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Bungle in the Jungle

Author Notes:

Disclaimer - Nothing but fanfiction.

Acknowledgements - Thanks to all the usual suspects at Alpha Fight Club.   Beta work by Aaran St. Vines.

Chapter 13 – I Was Such a Clown

“Sadly, with his cursed injuries becoming resistant to even increased doses, Dumbledore asked to be put into a magical sleep so that he could be available during the crucial endgame.  His advice to everyone was to, ‘Stay the course and look to your hearts, for in there you will find the strength to carry on.’  That is precisely why we are here to do today.”

Snape is a very convincing liar.  He’s a colossal bastard too, but that’s beside the point.

“Why should we believe you?”  Some idiot named Diggle asks.

“He’s telling the truth.  I was there,” you answer and throw Snape a bone.  Of course, Harry Potter would never, ever lie.

“Why didn’t he contact us?”

Snape’s sigh comes out more like a growl.  “The man was dying!  Every second we delayed was another step closer to his death!  I’m sorry he didn’t have time to schedule a meeting and wait for everyone’s timely responses.  Are there any other idiotic questions?”

That seems to settle that matter. 

“But what do we do now?”

Okay, maybe it didn’t.

“The Headmaster requested that Tonks continue to impersonate him.  He left us with several already created excuses for his numerous absences.  The majority of the decisions that concern the school’s next year have been made and the few that haven’t will either be deferred, or given to Professor Flitwick in his capacity as Deputy Headmaster.  As for the rest of you, Dumbledore has already assigned you your roles.  Relay your information through me and I will pass it on to the rest of you at our meetings.”

“So, you’re taking charge?”  Another voice partly-asked and mostly challenged.

Snape glared at the Order member using his patented sneer before responding, “I would never claim to be leading this rabble in front of me.  You’re not children … you’re supposedly trained wizards and witches working for a common cause.  Do what you’ve been doing; perhaps even try to do a bit harder.  The Headmaster requested that I facilitate the meetings and keep them from descending into the usual chaos and petty bickering.  That is all I intend to do.  If you need direction, or have completed a task, ask someone or use some of your own initiative for a change!”

You’ve got to hand it to Snape.  The man is so blatantly condescending and dismissive that no one would ever suspect that he’s lying out his arse.  In your earlier years at this fine institution of higher learning, you would never have admitted to appreciating Snape on any level, but he does manage to take being a “complete and utter wanker” to a new level.

A quick glance through the room is all the proof you need that you didn’t want to “run the Order” either.  With only one or two exceptions, the lot of them would be as useful in a fight as Hippogriff kibble … actually; kibble might be preferable to some of them.  Snape’s going to have a tough time with these tossers, but he’s probably into this control thing – telling them he’s not going to run things and then actually doing what he just said he wouldn’t.  It’s blatant misdirection and will probably work on this lot.

“With all that’s happened I’m not sure I should stay.” Hestia Jones comments a little too loudly.

“By all means, Jones.  Feel free.”  Snape isn’t used to people who can just walk out on him.  He’s used to a captive audience, be it students or ‘bound up rent-a-dates’.  Well, technically you don’t know for certain about the latter, but there are always rumors.

“Easy for you to say, Snape.  Not everyone gets to hide behind the wards of this castle.”

He can’t fake that look of disgust.  “But I would remind you, that the Dark Lord would have likely tortured the late Ms. Vance for the names of all the current members of the Order and I sincerely doubt that he would spare you from his wrath because you tendered your resignation.  If nothing else, it could even make you more expendable.”

The petty bickering continues as your eyes settle on Molly Weasley and you fight down the urge to inflict pain on her.  One thing you have “learned” in this school is how to hold a grudge and that daft bitch might have been following orders when she dosed you with love potions, but the minute that became a problem, she made the situation worse with Obliviations.

You should just forget it, – there’s a joke in there somewhere – but it’s been gnawing at you ever since the she, her husband, and twin sons wandered into the office.  Only your friendship with Bill keeps you from doing something nasty to them.  Every “good” cursebreaker has to have a mean streak somewhere and you’re getting better by the day.  Ron, you take him at his word that he was trying to help you.  He’s a poor excuse for a liar to begin with.  Ginny is best left forgotten, an afterthought at most.  That would probably irk her more than anything else.  Bill vouches for Charlie and that’s good enough for you.

That leaves these four.

“Hey Harry, ease up on the death glare there, mate.”  Bill causally mentions like we’re watching a bloody football game on the telly.

“I haven’t taken anyone to the woodshed lately and they’re standing right over there practically begging for it.  Ten galleons says she comes over here and tries to tell me it was for my own good.”

“I’d take that bet.  All four of them have been warned to steer clear of the most dangerous man in the United Kingdom.”

