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Divided and Entwined (Harry Potter AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Apr 23, 2016.

  1. RedX

    RedX Getting sticky.

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    Alas, poor OT3... we hardly knew ye...

    Though there could easily be a Massive Upset somewhere between now and the end of The Revolution.
     
  2. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Hm... I don't think the end of this war is going to be as smooth as Hermione imagines. So far it's been partisan strikes from both sides, but it looks like Voldemort is going to turn up the heat now.
     
    Prince Charon and Starfox5 like this.
  3. Threadmark: Chapter 29: Talks and Meetings
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 29: Talks and Meetings

    ‘Even if the war’s outcome had not caused drastic changes in the political system of Wizarding Britain, Dumbledore’s ultimatum would have had far-reaching consequences. The Chief Warlock forcing his will on the Ministry was not something the old system was capable of handling. Although the opinion that that this move put Dumbledore on the same level as the Dark Lord, a wizard of great personal power trying to unilaterally make decisions for Wizarding Britain, was thought provocative and inflammatory by many wizards and witches at the time, it is not without merit.
    However, those consequences were, for better or worse, long-term concerns. More important for the war were the reactions of the Ministry staff. After months of hearing about the threat of the Muggleborn Resistance, it was no surprise that even among those Ministry employees not affiliated with the Dark Lord’s forces, there were many who reacted with fear to the information that Minister Fudge was planning to pardon them. The recent attacks by muggleborns on random purebloods in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade further reinforced those fears.’
    - Excerpt from ‘Wizarding Britain in the 20th Century’ by Albert Runcorn


    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 12th, 1997

    When Ron Weasley saw Harry step out of Dumbledore’s fireplace, saw his friend’s smile, he felt the familiar feeling of jealousy fill him. That wasn’t the face of a boy who had struck out on his date. They had kissed, that much was certain. And Ron didn’t like it.

    Ron knew it was selfish, and wrong - no matter what the Headmaster had told him earlier, he shouldn’t be having thoughts like that - but a part of him had hoped that Harry would have a bad date. Ron wasn’t as rich, as famous, or as talented as Harry, nor as important. But he had been able to show Hermione a good time, as Bill called it. Made her smile, and laugh, and hopefully forget the war for a bit.

    If Harry had managed to do the same, then there was no way Hermione would pick Ron. He forced himself to smile as he stood up. “We’ll have to finish this match another time, Headmaster,” he said, nodding at the chessboard.

    “I might as well concede right now,” the old wizard said, smiling. “I doubt the outcome would differ from that of our previous two matches.”

    “Well…” Ron wasn’t about to lie. The Headmaster was a decent player, enough to be a challenge, but not good enough to beat him. “Maybe.”

    “You’ve been playing chess?” Harry asked. Ron’s friend was looking surprised. They hadn’t played much chess lately, Ron realised. Harry didn’t like the game as much as Ron did, and he wasn’t exactly a challenge either, so Ron had to handicap himself a lot to have an even match.

    “We have indeed. Your friend has proven to be the better player. Probably the best currently at Hogwarts,” Dumbledore said.

    “Too bad war’s not a chess game,” Ron said. There were too many random elements, too many variables. Chess was easy, too.

    “Maybe.” Dumbledore inclined his head.

    Ron was tempted to ask what he meant, but it was getting late. They needed to return to their dorms - they had more training on Sunday, and Moody wouldn’t let them sleep in. The thought of what the Auror would do to them if they overslept made Ron wince.

    The Headmaster waved his hand. “Off to bed now, you two.”

    “Good night, Headmaster,” the two chorused.

    The trip back to their dorms was awkward, in Ron’s opinion. He wanted to know what Harry and Hermione had done on their date, but at the same time, he wanted to remain ignorant, wanted to keep hoping that things would not go as expected. He was being selfish, and stupid. Harry would need all the support and love he could get for his confrontation with Voldemort. If he had his heart broken by Hermione, that would only help the Dark Lord. Harry hadn’t that many friends either, and if Ron and Hermione were going out, that meant they’d spend less time with Harry. Another bad thing. Hermione had not much time to spare in the first place to be with them, and if that was reduced further… Ron shook his head. Everything told him that he should step back. Let Harry and Hermione be happy together. Be the bigger man, make the sacrifice for Britain, for everyone who was fighting Voldemort.

    But, curse it! Ron didn’t want to lose Hermione! If she picked Harry, which she likely would, then that was fine. Or would be fine. Ron’d be hurt, but he’d get over it. He had a lot of experience with handling disappointment. But to give up, give her up, to make the decision for her, to lie to her… He clenched his teeth together. No, he wouldn’t do that.

    It was stupid, and selfish, and a lot of other things, but he loved her. And until she told him she was choosing Harry, he’d keep hoping she’d choose him.

    *****​

    London, East End, January 12th, 1997

    When her alarm clock - mechanical, of course - rang, Hermione Granger didn’t want to get up. She forced herself out of her bed anyway. She hadn’t ever shirked from doing what was needed, and she’d not start on this Sunday morning. She wasn’t looking forward to it, though. She didn’t want to hurt Harry, and yet she would. Would he hate her for choosing Ron? Would he hate Ron?

    She hoped, prayed that he wouldn’t. But she couldn’t be certain. Jealousy was a terrible thing; she knew that herself. And Harry was under a lot of pressure - he had to face and defeat Voldemort, according to the Headmaster. And, as much as Hermione hated to admit it, she agreed with that - the Dark Lord had tried several times before to kill the Boy-Who-Lived. Even if the prophecy were wrong, Harry would be fighting him sooner or later.

    For a moment, she considered not telling the boys. Keep things going as they were, at least until the war was over. They wouldn’t have much time for dating anyway, with all of them training hard, and fighting. And her decision wouldn’t cause additional trouble and grief for Harry in the middle of the war.

    She wouldn’t do it, though. Couldn’t - she didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve like others, but she wasn’t a good enough actress to fool her best friends. They’d know, or, worse, they’d suspect. And they’d doubt her, and themselves. And once she came clean, they’d know she had strung Harry along. None of them deserved that.

    She had to tell them, and quickly. In person though, not over the mirror. They deserved that as well. But how and where could she tell them? They would need some privacy for that. And afterwards, Harry would want to leave, probably go to Sirius. The Resistance had safe houses, but those were not meant to be revealed to others, and certainly were not meant to be used for such things.

    She made a mental note to check if anyone was using the reserve safe houses to meet with a lover - that was the kind of careless stupidity that could ruin them.

    And Grimmauld Place was still hosting a dozen French wizards and witches - and four Veela, she added - as well as several Order members. She couldn’t visit there without endangering everyone. And renting a hotel room… no, that would be sending the wrong kind of message.

    Maybe a café. Or a park. A bit cliché, but they would not feel confined. There would be more room for all of them. Privacy spells would keep others from listening in, of course. She pulled out a map of London, to pick a suitable park, when she heard someone knock on her door.

    “Hermione? Are you still in bed?”

    That was Sally-Anne. Hermione glanced at her clock. She had spent that much time thinking this through? Shaking her head, she said out loud: “I’m up, I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

    “We’ll be waiting.”

    Technically, training was optional on a Sunday, but usually, most members of the Resistance did train anyway, although not as long as on the other days. And Hermione was usually among the first to be ready. She frowned at her lapse while she slipped into a track suit.

    When she entered the living room a few minutes later, she was greeted by wide grins and smiles.

    “What?” Hermione said, resisting the urge to cross her arms. That would look too defensive.

    “You’ve overslept. Long night?” Sally-Anne’s beaming, teasing expression left no doubt what she imagined Hermione had done last night.

    She had to nip that in the bud. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “I was just pondering a few things this morning.”

    “Oh.”

    Her friend was still smiling, so Hermione added: “Unpleasant things.”

    “Oh.” The other witch looked crestfallen. “I’m sorry.”

    “It’s not your fault,” Hermione said. “It’s not the fault of anyone here. Just a few things I have to take care of.” And a heart to break. “Let’s go do our laps to warm up.”

    Outside, jogging at a steady pace, she let her thoughts wander again. She told herself that Harry would get over her. Would find someone else. Someone prettier. Someone who’d suit him better. Someone he would be happy with.

    She just hoped he would not fall for a girl who just wanted to be the girlfriend of the Boy-Who-Lived, and had no idea what being Harry’s friend meant. If only she was still at Hogwarts, so she cold keep an eye on him. She’d have to trust Ron with that, then. And maybe tell Sirius.

    Damn this war!

    *****​

    London, January 12th, 1997

    Brenda Brocktuckle woke up early, even though she had the day off - the first Sunday in weeks. And, of course, she had the day off at a time when she’d rather be at work, where everyone was trying to find out what their co-workers were thinking about Dumbledore’s ultimatum. And what their co-workers were about to do about it.

    She could go to work, of course. Claim she was busy with her case, if anyone asked her. Not that anyone would - she was still a pariah as far as most Aurors were concerned. But if she was there, then she could keep an eye on things. Find out what was going on.

    And she might have an excuse not to meet with Parkinson’s ‘friends’, as he called them. Death Eaters, or sympathisers. Up until a while ago, she hadn’t cared about the difference, but now she was hoping there wouldn’t be any actual Death Eaters. It wasn’t illegal to have sympathies for the Dark Lord’s goals. With the Minister about to follow Dumbledore, as rumours claimed, the Dark Lord was the only one doing anything about the Resistance, after all.

    But to actually meet with Death Eaters… that was something else. But, she added to herself, maybe not illegal. Not anymore, when people were talking about pardoning mass-murderers. Had people forgotten how many people the mudbloods had killed? Why wasn’t anyone proposing a pardon for the Death Eaters?

    Because Dumbledore was against it, of course. The Chief Warlock wanted the Dark Lord dead, and he didn’t care if he had to work with murderous mudbloods to achieve it. Or had to betray all the Aurors who had been killed in the line of duty.

    Brenda cared. It was not right to let the murderers of her partners go free. That Bones would allow this… She shook her head. She wouldn’t have expected that. The older witch had always stood up for the Corps. Had been one of them. But now? It seemed she was just another politician, going with the flow.

    She sighed and got up, heading to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Parkinson would turn up as soon as the tea was ready, as usual - the wizard had an uncanny talent for avoiding preparing breakfast himself. Brenda didn’t really mind - she doubted that a breakfast prepared by him would be that tasty, due to him lacking any practice in the kitchen. Doubly so since this was a muggle kitchen, with all the useless muggle things cluttering up the place. Not even the oven worked right - they had to use a portable wizarding one.

    As expected, the Auror entered the kitchen right before the tea was ready. “Good morning.”

    “Morning,” Brenda said, levitating the tea kettle over to the table.

    He grabbed it and filled his own cup, then hers. While he buttered his toast, he pointed at the Daily Prophet on the table, with a picture of Dumbledore on the front page. “Looks like the Prophet’s owners have taken a side.”

    Anyone could have told that by the headline, and slanted article. “Probably blackmail,” Brenda said. “He’s bound to know everything about everyone important.”

    “Oh, yes. He’s showing his true colours.” Parkinson grinned. “Do you ever wonder how much he did behind the scenes? What he was doing until he was forced out in the open?”

    “He’s a politician,” Brenda said. “He was making deals for decades.”

    “I meant in the war.” Parkinson bit into his toast. “This war.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I was wondering why those mudbloods are so successful. They are ignorant scum, they barely received their N.E.W.T.s, but they managed to kill so many purebloods…” He trailed off, looking at her.

    “We don’t know all the members of the Resistance,” Brenda said. “There could be older ones. Former Aurors.” Traitors.

    “There could be,” Parkinson conceded, “but even they wouldn’t have access to as much information, classified information, in the Ministry as the Chief Warlock.”

    Brenda gasped. “You mean…”

    “Yes.” He nodded. “I suspect Dumbledore was working with the mudbloods - or rather, that the mudbloods were working for him. He made the plans, and they executed them. None of Dumbledore’s allies were at Malfoy Manor. And most of the Aurors killed by them in that ambush were good purebloods.”

    Brenda hissed. It made sense. If Dumbledore was a traitor, had been a traitor from the start...

    “He’s been pushing for a war ever since the Dark Lord returned. He didn’t care at all for a peaceful solution. And when he was having no success even after a year, suddenly the mudbloods go underground, and dozens of purebloods whose only crime was being proud of their heritage were murdered, and he had his war.”

    “Against the mudbloods, not against the Dark Lord.”

    “Until the riots happened. Awfully convenient again, weren’t they?” Parkinson grinned cynically. “Push everyone, see who breaks… maybe help things along a bit. A spell here and there, and there’s a nice riot. As if the Dark Lord, after asking for peace for a year, would suddenly act like this, when everyone had just seen how dangerous the mudbloods are!”

    “Merlin’s arse!” Brenda wasn’t quite convinced, but it made sense. It made so much cursed sense.

    Parkinson nodded.

    Suddenly, meeting the wizard’s friends didn’t seem like treason anymore. Not if the Chief Warlock, and with him, the Minister, had done far, far worse.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 12th, 1997

    When he heard the communication mirror’s call right before lunch, Harry Potter feared the worst. An unscheduled call, in war? That meant bad news. Especially if it was Hermione’s mirror, and not Sirius’s. His godfather was more likely to spontaneously call him, and Harry had just spent the last evening with Hermione.

    “Ron!”

    His friend looked up from the Daily Prophet’s Quidditch section.

    “It’s Hermione’s mirror.”

    Harry saw his friend jerk - he’d think the same as Harry. Bad news. Best to assume the worst, and prepare accordingly, he had heard Moody say often during their training.

    Ron quickly came over and sat down on Harry’s bed. A privacy spell later, behind the curtains, they stuck her heads together and Harry touched the mirror.

    Hermione’s face appeared, and he was relieved. Whatever had happened, she was alive. And she didn’t look hurt. She was nervous, though.

    “Hermione!” Ron all but yelled.

    The witch winced. “Good morning.” Harry and Ron barely managed to say their own greetings before the girl continued. “I hate to do this, to disrupt your schedule, but… I have to meet you. Today.”

    “What happened?” Harry asked. Next to him, Ron, audibly claused his mouth - he had been about to ask the same, Harry thought.

    “I can’t say it on the mirror. We have to meet. The café we met last evening, at… is four alright?”

    “Yes,” Ron said.

    Harry nodded. They had a lesson scheduled, but Dumbledore would understand.

    “Good. I’ll see you soon then. Again, I’m sorry for disrupting your schedule.”

    The mirror went dark so quickly, Harry wasn’t certain she had heard their goodbyes. For a moment he stared at his and Ron’s reflection, then he sighed and stashed the mirror. “That was… weird.” And disturbing.

    His friend nodded. “Yes.” He chuckled. “That’s so her, apologising for ‘disrupting our schedule’.”

    Harry snorted. “Yes.” He wasn’t really amused, though. He wondered what their friend wanted to tell them that she couldn’t tell them through the mirror. Suddenly he hissed. There was one thing people never told each other on the phone. “She’s not pregnant, is she?” He glanced at Ron.

    His friend gaped at him. “What? How?”

    “Do you want me to explain how it works?” Harry said.

    “Merlin’s balls, no!” Ron stared at him. “I meant… how could she be pregnant? Did you?”

    “No, no.” Harry said. Apparently, his friend hadn’t had sex either. “Sorry.”

    Ron nodded. “But still… what could she want to tell us?”

    Harry could think of one thing. And judging by the face Ron made, his friend had just had the same thought.

    “Shite.”

    *****​

    “Do you think she’s made her choice?”

    On the way to the Headmaster’s office, Harry had to fight not to glare at his best friend. He didn’t really want to think, much less talk about it. Yet he nodded. “Probably.” What else would have caused her to act so… nervous?

    “I think so too,” Ron said.

    Neither Ron nor Harry asked the next, the logical question, out loud, though Harry certainly was asking himself. Who had she chosen? Him, or Ron? Or, maybe… “You don’t think she’s breaking up with both of us?”

    “What?” Ron turned his head to stare at him. “Why would she be doing this, right after the dates?”

    Because she’s found someone else, someone better? Harry thought. No, she wouldn’t do that. “Maybe she thinks we all need to focus on the war.”

    Ron snorted. “That could be it.”

    “You don’t think so, though.” Harry knew his best friend.

    “No, I don’t.” Ron shook his head, his wand covering the entrance to a side-corridor they were passing. “Or she’d have acted differently two days ago.”

    Harry was tempted to ask Ron how she had acted, but didn’t. This still could be something else. Maybe she wanted to tell them that she couldn’t go on dates for a month or two, because of the war. Dumbledore’s ultimatum had made waves, and Harry knew that Sirius’s Order cell had been preparing for a battle - in the Ministry - for some time now. Just in case, his godfather had said. When Moody had found out that they had been told, he had shouted about operational security.

    Thinking of Sirius made him think of his godfather’s favourite solution to solve their love triangle. “You don’t think she’ll ask for a threesome, do you?”

    “What?” Ron stared at him, again. “A threesome?”

    Harry couldn’t help it - the opening was just too good, and he needed some levity. “It’s when a witch has sex with two wizards at the same time.”

    “I know what a threesome is!” Ron growled. “But Hermione wouldn’t go for that.”

    “Why not?” Harry glanced at Ron. Sirius had told him once that smart witches were often ‘kinky’, or ‘willing to experiment’. Harry could have done without hearing what James had told his best friend about Harry’s mother, though. “Do you think she’s too…” He searched for the right word. “... too proper for that?”

    “No. But if she wanted to do something like that, she’d have dragged us both off to her bedroom long ago. She’s not one to hesitate if she thinks she has found the solution to a problem.” Ron grinned, though it looked a bit forced to Harry.

    He nodded. He didn’t think sharing Hermione would work, anyway. It was bad enough to wonder what she was doing with Ron on their date, to know what they were doing, and wondering if she liked him better, and was only with him out of pity, would be worse. And having sex all three of them together… no. No.

    They reached the Headmaster’s office, and went straight up - both had the password these days, for emergencies. And this certainly qualified, in Harry’s opinion. Besides, the Headmaster had told them his door would always be open if they wanted to talk. And that was the case here as well. They just wanted to talk with Hermione.

    The Headmaster was in his office, and raised his eyebrows when he saw them enter. “I would have expected you to be at lunch at this time. What happened?”

    “Hermione called. She needs to talk to us,” Harry said.

    “Right now,” Ron added.

    Dumbledore pushed his glasses a bit further up his nose with one finger, and slowly nodded. “I see. I would think this could be called a family emergency then? Though I hope that she is not in the family way.”

    “She isn’t!” Ron quickly said.

    Harry nodded. “We haven’t…” he trailed off. Dumbledore wasn’t the last wizard he wanted to talk about this with, but that didn’t mean Harry wanted to go into details in the first place.

    Dumbledore smiled. “Please be cautious, though. While it’s not likely that it is a trap, it is not impossible. Have you informed Sirius?”

    “No, we haven’t. We came straight here, after we talked to her.” Harry was wondering why the Headmaster said this. He hadn’t mentioned a possible trap when they had gone on dates. He suddenly wondered if the Headmaster knew what Hermione was about to tell them. And if Dumbledore thought that they’d need Sirius. Or that Harry’d need him. Then he forced himself to relax. Sirius was one of the few who knew about their relationship and meetings with Hermione. Of course he’d be the one to inform.

    “Do you mind if I do tell him? Just as a precaution.”

    “No, of course not,” Harry said. He didn’t really want his godfather around for this talk, but they were at war.

    “Good. You might also wish to eat something. An empty stomach is not a good companion for a serious talk.” Dumbledore smiled, and a few seconds later, two plates appeared on his desk, loaded with food. “Tuck in, please, while I inform your godfather.”

    Harry didn’t feel hungry, but he forced himself to eat something. Ron’s appetite wasn’t affected by their mutual nervousness, of course. Or Ron wasn’t that nervous - Harry couldn’t tell.

    He was jealous, though. And hoped that he’d not have another, much bigger reason to be jealous of his friend in a few hours.

    *****​

    London, No. 12 Grimmauld Place, January 12th, 1997

    “An urgent meeting with Hermione? And you can’t talk about it on the mirror? Merlin, Harry! You didn’t…”

    “She’s not pregnant!” Harry Potter glared at his godfather.

    “You asked the same, Harry,” Ron said.

    “Oh!” Sirius sat up straighter in his seat facing the boys’ couch. “So, since you came to the same conclusion, what did you do on your date?”

    “She’s not pregnant. We didn’t do it, and if we had done it, she wouldn’t know if she’s pregnant yet.”

    “Are you certain? Muggles have some really good tests for that,” Sirius said. “Lily told me so. It was why she wanted to visit a muggle healer during her pregnancy as well.”

    “Yes. They can’t tell that early if you’re pregnant.” Harry was certain that Sirius was misremembering. His godfather’s memories had been affected by his torture in Azkaban, and many of his tales were probably more fantasy than reality. He didn’t want to go into a discussion about muggle medicine and pregnancies right now, though. He just wanted to head over to the café where they would be meeting Hermione. They would be a few hours early, but it was better than discussing their relationship with Sirius.

    “Well, if you are certain…” Sirius winced under Harry’s glare, then said: “I’ll be in the area, in disguise, to keep an eye on you. And I want you to take a portkey. Just in case.”

    “You know that if Hermione spots a black shaggy dog around the café, she’ll probably neuter it, right?” Harry narrowed his eyes.

    “Merlin’s balls!” Sirius winced. “I’ll not be eavesdropping. But things are, as the Headmaster put it, ‘delicate’ right now. The Ministry’s caught in an internal struggle, with all the Death Eater spies working to sabotage the Minister, and the muggleborns might not be happy about allying with the Ministry either.”

    “What? Do you think the resistance is planning to ambush us?” Ron sounded as shocked as Harry felt.

    “No, not really. But all it takes is one jealous idiot to ruin things.” Sirius shook his head. “If one muggleborn is in love with Hermione, he might do something stupid.”

    Harry wasn’t quite certain if Sirius was talking about a Resistance member when he was warning them of jealous idiots. He nodded. “But if Hermione takes offense, we’ll blame all on you.”

    He grinned when he saw Sirius’s expression at hearing that.

    *****​

    London, Soho, January 12th, 1997

    Ron Weasley studied the menu of the café for the third time, just to have something to do while he and Harry were waiting. They were early. Two hours early, to be exact. They’d have been even earlier if Sirius hadn’t insisted that the two visit Grimmauld Place first. Ron thought the man had been exaggerating the danger from some jealous muggleborn, though. He probably just wanted to make sure Ron wouldn’t make a scene, he added, with a sinking feeling, if she picked Harry. He knew that Sirius hadn’t forgotten how much of a jealous git Ron had been in their fourth year, to both Harry and Hermione. Neither had Ron.

    He took a deep breath. If Hermione choose Harry, then he’d not act like that. He’d wish the two of them well, and… probably go and be miserable in private. Maybe nab a bottle of … no, not firewhiskey. Beer though. Real beer. Something to numb himself. That was something Bill couldn’t help him with, Ron knew - his oldest brother had never had to deal with rejection. He was just too charming. Even Fleur, the most beautiful woman Ron had ever seen, had fallen for Bill.

    Ron, though, had made his first date mad with his attitude, and hadn’t had much success with the witches since. At least, he thought, his dates hadn’t turned out to be disguised Death Eaters trying to kill him. He had one over the twins, still. And, he added, at least one witch had found him cute, Lavender. So, even if Hermione chose Harry, he’d not be alone for the rest of his life.

    That was what he really feared. Losing his friends. Both of them. If he acted like a jealous idiot, he’d lose them for certain. They weren’t in fourth year anymore, they were in the middle of a war. He couldn’t let his friends down because he was feeling sorry for himself. He wouldn’t.

    He glancd at Harry. His best friend was folding paper napkins into… whatever they were supposed to be. They hadn’t talked since they had arrived. Ron had been too absorbed with himself, he thought. He cleared his throat. “Harry?”

    His friend looked up, and his latest creation acquired a rip. “Yes?”

    “I just wanted to say: If she picks you, I’ll accept it. Just, make her happy, mate.” Damn, Ron thought, that sounded stupid. But he wasn’t about to say that he’d not be jealous, since that would be a lie. He would be. Very jealous. “I don’t want this, however it goes, to ruin our friendship.” He chuckled, without humour. “You know I have been a right prick about much less in the past, but… I grew up.” At least he hoped he had.

    “Thanks.” Harry took a deep breath. “I feel the same. If she picks you.” He started to rip the napkin into tiny pieces. “I don’t want this to change our friendship.”

    It would change, of course. But Ron knew what his friend meant. He just hoped they would manage.

    He glanced outside. It had started to rain. Just the weather for this meeting, he thought.

    *****​

    An hour early was a bit much even for herself, Hermione Granger thought as she walked towards the café. But she couldn’t help it - There hadn’t been anything urgent to focus on back at headquarters, and she had been too worked up to focus on other things. A walk had seemed the best way to calm down, and it would be good exercise as well.

    But she had underestimated the British weather. The sudden rain had forced her to either seek shelter somewhere, return to headquarters, or go to the café earlier than planned. She had decided to wait in the café. There would be newspapers to read, to pass the time until the boys arrived. She felt nervous just thinking of the coming confrontation, and took a deep breath to steady herself. An hour reading would calm her down.

    Of course, that plan didn’t survive for long either - as soon as she entered the café, she saw her two friends sitting at a table. For a moment she wondered if she had forgotten the time, or had misremembered when they were supposed to meet. But no, it was barely three in the afternoon. Had they really arrived so early? She was still wondering when Harry spotted her and waved.

    She waved back and walked over to them, hoping she didn’t look as nervous as she felt.

    *****​

    Their friend was nervous, Ron Weasley could tell with a glance. She tried to hide it, but she was taking far longer than usual to pick her order. And she was twisting a stray lock of her hair around her finger, although she did that often. He exchanged a glance with Harry while she - finally - talked with the waitress. His friend had noticed as well.

    They wouldn’t tell her, or pressure her, of course. They’d wait patiently. Well, nervously, actually, until Hermione was ready to tell them. “I hope that by being early we didn’t disrupt your schedule,” he said when the waitress had left, and grinned at her.

    She shook her head. “No, of course not. I was early myself. Although two hours early… I think I only did that once, when a new library opened up in the neighborhood, and I wanted to get the first pick of its books.”

    Ron chuckled, and she frowned at him.

    “I was ten,” she said, and he remembered her in their first year, looking disapprovingly at him for making fun of her love of books. It was such a cute image, he broke out in a wide smile. She frowned even more, then she shook her head, smiling.

    For a moment, everything was perfect. Then she grew serious. “You’re probably wondering why I need to talk to you. In person, that is.”

    “Yes.” Harry’s voice sounded quite tense. As tense as Ron himself felt, right then.

    Hermione took a deep breath. “I’ve made my decision.” She looked from Ron to Harry and back.

    Ron held his breath. He knew what was coming, and yet he couldn’t help holding out hope. But he wouldn’t ruin this for them. He wouldn’t act like a jealous idiot. He would…

    “It’s you, Ron. I’m sorry, Harry.”

    Ron blinked. Him? Hermione wanted him? Not Harry? She was explaining something, but he wasn’t listening. He had been preparing himself for the usual disappointment, trying to be happy for her, and now, she wanted him. Ron Weasley. He felt elated. Happy. He wanted to jump up and kiss Hermione.

    Then he heard Harry speak. “I understand, Hermione.”

    And Ron felt bad and guilty for being happy.

    *****​

    Harry Potter felt as if he had taken a Bludger to the gut. A Bludger thrown by his best friend. No, that was wrong - Hermione had made her choice. She had chosen Ron, not him. He should have expected that. Ron was funny, easy-going, and brave. Harry had had to ask his godfather how to treat a girl right on a date. And Ron had a future - Harry had a destined battle to the death with Voldemort. Of course she’d choose their friend over him.

    “Harry?”

    She had been talking to him, he realised. “Yes?”

    “It’s not your fault.”

    Of course she’d say that. He nodded anyway.

    “I think you’ll be happier with someone else, in the long run.” She was biting her lower lip.

    He nodded again. What long run? They were in the middle of a war, and he was to face the Voldemort himself. He doubted there was a long run for him. More like a long walk off a short cliff. “I need some fresh air.” He stood up before any of his friends could say anything, and left the café.

    Once outside he closed his eyes and sighed. The cold winter air didn’t help; it made his eyes water. A big black dog approached him. Sirius. Harry should be angry that his godfather had been spying on them, but he could really use a sympathetic ear right now. He pointed to the closest park. “I’ll be sitting down there.”

    Padfoot made a confused noise, but followed him into the park, before disappearing into the bushes. A minute later, Sirius joined him on the bench he had picked.

    “We could go home. It would be more private,” his godfather said.

    Harry shook his head. “I don’t feel like going home. And we can watch the café from here. Just in case there really was a reason for your presence.” Other than being there for him to help with his rejection.

    Sirius coughed. “Alright.” After a pause, he said: “It’s not the end of the world. Even if it feels like it right now.”

    “I really need to work on my poker face,” Harry said. What good was Occlumency if people could read his face?

    “Two boys sit down with the girl they love. One stands up and leaves after a while. The best poker face in the world wouldn’t have helped you there.” Sirius shrugged.

    “Not that it matters anyway.” Harry sighed. He had been rejected, as he should have expected.

    He felt Sirius’s arm wrap around his shoulders.

    “As I said, it’s not the end of the world. You might not think so right now, but it’ll work out. You’re still in school, after all, and teenage relationships rarely last that long.” The older wizard chuckled. “I should know.”

    “My parents’ relationship did,” Harry said. His father had won the love of his mother, and they were happy together. Until Voldemort.

    “Well… they were special.”

    “And I’m not.” Harry stared at the ground.

    “They didn’t start dating until their last year. Lily rejected James’s advances until then.”

    His father was rejected as well, then. Multiple times. But he won the witch in the end. Maybe…

    “I know that look, Harry. James had the same look.”

    Harry set his jaw and glanced at his godfather. His father had succeeded.

    Sirius sighed. “James didn’t win Lily’s heart by chasing her. Matter of fact, that made her dislike him.”

    “I wasn’t about to chase her.” She was with Ron, and Harry certainly didn’t want her to hate him for not accepting her choice. Or Ron.

    “Pining after her won’t do much good either. There are other witches. You might find you can fall in love with someone else.”

    Harry didn’t think so. Hermione was his best friend. There was no witch like her.

    Once again, his face must have betrayed his thoughts, since Sirius said: “Didn’t you have a crush on that Ravenclaw in fourth year?”

    “That was just a crush.” This, however, was love. He hadn’t really known Cho. He hadn’t even realised she was in a relationship already. Hermione, though, was his best friend. He knew her. He loved her.

    “Look, Harry, trust me. You’re still young. Things will change. People will change. You will change. Who knows where we are in a year from now? Maybe you’ll meet a witch you’ll fall head over heels for.”

    Harry snorted. Fat chance of that.

