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  #21  
Old August 16th, 2007, 1:39 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 22 – Sunday Dinner

Arthur and Molly Weasley were not the slight bit pleased at being kept in the dark about the Malfoy Incident, as Lee and George had taken to calling the whole affair. Molly was beside herself as the details filtered to her about the danger they’d been exposed to, her anxiety no doubt heightened by the amount of hyperbole George and Lee embellished in their individual telling of the story. Molly was also taken aback by Ron’s announcement of his intent to begin Auror training the following day. The events of the past few weeks had only served to increase her thoughts that Harry should not have become an Auror, and now her youngest son was following his best friend’s path. Mrs. Weasley had resolved herself, however, remain silent on the subject during Sunday Dinner.

When Ginny had announced her intention to move out of the Burrow, Mrs. Weasley was beside herself in depression. Ginny was her youngest, and with her departure, the Weasleys found themselves by themselves in their home for the first time in years. It wasn’t that Molly and Arthur didn’t love each other, nor were they unable to enjoy their time together. Having seven children had imbedded in both their hearts, a love of the noise, of the complete riotousness of having so much love in one place. When George’s twin Fred was killed during the Battle of Hogwarts, Molly’s need for her children became especially sharp. Now that Ginny had moved on, the hole left by life’s progress was rather large.

Arthur Weasley truly loved his wife. Knowing that he and Molly could never go back to the way things were, that is, until his children made a proper go at providing them a whole brood of grandchildren; Arthur proposed a new family tradition of the Sunday Dinner. The family would gather, if possible, every Sunday at the Burrow and partake in a feast that reminded them all of the simpler days, times when all they had were adolescent problems, and no fears; a time when Fred was there. George was all for it, stating that it was a fitting, living tribute to his lost twin. Given that Lee Jordan had drawn close to George during his time as business partner, Lee became an unofficial member of the Weasley clan. At times, Bill and Fleur would attend the gatherings, bringing along little Victoire, the Weasley’s first grandchild. Molly Weasley also insisted that Andromeda Tonks be included in the gatherings, since little Teddy was Harry’s godson, and Molly had found herself quite taken with the lad. The Weasley’s other son Charlie, was still in Bulgaria, working with dragons. He had yet to make an appearance, but Molly knew it was a matter of time.

On this day, the merriment of the dinner was especially ribald, given the recent brush with death, the majority of them had just experienced. Harry and Ginny walked through the front door of the Weasley home, drawn tight together, every so often, whispering in each other’s ears and giggling at the result.

“Please! You two need a vacation from each other. Mum, I don’t think I can eat, I’m feeling too sick from the sweetness!” George’s outburst caused both Harry and Ginny to blush uncontrollably, and their color deepened as the rest of the extended Weasley clan joined into the frivolity. Harry was saved by a slight tug on his trouser leg. He barely felt the pull, and yet it’s insistence was compelling and could only be from one source.

“Teddy!” Harry scooped up his four-year old godson in one fell swoop, swinging him about in a whirl, eliciting giggles of delight from the boy. As he laughed, Teddy’s hair would change color, a kaleidoscope of reds and blues and greens that delighted the others gathered in the room.

“Hi Harry!” Harry was astounded. Little Teddy Lupin had grown a bit since Harry had last seen him. His words carried with a clarity that showed determination and intellect. “Where have you been?” Simple words from a child’s heart can say volumes. Harry hadn’t seen Teddy since the day he was given his first assignment. A child’s concept of time has no correlation with what the “adult” world considers the passage of time. In Teddy’s mind, he hadn’t seen Harry in ages and he’d missed his godfather. Harry had missed him too, especially recently, since he and Ginny had made serious progress towards matrimony. Harry picked up Teddy and carried him further into the house.

Ginny watched Harry’s interaction with Teddy, and felt a warm glow in her own heart. She’d watched Harry with his godson over the years and had not really considered Harry’s potential as a father. Now, as she contemplated their life together and her desire to have children, she was very encouraged with his ease around Teddy. She came into the room and greeted her family. Her mother greeted her with a big hug and led her into the kitchen.

“You sure your alright, Ginny?” Ginny felt guilty that her parents had not heard of her capture by Lucious Malfoy until the evening of the party. “I just wanted to make sure you feeling well. How are you with Harry? Are you two doing well?”

“Mum!” Ginny had never really discussed matters of the heart with her mother, much less discuss her relationship with the man she was going to marry. “We’re just fine.”

Molly let the matter drop and went to finish dinner preparations. Being that is was spring, but more importantly, considering that there was no way, magical or otherwise, that the entire extended Weasley clan could fit around the kitchen table; dinner was being held outside. After a while, Molly started shepherding her flock out the door, into courtyard. Ron and Hermione filed out with Percy, while George and Lee worked their way out snickering about some plan they had for later in the evening. Arthur Weasley escorted Andromeda Tonks out, followed closely behind by Molly Weasley. Bill and Fleur carried little Victoire out, cooing to her in two languages. Harry, carrying Teddy, walked with Ginny out the door. As they watched the family work their way to their seats, Harry put Teddy down and pointed him towards his grandmother.

Harry took hold of Ginny’s hand, looking at her with a question in his eyes. She turned to him and gave an anxious nod. “Everyone!” The din encompassing the table began to quiet and turned towards him. In countless encounters with the most foul of enemies, nothing compared the stares he was receiving from this particular gathering. Here before him were Ginny’s family and his only family. Everyone that made any difference to him in his life was here before him and a rather large frog began to form in his throat.

“Um, er, Yes, well, we, I mean Ginny and I,” he was stammering beyond any real comprehension. As he gazed around the table, his eyes were drawn to Ron and George and Lee, whose simmering hysterics were immediately visible. The task was getting more and more difficult for him. As he began planning his escape, wondering if China would be reachable in a single apparition, he felt the Ginny’s hand on the small of his back, drawing him in and reassuring him with her presence.

“Ginny and I have come to a decision.” His voice was sure, solid. The impending bouts of derisive laughter were suddenly quenched. “We’ve decided that we are going to get married, next month, on the first.” The family was quiet, the importance of the news slowly permeating their minds. As one, the acclamation was unanimous, loud and in definite agreement.

Molly Weasley rushed up and hugged Harry and Ginny at once, the tears had started before the last word in Harry’s announcement. “Oh, wonderful, my dears, wonderful!” Applause spontaneously broke out from all present, with two notable exceptions.

Teddy Lupin was a bit perturbed, because there was a warm apple pie on the table and his progress towards one inviting piece had been abruptly stopped by the watchful hand of his grandmother. The other exception to the frivolity found George and Lee, who, as Arthur was walking past them to congratulate the happy couple, kept hearing the words “bachelor party” bandied about.

Arthur came up to his daughter and gave her a solid embrace, then turning to Harry, he offered a hand. “Of course, the Burrow is at your disposal” Harry felt uncomfortable, but decided to get his request out. He’d talked to Ginny, they’d mulled over this decision for hours. Finally, he just had to clear this one hurdle.

“If you two don’t mind,” His gaze took in both Molly and Arthur, “We’d really like to have the ceremony in Godric’s Hollow, near my parents’ home. There’s a nice meadow near the wood there and, well, we were hoping to get married near them.” Molly offered a grand, welcoming smile, and simply nodded her head, the thought washing out new tears from her eyes.

The party began in earnest, the festivities marked by various plans about the coming nuptials and the events that needed to handled in the immediate month. Again there were two exceptions to the discussions that were in play. Teddy Tonks was exhibiting great perseverance and had finally used Andromeda’s wedding dress discussion with Hermione to finally secure the entire apple pie. He’d dragged the tin down to his eye level and secured it under the table, and now, he was enjoying the rewards of his efforts.

The second exception wasn’t seated at the table. A shadowy figure was watching the proceedings from the top of the hill, just behind the stone wall. The figure stood transfixed as if imbedding the scene and its participants for the long term. The stranger stood for a few minutes, not moving, hidden in plain sight, and finally, turned and walked away, never looking back.

***Author's Note: It's a little slow, I know, but bear with me, I'm getting to a point where we can have some fun and adventure, but I'm trying to get through a couple of major and relevant transitions, Ron's entry into Auror training, and the wedding of Harry and Ginny. I'm going to start laying out the elements of the next great threat, sooner than you think.

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  #22  
Old August 16th, 2007, 3:52 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 23 – Aurors in Training

The main hall of the Ministry of Magic heralded another Monday morning with its usual bustle of faceless functionaries. Its broad plaza found the lifeblood of the society meandering its way in droves past the large fountain in the center. Standing near the entryway, Harry stood resplendent, standing out among the throngs. He returned the greetings of several people that he knew and some that he didn’t. By this time, news of his exploits had been circulated by every means possible. The Daily Prophet had been running daily snippets, serialized to track his story from start to finish, although Harry was definitely convinced that one of the reputed “sources” had to be either George or Lee, given the fantastic exaggerations that had been repeated. The Quibbler had run its own series, but had highlighted the romantic aspects of the tale. Stories about Ginny and Harry, or Ron and Hermione; even one recounting the budding relationship between Cho Chang and Dennis Creevey were popular sellers. The most pervasive way Harry’s legend had grown, was through word of mouth. In pubs, on Quidditch pitches, in the common rooms of Hogwarts; more and more story tellers made a show of how they had been connected to the “Malfoy Incident”, but even more so, with more accuracy than could be expected, Harry was the key feature of the stories. He was even more admired, even more feared, even more respected than before. Harry Potter was now known as one of the greatest Aurors in history, and he was extremely uncomfortable with that reputation.

Harry brushed an imaginary dust mite from his shoulder and adjusted the front of his robes, aligning the Aurors’ medallion on his breast. Presently, a loud whoosh signaled the arrival of travelers through the Floo Network. Harry smirked as Ron and Hermione stood before him. Ron was dressed in a set of nondescript, navy blue robes, his long red hair pulled back, tight in a ponytail. He stood tall, his eyes showing purpose, seriousness hinted by no small amount of nervousness. Over his shoulder, he carried a battered leather satchel, worn by time and probably by proximity to one too many Weasley Wheezes concoctions. Ron’s expression was serious, but he was, from time to time, rolling his eyes subtly.

On Ron’s arm, Hermione was fussing on his appearance, making small adjustments to his robes and chatting incessantly. “I’m so proud of you Ron, this is wonderful. We’ll be able to go to work together, we can see each other during the day, just do your best, there’s no reason to be nervous…” Harry wondered if she’d even stopped talking during their transit in the Floo.

“Hermione! Please! I’ll be fine.” Ron’s exasperated outburst silenced her. Hermione stopped talking, her face dropping a little.

“I’m sorry, Ron, it’s just that…”

Ron completed her sentence, “It’s just that you’re worried and nervous. So am I, but I want to do this, and I know this is the right thing for me and for us.”

“I know, Ron, but with everything that’s happened, I can’t help but worry.” Ron placed a soft hand on her cheek. The expression on his face was kind, reassuring and loving.

“Good, you wouldn’t be you if you didn’t worry, and I love you for it. Remember, I love you more today, than yesterday.” With that, he kissed her and felt her body relax.

Harry felt slightly awkward, witnessing his friends’ private moment. When they turned to face him, he’d turned away, offering them time together.

“Good morning, Harry. It’s safe to look now.” Hermione’s playful tone indicated that her emotions were once more in check. “You will take good care of him, won’t you?”

Harry gave Hermione his best “trust-me” look, “Of course, how much trouble could he get in with me around?”

Hermione rolled her eyes, and gave one last kiss to Ron, and joined the crowd, heading towards her office. Ron followed her progress until she finally disappeared. With a sigh, he turned to Harry.

“Ready?” Harry looked his friend over one last time, searching for any sign of regret or doubt. Ron stood tall, and faced him squarely. “Good! Let’s go.” Harry turned and led Ron into the throng.

They made their way through the plaza towards the elevators. The found a lift quickly and filed in with a large group. Harry watched his friend, noticing that Ron was shifting his weight from side to side and gazing at the ceiling of the elevator. “Relax, Ron, they won’t bite.” The elevator stopped at their floor and as Harry led Ron off, “at least on the first day.”

When they entered the Office of Aurors, Harry made a quick stop to greet Dawlish. “Harry, good. Hello Mr. Weasley, good luck today. Harry, when you get a minute, can you come by?”

“Certainly, I’m just going to walk Ron over to see Lachlan. I should be back momentarily.” Harry gave Dawlish a jaunty wave and continued on down the corridor. When they neared Lachlan’s door, Ron stopped Harry.

“Do you think I can do this?” Ron’s question had been brewing since his decision to become and Auror. Much like Ron’s first day on the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts, Ron had been thinking whether his desire to become an Auror matched his ability to be one. In light of recent events, especially watching how the Aurors, especially Harry, had performed at the Dark Citadel, Ron’s anxiety had grown more.

Harry looked at Ron, fixing him with a serious stare, “Ron, you are my friend, and have been for years. We’ve fought, bled and cried together. You are as close to a brother that I have, or will ever have. Believe me when I say, you are more than capable of becoming and Auror, and there is no one else that I’d like to have with me when things get rough.”

Ron seemed to grow several inches with this lecture. Harry smiled at him and knocked at Lachlan’s door. “Come in!” The high pitched, clear voice penetrated the door and coincided with the door’s opening. Lachlan McCrory sat at his desk, already cluttered with parchment and books of various sizes and description. Owls dotted his window ledge, fluttering in and out, bringing and taking away correspondence at a dizzying rate.

“Harry!” Lachlan rose and gave Harry an embrace. “Good to see you! You won’t believe it, we have reports of an Occamy in Portsmouth! Can you imagine!”

Harry reached back into his brain, trying to remember Hagrid’s instructions on magical beasts. Ron spoke up, “Occamy, aren’t they only found in the Far East?” Harry’s surprise at his friend’s recollection was clearly evident.

“Precisely Ron! Excellent, starting off your first day on the right foot. Are you ready?” Lachlan offered Ron a gentle smile. Ron made a furtive glance at Harry and nodded. “Good, let me see your satchel, then.” Ron hesitated, and then slid his satchel down his shoulder and passed it on to Lachlan.

“Now, let’s see what you’ve packed, shall we?” Lachlan began rummaging through Ron’s bag, commenting on various items that he found. “Peruvian Instant Blackness Powder, good, that should come in handy. What exactly is Ton Tongue Toffee?” Ron shrugged sheepishly. After a hard look at Ron, Lachlan tossed out the item. “Hmmm, what is ‘U-No-Poo’?”

Harry let out a low chuckle and eased his way out of the office. He made his way back to Dawlish’s office; the senior Auror was engrossed in conversation with Gawain Robards, the Head of the Office of Aurors. Dawlish greeted Harry with a grin. Gawain’s greeting was more pronounced.

“Harry! Good to see you! I just ran into Arthur, congratulations! I’m assuming you’ll be wanting some time off next month?” Gawain was clad in a tweed muggle suit, colored in various muted shades of brown and gray. Atop his head was gray fedora, the brim perfectly aligned with the line of his brow.

“Er, yes sir. Thank you sir.”

“No problem, my boy.” Robards leaned in towards Harry, his voice dropping in volume level, “Just remember the invitation, my wife says this will be the social event of the year!” Robards turned towards Dawlish and gave him a brief farewell, and then left the office.

Harry’s ears were ringing with the echoes of the phrase “social event of the year” which somehow kept translating in his brain to mean “pain in the….”

“Ahem.” Dawlish interrupted his musings.

Harry looked up, “You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, Harry. I have a bit of a dilemma, and I was wondering if you can help me with it.”

“Of course, anything.”

Dawlish brushed his hands through his hair, a nervous habit he performed, Harry noted, whenever he had to deliver uncomfortable news. “It’s about Sarah Peebles.”

Sarah Peebles was completing her first year of Auror training, and during the recent crisis had been the victim of an Imperious Curse, where she’d been compelled to help Malfoy lure Harry to his eventual appointment with the Furies. Initially, she’d been under great scrutiny, and had to bear under the pressure of lengthy and intense interrogation.

“What about her?” Harry’s tone was questioning, puzzled. As far as he was concerned, Sarah’s involvement with Malfoy was as blameless as Ginny was when she was overcome by Voldemort, which is to say, completely.

“Harry, you have to understand your reputation in this Office.” Dawlish was very uncomfortable; it seemed as if he would wear away the hair on the top of his head. “Many of our colleagues are refusing to train Sarah, because of her role in your, shall we say, adventures.”

“That’s preposterous!” Harry’s indignation was clearly visible. “If an inability to resist an Imperious Curse was a crime, I daresay quite a few of the members of this organization would be in Azkeban, based on their activities during the Thicknesse reign.”

“I know, and I think that guilt is playing a large part in this. Everyone is so adamant about being on the right side.”

Harry pondered a moment, “How many have refused to train her?”

“All of them.”

“All of them?” Harry could not believe his ears. “Not a one volunteered?”

“Well, Lachlan offered, but we have your friend Weasley assigned to him.” Dawlish stopped short, the main point of this conversation seemed to hang in the air.

“What is it that I can do? Would you like me to speak to the other Aurors, try to convince them?” Harry was immediately suspicious of where this was going.

“No, I don’t know what good that would do. No, Harry, I’d like you to take over her training.”

Harry’s head spun. It was practically unheard of for a junior Auror to be assigned to the training cadre, much less one under a year out completing training, like Harry was.

“John, you can’t be serious, I’m no where near ready to train someone. I’m barely out of training myself.”

Dawlish stopped fidgeting and locked onto Harry. “Harry, I’ve had quite enough of that. You are, quite frankly, the best Auror in this Office. You are possibly the best that has ever come through.”

Harry lowered his head, his modesty taking hold.

“Stop that, Harry! At some point in your life, in your career, you have to acknowledge your strengths and deal with them. You have something very valuable to offer young Sarah, and I expect you to perform the task to the best of your ability, is that understood?” Dawlish’s expression would not take no for an answer.

“Yes, sir.” Harry’s chagrined countenance told Dawlish that his words had the effect he’d hoped.

“She’s waiting in your office. Harry, you know what to do, the most important thing is to teach her to learn for herself. Train her to be an Auror you’d want in your spear. It’s as simple as that.”

“She’s in my office? You knew I’d say yes?” Dawlish smiled at Harry, the tension disappearing from his shoulders and from the room.

“I couldn’t afford to hear you say no.”

Harry walked from Dawlish’s office and shook his head. Passing Lachlan’s office, he caught a glimpse Ron’s figure, standing in the same position as before. The sound of Lachlan’s voice drifted out into the corridor.

“Goodness, whatever spell you have on this bag, it’s wonderful! What else do you have in here? Oh my, candies!”

Ron made a plea that went ignored. “But, sir, you might not want…”

“Nonsense, I have quite the sweet tooth. Hello, what’s this? I absolutely adore Nougats!”


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  #23  
Old August 16th, 2007, 8:28 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 24 – Field Work

As Harry arrived at his office, the door opened to reveal the slight figure of Sarah Peebles, sitting forlornly in a corner chair. She was a wisp of a girl, slight, thin, with a pale complexion. Her hair was a russet brown, curly and long, falling about her shoulders in a careless fashion. When Harry saw her, she sat with her shoulders slumped, her robes barely capable of sitting on them. Her eyes were brown, sad; puffiness framed them as if she’d been crying recently, and for a sustained time. Harry’s blood began to boil on seeing the abject misery this girl had endured.

He offered her a smile, “Well hello, Sarah.”

She tried to return the smile; her attempt was wan, not really reflecting her mood, “M-Mr. Potter, Mr. Dawlish told me to come see you, really.”

Harry shook his head, Sarah had been put through a ringer, he supposed, she was questioning her every move, trying to justify her every action, this was not a good start to resuming her training. Importantly, her condition was not her fault, and this simple fact was the core around which Harry resolved to help her.

“I know, Sarah, and call me Harry.” Her smile turned a little brighter, a little more genuine. “Do you know why Dawlish sent you to me?” She shook her head, apparently having no clue as to what why she was there, but expecting it was part of some complex punishment that had been devised for her.

“I’ve been appointed your trainer; I’m taking over your final two years of Auror training.” Sarah’s mouth dropped open in obvious disbelief, which Harry mistook for disappointment. “I know that this isn’t what you wanted. You deserve a much more qualified Auror than me to be your instructor, however,” Harry paused trying to find a delicate way to tell her that she was unwanted by the other Aurors, “circumstances are such that, I’ve been pressed into service.”

Sarah gaped at Harry for a moment, then her mouth broke into a huge grin, “No, M-Mr. P-Pot…I mean Harry, this is wonderful. Thank you so much! I was certain I was being sacked!” She suddenly broke into a fury of rapid fire chat, “I’m so sorry about before, I don’t know what happened, I hope you’ll give a chance to prove myself, I really want to be an Auror…”

Harry held up his hands, bringing her nervous harangue to a halt. “That’s enough of that. Let’s get one thing straight, once and for all. I do not hold you remotely responsible whatsoever for what happened before. Period. I don’t want you to apologize; you’ve nothing to apologize for. I don’t want atonement; you have nothing to atone for. I don’t want you proving yourself, because I will test your resolve in the normal course of your training. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.” She had regained control of her senses, delighted in her new worldview and at the turn of events in her life.

Harry was pleased at how rapidly she adapted to the changing circumstances, but now he had to think of something to do. When he’d been going through his training, he remembered countless days of drilling and dueling in the Auror Arena down the hall, but in Harry’s mind, the most fulfilling training hours were done in the field. At that time, his owl, Helios, his golden feathers bristling in the sun, alit on his ledge with a note. Harry gave Helios an affectionate pat, and read the message. His eyes lit up as an inspiration hit him.

“Have you completed your training on using Switching Spells?” She nodded. “Good, grab your bag, and come with me.”

They filed out of his office. A nasally, high pitched, voice belonging to a rapidly walking figure passed them, “What, in Merlin’s name, did you put in those Nougats?” Lachlan came speeding by, his head was tossed back, a handkerchief pressed against his nose.

Trailing behind him, looking distraught, Ron was waving his wand, trying spell after spell to staunch the blood flow from Lachlan’s nose.

“Finite! No, that’s not right. Reparo! No, that’s not it. I’m really sorry Lachlan, I mean Mr. McCrory. I’m sure I can fix it. Wait.” Ron gave Harry a baleful look, shrugging his shoulders, and then tore off after Lachlan as the made for the infirmary.

Harry couldn’t help himself, he laughed heartily at the sight. Turning to his new pupil, “See, your day is looking up, your training couldn’t be as bad as that.” Her laugh told Harry that she just might make it through.

************************************************** ************************************************** *********

Mortimer Gafney and Silas Hornsby were not pleasant children. In their third and fourth years, respectively at Hogwarts, they had not been the models of behavior their parents thought them to be. Silas was older, a Slytherin in the old mold. He was a loathsome child, overweight, bordering on obese. His size made him bullyish, a person that enjoyed pushing other, smaller students around. Mortimer was the complete opposite in appearance to Silas. He was small, skinny and awkward. At first glance, he was someone that Silas normally would have made the butt of unending abuse. Mortimer was in Ravenclaw, a testament to his intellect. Despite their differences, the boys found that they were kindred spirits, bad seeds, who sought no other pleasure than to pick at and pick on those weaker than they.

They’d worked out an effective formula. Silas would have the sadistic impulses, the ideas of how to better taunt and challenge their intended victims. Mortimer had the brains, the capability to puzzle out ingenious methods to carry out the schemes, and to cover them up. Both found great pleasure in taunting muggles. This was made more a challenge by the ban on the use of Underage Magic, which was so stringently enforced. Mortimer, as usual, had hit on a unique and innovative solution. He thought that stealing the wands of others, may mask who was casting the spells. On the last day of school, the pair had used the chaos to swipe five or six of their unwitting classmates’ wands. Up to now, plan had worked perfectly. They’d spent their time hexing bicycles to bite their riders and putting illusions over open manhole covers, waiting for muggles to fall through.

Today, they felt, was truly inspired. They’d gone to a park and spied several muggle children kicking a white and black ball on a field. They were pushing this ball with their feet and propelling it through goals located on either end of the field. It seemed to be a pedantic form of Quidditch. Mortimer’s eyes glistened with opportunity. He deftly removed one of the purloined wands, and aimed it at the ball. Instantly the ball grew to about ten feet in diameter. Around its edges, a row of teeth appeared. The ball began to propel itself, chasing the terrorized children around the pitch. When a child would go past one of the erstwhile goal posts, arms would reach out and capture the child and place it into the goals maw, becoming hopelessly entangled in its netting. Staying a few moments to watch the fruits of their labors, the two boys began to run from the scene.

As they ran, they entered a pedestrian tunnel that allowed the park pathway to continue unobstructed across the road. They entered the tunnel and spotted a figure at its opposite mouth. It was a tall man, dressed in a finely tailored muggle suit. The man was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed, giving off a casual air of nonchalance. When the boys reached the part of the tunnel near the man, he stood straight and faced them, a small smile on his face.

“Now, what have you boys been up to?” Harry glanced at the boys, trying to read their expressions, trying to determine if this was going to be a standard encounter, or to see whether the two boys would attempt something foolish.

“What’s it to you?” Silas, the larger of the boys, stepped forward, unimpressed by the presence of a mere muggle, adult or not. “Move aside or you’ll regret it.”

Harry laughed, placed his hands in his pockets and leaned a shoulder against the wall of the tunnel. “Is that a fact, all right. Go on then. Give it a go.”

Mortimer gave Silas a skeptical glance, and then both boys pulled wands from their pockets.

“Expelliarmus!” Sarah’s voice carried through the tunnel, her spell sending the two boys’ wands flying across the path. “Petrificus Totalus!” Silas and Mortimer were frozen in place, save for their obviously terrified expressions. Sarah moved towards where Harry stood. She was dressed in a light blue dress, framed in lace with a white bodice. She had white knee-high stockings and black patent-leather shoes. Harry made a mental note to discuss updates in muggle-wear in order to maintain an air of obscurity.

“Good, Sarah, now what shall we do with them? What is the purpose of this exercise?” Harry found himself falling into a role more familiar than he expected, just like when he’d been instructing his friends in the Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.

“We should arrest them, they’ve broken the law.” Sarah was sure in her response; she looked at Harry for confirmation.

“Yes, we could do that; that is a good, sound option, but what is it we’re trying to accomplish, especially with boys this age?”

Sarah thought for a moment, not expecting this tack, “Well, we want them stop, to not use their magic for mischief. We want them to have a little justice.”

“Good. Exactly, and what is justice for them? How would you conduct their education?” Harry swung his arm towards the boys.

Sarah smiled. “Densaugeo!” Immediately the teeth in the boys’ mouths began to grow at a frightening speed.

“Finite! Reparo!” Harry’s voice startled Sarah, the tone indicating that perhaps, she’d made an improper choice. She recoiled, expecting an explosion of fury from her mentor.

Instead, Harry’s response was worse than she expected, it was soft. It was disappointed. “I see we have more to discuss.”

Harry turned towards the boys and leveled his green eyes towards their faces. “My name is Harry Potter, from the Office of Aurors.” Silas and Mortimer choked in fear. “Now as my colleague says, we could simply arrest you both, and you can wait for the mercy of the court. There is no age limit for incarceration at Azkeban.” The boys’ faces blanched, and both had almost stopped breathing, altogether.

Harry’s voice softened. “There is an alternative.” Harry saw looks of desperation, which were turning into a modicum of hope. “I didn’t say it would be easier, just not Azkeban. You two will return to your parents and arrange for transportation back to Hogwarts. You will report to Professor Longbottom and confess your activities, and hand back your stolen wands. You will then ask Professor Longbottom to assign detention to you for the duration of the summer at my request. You will also tell Professor Hagrid the same. You will perform your summer detention to Professor Longbottom’s satisfaction. He will determine the length, it may last all summer, it may last all next school year, it may last two years, but you will not deviate from his instructions. Do you understand?”

Silas’ nod was quicker than Mortimer’s. Mortimer understood that detention tasks with a Herbology professor and a half giant that cared for magical creatures had the potential to be hard labor, to say the least. But it wasn’t Azkeban. Besides, they’d have a chance to plot their way out of the predicament. A small smile passed Mortimer’s lips.

“Oh no, my young friend.” Harry continued. “You see, I will know, before you do, if you are planning to renege on our agreement. I’ll be watching you,” Harry looked at each boy in turn, “personally.” Harry’s foreboding presence clarified his position to the boys. With a flick of his wand, and a quick non-verbal command, the boys were released. Harry flit his eyes, and the two former tormenters ran off to accede to their side of the bargain.

Sarah was dumbfounded, the elegance of the solution dawning on her. “What did you do wrong?” Harry’s question was innocuous, innocent.

Sarah shrugged her shoulders, replaying the entire incident in her mind. She couldn’t find where she’d failed.

“You enjoyed punishing them, Sarah. The Desaugeo Charm was hurtful, and that meant you stooped to their level.” Harry put a hand on her shoulder. “Being an Auror is about justice and peace. We use spells defensively, to protect the innocent and the weak. We must never use our position to exercise power over the helpless. Regardless of what those boys had done, we must never give in to revenge.” For a brief moment, the contorted face of Lucious Malfoy leapt to Harry’s brain. He smiled at her. He wasn’t going to break her down and build her up on the first day.

“It’s not a problem, you did well with their disarming, but I think we need to address your wardrobe. A friend of mine showed me a muggle magazine called “Vogue” and it may….”