Neither Voldemort nor Kwan is present, so he must mean you.  “I’m not sure if it’s true.”

“The facts speak for themselves, Harry.  Most of the people who try to screw you over end up dead or worse.”

“I still feel the need to annoy them.”

“Fleur does too.  She mentioned that we should hold off on the wedding for awhile, so she can flaunt our ‘living in sin’ in front of Mom.  I’ve been looking at this nice place out near the beach, but Fleur is making a compelling argument for living in France.”

“Do I want to know if she’s giving you the carrot or the stick?”  You ask allowing Bill to distract you from attacking members of his family.  He did just compliment you.

“Actually, it’s what she can do with a carrot that’s really interesting.  I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

“If I were to sink to your level, Bill, I could tell you a few things about highly skilled metamorphs that might raise the hair on your neck.”

“When you started to get trapped in Karina’s web over the summer, I figured you had a thing for older witches.  I just didn’t know how old.”

You cringe.  He went there and played the age card.  Shrugging it off, you respond, “It helped a great deal that she was incredibly hot.  It could be worse.  I could be a cradle robber like you.”

Both of you laugh as the meeting has mostly broken up.  Molly and her brood escaped while you were trading jabs over vegetables, veelas, and metamorphs.  Going after them was small potatoes and wouldn’t have gone over with the rest of the Order members.  Assuming you survive all of this, which quite honestly isn’t likely given the fact there’s a partially-formed Horcrux in your skull, there will be time to settle some accounts afterwards.

After the final Order member has left, you cast a glance at Fawkes’ empty perch and whisper, “I wonder what Dumbledore’s familiar is up to?”

“I’ve been thinking the same thing,” Bill replies.  “It pitched a fit until we put Dumbledore into his bed and then it vanishes.  Maybe it agrees with us that it was for the so-called greater good?”

“Or maybe it is lying low and waiting to attack?”  You counter.

“That’s why we’re different, Harry.  I’m an optimist.”

“Delusional is more like it.”

“For once, I find myself agreeing with Potter,” Snape’s voice interrupts.  “Most Deatheaters won’t blindly wander into one of your traps, and you’re woefully inadequate as a duelist.  You’ll need to work your way back up to me, Weasley.”

You look at Bill and notice the flush in his cheeks.  He did mention that he was going to do some work on his fighting skills and now, you know who he was practicing with.

“Think you could take me, Snape?”  You throw down a challenge.  There’s no doubt one or both of you would end up in the infirmary, but you wouldn’t mind beating the stuffing out of him.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, Potter.  You’re the one who must face down a Dark Lord.  If you’re not able to defeat me, you’re in far greater trouble than I could possibly imagine.”

At least Snape makes you look like an optimist.


“It’s still too early to tell,” Hermione says.  She’s trying and failing to sound like this is all some laboratory experiment … a potion that may or may not pan out.

“Not that you planned to go out wandering, but I recommend staying inside the castle, until you know for certain.”

“Why’d he do it, Harry?  Did he expect us to suddenly fall in love or something?”

“He said a few things before he went into a magical sleep.  I only half-believe him, but Dumbledore was a very old man.  His perspective might be skewed by what was acceptable in his time.  My best guess is after I did the little thing with Ralph, he got the inspiration to do it and figured that it would give me something else to fight for.”

Hermione is sitting on her bed.  She’s refused to step foot in your chambers since “the incident.”  Flipping some of her hair out of her eyes, she says, “I guess you’re right, for all he knows, I could be thinking about getting rid of it.”

You roll your eyes, “Not likely.  Oh, he might have had some post-Victorian notions, but he’s a manipulative bastard and he knows people.  I might have changed on my adventures outside of this castle, but you’re still pretty much the same.”

She starts to look both hurt and irate, but you head her off at the pass.  “I don’t mean that in a bad way.  What I mean is that you’re still the same Hermione Granger that’s irked by House Elf servants and the double standard that exists between Muggleborn and Purebloods.  The girl who went on a crusade to save Buckbeak from execution has too much moral fiber to do something like that.  She wouldn’t get rid of a child just to spite Dumbledore.  You value life too much.  He knew it, and used that to his advantage.  The world needs more people like you, Hermione.  Plus, since it would endanger the wards and by extension the castle, I’d be oath bound to stop you.”

The blush on her face is a reminder that she also doesn’t take praise outside an academic environment well.  “Thank you for saying that, Harry.  I’m just a bit put out that he took the coward’s way out and left you to sort out all of this.”

She stops and considers the same story that was given to the Order.  A half-smile crosses her face, the one she gets when she’s figured something out.  “He did take the coward’s way out didn’t he?”

“One way or another, yes, but you could say that about much of his recent life.  He was fighting the same losing strategy against Riddle that he used in the last war.  It wasn’t winning then, and it isn’t winning now.  Instead, he waited for prophecy to help him out of this sticky wicket.  I’m not losing any sleep over him getting too much sleep.”