    Sirius cleared his throat. “Anyway. Just because they are a couple doesn’t mean they’ll leave you out. James and Lily didn’t, either. Leave me or the rest of their friends out, that is.”

    Harry really didn’t want to think of Ron and Hermione as his parents. “It hurts to see them like this. And I’m certain they won’t want me to ruin their time together.”

    “Don’t be stupid, Harry! You’re their best friend! They don’t want you to leave them. Well, not unless you’re following them around when they’re on a date. Or stumble on them when they’re snogging.”

    “That sounds like you’re speaking from personal experience.”

    Sirius coughed. “That’s not relevant. Just know that life goes on, and things will work out.”

    Coming from a man that had spent a decade as an innocent in Azkaban, that was a remarkably positive outlook, Harry thought. Of course, said man was currently involved with at least one Veela, according to the rumours he had heard. Still, Harry had to admit that losing the witch he loved to his best friend wasn’t the worst that could happen.

    Facing the Dark Lord in his mind certainly was worse.

    *****​

    “That went… about as I should have expected,” Hermione Granger said when Harry left. She hadn’t found the words to make Harry understand that it wasn’t his fault. It was nobody’s fault but her own, for letting this happen. If she had made a decision earlier… she bit her lower lip.

    “Poor Harry.”

    She looked at Ron. In hindsight, she shouldn’t have told them at the same time. It made the whole situation very awkward. Ron looked like he wasn’t certain if he was happy or sad. If she had arranged for different meetings… First Ron, then Harry… or would that have let them know her decision already? Done was done, she told herself.

    “I know how he is feeling,” Ron said.

    “You do?” Had he been rejected before? And by whom? Padma, maybe?

    “I’ve been imagining you rejecting me for hours.” Ron smiled, although rather sadly.

    She hadn’t expected that. He had been so confident and happy during their dates. “You thought I’d choose Harry?”

    “Well… yes.”

    She could almost hear the unsaid ‘as usual’ following that. “Well, I didn’t,” she said. “I love you.” She loved Harry too.

    He smiled at that, and gripped her hand.

    But she saw him glance at the door, through which Harry had left. “Do you want to go after him?” She didn’t want him to go, but she didn’t want Harry to be alone right now either.

    He shook his head. “Sirius will take care of him.”

    “Ah.” So, Harry’s godfather was watching.

    “He insisted on coming. ‘Just in case’, he said.”

    Hermione wondered if Sirius had expected her decision. It didn’t matter, she decided. Harry was with his family now. She could relax. She squeezed Ron’s hand, encouragingly. She still felt guilty. Harry’s expression, when she had told him, them… it had hurt her. Not as much as it had hurt him, though.

    “What now?” Ron asked.

    “When do you have to go back to Hogwarts?”

    “I’m not certain. We just told Dumbledore we had to leave.” He grinned. “He was very understanding.”

    Hermione wondered if the Headmaster had known about this. Or expected. She had thought leaving Hogwarts would mean less interest in her love life, not more. “I think being back for lunch would be reasonable then.” She nodded. “Enough time for a date.” And for Harry to adjust.

    Ron looked surprised, but pleased. Then worried. “I haven’t exactly made plans for a date.”

    Hermione smiled. “I’m certain we can improvise.” She signalled the waitress, then took his hand.

    She was still feeling guilty for hurting Harry. But she was feeling happy for being with Ron.

    *****​

    Cheshire, Britain, Outskirts of Chester, January 12th, 1997

    If not for the fact that she was currently living in a muggle flat herself, Brenda Brocktuckle would have thought it ironic to meet Parkinson’s ‘friends’ in a muggle town. As it was, the fact that the safest place to have such a meeting was among the muggles was a telling testimony of the threat Wizarding Britain was facing.

    She was about to meet Death Eaters or sympathisers. Wizards and witches willing to betray the Ministry to the Dark Lord. She had doubts, still. The Dark Lord had kidnapped and killed Augusta Longbottom. And he had murdered the guards of Azkaban. He had struck against families, and what he had done in the last war… But she didn’t have a choice. It was Dumbledore, working with mudbloods for mudbloods, or the Dark Lord. As much as she hated to admit it, the Ministry couldn’t stand against either of those two, if left alone.

    The mudbloods had murdered dozens of purebloods whose only fault had been to attend a ball. Without warning, without remorse. The Dark Lord had at least tried to achieve his goals in a peaceful manner. And he’d not kill her for doing her duty - she had never fought his people, after all.

    “They blocked Apparition?” She asked, examining the house as she walked up to it.

    “Yes,” Parkinson, walking next to her, said.

    “I assume they have another way out, in case the house gets attacked.” Brenda wasn’t about to get killed if the purebloods she was meeting were that stupid.

    “Yes.” Parkinson hesitated, but he’d have to know she’d not let this go. “The house has an old escape tunnel.” He grinned. “Not that the mudbloods can find it, anyway.”

    “All it takes is one traitor,” Brenda said. “And the Ministry’s not short of those.” There would be a number who were now, faced with Dumbledore taking over the Ministry, considering betraying their allies to cut a deal with the Chief Warlock. They had before, in the last war, after all.

    “True. But those we are about to meet we can trust.” Parkinson grinned.

    Brenda forced herself to smile. She knew what that meant. No mere sympathisers, but marked Death Eaters. Wizards and witches sworn to the Dark Lord. “Even among those, there have been traitors,” she said, partially just to tweak Parkinson’s nose. The wizard was far too smug.

    “Have there?” Parkinson smiled.

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “Snape. Karkaroff.”

    “Both are still alive,” her fellow Auror said. “Which means they have earned the Dark Lord’s forgiveness.”

    “They still betrayed him.” And both were hiding behind some of the strongest wards known to wizards - those of Hogwarts and Durmstrang.

    “Only after his death.”

    Brenda had heard the claim that the Dark Lord had returned from death often, but she remained sceptical. There hadn’t been a body in 1981. The Dark Lord could have fled, grievously wounded and cursed, and taken a decade to heal up. She didn’t say that, though - that would have been foolish.

    They reached the door and Parkinson knocked. Brenda caught the curtains on the side moving a bit, and a moment later, the door was opened. “Come inside,” a wizard said. Brenda recognised him - Garey, from the Portkey Office. He was in charge of handing out the portkeys the Aurors used.

    Inside, the house had been expanded with Extension Charms. This was a regular meeting spot, then - or a wizard’s home. Three more people were sitting around a table. Barnaby Bulstrode, Hit-Wizard, and Gerald Avery, another Auror. The third she didn’t know.

    “Tristan Nott,” Parkinson explained. “He’s working for the Wizengamot.” He was a member of a cadet line of the Nott family then, Brenda thought. Parkinson gestured at her. “This is Brenda Brocktuckle. I’ve told you about her.”

    “We’ve met,” Bulstrode said. Avery just nodded. He had been with them in that fatal trap at the brewery.

    “She’s as concerned as we are about the recent developments in the Ministry.” Parkinson sat down, and Brenda joined him. Garey brought tea and snacks. For a clandestine meeting, this was very civilised, Brenda thought.

    “Well, of course.” Avery scoffed. “If the mudbloods take over your head will roll.”

    Brenda nodded. She knew that. “Just for doing my duty.”

    “But are you ready to do what needs to be done?” The man stared at her.

    They hadn’t implicated themselves as Death Eaters yet, but Brenda already knew too much. Not that she planned to rat them out - not to a Ministry that was betraying herself, and all the Aurors who had died at the mudbloods’ hands. “I’ve been hunting mudbloods since this war started. Whoever stands with them is a traitor, no matter what the Minister says.”

    “Dumbledore’s mouthpiece!” Bulstrode said.

    “Spineless traitor!” Garey added.

    Nott didn’t say anything, and Avery was still staring at her. Parkinson was silent as well, though seemed at ease, munching on a finger sandwich. She met his eyes. She had faced the mudbloods far too often to back down now.

    After a while, Avery said: “We’ll not be facing mudbloods in the Ministry.”

    “We’re facing blood traitors,” Brenda said. “Worse than mudbloods.” She sneered. “I’ve been hunting criminals no matter their blood for a long time. And anyone siding with the Mudblood Resistance is a criminal. They killed so many of ours, and now they want to pardon them?”

    Avery glanced to Nott, then to Parkinson, before nodding. “That’s what we are planning to prevent. Not just us, of course. A great many more think like us.”

    “Other cells.” Brenda knew how such things were organised.

    “Yes. We each have our missions, and together we’ll save the Ministry from the blood traitors.”

    As everyone nodded. Brenda glanced at Parkinson. The Auror was uncharacteristically silent. She wondered what he was thinking. And plotting.

    *****​

    London, East End, January 12th, 1997

    Hermione Granger was smiling when she arrived back at the Resistance’s headquarters. She and Ron had passed a very nice afternoon. They had taken a stroll through London, talked, visited another café, gone sight-seeing, and kissed. A lot. Almost enough for her not to feel guilty about Harry anymore. Ron was a good kisser. A very good kisser, in her very limited experience. She sighed contentedly.

    “So it was a good date then, hm?”

    She noticed that Sally-Anne was standing in the door to the kitchen, grinning at her.

    For a moment, Hermione was tempted to brush the witch off. Her love life was none of her business. But Sally-Anne was the closest female friend she had in the Resistance. The closest female friend she had, period. She deserved better. So she smiled. “Yes.”

    “Oh! Tell me everything!” Sally-Anne grabbed her hand. “How was it? And who did you meet?” she added, almost as an afterthought.

    Hermione’s smile slipped a bit. The witch sounded remarkably like Lavender and Parvati, right then. “I met Ron.”

    “Ron? Ron Weasley?” Sally-Anne looked very surprised. “You’re dating him?”

    “Yes.” Hermione stared at her.

    “Oh! I thought you were meeting a muggle boy. So, you were meeting him all along?”

    Hermione didn’t think it was a good idea to mention that she had been dating both her best friends until today. “We’ve gone on dates before, yes.”

    “Three dates this weekend? You’ve been busy!” Sally-Anne giggled.

    “You’ve been out with Justin as often,” Hermione pointed out. More often, actually, since those two had far more opportunities to go out. And they could simply spend time together whenever they wanted.

    “Well, yes.” Sally-Anne grinned. “But it’s not the same if you do it.”

    Hermione was tempted to ask how that made sense, but another voice interrupted her.

    “You’re dating Weasley?”

    Seamus was on the stairs.

    She nodded. “Yes.” Would he make an issue out of it, just because Ron was a pureblood? She didn’t think Seamus had become that extreme, but… she had been fooled by Allan, hadn’t she?

    “I would have thought you’d go after Potter,” the Irish wizard said.

    She could have said that she had picked Ron. That Ron was the better kisser. That she loved both, but thought Ron would suit her more. But none of that was anyone’s business but hers and her friends’. So she simply smiled. “Well, you’re wrong.”

    “It’s risky, dating him.” Seamus was frowning. “He’s still at Hogwarts.”

    “We’re not meeting at Hogwarts. We’re meeting in London. Muggle London.”

    “Can he even fit in there?” Seamus snorted. “He’s a pureblood, after all.”

    “Who is?”

    Once more Hermione was interrupted before she could answer. By Dean this time.

    Seamus turned to his best friend. “Weasley. Hermione’s dating him.”

    “What?” Dean was staring at her. “You and him?”

    “Yes.” She sounded sharper than she wanted, daring him to say anything more. What was their issue with her friends anyway?

    He grumbled something she didn’t catch, but which caused Seamus to snort, and went into the kitchen.

    Sally-Anne tugged on her hand. “Come on, you have to tell me everything!”

    As she let herself be dragged upstairs, Hermione mused that Sally-Anne’s reaction was not quite as annoying as she had thought it would be. The girl seemed to be genuinely happy for her.

    Unlike Seamus and Dean.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 12th, 1997

    “You’re so happy that you’re staring at nothing with a silly smile on your face, and Harry’s gone to bed already. Hermione made her decision then.”

    Ginny’s voice jerked Ron Weasley out of the memory of the parting kiss with Hermione. “What?” He glared at her, then glanced around. Had anyone in the common room heard her?

    “I’ve cast privacy spells,” his sister said. “So, did she?”

    Denying it would have been stupid. “Yes. She told us today.”

    Ginny smiled and patted his arm. “I’m glad for you, Ron.”

    He stared at her.

    She shrugged. “Hey, you’re my brother.”

    “And that she didn’t chose Harry is not important.”

    She had the grace to blush, smiling a bit, then sighed. “I’ve seen his expression. He’s looking almost as bad as Neville did, right after… you know.” When she noticed his expression, she said: “Not quite that bad, of course. At least he won’t have to see you snog her in common room.”

    “I wouldn’t do that to him,” Ron said. That would be cruel. And rather indiscreet as well.

    She sat down on the armrest of his seat. For a girl who had just heard that the boy she loved had been dumped, she looked sadder than Ron would have expected.

    “What’s wrong?”

    “Harry is.” She sighed. “This is not going according to plan.”

    “What? What plan?” What had his sister done?

    “I thought that if Hermione chose you, Harry would be free to pick me. But he looks terrible.” She sighed again. “He’s really into her, right?”

    “Yes.” Of course he was, Ron thought. So was Ron himself.

    “And if I offer to help him, everyone will think I’m making a move. Harry will think so as well.” She pouted.

    Ron wasn’t certain that Harry was aware of his sister’s interest in him. Others would be, of course. But that wasn’t the point. “He doesn’t need a girlfriend right now. He needs his friends.” Like Ron and Hermione.

    “I don’t see you with him right now.”

    “We’ve talked already.” Briefly, and not about the real issue.

    “Doesn’t seem to have helped.”

    “There’s not much that can help him right now. He just needs time,” Ron said.

    “My brother, the expert on broken hearts?” She sounded sceptical.

    “Sirius said so.”

    “Is he helping Harry?”

    “Yes.” Or trying to, at least. Ron wasn’t privy to what Harry and Sirius had talked about.

    “Well, that’s something.” She stood up. “Not much, but it’s something.”

    “What will you do?” Ron asked. Ginny was not the most thoughtful girl he knew. Rash and easy to anger fit her more.

    “Nothing.”

    “What?”

    “If I push him, I’d probably make things worse for him.”

    “Not probably. Certainly.”

    “Well, yes.” She didn’t look happy about it, but didn’t dispute it either. “So, I’ll wait. Until he is ready.”

    “Ready?”

    “For a new relationship, of course.”

    “Ah.” Ron nodded. As far as plans went, that one was quite sensible. She must be growing up as well. “Good luck.”

    “Thanks.” She smiled, then walked to her dorm. Not without glancing at the stairs leading to the boys’ dorms, he noticed.

    One potential mess avoided. Unless some other witch made a move on Harry.

    Ron wouldn’t like to be nearby if that happened. He sighed, then closed his eyes, and tried to remember Hermione. And her lips on his.

    *****​

    Outside Stamford, Lincolnshire, Britain, January 13th, 1997

    The Dark Lord Voldemort read the latest reports from his spies, frowning. Dumbledore’s ties to the mudbloods had had less of an effect on the general population’s view of the old man than Voldemort had hoped for. It wasn’t surprising, he thought, after a glance at the headline of the Daily Prophet on his desk.

    ‘Dumbledore promises to unite Britain against its real enemies’.

    He snorted - this article lumped his Death Eaters together with the mudbloods attacking Hogsmeade. The irony would be amusing, if it wasn’t sabotaging his own effort to accuse Dumbledore of being behind the Mudblood Resistance. His old enemy was milking the capture of those muggleborn attackers in Hogsmeade for all it was worth, and apparently, the pureblood population was eating it up, thinking he’d keep them save from everyone. That his Death Eaters had killed more purebloods than mudbloods didn’t help Voldemort’s cause, of course, even though everyone with an ounce of logic would see the reasons for that.

    He shook his head. “Well played, Dumbledore.”

    At least the Ministry employees were not fooled - they knew the mudbloods would want revenge for their exile, and knew the Dark Lord was their only hope of saving their lives, or at least their positions. Recruitment among them was progressing at a fast pace, although that also opened the danger of traitors infiltrating his cells. It couldn’t be helped, though - he needed as many followers as possible in case his attempt to foil Dumbledore’s plans with political means failed, as it seemed they would.

    He pondered mounting another attack on purebloods himself, disguised as the work of mudbloods, then dismissed the idea. It might just drive more of the sheep into Dumbledore’s arms.

    No, he had to face facts: With both Fudge and Bones in Dumbledore’s pocket - and he wished he knew what leverage his old foe had on the Head of the DMLE - his own attempts to take over the Ministry through political influence could not succeed. He had to either take it by force, or get rid of the two.

    Fortunately, he had a plan that would help with either goal. And the wizard in place to execute it.

    *****​
     
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  4. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Ah... so the assassination game is about to begin. And the ministry is in a very bad position for it. They'll have to present themselves to potential murderers, while Voldemort can sit in his manour smoking cigars or torturing muggles.
     
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  5. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Yes. The attacker has a lot of advantages in a Wizard War.
     
  6. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Well that is in a Wizard guerilla war. In a war between wizarding nations I imagine things would be a lot more balanced.
     
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  7. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    The fundamental problem remains that the defender has to react to the attackers, who can mass and strike at will. It's more MAD than a proper war, I think.
     
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  8. RedX

    RedX Getting sticky.

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    Dunno. Given the small, dispersed populations, extreme mobility, utter criticality of information and initiative, and the all-encompassing need to keep things concealed from the bulk of the world's population... I'd expect even a major war between wizarding nations to be more similar to a guerilla war than anything like a set-piece battle.
     
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  9. Threadmark: Chapter 30: The Calm before the Storm
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 30: The Calm before the Storm

    ‘In the first weeks of the year 1997, the political part of the Second Blood War was changing drastically. For the first time since the war had begun, Dumbledore’s allies in the Wizengamot and the Ministry seemed on the verge of victory. Minister Fudge and the Head of the DMLE, Amelia Bones, both publicly supported his plans, and even the Daily Prophet had changed its stance on muggleborns. Since the Dark Lord had all but controlled the Wizengamot for over a year, it begs the question of how this was possible.
    Some of my colleagues suspect foul magic at work. I disagree. In my opinion, the answer lies in the past. Dumbledore had been Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot for decades, and he had been the Headmaster of Hogwarts almost as long. He had known many of the members of the Wizengamot and even more of the Ministry employees since they had started at his school, and undoubtedly was aware of their weaknesses, faults, embarrassing and compromising secrets. This knowledge, together with the efforts of Fudge and Bones, would have been enough to sway key members of the Wizengamot as well as Ministry employees. The Daily Prophet would have caved quickly if under such pressure from both the Ministry and Dumbledore. And once such people had been convinced to publicly oppose the Dark Lord, they were committed, since should the Dark Lord win, they’d face his wrath.
    It was a ruthless but effective political manoeuvre, not dark magic, that did this.’
    - Excerpt from ‘The Second Blood War’ by Hyacinth Selwyn


    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 13th, 1997

    Cornelius was looking better, Albus Dumbledore noticed when he entered the Minister’s office. The man was smiling at him, even. “Albus! I’ve just spoken to Maximilian Selwyn! He’ll support our policy!”

    Maximilian had better, Albus thought, if he wanted to avoid the revelation of his indiscretions. While not technically illegal, the man’s social standing would be ruined if the public caught wind of his peculiar preferences. There was no need to tell Cornelius that, though. “I am happy to hear that. It’s a very welcome surprise.”

    “Indeed! I think that he’s finally seen the light, so to speak, and realised that the Dark Lord will ruin our country despite his claims to the contrary.”

    If Albus didn’t know better, he’d think Cornelius had always been an implacable enemy of the Dark Lord. The man was an opportunist of the highest calibre, and probably had already convinced himself that this had been his own decision. But he was also a skilled politician, when he was properly motivated. Such as fearing for his life should Voldemort win. It wasn’t the most moral or elegant method, but Albus would do what he needed to save Britain. He didn’t let his thoughts show on his face as he smiled approvingly at the man. “Maybe. It could also be that Maximilian simply wishes to be on the winning side.”

    “That could be it - he always was a bit of an opportunist.” Cornelius nodded sagely.

    Albus had to struggle not to laugh.

    Fortunately, Amelia entered at that moment, and contrary to the Minister, the Head of the DMLE was not looking happy. He raised an eyebrow. “Good morning, Amelia.”

    “Good morning, Albus.” Her expression belied her words.

    Cornelius had noticed her mood as well. “What’s wrong, Amelia? I was just telling Albus about our progress in the Wizengamot.”

    “Sod the Wizengamot! Half my Aurors are about to attack each other, and the rest are trying to hide in their homes!” The witch sat down.

    “Right now?” The Minister gasped.

    “Not this instant,” Amelia said, “but it won’t take much.”

    “It seems the Dark Lord’s spies are getting nervous then.”

    “Not just them. I’ve been approached by a number of Aurors who have arrested muggleborns in the last year, and they are all afraid that the muggleborns will take revenge for them doing their duty.” Amelia looked at Albus. “They need some assurance that this will not happen.”

    Albus inclined his head slowly. “I will do my utmost to prevent any revenge being taken. Although I will not protect those who have abused their power. Those who have committed crimes will be punished.”

    Cornelius nodded happily, but Amelia didn’t like that.

    “And who decides what a crime is? Are we to follow muggle laws?” the witch said, sneering.

    “Those who have helped the Dark Lord will not escape justice,” Albus said. “That includes those who have used the opportunity given by those evil laws to harm the innocent.”

    “Innocent according to what law, Albus?” Amelia stared at him. “The muggle laws, or ours?”

    “Since our laws were passed on behalf of the Dark Lord, they certainly cannot serve as an excuse for what was done to the muggleborns.” Albus met her eyes. “Although those who have followed orders in good faith will not have to fear much.” Though, he added to himself, only because the muggleborn laws did not go that far, yet. “Financial compensation will be enough to compensate most muggleborns for the hardships they endured due to the Ministry’s laws.” With a glance at Cornelius, who was frowning, he added: “The gold needed can be taken from those who followed the Dark Lord. That would only be just.” And would serve to curb the power of a number of Old Families as well. “Those responsible for muggleborns killed while resisting arrest though, and those who relished in hunting the muggleborns…” He spread his hands. “An investigation will determine what exactly happened.” He smiled. “Such things are illegal according to our laws as well, after all.”

    Amelia pressed her lips together. Albus was certain that she was aware of just how many of her Aurors were guilty of what he had just said, if not of outright treason. She didn’t like to admit that fact, though, or so he thought. It reflected badly on herself. Justly so, of course - she could have made a greater effort to investigate such claims, at least.

    “Desperate people will take desperate measures,” the witch said. “Once they realise what awaits them, they’ll fight against us.”

    “I fully expect them to,” Albus said.

    “Merlin! You are counting on it!” Amelia gasped.

    He nodded.

    Cornelius was gaping at Albus. “But…”

    “It would greatly facilitate matters for all of us if as many of Tom’s followers as possible exposed themselves by attacking the Ministry, instead of continuing to hide.” It would be far harder to claim that they were unjustly punished if they were caught in the act - or killed. It would also offer those Aurors who had not gone too far the opportunity to redeem themselves.

    Amelia glared at him. “It’s all politics, isn’t it?”

    He glanced at her. “The passing of the muggleborn laws ensured that.”

    Judging by the way she stiffened, she had understood.

    Cornelius, of course, had other priorities. “But, are you certain that you can handle such an attack?”

    “I am reasonably certain. I have been preparing to counter a coup by the Dark Lord’s followers for a while.” Albus smiled confidently. It wouldn’t do to leave the Minister shaken.

    And yet he couldn’t help fearing that he was underestimating Voldemort.

    *****​

    London, East End, January 13th, 1997

    Hermione Granger knew something was wrong when Seamus and Dean fell silent as soon as she entered the kitchen in the morning. Though, to be honest, she had expected that. Even before she had seen their reaction to the news of her relationship with Ron last evening. As the Major had taught her, she couldn’t afford to let that fester. Especially not after Allan.

    So she rolled her eyes at them. “Out with it.”

    “What?” Seamus tried to play dumb.

    “You have a problem with me. Let’s hear it.” She put her hands on her hips and stared at them.

    Seamus looked mulish, but Dean sighed. “We don’t have a problem with you.”

    “You have a problem with my boyfriend,” she said.

    “Not with him personally. Ron’s an alright bloke,” Dean said. “But your relationship with him is problematic.”

    For a moment, Hermione was relieved that they didn’t seem to hate Ron. If they were telling the truth. She cocked her head sideways. “Then what’s the problem?” She had an idea, of course.

    “It’s just the fact that the leader of the Resistance is dating a pureblood. That might not go over well with everyone,” Dean said.

    Seamus nodded. “Yes. We know him, but most muggleborns won’t. They only know he’s a pureblood, from a prominent pureblood family.”

    “The Weasleys are also a prominent blood traitor family,” Hermione said. “They fought the Death Eaters in the last war, and in this war.” Molly Weasley had lost her two brothers in the last war, too. “Remember the attack on the Burrow?”

    “No one really knows that,“ Dean said. “And Ron… well, he doesn’t know much about muggles, does he?”

    Seamus chuckled. “Remember how he asked how to use a fellytone?”

    Hermione pursed her lips and controlled her anger. “I’ll have you know that we went out clubbing in London, and no one would have been able to tell him from any other boy. He showed me places.”

    “Well, that’s not that difficult,” Seamus muttered.

    She glared at him. “What do you mean?”

    He snorted, but met her eyes. “You’re not exactly a clubbing girl.”

    Dean cut in before she could tell his friend off. “In any case, what matters is that the leader of the Resistance dating a pureblood boy is a problem. People might think we’re following the orders of purebloods. Especially with Dumbledore’s campaign.”

    Technically, they were coordinating closely with Dumbledore, but Hermione knew that the Headmaster had a lot of influence on the Resistance through her - with good reason, of course; they couldn’t hope to win this war without his help. Yet, the two boys were correct about some of their concerns.

    She sighed. “I can see how that could be a problem.” If the Resistance was seen as Dumbledore’s pawns, they’d lose a lot of their influence on the muggleborns. And that would make them quite a bit more vulnerable even after a victory over Voldemort than Hermione liked. On the other hand, having such visible ties to purebloods could also help a lot. “But it will only be a problem if our relationship is revealed to the public. Which had better not happen - that would endanger far more than our reputation.” And she’d find out who was responsible. Her expression must have given away her thoughts, since both boys winced. “We’ll address this in our next broadcast. We’ll show that we’re no one’s pawns.”

    “It might be good if we had another victory too,” Dean said.

    “The current upheaval at the Ministry should offer us an opportunity soon enough,” Hermione said. But, she added to herself, not too soon - the policy change needed to pass if they wanted to win this war soon.

    The grins of the two boys showed they were not really concerned with that.

    But then, that was why she was the leader.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 13th, 1997

    Parkinson was up to something, Brenda Brocktuckle knew that. The signs were minimal, but after sharing a flat with him for one and a half months, she could spot them. He was just a bit too tense, and tried to act a bit too casually, even for him.

    Most telling, though, was that he didn’t glance around as often as usual - and these days, all Aurors kept an eye on their colleagues, just to avoid getting cursed in the back - which meant he didn’t want to be even remotely associated with whatever was about to happen.

    She checked her privacy spell, then asked, without directly looking at him. “What’s supposed to happen?”

    He didn’t jerk, but she thought there was a hint of surprise in his voice when he answered: “Just a test.”

    “What kind of test?” She leaned back, dropping the report she had used as a cover on her desk. The scroll rolled itself up.

    “I’d rather you didn’t have to act surprised.”

    She rolled her eyes. Stupid useless games. “I already have to act as if I didn’t know you were behind it.”

    “So, there’s no need to make it more difficult.”

    Brenda glanced at him, and as expected, he was grinning. Typical. She refused to take the bait, though, and simply nodded, and returned to her work. Or what passed for work, these days, with everyone talking about pardoning the mudbloods. And she kept an eye on the blood traitors. Those she knew about, at least. And could recognise. That metamorphmagus could be anyone, she knew that.

    An hour later, the door was thrown open. Wands were out in seconds as every Auror reacted, and Brenda found herself not quite pointing her own at Macintosh, a half-blood Auror with an attitude. Parkinson’s was aimed straight at Smith, Macintosh’s partner. Those two had been eyeing her and Parkinson since the morning.

    Then Brenda realised Dawlish was standing in the door, blinking. “Someone tried to attack Bones!” he yelled after a second.

    Brenda wanted to glance at Parkinson - was that what he had been waiting for? - but she wouldn’t take her eyes off Macintosh. Not until the blood traitor lowered his wand.

    “Come on, Trevor!” Smith suddenly said, “We have to check on Bones.”

    The half-blood Auror glared at Brenda, then lowered his wand and sprinted after his partner.

    Brenda muttered a curse under her breath and sat down again. That had been close. She glared at Parkinson. “We almost cursed each other,” she whispered. And it was his fault.

    “I underestimated the tension,” her partner said. “I did my best to diffuse it, though.”

    She snorted. “What exactly happened?”

    He shrugged. “I don’t know yet. An attack on our boss, I suppose.”

    She glared at him again, but he grinned. “We’ll find out soon enough.”

    *****​

    As Parkinson had said, it didn’t take long for the news to spread: Parker, a Hit-Wizard, had tried to kill Bones in her office, but had botched the job, and she had managed to stun him. Rumour was, he had been under the Imperius.

    “Imperius or not, he must have been a rather weak wizard to fail like that,” Avery said in the break room in the afternoon.

    “Bones is tough,” Parkinson said. “She’s more experienced than most in the corps, and she probably has been expecting an attack for a long time.”

    “I heard she has been trained by Mad-Eye Moody!” a rookie Auror Brenda didn’t care enough about to learn her name piped up.

    “You’re all wrong!” Sybille Selwyn, an Auror who hadn’t been out in the field for ten years, grinned. “Dumbledore had placed protections in her office. As soon as the assassin entered, the Imperius was removed. Parker turned himself in!”

    “Really?” Parkinson shook his head. “Sounds like a tall tale to me. You don’t remove an Imperius that easily.”

    Selwyn scoffed. “Shows what you know. The Chief Warlock had made a deal with the goblins; there’s a Thief’s Downfall hidden there!”

    “The defective watering charm!” Avery shook his head. “It’s right at the entrance. Bones’s secretary told me that they couldn’t fix it yet, and that’s why they simply added a drying charm. But Fudge has the same ‘problem’.”

    “Sneaky,” Parkinson said. “With the cat out of the bag, they’ll probably install those things openly, and have us walk through them on the way in and out.”

    “Well, did you really think they’d let us use the Imperius, without taking precautions? The Minister certainly wouldn’t risk getting imperiused; he might have to raise our pay otherwise!” Selwyn grinned at her own joke.

    The rest of the Aurors, all of them purebloods, laughed, but it sounded a bit hollow to Brenda.

