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A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era



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Old December 12th, 2007, 3:22 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 142 – The Tale of King Harold II

Harry and Lachlan walked through the Office of Aurors, on their way to the lifts. Harry paused for a moment and called Leonora Sigismund over to his side.

“I have an errand for you, Leonora. It’s a long shot, but we’ve got to take the chance.” The tall woman nodded at Harry. Seeing her acknowledgement, Harry reached into the inner pocket of his robe and pulled out a scroll emblazoned with the wax seal of the Minister of Magic. “This should allow you to use the tools you require to complete your task. You need to return by dawn of the tenth day, so you’d better get moving.”

Leonora unrolled the scroll and read through it, her eyes widening with every line. When she finished reading, she looked up at Harry. “Do you think it’s possible? I mean, do you think he can help?”

“Anything is possible, Leonora. We’re just going to have to try.” She nodded once more and headed off towards the Department of Mysteries.

Harry looked over at Lachlan and beckoned him to follow. The two men made for the lifts and took one down to the atrium on the entry level. Barely pausing to wave to familiar people walking by, the two Aurors approached the exit floos and within seconds, disappeared in a cloud of dust and fire.

***

Hermione guided the Jaguar down the D613 in Normandy at a modest pace, mindful of the speed camera network that had been set up along their route from Cherbourg. They’d left London over five hours ago and after a short ferry ride across the channel from Bournemouth, they were now whisking through the Bocage country towards the town of Bayeux. Passing through the small hamlet of Vaucelles, she noticed that she was on the last leg of their journey to study the Bayeux Tapestry. She looked back in her rear view mirror. In the back seat, Dean Thomas had his head back, his eyes closed in a deep slumber. On his shoulder, Isabella Ramirez had rested her head, and she too was in a deep sleep. Next to them, Silas Hornsby had managed to find some semblance of comfort as his large body was wedged into the small back seat of the car. Hermione took a quick glance to her left. Sarah Jordan was in the passenger’s seat, staring out of the window at the passing countryside.

“We’re nearly there.” Hermione mentally rechecked the directions that she’d memorized once more. Sarah nodded, hearing Hermione’s words, but her mind drifting off, thinking of a million things at once. “You all right, Sarah?”

The Auror started and smiled sheepishly at her friend. “I’m fine. I was just thinking about Lee. No matter how irreverent those three are, you know they’ll be in the thick of it when the battle happens.”

Hermione smiled encouragingly to Sarah. “That’s who they are, Sarah. George, Lee and Dudley are probably working overtime to develop some surprises for the bad guys. They’ve always been the first to fight, no matter what the circumstances.”

“I know. How do you do it, Hermione? How do you handle the fact that at any moment, the person you love might find himself in mortal peril? It must drive you batty.” Sarah’s eyebrow raised as Hermione giggled at her friend’s question.

“You should be the one to talk. Imagine how Lee feels. You’ve been right at Harry’s side every time there’s been a crisis. I can only think that Lee sees his contribution as a way to help you survive the next couple of weeks.” Sarah hadn’t thought of that perspective.

“You mean to tell me that you don’t worry about Ron?”

Hermione slid the gearshift to a higher gear as they came to a long straightaway. “Of course I do, everyday. Still, he’s good at what he does. He’s very good. With what we’ve been through, I’ve got to believe that he’ll come out fine on the other side. Anything else, and I’d be a wreck.” Her mind wandered, thinking of her husband, who at this precise moment was wandering the hinterlands and mountains of Scotland with Hagrid and Mortimer, trying to find giants and trolls to fight for their cause. She cast off a silent wish for his safety and then concentrated on her driving.

They pulled into the Bayeux city center and maneuvered their way to the parking lot of the museum that held the tapestry. Hermione found a spot and stopped the car. Exiting, the five team members stretched and groaned as their tightened muscles recovered from their long drive. Not wanting to waste a lot of time, they walked into the museum and paid their entrance fee. The entrance to the gallery was directly ahead of them and they entered. Because of the time of day, the main viewing area did not have many visitors, so they basically had the place to themselves. They stood back, from a distance and took in the object of their visit.

The room was dark and the tapestry was housed behind a sealed tempered glass wall. Special lighting inside the housing displayed its features to the gallery onlookers. It was roughly 50 cm tall and extended well over 70 meters, the entire length of three of the gallery’s four walls. The figures on the fabric were embroidered with wool yarn on top of a tabby-woven linen cloth, so it wasn’t a true woven tapestry that could be found at Hogwarts. It consisted of several panels of scenes, depicting the life of William of Normandy, who would go on to become, William the Conqueror. The five split up and took sections of the tapestry to study. The panels were assembled in rough chronological order and on the outer edges of the fabric, small details of the timeline, like the season or the name of the battle offered indications of the timeframe that the jumble of events that were depicted occurred.

Hermione found herself studying the events of Harold Godwinson, the earl who would succeed Edward the Confessor and whose ascension to the throne would precipitate William’s invasion. She studied a section that showed Harold’s visit to Normandy and tells the story of his capture by a man named Guy. Upon his capture, William finds a way to set Harold free, and supposedly, Harold, at that time, pledges his loyalty to William, should Edward the Confessor die. Hermione kept moving down the narrative. She saw Edward’s disappointment in Harold’s oath and finally sees as Edward dies, Harold assumes the crown, becoming Harold II of England.

“Look at this!” Isabella was standing to Hermione’s right, studying the first few months of Harold’s reign. She pointed to a panel roughly four months into Harold’s rule. Underneath her finger, there was a star with hair, shining brilliantly in the sky, casting a pallor over Harold’s face. Isabella’s voice became an excited whisper. “You know what that is? It’s a comet!”

“It’s Halley’s Comet.” Dean joined them from his spot to Isabella’s right. “It would be the right time, 1066.”

“How do you know that?” Isabella’s voice wasn’t disbelieving, but it was close.

“I’m an astronomy buff. When I was a kid, maybe six or seven, it was a big deal and I read all I could about it.” Dean was a little non-plussed, but confident in his knowledge.

Hermione’s mind wrapped around the idea that the comet was important to the story. “It was a warning. Harold wasn’t supposed to take the crown, yet he did. Maybe the comet was a message from Leclerc, or whatever he was known as at that time.”

“It fits. Halley’s Comet appears every seventy five years or so. That would coincide with the events that Leclerc told Harry about.” Dean was processing the information. “We’ll have to consider that. I have something here, though. Look at this.”

Dean brought them to a section of the tapestry, just before the Battle of Hastings. “William wasn’t the first attempt to defeat Harold and punish Britain.”

“What do you mean?” Isabella peered at the section of the story, trying to see what Dean saw.

“Look here. Harold Godwinson was the man who became Harold II, but this talks about another Harold, from Norway who supposedly led an invasion of England before William.” Dean moved to a section where two panels met. “There are panels missing. See? Harold gets crowned, the Comet appears and then it skips over some events and on this next one, William is seen to be angry over ‘Stamford Bridge’ and then he invades.” Dean’s voice was excited. “If we can find how Harold stopped the first invasion, maybe we’ll have a key to defeat Leclerc.”

“True, but how do we find the rest of the story? I mean, the panels are missing, so where do we find out about Stamford Bridge?” Hermione stared at the glass panels, as if they would answer her question.

“Um, Hermione?” Silas had been standing off to the side, in relative awe of the brainpower assembled to seek the answer to the puzzle. He’d decided to take a look at the scenes depicting the Battle of Hastings and saw where Harold’s two brothers had been killed and then had gotten to the section where Harold himself had been slain.

“What is it, Silas?” Hermione looked a the young Auror in training and noticed him staring at a section of the tapestry.

“Why don’t we just ask Harold what happened?” Silas looked over at the rest who were staring back at him like he had fourth head.

“Come on Silas, we need realistic ideas here.” Hermione was a little exasperated, the stress getting to her.

“No, really. Look at this.” He pointed to Harold’s figure on the tapestry. He was standing in the battlefield. He had chain mail armor and a cone-shaped helmet. The Saxons were depicted with mustaches to differentiate them from the Normans. Harold’s figure had an arrow protruding from his forehead, slightly angled downward, as if he’d been on horseback and shot by an archer on the ground. Hermione stared at the picture, sudden awareness on her face.

Silas looked up at her. “Isn’t that the ghost of the knight with the arrow in his head at Hogwarts?” Hermione silently nodded. “So, why don’t we just ask him what happened?” Silas’ question hung in the air, too obvious for an answer.

***

Harry and Lachlan appeared in Horace Slughorn’s office in a flash of powder and light. Dusting themselves off, they looked up to see the portly Headmaster of Hogwarts standing before them, hand extended in greeting.

“Harry, my boy!” Slughorn shook hands with Harry and Lachlan, then beckoned them to sit in the chairs in front of his desk.

“I’m sorry for the intrusion, Horace, but we have a crisis at hand.” Harry took the proffered goblet from the Headmaster, who’d poured some mead from a bottle. A small tinge of doubt entered Harry’s mind momentarily, as he remembered Ron’s unfortunate encounter with tainted mead. Seemingly reading his mind, Slughorn laughed.

“No worries on that end, Harry. I have anti-poisoning charms routinely performed on my private stock. See?” Slughorn took a belt of the drink and smiled back at Harry. Seeing that Slughorn wasn’t writhing on the ground in agony, Harry took a sip himself. The Headmaster continued. “As for why you’re here, well, we all must do our parts. Kingsley is already training a volunteer contingent from the student body. I had to draw the line at fifth years. You wouldn’t believe the number of students that wanted to enlist.”

Harry was inwardly proud and dismayed at the news. Proud that the tradition of service at the school was still strong, but dismayed that total war made placing children on the front lines a fact of life. “Thanks for that, Horace. Would it be possible for us to talk to the ghosts?”

“Certainly, Harry. Sir Nicholas is convening a ghost’s council as we speak in the staff room. I’ve asked around to my predecessors, but none seem to have an inkling as to what you’re looking for.” Slughorn waved his arms apologetically.

“Even Professor Dumbledore?” Harry stared at the painting hanging directly behind Slughorn.

“Even me, Harry.” The image of Albus Dumbledore spoke with the gentleness that Harry remembered. His eyes danced sorrowfully, as if disappointed at not being able to provide Harry the answer he sought. Dumbledore’s voice continued. “I am only imbued with the knowledge I died with, Harry. I’m sorry. My tenure was unfortunately spent trying to amass information on how to defeat Voldemort, and I did not have the opportunity to dive deeper into the history of this school. Still, the ghosts of this place should be able to help you.”

“Well said, Albus.” Slughorn stood and led the pair towards the exit. Harry paused in front of Dumbledore’s painting. Harry’s eyes misted slightly.

“I miss you, Professor.” Dumbledore’s picture smiled warmly and nodded. Harry turned and followed Slughorn down the exit.

They made their way through the castle and down towards the Great Hall. Off to the side was the faculty staff room. Before they entered, a shining white light appeared at the entrance. Remembering his encounter with Leclerc, Harry pulled his wand, determined to resist any further entreaties from Leclerc. Harry felt a hand on his wrist and turned to find Lachlan pulling his wand down.

“It’s a Patronus, Harry.” Lachlan nodded over to the corridor and Harry watched as the misty white light formed itself into the figure of a sleek otter.

“It’s from Hermione.” Harry said excitedly. “Maybe she found something in Bayeux.” Harry watched as the otter approached and then listened as it delivered its message.

***

The staff room was ebullient with the irreverent murmur among the twenty or so ghosts that inhabited Hogwarts. Nearly Headless Nick floated amiably next to the Grey Lady while Peeves whisked around the room, chattering excitedly. Harry strode in and glanced around, his eyes searching for one ghost in particular. Not seeing it immediately, he addressed the ghost’s council.

“Thank you for meeting me. I know this is unprecedented, but I need your help. We need to know about the events leading to the founding of the school, more importantly, we need to know about the Battle of Hastings.” Harry stared around the room.

Sir Nicholas spoke up. “Well, Harry, most of us died after the school was founded. I don’t know what we could tell you.”

“My mother rarely spoke of the founding. She only referred to it as the “Dark Time”.” The Grey Lady, the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw, smiled wistfully, sorrow in her eyes.

A deep, hoarse voice echoed through the room. “Death.” Harry looked around. The figure of the Bloody Baron, the Slytherin ghost hovered quietly in the corner. His raspy, low voice could barely be heard. “The founders fought and lost a battle to Death.”

“I know that Baron. We’re trying to find out how they lost. How can we overcome them?” The Bloody Baron seemed to smile. His voice came out in an almost mocking whisper.

“Quidditch.” Harry stared at the Baron in complete bewilderment.

Unsure if the Baron had full use of his senses, Harry tried a different question.

“Where is Harold?” Harry looked around once more, searching for Harold.

“I beg your pardon?” Sir Nicholas looked in askance to Harry. “Who do you mean?”

“I mean the knight with the arrow in his head. He’s Harold II, where is he?” Harry was starting to get exasperated.

“You know, we’ve never heard him speak. That’s Harold? Interesting.” Nick seemed to laugh at the revelation.

“Where is he, Sir Nicholas?” Harry’s voice was cross and Sir Nicholas looked up at Peeves.

“Peeves?”

The poltergeist whistled excitedly, soaring around the room. “Harold the Arrow! Harold the Arrow! Where, oh where is Harold the Arrow! Whee!” Peeves flew down and settled behind a suit of armor set off to side of the wide fireplace. He whipped around his backside and knocked the helm off the armor. Inside, the head of a ghost, an arrow protruding downward, could be seen, his eyes closed in apparent slumber. “There he be, asleep is he! The arrow in his head, is the pillow of his bed! Whoopee!” Peeves flew up and disappeared through the walls.

Harry walked up carefully to the sleeping head in the armor. “Harold? King Harold?” Still the figure slept, unaware of anything around him. Harry yelled as loud as he could. “Harold!”

The ghost’s eyes flew open. He stared at Harry, a questioning look on his face. Harry looked at the hapless man. “You are Harold II, once Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex?” The man seemed genuinely surprised. He nodded and then stunned everyone in the room.

“I am he.”

The room broke into a tumult. The ghost who’d been in their midst for so long had never spoken, until now. Harry called for quiet and turned back towards Harold.

“Your majesty, we need your help. Death is coming again, to kill the wizards of England. Will you help us?” Harry stared at Harold intently, trying to read his face. The ghost of Harold II studied the others around him.

Finally, he looked at Harry. “I do not know how much help I will be, I lost the battle, after all.”

“Not all of them, did you. You won at Stamford Bridge.” Harold smiled in surprise.

“Yes, we did. Another man named Harold sought to be king. He invaded. We fought his dark forces and killed them off.” Harold stared off into the air, remembering events past. “Still, they did not have Him with them. We lost at Hastings because of Him.”

“Who, Leclerc?” Harold looked at Harry with a puzzled look.

“I do not know Leclerc. Maybe that’s what he calls himself today. I knew him as Loki. Others called him Azrael. He brought dark creatures to fight. Graphorns, Berserkers and hordes and hordes of Inferi. They overwhelmed us with numbers. We thought we would win, we thought we had turned the tide, but somehow, he was able to coordinate those beasts. They fought as one. One of my knights seemed to solve the riddle. He almost got to Loki, but by the time he’d figured out the secret, I had been struck down and my men were in flight.”

Harry thought for a moment. “What was the secret? What did your knight figure out?”

Harold looked sorrowful. “I do not know. William was supposed to be king, you know.” The old ghost had a wistful, lost look on his face. “We were friends. He rescued me from a kidnapping and I saved two of his men from quicksand while we were chasing Conan II. I was fully committed to his assuming the throne. I even took an oath of fealty.”

Harry was mesmerized by the story. “What changed?”

Harold smiled. “Once, around a campfire, William told me about Loki. He told me in a drunken stupor of Loki’s intent to kill off most of the wizarding families of England. My children would be affected. William was to be the instrument and I could not let that happen.”

“Why did Loki want to do that? Did you ever find out? Was it about the well of magic in the world?” Harry was testing another of Leclerc’s stories.

“Well? In a manner of speaking, yes and no.” Harold smiled. “There is a well of magic, but it’s a font of dark magic. As more wizards are born, especially from muggle families, the amount of good magic in the world increases. The well of dark magic, by definition, becomes smaller because it overshadowed by the good in the world. Loki kills off whole generations of wizards and witches to ensure the purity and the power of evil. When a powerful dark wizard is killed off, his portion of the dark well disappears, so consequently, any more magical births makes the dark well dangerously vulnerable. In my time, a man called El Cid, a very powerful wizard in Spain killed an especially evil man, Ramiro I of Aragon at a town called Graus. Loki was especially weakened by this and decided on “culling the herd” as he likes to call it and restore the power of the evil ways.”

Harry looked over at Lachlan and whispered out loud. “Voldemort. Mephisto. Furies…”

Lachlan snickered. “You’ve been busy. No wonder Leclerc has to act now. You’ve been weakening him by the bushel.”

Harry shook his head. “If only we could figure out what Harold’s knight found.”

The Bloody Baron’s wispy voice rang out into the air. “Quidditch!”

“Baron, you’re not making any sense.” Harry turned towards Harold, who seemed to be lost in thought. “Your majesty, do you have any idea what your knight found out? Is there any way you can remember?”

Harold shook his head, the flechettes on the end of the protruding arrow making a path in front of him. “I’m sorry, no. I died, remember. Cadogan was my best. He was brave, honest and forthright. If only I’d used him earlier. He fought so well in the first battle, I’d let him rest at the beginning at Hastings.”

“Wait. Did you say Cadogan?” Harry leapt up and drew near the ghost of Harold II.

“Yes. I knighted him the day I took the throne. Sir Cadogan was the champion of my realm. Considering he was a muggle and came from humble stock, he was the bravest of the brave. I often wonder if he died that day. Still, he was a hero. He always went on quests to save damsels in distress or champion the weak. There were songs sung, ballads written and poems created all about him.” Harold looked at Harry questioningly. Harry smiled at Lachlan.

Harry looked around the room. “There were songs sung, ballads written, poems created, and,” Harry started walking towards the door, “Paintings painted.”

As Harry left, the Bloody Baron’s voice rang out. “Quidditch!”


***A/N: What other eleventh century trivia could I have possibly thrown in? QUIDDITCH!

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  #142  
Old December 13th, 2007, 5:47 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 143 – Sir Cadogan’s Tale

Harry ran from the staff room and paused in the entry to the Great Hall. He spun around and looked at Slughorn.

“Horace, where did they hang Sir Cadogan’s portrait?”

Slughorn paused for a moment and spied Mrs. Norris, the groundskeeper Argus Filch’s ubiquitous feline companion. “Mr. Filch!” The stooped shouldered Filch appeared from the niche he’d been hiding in. “Where is Sir Cadogan’s painting?”

Filch looked first at Slughorn and then to Harry. “It’s over by the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room, Headmaster. Right next to the portrait of the Fat Lady.”

Harry nodded over to Slughorn and then ran towards the part of the castle where the Gryffindor Tower was. Lachlan and the portly Headmaster were on his heels. They made their way through the corridors and up several flights of stairs. Harry felt a small tinge of nostalgia, his mind wandering back to his days as a student, prowling these selfsame hallways. As he approached the Fat Lady’s portrait, he spotted the figures of two people standing in front of the entrance to the Common Room. One was a student, a young girl. She had dark, black hair that fell around her shoulders in large, playful ringlets. Her eyes were a deep violet and despite her obvious discomfort at what she was hearing from the person speaking to her, there was a twinkle and merriment in her expression. She looked tiny beside the man standing next to her. In contrast to the tiny girl, the man was tall and broad shouldered. He had rich, dark ebony skin and a bold, bald head. As Harry approached the pair, the man’s voice came as a deep, low baritone. His tone was disappointed.

“Ms. Baretto, I don’t care what they were doing, using the Levicorpus charm and leaving three fourth year students locked in a bathroom stall for an entire day is not conduct that expect from a Gryffindor, especially a first year.” The girl smiled balefully and nodded, acting, she hoped, appropriately chagrined.

Harry tried to contain a chuckle. “Hello, Kingsley.”

Kingsley Shacklebolt, former Auror and Minister of Magic, now Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts turned to greet Harry and smiled broadly. “Harry! Good to see you!”

“What’s this all about?” Harry asked curiously.

Kingsley smiled back. “This is Ms. Graciela Baretto. Apparently she has run afoul of several upperclassmen, and she decided to teach them a lesson. I was just telling her to rely on the faculty to mete out punishment. It took us ages to find those boys.”

“Baretto? Any relation to Captain Baretto of the Discooperire?” Harry looked closely at the girl’s olive complexion and the look of fierce determination. There was certainly a family resemblance.

“Yes sir. She’s my aunt.”

“Your aunt? Really? I would think you would be her daughter.”

“Aunt Adelina has a son, Carlo. He’s starting next year.”

Harry’s mood lightened noticeably. Captain Baretto’s son would be the same year as Teddy. He made a mental note to send her an owl about that. Kingsley snapped him back to reality.

“What brings you here, Harry?”

“I need to talk to Sir Cadogan, Kingsley. It’s important.” Kingsley nodded and looked over at the young woman.

“Ms. Baretto, I think three Saturdays of detention will help you understand the error of your ways. Now run along.” Kingsley ushered the young woman into the entrance to the Gryffindor Common Room. Kingsley shook his head and chuckled. “That little woman is going to be the end of me.”

“You should meet her aunt.” Harry caught himself reflecting on the vision of Adelina Baretto guiding her ship into the heart of battle. “I can’t wait to see how her son has turned out.”

Kingsley seemed to shudder at the thought of another Baretto under his tutelage. “So, Harry, what was this about Sir Cadogan?”

“I’d like to see his portrait, if possible.” Kingsley nodded and pointed to an area of wall, a few paces down from the Fat Lady. Harry nodded and walked towards the painting. Sir Cadogan sat astride a fat, white pony, his sword arm raised in salute. When Harry’s shadow passed over the painting, the tiny figure of a knight reined in the pony and glowered menacingly.

“Halt! Who goes there?” Sir Cadogan’s tinny voice rang out into the corridor.

“It’s Harry Potter, Sir Cadogan.”

“Oh, Harry. Hello there. It’s a privilege to speak to a fellow warrior.” Lachlan snickered behind Harry.

“Sir Cadogan, I was wondering if might speak to you a moment?” Harry bowed respectfully to the small figure.

“Most certainly, Sir Harry. Is the realm in danger once more? How may I be of assistance? I am, as always, your stalwart bulwark against the tides of evil, wherever it may lie.”

“Thank you, Sir Cadogan. What I really wanted to ask you about was what you discovered at the Battle of Hastings.” Harry watched as the normally outspoken, pigment composed figure became suddenly subdued, his mind wandering back to that fateful October day in 1066.

“That was a hard day. My liege, King Harold died that day. Sometimes, when all is quiet in the castle, I think that I still see him.” Harry nodded, almost unwilling to tell Cadogan about the fact that, indeed, he had seen Harold. Still, Harry needed Cadogan to be focused.

“Harold is here, Sir Cadogan. He’s one of Hogwarts’ ghosts.”

“Is that so? Amazing. Extraordinary. I must pay my respects to him, when I can.” Cadogan knelt respectfully and bowed his head on his sword.

“There’ll be time enough for that later, Sir Cadogan. King Harold said you’d figured out a weakness about Loki. Is that true?”

The ebullient knight stood and smiled. “Weakness? In a manner of speaking, I guess I did. Do you know about that day? Do you know what happened?”

“We’ve heard bits and pieces. What happened?” Harry watched as Cadogan began to pace the boundary of his portrait, swinging his sword to and fro against imaginary enemies.

“You have to understand, we fought off an initial invasion, by some usurper who called himself Harold, too. We fought that battle in a pretty straightforward manner and our armor was vastly superior to theirs. We formed a battle wedge and plowed right through the middle of them at Stamford Bridge. I, of course, was the tip of the spear, leading our men into the fight.” Cadogan gave a blistering swipe of his blade. “Their wizard, Loki, wasn’t there. Oh, there were wizards, but King Harold’s brothers were excellent wizards in their own right and they kept their counterparts at bay. It was a glorious battle.”

Harry and the others were enthralled with Cadogan’s tale. The small knight fed his pony an apple that he’d plucked from a tree on an adjacent painting. “When Hastings unfolded, we felt that our tactics would work again. At first, they did. We had those Norman dogs on the run. We crashed through their center and were on the verge of routing them. Until Loki arrived with his minions, that is.”

“Minions?” Kingsley listened intently to Cadogan’s words.

“Oh yes, tens of thousands of those infernal walking dead and a whole company of berserkers riding graphorns.” Cadogan was sullen. A small piece of silver paint fell off his shoulders as he shuddered at the memory.

“The thing was that my King’s brothers were holding their own against that magic. They were sending spells that covered us until Loki unleashed his weapons.” Cadogan went to his pony’s saddle and began to rifle around the saddlebags.

“First, there were these.” He pulled out a dense, lead ball, about the size of a cannon ball.

Harry took a sharp intake of breath. “That looks like a bludger!”

Cadogan smiled. “They used thick wooden sticks to strike these and they slammed into the wizards we had protecting us. With our protection gone, Loki was able to turn the Inferi on us. Even then, we fought hard, against overwhelming numbers. I thought all was lost. We simply could not figure out how he and his other wizards were controlling their martinets. Something caught my eye. It was hovering above our heads, so I leapt up and grabbed it.” Cadogan reached into his bag and pulled out a small, golden ball.

Slughorn smiled. “A snitch, that’s positively a snitch, if I’ve ever seen one.” Harry nodded in concurrence with the Headmaster.

Eyeing the tiny ball in Cadogan’s hand, Harry asked, “What happened, when you caught the Snitch?”

“It was amazing! Three full ranks of those walking dead, almost one hundred and fifty of them, simply lie down. Somehow, Loki and his wizards controlled the Inferi through those golden balls. Every time my men and I caught one, one hundred and fifty of those demons would fall down! It was glorious!” Cadogan tossed the inert snitch into the air and grabbed it again in one fell swoop.

Harry thought to himself. It couldn’t be a coincidence that catching the snitch resulted in one hundred and fifty points. The Baron’s cryptic words were making sense. “What happened? Why were you defeated?”

Cadogan shook his head. “We were laying waste to scores of those evil dead. Loki stood on a platform that rose high into the air. He conjured up these massive white balls of light that seemed to have hair flowing from them. He sent one to the middle of our ranks and a full dozen of my men died on the spot. The carnage caused my King to be distracted, allowing one of William’s archers to send his arrow true, killing our King. We were defeated.” Cadogan bowed his head sorrowfully. “Still, we almost had him, even then.”

“What do you mean?” Harry looked at Cadogan, curious.

“Even though we were defeated, Loki kept sending these balls out to kill us. It was as if his intent was to murder us all. He sent one towards Sir Godric…” Harry interrupted the knight.

“Sir Godric? Godric Gryffindor?” Cadogan gave an annoyed look.

“Of course. Sir Godric and Sir Salazar were my lieutenants.” Staring at Harry’s incredulous face, waiting to see if the Head Auror had anything else to say, then he continued. “He sent one of his lights towards Sir Godric, who somehow managed to catch it with his bare hands. Sir Godric threw it back at Loki. The platform on which Loki stood three metal rings beneath it and Sir Godric’s throw landed in one of the rings. Loki seemed to weaken noticeably and one third of his platform exploded.”

“What happened next?” Harry’s mind went back to Cadogan’s description. He’d just described a score with a quaffle.

“We were too far gone. I took a rear guard and held the line allowing our last company to fall back. Sir Godric and Sir Salazar led Lady Rowena, Lady Helga along with Squire Malfoy, Squire Gaunt, Squire Weasley, Squire Black and what others they could find away from the place. I died holding the last bit near Darswell Lake, but the rest got away.”

Harry’s head spun. It was so absurd. The game that he’d played with such abandon. The idle past time that had been the center of the school’s entertainment for centuries was a recipe to defeat the greatest evil they’d ever faced. Hermione would not be pleased. Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin had probably introduced the game to get the students prepared for the next encounter with Leclerc. Harry smiled and turned back to Sir Cadogan.

“Thank you, Sir Cadogan. You’ve been most helpful.” Harry bowed once more.

“Are you off to fight injustice? I’d give anything to ride off into battle once more. Point me towards the enemy, Sir Harry, I’m your man.” Sir Cadogan held his sword high in the air.

Harry nodded and walked away. Above them, the Bloody Baron hovered, a content smile on his face. In his taciturn, gravelly voice, he cried out to Harry, almost in a teasing lilt.

“Quidditch!”

Harry nodded at the Baron and turned to Lachlan, Slughorn and Kingsley. “We’ve got to get a hold of the Quidditch League. We’re not out of it yet.” The four men walked briskly down the hall, as Sir Cadogan mounted his pony and relived his last, glorious charge into battle.

***

The stands had several rows of empty seats as the tensions of the day caused spectators to stay home. The match ended relatively early, the seeker finding the snitch almost ten minutes into the game. Somewhat relieved at being able to head home, the crowd didn’t complain too much and made for the exits with relative haste. The seeker shared a few moments with his team and then stood a few minutes with the captain of the opposing team. The shook hands and then headed for their opposing locker rooms. As he made for the door, the seeker saw a tall man with bright red hair, cut short into a flat top. The man wore dusty denim jeans and work boots and a battered leather jacket with the sleeves pulled up near his elbows. His forearms were large, muscled and had a variety of scars and burns along their length. Equally, the red-haired man’s face was dotted with scars and nicks, tell tales of a hard occupation. The seeker paused and then approached the man warily, his hand brushing the end of his wand.

“Viktor Krum?” The man’s voice was pleasant, friendly.

“Who vants to know?” Krum glanced around the area and then settled on the man with the smile.

“I’m Charlie Weasley. I was wondering if we could talk?” Charlie looked relaxed, while he conducted his own scan of the area.

“Not here. We are not safe here.” Viktor grasped his broom tightly, any thoughts of heading into the locker room forgotten. “Is it time?”

Charlie paused for a moment. It as if Krum was expecting him, as if Krum knew that a choice would have to made and now was the time for the choice. Charlie nodded. “It is time.”

“Von moment.” Viktor drew his wand. After a few seconds, a shimmering white light and mist emanated from the wand and coalesced into the shape of a great white shark. Viktor spoke to the shark. “Karkaroff is at the mountain. Midnight has come.” The shark mimicked Krum’s words and then flew off into the sky.

Krum turned to Charlie. “I vas varning my people. Ve vill fight this Leclerc. Come.” Krum turned to lead Charlie away from the stadium.

“Wait, don’t you want to collect your things?” Charlie looked back at the locker room.

“There ist no time. Leclerc has spies on my team. They probably already know about you, Mr. Weasley. Ve must go now. Ve are in great danger.” Charlie gulped and then followed Viktor Krum into the night time mist. As the left the stadium behind them, the sound of whistles and the shouts of angry men reached their ears. The Bulgarian Ministry of Magic had just made Charlie Weasley and Viktor Krum wanted men.

***

“Don’ worry Ron, that’s a nice giant!” Hagrid’s voice lacked its normal conviction.

Ron’s harried voice resounded back. “How do you bloody know that, Hagrid?”

Despite himself, Mortimer couldn’t restrain a chuckle. “Well, he didn’t say, ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!”

“What’s that? Mortimer, was that a joke? This isn’t funny!” Ron’s voice had a tinge of fear and anger all at once.

Mortimer rested his arms on his walking stick and looked up to watch his team leader. Ron was hanging upside down, one leg pinched between the thumb and forefinger of a rather large giant, who was eyeing the red-haired Auror curiously. The spring had come early to the mountains and their quest to find allies among the giant population had not born fruit, until now. Hagrid wrung his hands fretfully as he tried to calm Ron down.

“It’ll be alrigh’ Ron. He don’ mean nuthin’, he’s just curious, is all.” Mortimer snorted again.

“Or hungry, take your pick.” Ron gave a sharp look at his trainee, causing Mortimer to clam up.

“Now, don’ be makin’ generalities about him. Giants have sensitive feelins.” Hagrid raised his arms up towards the towering giant.

“Churl, twrrl dowp Hagrid, errl Grawp…”

The giant looked down towards Hagrid and absently dropped Ron, who fell in a heap in a pile of moss at the giant’s feet. Hagrid kept up his running dialogue with the giant.

“Gawf knurl brrrpt zrap lrrrk…”

The giant mad a series of animated waves and then started walking away.

“Well, that’s one fer our side!” Hagrid was positively pleased with his accomplishment and reached down to help Ron to his feet.

“I’d hate to see what would have happened if he wasn’t a nice giant.” Ron brushed some wayward clippings from his hair and looked around. “Now what?”

Hagrid glanced around and stared at a range of mountains near by. “Well, we’re near the warrens of the Northern Mountain Trolls, nice fellas, ver’ welcomin’.”

“Like the nice giant?” Ron eyed the Hogwarts gamekeeper warily.

“Oh, they’re nothin’ like tha’. C’mon Ron, keep an open mind.” Hagrid started walking towards the mountains in the distance. Mortimer walked up to Ron and handed the team leader his fallen walking stick.

“Well, I hear Northern Mountain Trolls have a particular fondness for red headed humans.” Mortimer hid his smirk from Ron.

Ron didn’t catch the smile. “Really? Why, because they get along with the Scots in the area?”

Mortimer made to follow Hagrid and stay out of arm’s reach of Ron. “No, because redheads make for a great stew.” Ron stared after his giggling trainee, his mind wondering if the young man was pulling his leg. Ron put his walking stick in front of him and followed the other two, every so often pinching the skin on his arm and muttering to himself.

“Stew, I’m too bony for stew.”


***A/N: It's all coming together! Remember, Quidditch!!!

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  #143  
Old December 14th, 2007, 3:54 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 144 – The Dwindling Sands of the Hourglass

For a variety of reasons, Hogwarts was chosen as the most logical marshalling and training location for the army being assembled to meet Leclerc’s invasion force. First, the considerable masking spells that were in place would allow General Manchester to properly amass the numbers he’d been gathering without having to worry about muggle intervention. Second, between the grounds and the castle itself, it was really the only place which the Ministry could find that had enough room for the training itself. General Manchester was in his element. It seemed like he was everywhere all at once, supervising the training cadres and drafting the assault plan. The deadline was little more than five days away and Harry was astounded at how quickly wizarding Britain had come together to face the threat. Harry wandered the vast passages of the castle until he came to the door he was seeking. Knocking briefly and hearing a muffled acknowledgement, Harry opened the door and entered smartly.

The room had formerly been used as a storage room. Its racks of books and brooms had been hastily emptied and the room reconfigured as a planning room for General Manchester and his staff. Harry walked in and found the general pouring over a detailed map of the terrain where the battle would be fought. The room was littered with standalone slate boards and cork boards. Maps and lists had been thumb tacked in a haphazard pattern all around the walls and the boards. The general was resplendent in his tartan kilt and canvas puttees with his starched uniform blouse adorned with the various badges of his qualifications through his years of soldiering. Arthur Weasley, Dawlish and Kingsley stood with Manchester, reviewing the various reports that were filtering in on the training. The four men looked up as Harry entered the room.

“Ah, Harry, good.” Manchester offered Harry a saucer with a laden tea cup. “What have you got for us?”

“Well, General, Ginny and Cho have managed to reach all of the local Quidditch clubs. Most are with us, though the Falmouth Falcons are having a vote amongst its members tonight.” Harry’s revelation on the merits of Quidditch as an operational tool had led Arthur to dispatch his daughter, who was a well known Quidditch correspondent and Cho Creevey, who ran a famed Quidditch supply house, out among the British Quidditch clubs and use their contacts to bring the best and the brightest players in. Much to Harry’s chagrin, Manchester had acceded to both Ginny’s and Cho’s requests to be among the players that would play a vital part in the upcoming battle.

“Splendid!” Manchester looked down at the map. “We’ll divide them into three sections, beaters, seekers and chasers, just like the game.” The general rifled through the stack of papers on the table and pulled out a sheet that had circles and rectangles drawn on it various patterns. “The seekers, obviously, will have to go for the snitches in order to incapacitate the Inferi. Their job will be complicated because they’ll have to operate over the enemy’s lines. The chasers will have two jobs. They’ll have to catch the energy quaffles and try to take down Leclerc’s platform.”

Something in Cadogan’s story puzzled Harry. “Sir, the quaffles were used as weapons against Harold’s army. They exploded and killed a lot of people. I know Godric was supposed to catch one and send it back, but how do we know they won’t explode when our chasers catch them?” Harry’s mind was set on Ginny. While she was superior seeker, she was one of the best chasers of the age. He was convinced that she’d accept that role in the upcoming battle, because she was good at it and because it had a direct bearing on the outcome of the battle.

Kingsley let out a snort. “Harry, honestly, when you played Quidditch, did you ever even try to play any position other than seeker?”

“What do you mean, Kingsley?” Harry had a hurt expression on his face. He prided himself at being an expert at the rules. He was, after all, once a captain of the Gryffindor team.

“Harry, what is the one thing that you must not allow happen to the quaffle in a match?” Kingsley smiled as understanding hit Harry.

“You can’t let the quaffle hit the ground. You lose points if you do.” Harry shook his head. “These quaffles explode when they hit the ground. Our chasers have to catch them in the air.”

“Precisely, Harry.” Manchester refilled Harry’s teacup and smiled. “Still, it will be difficult, but the chasers need to keep those things off our ground forces. The beaters will have the most difficult job, I imagine. They’ll have to cover both the forces on the ground and our chasers and seekers in the air. Fortunately, beaters happen to be the one position on the pitch that requires the player to be a little daft. We’ve got a lot of volunteers for that.”

“Including George and Lee.” Arthur piped up. George and Lee had been working overtime on developing defensive products for the army, but seeing as the deadline was approaching, everything they could produce had been done. So the pair had volunteered as beaters for the upcoming battle.

“Well, if being a little odd in the head is a qualification, I’m surprised those two aren’t leading the beater brigade.” The men laughed at Kingsley’s remark.

“So, we have the Inferi spoken for with our Quidditch players. The Berserkers are going to be a problem.” Manchester walked around the table, and sifted through the descriptions of the Berserkers.