“I see,” Hermione says slowly, clearly not wanting to press you further.  “If I really am pregnant, the child may never be able to leave Hogwarts.  He or she could be a squib, or there’s any number of possibilities.”  She doesn’t even mention the unspoken one that it might not live beyond birth.  There’s a reason that blood magic of this sort usually carries a prison sentence.

“I’m going to sign some papers with Bill.  They won’t mean squat until we liberate my vaults from the goblin nation, but you won’t have to worry about money.  I’ll make sure of that.”

There’s a long – dare you say it – “pregnant” pause, while both of you search for something to say.  She breaks the ice and says, “Thank you, Harry.”

“Of course that gesture won’t mean much unless I kill Voldemort.”

“I was trying not to think about that, Harry.  Do you have any news on that front?”

“Bill found some of his notes about possible Horcrux locations.  We’re going to check one out in a few days.  Hopefully, Helga’s cup is there.”

“Be careful.  He knows you’re after it and has probably strengthened their defenses, or even moved them and turned the whole place into a huge trap.”

You nod.  “Bill’s a top flight breaker and I’m as quick a study as they come.  We’ve seen his handiwork back in South America.  It relies heavily on power and is ruthless, but his weakness is that he’s mostly interested in killing something and doesn’t go out of his way to hide it.”

“Don’t underestimate him based on ward schemes he created decades ago; just look how much you’ve changed in less than a year.  He could easily have professionals design traps. Remember what happened to Dumbledore’s hand!”

She’s genuinely concerned.  “Point taken, Bill and I will be prepared.  But one thing I do know is that he’s got an arrogant streak.  He wouldn’t leave this to others.  It’s too important.  He’d do it himself, and he’s better at destroying other people’s wards, not setting his own up.  Speaking of Bill, I’ve got to go meet him.  I’ll see you later.”

“Bye Harry.”  She gives you a brief hug and a chaste peck on the cheek.  It’s a far cry from the tongue wrestling of a few nights past.

You head back into your room.  You didn’t really need to go see Bill at the moment, but there’s an air of awkwardness between you and her now.  A line was crossed that shouldn’t have been. and pretending it doesn’t matter only makes it stand out more.  She’s still the same, but you’re a deeply jaded wizard now.

If the world can use more people like Hermione Granger, can the same be said about you?


“Charming place,” you quip.  “It has a nice view of the ocean, all that fresh sea air ….”

“Unmistakable aura of dark magic,” Bill adds completing your thought.  “The opening is here, but it’s got a blood bind on it and a few other nasty critters attached.  One looks like a voice activated rune.  I’ve also identified an active sentry ward that’s designed to wake up what’s behind door number one.”

“The carving on the blood bind looks old and worn.  The sentry ward looks rather new, don’t you think?”

“Rather perceptive of you, young cursebreaker.  You and Riddle share blood, but he knows that too, which explains the voice ward.  We don’t know what to say.  So my clever journeyman, how do propose we tackle this?”

You look at Hack.  The troll is staring down into the angry waters below.  “Well, I think one of us should go back to Hogwarts and get our last Daemonbone Sapper and start draining every ounce of ambient magic around.  He put up several new wards and I’m betting he’s borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.  If we’re lucky, he won’t have enough energy left to power up his nasty stuff.”

Bill cringes, “Not the Daemonbone, Harry.  We’re practically burning through it!  It’s priceless!”

“Our lives are worth more than a fossil,” you reply.  The crazy redhead has a slight obsession with the stuff.

“What if we need it to lay siege to Gringotts?”

“Do you need me to leave you and the Daemonbone alone for a few minutes?  I won’t tell Fleur.”  You pause for a moment and add, “Besides, if we go after Gringotts, we’ll have the Ministry and who knows how many mercs backing us up.  I don’t see a lot of backup here, do you?”

His shoulders slump, indicating that he’s accepted your perfectly valid point, but isn’t terribly happy about it.  He stops and looks into the crystal glass he’s set up near the entrance.  “A sapper takes all the fun out of it, but I guess it’s better to err on the side of overkill.  I’m not getting anything on the foe glass.  No one is near, unless they’re cloaked.  Too bad our dark detectors don’t work anymore.”

“They do, but they go berserk around me and Hack.  Do you want to do rock, scissors, paper to see who goes back?”

“Nah, I’ll go, but I need to take Hack with me.  I’ll be hanged if I’m carrying the sapper.”

“Fair enough, I’ll stay here and take care of anything that shows up.”

“I’ll bring the ‘big box of Muggle stuff.’  We might need something else out of it.”