    This meant that no Imperius-based plans would work. It would have been fitting to use blood traitors as curse-fodder and scapegoats, but on the other hand, it also meant no one could use those spells on her.

    She stood up. “Well, I have a mountain of scrolls to go through. With half the Corps chattering about this, someone has to do the real work.”

    The rookie looked lost, but the others understood. They weren’t trusted with investigating this assassination attempt either. Which said a lot about what was in stock for them once the mudbloods were pardoned.

    If, Brenda reminded herself, if they were pardoned. They wouldn’t, if she could help it.

    *****​

    London, No. 12 Grimmauld Place, January 13th, 1997

    “Good evening, Albus. Can I offer you a drink? Maybe a glass of wine?”

    “Thank you. Yes, please.” Albus Dumbledore said, sitting down on the couch in Sirius’s living room. He was honestly glad for Sirius’s offer - it had been a tiring day, and it was far from over.

    “Tonks will be joining us as soon as she can get away from the Ministry,” Sirius said, taking a seat himself. “And I’ve informed Marcel.”

    Albus took note of the familiar address as he nodded. “Nymphadora will take a while longer, I fear - the attack on Amelia has the Ministry in quite the uproar.”

    “What exactly happened?” Sirius asked.

    “Someone cast an Imperius Curse on a Hit-Wizard and ordered him to kill Amelia in her office.”

    “That sounds like a spur of the moment decision by some Death Eater sympathiser,” Sirius said. “My grandparents would have punished any family member harshly for such an attempt.”

    Being familiar with the late Blacks, Albus was not certain that Sirius was joking. It wasn’t relevant, though. He nodded. “For an assassination attempt, it wasn’t a particularly skillful or cunning one. But I fear it was more than that.”

    “Part of a larger plot by the Dark Lord?”

    “Or simply a way to test our defenses,” Albus said. Although he couldn’t afford to underestimate Tom.

    “Our famous defenses. Or ‘precautions’, as you called them.” Sirius wasn’t quite as subtle as he might believe he was when fishing for information.

    Before Albus could answer that, Marcel Delacour entered. The French Wizard was in high spirits, or so it seemed, though his smile faltered just a bit when he saw the two men. “Mademoiselle Tonks ’as not yet arrived, I take it?”

    Albus shook his head. “She will be busy at work a while longer.”

    Delacour sighed in what Albus thought was a very French way, and sat down.

    “You have to wait a while longer before getting your proposals shot down again, I think,” Sirius said, chuckling.

    “Ah, but we are simply flirting. If I were seriously pursuing ’er, I would certainly act differently.” Delacour smiled.

    “Of course.”

    Before the two men could discuss the topic further, Kreacher arrived with the promised wine. It was of excellent quality - no matter their views on politics and the law, the Blacks had always had an outstanding wine cellar and liquor cabinet. Not even Lucrezia Black’s reputation as a poisoner in the 17th century had changed that.

    A few minutes were spent appreciating the fine wine. Delacour praised it eloquently - and his family had their own vineyards. Unfortunately, Albus was forced to return to the matter at hand quite quickly. “As we were discussing before, I think it very likely that the incident today was ordered by the Dark Lord himself. To test our defenses, to sow distrust, to weaken the resolve of the Ministry employees, or for a reason I have yet to think of.”

    “A distraction, maybe?” Sirius shrugged.

    “While not impossible, I doubt it. Other than the Ministry, there are not many other crucial targets for Voldemort. Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and Hogwarts. Hogsmeade is too close to Hogwarts to be taken even with a distraction, and Diagon Alley is too large to be taken with the help of a mere distraction. Not as long as Amelia remained in charge of the DMLE.” Albus took another sip from his glass, then watched as Kreacher refilled it.

    “Her death might be his goal,” Sirius said.

    “It would make sense,” Delacour agreed. “But wouldn’t such an attack warn her as well?”

    “Amelia has been aware of the danger she is in for some time,” Albus said. “No, I think the main reason for this attack was a test of our defenses.”

    “You do not seem to be too concerned, though.” Sirius narrowed his eyes slightly.

    The Headmaster smiled. “I am not. While the Dark Lord now knows that the Imperius will not work, or not work well enough, it also means that he’ll not make plans which rely on it. Which means we’ll not have to deal with it.”

    “Ah!” Sirius nodded appreciatively.

    “A comforting thought,” Delacour added, “although I can not help but notice that this is just an assumption.”

    “With the Thief’s Downfalls installed, we’ll have reliable ways to protect ourselves against the Imperius even if the Dark Lord were to still focus on it.” Albus nodded. “Although I do agree that we cannot rely on him acting in a completely rational manner.”

    “Does this change any of our plans?” Delacour asked, setting his glass down.

    “Only in details.” Albus was certain Tom would not accept the Ministry reaching an accommodation with the muggleborns. As long as he thought he had a chance to win with force what was denied him, he’d make the attempt. The real danger was if he should feel that there was no chance of taking the Ministry in a coup. Tom would rather see the Ministry destroyed than his enemy. Which was why Albus had to be very careful with his plans and contingencies. “The Thief’s Downfall will be moved a bit, so we’ll have to take that into account when we deploy.”

    “Telling friend from foe will be difficult, though.” Delacour flicked his finger. “My family is apt to curse first if in doubt.”

    “Which is why Tonks has been taking pictures in my Pensieve of known sympathisers of the Dark Lord during the last week.” The young witch had worked hard, maybe too hard, on that, and had taken quite a few risks, using other forms to spy on her colleagues, but needs must.

    “There’s Polyjuice,” Sirius said.

    “If they rely on that to sow confusion, despite the Thief’s Downfall, then they’ll risk taking curses from their allies as well. A possible threat, but not a likely one,” Albus said.

    “Too many assumptions for my taste,” Sirius muttered.

    “Ah, that is combat for you,” Delacour said, a bit too patronisingly, Albus thought. “Chaotic and unpredictable - like a witch!”

    Sirius didn’t take offense, though - apparently, the two wizards were getting along well. “With that attitude, I doubt you’ll have much success wooing my cousin.”

    “Wouldn’t she be flattered to be thought unpredictable? It is a very ’elpful quality in duels and battles.” Delacour grinned.

    “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that might grate on her,” Sirius answered.

    “Might? So you do not know?” Delacour raised an eyebrow.

    “Me prying into her private affairs would not be welcomed by my dear cousin,” Sirius said, a bit too nonchalantly.

    “Nor by Andromeda,” Albus added, and hid his smile at seeing Sirius flinch. “Now, let us once more go over the likely deployments.”

    He had to deal with one troubled love affair affecting his plans already, he didn’t want two of his most important allies discussing their love lives instead of the war.

    *****​

    “... and by all accounts, the Aurors almost cursed each other when they heard the alert. I listened a bit, to those not under a privacy spell, and everyone I could overhear expected their enemies to attack at any moment.”

    Albus nodded at the young witch when she finished her report. “Well done.” He smiled at her, then sighed. “Things are as tense as I feared, after my own visit.” His meetings with Amelia and Cornelius didn’t grant him too much insight into the views of the rank and file of the Ministry, and especially the Aurors - both leaders were biased, in their own ways, and without some other sources, Albus couldn’t trust their views of the situation in the Ministry.

    Young Nymphadora smiled and sat down. She looked as tired as Albus remembered - or worse.

    “Indeed. Your outstanding work will greatly facilitate our task, once the Death Eaters make their move,” Delacour said. “Many will owe you their lives.”

    “Thank you, Marcel,” the metamorphmagus said. Albus saw she stiffened a bit, though.

    He cleared his throat. “I think we all have earned some rest now.”

    “Oh, yes.” Nymphadora downed the wine Sirius’s elf had served her, and stood up. “As I said, all the trusted Aurors are on double shifts starting tomorrow, so I’ll have to head to bed. Alone,” she added with a glance at the French wizard.

    Delacour’s response was a very emphatic sigh, but he still got up and followed the witch out of the room.

    “A word, Albus, before you go,” Sirius said when the Headmaster himself was getting up. “About Harry.”

    “Ah.” Albus forced himself to smile.

    “Hermione dumped him yesterday.”

    “So I gathered.”

    “Of course you have,” Sirius said.

    He was wrong. It hadn’t taken Legilimency to find out; merely observing both boys when they had arrived after their emergency meeting had been enough. Mister Weasley, torn between happiness and guilt, and Harry, trying to mask his pain - the reason for both was plain as day for Albus. “Although as I understood it, Miss Granger did not so much ‘dump’ him as you called it, but simply made her decision.” At a rather inconvenient time, too, in Albus’s opinion.

    “Same thing. Harry was devastated, and I’m not certain my talk with him was enough to help.”

    This morning, Harry had looked like he was holding up well, given the circumstances, or so Albus thought. And this evening, he and Mister Weasley were training with Alastor; Albus doubted that either would be able to focus on anything but the training. But teenagers were rather emotional, the Headmaster knew that very well. “You would like to talk to him some more.”

    “Yes.” Sirius nodded. “I thought of hiring a Courtesan for him, to distract him from his pain - Marcel assured me he knew the best in Paris, Veela, even - but I think I’ll try talking first. In person, I mean.”

    Albus chuckled with him at his joke, feeble as it was. If it was a joke - he’d not put it past Sirius to actually do such a thing. It would be a distraction in any case - and Albus could do without one of those these days. “That should not be too difficult to arrange.” These days, the board of governors didn’t bother him at all any more, not with most of House Slytherin gone and many of their parents dead or in hiding. Compared to the pressure Malfoy had tried to bring to bear on him in the past, it was a very welcome change.

    “Thank you, Albus.” Sirius smiled, then sighed. “It’s like James all over again, after one of his rejections, only Lily didn’t go out with anyone else, not seriously, at least.”

    Albus wasn’t certain that the last part was true, but there was no need to bring that up. Something else was worth mentioning, though. “Children following in their parents’ footsteps is not always a good thing.” Young Neville certainly hadn’t benefited from his grandmother’s attempts to mold him in the image of his unfortunate father.

    Sirius sighed again. “I know. It’s just… Harry looks so much like James, and Hermione… well, she doesn’t look like Lily at all, but appearances aside, she’s a stubborn, brilliant muggleborn witch. And scary when she wants to be. It would have been like another chance, you know?”

    Albus understood the feeling - very well, in fact. But he also knew how dangerous it was. “I believe that it is best for children to choose their own path.”

    “Yeah, well - it’s not as if Harry can do that either, with the Prophecy and all.” Sirius snorted and refilled his glass. “He has known he’ll have to fight the Dark Lord to the death for months, and now the girl he loves chooses his best friend. Merlin’s balls, grown men might break under that pressure!”

    Albus knew that as well. Although her courage to make such a difficult decision before things went on for too long was admirable, Miss Granger’s sense of timing left a lot to be desired. While the Headmaster greatly valued honesty, he would not have minded if the witch had let things be for a bit longer - until after Tom was dealt with. A broken heart was a far less serious condition to treat when the person afflicted wasn’t about brave mortal danger. But such was the folly of youth.

    So he nodded. “I will keep an eye on him, Sirius. And so will Harry’s friends, I believe.”

    “Of course they will. But it might do more harm than good if everyone is trying to act as if nothing had changed when things have definitely changed.”

    Sirius didn’t say it, but Albus was certain that the wizard knew this from personal experience. When James had finally managed to win Lily’s heart, it had affected his friendship with Sirius, Remus and Peter as well. Sometimes, Albus wondered if Peter might not have succumbed to temptation if James had still been focused on leading his friends.

    He banished the thought; it was in the past, and the current situation was quite different. For all the similarity in their looks, Harry was very different from James. Trying to treat him like his father would spell disaster.

    Fortunately, Sirius seemed to have realised that.

    *****​

    London, January 13th, 1997

    “What was that this morning?” Brenda Brocktuckle asked Parkinson as soon as the two of them had arrived in their shared muggle flat.

    “Hm?” Parkinson looked at her as if he was confused.

    Brenda kept a lid on her temper with some effort. She had good self-control, usually, but they were working against the blood traitors who were trying to take control of the Ministry, and they couldn’t afford any mistake. “The attack on Bones. That didn’t look very well-thought out. A single imperiused Hit-Wizard?”

    “Ah, that wasn’t an attack. That was a decoy.” Parkinson had that smug grin on his face again.

    “And what did it achieve?” Brenda knew her fellow Auror and now co-conspirator would not have been quite as smug if it had not worked.

    “It showed us the defenses of Bones’s office, of course.”

    That might mean that Bones was the target of the group she was now part of. Or the whole attack on Bones was a decoy for something else - Brenda had no illusions about how much loyalty she could expect from the Dark Lord; if it served his plans, he’d sacrifice the entire cell. Maybe not Parkinson, the smug wizard seemed too skilled in this plotting. “And alerted her, so she’ll focus on protecting herself, and the Minister.”

    “Exactly.”

    She nodded. “And what will my task be in this?”

    “We need to be prepared to exploit this, once the opportunity arrives.”

    “Or when the order arrives,” Brenda added. She didn’t think the Dark Lord trusted Parkinson so much as to allow him to choose when to start a coup.

    His smile slipped just a bit. “Yes.”

    So he wasn’t quite as secure of his position as he tried to appear, Brenda noted. Which meant her own position was even worse than she had thought. Not that it could be helped - if the mudbloods won, she would be even worse off. “So, what do you have planned to do that?”

    Parkinson’s smug smile returned. “I have a couple ideas.”

    As Brenda listened, she forced herself to remember that what Parkinson was planning was aimed at blood traitors, people who’d sell her out to the mudbloods, and not at fellow Aurors.

    It helped a little. And war was a dirty business anyway.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 14th, 1997

    The tension between the two boys in his office was obvious, Albus Dumbledore thought, looking at them sitting in front of his desk. Mister Weasley kept glancing at Harry, who was staring straight ahead, focusing on the wall behind Albus. Granted, he had a few delightfully mysterious devices placed there, but this wasn’t Harry’s first visit to Albus’s office.

    The Headmaster sighed and smiled. “I suppose I should treat this as an opportunity to train you when you are distracted.”

    Harry jerked, then winced. “Sorry, sir.”

    “Sorry,” Mister Weasley said.

    “Ron could go and use the time to … for other things. In London,” Harry said.

    “I’m not leaving you, mate!” his friend blurted out. “I told you, we’re in this together.”

    “That was before… “ Albus saw Harry press his lips together.

    “That doesn’t change a thing. I’m not going to let you face this alone.”

    “I’m not facing Voldemort today, just the the Headmaster,” Harry said. “And should the Dark Lord make an unscheduled appearance, then I’ll be certain to call you as soon as possible.”

    Mister Weasley clenched his teeth at hearing that, but didn’t answer right away. After a moment, he all but hissed. “We’re not going to let you sacrifice yourself.”

    That was what he was fearing, Albus thought. He cleared his throat, and both boys looked at him as if they had forgotten his presence. Alastor would be quite mad if he knew this. “A noble sentiment, Mister Weasley.”

    “Yeah, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m the one who has to face the Dark Lord in my mind” Harry tapped his temple. “And no one else can join us in here. Not even with Legilimency.”

    “And yet on that particular battlefield, knowing your friends support you can be decisive.” The old wizard smiled. “Not to mention that, as Filius will happily confirm, even duels are won with your mind, not your wand.”

    “I don’t think he meant it quite that literally,” Harry said.

    Mister Weasley snorted, then winced, then seemed to sit a bit straighter. “No matter what, we’ll not let you face Voldemort alone.”

    “Nor leave me alone,” Harry muttered, but for a moment, he seemed to smile. He shook his head. “Well, we better get on with the training then.”

    Albus nodded, and prepared himself to let the boy enter his mind.

    *****​

    Harry Potter wiped some sweat from his forehead while he slumped back in his seat. That had been a very intense session. Dumbledore hadn’t pulled any punches. Now it was Ron’s turn to batter his mind against the Headmaster’s defenses until he had a headache, and Harry could relax. Relax, and think about his life again.

    Sirius had said that life went on, but Harry wasn’t really feeling like it. He glanced at his friend, and frowned. Ron was trying to act as if nothing had changed. As if he and Hermione weren’t a couple, and Harry was the third wheel. The odd wizard out. As if Ron wouldn’t rather be with her, than with Harry. If all of them were together at Hogwarts still, they’d be sneaking away to snog, Harry thought. And then he remembered kissing Hermione, and clenched his teeth. It had been one of his most cherished memories, Patronus grade, and now it was just a painful reminder of what, of who he had lost. If he ever had had it, her, in the first place, and she hadn’t just taken pity on him… he shook his head. His friends were better than that. It wasn’t their fault that Hermione had fallen for Ron. Harry would have done the same, if he had been in her place. And if he had been a girl.

    He banished that thought as well. Things were as they were. And in a way, his fight had become a bit easier. He knew now that even if he died, his friends would have each other. It took a bit of the pressure off him. He didn’t have to survive the battle, as long as Voldemort died as well. He knew better than to voice that thought to anyone, of course. Sirius would be devastated, and probably try to grab him and run to Magical India or wherever. And Ron would never let him out of sight again, and Hermione… she might rig up some way to monitor him from a distance. Or just lock him up - the girl could be a tad too ruthless when she thought it was needed.

    The point was moot anyway, since he had no idea if suicide attacks were even possible with Legilimency. It wasn’t as if the things the Headmaster was training him for had been done before.

    He smiled wryly. He wasn’t exactly planning to die, or wanting to. But if anyone had to die, Harry would rather have that one be him, than any one of his friends. That had been true even before Hermione had made her choice, which probably meant it was a good thing she had picked Ron. His friend was more sensible.

    Or should be. Ron had had some rather daft ideas about sacrifices himself, in the past, Harry remembered. And Hermione… she had decided to start a guerrilla war with less than a dozen people, rather than go and hide. He shook his head and chuckled. Yes, all of them were crazy. And his friends didn’t even have the excuse of having a link to Voldemort’s soul in their head. Harry must be contagious, he thought.

    His good mood faded again when he thought of the Dark Lord once more. The Headmaster kept praising his progress, but Harry couldn’t help feeling that this was mostly to encourage him. He was facing the worst Dark Lord in Britain’s history, after all - he’d need a lot more than some lessons to win. He didn’t think being able to outfly a dragon and send dozens of Dementors fleeing with a single Patronus Charm would be that helpful for this.

    Although… Harry rubbed his chin as he had an idea. It sounded crazy, and he had no clue if it was even possible, but if it worked…

    If it worked, the Dark Lord might just have a very nasty surprise.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 15th, 1997

    Ron Weasley watched Harry while they were getting ready for breakfast. His best friend didn’t look as sad any more as he had the day before. He didn’t know what had happened - he had been too tired after Dumbledore’s training to notice anything but the way back to his bed. Well, almost - due to Moody’s training, Ron suspected that he was watching out for assassins even while asleep. Which, to be fair, was likely a goal of their more than slightly paranoid instructor.

    “Come on, Harry, I’m starving here!” Ron complained. He wasn’t really starving - he’d had a snack before bed - but it was something he used to say a lot. Before the war.

    His friend looked at Ron for a moment, then smiled and nodded. “Can’t have that happen now, can we?” It wasn’t quite as it had been before, but it’d do for now.

    The two descended the stairs. Neville had gone down already - as had been usual lately. Their friend was getting up early. And training late at night. Ginny was already up as well, waiting in the common room. Not for them, as it turned out, since she just waved at them.

    Neville was in the Great Hall, staring at the Slytherin table. Ron winced at the sight, then nodded to Harry. “Let’s join him.”

    Harry briefly looked surprised - he had looked distracted all morning, Ron realised - then nodded. Ron sat down across the table from Neville, even if that meant presenting his back to the rest of the hall. Moody would have his arse for that, but Ron cold trust Harry, who sat down next to Neville, to watch his back. And Ron thought that Harry needed to be shown that sort of trust, right now.

    “Morning, Neville,” he said as he grabbed some juice and started to fill his plate.

    “Morning,” their friend muttered.

    Ron suppressed a sigh - Neville was worse than Harry. But with good reason, of course. Ron couldn’t think of anything to say, so they ate in silence for a few minutes. Then Neville drew his wand, and Ron almost hexed him, until he realised that the boy was casting a privacy spell.

    If Neville had noticed his reaction, then he didn’t seem to mind. “I want in,” he said, staring at Harry.

    “What?” Ron’s friend blinked.

    “The special training you two are doing. I want in.”

    “Ah…” Ron tried to think of a way to explain that it wasn’t the kind of training Neville thought it was, without revealing the secret.

    “That’s up to Moody,” Harry said. “He’s training us as a favour for the Headmaster.”

    It was a sign how much Neville had changed when the boy simply nodded.

    “It’ll be very hard,” Ron warned him. “And painful.” And Neville would know something was up when they only had lessons every other day, and still went to see the Headmaster without him.

    “That’s no problem,” Neville said. “As long as I get the training I need to avenge my family.” He bared his teeth in a grin that didn’t seem to fit the boy, at all.

    Ron suddenly thought that maybe Harry wasn’t the one who needed to be watched the most.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 15th, 1997

    “Training another?” Alastor sounded dubious. His face didn’t show much of an expression, though, even counting his cursed scars.

    Albus Dumbledore nodded. “Neville Longbottom has asked for training.” Demanded it, actually. It was sad that Augusta couldn’t have seen her grandson back then, meeting Albus’s eyes unflinchingly. Although the Headmaster had to admit that Mister Weasley’s concerns seemed justified as well - young Neville looked like he was resolved to get revenge, and he might not be too discerning when it came to his targets. Few of those wishing to avenge their dead were, in this war or any other one.

    Alastor’s training would hopefully help with that, Albus thought. Further, having the two boys whom the prophecy once might have applied to, train together, seemed fitting - and might help hide the real plan from Voldemort. Even if, he thought with a great deal of shame, it would endanger Neville. That the boy was likely to endanger himself, if left to his own devices, did not excuse this.

    “Longbottom? The whelp wants to avenge his family?” Alastor scoffed.

    “Precisely.”

    His friend’s good eye narrowed. “Hm. I guess I kind of owe the boy. If I had been a bit quicker… and he’ll be motivated enough to fit in, I guess?”

    Albus nodded. He didn’t know if Alastor was talking about the attack on Neville’s parents, or the altercation with Barty Crouch Jr., and it didn’t matter. Neville would get his training.

    “But you didn’t call me here just to discuss that.”

    His friend knew him well. Albus nodded. “I expect that the Dark Lord will launch a coup, once it becomes clear that he cannot stop the policy change by other means.”

    “Tell me something a dumb rookie wouldn’t know.”

    “The Ministry cannot deal with it by itself. The number of trustworthy Aurors and Hit-Wizards is too low,” Albus said. His friend rolled his good eye and made an impatient gesture with his hand. The Headmaster didn’t let that hurry him, though - planning shouldn’t be rushed. “So, I have taken a few precautions, and organised reinforcements.”

    “Black’s cell, and the French bunch.”

    “Yes.” Albus nodded. “There is also a possibility that the Muggleborn Resistance might involve itself.”

    “Ah.” The old Auror grinned. “Those rumours were not entirely wrong then, hm? You’ve got your own squad of killers?”

    “I have kept contact with a few of my students, even after they left Hogwarts.” Albus had debated with himself about telling Alastor this, his friend was a veteran Auror, after all, but there had been no choice. And Alastor was not quite as enamored with proper procedure and laws as Amelia.

    His friend shook his head. “If this ever gets out you’ll have a lot of trouble, Albus.”

    Trouble he would be able to handle, provided Tom was dead by then. He shrugged. “But you can see the potential problems their intervention would cause.”

    “Aye. That’s going to be one hell of a mess.”

    “The Resistance will likely be wearing muggle uniforms.”

    “That’ll only help with accidental cursings.”

    Albus sighed. “Those who attack them deliberately will have to face the consequences of their choice.” Which would likely be swift and fatal.

    His friend snorted. “Ah… I’d have commented how you’d finally admit that we’re fighting a war to the end, but seeing as you’ve ‘kept contact’ with the muggleborns, you’ve been doing that already.” He stared at Albus. “Some claim you’re just like the Dark Lord, wanting to rule Britain and dictate the lives of everyone.”

    “Lies spread by Voldemort’s followers. All I wish is for everyone, no matter their birth, to have equal rights.”

    “That’ll need a lot of dictating for the bigots,” Alastor said, sneering. “Less if the worst of them are dead, of course.”

    There was no need to answer that, Albus might not like it, but he couldn’t argue that conclusion.

    “So, you think you’ll need the muggleborn wands so badly you’ll accept the trouble their presence will cause.”

    “Yes.”

    “You seem rather well informed about the Dark Lord’s plans.”

    “Not as well informed as I would prefer,” Albus sighed, “but I do not think I am wrong.” He’d rather overestimate than underestimate his enemy.

    “Well, I can handle the lads and lassies, but others will panic anyway. But - will you take the field?” Alastor narrowed his good eye again.

    “If I’m not already present in the Ministry, then I’ll only come if the Dark Lord himself appears, or as a last resort.” He couldn’t commit, and leave Tom to attack Hogwarts. If Albus had to leave in the middle of the battle, his allies might think the battle lost, and give up or flee.

    Alastor disagreed with this reasoning, but didn’t argue the point. “We’ll make do without you, then. With the Weasleys’ surprises, and our foreign and muggleborn allies, we’ll have the advantage.”

    They would have the advantage, Albus knew. Hopefully it would be enough to carry the day without paying too much.

    *****

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 16th, 1997

    Even though Brenda Brocktuckle had joined a cell of the Dark Lord’s followers, she hadn’t taken action against the Ministry yet. That was changing today. As she stepped out of the fireplace - and through the Thief’s Downfall that had been recently installed there - she was carrying a stack of harmless-looking paper with her. Paper that had been given to her by Parkinson, ‘straight from the Dark Lord’. After he had told her what to do with it, and she had realised just what she was carrying, she had to force herself not to hurry to work and get rid of those things as fast as possible.

    Fortunately, she wasn’t the only one under a lot of pressure, and so she didn’t look out of place as she walked to her office, grabbed a piece of parchment, and went down to Procurement. Parchments, quills, ink, robes, and of course, forms, everything needed for the smooth running of the Ministry could be had here - if you had the correct form.

    Brenda had the wrong form - deliberately. When the clerk frowned and fidgeted, she leaned forward on the counter and glared at him. “What?”

    “That’s not the correct form.”

    “What? Did you change forms again without telling anyone?” She remembered that day well, and had no trouble getting angry.

    “No, no… but we need the correct form.”

    “Transfigure it then!”

    “No, no… that would not last for the mandatory archive period… I’ll have to fetch the form.” The clerk was fussing with his stacks of parchment.

    “Summon it, I haven’t all day!” Brenda snarled. “Someone has to work here.”

    “That would mess up our filing system!” The wizard looked shocked. He did stand up, finally, and went to look for the correct form.

    Brenda let out a relieved sigh, then pulled her papers out, switching it with one of the stacks lined up on the shelf behind the counter with a flick of her wand.

    She had done it. She had betrayed the Ministry not just with words, but deeds now. If anyone knew what she had done… but there was no choice. It was treason, or be betrayed.

    She still was angry - at herself, at the Ministry, and at the mudbloods - when the clerk returned, and almost ripped the form out of his hands before filling it out hastily.

    She didn’t glance at the stack she had replaced, the one under “Ministry Memos”.

    *****​

    London, East End, January 16th, 1997

    “Here are the latest floor plans of the Ministry,” Hermione Granger announced as she spread the plans Dumbledore had had Sirius deliver to her out on the table in the dining room. She had had other plans, courtesy of Sirius, but these were the most recent. The witch addressed the assembled Resistance members. “As you know, the Wizengamot is debating the proposed policy change tomorrow.” The change that would end the Ministry’s persecution of them.

    “Which should render our plans to attack it redundant.” Dean was looking at her.

    “Yes. But we can expect the Dark Lord to attack it, if the policy change passes,” Hermione said. They hadn’t seriously planned an attack, but Hermione and the others had run a few thought exercises. Especially after Martin’s execution. This was different, though. This time, they could plan with the help of people inside the Ministry.

    “Ah!” Seamus clapped his hands together. “We’re going to kill the Death Eaters in the Ministry!”

    “We’re going to lend some support to our new allies,” Hermione corrected him, then added: “Which means we’ll be killing those attacking it - the Death Eaters.”

    That had most of the group grinning, even Colin and Dennis, who knew they’d not be able to come with them.

    “But can we trust the Ministry? What if this is a trap?” Louise asked. “They have tried to lure us into a trap once already.”

    “We can trust Dumbledore and his allies,” Hermione said. “The Ministry won’t go against them. Can’t, really.” She looked at the others. “If anyone is attacking us, assume it’s a Death Eater.”

    Everyone nodded at that. Hermione didn’t like it - there was bound to be some confusion - but she wasn’t about to risk her friends’ lives just to protect some Ministry stooge who would have arrested and executed them just a week ago, if given the order.

    “Alright… let’s go over the plans. The key areas the Death Eaters will try to control are here, the Minister’s floor, and here, the atrium with the Floo connections and the lifts, controlling access to the Ministry and to the different floors. If we and our allies control this, we can deal with them one group at a time.” Hermione pointed at the different areas, wishing, not for the first time, that she had a Pensieve. At least Louise and Jeremy were familiar with the Ministry.

    “What about the Department of Mysteries?” Louise asked.

    “I have it on good authority that this is taken care of.” Dumbledore had told her that he had personally made certain of that.

    Louise nodded.

    Justin bent over the maps. “Covering all those approaches will be difficult.”

    “Yes. We’ll have to use machine guns extensively,” Hermione admitted. Sealing the entrances was no option, not when a bit of transfiguration would open them again.

    “What about mines?” Seamus asked. “A few Claymores, and anyone trying to come at us is ripped to shreds.”

    Hermione shook her head. “Those could hit our allies as well.” She knew that wouldn’t really impress Seamus, though - he didn’t quite understand that not everyone knew as much about the bombs as he did, or Hermione. And he didn’t care about a few dead purebloods, or so Hermione suspected. Fortunately, she had a more compelling argument. “But they’re also a risk for us - imagine someone transfiguring them, or simply turning them around or messing with them through magic.”

    The Irish wizard grumbled, but let the matter drop.

    “We’re still bringing them, and more explosives - just in case we have to cover our retreat.” If the Dark Lord was about to take the Ministry there was no point any more in trying to protect it. They couldn’t blow it up, not with all the muggles in the area above it, but they could get destroy quite a lot without putting muggles at risk.

    Even the Dark Lord would be hampered if the Ministry infrastructure, especially its paperwork, was destroyed.

    *****​

    Outside Stamford, Lincolnshire, Britain, January 16th, 1997

    The Dark Lord Voldemort studied the latest reports from his sources, delivered by Bellatrix, and only as copies of the originals, of course. He knew very well what could be added to a piece of parchment, after all.

