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Children's Crusade by theelderwand
Chapter 6: The Two Hermiones
The force of Bellatrix’s two wands connecting in duel exploded every window in Shell Cottage. Neither of the Hermiones had seen fit to replace the wand they’d taken from Voldemort’s chief lieutenant; a trophy of war that was now pressed into action to annihilate its Doppelganger.
It was only due to his Auror training that Ron had managed to wrest the small child from Hermione’s arms and shield him from the impact just before the concussion threw the two redheads to the floor. Ron struggled to right himself, but even as he did, he still couldn’t fathom what was happening. Looking from right to left he saw Hermione, in a traveling cloak and nightgown, violently channeling her magic at…Hermione, standing in the doorway, pure murder in her eyes as she just as violently channeled it back. He took some solace in the fact that it appeared this rage wasn’t being vented at him. He tried desperately to determine which one was the imposter.
He pointed his wand first at the Hermione who had flown into his arms. Then he hesitated. They both have Bellatrix’s wand? You can’t Polyjuice a wand. He had no clue what to do or who to attack.
That was when Harry, dressed only in his boxers, Apparated directly into the kitchen from the upstairs bedroom, wand raised and poised to strike. The explosions had overwhelmed Ron’s Muffliato and the cacophony brought him to the scene ready for battle.
Harry had trained his Aurors to take in an operational situation before engaging to avoid hurting the innocent. With enough practice, any hesitation was negligible. But the sight of two Hermiones dueling to the death threw him off his game, much as it had Ron. Before Harry could react, both Hermiones shouted “NO!” and without breaking the flow between their locked wands, raised their non-wand hands, palm out. With two bursts of silent power, Harry hurtled into the kitchen wall.
Wandless? The word flew through Harry’s mind as he smacked into the cupboards.
Bellatrix’s wands spewed pure energy throughout the kitchen. The air crackled with the fury of the two curses that were not allowed to meet their mark. The Hermione in the doorway gave a savage cry and the back wall of Shell Cottage exploded outward.
Then, Ginny Apparated into the kitchen, wearing only a green negligee. “Protego!!”
With a violent crash her shield spell erupted between the two dueling Hermiones, flinging them apart and forcing them to cease their spells.
Ron regained his feet as the terrified little boy in his arms began to scream “MUMMY!” at the top of his lungs.
The Hermione nearest Ron snatched up her son, never letting her wand or her eyes leave the Hermione in the doorway. “YOU NEARLY KILLED MY SON, YOU BITCH!”
“I WAS TRYING TO KILL YOU, YOU POLYJUICED WHORE!!”
As their wands threatened to re-ignite, Ron leapt in between them. “WAIT!!”
“Get out of the way, Ron!” The demand was made in stereo.
As Harry regained his feet, Ron shot him a desperate look.
Harry focused on the Hermione in the doorway, trying to speak calmly and evenly. “She’s holding a child, Hermione.”
Ginny intervened. “Why don’t we all settle down and just lower our wands.” Slowly she moved next to Harry, but was facing the Hermione holding the wailing redheaded boy. As she looked at the child, she whispered to Harry, “Gods, he looks like Ron.”
Panting, the Hermione in the flannel nightgown breathed, “I’m not Polyjuiced. I’m you. From another place.”
“Time-turner?” Harry asked; that was when he noticed the other Hermione also bore Bellatrix’s wand.
“No. This.” Slowly, Hermione tapped the butt of her wand against the Talisman Deschain that hung round her neck. The business end of her wand never left the Hermione in the doorway.
“Reality-shifter,” the Hermione in the doorway responded.
The other Hermione nodded.
The doorway-Hermione shook her head. “They don’t exist anymore. The Talisman Deschain was the last one. It was destroyed in the last Goblin Rebellion.” She gripped her wand more firmly. “Try again!”
“That’s what I thought. This is the Talisman Deschain. It was hidden in Brittany.” She turned to the Head Auror. “Harry, please. Many lives were sacrificed for me to find all of you. Everything depends on you hearing me out.”
“Hermione?” Ron asked.
Both replied, “What?”
“This isn’t going to work.” Ginny shook her head. “Until we suss this out, you,” she motioned to the Hermione holding the boy, “you’re ‘Mione. And you,” she motioned to the Hermione in the doorway, “you’re Hermione.”