Berserkers were once men. Muggle or wizard, it really didn’t matter. They were kept isolated from anyone in a dark room. Their heads were constantly bombarded with dark magic in the form of a horn fashioned from the horn of a cursed ram. Eventually, the treatment drove them mad, giving them a craving for human flesh. The bearer of the horn was the only person capable of guiding the Berserkers and even then, only a hundred or so could be on the field at any one time, lest they turn on their masters. The cannibalism of these former men turned their skin a dark gray with predatory scales dotting the surface. They filed their teeth into sharp, canines and carried heavy clubs studded with spikes into battle. On foot, they were susceptible to most forms of magic, but Leclerc mounted his Berserkers on graphorns. Graphorns were large, purple beasts of burden that were extraordinarily aggressive that had a tough, scaly hide that was resistant to spells. Combined together, the Berserkers made for excellent shock troops that would drive any before them in the heat of battle.

Manchester’s martial mind worked the problem. “Hagrid has been able to get us four giants and twenty or so trolls. I’m thinking about using them to blunt the graphorn charge, so that, we can go after the Berserkers directly. The best bet is to find which of Leclerc’s minions is carrying the ram horn, but we can’t rely on that. I’ll have to think about this a little further.”

Harry nodded and looked around the table. “What about help from our allies?”

Arthur shook his head woefully. “Unfortunately, the embargo has hindered any assistance from reaching us. I wouldn’t plan on too much help from the Americans or the Australians. They simply can’t get here.”

“Well, then we make do with what we have.” Manchester looked out of a window and watched as several formations of wizards were working through their paces. “We have two battalions, commanded by Dawlish and Kingsley. We have our Quidditch teams and we have our giants and trolls.” Manchester looked back at the men. “Plus, I think I’ll have some other surprises for them as well. Which reminds me, Harry.”

“Yes sir?” Harry looked back at Manchester.

“I’m assuming you’re wondering what I’ll do with your Aurors.” Manchester looked at Harry.

“I thought you’d distribute us among the Quidditch squads.” Manchester’s question peaked Harry’s interest.

“Oh no, dear boy. Your Aurors would just get in the way.” The general turned back and stared out the window. “Every battle plan seems to account for the circumstances of the last battle. We’ve planned for eventualities based on what Leclerc did before. I’m assuming he’ll have something else up his sleeve, and so will I. What every army needs is calvary. Your Aurors and Hit Team members will be my cavalry, my strike force. Your job will be to take on what we haven’t planned for.”

Harry nodded. He’d have to get with Dennis to coordinate with him on the broom riding strike force. Manchester put his papers down.

“Well, I’m off to inspect the troops, care to come with me, Harry?” Manchester nodded and waited until Harry joined him. The two left the room and wandered down the hall.

As they walked, they passed by various volunteers scurrying to and fro in an effort to keep up with the task at hand. Harry looked over curiously at Manchester, who was walking in measured strides, his riding crop tucked tightly underneath his arm. “Sir, what did you mean when you said you had some surprises for the enemy?”

“Now, Harry, one mustn’t open the present until Christmas.” Manchester’s tone was teasing and he guided them down some stairs, heading for the main entry hall and the exit to the grounds.

***

Domina Malfoy walked purposefully down the corridor at Hogwarts. For the past week, she’d been mustering volunteers to fight and she’d assembled a considerable contingent of purebloods to the cause. She herself had decided to fight, so she was participating in the training that dotted the grounds. Draco was doing his own part. The embargo had crippled his business, but he was overseeing a daring smuggling operation that was carrying vitally needed war supplies into the country and ferrying noncombatants and refugees out the country to destinations in South America. The International Confederation had placed a blockade around the United States and Australia, assuming that those two nations would be the primary source of support for Britain. But Draco and the Malfoys had always played on the edges of the law, and now he was leveraging those contacts to get people out and supplies in.

Domina rounded a corner and walked into a large, balding man who was coming in the opposite direction. She sneered in disdain at the interruption of her routine.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. My mistake…oh, it’s you, Domina.” Dudley Dursley’s face turned a deep shade of beet red, both from the accident and from the recognition that he’d crossed paths with his erstwhile sister-in-law.

Domina’s eyes grew wide, but after a moment, her usual contempt crossed her face. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve brought together a group of volunteers from the muggle community. A large number of us are married or related to people like you, so we’ve come to do our part.” Dudley stood straighter. He’d not seen Domina since his wedding and even then, these were the most words they’d shared ever.

“What could a muggle like you possibly do for us?” Domina’s nose was raised high in the air, her arrogance at his temerity visibly on display.

“We’re going to serve as stretcher bearers for the most part. We’ll go around the battlefield and try to get the wounded back to the healers. Plus, me, George and Lee have come up with some weapons people like me can use. Enchanted shield and aimed magical fireworks. We’ve got to do something.” Dudley wouldn’t back down, fully aware of the hatred that Domina had for him.

Domina seemed perplexed and her expression softened ever so slightly. “Why? Why would your kind throw yourselves out there in the face of people far more superior than you?”

Dudley gave her a hard stare. He was not one to back down. “I’m here because Beatrice is here. I love her with all that I am and I don’t want to face it alone. We may be muggles, but we’re also mothers and fathers, wives and husbands. We fight because those we love are fighting and we don’t want to see them die. Love isn’t just reserved for the magic bearers.” He placed his ample hands on his hips and made to walk down the hall.

Domina was extremely puzzled. Wizards and witches were chosen, weren’t they? They had a birthright that made them superior to these muggles. Yet, in her efforts to recruit volunteers, more purebloods had declined than had accepted and this man shamed them all. She watched Dudley’s back as he walked away.

“Wait!” The unnatural pleading in her voice caused him to stop. He turned back to face her. For a moment they stood, eyes locked, but for the first time, she looked at him without vitriol, without contempt. “I…I just wanted to say…I mean…well, thank you.” She turned before he could answer and walked briskly away. Dudley let a small smile come over his lips and turned and walked the other direction.

***

Harry and Manchester walked out among the various training sessions, lending a helpful nugget here and there, but mostly observing. Manchester had an eye for the details, noticing the little things like the angle of someone’s wand or commenting on the foot position of someone else. Everyone seemed to welcome their eccentric general’s input. He exuded confidence and competence and he made them feel like they were making genuine progress.

“Harry!” The voice carried over the parade ground and Harry turned to find a group of rather intimidating people approaching him. At their head was a scarred red-headed man with a hulking, brooding man with a flat top.

“Charlie! You made it out, excellent.” Harry clasped hands with Charlie Weasley who seemed tired but none the worse for the wear.

“It was all Viktor’s doing. He had a solid escape plan worked out.” Charlie nodded over to Viktor Krum who allowed a brief smile escape his lips as he shook Harry’s hand.

Harry turned to Manchester. “General. May I present Viktor Krum, head of the Karkaroff resistance cell. He was the first person to clue us in to Leclerc.”

“Krum, eh?” Manchester sized up the burly Bulgarian and smiled. “I saw you several times on the pitch. You are an extraordinary talent, young man.”

Krum nodded. “Ve have come to fight!”

“Good. Harry, my boy. I think we have our commander of the Quidditch contingent.” Manchester beamed at the prospect.

Krum, however, allowed a grimace to come over him. “Quidditch? Ve are here to fight, not play.”

Despite himself, Harry chuckled. “Viktor, the fight is the Quidditch. We’ll explain it to you later. Why don’t you go and find Professor McGonnagal. She’ll get you and your people squared away.”

Viktor nodded and went off with Charlie and the members of Karkaroff who’d arrived with him. Harry turned and joined Manchester who was standing, seemingly deep in thought.

Manchester smiled at Harry. “It’ll be good to have Krum. He’s got plays the game with a certain amount of viciousness, we’ll need that in battle.” Harry nodded while the general remained lost in his thoughts. “Still, it would be nice to have more ground troops.” Manchester was drawn to a riotous tumult at the gates. “What the devil is that all about?”

They walked to the gate amid the cheers of the trainees who were closer to the entrance. A solid phalanx of men and women were walking through the gates, waving and shaking hands. They were all similarly dressed. All had tan smocks and breeched tan pants with long, leather brown boots. Over their outfits, they wore plain brown robes with large hoods. They walked casually, on their hips each carried a metallic cylinder attached to their wool sashes. Some had animal and creature masks on, but for the most part they were almost identical. A young man, no more than twenty walked up to Harry and Manchester. His hood was raised over his head, but his beard and mustache were plainly visible, a russet brown like the tufts of hair protruding from the hood.

He came to a stop and deftly pulled his hood down, revealing a toothy grin. He gave an irreverent bow. “I’m sorry we’re late, General. May I present…” He gave a theatrical wave to the mass of brown behind him. “The collective volunteers of the Australian-American Expeditionary Force.”

Harry stood stunned at the thousand or so people behind the man and upon hearing his words, the British volunteers burst into spontaneous applause.

The man turned back to Harry and Manchester. “I am Stanley Greenburg, organizer of this effort.”

Manchester looked back and forth between Stanley and the volunteers. “My word, Mr. Greenburg, how on earth did you get this many people through the embargo.”

“General, it was quite easy, actually. It’s the thirtieth anniversary of the release of the movie Star Wars. There’s a massive convention going on at Pinewood Studios, so we simply donned some wizards’ robes, called ourselves the Association of Jedi Impersonators and booked flights via muggle airlines. May the force be with you!” As one the volunteers, drew their cylinders and out popped plastic extensions from them in a rainbow of colors.

One smaller “Jedi” walked up to Stanley. He had a green mask with excessively long ears. “Why do I have to be Yoda, Stan?”

“Because one, you’re short, Barry and two, you blackmailed me into letting you come along.” Stanley chastised the shorter boy.

The boy removed his mask. He didn’t look much older than twelve, but looked remarkably like a smaller version of Stanley.

“I’m gonna tell Mom you won’t let me be Obi-wan!” Barry Greenberg’s face was in a pout.

“See! Blackmail, I tell you…” The two brothers began to bicker, allowing Manchester and Harry to move off.

Manchester looked at Harry and smiled. “That was unexpected. That helps us greatly.” The general looked down at the wrist watch on his right hand. “Now, if my surprise will arrive, we’ll almost be ready.”

“What surprise general?” Harry looked over at Manchester, who was staring out at the lake, beyond the grounds.

“Ah, here it is now.” Harry followed Manchester’s eyes. In the center of the lake, a fountain of bubbles began to effervesce on the surface of the water. Slowly, the bubbling got more violent. Eventually, a wooden mast began to surface, pulling the entirety of a ship onto the surface of the lake. Harry’s jaw dropped as a tall wooden sailing ship rose from the depths of the lake and sailed smoothly towards the shore.

“The Discooperire?” The ketch gracefully maneuvered around the lake. A cannon sounded in salute to the army ashore.

“Of course, Harry.” Manchester drew an ancient claymore from his hip and held it out in front of him. “We haven’t a real war in over a thousand years. Based on my research, the crew of the Discooperire is the only unit within the government that has any type of experience in pitched battles, even more than your Aurors. Look at this sword.” Manchester held up his claymore. There was a notch in the pommel that was the perfect fit for his wand. “They came up with this development. There’s no substitute for experience in combat, Harry.” Manchester waved an arm up at the shapely figure that stood on the deck of the Discooperire. Captain Baretto knew how to make an entrance.

Manchester continued, “When General Andrew Jackson met the British at New Orleans, he recruited pirate crews as gun crews under the pirate Lafitte.” Manchester held up his hand to the ship as it docked. “There be my pirates!”

Harry looked briefly at the Americans and Australians that were milling around, looking out towards the ship. Most were men between the ages of sixteen and thirty. Remembering that most of Discooperire’s crew consisted of women who were as alluring as they were deadly, Harry shook his head.

“You don’t know the half of it, General.” Harry avoided Manchester’s questioning stare and walked towards his reunion with Captain Baretto and her crew.


***A/N: I had to come up with a different way to get the Americans/Australians there and I couldn't very well bring them across on the Queen Mary. It's getting there....the countdown is on!

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  #144  
Old December 17th, 2007, 1:48 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 145 – Surprise Dinner Guests

“There are no rules! This is life and death. Stop trying to be nice, stop trying to play by the rules. Get the snitches as if lives depend on it, because they do. Try it again!”

Viktor Krum hovered above Hogwarts’ an uneven patch of ground keeping a watchful eye on the several sets of seekers from the many Quidditch clubs that were being wielded into a single, fighting unit. Krum was trying to set up teams of beaters to cover the free flying seekers who were usually used to flying alone. In the battle ahead, the seekers would have tlo work in teams, capturing far more snitches than the one they were used to capturing during normal matches. The problem was that the seekers were holding back, once they captured the single snitch, thinking that the action would stop once that event happened. Krum knew better. He’d deployed some beaters around to keep up the pressure on the seekers, even after they’d captured a snitch.

Gavin Malone was an accomplished seeker for the Ballycastle Bats, having been named most outstanding seeker for four of the past seven years. He’d captured one of the seven or so snitches that Krum had released rather quickly and held it in the air triumphantly. His triumph lasted roughly seven seconds as George Weasley sent a bludger his way that took the tall, brown haired seeker right in his midsection, sending him careening down onto the ground. His loss of focus was what caused Krum’s outburst.

Healers moved quickly, and to his credit, Malone shook off most of the cobwebs he was feeling and quickly mounted his broom, and with a nod up to Krum, soared into the air and went back into action.

Harry swooped down to where Krum was keeping a watchful eye on events. Pulling up to where the brooding Bulgarian superstar was located, Harry elevated the end of his handled abruptly, coming to a stop.

“They’ll get it, Viktor, it’s just a question of breaking some habits.” Krum grunted at Harry’s observation.

“Quidditch isn’t for the faint of heart in the best of times, Harry. This time, mistakes like that will get the seeker and someone else killed.” Krum pulled out a small notebook and made some notes.

Deciding to change the subject, Harry pointed over to an area in the distance. There were several dozen figures on brooms with their wands out, aiming spells at targets along a tree line. “What have you decided to do about the keepers?”

The keepers had been an issue, because realistically, there was really no role for them on the battle field. The quaffles were being handled by the chasers and the seekers and beaters also had roles. Keepers were a different proposition because they didn’t usually handle the quaffles directly. Krum had come up with a guardian role for the keepers, basically jacks of all trades that would use their wands to cover their compatriots from the air.

“Ve shall have to vait and see what we have with them. I made Oliver Wood responsible for the keepers. He seems to be whipping them into shape.”

Harry nodded and stayed silent. Down below, the action was getting particularly vicious. Out of the corner of his eye, a blur of bright red crossed his line of vision. He watched intently as Ginny swooped down and pulled alongside of a particularly quick snitch. His heart leapt into his throat as he spied a couple of the opposition beaters start sending multiple bludgers towards Ginny. Four bludgers were heading towards her from several directions at once. She wrapped her legs around her broom and leaned over to her right, sending her broom into a barrel roll, avoiding the first bludger. Smoothly, she reversed the spin, dodging the second bludger, and amazingly, she snatched the snitch out of the air. She didn’t halt her wildly gyrating spin and turned her broom with her legs into a flat spin, narrowly being missed by the fourth bludger. Arms widespread she arched her chest allowing the last bludger graze her back, but reaching out and snatching a second snitch. Grasping her broom with her hands again, she pulled her broom upward and turned back to the pitch, looking for another snitch.

Harry spun around and turned to Krum. “I thought Ginny was a chaser?”

“We vere short on seekers and she is far better than most of them out there. Is there a problem.?” Krum eyed Harry curiously.

Harry knew he’d overstepped himself. The Quidditch was Krum’s responsibility. Still, he was concerned that his wife was going to be in the thick of the fighting. “No, no problem, I was just surprised.”

Krum nodded and then pulled out a large, silver whistle and blew into it. “If you will excuse me, Harry.” Krum dove down towards where the players had halted play and listened as Krum started yelling. “Did you see that? Did you see how Potter here kept up her seeking? You should all be able to capture multiple snitches! That is what we need! Potter!”

Harry watched as Ginny’s head rose. Inwardly, he smiled. They’d been married for years, but for almost his entire life, he was the only Potter at Hogwarts.

Krum continued. “Potter, you will be the first section leader for the seekers. They will follow you!” He looked around at them. “Ve will try it again. Everyone will be able to capture multiple seekers. Start again!”

They broke into groups, one group following Ginny, and restarted their practice round with Krum fast on their heels. Harry shook his head and pointed the nose of his broom for the command tent.

***

The Great Hall reverberated with the cacophonous melody of hundreds of people enjoying the camaraderie of an evening meal after a long day of training. Harry sat up at the head table, next to General Manchester and Captain Baretto, who’d been named deputy commander with a brevet rank of Brigadier. Despite the appointment, she was resplendent in gorgeous low-cut royal blue dress which offset her dancing eyes and olive complexion. Nearby, the stunning Muireall Innes sat with Williamson, alongside the ever deadly Lockley and her husband, Sean Manchester. Lockley’s introduction to her father-in-law was an event to behold. When Sean escorted his bride into the Hall, he reluctantly brought her to where General Manchester was sitting.

“Um, General, I mean, Father, um, well, sir, this is uh, my wife. Gwen Lockley, Mistress at Arms of the Discooperire.” Sean wondered how his father and his wife would get along. Lockley wore a sky-blue blouse, its top three buttons undone, displaying a tasteful golden pendant on a gold chain. The pendant was fashioned into the shape of a mermaid. On her hip she had the traditional Discooperire red sash with the well used pommel of her cutlass protruding upward. Her one blue eye danced in delight while the eye patch covering her other eye was tastefully decorated with a bright blue sapphire. She stepped towards William and bowed her head slightly.

Sean was unsure what this meeting would bring. He’d been laboring for days as to how to properly make the introductions. Normally, he’d ask his partner, Leonora, her thoughts, but she’d been dispatched on some secret mission for Harry, so he settled on doing it in public. His father was unique, to say the least, but so was his wife. Both were warriors cast from different molds, Sean thought, one a dandy, and the other a hard-edged instrument of death. Sean Manchester was many things, a very competent Auror, a brutal fighter and an intensely loyal friend. Unfortunately, he was a horrific judge of character.

Lockley had been carefully observing how the elder Manchester was bringing the army together. She immediately recognized a kindred warrior. His changes and training regimen spoke of a keen military mind and fighting spirit, which she respected immensely. Conversely, William Manchester had been looking forward to meeting his new daughter-in-law. He watched with special satisfaction as Lockley drilled her crew in their gun drills and hand to hand combat. It had been Lockley who’d fashioned the slots on her crew’s swords for the wands. So, when they finally met, the last thing that Sean expected happened.

“My dear, it is a pleasure to meet you.” William bounded from his side of the table and embraced her in a ferocious bear hug. To Sean’s surprise, Lockley returned the hug in kind, grasping her father-in-law tightly. When the pair parted, Sean could have sworn he saw both his wife’s and his father’s eyes welling up briefly, just before either caught themselves.

“Thank you, sir. Sean has told me so much about you.” Lockley gave Sean a smirk which caused him to want to tug on the collar of his tunic.

“I’m sure he has, my dear. Despite that information, I’m so glad my son found someone like you. When this business is over, I’m so looking forward to spending some time together as a family.” William guided her to a seat near the head table.

“I’m looking forward to it, sir. I have the most remarkable recipe for bread pudding. I understand you are quite the culinary master, so I’m looking forward to your sampling it.” Sean’s eyes bolted up. In the year they’d been married, his wife had never mentioned that she could actually cook. Now, she was swapping recipes with his father. He stared at Lockley in surprise.

“I thought you didn’t know how to cook.” He questioned her scathingly.

She looked over at William and smiled then reached over and kissed Sean on the cheek. “Sweetie, I never said that I didn’t know how to cook, I just didn’t like to cook. You were so eager to make the dinners, that I let you.” He’d been had, and he knew it. Shaking his head in amazement, Sean listened as his wife and father shared a laugh at his expense.

Harry watched the exchange with a tickled grin.

“Poor Sean, Signor Harry, he still has no idea what he married.” Harry couldn’t disagree with Baretto. The Captain of the Discooperire laughed and lightly flipped her lush hair over her bare shoulder and took a sip of wine from her goblet.

“I’m glad you and the Discooperire are here, Adelina. Although, I think it’s safe to say that our American and Australian friends are happier than I.” Harry nodded over to where the tan-clad foreigner were practically fawning over the members of the ship’s crew. None seemed to intimidated by the fact that most of the crew were armed to the teeth and were experienced hands at using the weapons they carried.

“It is good for my crew to have such attention, Signor Harry. By the way, I understand you have met my niece, Graciela.” Baretto’s eyes danced in merriment.

“Oh, yes, and I could have sworn she was your daughter, the way she handled those bullies.” Adelina laughed at Harry’s comment.

“Alas, Signor Harry, she is the daughter of my husband’s brother. Still, she is the only girl for several generations, so she has spent many months in my care. She has sailed with me on many cruises and she learned from what my crew could teach her, especially Muireall and Lockley.

“I’m surprised that she let the boys live then.” Harry was only half kidding. A little girl who’d learned at the knee of such women made for a very formidable enemy. He changed the subject. “I understand your son Carlo will be attending Hogwarts next year. My godson, Teddy starts next year as well.”

“The boy from the barn?” Baretto smiled as Harry nodded. She’d been captured with Teddy by Zachary Frustro. The boy had shown no fear and had acquitted himself quite well. “Maybe they’ll be friends, no?”

“I’m hoping. I was worried he was going to be alone, but I was more than a little relieved to know he’d have the opportunity to meet some people.” She nodded and then stopped short.

“Dios mio! Those two will be at the mercy of Graciela. I foresee nothing but mischief from those three. Just imagine what a few close friends would do marauding the halls of this fine institution.” She laughed and Harry laughed with her.

“Just imagine, indeed.” Harry became a little quiet. Remembering his own time at Hogwarts and then reflecting back on her choice of words. Close friends, indeed, who were marauders? He could only imagine.

A loud noise at the doors of the Great Hall drew his attention. A low murmur reverberated through the room, followed by the mechanical slap of feet on the pavement. The crowd seemed to part and Harry drew himself up and walked in front of the head table to join William Manchester and Arthur Weasley who were curious as to the commotion. The three stood and watched as down the center of the room, between the tables, a wall of goblins trudged up to meet them. At their head was an older looking goblin, with dark skin and a pointed beard that was silvery gray. Alongside the goblin, Bill Weasley stood almost two feet taller with his red pony tail and ubiquitous ear ring. Bill’s wife Fleur, stood next to him, her blonde hair flowing down around her shoulders. She’d inserted her arm into the crook of his, and she smiled lovingly at her husband.

When the procession reached the spot where Arthur, William and Harry stood, Bill bowed at the waist and smiled at his father. “Father, may I present Ironforge, spokesman for the goblins of this land.” Bill waved a hand at the elder goblin who walked forward and stood tall before the men.

Arthur bowed his head slightly. “Ironforge, I am Arthur Weasley, Minister of Magic. Welcome.”

“Arthur Weasley, your kinsman, Bill, is very much respected among the goblins who tend Gringott’s. He has spoken of the danger that faces both of our people. We have come to offer our assistance in the struggle that is ahead.” The older goblin’s voice was slow, deliberate.

Arthur smiled. “That is wonderful news, Master Ironforge, we are proud to have you join…” Arthur stopped as Ironforge raised his hand.

“There is a cost for our participation. You may want to hear it before you celebrate.” Arthur nodded and asked the elder goblin to continue.

“We have watched as you have changed your world, Arthur Weasley. We watched as you freed the house-elves from their bonds of servitude. We goblins want freedom, too. Although we are not slaves, we are not equals. We want recognition of our status as equals among wizards, we want representation within the government, but most of all, we want the right to carry wands.” The room drew silent. Goblins were powerful magical creatures, on par with the wizards of the world. For centuries, the wizard world had treated goblins as inferiors, even classifying them as beasts. The state of emergency had necessitated that Arthur be given special executive powers. Without hesitating, he chose to exercise those powers.

“Ironforge, we have wronged your people, of that there is no doubt. By the powers vested in me by the War Powers Act, I hereby…” Before Arthur could finish his statement, a voice rang out in the hall.

“Stop! You would not dare!” Domina Malfoy walked to the front of the room, her eyes blazing. “You would not dare give these,” She hesitated, “beings, the right to bear wands. It’s unsavory, it’s not in your power.”

Another voice spoke up. Percy Weasley miraculously appeared beside his father. “Actually, Madame Malfoy, the Minister has been granted that power. He has the mandate to prosecute the war as he sees fit. You, of course, will have the opportunity to retroactively vote on his decisions at the cessation of hostilities.” Percy smiled benignly at Domina.

“You know full well that once you grant goblins wands, there will be no way to rescind that decision.” Her mouth breathed spite and bile. Percy remained steadfast, his grin growing larger.

“You are probably right, Madame Malfoy. But, as you have already noticed, times are changing. As I see it, you can fight the change and get bowled under, or you can work within the system and make our world better. It’s your choice, as it has ever always been.” Perch nodded to his father and receded into the background.

Domina’s cheeks were purple with rage. She let out a small breath and turned and left the room. Arthur looked around for any other sign of resistance and continued his proclamation. “As I was saying, Ironforge, as Minister of Magic, I hereby grant total emancipation for goblins and offer them the use of wands in the performance of magic.”

The room was silent and then burst into spontaneous applause. The goblins smiled and pat each other on the back, ecstatic at their new found status. Arthur turned to Ironforge and smiled. “I don’t know if we have enough wands to equip you, but we can certainly try.”

“That is quite all right, Mr. Minister. Human wands would probably not work for us, but then again, we are goblins.” Ironforge clapped his hands and one of his followers walked up holding an elongated silver box in his hand. Carefully, Ironforge opened the box and extracted an intricately forged golden wand inlaid with platinum ivy and dotted with small rubies and emeralds. “Goblin magic should have goblin wands.” With great fanfare, Ironforge drew the wand out and held it in the air. A crack of thunder and splash of light and dark gray breastplate and matching helm appeared in front of him. “Among other things, our alliance will allow us to equip your army with the armor they need in the fight ahead.” Ironforge bowed his head briefly and beckoned his people forward.

Harry looked off to the side. William Manchester was smiling a smile that was interesting to behold. It wasn’t a funny smile, like he’d heard a joke, or a satisfied smile, like he was happy. It was a deadly smile, like he finally believed that he had something completely unanticipated, something that his enemy could not hope to match. For the first time in this whole process, William Manchester thought that he had an edge.


***A/N: Keep with me, this one and the next one are the transitions...we are getting there.

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  #145  
Old December 18th, 2007, 8:20 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 146 – The Eve of Battle

Stanley Greenberg walked into the command center, his brown robes trailing gracefully behind him. He waited a moment allowing his eyes to grow accustomed to the darker hue of the busy room, where General Manchester’s staff was busily writing and re-writing orders and tables of organization. The twenty-something American wizard shifted the steel breastplate of his armor. It fit like a glove, the customized craftsmanship of the goblin metalwork felt almost like a second skin. He’d volunteered to be a guinea pig for the item, in order to show the members of his corps that the armor was worth wearing. He allowed his little brother the opportunity to shoot some spells at the plate, and the spells bounced right off. That made any trepidation about wearing the armor disappear in the eyes of the men and women of his command.

Stanley finally caught a glimpse of the commanding general in the corner of the room. The general seemed have become enthralled with the crew of the Discooperire and who could blame him, thought Stanley. The general had taken it a step further. He wore a pair of baggy black riding pants with high, black leather boots. He’d taken to wearing the royal blue sea smock that the crew of the Ministry’s ship would wear, finishing the look with the red sash with his claymore tucked tightly in his waist. Stanley chuckled, the crew of the Discooperire had had a definite impact on the men of his force. Stanley had been enthralled when he met their crew and had even asked one of the gun captains out on a date into Hogsmeade. Still, he’d been summoned for a reason, so he shook off the thoughts last night’s sojourn to the Hog’s Head and walked up to where Manchester was. With a sharp click of his heels, Stanley reported in to the general.

“You wanted to see me, General?” Stanley threw his chest out, arms down at his side in his best position of attention.

“Ah, yes, Stanley, did you get my note?” Manchester looked up from what he was doing and inspected the young man closely.

“Yes sir. I didn’t see anything in there that was out of order. I’ve discussed it with my staff and we think it’s a kind thing that you’re doing and we’ll take up the slack, that is…” Stanley hesitated, unsure if he should continue.

A genuine smile crossed Manchester’s face. “That is if the crew of the Discooperire volunteer, too, is that it?”

Stanley blushed. “Yes sir.”

“Not to worry, young man, the unmarried members of the ship’s company have also volunteered.” A twinkle lit up the general’s eye. “I just think that we owe some people this last opportunity.”

“I agree general. Frankly, we would have volunteered without conditions. Shall I get the army together?”

“I know, Stanley. Tell your people, thanks from their general. No need to get the army together, they should be forming up for the noon formation. I’ll tell them then. Now run along and join your battalion.” Stanley drew up and nodded. Whirling on his heel, he marched out of the room in practiced military fashion.

***

William Manchester walked with an easy grace, like a man who’d suffered through the eve of battle before. He strode out of the main entry way of the castle and walked out onto the grounds. Arrayed before him were the collective forces of a free Britain, and her friends. He took a deep breath and walked up to a podium where Baretto stood. He exchanged a satisfied smile with the voluptuous Captain of the Discooperire and climbed the podium to look over the formation.

They stood in straight ranks, by unit. In the first rank, the Aurors stood with their broomsticks at their side and Harry at the front. Alongside them were the Hit Team members, Dennis at their head, also with broomsticks at their side. The next rank contained a mass of gray, indicating the goblins, five hundred strong, each with tight fitting armor and a small sheath housing their newly acquired wands. Each goblin hand was holding a brand new halberd, which they would wield in battle. Next to the goblins, the crew of the Discooperire stood at attention, Muireall Innes in command as Captain Baretto was serving as the second in command for the entire effort. Finishing off the second row of units, Viktor Krum stood proudly in front of his Quidditch Squadron, all similarly dressed and all adopting the deadly demeanor of their leader.

The third row consisted of the infantry. The first battalion, roughly a thousand strong stood proudly with the unassuming John Dawlish at their front. The second battalion, also a thousand strong, but also containing many of the student volunteers from Hogwarts was led by Kingsley Shacklebolt, his smooth head easily recognizable among the mass of humanity. Finishing up the row was the thousand member battalion of volunteers from abroad, with Stanley Greenberg up front. Stanley’s brother Barry stood next to the commander, holding a bright red, white and blue flag with the union jack in the field and crossed lightsabers in the middle. Manchester laughed at the sight. Lastly, far behind the main forces, several giants and trolls milled about with Hagrid and Hagrid’s brother Grawp keeping them in line. The Ministry’s army was assembled.

Manchester touched his wand to his throat. “Members of the army! Thank you for all the hard effort and all the hard work you have put up these last eight days. On the day after tomorrow, we go into battle for the survival of our land. Everything depends on this, not only our lives, but the lives of our families depends on how we do. In two days, we find out our fate.”

He gazed out and watched as the fear, uncertainty and grim resolution passed over the majority of faces. “Today, you are as trained as we can make you. Today, I want you to perform one last task.” He paused and looked over at Stanley and then to Baretto who nodded. “I want you to go home and be with your families, one last time. Leave today and come back tomorrow, at noon. Go home and remember why we are here and take care of any last details you may have.” He pointed towards Stanley and his battalion. “Our American and Australian friends have volunteered to watch over Hogwarts while you are gone, as have some of the crew of the Discooperire. Go home and then come back. When you do, we will go into battle.” His eyes drifted across the parade ground. It was as if he was looking at each man and woman individually. He nodded and turned walked away from the podium.

Captain Baretto turned and looked out over the army. Years of being a ship’s mistress had taught her how to command without amplifying her voice. She shouted out with no real effort, “Legion! Dismissed!” Then she too, turned and followed General Manchester back into the headquarters.

***
“There’s a nice place out near my parents’ house.” Hermione held Rose tight to her chest as she rocked her daughter to sleep.

“Near your parents? What about some place near the Burrow?” Ron was seated next to his wife on the sofa, his arm around the two most important women in his life.

“Oh Ron, we can always apparate to the Burrow, my parents have to drive.” Hermione handed Rose to Ron who always amazed his wife with how tender he could be with the toddler. Ron stared wistfully at his daughter and then noticed a particular expression on his wife’s face.

“What is it, Hermione? You know Harry needs me. This is what I do.” Hermione’s eyes were welling up, her fear and anxiety showing through.

“It’s not that. I want to be out there with you. Everyone is getting to fight, but not me. Ginny is going to be in harm’s way, so will Cho and Beatrice. Even Hannah is going to be out there, why not me?” The other emotion she was feeling was guilt.

Ron smiled. “You’ll have the most important job of us all, Hermione. In may respects, you’re our last hope.”

Arthur Weasley had decided to fight with the rest of the army, to be there to hold together the coalition that had been forged to battle. He’d tapped Hermione to be the interim Minister, to lead the government in the event that the battle was lost. Her place was at the Ministry, coordinating the mass evacuations that were in progress and to lead the resistance should all else fail. Still, she was not happy with the assignment.

“I know, Ron, but the not knowing. If you all die, who will I have? If you die, what will I do?”

“What you always do, Hermione. You fight on, until we win. There’s no one more qualified to do that.” Ron’s gaze was firm but loving. Gently, he put his daughter down on the sofa, fast asleep. Then he reached out his hand to his wife and pulled her to him. He reached down and brought her into his arms and kissed her gently. The kiss grew more fervent, more passionate. The desperation of the moment overtook them and he held her tight as her knees weakened. After a moment, they broke apart. He reached a hand to her cheek and smiled.

“I love you more today than yesterday.” He hadn’t used their expression of love with her in years. Events and time had broken the habit, yet hearing those words filled her chest with love and affection. She smiled and took his hand. Without a word, she led him to the bedroom.

She looked back at him and teased. “I still want to buy a house near my parents.”

“Yes dear. Whatever you say.” He smiled and followed her into their room.

***
Harry and Ginny sat with their sons in the living room of 12 Grimmauld Place. James was whirring around the chairs, weaving in and out of furniture, much to the delight of his younger brother. Albus was sitting up, his unruly mop of black hair flying all about as he tried to reach out his hands to catch the blur that was his brother. Watching James fly around the room raised a brief sense of tension to Harry’s face. While he knew it was his son, all he could see was Ginny flying about on her own broom in face of a deadly enemy. Ginny caught his expression and stared at him intently.

“You need to stop that Harry.” Ginny had risen from the floor and stood with her hands on her hips.

“Stop what?” Harry could feel the heat rising around his neck and into his face as he flushed from being caught.

“Stop worrying about me. I can take care of myself and you need to be focused on what you have to do.” Ever so slightly, she began to tap her toe, a definite sign of annoyance.

“I can’t help it, Ginny. When we fought the Battle of Hogwarts, I worried about you, yet I wasn’t really concerned about what happened to me. I knew, somehow, that you’d make it through and that you’d be well. Now, it’s different. Now, I can't bear the thought of losing you. I can’t bear to think what will happen to the boys.” Harry allowed his chin to fall, unable to withstand her withering glare.

The typical Ginny Potter stare wasn’t there. Her face softened and she knelt beside where he sat. She placed her fingers on his chin and raised his head so that his keen emerald eyes met hers. She smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips. “I know, Harry, but we’ll all be fine. This is something we all have to do. We’re ready, as ready as we can be and we’ll be fine.”

He smiled, marveling for the umpteenth time at her resolve, at her courage. She kept up her stare, fixing her face in his memory, like the after image implanted on a retina after a bright flash.

“No one can tell the future, Harry. I was never one for seers or prophecies. I do know that when this is all said and done, it will come down to you. It always does. Sometime, somewhere in this battle, you will find yourself having to act on an instinct or on an opportunity and you’ll have to be the one, like you always are, to take the action that saves us all. You can’t be worrying about me, or James or Albus. You have to focus on what your task is and complete it. If you do, then all of us will make it through.” She laughed.

“How do you know, Ginny? How do you know it will be me?”

“Because you’re Harry Potter. It’s as simple as that.” They laughed together and held each other tightly, oblivious to the fact that Albus’ efforts had paid off. A small hand had managed to grasp a bit of the toy broom handle and now the Potter’s youngest son was being towed along in his brother’s wake, giggling uncontrollably. Just as Harry and Ginny looked up and saw Albus’ situation, the toddler let go of the broom and went flying through the room, his giggle turning into uncontrolled laughter. Just before he landed against the wall, Kreacher apparated into the room and caught the baby.

Harry and Ginny shared a bout of uproarious laughter, amazed at the house-elf’s sense of timing. Harry looked over at Ginny. “It’s almost time to go to the Burrow. We’d better be heading off.”

She stopped his arm and looked at Kreacher. “Kreacher, Harry and I have to finish packing, can you watch the kids for a few minutes?”

“Mistress Ginny, you are already packed. Kreacher made sure of it.” The house-elf easily deflected Albus’ attempt to grab his nose.

Ginny smiled up at Harry. “We might have forgotten a few things and I’d like Harry to come upstairs and help me.”

Years of service to this family had introduced Kreacher to the notion of subtlety. A barely imperceptible smile curled at the corner of his mouth. “Yes, Mistress, of course.”

Ginny grinned and grabbed Harry by the arm, leading up the stairs to “pack”.

***

They sat across from each other, on opposite ends of a very long dining room table. The room was immaculate with mahogany and oak dressings around the periphery and an elaborate crystal chandelier above. They’d been dining in silence for a few moments while his son had been placed in a high chair right next to his father. Soon, a humble-looking woman entered and pulled the small toddler out of his seat, much to his own delight. The father offered the woman a brief smile and watched longingly as she carried his child from the room. He took a quick glance at the beautiful woman at the other end of the table. He couldn’t be sure if she’d had any reaction to their child’s departure. Instead, she focused on the task of eating. As with all things, she was coldly mechanical with even the simple chore of eating, as if all it was for was to ensure the nourishment of her body. He sighed heavily and poured himself another glass of wine from a nearby bottle.

He rose and carried his glass of wine down to where she was sitting and took the seat alongside her.

“You should come with us, Domina. We can have a new start somewhere else.” Draco Malfoy’s voice was measured, in control. His wife did not appreciate desperation or emotion when discussing matters of great import.

She’d changed over the past few weeks. He’d noticed chinks in her armor. First, it had been the revelation about Draco’s mother, Narcissa, that had rocked their insulated world to the core. Next, it had been the impending crisis that was being visited on England, and her resolve to fight back the tide of evil that was trying to knuckle them under. Lastly, it had been the revelation that her husband, who up to now she’d been barely able to tolerate, had played a decisive role in curtailing the evil that his mother had tried to unleash on their home that made her revisit a great many things about who she was and what she wanted to do. In the past, she would have barely acknowledged his presence, but now, he saw something different in her pale, stunning azure eyes. She was exhausted, but more than that, she was weary, and that had helped to drive down her defenses.