    It looked as he had expected: His followers in the Wizengamot were unlikely to have enough influence to defeat the proposed changes. It wasn’t quite hopeless, much less impossible to still carry the day - a few of his Death Eaters were leaning on Wizengamot members, appealing to their common sense - but it was unlikely. Dumbledore had outmanoeuvred him, as much as it galled to admit it.

    Which meant the Ministry would turn fully against him. There were enough turncoats who would blindly follow new orders for this to be a significant setback. Not just because the Ministry’s Aurors, together with Dumbledore’s Order and the mudbloods, would be hunting his followers, but also because of the loss of reputation Voldemort would suffer if the Ministry turned officially against him. He couldn’t let the sheep lose their fear of his power.

    He sighed and rubbed his forehead. He had been preparing for this, his agents were almost everywhere in the Ministry, but it was still a gamble. If he lost the battle… if his followers lost the battle, then that would be an even worse blow.

    Unless, of course, the battle caused so much devastation that not even Ministry propaganda could portray it as victory to raise morale.

    Well, he had been planning some changes to the Ministry’s appearance after his inevitable victory anyway. And, he added to himself, glancing at the human skull sitting on his desk, there were other options to consider.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    “The Chair recognises the Minister for Magic.” Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore smiled at Cornelius as the other wizard stood up. It had taken some effort, and a few more secrets revealed, but they had managed to secure a majority for the proposed changes. Now all that was left was to counter any attempt by Tom’s followers to derail or delay the session.

    And, the old wizard mused, watching the assembly as Cornelius started to read the proposal everyone in the Ministry already knew by heart at this point, he had had decades of practise handling such issues. Formalities would not stop him now. Judging by the expressions on the faces of Augustus Malfoy and his friends, they knew that as well.

    Albus just wished he could be as confident in handling the expected response from the Dark Lord.

    *****​
     
    Mizu, Ack, Beyogi and 7 others like this.
  10. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Hm... so Dumbledore has set up a trap and Voldemort is going to spring it. It just seems like he's learned from Hermione's cell and is going to bomb it instead.

    I just hope Dumbledore has anticipated something like that considering the way his Death Eater hunter aurors died.
     
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  11. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Voldemort likely expects Dumbledore to have considered that possibility, and will do something else. At the very least he'll plan with that expectation in mind.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
  12. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    I'm curious as to what's in the switched-out memos, and what Harry's plan is.
     
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  13. Threadmark: Chapter 31: Coup d’état
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 31: Coup d’état

    ‘The drastic changes Wizarding Britain had gone through during the last decade of the 20th Century are often attributed to the Second Blood War. However, after careful study, it seems more appropriate to state that the war was the result of such drastic changes. In support of that idea, I point at the fact that the radicalisation of both purebloods and muggleborns happened before the first spell was cast. As was pointed out before, the Muggleborn Resistance was formed months before they launched their first attack, while the core of the Death Eaters had already fought in the First Blood War a decade and a half before. What brought them to war were political changes, mainly the Muggleborn Laws passed in 1995, the groundwork for which had been laid during the preceding years, in response to the Muggle Protection Act of 1992.’
    - Excerpt from ‘Wizarding Britain in the 20th Century’ by Albert Runcorn


    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    “...and that is why I believe we have no other choice than to come to an agreement with the muggleborns.”

    Albus Dumbledore was impressed - Maximilian Selwyn was quite convincing - he doubted that many would be able to tell that the man had been forced to support Cornelius’s proposal against his will. Augustus was looking even angrier than he had at the start of the session - the wizard must have been surprised by Maximilian’s change of opinion. Lucius would have anticipated that, Albus thought, and likely have had taken measures to prevent it.

    Fortunately, Augustus was no Lucius. He wasn’t the only new member whose lack of experience in politics Albus had exploited in the last few weeks. The Chief Warlock let his gaze wander through the room. The heirs or the proxies of the underage heirs of the Old Families who had replaced those killed at Malfoy Manor were simply not quite as skilled as their predecessors had been. Some had talent, but that was not enough. Not when dealing with someone who had decades of experience in Wizarding Britain’s politics.

    Augustus did try to stem the tide, of course. His master would demand no less than his best efforts. Albus nodded at the man with a polite smile. “The chair recognises Mister Malfoy.”

    “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! I cannot find the words to describe my outrage at this proposal! Have you forgotten what those muggleborns did? Not only did they scorn those who had, misguided though the attempt was, welcomed them in our society! Not only did they break our laws - laws we passed for the good of us all! No, not content with those crimes, they murdered dozens of our peers, and their families!” Augustus was shaking his head wildly. A bit too theatrically, Albus thought. “They started this war, driven by their jealousy of our sophisticated culture and their thirst for blood! If not for the muggleborns, we would not have suffered so much!” He shuddered. “How can anyone even consider making peace with those beasts? If we did that, we’d not only betray their victims, but we’d endanger all of Wizarding Britain. If we let them escape just punishment for their crimes, then we’d condone their wanton acts of murder. We’d encourage them! If this proposal is accepted, then any murder they commit afterwards will be on our heads! And,” Augustus said with a sneer, “they will murder more of us. You know the lies they spread! You know they blame us for what they did! This proposal is not just foolish, it is outright treasonous! I implore all of you to reject it!”

    Albus refrained from shaking his head. That hadn’t been one of Augustus’s better performances. Still, a few members of the Wizengamot might be, with good reason or not, concerned about the muggleborns seeking vengeance. He rose to speak himself.

    “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! It is no secret that I fully support this proposal of our esteemed Minister for Magic. I have opposed those laws from the start, as many of you may recall, and I can assure you that repealing them is not just the right thing to do, but also the only way to end this war and save Wizarding Britain.” He paused for a moment. “For make no mistake: We are in a war for the very survival of our country - a war against the Dark Lord. Some claim the muggleborns have started this war, but they are wrong! This war was started by the Dark Lord and his followers, decades ago! To those of you who fear the muggleborns, I can but say that the Muggleborn Resistance has never attacked the Ministry. They have killed Aurors and Hit-Wizards, yes, but only when they were attacked or threatened. No, all of their attacks have been aimed at the Dark Lord, and his supporters - and you all know how effective they have been.”

    “They murdered my family!” Eric Greengrass yelled.

    “Your family died because they chose to attend a ball thrown by Voldemort’s right-hand man even though they knew the Dark Lord had returned.” He ignored the gasps his use of Tom’s nom-de-guerre caused.

    “Are you condoning the murder of innocents?”

    That caused quite the reaction in the Wizengamot. Albus saw that Xenophilius, sitting in the audience, was scribbling almost frantically. The Chief Warlock stared at Eric. “You know I do not condone such crimes. I have proven that at Hogsmeade, when I personally captured a muggleborn intent on murdering innocents. But I can but wonder how innocent anyone associating with known Death Eaters is. We all knew Lucius Malfoy was working for the Dark Lord - he admitted that he was in contact with Voldemort in this very assembly, when he laid out the Dark Lord’s demands. Why would anyone join him in his manor for a ball, if not to show their support for the Dark Lord?” There were of course reasons for that, understandable if not very courageous ones. But this was not the time to mention that.

    He raised his head. “We are in a war, honoured members of the Wizengamot. A war for the survival, for the very soul of Wizarding Britain. A war the Dark Lord started twenty-five years ago. We can either ally with the muggleborns in this war, and win, or we can throw ourselves at the feet of the Dark Lord, and hope we will be spared and granted a life as his slaves.” He paused again, to let this sink in. “You all know what I will be doing. I did not submit when Grindelwald conquered most of Magical Europe, I did not surrender when Voldemort started this war, and I will not surrender now. No! I will fight the Dark Lord, and all of those who support him, no matter if they wear his mark, or not.” He paused, then added: “An alliance with the muggleborns will also mean that prisoners taken in this war will be treated the same, no matter who captured them.”

    He let the Wizengamot members murmur to each other - a few were talking quite loudly, even - while he exchanged a glance with Cornelius. The Minister’s smile had grown a bit forced, but he was holding up well. Amelia’s face showed no emotion, though - he had expected that. This was politics, not justice.

    Eric had sat down, trembling - with rage and fear, Albus thought. As far as the wizard knew, his niece was in the hands of the muggleborns, and the Chief Warlock had just offered a way to save her from certain death. Albus wasn’t proud of the deception, but needs must.

    This proposal had to pass if this ugly, bloody war was to end any time soon, and if Wizarding Britain was to have a chance to be rebuilt.

    He saw Eliane Shafiq raise her wand, and nodded at her. “The chair recognises Madam Shafiq.”

    As the witch rose to speak, Albus leaned back in his chair, glad for the Cushioning Charms. This would be a long session.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    Brenda Brocktuckle hadn’t made any progress, hadn’t really done any work so far. Not today. Not with the Wizengamot about to surrender Wizarding Britain to the mudbloods. She still had some hope that common sense and reason would prevail. The Wizengamot members couldn’t be that foolish - the majority of them had voted for the mudblood laws! They had to know that the mudbloods would blame them as well!

    But Dumbledore, Fudge and Bones were pushing this. The weak-minded morons in the Wizengamot would follow their lead, too scared by the Chief Warlock’s ultimatum. Brenda clenched her teeth. She’d not let those traitors destroy her country.

    And yet… she glanced at the small stack of paper on her desk, ready to be charmed into paper aeroplanes, and thought of the far larger stack down in Procurement, which she had replaced on the Dark Lord’s orders. She didn’t know exactly what curse was on the sheets, but it was a dark one. Parkinson had been nervous when he passed the stack to her.

    And she would be responsible for the curse being inflicted on her coworkers. No, on the blood traitors and cowards who’d submit to the mudbloods! She had to remember that this was a war for the survival of Wizarding Britain - and for her own life.

    The door to the Auror offices opened, and she looked up, through her own open door, holding her breath. Was that the news she was dreading? It was Parkinson. Her partner entered, then seemed to notice that everyone was staring at him, and held up his hands.

    “Don’t look at me like that! I haven’t heard anything from the Wizengamot!” the wizard said.

    The Aurors in the room returned to their work, their grumblings forming a background noise until privacy spells muted it. Parkinson walked over to Brenda and closed the door behind him, shaking his head. “I felt like the Snitch at a Seeker meeting,” he said, sitting down at his own desk.

    “Everyone’s waiting with bated breath for the Wizengamot’s decision,” Brenda said.

    “Idiots. As if there’s any question how this will end.” Parkinson grabbed the Daily Prophet from her desk and unfolded it. “Another article praising the Chief Warlock’s virtues… I wonder what kind of leverage Dumbledore has on the Prophet’s owner,” he said. “Do you have The Quibbler?”

    “I don’t read that,” Brenda said. The Quibbler? That mix of crazy theories and imaginary animals?

    “You should. It’s really funny. Crazy, but entertaining.” Parkinson grinned. “The headline of the last issue claimed that the so-called Nargle-infestation in the Ministry was being dealt with by foreign pest control.” He chuckled.

    Brenda rolled her eyes. Parkinson was acting too nonchalantly again. “You know, you’re acting a bit suspiciously by not seeming to care about today’s session. Everyone else is.”

    She saw him frown for a moment, then his grin returned. “But it’s me - I’m not everyone.”

    “And we’re all very grateful for that.” More than one Parkinson would be intolerable.

    The Auror laughed. After a glance at the door, he grew serious, though. “It won’t be much longer.”

    She looked at him. “How do you know that?”

    He just grinned again. She couldn’t tell if he actually knew this, or was simply guessing. So she scoffed, and turned her attention back to the scroll she had been trying to read.

    “Are you ready to do what’s needed?”

    She looked up and stared at him. “You know me. I’m ready.”

    He met her eyes for a moment, then nodded. “Just checking.”

    “You’re nervous.”

    He chuckled. “Maybe a bit. It’s going to be a tough fight.”

    “If the Chief Warlock’s still in the Ministry when you start it, then it’s going to be a short fight.” Unless the Dark Lord came in person to face Dumbledore. Brenda wasn’t certain if she wanted to be anywhere near the Ministry should those two duel.

    “Dumbledore will not be present. Measures have been taken to ensure this.”

    She narrowed her eyes and studied his face. She knew him well enough by now. That wasn’t just bravado. Parkinson was certain. Brenda nodded. “Good.” She didn’t know what measures had been taken. And she didn’t really want to know - there was just one thing she could think of that would keep the Chief Warlock from rushing to help the Minister.

    A threat to his students.

    Brenda told herself that the Dark Lord would either have thought of something else - he had to know about Dumbledore’s weaknesses - or that he would not actually kill children.

    But she couldn’t help remembering that most of the students who were sympathetic to the Dark Lord’s cause had left Hogwarts months ago.

    *****​

    London, No. 12 Grimmauld Place, January 17th, 1997

    Hermione Granger entered Grimmauld Place with her wand in hand, although pointed down at her side. She didn’t really expect a trap - if she didn’t trust Sirius she wouldn’t be coming to his house in the first place - but months spent hiding and fighting a civil war had taught her to be ready at a moment’s notice. Something, she thought with a snort, that would serve her fine this day, if the Headmaster’s worries should turn out to be on the mark.

    “Hermione! Welcome to my humble home!” Sirius greeted her with a wide smile at the door.

    “So much for my disguise,” she muttered, resisting the urge to scratch under her wig. She removed the sunglasses, though.

    The older wizard made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Bah! With the policy change that’s certain to be approved according to Albus, no one in their right state of mind would dare attack you.”

    “Unless they want to sabotage said policy change,” Hermione countered.

    “Well, no one in my house has such plans,” Sirius said, looking pointedly at her wand. “If they had, there would have been far better opportunities in the past.”

    It was a good enough explanation, and Hermione holstered her wand. “Let’s hope so.” She hadn’t met Fleur more than a few times, during the tournament, and she didn’t know the Delacours staying with Sirius at all. And she knew that the French had not forgotten how many muggleborns had fought for Grindelwald. She’d have to trust his judgement, which was a bit harder than trusting him.

    And there was the matter of her choosing Ron over Harry. Sirius would do anything for his godson, and Hermione had hurt Harry. She hadn’t wanted to, and she had tried her best to soften the blow, but…

    She told herself she couldn’t afford to worry about that. If the Headmaster was correct, then they were facing an attempted coup in response to the Ministry’s policy change.

    “You don’t look happy.” Sirius remarked halfway to his living room.

    She looked at him. “I’m not happy. We have to plan a major mission in a few hours - a mission where half the forces involved are not familiar with each other, much less have fought side by side before. It’s an indoor assault, with lots of civilians around, among whom the enemy will be hiding. We’ll be hard-pressed to spot the Death Eater spies, and unable to trust anyone but ourselves.”

    Sirius snorted. “You don’t mince words.” With a grin, he added: “On the other hand, the Death Eaters will have to expose themselves, and we’ll get to kill them. The Dark Lord’ll lose a lot of his followers, and a lot of popular support as well. And any dead civilians we can blame the Death Eaters for.”

    That wouldn’t make killing civilians any more acceptable, but Hermione knew better than to argue that with Sirius. The wizard held a grudge against the Ministry for his unjust imprisonment in Azkaban, and had only contempt for the Ministry employees unwilling to fight the Dark Lord. An attitude he shared with many of the Resistance members. She sighed. This would be a bloody day. She just hoped none of her friends would be among the casualties.

    They reached the living room and Sirius entered first. Maybe he didn’t trust his French allies not to curse her either? Hermione shoved those thoughts away as she followed him: It might simply be that people were tense - she didn’t know how she’d react if an unknown person surprised her in the house either.

    Inside, a handsome middle-aged wizard and a stunningly beautiful witch - a Veela, Hermione realised at once - were sitting on the couch. Remus was standing near the bookshelves, apparently checking out the tomes there. Since he had been living here for over a year, it looked like a rather awkward way to avoid talking to the French to Hermione. Or maybe she was turning into Moody.

    “Marcel, Vivienne - Hermione Granger. Leader of the Muggleborn Resistance and the most feared witch in Britain! Hermione - Marcel Delacour and Vivienne d’Aigle.”

    Hermione sent Sirius a glare, then smiled politely at the French. “Enchantée.” She held out her hand.

    “The pleasure is mine,” Delacour said, dropping a kiss on her hand.

    The witch smiled at her. “Enchantée.”

    After a moment of silence, Sirius pouted. “No comments about how you expected her to be taller? Or look more dangerous?”

    The French wizard smiled. “We French know that a beautiful woman is the most dangerous.” The Veela - Sirius’s girlfriend, Hermione thought, since he stepped up to her and wrapped his arm around her waist - giggled.

    “Too true,” Sirius said. “Though in our current situation, it’s a very good thing we have so many beautiful witches among our ranks. As Hermione just summed up on the way here, we’re facing a coup by Death Eaters, our forces have no experience fighting side by side, and we will not be easily able to tell our enemies from the civilians. “At the start at least. We’ll order all civilians out of the Ministry. Afterwards, anyone not with us will be treated as an enemy.”

    “Will the Ministry go along with this?” Such an order would look like a coup by Dumbledore to some, she suspected.

    “We’ll call it an evacuation.” Sirius shrugged. “Can’t say anything against that.”

    “Well, you could - but who’d listen to you? After this battle, I doubt many will raise their voices against the victors.” Delacour shrugged nonchalantly.

    “Whoever the victor will be,” Hermione said.

    “Do you doubt our victory?” Delacour didn’t quite sound mocking, but Hermione found his overly surprised manner more than a bit patronising. “That would be surprising coming from the witch who has bested the Ministry and the Death Eaters so often before. You also seem to assume that your group will be called in, though as I understood the Chief Warlock, you’re our reserves, to be summoned in case we should not be enough to win the day.”

    “I’m aware of the dangers of overconfidence,” Hermione said. “I’d rather be prepared and not be called than called in without being prepared. Our successes were the result of careful planning. Planning which we might not have enough time for today. ”

    “Then let’s get started!” Sirius said. “I need to be back in the Wizengamot in an hour. This is my lunch break.”

    “I’ve brought plans of the Ministry.” Hermione pulled the copies out from her enchanted pocket. “We’ll need to control the Atrium, to keep the enemy contained and split up. The Wizengamot and the Minister as well as the heads of the departments will need to be protected as well - or evacuated.” A few of them she’d not mind see dying, but not if it meant Voldemort won. “And there’s the matter of avoiding friendly fire.”

    “Friendly fire?” Delacour looked puzzled, as did the Veela. Vivienne, Hermione reminded herself - Sirius seemed very close to her.

    “Preventing our forces from mistaking each other for the enemy.” Or at least removing the easiest excuses for some ‘accidental’ cursing. On both sides.

    “Ah!”

    “We’ll be in uniform,” Hermione said. “Every Resistance member will be dressed the same,” she went on, drawing her wand and pointing it at herself. A few flicks and swishes later, she had transfigured her clothes into the uniform the Resistance favored. The green pattern wouldn’t be much of a camouflage inside the Ministry, but it’d make them easy to recognise.

    “Like Aurors, just green. And muggle,” Delacour said.

    “Yes.” She sounded a bit terser than she wanted.

    “And sexy!” Sirius added. Whether he was just being himself, or trying to add some levity Hermione couldn’t tell, but she glared at him anyway.

    “We’ll also need passwords. We don’t know each other, and there’s not enough time to get to know everyone. On the other hand, changing the colour of a robe is easy, and our uniforms would not be too hard to duplicate either.” She thought it was obvious that the Order and their French allies would have to pick a colour for their robes as well. “If you doubt someone, challenge them with ‘Thunder’, to which they’ll answer ‘Flash’.” Nice historical examples, though Hermione doubted any pureblood would know of them.

    “You’ve given this a lot of thought,” Delacour said, with a bit more respect, or so she thought.

    “It’s basic muggle military training.” And common sense, but stating that might be too inflammatory.

    “I also suggest you don’t pick a dark colour for your robes. Too easy to mistake for a Death Eater robe.”

    “Of course.” Now the French wizard sounded a bit peeved.

    Sirius cleared his throat. “I’d say we use red and gold, but the Aurors are red already, so maybe we’ll have to settle for yellow - like gold, not badgers - for our robes. That settled, we’ll enter the Atrium. Dumbledore has no secret passage for us to use, unfortunately.”

    Hermione doubted that. It was more likely, she thought, that the Headmaster was saving such knowledge for the future. They had to secure the Atrium first anyway, so entering there made the most sense.

    Of course, the Dark Lord would know that as well. And he was an enemy they couldn’t afford to underestimate.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 17th, 1997

    “You know, the weather’s nice for flying, and I’m the last to say we shouldn’t fly when we can, but… aren’t you curious about the outcome in the Wizengamot?”

    Harry Potter heard Ron’s yell, and looked over his shoulder. His friend was behind him, Ron’s own broom not quite able to keep up with his Firebolt, even when Harry was flying in a looping Seeker pattern. For a moment, he was tempted to simply keep flying. Forget the whole war, Ron and Hermione’s relationship, everything. To just enjoy the sky, the wind, the feeling of flying…

    He slowed his broom down, though, and slid to a stop. He knew what Ron really meant, but couldn’t have said - yelled - without a privacy spell. Not even as high above Hogwarts as the wards allowed. The question of whether or not Voldemort would launch a coup at the Ministry. Whether Sirius and Hermione would have to fight the Death Eaters, maybe even the Dark Lord himself, today. “I was going crazy waiting for news,” he said as soon as Ron floated next to him on his broom.

    “Ah.” Ron understood that, of course - Harry’s friend had not been able to sit down for longer than a minute in the Gryffindor common room. His wand moved in a familiar pattern. If not for the wind, Harry would hear the familiar, too familiar, low buzz of a privacy spell. “You know, if you sneak off to the Ministry, Sirius and Hermione will kill you, and then me for not stopping you.”

    Harry snorted. “I’m not planning to.” He wasn’t a fool.

    “Good.”

    “I’ll just stay at Hogwarts, safe and out of the way, while our best friend and my godfather fight Death Eaters. Again.” Harry didn’t try to hide how bitter he felt about it.

    “Yeah.”

    “I feel so goddamn useless!” He was a Gryffindor! He shouldn’t be hiding and staying safe. It was the house of the brave and the bold.

    “You’re the key to his defeat. You’re anything but useless,” Ron said.

    Harry snorted. “Which is why I’m not allowed to fight until it’s just me and him.” And if the Headmaster thought he was ready. Which would probably be… sometime past his N.E.W.T.s, Harry thought. At least it felt that way. He hadn’t even had the time to talk to Dumbledore about his idea, yet.

    “Well… even if you were not the Boy-Who-Lived, we’d not be allowed to skip school to fight the Death Eaters.”

    “Would we care about what we are allowed to, and what not, though?” Harry looked at his best friend. His other best friend. “If it were only our lives at stake, and not, you know?”

    Ron snorted. He knew the answer to that as well as Harry did - they’d do what was right, and damn the consequences. Just like Hermione. Harry winced. Thinking of her hurt, still. Sirius said it would get better, he’d find another girl, but he couldn’t see that, not at all. And he didn’t want anyone else. He wanted her.

    Ron didn’t say anything. He was just there, waiting. He had been acting like that ever since that day, Harry realised. Being more quiet than usual, more ‘understanding’. As if Ron walking on eggshells around Harry would somehow make things better. Make them hurt less.

    Harry scoffed. Curse it, he was feeling sorry for himself. He should be better than that. Know better, too. There was a war going on. People might be fighting and dying today, even. People he knew. He sighed. “Want to throw a few hoops? To keep your Keeper skills up?”

    “Of course, mate!” Ron said.

    “Alright, then…” Harry trailed off, blinking. Had that been… he reached up and touched his scar. It wasn’t hurting, but it was… he felt like it was putting pressure on his forehead.

    “Mate?” Ron sounded puzzled. And worried.

    He had good reason to, Harry realised, as the pressure grew.

    “Voldemort. He’s near Hogwarts.”

    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    The village town had recovered from the mudbloods’ attack last month, the Dark Lord Voldemort noticed, standing on a nearby hill looking down, hidden by charms. It wasn’t a surprise - the ignorant animals had not used any dark curses, instead resorting to muggle means. While destructive, those left no damage magic couldn’t deal with - provided someone made an effort.

    And such efforts had been made in Hogsmeade. Not just because as Britain’s only exclusively wizard village it held a special status in the Ministry, but as it was so close to Hogwarts, Voldemort’s old foe would have ensured it would not reflect negatively on his school.

    Which was precisely the reason Voldemort was here. It was a place he knew Dumbledore would defend, against anyone, even the mudbloods he so loved. The Dark Lord snorted. If not for the detrimental effects it had on his own plans, he’d have greatly enjoyed the irony of the old wizard having to fight mudbloods in defense of purebloods.

    It didn’t matter now. He looked at his watch. The debate would be winding down soon, as per his instructions his followers would stop resisting the inevitable. The smarter among them would leave at once too. Those who didn’t would hopefully curse an Auror or blood traitor in the back at least. He didn’t need to worry about them any more; Britain’s fate would be decided by wands, not votes. Today, if all went well. And, since his spy had informed him that Dumbledore’s familiar had had a burning day and wouldn’t be available to transport Voldemort’s enemy around, the day seemed to favour him indeed.

    As if fate had read his thoughts he felt a slight twinge, three times, through the link with his Dark Marks. The signal Malfoy had been told to give, once the vote was through with the expected result.

    He turned to Bellatrix, who was waiting at his side, a step behind him.

    “Milord.” She stood straight and faced him. Tense. Eager. She reveled in carnage, and today, she would get her fill. He would prefer her at his side, but she was his most feared follower, and just the sight of her would drive the cowards in the Ministry to flight - and ensure that none of his own followers would falter and desert.

    “The fools at the Ministry have spurned me for the last time. Go to to your forces and be ready to storm the Ministry on my command!”

    The dark witch saluted him with a beaming smile, almost shivering with delight, and apparated away.

    Voldemort looked at the forest behind him, where the half a dozen Death Eaters who’d join him in his assault on Hogsmeade were waiting, and raised his wand. As he started to raise into the air, flying with his magic alone, the six wizards followed him on their brooms.

    Towards the unsuspecting village.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    Albus Dumbledore watched as the lit wands were counted. The result was obvious, if not as obvious as he would have liked - a number of the members obviously were more afraid of the muggleborns’ revenge than of Voldemort’s rule, even if they were no friends of the Dark Lord either, or so Albus thought - but procedure had to be followed, of course. Especially in the Wizengamot - the Headmaster had no intention of letting Tom’s pawns challenge this vote on the grounds of formal mistakes. If only Mayfield would count a bit faster.

    Finally, the man turned to Dumbledore and announced the result: “Twenty-seven ayes to twenty-two nayes.”

    “The proposal is accepted with twenty-seven in favour and twenty-two against,” Albus announced with a quick Amplifying Charm. Applause and muttered curses filled the room. A beaming Cornelius was shaking hands with Amelia, and coming over towards Albus. Other members were standing up, leaving already. Albus thought some of them probably were going to lock themselves in their hidden homes. Or, he added to himself, to do their master’s bidding.

    “Albus! This is a great victory! In the face of danger, Wizarding Britain, divided by circumstances, is uniting again!” Cornelius said as if he was addressing the press and not the wizard who had planned all this with him. And forced him into it in the first place.

    Speaking of the press… Albus saw Xenophilius walk towards him. Barnaby Merryweather from the Prophet was a bit behind, apparently held up by Petra Selwyn.

    Cornelius had spotted the owner and chief editor of The Quibbler as well, and Albus caught his wide smile slipping a bit. Xenophilius tended to have that effect on many politicians with a weak sense of humour, the Headmaster thought with a wry smile. He rather liked the man, and his magazine was a delight to read for someone with an open mind.

    Before he could address the man, though, a glowing white stag appeared in the hall, coming straight at Albus. While the Wizengamot members present gasped in surprise, Harry’s voice rang through the chamber:

    “Headmaster! He’s attacking Hogsmeade!”

    Albus felt a chill run down his spine. He had expected an attack like this - Tom would react, and either Hogwarts or Hogsmeade were the most obvious targets, with Albus bound to defend both of them. But to hear from Harry, and even before Amelia was alerted by the Aurors in the village… What was the boy doing, and more importantly, where was he?

    This could be a diversion, or a simple terror attack. Or a trap for him. Most likely, Tom was ready for all three possibilities - the Dark Lord was certainly as cunning as a Slytherin could be.

    But there was no choice - with the village, and now Harry at stake, Albus had to intervene, and quickly. He turned to Cornelius, but his words were meant for Amelia, and for Sirius, who had made his way towards the Headmaster. He ignored the questions of the Minister and others about the Patronus Messenger. “The Dark Lord is attacking Hogsmeade. I am the only one able to stop him, so I have to leave at once. Send what help you can, but be aware that there might be an attack on the Ministry in the making as well.”

    He saw Sirius and Amelia nod, and apparated away. He had a village to save.

    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    “It’s him.”

    Ron Weasley would have liked to say something snarky. Something sarcastic. Anything to show that he wasn’t more afraid than he’d ever been before. Not counting his visit to the Acromantula colony, of course. But all he could say was: “It’s Voldemort.” And they had known that from the start, when Harry had started to sense the Dark Lord - if it had been a Soul Anchor, Harry would have needed a Supersensory Charm to track it to Hogsmeade from Hogwarts.

    “Yes.” Harry wasn’t cracking any jokes either.

    Below them, the Dark Lord was floating above the village, sending curses down on whatever poor souls were in sight. Six Death Eaters on brooms were flying nearby, adding their own spells to the mayhem.

    “Expecto Patronum! Headmaster! He’s attacking Hogsmeade!”

    Harry’s voice made Ron whip his head around just in time to see a glowing white stag speed away. “Shite!”

    “He had to know,” Harry said.

    “Yes. But now the Death Eaters know we’re here. Move!”

    As Ron had feared, one of the Death Eaters was pointing up. A glowing stag flying through the sky was hard to miss, no matter that both Ron and Harry were disillusioned, and out of range of the Human-presence-revealing Spell, as Moody had taught them.

    But they were already changing position - another thing the old Auror had drilled into them. And the Death Eaters would have a lot of trouble trying to spot them, much less catch them in the sky. Especially with Ron and Harry able to see them coming. They could fly away, to Hogwarts, before the Death Eaters even came close, and any time the Death Eaters spent chasing them was time not spent on cursing the people in Hogsmeade. Or the Aurors who had been patrolling the town - Ron saw a pair of wizards in red robes fall to the ground, struck by curses from above.

    They could do this! Ron thought. Then he noticed that the Dark Lord was flying straight at them. How…

    “He can sense me,” Harry yelled. “Scatter!”

    Acting on reflexes born from hours of drill, Ron had darted away before he realised what Harry was doing. His friend was diving to the ground. Trying to lead the Dark Lord away from him. He was already out of the range of Ron’s Human-presence-revealing Spell, but Ron could see Voldemort just fine. And the half a dozen Death Eaters about to help their master, too.

    Harry was good, but outflying the Dark Lord, and half a dozen Death Eaters? Even disillusioned and on a Firebolt, that was a tall order. Especially if Harry was not thinking too clearly.

