he set about his work. After all just ask the politicians, getting people to see the world the way you want them to takes hard work and a willingness to persevere.
Author’s notes — Ronald is incorrectly spelled in Rita’s article on purpose. It’s the kind of thing she does. I hope you enjoyed the nonstop action of this chapter and that I did a credible job of creating a quality Rita Skeeter story. I really enjoy writing her for some reason — scary isn’t it? Next chapter it’s Harry versus Snape, I promise you won’t want to miss it! Jim