He leads Hack away and they take a portkey back to Hogsmeade.  There’s no sense in just running in there with wands drawn and trying to “break by the seat of your pants.”  Visions of Maria Sanchez getting impaled by a bone golem dance through your mind.

The hint of movement out of the corner of your eye gives you just enough time to get out of the way as the conjured ropes race over your head.  They wrap around the foe glass and send it crashing to the ground.  Bill’s going to be irked, foe glasses aren’t cheap!

A Death Eater comes out of the disillusionment charm firing spells.  The fact that he waited until you were alone tells you that you’re not dealing with an idiot.  He did wait for you to be alone.  Then again, he’s stuck out here on “guard the cave” duty, so he’s probably not an inner circle member.  Quick wandwork from you sends a blaster and a cutter in his direction.  He shields the first, but the second opens up his shoulder nicely.  An overpowered Disarming charm sends his wand flying and him back against the blocked entrance to Riddle’s vacation grotto.  The blood from the wound smears against the rock.  He screams in panic, but it’s too late.  A few dozen spears shoot out of the ground and surrounding area turning Mr. Unfortunate into a Death Eater Kabob … well maybe Death Eater pincushion is probably a better analogy.  Now, he’s like a sad looking scarecrow at the front of the cave.

That was over too quickly.  It was almost anti-climatic.  Then again, you’ve spent months training with a world class hitwizard and this was just some bloke in a mask, so maybe you shouldn’t quibble about it all that much.  Still, you scan the area searching for more enemies and shift into your animagus form and try to discern the scents surrounding the cave.  There are several.  The one that stands out the most is laced with a hint of a flowery perfume.  It’s probably female, but then again with Lucius on their side, you can’t be certain.

Bill won’t like the fact that you opened the cave without him.  On the other hand, you now know what happens when you don’t give the correct passphrase to the voice ward.

Reverting back to human, you summon the mask off him and witness the pained expression left on the face of that deceased Slytherin bloke you beat in your first ever quidditch match … what’s his face … Montague?  No that was someone else.  Higgs!  Terry “Bloody” (in all sense of the word) Higgs.

“Tough break there, Higgs.”  You would have preferred taking him alive to find out if there were more than just him, but your gut says that if Riddle had two or three people just hanging around to guard a cave, then he has more fighters than anyone thought.

For the next twenty minutes it’s just you and the Death Eater corpse.  Finally, Bill whistles as he and Hack arrive a few feet from you.  “I can’t leave you alone, can I?”

You point at the body.  “He started it.  Some blood got on the wall and the trap sprang.  I’ve already checked – the spears are single use wards that were tied to the voice ward.  Since he’s a peon, he’s probably out here for eight to twelve hours, which means we ought to move it, or we ambush his replacement and interrogate him.”

“Guess we don’t need the sapper now,” Bill says slightly amused.  The last mass of bone big enough for use as a sapper is the Daemon’s skull.  It’s kind of eerie looking.

Hack follows the two of you in carrying the box of Muggle items.  The cave is dark and you smell stale water.  It has all the feeling of one of those bad movies you’d likely see on the telly.  A look at the walls shows the same tired old zombie rune scheme that was scribbled everywhere in the lost city – some things don’t change.

“Care to guess where all the Inferi are?”  Bill points down towards the murky water.

Bill conjures some light and sends it across to the other side of the cave.  It goes on for a ways.  There’s a tiny island out in the middle and a rope and pulley system attached to a boat.  Sitting on that small island is ‘something’.  Whatever it is, it makes the hair on your neck stand up.  That’s not a good sign.

You run a diagnostic on the pulley and see that it’s crawling with vileness.

Without turning to Bill, you say, “We need to figure out another way across.  I think I’ve got an idea, but it’s going to take an hour or so.  Why don’t you set up an ambush for the next guard?  I’ll take Hack and get us an easy way across this water.”

“What have you got in mind, Harry?”

You tell him.


Far away from Bill and the cave, another boat docks at a much larger island.  You reach down and tap the object wrapped in black cloth.  “Wait here.  I won’t be long.  Come on Hack, grab this and follow me.”

The comically-tiny flying troll grows from his smallest size and hefts the item with ease.

“I still don’t know how you managed to arrange a trip out to Azkaban so fast, Potter,” The boat captain says, perturbed that he was unceremoniously yanked from his home to take you across the water to the island prison.  “Who are you in such an all-fired hurry to see, and what’s under the blanket?”

Thirty minutes was spent visiting Scrimgeour and trading information for a sizeable favor.  You’ll probably here about it from the Senior Brazilian Ambassador, but there simply isn’t time for you to follow protocol.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” you answer.

“Ambassador Potter,” the warden says approaching you flanked by a pair of Aurors, “The Minister of Magic said you carried instructions and I was to provide assistance to you.”