He led her off out of the tunnel.

***Author's Note: We're getting there, patience, patience.

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  #24  
Old August 16th, 2007, 9:41 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 25 – Home Again

Ron opened the door to his home and slammed it shut. The silence abounding within told him that his wife had not returned from work, which added another burden to his shoulders, considering that she’d probably expected him to wait for her at the Ministry. He crossed to one of his favorite chairs and sat in a huff. The day had been a disaster. Not only had his tutor eaten a good sized piece of Nosebleed Nougat, it’d taken the better part of the morning for healers in the infirmary to stop to the bleeding. It finally took an impassioned call out to George Weasley himself, to reverse the effects of the bleeding. Ron had no doubt that the speed that this information would be distributed would be unparalleled in modern history.

The afternoon had been marked by a sub-par performance in the training arena. Lachlan had been of a mind to test Ron’s defensive skills from the start. At first, Ron held his own, countering spells and launching a few of his own. But in order for Lachlan to instruct Ron, he had to talk, and a residual amount of after-effects remained from the morning fiasco. So Lachlan’s normally clear, yet high pitched voice, sounded stopped up, blocked, adding a squeak to his inflection and tone, thoroughly distracting Ron from performing the nuances of his defensive spells. Finally, Lachlan waved his hands wearily.

“Rond, dust gobe hombe.” Ron’s shoulders fell noticeably, the day’s events carrying him down. He felt as if he’d let down Harry, Hermione, his family, but most of all, had let down himself.

Sitting in the beginning dusk, the shadows of the day passing him by, he stared out the windows, his thoughts focused on his failures and trying to figure out how he’d tell his wife.

So lost in his depression, he didn’t hear the door open and close behind him. He hadn’t realized someone was in the room until the warmth of a hand covered his chest and softness of a kiss touched his cheek. Looking up, he saw her smiling at him, her gaze loving, her eyes wiping away the harshness of his thoughts of the day.

“Hermione, I…” She didn’t let him speak, but simply placed a finger on his lips.

“I know, Ron.” The statement was simple and yet spoke volumes. She knew of his despair. She knew he was hurting, that he doubted himself, and yet, none of that mattered. Her smile was reassuring; it provided energy to his soul. She knew and yet it didn’t matter, after all, she loved him.

She kissed him on the lips, the last vestiges of doubt, pity or pain leaving him. He wrapped his arms around her and thought of how fortunate he was, how lucky he was to have her in his life. They had known each other for years. There weren’t any secrets, really.

She grabbed him by the hand, and pulled him from the chair, leading him towards their bedroom. Her smile was teasing, playful. “You know, I love you more today, than yesterday.” That was exactly what he needed to hear.

************************************************** ************************************************** **********

When they returned to the Ministry, Harry told Sarah to go home. He watched her head out and then he returned to his office. He finished some of his more pressing correspondence and then called it a day. On his way out, he stopped at Lachlan’s door, which was ajar. McCrory was humming a tune to himself and beckoned Harry to enter.

“What a day, eh, Harry?” Lachlan looked no worse for the wear. “I was just reading that there were reports of Inferi being seen in Wales. I wonder who was assigned that one?” Harry shrugged his shoulders.

“You could have told Ron that you knew what was in the candies.” Harry’s tone was scolding. “He probably thinks you’re permanently injured or that you hate him.”

Lachlan couldn’t repress his laugh. “You know how it is, Harry. A trainee has to be off guard, especially Ron. He’s been in too many pressure situations; there was really no way to put stress on him, other than to make him have doubts of his own.”

Lachlan pulled open the bottom drawer of his desk. He pulled a glass bottle and two glasses from the bottom, causing Harry to offer a raised eyebrow. Pouring a couple of fingers of golden liquid out of the bottle and in to the glasses, Lachlan offered Harry a glass.

“This is called ‘scotch’, the muggles have different names for their whiskeys and this one is a fine single malt. You have to have seen death, I think, before you can drink this down. Cheers.” Harry followed the older wizard’s lead and attempted to drink down the contents of the glass. As the “scotch” went down his throat, he felt it burn, taking his breath with it. The warmth continued down to his stomach and his head became a little light.

“Yes, not for the fainthearted, and should only be drunk in moderation.” Lachlan laughed. “Your friend, Ron, he’ll be fine. He did well with the defensive testing. I had to resort to changing my voice a bit, just to get any type of rise out of him. I’ll build him up in the next few days or so. I hear you’ve taken on Sarah Peebles.”

Harry nodded, “I don’t know if I’m using the right technique. I had her in the field today, and she was a little too hasty with a punishment spell on some kids.”

“Don’t read too much into it. Just get her to be able to learn for herself. You want to be able to trust her as part of your team, even in your spear, if you need her.”

Harry chuckled loudly, “That’s just what Dawlish told me!”

“Good to hear, you see, I was Dawlish’s tutor, and I’d hate to think that he forgotten all my wisdom.” Lachlan’s eyes twinkled. “Look Harry, being a tutor isn’t structured, neither is the training itself. Take Ron, for example. I have no doubt that we can accelerate him through the first year. His experience will help with that. The only formal requirement is that they pass their M.A.G.E for the year.”

Harry nodded. The Ministry of Magic had only one real, formal requirement for Aurors in training. Those were tests, aligned with their training year group called M.A.G.E.’s or Master Auror Governing Examination. M.A.G.E.’s were more practical than a written or oral test. They placed trainees in situations where their decision making was measured and evaluated. An Auror in training could take an annual M.A.G.E. at any time, but if he failed, he had to wait at least three months until he retook the test. If an Auror failed any year’s M.A.G.E. three consecutive times, that Auror was eliminated from the program. Harry had taken his first year M.A.G.E after only two months of training, but didn’t take his second year until fourteen months later, when his training Auror felt he was ready. Readiness was purely subjective and the test was tailored each trainee’s individual traits and abilities.

“You’re right, of course. Still, this is, well, rather unprecedented, having me as a tutor.”

Lachlan tossed back his head and laughed, “Well Harry, if there was a word to describe you, then ‘unprecedented’ would fit more than most.” Harry couldn’t help but be caught up in Lachlan’s merriment.

************************************************** ************************************************** *********

He arrived home, later than usual, his detour with Lachlan helping reassure him, but also inevitably delaying him from returning to his home until after dark. As he entered the long hall, he heard voices. One was obviously Ginny’s, but the others he heard were of Arthur and Molly Weasley. Arthur was guiding a set of large clothing trunks down the stairs. Ginny saw Harry standing in the hall, and beckoned him into the kitchen, giving her mother a quick mental signal.

Harry, puzzled by the commotion, waved at Arthur and returned Molly’s silent hug, before following Ginny into the kitchen. “What’s all this?”

Ginny gave him a strong kiss, when she pulled back, his lips tingled and his confusion upon entry to the house had disappeared. He looked into her eyes, excited. Her expression was different, so Harry referred to his mental catalogue of her face, a catalogue he’d been collecting in an effort to gain a better grasp of her nonverbal communications. He hit on the one that matched her expression. He shuddered, her eyes were saying, simultaneously, she was up to something, she’d made a decision, and Harry was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like it.

Ginny’s shoulders conveyed a certain excitement, as if she’d had an inspiration that she just had to share. “Well mum had a splendid idea. Since we’re putting together the wedding preparations, she thought that it would make sense for me to move back home, so that, she can help me.”

Harry wasn’t as thrilled with the idea. “She did, did she?”

Ginny hadn’t registered Harry’s skepticism with the plan, “Oh yes!” In fact Ginny seemed to be very excited by this proposition. “Isn’t it romantic? I’ll be getting ready, to be your bride over the next month we can prepare ourselves for the big day. The next time we spend the night together, we’ll be Mr. and Mrs. Harry Potter. Couldn’t you just die?”

Harry’s brain began to calculate the number of minutes in an hour, the number of hours in a day and the number of days in a month. He’d just assume try to figure out how long he could hold his breath unassisted. What is it about a bride that makes her mental as the wedding approaches anyway?

“I could, just.”

***Author's note: OK the last three came out pretty fast, because I'm ready to get to the Bachelor Party and the Wedding. So, by tomorrow, I should the bachelor party out there, ok? Happy now?

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  #25  
Old August 17th, 2007, 4:59 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 26 – “The Party”

As Harry feared, the weeks leading up to his wedding had passed more slowly than he could ever imagine. He would see Ginny, frequently, but she was lost amid the bustle of the preparations for the wedding. Her happiness was his ultimate goal, but after two or three shopping excursions, picking out robes, and colors and place settings, he determined that her happiness was better served by his absence from those activities. He issued her a line of credit from his accounts at Gringott’s and stepped merrily out of the way.

When he’d seen Ron at the Ministry, he noticed that his friend’s demeanor was decidedly more assertive, more confident. Lachlan had trained many Aurors and his methods were finally taking hold of Ron. Lachlan had miscalculated in one area, Ron had mustered the capability and the will to complete his first year M.A.G.E. in three weeks. He’d passed with an outstanding, much to the delight of Hermione.

Harry’s own confidence in his ability to tutor Sarah had been increasing as well. She’d taken her first-year M.A.G.E. with Ron and had passed with an outstanding as well. Harry was buoyed by her success, and noticed that she was beginning to come out of her shell. The main quality, it seemed, that all Aurors must have is a confidence in their own abilities and in the their cause. He’d seen it when they’d been seven against many, and he’d seen it on countless other occasions. Harry’s own abilities seemed to be strengthening. He was able to perform more and more complex spells. His biggest surprise came while he was training with Sarah in the arena.

They’d been practicing defensive combinations. In this way, an Auror could disarm an opponent and immediately stun them. Sarah had sent and effective “Expelliarmus” spell at him and his wand had flown from his grasp. While she was following up with a stunning spell, he’d reacted, unconsciously, by issuing a “Protego” command, even though he’d lost his wand. Sarah’s spell rebounded off the shield that formed from Harry’s words. He’d been able to generate a sufficiently powerful shield charm, without his wand. He felt guilty, because he’d allowed Sarah to think that she’d missed with her spell, but Harry wasn’t quite ready let anyone know that he had the ability to cast wandless spells, just yet. He wanted to see if this were an isolated incident, or if this was something larger.

His wedding day was fast approaching, and he felt more and more isolated from everyone. His friends were avoiding him. He felt a rising anxiety, not from being ignored; he wasn’t at all upset at his isolation. No, he was anxious because he knew his “friends” were plotting something and given the insidious nature of his friends, it only mean some sort of pre-wedding ritual. It was something the muggles called a bachelor party. Harry didn’t know what occurred at bachelor party, he’d never been to one and those that participate are sworn to secrecy, using a Fidelius Charm. Therefore, all Harry had seen were the aftermath of such events, and usually only the shells of the people who survived the festivities. Even when Ron was married to Hermione, he only was allowed to attend the bitter, dawn-interrupted end of the festivities. Today was Friday, and he was due to get married tomorrow at 3 PM. Harry felt it was inevitable, his friends, if they were going to do anything, would have to strike today.

It was early afternoon, and Harry was sitting in his office reviewing several reports of magical animal incidents. Over the past few weeks, there had been quite a few sightings of creatures that were not necessarily native to the Isles or had not been seen in centuries. Normally, this would be a case for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, but Harry had noticed that there had been an increase in sightings of beasts that were potentially more dangerous. There were rumors of a chimaera sighting in the north to match the occamy seen in Portsmouth. Harry’s instincts were telling him that these incidents were related, but as of yet, he was the only person who saw any type of pattern, and to put it bluntly, Harry had nothing concrete to go on.

As he pored over the reports, Dawlish leaned his head in Harry’s office, “Harry, go home. You’re getting married tomorrow, there’s nothing going on right now.”

Harry hesitated, but had no real response, “I’m heading out right now, I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, now pack it up and get out of here.”

Harry nodded and grabbed his haversack to leave. Harry walked out the office and headed out to catch an elevator to the lobby. Making his way through the main entry hall of the Ministry, he noted that pedestrian traffic was relatively light. Harry made his way to the fires of the Floo Network and absently called out his home at 12 Grimmauld Place. Arriving home, he set his rucksack down and changed out of his robes and work garb. He made his way to the kitchen, mulling over the magical creature incidents. There was a pattern there; he just couldn’t figure it out.

As he pushed through the door to the kitchen, he was suddenly hit by Petrificus spell. His body went rigid, and Harry had no idea who or what had hit him. His eyes were shrouded as a dark hood was placed over his head. He heard, rather than felt his body manhandled out of his front door. His assailants spoke not a word; their moves orchestrated, rehearsed so as to eliminate the need for talking. Soon Harry was side-along apparated from his home to a new location. Harry heard his captors set him standing. Finally, he heard his captors speak for the first time, a muffled “finite”.

His extremities were suddenly his own to move. He brought his hands to his head and removed his hood. He blinked a few times and took in his surroundings. He was in a familiar place. He was in a single room, a pub, one he’d been in on numerous occasions. The room was dirty and dark. Standing before him was a robed figure, hooded and hidden. He was in the Hog’s Head Inn, a smaller, less frequented bar in Hogsmeade near Hogwarts. The proprietor, Aberforth Dumbledore, was nowhere to be seen. The room was empty save for the lone figure, whose robes were crimson, fiery, foreboding.

The red garbed figure moved towards Harry and moved to pull his hood back, revealing the smiling face of Ron Weasley. Ron’s grin was wide, mischievous; Harry felt his tension replaced by puzzlement and annoyance. Harry had no idea what he was doing here, and why Ron was dressed in such a manner. When he’d arisen this morning, he had not anticipated this result.

“Harry, you are going to have a bachelor party, and this is the first part of it.” Harry eyed his surroundings, skeptical of Ron’s declaration. “Harry, there is a ritual to these events. Wizards due to be married are supposed to be guided by their closest, married male relative through the ritual. It was decided that I be your guide.”

Harry was thoroughly confused. “I don’t understand. What is this? What ritual are you talking about? I thought bachelor parties were drunk free for alls where my closest friends try to put me in compromising situations that serve to talk me out of marriage.”

Ron dropped his voice slightly, “That’s later on.” Ron straightened his back. “You see Harry, like I said before, this is something that’s passed on within a family, and well, it’s important.” Ron’s earnestness struck Harry.

“What does it entail? What are going to do?”

“You see Harry, when you get married, you are committing everything you are to the woman you marry. In one way, you surrender who you’ve been, but you gain so much more as you join together.” Harry couldn’t help but notice how much like Hermione Ron sounded, just then. “We’re going on a journey, where you we will celebrate the gifts you bring to the marriage.”

Ron motioned Harry closer. Harry assumed that Ron intended a side-along apparition, so he closed in with his friend. Ron smiled and in a flash, they had left the Hog’s Head. Almost immediately, they’d disapparated outside the gates of the Hogwarts School. Ron led Harry along the walls to a small cemetery located near the school. Harry recognized the place. It was the place where most of the fallen from the Battle of Hogwarts had been laid to rest. Standing in the middle of the monuments was a large man, whose features became clearer as the two approached. It was Dennis Creevey, standing beside the grave marker of his brother Colin, who’d been killed during the fighting at Hogwarts. Colin had stayed behind to fight with Harry’s allies, even though he was one of the under aged wizards instructed to leave. He’d been killed during the battle.

Dennis drew up his shoulders, his face solemn, serious. His gaze held Harry’s as he spoke, “Harry, I’m here to introduce your first gift to your betrothed.” Dennis’ cadence was unhurried. “The gift I speak of is Sacrifice. You may think that the sacrifice was made by my brother, but the sacrifice we are talking about was one you made to help make us free. Your willingness to give your life for all of us made our victory possible. It made Colin’s death worth something. He would have been proud of you Harry.” Dennis’ voice trembled, slightly breaking, his will, challenged.

Dennis pulled out a small translucent stone, no more than half the size of his palm. The stone was a deep blue, bright with facets that shone in all directions. He pointed his wand at the stone. After a moment, it began to glow, its radiance increasing, until the stone itself disappeared into frenetic beams of light. Dennis reached his hand over towards Ron, who was holding a small leather pouch. Dennis’ hand placed the shimmering light into the open pouch. When Ron pulled the strings on the pouch, the rays of blue light disappeared.

Dennis smiled at Harry, “See you later, Harry!”

Ron waved at Dennis and pulled Harry away from the cemetery. “This isn’t exactly what I expected.” Harry was grateful for the sentiment, but still didn’t understand exactly what was going on.

“Harry, trust me, this is required. It’s so important that they usually put a Fidellius Charm on the proceedings.” Ron maneuvered Harry along a familiar path.

“Maybe they keep it secret so that the grooms don’t try to avoid it.” Harry was surprised at his own disappointment. The more he’d dreaded a traditional bachelor party, the more he’d been looking forward to some unadulterated fun. They made their way down the path that Harry knew, led them to Hagrid’s. Their old friend was standing outside his house, waiting their arrival.

“Well, ‘arry m’ boy. Tomorrow, y’ll be a man!”

“Thanks Hagrid, you’re coming of course!” Harry couldn’t imagine the ceremony without the half Giant.

“O’ Course. But firs’, I git the pleasure of presentin’ the second gift y’ll be givin’ swee’ Ginny. Y’ see, your gift is tha’ o’ Compassion. You saved Buckbeak, an’ for tha’ y’ll be blessed ‘arry.”

At that time, the hippogriff, Buckbeak swooped down, as if timed with the presentation. Come to think of it, Harry thought, it probably was.

Hagrid held open his hand, and within was an emerald green stone. He took the stone and seemingly broke it open, like opening an egg. A shimmering green light exploded from the fracture, radiating out from Hagrid’s hand. He then reached his hand, with the brilliant light over towards Ron’s waiting hands containing the pouch. Hagrid placed the green light into the pouch.

“I’ll be seein’ y’ later, ‘arry!” Hagrid waved them off as Ron pulled Harry back towards the gates of the school. The made their way back up to the school in silence. This experience was very strange to Harry, what exactly was this all about?

They made their way into the school, where they were met by the familiar figure of Neville Longbottom. Neville was the school’s Herbology professor and the role seemed to fit him. He walked like a man familiar with his environment, confident in his place in the world.

“Hello, Harry!” Neville’s handshake was firm. “By the way, I’ve got Silas and Mortimer diluting a bushel of bubotubers right now. Don’t you worry; I think it’ll be a long time before they’ll be causing mischief.”

“Thanks Neville.” Harry’s thoughts drifted back to his capture of the two boys, his first training session with Sarah. “So where are we going?”

Neville stayed silent. Leading his two friends up to the seventh floor, he found the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy trying to teach trolls to dance. Neville put his head down and walked past the tapestry three times. On his third pass, a doorway appeared.

“The Room of Requirement!” Harry’s outburst broke the silence. Ron nodded his head and pointed Harry ahead of him to follow Neville into the doorway. The room was configured as it had been when Dumbledore’s Army was being trained by Harry in the Defense Against the Dark Arts. Neville had moved to stand in the middle of the room. He gestured Harry over.

“Harry, I’m to tell of your third gift for your wife to be, that being the gift of Strength. Your strength in the dark times inspired us to learn how to defend ourselves. Even when you had to go on your quest, we were inspired to fight the battle from here. In this room. You are giving Ginny that strength to continue the fight, against all odds, no matter what the foe.”

Neville’s voice had been strong and steady during his presentation. He removed a clear golden stone from his sleeve and tapped it with his wand. Like the others before him, the light reflected the color of the stone, which Neville also placed in Ron’s pouch.

After leading his friends back to the gates of the school, Neville shook Harry’s hand. “I’ll be seeing you later, Harry. Good luck!”

“Ron, I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I have to say that this has been quite unexpected.”

Ron laughed, “I believe you, Harry. Think about my situation for a minute. When I got married, I got taken around by my dad. Considering who my brothers are, I was a little disappointed at first, but as you remember, the evening did become, interesting.”

Harry agreed, the night had been interesting to say the least. Ron tapped Harry’s wrist and together they disappeared into the air.

Harry couldn’t hide his surprise at their next destination. They’d landed in the pedestrian tunnel near his Aunt Petunia’s house at 4 Privet Drive. It was in this tunnel that he and his cousin Dudley had encountered two dementers back before his fifth year at Hogwarts. Ron pulled Harry towards the playground where he’d spent many a day, hiding from his aunt and uncle, and observed his cousin bullying smaller children in company with his hanger-on friends. As they approached the park, a large, overweight man made his way towards them. It was his cousin Dudley, grown now. Dudley looked different than when Harry had seen him last. His face was the same, but there was a kindness and alertness that Harry had never seen before in his face.

Dudley smiled at Harry and offered a hand. Harry took his hand. Dudley’s grip was firm, but not overpowering. “Hello, Harry. It’s been a while.”

“Yes it has, how are your mum and dad?” Harry’s Aunt Petunia was his mother’s sister. The Dursley’s were Harry’s only remaining blood relatives, yet his life with them had been a less than enjoyable experience. The one key element of living with the Dursley’s was that his mother’s protection extended to his safekeeping within their house, so Harry endured the harshness of the existence.

Dudley took a look at Ron, who returned a wink. “Harry, I know I’ve never treated you kindly or civilly for that matter. My mother and dad never really treated you as family either. But, you saved our lives, regardless. You saved my life. I’ll never forget it. We’re family, you and me. I’m glad to hear that you’re to be married, so I wanted to be part of it.”

Harry allowed himself a sharp intake of breath; this was beyond his wildest expectations.

“The fourth gift you’ll bring to your wife, Harry, is the gift of Family. Despite the fact that you’ve never had the chance to enjoy a family, you’ve more than acted the part. This is your family’s blessing of your wedding, so that you don’t have to be alone.”

Harry was visibly moved by Dudley’s gesture. It meant that some connection from his mother, through her nephew, was going to be part of his wedding. Dudley again checked with Ron, and then pulled out an amber stone. Holding it up in his hand, he threw it to the ground, seemingly shattering it. Only instead of breaking, the stone burst into a bright orange light. Dudley looked at the starburst hesitantly, then reached down and picked it up. Moving towards them, he dropped the light into the pouch.

“Will you be there tomorrow, Dudley?” Harry wanted his cousin to be at his wedding, to get a chance to meet his wife.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Harry, but don’t worry, I’ll see you later tonight.” He gave Harry a pat on the back and walked off away from them.

“Tonight, why does everyone keep saying that? Is there some other ceremony going on? Wait a minute Ron, does Ginny have to do this too?”

“I don’t know about Ginny, Harry. We only have two more stops.” Ron grabbed Harry’s arm and apparated away.

Their last destination was King’s Cross Station. At this time of the evening, it was less busy, less confused. Guiding Harry along, Ron led them to Platform 9 ¾ where it all started. This is where he left for Hogwarts for the first time, where he met Ron and Hermione, and where he caught his first glimpse of Ginny Weasley, his wife to be. The platform was deserted, no sounds save for their steps could be heard. At the end of the platform, Hermione Granger Weasley stood, alone, smiling.

“Hello Harry.”

Harry leaned towards Ron’s ear, “Some bachelor party, the best man had to bring his wife.”

Ron laughed, which was abruptly halted on a look from Hermione.

“Harry, this isn’t a ‘bachelor party’ in the strictest sense. This is part of your commitment ritual. My loving husband hasn’t been calling it a bachelor party, has he? I’m sure he would have told me if he’d planned such a juvenile event, wouldn’t you Ron?”

Ron nodded his head soberly. Harry’s confusion was at its peak. “So, you’re part of this commitment ceremony?”

“I’m the last part of the gift you are giving to your fiancé.” Harry looked at Ron, as if to say “I thought you said we had two stops remaining.” Ron shushed Harry with his eyes.

Hermione continued, “This is where it all began, for us. You and I and Ron met here. Your gift is that of Friendship. It’s a bond that near unbreakable. You’ve always been our friend, Harry, and I can think of no greater gift to bring to a marriage.”

With that, she brought out a red stone, brilliant like a ruby. Pointing her wand towards the stone, it broke into the anticipated radiance Harry had seen from the other stones. Instead of placing the light into Ron’s pouch, she waited for Ron to approach her.

Ron had opened his pouch and waved his wand over the opening. Like butterflies in a summer wind, the four collected radiances fluttered out of the pouch and began a dance in the air, around Hermione’s hand. The colors mixed together in a whirl of reds, blues, yellows and greens. Eventually the pallet of lights came together, fusing in one last explosion of energy that flashed a blinding white. When the light cleared, there remained in Hermione’s hand, a perfectly round, gold ring. Harry reached over and picked up the ring.

“It’s Ginny’s wedding band.” His statement was matter of fact, as if he’d known it all along, and yet, he hadn’t.

“The wedding ring you give Ginny is built on the energy of your gifts to the marriage. That’s what this is about.” Her smile warmed Harry, he reached out and hugged her tight.

“Thanks Hermione. Thanks Ron. This means everything to me.” Ron shrugged his shoulders, then moved over and gave his wife a kiss.

“Well, I should be getting Harry back, he’s got a big day tomorrow.” Ron hurriedly pushed his friend back down the platform.

“Ron.” Hermione had not moved from her spot on the platform. “Try not to get him too drunk. You had better keep Lee and George in check. I will know.”

Ron’s nervous laugh was lost in her glare. “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.” Ron quickly grabbed Harry’s arm and apparated the both of them away.

They arrived back in Hogsmeade, in the alley just outside the Hog’s Head Tavern. Harry brought the ring up to closer to his face, examining its features. It had a simple beauty, unblemished with but a simple inscription on the inside. The scroll work was small, but blazed with its own light.

“A man sees himself through the eyes of the woman he loves”

Harry smiled and looked over to Ron. “So, that was a bachelor party. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. Thanks, Ron.” Harry embraced his friend, the memories of years together overwhelming his senses.

Behind them, the door to the Hog’s Head opened. “Hey, they’re here! If you two are done kissing, we’d like to start the festivities!” Harry turned to find George Weasley’s frame filling the door way.

Harry turned to Ron in bemusement. His friend simply shrugged his shoulders. “What? You really didn’t think your bachelor party amounted to something from Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’, did you?” Harry surrendered to his friend’s prodding and allowed himself to be drawn into the pub.

The interior of the Hog’s Head was noticeably different from his visit only a short time before. The room was packed with his friends, all in various states of inebriation. Alberforth Dumbledore the brother of Harry’s mentor, was in his familiar place behind the bar, doling out mugs of something that didn’t exactly look like butterbeer.

Harry’s arrival caused a general tumult of greeting, as the party goers made their way to congratulate him. First to reach him was Neville, who gave Harry a strong embrace and clap on the back. Soon Harry was engulfed by a wave of hugs, handshakes and pats on the back by his friends. Dennis approached him, using his size and strength to clear a path through the well wishers. In his hand, he held a tankard of frothing liquid, amber in color and cold to the touch. He handed the mug to Harry, encouraging him to take a sip. Harry raised a wary eyebrow.

“What is it?”

Lee Jordan walked up leading Dudley by the arm. “Dudley here brought it. It’s called beer. It’s a traditional muggle drink for these occasions.”

“What’s it do?”

“Not a thing. From what I understand, it’s just traditional, but has no mentionable properties or effects on the constitution, right Dudley?” Lee ushered Dudley away before the large man could utter an intelligible response. Harry gave his shoulders a shrug, much to the delight of the gathering.

The party got into full swing, with Harry being handed several tankards of the “beer” in a very short time. When he’d gotten to a point where he felt he’d needed to stop, the assembled co-conspirators broke into rounds of toasts, in order to ensure Harry’s continued consumption.

At one point, Oliver Wood stood up holding his stein high. A small, unobtrusive part of Harry’s brain seemed to note that the drink in Oliver’s mug looked a lot like butterbeer, and not the concoction that Harry was drinking. That small cognitive voice was soon drowned out by the placement of another glass of beer in Harry’s hand, in preparation for Oliver’s toast.

“Friends, we are here to celebrate Harry.” Cheers broke out all around. “Let me just say, that I was the first person to recognize Harry’s skill in Quidditch, putting him on the Gryffindor team in his first year! We won the cup!” More cheers, with some hissing from the non-Gryffindor contingent in the room. Oliver continued, “However, I may not be the best judge of talent. I mean, all Gryffindor had to do, was wait one more year. Because as of tomorrow, the best Quidditch player, the best Seeker with a Potter name, will be Harry’s wife Ginny!” Laughter broke out at that, but Oliver had one more point to make. “Here’s to Harry, who had the will, the fortitude, the strength and the foresight, to convince Ginny to become a reporter, so I don’t have to face her on the pitch, ever again!” The crowd roared in its applause, encouraging Harry to down his tankard of beer.

As the night progressed, Harry felt warm and lightheaded. His brain muddled by the drink and the fun. On one occasion he found himself taking the scene in. He’d just received a toast from Lachlan McCrory, which included a full glass of the man’s infernal “scotch”. Now Lachlan, George and Dudley were huddled in a corner, casting nervous glances Harry’s way. Harry had risen and was walking past them. Harry managed to hear a brief snippet of their conversation.

“So Dudley, let me see if I have this straight, liquor before beer, everything’s clear; beer before liquor, everything’s sicker. Now, which did Harry drink first?” Positive glee emanated from George’s voice.