‘Mione clearly did not like the nickname, but she nodded slowly as she consoled her son. Harry took charge. “Good. Now, everyone, on the count of three, is going to lower their wands to their sides. One…two…three.”
Very reluctantly, everyone’s wand descended into a less threatening position. “Good.” Harry sighed. “Now, Gin and I are going to right some of the chairs around the table and we’re all going to sit down, very slowly, and talk.”
As the chairs were put in place, Ron looked hesitantly from ‘Mione and her son to Hermione, waiting for the battle to continue with him in the crossfire. Luckily, the truce seemed to be holding.
“Okay. Now everyone. Very slowly. Sit,” Harry ordered.
In unison, they all began to sit, keeping their wands in hand, but resting them on the table, pointing away from any targets. As ‘Mione slowly took her seat, her son asked, “Mummy, who are they?”
“They’re…friends, Ronnie,” ‘Mione answered.
Hearing the boy’s name, Hermione stiffened. Realizing she was about to fly out of her chair, Ron rested a calming hand on hers. She glared daggers at him, but her wand remained peacefully on the table.
Seizing the opening Harry addressed the little boy. “My name’s Harry. This is Ginny and that’s Ron. And this is…Hermione.”
The little boy took a good look at Hermione for the first time. “Mummy?” Then he looked at ‘Mione, a confused look on his face.
‘Mione said, “No dear, she just looks like me.”
Ginny said, in as soft a voice as she could, “We’re not gonna hurt you or your mum. Okay? Everyone was just…startled before. That’s all. Your name’s Ronnie?”
The little boy nodded. “Ronnie Weasley; my first name’s the same as yours!” he said, looking at Ron. “And my middle name’s Harry, like yours!”
Harry’s eyebrows shot up. Then, Ron stared at the boy, dumbfounded. “He’s…mine?”
‘Mione’s eyes welled up with tears, as she struggled with the answer. “Yes. No. The Ron in my reality is the father…He died.”
“I’m not listening to this tripe!” Hermione shouted, threatening to upset the uneasy truce.
Harry raised his hand, making a calming gesture. Then to ‘Mione, “How else do our realities differ?”
“They’re identical. Until four years ago,” ‘Mione answered.
“Four years…” Harry dreaded the implications.
‘Mione was still unable to utter the name Voldemort. “The Dark Lord won.”
Ginny was nearly crushed by the sudden tidal wave of anxiety that crashed over her from her fiancé. Just as quickly, Harry slammed the link shut, even though he caught a violent glare from Ginny when he did.
Hermione seethed. “Bollocks! How can you listen to this Polyjuiced…!”
Harry interrupted her before she said something that would reignite the duel.
“Hermione, look at her wand. That isn’t the result of a potion.”
“This was Bellatrix’s wand,” ‘Mione said, motioning to it. “But there was a potion involved in me coming here. It took the blood of the three of us from my reality to force the Talisman to bring me to the three of you.”
“I don’t care what this, this,” she struggled to find the right word, “this person says. She’s not me from this or any other reality! I know what I saw. If she’s on some kind of mission it seems the objective is Ron and nothing else!”
‘Mione steeled herself. “I anticipated something like this happening.” She desperately wished there was another way to do this. “If you’ll let me try to put my son down somewhere to sleep and promise me you’ll not harm him, I think I know a way to make you all understand.”
“Mummy, I don’t want you to leave!” Ronnie wailed.
“Be strong dear. You need to sleep now sweetheart.” Gently, ‘Mione brushed her hand over the young boy’s brow, muttering a sleep charm. Slowly, Ronnie’s eyelids drooped and the boy went limp in her arms. “Do I have your word?” She looked directly at Ginny, Harry and then Ron, but her eyes rested on Hermione.
Through clenched teeth, Hermione had to concede to ‘Mione’s worry. “I didn’t know you were holding him when I came in. Your back was to me. All I saw was you kissing my fiancé.”
‘Mione blanched at that, and dipped her head, slightly; if the shoe were on the other foot… Then, raising her head again, “I still need your word,” she persisted.
Harry answered for them, “If you are who you say you are, then you should know you don’t need to ask that question.” But ‘Mione’s glare never wavered. Harry finally relented. “Yes.”
“Can I put him on the couch?”