You hand the sealed orders to him and watch his face twist incomprehensively while reading it.  “This is most unusual.  I’m not entirely sure…”

“Just take me to them, I’ll do the rest.”

“Are you sure you know what you’re asking for, Ambassador?”  He says leading you off the beaten path to the stone square that looks terribly out of place on the jagged outcroppings of the island.  He picks up a rubber mallet and sounds a gong.  The noise is loud and seems to reverberate off the prison.

The black shapes circling the island drift downwards and you prepare to hear the whispers of the most frightful creature ever allowed to walk this earth.

Most of the Dementors linger back on the rocks, looking like a rather strange picture for someone’s calendar.  A trio approach.

“I have orders from the Minister of Magic,” the warden begins in a hesitant voice.  “Six of you are to accompany Ambassador Potter and do his bidding.”

A skeletal hand reaches out and the warden hands the papers to it.  One of the others produces a sheet of parchment and they begin writing on it.  The scribe offers it to you.

            We asked you a question.  What is your answer, human?  We will render no assistance until you comply.

“I don’t speak for the Masters.  But if you’d like to ask him yourself, be my guest.”   With a flourish, you remove the cloak covering the Daemon skull.  You pause for effect, letting the trio recoil before continuing, “If I killed it, you can damn well be certain that I can kill you as well.  So, I’d suggest six of you carry your arses to the mainland, now!”

More words etched on parchment.

            We do not believe you are capable of killing us, let alone a master.

“I suppose you want proof.  Anyone in particular?”

The lead Dementor nods and gestures to the one that hadn’t done any writing.

You look at it and try not to let the chill make you shiver.  “Okay then, nothing personal.  Expecto Patronum!

The jaguar comes out and all three step back from its burning white fury.  The lead Dementor crosses its arms as if to say, “Impressive, but not really that impressive.”

Wasting no time, you shift into your Animagus form and allow the mist to wrap around you.  The cold is still there, but your mind has changed to the point that their aura of fear and helplessness no longer bothers you.  Once again, you are the beast that kills in a single bound.  The Dementor feebly throws up its arms and tries to ward you off.  Your weight knocks it to the ground and your claws do the nasty work of mauling it.  Restraining yourself from biting is the hardest part; you’ve no idea or desire to see what these abominations taste like.  Bones snaps like kindling and the cloak shreds under a merciless attack.  The thing tries to take to the air, but your right forepaw pins it while the left rakes down the front like a house cat swatting a toy.

Desiccated flesh rips open and an oily black ichor sizzles on your patronus-encased limbs before drifting upwards in a heinous smelling smoke.

Like the predator you truly are, you step off the dying husk and walk toward the leader resuming your human form in mid-stride.  “Is that proof enough for you, or would you care for another demonstration?”

It’s nice to have something that embodies fear itself actually a bit put out by you.  That’s probably the kind of power kick that Riddle gets off on.  It shakes its head “no” and points to the scribe.  Five others detach themselves from the main group and follow the scribe.

Glancing back at the warden and two Aurors, “I hear there’s been a new emphasis on Animagery as of late, with the bulk of the Dementors in Voldemort’s camp.  I can’t imagine why.  Good day to you, warden.  Please convey my deepest thanks to Minister Scrimgeour.  Hack, we’re on a deadline.  Let’s get moving.”

The troll gives you a feral grin, “Wizards wave sticks and talk too much.  Hack likes when Puny Harry kills things!  Still too many words and not enough killing, but more like a troll.”

“Thanks buddy, I appreciate that.”  A lot of times with Hack, it’s the meaning behind the words and not so much what he’s saying … sort of.


Bill has a surprise for you when you return – a trussed up Pansy Parkinson.  Walt Disney was right; it is a small world after all!

“She arrived about a half-hour after you left,” he explains.  “She was pretty perturbed when old Higgs wouldn’t show his face.  I got the drop on her just before she tried to do a runner.”

“Hey, Pansy!”  You try to sound excited.  “We really should catch up.  I’ve missed you.” 

She doesn’t look too scared until the six Dementors float down to the little plateau in front of the ledge.  “What are you doing with those, Potter?”

“Well, there’s six and me, I was thinking about starting a Quidditch squad.”  Turning to the Dementors, you say, “I need five of you to get in there and freeze us a path to that island in the middle.  Whichever one of you that does the writing, hang out here.  If she doesn’t answer the questions the way I want, you just might get yourself a little snack.”

“You w-w-wouldn’t dare!”  It would sound more convincing if the black haired witch wasn’t stuttering.

“Um, you could ask Terry over there what I w-w-wouldn’t d-d-do.”  Technically, that was just an accident, but Pansy doesn’t need to know that.

Bill gets up and motions for Hack.  “C’mon, let’s get the equipment in the cave.”