    Ron took a deep breath and started to dive at the closest Death Eater, wand out.

    He didn’t have a Firebolt, and his broom was meant for a Keeper, not a Chaser or Seeker, but he was starting from a high altitude, and the Death Eater below him was not watching the sky any more. Ron was closing the distance fast - very fast. The wind tore at his robes and hair, and he had to squint his eyes to keep the man in sight. He grunted as he pulled on the handle, adjusting his course to cut the Death Eater off. Almost. Almost. Now!

    “Reducto!”

    His spell hit the dark wizard’s broom, right in the rear, blowing it up. The splinters were deflected by the man’s Shield Charm, but that didn’t matter - out of control, the screaming man crashed straight into the ground, and his shield shattered on the cobblestones of Hogsmeade’s main street. As did the dark wizard.

    And Ron had to struggle not to follow him. His broom wasn’t made for Wronski Feints. He pulled up with both hands, almost crushing his wand against the handle. He managed to pull out of the dive at the last moment, then had to veer hard to his right to avoid crashing into Zonko’s.

    As he shot up over the joke shop’s roof, the facade behind and below him disappeared in an explosion. It looked like they were no longer ignoring him. And he was in the range of their Human-presence-revealing Spells.

    Ron really would have loved to own a Firebolt right then.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    “The Wizengamot’s voting now!”

    Brenda Brocktuckle wanted to curse the rookie who had just entered the Auror offices. She wanted to know the result, not the time of the vote! She still hoped, even though she knew it was unlikely, that the Wizengamot would come to their senses. She looked at the scroll in her hand and tried to focus on her work again.

    “They accepted the proposal!” Another Auror, another rookie, entered, all but yelling the news.

    Brenda noticed how the rest of the Corps reacted, especially those who cheered. Traitors! She noticed she was gripping the parchment in her hands so hard it was tearing up, and she had to mend it with a quick Repair Charm. She also noticed Smith and Macintosh staring at her through her open door. Smith was smirking, even.

    “Dumbledore has left the Ministry.”

    Parkinson’s voice made her jerk. “How do you know?”

    “I just received the signal to launch the aeroplanes,” the wizard said. “We’re up.”

    Brenda stiffened. That meant she would have to trigger it. Send those things out. She stood up and nodded. They were blood traitors, she told herself while she drew her wand and touched the paper stack on her desk.

    The Auror watched as the paper folded itself into a small aeroplane and took off towards the door. Towards Procurement.

    The spell was cast. Literally. She was committed now - if the Dark Lord lost this battle, this war, she’d perish with him. Just as Parkinson had wanted, as his grin told her. And as she had known.

    And she strongly suspected that if the Dark Lord’s forces lost this battle, she’d not survive. Parkinson wouldn’t want her to betray him, after he took care to set her up as the one launching those cursed papers.

    Before she could dwell any more on that thought she saw a swarm of paper aeroplanes enter the office. The planes she had launched.

    “Ah! The official results I bet!” the rookie who had annoyed her earlier said, and made a grab at one of the aeroplanes.

    Brenda’s eyes widened. If that idiot… The aeroplane nimbly avoided the clumsy lunge, and she started to breath again.

    Then the idiot aimed his wand and summoned the thing. “Yes!” he said, starting to unfold it.

    “Brown! Couldn’t you wait a minute longer?” Another Auror said.

    “No, I couldn’t!” The rookie grinned.

    Then he screamed, staring at his hands, which were stuck to the paper and shriveling up rapidly.

    More screams erupted from other Aurors, those Aurors - blood traitors - with desks and offices closer to the entrance. But others were not quite as gullible, or simply too far away for the aeroplanes to reach them before they noticed what was happening. Smith and Macintosh hit most of the paper aeroplanes still in the air with a fire spell.

    “Macintosh! You traitor!” Parkinson yelled suddenly. “Why did you attack us?”

    It was a weak bluff, but with everyone panicking and the cursed traitors screaming like banshees, it was enough. Brown’s partner turned on Macintosh. “What did you do to him?”

    Macintosh started to protest his innocence, and was probably about to blame her when Brenda hit him with a Bludgeoning Curse that smashed him into his own desk. She hoped the breaking sound were the traitor’s bones.

    Then she had to duck as everyone still standing and uncursed seemed to start casting at once, and spells flew everywhere. Parkinson ducked back into their office, but Brenda saw a Blasting Curse fly past her, through the open door. A second later, an explosion sent a cloud of dust and splinters out of the door.

    Part of Brenda hoped that her partner had been able to cast a Shield Charm in time. And part of her hoped he hadn’t. But mostly, she wanted to kill Smith. Macintosh’s partner was sending curses at her, blowing up the desk she was hiding behind, but not before she had cast her Shield Charm.

    She rolled behind the desk of Fitzroy, and transfigured it to stone just in time for the next spell to hit it. She couldn’t move now, not without exposing herself, and even a stone desk wouldn’t last that long.

    Another rookie stumbled into her field of view, yelling even though she seemed unhurt. Panicking, Brenda noted. Suddenly, she knew what she could do. Had to do. She aimed her wand.

    “Imperio!”

    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    Harry Potter knew he had made a mistake. He should have flown straight back to Hogwarts as soon as Voldemort had detected him. But to flee like that, to leave the villagers to their fate… He was a Gryffindor, not a coward. His parents had defied the Dark Lord three times.

    And it should have been easy to escape them anyway, on his Firebolt. He knew just how difficult it was to hit a moving target. But the Dark Lord’s presence, so close, was messing with his head - between the pain and the vertigo, his flying was so hampered that even Draco might have had a chance at the snitch were this a Seeker duel.

    On the other hand, his erratic flying had probably made Voldemort miss with a curse or two as well. He took another corner, ducking his head as part of the wall behind him exploded - the enemy was getting smarter. While hitting a moving target was hard, especially a disillusioned one, hitting the area such a target was flying into was considerably easier - if they judged his course correctly.

    He pulled up for a quick dash over the roof of a one-story house - with more of a security margin than he was used to. Behind him, the building’s wards flared up as spells rained down on it. He turned hard to the left, then once again, darting into a side alley, and barely managed to pull up enough to clear the cowering wizard there, before he shot out into the main street again. A broom rider crashed into it about a hundred yards up ahead, and Harry’s eyes widened. Had some Aurors survived and rallied? Or had help arrived? Then he noticed a familiar marker fly past him, far too close to the ground. Ron.

    He should have known his friend wouldn’t do the smart thing and go fetch help! Hermione would kill him if something happened to Ron because of Harry’s stupidity! He glanced up for a moment, and saw that three of the Death Eaters were moving away from him. Presumably after Ron. Clenching his teeth, he pulled up in front of a dead end, then turned it into an Immelmann.

    That had been a bad idea. Instead of a half-roll, Harry ended up rolling several times before he managed to steady himself, and some of the spells were coming too close now. And the Dark Lord seemed to be gaining. But Harry was on a Firebolt. Even hindered like this, he was far faster than Voldemort.

    He sped up. This was not unlike playing Quidditch in a storm. And he was the youngest Seeker in a century. He could do this! As long as he could avoid crashing into roofs, walls or the ground.

    Another glance showed that Ron was still being chased - or so Harry assumed; he couldn’t see his friend, just the pursuers. If he fled now, the Dark Lord might go after Ron. He cursed - where were the Aurors? Or Dumbledore? Or anyone?

    Weaving through the central back alley of Hogsmeade, he glanced back. There was no sign of Voldemort. Had the Dark Lord given up?

    Suddenly, he heard a screeching sound from above. Looking up, he paled. A giant bat was flying above him - no, diving at him. The thing was as large as a dog, and headed straight for him. Harry should have expected this. Moody had told them that a trick rarely lasted before the enemy either copied it, or found a defense, and the Headmaster had used that weeks ago.

    And the screams from that monster were not doing anything for his vertigo either. This was looking worse every second, Harry thought.

    Then he saw the second giant bat. And the third. In front of him. And above. He tried to turn into a side alley, but all three of the monsters screamed, and his ears seemed to burst. He lost control of his broom, or rather, of himself, and slammed into the wall next to him, sliding along it for ten, twenty, thirty yards before coming to a stop at the next corner.

    Groaning, he tried to untangle himself from his broom, but his right arm didn’t seem to be working, no matter how much he tried. And it hurt. His right sleeve was gone, as was some of his skin. He was bleeding too, but couldn’t think straight enough to do something about it. And, he belatedly realised, he was no longer disillusioned.

    He saw movement nearby, and managed to turn his head. Voldemort. “T-Tom.” he managed to say with ringing ears. If the Dark Lord said anything, Harry couldn’t tell. The monster seemed to be laughing, though. With good reason, of course - Harry knew he must look ridiculous, on the ground, half-deaf, and with a broom stuck to his arse. If not for another sticking charm, he’d have lost his glasses.

    Still, he’d die fighting. He gripped his wand tighter and started to aim. If their wands interacted like in the graveyard…

    Voldemort wasn’t aiming his wand at him, though. He was smiling, and pointing at him, and glancing up.

    Harry looked up. All three giant bats were diving at him.

    *****​

    London, East End, January 17th, 1997

    “... and twenty-two votes against. The Minister’s proposal has been accepted by the Wizengamot!”

    Hermione Granger took a deep breath while the Wizarding Wireless announcer was talking about the proposal’s details again. The rest of the Resistance cheered loudly. All of them were in uniforms and ready to go, even Dennis and Colin, who would most assuredly not go into combat today. Hermione didn’t feel like cheering. This was what they had been fighting for - or rather, part of it. After more than a year suffering under the Ministry and the Death Eaters, the muggleborns wouldn’t simply accept the status quo ante again. Never again.

    “You don’t look happy,” Sally-Anne said.

    Hermione had a brief flash of déjà vu. Sirius had made the same comment earlier. “Voldemort will attack the Ministry for this. The question is just when he’ll do it.”

    “Do you think he’ll attack right now?” Justin sounded sceptical.

    Everyone was listening to her now, she noticed. Hermione sighed. “It would fit his style. Immediate retribution. Scare everyone into obedience.”

    “So? We’ll crush his forces.” Seamus grinned.

    “He’s probably been planning for this for some time,” Hermione said.

    “So have we,” Dean said.

    “Not as thoroughly as I’d like. And we haven’t trained at all with the Order or the French.” Hermione frowned.

    “We don’t need them!” Seamus said.

    “The French were as optimistic when I met them,” Hermione said. “But we can’t afford to underestimate the Dark Lord.”

    Even Dean nodded at that, while Seamus frowned. “We should just blow the whole place up. That would fix the Ministry.”

    Hermione glared at him. He looked away and muttered that he had just been kidding, but she wasn’t quite certain that he had been. Before she could press the issue - they really couldn’t afford such ‘jokes’ when working with the French and the Order - the mirror in her pocket vibrated.

    There was only one reason for Sirius to call her right now. She pulled it out and activated it.

    “Hermione? Death Eaters are attacking the Ministry!” Sirius sounded far less optimistic and calm than over lunch. She could hear screams in the background. And explosions. “We have no contact with the Aurors. The Hit-Wizards are cut off, and from what we heard, fighting against each other. They cursed paper aeroplanes, which have struck many down with withered limbs, so don’t let them touch you!”

    “How’s the situation in the Atrium?” Hermione asked.

    “We don’t know. We’re holed up in the Wizengamot and the Minister’s floor.”

    So they would have to in blind, and with enemies holding the ground. Hermione glanced at Seamus. He wasn’t looking that optimistic any more.

    “Alright. We’re on the way.”

    She turned the mirror off and addressed the Resistance. “You all heard him. With the Atrium probably held by the Death Eaters, we’ll not go in through the Floo connections.” She had another route in mind. But they had to contact the Order and the French, first. And hurry.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    The Aurors had been authorised to use the Imperius, Brenda Brocktuckle told herself when the rookie got up and started casting at Smith. Besides, she just needed a distraction. She stood up, just in time to see the blood traitor hit the girl with a Cutting Curse that sliced deep into her throat. The distraction cost him, though - she caught him with a Piercing Curse that broke his Shield Charm, and another that punctured his head. She was about to move to the rookie to still the bleeding when another traitor attacked her. The fool was using a fire curse inside, but fortunately missed her. Someone else - she didn’t see who - stopped him with a few banished spikes, but when Brenda reached the wounded rookie, the girl was already gone. Dead. Because of her. No, because of Smith.

    She crawled back towards the remains of the door to her own office. Parkinson might need help. More spells hit the wall above her - someone was rather sloppy with aiming, she thought. She reached the door, and peered inside. Her desk had been blown up, as had been part of the shelves. Parchment and rubble covered the floor. She couldn’t see Parkinson, though. Not from her position.

    She could just leave him. He had set her up to take the fall, after all. But he had also helped her. Saved her career, maybe her life. And he was, for good or ill, her partner. And you didn’t let your partner hang. Ever.

    She took a deep breath, cast a Shield Charm, then jumped through the door. She landed hard on the rubble, the parchment doing nothing to cushion her fall, then rolled to side. A few spells flew through the door, but they looked like stray spells rather than aimed. Now where was Parkinson?

    There! She saw a leg peak out behind the remains of his desk. She made her way to him, using the debris as cover. He was still alive, but unconscious. A few quick first aid spells later, she managed to wake him up.

    “Huh?”

    He wasn’t quite as smooth as usual when waking up from being knocked unconscious, Brenda noted. “Stay down. We’re in our office. You were hurt by a Blasting Curse.”

    He cursed under his breath and summoned his wand. “Who was it?”

    “No idea. That bastard Smith was attacking me.”

    “How are we doing?”

    “That idiot botched the trap, so the traitors could put up a fight.”

    An explosion outside that sent some dust into the room underlined her words.

    Parkinson groaned and got up. “Time to end this then.”

    In for a Knut, in for a Galleon. She nodded.

    Outside their office, the situation seemed under control. A few traitors had managed to hole up in the Head Auror’s office - Scrimgeour hadn’t been in; last Brenda had heard he had been with Bones in the Wizengamot - but a few Blasting Curses had ended that.

    Gerald Avery was there, in ripped robes and bleeding from a cut on his forehead. He was smiling, though. “We did it!”

    “Is the Atrium secure?” Parkinson snapped. “Our reinforcements are arriving. We need to move!”

    Avery protested. “That wasn’t our objective! Another group’s handling that!”

    Parkinson glared at him. “And do we know if they succeeded? If we don’t control the Atrium then we can’t hold the Ministry! Move!”

    Needless to say, Avery was the first to enter the Atrium. Just in case the blood traitors controlled it. To Brenda’s relief, that wasn’t the case. Though she couldn’t help but feel unease at seeing Death Eaters, in their black robes and masks, spread out in the Atrium. She was one of them now, she told herself. Or at least an ally.

    She told herself that again when she saw the enemy leader walking towards them.

    Bellatrix Lestrange.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    “Is everyone ready?” Hermione Granger asked, looking at the Resistance and Order members gathered around the phone booth that hid the lift to the Ministry for Magic. She didn’t trust the Muggle-repelling Charms completely, not with all the CCTV-cameras around, so they had put up a tent to hide the entire booth, and the Resistance members had disguised their uniforms and weapons as worker’s coveralls and tools.

    Her group nodded, as did the Order and the French, the latter a bit slowly, though. They hadn’t liked Hermione taking charge, not even when Sirius had told them to over the mirror, but they hadn’t had many choices. The way this coup was going, they dearly needed the Resistance. At least there hadn’t been much backchat regarding her plan - the French didn’t care much about collateral damage as long as it was limited to the British Ministry, and the Weasleys had been rather ruthless ever since the Dark Lord had had the Burrow attacked.

    “Situation below?” She glanced at the twins.

    Fred - probably - looked up from mirror he was staring into. “Unchanged. They’ve taken up positions around the different entrances, covering them with their wands.”

    “No signs of any prisoners,” his brother added. “At least any that our bugs can spot.”

    Good enough for her conscience. “Seamus?” Hermione looked at the Irish wizard.

    He smiled at her. “Charges are set!”

    “Drop it!” She nodded at Bill.

    The Curse-Breaker flicked his wand, and the lift whose enchantments he had taken over started to descend.

    Hermione pointed her wand at the open shaft and filled it with solid stone down to the upper floor.

    Thirty seconds later, she felt the ground tremble a bit, and heard the twins whistle. “Our bugs are gone. The bomb went off.”

    Hermione dispelled the seal on the shaft. One of the twins stepped up to it upended a box over it. Dozens of different small objects - far too many to have fit into it - fell out and down the shaft. Seconds later, screams filled the shaft while the collected products from the twins’ shop started going off.

    Hermione turned to the her group. “Go!”

    The Resistance had had their brooms ready and dove down the lift shaft, one after the other, Hermione among them. They were greeted with a scene straight out of a nightmare. The first shaped charge Seamus had placed had blown open the shaft’s wall on the Atrium’s level. The second shaped charge had sent thousands of ball-bearings into the Atrium. Any wizard or witch standing near the lift doors had been shredded. The Atrium was filled with fireworks and enchanted figurines that ran all over the place, screaming curses in a dozen languages.

    Mary and Tania had set up light machine guns, firing at a few stumbling figures in the back who fell, one after another. Louise and Jeremy were moving forward under that cover, towards the Floo connections, followed by John, Dean and Seamus. Justin and Sally-Anne were with her. Behind them, the French descended, levitating down.

    Hermione saw Delacour’s eyes widen when he touched the ground. She quickly addressed him. “Go and cover the stairs and other lifts! We need to relieve the others in the upper floors!”

    While the Delacours and the d’Aigles moved forward, followed by the Weasleys and Remus, and covered by Tania and Mary, Hermione turned to Justin. “Secure the lift!”

    It wouldn’t do to repeat the mistake their enemies had just made, after all, and get attacked from the rear while assaulting.

    Taking out the Death Eaters in the narrow hallways of the Ministry would be dangerous enough.

    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    The Dark Lord Voldemort felt elated. He hadn’t seen Dumbledore yet, despite Selwyn reporting that the old wizard had left the Ministry minutes ago - though he was certain the old wizard would arrive; he had to - but he had finally caught Potter. The only one who ever had withstood his Killing Curse, down on the ground in front of him, broken and bleeding. Brought low, in a delightfully ironic twist, by a spell Dumbledore had first used against mudbloods.

    Voldemort had improved on the spell, of course. Made the bats bigger. More dangerous. They wouldn’t just spot and mark enemies, they’d hurt them with their screams, and kill with with their claws and teeth. Such as the Boy-Who-Lived was about to experience.

    The Dark Lord wasn’t about to use his wand on the boy, and risk another fiasco. Potter might be immune to his Killing Curse, or to any of his spells, but he could easily be hurt by other means, as his Quidditch career had demonstrated.

    Voldemort looked at the three conjured giant bats circling above them, then pointed at the boy. The beasts dove at Potter, mouths wide open, screaming in anticipation.

    And crashed into a shield that had suddenly sprung up around the boy. Had Potter found the wits to… no!

    “Letting others do your dirty work now, Tom?” Dumbledore asked, in a mild tone as he stepped out of the shadows of a side alley.

    Voldemort didn’t answer. Instead his wand rose, and battle was joined.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2016
    Mizu, Beyogi, Prince Charon and 9 others like this.
  14. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    Good chapter! I thought the build-up of tension, interspersing the Wizengamot debate scenes with scenes of protagonists and antagonists making preparations for the aftermath, was done particularly well.

    Also,
    It took me about 5 seconds of puzzling about this sentence before I realized that they are talking about paper airplanes.

    Some typos:
     
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  15. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Very tense. Loving it.

    Also:
     
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  16. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Thanks!

    Thanks, corrected!

    Thanks!

    Thanks, corrected![/QUOTE]
     
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  17. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Ouch... that ploy really backfired for Voldemort. He's got no real commander in the ministry and he's busy in Hogsmeade while the Muggleborn resistance is mopping up his coup force.

    He was in deep shit the moment he went for Harry instead of following his objectives. For all that Harry failed he still kept Voldi busy for minutes. Enough for Dumbledore to arrive and organise resistance.

    You never allow yourself to be tied down in a Guerilla war.
     
  18. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    His objective was to draw Dumbledore away from the Ministry; Harry was a very convenient target of opportunity.
     
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  19. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Well he got Dumbledore away, but his minions are still screwed. Their fallback/strongpoint was just murdered from behind and the other ones are going to find themselves between a rock and a hard place now. (Hopefully) loyal aurors to the front and the Muggleborn resistance to the back. Even if they could have taken the Wizengamot they'll also have to defend to an assault from the back now.

    Dumbledore is away from the ministry, but Voldemort also isn't in the ministry - where his own guerilla strategy just badly missfired. If they fail he's doubly screwed. On one hand he'll have lost the majority of his forces and infiltrators in the ministry. On the other hand the remaining followers might wonder amongst themselves why he'd rather play catch with Potter than properly leading them.
     
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  20. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Yes, but he didn't know that his followers would fail. He had to get Dumbledore out so he could launch the coup - with Dumbledore in the Ministry, all bets were off.
     
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  21. Threadmark: Chapter 32: Battle of the Ministry
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 32: Battle of the Ministry

    ‘The events following the Wizengamot’s vote on January 17th, 1997, were crucial to the entire Second Blood War. Unlike earlier attacks, the Battle of the Ministry was not a raid, where the attacking forces would hit and run, but an assault to take and hold the Ministry building - a location the British Ministry could not afford to lose. More important, though, is the fact that all main factions of the war - the Death Eaters, the Muggleborn Resistance, the Order of the Phoenix and their French allies, and of course the loyal Ministry forces - were involved, and with all the strength they could muster. In many ways, it was a pivotal event of the war.
    In a similar way, the Duel at Hogsmeade, while not as famous as the duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, was the first time Albus Dumbledore and the Dark Lord clashed in personal combat. It represented a marked change in tactics for both wizards, who had, until then, avoided each other.’
    - Excerpt from ‘The Second Blood War’ by Hyacinth Selwyn


    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    Albus Dumbledore deflected Tom’s curse with a conjured slab of stone. “Temper, temper,” he chided the Dark Lord with more confidence than he currently felt, while he banished dozens of pebbles towards his enemy. A flick of his wand turned them into razor-sharp spikes right before they crashed into his enemy’s Shield Charm. The acid they released upon shattering was stopped as well, and splattered over the ground. He had expected that, of course - but Tom would still have to treat it as a threat, or risk falling prey to an alchemical concoction Albus might have slipped into it.

    And that gave Albus the opportunity he needed. While Voldemort rose into the air and shot to the side, avoiding the smoke rising from the patches of acid, the Headmaster conjured another barrier in front of Harry, then summoned the boy’s clothes, and with them, Harry himself. Just in time, since the barriers shattered an instant later under the curses Tom sent at them, drowning out the boy’s surprised yell. Rock shards peppered the quick shield Albus had conjured to protect both himself and his young charge.

    A quick spell told Albus that the boy was hurt, but was in no immediate danger of dying - discounting Voldemort, of course. But Albus wouldn’t be able to fight as well as needed to while he had to protect Harry. Something his enemy would certainly attempt to exploit.

    Was already trying to exploit, Albus corrected himself as he saw the air around him starting to shimmer. With a swish of his wand, he dispersed the air with a gust of wind, then made the cobblestones raise in a wave that carried him and Harry away before what other dark spells his enemy had cast could take effect.

    Tom had disillusioned himself in the meantime and taken to the air, but Albus’s spell showed his position, and the Headmaster sent a whirlwind of conjured rock and metal at the Dark Lord, which absorbed the dark curses sent at him and Harry and forced his enemy to evade. Another stone wave took Albus and Harry to the edge of the village. It was a gamble, but he didn’t think that Tom would expect him to use the same spell twice in a row.

    He was correct, as it turned out - in the spot he had just vacated, twisted spears shot out of the ground, then exploded. Albus countered by conjuring a flock of bats and sent them at Tom. They couldn’t really harm him, but once again, Tom wouldn’t know that. But sooner or later, Albus’s bluff would be called.

    “My wand arm’s broken,” Harry said through clenched teeth. Albus quickly fixed that - enough, at least, to let the boy cast spells. Once more, though, this cost him - Tom had already dealt with the bats. To Harry’s credit, the boy cast a Shield Charm himself as soon as his arm had been whole again.

    Albus was tempted to apparate, but his enemy would have blocked that already. If only Fawkes had not had a burning day! Hopefully, Filius and Minerva would arrive soon, and deal with the Jinxes preventing magical travel. Aberforth should be here already, he lived in the village. And Tom knew that, so why was he holding back… ah! Albus saw three Death Eaters on brooms fly towards him. Two more were trying to disengage from chasing young Mister Weasley, but apparently were finding the task harder than expected. Moody was a good instructor, Albus noted.

    And he had talented students, Albus added when he saw Harry, despite his wounds, raise his wand and cast Piercing Curses at the attacking Death Eaters. The spells missed, but forced the three wizards to break off their attack and start casting from a greater distance. That meant their curses were not quite that dangerous to counter. For him, at least.

    “Stay behind me!” Albus said and stepped in front of Harry. He blocked a Killing Curse with another quickly conjured slab of marble and let his Shield Charm deflect the Entrail-Expelling and Reductor Curses the other two had cast while his wand flicked back and forth, weaving a web in the air made up of thin wire. One of the Death Eaters flew straight into it, screaming as the impervious metal cut into him. It didn’t kill him - but it made him slide off his broom when his wrecked hands slipped. The other two veered off, and Albus managed to clip the broom of the closer one with a quick Cutting Curse. Bereft of half its bristles, the broom went out of control, and the man vanished behind the next roof. Harry meanwhile had slid around Albus and was casting spells at the Dark Lord himself.

    Unfortunately, Tom was too skilled to let Harry stop or even distract him, as Albus noticed when he suddenly found himself surrounded by darkness. Freezing darkness - the spell was rapidly siphoning off any heat inside its area. Insulating himself and Harry wouldn’t work, and he had a hunch that Tom had also prepared for the usual counterspell.

    But Albus was among the best Alchemists of his age. He moved his wand with clammy fingers, creating a ring of two compounds around himself and Harry.

    The immense heat that was generated by the two compounds reacting with each other singed his and Harry’s skin despite their Shield Charms. He heard Harry scream in pain and winced - he hated to do this, but it was the best way to shred the dark spell.

    The resulting explosion threw up enough dust to hide the two from view and let Albus transfigure the ground beneath himself and Harry into a carpet, then use a Levitation Spell to fly out of the cloud. He managed to treat some of Harry’s new wounds before Tom sent more spells at him, and Albus was forced to drop off the carpet right before it was ripped to shreds by a volley of Cutting Curses. Since he had conjured a wall to block more curses, his own landing was quite a bit harder than he could afford and he felt his ankle twist on the cobblestones.

    He quickly sent a volley of various hexes mingled with Piercing Curses at Tom, then used the time that had bought him to numb his ankle before he had to meet Killing Curses with conjured stone and metal again. One almost got through while he blocked another aimed at Harry.

    He had to escape, Albus knew - or at least, let Harry get away so he would not have to split his attention. But Tom knew that as well, and would be waiting for any opening to either kill the boy, or himself.

    “Can you fly?” he bit out, replacing walls and other obstacles as fast as they crumbled and exploded under Tom’s assault. Rock shards and other debris were hitting his Shield Charm constantly now, weakening it. But if he recast it, he’d fall further behind on his other defenses.

    “I lost my broom,” Harry said while casting curses at Tom. As before, the Dark Lord didn’t let that faze him, and the few curses Harry managed that would have hit his enemy were stopped by a Shield Charm.

    “Take mine!” Albus yelled, pulling the shrunken broom out of his pocket with his free hand.

    Another Death Eater joined the lone survivor of the first wave, and for a moment, Albus feared for Mister Weasley. Fortunately, a quick glance showed him that the young wizard was still fighting - and holding his own.

    He conjured a flock of harpies to keep the two Death Eaters busy, but he hadn’t been quick enough - Tom had used the opportunity to conjure dozens of snakes around Albus and Harry. Venomous ones, of course. And resistant to transfiguration, too.

    And while the snakes slithered towards him, fangs gleaming, Tom had risen above him, and was now casting Killing Curse after Killing Curse at Albus and Harry. Albus couldn’t block them all and deal with the snakes before they reached Harry and himself.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    Brenda Brocktuckle was glad for the order to secure the Floo Network Authority. She’d be able to put a few floors between herself and Bellatrix Lestrange, who was leading the assault against the Wizengamot and the Minister’s floor - the dark witch was crazy. Parkinson had volunteered them for the mission, which meant he probably shared her opinion. He was a smart wizard after all.

    She felt apprehensive anyway. They hadn’t heard anything from Beatrice Avery, who should have secured the Floo Network with her own group. And there were a lot of blood traitors in the Ministry. They had taken control of the Auror offices, but a few of the Aurors working for Dumbledore and the mudbloods were not accounted for. One of them was that rookie Black. That metamorphmagus could be impersonating anyone.

    The small group with her and Parkinson had almost reached their goal now - just another few hallways. A door to the left opened, and a witch stumbled out, useless withered arms dangling at her side. She saw them, her eyes widened, and she tried to run back where she had come from, but the masked Death Eater on point hit her with a Cutting Curse that sliced deeply in her leg. She went down, screaming, her arms flailing as she started to bleed out.

    A Piercing Curse to the head cut her screams off. Brenda glanced at Parkinson, who had cast the spell.

    “She was cursed by the Dark Lord, so she was a blood traitor.” The Auror shrugged. Almost as an afterthought, he added. “And it was quicker this way.”

    “Door’s locked!” announced the first Death Eater.

    “Well, open it!” another yelled. “Lestrange is not a patient witch!”

    Parkinson frowned. “Hold it! Everyone take cover! Not you, Filigan!”

    The Death Eater was probably glaring at the Auror behind his mask, Brenda thought. She didn’t care - she was taking cover near Parkinson, behind an upturned desk transfigured to stone, far to the back. She was too old to risk her life opening doors.

    Filigan wasn’t that cocky anymore, and yelled the incantation. “Alohomora!” Then he opened the door, throwing himself to the side right away. Nothing happened. No spells flew out, no curse trap went off. Brenda heard someone else chuckle, although a tad nervously.

    “What are you waiting for?” Parkinson yelled. “Move!”

    Filigan glanced back at Parkinson, or glared, Brenda thought, then dashed through the door. Textbook roll, she realised - Hit-Wizard training. Then he fell over and lay still. There had been no spell she had seen that meant...

    “Poison gas!” another Death Eater yelled. “Bubble-Head Charms!”

    More Hit-Wizard training, Brenda thought. Although veterans would have cast the spell before entering an office that should have been under their control already.

    The wizard followed his own advice, then pointed his wand at his fallen comrade. “Wingardium Leviosa!”

    Despite the situation, Brenda wondered if the man shouted all his spells, and shook her head. At least this meant she wouldn’t be treated as curse fodder, not if these were the rank and file of the Dark Lord’s followers.