During a lull in the party, basically a time for the food and drink to be replenished, Harry managed to work his way outside, for a breath of air. He walked down the alley to the main street of Hogsmeade, while the sounds of the party drifted across the night. It was cool, a slight breeze hit his face rousting him from his haze. He stood in the street, looking up at the night sky. The stars seemed brighter, closer and full moon shone down on the town below. Harry basked in the moon’s glow, a brief flicker of memory triggered towards Remus which introduced a flood of reflections, on Sirius, on his father, on his mother. Harry’s thoughts drifted to Teddy, and then to his friends. The drink had clouded his vision somewhat, so his memories passed in a rapid fashion, but not altogether unpleasant. Finally, one image crystallized in his brain. Her face came to focus with a clarity that, temporarily at least, sobered Harry with its warmth and vitality. Ginny was his base, his core, his whole life. He smiled, knowing that everything would be different tomorrow, everything would be better.

“What are you laughing at?” The voice shocked him into alertness.

Standing in front of him was Ginny. She was there! What was she doing there?

“Ginny, er, um, hi, um, what are you doing here?” She laughed at his confusion.

“Well, my party is down at the Three Broomsticks, I just needed a breath of air.” Harry’s eyes grew wide. Party? Ginny’s having a party, too?

They shared a laugh. The past month had been hectic, to say the least, but the past few months had been positively dizzying. What had come out of their experiences though had been a realization of how much they needed each other. Her expression was amused, playful, her eyes sparkling in the moonlight. The moon’s glow created a halo around her head, filtering through her hair, merging with each lock lending an ethereal quality to her gaze. His breathing grew shallow, her presence taking the air from his lungs; he reached out his hands, grasping hers as a swimmer grasps a life line. She smiled at him; the effect more intoxicating than any drink he’d ever had. He drew her towards him and they kissed their last kiss as two separate people. He felt an electric shock through his being, warmth radiating from her lips to his, transferring down to the ground through his toes. After a moment, their lips parted, but Harry felt the residual energy remain, as if they were still connected.

She turned from him, her smile glowing wider, “Tomorrow, Harry, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He gave her a speechless wave, a dumbfounded smile on his own face. He reached his hand to his mouth, his lips still tingling.

“Hey, there you are!” Ron had walked up behind Harry, but had not seen Ginny’s receding form, preserving the moment as one that she and him were privy to. “What are doing out here?”

“Just getting a breath of fresh air, I don’t know what’s in that beer, but my head is a little funny.”

Ron snickered, “No, you’re imagining that. Come on, now, we’ve some games to play!”

Harry took one last look down the street, then turned to his friend. “Games? Nothing strange, I hope.” Ron gave Harry his best reassuring expression.

“Fine, let’s go play those games. Ron?” Ron looked at his friend, curious as to the question being poised.

“It might be the beer, but did I see George and Lee leading a donkey into the Hog’s Head?”


***Author's Note: Ok, so maybe, deep down, I'm a sap at heart. Sue me. Working on the Wedding Chapter, I've decided to write it from scratch, so it will be a departure from my previous fic. It should be ready by tomorrow.

Feedback and toasts to the happy couple are welcome.

http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=110463


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Thanks to cybobbie for the awesome sig pic!
Thanks to the best fanclub in the world!

My Fanfics:
A History of Magic: Part II - Beyond the Epilogue
Teddy Lupin and the Legacy of the Marauders ; A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era (on hiatus); You Are Cordially Invited... (First Attempt)

Last edited by USNAGator91; August 17th, 2007 at 5:15 pm.
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Old August 18th, 2007, 7:43 am
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The Godfather
 
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 27 – Mr. and Mrs. Harry J. Potter

The room was a scene of destruction and chaos. Dawn’s light had begun to filter through the cracks of the weather-beaten shutters. Here and there, tendrils of the sun’s warmth would illuminate the aftermath of the devastation. Furniture was flung about in random patterns as if a tornado had ripped through the center of the small edifice. An observer happening onto the scene would immediate lock on to the bodies strewn about grotesquely, the smell permeating the air around them. In the immediate center of the room, one of the fallen had landed directly under one of the tables. His arms were askew in an unnatural angle, his face pressed hard against the cold, stone floor. Upon further observation, the body in the center of the room began to stir.

He felt an emptiness in his head that seemed to traverse the extent of his body. His mouth felt like he’d swallowed a bed sheet with the latter part catching in his throat. The resounding toll of bells seemed to echo in his head, as if his brain had shrunk to a quarter of its normal size and was rattling around incessantly in his empty skull. He made a quick attempt to open his eyes and immediately regretted the choice, as the insides of his eyelids seemed to be coated with broken glass. He knew he had to find out where he was, so he attempted the eyelid opening maneuver using just one eye and moving very slowly. After an eternity, he managed to slide one eye open, well half way, anyway. The green of his eye was framed with a bright red, making focusing a difficult proposition. As the room came into focus, he was able to see the dingy gray of the pavestones. He knew they were pavestones, because his mouth was physically attached to one of them. Slowly, he lifted his head from the floor, trying to keep his head attached to his shoulders using a delicate balancing act.

Harry slowly moved his body upright and scanned the surrounding area. What was left of his party, including empty mugs, plates, food and especially his friends were scattered across every horizontal surface of the bar. Ron was wedged firmly on the steps, a gentle snore emanating from his body. George Weasley had various caricatures painted on his face, while Lee Jordan and Harry’s cousin Dudley were passed out, heads together, with incriminating magic markers in their hands. Dennis Creevey was laid out flat on the top of the bar, his arms hanging limply and Harry had no idea how it was physically possible for Seamus Finnegan to be lying on top of the fireplace mantle. All in all, it was a very good party.

About that time, he managed to open his other eye. Now armed with both his eyes, Harry noticed that the aftermath of his bachelor party was worse than he thought. There was a slight nagging thought, as if he had something to do, but couldn’t quite figure it out.

“Merlin’s Left Eyeball!” The shout penetrated his skull like a hot knife through, well, like a hot knife through his skull. Hermione Weasley and Cho Chang stood framed in the doorway of the Hog’s Head Inn. “Harry, it’s nine in the morning, of your wedding day.”

Harry thought, “That was it, that’s what I have to do today.” Then he immediately regret the effort that thinking took and the pain generated by it.

Hermione spied her husband Ron, lying peacefully in his corner of the pub. “Ron Weasley!” Her first attempt caused Ron to turn over onto his side and induced a louder bout of snoring from him. Hermione looked around and picked up a bucket of water, located near the bar. Harry really wanted to warn his friend, but thought the effort wasn’t really worth the pain. So he watched Hermione rear back with the bucket, and toss its contents onto Harry’s best man. Ron sat upright immediately, sputtering the mouthful of water he’d immediately received. “Ron, dear. You may want to escort your friend and future brother-in-law home to get ready for his wedding.”

Harry knew Ron was in deep trouble, because Hermione’s tone was level with a hint of sweetness. That was definitely not a good sign. Ron pulled himself up and immediately shot a hand to his head. Good, thought Harry, he wasn’t the only one who had a gnome with a hammer banging on his forehead. Gathering himself with some semblance of pride, Ron walked gingerly across the room stepping over the undisturbed bodies of his friends, and helped Harry stand, a move that caused both of them a modicum of discomfort. Holding his head high, Ron pulled Harry out the door. As they walked up the alley, they heard Cho and Hermione begin the indelicate task of rousing the rest of the co-conspirators of the bachelor party.

Eventually, Ron mustered enough concentration to side-along apparate Harry and himself back to Harry’s street, not trusting himself to get them too close to the building. Side by side, the two friends made their way into 12 Grimmauld Place. Somehow, they managed to crawl to the kitchen and collapse at the table. It seemed like a good decision to wait for a while, before doing anything at all.

Their mutual misery was exacerbated by the loud crack of a disapparation inside the kitchen. Harry’s house-elf, Kreacher, was making his morning appearance to Harry’s kitchen.

“Master, good to see you home!” The small gray figure of the house-elf held himself momentarily in a bow. “Kreacher is so pleased that Mistress Ginny will be returning today, as your wife, no less.”

Harry managed a barely audible, “Thank you, Kreacher.”

Kreacher took a closer look at Ron and Harry, noting their lack of animation and general comportment. Having served generations of the Blacks, several of whom had been legendary carousers, Kreacher had a good idea of what ailed his master, and a remedy for it. Moving quickly and efficiently around the kitchen, he prepared a special tea for Ron and Harry, adding ingredients in a manner only he remembered. Within minutes, he was placing piping hot mugs of this tea in front of the two men.

“Master, drink this please. It will prepare you for this special day!” Harry was willing to try just about anything at this juncture, so he took a tentative sip at the tea. Immediately, the brass band in his forehead ceased playing. Drinking down a bigger sip, the spike lodged behind his eyes began to withdraw itself, slowly. Soon Harry had downed the entire mug and he was feeling worlds better. Looking across the table, Harry saw that the tea had similar recuperative effects on Ron.

“Kreacher, you are a life saver. That was splendid, thank you.”

The stooped house-elf offered a bow and moved off to tinker in the kitchen. Ron was stretching his arms, checking the soundness of his limbs.

“Well, that was an interesting evening.” Ron had a friendly twinkle in his eye. “You ready for today?”

Harry eyed his friend, “I was hoping that you’d been able to enact the Fidelius Charm, so that, no one could ever speak of what happened last night.”

Ron’s laugh proved infectious and the two friends laughed together.

The bachelor party notwithstanding, Harry was ready for today, in fact, this was a day he’d been ready for practically his whole life. Today, he was getting married to Ginny completing a long journey and starting a whole new one. For the greatest part of his life, he’d been without family, his parents murders and his blood relatives had not really wanted him. He’d had surrogates, the Weasleys and the people he’d met at Hogwarts, but in terms of real family he’d been isolated and alone for the most part. Even when he’d thought that he was close, as when he finally had met his godfather, Sirius, that was taken away from him as well. Today, the emptiness, the loneliness would be wiped away forever. He’d be part of a family, with Ginny, and no one could take that away.

Feeling completely refreshed, Harry went up to his room to gather his formals for the trek to Godric’s Hollow. Harry placed his belongings in his charmed Auror’s haversack and went down to collect Ron. Together, they made their way to the living room to avail themselves of the Floo Network. Within moments, the two friends found themselves at the pub located at Godric’s Hollow. The place was packed, apparently the news of Harry and Ginny’s upcoming nuptials drawing guests and curiosity seekers alike to the sleepy hamlet. Upon seeing Harry, many of the pub’s patrons offered their good wishes and offered to buy him a drink, which of course, he politely refused, helped invariably by the rumbling in his stomach at the thought of any liquid touching his insides, at that moment.

They’d arrived about noon, so Harry asked Ron if they could pass by the cemetery where his parents were buried. They walked in silence, Harry’s thoughts racing as they walked towards the church near the cemetery. As the walked through the kissing gate, Ron fell back a bit, allowing Harry to carry on in private. Harry made his way to his parents’ resting place and stood for a moment, reflecting on the day and allowing a tinge of regret that they were not there to witness it.

“Mom and Dad,” Harry didn’t know why, but saying the words out loud helped him feel closer, connected to his parents. “Ginny and I are getting married today. She’s a wonderful woman; she’s everything that I’m not, and more. Dad, I don’t know what you felt , that made you want to marry Mom, but if it was anything like the way I feel about Ginny, I completely understand.” He took a moment to brush a small blade of grass that the breeze had blown onto their grave marker. “I miss you two. I wish you were here.” He dropped his head for a moment and turned to join Ron. They started their walk to the ceremony site.

************************************************** ************************************************** *******

Godric’s Hollow has a relatively small number of dwellings, surrounded by open country all around and dotted with small copses breaking up the open space. Harry and Ginny had chosen the floor of a hidden vale as the site of their wedding. Ringed by rolling hills, the location was positioned to allow breezes in but shade the midday sun from its visitors. Since their decision to hold the ceremony on this day, Molly Weasley had marshaled a virtual army of compatriots to transform the low valley into a suitable location for the wedding. Andromeda Tonks was especially delighted to help the couple, losing herself in the preparations that seemed to provide a cathartic release for her, a final farewell to her lost family through the happiness of her grandson’s godfather.

When Harry and Ron arrived, Molly immediately placed Ron to work at some last minute details of the ceremony. Harry smiled and moved towards an area that held several tall tents, being used as changing areas and gathering places. Harry entered one of the structures and changed into his wedding robes. He’d selected, well Ginny had selected anyway, an ensemble that reflected his career choice as a Auror. His robes were midnight black, solid, impenetrable, yet lacking menace. The robes were softened by his Auror’s shield affixed to his left breast, its comet and stars tracing a slow orbit around the perimeter of the talisman. On his right breast, he wore his Order of Merlin, First Class which had an animated crystal attached denoting Harry’s second award of the medal. He wore his black leather, knee-length boots, polished to a high sheen, with blousing pantaloons tucked into them. He took one look at himself in a full length mirror, deemed his appearance acceptable, and moved outside to take in his surroundings.

Checking his watch, a gift from the Weasleys on a Christmas long ago, Harry noticed he’s still had well over an hour until the ceremony. Having been shooed away from any attempt to assist in the preparations, Harry wandered up a hill to be alone with his thoughts. He walked to the summit, and stood next to a birch standing sentinel over the countryside. Taking in his surroundings, his mind went over the events of his life, fast forwarding through the harshest parts and dwelling on the most pleasant. As he so often noted, most of the pleasant memories involved Ginny. With a sigh, he made his way down to start greeting guests, who had begun to arrive.

Spring was an ideal time in Godric’s Hollow. The breezes across the countryside provided a refreshing escape from the midday sun. The valley had been transformed; a large pavilion had been erected to house the ceremony. A sheer white fabric covered the top of the pavilion with the ends charmed to ebb and flow in slow, concentric patterns. Chairs were arrayed in rows, facing towards a raised dais, which was covered in rose petals that constantly replenished their numbers. Daffodils and lilacs seemingly grew wild, in random patterns across the floor of the pavilion, and floated free throughout the air, allowing their scent to permeate the gathering. Soft music pulsed about, its source unseen and its temp changing with the events going on at the time. Harry took in his surroundings and closed his eyes. The setting was perfect because it reminded him of her. The flowery aromas of the lilacs, daffodils and roses blend to just give justice to the scent of Ginny’s hair. The soft music danced melodies that gave life to her eyes. The dazzling white of the sun’s rays through the fabric reminded him of aura of beauty that she held whenever he saw her. Suddenly, he wanted this to happen now, he felt a mild ache, from missing her and he wanted to be with her, at that moment, as if the wait for the next hour would be torture.

His discomfort was saved by the sight of some of his approaching guests. He couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Dennis Creevey’s approach. On Dennis’ arm, holding him close, was Cho Chang, smiling coyly, her eyes barely leaving Dennis. “Hello, Harry.” The smile on Dennis’ face telling the story of his own happiness.

“I see you were able to revive him, Cho.” Her blush made Harry smile. “Welcome, you two. I’m glad you could come.”

They smiled and made their way towards the seating area. As Harry watched them go, he felt a tap on his shoulder, “Hello, Harry, it’s about time you two were married, I really don’t know what you were waiting for.” The whimsical quality of the voice sang in Harry’s ear.

“Hello, Luna. Welcome, Mr. Lovegood.” Harry nodded to Luna’s father, who’d continued his way into the pavilion. Luna offered Harry a smile.

“You two have a bond, a connection. You should have seen how admirable her restraint was at her party!”

“Er, thanks, Luna.” What kind of situation had merited restraint? Harry never really got a chance to ask the question as Luna had moved on to follow her father. Harry shook his head and found himself seeing a familiar face.

“Hello, Sarah. I’m very glad you could come.” Harry’s trainee had taken his wardrobe advice to heart. She was wearing a simple black dress which accentuated her figure. “You look absolutely lovely.” The compliment caused a rush of blood to her cheeks, causing her to turn her eyes down.

“Thanks Harry. Thanks for inviting me, everything is so beautiful.” Harry chuckled as Lee Jordan practically fell over himself to provide Sarah an escort down to the seating area. A commotion drew Harry’s attention as several statuesque women made their presence known, led by Gwenog Jones. The Holyhead Harpies had arrived together, but also simultaneously with the Puddlemere United, lead by Oliver Wood. The two teams stood at the entrance, staring each other down, not wanting to cede the path to the other. A scene was in the making. Oliver, ever the diplomat, made a pronounced exaggerated bow, and offered his arm to Gwenog. She laughed openly and took his offered arm, and the two escorted each other down the aisle. The rest of their teams followed their leave, making for a parade of Quidditch excellence.

In almost no time, he felt another hand on his shoulder, and turned to see the face of his best man, Ron. “Well, are you ready?” Ron’s question was earnest, kind. “It’s time to get you up on the dais.”

Harry took a deep breath. “I’m ready.” That was all he could manage. Ron gave a laugh and grasped Harry by the shoulders.

“Harry, relax. You’re my best friend. I love my sister and she’s marrying my best friend. I can’t think of anything better in the world. Being with Hermione has made me a better man, and Ginny will do the same for you. So relax, and let’s go start the rest of your life.” Harry breathed a little easier, and followed Ron down to the dais. Alone atop the platform, Harry was met by the faces of the countless numbers of friends, families and strangers looking back at him. A sudden feeling of vertigo began to overtake him, a nervousness born of his natural unease with being the center of attention. He felt his knees weakening and his mouth drying to uselessness. How would he get through this?

Then it happened, as if timed to appear during his greatest distress, the linen parted at the entrance to the tent at the far end of the pavilion. Ginny was standing in the archway, preparing to move down towards him. His anxiety melted and the faces staring at him disappeared as his only focus was the vision of beauty down the aisle. She was resplendent in her white gown, her shoulders bare and intricate beadwork patterns dotting the bodice. The train floated behind her, seemingly floating along on their own volition. Her auburn tresses hung freely, unencumbered by restraint, yet dignified and controlled as if willed to frame her face, providing a crimson aura around her countenance. Her expression was calm, happy and loving, all at once. Her eyes sparkled, somehow dancing with a lively light, yet never leaving his as she made her way to him. Her lips were rounded into a gleaming smile and her cheeks had reddened, offering color to her porcelain complexion.

When she rose to the top of the dais, joining him, he sensed the same tingling of energy that they had shared in their previous kiss, except it was more intense, more pleasurable. Grasping hands, he felt the electricity course through his body, almost paralyzing, yet at the same time relaxing. His eyes didn’t leave her. He made no acknowledgement of anyone else, except her. She was everything to him, his whole life. He had to remind himself to breathe. She gave him a reassuring glance and they turned to face the figure that had joined them on the platform.

Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic, former Auror and legacy member of the Order of the Phoenix had volunteered to conduct the wedding. He stood before them, his smile genuine, his enthusiasm transparent. He had told Harry, that this would be his most favorite task as Minister.

“To all gathered here, in this place. We seek to acknowledge the everlasting bond between two souls, Harry and Ginerva. Love is the greatest power on this world, and when we are fortunate to love, we must ensure its endurance. Harry and Ginny have declared their love, and so we join them in matrimony.” Kingsley recitation of the words rang throughout the area, but Harry barely heard them. His consciousness, his total awareness centered on her, the vision of absolute beauty before him.

The ceremony continued apace. As the approached the ending of the ceremony, the time came for the exchange of the rings. For the first time since Ginny had made her appearance, Harry turned from her to welcome his godson, Teddy up to the platform. Teddy’s face was serious, his task solemn. He was in charge of the rings, for his Uncle Harry. That made him a big boy, and he was going to make Uncle Harry proud. Teddy made his way up to Harry and held up the pillow holding the rings. Harry and Ginny bent down to retrieve the rings from Teddy’s charge. Harry touched Teddy on the top of the head in thanks and Ginny offered him a kiss on the cheek. Teddy’s hair turned a deep shade of red, then green, then blue in reaction to the affection. Giggling, he turned and returned to his grandmother’s side.

The ritual of the rings was the most important part of the ceremony. It was here that the two become one by the symbol and magic in the rings. Once again facing each other, Ginny offered her hand to Harry, who placed the ring fashioned by his gifts on her finger. A series brilliant shoots of light emanated from the ring, swirling around the couple and forming the letters of the inscription on the ring. Harry intoned the words, that reflected his heart.

“A man sees himself through the eyes of the woman he loves.”

Ginny’s eyes shone at the sentiment, the love she felt for him penetrating his soul and reflecting out to the assembled crowd.

Next it was Harry’s turn to place his hand in hers. She placed a ring on his finger and a matching cacophony of light shared its brilliance. The inscription on Harry’s ring displayed to the crowd.

“I love you - those three words have my life in them.”

Her eyes never left his as she repeated the words. Clasping hands together, Kingsley waved his wand over the both, causing an explosion of light and sound that danced over their heads.

Kingsley closed the proceedings. “Harry and Ginny are bonded, they are as one. Let us endeavor to support them and their love as they make their way, together down the path of life. Harry, you may kiss the bride.”

The last time their lips had met, it was private, under a full moon, a stolen moment between two people. This kiss was a new beginning, the start of their lives together. Their lips met, softly, their smiles matching. As it progressed, a passionate insistence caused the kiss to become more urgent, as if their souls were melding in this one contact. They heard no sound, they had no awareness of their surroundings. There was only the two of them, together at last and this kiss was the seal to the bond between them, that when they sat back and thought about, was fated from the first day they saw each other.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic, loudly announced. “It is my pleasure to present for the first time in public view, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Potter.”

They were still locked in their first kiss, and did not hear the roar of applause from their friends and family.

The reception was as Gawain Robards had promised, the “social event” of the year. Aside from their friends and family, there were functionaries and self-important dignitaries that had to make an appearance at the festivities. Harry and Ginny did their level best to avoid them. Instead, they focused their energies, on each other. Sitting alone, their first stolen moments of their day, they took the time to survey the party, now in full swing.

The members of the Harpies were still paired with members of the United, but the most impressive sight was that of Oliver Wood dancing with Gwenog Jones. She stood almost a half a head taller than him, so when looking from afar, no one could really tell who was leading.

Hermione and Ron were also dancing, but seemingly unaware of the music. They danced to a tune only known to them. Her head rested on his chest, his cheek resting on the top of her head. Ginny placed her head on Harry’s shoulder.

“They were meant for each other, weren’t they?” Her voice immediately drawing a small kiss from him.

“Of course, although it was funny, for the longest time, they were the only ones that didn’t realize it.” This drew a laugh from his bride. “We were meant to be, you know.” His tone was serious.

“Of course I knew that.” She gave him a small tap on the head. “You were just too busy saving the world to take advantage of that.”

He smiled, “I’m hoping to rectify that error, soon enough.” Her elbow found his ribs, obviously Hermione had been giving her lessons.

The party continued well into the evening, the revelers enjoying the happiness of the newlyweds. Molly Weasley’s continued weeping for joy, finally caused Arthur to usher her home, hoping that this wasn’t a portent of the Sunday Dinners to come.

The departure of the elder Weasleys seemed to signal the other guests to draw down the festivities. One by one, couple by couple, the well wishers trickled home. Soon, all that remained were the happily married couple and Ron and Hermione. They sat around a table, recounting the day’s events.

“Congratulations, you two, but it’s time for me to get this one home.” Hermione pulled on Ron’s arm. “Come on, Ron.” She turned to her friends, her mind reflecting on the how perfect they were together. “We don’t expect to see you two out and about for quite a spell, ok?”

Ginny laughed, “No need to worry, we’ll find something to do.” Ginny watched as Ron pulled Hermione to his chest, wrapping his arms around her and disappearing, together. The simple way their bodies fit together, for an act as common as any, but the tenderness, the love showed through and brought a smile to her face.

“Come on Harry, let’s go home.” Harry didn’t argue, the exhaustion of the day overpowering him. Ginny pulled him close to her, facing him and realizing that her body fit perfectly within his arms. He smiled at her and kissed her forehead, and together they disappeared.

They arrived outside the home at 12 Grimmauld Place. Holding hands, they made their way up the landing. Harry gathered a sudden inspiration and scooped up Ginny in his arms. Kicking the front door open, he kissed her hard on the lips, and carried his bride across the threshold.

As the door shut, a brass plaque on the front of the door was knocked askew. A flash of light and sound announced Kreacher’s arrival outside the door. He reached a small hand up and adjusted the plaque on the front of the door, and waved his hand over it. Satisfied, he disappeared in a flash. The plaque had been cleaned and shined up. The scrollwork had once simply said “Black”.

Now it had a flourishing script in red and gold letters that glittered in the night. It’s new inscription boldly announcing the home’s occupants to the world:

“The Potters”



***Author's Note: Hope you enjoyed it. I did. This one was for all us mushies.
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Old August 19th, 2007, 12:24 am
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 28 – Prisoner Thirteen

Between the northeastern shores of Britain and the southeastern coasts of Scandinavia lies the North Sea, a foreboding body of water that challenges the heartiest of souls. Oftentimes, it is masked by dark clouds and thundering seas. Only the bravest and the most capable dare to traverse its waters and even then take their lives into their hands. There is a small island in the middle of the sea, its shores besieged by the unrelenting surf and wind, waves crashing in crescendo against the rocks and crags that surround the isle. Rising from the island, a gray stone tower reaches skyward, seemingly meeting the perpetual black clouds that hovered in the sky. The prison called Azkeban had seen its share of tumult over the past few years, the rise and fall of Voldemort had weakened its unassailable reputation as the time was marked by countless escapes by high profile prisoners and desertion by its erstwhile guards, the dementers.

The Shacklebolt regime in the Ministry of Magic realized the need to review and rebuild both the prison itself and its reputation. Given the fact that the roundup of Voldemort’s Deatheaters had continued at a rapid pace, Shacklebolt knew that the need for a secure holding facility was paramount. The structure of the prison had been rebuilt, its walls smoothed and charmed with the strongest holding spells known. Sphinxes roamed the grounds, answerable only to the Minister himself or his junior undersecretary, who was at this time, Percy Weasley. Trained Aurors patrolled the halls, their loyalty sealed with Unbreakable Vows, to each other and to the Minister’s office. Gone were the dementers and with them the experience associated with their presence. No longer were the prisoners subjected to the daily torture of enhanced hopelessness and the madness that had come with it over time.

This is not to say that the prisoners were free of discomfort or that their sentences were light or without punishment. Shacklebolt understood the nature of the prisoners that were to be incarcerated within the prison and knew that by their sheer evil nature, they required an environment that illuminated their status. The prison relied on isolation and hard labor as the primary means of punishment. The prisoners were kept from each other with no contact or interaction whatsoever with any other soul, excluding the occasional glimpse of their guards. Even then, the Aurors assigned to Azkeban all wore masks which hid their individuality, keeping their charges from identifying with them. Every day, the prisoner would be led from their cell, the time of day varying, so as not to allow a routine to develop, and would be brought to a room with rock piled to the ceiling. The prisoner would be forced to move the individual rocks from one side of the room to the other. It was backbreaking labor and it reinforced the loneliness the prisoners felt. The prisoners weren’t even called by name, but only by a number, further reducing their identification with their past.

Percy Weasley led the procession into the main arrivals area of Azkeban. His red hair was the only color that could be seen in the place. The only faces were his own and the blindfolded countenance of his charge. Several masked Aurors were leading the paralyzed form of Lucious Malfoy into the room, his face impassive, and a blindfold covering his eyes. By design, no one said a word, Percy nodded at the Auror receiving Malfoy, turned and walked away. When Percy had left, the head Auror uttered the first sounds that Malfoy had heard his entire transit to Azkeban.

“You are Prisoner 323. You will only respond to Prisoner 323. Any deviation will result in harsher punishment. Take him away.” The procession escorting Prisoner 323 moved down a long hallway, the first steps down the long journey towards the end of his life.

In another part of the prison, Prisoner 13 sat alone in her cell. The only sound was the drops of water from the wetness seeping through the cracks in the stone walls. She’d been alone for so long, that she’d almost forgotten her previous life, almost. She was a stickler for order, for control. She marked her time in her cell by fastidiously adjusting the bits of rock and dust to meet her rigid standards of propriety. When not straightening the imaginary furniture and articles, she sat on her cot, upright, erect, in other words, proper. She had been close to forgetting who she had been, how she always worked to preserve the order. She’d been close to forgetting her hatred of the unclean and those that lacked purity of bloodline. She almost forgot how much she hated children, especially the muggle loving brats at that hideous school. She was a heartbeat away of accepting her fate and completely discarding her life as it had been. That was until the voice entered her head. When she heard its words and understood their meaning, she resolved herself to never forgetting who she was. She would not forget, that she was Delores Umbridge.

The voice was soft, feminine and at first Umbridge thought that she was imagining it. The silence of her surroundings, however, slowly gave a resonance to the voice. It was definitely there, insistent. Umbridge took a while to really comprehend what the voice was saying, but what was time in a place like this, after all?

“Are you of pure blood, Delores Umbridge?”

For days, that was the only words that voice uttered. Umbridge would think to herself, “Of course, how silly a question.” But the question continued to be asked.

“Are you of pure blood, Delores Umbridge?”

Finally frustrated, Umbridge snapped out a retort, “Of course I am, that’s why I’m here, in this place, because I’m of pure blood and tried to preserve the real order.”

These had been first words she’d uttered in almost the entire time she’d been in Azkeban. The effort was hoarse, but defiant. She’d spoken forcefully and with intent.

“Will you serve to preserve the true order?”

Umbridge chortled at the thought. Serve? How? Where? From here? Perhaps the so-called justice-minded officials in the Ministry had developed an Azkeban not unlike the one before, maybe she was going mad.

“Will you serve to preserve the true order?”