“Hack wants to watch,” the troll pouts but stands up.  That’s a bit squicky.

“What happened to the blood anchor, Pansy?”

“Get bent, Potter!  There’s no way in hell that I’m going to tell …” she trails off as you motion the one Dementor closer.  “I gave it to the Dark Lord.”

“See, we can get along if we try, Pansy.  Besides Draco, did anyone else help you attack Hermione?”

“Draco didn’t have anything to do with it!”

“Sure he didn’t.”  You already know the answer.

“What are you going to do to me, Potter?  Take me back to Dumbledore?”

“I bet you’d like that.  No, we’re either going to turn you over to the Ministry or if I’m feeling nasty, we’ll just Obliviate you and leave you here.  I can only imagine your master is going to be pretty irate when he discovers this cave has been ransacked and you couldn’t stop it.  He’ll probably turn you into the next guardian thing for something he wants to protect.  Maybe you’ll be able to talk your way out of it and blame old Higgs there, but I doubt it.  Either way, I know somebody who’s been looking for you.”

You call for Kreacher and wait for a minute wondering if the elf is actually going to show.

The elf pops into existence inside the wards, a reminder that anti-apparition wards don’t mean squat to them.  Considering your current “breaking crew” includes Dementors, maybe you should offer him a spot.

Starting to ponder what house elf magic can do against wards, you’re interrupted by the screaming elf, “What is Bad Master doing here?  Kreacher already took locket from here long ago!”

“Wait a damn second!  What do you mean?”

“Best Master Regulus already defeated Dark Lord’s traps!  Put fake locket in basin and had Kreacher take real one to Great and Noble House of Black.”

“Are you sure?”  The image of that fish-eyed alien screaming, “It’s a trap!” from the videotape Dudley watched so much when you were a kid comes to mind.

Kreacher gives you that look … the one you usually give people who doubt you for some reason or another.

A quick stunner knocks the equally shocked Parkinson over.  “Watch her.  Make certain she doesn’t escape!”

Up on your feet, you motion to the Dementor and say, “You!  With me!”

It glides, while you sprint into the cave.  The progress is impressive.  With the guardians of Azkaban hovering only a foot or so above the water, the ice sheet is spreading rather quickly.  A few undead hands reach out of the water to grab at the frayed bottoms of the Dementor’s robes.  At least three of them are now stuck in the ice, with fingers barely moving.

“Bill!  It’s a trap!  Pull back.”

“Of course it’s a trap.  We already knew that!”

“There’s no Horcrux here.”  Shit, he’s not following you – better clue him in before whatever hell is in here breaks loose.

You run onto the ice bridge and immediately collapse in pain.  It’s not as bad as Kwan’s Cruciatus Curse, but it definitely doesn’t tickle.  Before, you didn’t go beyond the shoreline.  Damn it to hell, you were the effing trigger!

Turning, you crawl the ten feet back toward the shore only to watch the entrance collapse and be sealed by a landslide.   The pain stops a couple of feet from shore and you activate your cursebreaker specs, the cave lights up like an inferno.  A broom rider would either splatter into the walls or nosedive into the lake.  There’re anti-apparition and Portkey wards.  Most of the rest of the energy is related to the zombie wards.  Right there, just under the ice, there’s a thin red ribbon of magic just floating there – some kind of blood barrier that’s keyed to you and Riddle.  It’s the inverse of a blood line that prevents family members from triggering wards.

Clever Tom!  Blood starts pumping faster as your wand comes out.  Zombies are starting to climb onto the ice bridge.  That thing on the island just stood up and plunged into the water and is making a beeline for you, moving nothing like a shambling inferi.

You start casting spells to cover Hack and Bill’s retreat.  No sounds come out as some kind of blanket silencer drops over the cave.  It saps some of the power from your spells, but you’re no shrinking violet in that department.  A pair of the Dementors are grabbed and dragged into the water which freezes solid instantly.

Things are about to get nasty.


There’s not much room on the shoreline.  You motion for the Dementor to get airborne and give you more room.  Its proximity isn’t doing your already weakened spellcasting any good.  Levitating some rocks, you form a crude barricade and banish the zombies on the ice bridge between Bill and the shore.

Weasley moves like a naked veela is waiting for him and damn near slides into the half-made rock barrier. Bill pauses and pulls a cylinder out of his pack.  You recognize his signature single use” ward – 9 Reductors in a can.  He chucks it at the pursuers and you see the energy when it detonates.  “Tiny” Hack is flying above him, struggling with the bulk of his large club.  Closer to you, the ice near the shore cracks and heads and arms start to come through.  Reaching into a bag at your waste, you scatter several ward stones like landmines.  There all single use and nothing terribly special, but you’ll take whatever they can give you.  You work on finishing the barrier as Hack returns to his “regular size and picks up his Daemonbone club.