“No, my place is here, at the front, representing our people and our country against this evil. The Malfoys and Hopkins were there before, and we must be there now.” Her voice lacked the acid that was there in the past. She was resolved to press on.

“Then I’m staying too. I can’t bear to see you hurt while I flee the scene.” Malfoy had been asked to spirit away as many refugees as possible, should the worst happen. The irony was that he’d have to work with Hermione Weasley to ensure that the people and the government survived the oncoming holocaust.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Draco.” For a moment, the old Domina surfaced, the woman who was in supreme control of her situation, especially when her husband was being particularly dense. “You have a role far greater than mine. You are responsible for keeping our line solvent, and secure. You will have to persevere. You must make sure that Scorpius survives the next forty eight hours.”

His head dipped down. “I’m not a coward. I can fight.”

In the entire time they’d been together, what she did next was the most shocking, the most moving thing he’d ever experienced. She reached up to his cheek with a surprisingly soft, warm hand. “I never thought you were a coward, Draco. In fact, I have wronged you the entire time we’ve been married. You’ve been more than reasonable and I have not.”

“It’s simple, really Domina. I love you, I’ve always loved you.” Draco met her eyes fiercely.

“I know, Draco. The fact is, I love you, both you and Scorpius are my world. I may have not shown it, but it’s the truth. I need to know you’ll do your duty, to me and to our family, and I will do mine.” He rose, and smiled at her.

“I’d better get going. I have to meet with the Granger woman tomorrow to finalize the evacuation of the first load of children.” He turned to leave and felt her hand on his waist. He turned, questioningly.

“Wait. Don’t leave yet, Draco. I…I…,” She rose and stood before him. She touched his cheek once more and leaned to kiss him, and for the second time that evening, he received a shock. “I want you to stay with me, this evening. I need you to stay with me.”

He smiled and took her by the hand. He raised his wand and dimmed the candles firing the chandelier and led her from the room, unmindful of the dinner plates they left behind. There were people to care for those and right now, he only cared about the woman next to him. They walked up the stairs and into the room they hadn’t both been in together in a long, long time.

***

The Burrow was alive with a flurry of activity as the extended Weasley clan met together before heading off to wherever they were going for the impending battle. Hermione’s parents and Harry’s Aunt Petunia were there, as were all the rest of the family and their children. Petunia, in particular, was sharing a weepy moment with her son, Dudley, who was trying to comfort his mother.

“Mum, don’t worry about me, Harry and the rest will be around.” Dudley hugged his mother tightly. “Besides, I’ll be with Beatrice, you know that’s where I have to be!”

Petunia smiled bravely and nodded as Harry approached them. Harry smiled at his aunt, his real connection to his mother. “I really appreciate this, Aunt Petunia. I didn’t know what else to do.”

“I’m surprised you trusted me with this, Harry. I was so horrid to you when you were a child. I don’t deserve this honor.” Petunia withdrew an ornate handkerchief and sniffled into it loudly. Harry and Ginny had asked her to take care of James and Albus. Many of the parents who had muggle relations had asked those families to care for their children. Hermione’s parents were preparing to take little Rose to America and Petunia was making ready to take James and Albus to Brazil, where a distant relative of Vernon Dursley had a farm.

“People change, Aunt Petunia. Right now, you’re their best chance of surviving through whatever happens. Are you sure you don’t mind Kreacher coming? He’ll be your best protection in case you run into people like us.” Petunia stared at the small, gray house-elf who was holding Albus protectively.

She managed a small laugh. “I guess it would be better than trying to tell him no. Besides, my house is always spotless whenever he’s around.”

Ginny approached Petunia and gave her a hug. She looked longingly at her children and turned to Petunia, mindful of Harry’s past. “What about your husband, Aunt Petunia? What’s he got to say about all this?”

A dark look crossed Petunia’s face, not fear, but a healthy dose of contempt. “Vernon? That’s the main reason I want Kreacher along. I could care less what Vernon thinks. He can come or not come, but with Kreacher around, he can scare Vernon into doing what I want him to do. The silly man is lucky I don’t dump him out onto the street. How could he have anything bad to say about these darling children?” She reached down an planted a wet kiss on James’ head.

Harry laughed and slapped Dudley on the back. The crowd moved together into the center of the orchard. It was fast approaching noon, and time for the members of the army to return to their posts. Arthur Weasley stood on top of a tree stump and cleared his throat.

“Everyone! It’s almost time for us to be moving along. We have a job to do and we’re going to do it as best we can. We’re doing this for our families. I’m proud of the Weasley clan and all of you who we feel is part of our family. I’m glad most of us will be together. No evil in the world can defeat love. All I ask, is that you hold onto the love you feel for each other, keep it tight, in even the worst of times. Don’t think of what might happen in the next day or so, but think about the love we have that sustains us. It’s what makes the world go around and it’s what will see us through the next day.” Exhausted, Arthur stepped down and embraced his wife tightly, signaling for the rest to say their goodbyes. One by one, by pairs and singly, they began to apparate away. Harry and Ginny gave their kids one last farewell and then clung to each other tightly as they disappeared. Soon, only those being left behind remained along with Ron and Hermione. Ron held her tight and then walked to where Rose Granger held her namesake, his daughter. He kissed her gently on the forehead and then turned back to Hermione.

His wife refused to cry, standing bold and firm in front of him. Ron smiled and kissed Hermione once more and then stood off to the side. “I love you more right now, then ever before. I’ll be back, Hermione, I’ll be back.” Then, he disappeared in a cloud of thunder and dust.

Only then, did Hermione let the tears flow. She cried once more, staring at the spot he’d been standing, then she took a deep breath and went to work.


***A/N: This chapter definitely should have a Barry White soundtrack...we're ready for the fight, what will the bad guys bring to the table?

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Old December 19th, 2007, 2:45 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 147 – Face off

The hour before dawn found the Britain’s Army of Magic marshalling beside the Darswell Reservoir, roughly two miles from the anticipated battle site. Throughout the evening, the men, women and beings of the army were arriving to the location via portkey, while the Discooperire itself surfaced from beneath the placid waters of the Reservoir. The ground forces marched by battalion in columns along a narrow country lane while the air components, the Quiddtich squadrons, the Aurors and the Hit Teams flew above. Harry and Ginny flew side by side, the cool morning air beating about their faces. Harry cast a wary glance to the east as the dawn sky shone a pale pinkish red. All around, the muted sound of marching footsteps reminded him of why he was here. Ahead, he spied the small prominence of Sarlac Hill, where King Harold had positioned his forces astride the Hastings-London road. General Manchester had decided to avoid the hill, ceding it to Leclerc for a couple of reasons.

First, he wanted a clear line of supply back to the Reservoir and the Discooperire. Positioning the army on the hill would have allowed Leclerc to interject his forces between Manchester and his main line of retreat. Second, King Harold, in the first battle, had been on the hill and lost. Manchester was one who liked to change things up to avoid repeating past mistakes. Harry nudged his broom alongside Ginny and leaned in to give her one last kiss. They touched hands and then he nodded to her and swooped ahead, the rest of his Aurors and Hit Teams close behind. Ginny watched his back for a few seconds, then pushed the nose of her broom over and flew towards the spot in the air where the Quidditch Squadron was circling their leader, Viktor Krum.

Harry’s body was bent over the length of the broom, providing a more streamlined silhouette that cut through the biting early morning chill. He increased his speed and zipped up to where Manchester had designated the MLR, or main line of resistance. The Discooperire’s crew had been the first to arrive, and had begun to construct a massive redoubt in the center of the gently sloping meadow. Already, the walls of the fortification were bristling with cannon borrowed from the ship’s gundeck, providing the army an anchor of cover and firepower directly in the middle of the line. The lead elements of the infantry battalions had begun to arrive, each column wheeling in the direction that they would need to fight from. First to arrive were the members of the First Battalion, under Dawlish. This battalion consisted mostly of the older members of the society. These were men and women who’d been through both Voldemort wars. The majority of the surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix were members of First Battalion, chief among them, the Minister of Magic himself, Arthur Weasley. Alongside Arthur, Elphias Doge and Hestia Jones marched smartly to their positions. Like the rest of the battalion, they wore goblin-fashioned armor breastplates that had been painted a gentle hunter green to distinguish the battalion from the rest of the forces on the field. Each carried a goblin made sword with the wand notches cut into the handles, allowing them to cast spells and fight with the same hand. Their free hands carried hastily fashioned targs, the round wooden shields of the highlands. Slowly, the battalion turned right, assuming a line of position on the right flank of the formation. Once in place, Dawlish raised his arm and stood quietly facing Sarlac Hill.

At the head of the American-Australian Battalion, designated the Third Battalion, Stanley Greenberg motioned for his group to wheel to the left of the redoubt. His brother held their irregular standard high in the air, allowing it to be seen, even in the morning gloom. Their breastplates had been painted an earthy tan, to match the smocks they wore beneath their robes. They were more boisterous then their counterparts, cracking jokes amongst themselves to ease the tension. Instead of a carrying a traditional sword, the group had opted to carry their lightsaber cases that had been modified with a telescoping blade of steel. When opened, the blade had a fine edge, but glowed in various hues of red, white and green. The blades themselves were enchanted to be fire intensity hot, emitting enough heat to cut through a block of ice in seconds. Their wands were nestled tightly into the light saber casings, giving the Greenberg’s forces the capability to cast spells through their weapons. Stanley had opted for a purple glow to this weapon, distinguishing him from the rest of his men for better visibility on the field. The Third Battalion swung off to the left and took up its position on the left flank of the formation. Stanley stood with his brother, for the first time in months, the pair were not bickering, but anxiously awaited the appearance of the enemy.

Kingsley Shacklebolt led his Second Battalion to its positions. Comprised mostly of the younger generations of the wizarding community, especially many of his students from Hogwarts, Manchester decided to place the Second Battalion in the center of his lines, directly under the protection of the guns of the redoubt. The more inexperienced members were armed with halberds, long metal poles with an axe-like appendage at the end, giving them some reach against potential opponents. Kingsley’s section leaders carried cutlasses on loan from the Discooperire. Kingsley had opted to make the members of Dumbledore’s Army his section leader, giving him a cadre of leaders that could relate to their people, and also who were familiar with their battalion commander. Kingsley looked back and smiled. Nearby, Neville was urging some of his charges on, some of whom were his pupils from his Herbology class. In another area, Hannah Abbott led her section quietly, keeping them in line and in step with the rest of the battalion. Luna Scamander’s section was already in position, off to the side of the redoubt. Here and there, more and more familiar faces could be seen, leading the frightened and anxious youngsters to their positions. All had volunteered to do something, and most were here, with Kingsley. Ernie Macmillan, Seamus Finnegan, Padma Patil, Parvati Patil, Susan Bones, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Anthony Goldstein; even Lavendar Brown, led sections within Kingsley’s battalion, providing guidance to the younger wizards and witches who’d volunteered.

The Quiddtich Squadron was whirling above, flying in a slow circle with Viktor Krum in the middle. Oliver Wood had the keepers off to the side, in a hover, watching over the slowly circling squadron. Ginny was in the lead of the seekers, who were divided into two sections, one led by Ginny and the other by Charlie Weasley, a legendary seeker in his days at Hogwarts. The Chasers were a mixed lot, let by Angelina Johnson. She could count on Katie Bell, Dean Thomas, and Michael Corner among others. The chasers huddled together, donning thick leather gloves and looking over to the hill. The beaters were definitely a “daft” group as the general indicated. They’d been divided into two groups, one that would cover the seekers and one that would cover the chasers. Like regular Quidditch matches, they flew in pairs, with each pair assigned to an individual chaser or seeker. George and Lee had made it their mission to be assigned to Ginny, to be her protectors as she whipped over the enemy’s heads, chasing the snitch. The most intimidating trio was Viktor himself. Krum had selected his friend Volkov as one beater and the statuesque Gwenog Jones as his other. All together, the three seemed to exude a certain amount of nastiness, as if they were looking forward to causing some violence to happen to the other side. The Quidditch Squadron was ready.

Down below, a few hundred muggles positioned themselves among the battalions, operating in groups of ten. Each person held a body-length kite shield and a thick, long metal tube stamped with the Weasley Wheezes logo. Dudley Dursley stood passively with the rest of his group, standing near Dawlish’s first battalion. Their charge was to assist the wounded to the rear and to cover wizards firing spells into the enemy. He’d volunteered to be in the first battalion area because Beatrice was in the first battalion. He tried not to be obvious while looking for her. His eyes darted around, seeking her out. Finally, he saw a flash of blonde and immediately recognized her profile. As if sensing his gaze, she turned and smiled at him. He blushed slightly and she mouthed “I love you” to him. After another second, she turned away and he went back to watching the hill across the field.

Harry and his teams flew high above the field. He glanced down and watched as Hagrid and Grawp cajoled the giants and trolls into position, behind the MLR and the goblins marched together towards the far right hand side of the formation, assuming the far right flank position. Harry raised his fist and called his Aurors and Hit Team members to a halt, directly above the central fortification. His team leaders, Ron, Cavendish, Lachlan, Williamson and Dennis flew up to huddle around him.

“Looks like we’re all here. The general,” Harry pointed down to a high platform that had been erected over the redoubt, “wants to see what we’re up against.” He turned to Lachlan. “Stay here, I’ll be back in a moment.” Before they could say anything, Harry nosed over his Firebolt and swept towards the shadow-hidden slopes of Sarlac Hill. He swept forward, his eyes taking in the expanse of grass and lolling hillocks that comprised the area. Everything was still, even the din of his army on the move had ceased to exist. It was as if every eye was trained on his mission as he soared back and forth, looking for some tell tale sign of the enemy. As he reached the acme of Sarlac Hill, the sun broke the horizon, indicating dawn’s arrival. Suddenly, below him, a shimmering vortex of red light emanated from the ground, like a misty whirlpool in the middle of the ground. Little flashes of white started popping from within the vortex. As Harry looked closer, he began to see the figures of men and women and other things taking shape from the flashes of white. Leclerc’s invasion army was arriving on the field. Harry stayed for a moment, trying to determine the size and nature of the opposition, but as wizards began to appear, they noticed the prying eyes of the man on the broom above and began hurling curses his way. Mindful of the precarious nature of his position, Harry turned his broom around and raced back to his lines to report on what he’d seen.

***

The floating platform exited the vortex cleanly and hovered gracefully over the summit of Sarlac Hill. Andre Leclerc smiled as he took in the sight of the army across the field.

“Good, they’ve come. They had no choice, I suppose.” He said to his lieutenant standing on the platform with him. “Report!”

His second in command was an ugly, brute of a man, once the Chief Law Enforcer of the Bulgarian Ministry of Magic and now Leclerc’s lead hatchet man. A sneer unfolded from the man’s face as he scanned the horizon with a telescope. “I make their strength at no more than five thousand, master. Three battalions plus what looks like goblins. They will fold under our numbers.”

Leclerc allowed his subordinate a certain amount of arrogance, but he could not afford to take chances. It had been a near thing, one thousand years ago, with a less capable opponent. Harold’s champion Cadogan had been extremely lucky for such an incompetent boob, yet he’d almost succeeded in taking Leclerc down. This time, he’d be ready. This time, Leclerc thought, he’d made allowances. He watched as his forces began to deploy. His floating platform served as the center point of his assault force. To his left, he deployed his first legion, comprised of wizards from Transylvania, the Ukraine, Poland and Bulgaria. On his right, opposite the strangely garbed wizards with the glowing swords, he sent his second legion, comprised of wizards from Germany, Italy, Belgium and Lichtenstein. Each of his legions was manned by dedicated followers outside the control of their respective governments. Each legion had roughly three thousand men and women, allowing him to outnumber the British infantry by a factor of two to one. The tipping point was the hordes of Inferi he planned to deploy. He nodded to the lieutenant who opened a large case that lie beside them on the platform. The wooden box shuddered and then one hundred snitches flew off into the air and took position in the center of the formation. As the snitches flew over, the ground began to shudder and shake. Slowly, fissures in the earth appeared and bony and decayed appendages began a desperate crawl to free themselves from the confines of their burial ground. Sarlac Hill was a cemetery, the last resting place for the dead from the previous battle and countless other battles. Each snitch summoned one hundred and fifty corpses and soon, fifteen thousand Inferi were packed together comprising the center of the battle line. The delicious irony to Leclerc was that the fools who’d fought him during the previous battle were now providing the fodder to fight the next one.

Leclerc turned behind him, looking on the reverse slope of the hill, out of the prying view of the enemy. He’d decided to add four rather nasty surprises to the mix and the snarls and gnashing of teeth told him that his pets were in position. He would not lose this battle. He turned and motioned for the Berserker company to assume a position on the right flank. He would launch the first attack on the enemy’s left flank, against the wizards clad in dingy brown, so he positioned his Berserkers in a way to be the shock troops for the assault.

Mounted on the railing of his floating platform was a large hourglass, roughly a meter and a half tall attached to gimbals that were part of the platform structure. With a bit of effort, Leclerc turned the hourglass over, allowing the sands within to start their meticulous journey to the other void. Then, he turned and pointed his wand to his neck.

“Wizards of Britain! The glass has been turned! We are now hidden from muggle eyes as we resolve this issue. I will give you one minute to surrender. Do so, and we will only kill three out of ten of your population. You may even choose among yourselves, who lives and who dies. Oppose us, and no quarter will be given. You have one minute to decide!” Leclerc knew that he’d really given them no choice, but when the history was written, he wanted it known that he’d tried to be reasonable.

***
“Do you think he’s serious?” Harry stood with Manchester and Baretto atop the command platform. His question caught Manchester peering through his telescope out at the enemy. The general turned and smiled at Harry.

“Does it matter? We can’t accept those terms, regardless.” Manchester turned and amplified his voice to his army. “Stand by! They’ll be coming.”

The minute went by slowly, while the sun continued its trek into the morning sky. After the allotted time, Leclerc’s voice rang through the air. “So be it! The culling will now begin.”

A rumble began to sound from across the way. Manchester stared at the enemy lines and then shouted to his runners. “Stand by on the left flank. Third battalion is first!”

A cloud of dust emanated from the enemy lines, rapidly approaching the place where the third battalion waited. Behind the cloud of dust, the heavy foot steps of the graphorns were picking up speed, their manic riders gnashing away with filed teeth and gray skin. It was the dust cloud that drew Manchester’s eye. He zoomed closer to the edge of the cloud and saw what was approaching his lines. It was a horde of creatures no more than a meter tall. They were lizard-like in appearance, with what appeared to be leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines running down the length of its back. They hopped forward on two legs, much like the motion of a kangaroo, some leaping six meters at a time. They had panther-like noses, protruding with forked tongues and large, menacing fangs. He could hear them screech and hiss as they built up speed to attack.

Manchester nodded grimly. “Well, there’s the first surprise. Please ask the redoubt to provide cover fire against the first wave, aim for the cloud of dust. Tell Hagrid to attack the Berserkers and inform Greenberg that he’s about to have company and that he needs to aim low.”

“What are they, sir?” Harry looked through his own binoculars.

“They are a gift from Central America. Not particularly enchanted, but blood thirsty and vicious and they travel in packs. If I’m reading Leclerc’s intent, he wants us so tied up with flicking them off, the Berserkers will hit the line before we’re ready. We need Hagrid to go and attack the Berserkers out there. The assault wave won’t hurt them.” Manchester kept a careful eye on the main enemy line. “Tell Mr. Krum to deploy the chasers and their assigned beaters. It looks like the Quaffles are on the way.” Sure enough, balls of energy began launching skyward from behind the enemy lines, arcing up towards them. Harry’s eyes never left the line of dust approaching Greenberg. As he turned towards Manchester, the first cannon fired from the fort below them.

“But, sir, what are those things?” Harry watched Greenberg carefully as his battalion extended their telescopic blades, their enchantments lighting them up. Some of Greenberg’s men had gone to the trouble of adding a low humming sound to their weapons. “Like the real Jedi.”

“Oh, sorry Harry, I lost my train of thought. Those things are like leaping piranha. Mr. Greenberg and his band are about to receive a visit from some Chupacabras!” Just then, the cloud of dust and its short, jaw snapping denizens reached the line of Americans and Australians. The battle was joined.


***A/N: I'm not trying to give you a cliffhanger on this one. There are distinct phases of a battle, and the meeting portion, i.e. the first portion where you set up your order of battle and meet the enemy is covered here. Now, it's Wednesday. I should have segments for Thursday and Friday. I cannot guarantee that the battle will be done in two chapters. It took me forever just to get here. I promise another installment on Christmas Eve and then I'm taking a break on Christmas day. Bear with me.

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  #147  
Old December 20th, 2007, 12:19 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 148 – The Return of the Jedi

Stanley Greenberg focused in on the approaching dust cloud and its hundreds of lizard-like chupacabras that were approaching with otherworldly screeches and gnashing teeth. He swallowed briefly and then pointed his glowing purple sword in the direction of the wave of creatures approaching. He tried to ignore the rumbling sound of the graphorns and their wildly shouting cannibalistic riders. Instead, he turned back to face his battalion and shouted the order to commence the fight for the Ministry.

“Aim low! Ready? Fire!” As one, the front line of the third battalion unleashed a swarm of blasting charms that impacted directly on the approaching lines of the swarming monsters. Stanley fought to keep his voice even as the tide kept coming.

“Second rank, ready? Fire!” Again, another surge of brilliant red light emanated from a hundred pseudo-lightsabers, impacting on the advancing hopping creatures, sending bodies and body parts flying in clouds of dust. Stanley looked behind the surging wave and knew that the Berserkers were not far behind. He had to deal with this immediate threat, before becoming too entangled to take on the Berserkers. A loud boom echoed in his ear, followed by a thick flash of streaming light that came from the gun tubes of the cannons in the redoubt. Their new friends from the Discooperire were adding their assistance to the fight. A large hole was blown into the ranks of the onrushing suicidal warriors.

Stanley heard the bellow of a loud horn. He spun around and saw the giants and the trolls, led by Hagrid, leap over the clustered ranks of his battalion and crash through the chupacabras as if they weren’t there. The giants and the trolls carried massive clubs adorned with heavy lead spikes on their tips. Waving them wildly, they massive creatures made a direct line for the Berserker skirmish line. When the two forces met, a loud thunderous crash swept over the field. The first giant smashed a mighty shoulder into the mount leading the Berserkers into battle. The graphorn bowled over onto its side and one of its twin horns impaled a rider of a second mount nearby. Soon, the first giant was joined by its brethren. The company of Berserkers swerved to meet the new threat, their charge stalled by the ferocity of the new assault.

Greenberg saw an opportunity. He faced his battalion and held his sword high in the air. “Charge!”

En masse, the third battalion, its light sabers flashing above their heads, dove into the ranks of the chupacabras. Stanley swung his purple hued sword down and brought across the neck of an advancing beast, its sharp blade cutting the skin and its heat melting the sinew underneath. In the blink of an eye, his antagonist was decapitated with little or no effort. The third battalion struck under a myriad of battle cries, swinging their blades to and fro, cutting a swath of destruction through the first ranks of the chupacabras. Stanley looked over at his flank and saw a large swarm of the creatures overpowering his platoon on the farthest edge of the battalion. Twenty of his men were flailing away at over a hundred of the advancing terrors. Every time a sword would cut into one creature, another would leap onto the wizard’s arm and start tearing into the flesh. Already, Stanley could see bodies down and he quickly beckoned some of his rearmost ranks to divert to that section to help out the beleaguered platoon. Slowly, but surely, they were taking down what was left of the assault wave, all the while Hagrid and his team were fighting a particularly violent battle against the Berserkers. The fact was that the Berserkers didn’t seem to care whether they lived or died. One giant and five trolls had been taken down, opposed to almost half of the Berserkers and their mounts. Hagrid’s voice thundered across the plain, directing his trolls and giants to hot spots, thwarting all attempts by the Berserkers to reconstitute their charge against the third battalion. Behind them, the last of the chupacabras had been dispatched and the battalion was reforming to continue the fight.

***
Leclerc stared pensively at the action below. He’d not expected the Ministry to employ giants in the fight. His strategy had been to entangle the enemy with the chupacabras and then hit them with the blunt force of the Berserkers. He shrugged his shoulders. They were still inflicting casualties and it was time to press on with the fight. He nodded to a group of wizards behind the Inferi. As one, a third of the undead warriors began to march obliquely towards the ranks of the third battalion. Another horn sounded, and his second legion began to steadily move in behind the Berserkers. Third battalion was about to have five thousand Inferi and three thousand wizards pay them a visit.

Behind him, several bronze tubes were laying on top of trusses. Every so often, a brilliant white ball of light would shoot from the tubes and head in a graceful arc towards the enemy. With a nod of his head, he directed the brunt of the tubes’ discharge be sent towards the enemy’s left flank. He waited patiently to see the tell-tale signs of the impact of his weapons. Here and there, one would land amid a mass of the brown-clad warriors, causing a bubble of death and injury, but Leclerc was puzzled to see that most of his ordinance wasn’t impacting on the enemy, but seemed to be suspended in the air. His gaze followed the path of one of the globes. It sailed gracefully in the air, heading directly for a densely packed formation of wizards on the other side. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied a figure in flight swoop in and intercept the orb, before it could impact on the ground. Then the figure, orb in hand soared into the air and dropped the energy ball, allowing to harmlessly impact on the ground below.

Leclerc then watched in astonishment, as the Ministry rolled another trick out its sleeve.

***

In their advance to finish off the chupacabras, the third battalion’s lines had moved almost two hundred meters ahead of the MLR. This caused a gap to open between the second battalion and its anchor on the redoubt and the edge of the third battalion. The Inferi horde was aimed right for that exposed flank and the walking dead seemed to almost be running to exploit the gap. William Manchester immediately noticed the weakness and turned towards Baretto.

“Please have Mr. Krum deploy his seekers. We need that band of Inferi stopped, now.” Baretto nodded and held up her wand. The tip glowed with a bright florescent orange light and carved intricate symbols in the air. The air directly above where Krum was flying burst into an array of fireworks, signaling his acknowledgement of his orders. Baretto turned and nodded to Manchester who peered through his looking glass towards the advancing Inferi.

***
“Potter!” Ginny turned and saw Krum looking right at her. “Your section is up!” Krum pointed towards the inhuman mass that was fast approaching their allies. “Take out those Inferi!”

Ginny nodded and held up her glove-encased fist and then broke into a fast dive. She steered her way towards the ground, picking up immense speed as she went. She pulled up almost a meter off the ground and hugged the terrain as she sped towards the Inferi vanguard. At the last second, she pulled up and plucked a small golden ball out of the air. Immediately, the front rank of one hundred and fifty Inferi simply fell to the ground, motionless. Ginny didn’t stop to watch her handiwork. She side-slipped her broom to the right, her tangle of bright red hair trailing behind her and reached out and snatched another golden orb, and another rank of Inferi went down. Her section was not far behind her and they whirled into action, following her lead.

***

A small trace of crimson began to creep up Leclerc’s neck as he watched the flying Ministry wizards decimate the ranks of his Inferi. Still, he was not quite done. He turned to his lieutenant. “Fire the slugs! Knock those pests from the sky!”

Below him, several ranks of wizards spread out before a series of wooden chests. They kicked open the chests and watched as animated lead balls leapt into the air. Before the balls could go completely out of control, the wizards raised the small, wooden clubs they held in their hands and smacked the lead balls, the slugs, towards the flying specks in the distance.

Leclerc smiled inwardly. “Let’s see them avoid these.”

***

Ginny concentrated on her flying, twisting and turning to keep up with the snitches, who seemed to understand that they were in peril. The winged balls flitted in every direction, trying to avoid capture, but failing, for the most part. Ginny was flying inverted, diving down onto one particularly troublesome snitch, when she caught a speck of movement in her peripheral vision. She pushed on her broom, sending it upwards as she narrowly missed being struck by the round missile. The ball that missed her careened into the path of another nearby seeker, striking him soundly and flinging him to the ground, like a rag doll, directly in the path of some oncoming Inferi.

“Bludgers!” Ginny screamed to her flyers. As soon as she said it, she dove down and captured the snitch that controlled the Inferi heading for her fallen comrade. She chanced a look back and saw a team of the muggle stretcher bearers braving the battlefield to retrieve the fallen seeker. When she looked ahead, she saw that she as in the path of a well struck bludger. It was too late to swerve and she winced in expectation of being thrown back into the willowing pack of dead bodies below. At the last second, she heard a loud crack, and opened her eyes to find that she was still astride her broom. She looked to her side and caught the eye of her brother George, who winked at her and then kept up his roving scan for wayward bludgers. Lee Jordan assumed a covering position on the other side of her. Confident, she nosed the broom down to find more snitches.

***

Leclerc grimaced as he watched a slug hit by a man with fiery red hair with such force to send it booming into the throng of wizards from his Second Legion that were approaching on foot. The strike toppled several of his wizards, sending legs and arms flying as the deadly lead ball could not miss in the mass of people it had hit. The Ministry had learned a trick or two, it would seem. He turned to his lieutenant, who was amazed at the spectacle before them. The tall Bulgarian whistled.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they were playing Quidditch.” That’s precisely what they were doing, Leclerc told himself. Of course! He’d ignored the infernal game as a child’s sport and yet, the Ministry had sent players on brooms to thwart his assault. His brain whirred around as he watched his Inferi fall to the ground. Over two thirds were down from the initial assault force and the rest were soon to follow. He turned and looked at the assembly area behind him and smiled. The best way to swipe a pest from the sky was to put the flyswatter in the air.

“Send in the gargoyles, tell them to wipe out the fliers.” His lackey nodded and pulled on a large lanyard attached to the railing of his platform. The soulful peals of a large bell rang out. Gathered in groups along the backside of the hill, dozens of gray, gnome-like creatures stood at the sound of the bell. They stood roughly two meters in height and spread a pair of wide, leathery wings that were attached to their backs. In one leap, they soared into the sky and wheeled over towards the battle in the distance.

***

“What the devil are those?” Harry looked through his binoculars and pointed to the dark cloud rising from behind Sarlac Hill and advancing towards the embattled seekers, including his beloved Ginny.

Manchester pursed his lips and then grunted. “Gargoyles. It looks like he intends to fight off our seekers in air to air combat.” The general thought for a moment. The dilemma was that the seekers needed their hands free to catch the snitches. The beaters only had the clubs, and had no real time to draw their wands. Gargoyles were elemental creatures. They could shoot fire from their hands and jets of water from their mouths. Their hides were tough, but not impervious to magic. Oh, and one more thing, they thought human flesh was a tasty delicacy. The numbers were a problem as well. Just by adding the element of combat to the aerial campaign, the seekers would be distracted and unable to fulfill their primary function. The chasers could through the energy quaffles, but the orbs needed to impact the ground to explode. The gargoyles were in the air. He turned to Baretto.

His second in command flashed her pearly white teeth in a smile that belied her beauty and her lethality. Her full lips broadened. “Keepers?” Manchester nodded vigorously and Baretto raised her wand to signal Krum.

***
Stanley shifted a portion of his forces to face the remnants of the Inferi on his flank, but held the majority steady to absorb the impact of the assault from the wizard legion. Despite the intermittent strikes on their ranks from the bludgers and chasers, the vast majority of the legion was intact and seriously outnumbered the third battalion. They adjusted their ranks and stood shoulder to shoulder awaiting the arrival of the enemy. He hazarded a glance towards the right side of his formation and heard the tell tale sounds of his men battling the Inferi that had not been neutralized. He couldn’t worry about that just now, as the first rank of the enemy’s legion drew within range.

“Front rank! Protego! Now!” A solid wall of shield spells emanated from their glowing swords, in time to deflect the initial strike from the enemy. Stanley heard the tell tale grunts of his people who were hit where the gaps in the shield had appeared. Stanly shifted his weight and called out to his second rank.

“Second rank! Ready? Fire!” Fingers of red flame and blue light ranged out from his battalion and struck the front rank of the enemy formation. Most of the energy was dispersed by their own shield wall, but a good amount went through and tore horrendous holes in their formation. The two units approached each other slowly, trading shots, blow for blow, closing the distance between them. Each exchange favored the Ministry’s warriors, yet numbers were beginning to tell. There simply weren’t enough of them to keep this up. Stanley needed to change the dynamic. He glanced down at the glowing blade in his hand and smiled. “What would Obi Wan do?” He thought to himself. Actually, he memory went back to a book General Manchester had recommended by a muggle general named Sun Tzu. Stanley never really understood most of the text, but one passage in particular stuck with him. “When in death ground, attack!” Stanley smirked to himself. That’s what Obi Wan would do.

Stanley raised his sword in the air and pointed it towards the legion. “The Force will be with you, always! Charge!” With a shout, the third battalion ran and closed with the enemy.

***

Ginny swooped down and grabbed yet another snitch and smiled as another section of the Inferi fell to the ground. Keeping her focus, she turned down to go for another. A shadow covered her from above and she twisted around to see a gray, winged creature diving down on her. She barrel-rolled to her right and narrowly avoided being hit by the beast’s claws. The creature stopped its flight and swung around to chase her. It extended its hands and a tongue of flame reached out, barely missing her. She jinked to the left and spun to the right, trying to avoid the grotesque creature behind her. She heard George’s voice behind her.

“Turn left, Ginny!” Instinctively, she pulled to the left and heard the tell tale thud of a bludger slamming into something solid. She looked down and saw the beast that had been chasing her was falling to the ground, struck by a solid blow from George’s bat. The problem was that the chase had pulled her away from her task and she spied more of the creatures approaching.

***

Gavin Malone was flying at breakneck speed, all thoughts of capturing snitches gone for the moment as he attempted to stay alive. His beaters had been struck down by the horrible flying creatures. One had been incinerated by multiple flame shots and another had been assaulted by two more the creatures, who’d decided to make a meal of him. Gavin had three more tailing him, and he was fast running out of room to maneuver. The three gargoyles were herding him towards a wall of their compatriots and Gavin knew it just a matter of time.

He reached down desperately to draw his wand out of the top of his boot, but he constantly had to maneuver to avoid alternating shots of water and flame from the enemy. The last shot had singed the side of his arm and the pain raced through his body as he struggled to maintain control. His last course change put him the direct path of the three pursuers. Better to try to take three on, than thirty. He accelerated, hoping to bowl through them and escape the other way. It was a dangerous gamble, but he had no other way. Just before he reached the formation, two of the creatures literally exploded in mid air. Momentarily stunned, Gavin looked over and spied the smiling face of Oliver Wood, his wand drawn, leading his keepers to blunt the assault of the gargoyles. Gavin laughed to himself and turned to look for more snitches.

***
Stanley Greenberg felt the sweat pouring down his brow. Closing with the enemy had made spell casting problematic for both sides, for fear of hitting their own people. This was like a knife fight in phone booth, except the bad guys had blades, and his people had the coolest weapon on the planet. His arms were tired from swinging his sword to and fro, but somehow they fought on, laying waste to their foe by the score. His brother stood right behind him, holding the pennant high and covering his big brother’s back. The struggle had devolved to a point where a small knot of the members of the third battalion that were still on their feet were surrounded by the remnants of the enemy’s legion. Even with superior weapon, the sheer weight of numbers was beginning to tell the tale. He resolved himself to fight on.

“Oi, get out of the way, then!” The familiar voice sang out through the ranks.

“Hagerd!” Another voice, also familiar rang out as well. Stanley smiled and knew the end wasn’t quite as close as he thought. The rear ranks of the enemy force began to shout in alarm. Hagrid and Grawp along with the three remaining giants and nine remaining trolls had finished off the Berserkers and now were attacking the enemy legion from the rear. The surprise jolted Leclerc’s forces into a panic. Many simply broke and ran. The air was filled with the last bit of battle as the third battalion chased off the enemy.

Later, as the dust settled, and all he could hear was the cries of the wounded, Stanley took stock of the situation. He’ lost almost a hundred killed and well over twice that wounded. In a little under an hour of combat, his battalion had been reduced by thirty percent. Those that could fight were bone tired from the battle. Who knows how many of the Quidditch Squadron was lost? The fight had just begun and third battalion was spent for the time being. Orders from Manchester said as much. Greenberg unfolded the parchment and nodded to himself.

“Fall back to MLR. Reconstitute as best you can and refuse the left flank. We’re going to need you before this is over. Well done! Manchester”

Stanley looked around as the last of his wounded and dead was carried back towards the Reservoir. He went about the task of ordering his battalion back to their entrenchments in order to prepare for the next phase. “Refuse the left flank” meant that they didn’t have enough people to maintain a solid line, so the General was telling him to turn a third of those remaining at a right angle to the MLR, creating an elbow at the end of the line. Hopefully the enemy wouldn’t try to get around them. Still, they’d done well and thwarted the first thrust. He only hoped they’d continue to do well.

Barry, his brother trudged up beside him and smiled. The twelve year old flag bearer had been as reliable as his best warrior. Stanley tousled his brother’s hair, causing the young man to ward off his brother’s hand.

“Knock it off, Stanley, I’m not a kid.”

“No, you’re definitely not a kid, Barry.”

“You mean it? Really?”

“Only on one condition.” Stanley stared at his brother’s smudged cheeks and wary eyes.

“What’s that?”

“You got to promise not to tell Mom about the whole Yoda thing.” The brothers broke into laughter and walked back to the line.


***A/N: Battles are usually fluid events, with simultaneous action across the board. I'm treating this one ebbs and flows. This portion involved action on one flank, and we'll see action involving the other units. Remember, Leclerc said he had four surprises...you've seen the two tamest of the bunch, the chupacabras and the gargoyles. I promise the last two aren't as pleasant.

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  #148  
Old December 21st, 2007, 2:28 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 149 – Reversal of Fortune

Leclerc shook his head and smiled. The Ministry’s response to the Inferi was unexpected, yet not altogether a complete setback. Even the poor performance of the Berserkers and his live wizards could not have been unanticipated. The wizards that comprised his legions were sycophants, men and women who were trying to latch onto to the darkness he provided, but were incapable of truly doing what was necessary to win. They were human and as such were subject to the same human foibles that normal people were. In essence, they cared whether they lived or died. Most of men and women who ran from the setback against the Ministry’s forces had run out of a fear of dying. Fortunately for Leclerc, he felt no such compunction, even for his own forces. In fact, their deaths would serve his greater purpose, soon enough. For now, the battle had to play out according to plan.

In one regard, he’d made a mistake. In dedicating only a portion of his forces to the first assault, he’d allowed the commander on the other side to defeat him piecemeal. It was time to test the true mettle of the army opposite him. He turned to his lieutenant and issued the command.