    The body of Filigan started to float out of the room, but halfway to the second Death Eater, it dropped - together with the Death Eater who had been levitating it.

    “It’s spreading!” Brenda yelled. “And Bubble-Head Charms do not protect against it!”

    Parkinson sent a gust of wind at the open door. “Seal it up again!” he yelled while he kept his spell up. Brenda followed his example - she didn’t want to risk whatever had taken out Filigan and the other Death Eater near him.

    Walls went up after a few moments, sealing the FNA offices off again. A third Death Eater was checking on the two fallen wizards - from afar, using his wand. That one wasn’t stupid, Brenda thought. Which was probably why he hadn’t been on point.

    “They’re alive, but unconscious. Rennervate!”

    Neither stirred. “It’s not a Stunning Spell or a similar effect,” the man declared. He had been in Ravenclaw, Brenda thought.

    “Force a bezoar down his throat!” Parkinson ordered. Brenda felt a soft breeze on her back and realised that her partner was still keeping a weak wind spell going. Smart and cautious, as expected.

    The Ravenclaw did as ordered, but not even that revived the fallen Death Eater. “It’s… it’s like… the Draught of Living Death!” he announced after several more spells. “But… he didn’t drink it. Who could have turned a draught into a contact-vectored gas? That’s...”

    “Dumbledore!” Parkinson made the name sound like a curse. “Damned Alchemy.”

    Brenda hissed. Alchemy. She knew what potions could do - you couldn’t become an Auror without a N.E.W.T. in Potions. Not because you were expected to do any brewing, but so you would be able to identify them when investigating. There were a few murderers who had been caught by finding reagents in their homes for poisons that had not been quite that exotic as they had thought. But Alchemy? There were very, very few Alchemists because their art was so dangerous - for themselves, and for others. She turned to Parkinson. “We’ll have to seal the whole floor. Deal with it later.” The Dark Lord could deal with that, once he had won.

    Parkinson nodded. He didn’t look happy - he’d have to explain this to Lestrange, she knew - but it wasn’t as if they could do much. Anyone would understand that. Well, maybe not the dark witch.

    “Alright, fall back, then seal the floor off!” the Auror ordered. With a lower voice, he added: “And let’s hope there are no more such surprises left in the Ministry.”

    Brenda snorted. “You think the Department of Mysteries will be easier?”

    He scoffed. “The Dark Lord will reserve that for himself.” They were out on the stairs again. The rest of their group was following close behind them. As soon as all were out, they started to seal the doors, transfiguring them to stone. Brenda thought she someone move inside, right before the doors closed, but she didn’t care. They could be woken up later.

    “Why didn’t Dumbledore trap the Auror offices?” the Ravenclaw wondered.

    “We were watching the blood traitors and each other too closely for that. We expected such things,” Parkinson said.

    “We didn’t expect Alchemy, though,” Brenda said. She left the logical question - would they even have noticed an alchemical trap - unsaid. Judging by the grimace on Parkinson’s face, he had the same thought: Was some alchemical concoction already inside their bodies?

    “Let’s go up and inform Lestrange!” Parkinson ordered after a moment. “Watch the entrances to the other floors - I want no more surprises!”

    Parkinson was still speaking, but whatever he was saying was drowned out by a very loud explosion, followed by an even louder one.

    *****​

    Hermione Granger ran through the Atrium towards the stairs, almost slipping in the puddle near the the broken fountain. Clenching her teeth, she sprinted towards the stone bench behind it, hearing the Major’s voice in her ears: ‘Always keep moving from cover to cover!’ Advice which had become ingrained, even though she was protected by a Shield Charm. She reached the damaged bench, ignoring a dead wizard with two withered arms on the ground next to it, and crouched down, quickly glancing around.

    Justin and Sally-Anne had taken up a position to her left, covering the remains of the lift with guns and wands. Tania and Mary were just starting to move towards the stairs as well, where the Delacours were already moving up, towards the Minister’s and Wizengamot’s floors.

    Hermione cursed. Damn that French élan! They were charging ahead without support! They couldn’t afford to split their forces. She turned around and cast a quick Amplifying Charm. “Demo team, blow the fireplaces! Send one to relieve Justin, then follow me!”

    She looked at Justin, who nodded at her. He knew what she was doing, then. Hermione took a deep breath, then jumped up and sprinted towards the stairs. She reached the entrance to the stairways. Remus was standing there, wand pointed down, next to the twins. Bill and Fleur were halfway up the stairs, right behind the French. The stairs were wide and spacious, but they were still bunched up too much, or so she thought.

    Remus stared at her. “You can’t blow up the Floo connections! What about the wounded? And the ones trapped in the Ministry?”

    Hermione glared at him. “They’ll have to wait until we’ve won! We can’t cover all the entrances to the Atrium and move to support the French!” And downstairs were the Auror Corps’ offices. If the traitors had taken over there, and pushed up… Hermione wasn’t about to risk the whole battle for the Ministry employees. They had to win this battle at all costs.

    Tania and Mary reached her, and at once set up a machine gun nest with a bit of conjuring, to cover the stairs. She heard yells and screams from the above. Hermione wanted to head upstairs, but she was the group leader - she shouldn’t go on point. But then, the French were on point. She turned to Mary and Tania. “Send the rest up after me!” Then she was moving up the stairs, leading with her rifle. It was ‘bayonet terrain’, as the Sergeant had called it, but the Resistance hadn’t had the time to train with that weapon, and the middle of a battle wasn’t the place to start.

    The Delacours had pushed the Death Eaters back to the entrance to the Minister’s floor, and halfway up to the Wizengamot’s floor, but the enemies - mixed Death Eaters and civilians - were holding fast. She saw several bodies on the stairs, two of them wearing the golden robes of the Order and French. Then a Blasting Curse hit the area, and the bodies turned to chopped, ripped meat. She fought the nausea down. She couldn’t afford to be sick right now.

    Marcel Delacour was bleeding from a cut above his brows, but seemed otherwise unhurt. His wand flicked, and the wall to the right of the door to the Minister’s floor shifted, forming a hole. Three French wizards sent Blasting Curses through it that shook the stairs, followed by a volley of fireballs from two Veela.

    “Avancez!” Delacours yelled, and half a dozen golden robes surged forward. One went down at once to a Killing Curse, but the others charged on.

    Hermione moved back a few steps and pulled Sirius’s mirror out. After activating it, seconds passed without a response. Had Sirius…? No, there appeared his face. “How far are they into your floor?” Hermione yelled, over the screeching screams from the transformed Veela fighting nearby.

    “We’re holding the Chamber, not much else!”

    “Can you hold out?”

    “Not forever, but yes.”

    “Good.” Her rifle dangling from its sling at her side, Hermione moved her wand and started to fill the stairs leading to the Wizengamot’s floor with walls. They couldn’t push up there with the French fighting on the Minister’s floor - it would be an invitation for a pincer attack.

    Another pincer attack, she amended her thought when she heard explosions and machine gun fire from below. Where were Seamus and Dean? What was holding them up? They needed to clear the Minister’s floor as soon as possible and then push upstairs to the Wizengamot’s floor.

    She heard more gunfire, rifles now, and… were those faint explosions? Then the howls of the twins’ special fireworks drowned out all other sounds. Those things were not quite rockets, but they came rather close. And in the confined space of the stairways… Hermione grinned. That should drive those Death Eaters back. Now they just had to…

    She stared. Her conjured walls were crumbling to dust, and behind them… she gasped when a swarm of bugs or spiders, so big and thick it looked like a carpet, rushed forward. She managed to seal the stairs with another wall, but that wouldn’t last…

    The wall blew up, and rock shards peppered her Shield Charm. A Veela, Hermione didn’t recognise her, it was not Sirius’s girlfriend, threw a fireball at it, and the first yard or so vanished. Hermione was about to cheer when the French witch collapsed, screaming - someone from upstairs, whom Hermione couldn’t see from her position must have hit her with a Torture Curse. Hermione saw her falling, right when the next wave of the insects surged forward, swarming the woman.

    “Aguamenti!” Hermione shouted, and a blast of water hit the Veela, pushing the bugs back and away. “Wingardium Leviosa!” The writhing, screaming witch shot in the air, and then flew towards Hermione. Almost…

    “Avada Kedavra!”

    A green spell hit the French witch, and a second later, Hermione held a body in her arms while cackling laughter filled her ears.

    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    “Bite!”

    “Kill!”

    “Bite!”

    “Kill!”

    “Kill!”

    “Kill!”

    Harry Potter was a Parselmouth. Where others would have heard simply hissing, he understood what the snakes slithering towards him and Dumbledore were saying. And they understood him. Just like in second year. “Stop! Don’t attack us!” he hissed at them.

    They understood him, but they didn’t listen. They didn’t even react.

    “Kill!”

    “Kill!”

    “Bite!”

    “Kill!”

    Clenching his teeth, Harry sent a Blasting Curse at them. Half a dozen were blown up, shredded and torn - but that had just been the closest group; more were swarming them. Muttering the incantation of a spell he couldn’t cast silently yet, he waved his wand and turned around, sending a stream of flames at the other snakes.

    They didn’t even react to the fire. The survivors kept coming, crawling over the burned bodies of the others, hissing their intent - or their orders. He sent another stream of fire at them, flinching when above him, one of Dumbledore’s conjured stone slabs was hit by a dark curse from Tom and shattered a bit too close to the ground, and to Harry. Voldemort was pressing them hard. Where were the others from the Order? Had all the Aurors been killed?

    He burned the last snake he could see when Dumbledore yelled: “Harry! I’ll keep him busy, get ready to fly away!”

    He didn’t want to leave the Headmaster. But he knew he couldn’t do much to help Dumbledore. He hadn’t even been able to control the snakes. Voldemort had ignored the spells he had cast at the Dark Lord too. For a moment, he was tempted to use Legilimency. But Voldemort was too far away for that, and the Dark Lord would be using Occlumency anyway. “Yes,” Harry pressed out, straddling the broom Dumbledore had given him.

    Just as he was about to announce that he was ready, the Headmaster cried out: “Watch out!”

    Harry looked up and saw stone walls shooting out of the ground, encircling him and Dumbledore - an instant before they shattered in a giant explosion that shook the earth.

    Even shielded by a wall, Harry was blown back by the force of the blast, fragments of rock and stone smashing against his Shield Charm as the area around him disappeared in a cloud of dust. He was almost blown off the broom too, barely holding on to it as he was thrown through the air - towards the walls on the other side.

    But he had been in similar situations before, if not as lethal. He had been trained to always know where up and down was, no matter how much he was tumbling through the air, and he pulled up just in time to avoid the wall.

    And just in time to fly into the next explosion.

    This time his Shield Charm shattered and he screamed as something hit his left shin, the shock of the impact throwing him off the broom. He managed to keep his grip on the shaft, but he couldn’t control the broom while hanging from it. And that meant he’d be an easy target for Voldemort, who was still floating above them.

    This would hurt, but he had no choice. Harry let go of the broom.

    He saw something - a spell - pass above him, hitting the broom, and managed to cast a Cushioning Charm before he crashed into the ground. Even so, he screamed again as his left leg buckled under him, and agonising pain filled him.

    Harry knew that pain. Broken bones. Several of them. He couldn’t run, couldn’t even stand up, not like this. And he didn’t think the Headmaster had another broom ready. He was a sitting duck. Curse bait, as Moody called it.

    He recast his Shield Charm anyway. He might die, but he’d not give up.

    *****​

    Ron Weasley grinned, despite the fight he was in. The tables had turned. The Death Eaters who had been chasing him were now trying to go help their master hunt Harry. He wouldn’t let them. He had kept them busy for minutes now, buying time for Harry to escape and help to arrive.

    They were cunning, though - like Slytherins. One of them tried to keep him busy while the other two tried to fly away. Ron dove towards the ground again, trading altitude for speed, and managed to cut one of them off. His manoeuvre had taken them by surprise, and his pursuer was left to cast curses at him that were missing him by a wide margin. The one he was closing in on was casting at him as well, and Ron rolled and banked, evading those curses - it was very hard to hit anything with a curse at the speeds they were going.

    But he was a Keeper. Maybe not good enough to go professional - though that still remained to be seen; he certainly couldn’t do worse than the current Cannons’ Keeper - but good enough to catch Quaffles and dodge Bludgers.

    And a head was a bit bigger than a Quaffle. His let his Piercing Curse fly right before he reached the other wizard, shattering the man’s Shield Charm. Then he pulled up and to the right, corkscrewing to bleed off speed. He ended up facing the Death Eater while the other was just about to recast his shield, and Ron’s next Piercing Curse went into the man’s chest. Just as Moody had drilled into them - too many wizards were so dependent on Shield Charms, they’d recast them at once if they were shattered.

    But he found that he had timed it a bit too close when a curse hit and broke his own Shield Charm, right when he was about to accelerate again. He rolled to the left at once, and the follow-up spell missed him - but hit his broom’s rear end.

    He cursed when he felt it slow down at once, and, more importantly, become far less manoeuvrable. The smart thing would be to head to the ground, and hide. But that would leave the two remaining Death Eaters to chase Harry. Ron would have to do something else. Something crazy.

    He pulled to the left, then to the right, and around again, as more curses flew past him, coming closer to hitting him. He wanted to recast his Shield Charm, but didn’t - he couldn’t spare the time. There! The Death Eater he had hit was still on his broom, but floating rather than flying, clutching his chest. Blood was flowing between his fingers, and from his mask. Ron didn’t dwell on that, though.

    He needed the man’s broom. His Bludgeoning Charm smashed into the Death Eater’s head with a sickening crack. He didn’t fall off his broom, though he rolled with it until he was hanging from it upside down - he must have had a Sticking Charm cast before. No choice now. Ron bared his teeth and reached out, grabbing the shaft as if he was grabbing a Quaffle, then pulled himself over.

    As soon as he sat on the broom, he urged it to speed up, then pointed his wand at the corpse.

    “Finite Incantatem!”

    The corpse fell down, and the unburdened broom seemed to jumped ahead. Just in time - the last volley of curses had come too close. But Ron was back on a working broom, and there were just two Death Eaters left.

    While he was corkscrewing up to gain altitude again, a loud explosion drew his attention. Voldemort was floating in the air, and raining curses down on the ground.

    Ron gasped - Harry! Had the Dark Lord caught Harry on the ground? He banked left and right, trying to throw off the two Death Eaters’ aim, as he flew towards Voldemort. Something, someone was stopping the curses with conjured shields.

    Dumbledore! It had to be Dumbledore! He was protecting Harry. Ron flew in a wide curve, closing in on the battle. Voldemort was going all-out, spells flew from his wand in a continuous stream, smashing into conjured barriers or hitting the ground a bit away. Explosions kept erupting around the area; Ron saw that the front of a nearby house had caved in already.

    And Harry and the Headmaster were in the middle of that! How could he help them?

    When a green curse - a Killing Curse - almost clipped him and he saw another Death Eater flying towards him, Ron was forced to abandon that plan. He had to stay alive first. He didn’t see the smoke rising from the other end of the village.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    Hermione Granger dropped the dead Veela at once, both out of sheer shock, as well as to move, to change position. Those insects were still coming. She transfigured the floor into tar, trapping them, then set it ablaze while falling back.

    Not a second too late - the ground in front of her blew up. Shards and splinters tore into the dead witch and bounced off her shield. But the insects had been dealt with.

    She wanted to fall back even more, rally her group and then counter-attack, but that would mean abandoning the entrance to the Minister’s floor, and letting the Death Eaters cut the French off from the rest of them. Instead she yelled: “We need help here!” and pulled a flashbang grenade out of her enchanted pocket. Wishing she had taken the time to create a Banishing Charm variant that would allow her to throw things around a corner, she cast a Cushioning Charm on the stairs, then crept forward, low to the ground, and flipped the grenade around the remains of the corner. She threw herself back, on her charm.

    A moment later, the corner turned into a green liquid, splashing the stairs she had just vacated - and flowing towards her. Then her grenade went off. She heard a scream, but she was busy transfiguring a small dam in the middle of the stairs to keep whatever that liquid was from reaching her, or her friends behind her.

    But her friends were behind her, and below her, she realised - and the Death Eaters had blown up part of the stairs!

    “Watch out, poison dripping down!” she shouted - too late, as a horrible scream from the Atrium’s entrance told her.

    “Dean!” she heard someone - Seamus yell. “Take the bezoar!”

    The screaming went on, though. She wanted to rush down the stairs, help them, help him. But she couldn’t. She had to hold her position. She clenched her jaw as the scream grew fainter, then suddenly cut off.

    “Dean! Dean! Damn it!”

    She had to focus. Couldn’t think about that, about the horrible death she had just avoided, or more would die. Even more, she added, looking at the remains of the Veela. Snarling, she pulled out another grenade. That one had been harder to get. A flick of her wand conjured a flock of birds, bigger than her usual ones, and one of them grabbed the grenade, carrying it with them as they took off.

    She disillusioned them right before they turned around the corner. A few seconds later, the grenade went off, and white phosphorous filled the upper stairs. Hermione bared her teeth in a grim grin when she heard the screams from above her. “That’s for you, Dean,” she whispered. Let the Death Eaters deal with that!

    Tania and Mary reached her a few moments later.

    “Watch out, more poison ahead!” she warned them, gesturing to the pool that had formed. Then she blinked, and cursed. Shaking her head, almost hoping she was wrong, she aimed her wand at the poison. “Finite Incantatem!” she whispered.

    The poison turned to stone again, and she cursed her own stupidity. If she had done that right away, if she had not panicked, if she had thought clearly, then Dean would not have been… “Dean?” she asked.

    “Dead,” Mary said. Her tone told Hermione that it hadn’t been quick.

    “Willie-Pete?” Tania asked, pointing at the smoke slowly drifting down towards them.

    “Yes.” Hermione used her wand to send the smoke back up. The screams from above had ended. “We need to push them back, link up with the French again.”

    The two others nodded. “You’re not going to take point,” Mary said.

    Hermione was about to argue, then glanced at them, and realised it wouldn’t do her any good.

    “I’m taking point!” Seamus had arrived. He was trembling, with rage, Hermione saw. He was in no shape to lead the advance of her group, she knew that. The Major and the Sergeant had been clear on that. But she also knew that she wouldn’t be able to stop him. So she nodded. “Don’t get killed. He wouldn’t want that.”

    He didn’t answer, just pushed past her.

    *****​

    “Move, you thrice-cursed sons of trolls! Move up and push those traitors back!”

    Parkinson could get quite creative when he was in a bind, Brenda Brocktuckle noticed. Her partner wasn’t looking quite that smug any more. Quite the contrary, actually.

    And they were in a bind - blood traitors had taken control of the Atrium, and were holding the stairs on the third floor, right between Lestrange’s force, and the rest of the Dark Lord’s followers, including herself.

    The remaining Death Eaters of their group hesitated, but the sight of Parkinson’s wand aimed at them drove them upstairs. They disappeared around the corner.

    The Death Eaters in the Atrium were probably dead, Brenda realised - there had been those explosions, bombs, and none of them seemed to have fled downstairs. “Dumbledore!” she hissed. “He must have smuggled muggle bombs into the Ministry!”

    Parkinson jerked. “What?”

    Brenda shook her head. “The alchemical trap downstairs, now this explosion - he must have been preparing for this for a long time.” More than they had expected. And more ruthless too. How many Ministry employees had died in that explosion?

    “That can’t be!” Parkinson said. “They searched the Ministry daily for such traps.”

    “They didn’t find the one in the Floo Network.”

    “That was Alchemy.”

    Brenda was about to argue that the explosion could have been Alchemy as well - no one knew what it could do, after all - but another blast interrupted her, followed by infernal howls, and screams. She ducked as something flew by, ricocheting off the walls and trailing smoke as it disappeared downstairs. Fireworks, she realised.

    “They are shooting fireworks at us, stop screaming!” she yelled. Bunch of cowards. A Shield Charm would stop that easily.

    A series of explosions, smaller ones though, went off above them. More fireworks. No more screams, at least. Then a dark figure slid stumbled back. A Death Eater.

    “Hey!” Parkinson yelled, “What are you…”

    The Death Eater - the Ravenclaw, Brenda recognised the cut of his robe - slowly turned around, and she could see that his right arm and part of his shoulder had been ripped off. “F-firew..w…” he stammered, then collapsed.

    Brenda looked at Parkinson. She was now certain that everyone in the Atrium had been killed. Her partner swore. “Hold the stairs, I’m gathering what wands we have on this floor, and the one below.”

    Brenda stared at him. Was he sacrificing her?

    He shook his head. “I’m getting curse-fodder. Don’t die!”

    The Auror hesitated, then nodded. She hadn’t much choice any more anyway. If Parkinson was betraying her now, she was done for. She conjured a wall to cut off the stairs, and took cover as best as she could while Parkinson rushed into the offices next to them.

    She heard him scream and yell, and probably curse while she waited, wand aimed upstairs. More explosions shook her wall, and it started to crumble, but the push she feared, or the giant explosion that turned the entire stairway into an inferno failed to happen before the first of Parkinson’s curse-fodder arrived. Most of them were Ministry employees, Brenda realised. Hardly anyone among them wore the robes and masks of the Death Eaters. A dozen, all told - they’d have to do.

    Parkinson reappeared. “Those are all from this floor.”

    “I’ll round up the ones below,” Brenda said. She was going down the stairs before Parkinson could answer, and she heard him yell, pushing the rest to move, before she reached the fifth floor.

    There she marched in and started bellowing at once. “Listen up! Blood traitors have taken control of the Atrium. We’re massing to destroy them. Anyone with a wand, gather on the stairs on fourth floor!”

    Two Death Eaters moved up to her, wands out. “Who’re you? Why are you trying to order us around?”

    She stared at them. “We’ve received direct orders from Bellatrix Lestrange.”

    The two glanced at each other, then muttered curses and ran past her. Brenda snorted. Hopefully, Lestrange would never hear of this - the Auror didn’t know how the dark witch would react to people acting in her name. But there was no choice - and Lestrange would certainly punish them for failing to take back the Atrium.

    She went through the offices on the floor, past a fat wizard with four withered limbs who had soiled himself, and another who was sobbing and holding one withered arm, stunning both blood traitors. She found half a dozen of the Dark Lord’s followers tormenting another blood traitor, and broke that up by putting the cursed witch out of her misery, then sent them upstairs under the threat of cursing them herself. No discipline, the idiots. At least the masked Death Eaters were quick to act, but this rabble? Not even Hit-Wizard material.

    By the time she made her way back upstairs, the fighting had already started again.

    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    Harry Potter ground his teeth in frustration. He had managed to numb his leg, which made the pain bearable. It was a move limited to truly desperate situations, Moody had told him, since it usually caused even more harm in the long run, but his current situation certainly qualified. He even had managed to transfigure his trouser leg, or what’s left of it, into a cast. He still couldn’t run, but he would be able to walk.

    Not that it did him any good. With Voldemort raining down curses on him, and the Headmaster barely managing to protect the two of them, there was nowhere to run or walk to, since the moment he left Dumbledore’s side, he’d be killed. And with him here, the Headmaster couldn’t move either.

    Even worse - Harry could tell that Dumbledore was slowly losing ground. He might not recognise all of the curses being used, but he could see that Dumbledore’s conjured obstacles were appearing closer and closer to them. It was the curses aimed at the area around them that were the reason, Harry realised. Dumbledore couldn’t move, and so had to counter the curses or their effects, which took a lot of effort. Meanwhile the Dark Lord could simply aim somewhere near them and let a curse fly, in between sending dark curses right at them.

    If this continued, both the Headmaster and himself would die. Harry was certain of that. He didn’t have the experience of Moody or the Headmaster, but the old Auror had praised him for his instincts in combat. In a backhanded way, but still. And he knew that Dumbledore was losing this battle. He had caught a glimpse of Ron, on his broom, but too far away, and fighting three Death Eaters. Ron wouldn’t be able to help him.

    For a moment, he thought about sacrificing himself, to save his best friend and the Headmaster. They’d be able to easily escape if they didn’t have to worry about him. But that would mean Voldemort would become almost unbeatable. Finding all of the Dark Lord’s Horcruxes was all but impossible.

    But, Harry thought, pushing himself up to stand, he was no helpless victim. He could still cast. He could make a difference. He would make a difference. Help had to be on the way. The Order, the teachers, the Aurors. Moody. They just needed to hold out a bit longer. And that he could help with.

    He didn’t flinch when another slab of rock exploded right above him, and splinters struck his Shield Charm. He didn’t panic when a curse blew another crater in the earth nearby. He analysed the situation. Between the curses from Voldemort and the conjured defenses of Dumbledore, Harry couldn’t cast directly at the Dark Lord and hope to hit him. That left indirect methods.

    He aimed his wand straight ahead, and started casting.

    *****​

    The Dark Lord Voldemort smiled as his wand flicked back and forth. He had his two worst enemies cornered! Dumbledore and the Boy-Who-Lived were trapped. With magical travel blocked, Dumbledore couldn’t send Potter away. And the old wizard would never do the sensible thing and abandon the boy, even though it meant both of them would die.

    Two more Blasting Curses, followed by Killing Curses and other dark curses. It wasn’t elegant, or cunning, but it was working. Dumbledore was forced on to the defensive, unable to effectively strike back, and with each spell, with each curse, the defenses of the old wizard were pushed back just a bit more. Sooner or later, the old man would either make a fatal mistake, or simply be too slow to react.

    Help wouldn’t be coming either, not in time to save them. Not with magical travel blocked, and his Death Eaters in the air. They might not be able to stop every broom rider - in fact, last he had checked they had a bit of trouble dealing with the redheaded blood traitor - but they had already dropped Fiendfyre on several houses in the village.

    Voldemort’s smile widened. Dumbledore’s friends and allies had the same weakness as his old foe himself: They’d rather sacrifice themselves than so-called innocents.

    Besides, it was almost over. The stone slabs and shields were appearing so close to the ground now, even Voldemort, in a perfect body that surpassed human limitations, would be hard pressed to react in time to counter his next curses.

    Just as he was about to send another poison cloud down to the ground, he noticed a large rock flying up towards him. Flying rather slowly too. He flew to the side, the rhythm of his volleys suffering from the distraction. What did Dumbledore hope to… His eyes widened. Of course! It was a trap! Dumbledore wanted him to react as though it was just a normal rock! That explained the weaker spells the Headmaster had used at the start of the fight in an attempt to fool him! It had been a buildup for just this gambit!

    It had failed, though. Voldemort flew to the side, evading the rock and sending another Blasting Curse down to the ground, followed by an Entrail-Expelling Curse and a Sectumsempra. Dumbledore blocked them, as he must have blocked Voldemort’s Earthen Spears Curse - since neither the old wizard nor the boy was impaled. Voldemort briefly considered then dismissed the thought of trying for another subtle attack; he couldn’t afford to let up, not with this new distraction. He had to keep the pressure on until Dumbledore slipped.

    The rock continued to follow him, interposing itself between Voldemort and his enemies. Dumbledore couldn’t be more obvious in his wish to have Voldemort blast it. The strain he must be under was telling, especially since he was both keeping the rock floating and conjuring all those defenses, as well as countering his less direct attacks.

    His eyes widened again. How did the old wizard manage that? Had he faked slowly losing ground, just for this? That didn’t make any sense! Dumbledore wouldn’t risk Potter’s life for such a ploy. Potter! Voldemort hissed. The boy had been blasted off his broom and fallen down to the ground, twice now, and been under constant attacks since the fight had started. He wouldn’t be able to move, much less cast after that.

    But evidently, he had been able to cast - there he was, wand aimed at Voldemort. No, at the rock. It was Potter! In a rage, both at his foe and at himself, the Dark Lord almost blasted the rock to pieces. Then he checked himself. This could be the trap he suspected. No, he would simply keep casting. The boy would tire sooner rather than later. And then it would be over. He cast two more Bombardas, in between Killing Curses. Soon.

    Then a volley of spells smashed into his shield. Who dared? And where? He shot to the side, twisting in the air. There! On the ground, a hundred yards from Dumbledore stood… Dumbledore? Voldemort gasped, then realised it was the Headmaster’s brother. The black sheep of the family - or ‘the black goat’, as the joke went.

    What was Aberforth Dumbledore doing here? Everyone knew he hated his brother. Why was he risking his own life? And, Voldemort added when more spells flew at him - well-aimed spells he realised, flawlessly cast - why was that wastrel able to fight that well? He was an innkeeper and a drunkard!

    More spells followed, as did that damned rock. Some hit his shield, even, and others burst nearby, forcing him to evade. Voldemort couldn’t keep his own spellcasting up, not like this. Dumbledore would be able to retaliate against him.

    Cursing, the Dark Lord flew towards Dumbledore’s brother. If he managed to kill the fool quickly… To his surprise, his Killing Curse was blocked, if not with quite the finesse that Dumbledore himself would have done it, still quickly and precisely enough to show Voldemort that this was no ordinary wizard. To think the Headmaster had managed to keep his brother’s skill a secret for so long… how many of Dumbledore’s enemies had fallen to that ploy? Grindelwald, maybe?

    It didn’t matter right now. As much as it galled him to admit, he couldn’t win this fight any more. Not alone against those two. As he flew straight up, towards the upper limit of the jinxes blocking magical travel, he told himself that this had just been a distraction anyway; with Dumbledore tied up in Hogsmeade, the Ministry would have fallen to his forces. And holding the Ministry would be easy with the wards, and with the hostages his curse had struck.

    The thought did nothing to lessen the sting of this defeat. If only the fight had lasted a bit longer...

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    With an unknown poison and White Phosphorous covering much of the stairs ahead of them, charging ahead was not an option, Hermione Granger decided. Even if they conjured a new floor, a simple Finite could counter that. They could create an alternative route, of course, she thought, looking at the ceiling - though it would require some work. She gasped, and quickly reinforced the ceiling with conjured metal propped up by steel pillars. The ceiling above their current position was thicker than the one the enemy had blown up earlier, but by no means impenetrable.

    She was making too many mistakes, she thought. Debriefing this mess would not be pleasant. Provided she survived it. At least Ron and Harry were not involved, she told herself.

    They had already used phosphorous, they had opened holes in walls, the enemy had blown holes in the ceiling… she needed something new to get them through this. Or at least new information. “Seamus, don’t go any further; there’s poison on the floor,” she said, grabbing Sirius’s mirror again and falling back to the Atrium.

    Once again it took longer than she had hoped for the wizard to answer. “Yes?”

    “Sirius, how are things on your floor? Can you see what the enemy is doing?”

    “We’ve lost the antechamber, but we’re holding. Turns out that the Chamber of the Wizengamot is one of the most protected rooms in the Ministry - the budget for its defences rivals that of the Auror Corps. I’m very happy about such selfishness on the part of my fellow honoured members of the Wizengamot right now, of course.” Sirius chuckled.

    “Can you see how they are guarding the stairs?” Hermione bit her lower lip.