She stopped herself from jeering this time, her mind racing. Would she serve? She’d always served, that was what she dedicated her life to. The mindless mongrels that constituted the new Ministry never understood what all this intermingling would mean to the preservation of the magic world. She saw herself as a beacon, a martyr to the true order. Would she serve? She had always served, and she served the true order now.

“I have always served the true order. I serve the true order today.” Part of her mind wondered if, indeed, she was suffering from dementia, hearing voices demanding her service would be an indicator.

“Come to me, and serve the true order.”

Not only was she going mad, but apparently her new “visitor” was mad as well. She was in Azkeban, she was coming to no one.

“Come to me, and serve the true order.”

Umbridge was thinking of an appropriately derisive retort when she felt a chill breeze cross her body. Her cell had no window. Umbridge had no idea what part of the prison she was in, what floor she was on. The current of air took her by surprise, there was no obvious source. The wall opposite the door began to shimmer, dissolving into nothingness, exposing the air outside her cell to her. It was storming, rain adding its force to the assault of the surf below. The sky was dark, punctuated by violent flashes of lightning that exposed the lack of horizon in the distance. She rose from her cot, and took a cautious look at her cell door. There was no sign that anyone had could hear the noise of the weather coming from outside.

“Come to me, and serve the true order.”

She moved towards the open wall, peeking into the darkness, when the sudden burst of another lightening strike illuminated a scaly body, hovering outside the opening in the wall. There was a leather saddle atop the form, with straps leading up to an unseen head. She paused for a moment, wondering if her madness had started conjuring up visions as well as voices. She took a breath and put her hand out in front of her, testing the reality of the hole in the wall. She drew her hand back. It was wet, from the rain. It was real.

She straightened her prison gown and brushed an imagined speck off her front. Drawing herself up, she walked through the opening and climbed onto the saddle. The figure drew itself up and banked away from Azkeban, unseen. The wall leading from her cell slowly resolved itself back into its original form, the only indication that the interior of the cell had seen the outside was a small puddle of water collected on the floor.

Overcoming her terror, Umbridge looked at the creature she was astride. It was smaller than a dragon, almost like an adolescent. While dragons had four legs and wings on its back, this creature was more upright, with two legs and true wings instead of upper legs/arms. Umbridge realized that she was on a wyvern, a creature similar to a dragon, but controllable by the darkest magic. Wyverns were fierce, violent and relished the taste of human flesh. Whoever controlled this animal must possess great power. The first rays of hope began to flash in her mind. She would serve. She would preserve the true order. By the looks of things, she would be able cleanse the Ministry of the muggle influences. She would be able to punish those who had led her ordered society astray. One face resolved itself in her mind. Her mouth curled into a twisted grin.

She would be able to punish Harry Potter.


***Author's Note: OK, I'm starting a new arc. Umbridge is a necessary tool, but don't think for a minute, she's as bad as it can get.

Ta ta for now!

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Old August 19th, 2007, 4:08 am
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 29 – Isle of Apples

Umbridge noticed that her flight upon the wyvern’s back avoided land. Once out of sight of Azkeban, the sky had cleared noticeably and her reptilian conveyance had descended to a few feet above the water’s surface. Having not been aware of the passage of time while in prison, she had no real perception of how they had been traveling other than by her weariness in the saddle. Eventually, they stopped making course corrections and seemed to be focused on a nearing destination. She looked ahead and saw a large white fog bank in the distance. The wall of mist extended from the sea to the sky, seemingly without end. The wyvern’s course was directed at the mist and Umbridge assumed that her mysterious benefactor lie within.

They approached the vaporous shroud, and without hesitation, the wyvern plunged into its midst. She felt cold and lost as both as her vision was clouded by the mist and the temperature dropped as they escaped the warmth of the sun. The wyvern continued on its course, suddenly coming to a break in the wispy barrier, revealing a small island, isolated on the sea. The island was luscious, green with a large volcano at its center, seemingly dormant. The verdant dot of land was covered with a canopy of trees, which rang with the song of birds. The wyvern made a direct line for an area at the base of the mountain. As Umbridge looked towards where her beast’s nose was pointed, she spotted a splash of white on the side of the dark rock of the volcano. As they neared, the pale features of the mountain began to show the regular outlines of something constructed, artificial. The horizontal plane of walls and the vertical features of towers began to become clear. It was a castle, carved right into the walls of the mountain. It was made of alabaster stone, gleaming brightly against the black, foreboding surface of the natural rock. After a brief roll, the wyvern alit gently outside the gated entrance to the bastion.

Her steed lowered its body, indicating that she should dismount, which she did after a certain amount of awkwardness. Pulling at her prison gown, she glanced over at the wyvern, which leaned its head down towards her and let out a ferocious roar, bearing its massive maw of razor sharp teeth. She cringed backward in terror, pulling her arm in front of her face, waiting for the feel of jagged edge onto her flesh. When her evisceration did not immediately take place, she lowered her arm in time to see the wyvern lift itself into the sky and fly off. Umbridge took a deep breath, and looked at her surroundings. She stood in front of a pair large iron doors, unadorned and massive. Looking outward from the gate, she was surrounded by a large grove of apple trees that appeared to dominate the arboreal population of the island. It was an island of apples.

Behind her, the gates began to slowly open, groaning under their sheer weight, scraping across the stone floor as if they had not been opened in centuries. When they had fully opened, she peered into the courtyard that had been revealed. It was dotted with more of the apple trees, with a white, stone pathway leading from the gate into a building at the far end of the plaza. Umbridge started walking the path, her bare feet the only sound she could hear. She could feel the wind as it passed through the trees, but no sound came from its caress of the leaves. As she made her way towards the far building, her throat dried, her heartbeat resounded in her ears. Reaching the entrance to the structure, she noticed that the doors swung open, as of their own volition. She forced herself to enter the open door.

The chamber she entered was massive, open. The floors were marble, the walls made mostly of the native slate, but reflective, making the space seem larger, vast. Tapestries depicting a variety of pastoral scenes adorned the walls while torches hung providing more light than would be expected. In the center of the room, a dark pool edged in black, polished stone was the dominant feature. Umbridge walked to the area around the pool.

“You will serve to save the purity of your line?”

The voice was louder, familiar. It didn’t originate within the confines of her head, but came from a shadow at the far end of the room.

“I serve to restore order, yes.” Umbridge’s back straightened, finally able to face the source of the voice. “Whom do I serve?”

Surprisingly, the voice laughed, a beautiful, charming laugh. “That is not important right now. I must know if you are worthy of service. You must prove your worth.”

Delores Umbridge was a survivor. She was not one to blindly follow anyone, she did not appreciate being out of control. “How do I prove my worth?”

The figure seemed to consider the question. “Who are the guardians of the impure?”

Another riddle, Umbridge was perplexed. The only guardians she could think of were the Aurors that had imprisoned her and undoubtedly hunted down the balance of Voldemort’s fools. If the “impure” were those who ran the Ministry, then the guardians would be the Aurors.

“The guardians of the impure are the Aurors that do their bidding.”

“Excellent. Attack the Aurors and you will prove your worth.”

This time Umbridge did laugh. “If I could destroy the Aurors, I would have and I’d be running the Ministry.” Convinced that her mysterious patron was mad, Umbridge made to turn and leave.

“Stop!” The shrouded figure moved forward, coming into the light. The torches revealed the countenance of a woman. She was breathtakingly beautiful, her face unblemished, smooth, and soft. Her hair was long and flowing and had a golden hue that seemed otherworldly. She was dressed in a black shroud, which hugged her figure, accented by her walk. Her lips were red, a deep contrast to her pale skin. Her voice was melodic capturing its listeners with its siren quality.

“I will give you the instruments to fight the Aurors.”

“Why me? You obviously have power, why do you need me to do this for you?” Umbridge took in the vision before her, this woman seemed strangely familiar, but she could not place where she knew her from.

“I can not leave this place, this island. I am the guardian of our purity, of our order. I want to help you restore what should be.”

“I see, and what then? What do you want? You just want pure-bloods to rule? Is that it?” Umbridge suspected that more was wanted, more would be required.

“No, what I want is for my son to rule, serve my son and you will be rewarded.” The woman raised her arm, pointing to a large crystalline block standing to the side. Encased with the crystal was a man. He was handsome, the resemblance to the woman striking. His prison was translucent with an amber hue. “My son will rule, and you will serve.”

Umbridge stood stunned. This person had exhibited great power, and Umbridge believed her when she said that she had ways to defeat the Aurors, but serve her and her son? She’d served others, Fudge or Thicknesse, and served them well. She hesitated for a moment, a spark of intuition striking her. She’d not served these various ministers, she’d always served herself. Perhaps, here she would serve herself. She would use this woman to eliminate the mudbloods and then take power for herself. This woman said she couldn’t leave this place. Delores Umbridge saw an opportunity, and she would seize it.

“I will serve, how do I destroy the Aurors?”

The woman smiled and clasped her hands together. The pool at the center of the room began to froth. An object began to rise out its depths, and was soon free from its watery confines. It floated through the air and set down near Umbridge. She looked at the object. It was a book. It’s binding was worn, old, with framings of copper around the edges. It’s pages were looked worn, ancient. Warily, she picked up the book. It was relatively small, thin, with very few pages, almost the size of a diary. Carefully, she opened the book and glanced at the first page.

“Imperium Creatura Periculum”

Umbridge cast a questioning glance to the woman.

“This will allow you to transform any animal into a dangerous magical being, a chimaera or manticore, even a nundu. This is dark magic for you will have command of these beings. Your can only compel these creatures to kill and you must be able to see the person who must die.”

When she heard what power she was being granted, Delores Umbridge found her humor. Her smile was cold, evil, contemplating the path before her. The Office of Aurors would suffer and she would be the instrument of their pain.

The woman interrupted her thoughts, “Remember, you must be able to see who you wish to kill, and never lose touch with the book. If you conjure a killing creature and you drop the book, the creature will turn on you.”

Umbridge scarcely heard the admonition, her mind turning on the possibilities.

After two days, she was ready. A wyvern had been placed at her disposal. Mounting it, she felt empowered and refreshed. She’d been provided with clothing arrayed in pinks, lavender and rose. Astride her mount, she looked like an innocuous grandmother riding pure evil. She left with no fanfare.

The woman watched Umbridge’s departure with casual interest. Her lips pursed together and she turned to reenter the building. Approaching the encased body of her son, she mused aloud.

“She will not succeed, she’s too ambitious, too weak, but she will sow confusion, dread. When chaos reigns, then I will send you, my pet.”

A low snarl emanated from a dark corner of the room. She smiled at the reaction, convinced that the guttural noise was one of delight.

“And when I send you, it will be to destroy the best of them. When this Harry Potter is destroyed, then my son can awaken, and I will be free of this prison.”

She glanced back out towards where Umbridge had flown out. “I will destroy this abomination of a society that fool, Merlin created. The muggles will cringe in fear of my name. The beasts of the magic world will bow before me. They will rue their mockery of my name as so much entertainment. The wizard world will worship me as before.”

Her face broke into a smile that was ugly on such a beautiful face.

“The world will once more fear the name of Morgana, dark sorceress and Queen of Avalon.”


***Author's Note: Told you, no more Deatheaters. Next chapter may not come out until Monday. Hey, don't look at me like that, I have a life (well maybe not, but delaying let's fake it.)

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Last edited by USNAGator91; August 19th, 2007 at 4:14 am.
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Old August 19th, 2007, 4:57 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 30 – Gambit’s Beginning

He was awake, but he lay there with his eyes closed. The sounds of the morning rang through his ears. The morning robin was singing outside his window and somewhere a bluejay called to its mate. He could feel her presence next to him, the warmth of her body touching him, energizing his being. She stirred and he heard her offer a low purr of contentment as she stretched. He felt her move, laying her body across his chest. He felt her fingers running across his face, through his hair. He thought he could hear her smile. He opened his eyes, and was rewarded with the beauty of her smiling face, near his.

“Good morning, Mr. Potter.” Her voice had an air of mischief.

He smiled, still not believing that she was there, and would be for all time. “Good morning, Mrs. Potter.”

Ginny giggled at his greeting. The words rang in her ear, “Mrs. Potter”, she was “Mrs. Potter” and it was wonderful. She loved the way he looked at her, the joy he conveyed with his eyes, and the look took her breath away, still. Her fingers ran through his hair, confirming the reality of their life together for her. She loved him; it seemed, for as long as she could remember. Her fingers traced the line of scar on his forehead, causing her to remember the time of pain and triumph. She drank in his eyes, remembering the fear and sorrow that dominated them for the longest time, and the elation and adoration that had replaced them, every time he looked at her. She loved him, that was obvious, but she had not imagined how much pure happiness would result from being his wife.

Harry groaned, “What time is it?” He turned his head and looked at the ancient grandfather clock on the other end of the room. Seeing the time, he laid his head back and groaned once more. “I’m not ready to go back, yet.”

She laughed, “Then don’t, but it’ll just be you and Kreacher. I’m starting my first day at the Prophet today.” He swung a pillow at her head, but missed.

They had disappeared for a month. Using Grimmauld Place as a sanctuary, they’d wake up each morning and decide on some location to visit and go, or they would decide to stay home. It seemed to Harry, that they chose the latter option more often. Not that he minded, they were discovering that married life was better than they had ever imagined.

“Well, I guess I’d better go in. I wouldn’t want them starting up a search on my account.”

She laughed, “Oh yes, can you imagine the embarrassment when they found us?”

He shared her amusement, and sitting up, he turned his legs to allow his feet to touch the floor. She wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing his cheek, her hair covering his shoulders, a silky warm blanket. “You don’t have to go in right now, do you?” Her tone was decidedly more impish.

He turned his head and kissed her lips. “Well, I guess I don’t have to rush right in.”

“Good.” She kissed him back and grabbed his arm.


************************************************** ************************************************** ***********

If it were possible to float and walk at the same time, Harry Potter was the best practitioner of the art. As he walked into the Office of Aurors, he made for a picture of happiness, which thoroughly amused his friend, Ron. While Harry made his way to his office, Ron followed along, pestering him with questions.

“Come on, mate. Where’ve you two been? What do you think? Was it everything I told you?”

“Ron,” Harry stared his friend right in the eye, “She’s your sister, a fact that makes this line of questioning really uncomfortable, and she’s my wife. I never bothered you about your honeymoon with Hermione, did I?”

The response halted Ron in mid question. Harry let his friend off the hook by changing the subject. “How’s your training coming?”

Ron’s face lit up, “Very well. Considering you were, um, away, Sarah and I have been working with Lachlan, and we’ve done quite well. Lachlan says we’ll both be taking second year M.A.G.E.’s in no time.”

“Good for you, Ron!” Harry was genuinely pleased for his best friend. “I knew you could do it, I’m proud of you. Anything else going on?”

“You hear about Umbridge?” Ron’s face was serious. Harry shook his head. “She escaped from Azkeban.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. Ron read his reaction. “No one knows how. There were no passages and no evidence of the security spells being violated. She simply vanished.”

“That’s not good. There’s any number of us that she has a grudge with. The whole of the D.A. to name a few.” Harry’s mind turned towards his wife. He’d have to take action to up her security.

“Robards has upped a watch on all of our friends, who may be likely targets, but Harry,” Ron turned serious, “Let’s face it, you are the person she most hated.”

“Ron, I can take care of myself. You and I are Aurors, but the others are in the wind. Neville should be relatively safe at Hogwarts, but the rest need looking after.” Harry pondered the new development. “I’m going to talk to Dawlish.”

Ron nodded his head, “I’m going to meet up with Lachlan, if you don’t mind, he’s taking Sarah and me into the field. Some report of mischief on the tube.”

“That sounds good Ron, good luck, and remember, the socks should be under the pants.”

Ron offered a gesture that told Harry that maybe Hermione should limit Ron’s access to television.

Harry made his way down the corridor, eventually finding himself at Dawlish’s office. He knocked, and walked in as the door opened to admit him.

“Harry, welcome back! Married life treating you well?” Dawlish looked rested, calm.

Harry took the proffered chair and shook Dawlish’s hand. “Better than I deserve, I should think.”

“You’re a lucky man, Harry. I suspect you’re here about the Umbridge situation.” Harry nodded. “Well, we’re making sure that your former compatriots in the D.A. are covered by Aurors.”

“I appreciate that sir, um, is anyone watching Ginny?” Harry felt uncomfortable asking something for himself. “We have someone watching her right now. I’ll keep this up until we have some idea of what Umbridge is up to.”

“Thanks John, it would make me feel better.” Harry stood to return to his office. Another thought struck Harry. “John, there’s something else.” Dawlish gestured for Harry to continue. “What do you know about being able to cast wandless spells?”

Dawlish was surprised at the question. “Not much, it’s tricky, difficult to do. It takes a powerful wizard to even predict which spells he can cast without a wand, and even then, to know what intensity he can cast them with. Dumbledore was the best I’d seen.” Dawlish’s memory flashed back to the time in Dumbledore’s office when he and Kingsley had accompanied Cornelius Fudge and suffered the shock of a very powerful spell from the wandless Headmaster. “Why, Harry?”

Harry hesitated, and then told Dawlish about the incident in the training arena with Sarah. Dawlish didn’t seem surprised. “You know Harry, ever since the Malfoy apprehension, I’ve believed that you have extraordinary gifts. If there is anyone who would be able to cast wandless spells, it would be you.”

“How do I learn to control it? Can you help me?” Harry’s interest was more than piqued.

Dawlish gave him a laugh, “No, Harry, I’m just a simple wizard who’s been doing this job for a long time.” He thought for a minute. “You know, Miles has some knowledge in this area. Miles has knowledge in a lot of areas, he might be able to help you.”

“Great, thanks John. I’m going to look through some of the correspondence.” Harry turned to leave Dawlish’s office. Dawlish stopped him.

“Harry, with all that’s happening, watch yourself. Delores Umbridge can be dangerous, especially to those who’ve crossed her the most.”

Harry nodded and walked on to his office.

************************************************** ************************************************** ***********

Ron, Sarah and Lachlan appeared in the main receiving area of the Ministry, Lachlan lecturing them on their latest trip. “You see, the muggles aren’t typically used to their house plants trying to eat their pets. That was the most obvious indication of some enchantment.”

The two Auror trainees shared a laugh with their mentor and began to walk towards the elevators. Ron stopped abruptly. “What is it?” Sarah noticed the pause.

“I’ve got to meet my brother for lunch. I’ll catch up with you this afternoon in the arena.” With a wave, he hurried off to Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley was bustling with activity as Ron made his way to #93, the location of Weasley’s Wheezes. His brother George and his business partner, Lee Jordan had decided to avail themselves of the café that was situated right outside their shop. Spying Ron, they hailed him and set aside a seat for him to join them. Over lunch, the three talked about George and Lee’s favorite new inventions and how well the business had been doing. Ron happened to look up the street and spotted a familiar face.

“Ginny!” His sister was walking the alley and smiled upon seeing the three men. She rushed over to join them. “What are you doing out here?”

“I’m working at the Prophet’s office down the alley.” Ginny motioned behind her. “I’m just heading out for some lunch.”

The three men rose to hug her. Ron, standing in the middle, noticed a flash of movement directly behind her. Reacting, rather than thinking, Ron shoved his sister to the side and pulled his wand out, “Impedimienta!”

Ron’s spell impacted on the four-legged form that was in mid-air, striking towards the spot where Ginny had been. A lion’s head, with teeth bared roared in surprise as the creature was turned to the side and thrown against a shop wall. The beast had the body of a goat, and its tail was long, scaly, like that of a dragon. “Bloody Chimaera! George, get Ginny away from here!”

The chimaera rolled to its feet. Ron moved to a position between it and his sister. The legs of the beast coiled, prepared to strike, when the flash of another spell struck, impacting its flank, slamming it against another wall. Ron followed that strike with an Incarcerous charm, effectively subduing the creature. He turned to see the source of the spell, his eyes meeting the figure of Cavendish, emerging from her hiding spot in an adjacent alley. “Thanks, lucky you were there.”

Cavendish kept her mysterious amber eyes on the bound chimaera. “No luck about it, I was watching out for Ginny, what with Umbridge out and about.”

Ginny’s eyes grew wide, “Umbridge is out?”

“Yes, about two weeks ago, she escaped from Azkeban. Dawlish is keeping an eye on all the former members of the D.A. he can, just in case. Good thing he did, that thing came right at you."

Just then, a snarl roared from behind them. Another of the beasts leapt from a second story landing. George pulled Ginny down, forcing Ron to take the full brunt of the animal’s strike. The force of the blow sent him reeling onto his back. He felt its claws tear into his arms and chest, his head rebounding heavily on the pavement. The chimaera kept running with the momentum of its leap and was on Cavendish before she could react. Its lion’s head sunk its jaws into her shoulder, eliciting a cry of pain from her lips. In that instant, the Auror found herself driven to the ground, the chimaera biting down harder into her flesh. “Protego!”

Ignoring the pain of his injuries, Ron had pulled his wand up and slammed his shield charm into the attacking chimaera. The beast was knocked onto its back. “Petrificus Totalus!” All movement from the chimaera stopped. The alley was silent. Ron’s breathing was forced, the pain from a probable broken rib making respiration troublesome. He pulled himself up and made his way over to Cavendish’s prone body. The upper portion of her shoulder and arm had been savaged.

“I’ve got to get her to St. Mungo’s.” Ron looked at George, and pointed to Ginny. “George, get Ginny to the Ministry, and don’t let Hermione leave until I get back!” Ron looked at the figures of the chimaeras laying on the alley floor. “Bloody hell.”

No one noticed the frumpish form in the window of a shop above them. The figure closed the book in her hand, and walked away from the scene. When she did, the two chimaeras began to change their form, becoming in an instant two ordinary house cats. “Bloody hell!” Ron shook himself at the sight and leaned over to side-along apparate Cavendish to St. Mungo’s.

The furor in the passageway caused Harry to raise his head from the paperwork on his desk. Rising, he went out and was greeted by the sight of his wife, looking more than disheveled, coming down the hallway, Lee and George trailing behind. Harry’s heart skipped a beat, something was wrong. He ran to meet her, grasping her to his body as soon as she was near.

“What’s happened? Are you alright?” He looked her over quickly, assessing her injuries.

She nodded, almost breaking down. “Ron…”

Her voice stunned him, he’d not even considered anything had happened to anyone else. He looked around and did not see his friend. “Where’s Ron, what happened to Ron?”

“He’s okay, a little worse for wear, but he’s taken Cavendish to St. Mungo’s.” George and Lee recounted the afternoon’s events to Harry. As they finished their tale, Harry caught a glimpse of Hermione entering the Office. Leaving his wife and friends, he ran over to his good friend.

“Hermione.” Her eyes were lost, her expression haunted and fearful. He embraced her, offering support for her weakening knees. For the first time since he could remember, his friend seemed weak, unsure of herself.

“I don’t know what I would do without him Harry. I feel like I’ve lost a part of me.”

“He’s going to be fine, Hermione. From what I heard, it was a good thing he was there.” Dawlish’s voice broke the panic and tension in the air. She turned towards Dawlish’s voice while he continued. “He saved Ginny and George and basically subdued two chimaeras in a closed public space. I’m proud of him.”

Hermione wiped the tears from her eyes and gave Dawlish a smile, wordlessly agreeing with him. Ginny, George and Lee had came up to join them. They began to prepare themselves to head over to join Ron at St. Mungo’s. While they talked, Dawlish beckoned Harry over towards his office.

“There have been five attacks on your ‘club’ so far today. Fortunately, the Aurors we’ve assigned to them managed to stop the attempts, but I’ve got four Aurors seriously wounded.” Harry chewed on the information. He looked at the senior Auror and Dawlish had begun his nervous hair threading, “We have a problem Harry. I have not received any word from the Auror watching over Luna Lovegood. I don’t know if he was even in place before this all started.”

“Luna’s family home is pretty isolated, difficult to get someone out there secretly.” Harry’s mind sped, the Lovegood’s had rebuilt their tower, but the location was still remote, open.

“I think we’re above surreptitious guardianship, don’t you think.” Dawlish was giving a hidden suggestion. Harry nodded and ran out the door. His family, he still relished calling them that, were making their way towards the exit. Ginny looked at her husband and immediately noticed the change in his bearing.

“We’re heading to check on Ron. You coming?” She knew the answer before the question, she just needed to hear his voice, a tinge of worry creeping over her.

“No, I’ve got to check on Luna, we haven’t heard from her.” He saw a figure walking towards them, it was Sarah Peebles, his trainee. “Sarah, will you go with them to St. Mungo’s?” He pulled Sarah to the side, out of earshot, “I don’t want them unprotected, can you watch over them for me, watch over Ginny? I need someone I can trust.”

Sarah was speechless, shocked at the implied trust of his question. “Of course, Harry. I’ll take care of her, and of them. You can count on me.” She moved to walk with them. Harry couldn’t help but notice Lee’s more than casual interest in her, apparently indicating that his antics at Harry’s wedding had not been the extent of his interest in the woman.

Assured that Ginny would have protection, Harry straightened his back and turned to his wife. He saw the worry in her face. She saw it returned in his own. For the moment, there was just the two of them, and Harry moved to seal the seconds remaining before they parted. He moved to her and kissed her, soulfully, his relief in her survival releasing itself in the love he was imparting in this embrace.

“I’ll be along shortly.” He smiled at her and waved farewell to his family. With that, he ran out the door. Ginny held back the tears that threatened to overcome her. She reached an arm across Hermione’s shoulders, lending her sister-in-law support, and guiding her out the door. As they walked, Ginny looked down the hall where Harry had disappeared.

“I’ll see you soon, Harry.” Her voice shook, more hopeful than confident.


***Author's Note: I'm trying a chapter a day, but no promises. Please bear with me.

Feedback puh-lease! http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=110463


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  #30  
Old August 20th, 2007, 2:33 am
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 31 – Elementary, My Dear Potter

He arrived to Ottery St. Catchpole via the Floo Network in relatively short order. Pulling out his Firebolt, he vaulted into the air, swooping north towards the Lovegood home. After a few miles, he spotted a rocky black cylinder sited on top of a hill, denoting the Lovegood home. Descending rapidly, Harry alit near the front door of the edifice. The place was quiet, surreal, not a sound permeating the area. Harry instinctively pulled his wand, searching for signs of life.

“Hello? Is anyone here?” Harry searched around for signs of anything; violence, peace, any disturbance of the eerie scene. He reached up and knocked on the door. “Hello!” His voice seemed to carry, and still no response. Suddenly, he heard a noise coming from the shed of an outer building. The building was made of wood, open like a barn or safe area for other livestock. It was a rhythmic tapping sound, soft but mechanical in nature. He walked slowly towards the source of the sound.

As he approached the barn, he continued surveying his surroundings. No sound, no movement, nothing. Harry slowly entered the open double door of the barn. The interior was open, stalls lined each side of the long edifice. A loft covered in straw and alfalfa was built into a second story above. The sound got louder, it was closer. Harry thought he heard a metallic quality to the sound.

“Clack, clack, clack…”

The sound appeared to be coming from the stall at the far end of the building. He prowled towards that sound, his wand raised, ready to strike.

“Clack, clack, clack…”

He approached the stall, peering in, seeing hay strewn about in a haphazard pattern. At first glance, the stall seemed empty, the sound still resonating. Harry inspected the corner of the space, spying some sort of block and tackle rig hanging on the wall. The metal casings on the hardware were tapping against rail of the stable wall, the wind keeping its rhythm consistent. Harry felt the tension ebb from his shoulders and neck. He smiled in relief and self-admonishment. He’d been a little jumpy and he needed to get a hold of himself.

“Hello, Harry! So nice to see you!”

Harry whirled around, his wand hand raising up to face the voice. Before he spat out a defensive spell, he recognized the slight form of Luna Lovegood, her whimsical smile radiating in puzzlement and friendship.

“Luna! You’re alright!” Harry’s relief manifested itself visibly.

“Of course I am, silly, why wouldn’t I be?” Luna led Harry back towards her house. Her feet were bare, as usual and she had a flower lei hanging from her neck.

Harry’s heartbeat had slowed to a reasonable rate. “Delores Umbridge escaped from Azkeban, and there have been attacks on Dumbledore’s Army. We sent someone to watch over you, but we haven’t heard from them.”

“Well, it’s been quite peaceful here, I’ve not seen anyone, and my dad is on safari, looking to replace the Crumple-Horned Snorkack Horn that the Deatheaters destroyed when they damaged our house.” Harry gave a silent snicker, remembering the Erumpent Horn which exploded when Xenophilius Lovegood cast an errant stunning spell. Harry, more than any of Luna’s other friends, really never thought that the tow-headed woman with him was crazy or touched. He was always struck by how incisive she could be and how, when everyone doubted him, she never did, not once.

“That’s odd, I wonder where your guardian go to?” Harry’s eye caught some movement in the distance. A flurry of wings and feathers seemed to erupt from a small grove of trees on a hill past the barn as a number of black birds burst into the air. The flock seemed to circle a spot in the copse of trees.

“Those birds seem to be dancing, don’t they? They’ve been attached to that one spot, all day.” Luna’s words were matter-of-fact. Harry felt the grip of dread come over his chest. He started walking to the spot, Luna trailing behind him. Harry broke into a run, his heart racing. When he got to the tree line, he spotted tuft of dark fabric on the ground.