“Send the remaining chupacabras and gargoyles to that point in their lines.” He reached up his arm and indicated a break in the Ministry forces, marking the junction where the First and Second battalions met. “Send the all the Inferi and the First Legion in at once, no breaks.”

“Master, the wizards in the First Legion are afraid of being so close to the undead.” The lieutenant neglected his own fear of being so close to such an unnatural being.

Leclerc sneered back at his second in command. “You tell the First Legion that they had better fear what I will do to them if they do not comply. In fact,” Leclerc smiled softly at the tall Bulgarian, “I want you to lead them yourself. No mistakes.”

The man shuddered and nodded, what else could he do? He leapt over the rail of the platform and alit softly on the back slope of the hill. After a second to compose himself, he drew a wicked scimitar from his waist and ran to the front rank of the advancing First Legion.

***

The brief lull in the battle allowed Manchester to collect his senior staff together. On his tower, he had Baretto, Greenberg, Kingsley, Dawlish, Harry and Krum. The reports from Third Battalion’s struggle were troubling, yet they’d managed to knock out the Berserkers, which would work to their advantage. He studied the enemy across the way and watched as their forces were marshalling for another assault.

“They’ll bring everything, this time, I wager. If I were them, I’d his us right here, where First and Second Battalion meet. Adelina!” He called for his second in command.

“Yes, General?” Her voice was low, and sultry, almost as if she were commenting on a fine piece of art in a museum.

Manchester had furiously scribbled an order down on blank sheet of parchment. “I’d like you to make sure this gets to Ironforge.” She nodded and beckoned for a runner. Manchester turned to the rest of the commanders.

“Stanley, what’s your status?”

“We’ll be ok, General, just give us the word.” Stanley’s gaunt eyes and sunken cheeks belied his optimism, yet this was all out war, so Manchester took him for his word.

“Good, stand ready. John, Kingsley?” The two former senior Aurors acknowledged their commander’s call. “It looks like you two will be in the fire next. Under no circumstances do I want you to leave the lines. Hold what you have and stand fast. If you advance too far, you run risk of being cut off. Understand me?” The both replied affirmatively.

Manchester turned to Krum. “Viktor, I’m tired of sitting around and taking it. It’s time to send your chaser teams to take out Leclerc’s platform. Leave half of them here to intercept the energy globes and pass them on to your advance teams. We’ll need your keepers hold off the gargoyles.”

Krum’s face was knotted in concentration. “Sir, I don’t think I have enough keepers to hold off the gargoyles. They won’t be able to stop the disruption on the seekers.”

Manchester bit his lip and turned to Harry. “All right, Harry, I’m going to need Dennis’ team to assist the keepers. Have Dennis coordinate with Oliver.”

“Yes sir. If I may sir, the Aurors and I are ready to pitch in. Shouldn’t I bring my entire team, not just Dennis?” Harry looked anxiously at the commanding general who smiled.

“I know you want to help, Harry, but not yet. Leclerc has got something else up his sleeve. Right now, all I want to do is survive the next hour or so to find out what it is.” Disappointed, Harry called Dennis over to give him his orders. The staff meeting was interrupted by the sound of horns from the enemy camp. “Well, it looks like the break is over. Get to your commands and let’s get cracking. Harry, can you stay a moment?” Harry watched as the rest bid their farewells and went off to their tasks.

“Look Harry, I’m not keeping you out of this as a sign of my lack of confidence. Your team is vital and I don’t think we’ve seen the worst Leclerc has to offer. That’s why I’m not deploying Hagrid’s team again. I’ve got an uneasy feeling about what’s next.” Harry shuddered at the thought that something would make William Manchester uneasy. He nodded and stepped down to rejoin his Aurors. Manchester looked out and grimaced at the familiar cloud of dust that was rapidly approaching in the distance.

“Gun crews! Grapeshot, if you please. Target the chupacabras!” Baretto’s voice rang out above the din as she stood proudly atop the rampart of the fort with Muireall. She turned to her nominal first mate. “Break up that charge, Muireall and then target the main formation of wizards. We’ll let the Quidditch Squadron deal with the Inferi.

A wicked smile came over the exotic first mate, her fiery red hair blustering in the wind and her dark blue blouse accenting her fine light skin and soft curves. She nodded to her captain and started urging on her artillery batteries to start firing. In the distance, a low roar was getting louder as the screeches of the sprinting chupacabras reached her ear. “Fire!” As one, her cannon let fly a devastating salvo of magic and metal that slammed into the front of the chupacabra assault.

***

Although it was a complete breach of known military practice, Arthur Weasley stood in his place on the line with his sons Percy and Bill on either side of him. Most military organizations frowned on having family members in the same line unit. Of course, the Weasleys were a different family altogether. Viktor Krum knew how valuable it would be to have George and Ginny fight together and so it was for John Dawlish in allowing Percy and Bill join their father on the battle line. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Arthur was also the Minister of Magic. Nonetheless, the three Weasley men tightened their grips on their swords and pulled their shields tight, together. Over the past hour or so, they’d heard the sounds of the fighting that the third battalion had found itself. Now it was their turn. Dawlish paced in front of his battalion, checking their alignment and casting a wary eye to the approaching menace. In a few minutes, they’d be fighting for their lives, but now, each and every person was thinking to themselves and wondering when the hammer would fall.

***
Viktor led his squadron low across the open fields. On his right, Gwenog Jones flew with deadly grace. Having seen the destruction that the gargoyles had wrought on her mates, she’d conjured a burr hole in the tip of her beater bat and jammed her wand down into it, giving her access to her magic. The set of her eyes and the clinching of her teeth made it known to the rest of fliers that there was nothing more she wanted than to use her magic in doing some damage to the enemy. On Viktor’s right, his friend Volkov flew with a practiced ease, his bludger bat out, his eyes already scanning the horizon. The trio formed the tip of an arrow that was aimed directly at the center of the mass of Inferi marching inexorably towards them. Viktor looked back and checked the placement of his seeker sections.

Ginny’s section flew behind Viktor and to the right of his trio. Her jaw was set in place, her eyes steely as she planned her maneuvers in advance. She took a quick glance towards the horizon and made note of the dark mass in the air which could only mean more gargoyles. They were not her problem. George and Lee were flying in echelon with her, never straying more than a few feet away and already, they’d begun repelling bludger shots that were sent from the enemy’s line. Ginny took a quick look to her left and found her brother Charlie. They locked eyes and he gave her a jaunty wave, his beater team keeping up its pace as they neared the Inferi mass.

Viktor reached a hand up. He was holding a metal tube, roughly a foot long and when he raised it in the sky, he triggered a burst of fireworks that could be seen across the battlefield. He looked up and watched as the sky was suddenly filled with wand bearing wizards on brooms.

***

When the fireworks alert went up, Oliver Wood and Dennis Creevey had been following along behind Viktor and the seekers high and above. Dennis threw a quick salute to Oliver and then signaled for the hit teams to pick up speed. Oliver kept his keepers back. The hit team’s job was to intercept the gargoyles as far out as possible, to keep them at bay for as long as possible. Oliver’s team had the sole job of covering the seekers for as long as they needed. Dennis, by far had the hardest job. Oliver whispered a quick good luck and then led his team to a better covering position.

***

Angelina Johnson snapped a finger at Katie Bell, telling her fellow chaser that she saw Viktor’s signal. Already, a barrage of globes was arcing in the sky, coming towards them. The chasers operated in pairs, one to carry the energy globe and one to cover. On the first run, Michael Corner would cover Angelina, and Dean Thomas would cover Katie. When they secured their orbs from the sky, they’d make a go at attacking Leclerc’s platform.

Angelina whistled and then led the chasers high into the air, each with their partner right behind. They assumed parallel courses and adjusted to intercept an incoming quaffle ball. As the globes were reaching the apex of their ballistic flight, they slowed down, gravity having not made its full effect. Each designated chaser caught their ball and then surged forward, keeping their altitude to avoid the vicious dogfight below.

***

As one, the hit teams drew their wands from their boot scabbards. Satisfied that they were ready, Dennis leaned his muscular form forward, gripping his broom so hard that his forearms rippled from the strain. He’d eschewed the normal tunic, opting for a tight, sleeveless black tee-shirt with his goblin-made plate armor affixed over top. He’d painted the hit team’s armor a midnight black and his tanned and toned biceps were prominent against the ebon background. His hair was buffeted by the currents as he took in the sight before him. He had forty hit team members, all honed to a fine razor’s edge and all committed to Dennis, who had led them to this place. There appeared to be almost a hundred gargoyles, and still, Dennis’ team bore down relentlessly towards the menacing mass of creatures.

Dennis pulled up on his broom, trying to grab an advantage with altitude. The gargoyles seemed to be very mission focused. That meant that if they were given a task, they tended to disregard all other considerations except the task itself. Today their task was to wipe out the seekers who would disrupt their master’s operation. Nothing else mattered, unless their progress was impeded in some way that demanded their attention getter. Dennis intended to have their full and undivided attention in a matter of seconds.

Dennis looked back at his teams and pointed finger down to the gargoyles below. They nodded in assent and he nosed down into a steep dive, his team following him. The wind whistled through his hair as he leaned forward into the dive. He had one hand on the broom and one extended in front of him his wand gripped tightly. Each one of the hit team members selected targets. Dennis wanted the first pass to be as destructive as possible, while they had the element of surprise, so he told his team not to fire until he did, and he would hold the dive until the last possible minute. The small gray specks began to grow larger and larger. Dennis could see every detail of their hideous faces. Still, he held his fire. Now he could make out the individual scales on their skin. He took careful aim at his target, aiming his blast for the junction where the creature’s wings met its back. Dennis waited a half second more, and then unleashed a blasting charm. The spell impacted his target precisely where he’d been aiming. The gargoyle disintegrated into a thousand pieces, leaving a trail of dust and smoke as if it were indeed a creature born of the statuary that stood vigil over Notre Dame. Dennis continued his dive, down below the remains of the gargoyle he’d just destroyed. He pulled up and took a quick assessment of their strike.

Remarkably, every single one of his wizards had hit a gargoyle. One hundred suddenly became sixty, and his team would be more than a match for them. The survivors were disoriented and Dennis led his team upward to finish them off. One of his witches was pointing frantically towards the enemy’s camp. Dennis hazarded a glance and his chest fell. Launching from behind the far hill, another hundred or so gargoyles had just leapt into the air. They were now worse off than when they started. Gritting his teeth, Dennis plowed into the original group of gargoyles and began the deadly aerial ballet required to kill more of them. He only hoped he could even the odds a little before the next wave hit. He was brought to the present as one of his men took a fiery blast from four gargoyles right in the chest and was toppled to the ground where he landed with a grotesque thud. Grimly, Dennis took out each of the gargoyles in succession and then turned to go back into the fight. In the distance, the dark cloud was getting bigger and bigger as the reinforcements for this group neared the battle.

***

Luna and Neville calmly walked among the troops under their command. Their platoons had been placed side by side and consisted mainly of sixth and seventh year students from Hogwarts. For the most part, their charges were calm and ready, but here and there, flickers of fear and uncertainty flashed before them.

One girl, a Hufflepuff sixth year, quivered at the approaching cloud of chupacabras, their incessant chattering filling the air. Neville stopped in front her and smiled.

“Everything all right, Portia?” The girl jumped a bit, having not seen him approach.

“Y-yes, Profess..I mean Mr. Longbottom. I-I m-mean I’m scared.” She cringed and looked on the verge of breaking down.

“That’s all right. I quite prefer Professor. Still, you want to know something?” She nodded, afraid to speak. He leaned in and whispered into her ear, where only she could hear. “I’m scared too. I’m surprised I haven’t bolted off by now.”

She looked at him like he’d grown a second head. “You’re not serious, are you sir? I mean, you were a hero at the Battle of Hogwarts.”

He chuckled. “I was scared there too. Beyond anything you can imagine. You want to know the secret of how to overcome being afraid? I mean everyone’s afraid, but do you want to know how I was able to overcome it?”

She nodded imperceptibly. Neville pointed over to Luna, and then to Harry on the tower above and then over to Seamus and then to Hannah Abbott. His arm hovered over the spot where Hannah was and inwardly, a warm feeling rushed into his heart. Then he turned to his student, as if they were in the classroom and not about to fight a battle to the death.

“I knew my friends would not let me down and that I wouldn’t let them down. We would see each other through the darkest times. Alone, I was afraid, but together, with them, I was strong. Look around you, Portia, all these people…your friends, your classmates, they are here for you. Are you going to be there for them?” He didn’t speak harshly, in fact, his voice was soft, kind. She swallowed hard and then smiled.

“Yes sir. Thank you sir.” He placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder and then moved on down the line.

Luna came up to him. “That was very sweet, Neville.” He smiled at her and then looked down at his hand. Her eyes followed his and she saw that his hand was shaking, almost uncontrollably. She reached over and placed her hand over his and rubbed it softly. Slowly the shaking stopped and he smiled back at her. She laughed, “You never know when a slate-backed twirlitz will bite your hand. Fortunately, I’d rubbed lotus oil on my hand which is just the thing for the shakes a twirlitz bite causes.”

Neville laughed despite himself. “Yes, I’m very fortunate, indeed, Luna.” The two friends stood together and prepared to fight off the charge.

***

The wizards of First Battalion let fly a barrage of spells that impacted on the advancing horde of chupacabras. Unlike the previous encounter, however, the advancing enemy wizards were almost directly behind the small, gray shock troops. Within seconds, the remaining chupacabras were amid the battle line, followed closely by the elements of the enemy’s assault force. One of Arthur’s spells sent a chupacabra flying through the air and into the chest of one of the enemy wizards. The First Battalion consisted of the more mature wizards from the country. The thought of being outnumbered three to one, with the prospect of small, fang-laden devils intermixed among them was quite enough to allow panic to set in. The sound of spells impacting on shield charms and metal on shields filled the air. From his position on his observation tower, Harry thought the scene looked like First Battalion had been engulfed in a sea of black and gray. He swallowed hard and then looked to the center of the battle line.

Second battalion experienced fewer of the chupacabra attack. Instead the weight of the assault of the balance of the Inferi was bearing right down on them. Kingsley’s reassuring presence could be felt, even from where Harry stood. Unconsciously, Harry gripped the handle of his broom tight, itching to get into the fray. A flash of red hair caught his eye and he watched with almost detached fascination as he caught sight of Ginny zipping through the air, her two protectors keeping up with her manic flight pattern. In the distance, Dennis’ team was engaged in a frantic battle for air superiority. Flashes of light and flame marked where the no-quarters battle was being waged. Dennis’ team had suffered losses and despite the fact that they were killing more of the gargoyles than they lost, the sheer weight of numbers was beginning to tell. More and more of the gargoyles were slipping through and starting their attack runs on the seekers.

Oliver Wood had divided his keepers into two groups, one to provide secondary cover for the seekers and one, led by himself to shuttle the chaser assault group to their target on Sarlac Hill. By design, this left both forces weaker than he’d wanted, but Oliver saw that Dennis would not be able to stem the tide of the gargoyle destroyers and had hedged his bets. His efforts were paying off. The ferocity of Dennis’ attack caused the gargoyles that were getting through to attack in a piecemeal fashion, giving his keepers ample opportunity to engage them and keep them off the seekers. Still, Krum’s seekers were suffering losses, both from the wizards on the ground and from the bludgers that filled the sky. The beaters were working furiously, but the laws of probability were simply not on their side. Despite that, the ranks of the Inferi had been dealt a serious blow. By the time they got to where the Second Battalion and its youthful volunteers stood, there were only four thousand of them left.

***

“Hedgehog!” Kingsley’s rich baritone filled the air. He stood next to his front rank, his hands behind his back, as if he were giving a lecture in his classroom. Ignoring the chaos before them and the horror of the enemy they faced, his battalion extended their halberds forward, creating the look of a porcupine with raised quills. “Remember, these are Inferi. Use your flame charms and blades. Support each other!”

Kingsley watched as the unswerving mass of decaying bodies and bones crept forward. Those that had eyes were empty, listless, but they kept coming. “Standby!” Kingsley drew his sword and snapped his wand into the hilt. He pointed the blade of his sword towards the Inferi and smiled as another section fell to the ground, the result of another seeker capture. “Incendio, on my command!”

“Yes sir!” Despite their fears, the response was loud and firm.

“Fire!”

As one, a wall of fierce flame cascaded from the wizard formation and impacted the oncoming formation. Those that were hit, were silent and their smoldering corpses kept coming until the very material that their decomposing corpses were made of simply burned to ash.

“Again!”

Another solid wall of flame hit the Inferi, desiccating more the infernal creatures, and still those behind them kept coming.

“Again!”

Kingsley was calm, almost conversational. Despite the best efforts of his battalion and the seekers, he knew that this was going to be settled close up, face to face. He turned to his battalion.

“Platoon leaders, prepare for close combat!”

His command spurred the D.A. members sprinkled among the battalion into action. Neville and Luna took up positions ahead of their platoons, with Neville making sure to stand right next to Portia, the girl whose confidence he’d bolstered earlier. Neville chanced a glance down the ranks and caught the eye of Hannah Abbott, who was at the head of her own platoon. The two smiled at each other and then Neville took a chance.

Wordlessly, he mouthed, “I love you” in her direction. Apparently, she understood him and blushed uncontrollably. She looked back and responded, “Me too,” to him and then turned forward.

Just then, out the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Seamus Finnegan, who had walked up to Neville. Seamus had a devilish grin and clapped Neville on the back. “I can’t say that you’re my type, but if it will help, I love you too!”

Seamus had witnessed the exchange between Hannah and Neville and his ribbing caused Neville to turn beet red. With a flick of his wand, Neville sent a small spark that landed on Seamus’ backside. The Irishman responded with a raised hand, a finger extended in the universal greeting, and then both men shared a laugh and returned to their positions.

Within seconds, the remaining Inferi were on them and the Second Battalion became locked in mortal combat with the minions of the undead.

***

Angelina flew at the nape of the earth, dodging wayward bludgers and errant spells sent her team’s way. The white, glowing orb in her hand looked like it would be emitting untold quantities of heat, and yet it was cool. Behind her, Michael Corner had his wand out, directing spells to the enemy on the ground in an attempt to guide her through the dangerous ground above the enemy lines. Off to her right, Katie Bell carried her own light, with Dean weaving in and out below her, distracting the enemy and keeping her shielded from their venom.

The platform was ahead, the bottom tier and its three rings prominently displayed. Angelina nodded and raised the orb above her head. Suddenly the sky grew dark and the forty gargoyles Leclerc had held in reserve popped up over the back of the hill, and dove in unison at the approaching chasers. Corner swerved in front of Angelina and sent a blasting charm out that took out a gargoyle directly in front of her. Angelina cut to the right and just missed a water jet emitted from an attacking gargoyle. Corner turned and took out the gargoyle that was bearing down on her. So wrapped up in covering his partner, Michael didn’t see the gargoyle that soared from the ground and collided with his broom. Gargoyle and wizard went flying into the air and crashed into the ground. Immediately, several dozen milling chupacabras leapt on the both of them. Michael’s screams ended suddenly as Angelina made her final approach. Shaking back the tears, she grit her teeth and sent the quaffle flying. Angelina Johnson was a premier chaser and her aim was true. The quaffle flew into the left hand most ring. Once inside, the left hand base of the platform exploded, causing the dozen or so figures on top to fall to the deck, including Leclerc. Angelina pulled away and soared up into the air to watch the progress of the rest of her team.

Katie had attracted the attention of five of the gargoyles. Fortunately for her, Dean Thomas was providing cover. The pair was flying parallel to each other and cut to either direction to avoid the tongue of flame launched by the flying ogres behind them. Dean pulled back on his broom, causing his momentum to suddenly stop and allowing the pursuing gargoyles to rocket past him. Pushing the nose down on his firebolt, he let fly blasting charms in rapid succession, taking out three of the five gargoyles. Of the two remaining, one kept up its pursuit of Katie while the other turned about to take on Dean, but Dean knew he didn’t have time to get into a melee with gargoyle and still help Katie. Dean accelerated and drove the end of his broom into the chest of the gargoyle. Stunned the gargoyle gave a hellish scream and lifted his mouth in Dean’s direction. Dean jammed the tip of his wand into the gargoyle’s mouth. As the water jet came from its mouth, Dean’s freezing charm took hold. The water backed up in the jaws of the creature and as ice was wont to do, it expanded. The massive volume of water turned to ice and no place to go. The gargoyle’s head exploded and the remainder of his body fell to the ground. Dean chuckled madly and bore in the last one pursuing Katie. With a flick of his wrist, Dean dispatched the gargoyle and then watched as Katie sent her own orb right into the maw of the right hand ring.

The platform shuddered from the explosion again. Only one ring remained, but much to her chagrin, Angelina noticed that only she and Katie had managed to get through with the quaffles. The rest of her team was either dead or had lost their quaffles in the fighting with the gargoyles. In a panic, Angelina looked around for another quaffle and saw more rising from the enemy lines. As she banked towards their anticipated arc, she found her path blocked by three more gargoyles. Michael had been covering her, but now he was dead and she didn’t have time to draw her wand. Katie and Dean were too far away to help her and she realized that she had run out of time. She accelerated, determined to take at least one with her. Before she could reach the creatures, a large, free flying circular saw blade careened through the air and severed the gargoyles’ torsos in half. Angelina looked over and saw Gwenog Jones reach behind her back and pull out another saw blade and send it flying towards another set of flying gargoyles. Volkov was madly sending bludgers back to the wizards that were shooting them and hitting a good number of them with their own missiles. Between them, Viktor Krum bore down on the platform, another energy ball in his hand. One gargoyle managed to slide through the defense and hovered briefly next to Viktor. The Bulgarian superstar reached out his elbow, which had a pad on it. Protruding from the pad was a particularly evil looking blade. The extended elbow cut through the top half of the gargoyle’s head. Viktor didn’t even stop, but accelerated even faster. Soon, he sent his quaffle out and it sailed right into the last remaining ring, and was followed by a brilliant explosion.

***

Leclerc spotted the large man on the broom at the last second. Without thinking, he leapt off the platform and landed with a thud on the gently rolling slope below. Above, the platform and his entire staff were engulfed in a violent explosion. Desperately, Leclerc looked out towards the battlefield and watched in agitation as every energy orb and bludger simply dropped from the sky. Every snitch simply stopped flying, causing the remaining Inferi to fall silent. Suddenly his First Legion was on its own. He stood and looked to the spot where his platform had been. It was his command and control mechanism, the manner by which he could maneuver the mindless automatons at his disposal as well as power the weapons. The Ministry had learned well from the last battle. Now, he would be forced to use his more experimental weapons. He gestured down the hill and motioned for a witch who was carrying a large ram’s horn.

“We will have to activate the Infernals.” The woman’s face turned pale at the thought, but the look on Leclerc’s face stopped whatever protests she’d been contemplating.

“Yes master. I have the horn, but we will need to send out the Keres first. We need raw material. Will the First Legion be able to hold on until then?” Leclerc looked over at the embattled legion.

“It makes no difference. In fact, the more casualties they suffer, the stronger the weapon. Release the Keres!”

From behind the hill, several dozen figures rose into the air. From a distance, they looked like women with wings, but upon closer inspection, these were far from angels. They had a distinct reddish color, given off by the fur that covered their bodies. They had pointed ears and bright yellow eyes, which seemed almost feral. The ends of their hands were tipped with razor sharp talons and long, deadly looking fangs protruded from their mouths. They flew up into the air and soared towards the battlefield.

***
Sergei Doysteyev was Bulgarian. He’d been a part of the Second Legion who launched the failed attack on the Ministry’s left flank. He’d found a stick for support and he limped carefully back towards his lines. The battle had been ferocious and Sergei had been grievously wounded by the sudden assault from the giants and trolls. He was bleeding from several wounds, but still, he was among the fortunate. He was alive. He’d seen the command platform explode and a part of himself believed that the battle was close to over and his side had lost. His mind drifted to the river valley near the Danube, where he made his home. He’d made it through, and he’d soon be going home.

The impact of the collision sent Sergei violently into the ground. He tried to move, but found his arms pinned by claws that had penetrated his shoulders. He winced in pain, but when he opened his eyes, he wished he’d kept them shut. The woman, if he could call her that lunged down and sank her fangs into his neck. As the blood drained from him, his eyes grew blank and then totally opaque. The Ker rose into the air, looking for another wounded or dead wizard to bite.

The shell that was Sergei Doysteyev rose from the ground, no expression and definitely not in pain. It just stood there, with the rest of the former dead and injured who had suffered the Keres’ kiss and waited for one last spark of intelligence they craved. His blank eyes stared down the hill as he waited with his brethren for the command to feed his hunger for blood.


***A/N: I made up the term Infernal. What they are and how they come about, I will reveal in the next chapter. The Keres are from mythology, they are kind of the "anti-valkerie", floating around the battlefield feeding on the blood of the dead, dying and wounded. How that mixes with what we have so far, you're just going to have to find out. Believe me, it will be interesting.

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Old December 25th, 2007, 4:32 am
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 150 – Skinning the Cat

Harry peered through his binoculars at the raging battle between the remaining legion of Leclerc’s wizards and the First Battalion. Despite the loss of their Inferi phalanx, the dark wizards engaged on the Ministry’s right flank still outnumbered the battalion by almost two to one. Harry watched as Manchester calmly ordered Kingsley to shift half his battalion over to support Dawlish’s desperate struggle. Harry marveled at Kingsley’s steady demeanor. The former Minister of Magic guided his wizards, his students, in a facing maneuver and then led them in a strong counter attack into the left flank of Leclerc’s First Legion. Their lowered halberds struck with an audible crash, the screams of the injured and dying carrying up to the observation platform. A flicker of movement caught Harry’s eye and he turned his gaze to the settling dust of the area of the battlefield where Third Battalion had fought recently. The area was covered with red-tufted aerial hellions who seemed to be hovering over the bodies on the field. As for the bodies, a good number of people were standing alone on the field, as if revived, yet not moving, like statues. Harry turned to Manchester.

“Sir, what do you make of that?” Harry pointed to where the Keres were going about their work.

Manchester raised his telescope to his eyes and then dropped it. “Damn. Harry, I think it’s time for your Aurors.” The general pointed outward to the rising numbers of figures and the large quantity of Keres that were over them. “Harry, no matter what you do, eliminate those ghastly creatures.”

“What are they, sir?” Harry had raised his arm, getting his Aurors up to the ready.

“Keres, Harry. Their kiss is legendary. They go to the dead and the injured on a battlefield and drain the souls. What’s left is an empty body which only craves the blood of the living. I don’t know what Leclerc is up to, since they’re just as dangerous to his people as they are to us.” Manchester looked concerned.

“Why haven’t they made their move? Why are they just standing there?” Harry jumped onto his broom and looked back at Manchester.

“I don’t know, Harry. Watch yourself, a Ker is a deadly opponent, to be sure. Don’t let them get their hands on you and your people. Once they get you, there is no returning.” Harry nodded and leapt into the air.

***

The battle on the right flank raged on, no quarter being given and none being expected. Arthur whirled and plunged the tip of his sword into the side of a wizard that was threatening an unsuspecting Bill. Unseen, another dark wizard clipped the side of Arthur’s arm, leaving a wound in the Minister’s arm. Arthur fell to his knees and desperately tried to pull his sword up to parry the enemy’s follow on blow. Unfortunately, Arthur’s blade was stuck in his previous opponent’s body and would not come out. His enemy smiled a deadly smile at his predicament and raised his sword up to deliver the killing stroke. Just before his scimitar reached the apex of his swing, another blade came from his chest, having been driven out through his back. The sword was pulled out and the man fell to the side, still with the look of surprise from his death. Arthur finally managed to pull out his sword and looked over to find Percy, his sword at the ready, breathing hard from the effort to save his father. Arthur smiled his thanks and then turned to meet the next enemy.

***

Domina Malfoy fought two-handed, an elegant rapier in her right hand, her wand in her left. She’d been offered a cutlass with the incorporated notch, but she was comfortable with the sword in her hand. She moved with a swift grace, the edge of her blade swinging to and fro, drawing blood with every move. She was at the edge of the formation, the men and women of her section forming a wedge near her, inspired by her deadly accuracy. To her left, her sister Beatrice, matched her prowess, swinging a Discooperire-provided cutlass into a solid wall of the enemy in front of her section. Four dark wizards sent blasting charms towards Domina, which she barely managed to ward off, but which also knocked her off balance. She fell to one knee and riposted the first foe that launched himself at her. With a flick of her wrist, she hobbled the man with a swipe at his Achilles tendon, bringing a cry of pain from him. She spun on ground and lunged forward, taking out the next opponent, and then sent a killing curse to the third, a woman. She pulled her blade and swung the tip through the neck of the fourth, who managed to plunge his sword into her side. Domina fell, her side on fire with pain. A fifth enemy leapt forward to take advantage of her injury. Before he could get to her, he was sent flying by a curse sent out by Beatrice. Domina looked over and shared a nod with her sister, and then fell to the ground, surrendering to unconsciousness by the wound in her side.

***

The Aurors lifted into the sky, the four teams forming four separate spears. Harry turned to the side and divided the teams into two separate sections. Williamson and Cavendish leading their teams to the left and Lachlan and Ron leading their teams to the right, both sections were flying towards the larger collections of Keres in the distance. The ones already engaged in delivering their bites to the wounded and dead were to be left alone for the moment, so that the Aurors could blunt the greater mass. As one, the twenty seven Aurors hurtled amidst the caterwauling demons in the sky and began their deadly dance. Harry let fly a blast curse that destroyed a lead Ker. He turned and watched as Ron led his team right into the thickest section of enemy, keeping the team in a tight formation, not allowing anyone to straggle. As Ron kept up his fire, Mortimer stayed tight at this flank, keeping the rapidly angering flying beasts at bay from his team leader. Lachlan flew directly at another group, his team composed mostly of newer, less experienced Aurors.

The trailing Auror in Lachlan’s team found herself drifting a little too far out of the spear, and was cut off by five of the Keres. The desperate woman drove her sword into the face of Ker that came too close, but could not hold off the screeching harpies who overwhelmed her. Harry watched in anguish as the hapless Auror fell to the ground, her neck punctured in several places by the Keres that had her in her grasp.

“Incendio!” Harry sent a tongue of flame that engulfed the Keres around the fallen Auror. Their screeches howled into the air, causing the hair on Harry’s neck to rise. Ignoring the horror of the sight, Harry flew towards where Williamson and Cavendish were carrying on their desperate fight. The Aurors were holding their own, yet could do nothing about the Keres that were still on the ground, and feeding on the battlefield below.

***

Leclerc gazed madly at the tableau below. His First Legion was in its final death throes, yet he smiled in contentment. The standing bodies below him consisted of his Second Legion, some of the Berserkers and even some of the Ministry’s fallen warriors as well. He pointed an arm to the Keres not engaged with the Aurors in the sky and shifted his focus on the remnants of his First Legion. Instead of taking to the skies, his Keres began to run towards the fresh blood of the battle on the Ministry’s right flank. It only took a few seconds for them to deliver the kisses that would revive the lifeless hulks and the not so lifeless as the soon, the screams of the wounded began to filter up to his ears, like the music of a symphony.

“Sir?” The woman holding the Berserker horn looked at him in panic. “What about our people? Some of them are still alive.”

Leclerc turned to her and nodded. “They will serve the cause by their sacrifice.”

“But sir, shouldn’t we get them away from there? How can they serve if they’ve been kissed by the Keres?” She looked back out at the scene below and gripped the horn tightly in her hands.

Leclerc placed his hand into the folds of his robes and drew a wicked looking dagger. In the blink of an eye, he plunged the knife into his lieutenant’s chest and as the life bled out of her, she gave him a shocked, surprised stare.

“They are not meant to survive, my dear, they are only to serve my purposes.” Leclerc’s voice was surprisingly kind, gentle. He bend down and removed the intricate horn from the lifeless body of the woman and then turned and looked down over the battlefield. By now, well over five thousand husks of once living wizards, both his people and some of the enemy’s stood in their places, revived by the Keres. The plan he and Mengele had worked on for well over sixty years was about to be implemented. It was time to use the Infernals.

The concept centered around combining the best attributes of two of his minions and eliminating their inherent weaknesses. Both the Inferi and Berserkers were instrumental in his first victory almost a thousand years ago, but as could be seen by the Ministry’s response, as they were, both had inherent flaws that could be exploited. The Inferi made for excellent automatons, but were essentially martinets that required close supervision by Leclerc, through living wizards who had proven unreliable at best. The Ministry had also shown how limited the control range was via the snitches. Left to their own devices, the Inferi were essentially mindless hulks who folded without any type of guidance.

The Berserkers could be excellent weapons. They had a central point of control, the horn, but were still manifestations of living men and women who had been driven mad. They were vicious and cannibalistic, formidable because they were living creatures with a primal need to feed on their fellow man. Because they were alive, however, they were vulnerable to what all humans were, specifically they could be killed and once dead, they ceased being usable to him in his quest to maintain close control over the wizarding world.

What Mengele had stumbled on was a way to create a hybrid of the undead power of the Inferi, with the feral rage and horror of the living Berserker. The answer was the Infernals, undead Berserkers who could not be stopped by conventional means. From the Inferi standpoint, they new creature did not require constant supervision, thus eliminating Leclerc’s need to rely on snitches and other wizards. From the Berserker standpoint, nothing short of complete incineration would stop the creature. Being dead, there was no way to kill them. They would continue to fight, to kill until they were incinerated. As an added bonus, as long as the Keres were still around the more enemy killed by the Infernals, the faster their ranks would expand. Even now, the Keres were working on the fresh kills from the recent combat around the enemy’s right flank. Well over half the Keres were engaged in holding off the Aurors in the sky. One other thing to consider was that as the keeper of the horn, the Infernals would only respond to his control and subject to his mad whims. As the enemy was thinking that they had won the engagement, it was now time to unleash the Infernals.

He raised the horn to his lips and blew into it. A long, baleful bellow emanated across the battlefield. The sound brought a hush to the bustle that had dominated up to then. Slowly, the once dead wizards began to shuffle down towards the Ministry’s warriors. They began to aggregate together, mouth’s gnashing as they incessant need for blood assaulted their senses. They’d been standing waiting for some sign of direction, some guide to show them where to feed. The sound of the horn had been their sign, their infusion of knowledge that the warriors at the bottom of the hill were the source for blood they needed. They gathered closer and closer, their ranks swelling. Soon, they were running at full speed, heading directly for the center of the Ministry line and the students and professors that made up their ranks.

***
Harry spun in a barrel roll, barely escaping the razor-sharp claws of the Ker attacking him. He swung the blade of his cutlass down and severed the offending hand in one fell swoop. The Ker screamed in agony and frustration, calling out to several more of its sisters nearby. Soon, another three of the terrible creatures swooped in to cut off the head of the Aurors. He dipped the nose of his broom and began a maddening dive for the ground. Almost perpendicular to the ground, he gained speed with every passing minute, hoping his pursuers were close behind him. As the ground neared, he yanked heavily on the handle of his broom. Every muscle in his arms strained against the pull of gravity from the maneuver. Eventually, he managed to yank back fully and arrest his headlong plunge. He swooped up, the bristles of his broom literally brushing against the grass. His efforts were rewarded by the satisfying sound of four solid thumps on the ground behind him. He soared into the sky and took a chance to glance down at the ground below. He stared just in time to watch as the mass of new enemies slammed into the center of the Second Battalion.

***
Kingsley barely had time to prepare his warriors for the mass of screaming, bloodthirsty new enemies. His battalion dipped their halberds and fired multiple blasts into the advancing Infernals. The first was a long series of blasting charms which ripped off arms and tore great holes in torsos, even removing heads and still the enemy kept advancing. Kingsley switched the spells to fire charms, which caught almost the entire front row of Infernals on fire, and still they kept coming. Here and there, some fell, their legs literally melting and still they kept coming. The independent undead beasts impaled themselves on the porcupine formation of the Second Battalion and kept coming in one inexorable mass.

“Use your fire charms, incinerate them!” Kingsley dropped his sword hand down and cut off an arm reaching for his shoulder. The arm’s owner kept coming, forcing the DADA professor to shove his blade into what was left of the creature’s chest. Once his sword was stuck inside the exposed chest cavity, he recited his flame charm, causing the beast to burst into flames from the inside out, finally stopping it in its tracks. All around him, his battalion was losing its battle and the screams of his students and the former DA members that led him began to reach his ears. He hazarded a glance up at the command tower and saw the concern on Manchester’s face. They were in serious trouble.

***

Manchester looked at Baretto and shook his head. “Somehow, Leclerc has managed to enervate his Inferi with a feral attitude, like a Berserker. Frankly, I don’t know how to stop them. Look around, those Keres are feeding their numbers. It’s as if we didn’t even win the last two fights.”

Baretto stared out at the moaning lifeless creatures embroiled in hard hand to hand fighting with the Infernals. “Sir, I don’t think we can hold this line. We’re going to have to fall back and regroup.”

Manchester nodded. “You’re right, of course, Adelina. We’re going to have to skin the cat.” His second in command nodded her assent. “Go on down with the crew of the Discooperire. Tell Kingsley that he has to give me five minutes. Make sure he gets his battalion out.”

Baretto smiled. “It will be done, General.” She gripped the rail of the platform and vaulted over the side and dropped down inside the redoubt where members of her crew were trying to lend assistance to the beleaguered members of the Second Battalion. The cannons were white hot from constant firing, and yet, the Infernals kept coming. She jumped down among the milling crowd and dove into the fray, cutting her way mercilessly towards the knot of people anchored around the bold figure of Kingsley Shacklebolt. She made her way into the circle and yelled over to Kingsley.

“We’re pulling out! General Manchester says to skin the cat, he needs five minutes!” Kingsley nodded grimly and pressed his attack, sheaths of flame barreling out of the tip of his wand into the bodies pressing on him.

***
“Skinning the cat” was a military maneuver designed to allow units to withdraw in the face of an enemy. Essentially, it called for portions of the units to fall back and establish a blocking force along the line of retreat. Once the guard force had been built, the remainder of the unit would withdraw through the barricade and continue on and establish another block further down the line and so on. What Manchester was asking Kingsley to do was to hold the line long enough for the First and Third Battalions to withdraw down the road towards the reservoir, each creating a rear guard for the Second Battalion to pass through. The problem was that the endmost unit had to ensure that no one was left behind and carry all wounded with them. This would difficult in the best of times, and with a foe like the Infernals, where anyone left behind would become part of the enemy force, it would be a touch and go thing.