“Yes,” Harry replied again.
‘Mione slowly took the sleeping boy into the sitting room. Harry noticed that she had left her wand on the table. He was sure it was intentional, a sign of good faith and trust.
As she came back, she sat, appraising the quartet that sat around her. One by one as ‘Mione’s eyes fell on their faces she felt the silent tears streaming down her cheeks. I’ve missed them all so much. Though her tears betrayed her, her voice was steady. “Legilimens is the only way. Ron, I assume you know how.”
“No way in hell!” Hermione spat. “Me. I’ll do it or this doesn’t happen at all. Are we clear?”
“Hermione…” Harry began, but was cut off by her blazing glare.
‘Mione interjected, “Fine, but I’m not going to let you rummage around in my head. The minute you go too far, I’m forcing you out.”
Hermione didn’t respond.
Harry spoke up. “We’ll have to do Chain Legilimens.” This was a technique Harry had helped develop for the Auror Corps. One person would enter the mind of a suspect while a second entered the mind of the interrogator and so on. In this way, multiple people could view the same thoughts without all of them entering the same mind, which could be dangerous for the person being read. “Hermione leads, Ron, you follow her, I’ll follow you. Ginny?”
“I can do it. I was never as good as you three, but entering Harry’s mind shouldn’t be too difficult.” She said the last almost sarcastically, casting a glare at Harry for shutting her out earlier. But she said no more about the link. Playing it safe, she figured it was best to keep their secret until they figured out exactly who or what they were dealing with.
The idea of a Chain Legilimens gave Harry some pause; he was determined to keep Ginny from feeling the crushing anxiety that was surging through him, but with her linked to his mind from a Chain Legilimens, this could prove difficult. He resigned to block her from his own thoughts and feelings as much as possible. Not engaged a month and already I’m shutting her out…Why did this have to happen now?
The Quartet leveled their wands and in succession, starting with Hermione, spoke the incantation.
Hermione entered, not so much as broke into, ‘Mione’s mind. ‘Mione’s intent was to lead her through her memories. Hermione brushed her off, like a rude guest traipsing through an open doorway. ‘Mione had a fair idea where Hermione was going and let her.
The first image that swam into focus was from the back seat of a Muggle auto, George and Kathy Granger in the front seat. Kathy was driving. George had just cracked a joke and Kathy, laughing, drove the car into the closed garage door. Kathy then began yelling at George, but couldn’t keep a straight face while she did it.
Hermione felt an archly aimed Satisfied? from ‘Mione, but still did not relinquish control of the tour. Next, Hermione trudged her way through ‘Mione’s memories until she found an image of George Granger leaning over his daughter, putting a bandage on a scraped knee. Before he could finish, ‘Mione closed her hand over the wound, which instantly healed, much to the surprise of her very shocked father.
Again, Hermione felt a surge from her double. Now, will you trust me?
Hermione responded, No. Then, grudgingly, But go ahead and lead.
Hermione could almost feel the troubled sigh from her subject as the proffered images whirled until settling on the grounds of Hogwarts. What followed was a rush of horrific scenes.
A lifeless Harry was brought before the castle, carried by Hagrid. But unlike their own memories, the quartet never saw Harry alive again.
Harry felt his Ginny begin to tense next to him. Hold on love. This isn’t our reality. I’m right here. Expanding his control through the chain, Harry sought to dampen the emotional impact of everything they saw. It would prove a costly choice. But he was relieved when he felt Ginny’s pain ease slightly as the memories continued to flow past.
Next, they saw Neville consumed in flames as the Sorting Hat was forced, humiliatingly, over his head; the sword of Gryffindor never having appeared. One by one, during the battle in the Great Hall, all of their friends fell. When Arthur and then Molly were slain, the Quartet gasped, tears streamed down their faces. Again, Harry struggled to dampen the emotional impact on the group. He began to shake. Ron sent to Harry through the Chain, Dammit, Potter. Don’t take it all on yourself; you’ll burn out. Harry ignored him.