He lets out a silent roar and begins smashing the approaching undead.  The “Thing” from the island is lost in the sea of bodies approaching.  All you can do is keep and eye out for it.  The barrier is as done as it is going to get and you turn your attention to helping Hack.  Glancing at Bill, you see he’s frustrated with the effectiveness of his spells and has just pulled an AK-47 out of the “Muggle Box of Fun.”

Considering what you’re facing, it might not be a bad idea to conserve your energy.  It’s been a long time since you’ve done anything except hold your shotgun and recall the good times.  Now is a bloody perfect time to correct that.

It’s near the top of the box, right next to that Soviet RPG-7 launcher that Kwan never let you touch.  This’d be a perfect time to use it except for the effing backblast on them and the fact you’d be spending valuable inferi killing time figuring out how to use it.

Savoring the feeling of déjà vu, you holster the wand and grab the Mossberg.  It’s time to get down to blowing away some zombie bastards!  The 590 feels slightly lighter than you remember, or is it you that’s gotten stronger?  Doesn’t matter.  Either way, you crouch and poke the weapon around Hack’s knee and pull the trigger.  There’s the flash of the muzzle report, but no sound which is actually a blessing considering how little room there is.

Haha!  Get some!  Get some!  Get some!

You and Bill are burning through some serious ammo and that initial onslaught buys Hack some breathing room.

Where is it?  Where is that damn thing?  The zombies are dangerous, but manageable; you’re more worried about whatever monster Riddle had on the island.

One of the larger rocks from your barrier suddenly rises.  You spin and find time slows to a crawl.  There are moments of terror you’ll never forget like Sirius Black going through the veil when you were helpless to save him, being betrayed by a pair of Brazilian aurors, or seeing Veras Chilotha kill a teammate you thought was Bill at the time, and that first pants wetting encounter with a Greater Daemon.

Staring down Voldemort’s latest creation is just like that.  There wasn’t a bloody long time to put much thought into what it could be, but of all the things you’d ever expected, this perversion in front of you definitely wasn’t on your list.  Its coppery colored, almost like a metal golem, in places, but the rest retains a fleshy look.  The monster is holding a Dementor by the neck and a rock that easily weight thirty stone above its head – a feat Hack could easily match, but he’s a bit tied up at the moment.

The monster’s head is what disturbs you the most.  As a kid, you’d always imagined Aunt Petunia with glowing red eyes.  The reality is much more terrifying than anything you’d ever dreamed up in that tiny cupboard under the stairs.

Instinctively, you pull the trigger on the Mossberg and hope it’ll be enough.  It isn’t.  She’s knocked backward and the rock falls down, rolling to the side and leaving a gap in the barricade.  Inferi start moving toward it, but the monster uses the Dementor rag doll to brush them aside before releasing the hapless creature.  Several more shotgun slugs impact on the abomination’s carapace, but other than momentarily knocking it backwards cause no harm.

Unexpectedly, the Mossberg comes up empty.  There’s no way you’ve gone through one hundred and fifty-nine rounds that quickly!  Hack’s daemonbone club, the proximity of the Dementors, or this thing could have drained the magic from the shotgun.  You discard it and don’t have time to figure it out.  So much for conserving your energy.

Expecto Patronum!  If Petunia is now some kind of daemon, this ought to slow her down!

The ethereal jaguar pounces on her and they struggle, the coppery skin seems to sizzle and bubble against the power of your magic.  Her hands, more like metal claws finally rip it to shreds and it steps through the dissipating mist, mouth open, her meticulously perfect teeth now a gaping maw of blackened, horrific death.

Brit’s get a bad rep when it comes to dental care, but this is ridiculous!  Expecto Patronum! 

You feel significantly weaker as she gets closer and your patronus doesn’t pack as much punch against her.  Added to the fact is that you have to pick off some of the inferi that blunder into the gap in the wall.  The closer it gets, the weaker you’re feeling.  Panic starts to set in.  The side effect is that your next patronus flares with more power, but you don’t think that’s going to stop her.

The sinking feeling inside your chest is the knowledge that there are still too many zombies for you to change into your animagus form and fight her.  You need more time and something to slow her down.

A niffler patronus joins the fight, leaping onto Petunia’s back and digging with powerful claws.  Bill’s seen your plight and knows something is dreadfully wrong.   He banishes the big rock into it, knocking her twenty feet backwards and casting another patronus.  He shoves something into your hand.  You stare at it for a moment, confused.  Clay?  What the …?  No!  C-4!  Well, technically it’s some Balkan stuff Kwan loves called RDX, but who gives a shit!  You slap a sticking charm on it and banish the gooey mass at what used to be your Aunt Petunia.  It catches it in one hand as Bill’s blasting curse hits it.