    “No, my dear, we can barely spot what they are doing to our doors, or trying to do. My dear cousin must be going mad with frustration right now.”

    His cousin? Bellatrix Lestrange! That laugh… Hermione ground her teeth. She had killed Dean, and that Veela. She nodded. “Alright. We won’t try the stairs - too dangerous. We’ll go through an alternate route. Be ready in a few minutes!”

    Sirius had an eager grin on his face as he nodded. “We’ll be ready. I’m sick of waiting!”

    Of course he’d hate being penned in, locked in in that chamber, after Azkaban, Hermione realised. Another potentially crucial fact she hadn’t considered. She was slipping. Shaking her head, she focused on her task again. Defeatism only helped the enemy.

    “Alright!” she addressed her group. “Seal the stairs up, fill all of it, both the stairs leading up and the ones down, with stone and metal and whatever else you can think of that stops poison and acid!”

    “What?” Seamus stared at her.

    “Seamus, come with me. We need to make an alternate entrance. Two actually.” She pointed at the ceiling in the Atrium behind her. “It’s spelled against Transfiguration - don’t ask me why the walls aren’t - and against damage, but you know… a big enough bomb will go through anything.”

    His scowl turned into a fierce grin.

    *****​

    It only took a few minutes to set it all up, mainly because Seamus had spent a considerable amount of time preparing all sorts of shaped charges in his spare time and Hermione had the plans for the building on hand. She had sent a Patronus Messenger to the Delacours, warning them to stay away from the entry point. They couldn’t answer her, so she waited two more minutes, then nodded at Seamus. “Blow it!”

    The explosion shook the entire Atrium, sending dust and small stones crumbling from the ceiling and blew a hole in the ceiling wide enough for two broom riders to fly through. Which the Resistance and Bill and Fleur did. The rest guarded the sealed stairs.

    “You don’t know ’ow glad I am to see you!” Marcel Delacour greeted them upstairs. “We were in a bit of a bind.”

    He had an almost British gift for understatement, Hermione thought - from what she could tell, half his group was either dead or unable to fight any more, and most of those who were still fighting were wounded. She just nodded, though. “We had some trouble on the stairs, so we decided to make our own entrance.”

    Behind her, Seamus was already setting up the next charge, to break into the Wizengamot’s floor - outside the chamber proper, though. Hermione wasn’t quite certain if they could breach that floor without killing everyone inside. That wasn’t a problem with a section held by Death Eaters, of course. Like the one directly in front of the entrance to the Chamber.

    Hermione didn’t know if the poison that had killed Dean would be destroyed in a blast, or if it burned - and what the fumes from such a fire would do. And she didn’t want to find out, not the hard way.

    Which was why Seamus was placing another charge on the other end of the floor. The first would draw attention - and hopefully kill a few Death Eaters - while they’d enter through the second breach.

    “Sirius? We’re about to attack now. Don’t blindly charge out the front - there won’t be a floor there.”

    “What?” Sirius asked.

    Hermione grinned, and shut the mirror off, then turned to Seamus. “Blow it.”

    The first charge went off, followed ten seconds later by the next. With cries and yells, the French and the Resistance - and wasn’t that a fitting combination, Hermione thought - charged on their brooms.

    She wasn’t among the first through the breach, of course. She knew better. And she wasn’t that good a flyer either. By the time she set down on the ground, the few disoriented Death Eaters nearby had been dealt with already. With extreme prejudice. Hermione doubted that there would be many survivors among the enemy. Not after Dean, and after the French dead. She should say something, she knew, but… it wouldn’t help. Not here, not now.

    She heard shots and spells ahead - the first wave had already moved on to the main entrance of the Wizengamot Chamber. Where the first charge had gone off. The Death Eaters would have had time to recover, Hermione knew. But the risk of an ambush had been too great.

    She was with Justin and Sally-Anne as they passed the remains of two Death Eaters who had holed up in an office to the side. They had died quickly, but not easily. To Hermione’s surprise, Sally-Anne put a round into both corpses, without flinching, while rushing past.

    Seamus, Tania and Mary were in front, followed by the Delacours and Louise and Jeremy. They were hitting shaken, disoriented Death Eaters, Hermione told herself. It was a textbook indoor assault, just modified to include magic.

    Then the floor ahead of her group blew up and with it, the first wave. She saw Louise and a French wizard get thrown back, towards herself, landing hard. They were not moving - their shields had not held, Hermione saw. Sally-Anne was rushing ahead, wand flashing, with Justin at her side, to Louise. Hermione ran past them, around the corner. She heard gunfire. Automatic fire. And screams.

    And cackling laughter.

    She reached the corner, slamming her side against it, then peered around it, leading with her rifle. Then she gasped. A witch - Bellatrix Lestrange, - was floating above the hole the floor, laughing while she sent curses at the others. Mary was firing at her, Tania… Hermione couldn’t see Tania. Or Jeremy. Seamus was there, bleeding from his leg, but firing as well. And two of the French were casting curses.

    None seemed to faze the dark witch. She seemed to ignore the bullets and curses hitting her Shield Charm, focusing on casting curses herself, instead. Her wand flashed, and Seamus screamed, convulsing on the floor. The witch laughed louder, then flicked her wand, and a green curse struck Mary, going straight through her own Shield Charm. A Killing Curse.

    Hermione clenched her teeth and started shooting herself. More curses hit the shield - Seamus was casting as well now. No Shield Charm could withstand such an assault forever, Hermione knew. Lestrange would have to know that as well. Why was she just floating there, instead of moving, fleeing? Was she truly mad beyond any reason? Or had she realised that she was trapped, and couldn’t escape anyway, and would rather die than surrender?

    A fireball hit the dark witch, and another - coming from Hermione’s side. She took a glance and saw that a transformed Veela had stepped up. Her magazine ran dry, and she switched it while the Veela writhed under another Torture Curse. Lestrange threw her head back and laughed.

    At that moment, her shield finally failed. Hermione’s bullets tore into the witch’s throat a fraction of a second before half a dozen curses hit her as well. For a moment, Lestrange floated there, jerking under the impact. Then the witch started to fall.

    *****​

    When the stone and metal blocking the way to the Atrium suddenly disappeared, Brenda Brocktuckle knew that the battle for the Wizengamot must have ended. The traitors had sealed the stairs so they could focus on Lestrange’s forces, and they wouldn’t remove the obstacles while they were still fighting them.

    The explosion that ripped apart the first rank of the Death Eaters ready to charge up the stairs told her who had won. Not even Lestrange would have done that - she would have used a Torture Curse. She glanced at Parkinson, who looked grim. The curse-fodder they had gathered wouldn’t beat whoever had defeated Lestrange.

    Without a word, Parkinson turned and started to run. Brenda followed him. She didn’t know where her partner was going, but she trusted that he had a plan. It wasn’t as if she had any idea how to escape. And staying and fighting was suicide.

    When he led her down to the cells, she understood. The secret passage they had used for their plan to fool the mudbloods! “It hasn’t been sealed properly then, right?” she asked.

    “Not completely!” Parkinson answered. “I know how to open it again!”

    With renewed hope, Brenda followed him. They reached the furthermost cell, and Parkinson’s spell ripped the door off its hinges in his haste to enter. Then he stopped and cursed. The secret passage was open already.

    “Someone else must have known about this!” Parkinson said. “But…”

    A Bludgeoning Curse hit him, smashing the Auror into Brenda, and her into the wall behind her. Her head hit the stone, and she fell down, under Parkinson’s body. Dazed, she tried to get up, to grab her wand again. Before she could reach it, though, a foot pressed down on it. A wooden foot, she realised. A very familiar one.

    Then everything went black.

    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    Ron Weasley was in a bind. His new, slightly used broom wasn’t a Keeper’s broom. It was less agile than he was used to. That was a bad thing, with three Death Eaters trying to kill him. So far the greater speed of the broom had kept him alive, but the dark wizards were persistent.

    A brown curse came too close for comfort, and he abruptly dove to the ground, between two houses. More curses flew past him. With his new broom, he had to pull out of his dive a bit higher than he wanted, and a Blasting Curse hit the ground nearby, peppering his shield with cobblestones and debris. Their tactics were getting better as well.

    Cursing under his breath, he veered to the left, passing the local bookshop on eye level, and then turning into the side alley next to it. He had misjudged the broom’s turning radius, though, and almost crashed into the wall - and then, overcompensating, he slid along the opposite wall in the alley. If not for his Shield Charm, he’d have scrapped his robe’s sleeve and his arm’s skin off.

    Behind him, more Blasting Curses hit the street, and his shield, already weakened by the collision, shattered under the hail of rocks and stones. Ron couldn’t recast it while he had to use all his strength to turn at the speed he was going, and he couldn’t slow down without getting hit by the Death Eaters.

    He clenched his teeth. He couldn’t evade their curses for much longer, not if he kept so close to the ground. He could pull up, and fly away - he should be able to outrun them, if he didn’t have to dodge houses - but then they’d go after Harry…

    There was one thing he could do. It was crazy, but they wouldn’t expect that, and he might just pull it off. If he was far luckier than he had been so far.

    Cursing, hoping Hermione would forgive him, he pulled up sharply, shooting almost vertically up, then pulled further back, and rolled - what Harry called an ‘Immelman’ - to face the Death Eaters head-on.

    They weren’t where he expected them - two behind, one above - and he wildly banked and rolled, to throw off their aim. No curses flew at him, or past him, though. Had they gone after Harry? He twisted his head, trying to spot them. There! They were flying away.

    He gasped. Harry! Had the Dark Lord killed Ron’s best friend and the Headmaster?

    *****​

    Harry Potter was panting, his wand still pointed up. Voldemort had fled. He was still alive. Dumbledore was still alive. They had done it. He shook his head, a surprised smile on his face. They had done it. He barely managed to ensure that the troll-sized rock he had been levitating, trying to block the Dark Lord’s line of fire, didn’t crush anyone when it fell to the ground.

    Shivering, he realised just how much he was hurting, even with his broken leg numbed. Dumbledore was moving his wand. Dispelling the jinxes? Or something. Harry slowly sat down, on the ground, breathing heavily. That had been… he lacked the words. It had been worse than the Bastille. Far, far worse.

    He spotted a dead snake next to his trainer. It wasn’t one of those he had killed with fire since it was missing its head and didn’t look burned. Or maybe he had missed it - its tail end looked burned. Or shriveled from the heat.

    Dumbledore interrupted his musings by throwing a coin on his lap. A second later, the portkey took Harry away.

    ***** ​
     
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  22. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    Good action. The chaotic feel of the Ministry battle was hard to read in places (more on that below), but I thought it conveyed a good sense of chaos and incomplete information of modern urban warfare: we don't know what's going on across the wall the protagonists are about to blast, because they don't know. Also --- and this is a more general compliment for the whole fic --- I like how Hermione's leadership style is done. She isn't written as a "natural leader" or as particularly charismatic or even particularly confident. Rather, she learns to lead in a very Hermione way: by studying how leadership is done, getting advice from experts, and then meticulously adapting every aspect of her behavior to the role, including consciously suppressing her reflective nature and regrets to plunge ahead.

    I did feel that Bellatrix's demise felt neither here nor there. The way I see it, it tried to both fit thematically (an individually powerful witch being brought down by a coordinated team effort involving both Muggle technology and magic) and give Hermione "personal credit" (for being the first to hit her), which contradicts the theme. I think that either going all the way in the "thematic" direction by having it be ambiguous who shot Bellatrix first; or going all the way in the "personal" direction with Hermione ending up one-on-one with Bellatrix, or nearly so, and winning a pitched battle with some clever combination of magical and Muggle tricks, would have worked better than the middle-of-the-road approach.

    I also have a comment about the structure of the chapter. In a nutshell, I think that the interleaving of scenes that worked so well for the Wizengamot vote didn't work at all here. You have two contemporaneous battles (Hogsmeade and Ministry), but they don't interact or influence each other at all, and this chapter is all action, so a scene change basically requires the reader to mentally put the current scene on hold and then resume it later.

    More philosophically, while the Wizengamot vote chapter's scene changes built tension over the course of the vote, this chapter is scenes of catharsis, and interrupting them is jarring. If this were a movie, these sorts of rapid cuts between unrelated action scenes would be part and parcel of modern cinematography, but it doesn't work in prose.

    So, I would suggest rearranging it to consolidate the Ministry battle and the Hogsmeade battle scenes. Perhaps there should be two short cuts at the end to "resynchronize" the two scenes, but no more than that. For example, here's a version with a total of 3 cuts:
    1. Hogsmeade: From the start, until Ron observing Death Eaters flying away.
    2. Ministry: From start, until Bellatrix's demise.
    3. Hogsmeade: From "Harry was panting" after Voldemort flees the battle.
    4. Ministry: From Brenda trying to flee ("When the stone and metal blocking the way to the Atrium...").
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2016
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  23. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Hermione tries to be a by the book leader - which won't work all the time. She depends more than others on success.


    Actually, that's a Doylist perspective. I really didn't think about giving Hermione credit or whatever - it's just that she was firing an assault rifle in rapid semi-automatic aimed fire, and so her bullets hit a fraction of a second before the spells from the others hit. Trying to see anything else in that is overthinking it, in my opinion. It was a team effort - the shield fell while Hermione was reloading, even - and I don't think pointing out that bullets are faster than spells will change that.

    I wanted to have the conclusions of the the battle POVs close together - Harry/Dumbledore, Hermione, Ron. It was influenced by movies, yes, but I'm not quite certain that it won't work with prose - but that may be because I generally have a movie in my head when writing or reading.
     
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  24. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    A cult leader she ain't.
    Absolutely. I was specifically writing about how reading it felt (to me), not why it should have gone differently in-universe. The question is not even one of in-story "fact" --- whether Hermione's bullets hit Bellatrix before anyone else --- but one of whether the narrative chooses to mention that "fact", rather than more generally noting that Bellatrix was hit with bullets.
    Well, all I can say is how it felt to me, which may or may not be what you had intended. Was nobody else shooting guns at this point?
    In my opinion, it doesn't work with prose. Prose conveys information one sentence at a time, while film conveys a whole picture at once. This means that in a film, when cutting away from a scene then cutting back to it, it takes no time or cognitive effort to "recall" what was going on and resume watching the scene. On the other hand, when reading, I, at least, have to expend cognitive effort recalling what the scene was before the cut and rebuilding it in my mind. Thus, "cuts" are much more expensive to the reader in prose.

    I appreciate and agree with the benefit of having the battle scenes end closer together. That's why I suggested doing 3 cuts with the last two segments being much shorter. (Other variants are possible, such as switching 1 with 2 and 3 with 4, or merging 1 with 3 for 2 cuts.)
     
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  25. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Versed in the lewd.

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    To be fair, that's really a good thing, and I think this Hermione and this Dumbledore would both agree on that.
     
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  26. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    Hermione: Speak for yourself. If I had a cult leader's charisma, it would have been so much easier to get Harry and Ron to do their homework, and for House-Elves to go along with their liberation; and maybe Allan would have stayed in line.
     
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  27. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Maybe she'd be able to convince Harry and Ron, but houseleves are natural slaves while Allan was a psychopath.

    Anyway, it was probably a good thing that another of her two troublemakers died. She's now got a martyr that the ministry will have to acknowlege and one person less that could try to continue the conflict if Hermione wants to end it.


    I'm curious where Voldemort went. Did he go for the ministry? And if so is Dumbledore going to follow him? The way he sent Harry away hints at that.
     
  28. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    She was the only one - Seamus was using his wand at this point. I think it's a minor point, over all.

    On the other hand, one regular reviewer who usually finds battle scenes confusing told me that he could follow this battle well.

    They might - but depending on how the war ends, they might change their opinions again.

    The house elves, as Dobby and to an extend Kreacher as well, proves, are not natural slaves. They're conditioned to serve, but can overcome that. Psychopaths can make useful underlings, if they are controlled. Allan might have followed her lead and tried to influence her, should she appear too soft, instead of going behind her back.

    Cynical, but logical. On the other hand, Seamus is not missing his best and last close friend, and could grow unstable.

    That'll be revealed next chapter.
     
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  29. Threadmark: Chapter 33: Breathing
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 33: Breathing

    ‘The Battle of the Ministry is seen by some as a draw, or a stalemate. The Dark Lord did not manage to take control of the Ministry nor to cause significant damage to Hogsmeade. Further, the duel between him and Albus Dumbledore ended inconclusively, with the Dark Lord retiring from the field. At first glance, the status quo did not change.
    However, such a view fails to take into account the effects of the battle. Not only did the civilians who did not manage to evacuate in time suffer terribly, but all factions that were involved in the Battle of the Ministry suffered serious casualties. The majority of the Aurors and the Hit-Wizards opposing the Death Eaters in the Ministry were killed, as were those guarding Hogsmeade. While recruiting efforts could make up some of those losses, the veteran Aurors and Hit-Wizards killed in the fighting could not be replaced by raw recruits. More important, though, was the fact that the Ministry’s forces were reduced to the point that they now had trouble guarding the Ministry and Diagon Alley. Any offensive action would have required exposing either location to an attack.
    On the other hand, the Dark Lord’s forces fighting in the Ministry were decimated as well, with only those able to hide among the civilians escaping capture or death. However, as the Dark Lord lacked locations he had to defend, he was able to use all his remaining Death Eaters in his future attacks.
    The losses the Muggleborn Resistance had taken in the Battle of the Ministry only exacerbated the situation, since they could not recruit replacements as easily as the Ministry or the Dark Lord, and even those they managed to recruit would require lengthy training to be as effective as the average Resistance member. Even Dumbledore’s Order had taken heavy losses among their combatants, and their French allies were devastated.
    Far from being a stalemate or a draw, the two battles therefore were a turning point in the Second Blood War, even without the Night of the Dead.’
    - Excerpt from ‘Wizarding Britain in the 20th Century’ by Albert Runcorn


    *****​

    Hogsmeade, January 17th, 1997

    Albus Dumbledore watched Harry disappear as the portkey he had created activated, and let out a relieved sigh. Poppy would take care of the boy. He looked at Aberforth. His brother was glaring at him. “Thank you, Aberforth,” the Headmaster said. “You saved both my and Harry’s life.” He smiled.

    “I saved the boy,” his brother spat, “even though it meant abandoning the village because you couldn’t handle the Dark Lord by yourself. It better have been worth it, Albus!”

    “I…” Albus started to answer, but his brother had already apparated away.

    The Headmaster felt more tired than he had in a long time. The fight against Tom had been a close affair. Far too close - and he couldn’t blame everything on the need to protect Harry. He should have been better prepared. If he had had a second broom… or had been able to heal the boy’s wounds… he shook his head. He could berate himself for his mistakes later; he still had a village to save. And possibly a Ministry. Although a quick exchange of Patronus Messengers with Alastair reassured him that the Ministry had not fallen. And Albus doubted that Tom would risk another fight, especially one in confined quarters, right now.

    A quick Apparition took him to the closest burning house, Dominic Maestro’s Music Shop. Several villagers - brave souls, all of them, to have come out while the battle still raged - were trying to keep the green flames of Fiendfyre from spreading past the doomed shop. He shook his head as he raised his wand. That a wizard who was claiming to fight to protect the culture and traditions of Wizarding Britain would destroy such a venue revealed the hypocrisy of Tom and his followers.

    “Stay back!” he said, helped by an Amplifying Charm, “I will take care of this.”

    “Dumbledore!” exclaimed more than one of the villagers as they stepped back to let him work, and excited whispering followed while he raised stone walls to contain the fire, before smothering it with the help of an alchemical compound.

    “Do not disturb it!” he said, lowering his wand and trying not to look as exhausted as he felt, “the Fiendfyre will not be extinguished completely until a few hours have passed.” There were quicker ways to deal with the cursed fire, but they were both more draining and more dangerous. He realised that he didn’t see the shop’s owner among the crowd. “Was Dominic at home?” he asked.

    “He was. He didn’t get out,” Beatrice Bitherling, a neighbour of the musician, said. “Not before…” she sobbed.

    Albus inclined his head. Another good wizard, killed in the war. Dominic had never wanted to be anything but a musician, and hadn’t taken any side in the war. And he had been killed anyway. The Headmaster couldn’t dwell on this, though - he was needed to deal with another fire.

    But when he arrived at Spintwitches Sporting Needs, the cursed fire had already been dealt with. By his brother.

    Aberforth, standing near the smoking ruins, nodded curtly at him.

    Given the bad blood between them, this was a rather cordial greeting. His brother hadn’t calmed down, much less forgiven him, though - Aberforth knew as well as Albus did that they had to show a united front against Voldemort, and half a dozen villagers were watching them.

    He returned the nod. “I have dealt with the Fiendfyre raging at Dominic’s.” He briefly closed his eyes. “Not in time to save him, though.”

    Aberforth muttered a curse.

    Albus took a deep breath. “The Dark Lord has fled, but the Ministry was under attack. I need to head to London. We need to talk later.”

    Aberforth scoffed, sneering, but did not contradict him.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    They had won, but at a terrible cost, Hermione Granger thought while she walked across the ruins of the Atrium. The Ministry employees sifting through the debris tensed up when she passed them, more than one interrupting their search for survivors and staring at her, her uniform, her weapons. She met their stares, tense herself. Who knew if there were any traitors hiding among the survivors?

    The surviving members of the Resistance had taken up a position near the lift shaft leading up to muggle London. Two bodies were laid out there, covered with conjured white blankets. Mary and Dean. Hermione had floated Mary’s body down from the Wizengamot’s floor herself.

    Justin, standing with a machine gun behind a conjured chest-high wall, nodded at her as she approached. John was there as well, covering the other half of the Atrium. Seamus leaned against a pillar, his weapon not quite pointed at the shaft, through which a steady stream of wounded were floating up until they were outside the range of the wards and could apparate. The Irish wizard was still trembling, suffering from the after-effects of Lestrange’s Torture Curse.

    He’d be fine, though, Hermione knew - it hadn’t been that long. She couldn’t say the same about all of the wounded, though. Tania, Jeremy and Louise were in the middle of their position, tended to by Sally-Anne. All were unconscious, which wasn’t a good sign.

    “How are they?” Hermione asked in a low voice. It was her fault that they were here, suffering. If she had been better prepared, had had a better plan...

    Sally-Anne winced. “They’re stable, but…” she sighed, wiping some dust and blood from her face. “... Louise has a broken leg, broken ribs, and a dislocated shoulder, and some minor wounds.”

    “Curses?”

    The witch shook her head. “None. She’ll recover quickly given care.” Sally-Anne pressed her lips together.

    “The other two, Jeremy and Tania,” Hermione corrected herself, “they are cursed then?”

    Her friend nodded. “Yes. Tania’s been wounded as well from falling down a floor, but the Bone-Breaking Curse she has been hit with means she’ll need a lot of Skele-Gro. Too many of her bones are simply smashed.”

    Hermione winced. That would be painful. “And Jeremy?”

    “I don’t know what curse he’s been hit with.” Sally-Anne shook her head and wiped her eyes. “But it must be a dark curse - he’s breathing shallowly, and has a fever. He had been bleeding too, but I managed to stop that.”

    The witch didn’t have to tell Hermione that she couldn’t deal with that sort of curse. Sally-Anne was no full-fledged healer. She was great at first aid, but dark curses were beyond her.

    Hermione sighed. “St. Mungo’s will be overflowing soon.” There had been so many victims of that Withering Curse. Even the Minister himself had been struck by it. Once the Floo connections were repaired and the wounded could be evacuated through them, the Healers wouldn’t have much time for the muggleborns. If they even could be trusted. “I’ll have to ask Dumbledore to let us take them to Hogwarts.” The school would also be much safer than St. Mungo’s - or the Ministry.

    “Where is Dumbledore anyway?” Sally-Anne asked.

    “He’ll be on his way as soon as he has dealt with Fiendfyre in Hogsmeade,” Hermione said. A glowing Phoenix - a Patronus Charm - had told Sirius that, who had then informed Hermione. She glanced at the wizard. Sirius was standing near the stairs, holding his girlfriend, Vivienne, in his arms.

    She pressed her lips together. She had tried to contact Ron and Harry through her mirror, but they hadn’t answered yet. They should be safe, at Hogwarts, but… they would have heard about the battle, and she’d expect them to have the mirror on hand. Even if they were helping with the relief effort in Hogsmeade.

    So why were they not answering?

    She wanted to go to Hogwarts and look for them, but she couldn’t. She was needed here. Her friends needed her. And she needed to be here, to be seen, to be heard by the Minister, to ensure the Resistance had not bled fighting the Death Eaters in vain. Their fate would not be decided by others. Never again.

    Sally-Anne turned back to care for their three wounded friends again, and Hermione stepped back, to join Justin and the others.

    “They’re afraid of us,” he said. “We fought for them, we saved them, and still…” He shook his head.

    “Not all of them,” Hermione said, but she knew it was a weak response even before she said it.

    “Bloody cowards,” Seamus muttered. “If they hadn’t rolled over for the Death Eaters, we wouldn’t have been needed.” And their friends would still be alive.

    “If they weren’t cowards they wouldn’t have passed those laws in the first place,” Hermione pointed out.

    Shouts at the shaft near them drew her attention, and Hermione drew her wand while Justin and John aimed their machine guns. They would not take any chances. Not when they were surrounded by people who would have cheered their arrests and executions just a few months ago.

    The evacuation had been stopped, Hermione saw, an Auror holding the next wounded back, which had prompted the loud protests - which promptly died down when Dumbledore stepped out of the shaft. Whispers and murmurs greeted the old wizard as he stepped through the ranks of the walking - or floating - cursed.

    “You’re in charge, Justin,” Hermione said, and quickly moved towards the Headmaster. She had more than a few questions for the man. Urgent ones.

    *****​

    “Headmaster.” Hermione fell in at Dumbledore’s side as he was walking towards the stairs. No, towards Sirius.

    “Miss Granger.” The old wizard nodded at her.

    “Do you already know what happened here?”

    “Broadly, yes.”

    She quickly looked him over. Up close, he looked tired, exhausted even. She cast a privacy spell, even though the Ministry employees were giving them, or rather, her, a wide berth. “Harry and Ron are not answering the mirror,” she said in a low voice.

    Dumbledore sighed. “They are both alive, but not entirely unscathed.”

    Hermione pressed her lips together so she’d not gasp. Both were hurt? “How did that happen? Was Hogwarts attacked?” She wanted to add ‘and what did you do?’, but didn’t. Not until she knew the whole story.

    “I think Sirius should hear this as well,” Dumbledore said, smiling faintly.

    Hermione frowned, but she couldn’t really contest his reasoning. Not without acting like an immature girl. She wanted to, though.

    “How did your friends fare in the battle?” Dumbledore asked.

    “Dean Thomas and Mary Smith were killed. Tania Dennel, Louise Clifton and Jeremy Chadwick were wounded, two of them by dark curses.” Hermione tried to keep any emotion out of her voice. She didn’t quite succeed, judging by the Headmaster’s expression.

    Then they reached Sirius, who separated from Vivienne. Harry’s godfather was smiling, though his expression faltered when they stepped closer, and Hermione recast her privacy spell. The Veela had taken a step back, so she didn’t feel guilty about excluding her.

    “Albus?” Sirius asked, in a rather tight voice.

    The Headmaster sighed again. “Harry and Mister Weasley took part in the fight at Hogsmeade. Neither was struck by dark curses, but both were wounded, Harry more seriously.”

    “Merlin’s rotting crotch! When I heard his message, I hoped he’d not… What was he thinking? We taught him better than that!” Sirius looked both spitting mad and as if he was about to cry at the same time.

    “As far as I can tell, the two boys tried to distract the Dark Lord and his followers, to keep them from further harming the villagers. Foolish and reckless, but definitely brave and noble.” Dumbledore sighed. “In their defence, they were on their brooms, and did not intend to actually fight, but lead the Death Eaters on a chase until reinforcements arrived.”

    “Gryffindors,” Hermione muttered.

    “Where is he?” Sirius asked. “I need to go to him.”

    The Headmaster hesitated a moment, then nodded. “He’s in Hogwarts, being treated by Poppy.”

    Sirius nodded curtly, obviously struggling to control himself, then turned away. He quickly hugged Vivienne, whispering something in her ear, then headed for the lift shaft, already pulling out his broom from an enchanted pocket.

    Hermione noticed that Dumbledore was looking at her. She shook her head, anticipating his question. “I’ll visit them once things have been settled here, but I’d like to move our three wounded to Hogwarts’ infirmary. We can’t treat them as well as Madam Pomfrey, and I’d rather not trust them to St. Mungo’s.” She hated to admit such a weakness, but Dumbledore knew these limitations of the resistance already, after their attempts to help Colin and Dennis.

    “Of course, Miss Granger. I will inform Poppy to expect three more wounded.” He pulled out a sock and handed it to her. “This portkey will take your friends to the infirmary.”

    Of course he’d be prepared! “You will be sending the wounded Order members to Hogwarts as well then,” she said.

    “Indeed.”

    While Dumbledore sent a Patronus Messenger off, Hermione quickly informed the Resistance. “Dumbledore’s informing Hogwarts. We can move Tania, Louise and Jeremy there at once. We’re not waiting until the Floo Network is restored. Justin, take the group up, and use this portkey as soon as you’re outside.”

    “Aren’t you coming too?” Justin frowned.

    “I’ll stay here with Dumbledore. We can’t be left out of the planning, not now,” Hermione said.

    “We’re not leaving you alone here.” Justin shook his head. “John stays with you.”

    Hermione reminded herself that a leader should never give an order she knew would not be followed, and nodded. “Alright. Now go!”

    While the Resistance moved out, she and John walked back to Dumbledore. The Headmaster was talking to Marcel Delacour. For a man who had lost half a dozen members of his family, the French wizard was holding up well, Hermione thought. But he was probably just a better actor than herself.

    “Ah.” Dumbledore smiled at her. “Marcel will move his own wounded to Hogwarts.”

    “Yes. I do not think that we should go to St. Mungo’s.” Delacour smiled faintly. “While I do not doubt the skill of the ’ealers there, I cannot say the same for their allegiance.”

    That Hermione agreed with. She didn’t think there would be trouble, not even with Seamus - the Resistance and the French had fought side by side, and both had lost too many to the enemy’s curses.

    “Let us proceed to meet Cornelius and Amelia, then. There is a lot to discuss,” Dumbledore said. “I shall talk to you once I am back at Hogwarts, Marcel. You have my thanks for your brave help, and my condolences for your loss.”

    The French wizard’s smile didn’t change. “Thank you.”

    “I was informed that they made up the vanguard of our forces,” Dumbledore said, once he, Hermione and John were on the stairs which had been conjured or transfigured below the entrance Hermione and Seamus had created in the ceiling.

    “They insisted,” Hermione said. “French élan.”

    “I fought Grindelwald at their side,” Dumbledore said. “I am familiar with their way of fighting.”