Then they received the image of Hagrid dragging Ron and ‘Mione from the hall, just as Ginny and then the entire Weasley family were consumed by Voldemort’s Fiendfyre. At this, Harry’s shaking started to resemble a seizure, tears flowing down his face. His reaction was so violent, Ginny had to brace him against her as his uncontrollable sobs threatened to break the chain. I’m right here next to you love. Holding you. I’ll never leave you. She forced her love through the link they shared, despite his attempts to shut her out. She desperately tried to steady him. As Harry’s control faltered, Hermione and Ron were both nearly consumed by the pain, their own and ‘Mione’s. Ron, overcome with emotion, tried to steady her and she him, picking up some of the emotional load from Harry. We have to keep looking, love.
The images faded and then the Quartet saw a dank cave. A bloodied Ron was leaning against ‘Mione as Hagrid told them second-hand how Voldemort had first Accio’ed the Hawthorne wand from Harry’s robes, at last becoming the true master of the Elder Wand. Then, catching Harry off guard, the Dark Lord used a brutally long and thorough Legilimens instead of the expected killing curse. The implications of this twist on history stunned them all; everything Harry knew, every secret he kept was now known by Riddle, including Snape’s memories.
When Hagrid relayed how Bellatrix finally dealt Harry the deathblow, Ginny collapsed on to Harry’s shoulder, weeping uncontrollably. Hold on love. Don’t break the spell. I’m still here. Harry reasserted his control over the emotional flow of the spell and felt Ginny steel herself as the images continued to slide past. It was a small mercy that ‘Mione didn’t actually witness Harry’s death so that Ginny only got to hear of it instead of actually experiencing it.
Last of all, Hagrid told Ron and 'Mione that Voldemort had ordered them killed at all costs. Riddle would stop at nothing to eliminate them because they knew the secret of his Horcruxes. But Hagrid had used Voldemort's name, which was still jinxed. It brought a trio of Death Eaters to the mouth of their cave.
As Hagrid sacrificed himself to insure Ron and ‘Mione’s escape, the Quartet gave a collective gasp. Hagrid had always been their protector. For him to have had to make the ultimate sacrifice was nearly one horror too many.
Hermione felt ‘Mione tense when the memories turned to a tent that Ron and ‘Mione had shared. I’m not showing you this. Hermione’s jealous curiosity warred with her preferred ignorance, but Hermione relented. She feared she knew what happened in this tent and didn’t want to see more.
The remaining scenes flashed by as Ron and ‘Mione ran for their lives for hours, unable to Apparate away from the Death Eaters that seemed to be around every turn. Voldemort had set up new wards around the entire country. Called the Dark Lord’s Teeth, they prevented any form of long distance or international Apparation; Ron and 'Mione could only Apparate within line of sight. It had nearly resulted in them being killed because they couldn’t put any distance between themselves and the pursuing Death Eaters.
Then, the group watched as Ron and ‘Mione learned of her pregnancy. Almost immediately afterward, a row broke out between the two as to what they should do next. Ron saw his other self argue that the duo had to leave the country for the good of the child and then felt the sharp sting when he saw ‘Mione accusing him of cowardice for wanting to “run away again.” Ultimately, they saw that 'Mione realized their child had to take priority over Voldemort; they decided to flee to France and seek refuge with Fleur’s family.
Then they saw plans, schemes and tests as to how to get through the Teeth and reach Calais by Apparating across the Channel from Dover, which ‘Mione believed might be the weak spot in the wards. Based on what they had heard over the wireless, 'Mione thought that anyone trying to Disapparate out of the country would be forced to appear at Dover, where scores of Death Eaters lay in ambush. The result was a horrid killing field, strewn with the corpses of the desperate. However, by focusing all Apparation to this one point, she theorized that the wards at Dover had weakened.
Ron had a plan to test her theory. They had managed to capture Yaxley and once 'Mione had placed him under the Imperius curse, they had made him try to Apparate through the wards. When the Teeth made him appear at Dover, he was cut down by the waiting Death Eaters who seemed not to care that he was one of them. The quartet could feel 'Mione shudder at what the circumstances had forced her to do. Worse yet, 'Mione hadn't broken her Imperius on Yaxley soon enough. She had felt him die.
But her theory was proven true. The wards did act as a funnel to Dover and the Teeth there had begun to degrade.
However, her memories of actually leaving the country were cordoned off by an immense wall of grief and some kind of memory dampening charm.
Due to ‘Mione’s exhaustion, all the images that followed her arrival in France were a muddled blur.