“Stay here, Luna, don’t move!” Harry moved towards the spot, his eyes scanning the ground. A body, clothed in dark robes lay sprawled on the ground. The only evidence that it had been a man, was the general outline of the figure. It had been ravaged, the clothing tearing with the flesh underneath, its face unrecognizable. A glimmer of metal flashed in the sun. Harry reached down and picked up an Aurors’ medallion, apparently rent from the robes during the struggle. The name “Masterson” was inscribed underneath the blood crusting on the badge. Harry had found Luna’s guardian.

They appeared at St. Mungo’s, Ginny’s relief at his safety readily apparent. They shared an embrace and then Harry inquired as to Ron’s status. Ginny filled him in, “Ron’s fine, he had some cuts and broken bones, but they’re healing nicely. Cavendish was touch and go, but she’ll pull through. Harry, there have been eight attacks and six Aurors have been seriously wounded, but none of our friends have been hurt and thankfully, no one killed.”

Harry eyes immediately betrayed how wrong she was. “At least one has been killed. I found Masterson’s body near Luna’s house.” Ginny looked over at Luna, checking her for injury or trauma, and then raised a questioning eye towards her husband. “She didn’t see a thing. She was fine when I arrived.”

“Ginny, can you keep Luna with you? I’ve got to go and talk to Dawlish. Something doesn’t feel right about this.”

“You’d better check in on Ron, first.” Harry smacked his forehead with his hand, and walked into the ambulatory ward.

Ron lie on his bed, a pile of pillows supporting his back, so that, he could sit upright. Hermione was sitting on the bed with him, relief emanating from her tear streaked eyes. “Oy, Harry! Luna is okay, then?”

“She’s fine, Ron.” Harry decided not to tell his friend about the murder, especially in front of Hermione who just now returning to a semblance of her former self.

Hermione smiled at the news. “It’s fortunate that the Aurors were watching for us. Can you imagine what could have happened?”

“Fortunate, yes.” Harry left it at that. Bidding his friends goodbye, he walked back to Ginny. “Stay close to Sarah, Luna can stay with us. I have to go into the Office.”

She pulled his arm, arresting his movement out. Drawing him near, she gave him a kiss on the lips. He immediately calmed, his breathing controlled. She knew exactly has to steady him, how had he ever survived without her?

He gave her a quick smile and made for the Ministry.

The Aurors’ leaders were assembled in Gawain Robard’s office when Harry arrived. They were engaged in a heated debate on next steps. Harry threw the Masterson’s blood-stained medallion on the middle of the table they were seated around. The effect chilled all debate while all eyes drew towards Harry.

“He’s dead. Looks like he ran into a pack of the creatures and they savaged him.” A somber gloom fell over the room. “Luna is fine, but she didn’t see anything.”

“One dead and six wounded, we’ve taken some serious losses. Fortunately, we’ve been able to keep Umbridge’s minions from hurting their targets.” Dawlish turned towards Robards. “We’ll have to get these wizards somewhere that we can better protect them. Hogwarts, maybe?”

“Too open, too isolated.” Lachlan’s voice drew nods from the collective group.

“Where then?” Dawlish scanned the room, eyes drawn to a figure in the corner, dressed rather anachronistically and puffing on an absurdly large pipe. “Miles, what do you think?”

Miles Jackson-Smythe had been lost in thought. His attention returned on hearing his name. “Yes, it would be sensible to gather the alumni of Dumbledore’s Army, all things being equal…”
He hesitated, his brain working at full speed.

“But?” Dawlish knew something was troubling the master wizard.

Miles looked up, “We have to review the facts. Something doesn’t fit.” Harry looked at the elder wizard, realizing his gut was telling him the same thing.

“What is it then? What are we missing?” Harry’s question mirrored the thoughts of his colleagues.

“It’s elementary, my dear Potter. Your experience at the Lovegoods provides a new set of facts, confirming a different hypothesis.” Miles stared over the room until settling on Harry as the object of his lesson. They began a byplay, as if each were working the same problem, figuring out its nuances.

Miles started, “It would make sense to bring the members of the D.A. in one place…”

“If they were the targets…”

“But Ms. Lovegood was not attacked while her escort was and the sum total of our casualties have been to Aurors, ergo?” Miles looked carefully at Harry, much like the expression Dumbledore would have when walking Harry through a lesson.

“The members of Dumbledore’s Army weren’t the intended victims, the Aurors were.”

“Precisely, Mr. Potter. Something else to consider. Delores Umbridge has never had the capabilities these spells indicate, and her willingness to ignore Luna, who played a prominent role in the insurrection at Hogwarts, indicates what?”

Harry pondered the question. “It indicates that she is getting help from somewhere, her unlikely escape from Azkeban demonstrates that as do these more formidable powers. Someone unknown, someone powerful.”

“Well done, Harry!” Miles beamed with pride.

Dawlish turned to look at Miles, “So what should we do now?”

Miles’ tone turned serious, casting aside his Holmes’ persona for the moment, “We’d better find out who is behind this quickly. I fear that this will get bloody. This situation will worsen before it gets better.”

The men in the room grew silent. Each assessing the information, each having their own fears, each feeling a conflict between their rage with their sense of duty.

Harry drew a deep breath, “Well then, we’re just going to have to find out who’s behind this.”

Dawlish raised an eyebrow, “And then what?”

“We defeat them, what other choice do we have?.” Harry’s face tightened in a mask of resolve.


***Author's Note: By popular acclaim, I'm going to have the rest of the story occur in a wardrobe. I mean, that's never been done before, has it? Just kidding, anyway, I couldn't wait until tomorrow to get this one out.

More to follow.

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  #31  
Old August 20th, 2007, 5:19 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 32 – De inimico non loquaris male, sed cogites. “Do not wish ill for your enemy, plan it.”


Delores Umbridge sat at the desk and rest her cup of tea on its matching saucer. Her bright pink cardigan shone brightly in stark contrast to her surroundings. As an escaped felon, her choices of abode were limited and this abandoned shanty on the outskirts of London served her purposes nicely. Besides, she thought, after her accommodations at Azkeban, her present circumstances were quite opulent.

Umbridge was happy, her first day of her task to hurt the Aurors could not have gone smoother. How fortunate that the powers that be, had interpreted her objective to revenge herself on those insolent brats from Hogwarts. In doing so, the Ministry had practically spoon fed her easy targets of opportunity. By assigning Aurors individually or in pairs to Dumbledore’s idiots, she’d been offered the chance to pick off the Auror ranks, one by one. That fool in Ottery St. Catchpole had no chance alone, when she sent four pseudo-manticores after him. She simply adored kittens so she was more than amused by the fact that she could change their cute exteriors into instruments of destruction on her path to power.

Power. That was her ultimate goal. Whatever ill will she harbored for the children who led the insurrection against her management at Hogwarts was secondary to the accumulation of power. What’s more, she could hurt a good many of them by using their own fears for their safety to accomplish her objective. Plus, she reasoned, there was an added bonus. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley were both Aurors, thus were fair game. She allowed herself a brief titter at the thought. She could only imagine the horror and the pain she would inflict on those mudblood loving brats when she killed the great Harry Potter and his worthless sidekick. One must always take pride in one’s work; that was her motto.

Her mysterious backer had also occupied a good deal of Umbridge’s mind. Who was she? Her words, her situation seemed familiar, but Umbridge was never a good student and she really couldn’t place the woman in any context. The woman was powerful; the little book in Umbridge’s pocket was a testament to that. But her power was limited, her reach could not extend past her island fortress, else why would she need Umbridge’s assistance? That was her weakness, Delores thought, and that is a weakness that can be exploited when the time came.

Her eyes drifted to a scrap of parchment lying on her desk. She’d come upon it during her last scouting sojourn into Diagon Alley. Her mouth crinkled in a smile, or so it could be technically called. She placed a white-glove encased hand on the paper, stroking the letters on the headline, almost caressing it. It’s announcement making for another opportunity, one to deal a blow with true meaning for her. Just this once, she may even make it a point to kill everyone involved.

”COME ONE, COME ALL!!! THE GRAND OPENING OF WEASLEY’S WHEEZES IN HOGSMEADE! CUNNING OBJECTS OF ENTERTAINMENT! JOKES, SPELLS AND GAGS, GALORE! FREE SELF-INKING QUILLS TO THE FIRST TEN CUSTOMERS! THIS SATURDAY, 10 AM.

GEORGE WEASLEY AND LEE JORDAN, PROPRIETORS”

George Weasley, he’d been the instigator of the rebellion at her school. His twin brother and he had humiliated her, made her look foolish and weak. The twin Weasleys were both cowardly and not very impressive wizards, especially having to resort to tricks and chicanery. That fact was made abundantly clear by Fred’s death at the hands of real wizardry. Here was a real opportunity. Hogsmeade was remote and isolated. At most, she could count on four or maybe six Aurors protecting the grand opening of this shop. The rest would be spread thin, watching over the other twenty or so cowards across Britain. Umbridge allowed herself a toothy smile, which accentuated her toad-like appearance. She looked across to two kittens lapping saucers of milk near the door, perhaps she could spare a chimaera or two to deal with George Weasley as well. After all, all work and no play makes for a very disorderly day, and how she hated disorder.

She broke the silence in the room, “So much to do, so much to do. We have an appointment, you and I, Mr. George Weasley.” She picked up the two kittens, tut-tutting to them and smiling, “Would you like to meet George Weasley?”

“George Weasley!”

Ginny’s voice rang up and down the aisles of Weasley’s Wheezes, echoing to the farthest reaches of the store and assaulting George’s ears. He was sitting at a table in the back stock room. Lee, Harry and Ron were seated with him while his and Lee’s Auror guardians, Dawes and Milton, were curiously taking in the inventory stored there. George turned to see the deliberate and fast-paced march Ginny was taking, with Hermione following behind her. Ginny looked decidedly furious and George saw an incriminating flyer clutched tightly in her hand.

“George Weasley, you can be such a donkey's behind!” Her voice was forceful and somewhat shrill, her indignation dripping from her shout.

“Such language, this is a family establishment.” George rose to face his younger sister, hands raised in a ‘What have I done?’ manner, “and as far as being an donkey's behind, could you be a little more specific?”

This drew snickers from the men around the table that were immediately stifled by looks both Hermione and Ginny gave them. Hermione plucked the crumpled flyer from Ginny’s hand and raised it in front of George’s face.

“What is the meaning of this? You’re opening another shop, in Hogsmeade, now?” George took the flyer, pretending to read it.

“Yes, you both know that’s been the plan as far back as…” He hesitated, but they knew he meant to say, “As far back as when Fred was alive.”

George looked the women in the eye, “Look, we got a great deal on Zonko’s shop, so we jumped at it.”

Hermione took the lead, Ginny too enraged to talk at the time. “George, it’s not just about the shop, do you realize the danger that Umbridge presents? You’re just asking to be attacked.”

George stole a glance at Lee, and then straightened his shoulders. “Why did we fight? Why did we sacrifice so much?” He looked at Hermione and then stared straight at Ginny. “Why did Fred die? So we could be free to make our choices. Isn’t that what you’re always harping on Gin? What is it now, you’re free to make choices but no one else is?”

Ginny’s face burned with shame and anger; shame in his rebuke, and anger that her own argument was being turned against her. The building crescendo was like a volcano waiting to erupt. Hermione spoke up to prevent the eruption, for now.

“George, it isn’t just you and Lee. What about your protectors?” She pointed to Dawes and Milton, who had been trying, unsuccessfully, to blend in with the walls. “The Aurors have sacrificed a great deal to protect us from Umbridge, and now you’ll expose them to additional risk.”

“Ahem,” Dawes strode forward, his light blue eyes dancing with not a little amusement, “Frankly miss, we’re exposed wherever we go. It’s really no trouble, Milton and I are volunteering.”

His comment froze Hermione, leaving her no argument, save one and that one was the eruption point for Ginny. Mount Vesuvius had reached critical mass.

“What about Ron and Harry?” She looked down at the table at her husband and her brother, “Do you think that they wouldn’t go too? Umbridge has a special hate for the both of them. Aren’t you putting them in danger? How dare you, George! Just for some stupid joke shop! You’re going to make me a widow to sell more of your trinkets!”

It was out, the real worry behind Ginny’s rage. The silence in the room was deafening. The shock of the verbal assault caused George to slowly sink back to his seat and lower his head. Ginny’s eyes roved over all of them, daring them to contradict her, daring them to excuse the foolish task they’d planned.

After a moment of her harsh gaze, Harry found his voice. “Ginny, could I speak to you in private? Please?” He stood and held his hand out to her, begging for her indulgence. She hesitated, not sure where he would take the argument, but reached her hand to his nonetheless. He led her out a back door, to a relatively isolated part of Diagon Alley.

He turned to face her, “You were a little unreasonable and harsh, don’t you think?”

“Don’t, Harry. After what we’ve been through the past few months, with you at death’s door, don’t lecture me on worrying about your safety. Don’t.” She wasn’t going to be deterred. Her fears were heightened because she’d reached a pinnacle of happiness she’d never thought she could experience. Before, she was afraid of losing him because of what might be, now she was terrified, because now, she knew what she had to lose.

His voice lowered, becoming gentle, soothing; he reached a hand to caress her hair, “I’m not telling you not to worry. It’d be like telling the sun not to rise. I love that you worry, but George is right, we need to be free, Ginny. Free to choose, free to live, even free to sell Nosebleed Nougats.” He gave her a smile. She reluctantly returned it.

“All I’m asking, Ginny, is do you trust me?” Harry’s question was earnest.

Her annoyance began to surface, “Harry, what kind of silly question is that? What do you mean…”

He cut her off, this time he was terse, forceful. “Do you trust me?”

She read his eyes, her back straightening, her eyes blazing, “Of course, I trust you.” He smiled and hugged her tight. A decision had been made, and the two headed back to the help the others plan the trip to Hogsmeade.

Saturdays in Hogsmeade are especially festive, as the students of Hogswarts find themselves perusing the shops and cafés of the uniquely all-wizarding community. An undercurrent of excitement was especially rampant today, as the flyers announcing the grand opening of the Weasley specialty shop had been delivered throughout the school, due in no small amount to the efforts of one Professor Neville Longbottom. The street was crowded outside the balloon and ribbon festooned shop. Its prior occupants, Zonko’s, had been forced to close down during Umbridge’s stay at Hogwarts. Even though an attempt at reopening had been made, there was really no way to recover from losses, especially given the success that Weasley’s Wheezes had been having.

Frederick Dawes and Henry Milton walked casually with Lee and George. The two Aurors had been near inseparable since their time at Hogwarts. They’d met during their first ride on the Hogwarts’ Express, been inducted into Gryffindor together and joined the Office of Aurors together. Those that did not know them, would swear that they were brothers, twins even. They were almost identical, save for Dawes’ pale blue eyes and Milton’s dark black orbs. They’d been best men at each other’s weddings. For almost thirty years, they’d fought, laughed and cried with each other, and were as close to twins as could be. Milton, was the more playful of the two despite his foreboding eyes, was talking earnestly with George, holding a quill that he’d been given.

“So you’re saying that all I have to do is think the words, and this will write it down?”

“That’s the idea. Are you sure you don’t want to try the self-correcting quill?” Milton laughed.

“No mate, my testing and schooling days are far behind.”

Trailing the four travelers, Ron and Harry kept a watchful eye on their surroundings. Coming up the main street, the group approached the new Weasley’s Wheezes without incident. Harry took a studious sweep of the surrounding area. The buildings surrounding the shop seemed drab, in contrast with the festive adornment of the new business. Gladrag’s stood silent, even its owners out on their stoop to watch the opening, the wife shooing away strays that were trying to enter the open door. Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop was closed up, a sign indicating that the owner was gone until Monday, and its upper story shutters closed tight, no sound coming from them. Only Honeyduke’s seemed to be having any type of consistent traffic, students stopping in to sample candies that wouldn’t explode or itch, and then coming to see the wonders of George and Lee’s shop.

At precisely ten o’clock, George stepped up to the raised porch in front of his new shop. He was outfitted in his ridiculous P.T. Barnum outfit, the bowler perched firmly on his head.

“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! It is my pleasure and yours too, to open here in Hogsmeade, your very own Weasley’s Wheezes!” The crowd burst into applause. “Now, who’ll be the first come up and enter?”

As if on queue, a roar broke from the rooftop of the opposite building. Three chimaeras were staring down at George and Lee, mouths salivating on their lion’s heads. The beasts launched themselves at the dais, claws extended.

From the street, inhuman shouts emanated from the six manticores that stood line abreast. Their heads were human like, but perched on a lion’s body, scorpion tales held up in an aggressive posture. Their screams echoed off the close confines of the buildings, and they launched their attack, plunging through the crowd.

The people caught in the attack made a mad rush away from the fighting. Harry and Ron drew their wands, ushering the mass of humanity towards safety. Harry heard the loud cracks of stunning spells, as Dawes and Milton mounted their defense, pulling George and Lee down behind the solid railing of the platform. All around, manticores and chimaera appeared from out of thin air, it seemed, loping down towards the beleaguered defenders. Harry and Ron stood back to back, covering the stage from across the street. Harry lunged backwards, pushing Ron to the side, narrowly evading a striking scorpion’s tale, the barb passing inches from his face. Ron sent a shield charm to ward off the attacker, driving it into one of its cohorts.

“Harry, we can’t hold for much longer!” Ron assessment of the tactical situation was accurate. The more of the beasts they dispose of, the more seem to appear. Harry’s mind was working in overdrive, considering the possibilities. Suddenly, he knew.

“Right, Ron I’ve got it!” Harry beckoned Ron to follow, looking over at Dawes and Milton who were just managing to stave off being overwhelmed.

Dawes saw Harry’s movement and yelled, “Now?”

Harry didn’t halt his stride, “Now!”

Dawes nodded to George, who pulled a small fireworks canister from his jacket pocket. Setting it off, the combustible flew up into the street, and burst into a fiery display, spelling out the word, “Now.”

Seemingly out of nowhere, as Disillusionment Charms and Invisibility Cloaks were discarded, thirty Aurors made their appearance, blasting the attackers from behind, severely blunting the attack. Led by Dawlish and Lachlan, the Aurors formed a protective cordon around the platform, whose railing had been reinforced to provide shelter from the assault. Wands out, the Aurors fought off the continuing attacks with an unassailable wall of spells.

Harry made a beeline for the entrance to Gladrags. He remembered the owner having to chase away stray cats that were hovering near the door. Bounding for the rear of the shop, Harry led Ron up the stairs, to the second floor. Moving room to room, Harry reached the doorway to the room overlooking the street. Framed in the window, a slight, prudish woman, dressed in a pink sweater was furiously pouring through a small book, oblivious to their approach.

“Hem Hem.” Harry’s mocked Umbridge’s affectation for a slight cough when she wanted her attention.

Umbridge turned rapidly, surprised by the intrusion.

“Expelliarmus!” Ron’s spell knocked the book from her hand.

“Accio Book!” The little leather-bound journal flew into Harry’s hand.

“Incarcerous!” The ethereal bonds flew to surround Umbridge, Ron’s wand moving to ensure compliance with his spell.

Umbridge choked in surprise, a note of sheer terror in her voice, “Potter, you have no idea what you’ve done! You’ve killed me!”

Snarls began to emanate from the base of the stairway behind them. The loud impact of bodies could be heard against the closed shutters of the windows. Harry and Ron moved into the room and slammed the door behind them. They could hear movement on the roof above, with scratches indicating that something was tearing through the thatched roof. All around, they’d become the focus of rage for the remaining beasts without.

Umbridge began to shiver in fear, her voice quaking, her control completely lost. “Potter, you’ve got to save me, you’ve got to keep them away from me please!”

Harry’s voice was cold, bitter. “Why should I? What will you do for me?”

Umbridge’s face froze momentarily, the decision weighing in her mind. Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud thump at the door, the unmistakable sound of its wood frame cracking.

Harry turned back to Umbridge, “You’d better decide soon, time is about up.”

The door crashed open, the snarls of its batterers filling the room.



***Author's Note: (Yawn) I think I'll just end the story here. What do you think?

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Old August 21st, 2007, 2:25 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 33 – Moral Compass

The grand opening of Weasley’s Wheezes at its Hogmeades’ location would be remembered for quite some time. It’s comparison to other inaugural events would be mundane on the details. There were balloons and streamers and a showman in the guise of George Weasley made for a better than average start. It was the relentless assault by the vicious, dark magic-induced beasts that would set this opening apart from countless others. Sarah Peebles took in the scene from her vantage point in the circle of Aurors that was surrounding the stage in front of Weasley’s Wheezes. She and her colleagues had been granted a reprieve from their battle with Umbridge’s manticores and chimaeras when the savage animals had ceased their attacks and begun to descend on Gladrags. Somewhere in her memory, Sarah seemed to recall that her mentor, Harry Potter had disappeared not too long ago into the depths that that building. While the Aurors collected themselves and policed up the area, she stole away to find entry into the building.

“Protego!” Ron’s wand flashed, driving the mass of visceral flesh back from the door’s opening. “Reparo!” the assorted pieces of the door and its frame lashed themselves back together, offering a moment’s respite. Harry nodded to Ron, cognizant of the thrashing and banging across the entire perimeter of the room. He turned to Umbridge, his eyes blazing.

“What will it be, Delores? Will you give me the information we need, or do we leave you to your fate?”

Umbridge took in Harry’s expression, not sure, really, if he was serious, or if he was bluffing. In her mind, she couldn’t take the chance. She’d already escaped from Azkeban once, albeit with assistance, and she could do it again. She couldn’t do anything if she was dead.

“I’ll tell you what you want to know, just get me away from here. All you have to do, is transport me out of sight of those things.” Umbridge’s voice grew higher, shriller as the crashing against the doors and windows got louder.

“That’s not good enough, Umbridge! We already know that you can’t be trusted. This is the price for your life.” Harry held up a small blue shaded vial for her to see.

Delores Umbridge was no fool. Her only real value was the information in her head. She’d thought that she could bargain by holding things out, but by giving Potter her memories, she’d be out of chips to bargain with. A splintering crash at the window revealed a long talon making its way through the wood. It also made her decision much easier.

“I’ll do it. When you get me out of here!”

Harry laughed, “Nice try, do it now! Ron!” He tossed the vial over to his friend, who’s relieved expression was evident on his face. Umbridge tossed a cruel, heated glance at Harry, and then closed her eyes. Eventually, a blue, viscous liquid emitted from the corners of her eyes. Ron opened the stopper on the vial and allowed the liquid to fill the glass. When he finished, he put the top on the vial and nodded to Harry.

“Make sure those memories get to the Ministry! That’s the whole point of this, Ron. Get to the Ministry as fast as you can!” Harry looked back towards Umbridge.

Ron stared at his friend, “What about her? We can make it together!”

“Don’t worry about Umbridge, I’ll be right behind you, just make sure the memory gets to the Ministry!” Ron gave Harry a hard, knowing look. With a quick glance at Umbridge, Ron disappeared from the room.

Harry stood in the middle of the room, oblivious to the noise of the creatures outside, staring into space. After a moment, he cast a cold, menacing gaze at Umbridge.

“What are you waiting for Potter! Get me out of here!” Umbridge’s voice was louder, more desperate. “I gave you what you wanted!”

Harry looked at her, his eyes filled with a steely resolve. “What’s the rush? These are your pets after all. Maybe, I should leave you to them.” Harry turned his back on her, his mind racing, the rage in his breast making him hesitate.

Her voice steadied a triumphant laugh in her tone. “Well, well, well, the great Harry Potter is a horrid little man, after all. Apparently we aren’t so different, after all.” She wavered as another talon pierced the ceiling above. “We had an agreement, Potter! You weren’t going to let me die!”

“Maybe you don’t deserve to live! Maybe I’m doing the world a favor! You’ve hurt a lot of people, Umbridge! You’ve murdered for the sake of what? Power? You’re a threat to my friends, my family!” Ginny’s image came to his mind, the image right after her encounter in Diagon Alley, suddenly a place on his hand began to itch, the same place that Umbridge had forced him to ‘write lines’ those years ago. “You’re a threat to me. Maybe it’s best that you can’t hurt anyone else, anymore.” He stared her down, and for the first time, Delores Umbridge truly feared for her life.

“You can’t Potter! You can’t let me die!” Her voice was panicked, faltering; a bout of hysteria was following close behind. Harry took a last look at her and slowly turned his head. His mind began to concentrate on a destination, anywhere, but away from her.

“Harry.” The voice was quiet, soft and warm. It was unexpected, and it wasn’t Umbridge. Harry turned and found himself looking at Sarah. She’d found a small spiral ladder that had led up to an adjacent room, too small for the creatures to navigate. She’d come through a connecting door and found him about to leave the dreadful Umbridge woman to her fate.

He was startled by her, unsure of his actions. Her words hit him to the core.

“You don’t want to do this, Harry. You’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” Sarah looked at him, ignoring the vigorous nods of agreement from Umbridge or the chaos of the enraged animals crashing through.

“Sarah! What are doing here, get out of here! Can’t you see that she deserves it? She’s evil! She’s murdered people! She’s tried to hurt the people that I love. She tried to hurt Ginny! She’s hurt me!” Harry was spent, unsure of what he should do next, his mind swirling with thoughts of the greater good and what was right.

Sarah’s voice dropped in volume, “You once said that being an Auror was about justice and peace, and that we must never use our position to exercise power over the helpless.” Her arm dropped to the bound woman nearby.

Harry stood, his eyes never leaving Sarah, shamed by what he’d almost done. He stared at his pupil and found she was teaching him a lesson. He nodded his head and walked over to Umbridge. Grasping her and Sarah’s arm, he apparated them out of the room, away from Hogsmeade.

Outside, Henry Milton was keeping a watch on four would-be chimaeras that had been stunned by multiple spells from the phalanx of Aurors. When Harry moved Umbridge from their proximity, the chimaeras changed their form. In front of Milton, were four kittens, mewling in fear and probably hunger. “Blimey.” The Umbridge threat was over.

Harry and Sarah arrived at the Ministry of Magic with Umbridge in tow. They brought her up to the Office of Aurors and placed her in one of the rooms especially charmed to hold wizards of her ilk. Harry walked with Sarah back to his office, emotionally spent from the encounter.

“Sarah,” he paused, the shame of his actions hitting him, “Thanks, I almost did something I would have regret.” She smiled at him, placed a small hand on his shoulder.

“It’s what you’d done for me. ‘You will not apologize, because you have nothing to apologize for.’” She was definitely teasing him.

“How long am I to expect you to keep reciting my own words back to me?” He started laughing with her, his mood lightening ever so slightly.

“For as long as you’re my tutor. I’m lucky to have you training me, Harry. You looked out for me when no one else would. You’re a good teacher, and I’m glad I’m your student.” Her face was proud, unembarrassed and unashamed.

He blushed, “Thanks Sarah, I definitely needed that.” She looked at him with a little more seriousness.

“Harry, you still have one more thing to do, don’t you?” He looked at her, unsure of what she spoke. They still had to figure out who was behind all this and how to stop them. There was probably more than one thing left. She laughed at his confusion, “Don’t you think you should go and let Ginny know you’re okay? She’s liable to tear down the Ministry before long.”

He laughed out loud, his mood definitely getting better. “Well, we can’t have public property being destroyed. I want to check on Ron first, and then I’ll go save the Ministry from total destruction.” He got up and walked out of his office. He moved down the corridor. As he passed the granite memorial wall, he noticed that Masterson’s name and image had been added already. He made his way to Lachlan’s office and knocked. The door opened, and he entered to find Ron waiting.

“You made it back? Good.” Harry skimmed the office and saw the vial sitting on Lachlan’s desk.
“Where’s Lachlan?”

Ron looked at his friend closely, concern covering his face. “He hasn’t returned yet. Um, Harry, where’s Umbridge?” The unspoken question was had Harry left her to die? Harry looked at his friend, and saw the fear in Ron’s eyes.

“She’s in a cell, down the hall.” A visible sigh of relief overcame Ron. “I almost did it, Ron, I almost became just like her. Maybe, I am just like her deep down.”

Ron was more shocked at that statement than he was thinking that his friend had killed Umbridge. “Don’t say that Harry. You’re nothing like her, nothing at all.”

“I felt it, Ron, I felt it in my being to let her die.” Harry sat down, his face crestfallen.

Ron stood and paced, his mind furiously at work. “So, why didn’t you do it? No one would have stopped you, why didn’t you let her die?”

“Sarah showed up, and well, she said Aurors don’t use their powers over the helpless.” Ron’s eyebrow raised a hint.

“Who taught her that, I suppose?” Ron’s mouth was moving towards a full smile.

“I did, I guess.”

“Well, now, I guess you were a better teacher than you thought.” Ron’s voice became steady, confident. “And maybe, just maybe, despite all that you’ve been through and all that you’ve become, the great Harry Potter is not above learning something new, from time to time.”

Harry laughed at his friend’s comment. So many times, over the past few months, he’d had to lead and to act, but in the greater scheme of things, he was still relatively new to his new role, both as an Auror and as a husband, and he still had a lot to learn about both.

A commotion burst out in the hall outside, as the Aurors from Hogsmeade began to file into the Office. Harry peered a head out and motioned for Robards and Dawlish to make their way over. Joined by Lachlan, they crowded into the office with Harry and Ron.

“Umbridge is locked up down the hall, sir.” Harry addressed Robards, but swept his gaze over the others.