Manchester set up a series of signals, telling his battalions what he expected. He was satisfied to see the Third Battalion begin its march down the road, getting ready to set up the first blocking position. The First Battalion was in a much more difficult position, having just finished close combat and still trying to sort out its wounded and dead. He flashed a signal to Ironforge, the leader of the goblins, who he’d positioned directly behind the First and Second Battalions, before the Inferi had been destroyed. The goblins began to plunge into the field and started carrying the wounded and dead down the road, away from the hovering Keres who were trying to convert more of the dead to Infernals. Manchester silently willed Dawlish to speed up his battalion’s withdrawal. The longer First Battalion took to pull back, the longer the Second Battalion would have to stay engaged with their implacable enemy. Where they were, under the spell of Leclerc’s sand timer, they could not apparate or use portkeys. They wanted to get to the Reservoir, which he hoped was out of the boundaries of the spell.

***

Domina was alive, the pain in her side told her so. She slowly opened her eyes and tried to sit up. Her sword was off to the side and her wand was no where to be seen. She shook her head, woozy from the loss of blood and pain. All around her, members of her battalion were milling around, looking as if preparing to leave. Several panicked screams caused her to look up. A particularly fierce looking ker was swooping down, its fangs aimed directly at her. She raised her arms to fend off the impending attack, knowing that there was no way for her to resist her death. She closed her eyes, too weak to fight. The sound of flesh on metal caused her open her eyes. Dudley was standing over her, a body-length shield held up, keeping the ker off of Domina. The ker was clawing at him, causing him to fall to a knee, trying to keep the creature off of him and his sister-in-law. In his free hand, Dudley raised up a plain metal pole and jammed into the gaping maw of the ker. He tapped on a button on the pole, firing off the enchanted rocket inside. The Weasley product emitted a small cylinder, trailing fire and smoke. The projectile went into the ker’s mouth, carrying its body off of Dudley. When it was a few feet away, the rocket exploded in a hail of metal and fire, tearing apart the ker’s head. Dudley tossed aside his shield and turned towards Domina.

She shook a bit and took his proffered hand. “Thanks.” Her voice was shaky and her skin was paler then usual, her wound draining her, literally. He reached down and supported her weight with his shoulder.

“We’ve got to get out of here, Domina. The army is pulling back. Come on.” He carried back towards the Reservoir. The First Battalion had started its withdrawal.

***
Krum hovered over Manchester, keeping one eye out over where Harry and the Aurors were losing ground in the vicious no-holds-barred battle in the skies.

“General, let me take my teams out there and help Harry.” Manchester looked out and nodded.

“Viktor, I’m only letting you do this to help Harry extricate himself from that fight. I need him to come see me. You and the rest need to keep as many Keres off the dead as possible. The more that feed means the bigger that army gets.” Krum nodded and waved over to Dennis and Oliver.

The two men flew over to the head of the Quidditch Squadron. “Ve must go help Harry. Get your people together. Dennis, the General wants to see Harry.”

Agreed on what they had to do, Manchester watched as they flew off, the army’s broom riders heading off to buy him time. He looked back and watched as First Battalion was running back. His ears came back to the fierce battle below him. Kingsley and his battalion were giving their all. Manchester only hoped there would be a Second Battalion left to fall back. Despite the fact they had done everything right, they had lost the battle and it looked like Leclerc was about to make the retreat even worse. No matter what he did, Manchester didn’t have any idea how they were going to get out of the mess they were in. More of the Ministry’s army was about to die.


***A/N: Sorry about the late post and Merry Christmas all. Anyway, hope you understand why the Infernals are bad, very bad.

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  #150  
Old December 27th, 2007, 6:23 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 151 – Out of the Frying Pan

Kingsley pulled his battalion in tighter, huddling them around a core made up of the crew of the Discooperire in the redoubt. He was gratified to see that his team leaders, the former DA members were helping keep his youthful warriors in place. The sound of the cannons from the fortification offered a keen sense of reassurance against the tide of evil that was running towards them. He hazarded a quick glance to the rear and saw the plumes of dust marking the First Battalion’s withdrawal from the battlefield. Off in the distance, he could make out the banner of the Third Battalion as they made preparations to provide a buttress for his own withdrawal.

Kingsley peered out towards the mass of Infernals that were picking up speed towards him. He watched in horrified fascination as a round shot of cannon fire tore into their ranks, ripping limbs and torsos asunder. Yet the beasts kept coming, even those struck by the devastating wounds. Kingsley’s eyes became fixed on one figure in particular. A cannon ball had torn a massive hole directly through its chest and its neck was barely attached to the rest of the body. His head was tilting at an awkward angle, yet the body, the legs still kept coming onward towards his battalion.
“Looks like they’ll be tough to stop.” The warm, sultry voice of Captain Adelina Baretto reached his ears, amid the horror all around. The erstwhile second ranking officer of the Ministry’s Army had come down to join her crew in their stand.

“No doubt about that. I’m thinking we have to go for the legs or burn them out. The problem is that the incendio charm won’t take enough of them out. This is going to hurt.” Kingsley faced forward and gave his battalion the order to form the hedgehog.

“I see your point. I’ll try some phosphorous rounds, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to burn them out. I wonder what’s controlling them, Signor Kingsley? There’s nothing for our Quidditch Squadron to capture.” Her question mirrored his own, but after a minute or so, it really didn’t matter.

Kingsley watched for a few seconds and then called for his battalion to commence firing. The rush of flame and blasts impacted on the front ranks of the Infernals.

***

Harry turned his broom over on its side and dove down for the ground, three Keres hot on his tail. The Aurors were simply being overwhelmed by sheer numbers, unable to gain headway against the three hundred or so Keres that circled around them. His spears had made a valiant effort to maintain their unit integrity, but as the battle continued, the fights degenerated into individual melees, pitting the skills of the Aurors against that of anywhere from four to ten Keres. One by one, the Aurors were starting to lose those individual battles. Harry kept a tight grip on his wand and swung his cutlass out and severed the head of one Ker who’d strayed to close to him. He pulled the broom handle to the right and swooped down on a ker who’d gained an advantage on Williamson. Harry’s sword cut a wide swath through the creatures back, freeing up Williamson to blast away another who was holding his arm.

Harry held the pommel of his sword up to his throat, allowing his voice to carry to his teams. “Pair up! Fight with a partner, cover each other!” Harry swooped up and sent a blast towards a ker that was diving on Ron. His friend gave a quick nod and then shot a ker that had a hold of Mortimer’s broom. Below them, Harry could see his army’s movements, watching as the wings of the army peeled off, heading in retreat. A mass of gray and black was rushing for the central point. They had lost, but now, he had to stop this from becoming a rout.

Harry tapped the side of his blade against his broom, causing both the sweep and the handle to glow a bright orange, with orange sparks trailing from the end. He weaved in and out of the embattled Aurors, letting them see his alert. The prearranged signal caused the Aurors to disengage and immediately follow Harry upward and out of the mass of Keres. The signal was a rally signal, telling the Aurors to drop what they were doing and form up on Harry. It was a difficult task, given the proximity of many of the enemy, still being on the move, allowed the Aurors the ability to breathe, to collect their thoughts. When Harry turned, he found that of his original twenty seven Aurors, he was down to nineteen. Grimly, almost in spite of himself, he made a mental note to check that Sarah, Sean, Ron, Lachlan, Williamson, Cavendish, Mortimer, and Silas were still there, and they were. Harry berated himself sharply. Any loss was a tragedy, but these particular people had been with him through everything, they were his core.

They swooped up high into the sky and did a gentle turn. Harry held up a tight fist. “Form up!”

His teams formed a vee shape with Harry at the very tip. They looked down and saw the Keres speeding towards them. Harry pointed his wand down and called for a quick strike. Twenty flashes of light struck the Keres formation, so dense, it was impossible to miss. Red tufted bodies fell to the earth as the Aurors’ strike hit true, still, the Keres kept coming.

“Build up speed, pass through them and stay together. We’ll try to make a few passes, and cut down their numbers if we can.” They nodded grimly and followed as Harry led them down towards the approaching cloud. They all had their swords forward, firing curses as they went. Slowly the Auror arrow gained speed, until both groups were blurs in the air. With a shout, the Aurors passed through the tightly packed mass of Keres, ripping a great hole in their formation and causing at least twenty to fall from the sky. Harry kept up their momentum and turned them around on their axis. Unfortunately, Keres could stop in the air on a dime. They’d turned almost as soon as the Aurors passed, so they were already situated to attack back down at the Aurors. Harry’s eyes widened when he saw that he would not get several passes at the Keres. Still, he led his teams in a charge to blunt the Keres assault.

Just before the met in mid air, the Keres were sent reeling from multiple strikes from the side. Krum’s Quidditch Squadron ripped into the Keres flank, hitting them hard while their focus was on the Aurors. Too late to respond to the new threat, the mass of Keres halted and lost concentration, only to be hit by Harry’s team as they attacked upward. Emboldened by the appearance of the help, the Aurors and Quidditch players made short work of the remaining Keres. Soon, the two Ministry flight teams joined up and kept a roving patrol on the battlefield. Harry felt the urge to look over his shoulder. When he did, his heart leapt as Ginny, with her guardians, George and Lee, took positions behind him, watching his back. He smiled at her and then led the combined teams on air assaults against the roving horde below.

***

The Infernals slammed into the razor sharp hedgehog of Second Battalions halberds, ignoring the terrific rents of flesh and bone and walked their way towards the wizards who held them. The team leaders ran to and fro, casting spells and swinging their swords to keep their lines from breaking apart. Soon, the crew of the Discooperire, except for the gun crews jumped in amongst the Battalion, providing a much needed boost to the lines that were in danger of being overrun.

Baretto and Lockley leaped forward, swords out and incendiary spells casting every which way to create some breathing room among the hard fighting wizards. Baretto’s sword came down and severed a disembodied head from the neck of a once living Jedi wizard, still the torso kept coming, only to be blasted from a spell cast by Neville. Baretto offered a quick thanks and then dodged to her right, bringing her blade down and cleaving another figure in two. The separated torso kept dragging itself on the ground, until it found a wounded Ministry wizard and bit into the man’s flesh.

After a few minutes in the charnel house, a loud, ringing gong could be heard above the din. That was the signal to withdraw through the Third Battalion, down the road. Baretto turned to the graceful figure of Muireall Innes, who stood boldly on the rampart above.

“Fire a double shot of phosphorus and then spike the guns. We’re leaving!” The captain took a second to blast another body and the turned up to see Muireall, who acknowledged the order.

Innes jumped down into the gun deck and gave the instructions. The gun crews depressed the muzzles of the guns to reach the greater mass of undead. With a wave, great sheets of white flame poured from the cannons, and landed amid the packed bodies of Leclerc’s new army. Huge sections were literally burning the flesh off the bone and incinerating in place. Innes smiled and then watched as pointed metal spikes were driven in the charge holes of the cannons, rendering them useless. With a swipe of her arm, she led the gun crews towards the rear.

Baretto watched with satisfaction as the phosphorous did its work and then yelled at Kingsley. “It’s time to go. Withdraw by sections, my crew will cover.”

Shacklebolt started issuing commands and his battalion started disengaging. He watched in horror as some of his people, mostly wounded, could not be retrieved. He didn’t know what was worse, that some of his students were left behind, or that he would soon be seeing their lifeless bodies on the other side, pawns in the battle against them. Nonetheless, the had to get as many out as he could. First Luna, then Seamus, then Ernie, and so on, led their sections away from the scene. Last to go was Neville, who stood defiantly beside Kingsley, unwilling to leave until he did. Baretto glared at both of them.

“You two have to go now! I want to get my crew out of here.” Shamefaced, Kingsley nodded to Neville and the two began to head back towards the line of retreat.

Baretto had already began the rolling retreat. Her crew was fighting against overwhelming odds and having to move rearward at the same time. They fought with amazing grace and capability. The trick was to not get entangled in a general fight, to hit and the run. Having fought together for years, they knew each other exceedingly well. Lockley anchored the right side, Muireall the left and Baretto kept the center together. In cases such as these, she would use Peruvian Blackness Powder to create separation, but these were undead, and given the evidence, they weren’t using their eyes to begin with.

“Flash Pops!!!” She watched as her crew mimicked her as she pulled a small, round lollipop from her waist band. Carefully, she unwound the wrapper with the Weasley’s Wheezes Defense Products logo on the front. The candy was red and spheroid in shape. She put the lollipop in her mouth and gave it a quick taste. When she started feeling a tingling on her tongue, she flung the candy by its white stem out in front of the advancing Infernals.

“Flash Pops” were a new product from George’s company. Activated by water, in this case the saliva of the user, it caused a magical chemical reaction that provided a wall of flame for ten seconds. Not widely distributed, Baretto had managed to secure the first off the production line for her crew and now, she was providing its first battlefield test.

Several more lollipops joined hers on the ground. Within seconds, they exploded into flame creating a huge wall of fire. Most of the Infernals walked into the flame, their bodies catching fire, but still coming forward, but the wall created a small window of time. It was enough time for the Discooperire’s crew to make their escape, which they did.

***

Stanley Greenberg couldn’t take his eyes off the exotic woman who led her sailors through the ranks of his battalion at the first blocking point. Her eyes seemed dance when they met his and he felt a little flushed by her attention. She stopped next to him and flashed a smile that set his pulse racing.

“They’re right behind us, Signor Stanley. Good luck, we’ll be waiting for you at the ship.” He almost forgot where he was and then watched as the wall of Infernals approached.

“How long do we have to hold?” Stanley began to assess the tactical realities of the situation.

“Five minutes. Watch for the signal.” Baretto was all business and he nodded.

“Light ‘em up!” Stanley’s voice rang out over his battalion. Almost as one, over seven hundred brilliant shafts of light emitted the welcoming hum of their wands. Holding their swords out, Stanley kept their focus and the prepared them for battle. “May the Force be with us!”

Baretto kept guiding her crew down the road. She paused and looked back as the Third Battalion held their light sabers high over their heads and then brought them down on the advancing wave of Infernals.

***

The running fight lasted well into midday. Third Battalion passed through the First which passed through the Second. At each encounter, the Infernals seemed to grow in numbers, robbing the dead from the Ministry’s army and adding them to their ranks. Each subsequent encounter became a new tale of horror, as friends and loved ones could be counted among the enemy. Manchester shook his head woefully as he reached the shore of the Darswell Reservoir. The wounded were being tended to by healers and the Discooperire sat idly at anchor, over half her guns gone with the fall of the redoubt. The sounds of battle were getting closer as the Third Battalion was once again holding the last line before the reservoir. Manchester sought out Baretto who was standing next to the quay.

“We need to start getting these people out of here, Brigadier. They’ll be on us soon.” Baretto gave the General a sad look and shook her head.

“We can not apparate, General and the port keys are not working. Apparently, Leclerc’s blocking spell extends here.” Baretto shrugged her shoulders apologetically.

Manchester looked back at the advancing enemy. “The army is spent, they can’t run anymore. The enemy seems to be getting stronger. Soon, he’ll have us surrounded here. This is where we’ll have to make our stand.” He watched as Harry flew in and alit nearby. The senior Auror gave a tired salute and reported in.

“The only keres around are the ones on the ground, General. We’ve been strafing, but I don’t know how much impact we’ve had.” Harry looked around and wondered why the wounded hadn’t been shuttled away.

“We’re stuck here, Harry. Leclerc’s glamour spell stops the portkeys and keeps us from apparating. It looks like this is it.” Harry had never heard the General sound so defeated. He looked around and gazed at the tired, exhausted looks of the army.

“I guess we’re just going to have to stop his spell, then.” Harry started rummaging through his bag until he found what he was looking for. “Hold them off for as long as you can sir. Keep trying to apparate. I’m going after the hour glass.”

“Harry, even though you’ve taken out a lot of the Keres and the gargoyles, he’s probably got more than enough to stop you from attacking. He’s see your teams and your intent from the start.” Despite his doubts, Manchester nodded to Baretto who started organizing a defense.

“I’m not taking my teams. Viktor and the Aurors need to stay and assist you here. You’ve got to keep as many alive as you can. I’ll handle this on my own.” Harry gave Manchester a determined gaze.

“How do you intend to do that, Harry?”

Harry pulled out his Invisibility Cloak, one of the three Hallows that Leclerc in another time and another place, had given Ignotus Peverell. He draped the cloak over his shoulders. “I’m going to use his gift to take out his advantage. Then, if I’m lucky, I’m going to have a little chat with Mr. Leclerc. Good luck, General.”

Harry pulled the cloak up around his head and spread its material over his broom. He rose up into the sky and didn’t hear as Manchester returned the sentiment. He flew over the battle and watched as Third Battalion executed its withdrawal to join the main line. He pointed the nose back towards where Leclerc’s platform had exploded. He had to find that hourglass before it was too late. He spied the lone figure of Leclerc, walking steadily behind his army, clutching an oversized ram’s horn to his chest. Harry fought the momentary urge to attack the man, not sure if he could win the encounter. Instead, he kept his focus on his destination and hoped he could make there on time.


***A/N: We are building to the big climax...can Harry get to the hourglass? Can they stop Leclerc? Will it be in time to save the Ministry Army????


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  #151  
Old January 2nd, 2008, 6:28 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 152 – Old Friends

Harry hugged the nape of the terrain, speeding over the flotsam and jetsam of the various blocking battles the Ministry army fought in its retreat from the battlefield. As he sped past, he noticed, quite uncomfortably, that there were no bodies on the ground, no reminders of the cost of the holding actions that had taken place. An uneasy sense of dread overcame him because the only reason those bodies were missing was that they’d been turned into the inhuman shells now involved with the attack. His aerial forces had driven the Keres from the sky, but that didn’t prevent them from staying earthbound and continuing their grisly chore of turning the dead and nearly dead into vassals for Leclerc’s aims. In essence, every encounter made the Confederation army stronger and weakened the Ministry army. Without the means to get away, it was only a matter of time before they were wiped out. Harry leaned in over his broom and increased his speed.

***

Manchester watched as Third Battalion struggled to make it back to the main lines of the Army. Their backs were to the Darswell Reservoir. The long finger of a quay reached out to the Discooperire. After his momentary bout of depression, the General began to set up his forces for the hard fight. He was having the grievously wounded placed on the Discooperire and reorganizing his battalions for the fight ahead. For some reason, the enemy was still holding off at the location of the last fight. Through the air, Manchester could hear the moans of Leclerc’s minions carrying through the air. Grateful for the respite, he called together his commanders for a quick war council.

Stanley Greenberg was the first to arrive, looking noticeably worn from the recent hard fight. His battalion had made a point of pulling their dead and wounded back with them, saving them from a fate worse than death. He took a pull from a canteen and sat quietly waiting for his colleagues. Dawlish walked into the command circle and smiled over at Stanley and then sat wearily on the ground, not saying a word. Kingsley and Viktor Krum wandered in, both looking decidedly exhausted and worn from their ordeals. The weight of the losses among his students had begun to show on Kingsley and his battalion’s last encounter had brought the unsettling experience of facing the reanimated corpses of the students he’d lost. The Infernals were utterly foul creatures, only able to be stopped by a disintegrating fire that eliminated their entire body.

Somehow the Keres were connected to the creation of the creatures. Viktor’s teams had driven the Keres from the sky; still enough remained on the ground to keep picking at the carcasses that were left after every battle. Krum had taken to leading the broom-bound corps in diving bomb runs on the enemy ranks, but the fire charms and blasting charms barely made a dent in the burgeoning ranks of undead. Manchester cleared his throat and called the meeting to order just as Baretto joined the circle.

“We all know what the situation is. I’ve asked Captain Baretto to move the most severely wounded to the Discooperire. Once we engage the enemy, I’m going to ask that the ship head out into the center of the reservoir.” Manchester took a quick look back towards the moored ship.

“General. I have a favor to ask, if I may.” Kingsley’s voice bellowed across the room. He continued at Manchester’s nod. “I’d like to ask that my A and C companies be assigned to protect the Discooperire.”

Manchester gave the tall former Minister a knowing smile. The two companies consisted of his youngest volunteers. The request made sense. “That makes sense, of course, Kingsley. A and C companies are henceforth transferred to the Discooperire. Who commands those companies?”

“Luna Scamander and Seamus Finnegan.” Manchester nodded and wrote up the order.

“Right, on to business. Dawlish, First Battalion is on the line first, followed by Third Battalion with the Discooperire and the remainder of the Second Battalion backing them up.” Manchester waved over to Dawlish who had a question on his mind.

“What about the goblins, sir? We’ve not seen any sign of the them since you ordered them to plug the hole in out lines.” Dawlish looked at the general pensively.

“Yes, well the goblins ran out on us. Apparently Leclerc’s glamour charm does not affect the goblin’s ability to apparate. They took off at the first sign of the new undead, these new Berserkers.” Manchester shook his head.

“Wait a minute! The goblins can apparate? How come they don’t take us out of here? They could at least transport the wounded.” Baretto’s voice was laced with invective. Her anger filled the area.

“Be that as it may, the goblins are gone. There’s no way to bring them back, so we’ll just have to hold on until Harry breaks the glamour.”

“What about house elves? Isn’t their magic much like the goblins? Maybe we can summon our house elves to help us.” Kingsley thought back to the free house elves who worked at Hogwarts.

“No, Kingsley. The spell that keeps us here keeps our summons from reaching our house elves. No, Kingsley, we are quite on our own here.” They continued their preparations, tweaking their strategy.

“Sir! General!” An young aide broke into the war council. “The enemy, sir. They’re on the move. They’re coming!”

Manchester stood. “Right. Remember; try to hit them from stand off range. Viktor, aim for the Keres on the ground. Kill them all.” He walked boldly to the front rank of soldiers and peered out through his telescope. Like one large black wave, the Infernals were coming for them.


***

Harry swooped down and alit by the remnants Leclerc’s platform. The area was deserted, but what struck him was the noticeable lack of bodies all around him. The battle had been fierce, yet not a single enemy body remained, obviously, they had been turned into the creatures that were pressing the attack on the army. His mind returned to the task at hand, so he whirled about, looking for the large hourglass. At the base of the hill, its support structure was resting at an angle, the hourglass still intact. He pulled out his wand and aimed it at the glass housing.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Potter.” He turned, his cloak pulled tight about this shoulders. “You can take the cloak off, Potter, I can see you fine, after all, it was I that gave Peverell that cloak.”

Leclerc was standing at the top of the hill, his bald head and beady eyes dancing in delight. Harry tossed off his cloak and pointed his wand up at the evil wizard.

“I saw you flying this way. I imagine you’re looking for a way for your army to apparate away. I can’t let you do that. I’m so close to the prize.” Leclerc raised his wand and pointed it at Harry. “I can only guess what killing you will do for my power.”

Harry circled around, keeping his wand pointed at Leclerc. “You lied, Leclerc. There isn’t a single well of magic. Only a well of dark magic exists. All of this was to allow you to keep your power, not to save anyone, just you.”

“You’ve found me out, Harry. Good man.” A loud roar exploded from the distance. Leclerc gave a shoulder shrug towards the reservoir. “My army is launching its final attack as we speak. The longer you fight me, the sooner they will die.”

A bright, green light emanated from his wand. He smiled with mirthful glee. Harry raised a shield charm just in time as they began their fight.

***

“Fire charms, now!” Manchester stood among the veterans. Arthur Weasley and his sons Percy and Bill stood alongside him. The unending sound of shuffling feet decried the approach of the enemy army. Arthur looked closely at the dark ranks. The disembodied eyes of Elphias Doge stared back at him from the enemy. Arthur shook his head and stared closer. Alongside Elphias’ body, Michael Corner marched on, moaning, his arms held out towards them. Dawlish stepped forward.

“Fire charms!” Single tongues of flame reached out and caught the enemy in their flames. Here and there, individual corpses would catch fire, but even as they burned the Infernals kept coming until their flesh disintegrated. Unfortunately for the Ministry Army, it took too much time for the bodies to disappear. There simply were too many of them to take out.

Manchester saw that despite their best efforts, this would come down to hand to hand fighting, which they would surely lose. Time was against them, and he knew it. Still, they had to fight, to give Harry enough time to let some of them get away.

***

The ground near Harry erupted in an explosion of light and smoke. He rolled with the blast and sent a blast back towards Leclerc, who dodged it easily.

“Come now, Harry. I’m far too strong for you. All those Infernals contribute their essence to my power. You’re army can’t stop enough of them to weaken me.” Leclerc’s next blast impacted solidly on Harry’s shield charm. Harry flew through the air and landed among the wreckage of the platform, his body crashing into the wood timbers, splinters tearing into his skin. He groaned with the pain, but managed to fire off another blast, driving Leclerc back momentarily.

The dark wizard jumped into the air and flung another charm that Harry managed to parry, but only barely. As they fought, Harry knew that Leclerc was right. Harry wasn’t strong enough to defeat him.

***

“We can’t stop them sir!” Baretto stared out at Manchester, her sword drawn. “We’ll have to do this the old fashioned way, I suppose.”

“Not likely.” Lachlan muttered to himself. The enemy army had grown threefold, strengthening and readying itself for its last assault. “Still, I’d rather go down fighting.” The Aurors collected around the general, committing to fight with the leadership group until the very end.
Muireall Innes’ voice rang through the air. “Captain! Look! Out by the lake!”

They stared out towards the middle of the reservoir. The waters began to roil and froth, steam emitting from their midst. Out of the tumult, the wooden spar of a ship appeared, followed by the bow and hull of a graceful sailing ship. Instead of floating on the water, the ship continued to rise into the air, its sails full and floating in sky. Sean Manchester pointed skyward.

“It’s the Wasp!” He shouted, as Lockley, Innes, and Williamson gathered around them. Sailing through the air, the USS Wasp, veteran of the War of 1812 and guardian of Atlantis flew over the Ministry army and swooped down towards the advancing enemy army.

As the warship flew over the Ministry army, several figures flew off the rigging. They were rectangular in shape, and large, almost room sized. Atop the square objects, several people held tight to ropes that emanated up from the platforms. The figures were riding magic carpets, which for some untold reason, had been banned by the Ministry. As one particularly grand Persian rug made its way to the command group, Manchester could only believe that the regulations preventing the rugs from being used could only have come from the Confederation. The rug landed amid the leadership group and the familiar face of Leonora Sigismund met them.

Lachlan walked to meet the Auror. “So that’s where Harry sent you.”

“Yes, he gave me a waiver to use one of flying carpets stored in the Department of Mysteries. It’s odd, but it’s fast.” She turned to the man dressed in a resplendent blue and buff uniform and a high peaked hat positioned front to back. Gold epaulets adorned his shoulders and he removed his hat in deference to the shocked Captain Baretto. “General, May I present to you Commodore Johnston Blakely, commanding officer of the USS Wasp and the defender of Atlantis.”

“Don’t forget me!” The familiar voice danced among the Aurors as both Monroe Bury and Commodore Blakely stepped down from the carpet. Burby basked in the warmth of reception of his former colleagues. The Commodore was more to the point.

“General, it looks like we’re here in the nick of time. What do you need?” Manchester thought for a moment. His original intent was to get as many people out of here as possible. He said as much. Blakely smiled. “We can start transporting people, but even with the carpets, you’ll still lose people. How do you stop those things?”

Manchester explained the dilemma, of how the creatures could be stopped by a fire, and how individual fire charms weren’t enough to do the job. Blakely nodded and the reached back up to the carpet, which hovered about a foot off the ground. He withdrew a large megaphone from a chest lashed to the carpet and smiled over at Manchester. “I think we have just the thing.”

The Commodore pointed the megaphone over towards the Wasp. “Ready the Greek Fire!”

“Greek Fire?” Manchester looked at the man from Atlantis with an unbelieving eye. The nod from Blakely gave Manchester hope for the first time since the retreat began.

Greek Fire was a weapon of devastating horror that was once used by ancient mariners in battle. The weapon consisted of a secret chemical reaction which burned fiercely over a wide area. The formula for Greek Fire was a closely kept secret, only known to the emperors and kings of the time and thought to be lost with time. Apparently, the secret to Greek Fire had been kept by the guardians of Atlantis.

The order went out and soon, the boom of the Wasp’s cannons could be heard across the field. Soon, large clay pots could be seen arcing through the sky and landing amid the ranks of the Infernals. When the pots broke, the chemical within flashed into a blinding white fire which spread throughout the area. Like the heat of a thousand suns, the affected Infernals would disintegrate on contact. Above, flying carpets circled the enemy army, dropping smaller clay pots among their ranks. Slowly, their numbers were eaten away by the cleansing heat of the flames. The Ministry army cheered raucously. Within minutes, the threat had been burned away.

***

Harry held fast to his left arm, which hung uselessly at his side. Every attack he attempted was easily thwarted by Leclerc. The head Auror jumped forward and rolled onto his shoulder to avoid another near miss. The back blast of the explosion rocked Harry’s body and deposited him firmly on the ground, driving the wind from him.

“I’m growing tired of this game, Mr. Potter. I do believe the time has come for me to finish you. I don’t want to miss the grand finale of my Army’s triumph.” Leclerc stood over Harry and pointed his wand down at Harry. Just before he sent the curse that would take Harry’s life, the dark wizard stumbled as if struck by a physical blow. Harry pivoted on the ground and hit Leclerc with a blasting charm that sent him reeling. Leclerc fell to his knees.

“What is it, Andre? You don’t look too well.” Harry struggled to his feet. Leclerc sent another charm his way, but Harry parried it with much more success, sending the spell flying off into the sky. Something had happened to Leclerc’s power. Unhesitatingly, Harry turned and aimed his wand at the hourglass.

“Wait! You don’t want to do that, Potter!” Leclerc sent another spell towards Harry, who again deflected it. Harry sneered and sent a blasting charm at the glass. It shattered instantly, sending sand flying everywhere. A white light emanated from the shattered hourglass, knocking Harry to the ground and Leclerc down as well. The horn around Leclerc’s neck snapped in two. The white light overtook everything and Harry blacked out from the force.

***

He opened his eyes and looked around. He was in same place where he’d met Leclerc before, “The Astral Plain”, the mental landscape where they’d talked. Harry rose and saw the crumpled form of Leclerc laying near by. The evil man slowly rose and turned to face Harry’s spectral form.

“What have you done, Potter?” Leclerc looked bewildered. “What has happened to me?”

Harry laughed. “It seems to me that the Ministry found a way to destroy your army. It took all that power from you. You might as well give up, Leclerc. Azkeban isn’t that bad a fate.”

“Don’t be so smug, Potter. I still have power. I can still kill you.” Leclerc drew his wand. “In fact, if you die in this place, you’re body dies as well. I’ll wipe that smugness off your face.”

Harry raised his wand up. There wasn’t a table and tea service this time. This was going to be a battle to the end, in a place that Leclerc was more familiar with than he. Still, Leclerc was weakened, so maybe Harry had a chance. Light built up in the wand tips of both men and flew out towards each other and met in a fire of sparks and smoke in the center of the room. The battle was joined.


***A/N: Happy New Year, everyone. We're back in the saddle here. Sorry for the long layoff, I was having some fun. We'll be back into the full swing of things...Hope everyone had fun!

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  #152  
Old January 7th, 2008, 2:40 pm
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USNAGator91  Male.gif USNAGator91 is offline
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 153 – Battle of the Mind

Harry and Leclerc slowly circled each other, gauging the distance. Without thinking, Harry drew his wand. This action drew a laugh from Leclerc, who stood with his arms folded in front of him.

“You still don’t understand how this works, do you Potter?” Leclerc held a hand out in front of him, instantly an ornate goblet appeared. He pulled the vessel up to his lips and drank. “This place is dictated by the mind. Magic is useless here.” He spun the goblet in the air and while it tumbled, it morphed into a solid gold ball and flew through the air, striking Harry in the chest, flinging him to the ground heavily. The pain in his chest widened, making it hard for Harry to breathe.

“As I see it, Harry, you’re Ministry may have won this battle, but I will win the war. I’ll kill you and simply bleed Britain dry by seizing power in the Confederation of Wizards. You’ve accomplished nothing.” Leclerc walked slowly towards Harry’s writhing body.

Harry placed a hand down on the ground and pushed himself upright. He held out his other hand and a cloud of Peruvian Blackness Powder popped into view, obscuring Leclerc’s vision. Harry rolled and rose to his feet, gaining distance between himself and the dark wizard.

“It’s all in my mind.” Harry thought to himself. He stared at a point behind the place where Leclerc emerged from the cloud of blackness. He concentrated and ropes emerged from the air, twisting around the body of his opponent, binding the man up like a mummy. Leclerc gave him a smirk and a blast of flame appeared, searing off the ropes. Leclerc walked forward and extended his arm. A set of daggers appeared and hummed through the air towards Harry. Ducking quickly, Harry held up his arms and an iron shield appeared, deflecting most of the daggers. One zipped through the air and nicked his arm, cutting the flesh. Harry winced and then threw the shield. In mid-air, the shield turned into a sledge hammer, slamming into Leclerc and tossing him back into the cloud of Peruvian dust. Harry rose and looked around the area, approaching the spot where Leclerc disappeared.

***

“Over here!” Charlie Weasley had landed his broom near the wreckage of the platform. He had started his search down the back slope of the hill and had found the remains of the hour glass. Nearby, the prone figures of Harry and Leclerc lay on the ground, seemingly facing each other.

The search party arrived at the sound of Charlie’s voice and raced down the slope to where he stood. They took in the sight of Harry and Leclerc, laying on the ground, eyes open, but not seeing anything.

“It’s like that time in Diagon Alley. They must be in that astral plane that Harry talked about.” Ron looked down and studied the two antagonists. “Look, Harry’s arm just started bleeding!” A rough slit had suddenly appeared on Harry’s sleeve, the blood trickled out, like he’d been cut. Ron turned and stared at Leclerc, whose chest had heaved, as if hit by a massive weight. A small fleck of blood appeared on the man’s lips. “It looks like they’re fighting each other, but their wounds show up on their bodies.” He turned and grabbed Ginny’s hand as she knelt next to her husband.

Ginny daubed the wound on Harry’s arm and silently urged him on in the struggle he was fighting.

***

Harry neared the slowly dissipating mist of Peruvian Powder. The clouds swirled and from the center, a large, grotesque wraith flew out, and soared into the air. It was a Dementer. Harry shuffled backwards, the sight of the creature causing his chest to freeze up, his breath caught in his throat. The creature turned towards him and pushed him onto his back. Harry raised his hand and shouted for his Patronus. A large, stately stallion burst forth, knocking the Dementer back. As Harry watched the infernal creature flee from his Patronus, Leclerc burst from the cloud and pointed a bony finger at Harry. Out of the air, a spinning circular blade appeared and zoomed towards Harry. The head Auror barely caught sight of the weapon and leaned to the side to avoid its path. Unfortunately, Harry was a split second too slow and the teeth of the blades dug into his thigh, this time forcing a yelp of pain from Harry’s lips. Harry continued his own movement, his momentum carrying him into a roll. Finishing his roll, Harry sent a large fireball streaking towards Leclerc. Andre pulled a black sheet out of the air just as the fire hit him in an explosion of fire and smoke, hit him. The force of the blast knocked him onto the ground, the edges of his robes singed by the heat and flame.

Harry pulled himself up to his feet, favoring the leg that had the wound. He followed up his fireball with a large boulder which tumbled end over end towards the prone figure of Leclerc, just as the older man was focusing back on his prey. His eyes widened as he saw the three ton rock bearing down on him.

***

Ginny cried out as a large gash appeared in Harry’s thigh, the blood more profuse than his other wound. She carefully tore a strip of cloth from her robe and pushed it on top of the wound, trying to staunch the flow.

“Look at that!” The assembled company turned at Lachlan’s voice and stared over at Leclerc, whose robes were smoking and singed.

Ginny turned back to her husband. “Come on Harry, fight him!”

***

Leclerc raised his hand and a long metal rod appeared. From its tip, a ferocious bolt of lightning struck the rampaging boulder, splitting it in two. Harry’s eyes widened and he scrambled to raise his own hand. Another bolt of lightning emanated from the rod and struck Harry directly in the chest, sending him flying across the open space and landing with a thud several meters away. Harry groaned from the pain and struggled to rise. In his ears, the hoarse, gravelly voice of his opponent was cackling.

“You’ve picked up how things work here very well, Potter, but understand who I am. I thrive on your fear. I live for your nightmares. Your pain and your fears make me stronger. Behold!”

He raised his hands and a cloud of gray mist appeared forming an image and finally solidifying into the figure of Lord Voldemort, right down to his red eyes. Harry suffered a sharp intake of breath and watched as Death Eaters from his past appeared next to the dark lord. Voldemort was quiet, but retained the same, sneering smile that Harry remembered. The dark lord raised his hand and pointed his wand off to the side, right at the image of his parents. With a shriek, Harry was forced to experience the death of Lily and James Potter, all over again.

Harry groaned, tears welling up in his face. He recognized the brutal, horrid people in front of him. These were the men and women he’d spent a lifetime defeating and they were back. He saw Barty Crouch, Jr. and Bellatrix Lestrange toying with two people, Neville’s parents, causing excruciating pain. Harry withdrew within himself. The crowd of Death Eaters began to cross the distance to where he lay. He could feel his energy draining from his body. He fell to his knees and shook from the pounding his soul was taking, all the while Leclerc laughed, as if he’d never stop. Another image unfolded, and suddenly, there was Cedric Diggory being struck down by a curse from Peter Pettigrew, holding Voldemort’s wand. Then there was the image of Simon Clark sneering as he drew the life blood from Harry’s body. Finally, the image of Hermione, changed into a vampire, sinking her teeth into Ron’s neck and Harry yelled in horror.

***

Ginny watched in shock as Harry skin turned a ghostly pale. The ashen pallor looked as if he’d been weakened to a desperate state. She felt his skin growing colder, like he’d fallen into a frozen lake and she knew that something had gone increasingly wrong with her husband’s struggle. She rubbed his cheek, trying to convey her own warmth to him. She placed a gentle kiss on his lips.

***

Harry felt warmth in the nightmare of cold on his lips, like sipping on scalding cup of hot chocolate on a frigid winter’s night. He raised his head and looked back at the specters approaching him. Another tableau was playing before him. There was Dumbledore, hobbled by the poisoned wound from the Voldemort’s locket, looking at the spectral image of Severus Snape, pleading for his life. Snape sneered and shot the curse which took Dumbledore’s life and then joined the ranks of the Death Eaters advancing on Harry.