    He probably had expected that, then. Had expected the French to take heavy losses. Hermione stiffened for a moment when she had a chilling thought: Had the Headmaster expected the Resistance to take severe casualties as well, given that they hadn’t been able to plan and prepare as thoroughly as usual? Had he been counting on that, to weaken them, while the forces of the Ministry and the Dark Lord decimated each other? She shook her head. She couldn’t go and blame others for her own faults and shortcomings. She had failed to plan enough, to prepare enough.

    They reached the Minister’s floor, guarded by two Aurors, one of them wounded. Both of them stared at Hermione and John, but didn’t dare to say anything as the two muggleborns walked with Dumbledore. Debris covered much of the floor, still, but the door to the Minister’s office had been repaired, and the bodies of those who had been killed here had been removed already. The Hit-Wizard standing at the door smiled at them, and Hermione thought that he was one of the guards of the Wizengamot, although she wasn’t certain.

    “Albus! Finally! How are things at Hogsmeade?” The Minister for Magic, sitting behind his desk, asked as soon as they entered. Hermione recognised the woman standing next to him: Bones, Head of the DMLE, and the man on the other side, Scrimgeour, Head Auror. His left arm seemed to have been hit by the Withering Curse, as far as she could tell. Both were staring at her, and Hermione met their eyes. Neither smiled, though Scrimgeour slowly inclined his head. Bones, though, didn’t even twitch.

    Hermione heard John hiss under his breath, next to her, and clenched her jaw. Those were the two who had spent months hunting the Resistance. They had executed Martin, and had tried their best to kill them all.

    “Cornelius, Amelia, Rufus - Miss Granger and Mister Emmet.” Dumbledore seemed unfazed by the tension in the room. “I asked Miss Granger to join us, to discuss our next steps.”

    “Of course! That’s what we voted for, after all!” Fudge smiled at her. “I would like to offer my thanks for your help - I dare say you saved quite a number of lives today.”

    Hermione wanted to curse the man. He was responsible for those awful laws. He had been manipulated by Malfoy, but ultimately, he had pushed those laws through, had stood behind them, and had let the Ministry persecute and oppress muggleborns. And now he suddenly acted as if they were friends? She forced herself to smile, though. They had to focus on defeating the Dark Lord. “Thank you. We just did what we have been doing for months now - fighting the Dark Lord and his followers.”

    Fudge’s smile didn’t waver. “Of course. And while he has caused terrible pain and misery, he has suffered a decisive defeat today! The British wizards and witches will take heart hearing about the heroic defense of the Ministry - and the validation of our new policy.”

    Dumbledore smiled widely, Hermione noticed, as did the Minister. Bones didn’t even bother to try, though. Hermione had a feeling that the witch would not dismiss the past as easily as Fudge.

    She was fine with that, since she had no intention of doing so either.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997

    “After the Dark Lord had retreated, I sent Harry to Hogwarts, then helped put out the Fiendfyre he and his followers had cast on several houses in Hogsmeade before coming back to the Ministry. Sadly, we could not save all the buildings; four burned down completely. I fear some of the tenants did not manage to escape in time, either.” Albus Dumbledore didn’t let the others present - Cornelius, Amelia, Rufus and Miss Granger - notice how tired he was, nor had he let on just how close he had come to being defeated by Tom. That would have further eroded the morale of the Ministry’s forces after the horrible casualties they had taken in the attempted coup d’état.

    Cornelius was nodding. “Our enemy has suffered two defeats today then. The public will be glad to hear of this. His forces killed or captured, and he driven from the field of battle.”

    “The public will not be that glad to hear about the devastation he has caused. Apart from the losses we took in the Ministry, most of our Aurors in Hogsmeade were killed,” Amelia said, “and the ones who survived were cursed.”

    “How many loyal Aurors and Hit-Wizards are left?” Miss Granger asked.

    Albus saw Amelia tense up. He had expected that - the question was a logical one, but Amelia and her department had fought the Muggleborn Resistance for the better part of a year. She would not like to give out such crucial and potentially dangerous information.

    Cornelius wasn’t quite aware of that, or had taken the Resistance’s support - their help had saved his life as well - to heart. “It’s not as bad as it looks. A third of our Aurors and Hit-Wizards were not present, and a number were on patrol in Diagon Alley.”

    Amelia and Rufus were visibly annoyed by the Minister’s frank answer, but fortunately, they did not make an issue of this in front of Miss Granger. None of the Dark Lord’s enemies could afford that.

    “Some of them might be traitors too, unless the Dark Lord’s spies managed to get every one of theirs assigned to the Ministry today. But even if that was the case you’ll still be hard-pressed to just guard the Ministry as well as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade,” Miss Granger said. Albus couldn’t tell if she had missed the tension her question had caused, or simply ignored it. “Offensive actions will be difficult.”

    “As I recall your group did not come out of the battle unscathed either,” Amelia said, a bit sharper than would have been advisable.

    “That is correct,” the younger witch admitted, “but we’re still able to take action - we don’t have to spread ourselves thin trying to guard most of Wizarding Britain’s population.” Her smile turned the information into a warning - or even a threat.

    Albus cleared his throat. “Which makes working together even more of a necessity than before. The Dark Lord’s forces have been decimated. His right hand, Bellatrix Lestrange, has been killed by our French allies and the Muggleborn Resistance, although at great cost. His reputation will suffer as well, for having fled and suffered defeats. And yet, he will work hard to replenish his ranks, probably from Magical Europe’s malcontents. We have a window of opportunity here to defeat him for good - but it will take all of our forces, working together to achieve victory.”

    “I couldn’t have said it better, Albus!” Cornelius said. “In this hour of need, all of Wizarding Britain is standing together against the Dark Lord.”

    While the Minister sounded sincere, Albus didn’t think the others in the room shared his enthusiasm. Hopefully, they would keep their priorities straight.

    “That’s all nice and good to tell the public, and keep up morale, but in order to defeat the Dark Lord, we need to find him while all he has to do is to go to ground, and recruit until he can attack us again,” Amelia said. “The Ministry cannot go and hide, which puts us at a distinct disadvantage.” The witch’s glance showed that she wasn’t just talking about the Death Eaters.

    Rufus spoke up for the first time in the conversation: “In addition to that, he can hire mercenaries and criminals, while we need to train our recruits. We can rush the current batch of recruits in training into service, but they’ll be barely better than fresh graduates from Hogwarts. Worse, in some cases - those who will have forgotten their Defence Against the Dark Arts classes.” He paused for a moment. “We could hire mercenaries ourselves, but I doubt that there are enough trustworthy wizards and witches to be found in that profession to be worth the security risk.”

    “The Dark Lord’s recent and public defeat will hinder his recruitment efforts,” Albus said. He’d ask a few old friends to help with that, too. Aberforth might know a number of dependable mercenaries as well, provided Sirius was willing to spend more gold. And some of the untrustworthy ones might be hired for a task abroad, simply to deny their services to the Dark Lord.

    Amelia scoffed. “Greed wins over fear for that kind of scum. As long as the Dark Lord has gold, he’ll be able to find unscrupulous wands.”

    “His financial resources are not unlimited. We can further limit his options by working on some of his supporters, who might have experienced a change of heart after they hear of today’s events.” The Headmaster’s smile grew a bit cynical. Those among the Old Families who had thought that by abstaining from fighting and sticking to paying gold to the Dark Lord they’d be safe no matter who won the war might discover that they had thought wrong. The blood on their hands would not be washed away with gold either.

    “You mean those who fled the Wizengamot right before the attack,” Amelia said. “With their treachery exposed, they’ll join him openly.”

    “We can probably persuade a number of them to abandon the Dark Lord, if they are approached with some finesse,” Cornelius said. “They’ll realise that the tide has turned, and the more reasonable among them will be looking for a way out.”

    “Are you proposing to spare those scum? Have you forgotten what happened after the last war?” Miss Granger was not yelling, but she was raising her voice. “If you let them get away with their crimes, then they’ll do the same again at the next opportunity, like Malfoy. Those marked by the Dark Lord will not betray him!”

    Albus knew that to be false, but mentioning that would not be opportune right now. “Not all of them will be marked. Some might serve as spies, given the opportunity - although I do not believe the Dark Lord will trust those. Further, many might fear the Dark Lord more than anything else, and that fear might drive them to betray us again.”

    “I didn’t mean to let them go. But if promised some leniency, we might manage to get them to surrender,” Cornelius said. “That would spare our own forces from having to fight needless battles.”

    “I won’t condone letting murderers escape justice,” Amelia said.

    Judging by how Miss Granger’s face hardened, she had understood what the older witch meant. Albus fought not to show his frustration with the Head of the DMLE. Forcing himself to smile, he said: “Those who who willingly joined the Dark Lord and supported his goals with gold or spells should not be offered leniency, be they marked or not. They are directly responsible for all the deaths today. But those who simply supported his proposals in the Wizengamot, maybe even unwittingly, should not be forced to join him out of desperation.”

    “Exactly!” Cornelius said. “We need to draw a line between the Death Eaters, and those who made honest mistakes.”

    Such as Cornelius, Albus thought. And he didn’t think he was the only one in the room. But even if it was self-serving, the Minister’s view was correct - they needed to remove the Dark Lord’s support among the broader pureblood population, and that would not be possible if anyone who had voted or supported the muggleborn laws were treated as a Death Eater.

    “Even if that works, that still leaves us with the problem of actually finding the Dark Lord,” Amelia said. “You haven’t yet explained how you’ll solve this problem, Albus.”

    “And I will not.” Albus smiled, hoping it took the sting out of his refusal. “But I ask you to trust me that I have reasons to expect that I’ll be able to find the Dark Lord soon enough.” With the current losses, Tom would be forced to rely on his remaining supporters - even those he might not trust that much. Severus should be able to exploit that. And if that failed, then there was another option, although Harry was not yet ready for that.

    Once again, Cornelius was the only one to smile happily. At least the others would understand the necessity of keeping Albus’s plans secret, especially after today’s battle had revealed just how many traitors had been hiding in the Ministry.

    “Speaking of secrets, Albus,” Amelia said, frowning, “the offices of the Floo Network Authority have been filled with what my experts assure me is an alchemical compound. Efforts to clear it have failed so far, which means we cannot restore the Floo connections.”

    “Ah, yes. That was a precaution I took, to keep the Death Eaters from taking control of the Floo Network and using it to attack others.” Albus smiled. “I will deal with it right after we conclude this meeting.”

    “There were no such precautions in the Auror and Hit-Wizard offices.” Amelia was staring at him. She wasn’t quite accusing him of sacrificing her people, yet.

    He sighed. “I had wanted to install such precautions there as well, but unfortunately, the premises were under too close scrutiny to be able to do so.” Too many Aurors and Hit-Wizards on all sides had expected such a ploy, after all. Even if young Nymphadora had managed to place the concoction without being spotted, it would have been discovered by someone shortly afterwards. And the other precautions had not been triggered; he would have to ask her to remove them, before Amelia found and acquired them.

    Amelia frowned, but she couldn’t very well berate him for her people being too observant to be fooled by him. Miss Granger, though, was likely thinking of countermeasures, probably based on muggle technology. If he found the time, he’d have to discuss that with her.

    “Please clear those office of the compound; it would expedite evacuating the wounded to St. Mungo’s.”

    “Speaking of,” Rufus said, pointing at his dangling arm, “do you know how to counter this curse? Dozens of Ministry employees were struck by those cursed paper aeroplanes, many of them losing the use of two or more limbs.” The Head Auror sounded composed, but Albus saw that it cost him a lot. It was understandable, really - to feel part of your body shrivelling up like that…

    Albus shook his head. “To my great regret, I am not familiar with that curse. Although it reminds me of a report from the last war with Jamaica; one of our wizards reported a similar curse being used by a Houngan.”

    He felt slightly ashamed for deceiving the others about his apparent knowledge - only Miss Granger knew that he had been researching this particular curse for some time already - but it would give those struck by the curse hope that he’d be able to find a countercurse quickly, which would help them endure this ordeal.

    Albus could only hope that he would be able to find a cure.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 17th, 1997

    It felt weird to be back in Hogwarts, Hermione Granger thought. Even more so wearing combat fatigues instead of school robes. She sighed as she and John followed the Headmaster out of his office to the infirmary.

    “Is something wrong, Miss Granger?”

    “Just memories.”

    “I hope they are good ones,” the Headmaster said.

    “They are,” she answered. Which made the contrast to her current situation just more painful. She would never return to be the student she had been, she realised when she casually covered one side of the next hallway they crossed with her wand while John covered the other side. She had changed too much. And so had her friends.

    She tried to console herself that everyone changed growing up. Harry, Ron and herself were quite different from the three first-years confronting Quirrell, or even from the three third-years tracking down Sirius Black. Thinking of how much Ron had changed, she smiled. Her boyfriend had really grown up - and filled out.

    Although he still was as recklessly brave as he had been in first year, she added to herself with a frown. And she’d speak to him about that.

    Once she had checked up on Tania, Jeremy and Louise.

    No students were around in the hallways; it was already past curfew, Hermione remembered. Another thing she wasn’t used to anymore. She hadn’t had a curfew since she had left her parents’ house. She snorted - it was such a trivial thing, but it once again illustrated just how much had changed for her and the Resistance.

    They reached the infirmary. An older wizard Hermione didn’t recognise was guarding the door. Dumbledore nodded at him. “Dedalus.”

    “Albus.”

    She took note of the name, just in case, as they entered the infirmary. The familiar smell hit her, but that was as far as the memories went. Instead of the empty room with a dozen beds, one of them Harry’s usual bed, the infirmary had been doubled in size - and filled to capacity, as far as she could tell, even with the curtains drawn to preserve the privacy of many of the wounded.

    She saw Fred or George duck behind a curtain, and for a moment, wanted nothing more than to rush there and check up on Ron. He’d be next to Harry, too. Hermione told herself that she couldn’t be certain if Ron was there - Madam Pomfrey might have had the two be treated somewhere else, before she had enlarged the infirmary to handle the wounded from the Ministry. And she had a duty to her group.

    So she walked over to where Justin was standing, his gun dangling from its sling at his side, next to a curtained area. Curtains someone had transfigured into stone walls, she saw coming closer. She approved of the precaution - Hogwarts was too open for her taste. Too many had reasons to be there. And it would take just one Imperius to have anyone strike at them.

    “Justin. How are things?” she asked, a bit brisker than she had wanted. But it had been a long day, and it was far from over.

    “We’ve been here since you left. We were lucky; we were among the first to arrive, and Pomfrey had already treated us before the rest arrived.” In a lower voice, he added. “Your friends are in the room there.” He nodded at a door to the side. A door Hermione hadn’t seen before.

    “Thanks.” She stepped past him, inside the curtained area. Sally-Anne was there, next to five beds, four of them occupied with Tania, Louise, Jeremy and Seamus. Hermione looked at Seamus, and the other witch flushed. “He needed the rest, but didn’t want to rest, so we forced him to.”

    That sounded like him.

    “He took Dean’s death very hard,” Sally-Anne added, wiping her eyes.

    “How are the others?” Hermione asked.

    “Louise will be fine tomorrow, or so Pomfrey said. Tania will take two days until the Skele-Gro is done.”

    Hermione winced. Two days with Skele-Gro… that was torture.

    “Jeremy…” Her friend winced. “A month, with regular potions. That curse did a lot of damage to his organs.”

    “Did you get all the potions we need?”

    “Yes. I insisted.” Sally-Anne nodded.

    “You should get some rest too,” Hermione said. The other witch looked dead on her feet.

    “I can take another Pepper-Up Potion.”

    “And collapse tomorrow, when we might need you even more. Please.” Hermione grinned. “We’ll tell Seamus we forced you to rest as well.”

    Her friend snorted, but picked the free bed to lie down.

    “I’ll send Justin in as well,” Hermione said. John would have to take over for a bit, but that couldn’t be helped. Justin needed to be able to take over for herself.

    “Did you inform Colin and Dennis?”

    Hermione nodded. “I called them before we entered the grounds of Hogwarts.” They had been frantic. She should have called them sooner, but there had been so much to do and think about… she was making more and more mistakes. And her friends were paying for it. She looked at the four in the beds. All were asleep - assisted by some potions, she knew that. If she had just been a bit better prepared… She shook her head.

    “I have to talk to the Order. I’ll be back soon,” she said.

    Sally-Anne smiled. “Send the two my regards.”

    Hermione chuckled ruefully. Was she that easy to read? She nodded, though, and walked out.

    It was time to berate her two best friends for being stupid reckless idiots.

    *****​

    The man coughed, clutching at his chest. Blood was seeping between his fingers, staining his dark robe. Then Ron’s next curse smashed into the man’s head, breaking his mask and his skull with a sickening crack. More blood and gore. But the man kept flying, towards Ron. And Harry needed him. He could hear him screaming.

    “Ron!”

    Ron Weasley woke up with a start. This wasn’t his bed! He had his wand in hand and was about to roll out of the bed when he remembered. He was in the Hogwarts infirmary. A side room he hadn’t known existed until today. Might not have existed until today. And he was pointing his wand at Hermione!

    He quickly stashed it. “Merlin’s balls, I’m sorry!”

    She shook her head. “No, it’s my fault. I startled you. But when I saw you lying there, still…” She sighed and ran a hand through her short hair.

    He got out of the bed and hugged her. She was wearing a muggle uniform. Camouflage, she had called it during their last date. “I’m alright. I wasn’t wounded. Not really,” he added, when he felt her tense up. “A bit battered, some scratches. I’ve suffered worse in a friendly Quidditch match.” Once, and his mum had blown her top for two days. “I must have dozed off.”

    He glanced at Harry, in the bed next to him. His friend was still asleep. “Harry, though…” He shook his head. Their best friend looked like he had played a Quidditch match by himself against the Slytherins, with Snape as referee and no snitch to stop the carnage.

    “What were you thinking, attacking the Dark Lord!” Hermione hissed.

    Ron bit back a sharp retort; Sirius had already berated him in Harry’s place. “We weren’t attacking him. We were trying to check what he was doing so close to Hogwarts, to warn Dumbledore. We were keeping our distance, we were disillusioned, and we thought we could fly away any time, to Hogwarts.”

    “What went wrong?”

    Ron cast a privacy spell. “He could sense Harry.”

    His girlfriend hissed, and muttered something that was probably a swear word.

    “Yes. We couldn’t escape him undetected, and so we had to outfly him and his Death Eaters. It didn’t work out that well.” He closed his eyes. “Harry crashed before Dumbledore arrived, and I was chased by three Death Eaters, so I couldn’t help him.” Ron ground his teeth; that had been one of the worst moments of his life.

    Hermione looked at Harry, sighing. “He survived.”

    “Thanks to Dumbledore. Voldemort tried his worst to kill them both. It wasn’t enough.” Not with Dumbledore around.

    The witch sat down on Ron’s bed. “Did you hear about the Ministry?”

    Ron sat down next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. “I heard some from my family. Dad and Percy were in the Wizengamot, and both were hurt in the battle. They’ll be fine, though - they told us about it.” He sighed. “Bill’s wounded as well, and sleeping. Fleur wasn’t in a state to tell us much.” And he hadn’t wanted to talk to the Resistance, not without clearing it beforehand with Hermione, in case they had to keep their relationship a secret.

    “Fleur lost many family members. Half a dozen, I think.”

    Ron hissed. That was terrible. He imagined losing so many Weasleys… He shuddered and pulled her closer. “Things were very hectic then, so many wounded arrived. The Order, the French, and the Resistance. Mum came as soon as she had heard - she had been waiting in St. Mungo’s. Ginny managed to sneak in. Don’t ask me how she did it.” He sighed. “I’d have called you, once I got the mirror from Harry, but Sirius said you were in an important talk.”

    “With Fudge, Bones and Dumbledore,” Hermione said. “A strategy meeting, you could call it.”

    She didn’t sound as if she was happy with its results, Ron thought. “What went wrong?”

    “Nothing went wrong, but…” She shook her head. “I don’t trust Bones. And Fudge… he acted as if everything was fine. As if all those laws were never passed.”

    “He’s a fool,” Ron said.

    “I just hope he’s a useful fool.”

    She nodded. “Oh. Have you been told? Dean was killed.”

    Ron closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. “Shite.” He hadn’t been that close to Dean, or to Seamus, but they had been dormmates for five years.

    “Some sort of poison spell killed him, probably cast by Bellatrix Lestrange. We killed her, though.” Hermione leaned into him.

    “Neville will be happy to hear that.” Hopefully - the bloke had changed, Ron thought. Very intense, and driven by his desire to avenge his family. Who knew how he’d react to hearing that someone else had killed Lestrange?

    “Where is Sirius?” Hermione interrupted his thoughts.

    “I don’t know. He was called away earlier, and then I fell asleep.” He grimaced. “Not my finest hour.”

    “You faced Death Eaters and the Dark Lord and you’re still alive. You did well,” Hermione said, before she kissed his cheek.

    He didn’t feel as if he had done well. And there was something else. “I killed one of them. Piercing Curse to the chest. Then a Bludgeoning Curse to the head.” Just like he had been training for.

    “Oh, Ron!” Hermione hugged him, hard.

    He wondered about her reaction. She had killed before, multiple times. And Harry had killed Quirrell when he was eleven years old. Had they had nightmares too?

    “It’ll get better with time. Talking helps too.”

    “To whom?” He didn’t want to talk to his family about this. He didn’t want them to know it, if possible. And Hermione… he didn’t want to waste their few times together with that.

    “Your family?” She must have noticed his reaction. “McGonagall? Dumbledore?”

    He was about to scoff, then reconsidered. Dumbledore would probably understand. He had been there, too. And he was regularly trying to break into the Headmaster’s mind, so they were, well… he couldn’t call it close, but… the Headmaster would listen, Ron was certain. “Yes.”

    Hopefully, it’d help.

    She was resting her head on his shoulder, still leaning into him. He turned his head, and cupped her chin, then kissed her, properly.

    They needed to make the most of the time together they could have, before the war separated them again.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, January 17th, 1997
    Brenda Brocktuckle woke up and couldn’t move. Full Body-Bind Curse, she knew - a favourite of some of the instructors, every Auror was quite familiar with it. Which meant she was a prisoner of the Ministry.

    “Hello, Brocktuckle.”

    She knew that voice. Mad-Eye Moody. The old Auror had stunned her and Parkinson - she remembered seeing his peg leg before she lost consciousness. She couldn’t see him, though - he was staying outside her very limited field of view. She wanted to tell him to save the theatrics, but she couldn’t say a word either.

    Then she felt her body relax, and her control return. Limited control, as she quickly found out - bands of metal held her wrist and ankles to the bed she was laid out on. But she could turn her head and talk.

    “Moody.”

    “That was quite a busy day, today. Death Eaters in the Ministry. Traitors in the Ministry. Half the Auror Corps dead - murdered. Half the Ministry cursed.”

    There hadn’t been that many paper aeroplanes, Brenda knew that. He was baiting her, hoping that she’d correct him. As if she was an idiot - she had been in his place before. She didn’t answer the man. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

    He chuckled. “Unfortunately for those traitors and Death Eaters, they lost. The Wizengamot held out, and reinforcements arrived. And all the Death Eaters and traitors were caught or killed.” He started to walk around her. “There were a lot of them. A number probably were both - Death Eaters and traitors. Hard to tell who’s who.”

    “That’s easy to check for. Look for the mark.” She regretted answering as soon as she had said it. She should have stayed silent.

    He smiled, his ugly face twisting. “Oh, we have. You are not marked. Neither was your partner. You know, Parkinson. You live with him, too. Didn’t listen to me when I told you that mixing work and your private life was a bad idea?”

    “You don’t have a private life.”

    He laughed. “Usually, I’d not bother interrogating you until much later. So many others to interrogate, and so few Aurors left. And so much to rebuild. Why waste time on an unmarked traitor and her boyfriend?” He cocked his head sideways, and that weird ugly eye of his rolled around almost frantically. “But you and your partner were not captured with the rest of you scum. You were trying to flee through a secret tunnel you shouldn’t have known about while the rest was fighting still. So, I think you two were among the smart ones. Those who know more than the curse-fodder.“

    She glared at him while he reached into a pocket in his robe and pulled out a vial. “I think you’re familiar with this.”

    Brenda clenched her jaw so she’d not scream in frustration.

    Veritaserum.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, January 18th, 1997

    Harry Potter woke up to a familiar ceiling and a familiar smell. He was inside the Hogwarts infirmary. Not in his usual bed though, but in a smaller room. He wasn’t alone either. Sitting on the bed next to him were Ron, and Hermione in a uniform - fatigues - and on the other side was Sirius.

    “Harry!” his godfather yelled, then hugged him. “Don’t do this to me again!”

    “Good morning, mate. You had us worried.” Ron said, smiling.

    Hermione was frowning while she nodded. “Yes.”

    “Is this where you tell me how much I messed up?” he asked.

    “Not me.” The girl shook her head. “Ron told me what you were doing. It wasn’t quite as reckless as it looked. Even if you were on brooms.”

    “I’ll do that in a bit. I’m too glad you’re fine again,” Sirius said.

    Harry chuckled, then winced when Sirius hugged him a bit too hard. “Ow.”

    “Harry?” Sirius released him at once.

    He raised a hand. “I’m fine. Just some lingering bruises. I’ve had worse in Quidditch.”

    Hermione huffed. “You and your Quidditch! Bloody dangerous foolishness!”

    He exchanged a glance with Ron and his godfather. Their friend probably would never understand just how great the game was. Then he looked back at Hermione. “What happened? You wouldn’t normally be here, just because I’ve got a few bruises.” Sirius, of course, would have to be stunned or otherwise incapacitated to be kept away from him.

    “You were hurt far worse than ‘a few bruises’,” she said. “I talked to Madam Pomfrey.”

    “You know what I mean.” He paused for a moment. “What happened?”

    Ron took a deep breath. “Death Eaters tried to take over the Ministry. They attacked the Wizengamot.”

    Harry gasped.

    Sirius made a placating gesture with his hand. “As you can see, I’m fine. So is Vivienne.” Harry didn’t really care about the Veela. Not as much as he did care about his godfather.

    “My family will be fine after a bit of rest,” Ron added, “but….”

    “Dean was killed. Mary too,” Hermione said, after taking a deep breath.

    Dean dead? Harry hadn’t known Mary, not really, but Dean… he muttered a curse. It could have been Hermione, in Dean’s place. He didn’t want to think about that.

    “Seamus was hit with a Torture Curse, but should be fine in a bit,” Hermione continued.

    Harry had been hit with the same curse. It took longer than she thought to be fine. He nodded, though. “How did that go?”

    “Well, we went in through the lift entrance from muggle London,” Hermione started, “and we cleared the Atrium with a bomb. But then, on the stairs…”

    Harry listened while his friend and his godfather told him about the Battle of the Ministry. “And you thought I was being reckless?” When he saw her wince, he regretted his words.

    “I know… we weren’t prepared enough. I didn’t plan enough.” Hermione looked down. “Just too rushed, and fights inside a building are usually more dangerous.”

    “You can’t plan for everything,” Harry said. Ron agreed.

    Hermione nodded, but Harry didn’t think she believed them. She was a perfectionist, after all. He had to talk with Ron about this - their friend couldn’t be allowed to blame herself for everything.

    *****​

    Outside Stamford, Lincolnshire, Britain, January 18th, 1997

    The Dark Lord Voldemort was incensed. His plan, failed! His right hand, his most loyal Death Eaters, murdered! His forces, both marked and not, decimated! How could this have happened? He had lured Dumbledore to Hogsmeade. How had the Ministry been able to resist? He glared at the Daily Prophet on the table. Mudbloods and foreigners and blood traitors, fighting together against his own forces! How low had Wizarding Britain sunk for such a travesty to not only happen, but to be celebrated?

    He wanted to lash out, destroy something, someone. Turn Wizarding Britain into Bellatrix’s funeral pyre. Make them all pay for defying him. With an effort, he forced himself to calm down. He was the Dark Lord Voldemort, not some mere dark wizard. He would not let emotions rule him.

    But he had to understand what exactly had gone wrong. Maybe he should have gone to the Ministry himself, engaged Dumbledore there… He shook his head. No. To fight Dumbledore, a master at Transfiguration and a famous alchemist, inside the Ministry where Voldemort couldn’t move as freely as in the air above Hogsmeade to avoid the numerous traps and other lethal surprises Dumbledore could create in such an environment, would have been foolish. Not suicidal - he was the old man’s equal - but far from ideal for a confrontation.

    It was galling, but it was likely that his forces in the Ministry had lost due to the mudbloods and foreigners. The blood traitors would have been outnumbered once his curse had struck and the ambushes had been sprung. The sudden arrival of reinforcements for the enemy could have tipped the scales, although his Death Eaters should have been blocking the entrances to prevent exactly such a thing from happening. At least they had paid the price for failing him.

    Besides, his situation was not quite as dire as it looked, no matter what the Ministry’s rag claimed. His Death Eaters might have failed him, but they had taken a great toll on the Ministry’s Aurors and Hit-Wizards, and the mudbloods; that much was certain just judging by the pictures in the article. And his curse had struck as planned. No, the Ministry might have won this battle, but it might have lost the war as well.

    He had to take stock of his remaining followers. Some of them whom he had sent abroad, for a variety of reasons, would have to be called back. Pettigrew, for one - that man was a sniveling coward, but a skilled wizard and a capable spy. There was Snape, too. His information had allowed Voldemort to engage Dumbledore and almost kill Potter. The Dark Lord still didn’t fully trust the double-agent, only a fool would, but in his current situation, he’d have to make more use of the man. There should be a suitable mission that would both test the man and serve Voldemort’s goals no matter its outcome. At least most of his followers in the Wizengamot would have escaped before the battle had started; for once, their cowardice had been a boon.

    And he’d have to put his own story out there. He could blame the mudbloods; their presence proved that they were trying to take over the Ministry and that he had just struck before they were ready. But that would make him appear weak. Maybe blame the Ministry for using mudblood enforcers against ‘undesirable’ purebloods? It might scare some of the dumber purebloods into joining him. He’d have to recruit abroad, though, to replenish his ranks.

    And there was another unexpected boon he had discovered. He could sense Potter if the boy was nearby. And Potter could sense him. That explained why the boy had been tracking down Horcruxes for Dumbledore - it wasn’t just because the boy was protected from Voldemort’s power, but because there was a connection. And it went both ways.

    He grinned. That was another opportunity he would exploit, given time. But first, he added, glancing at the skull on his table, he had to decide how to use the wand up his sleeve. It was a good thing he hadn’t used it against the Resistance, even though he had had the chance for weeks. The mudbloods would have warned Dumbledore, and he would have not only taken steps to counter this, but would have gained an effective propaganda tool as well.

    Using houngan techniques was, after all, a taboo in Wizarding Britain and in most of Magical Europe.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
    Mizu, Beyogi, Prince Charon and 7 others like this.
  30. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Nice aftermath.

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