“Well done, Harry, we can start her interrogation straight away.” A relieved Robards made a gesture over to Dawlish.

Harry interrupted him, “That won’t be necessary, sir.” That stopped the conversations about interrogation momentarily. “You see sir, I got her to give us her memory, especially those subsequent to her escape from Azkeban.”

“How did you manage that, Harry?” Robards was obviously impressed and curious.

“I made it worth her while, sir.” Harry gave a sheepish grin. “It was more important for her to cooperate with us, than not.” Robards let the matter drop, to Harry’s relief.

“Well, let’s see it, we’ll use the Pensieve in the meeting room.” Harry grabbed the vial from the desk and the group proceeded down to the Auror meeting room. They gathered around the Pensieve located in the corner of the room. It was larger than the one Dumbledore had, the one currently in Harry’s office. Harry poured the contents of the vial into the large stone basin, allowing its contents to merge with vapor and mist floating within. As one, the assembled group concentrated on the memories floating in the mist. Selecting one, they found themselves watching the details of Umbridge’s assisted escape from Azkeban. The flew along with her on the back of the wyvern, noting the fact that these beasts hadn’t been seen in centuries.

The memory skipped through the flight across the ocean, and followed her to the fog covered island. They looked at each other, curious at the citadel in the mountain and leaned forward at the point the mystery woman made her plea to Delores. No one recognized the beautiful woman who was casually issuing demands for their own deaths. The memory took them from the island and drifted to the a pastoral scene, in a field, outside a house that looked like a big black rock. The image of a man in black robes, standing behind some trees, watching a house. Dawlish drew a deep breath inward, recognizing the figure as that of his man, Masterson, who had been assigned to watch over Luna Lovegood. They watched as Masterson was being stalked by four shadowy, menacing figures. Harry knew what would happen next. The image of Masterson turned around, his expression passing from surprise to shock, to finally terror.

“Enough!” Robards’ voice boomed across the room. “I think we’ve seen quite enough.” No one had an argument, no one wanted to live that memory.

“Well, we’ve seen our enemy, but does anyone know who she is?”

There were blank faces around the room. The woman’s face had not registered. Her identity was a mystery. Harry’s expression was distracted, deep in thought, his memory drifting back across the years. “One minute sir, I’ll be right back.” Harry darted out the door, heading back to his office. Within minutes, he returned, a little winded from his dash. He held a deck of peculiar cards in his hand.

“Harry, why on earth do you have Chocolate Frog Cards in your hands?” Ron, like everyone else, had no idea why his friend would have children’s playing cards out. Harry ignored his friend and rifled through the deck until he came to a card. This was a card he’d received in his first deck, so many years ago on the Hogwart’s Express. He held up the card and tossed it on the table in the center of the room. On the card was a face, the face of the woman who’d they seen in the memory. Looks of incredulity went around the room.

“You can’t be serious, Harry.” Robards could not believe where this was going.

Dawlish was thoughtful, “I think Harry may be onto something, what other explanation is there? Think about the type of magic it took to free Umbridge, think about the wyverns and look at her. The face is identical.”

“Morgana? Morgan Le Fay? She’s been dead for centuries! This is preposterous!” Robards sputtered, not ready to believe.

Lachlan spoke up for the first time, “Well sir, I’d be inclined to agree with you sir, but the last time I saw a Fury was on one of those cards and we know where the next time we saw a Fury was.”

“Well assume it’s possible. What do we do?”

“We have to confirm this.” Dawlish was thoughtful. “We need to have some background on Morgana, find out about her, and see if she has a weakness.”

There were nods around from the rest. Robards agreed to the situation for the mean time, but his skepticism remained. With nothing else to discuss, they filed out of the room, more afraid than before they went in.

Harry and Ron left the meeting room, idly walking back to his office.

“Harry James Potter!” Harry was intimately familiar with the voice. Oftentimes, it had provided solace for him in the darkest times. Right now, it had a tone with which he wasn’t too familiar. It seemed sinister. Ron ducked his head and blend into the wall and did his best disappearing charm, escaping the wrath of the voice. Harry turned around, and offered his wife a smile. She was standing, her weight on one leg, leading toe tapping in a furious beat. Her arms were crossed and brow furrowed in a fierce look. Her eyes blazed and her hair seemed a deep shade of red, almost fire-like, much like her present mood.

“I’ve been crazy with worry, waiting for you. Would it have killed you to let me know that you were still alive?”


***Author's Note: I wonder if Ron told Harry the part about making up?

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Thanks to cybobbie for the awesome sig pic!
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My Fanfics:
A History of Magic: Part II - Beyond the Epilogue
Teddy Lupin and the Legacy of the Marauders ; A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era (on hiatus); You Are Cordially Invited... (First Attempt)

Last edited by USNAGator91; August 21st, 2007 at 2:41 pm.
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  #33  
Old August 21st, 2007, 7:53 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 34 – Night's Minions

Morgana’s citadel stood white, noble in the morning sun, its beauty belying the evil which had gathered in its midst. The black sorceress had amassed her followers, who had taken centuries to collect and lifetimes to put into place. Morgana was an animagus, the original animagus. Her form was of a bird, not some dainty robin, but of a crow, a carrion crow, feeding on the carcasses and eggs of living beings. In her avian form, she landed near the dark pool in the center of her chamber. She transformed back into her regular form, spinning about to take in her denizens in the room.

The chamber was filled with movement, dark bodies standing restless, ill at ease, as if they were racers, impatiently awaiting the sound of the starter’s pistol. Sounds of breathing, huffing, snarling permeated their ranks, creating an olio of terror, of hatred which drew its strength from the woman in white before them. The darkness of the room gave hint of shadows, moving to and fro, pacing, luminescent pairs of red eyes dotting the room like fireflies on a warm spring night. One of the shadows moved forward, a robed figure, out of place in the menagerie, human, a man. The figure knelt in supplication before Morgana, face down, eyes to the floor, awaiting his mistress’ bidding.

Morgana allowed herself a smile, soon, she thought, soon I will be free of this place and I can take my rightful place as ruler of this world. “The Umbridge woman has been captured.” Gnashing of teeth and low growls came in response to the news. “That was part of our design. Now those who could stop us are uneasy. They will be distracted with saving their own lives, while we proceed with our task.”

She looked to the figure kneeling to her front, “Merwyn? Are you ready for your quest?”

The man raised his hooded head, his eyes soaking in her beauty. He seemingly basked in her glow, “Merwyn the Malicious is at your service, my lady. As have I always been.”

Morgana lent her toady a brief flicker of a smile and turned to the gathered masses. “We will continue to confuse and terrify our enemies. It is time for those that would oppose us the guardians of the false order, to truly fear for their worthless lives. The end draws near for this ‘Ministry of Magic’ and its so-called Aurors.” She turned to the darkest corner of her domain, “Come here, my pet.” Her voice was loving, tender and was met by a low-throated animal growl. “You and your minions are free to kill the Aurors. Kill them all, but make sure the rest feel fear. Their fear will be their undoing.”

A chorus of howls and grunts met her words, raising in volume, rebounding off the high walls of the chamber. She soaked in its effect, taking a brief moment to enjoy, how near she was to her goal.

“Merwyn, you’d best be on your way. Bring me the Bone of Ullr.”

************************************************** ************************************************** ********
12 Grimmauld Place had a sitting room in the front part of the house, which held a large fireplace. Near the hearth, two rather large, overstuffed high-backed chairs offered its occupants a comfortable proximity to the fire and a good view of the room, which had been redone to mirror the Gryffindor common room at Hogwarts. The sun was setting in the afternoon sky, while there were two chairs in the room and two occupants of the home, more times that not, the fire would be witness to both of the home’s live-ins sharing but one chair, nestled in comfort in each other’s arms. Such was the case this evening.

Harry sat in the chair, his wife, Ginny, lay sideways, arms dangling over the arms, her own arms wrapped around his neck. Harry’s eyes were closed, a smile on his face, random thoughts drifting through his head. After a moment, he allowed a quick laugh to escape his lips.

“What?” Ginny could not help but smile at his mirth.

He looked down at her face, the flicker of the fire causing her eyes to dance, “It’s nothing really. It’s just that Ron always told me that being married was so much better than I could possibly imagine, that it got better and better each day.” He kissed her lips. “I was just thinking that if I knew this was how arguments were going to be settled, I almost want to have one every day.”

She gave him a mockingly stern look, “I wouldn’t want to put that theory to the test too often, although, this ‘making up’ is very nice.” He laughed and stood, lifting her up in his arms.

“I think I still have some things to make up to you for.” He kissed her again. She giggled in delight and expectation. He carried her up the stairs. Neither saw the dark shadow that passed the outer window. It was there, and then gone in an instant.

************************************************** ************************************************** ********

Ron fumbled with the door to his apartment. Hermione had insisted that he stick to non-magical mannerisms as much as possible while he was out and out and about in their muggle neighborhood. He felt mostly at ease, but keys seemed to give him a little bit of trouble. Eventually, he managed to unlock his door and turn the knob, practically falling into his home. He turned and shut the door and grunted from the impact of a mass of hair and Hermione impacting him, pushing his back onto the door.

“You’re alive!” Hermione’s face came up to his face, showering him with kisses. She stood off and hit him solidly in the chest. “You should have sent word earlier, I’ve been worried sick!”

Ron had the bedraggled look of complete confusion that is usually endemic to men married for longer than a year. Surrendering to the inevitable, he touched her cheek, “I’m sorry, I’ll try harder next time.”

They both broke into laughter. The guffaws were a mixture of relief and happiness. They drew together and kissed deeply. Ron drew back and caressed her face, looking at her, immersing himself in her beauty. The sun was setting outside the large picture windows, casting a soft rosy glow on her hair, face and eyes. He absolutely loved looking at her, he knew every expression on her face and cherished every moment in her presence. A cloud passed over his own face, his worry not for what happened, but for his friend, Harry. Although he felt that Harry’s core was not a reflection of his actions today, he knew that Harry would have doubts, and those doubts could hurt him. He looked at Hermione, knowing that she was someone, the only person he could confide in.

“Hermione,” He searched for a way to interrupt this moment with her, to talk to her about the day’s events. She shushed him, and led him towards their bedroom. She smiled back at him, “Later, tell me later.”

Ron smiled as he followed her. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he noticed movement across the way, outside his window. The glare of the sunset seemed to be playing tricks on him. The shadow he thought he saw, disappeared almost as soon as it was there.

************************************************** ************************************************** *********

Henry Milton walked out into the night, waving back at George Weasley and Lee Jordan as he left Weasley’s Wheezes in Hogsmeade. Although the Umbridge threat had abated, he and Dawes had made a point to drop in and say hello to the two entrepreneurs. Milton was especially taken with the wit and innovation of the men’s wares. There was no moon and the night was especially dark, which made his eyes appear as holes in the paleness of his face. Dawes had left earlier, a pressing engagement at his home cutting short his fun. The night was getting late, and Milton figured that he would have a lot to answer for when he got home.

He made his way down the main street, intending to use the Floo access at the Hog’s Head. As he passed an alley, he thought he heard a sound that was out of place with the quiet of the night. An experienced Auror, Milton had an instinct that the sound was out of the ordinary. Pulling his wand, he moved down the alley. It was dark. With no moon, and the nearest gas lamp out on the main street, he couldn’t make out shapes in the dead end.

“Lumos!” The end of his wand glowed with a bright blue light, casting the aura of midday in the confined quarters. At the end of the alley, he spotted a shape. It was muddled, dark, like the figure of a mannequin. He moved closer, his eyes narrowing, trying to distinguish whether it were a live person or not. As he approached, he thought he recognized the robes on the figure. They were midnight black, but frayed and torn, shredded from the neck to the stomach. He looked closer still, and saw that it was person and the robe was covered in blood, the body beneath, dead, mutilated. He drew his wand up to the face, hoping to identify the victim and when he did, he recoiled in horror, drawing back against a nearby wall, an audible howl coming from his mouth. It was Dawes. His friend’s light blue eyes were open, lifeless, like doll’s eyes. His expression was horrific, as if he was seeking help and there hadn’t been any. No one had been there. Milton hadn’t been there.

A low, continuous growl began to emanate from the street entrance. He turned, and peered past his light at the source. Ten pairs of red, glowing lights looked back at him, getting bigger as the source of the growling drew near, slowly as if stalking him. Three massive, horrible figures came into view. The center figure was massive, the size of a full grown lion, muscular, broad, almost the entire width of the alley. Three massive canine heads were connected at the junction of its shoulders, they were low, feral, sharp teeth bared as all three heads growled in unison. On either side of the massive creature were two large dogs, also black, but slightly smaller. Their heads were identical, mouths open, nipping at the tail of the three-headed leader. All three creatures looked deadly, all three were looking right at him, and all three seemed to be smiling.

Henry Milton was not a coward, years of training, of confronting evil, had honed him into one of his kinds best, an Auror. He would die bravely. He raised his wand, shooting a stunning spell towards the largest of the predators. The red bolt impacted squarely on the beast’s chest, with little or no appreciable effect. Milton cursed and tried another spell, again this one rebounded with no effect to the creature. The sound of the animals’ throats were especially louder, crisper, as if announcing his own end.

“Protego!” Desperately, he threw up a shield, trying to keep the creatures at bay. The leader paused, its three heads sniffing the lighted specter, and then the center head plunged into the shield, slowly pulling the rest of its body through. Ever so slowly, Milton watched its progress through his last line of defense. He didn’t want to die without reason, he wanted his sacrifice to mean something. Furiously, he dipped his hands into the recesses of his robe, as the first tip of a snout began to work its way through his shield. His hand grasped at a piece of parchment and threw it to the ground, slightly annoyed, he reached in again and found what he was looking for. The first head was almost through to the ears. The snouts of the other two heads started exiting the barrier. Frantically, he tossed the object down and reached one last time into his robe. Grabbing a small cylinder, he smiled. He’d done what he could do. Slamming the base of the cylinder on the ground, it erupted into a cascade of fireworks, one of Weasley’s specials. The air above the alley was illuminated in shades of blue and green and red. The different whirls of fire and smoke rang through the village exploding in a cacophony of festive figures.


The explosions masked his screams, as the creature made its way through his shield and leapt onto his chest.

***Author's Note: It's not Fluffy!!! So don't tell me about Fluffy. Bad dog, Fluffy, bad dog.

Your good wishes and thoughts will help bring Tinkerbell back here.


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  #34  
Old August 21st, 2007, 10:45 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 35 – Taking Action

Harry walked down the alley, which on the surface seemed relatively benign in the morning light. As a student at Hogwarts, he’d passed this area countless times, and never had he imagined the destruction that could occur, in so tranquil a place. The end of the alley was a charnel house, blood cast everywhere. He approached the two men standing near the bodies of Dawes and Milton, heads locked together in conversation. They turned to acknowledge Harry’s arrival, their faces somber.

“Lachlan” Harry gripped his friend’s hand, “Dawlish” He turned to greet the senior Auror. He viewed the devastation from up close, his stomach doing somersaults. “What could have done this? More of Umbridge’s pseudo-beasts?”

Lachlan shook his head. “Not this time, the damage is too extensive. Besides Frederick and Henry were good Aurors, look at the way they held out when we captured Umbridge. I think Morgana may have introduced something new to the mix.”

Harry felt a chill pass through his body. Morgana represented ancient evil, the darkest magic, much like the Furies. Nothing in his power had stopped them; he’d relied on their own magic to kill them. His eyes skimmed the alley, trying to take all of the details, without looking into the blank, dead eyes of his two murdered colleagues. A flapping piece of parchment, lodged in the seam of some masonry caught his eye. He reached down to pick it up. It was one of announcements for Weasley’s Wheezes from the other day. He smiled a bit and then flipped the parchment over. There was writing on the back of the parchment, hurriedly scrawled, barely legible. Harry looked up from the paper and spotted a quill on the pavement, a self-inking quill, much like the ones George had given out, much like the one George had given Milton. Harry turned to the other two Aurors.

“I think we’ve got a problem.” He extended his arm out, holding the parchment open for them to see.

Dawlish read the writing; his hand automatically started a rapid pace through his hair. Lachlan whistled and took a deep breath. “That, my boy is an understatement.”

The script on the paper was in red, as if written in blood. Its statement was brief, but a world of knowledge, Milton was a professional, to the very end.

“Cerberus and 2 Barghests killed me and Dawes tonight. No spells work. Could not apparate. Tell my wife that I love her. Milton.”

“Apparently Dawes was killed first, Milton happened upon them later. Milton obviously held the beasties off long enough to use the self-inking quill. He died to get us this information.” Dawlish started to choke up, his voice wavered.

“This is bad, Harry. We’ve no way to stop Cerberus. The Barghests are a stroke of genius.” Lachlan looked over the scene; Harry gave him a questioning look. “Cerberus is immune to most magic, so the best defense is to get away, apparate. It can’t follow a transportation. The Barghests have some property that nullifies our ability to apparate. Working together, it’s a lethal combination. About the only thing working for us is that Barghests can only be out after sundown, they are night creatures.”

Harry looked up to the sky, mentally figuring out the hours until night, until they were vulnerable again.

The entire Department of the Magical Law Enforcement was in an uproar. The threat posed to wizard-kind had never seemed so extreme. Assembled in the chamber normally reserved for Wizengamot hearings, the Department’s leadership was seated on the benches reserved for judges and interrogators. In the middle of the chamber, on the lowered floor where the accused were usually assigned, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic, stood with Gawain Robards, Dawlish, Miles Jackson-Smythe and Harry. It was as if the five were on trial instead of presenting evidence of a horrific threat. Kingsley held up his arms, asking for quiet.

“There is no doubt, that we face a dangerous situation. We must assume that Morgana is alive, and that she wants to return. The only questions are what is she after and how do we stop her?”
A riot of argument and name calling ensued, drowning out the Minister. Most of the suggestions were foolish and not particularly helpful. “Ladies and gentlemen. Ladies and gentlemen!” The Minister’s voice was commanding; the voices stopped and he regained their attention. He smiled and turned towards Jackson-Smythe, offering him the floor.

“We know that Morgana can not leave her island, ergo, she must be seeking a way to remedy the situation, most likely by reviving her son, Mordred.” He swept the room with his gaze, emphasizing each point with the tip of his pipe. “We know that Merlin himself was the wizard who banished her to what we thought was death, but what apparently turned into exile.”

The room was silent, not even breathing. Miles did love a rapt audience. “I would say, considering Morgana is alive, there is a reasonable expectation that we could find where Merlin lies and see if there is any information on how to stop her.” This drew murmurs from the crowd. “What we need is a journey, a seeker to find this place. What we need is a quest. We need a quest for Merlin’s tomb.”

Dawlish led Harry out by the arm, as the meeting devolved into a general shouting match.

A few hours later, a weary Kingsley and Robards walked into Dawlish’s office, their faces inscrutable as to the outcome of the debate. Harry, Lachlan and Dawlish rose, offering seats to the visitors, curious as to what was going to happen.

Kingsley spoke, “Well, they said to for us to proceed. There was a lot of debate; many think this is a fool’s errand.” He rubbed his head, working his way into the details. “But if there is a chance that we could find Merlin’s Tomb, then they want us to find it.” He hesitated, his eyes locking with Harry’s, “Actually, they want you to find it, Harry.”

“Me? What? This is absurd; there are more experienced searchers than me! I’m barely out of training, sir. They can’t be serious, can they?” Harry offered pleading looks around the room. “Why me?”

Robards took his turn to speak. “There are two reasons, Harry. First, you are a talisman; you’ve succeeded where no one else has, so if there is an impossible task, you are the one who could complete it.” Robards stopped, stealing a look at Kingsley. Robards did not say that on some level, many believed that Harry would decoy attention from the rest, his high profile may draw the ire of the dark sorceress.

Harry saw the look, “What’s the other reason? Tell me!”

“You were right; you are inexperienced, so to speak. They wanted the senior Aurors to stay in house, to attempt more ‘conventional’ means of stopping the immediate threat.” Robards was trying to be diplomatic.

“I’m expendable, that’s what you’re saying. They wanted the Aurors to remain who could be of greater help, and they’re sending me because I’m expendable.” Harry’s point ushered in a prolonged bout of silence.

Dawlish raised a concerned voice, “We’re not sending him out there alone, are we? He’s got to be able to take someone with him. Let him go with Lachlan or Savage.”

“No, he can not take any of the senior Aurors. Look, we have a lot to prepare for. They want us to arm the Hit Teams with goblin weapons. There is a thought that metal weapons may injure the beasts.” Robards couldn’t look Dawlish in the eye.

Dawlish’s brain was moving at a faster pace, “Ok then, he won’t take a senior Auror with him. Let’s go, Harry.” He led Harry from his own office, leading him down the hall to Harry’s own space. As soon as they entered, he shut the door.

“Look Harry, you can’t take any of us with you, but they didn’t say anything about someone training to be an Auror, do you get my meaning?” Dawlish saw understanding dawning in Harry’s eyes. “Normally, I wouldn’t even suggest this, but I don’t think you should do this alone. You need help, and you need people you can trust.”

“John, I need you to promise you’ll watch over Ginny and Hermione. I mean, I’m taking Ron with me, that’s what we’ve been talking about, isn’t it? If we go out there, we’ll need to know. I’ll need to know that my family is safe.”

“You have my word, Harry. I’ll watch over them with my life. I promise.” Dawlish’s words were serious and somber, his oath a sacred bond, one made between friends, which could be more binding than an Unbreakable Bond at times, because in the Unbreakable Bond, the only real punishment was death.

“Thanks, John. I’d better go find Ron, and then, I’ve got to figure out a way to tell my wife that I’m putting my head in it again.” He could only imagine how she’d react. For a brief instant, his step bounced a bit. Well, he thought, this could mean that a “make up” was just around the corner. He hurried his stride out the door.



The Weasley apartment was quiet as they sat at the table, contemplating Ron’s news. Hermione, for the first time in a long time, had nothing really to say. She couldn’t solve this problem, there wasn’t a riddle to solve, there wasn’t a Horcrux to destroy. Her husband was going out on a dangerous assignment, in a dangerous world. For a moment, she was lost, her eyes on him, but not focused. Every permutation of the worst possible outcome was spinning through her head as she seriously contemplated what losing him would mean.

She’d been fully supportive of his decision to become an Auror. She knew of his desire to be more, both to her, but especially to himself. She was proud of his efforts, how hard he worked to overcome his own doubts and to tap into that hidden reservoir of talent and ability that was just beneath his exterior. Yet, this was different somehow. She’d never really stopped to think of the rollercoaster of emotions that Ginny went through. Hermione had known Harry for so long; she just accepted that he would bear the burdens and risks of being Harry Potter. That was the price he paid for being who he was. Ron was different, she’d thought. Sure, he’d been in danger, but not like this. The enemy was formidable and the potential for failure very real. For the first time since they’d been married, she was afraid, and it rocked her to her soul. She could not hold back her tears.

Ron walked around the table to hold his wife. She was everything to him and he wondered how he could express his fear of losing her. Part of him knew that he had to go with Harry, to finish an impossible quest to stop an implacable foe. That was something; at least, they’d done before. Here, however, he was afraid of losing her, and he could not bear that thought. He felt a little selfish, because he was taking action to make a difference. She would remain behind, exposed to the danger of creatures that no one had the power to repel. He could not bear the thought losing her. He was sure that he was letting her down, somehow. Why else would she be crying?

He took her body in his arms, her shoulders wracking with her sobs. She allowed him to support her, to hold her tight. He stroked her back and caressed her cheek. Her tears were flowing, her eyes wide but watery.

“I’m sorry, Hermione, I don’t want to let you down.” His voice was low, his eyes downcast, unable to face her.

She rubbed her eyes, unsure of what she just heard. “Wha-What? What do you mean?”

“I’m leaving you alone, exposed to go with Harry, I should be here to watch over you. I guess I’m acting the coward here, going off into the country while you are facing the danger.”

Her fastidious mind went through the calculations. She revisited her own thoughts and then processed his words. When she finished, two plus two hadn’t equaled five. She couldn’t help herself, despite all of her fear and pain, she burst out laughing.

“You git!” Ron was now beyond his normal confused state, he couldn’t be more confounded if he was unconscious. “I’ve been worried about you putting yourself in danger! I was afraid of losing you.”

Ron saw a sliver of understanding peeking through the recesses of his brain. “But I was afraid of losing you, I thought you were thinking that I was abandoning you.”

When married couples work through communication issues, there are sparks when understanding is achieved. Were one to be an observer of the apartment, one would swear that the sparks were visible to the naked eye. Ron pulled Hermione to him, and kissed her as if it were the first time. He kissed her as if there wouldn’t be another. He kissed her and then carried her into their bedroom. The door slammed shut behind them with an urgent force.


Her reaction wasn’t what he’d expected. Ginny didn’t rave or yell or rage against the unfairness of it all. She simply went to him and put her head on his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and placed his head on hers. She didn’t cry, there would be time for that later. She looked up into his eyes, her look pleading and urgent. She didn’t say a word, what could be said? She loved him with every fiber of her existence, she breathed because he existed, how could she possibly express that?

She understood, he had to go, not because he was a thrill seeker or because even, it was his job. Deep down, she knew, he had to go because there was simply no one else who could even remotely get the job done. He was special, if anyone could accomplish the task, it would be him. All she could do was to enjoy what may be their last night together. So she looked at him, wordlessly, conveying her love, conveying her need and most importantly, conveying her understanding of the task he had to perform.

They kissed, their bond solid, unwavering; their love transferring back and forth, strengthening them both. Their embrace became urgent, needing. He took her by the hand and led her upstairs, and yet not a word had been spoken. There’ll be time enough for that later. Right now, there was only need.

When they disappeared upstairs, an ugly, stooped house-elf walked out of the kitchen. Kreacher looked up the stairs where his Master and Mistress had disappeared. He took up a position on the stairs, in his hand a rather oversized meat cleaver. Folding his arms carefully, he kept vigil, watching the front door, determined to give Harry and Ginny, one last night of peace.


***Author's Note: I gave you three chapters in a day. My brain hurts. The pace will slow somewhat, so be patient.

Feedback, please. Like it was my last time writing.....


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  #35  
Old August 22nd, 2007, 7:47 pm
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 36 – Auror’s Quest

When Harry arrived at the Ministry of Magic the next morning, the atmosphere was that of a kingdom under siege. A palpable air of fear hovered over everyone who passed through the great hall entrance. Harry was momentarily taken aback by the presence of Department of Magical Law Enforcement Hit Teams and Aurors stationed along the main atrium of the Ministry. While extra security was not, considering the present crisis, a surprise in and of itself, what did make Harry look twice was the fact that these wizards were clad in mostly ill-fitting goblin armor and armed with an assortment of halberds and swords. Most of the erstwhile guards seemed ill-at-ease with their equipage, their outfitting an obvious testament to Robards’ attempt at “conventional” means to deter the threat of the Cerberus. Harry wasn’t sure about the utility of the armed presence, considering it was the beginning of the day, and they’d already established that the Cerberus was a night time threat, based on the availability of the Barghests. Harry shrugged his shoulders, coming to the conclusion that the guards and their arms were more a means of reassuring the general public that activity was happening to combat the threat of Morgana.

“Harry!” He turned his head to see Ron making his way towards him. He and his friend were dressed alike, with jeans and a sweatshirt over a tee-shirt. Leather work boots covered their feet, and Ron carried his beaten leather satchel over his shoulder. Harry had his equally weary rucksack over his own shoulder. Offering Ron a smile of greeting, the two met in the middle of the morning crowd.

“How’d it go with Ginny, last night? Everything alright?” Ron knew that his sister could be formidable when roused.

“Surprisingly, she was very understanding. I guess the wonders of married life will never cease. How about Hermione?” Harry also knew how stubborn Hermione could be, and part of him was surprised that she wasn’t insisting on tagging along.

“We worked it out.” A slight blush came over Ron’s face, immediately changing the subject, he cinched up his satchel. “So, ready to start? Where to first?”

Harry had given the topic some thought, “Hogwarts, I suspect. We’ll need to research some things, but I think the best place to start is Hogwarts.”

Ron nodded in agreement, and with that, the pair headed to the Floo entries near the entrance.

“Harry!” A decidedly feminine voice rang in his ears, above the din of the bustle. He turned, and spotted Sarah Peebles pushing her way through the crowd. She, like them, was dressed in jeans, a long sleeve shirt and light jacket completing her ensemble. Over her shoulder, her Auror’s bag hung loosely. She looked like a person ready to start a journey. Uncomfortably, Harry thought, she seemed to be looking to go with them on their journey.

“Going somewhere?” Harry’s question had more bite than he had intended.

She stopped short, her voice confident, “Yes, I’m going with you two. I am your student, after all.”

“Look Sarah, this may be dangerous. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to have raw trainees on this assignment.” Sarah’s gaze fell to Ron, her skepticism at Harry’s last statement prominently displayed.

Harry would not be deterred. “Sarah, I appreciate the effort, I really do. I know what Ron brings to this quest. What would you bring to it? Give me one good reason why I should have you along?”

She didn’t hesitate, and her confidence made Harry proud of her.

“I’m your conscience.” Her statement was earnest, matter of fact, and her eyes blazed with the assurance in her conviction of its truth.

Ron snorted and made a half-hearted attempt to study the ceiling. Harry gave him sharp look but considered what she’d said. Was he so accomplished that he was above humbling or mistake? Of course not! She had a distinct point, and Ron echoed his thoughts.