The Quartet saw ‘Mione collapsing into the arms of Fleur’s father, the birth of Ronnie and then the flight to Beauxbatons after Death Eaters attacked the Delacour’s chateau. After that were memories covering the discovery of the instability of their reality. For some reason the Dark Lord’s victory had made it dangerously unstable. Fate was trying to find a way to restore the equilibrium: merge with another reality where the Dark Lord had failed.
The Quartet palled at the implications. Voldemort and his minions would be alive again, here, in their home reality. Despite Harry's best efforts, Ginny could feel her fiancé’s overwhelming anxiety. His shaking became even worse.
Then came a jumbled kaleidoscope of memories: a rushed search for the Talisman Deschain. Then rush turned to panic as Voldemort learned that ‘Mione was searching for an ancient magical object. He didn’t know what it was or why it was so important to her, but he feared the worst. Nearly everyone she enlisted to help locate it was killed by Death Eaters or spies. Once the Talisman was finally in her possession, it took years of research to figure out how to use it; but, it was still largely a mystery.
The last images were of the news that Voldemort had created an army of Inferi using the Resurection Stone. Together with his Death Eaters and German allies, the Dark Lord launched a mighty invasion of France. Its sole purpose: eliminating ‘Mione.
The group took a collective breath once the parade of horrible memories was over. But Hermione refused to stop. She had to see what was being blocked. She had to know what happened at Dover. She threw herself at the guarded memory.
NO!! ‘Mione’s mind screamed in anguish. But Hermione was determined, focusing all of her might into the spell, she brutally sought to force ‘Mione’s mind to open.
Harry’s control was spent. He couldn’t prevent it. He desperately sent Ron a message through the Chain: Don’t let her do it! Stop her!
Ron was a master duelist and strategist, but he was no match for Hermione as a Legilimens. She ignored him and with a concerted assault, ‘Mione’s mind, at last, gave way. ‘Mione let out a pitiful, gurgled scream. The flow of emotions from this memory were far too powerful. Harry’s control over the emotional surge collapsed so completely no one could break their Legilimens until one or the other of the Hermione’s would or could end it.
The image came rapidly into focus. They saw a worn and filthy Ron; he and ‘Mione were trying to force their way through the anti-Apparation barrier that was the Dark Lord’s Teeth. Then the group melted completely into the memory, with no buffers, no safeguards and no way to make it stop:
“This is it,” ‘Mione whispered to Ron, pushing her hand against the weak spot in the Anti-Apparation barrier. She could almost put her hand through it. Almost, but not quite.
They moved back several feet and lifted their wands, pointing them at the weak spot. ‘Mione nodded to Ron, signaling she was ready.
He shouted “Expulso!” at the same time she yelled “Evanesco!”
With a thunderous crash, Ron was blasted backwards, smacking into a boulder. Blood rushed down his face. ‘Mione had been pulled in the other direction. She had been sucked through the twenty-foot wide hole their spells had made, coming to rest just on the other side of the barrier, near an outcrop of rock.
Ron rose, intending to dash through the hole after her.
Before he could, several dozen Death Eaters emerged by Portkey, hurling hex and curse.
As Ron took cover behind the boulder, he turned on the spot.
Even with the barrier breached, he couldn’t Apparate through the hole. He couldn’t reach her.
The explosion slammed into the boulder Ron was taking cover behind. Blood ran into his eyes, mingling with dirt and sweat. Ron spied his target and returned fire at the Death Eater not ten feet away from him. “Bombarda!”
‘Mione, more than thirty yards to Ron’s rear, had taken cover behind the outcrop of rock she had been hurled toward. Between his position and hers, there was no place for Ron to find shelter from the exploding barrage of curses.
“Hermione! You’ve gotta get out! It’s your only chance!”
Tears of rage, grief and exhaustion were leaking from ‘Mione’s eyes as she cast shield spell after shield spell at the never ending onslaught, trying to keep them safe, trying to keep the last of those she loved alive. “Protego!”
“I’m not leaving you, Ron!” she screamed through her tears.
“Apparate dammit!” he shouted in desperation, casting two Reducto curses nearly simultaneously, trying to keep their enemies at bay. “You have to go! This has all gone bollocks! Get out! GET OUT NOW!”
Greyback shouted above the din of the battle, “Cut off Weasley. Circle to the right! I’ll have the head of anyone who lets them escape!”