That one image suddenly snapped something in Harry’s head. Harry smiled. Leclerc was trying to use the horror of Harry’s past to weaken him, but he’d made a fundamental mistake. Severus Snape was many things, but above all, he had always been Dumbledore’s man. Leclerc had the memories without the context, like a movie without sound. He knew that Snape had, indeed, killed Dumbledore, but had no idea why. The truth brought a sense of warmth over Harry’s body, as if the knowledge of Snape’s true loyalty and why he’d done what he’d done. Suddenly, Harry felt an inspiration. In this place, his fears could weaken him, perhaps even destroy him, but he loved and admired Snape, and felt better with that knowledge. Dumbledore had always said that love was the greatest magic in the world, could that be the answer here? In this world dominated by the power of the mind, could love also conquer fear?

Harry’s brow furrowed as he concentrated. Suddenly, he felt a warm hand on his shoulder. Ginny was standing next to him, her smile radiating down on him, like the summer sun. He could see every exquisite detail of her face, every strand of fiery red hair, every freckle, every dimple. She reached down and pulled him to his feet. Now a different scene was playing before him. It was their first kiss, down in the Gryffindor Common Room, when they first displayed their love for each other to the world. It cast a warm, orange glow on the dank, cold atmosphere of the place, causing the advancing ghosts to stop in the their tracks.

Harry smiled, feeling a renewed sense of strength. In an instant, the image of Ginny had James standing next to her and she was carrying little Albus in her arms. James was streaking around on his miniature broom, leaving a trail of sparks in his wake, which, when the dust landed, would wipe away the darkness and gloom. More people appeared. Teddy Lupin and Victoire were sitting on a stone bench, seemingly just enjoying a nice chat on a warm spring day. Ron and Hermione appeared, and kissed like the first time, on that fateful day at Hogwarts when the dark lord was finally defeated. A bright light permeated the area, turning into the Room of Requirement during the New Year’s party. All of Harry’s friends, all of the people who loved him were there, smiling, holding hands and enjoying each other’s company. Cho and Dennis held onto to each other lovingly. George and Verity were sharing a joke; Isabella and Dean dancing a salsa to some unheard music. Dudley and Beatrice were sharing a quiet moment in the corner while Neville and Hannah talked unceasingly. Lee and Sarah beamed at the bulge in Sarah’s stomach, the anticipation of a new life beginning. Seamus was there, gyrating madly, much to the delight of Padma Patil.

An aura of light and warmth emanated from the scene and spread out towards the darkness that made up Harry’s fears. Another explosion of light and the crew of the Discooperire stood in front of him. Captain Adelina Baretto stood in her exotic glory, the top buttons of her blouse undone just to something short of scandalous. Muireall Innes rested an arm on Williamson’s shoulder, whispering into his ear and making him blush. The sharp single blue eye of Lockley locked in warm adoration of Sean Manchester who had his chest puffed out in pride. The memories of love and friendship came in a kaleidoscope of images and people and didn’t stop with the living. The Death Eaters began to shrink, unable to stay solid under the torrent of happiness that Harry was unleashing.

Harry smiled as those that had made sacrifices out of love began to filter in. Fred soared in on his broom, winking madly and laughing silently. Remus and Tonks appeared, holding onto each other tightly and walked over to stand beside their son. Colin Creevey appeared, and took a picture of his brother and Cho and then gave them a thumbs up. Dumbledore showed up, looking natty in bright lavender robes, Fawkes, his phoenix resting boldly on his shoulder. Instead of feeling the guilt and the pain of these lost friends, Harry felt an uncontrollable warmth and love. They had all made their choices out of love for others, especially for Harry. The thought made him smile as Sirius Black appeared and patted him on the back. Harry felt unbeatable, his skin glowed from the warmth of the depth of feeling he had. He turned and then his parents were there, standing with Sirius. The friends shared a laugh and Lily walked over and picked up her grandson, James off his broom and they shared a giggle. Harry’s father went and plucked Albus from Ginny’s arms and whirled him around the room. The sight made Harry laugh himself, especially when the figure of Kreacher appeared, to make catch the Potter children, should their spectral grandparents make a mistake. Right alongside Kreacher, Dobby appeared, feeding a snack to Hedwig who sat perched on a roost.

The last of the Death Eaters evaporated into nothingness, unable to withstand the arc of light that was cast on them. Soon all that remained were the images of Voldemort and Snape. Harry smiled as the Snape image conjured by Leclerc vaulted in the air and landed next to Lily, who was still holding on to little James Sirius. Lily smiled at Snape and placed a grateful peck on his cheek. Harry’s father extended a hand to Severus who took it hesitantly and then Harry saw something that he’d only pictured in his dreams. It was a smile on Snape’s face, all at once out of character and yet perfect for what he’d done for him. Snape smiled first at James and then positively burst into laughter when he looked at Lily. This outburst of emotion was too much for the Voldemort image who screamed and then disappeared into nothing.

The love in the room was overpowering and for the first time, Leclerc seemed unsure. The light and the fire danced around his body, like a swarm of fireflies and consumed the last vestiges of his power. His body began to become transparent and he screamed with all of his might at Harry.

“You can’t defeat evil, Potter. There will always be evil. I will always be!” His voice was shrill, edging on panic.

“I know there will always be evil, Leclerc, but you forgot the primary lesson of magic.” Harry turned towards the smiling figure of Dumbledore, who was nodding, like Harry had been a particularly obtuse pupil who finally understood a complex concept that his teacher had been trying to convey. “Love is the greatest magic there is.” Harry smiled at Leclerc as the old man’s body was phasing out of existence. “There will always be evil, Andre, but as for you? You’re days on this world are done.”

The look of realization hit Leclerc then. Harry was right. He blinked out of existence just as he tried to scream, and then, he was gone. Harry took in a deep breath and looked around the room. Everyone was looking at him, even the children and they all smiled. Harry nodded and a bright, blinding flash of light overcame him.

***

Harry groaned. He could feel the pain in his arm and his thigh. He felt a massive pain in his chest and he hesitated to open his eyes.

“Harry?” The voice was plaintive, worried, yet reassuring because it was the one voice he wanted to hear.

He opened his eyes and felt her arms cradling his head. Ginny’s face was near his, worry and relief expressed all at once. Harry smiled at her and then he tried to raise his head.

“Leclerc?”

“He just turned to dust. There’s nothing left.” Ron’s voice carried to him and Harry let his head fall back.

“It’s over.” He stared at Ginny and smiled once more. She bent down and kissed him hard on the lips and for a split second, he forgot his injuries, then he groaned as the pain came back. After a few seconds, he pulled himself up and allowed his wife to help him to his feet. He looked around and saw Manchester walking up to him with Captain Baretto and Commodore Blakely.

“I’m glad you made it Johnston.” Harry shook hands with the large Captain of the Wasp. “What does this do to your aging?”

Blakely laughed. “It’s like a clock starts when we leave Atlantis. We’ve been traveling for three weeks, so now we’re three weeks older. The clock stops when we return.”

Harry nodded and looked over to Manchester. “Were we able to get everyone away?”

“Even better, Harry. The Wasp helped us defeat their army. We lost a lot of good people, but we won. It looks like you managed to cut off the head of the beast.”

Harry looked over at the pile of ash and dust that used to be Andre Leclerc. “Yes sir. It looks like he’s gone. As I see it, we’ve only got one more thing to do.”

Most of the bystanders were puzzled, but Arthur Weasley and General Manchester nodded soberly. Ron held up his hands and shot a questioning look at Harry.

Harry’s smile became grim and then he looked over at Johnston Blakely. “I know you have to head back, but do you fancy a trip?”

The tall, blue-coated man looked back at Harry and nodded, also understanding their last task.

“Where are we going?” Ron’s voice came out in an exasperated plea.

Harry put an arm around his wife and kissed her gently. “Come on Ron, you know I’ve always wanted to visit Xanadu.”

Ron nodded slowly. They had a little unfinished business with the International Confederation of Wizards to attend to.

As one, the survivors of the Ministry army turned and walked up the hill as a stiff breeze struck the pile of ash that had been Andre Leclerc and scattered the once self-stylized master of death to the wind.


***

A/N: OK everyone, I'm back in the saddle. Sorry for the sparse postings, but I had a lot going on over the winter break. I'm refreshed and back at it. So much so that this week will see me unveil another story thread. We're going to have some fun so buckle up and get ready!!!

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  #153  
Old January 8th, 2008, 6:15 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 154 – “In Xanadu Kubla Khan, A Stately Pleasure Dome Decree…”


The silky smooth waters of the sea lapped gently on pristine white beaches near the estuary of the River Alph. The entrance of the river was highlighted by a massive cavern which formed a tunnel to the interior of the green veldt that was spread far and wide across the landscape. The two ships sailed in tandem from the ocean and maneuvered carefully through the cavern entrance and up the river towards the city with round walls and tall spires. Lining the river bank were incense trees which cast off wondrous aromas that reached the witches and wizards who lined the deck of the ships. The river bank merged with easy rolling green hills where butterflies fluttered around beneath the warm glow of the sun. Much like the Coleridge poem (Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a wizard after all, a former Ministry Delegate to the International Confederation of Wizards), the magical plane that housed Xanadu was peaceful and idyllic at first blush.

Arthur Weasley stood on the quarterdeck of the Discooperire, which was leading her sister ship, the Wasp up the sacred River Alph on the seaward approach to the city center of the Confederation. Their approach had been quiet and hopefully, unexpected. Arthur was under no illusion that Leclerc had operated on his own. He might have been the main instigator and the main conspirator, but the bloodshed that had been visited upon Britain had to have been done with the implicit agreement of the international governing body of wizards at the very least. In addition, the embargo that had been visited on his country was still in place and Arthur meant to set things right.

Standing with Arthur, Captain Baretto continued to issue orders to her crew, her obvious delight in being back on the deck of her ship apparent to all around her. She had taken to wearing her tight black riding pants and open white blouse with the red sash with its wicked rapier tucked into the belt. Her bronze skin reflected the gentle warmth of the sunlight and her dancing eyes lit up at the prospect of the approaching action. Nearby, Muireall Innes and Lockley managed the details of running the ship. Muireall, her ruby red hair flying about in the light breeze walked about the deck, checking and double checking the ship’s operation and movement. Lockley moved down to the gun deck, the black eye patch lending an air of lethality to her movements.

William Manchester stood back and consulted with Dawlish and Greenberg. Manchester had decided to take strike teams from both of their battalions, opting to allow Kingsley to return to Hogwarts with the survivors of the students who had volunteered. Both men looked well-rested and energized and ready for action. They poured over maps of the city, fine tuning the last plans for their assault.

Arthur looked back at the trailing ship, the Wasp, the savior of the Battle of Hastings. He picked up the unmistakable dark hair of Harry, whose Aurors and select members of Krum’s Quidditch Squadron were aboard. The Discooperire was loaded to the gunwales with troops, so the second portion of the assault plan required that the flying arm be housed aboard the Wasp. Harry, more so than most others, seemed more ragged for his experience during the battle. It seemed that the wounds he suffered in his mental battle with Leclerc, while not cursed, could not be healed with magic. They were the physical manifestation of psychic wounds, and thus had to heal naturally, in their own time. Nonetheless, Harry insisted on being part of this expedition, to lead the aerial assault. Arthur laughed as he remembered when Harry was selecting the team that would accompany them. Ginny had volunteered with the first lot and Harry had made an attempt to leave her behind. Shaking his head, Arthur almost felt sorry for Harry, but the boy would learn in time: Never tell a Weasley woman what she could and could not do. Glancing back at the Wasp, Ginny’s bright red hair could be seen flying in the breeze.

Arthur heard the light, deliberate footsteps approaching behind him. He turned around and was met with the beautiful vision that was Domina Malfoy. The tall, platinum haired woman offered a tight-lipped smile and he nodded in greeting.

“Mrs. Malfoy, is there something I can help you with?” Arthur’s voice was even and humorous. He smiled with a twinkle in his eye.

Domina seemed a little hesitant and she cast a furtive glance around, making sure no one was within earshot. “I’d like to thank you, Minister, for offering me the opportunity. I just don’t understand why. I’ve done nothing but resist your programs from the start and in many ways, I helped those that would destroy us in their efforts to stop you.”

Arthur hadn’t had a second thought about appointing Domina to replace the late Elphias Doge as the Ministry’s Head of International Cooperation. Hestia Jones, the Ministry delegate to the Confederation had been gravely wounded during the recent fighting and a hole had been left as to who would carry the torch for Britain’s magical community.

“Domina, my dear, no one is more qualified to speak for us than you. Remember, you were the one who alerted us to Leclerc’s doings and you alone are a person that will ensure that we are properly represented when the time comes, of that fact, I have no doubt.” Arthur placed a reassuring hand on Domina’s shoulder. Not one for physical contact, her own doubts and questions allowed her to accept the gesture without flinching.

“I still don’t believe in everything you’re trying to accomplish. I will still stand up for my principles.” In her own mind, she was having difficulty resolving the conflict in her heart about muggles. Her recent interactions with her sister and her husband had cast an ocean of uncertainty on what she had held dear.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less, my dear. In fact, recent events have me questioning some of my own decisions. I might have been a trifle too altruistic for my own good. Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.” Arthur’s mind drifted back to the episode with the goblins. He’d made a serious error in judgment and he wondered when it would rear its ugly head.

Domina nodded her head, surprised that Arthur would admit his own error. She’d always operated under the premise that the Weasleys and Potter were too arrogant for their own good, prideful in the certainty of their cause. Immediately, another preconceived notion had to be discarded. “I’ll do my best, Minister.” She turned and walked away.

***

As dusk approached and the sun settled behind the rustic hills in the west, several small figures leapt into the pink sky from the deck of the Wasp. The Aurors, augmented by the Quidditch Squadron dotted the skyline as they flew towards the city. Adamant that Harry should and would not be an active participant in the action, Manchester had tasked Ginny, George and Lee to provide escort to Harry, keeping him above the fray. Instead, three arms of flyers on broomsticks made their way to their targets. Lachlan McCrory led the first team, comprised of his Aurors and Williamson’s, with the specific task of seizing the land bridge to the city, ensuring that reinforcements could not be brought to their aid. Viktor Krum, flanked by Gwenog Jones and Oliver Wood led the second team to seize the highest spire in order to maintain the high ground for the upcoming assault. Ron was tasked with the most difficult assignment. His team was to seize the harbor entrance, and its portcullis, to allow the ships to sail into the city center. Cavendish’s team flew with Ron, along with several more Quidditch members, including Charlie Weasley and Volkov.

Harry soared above the clouds, gaining altitude to be able to get a bird’s eye perspective of what was going on. Ginny stayed tight this wing, never straying more than a few feet at any one time. George and Lee kept a higher vigil, watchful for danger and trailing Harry was another ten flyers, including Angelina Johnson and Katie Bell. Harry watched as Lachlan’s group reached the land bridge and swooped down. After a few seconds of flashes of spells in the fading light of the evening, the bridge seemed secure. Not a sound emanated from the Confederation’s forces in the city as the assault finished flawlessly.

Harry then turned his attention to Krum’s team which had flown high into the sky and dove down on their target. Their height obscured their approach from the watchful eyes of the sentries posted atop the tower. Harry reached into his bag and viewed the action with his binoculars as Krum and Gwenog quickly dispatched their assigned guards and Oliver destroyed the nearby warning klaxon, again ensuring that Ron’s team would be untouched as it approached its target. All eyes moved towards the small, darkened figures of Ron’s team as they approached their target.

Xanadu was built astride the River Alph, with the sea entrance guarded by a massive wall with an arched opening across the river. Under normal circumstances, a portcullis was lowered to block entrance to the wharf area by ships at night. The city was a bustling port during the day, acting as a way station for cargo ships completing transactions among the wizarding community world wide, but by custom, no business, thus no ships could sail into or out of the city at night. For this reason, the Ministry had decided to make a night assault, reducing the chance that their approach would be seen and could be reported by any of the merchant men sailing in and out of the harbor.

The massive gears for the entrance were housed in two towers located on either side of the river with the arch passing between them. The top of the towers were bastions, filled with sentries that were expert spell casters plus the rumor was that any number of magical creatures was housed in the walls of the towers. Making matters more complicated was that a high approach would not work as the main towers were flanked by other towers and the high city walls, so Ron’s team would have to make its approach low, along the river. Harry held his breath as Ron’s team began its run towards the towers.

***

Ron stayed low along the handle of his broom, Mortimer sticking close on his flank. Taking his hand off his broom momentarily, Ron gave a quick wave and stole a quick glance. Cavendish saw his signal and was leading her team off to the right, her target, the tower on that side of the river. Ron’s team followed him to the left and included both of the so-called Auror trainees, Silas and Mortimer. Ron grinned as he noticed that neither of the good friends were the frightened, unsure trainees that they’d been a year ago. Both had fought well and had saved each other’s lives more than once. Both were extremely loyal to Ron and he knew that as long as they were alive, neither would allow anything to happen to him.

The team skirted the top of the water, their dangling toes coming dangerously close to dipping into the dark liquid as they zoomed into the night, which had reached full darkness. Ron led them towards the twinkling lights of the city as the dark shadows of the ships trailed dutifully behind them. He adjusted his course and flew towards the base of the left hand tower. Pulling mightily on handle, he flew vertically, right up against the tower wall. As he reached the top of the rampart he let go of the handle and landed softly on the top of the tower, sword out. He and his team quickly dispatched the surprised guards and Ron transformed the large alarm gong into sponge. Allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness, Ron led his team towards the dark hole that was the passage into the bowels of the tower which held the gears for the large gate.

Suddenly, his ears rang with the bellow of a loud gong from the other tower. The sound ceased almost immediately, but its peals hung in the air like a heavy mist. Somehow, a more alert guard had gotten off a warning before Cavendish’s team could silence him. Throughout the city, the general alarm rang, warning of the Ministry’s incursion. Ron silently cursed their luck and then led his team into the depths of the tower.

***

Harry’s ears pricked up as the alarm was raised throughout Xanadu. Torches began to flicker along the length of the walls and shouts could be heard from their position. He focused his binoculars on a large swath of fiery light that emanated from the far, northeast corner of the city. A dome located near that location opened up and three menacing figures flew into the dark of the night sky.

“Damn.” Harry’s curse was loud in the relative silence of the air.

Ginny turned towards him. “What is it?”

“Dragons.”

***

The murky, musty stone walls reverberated with the sounds of the alarms in the city as Ron led his team deeper into the bastion. Warily, they passed open doorways, checking for hidden assailants. Already, they’d been accosted by soldiers leaping at them unexpectedly from the dark side passages of the hall. Ron absently rubbed the cut on his forearm where one man had almost succeeded in severing his sword arm before Silas stabbed him in mid-swipe. At the end of the passage, they came to a long, spiral staircase that hugged the perimeter wall of the structure. At the center of the passage, Ron could see the heavy chains that held the two piece portcullis in place. Their destination had to be at the base of the stairs. Leading his team down, the blackness below refused to reveal what was awaiting them.

They descended quickly, in line, swords out, frogs in their throats. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, a bright light illuminated what guarded the chain. Three large mountain trolls and a score of guardsmen, swords out shouted for them to surrender. Ron raised his sword.

“Charge!”

***

Harry watched for several minutes as the dragons circled the city. One made its way to the spire where Krum and his team were keeping vigil. A long finger of flame reached out, to be responded to by the crackling of an explosion as one of Krum’s team mates answered the attack. Quickly, a second dragon joined the fray, lending its fire to the battle for the spire. The third dragon alit atop the tower where Ron had entered, and stared out towards the river, keeping watch. The groan of metal and steel reached his ears as the right hand portion of the portcullis began to inch its way upward. Cavendish’s team had succeeded in their mission. Half the gateway was open, but the inlet wasn’t wide enough for the ships to pass through. Everything depended on Ron’s team and also on the ability to make the dragon move on.

Harry glanced down the river and saw the ships making steady progress towards them. The gate was still down and a dragon guarded the approach. Harry yelled over to Ginny.

“You’ve got to warn them. You’ve got to tell them about the dragon!” Ginny looked at him with a skeptical expression. His own face grew determined, his eyes icy. “Ginny, I need you to do this, please. Everything depends on this.”

She’d seen him like this before. No matter what she said, no matter what she demanded, he was in his persona of the hero, and he was good at what he did. She gave a quick glance to George and Lee, who both nodded, understanding that she was charging them both with Harry’s safety. She gave a smile to her husband and peeled off towards the approaching ships.

***

Ron dove into the middle of the guardsmen, his blast charm followed by quick, efficient swipes with his sword. His team followed him without compunction. As he broke through the line of enemies, Ron noticed that Silas and Mortimer were right on his hip, warding off attacks from the soldiers nearby. The three trolls bellowed with rage and lifted their huge clubs over their heads. The action seemed to slow down for Ron, like a slow motion movie. Carefully analyzing the situation, his mind went back to his early days at Hogwarts, when he and Harry had saved Hermione from the troll in the girls’ bathroom. Ron smiled. Trolls were remarkably formidable in the open, but in confined spaces they could be decidedly clumsy.

“Ropes to their ankles!” Ron drew a bead on the center troll while Silas took the left and Mortimer took the right. Almost immediately, large strands of rope wrapped around the ankles of the rampaging trolls, causing them to fall on their faces. Silas’ troll crashed into the base of the stairwell and fell silent. Mortimer’s fell into Ron’s troll and became hopelessly snarled in its compatriot’s bindings. Both fell with a crash in the center of the floor. Ron ran towards the hapless monsters and leapt on the back of his antagonist. He raised his sword and fired a blasting charm at taut chain, which snapped from the detonation.

A large counterweight began to fall and Mortimer pulled on Ron’s robes, dragging back towards where the rest of the team was mopping up the resistance. The stone slab fell right on top of the area where Ron had been standing and the throaty groan of the portcullis indicated that it was raising up. The last of the enemy was quickly dispatched and Ron led his team up the stairs, intent on going back to the top of the tower. When they reached the entrance to the roof, Charlie reached out and stopped Ron in his tracks. Charlie led them back behind a wall and whispered to Ron.

“Dragon.”

His words were met by a massive ball of flame that barreled through the opening and cascaded down the hall towards them.


***A/N: I must be feeling better about writing...cliffie.


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  #154  
Old January 9th, 2008, 9:11 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 155 – Here Be Dragons…

The heat of the fireball roiled on Ron’s skin. Despite the fire mere inches away, his face took on a shocked, ashen pallor as he turned to look at his brother Charlie. For his part, Charlie had a wistful, faraway look, like he was trying to remember the tune to a long forgotten song.

“Dragons. What the blazes are we supposed to do about dragons?” Ron hazarded a glance around the corner of their protective wall. He whipped his head back quickly as another cascade of light and heat crashed down the corridor.

“Relax, Ron. This will be a cinch.” Charlie’s voice was almost awestruck as he stole a glance back at the creature.

“Relax? It’s a bleeding dragon, Charlie.” Ron’s voice went up an octave, as he was wont to do in stressful times.

“Yeah,” Charlie seemed like he hadn’t heard the note of panic in his brother’s voice. “It’s a beauty, too. Hungarian Horntail by the smell of her flame. Real big one. You don’t see many of those around anymore. You can tell by the almost propane smell of the flames. Plus, she’s probably sixty or so. She’s got good heat in her flame and it comes out almost a light blue, see?”

Ron smacked his hand to his head. “That’s all very nice, Charlie, but we’re cut off by a ruddy dragon, you git! I don’t care what its fire smells like.”

“Take it easy Ron, she’s no trouble at all. When we go out there…”

“Go out there? What are you talking about, Charlie? No one’s going out there.” Ron looked at his brother as if the man had lost complete control of his senses.

Charlie grabbed Ron by his shoulders. “Would you get a hold of yourself? As I was saying, when we go out there, I’m going to need you to create a diversion so I can get to my broom. Once I’m airborne, I’ll take care of the dragon.”

“Diversion? What do want me to do? Put a skewer through my backside and give him a Weasley shish-ka-bob?” Ron gave a hard look towards Mortimer and Silas who were barely containing themselves.

“No, silly. Use your shield charms, you’ll barely feel the heat.” Charlie clapped Ron on the back to reassure his brother. Ron looked back at his two trainees and waved his hand in front to offer to let them go.

“Oh, no, team leader Ron, sir. This is definitely a job for our fearless leader.” Mortimer snorted as Silas’ face turned bright red. Charlie, for his part, looked at the two men.

“Good, you boys have just volunteered. Here’s the plan. Ron will distract the dragon and we go and grab our brooms and lead her off. When I tell you, split up into different directions and hopefully, she’ll follow me.” The snickering immediately stopped.

“Why do we need to go with you, if you want it to follow you in the first place?” Silas’ question was mirrored by Mortimer’s shocked nodding.

“One man on a broom isn’t enticing enough to get a horntail to lift off. Three men look like a meal.” Charlie winked over at Ron who stifled his own laugh. “Ready?”

The three Aurors shared a concerned stare and then Ron ran out onto the roof top.

***

Harry muttered to himself as he saw the dragon atop Ron’s tower heaving balls of flame. Still, Ron had Charlie with him. If anyone could escape being trapped by a dragon, Charlie could do it. The immediate problem was the two dragons fighting with Krum’s group. Viktor’s team was well protected by the stone ramparts of their tower. The problem was that if the ships came around the bend, they would make much more enticing targets for dragons. Harry whipped his head around and looked over at George and Lee.

“Oh no.” George was shaking his head. “Come on, Harry. The general said for you to stay out of the fighting.”

“Technically, I won’t be fighting the dragon, more like I’ll be flying for dear life and luring it away.” Harry gave his best salesman pitch.

“My hind end is going to get singed, isn’t it?” Lee muttered to no one in particular.

“Not if you fly really fast. Look, all we want to do is buy time for the ships to get into the harbor. How hard can it be? I’ve flown with a dragon on my tail before, just make rapid sudden turns.” Harry said in a matter of fact voice.

“You know Harry, just once I want an adventure with you to not involve excitement. Next time, challenge someone to a nice game of chess.” Harry smiled at George’s comment and then dove down towards Krum’s tower, Lee and George close behind.

***

Ron ran out onto the platform after the dragon had sent one last fireball out. According to George, he had at least fifteen seconds before the beast could reignite another flame, plenty of time. As he walked up the ramp and ran out onto the concourse, he yelled madly at the creature. As he looked back, he stumbled on a piece of burnt masonry and crashed to the ground. The dragon focused its sharp red eyes on him and drew a deep breath. Ron muttered his shield charm and waited for the fire to hit him.

It came like a tidal wave of heat and smoke, physically pushing him down onto the ground. While Charlie had been right, he wasn’t immediately incinerated by the flames, he still felt the heat of the stones around him and sweat began pour down his brow. Peering anxiously through the space between the dragon’s legs, he saw Charlie lead Mortimer and Silas around the back of the dragon, towards their discarded broomsticks. The flames receded and the creature let out a howl as it saw its prey still intact. Ron breathed a sigh of relief and then noticed the dragon’s head snapping down towards him, reaching to take a bite. Almost too late, Ron got another shield up, just before the dagger-like teeth tore into his flesh. Its massive foreclaws were tearing at him and the creature was getting more and more agitated at its own frustration. Just as Ron’s shield was reaching its limit, a loud, piercing whistle bellowed through the air.

The dragon turned and immediately spotted Charlie and the two Aurors hovering on the brooms in the sky. Mainly nocturnal hunters, dragons can see in the infrared spectrum and the special whistle that hung around Charlie’s neck radiated a particularly harsh glow that the dragon was drawn to. With a mighty heave, the magnificent creature soared into the air to chase the airborne men.

***

Harry had ordered the other ten flyers to hold their position and then led George and Lee down towards where the twin dragons were engaged with Viktor’s team. Harry swooped in and fired a quick stun spell at the nearest dragon while George and Lee fired at the other. All three spells rebounded off the tough hide of the dragon and had no real affect on the creature. The three men sped past and pulled around to try again. On the next pass, Harry tried a blasting spell, which like his other spell, would likely have very little impact on the creature physically, but the intent was to draw its attention. Again, nothing happened. Harry soared up into the air and orbited.

“Nothing, Harry. We can’t get those things to draw away.” Harry nodded and thought back to the Tri-wizard Tournament. That Hungarian Horntail was more than interested in him then, but why? Suddenly, it dawned on him. He reached into his satchel and drew out two rolled blankets and tossed one to George.

“Hold the blanket out in front of you.” While George held the roll out, Harry unsnapped his wand from its place in his sword and aimed it towards the blanket roll. Soon it had been transfigured into the shape and image of a dragon egg. He then turned the wand on the blanket he’d been carrying and did the same spell. The dragon at the Tournament had been guarding an egg. Maybe that’s what would draw these beasts away.

With a nod, Harry dove down towards his dragon while George and Lee headed for the other. Harry soared in front of the dragon’s eyes and held fabricated egg in front of him. As he passed by, the dragon’s head followed the egg and let out a tremendous roar. Forgetting the wizards in the tower, the dragon turned and followed closely behind the being that had stolen the sacred egg. Harry headed for a deserted city street, the dragon close behind him. He hazarded a glance back and saw that the other dragon had been drawn off as well. Seeing the entrance to a narrow alley, Harry turned sharply and followed down its high walled interior, just as a blast of flame whipped down where he’d been going. The chase was on.

***

“Weave!” Charlie shouted to the Aurors, ordering them to crisscross behind him. He’d needed their help so that he could prepare for his next action. Charlie reached into the saddlebag attached to the back of his broom. Fortunately for him, his broom was still rigged for his real job, as a dragon wrangler. He felt around the bag and began donning the various pieces of gear. First, he strapped on some leather knee pads which had short spikes on the inside of the knee. Next he pulled on some long, leather gauntlets that had rounded metal studs on the palms. Last, he pulled out a long tether and attached one end to his ankle and the other to his broom. Finally, Charlie was ready to take care of the dragon that was literally hot on their tails.

“On three, breakaway!” He shouted to Mortimer and Silas, who nodded.

“One! Two! Three!” At the last count, Charlie blew his whistle and pulled up high into the air. Mortimer broke left and Silas broke right. The dragon continued its pursuit of the man with the loud whistle. Charlie noted with satisfaction that the Aurors had successfully pulled away. He drew his wand and inserted it in a custom cut notch in his gloves which freed his palms. He leveled off and made sure to randomly turn left and right to avoid the dragon’s fiery replies. Quickly, Charlie pushed down on the broom, causing it to dive and hold its place, allowing the creature to pass over him.

Dragons don’t sleep, so putting them to sleep was a nearly impossible. Dragons can, however, relax. They were basically magical reptiles, and as such, were cold blooded animals, susceptible to colder conditions. Most of their bodies were covered with scales, save for their soft underbellies. As the dragon passed over him, it exposed its vulnerable underside for a brief second. Charlie raised his wand.

“Congelo!” A bright blue finger of light passed down the underside of the dragon. Ice crystals began to form as the freeze spell lowered the dragon’s heart rate and relaxed its mood. It could still fly, but it did so less aggressively. Charlie allowed its massive tail to pass by him and then flew up and over the dragon. Once atop the dragon’s back, Charlie jumped down and landed on its spiny backbone. He clapped his knees together tightly, the spikes on his pads holding him firm to the dense scales. Dragon scales were a lot like shark skin, in that, if you rubbed them in the wrong direction, their razor sharp edges were enough to shear off a finger. Charlie was careful as he scooted up the back of the dragon, using the knee pads and the gauntlets to pull him along.

About midway up the neck, he found what he was looking for. A thick, iron band, studded with rubies and emeralds was affixed snugly to the dragon. Pointing the hand with his wand protruding from the glove, Charlie cut the metal band. It still remained in place. Pulling with all his strength, Charlie slowly removed the band. It had long, gold spikes attached to the inside wall, which had been imbedded through the scales and into the dragon’s flesh. Wizards who wanted to control dragons had to physically bore holes into the neck to allow the spikes to penetrate. Charlie knew he had to hurry as the dragon was warming up, its stupor soon to end.

“Episkey.” Charlie healed the deep wounds on the creature and patted its neck affectionately, even though it was extremely doubtful the creature even felt the gesture. Charlie shinnied up the neck until he was just behind its head. He reached out both his hands and felt for two small membranes located just behind the creature’s eyes. He placed the smoothed metal studs on the palms of his gloves on the membranes, just as the creature came back to full fury.

“That’s all right, girl. Charlie just wants you to take him to your sisters.” Charlie spoke softly into the ears of the beast. The real communication was through the membrane. As he twisted and turned his hands, the dragon flew where it was directed. Charlie gained his bearings and spotted the tell tale orange light of dragon fire. He turned his new mount towards the light.

***

Lee and George took turns holding the pseudo-dragon egg. The creature would cast flames and the fire was getting nearer and nearer each time. The men would drop various Weasley fireworks items, hoping to gain distance on the creature, but its pursuit was relentless.

“We can’t keep this up forever.” George shouted to Lee.

Lee nodded. “We’re going to have to drop the egg soon. Oh no, look!” Lee pointed up behind their pursuer. Another winged shape was closing on them from above. A second dragon was coming for them. Either Charlie’s dragon had escaped or Harry was dead and his dragon was coming for them.

Before they could say another word, they spotted a dark shape dropping from the other dragon and landing on top of the one chasing them.

***

“You head on home now, okay dearie?” Charlie almost cooed the words into the dragon’s ear. The dragon chortled and blew a small fire ball from its nostrils. Giving it one more pat on the back of the neck, Charlie leapt from his mount and fell down onto the dragon that had chasing George and Lee.

This one had not been “relaxed” and it sensed a rider almost from the beginning. It began to buck and weave to knock whatever was on its back off. Charlie held on grimly and began to work his way up the dragon’s back. One particularly nasty reflex the creature had was to ripple the muscles of its body, causing the scales to work their way back and forth. Charlie winced as the edge of a scale caught on his forearm, creating another scar to match the myriad already there.

Ignoring the pain, he pulled himself up and dispatched the control collar that was located on the dragon’s neck. The creature roared in excitement and began to do barrel rolls, ignoring its intended victims. Charlie smiled to himself and let go of his hold on the dragon, allowing his body to go into a free fall. Tugging on the leash bound to his leg, he pulled up his broom and quickly sat astride it. Two down, one more to go. Charlie joined George and Lee and began to search for Harry. Unfortunately, the head of the Office of Aurors was nowhere to be seen.

***

Harry found a long aqueduct and began to weave in and out of its pillars, trying to create some distance between him and his determined pursuer. The dragon, occasionally, would miss an opening and crash through a piling, sending stone and mortar flying all around. Harry had long before discarded his fake egg, as the dragon had decided that this encounter was personal and was determined to take down the man fleeing its wrath. At the end of the aqueduct, Harry came to a point where the city wall abruptly halted his forward progress. He pulled up, aiming to follow the wall up and over. The delay had allowed the dragon to close the distance and reach a talon out towards Harry, which grazed his back, shredding his robes and cutting into his shoulder blade. Harry felt shockwaves of pain, but was able to hold on and keep his Firebolt on track, the dragon directly behind him. When he reached the top of the wall, he pushed forward on the handle and sent the broom horizontal over the city wall, just as another tongue of flame shot out, striking him with a glancing blow, causing even more pain to radiate through the wound in his back.

Harry began to see stars, and struggled to just maintain his seat on the broom. His vision was blurry and he was beginning to go into shock from the pain of his injury. He fought through his discomfort and began to weave madly, back and forth, but he knew that he was almost out of options. He could almost feel the hot breath of the dragon on his neck and he knew the next blast would be the one that took him out. Thinking of Ginny and the kids, Harry continued to fly away from the city, hoping to draw it far enough from the ships and keep them out harm’s way.

“Hang on, Harry!” Harry looked up and saw Charlie swooping down from ahead and diving under the dragon, his wand extended. He watched in awe as Charlie froze the dragon and its attacks and bellows immediately ceased. The creature was just gliding along, in an almost lazy manner. Harry chuckled to himself and then felt his body weakening. Just before he fell, George and Lee came up on either side of him and each took his arm and started leading him back to the city. Barely conscious, Harry saw Charlie leap onto the back of the dragon and begin the process of setting it free. He smiled to himself. Xanadu was guarded by dragons, what were the odds that they’d have an expert on dragons in the expedition? Then, he passed out.

***

Harry let out a groan. He was lying on a stone floor and his back and head ached. He opened his eyes to find Ron staring down at him.

“You had us worried there, mate.” Ron smiled.

“Wha- What happened?” Harry looked around. They were on the tower that Ron’s team had taken.

“The ships are coming through the gate now. I’m sure the International Confederation of Wizards will be quite surprised.” Ron watched as the ships headed for empty spots on the wharf. “The Minister of Magic has come to pay a social call.”

Harry chuckled and immediately regretted the effort. Ron gave him a concerned look.

“You’re hurt pretty bad. We’ve repaired the damage, but the injury is still there. You’re going to be laid up for while.” Ron checked his bandages and then patted him on the back.

“Thanks, Ron. Let’s not tell Ginny how close the dragon came, okay? She’ll be right upset with me.”

“Um, Harry…” Ron stuttered.

“Come on, Ron. She didn’t want me to go acting all foolish and I went and played chicken with a Hungarian Horntail by myself. Let’s just tell her I fell off my broom, okay?”

“But, Harry, um…” Ron tried to interrupt his friend, and was actually grateful Harry sounded out of his mind. It might help in his defense later.

“Ron, you’re my best friend. Help me out here. Just don’t tell Ginny…”

“Don’t tell Ginny what?” Harry froze and turned to see that Ginny had been standing there the whole time. Her face was locked in angry mask.

Harry rolled his eyes and welcomed the onset of unconsciousness as the pain overcame him once more. His last conscious thought was to wonder how comfortable his sofa really was.


***A/N: For all you dragon afficianados, I made up the details, so don't correct me please. And please, ladies, I need some input as to who I should hook old super Charlie up with.

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  #155  
Old January 10th, 2008, 4:30 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 156 – The Honorable Domina Malfoy

Manchester stood beside the wooden rail of the Discooperire as Captain Baretto nimbly guided the vessel through the open maw of the Xanadu’s protective gate. Silently, the ketch skirted a moored vessel and slid into an open spot on the wharf, while the Wasp did the same across the river. With a nod of her head to Muireall, Baretto watched as her first mate directed crewmembers on the bow and stern of the ship as they magically impelled ropes around iron bollards on the shore and drew the ship snugly to the side of the pier. Just before the great wooden hull of the ship made contact with the pier, several hundred Ministry warriors leapt over the side and landed on the darkened quay, armored and alert for trouble.