“It looks like she has you there, Harry.” Harry knew she did, so he smiled and relented. Now they were a band of three. They headed for the Floo entrance and filed in, one by one.

Professor Minerva McGonagall sat at the desk that had served the Headmaster or Headmistress of the Hogwarts School for centuries. She was scanning a set of parchment, which surprisingly told her that the behavior scores for Mortimer Gafney and Silas Hornsby were good. The two normally were the center of mischief but now seemed to have taken a keen interest in Herbology and their activities seemed to have dampened their wayward impulses. She made a mental note to commend Neville about his unique teaching manner with the boys. Her thoughts were interrupted by noisy announcement of arrivals to her hearth, through the Floo network. She took a quick glance at the empty portrait of Albus Dumbledore and rose from her desk, and smiled when she recognized her guests.

“Harry! Ron! Ms. Peebles! Welcome!” She felt genuine warmth for the returning alumni. Her normally austere demeanor gave way to hugs and embraces for the three of them, along with a slightly curious look.

Harry spoke up for the three of them, “Sorry to intrude, Professor McGonagall, it’s just that, we need some help. We’re on a mission, and we need to gather some information, if we might.” Harry gazed around the familiar office, a pang of loss momentarily overcoming him, especially when he noticed that Dumbledore’s painting was empty. “Where’s Professor Dumbledore?”

“Oh, he’s at the Ministry of Magic, trying to help Kingsley prepare a defense of some sort. He told me of your mission, and frankly, the best source is Cuthbert Binns.” Harry had to stifle a yawn that almost always appeared whenever his former ghostly History of Magic professor’s name was mentioned.

Harry shook his head, knowing that she was right. After all, Professor Binns, reluctantly, had let them know the history of the Chamber of Secrets, even though he had a natural aversion to myth and legend. He dealt in fact and would be hesitant to talk at length. Nonetheless, he would be a good place to start.

“You’re probably right, Professor.” Harry saw the look of absolute dread pass over Ron’s face. “We’ll head down, straight away.”

The trio made there way down the spiral staircase and continued down towards the main entrance hall. When the reached the door to the teachers’ staff room Harry immediately noticed that the sentinel gargoyles had been removed, a reflection that lessened sense of threat that the school was under, or an indication of the amount of damage the school had sustained during the climactic battle waged there. They gave a knock and entered the staff room.

“Professor Binns?” Harry scanned the room, looking around for any sign of their former teacher. Moving towards the fire place, Harry heard the soft drone of snoring, emanating from one of the large chairs. The transparent figure of Cuthbert Binns was asleep in the chair, the same chair he was rumored to have died in. The story goes that he’d died in his sleep, and his ghost had simply risen, leaving his body behind, the ghost moving on to teach. It was also said that there was no noticeable difference between the droning teaching style of the poltergeist and the real man.

Harry raised his voice a little louder, “Professor Binns!” The figure in the chair rose with a start.

“Wha-? Who? Oh, Mr. Potter. Sorry, you can’t have extra credit.” He made to return to his slumber.

“Professor! We need to ask you something. Something about history.” Binns turned his head up, an unbelieving stare returned to Harry and Ron, two of his former students with less then sterling reputations for interest in his subject.

“History, you say? What do you want to know about history?” He floated above the chair, more alert, or as alert as he could muster.

“Well sir, we’re trying to find Merlin’s tomb. It’s quite important.”

The apparition of Cuthbert Binns gave an exasperated snort. “Myths? Legends? I thought you wanted to know history, not anything to do with some child’s fantasy about a sword in a stone! Leave me alone.”

Sarah spoke up, “Professor Binns, wait! Didn’t you say that it was an established fact that our current structure of laws regarding muggle secrecy was handed down to us by Merlin, himself?”

“What was that? Who said that?” Binns leaned down to look at Sarah more closely. “Ah, Ms. Peebles, isn’t it? Yes, you were like Ms. Granger in my classes, taking notes, paying attention.” He cast an accusatory look at Ron and Harry. “Yes, I do seem to remember saying that, so what of it?”

Sarah continued, “Wouldn’t finding Merlin’s tomb, the known source of our laws, be a key element in reinforcing its veracity?”

“Yes, yes, I can see your point. Very well, ask your questions.” Harry jumped at the chance.

“Professor, where is Merlin’s Tomb?” The ghost seemed to ponder the question.

“No one knows, there’s really no record. What’s written was that Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, lured Merlin to a cave and sealed him inside. She is the only person who would know.”

“Where do we find her?” Harry felt the quest getting more difficult. “What lake?” There were literally thousands of lakes between Britain and France, which were the centerpieces of the Arthurian legend.

“Legend states,” they could hear the distaste in Binns’ mouth at having to divulge the historical version of gossip, “Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur to Nimue in the lake near Arthur’s last battle at Camlann.” He looked down his nose at them. “It is a fact, that Camlann is also known as Slaughter Bridge, in Cornwall.” Muttering to himself, he disappeared through an adjacent wall.

The three headed over to the library and located a map of England. Tracing a path down towards the southwestern coast, they found the point marking the location of Slaughter Bridge. A small pinprick of blue stood near the location. It was called Dozmary Pool.

“Sounds like as good a place as any to start.” Ron’s energy was up. He’d not expected to find any lead at all to follow. “How do we get there? Thestrals?”

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask.” Harry agreed. “Let’s go and talk to Hagrid.”

Within a short time, the three were astride thestrals, although only Harry and Ron could see what they were riding. Harry and Ron had seen their share of death. Sarah, for all of her aptitude and the experiences of the past few weeks, had not experienced death first hand. Harry hoped that he could keep it that way.

The sun was setting as they made their way south. Harry picked out the lights of London as they passed. A chill went through him as he thought of the evil that stalked the streets. His thoughts were on Ginny, and he hoped that she was safe, that he would complete the task before too many people lost their lives. So many depended on this mission. The lives of his family and friends relied on his ability to locate the Lady of the Lake.

His thoughts were of his wife, Ginny. What was she doing, how was she feeling? Was she thinking of him? So preoccupied with her, he did not lend any thought to the three brooding shadows stalking a deserted Diagon Alley, looking for an inattentive Auror to prey on.


***Author's Note: OK, a little dry, heavy on the expository, but I had to get the three stooges on the road. I made the decision to keep Sarah alive, for now.

I'm on a quest for some FEEDBACK!!!


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Thanks to cybobbie for the awesome sig pic!
Thanks to the best fanclub in the world!

My Fanfics:
A History of Magic: Part II - Beyond the Epilogue
Teddy Lupin and the Legacy of the Marauders ; A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era (on hiatus); You Are Cordially Invited... (First Attempt)

Last edited by USNAGator91; August 22nd, 2007 at 8:07 pm.
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  #36  
Old August 23rd, 2007, 4:11 am
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Re: Initiation, Realization and Reunion

Chapter 37 – The Lady of the Lake

Darkness had fully grown when they’d landed near the town of Camelford. The thestrals chortled merrily, and flew off when the seekers had dismounted. Harry watched their departure, amazed at the grandeur and grace of such creatures. Nothing is ever as it seems, as it was with the thestrals. Harry led the way as they followed a small road, a path really along its course eventually coming to a non-descript stone bridge fording a non-descript creek. A small sign on the side of the road, indicated that this was Slaughter Bridge.

Harry looked around, seeing nothing that resembled a lake or any other reasonably sized body of water. They decided to follow the stream, upwards, to find its source. They trod silently, their eyes attuned to the darkness of the night. Eventually, the trees that marked their route dissipated as they broke into a clearing of gently rolling hills, marked by heath and bogs. The moorland went on as far as they could see. The creek they had been following tracked between the shallow slopes, running off into the distance. The three continued their trek through the marshy ground, their breathing labored as they followed the creek to its source.

“Harry?” Ron spoke in a hushed voice, like they were back in the Hogwarts’ library. “Do you recognize where we are?” Harry shook his head. “It’s Bodmin Moor!”

Harry’s eyebrows rose a bit. Bodmin Moor was the site of a famous Quidditch Match, that ended after six months of play, because the snitch had escaped the playing arena, never to be found. The story was that whoever found the snitch would be granted good luck. Part of Harry wanted to find the snitch, because he needed some luck, just about now.

Their legs grew tired, the hard slog through the soft ground tearing at their endurance. Finally, in the distance, they saw the open nothingness of a body of water. The moorland around them seemed to just terminate into a large, smooth pool of water. The surface seemed flat, no waves, not even a ripple broke the mirror-like quality of the water. They’d reached Dozmary Pool.

The area was quiet, the silence resounding in their ears. Ron could not restrain his question, “So now what? How do we find this Lady?”

“I don’t know.” Harry pointed along the shore of the pool. The three headed further along its rim, trying to determine what was happening. As he was walking, Harry kept is eye on the middle of the pool, imagining an injured Sir Bedivere galloping to the water’s edge, and hurling the mighty Excalibur into the pool, at his dying master’s request. In growing up with the legend, he’d heard different names for the Lady of the Lake. Vivienne or Morgause, he’d even heard Morgana, which he knew to be false. He’d never heard the name Nimue. It couldn’t be that easy, could it? He stopped in his tracks and faced the middle of the pool. His companions stopped as well, not sure what he was doing. The stories said that when Arthur sent Bedivere to throw the legendary sword into the lake, that he beckon the lady to come. Mediaeval manners always had him crying “My Lady!” which had become the canon response. What if he’d actually called her name?

“Nimue!” The name echoed into the distance, his voice carrying across the moorland and the hills. The water remained still, silent. “Nimue!” The night held no sound, no chirping of crickets, no wind blowing, just silence. Harry’s head dropped, he had hit a wall. He fell upon the ground; his shoulders slumped, at a loss at what to do next.

Ron’s gaze had never left the lake. It’s smooth, glassy surface mesmerizing him, drawing his eye. At first, he noticed a small ripple, as if a hidden current were pushing the water along. He narrowed his eyes as the ripples turned to waves, the waves to a froth, as if the timid current had become rapids in a manner of seconds.

“Look! Look at the water!” Harry stared up at his friend, his eye following the pointed arm out to the middle of the lake. A fountain of water cascaded out of the center of the pond, its apex shining white in the darkness of the night, seemingly carrying its own luminescence. The fountain moved towards them, the pillar of water slowly creeping its way to the shore. Harry stood up and went next to his friends. They were awed by the sight, their feet rooted in place as the water drew nearer to the shore, the violence of its actions causing waves to break near their feet. The water spout stopped just short of the shoreline, hovering in its fury. The figure of a woman drew out of the column walking on the water between her fountain and the land. She placed her bare feet on the soft march of the shore.

“Who called my name?” The voice was lyrical, beautiful matching the woman who spoke them. She was tall and lean, wearing a soft green shift that accented the curves of her body. Her hair was long, flowing and colored an iridescent green that shown in the starlight and glowed, seemingly of its own accord. Her skin was pale, soft, no hint of wetness from the sojourn from the middle of the lake. Her lips were red and pouty, as if she’d been disturbed in the middle of a very important task. She had emerald eyes, that sparkled, belying an underlying happiness, but downcast, as if that happiness was dampened by an overwhelming sadness.

“I called for you.” Harry wasn’t sure what to expect. His wand was in his hand, after all, this was the woman who’d betrayed Merlin and yet, she was the woman who helped Arthur in his desperate times. She’d raised and trained Lancelot, and yet he’d betrayed the trust of his friend. Her history was one of contradictions and she was not one to be trifled with. She turned towards him, her eyes locking with his own viridian orbs. For a moment, there seemed to be recognition as if she’d seen his eyes before. That glimpse of recognition caused her to smile, exposing the full radiance of her beauty.

“And who are you?” She didn’t sound menacing or threatening, simply curious.

“My name is Harry Potter, these are my friends, Ron Weasley and Sarah Peebles.” He gestured towards his companions. “We are seeking your guidance in a most important matter. We seek the location of Merlin’s Tomb.” Her eyes narrowed at Merlin’s name, suspicious almost defensive.

“Why do you wish to find Merlin’s Tomb?” Her gaze was penetrating and alluring, her hair moving in seeming time to the motion of the water.

Harry had not considered what to say. He’d not really believed, deep down, that he’d actually get this far. So he opted for the truth, “We are looking for a means to defeat Morgana. We wish to keep the dark witch confined to her isle and way from the land of men.”

Nimue showed surprise. In the past, when fortune seekers had found her, they’d lied about their intent; they’d been looking for the reputed wealth and treasure that was said to be buried with Merlin. She could find no deception in these seekers and if they were correct, Morgana posed a grave threat to them all. She pondered her response, the gravity of the situation weighing her down, commingling with the guilt that she had spent an eternity living with. Unconsciously, her sadness caused an inadvertent tear to drop from her pristine face.

“Why are you crying?” Sarah’s question was simple enough. The query born of real concern, something she’d not experienced in almost a lifetime. She smiled.

“Do you know why Merlin is entombed? Do you understand how Arthur lost the counsel of his dearest friend at his time of most urgent need?” The question was rhetorical; she had wanted to release herself of the burden of her secret.

“It is a question of arrogance; really, my arrogance deprived Arthur of his greatest friend and set the stage for Arthur’s death.” She had a wistful, far away look, as if her mind was traversing the centuries, transporting her to the time of regret, “I’d always wanted to be the greatest magician of all time, I had to be the mightiest sorceress there had ever been. So, of course, I had to learn from the greatest wizard of our age, Merlin.”

The darkness didn’t seem to affect her; in fact, the space around her seemed brighter, almost as if the night had no place hiding her beauty. “When I met him, all I saw was his power, his magic and I lusted after those abilities. I absorbed his teachings, making him give me more and more of himself. Little did I know that the reason that he was so willing to give so much to me was because of love. He loved me so much, he gave me everything.”

She gave a small laugh, the gesture humanizing her as much as was possible. “When I’d thought he had given me all the knowledge he had, I wanted to ensure that I was the only person who he taught. So, I lured him to a place that had a cave on the promise that the secret to my love could be found there. I rolled a large enchanted stone in front of the entrance and conjured a special guardian to make sure he was never freed.”

“The irony is that once he was gone, my magic was never as powerful as his. I am powerful.” She held a palm skyward allowing sprinkles of stardust to dance madly at her whim. “But never as powerful as he was. Now, I live forever, but I am empty. I can not move beyond this form, can not live beyond this. I suppose it’s because of my duty to care for Excalibur.” The three listeners raised eyebrows at that. “But something is missing. An element is not there in my magic, something has always been missing.” Her voice trailed off as she lost herself in her memories.

“Love.” Harry’s voice carried over all of them. It penetrated Nimue’s soul, the word reverberating through her being. She looked over to Harry, almost pleading, looking for the answer to her loneliness, looking for a lifeline to sanity, absolution for her sins. “The missing element to your powers is love. That’s what made Merlin truly powerful, his love for Arthur and his love for you; they were the basis of his power. Maybe, you’ve finally realize, that you loved him too?”

She didn’t respond, the tears in her eyes told them that Harry was right in his assessment. She looked to the sky, crying from her eyes, a smile of understanding on her face. She turned to the companions, her aura brighter, “Morgana will be difficult to defeat. Her powers are centered on her son. Mordred is evil. If he is freed, she is freed, and together they will unstoppable. However, stop Mordred, you will stop her. They are bonded.”

Harry was stunned, their task was beginning to unfold before them. “How do we stop them? How do we stop Cerberus and her creatures?”

“You must go to Broceliande, a forest near Paimpont in Brittany. In the center you will find an ancient oak, whose roots form a cave. That is Merlin’s resting place, but beware, the guardian is a questing beast who can only be defeated by the magic within, by your own focus. Perhaps there is something within the cave to aid your quest.”

Ron spoke up, “Excuse me, my lady, but would it be possible for you to lend us, er, well, Excalibur?”

“No dear, Excalibur must be held for Arthur’s return. This is my final charge, my final duty, what I do to confess my love for Merlin, in hopes that one day, he will forgive me.” She looked towards the southern sky. “When men have traversed this area, they talk of a village called Plymouth, in that direction, you should be able to find transport there.”

The three turned south, obviously being dismissed. Harry looked at the forlorn Lady of the Lake, trying to find a way to comfort her pain. His heart ached for her. “It’s never too late. The best thing about love is that it is eternal. It never dies, so he still loves you, and you can still return that love.”

The tears returned to her face, “He knew, you know. He could see the future, he knew that I would betray him and yet he still went, because he still loved me.”

Harry smiled, “No, perhaps he went, because he knew that one day, you’d remember that you loved him too, and that would be worth a lifetime of exile, to live for that one day.”

She smiled back at him, this time warm, hopeful. “If he is still there, Harry Potter, if he has the answers you seek, please, tell him.” What message do you convey? What do you tell someone after a lifetime of regret? “Tell him that I wait for him, and that I will always wait for him.”

Harry lifted his arm in salute and Nimue, the Lady of the Lake reached behind her, and raised a bright shining sword into the air. Light sprang along the length of its blade, showing them the way towards Merlin’s Tomb. She held Excalibur high, and disappeared beneath the surface of Dozmary Pond in a flash.

************************************************** ************************************************** **********

Morgana stood by the pool, its reflection changing as she surveyed the results of her minions’ hunt. Merwyn the Malicious had left on his quest for the Bone of Ullr. The spells on the bone were ancient and dark and held the key for her to release her son from his amber tomb. His freedom would mean hers, and she could taste it. The only guardians who could stop her were huddled in fear, hiding from her magnificent Cerberus and his hellhounds. None of her enemies came out after dark. They cowered in their hovels, thinking that they were safe. She smiled, an evil sneer of a smile that disfigured the beauty of her face. When the next night came, they would find out just how wrong they were about being safe.


***Author's Note: When I next post, I'm going to be changing the title of the thread. The new title will be "A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era"

Enjoy and as always please provide your feedback, especially about the title change.


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  #37  
Old August 23rd, 2007, 3:53 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 38 – The Magic Within

The Burrow was a strange and wonderful place to live. Its various landings and levels jutted in every direction making it a given that it was held together with magic. Arthur and Molly Weasley, the owners, had built onto their home with the addition of every child, so through the years seven energetic children made for a wildly frenetic structure. As has been the case throughout their time in the Burrow, the Weasleys provided a base for their family to feel secure in the darkest times. When danger threatened, the family came home. Over the years, that family had grown, and so in this time of threat, the Burrow opened its arms, once again to the Weasley family, including its additions.

Ginny sat at the window of her room on the third landing of her family’s home. Being back in her old room felt comfortable, as if she were a little girl and all she had to be fearful of were the dreams that could haunt the mind of a nine year old girl. In her maturity, however, Ginny knew that there could things in the world worse than nightmares. The real world could be infinitely worse. She stared out her window, wishing for someway to know that Harry was fine, that he was safe and doing well. She knew that he was alive, somehow, she thought, she would know otherwise. She really couldn’t contemplate the alternative.

“Ginny?” The voice from her door was warm but plaintive. Hermione’s was a kindred heart, her mind telling her that her husband was doing what was best, but her heart aching for his presence and hoping for his safety. “You think they’re getting anywhere?”

“I think that if anyone can get to the answer, it would be Ron and Harry.” Ginny’s voice was strong and confident, belying her fear. “Besides, Sarah is along to keep them on the straight and narrow.” She’d received an owl from Neville, telling her of the travelers’ visit to Hogwarts. They’d departed rather hastily, as if a destination had been found. “About all we can do, is to keep ourselves out of trouble.”

Hermione bit the bottom of her lip. “I don’t think I can be that woman.” Ginny turned to look at her friend. “What I mean is, I’m not cut out to be the dutiful wife, waiting breathlessly at home for word that my husband is dead or alive.”

Ginny understood her sister-in-law’s sentiment. “You want to do something, don’t you?’

“Yes. Maybe not something that would be able to help Harry and Ron directly, but something that doesn’t have us just sitting here, waiting.” Hermione was gearing into her former self. Her confidence was beginning to manifest itself. “Maybe we can figure out a way to defeat Cerberus and the Baghests.”

Ginny smiled, her feelings mirroring Hermione’s. She was not one to sit back and allow events to be dictated for her. Part of her melancholy was that she could not act, and she was a person of action. She stood, “Yes, I do believe we should take a deeper look at the problem.” A flash of light to the southwest caught her eye. It was stark, glaring in the night sky, like a lighthouse beacon on a rocky shore. Instead of being startled or afraid, the light warmed her. Somehow, she thought that light had something to do with Harry, and that light meant he was just fine.

Southwest of the Burrow, the lake in the middle of Bodmin Moor shone brightly with the explosion of light from the sword in the Lady of the Lake’s hand. It was Excalibur, the sword of Arthur Pendragon, as it was raised in salute to Harry and his companions. Harry smiled as Nimue disappeared into the lake leaving them to continue their journey. The intrepid seekers pulled their brooms out of their satchels, and flew off towards the lights of Plymouth. When they reached the port, Harry spotted the landing for the Brittany Ferries. They had just enough time to book passage on the eleven o’clock overnight crossing to Roscoff on the MV Port l’Abbe. They’d managed to secure berthing in a three bunk couchette. That meant that they each would have somewhere to sleep, but would have to share facilities with other couchettes. The past day had been arduous and they fell asleep with little trouble.

When they arrived in Roscoff, they found spaces on a bus heading to Rennes, which would offer a stop in the village of Paimpont. The ride lasted almost three hours through the scenic countryside. Hedgerows and rolling hills dominated their view, but they trio stayed quiet, each contemplating the task ahead. By the time the bus rolled into Paimpont, it was close to midday. After a quick lunch, they started their walk into the Broceliande.

At first, the forest was ordinary. The sun showed through the openings of the trees, warming their faces and bodies with its touch. As they progressed deeper into the forest, the interval between sunlight and shadow deepened. Soon, there was more darkness than light and a pall of death hung over their path. Dry rotting trees and plants littered the way, and the titter of birds had grown silent. The three pulled their wands, their eyes peering from side to side, aware of a sense of danger, unable to identify its source.

“This is creepy, Harry.” Ron’s quip shattered the silence of the wood. The silence was creepy, even when they stepped on a bit of twig or a piece of branch, no sound came out. It was if they were jinxed with a Muffliato spell. Harry stopped abruptly, holding his arm up to his friends.

“Finite!” Nothing. No response, the silence in their ears stayed the same. Harry moved in a quick circle, his wand out, looking for traces of a presence, trying to use his other senses to find the source of the silence, because he was convinced there was a muffling effect on their ears. He returned to his course towards the center of the wood. Then he heard the sound of galloping feet, like a stag running from the hunt and the thud of an impact.

“Harry!” Ron’s voice carried to him causing him to turn towards the sound of his friend’s voice. When he found Ron, he was meters away, his body crumpled at the base of a large tree, his wand flung to the side. Harry made to move towards Ron’s unconscious form, beckoning Sarah to follow. He offered her a quick sidelong glance. His eye caught a blur of movement followed by the sight of Sarah being propelled through the air into another tree. In the space of seconds, their numbers had been cut by two thirds, and Harry hadn’t even seen their antagonist. Harry crouched, attempting to decrease his profile. His eyes wandered the forest as he looked for some sign of his tormenter. He felt a massive blow to his back, sending him flying through the air to land roughly on the ground at the base of a tree. A wayward root, exposed on the ground made contact with his wand hand, the momentum knocking it loose across the forest floor. For the first time during the entire encounter, he heard a sound. It was bellowing, like forty hounds baying inside a closet. He turned and before him, the questing beast howled at him, ready to pounce.

The specter in front of him looked like the lords of the forest had thrown several animals into a muggle blender. The head was of a large snake, its eyes dead, a forked tongue testing the air, sensing his weakness. It had the body of a leopard, spotted and lean, it looked fast. Its hindquarters were of a lion, the rear legs muscular and ready to strike. It had the feet of a hart both solid and fleet. Despite the strangeness of its appearance, the most remarkable feature was the sound. Its roars emanated from its stomach, a muffled howl as if forty dogs were fighting within the confines of its pallet. Harry stretched an arm out.

“Accio Wand!” His wand flew towards him, reaching his hand as the beast leapt towards him.

“Protego!” His shield launched at the beast, hitting it with no discernable effect. Harry took the brunt of the charge on his chest, powered backward against another tree. He barely maintained his senses; the edges of his vision were hazy as if the fog of sleep were making a concerted move to take over.

“The guardian is a questing beast who can only be defeated by the magic within, by your own focus.” That’s what she’d told them. “The magic within…” What had Nimue meant by that? Harry looked down at his wand, the beast pacing just outside his vision, its serpentine maw open exposing fangs dripping with venom. “The magic within.” He looked down at the wand in his hand. “The magic within.” Harry stood to face the beast. He calmly put his wand in his pocket.

Ron was slowly regaining consciousness. He shook his head from side to side, trying to clear the dull ringing in his skull. In his blurred vision, he could make out Sarah’s form nearby. With a considerable amount of effort, he crawled over to her and was relieved by the fact that she was breathing. After a moment, she stirred, and sat half upright.

“Where’s Harry?” They both scanned the forest around them. Both settled on the sight of Harry standing, his hands in fists, by his side. The caught their first glimpse of the questing beast, its hideous form coiling in what looked like its final attack on their unarmed friend. Ron desperately grasped about him, trying to find his wand.

“Expecto Patronum!” Harry brought his fists together and clasped them in front of his body. A bright white light burst from the collision of his hands, forming a halo of brilliance around his body. At once the sparks coalesced into the form of a stallion. Its body was sleek, muscular like a wild mustang, body rearing, snorting in contempt. The Patronus charged the coiled beast, knocking it back, buffeting it in a flurry of light and power. The questing beast howled one last piercing wail and then disappeared as if it had never been there, as if it were a puff of smoke in a strong breeze. It was gone.

“Blimey.” Ron’s voice broke Harry’s thoughts. “Harry, what, I mean, how, what just happened?”

Harry held his hands up to his face, not believing his eyes. “She said that the magic within could defeat the beast.”

Sarah’s eyes widened, “Wandless magic. Our wands were useless; the beast had to be defeated by a wandless spell.”

Harry looked at his friends. “I didn’t know if I could do it. The Patronus is such a powerful spell. I remember Dumbledore conjured his Patronus without his wand, remember Ron? When Fudge tried to arrest him.”

“Well, does that mean you don’t need to use a wand?” Ron contemplated the implications, what it meant for his friend.

“I don’t know, but I think I’ll keep it handy until we can find out, don’t you think?” They laughed.

They made their way towards the center of the forest. When they’d gone a little farther, the dense foliage opened to a clearing, which had a large, ancient oak tree in its midst. Approaching the oak, they saw its roots were knotted and contorted in various directions forming openings. One such opening had a large round stone plugged into its frame. Harry drew his wand, muttering a charm to move the stone. There was no movement. Looking at his friends, Harry stowed his wand and held his hand out to the stone, fingers extended.

“Locomotor Stone.” The round rock began to turn on its axis, moving to the side, revealing the mouth of a large cave. A light reflected towards the back of the entrance, as if calling them, as if welcoming them in. Without any further discussion, the explorers entered the cave, heading towards the beckoning light.


***Author's Note: Reminder that the name of the thread has changed. Like Pollux, I've been planning a few more years of adventure. Bon apetit!

Feedback please.


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Last edited by USNAGator91; August 23rd, 2007 at 7:09 pm.
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Old August 23rd, 2007, 10:47 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 39 – The Price of Immortality

The cave was dark and wet; the walls were of mud, root and the decaying remains of centuries of animals. The light at the end of the tunnel offered a general idea of where they could step. The ground was uneven and the smell of the place was musty, old. Harry led the way towards the beckoning light. As they neared its source, the passageway widened until it opened into a large chamber. The walls of the room were stone; the ceilings were high, well above their heads. Along walls were jewels and gold coins covering chests and implements of war and peace. At the center of the room was a large slab of marble, flat on top of which lay a coffin of sorts. The coffin was of the clearest crystal, allowing the three to see the occupant. The light in the room seemed to be emanating from the table and crystal covering the man in the coffin. The man looked like he was sleeping, as if at any moment his eyes would fly open. He was young, barely into his thirties, with shoulder length blonde hair and a goatee. His lips looked as if he were smiling, remembering some eternal joke that he carried with him into his repose. On his body, he wore a long set of purple robes, adorned with moons and stars set in diamonds. He reminded Harry of a forty’s action hero he’d seen once in a movie, so many years ago.

“He’s handsome!” Sarah gasped out the words. She walked to the casket and bent down to look at his face in profile. “I had not expected this; he looks like he’s alive!”

“What about all this, then?” Ron swept his arm around the room, taking in the vast treasure and trinkets that dotted the area. “This is incredible!” Harry could only nod, walking closer to the body on the table.

Sarah was quite taken with the man’s appearance. “I can’t believe how good looking he is. I wonder how he’s stayed so preserved? He hasn’t aged at all.”

Ron snickered, teasing her a bit, “What about Lee? I guess he can’t compare to the ‘greatest wizard of all time’, eh?”

Sarah blushed, telling Harry that maybe he’d better pay more attention to what was going on in the world around him and Ginny. She recovered quickly, “It’s not that, it’s just that he’s so gorgeous. I’d expected an old man, with a beard and wrinkles, not Adonis.”

“Why, thank you, very much, young miss.” The voice echoed in the chamber, rebounding off the gold and jeweled covered surfaces. “It’s been so long since I’ve heard a compliment.”