The battle intensified as ‘Mione tried frantically to cover Ron so he could make a desperate run through the hole in the Teeth. But there were too many Death Eaters and her strength was rapidly failing.
Then she saw Ron rise from the cover the boulder had been providing.
“GREYBACK!” he shouted.
‘Mione gasped, “Ron, please!! NO!!”
“HOLD!” Fenrir barked as his wand dropped slowly to his side. His battered men ceased their assault, although they continued to close on Ron, cautiously, taking their cue from Greyback.
“Hermione, stay there!” Ron shouted over his shoulder, giving her a reassuring wink.
Greyback snarled, “Give up now. The Dark Lord doesn’t want you dead.”
“Take me and let her go.”
‘Mione stiffened. She’d rather die than see this happen.
“We already have you. The question is whether she wants to watch you die here,” was Fenrir’s retort, which spurred laughter from his men, “or gives herself up and keeps you alive.” He leered at ‘Mione with a glint in his feral eyes as he continued to slowly close on Ron.
“You don’t have me yet. If you haven’t noticed, it seems you have about half as many pups with you as you did when you first got here,” Ron replied coldly. All the while, the Death Eaters had closed the distance.
“Then she can watch you die.”
Too late, ‘Mione grasped what Ron’s plan had been all along. All of the Death Eaters were within wand strike of any of a number of spells lethal to a group. Such spells would likely kill the caster, but she didn’t think Ron knew any of them. Then, cold fear spread through her as she realized what he was about to do; Voldemort had spoken the incantation at the Disaster at Hogwarts. Before she could break cover and stop him, a monstrous Fiendfyre leapt from Ron’s wand. He had cast it nonverbally to catch all of them by surprise.
The Fiendfyre raged with an ear-piercing roar. Greyback and his Death Eaters, stunned by the redhead’s ferocity, desperately hurled curses at both of them.
The Fiendfyre consumed the frantic spells that were aimed at its wielder and the woman under his protection. Then it devoured Greyback and all of his men without mercy.
‘Mione saw Ron focus all of his might on keeping the flames away from her. But that focus came at a cost; the inferno turned on its master. Just before the blaze reached him, he turned to her. She saw his look of grim concentration soften into a small, sad smile as he locked his eyes on hers. A silent tear slid down his cheek; she couldn’t hear the words he spoke over the screeching of the inferno, but she understood them, nonetheless:
“I’m sorry, love. Save our child.”
The conflagration wailed like a tortured banshee. Then in a blinding red flash, Ronald Bilius Weasley was no more.
Even with Ron’s passing, the fire from the abyss refused to yield immediately, so powerful was the force behind its creation. At last, free of its restraints, it sought to spread through the breach in the Teeth. ‘Mione had no choice but to Disapparate across the channel.
She sat on the shores of Calais, weeping uncontrollably, rocking back and forth. As she clutched her knees to her chest, her steady stream of tears began to soak her dirt-covered jeans. The agony she was suffering threatened to engulf her. The three words she kept repeating through her tears became a whispered litany; a desperate prayer to have the last few minutes wiped out of existence.
“Ron, please, no.”
With a will suffused of soul-crushing grief, ‘Mione violently purged Hermione from her mind. GET OUT!!
The chain spell broke abruptly and painfully. All five of them collapsed forward in their chairs. None of them noticed that the Talisman’s jewel had been glowing and throbbing during the spell.
‘Mione was consumed by her anguish. “I wasn’t trying to hide it from you…” The sobs choked her words. “I couldn’t sleep or eat…I had to dull it…Ron! Oh, Ron!”
As the rest of the table sat frozen, tears streaming down their faces, Ron rose and rushed to ‘Mione. “It’s okay, love. I’m here now.” He scooped her into his arms as she wept inconsolably into his chest.
Hermione ran from the room.
“Ginny?” Still shaking, Harry barely finished saying her name before his tear-streaked fiancée took his cue and dashed off after her best friend.
“No. No!” ‘Mione pushed Ron away; she was deathly pale. “This isn’t right,” she said, shaking her head. Her breathing became ragged. “We can stop the realities from merging, but you have to come back with me.” Then she fainted into Ron’s arms.
AN: I do not own Harry Potter. The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.