On the approach to the city, Greenberg and his assault team of pseudo-jedi had been transferred to the Wasp and a similar debarkation was occurring across the way. Manchester vaulted over the rail of the ship, his kilt flying with the motion and landed ably on the pier. He raised his hand to Dawlish, who began to lead his assault team towards the center of the city. Along the way, the streets were silent, the denizens of Xanadu either ignoring the alarms that had been ringing throughout the city or having run away to fight the Ministry teams deeper in. Manchester could not be sure, but kept his soldiers on the run, making for their objective.

In the city center, a large, domed building rose above the rooftops of the various buildings. This was the seat of the International Confederation of Wizards. Inside, delegates from the various wizarding countries would meet to determine the course of policy for the wizarding world. The city was round in shape, with its streets laid out in a hub and spoke pattern, with the dome in the center of the hub. The resulting pie sections of living quarters had been planned to be segregated by national origin. One slice housed the delegates and staff from Asia, another from South America. Over time, countries with similar interests had taken to sharing a particular regional section. Four entire sections of the city housed the delegations from the countries that dominated the congregation, mostly made up of the same nations that had participated in the invasion of Britain. In planning his assault, Manchester had determined to traverse the section that included the delegations from Britain, Australia and the United States, a move designed to engender the least amount of resistance for his teams.

As they approached the American Embassy, a tall, broad man stepped from gates of the compound and raised his hand in greeting to the advancing body of armed warriors. Dawlish, in the lead, called for a halt and the ranks of wizards and witches parted as Manchester and Arthur made their way to the front of the formation. The man stood idly, trying to assume a posture that lacked in any type of threat to the obviously veteran soldiers. Arthur stepped up to the man. He wore a royal blue robe and stood almost a full head taller than the Minister of Magic. He was surprisingly young, with black eyes and tanned skin and a full head of flowing blonde hair. He had an easy grace for someone of his size and a comfortable smile, which he directed at Arthur as he extended a hand to the Minister.

“Minister, my name is Samuel Taylor, United States ambassador to the Confederation. I’m so glad you were able to make it here.” Taylor looked over to the spot where Stanley Greenberg was standing and nodded in greeting. “I’m so glad our efforts to assist you were successful.”

“Ambassador, on behalf of my people, I’d like to thank you for your nation’s and Australia’s contribution to the defense of our country. Your volunteers have earned our undying gratitude for their sacrifice in our name.” Arthur also waved to Stanley, who was visibly touched and moved behind the banner being held by his brother. “Time is short, unfortunately, Mr. Ambassador. I believe it is in our best interest to keep moving.”

“I agree, but I think you’ll find rather easy going. Much of the wizard contingent that participated in the assault came from the levees from Xanadu. Part of how General Secretary Yakov was able to field an army for Leclerc was to strip the city’s guard’s contingent. Still, the plan you have is a good one and I recommend we move directly for the Assembly Hall. I will, of course, accompany you.” Taylor turned and began to walk up the street, joined by the Minister and his army.

The walk didn’t take long. Xanadu had been built from the ground up for only one purpose, to house the meetings of the International Confederation of Wizards. There were no “original” sections of the city, with everything purpose built. The movement to the Assembly Hall went smoothly. As they neared the massive doors, Arthur made out ranks of soldiers arrayed on the street, facing them. He turned to Manchester who had a grim look on his face.

For his part, Manchester took mental stock of the forces blocking his path. There were four lines of soldiers with several trolls weaving behind the lines, swinging their massive clubs. Still, despite the numbers, they were far less than he’d expected.

“Mr. Dawlish, would you please tell those people over there that the Minister of Magic seeks an audience with the assembled Confederation?” Manchester gripped his riding crop tightly beneath his arm and then turned towards Stanley. “Mr. Greenberg, if you would be so kind as to help Mr. Dawlish with the expression of our intent?”

Both men shared brief looks and then pointed their swords at the armed force. Without words, the Ministry army attacked. The difference between this battle and the one that had been fought on the plains in England was twofold. First, the Ministry army was battle hardened, its warriors had been to the brink of total destruction and had survived and won. Secondly, the enemy they were fighting were the left overs. These were the soldiers that had not been deemed fit enough to accompany Leclerc’s two legions to the battle. The fight, such as it was, did not last long. Even with the trolls, the Ministry army had quickly disarmed the faction opposing them and stood victoriously before the entrance to the main Assembly Hall.

The mighty doors had been opened and Arthur led his leadership team into the main meeting area of the Assembly Hall. The room they entered was vastly huge, the size of a sports stadium. It had a high, domed ceiling whose color mirrored the blackish purple of the evening sky. Embossed on the roof were the outlines of the continents of the earth, with lines of light delineating the different countries that were represented by the body. There were tiers upon tiers of desks and seats arranged in a circular pattern surrounding a central, circular table in the center with a large podium at one end of the room. Behind the podium was an ornate, golden throne, the seat reserved for the General Secretary.

For almost two thousand years, the International Confederation of Wizards met in this place to detail the laws for the wizarding community. The central table was generally reserved for the ruling council, whose members had ostensibly been drawn from the membership at large. As with all political bodies, a certain degree of influence was exercised by a “ruling class” of countries; mostly drawn from Continental Europe, but also it included Madagascar, which had been seeing its role grow for the past six hundred years or so as it aligned its interests with the governing caste. As a result, most of the ruling council was drawn from these favored nations, with the exception of one or two seats that were granted to less desirable nations in a cosmetic gesture. One unwritten tradition was that the General Secretary had always been from one of four countries, Bulgaria, France, Lichtenstein and Austria, which were all members of the ruling class. Gabner Yakov was the current General Secretary and had held the post for almost eighty years. Not much was known of his background, other than he’d been mentored by Andre Leclerc before he became a delegate and then the youngest General Secretary. The room was quiet, despite the activity of a few hundred armed soldiers taking position along the perimeter wall.

“Mr. Ambassador?” Arthur walked towards the podium and looked around. “Would you be so kind as to ask the General Secretary for a word?”

Taylor smiled and looked over to Greenberg who quietly detailed ten men to accompany the Ambassador. They walked to a doorway located behind the throne and entered. Within minutes they returned, leading a short, overweight man who used a cane to walk. Gabner Yakov was dressed in silver pajamas with a midnight blue robe that had a silver belt tied around waist. He was diminutive, the top of his head barely reaching the tall American Ambassador’s waist. On his feet wore a pair of fuzzy pink slippers that were in the shape of baby dragons. He shuffled more than he walked and his pale blue hair was in wild disarray, as if he’d come directly from his bed. He had a pair of thick, black rimmed glasses that magnified his gray eyes to all that looked at him and the glasses seemed to be suspended in mid air as his nose was virtually nonexistent as it was so small.

“Ah, Secretary Yakov. Please, sit down.” Arthur conveyed the old man to one of the seats around the governing council’s table. Once the man had found a place, Arthur sat down across from him and smiled. “My name is Arthur Weasley. I am the Minister of Magic for Great Britain and you, sir, have been a very naughty boy.”

At hearing Arthur’s name, Yakov’s face became noticeably pale. He’d not heard from Leclerc in quite some time, which was not unusual. Leclerc had plucked him from a gypsy camp as a child almost two hundred years ago and made him his instrument within the Confederation. Tonight’s events were the first indication that Leclerc might have failed in his task. Still, Yakov was a skilled politician and he soon gathered his composure.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Weasley. The fact that you have an armed party in these peaceful halls would indicate to me that the wrong doing is entirely on you.” Yakov leaned back and smiled thinly at Arthur, who did not skip a beat.

“Are you saying that Andre Leclerc acted without your knowledge in invading my country with the intent of committing genocide and the blockade imposed by the Confederation was not related to that invasion?” Arthur’s tone was decidedly calm, but there was a sharp edge in his voice.

“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. The embargo was agreed upon based on the violations of international edict your country committed by granting emancipation to beings that were not wizards and your insistence on not recognizing the difference between pure blooded wizards and half breeds.” There was a decided sneer in his voice. “Andre Leclerc is a dedicated public servant for this body and whatever he might have done was probably done with the best intent. When he returns from his vacation, I will ask him myself.”

Arthur’s patience was wearing thin. “Andre Leclerc is dead as is his entire army, six thousand wizards and witches that he threw into the meat grinder and turned into undead automatons. Considering the losses we sustained in thwarting his and your plans, I would tread lightly when lauding the miserable life of Mr. Leclerc. In fact, I would give serious consideration as to what your own fate will be, given the mood my countrymen are in at this moment.”

Even with his experience, Yakov was floored by the news. Never could he imagine a loss of the magnitude Weasley described. Perhaps a setback at worst, but the entire expedition wiped out. It was inconceivable. “I’m sorry, Mr. Weasley, did you say that they were all dead?”

“What did you expect when you employ chupacabras, keres and Inferi? Your people are nothing but dust and ash, as is Mr. Leclerc. I know you drew from Xanadu’s guard and from the sitting delegations as well. You have lost big, Mr. Secretary. The only questions you should be asking are what happens now and what shall we do with you?” Silently, Lockley had moved up behind Arthur and in full view Yakov, had drawn a wicked looking dagger and was running it slowly up and down a whetting stone, sharpening its edge. She had an evil sneer on her face and the one visible eye danced with the prospect of what the Secretary’s fate would be.

Yakov was at a loss. For most of his main decisions, he was told what to do and what to say by Leclerc. For the first time in his eighty years as the Confederation’s leader, he was being asked to make a decision and he didn’t know what to do. Frankly, he thought, there was nothing to do. The army that Leclerc had taken did consist of the majority of delegates from the ruling countries, including every single member of the ruling council, save for Samuel Taylor, who sat quietly in his usual seat, watching the proceedings.

“What would you have me do?” His shoulders slumped as his brain tried to determine his options.

As if he was reading Yakov’s mind, Arthur reclined in his seat. “As I see it, you have two options. You can refuse us and try to fight. You’ll be immediately arrested and I will dissolve this Confederation permanently, erasing its influence on any country’s laws or operation. Of course, what this means for you is that I cannot guarantee that you will survive the voyage to Azkeban, given how upset my people are.” Lockley’s ministrations on her knife grew louder, more terrifying. Arthur continued as if he didn’t hear. “Your other option is to call an immediate session and resign, nominating another General Secretary who will guide the Confederation in modifying its ways. I will then turn you over to the Americans here.” Arthur nodded over to Taylor. “Who have assured me that you will make it to their prison facility at Alcatraz where you will spend the rest of your natural life. The choice is yours.”

“I know which one I want him to choose.” Lockley spoke out loud, but her eye never left Yakov’s.

“I suppose you want me nominate Mr. Taylor to replace me, or your Mr. Doge?” The mention of Elphias’ name struck a chord with Arthur.

“No, not at all, you self serving scum. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that Mr. Doge died in the defense of his nation. Mr. Taylor will lead the reconstituted ruling council, since he is the last member of that body to survive. No, Mr. Yakov, this is the person you will nominate and who you will take all direction from in the transfer of power.” Arthur waved his hand and Domina Malfoy strode forward, to take a seat next to Arthur. Yakov seemed genuinely surprised at the choice.

“As you may or may not know, Mr. Yakov, I’m quite the muggle aficionado.” Arthur ignored Yakov’s surprise. “One thing I admire most about the muggles is how well they adapt to changing times. Here we are in a new century, and their world has changed several times in the past two thousand years. The wizarding world would do well to follow that example. We never change, we never adapt, it’s always status quo.” Arthur knew his words were more for Domina than Yakov. “Well, Mr. Yakov, the world has changed, and you and your kind are no longer part of it.” Arthur stood and walked around the table. He leaned close into the man’s ear.

“You have no idea how lucky you are. If I had my way, you would have never been allowed to rise from your bed tonight. You brought a lot of pain and suffering on my people, and in my mind, you deserve to die. Make no mistake, one day, while you while away your days in prison, I may still decide that your life serves no useful purpose. One day, when you least expect it, I just may send someone to finish you off. Remember, you are on borrowed time, Yakov, your life is forfeit to me. You’re dead already. I simply haven’t decided when or if I’m going to collect.” Arthur had spoken in a whisper, so only the old man knew what he’d said. Whatever color that had remained in his face was completely gone and subtly, Yakov inched closer to Taylor in order to demonstrate his willingness to cooperate.

Arthur stood and looked over to Dawlish, who started moving people out of the room. As he walked out towards the exit, Arthur stopped and faced Yakov. “Remember what I told you and cooperate fully with the Honorable Domina Malfoy. Oh, and Mr. Yakov? I wouldn’t cross Mrs. Malfoy. Between the two of us, I’m the nice one.” Arthur left the room as Yakov looked across the table at Domina, whose beautiful features were caressed by what could only be called a feral, deadly smile.

***

Captain Baretto had loaned her cabin for Harry to rest in. When he regained consciousness, he immediately spotted Ginny sitting in a chair nearby.

“What? Ginny? Where am I?” He looked around, confused. His pain was still there, but more a dull ache.

“We’re on the Discooperire. Everything is fine, my dad has pretty much put this thing to bed.” Her voice was terse, only providing information.

Harry noticed her tone immediately. “Look, Ginny, I’m sorry. I had to do something.”

“You always have to do something, Harry. If it’s not Voldemort, it’s Malfoy. If it’s not Mephisto, it’s vampires. You always have to be the one that has to sacrifice.” She stood up and paced the room. “I’m sick of it, Harry! I know you’re an Auror. I know you have a dangerous job, but you put yourself out beyond what’s expected, every time. You’re a selfish git.” Exhausted, Ginny plopped down in her chair and stared out the window.

Harry was confused by her outburst. She’d never been this way before, even during all the events she mentioned. Slowly, he pulled himself up and rose from his bed. With considerable effort, he ignored the jolts of pain from his movement and limped over to where she sat.

“What is it, Ginny? What’s really bothering you?” Something told him that her anger had a deeper root, not just because he’d had a run in with a dragon.

Her voice was low, distant. “You’ve got to stop always being the ‘One’, Harry. You’ve got responsibilities. You’ve got a family that needs you around. I’m not asking you to stop being an Auror, but you need to get out of the Saving the World business.”

“I know I’ve got a family, Ginny. You and boys mean the world to me. You’ve always known what the job entails and who I am. What’s different about now?”

“I’m pregnant, Harry. I’m about three months in. With this war, I didn’t want to tell you, but that’s the way it is. I can’t do this without you. You’ve got to stop being the only hero.” Ginny stood and looked out the stained glass window that covered the door to the quarterdeck. “Look out there, Harry. There is a world of people who will share the burdens of whatever happens in the future. I’m not saying to not be you, what I’m saying is to stop being you all by yourself.”

He was dumbfounded by her news and by what she had to say.

Her voice softened and she smiled at him. “What I love most about you, Harry is your willingness to sacrifice yourself. You’ve done that, over and over again. One day, your willingness will require the sacrifice to be real. You won’t be able to survive it. I want you there for James and Albus and whoever this is here.” She patted her stomach. “But most of all, I want you to be there for me. The truth is, I can’t live without you.”

He was flustered, but the more he thought about it, the more the truth of her words resonated with him. On every occasion someone had to give themselves up, he’d always been the one. Was he being arrogant? Did he actually believe he was the only one that could do the job? Was he really buying into this whole “chosen one” persona?

“You’re right, Ginny. I’m sorry.” He limped over to her and took her in his arms. He turned her face towards his. “A baby?” She nodded. “That’s wonderful.” He kissed her gently, stroking her hair, her lilac scent overwhelming him. In that kiss, he made his commitment. Harry was ready to enter the next phase of his life. He was not alone.


***A/N: OK, now we can go and have some fun....Hermione has some news for RON!!!

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  #156  
Old January 11th, 2008, 3:17 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 157 – Catching Up

***A/N: Just a series of vignettes to catch us up on some loose ends and then bring us in line with the Lupin story.

For years, the four stone walls surrounding him had been his home. Every so often, a black-garbed Auror, shielded behind a blank, white mask would open his cell door and escort him to his work area. Inside a large, rectangular room, a large pile of cubic stone blocks reached almost to the ceiling on the far side. His task was to move the blocks to the other side of the room. The time it took him to complete the task would vary, but he was slowly losing any concept of time, so he’d begun to look forward to the chore, as a break in the solitary monotony of his existence. His hate had sustained him for a long time, but hate was not hope and without hope or love, his hate had finally turned to despair and despair to resignation. He would die here and whoever he’d been outside these walls was gone forever.

He heard the rustle of a key in the lock of his cell. Even though his duty assignment occurred at irregular intervals, he’d just returned within the last hour, so it was impossible for it to be another bout with his labor of Sisyphus. Two of the unidentifiable and indistinguishable Aurors walked into the room and the first paralyzed the prisoner before he could speak. Soon, they were pushing his inert body down the maze of corridors. After a long turn through the twisting passageways, they stopped at a large intersection that marked Azkeban’s main prisoner reception area and pulled him into an adjacent holding cell. They propped him up against the wall and turned to leave. Before exiting the room, the guard who had frozen him raised his wand and released him from the spell’s hold.

“Prisoner 323, you will remain here. Any movement past the table towards the door will be treated as an attempt to escape and you will dealt with harshly.” Prisoner 323 nodded slightly and stood to watch their exit. He looked around him. The room was almost three times as large as his cell. In the center was a rectangular wooden table with four chairs arranged in pairs on either side. Gratefully, he sat down and let his eyes adjust to the bright light in the room. On the opposite wall, near the door, a large, mirror covered the length of the bare wall. The man snorted, obviously it was a two-way mirror, allowing his jailers the opportunity to keep a close watch on him. He took in his reflected image in the glass. His cheeks were gaunt, he’d lost weight. His long, platinum locks were starting to whiten more from the strain of imprisonment than the ravages of age. He’d grown facial hair, which he’d been allowed to groom into a goatee which hung on his narrow chin. His cold gray eyes had lost their luster. He shook his head and began to wonder why he’d been brought here.

The answer to his question came through the door. He sneered lightly and nodded to the man who walked into the room.

“Potter.”

Harry entered the room. Prisoner 323 noticed that his nemesis seemed taller, more mature. He walked with a pronounced limp, as if favoring one leg over the other. His movements were careful and precise, but his expression was solemn, committed. Harry’s viridian eyes blazed with a fire and he smiled with almost a haughty contempt for the man seated before him.

“Hello, Lucius. Life treating you well?” Harry stood near the doorway and stared at Lucius Malfoy, noting that his old enemy seemed somewhat smaller, he looked almost beaten. He was a different man from the one that had tried to kill him at Cape Wrath.

“I’m surviving. What do you want, Potter? I’m sure that there isn’t a single thing I can do for you. After all, my current situation doesn’t exactly lend itself to being current on events.” Malfoy leaned back and studied Harry. The silver Auror’s shield on Harry’s breast shone with a bright blue streak indicating the award of the Order of Merlin, First Class, with several hash marks, indicating subsequent awards of the same medal. Mr. Potter had been busy since Malfoy had last seen him.

“Head of the Office of Aurors, I see, you’ve done well for yourself. I suppose Shacklebolt is scraping the bottom of the barrel.” Lucius felt invigorated with being able to still engage in the verbal joust.

Harry laughed. “Actually, Arthur Weasley is the Minister of Magic. I’ll convey your congratulations to him when I see him next.”
Weasley? Malfoy’s head spun. The world was, indeed, coming to an end if that mudblood loving fool could be the head of government. Fortunately, Narcissa and Draco were still out there, still functioning. He clung to the last hope that his wife was helping to keep the sanctity of the blood with all that was going on in the world. The thought emboldened him.

“Why are you here, Potter? What do you want from me?”

“Actually, I’m here to do something for you, Lucius. I have a debt to fulfill to your son.” Harry turned and spoke out into the hallway. “Bring in Prisoner 412.”

Two more Aurors walked in, moving a frozen body into the room. Malfoy’s heart stopped as he instantly recognized the blonde locks and the brilliant blue eyes of his wife, Narcissa. The Aurors left her leaning against a wall and exited the room. With a wave of his hand, Harry released her from the bonds of their spells, much to the amazement of Malfoy, who’d not seen Harry draw his wand the entire time. Narcissa’s eyes came into focus and she stared at Harry, hate and fear in her eyes. She scanned the room and caught sight of her husband. She gave a wary glance back at Harry, who nodded and then she practically ran to Lucius’ side, embracing him as if no one else was around. After a few moments, Harry cleared his throat, calling for their attention.

“Lucius, your wife has turned into a far more evil person than you. Only through the willing intervention of your son Draco, were we finally able to stop her, but only after she’d cost a lot of lives and a lot of pain.” Harry’s voice had an edge to it.

“Draco? Draco turned her in?” Malfoy was incredulous. “I knew that boy was weak.”

“Quite the contrary, Lucius, Draco was very brave. He felt the lives of his wife and child were far more important than the petty whims of his mother.” Harry stared at Lucius as the older man processed the fact that he had a daughter-in-law and a grandchild. He stared at Narcissa who smiled back.

Harry continued. “Draco only had two conditions for his help. First, that I not kill your wife, which was the hardest thing to agree to, considering what she had done.” Harry gave Narcissa a hard stare, and Lucius was firmly convinced that if left to his own devices, Potter would, indeed, kill his wife. “The second condition was that for the duration of your life sentences, you two would have an opportunity to be together, if only briefly. So, here is the deal. Once a week, you will be placed in the same cell for exactly fifteen minutes, no more. You will be watched, because, frankly, I don’t trust either of you. The intervals will be random, but at least you will have the opportunity to be together.”

Malfoy could barely believe what he was hearing. The cloud of despair began to dissipate slowly. His elation was quickly tempered as Harry slammed his open hand down the table.

“Understand one thing. This is a one shot deal. If either of you slip up, even once, if you try to escape, cause trouble, either together or individually, the visits will stop, forever.” Harry stood to his full height and stared at both of them. “Personally, I hope you mess this up. How a man like Draco Malfoy could be related to either of you is beyond me. That gives me hope in our society. The apple can fall as far from the tree as possible.” Harry turned to leave. “Your first visit starts now.” Then he walked from the room and out the door, leaving the Malfoys to their new lives.

***

Ron toted the heavy bag over his shoulder and worked his keys with one hand and opened the door to his flat. Before he could drop the bag and shut the door, he was buried in a tangle of brown hair and arms. Hermione drove her face into his chest and he wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. An insistent tug on his pants forced him to draw apart from his wife. He looked down and saw the face of his daughter, Rose, who had a rather cross look on her face.

“Daddy! Where have you been?” Just turned three, Rose’s face looked bossy. Her stance, with her hands on her hips and her body weight shifted to one side perfectly mimicked her mother. Ron laughed, despite his daughter’s obvious scolding tone.

“I had to make sure my team got home all right, Peaches. You wouldn’t want them to get lost, would you?” Ron picked her up and she didn’t fight the gesture, instead her face broke into a big smile.

“That’s okay, Daddy. Mommy was sad. She missed you.” Ron held rose up to his chest and she played with the necklace around his neck. “I missed you, too, but not like Mommy.”

Ron looked over to his wife, whose face had a relieved expression, although her eyes were puffy and red, like she’d been crying. “Really? Mommy missed me? I missed Mommy and you, too.” Ron leaned over and kissed his wife deeply.

When the parted, Hermione finally mustered the composure to speak. “Are you all right? Were you hurt?”

“No, I wasn’t hurt. Harry took a beating, but I’m fine Hermione.” His voice was confident, self assured. Hermione led him into the living room and Ron gently placed his daughter on the floor. Content that all was right with the world, Rose ambled off to play with her toys. Ron and Hermione sat on the sofa together and held each other, while watching their daughter.

“How were things on the home front? Did you have any problems?” Hermione had been designated the temporary Minister of Magic, the senior head of state, should the Ministry army fail in its task.

“Not really. I was concerned when the goblins flooded Diagon Alley. They came in and took all their assets out of Gringott’s and then disappeared. No one has seen them since.” Hermione watched as a scowl crossed Ron’s face.

“Ruddy goblins. They abandoned us at the worst time. A lot of good people died because they didn’t help us when it mattered. I can’t believe my Dad let them have wands. They’ll be trouble, you can bet on it.” Ron’s momentary agitation with the goblins passed as he looked at his wife.

“I missed you, Hermione. I missed you something fierce. I don’t know how I’d live without you and little Rose. You two were all I thought of. Well that and the big dragon we ran into.” He chuckled to himself.

“Dragon? You ran into a dragon? Where?’ Hermione wasn’t afraid or terrified, but actually quite interested.

“In Xanadu, my team got trapped by a big Hungarian Horntail, but Charlie was there. He made short work of the three dragons. Harry got nicked a bit. I don’t think he’ll be running any marathons any time soon.” Ron chuckled and shared with Hermione the encounter between Harry and Ginny.

“I don’t blame her for being upset. Harry had to be taken to task.” Hermione was firm in her conviction.

Ron agreed. “Well, considering they have baby number three on the way, I don’t blame her either. You knew about that, right? Ginny is pregnant again.” Hermione shook her head.

“Really? She went through all that while pregnant? Maybe Harry should have gotten a little cross with her. I mean, she took a big risk going out there when she probably should have stayed back here.” Hermione stopped her comment short, like she had more to say, but Ron didn’t pick it up.

“You might be right, Hermione, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell my sister what to do.” Ron looked over as Rose walked up to her parents.

“Mommy, are you going to tell Daddy about Hugo?” Hermione’s face turned red, while Ron looked at her questioningly.

“When did she start calling your father by his first name? I thought we agreed on Paw-paw?” Ron turned his gaze back to his daughter, while Hermione tried to hide her face. “Rose, honey, we don’t call Paw-paw by his first name.”

“I’m not talking about Paw-paw, Daddy. I’m talking about Hugo.” Rose’s eyes were sincere, and full of conviction.

Ron shrugged his shoulders. “Who’s Hugo?”

Rose rolled her eyes, much in the way Hermione did when Ron had difficulty picking up an obvious concept. “Hugo? My brother, Daddy. The baby in Mommy’s tummy.”

Ron looked over to Hermione who had a Cheshire grin on her face. He burst into a huge smile and kissed her. “That’s brilliant Hermione! How long have you known?”

“Not long. I suspected, but I didn’t know. The funny thing is that Rose knew right away. She walked up to me one day and said that her brother, Hugo was coming and that it was a good thing I stayed home. It was like she had a vision or something.” Rose had already wandered off to investigate something else.

“You think she has the sight?” Ron spoke in an awed whisper.

“Come on, Ron. I don’t believe in that rubbish. I just think she’s very perceptive. Maybe she studied my mood and came up with it herself.” Hermione tut-tutted the possibility of their daughter’s clairvoyance.

“What about it being a boy and being named Hugo?” Ron wasn’t so sure. He’d seen a lot of strange things and he never took anything for granted.

“We don’t know it’s a boy, Ron and we’ve always said that if we had a son, we’d name him after my father. Don’t be so dense.” The couple shared a laugh.

Ron ran his hand through his head and then looked around the flat. “You’re probably right. One thing’s for sure, we’re going to need a bigger house.”

Just then, Rose walked up to them. “Mommy, Daddy? Where’s Godric’s Hollow?”

“It’s near Ottery St. Catchpole, near where Grandma and Grandpa live, why?” Ron stared at his daughter.

“That’s where our new house is, very near Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny.” She spoke with confidence.

“Rose, dear, Uncle Harry’s house is at Grimmauld Place. His parents were from Godric’s Hollow, but he doesn’t live there.” Hermione spoke in an even tone, but a slight hint of condescension could heard.
Rose looked at her suspiciously and then smiled an innocent smile. “They will.” With that, she turned and went back to playing with her doll.

***

Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny sat around the large dinner table in the Potter’s house at Grimmauld Place. Rose and Albus were busy playing together, while five year old James huffed and puffed about being bored. After several bouts of whining and moping, Kreacher stepped forward.

“If Mistress does not mind, I will take Master James to the Burrow to let him play outside.” Ginny was at wit’s end, between morning sickness and James’ attitude. She nodded vigorously and smiled as Kreacher took hold of James’ hand.

“He’s a handful, isn’t he?” Ron took a sip of beer as they sat and talked.

“I don’t blame him, really.” Ginny sat down and sipped on her lemonade. “There’s no yard for him play. Oh well, it’ll be different soon enough.”

Ron snorted his beer and coughed as he tried to clear his nostrils. Hermione gave him a cross look and looked over at Ginny as Harry pounded Ron on the back.

“What do you mean by that, Ginny?” She asked innocently.

“Oh, we didn’t tell you. Harry and I are going to build a house on some land we bought.” Ron looked up and stared at his sister.

“Really, where?” His voice cracked a bit from the bout of beer and from something else.

Harry spoke up. “I found a nice plot out near my parents’ old house in Godric’s Hollow. It’s good, open country and it’s pretty close to your parents.” Ron’s face turned pale, but Harry didn’t seem to notice. “Say, Ron, you guys are looking for a house. Why don’t you take a look out near us? There are lots of houses for sale nearby. It’d be great!”

Ron turned and looked at his wife, who had the same shocked look that he had. Then he peered down the hall and caught sight of his daughter, who’d peeked her head out of the door to the sitting room. She had a sly, know-it-all grin on her face and she nodded then went back to playing with Albus. Ron turned and mumbled more to himself than wanting to address anyone in particular.

“Great, it’s bad enough to live with someone who thinks they know everything, now I really do live with a woman that knows everything.” Hermione almost forgot to give him a tap on the head, almost.


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  #157  
Old January 14th, 2008, 3:16 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 158 – Into the Summer

Daily Prophet

Article Excerpts


• Ministry Hero Harry Potter and his wife, Ginny Weasley Potter announced the birth of their daughter, Lily Luna, yesterday. Mother and daughter are said to be doing well and resting at home in Godric’s Hollow. Harry Potter, Head of the Office of Aurors, is best known as the wizard who stopped the evil of You Know Who on two separate occasions. For the past few years, he’s played a vital role in thwarting several serious challenges to the Ministry, including helping stop an invasion by forces unknown last March. Ginny Potter, a former all-star Seeker for the Holyhead Harpies is the senior Quidditch correspondent for this newspaper and is in line for a journalism prize for her extraordinary expose of the Chudley Cannons use of Felix potions over their recent unprecedented winning streak. Lily Luna Potter is the third child for the couple, joining her brothers, James Sirius and Albus Severus.

• Hermione Granger Weasley, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Ministry of Magic and daughter-in-law to the Minister of Magic, announced the birth of her second child with husband Ronald Bilius Weasley, a Senior Auror Team Leader in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Mother and child are said to be resting well in the family home in Godric’s Hollow. Mrs. Weasley is best known for her revolutionary legislative wins that emancipated the house-elves and eliminated blood purity as a basis of land ownership and citizen’s rights. Her husband has just been awarded his third Order of Merlin, First Class for his role during the recent invasion by forces unknown last March. The baby, Hugo Arthur Weasley is the couple’s second child, joining his sister, Rose Molly.

• The International Confederation of Wizards announced today that long-time General Secretary Gabner Yakov has retired, saying that he wanted to spend more time with his family. In a break with a thousand years of tradition, recently appointed Ministry of Magic delegate Domina Hopkins Malfoy was unanimously elected as General Secretary, marking the first time that a Briton has held the prestigious post. “We are ushering in a new era of prosperity and growth for the international wizarding community and I intend to push this august body towards change for a new century.” Said Mrs. Malfoy, who is the wife of shipping scion Draco Malfoy. When asked about the appointment of his longtime legislative rival, the Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley said, “We are extremely excited about Mrs. Malfoy’s appointment. She brings a decisive edge to the position and we look forward to working with her in promoting global harmony among the wizarding nations.” Minister Weasley had no comment as to his often contentious relationship with the new General Secretary during his pro-muggle legislative push in the Wizengamot. Gabner Yakov could not be reached for comment and was rumored to have already left for a comfortable retirement in America.


***

June is the sunniest time of the year in Godric’s Hollow. It was a sleepy, rural town in the southwest of England, in the heart of the West Country, very near the Bristol Channel. Its proximity to the channel made for very mild temperatures and bright, blue sunny days in the summer. When the International Statute of Secrecy was passed in 1689, the peaceful village saw an influx of wizarding families to the area that became intermixed with the magic-friendly muggles of the area. Located in the most wizard-tolerant region of England, it was within a very short drive of Ottery St. Catchpole. The center of the village, there was a square, with a post office, a pub and a church with a graveyard behind it. In the middle of the square, there was an old war memorial that transformed to wizard’s eyes into a memorial to a young couple’s defiance to the Dark Lord and their eventual sacrifice to save the life of their infant son during the attack that destroyed their nearby home. For the most part, Godric’s Hollow was a quiet town. That quiet was shattered by the drone of a high performance engine.

The car was a 1969 Pontiac GTO painted a bright matador red with goldenrod yellow trim. Harry kept his speed down as he maneuvered through the square, but the car itself let its presence be known as the 350 engine growled like a chained beast tugging at its bonds. The convertible top was down and Ron Weasley in the passenger seat could barely contain his grin as car exited the square and made its way to the coast road. Once clear of the town, Harry gunned the engine and the car practically leapt forward, the caged beast unleashed on the unsuspecting twists and turns of the rural country lane. In the back seat, Arthur Weasley stood up and let the wind over the windscreen push on his cheeks as he echoed his son’s unremitting laughter as Harry put the car through its paces.

“Faster, Harry!” Arthur urged his son-in-law on and Harry was more than happy to oblige. Tapping on the accelerator, Harry drove the muscle-car forward, into the Exmoor National Park, and onto the road atop the bluffs overlooking the Bristol Channel. The heavy car strained as Harry took the twists and the turns as the seascape raced by. Eventually, they came to an parking area, with access to a scenic overlook and Harry pulled into the rest area and shut the car down.

“That’s utterly brilliant! I think I like it better than Sirius’ motorbike. Are you going to charm it to fly?” Ron was out of breath from the experience.

“I don’t think so. The car seems to fly as it is.” Harry was positively giddy. The car had been a present from the American Ambassador to the Ministry of Magic in appreciation for Harry’s role in the recent war.

“It’s extraordinary, Harry. I must say, I can’t think of a better gift.” Arthur’s hair was in wild disarray from being buffeted by the winds from the car’s progress through the country side.

“Thanks, Arthur.” Harry lightly caressed the steering wheel and tapped on the three speed gear shift.

“Can I drive?” Ron looked at Harry eagerly, rubbing his hands together.

Harry was a little anxious. Recently, Ron had failed his driver’s license examination three times in a row. He could drive forward and turn fairly well, but his parallel parking left a lot to be desired, not to mention the damage that was done to the examiner’s vehicles. Harry looked at the avaricious face of his friend and tried to distract him.

“How’s the new house coming along, Ron? Any trouble with your muggle neighbors?” Harry hoped he’d shifted his friend’s attention to another topic.

“It’s great, Harry. We’ve got Rose’s room all set and Hugo’s nursery is just about done. I still have to get some more Cannon’s posters.” Harry’s gamble paid off, because now Ron was fixated on the new addition to his family, his son Hugo.

“You’re still going to follow the Cannons after everything that’s happened?” Harry’s wife, Ron’s sister, Ginny was the senior Quidditch reporter for the Daily Prophet and had uncovered a scandal regarding the Chudley Cannons, who had been perennial losers, but had gone on an unprecedented winning streak of late. It turned out that they’d been using Felix potions to gain an edge over their competition. The team had been stripped of its titles and its coach fired on the spot. Growing up, Ron had been an unswerving supporter of the Cannons, despite their losing ways and had not given up on his team.

“I’m still not convinced that they did it. I love my sister, but what if they only thought they were taking the potion? It worked for me.” When Ron was struggling as the keeper for the Gryffindor team, Harry had tricked him into believing he’d taken a Felix potion, when he had not. Ron was willing to give his beloved Cannons the benefit of the doubt. His loyalty was one of the qualities that Harry admired most about his friend. Instead of pressing the point further, Harry turned to Arthur.

“Have we heard from the goblins at all?” Arthur Weasley had granted the goblins certain rights during the Leclerc crisis, including the use of wands. During the battle’s nadir, the goblins had disappeared, leaving the Ministry Army at its most desperate hour.

“No one has seen a goblin since the battle. They’ve simply disappeared. Raimundo Baretto has taken over running Gringott’s but the goblins removed their security charms and recreating some semblance of security is taking quite a while. Fleur and Bill are working as hard as they can to help. We’re fortunate that Fleur is such an exceptional witch. Dean and Isabella are overseeing the work and Dennis’ team is providing extra security.” Arthur leaned back in his seat, allowing the midday sun to wash over him. Harry nodded and thought back to the Tri-wizard Tournament. Fleur had been selected by the Beauxbaton’s to represent them in the tournament and was, by all accounts, a very accomplished witch.

“Do you think that the goblins will give us trouble, Dad?” Ron had exited the car and was seated on the hood, looking out over the sea.

“Who knows, Ron. No one has ever really understood what motivates the goblins. I really made a mistake on that one. My opponents in the Wizengamot are having a field day with that one.” Arthur Weasley had always been a humble man and one that did not want the position he held, but Harry had never seen him so nakedly dumbstruck at being so wrong with one of his decisions. The goblin issue was one that had rocked the Minister to the core.

“Speaking of your opponents, Dad, what about Domina Malfoy? I didn’t expect you to push her for the General Secretary role. Won’t she be a problem?” Domina had been one of the most vocal foes to Arthur’s policies. Now, she was the head of the international wizarding body, mostly due to Arthur’s insistence.

“No, Ron. Of that, I’m sure. Something’s changed in Domina. She’s been a true partner. Oh, we have our differences, but I can safely say that real change is occurring in Xanadu and she’s been the catalyst. At the very least, we won’t have a dark army on our soil bent on genocide anytime soon.” Arthur chuckled to himself. “From what Hestia tells me, Domina has got those people on their toes. She’s truly in her element.”

The three sat for a while in silence, grateful for the fellowship and for the lack of any real pressing crises. A flicker of movement in the summer sky caught Harry’s eye and his hand drifted to his jeans pocket where he’d stashed his wand. Ron caught his movements and made for his own wand and a sense of dread came over them for a brief second. Harry realized that he was holding his breath, the terror and fear of the past few years overwhelming his judgment. Soon, the black image in the sky resolved itself into the shape and form of an owl. Specifically, it was a golden owl, its body cast in shadow by the sun. Harry and Ron shared a brief laugh, but Harry wondered how long the black terror of combat would take to go away and then his mind drifted to the other warriors who’d been with him. All must be going through the same trauma as he.