The blast shakes the entire area and that nasty water sprays everywhere.  There’s a sudden blackness.  For a moment, you think it’s another cave in, but it’s just Hack, turning and increasing his mass to his largest size, shielding both you and Bill.  The troll spasms and you sense the agonizing pain through your connection to him, but he ignores it and spins around to lay waste to remaining monsters.  You can’t see Daemon Petunia, but you can see the wounds on Hack’s back.  Quick spellwork starts closing them and he twitches with every soundless Episkey you scream.  You splash the contents of a two healing potions haphazardly over skin gouged by slivers of rock.  The fact that he’s “Daemon infused” saved him, but it also weakens the magic you’re trying to use to heal him.

Hack fights with savagery and determination even though he can’t rise beyond one knee and he comes dangerously close to falling over with each sweep of his club.  You rejoin the fight, refusing to let your friend do this alone and shove Bill to shake the cobwebs out of his noggin. There’s an awful looking gash on his forehead that you close.  It might leave a scar.  Assuming you two live, you can joke about having a matching set of scarred heads.  Considering how Fawkes feels about you Scarhead Expeditions might be a more apt name than Phoenix Expeditions.

Those thoughts run through your mind as your spells rip into the churning mass of undead slogging its way toward the shore.  At first you think it won’t be enough, but the “undead wave” falters and breaks under your spellchained barrage of cutters and blasters.

Weakened and gasping for breath, you’re leaning on the equally shaken troll.  Bill is manually loading clips into the AK-47 and mopping up the rest when a figure comes up out of the water.  The panic returns for a moment as you fear that the Petunia/Daemon/Golem hybrid is unscathed.

Fortunately, it isn’t.  The arm that caught the explosive charge has been blown completely off.  Her head is bent to one side and she’s almost staring upward.  The copper carapace is marred by spiderweb cracks all along the surface.  Bill jams a new clip into his Russian assault rifle and drives round after round into the monsters once impenetrable skin. 

She falls forward with the one remaining hand gesturing feebly at you.  You dig deep into your depleted resources and summon one more patronus.  The jaguar skims across the surface of the water and strikes.  Petunia shudders.  Pieces loosened by Muggle explosives and gunfire fall off and she collapses like a broken toy.  The neck flops forward and the one eye locks on to you.  The mouth, leaking what you hope is blood moves, saying something.  You’re not sure what it is until she does it a second time.

“Save Dudley.”

You nod and she releases whatever hold she had left on this world.  You hated the women, more than humanly possible, but she didn’t deserve this.

Still silenced, you turn to assess the situation.  You’ve got a few wounds you’re just starting to notice after coming down from the adrenaline high, but this round goes to the good guys.  That, of course, assumes you’re still the good guys.  Time to heal up and get the hell out of here!

As you quaff a healing potion, a rock flies past your waist and into the head of a crawling inferi who was getting close enough to start gnawing on your leg.  You look to Bill, but he’s still picking off the last inferi.  Looking further, you spot your savior – Kreacher!  Effing elf finally made himself useful.

You start to say something, before realizing that it’s still futile.  Waving your wand you write in the air.

“I told you to watch Parkinson.”

Kreacher waves his hands and the smoke message is rearranged.

“Bad Master has bigger problems.”


Kreacher points to the caved in entrance.  “Dark Lord is out there waiting for Bad Master.”

“Can you transport all of us out of here?”  You’re grasping at straws, but this is a perfectly good time for doing just that.

Kreacher’s giving you that look again.  “Didn’t realize Bad Master was an idiot.  If elves could transport humans, Dobby would have never let you be at Hogwarts that year!”

Yeah, that does make sense.  Okay, you were wrong.  Now, things are really going to get nasty.

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Author Notes:

Okay folks, I'll skip the usual mention of my original novel and collection.   By now you know I've got them.   If you want them, go get 'em.   Read 'em and drop me a review on Amazon or wherever you picked it up.

What I will ask is that you nice people who have read Dead Eye and enjoyed it swing by  and vote for me in the Predators and Editors reader poll.   Dead Eye is in the Thriller category (twice unfortunately - vote for the one that says Gryphonwood and not the one that says Gryphonwood Press)   and I'm in the author category also.   If you're feeling froggy, you could also vote for the Gryphonwood Anthology - You Don't Know What You Got.

It only takes a few minutes and you'd be helping me out.   Thanks.

Next chapter coming soon.   All this focus on what an ass Dumbledore's been and we've forgotten that there's a real villain out there!   I had to close that idiotic "super house elf" plot hole.   If Kreacher and the other elves could transport humans and apparate through wards and around Hogwarts, every single one of them is like a mini-Fawkes.   Why couldn't Kreacher save Regulus?   Why didn't Dobby just kidnap Harry in year 2?