The three spun towards the voice, its source emanating from a figure in the far corner of the room. It was a man, the same man whose body lie in repose on the dais in the middle of the room. He stood, a puckish smile on his face, his eyes gleaming with merriment. He was the doppelganger of the body in the coffin with one very noticeable exception, he didn’t appear solid. The faint outline of the objects behind him the room seemed to show through his body. The three wizards raised their wands, not sure of his intent. He laughed and raised his hands in surrender.

“You’ll not need those; I couldn’t harm you if I wanted to. I’m not here, I’m in there.” He pointed a finger at the body in the crystal case. He walked into the light, the smile never leaving his face.

Ron couldn’t quite make the connection, who was this man. “Are you a ghost? Are you the ghost of Merlin?”

This brought a new bout of laughter from the image, “Ghost? No, let’s just say I’m the image of my mind, projected in this room centuries ago. I’m not a ghost, but I’m not fully alive, either.”

“Who figured it out? The secret to the Questing Beast, I mean. Who did it?” He peered at his visitors. Harry raised his hand sheepishly, trying to figure out the man in front of him.

“Glorious job, lad. So, what was the secret?”

Harry turned his head to his friends, “I was to find the magic in myself, no wand, no help.”

“Excellent, takes a good wizard to perform that magic. Which spell did you use?” the man seemed giddy with excitement. Harry told him it was his Patronus.

“A Patronus Charm, you say. I bet that caught you off guard, didn’t it. That was a pretty powerful spell to attempt with a beastie like that boring down on you.” He whistled in almost admiration. “Don’t you worry, though; the powerful magic was designed for this test. From the looks of you, you don’t seem old enough to control the harder spells without a wand, but if you are good wizard, you’ll develop the capability in time, and when you need it most.” He smiled heartily and walked to where his ‘body’ lay.

“My word, I, and my friend here,” He pointed to the body in the translucent coffin, “are Merlin Ambrosius, wizard and counselor to Auther Pendragon, King of the Britons.” He gave a mock bow of greeting.

“Nice to meet you sir.” Harry spoke up, introducing his compatriots to the image of the ancient wizard. Merlin gave a bow to each, reserving a wink for Sarah, whose face turned an inelegant shade of crimson at the attention.

“Well, well, why are you here, come to take my treasure, is it?” Harry’s face displayed shock over the notion that they were grave robbers. “No? Well then, why are you here?”

Harry said one word. “Morgana.” Merlin’s face froze, the mirth leaving it suddenly. He bade Harry to tell him more. For the next few moments, Harry outlined the events of the past few months, especially detailing the brutal attacks by Cerberus. He ended his story, “The Lady in the Lake says that this is about Mordred and his bond with her. We don’t know what she’s quite up to.”

Merlin’s face snapped to Harry. “Lady of the Lake? You saw her? You spoke to her?” Harry nodded, bringing a sparkle to Merlin’s eyes. “Was she beautiful? Was she the most beautiful woman you had ever seen?” His voice was wishful, his eyes seeing her from his memory.

“She was beautiful.” Harry studied the ancient mage, deciding on a course of action. “But she was sad.” Merlin snapped out of his reverie.

“Sad? How was she sad? What do you mean?” Interesting, after centuries of isolation that the world’s most renowned wizards could be reduced to the caterwauls of a schoolboy when it came to matters of the heart. The thought made Harry smile.

“She was sorry; she’s been trying to atone for her betrayal. She found out that she loved you as much as you loved her, but felt it was too late to do anything. She felt that you’d never forgive her. She gave me a message, to give you, if I saw you, that is.” He looked at Harry expectantly. “She said that she’d wait for you; she said she’d always wait for you.” .

Merlin’s eye dropped, a tinge of sadness, or was it relief, crossing his face. “I knew she’d come around, I saw it every day, right along with her betrayal. I never blamed her, she had to be what she was, so that she could become the Lady of the Lake. It’s good, then, we’ll be together, eventually.”

Ron looked around, “How’s that? You’re a ghost, aren’t you? You’re dead, aren’t you?”

“Yes and no.” Merlin laughed at Ron’s completely lost expression. “You see, my body, in that coffin is dead, but I am not. I merely wait for my release to go on down the road. My release is to be with my beloved Nimue. As long as she is obligated to watch over Excalibur, she must remain on this plane of existence, and so too, must I.”

“I understand.” Harry did, he’d been given the choice to “live or move on”. He felt sorry for Merlin, because there was no choice, he had to hold and allow his fate to be tied to Nimue’s duty. It was a lonely existence.

Ron brought them back to the subject at hand. “Sir, about Morgana, do you have any idea what she’s trying to do?”

“Yes, quite right.” He began to pace the room. “Nimue was right, this centers on Mordred. Morgana was a great sorceress, but had a single, fatal flaw. She relied too much on ancient magic. She never developed her own, and thus was always vulnerable to originality, to flair. More than likely, she is trying to get the Bone of Ullr.”

Sarah looked at the others, “What’s that?”

“Many years ago, a wizard named Ullr, some say he was Thor’s brother or Odin’s uncle, something like that, decided to write his most powerful spells on his leg bone, to keep them secret.” The image of Merlin held his hands out summoning a living picture of Ullr. “Ullr was a vain man, and angered his brethren in Asgard and attempted to flee across the wild Northern Sea. He was killed by a bolt of lightning from Odin and his body cast upon an island.”

Merlin resumed his pacing, “The gods of Asgard created guardians to protect the bone from being found, and the island from being seen.”

“What kind of guardians?” Ron’s eyes rolled in his head. Merlin laughed and projected an image in the air. The picture was a creature with a low-slung body, reddish brown hair covering it. It was highlighted by five club-footed legs around its body. Harry shook his head, while Ron let out a groan. “Quintapeds, that’s a quintaped. The Bone is on the Isle of Drear.”

Sarah looked at Harry, “I thought that the quintapeds were the result of a feud between two wizard clans that went awry.”

“Apparently not.” Ron began to pace around the room, scanning the objects. “Look, Merlin, sir, is there anything you can do to help us? We’ve come all this way and, well, you were supposed to have killed Morgana.”

Merlin laughed. “She is formidable, isn’t she? Well, let me see.” He walked through the chamber peering at the various items on the floor. “You see, when I was entombed here, I became the guardian for a variety of things. As their original owners died, these items would appear in this room. Gold, silver, jewels, treasure of every type is found here. There are some special items in here. The Four Treasures of Ireland, the Thirteen Treasures of Britain are all here. There are items I can’t begin to describe.” He motioned for Harry to come over. He pointed to a scabbard without a sword. It was made of plain leather, no adornment of any kind. He nodded for Harry to pick it up.

“That is the scabbard of Excalibur. Nimue holds the sword for Arthur, but the scabbard is in my charge. Any man that wears the scabbard will not bleed from any wound. The problem with Cerberus isn’t being able to wound it; it’s being able to survive the fight. This scabbard will help you survive the fight.”

Merlin continued walking and pointed to a sword leaning up against the wall, its blade dull, cobwebs covering its hilt. Harry reached over and picked up the sword. “This is the Sword of Rhydderch Hael called White-Hilt. It is one of the Thirteen Treasures. Its blade is true, you should be able to slay the devil hound with it.”

Harry stood back, waving the sword, testing its heft. Merlin nodded appreciatively and pointed towards Sarah. She moved towards him and he led her to a frail looking oxcart. Its timbers seemed older than the tree that entombed him, hole dotted the slats. There was space for six or seven people, standing up in the cart. “This is the Chariot of Arianrod also known as Morgan the Wealthy. It is another of the Thirteen Treasures. You will be its guardian, my dear. It will take you wherever you wish to go, just think it and you will appear there, instantly.” He left her surveying her new conveyance, as she wondered if it would support their weight.

Merlin moved to another section of the cave, his eyes signaling for Ron to follow. He pointed to an ordinary rock, smoothed by years of wear and water. It was the size of a man’s fist. It was bluish-gray, ordinary. He indicated that Ron should pick it up. “That is one of the Four Treasures of Ireland, better known as The Hallows of Ireland. That, my boy, is the Stone of Fal, cast it at Mordred’s tomb, and you will stop his rebirth.”

Merlin took them all in, “These items are loaned to you, however I do not know if they will be enough. The magic on the Bone of Ullr is ancient, and I can not foresee the outcome of this battle. In any event, you would be best served by trying to keep the Bone from Morgana.”

Harry stood holding White-Hilt, he turned it in his hand, and tried placing it in the scabbard at his waist. Surprisingly, it fit. “Thank you sir, but what about you? Now that the curse is lifted, can’t you join us?”

Merlin smiled a sad smile, his eyes drifting to the entrance to the cave. “I could always move that stone. The enchantment that holds me here is born of love. I gave my being to Nimue, and here I must stay, until the day she is free of her duty to Arthur. On that day, we will leave this place, together.” Harry saw hope in his eyes, and felt a surge of pride in his chest. Looking to his friends, he moved towards the “chariot” in Sarah’s charge. Looking at the oxcart Harry mused, things are never what they seem.

They boarded the cart and grasped on to the side. Harry whispered to Sarah and she nodded and began to concentrate. Harry looked at the image of Merlin, standing tall next to his body. He saw the hope in Merlin’s eyes at the prospect of being reunited with Nimue. Harry smiled, and nodded his head. Merlin gave a last wave, and then the cave blinked from existence.

***Author's Note: Here we are, moving right along. We're getting to the good stuff. Hope you stay with it.

Please, please I need FEEDBACK.


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  #39  
Old August 24th, 2007, 4:32 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 40 – Mortal Peril

The tapping at the door grew more insistent. The visitor’s rhythm on the window pane became increasingly frantic. Eventually, the knocker timidly tried the knob on the front door and carefully pushed it open. The Weasley home at the Burrow was quiet, deserted. Harry walked into the living room, and made for the kitchen. Dusk in the Burrow would usually find Molly Weasley busily tinkering in the kitchen, but when he entered, he could find no sign of the Weasley matriarch. Harry returned to the living room, pondering his next move. Looking around, his eyes stopped at the old grandfather clock in the corner. When Harry had first visited the Weasley compound, the clock had nine golden hands that had the name of each of the members of the family inscribed. The hands would point to various bits of writing on the face of the clock, which indicated where or what state the person named was in, like “school” or “prison”.

Harry looked at the fine antique device, taking in the subtle changes that had occurred. Two more golden hands, much brighter indicating their recent vintage, had been added with his and Hermione’s names etched onto their surfaces. Hermione’s read “home” and his read “work” as the resting places for the hands. A baleful smile crossed Harry’s face as he saw the hand for Fred simply said “lost”. Harry’s eyes carried to the hands for the senior Weasleys. Arthur and Molly’s hands were over a section labeled “Tonks”. Perhaps, Harry thought, they were keeping Andromeda and Teddy company during this crisis. He chuckled, thinking about how much his godson must enjoy the graces of a doting Molly Weasley and his grandmother.

As he looked around, two of the hands began to move. Hermione’s and Ginny’s hands began to slowly pivot towards the “work” sign. That was curious, Harry reflected, it was near evening and neither should have been going to work, much less moving around during the night times. He glanced at Ron’s hand, and its position still read “work”. Ron and Sarah had dropped Harry at the Burrow, before heading to the Isle of Drear to find the Bone of Ullr. The gifts that Merlin had bestowed dictated what tasks would be performed. Harry was given weapons to deal with Cerberus, so that dispatch of the devil hound would be Harry’s task. Sarah and Ron had a means of transport and the Stone of Fal, so they would make an attempt to recover the Bone before Morgana, despite Ron’s misgivings about the quintapeds. Harry chuckled at Ron’s outward reluctance, because he knew that deep down, Ron was as stalwart, as brave as any man that Harry knew, and that when it really came down to it, there was no other man Harry would trust with the task. The clock drew Harry’s eye once again. Ginny and Hermione’s hands were moving once more. Harry stopped breathing, in the hope that the hands would roll over to the “home” position. The movement was slow, seemingly coming to a rest on “home” but then continuing their progress around the face of the clock. When both hands came to rest on “mortal peril”, no one was there to see it. Harry had already run out the door.

************************************************** ************************************************** *********

Eric Munch had been the security wizard at the Ministry of Magic for as long as he could remember. His station at the little desk near the Floo Network entrance was a familiar site to the countless scores of visitors and workers at the Ministry. Visitors would enter the great atrium and Eric would check their wands in, like clockwork. The visitors that apparated in the center of the atrium would not be checking their wands on this evening. Eric looked up from his desk, his attention drawn by the inhuman snarling and growling of the beasts in front of him. In the center of the entry hall, Cerberus and his two Barghest companions were surveying their new surroundings, jaws snapping, muscles taut. Eric Munch had been at the Ministry of Magic for many years. He was a wizard who knew his limitations. Unseen, almost casually, he reached back to the wall behind him and set off a unique caterwaul charm. He then tapped on a slight depression on the wall, revealing a trap door connected to a long chute. With admirable dexterity, he jumped down into the black tunnel, his task of sounding the alarm having been accomplished. The unwelcome visitors to the Ministry strode towards the central atrium, their collective mouths apparently salivating at the sight of the nervous guards in ill-fitting armor who had taken station before the fountain in the entrance. Spears and swords were lowered, most quivering at the sight of the approaching beasts of death. With a great roar, the three black hounds leapt to attack.

“Hermione, what did you expect to find here?” Ginny kept pace with her friend as they walked through the fourth level of the Ministry of Magic. They’d been reviewing literature in the reference area of the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures, trying to piece together some clue on how to stop Cerberus.

“I don’t know, Ginny. There are only two documented times where someone has bested Cerberus, and that was by putting him to sleep. I don’t know about you, but my singing is horrible, so that approach is not going to work.” Hermione’s brow furrowed, working the problem through her head.

Ginny smiled, “Well it worked when you put Fluffy to sleep.” Hermione gave an annoyed look at her friend.

“I think we can pretty much assume that this is definitely not Fluffy.” Hermione’s brain was still working, not able to work the problem. “What do we really want to get done? What is our real goal here?”

Ginny thought, her mind going through the possibilities. “We’re thinking too big; we’re trying to defeat Cerberus. All we really need is a way for people to survive. Normally, the idea would be to apparate away, but the Barghests prevent it.” A light turned on in her eyes, Hermione drawing the same conclusion simultaneously.

“We need to find a way to eliminate the Barghests! They’re not as immune to magic. We find a spell to knock out the Barghests, and then an encounter with Cerberus becomes survivable.” Ginny nodded in agreement. “Come on, let’s find Dawlish.” The pair ran towards the bank of elevators to hitch a ride up to the Office of Aurors. When they arrived, they ran down the hall, and turned into Dawlish’s office. He was none to pleased to see them.

“What the blazes are you two doing here, after dark?” His annoyance was visible and his fingers began their nervous tattoo through his hair. “How am I to keep you two safe, if you are gallivanting around outside your homes at night?”

Ginny gave him her best smile and maybe, even a subtle batting of the eyelashes. “John, we’re trying to help. I think we may have something for you.”

“Do tell.” The skepticism in his voice was dripping. “What have you figured out? What have found that would not in a million years have been deduced by the collective brainpower in this office?”

The women drew back at the rebuke, now unsure if their finding was even a revelation. Hermione decided to press ahead, “We thought that we were concentrating on stopping Cerberus, but really, he may be the wrong target.” Dawlish became pensive, pressing her to continue. “We thought that the real goal was to survive an encounter, so why not concentrate on knocking out the Barghests? That way the option to apparate from danger would be there.”

Dawlish was silent for a few moments. “That might work. We have been focusing on the greatest threat, so naturally that was Cerberus. Still, I gave Ron and Harry my word that you two would stay out of danger. This could have waited until morning.” The shriek of a caterwaul permeated the air, the prearranged signal of danger. Dawlish grabbed an old sword that had been thrown on his desk. He looked at the two women as if to say, “I told you so.” He then ran into the passageway sword raised.

Dawlish turned to face the elevators, one still sitting where the Ginny and Hermione had arrived. He saw Lachlan and Robards come into the hallway along with about a dozen other Aurors, querulous looks on their faces. A small Hit Team phalanx came bounding down the hall, and stopped near them, unsure as to the nature of the threat. An ominous thumping noise was coming from the elevator shaft. Dawlish stared at the open cab, the pounding sound becoming louder and louder. Suddenly, the floor of the elevator bent upwards, as if hit by a sledgehammer. A terrific howling accompanied the assault on the car, as holes began to appear in the floor, like paper tearing. Soon the elevator car floor ceased to exist and the dark forms of Cerberus and his minions pulled themselves up, out of the shaft and onto the landing of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Dawlish whirled to face Hermione and Ginny. “Run!”

The Hit Team dove into the attack, swords held high, not lacking for courage. The crash of metal and bodies hit their ears, as Ginny and Hermione fled down the corridor. Dawlish turned to the Aurors standing near him, “Go for the Barghests! Eliminate them, and people can escape.” Dawlish raised his sword, Robards, Lachlan and a recently arrived Cavendish standing near him. As one, the rest of the Aurors joined the fray.

Ginny and Hermione ran down the hall, passing Harry’s office, the name on its door giving Ginny a momentary pang of regret. She wished he were here, but was also glad that he wasn’t. They passed Harry’s office and found a door marked “Training Arena”. Opening the door, they ducked into the large, open room, lined with a myriad of obstacles and simulated streets and buildings. They headed into the middle of the room, finding hiding places in the mock buildings. They had no idea how long they’d been hiding. The door to the arena muffled the noises from without. Ginny shared a glance with Hermione. Maybe, they could escape notice. When Hermione gave her a nod, the door to the arena flew off its hinges, blowing into the room.

The three-headed apparition that entered the arena stood as tall as a horse. Its body was marked by nicks and gouges indicating the price that the Ministry’s defenders had extracted. Cerberus moved into the room, each head moving independently, red eyes scanning the environment, looking for prey. The center head stopped suddenly, its nose held high, as if detecting a scent. As one, the remaining heads locked onto the same scent. A low growl that increased in volume and intensity focused on the spot where Hermione and Ginny hid. The dark hound began to move towards their hiding spot. Hermione motioned towards its approach, her focus not on the menacing form, but on the lack of an accompanying Barghest. Desperately, she locked eyes on Ginny, communicating for them to apparate out. Both focused, trying to disappear to another location, any location. Nothing happened. The women looked out from their hiding spot, watching Cerberus near.

Another snarl joined the symphony. Over Cerberus’ shoulder, a single Barghest, bloodied, dipped its body into the entrance of the arena. The women had no place to go, they were trapped. Ginny searched around her area and found a length of wood, with Hermione doing the same. The friends stood to face their stalking death with what they had. Ginny steeled herself and raised her ad hoc weapon. With fierce determination, she said out loud.

“I love you Harry.”



***Author's Note: Personally, I believe cliffhangers constitute an unbearable cruelty to the reader....That's why I use them so much!

Feedback, please or maybe I leave the story right here, hmmm?


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  #40  
Old August 26th, 2007, 5:43 am
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 41 – Close Calls

A loud clap of thunder and a cloud of dust marked the arrival of the Chariot of Arianrod. Ron kept his white-knuckled grip on the weathered rail of the oxcart. After a moment, he and Sarah dismounted and surveyed their surroundings. They were in a clearing, edged by large trees whose boughs overhung the area casting shadows throughout. Sarah had simply thought, “Bone of Ullr” and the chariot had brought them to this location. They knew that they were somewhere on the Isle of Drear, but the precise location of the Bone wasn’t known. The clearing abutted a vertical cliff face that rose into the sky. At the base of the cliff there was a large cave opening that was edged by a granite arch, runes etched into the posts.

Ron drew his wand and made a rapid search for signs of quintapeds, the inhabitants of the Isle of Drear that craved human flesh. Sarah, likewise, had also drawn her wand, her eyes pointed towards the gaping cave entrance.

“The thought that I used was simply ‘Bone of Ullr’. I bet it’s in that cave over there.” She pointed over to the cavern.

“I’m beginning to not like caves, personally.” Nevertheless, Ron began a confident stride over to the cave, his eyes never ceasing their scan of the area. The island was balmy, almost tropical, marked by mugginess that that gave an aroma of death and decay. A heavy mist covered the area and trees barred their view of greater than a few feet inland. The cliff in front of them appeared unnatural, because there was no mountain visible to the naked eye. It was almost as if the rock face was a scar on the landscape, an injury that seeped decay from its essence.

The two Aurors approached the cave and entered. The path was lit by torches mounted along the walls. The floor sloped upward and was marked by a smooth and wide walkway, easy to navigate. They proceeded cautiously, warily eyeing an opening at the end of a landing they were rapidly approaching. Ron placed a finger on his lips, and took the lead heading to the main cavern entrance. The room they found was massive, the size of aQuidditch pitch. The ceiling had several openings that allowed sunlight to filter into the space, lighting the room with the brilliance of midday. The walls were etched with ledges that were dotted with cave entrances that seemed natural, almost like the openings to an anthill. The key feature of the space was the floor which had a large lake filled with black water that bubbled periodically, giving hint to movement beneath the surface. In the center of the lake was a massive longboat, its markings distinctively those of ancient Vikings. Its bow had a brightly painted dragon figurehead, the color looking fresh, almost of recent vintage. The mainmast had a beige sail with a black dragon emblazoned on its main area. The entire vessel seemed new, as if just launched but still with no movement on the deck.

“Would you look at that?” Ron’s awe at the sight had reduced him to a whisper. “I suppose that’s as good a place as any to find the bone of a Viking wizard.”

“You suppose?” Sarah gave Ron a laugh. They began to make their way down the path that led to the bridge to the ship. By the time they reached the gangway, they had a better look at the center of the longboat, which was loaded with treasure and weapons. They crossed the span that led onto the boat and began to search for the Bone. Sarah poked around one mound of treasure working her way aft while Ron searched the other side. Eventually Sarah came to a strongbox, hidden beneath a shield on the deck. Kicking the strongbox open, she saw a long femur covered in cobwebs and dust. Reaching in, she pulled the bone out and blew the dust away with her hand. Etchings, like scrimshaw, covered the length of the bone, the language was unknown, but looked exceedingly ancient. With a smile of triumph, she raised the bone above her head, showing the prize to Ron.

“Great, let’s get out of here.” Ron’s tone was insistent. “This has been too easy. Something doesn’t feel quite right here.”

Sarah nodded to him, and the pair began to cross the gangway rapidly. Sarah led the way, carrying the bone while Ron maintained a vigil while bringing up the rear. Sarah had just about completed the crossing, when the center of the gangplank disappeared in a shattering explosion of dust and splinters. The impact sent Sarah flying onto the embankment where she landed with a thud, the bone flying out her hand, skidding across the ground.

A deep, hysterical laugh resounded throughout the cavern. “Thank you for retrieving that for me. Accio Bone!” Sarah watched the bone float up in the air and into the bony fingers of Merwyn the Malicious. Morgana’s lackey was sitting astride a stone gray wyvern, hovering with the bone in his hands. “I don’t know about you, but I’d see to my friend over there, before you have visitors.” Waving the bone above his head, his mount turned on a wing and rose through one of the openings in the ceiling.

Sarah pounded the ground in frustration and remembered her compatriot. She looked back at the remains of the bridge to the ship. It had shattered in the blast and there was no sign of Ron. She rose and ran to the lip of the lake, looking for any sign of her fellow Auror. Frantically, she spotted a grouping of bubbles breaking the surface. Without hesitating, she drew up and dove, headfirst, into the murky water. For a few moments, the room was still, the only sound the ripples of the water being displaced. In short order two heads broke the up, out of the water. Sarah tugged at Ron’s deadweight, pulling him up and pulled with all of her energy. She strained her muscles, pulling his body up onto the shore. She looked to him, and couldn’t discern any sign of breathing.

She coughed, spitting brackish water out of her lungs. She drew her wand, “Anapneo!” She watched his face anxiously, waiting for any sign of breathing. Her spell began to work. Ron took a large breath inward, and then spat up what seemed like gallons of the fetid water. Sarah beat his back, trying to help him catch his wind. Ron lay on his back staring at the ceiling. Then he rose, offering Sarah a smile.

“Thanks for that. What happened?” He spat out a little bit more of the water.

Sarah’s head dropped, “Someone hit us. There was a wizard riding a wyvern. He blasted the bridge and took the bone. We’re too late.” A low rumble began to pass through the cave. “He said something about having visitors.”

Ron looked around, his eyes focusing on the small caves that lined the walls of the cavern. The low sounds seemed to emanating from every single one of the holes. The two stood, wands outward. Ron glanced up to the rise that led to the exit. Out of one of the nearest caves, a low, furry body dragged itself out by several clubbed-footed legs. The quintaped let out a snarl, double rows of razor sharp teeth gnashing at them.

“Confrigo!” The creature exploded in a flurry of fur and flesh. Ron tugged on Sarah’s sleeve, leading up the ramp. They skid to a halt, as the sounds in the caves began to get louder, upon the death cry of the quintaped. Almost as one, black and orange furred bodies began to emerge from their holes, and all seemed to be looking right at the pair of Aurors.

************************************************** ************************************************** **********

A loud yelp rang through the training arena. Ginny heard an inhuman whimper and the thud of a body hitting the floor. She peered around the corner of her obstacle in time to watch Cerberus whip around and snap at something behind it, towards the door. She gave Hermione a quick glance, and the two women peered out, trying to determine what had caught the beast’s interest. Her eyes grew into saucers as she saw Cerberus issue a growl at a figure at the entrance. Her mouth was stretched into a smile.

Harry arrived at the Ministry of Magic, the horror of scene washing over him. The path that Cerberus and the Barghests had tracked through the main hall was marked by the bodies of the defenders that had been left behind. Harry dropped down the elevator shaft to the second level that housed the Office of Aurors. His appearance on the floor was met by more of the same he’d seen at the entrance. The casualties were heavy, the bodies littered the hall. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement didn’t go lightly, the body of a Barghest lay on the floor. Here and there, people moved, helping their comrades who were in need. Harry was relieved to find Cavendish helping Lachlan, who was propped up against the wall holding an obviously broken arm. Harry gave Lachlan a wave. Looking further down the hall, he spotted Dawlish kneeling over the body of Gawain Robards. Harry went over to him, laying a hand on his shoulder.

“People forgot.” Harry gave a quizzical look , “Everyone thought Gawain was an administrator, but he was always an Auror, a brave man.”

“Where’s Ginny, John?” Dawlish looked up and pointed down the hall. Harry took off at the run. He saw the door missing at the training arena and ducked into it. He drew White-Hilt and took in the scene. Cerberus was standing low, its attention directed at something near the center of the room. A Barghest stood nearer to Harry; it turned and moved to strike at him. One swipe of White-Hilt separated its head from its shoulders, but also drew Cerberus’ attention to him.

Harry raised his sword above his head and moved to the attack. He brought the blade down in a single overhead strike, cutting into the neck of the right hand head. Cerberus’ center jaw bit down on his shoulder, driving its teeth into the flesh. He felt the pain, he felt the tearing of the skin, and yet his strength remained. His free arm swung the magical sword and severed the left head of Cerberus. The center head howled in agony, releasing Harry’s shoulder. The devil hound reared back on its rear legs, growling in pain and rage. It gathered itself for one last attack, one last try at lashing out at its tormenter. Harry staggered, the pain in his shoulder paralyzing him. Cerberus leapt to attack, rising through the air, its one remaining head focused on Harry, eyes glaring. Harry brought White-Hilt up, raising its point in line with the breast of the beast. The entire mass of the monster’s weight hit Harry, burying him in a pile of muscle and sinew.

The room was still. Ginny and Hermione ran from their hiding spots and rushed over to the pile of bodies on the floor.

“Harry!” They moved around the body of Cerberus, the blade of White-Hilt protruding from its back, having impaled itself in its attack on Harry. Harry pulled himself up from the floor, and turned to the voice calling his name.

“Honey, I’m home.”

Ginny grabbed him around the neck buried him in kisses. He winced at the pressure.

“Ginny, the scabbard keeps the wounds from bleeding, but I think I need some help with them.” She drew back, inspecting his shoulder.

“Harry, where’s Ron?” Hermione’s question was worried, unsure if her husband was alive or dead.

Before Harry could answer, “Hermione!” Ron burst into the room, Sarah trailing behind. Ron made his way over to the trio and placed a kiss on his wife’s relieved lips. He pulled back after a moment and looked at Harry. Ron was out of breath, his body marked by cuts, some of them serious, “We missed the bone, Harry. Morgana’s man got there, she’s got the bone. We were too late.”

Harry drew himself straight. Today had been hard. They were injured, the Aurors depleted and Morgana was close to achieving her goal. He turned to his wife and gave her a kiss. It was passionate, full, all of the longing and the discovery of the past couple days emitting from the embrace. His breathing slowed, his heart rate steadied, the proximity to the woman he loved calming him. He looked into her beautiful brown eyes where the worry and fear had been replaced by merriment and joy. He smiled at her, turned and nodded to Ron and Sarah, and then looked back to Ginny.

“I may have to work late, so you might not want to wait up.”

Ginny looked at Hermione, the communication was clear. “Oh no, Mr. Potter. You’re going to be taking me on this business trip with you, this time. “ Harry was learning when not to argue with his willful wife, and this was definitely one of those times. So, he looked at her, his strength slowly returning and replied.

“Yes, dear.”



***Author's Note: From Gator's guide to surviving marriage, "Yes, dear." works every time.

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