“It’s only Helios.” Harry said in a relieved voice. Helios was the owl Ginny had purchased to replace Hedwig. The owl drifted in the light air currents and then alit softly on the top of the GTO’s windscreen. Firmly affixed to his leg was a note, with the seal of the Office of Aurors. Harry’s hand swept up and removed the letter, while passing a treat that he carried in the car to the bird. He broke the wax seal and read the letter.

“What is it, Harry?” Ron didn’t see a overly concerned look on Harry’s face as he read the letter.

“A witch has disappeared from her home in Tinworth and there’s been a rash of burglaries from homes in Upper Flagley. Lachlan is dispatching Williamson’s team to look into the robberies and your team is next in the rotation, so you can look into the disappearance.” Harry carefully folded the note and jammed it into his back pocket. He sighed and looked back out to the calm waters of the channel. “It looks like it’s time to go back to work.”

Harry watched as Ron leapt over the door and slid into the passenger seat. With practiced ease, Harry turned over the key in the ignition switch and gunned the engine. “Arthur, you’re closest, so I’ll drop you off first.” Ron’s home was within walking distance of the Potter’s new residence. The car thrummed from Harry’s application of the gas pedal and the peaceful quiet was interrupted by the strong, steady sound of the car’s classic engine.

Ron whipped his head over to Harry. “Can I drive?”

His words were lost as Harry pealed out of the rest area and took off down the road.


***A/N: Shorter than usual, but I wanted to get us up to the summer. I'm also experimenting with some different expository styles (the press clippings). We have several things to explore, including the Gringott's issue, where I get a chance to bring Isabella back, that is, unless you don't want me to.

FEEDBACK (Let me know who wants to hear from Isabella.)


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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; January 14th, 2008 at 3:36 pm. Reason: Author's note and feedback.
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Old January 15th, 2008, 11:28 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 159 – Gringott’s Gold (or the Return of Isabella Ramirez)

As a muggle, the woman should not have been here, in the center of Diagon Alley. She wasn’t the parent of a wizard or witch, nor, as of this moment, was she married to a wizard. That was still to come. Even so, she shouldn’t have been there on business, much less on Ministry of Magic business, yet, there she was, carrying out a profoundly important task at the behest of the Minister of Magic himself. She walked with a rapid gait, easily sidestepping more casual walkers. She had rich, luscious black hair that bounced about her shoulders as she strode down the path. Her tanned, mocha skin contrasted nicely with her light yellow sundress. She glanced about her warily, her light brown eyes taking in everyone and everything like a predatory cat stalking her jungle abode. The seriousness of her face was masked behind her full, red lips and bright white teeth that shone in a smile that melted more than one gaze of a casual passer by.

As she neared her destination, her smile grew wider as she spied a tall, dark skinned man calmly leaning against a white, marble pillar down the way. He spied her immediately and his smile could be easily seen. He stood straight and walked down the steps of the building, where he’d been waiting for her. The sign on the veranda above read “Gringott’s Bank”.

Gringott’s, the wizard bank, was located in the center of Diagon Alley, not far from its intersection with Knockturn Alley. It was an imposing white marble building with large bronze double doors at its entrance. In the past, patrons would have walked between two goblins standing on either side of the door, but today, the man had been flanked by two members of the Ministry’s Hit Team, carrying Probity Probes. Spying the woman approaching, he raised a hand in greeting and they met in the center of the alley.

His lips sprang forward of their own volition and he kissed her hard, right in the middle of the crowd. She growled under her breath and pushed him back, as he smiled at her with a devilish look in his eyes.

“Dean, easy there acho! You look like the perro con huele carne! We’ve got work to do so cool off.” Isabella Ramirez’s had very little venom in her voice, after all, the kiss had been nice and she was a flamboyant personality, but she also was an extremely professional and ruthless person when it came to doing her job, that’s what made her so good at it. For the past several years, practically the duration of Arthur Weasley’s administration, she’d been the Controller of the Ministry’s finances, unraveling centuries of mismanagement and graft and driving the administration into a surplus. This had provided Arthur with some much needed political capital to further his progressive agenda, up to the invasion that had been kicked off by the International Confederation of Wizards.

The war had another unintended consequence. In the course of rallying the goblins to his cause, Arthur had granted emancipation to them, including the use of wands. In the midst of the battle, the goblins had suddenly disappeared. Their retreat from the battlefield was mirrored by their retreat from general wizarding society, including the goblin-run institution of Gringott’s. Now, Dean, who was the Exchequer for the Ministry and Isabella were part of the team that was trying to build the goblin bank back into a secure place for the public’s finances.

Dean grinned unabashedly, his understanding of the Puerto Rican dialect had become better and better and her retort brought a chuckle. “Bow wow, baby.” He winked and then led her into the front entrance to the bank.

The main lobby was highlighted by a long bank of teller positions that normally held hundreds of goblins who were responsible for serving the needs of their customers. Most of the teller positions were closed while the rest were manned by the wizarding staff that had worked at the bank. In the center, there was a round, mahogany information desk and several people were congregated in front of it. Dean and Isabella walked up to the throng and shook hands all around.

“Hello, Raimundo. Dennis.” Dean shook hands with Raimundo Baretto, the senior wizard official of the bank and nodded over to Dennis Creevey, whose Ministry Hit Team was providing the bulk of the physical security for the premises. Off to the side, Fleur and Bill Weasley were engaged in a heated dialogue with an older wizard, who was complaining about something. Isabella leaned in to hear what was going on.

“Madam, as I told you, even with the goblins departing, your vault is secure and accessible. If you will only be patient, we will have someone take you down to it.” Bill was dressed in an impeccable three piece, gray worsted wool suit which contrasted with his long pony tail and ear rings. The horrible scars, remnants of his encounter with Fenrir Greyback, were painfully evident. The woman seemed to pay no heed to his words.

“I have come here for almost a hundred years, young man, and I have never seen the service so poor.” Her voice came out as a wheeze and she gripped a bent, black cane tightly.

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience, Madam, truly.” Bill’s eyes swept around and he raised his arm. A young wizard loped over. “Tom? Will you take Mrs. Tierney down to Vault 705?”

Somewhat mollified the old woman gave a huff and followed the young wizard towards the entrances to the vault catacombs. Bill gave a sigh of relief and walked over to where Dean was standing with the rest.

“Sorry about that, it’s been a nightmare ever since the goblins left. Hello Dean. Hello Isabella.” Bill shook hands with them and Fleur leaned in and kissed both on both cheeks.

“Why don’t we go into the conference room?” Despite the obvious manic nature of the lobby, Fleur, as always, looked stunning. Her long, blonde hair was in neat an in place and her eyes danced with merriment. Raimundo nodded and agreement and led them to one of the conference rooms off the main lobby.

Once inside, they took up seats around an oblong, oak conference table and they all began to open attaché cases and pull rolls of parchment and ledgers out. Once seated, Dean looked around the table and began the meeting. “So, where are we?”

Raimundo let out a long breath and then leaned his elbows on the table. He was a slightly built man, the complete image of a banker, complete with mourning suit and tails. He had a slight jaw and a pencil-thin mustache over his tanned skin. He had a full head of jet black hair and a pair of silver, wire rimmed glasses perched on his angular nose. He cleared his throat and Dean wondered for the umpteenth time how a man like him could capture the heart of a wild woman like Adelina Baretto. He felt an intense pressure on his toe and looked down to find the heel of Isabella’s shoe pressing down on his foot. He looked over at her, questioningly.

“Bastante! They are a wonderful couple and she loves him, that’s all there is to it.” She whispered in his ear. He looked at her in amazement. How had she known what he was thinking? He turned to face Raimundo, more attentive now.

“Well, we have access to all the vaults. The last goblin to leave removed the touch charms to the lower levels so all of them can be opened. Dennis’ team has performed remarkably well in providing security, but there simply isn’t enough of them.” Raimundo nodded over to Dennis.

The Hit Team Leader leaned forward in his chair. His muscular frame seemed to dwarf the table, as if leaning on it would cause it to tip over. Dennis looked exhausted, but managed a helpful smile. “Mr. Baretto is right, Dean. I only forty wizards and witches and we still have our commitments to the Ministry. We’re operating at a skeleton staff as it is. We need help.”

Dean nodded and looked at the others. “Well, we always knew we’d have to hire a permanent security staff.” He looked around. “Maybe we should call William Manchester. There’s hundreds of veterans of the war around who could be taught basic security protocols. That would solve our manpower problem.”

There were nods around the table and then Isabella spoke up. “That’s a good idea, mi amor, but we’d have to hire a security director to lead them.” She looked around the table. “Any ideas?”

Several names were suggested and then Dean sat up and smiled. He looked at Isabella. “What about Seamus?”

“Finnegan?” Dennis blurted out.

“Why not? He was a constable in Dublin and I don’t think he’s gone back since the war’s been over.” He leaned over and whispered to Isabella. “Not with Padma living here in London.”

“I don’t see why not. At the very least, Seamus is trustworthy and the man is interesting to have around.” Bill chuckled, recalling the exploits of the diminutive Irishman.

“Then it’s settled. What else, Raimundo?” Dean brought the meeting back on track.

“Well, as I said before, we have access to the vault levels, but not to any of the others, like the security levels. We have no idea what’s been left behind in the way of traps and guard creatures, and I’m hesitant to send anyone down there to find out.” Baretto shrugged his shoulders apologetically and then continued. “Fleur and Bill have been rebuilding the charms and spells within the vaults themselves with their team. It’s tedious because there are certain things we simply can’t duplicate. We’re basically starting from scratch. When we get a security director in place, we can also begin supplying the vault levels with guard creatures like wolves and sphinxes, but until then, Dennis’ team has had to work foot patrol and the caverns are too vast for complete coverage.”

“You mentioned that the goblins hadn’t shut down the levels between the accessible levels, Raimundo. Are you saying that they might have left surprises for us?” Isabella was beginning to understand the magnitude of their task.

“I can’t say. The foremost experts on goblins are in this room and we simply don’t know why they left and what they might have been up to.” Raimundo sat back and sipped on a glass of water.

“One thing about the goblins, they were meticulous record keepers.” Bill spoke up. “We have very accurate inventory scrolls from the vaults. We started an inventory of our own to cross check their accuracy. We should have something within the hour.”

Isabella whistled at the statement. There were thousands of vaults in a score of tiers which made the task monumental. “How are doing that?”

“Well, a full inventory would take months, so we’re doing samples from each tier and comparing it to the notes.” Isabella nodded and sat back.

Just then, a young, thin witch who seemed to just out of Hogwarts entered the room and handed a stack of parchment to Fleur. After a few minutes of scanning the papers, she handed them to her husband who also reviewed them. Bill’s brow furled into an inscrutable knot.

“What is it?” Dean looked at Bill’s expression and knew the news couldn’t be good.

“These are the results of the preliminary inventory. See for yourself.” Bill passed the papers over to Dean and Isabella, who scanned them.

“Is this right?” Isabella sighed in concern. Bill’s head nodded as he grasped his wife’s hand. “Dios mio! We’d better tell Harry and the Minister.” She rose quickly with Dean.

Dean looked over to Raimundo, who had not seen the findings. “Raimundo, you’d better find a way to start getting everyone out of here and then shut down. We need to get the Aurors here as soon as possible. We have a serious problem.”

***

Ron disapparated in the middle of a quaint central square of the village of Tinworth. He looked around and saw one his team members standing in front of a small cottage off the square. He adjusted the collar of his robes and began walking towards the front of the house.

“Hello Bryan.” Ron greeted the tall Auror standing at the front gate of the residence.

Bryan Gardner was a recent training graduate, one of the three, including Silas and Mortimer. He had been a Slytherin at Hogwarts and Ron had almost disqualified him then and there based on that until Harry reminded Ron that Silas had been a Slytherin. That pretty much closed the argument. Gardner was tall, well over six and a half feet and lanky. He had brown hair that hugged his head in tight, small curls. He had a hook nose and a runner’s physique and a perpetual smile.

“How are you, boss? Everybody’s inside. I pulled security on this one.” Ron nodded and tugged on the strap of his satchel.

“Who got here first?” Ron looked around the outside of the cottage, looking for obvious signs of disturbance.

“Mortimer took the call. The lady who lives here is named Leslie Bosco. She’s owns a jewelry shop over on Vendira Avenue. Her employees set off the Auror alert when she didn’t come into work. One of them came here and found the house in disarray.” Ron nodded at Bryan and then patted him on the shoulder. He opened the gate of the white picket fence and walked up the path to the arched wooden front door.

One of the problems with dealing with crime in the wizarding world was the relative slow methods of communicating with the Ministry to call for help. Dudley Dursley had made a suggestion to Harry, based on the Aurors’ use of jinxes on the Unforgiveable Curses. The universal emergency telephone number to summon police or firefighters in England was 9-9-9. So, Dudley thought, why not jinx 999? Whenever a wizard or witch in trouble cried out “9,9,9” in sequence, the jinx would trip alerts in the Office of Aurors, including the location of who cried out. In that manner, response times in emergencies would be shortened. There had been issues, like the unfortunate couple who lived at 999 Market Place in Godric’s Hollow who were constantly being visited by Aurors as they told people their address. It had been especially embarrassing for the man of the house, who, on the last time the Aurors visited had been giving a special lady friend the address because his wife was out of town. For the most part, the system worked exceptionally well.

Ron walked through the door and was immediately struck by the disarray throughout the house. Tables and chairs were upended, dishes were broken, and large holes were in the floor where the cherry floorboards had been ripped up. Ron looked around and took in the scene.

“Mortimer?” Ron called out to the young Auror whose voice Ron to one of the back rooms.

When Ron entered the room, Mortimer, Silas and Betsy Cain, another one of Ron’s Aurors were huddled around a gaping hole in the mortar wall at the far end of the room. Mortimer and Silas were clad in their black Auror robes with their new shields of office firmly in place. Because of their role in the recent war, Harry had decided to forego the remainder of their training and make them full fledged Aurors. This was because of their efforts in the war, to be sure, but also because, Harry had found himself having to fill holes left by the loss of eight of his thirty two Aurors in the fighting. Still, Ron thought to himself, Silas and Mortimer had earned their shields and he was glad to have them on his team.

“What’ve you got, besides what Bryan told me?” Ron looked around and stared at the hole the team was inspecting.

“Well, sir,” Mortimer, as the first on the scene took the lead. “Ms. Bosco lived alone and from what we can tell, she was taken. There’s no blood or other obvious signs of injury in the house. It looks like someone was looking for something. There are holes like this throughout the house and it seems that Ms. Bosco had safes in these holes. You can tell by the bolt heads that have been sheared off. Someone simply ripped them from their mountings and made off with them.” Ron nodded.

“She owned a jewelry store in Vendira Avenue, right?” Ron watched as the three nodded. “We might want to check with her employees to see if she kept any of her inventory at her home. Anything else?”

Mortimer checked his notebook. “Well, none of the neighbors heard anything which is not surprising. She kept to herself and rarely had guests. We’ve really got nothing to go on until we find out what’s missing. That’ll tell us why she was targeted.”

Ron agreed with assessment and gave the matter some further thought. “We have to see if she was the target as well, cover that avenue of investigation. Find out if she had any family, see if there was something in her past that would give us a clue as to why anyone would want to take her.”

“Yes, sir.” Mortimer’s mouth turned up in a wry grin. Ron shuddered, but couldn’t help but finding out why.

“All right, what is it, Mortimer?”

“Um, sir. Are you sure she was a jewelry store owner?” Mortimer managed to keep his face in check while Silas turned to face the wall, his shoulders obviously shaking from his controlled laughter. Betsy, new to the team and still in awe of her famous team leader, looked incredulously at the two men.

“Yes, Mortimer, why?”

“Well sir. Silas was thinking, well, we have to cover all avenues, right?” Ron nodded. “Are you sure she wasn’t your driver’s license examiner?”

Ron rolled his eyes. “And, why, pray tell, would you say that?”

Mortimer tried valiantly to keep his straight face. “Because sir, it looks like you tried to parallel park inside her house.” Ron’s face turned beat red while Mortimer and Silas broke into side twisting laughter.

***A/N: OK, so now we're into an old fashioned crime story. Don't worry mushy parts are coming, I promise.

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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)
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  #159  
Old January 16th, 2008, 9:32 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 160 – Candlesticks and Picture Frames

Ginny Potter lolled away gently in the antique wooden rocking chair set up in the sitting room of their new home. The chair was made of fine redwood and was a gift to the Potter’s from Stanley Greenberg when Lily Luna was born. Said baby was nestled tightly in the crook of her mother’s arm. Ginny looked down and smiled at her daughter. Tiny, thin wisps of dark red hair covered her otherwise bald head and her lids covered a pair of brilliant emerald eyes. Ginny leaned back and continued her rhythmic swaying and smiled. Only a few weeks old, little Lily was the apple of her father’s eye. Ginny smirked at how easily Harry became enraptured at every gurgle and every breath the baby made.

“You’re going to give your father fits, I think, young lady.” Ginny chuckled, her mind’s eye imagining the worry her daughter would cause Harry, and relishing the thought. Ginny’s eyes wandered about the room. It was large and airy, which pretty much summed up the house itself. They had made the difficult decision to buy a new home once their ever burgeoning family added its newest member.

The home sat on a large plot, surrounded by an ivy covered wrought iron fence. The house itself was Georgian style, a symmetrically perfect rectangle covered in aged red brick. It had white borders around the two stories of windows and high, peaked dormers poking up from the shingled roof. Off to the side of the house was a large, barn-like garage and it had a solid, oak front door painted a flat matte black. Ginny absolutely loved the house. The Burrow, where she’d grown up, was the picture of chaos, with overhanging levels and precarious looking construction, but this house was solid, established. It fit her sense of order in the world and she loved decorating it.

As she looked around the sitting room, she paused at the great, stone fireplace on the far wall. There seemed to something amiss with the mantle. Gently, she rose from her chair and carefully placed Lily in the bassinet resting beneath the ornate picture window. Lily was a sound sleeper and barely moved. Ginny walked closer to the fire place and the called out in a whisper.

“Kreacher?” The ubiquitous Potter house-elf walked into the room. Usually, he would apparate in place in order to meet his mistress’ call more rapidly, but he refrained from adding the loud noise of movement to the room when the baby was sleeping.

“Yes, mistress?” Kreacher stole a quick glance at Lily, checking on the child’s well being. Satisfied, he returned his gaze to Ginny. It hadn’t taken much cajoling to convince Kreacher to move with them. Over the years, he’d slowly transferred his dedication from the house on Grimmauld Place to Harry, then to Ginny and finally to the three Potter children. Kreacher made it a point that where the children were, he would follow and so he found himself a member of the Potter family and now standing with Ginny.

“Did you happen to see where my mother’s candlestick got to?” Molly Weasley had given them a pair of antique silver candlesticks as a housewarming present. One stood valiantly on the mantle, while the other was no where to be seen.

“No, Mistress Ginny. Kreacher has not seen the gifts from Mistress’ parents since yesterday. Kreacher has allowed a valuable artifact to disappear! Bad Kreacher! Bad Kreacher!” The house-elf, mindful of the baby sleeping in the room began to pinch his hand frightfully while yelling in a wheezy whisper.

“Kreacher! Stop that!” Ginny was visibly annoyed. “It must have been misplaced.”

Kreacher had stopped his self-flaggelation and looked around the room. A small, child-sized broom sat in the corner. “Perhaps Master James was flying again and thought it was a quaffle?”

Ginny thought for a minute. “Any other day, I’d agree with you, but James is with George and Verity at the shop. I don’t think he’s had an opportunity to cause any mischief.”

“He is with the George Weasley wizard, mistress.” Kreacher said disapprovingly.

“Well, I mean, he hasn’t had any opportunity to cause mischief here. I can’t speak for where his.” She smiled, but then a cross expression came to her face as she began to search around the room for the missing candlestick.

***

“Dudley?” Beatrice Dursley called from where she sat on a comfortable chair, her feet resting in a matching ottoman. Her return from the war with both herself and her husband injury free had been a partial cause of her current condition. Beatrice was only six months pregnant, yet her protruding belly seemed to be that of a woman about ready to give birth. Petunia, her mother-in-law, had insisted on her going to a muggle doctor and the resultant ultrasound had shown that Beatrice and Dudley Dursley were well on their way to being the proud parents of twins. The doctor had recommended that Beatrice stay off of her feet as much as possible and so she’d taken a sabbatical from her job at Flourish and Blott’s and between Dudley and Petunia, was being waited upon hand and foot.

Dudley had adjusted his work hours to be home early afternoons and so he walked into the living room. “Bea, I’m sorry. We are not going to call one of them Aloysius. I like strong names and I don’t know why we can’t name at least the boy after someone we know.”

“I know, dear, but naming the boy George Lee Dursley is simply tempting fate. At least we’re together on the girl’s name.” They had settled on Molly Petunia for the girl’s name. “That’s not why I called for you, though.”

“Oh, what is it? Everything all right? Do you have enough pillows?” Beatrice smiled at his concern. She often wondered about the stories from his child hood that she’d heard when Dudley and Harry spoke. It was hard to believe that a child so ill-tempered could become one of the sweetest men she knew. Her mind drifted to her parents. They still didn’t speak to her or her husband. Surprisingly, her sister Domina had started corresponding with the both of them on a consistent basis, but for the most part, the Hopkins family had practically written off the pure-blood woman who had married a muggle. If there was anyone that needed to tempered by a Dementer, it was her parents.

“I’m fine, but I was wondering if you’d seen that nice brass picture frame my sister sent us? I wanted to put it out for the babies’ picture. I thought it was in that side table drawer, but it’s not there.” Dudley looked puzzled and like a man, walked up to the drawer and inspected its contents for the frame, despite just having been told by his wife that she’d already checked there. Beatrice laughed, despite herself.

“I haven’t seen it.” Dudley looked around the room a bit more. “Maybe, it’s upstairs?”

Beatrice seemed perplexed and shrugged her shoulders.

“I’ll go check upstairs and see if I can find it.” Dudley made for the door to the living room.

“Dudley?” He stopped and let out an inaudible groan. He knew what was coming. “When you go by the kitchen, could you perhaps bring me some chocolate pudding?”

“Is that all, chocolate pudding?” Dudley felt a slight bit of hope, maybe, just maybe, she would have a sane request this time.

“Well, if it’s not too much trouble, maybe you could top it with mayonnaise, cherries and cinnamon.” She looked at him sheepishly, batting her pale blue eyes at him.

He turned around to hide his own rolling eyes and then walked towards the kitchen, wondering how he’d keep his stomach from turning inside out from the request.

***

Harry walked into the conference room and circled around the large table to its head. Seated to his right, he saw Raimundo Baretto, Isabella, Dean and surprisingly, Seamus Finnegan. Bill and Fleur sat at the end of the table. On his left, Lachlan McCrary, Cavendish and Dennis Creevey politely waited until he was seated before taking their own seats.

“All right, Isabella, what seems to be the problem?’ Isabella passed over two separate sheets of parchment and placed them carefully in front of Harry.

“We have been conducting a random inventory of the items in the vaults and matching them with the inventory sheets left behind by the goblins.” Harry studied the sheets as she walked them through her findings.

She continued, “On the right, you’ll see the original inventory for the random vaults we sampled and on the left, you’ll see the results of our inventories.”

Harry scrutinized the sheets, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration. Slowly, he began to notice slight discrepancies in the lists. They weren’t glaring, the items seemed trivial and random.

“Vault 544, 6 Gold napkin holders” from the original list.

“Vault 544, 5 Gold napkin holders” from the updated inventory.

“Vault 771, 1 Steel cavalry saber with jewel encrusted scabbard” Original

“Vault 771, 1 Steel cavalry saber” Updated

The pattern went on and on. Three forks missing from a set of twenty or one hand missing from a large, grandfather clock. Harry looked up at the bankers in front of him and held up the sheets.

“What does this mean? Is there a pattern I’m missing?” Harry looked back at the sheets, trying to piece together the mystery.

Dean cleared his throat. “Look closely at the original inventory. Pick out one of the missing items and look closely at the original entry for that item.”

Harry centered his focus on one of the higher vault numbers which corresponded to a deeper location within the bank. Traditionally, these vaults had higher levels of security, belonging to more affluent customers.

“Vault 947, Silver Chamber Pot”. On the surface, Harry hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary. Then he noticed some smaller writing next to the entry. “10-13-1547 HK”

“What’s this small writing next to the listing?” Harry looked down towards Bill.

“If the item was forged by a goblin, that metal worker puts the date and his initials on the item.” Bill offered.

Harry nodded and checked other items on the list.

“Vault 645, Steel Spurs, 5-29-1621 CK”

“Vault 112, Gold Tie Pin, 11-08-1932 FK”

“They all end with the initial ‘K’, does that mean something?” Harry looked around the table, then he had an inspiration. “Does this mean that these items were stolen by goblins?”

“We don’t know that, but it’s a distinct possibility.” Raimundo spoke up. “Goblin names do not necessarily denote a family name. The last name in a goblin name usually reflects a clan’s metal style. Forge, Anvil or Gold are common ones. ‘K’ is a very unusual one, because its metal style is very rare. ‘K’ stands for Kiln. Articles made by Kiln goblins are very hard to find.

“But why the randomness of the items stolen? One fork here or one spoon there, it doesn’t make any sense, why not take the entire set?” Harry’s mind tried to wrestle with the implications of what he was hearing.

Bill spoke up again. “When goblins makes something, they don’t make sets. The metal will tell them what it will be. They may make a fork and then set it aside for decades until the metal they forge let’s them make a match and it may take centuries for a set to be created.”

“So every item in a set is unique?” Harry watched as they all nodded. “So we think that the goblins have taken these things. How did they get in? I thought we’d changed all the security protocols.”

“We have, Harry, but first off, we’re strapped for manpower.” Dennis smiled apologetically. “Seamus here has been brought on by Raimundo to take over the permanent security detail. Secondly, we simply don’t know what back doors the goblins left in place. There are whole levels we don’t have access to.”

Harry nodded again and then turned to Lachlan who was deep in thought. “Harry, there’s been a rash of robberies that we’ve been looking into that fit this pattern. I would assume it’s the goblins, but no one has seen any of them since the war. Ron has picked up the disappearance of a witch in Tinworth who sold antique jewelry. I can’t help but think that it’s all related. Ron’s team is following up with her history, but maybe he should concentrate on whether she had any ties to the goblins?”

“Makes sense.” Harry turned to Raimundo. “Has this gotten out to the public?” The thin banker shook his head. “When it does, there’ll be a panic. If we’re wrong about the goblins, if and when they ever show up again, it could get ugly. I want to keep this under wraps as much as possible, clear?”

There were head nods around the table. “I’ll need to brief the Minister. Lachlan, I want your team to head to Gringott’s. We need to find out what’s on those restricted levels. Cavendish? Your team has the prize. Find the goblins. We need to see what they are up to. Leave Williamson on the external robberies and keep Ron on the missing witch.” He rose and the other Aurors rose with him.

Isabella studied Harry carefully and then spoke up. “What is it, Harry? What are you thinking?”

Harry smiled and a small part of him felt a little sorry for Dean. The woman was perceptive. “I don’t know. It seems too obvious. I can’t help but think that the goblins are the obvious straw man for these robberies, and for good reason. Still, I can’t help but think that we’re missing something, and I want to find out what it is, right away.”


***A/N: I really, really, really promise...this is not some terror/suspense/defeating evil story...but don't make any assumptions!

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Old January 17th, 2008, 9:30 pm
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Re: A History of Magic: The Harry Potter Era

Chapter 161 – The Investigators

Williamson daubed the sweat off his brow as the hot, midday sun beat down on his head. He turned and signaled for Leonora and Sean to make their way over to where he was resting. Sarah Jordan was in the middle of a long interview with another crime victim down the lane and the rest of his team was following up with several eyewitness accounts. He was standing underneath an old elm tree that had long, thick branches that overhung a small country lane in the town of Upper Flagley.

Unlike other wizarding communities, Upper Flagley had less the feel of an old English village and more of a contemporary suburban layout. The lane was flanked on either side by rows of modern town homes cut from brick and mortar. In each front yard, a large, older leaf-bearing tree had been planted, giving name to the thoroughfare, ‘Forest Drive’. Williamson consulted his notebook as his two senior most Aurors walked up.

“More of the same, boss.” Sean read from his own notepad. “Smaller items are missing, mostly items that were goblin-made and stolen right from under their noses.”

“What about the time stamps?” Williamson read the list of innocuous items that were taken. Leonora took up from her partner.

“Same thing, here. You have a date and initials, with all the initials ending in the letter ‘K’. All the items belong to the Kiln Clan.” The tall Auror blew a strand of hair from her face and smiled apologetically. Williamson grunted and then saw Sarah calling for his attention. He motioned for Sean and Leonora to follow and the three Aurors walked over to the tree where Sarah was interviewing a small boy.

The boy couldn’t have been more than six or seven years of age. He was wearing a pair of denim shorts and a tee-shirt emblazoned with the Puddlemere United logo. He was slowly slurping on a Popsicle and smiling from the attention of the pretty lady from the Ministry. He had a full head of straight auburn hair and freckles dotting the entire extent of his face. When he smiled, a prominent gap where his front teeth should have been caused Williamson to chuckle. Soon, he was next to Sarah.

“What’ve you got, Sarah?” Sarah stopped writing in her notebook and gestured to the boy.

“This is Harold Null, boss, and he has an interesting story to tell.” Williamson reached down and shook hands with the boy.

“All right, Harold, is it? My name is Williamson. I work with Mrs. Jordan here. Did you see something?” Williamson squatted down to bring his face eye level with the boy’s. Delighted by the extra attention, Harold took another swipe at his frozen treat and then looked at the Auror with a serious expression.

“I was playin’ in my yard over there and I heard a noise over by Mrs. Compton’s house. I snuck up to the hedge and looked an’ there were two goblins fightin’ over a roll of paper towels.” He looked at Willliamson and mistook the senior Auror’s grimace for disbelief. “Really, I saw them.”

“I believe you, Harold. I’d like you to tell me again, but slowly and I’m going to ask some questions, okay?” The boy nodded and started over.

“Like I said, I was playin’ in my yard and I heard a noise by Mrs. Compton’s house.”

“What kind of noise?”

“It was a crash, like a big explosion, and then some people arguing.”

“Okay, what happened next?”

“I walked over and hid behind the hedge and looked over the fence to Mrs. Compton’s yard.”

“What did you see?”

“There were two goblins in the middle of the yard, and they were pulling on a roll of paper towels and yellin’ at each other.”

Williamson scratched his head and gave his team a lost look. Leonora spoke up.

“The roll of paper towels, was it on something?” She looked at the boy with a gentle smile.

“Yeah, it had a metal rod in the middle of it. Come to think of it, they weren’t really pulling on the paper towels, they were tuggin’ on the rod.”

Leonora looked back at Williamson, who flipped through his list of missing items. There was a paper towel holder on the list. Williamson turned to Harold and smiled.

“Harold, did you happen to hear anything they were saying?”

“Not much, but I heard a couple of words. One kept sayin’ ‘Stop this, you’ll ruin everythin’’ and the other kept sayin’ ‘I’m bound, I’m bound’. I don’t know what else they said, ‘cause they must have heard me. The one tellin’ the other to stop disappeared and the other followed right behind.”

Williamson stood up and shook the boy’s hand, ignoring the sticky mess on his fingers. “You’ve done a great job, Harold. Thanks a lot.”

Harold laughed and ran off to his own home. The four Aurors huddled together. Williamson looked at the others. “Well, what do you think?”

Sarah, as was becoming customary in Williamson’s strategy sessions, spoke up first. “Well, we’ve confirmed some sort of goblin involvement, but not in the way we thought.” Williamson nodded and turned to Sean.

“I don’t know boss. I’m with Harry on this one, something don’t feel right. Why would a goblin try to stop another goblin from getting its property back? And what’s being ruined by taking the stuff in the first place?” Manchester’s eyes followed Williamson’s as they looked over to Leonora.

After a moment, she closed her notebook. “I’m stuck on what the one goblin stealing the items said. ‘I’m bound, I’m bound’. What does that mean? Bound to what?”

Sarah piped up. “Better yet, bound to whom?”

Williamson took in what his senior team members said and shook his head. “Well, I guess we better get to figuring out what’s going on with the goblins and with Gringott’s. I’m thinking either one will have answers for us.”

The others nodded and began to close down their crime scene.

***
“You always take us to the best places, Ron.” Mortimer followed directly behind his team leader down the narrow confines of Parliament Street in Exeter. Proclaimed the narrowest street in the world, Parliament Street was barely three feet wide at its smallest point.

“Quit your complaining, Mortimer. You could be with Cavendish, traipsing around the foothills of the highlands trying to find goblins.” Ron kept up a steady pace, confident that his team was following close behind.

“There is that. Hey Ron, when we get to the Avenue, you want me and Silas to poke around the area, see what we can find out?”

“No, Mortimer, you have a better eye for detail. I want you to handle the questioning of Bosco’s employees. Take Betsy with you.” Ron stopped at a small light post that stuck out from the red brick wall that defined the confines of the “street”.

“What about the others?” Mortimer stopped behind Ron.

“Well, if Silas can manage to squeeze his body through here, I was going to pair the rest of them up and have them canvas the Avenue.” Mortimer snorted.

“I heard that!” Silas, who was bringing up the rear, called out to his leader. “I’m just big boned! Whoever heard of a street that had a dress size, anyway?”

“Please, Silas, I thought you’d given up wearing dresses.” Ron laughed at his own joke and then tapped on a brick beneath the lamp post. One by one, they were transported into Vendira Avenue.

Vendira Avenue was very much like the wizarding world’s equivalent of a flea market. Like Diagon Alley, it was completely dedicated to commerce. Its one noticeable difference was that its shops and vending carts mostly carried second or third hand merchandise. On this summer day, it was packed with throngs of bargain hunters, seeking to buy, sell or trade used goods for the best price. Ron allowed a small shudder as he led his team down the center of the main promenade. It was here, so long ago, that he and his team had been introduced to the evil of the Circle and the war that ensued upon their defeat. Like Diagon Alley, commerce seemed to trump adversity and Vendira Avenue seemed to wash away its terrible memories of the past for good old clean bartering.

“How far?” Ron asked Mortimer, who pointed to a small storefront near the central plaza of the Avenue. Ron nodded and walked over to the entrance. He turned to his team. “Silas, you and Bryan cover the far end of the Avenue. Nydia, take Randall and cover the area near the entrance. Mortimer and Betsy will take care of the interview and I’ll be with them. Remember, we’re looking for background on Leslie Bosco. Try not to give too much away on the goblin angle. Understood?” His question was met by nods and he sent his team on its task. He turned to Mortimer and motioned him towards Bosco’s store.

The front of the store was run down. Vendira Alley consisted of a long row of brick buildings with stores built into their fronts. Each store had a canvas awning and trim painted to match the color of the awning. Ron stared at the “Bosco’s Fine Jewelry” sign which reflected the rest of the store front. The paint was faded and chipped and the awning had several tears. If the “Open” sign wasn’t hanging from the door, Ron would have assumed the place was out of business. He nodded to Mortimer, who made for the door, which was in similar disrepair as the rest of the front.

The three Aurors walked into the darkened shop. Only a few gas lamps were lit and Ron had to squint to get a good look at the two people standing behind the glass display cases. The wares in the shop matched the look outside. The jewelry in the cases and the polyglot of items on shelves seemed to be well past their useful lives. This wasn’t an antique shop, it was a junk shop.

“Can I help you?” A cracked, older voice belonging to one of the people behind the counter spoke up. He was an older man, stooped by time. His scalp was plainly visible underneath a wispy cap of fine white hair.

“Yes, we’re from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. We’d like to ask you a few questions about the disappearance of Leslie Bosco.” Ron allowed Mortimer to take the lead, instead listening and observing the subjects.

“Yes sir. I’m Devon Ratman and this is my wife, Lucy.” He pointed to the other figure behind the counter, a frail, meek looking older woman. “We’d be more than happy to help you find Ms. Bosco.”

“Thank you Devon. This won’t take long, we just need to know more about Ms. Bosco, okay?” Ratman nodded shakily. “Good. How long have you and Mrs. Ratman worked for Ms. Bosco?”

“Oh, I’d say almost fifteen years. I used to work for the Ministry of Magic cataloging confiscated items in the Department of Mysteries. You know, flying carpets, time turners and such. When I retired, I came to work for Ms. Bosco and brought Lucy with me.” Mortimer scribbled furiously on his pad.

“What was Ms. Bosco like?”

“She was pleasant, kind. She seemed more interested in the history of our items, than actually selling anything. She loved to collect things.” He held his arms open, pointing to the eclectic mix useless item strewn about.

“From the looks of things, business doesn’t seem to be doing so well.” Mortimer’s statement came out as a question.

“No, not really. Not until recently, anyway.” Devon looked around the store.

“What do you mean?” Mortimer stopped writing and took in the couple in front of him.

Devon looked back at his wife and then sighed. “The way it worked was that Ms. Bosco would make the acquisitions and we would sell them. I always thought it was because she just liked shopping. A couple of months ago, she started getting her hands on better items. Some jewelry, some other things, but mostly real quality goblin-made items. They started selling really well. We were making some money, finally.”

“Did she ever say where she was getting the items?” Mortimer’s question reflected Ron’s own thoughts.

“I asked, but she only said that she’d tapped into a run of good luck. We believed her. Merlin knows, we’d been on one big run of bad luck.” Devon placed his arm around his wife.

“I see. Well, thanks for your time, Mr. and Mrs. Ratman. You’ve been an immense help.” Mortimer turned to leave, Betsy following his lead. Ron hadn’t moved and finally walked up to the old man.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Ratman, did Mrs. Bosco have any relatives or friends that we might be able to talk to?” Ron remembered the house. It was the house of someone who lived alone.

“Oh no, sir. Ms. Bosco had an uncle, but he died about a year ago. I was always surprised that he did not take care of her. He was a big somebody at the Ministry, but he never did.” Devon spoke with a little harshness.

Ron nodded and then turned to follow Mortimer. Before he left, he asked a final question. “Who was her uncle? Maybe I knew him.”

“Everyone knew her uncle, he was quite the important person. Her uncle was Cornelius Fudge.” Ron nodded, his lips pursed tightly and led his team from the shop.


***A/N: Really, there's something tying this all together. Honest. George did it! You guys broke me...I'm so weak.

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