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Chapter 40 : Harry's Army
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"Lower your wand," Harry said fiercely. "We're on the same side, Phillipe."
"Non," Phillipe said loudly. "Never! You are the reason my parents are dead!"
"They killed your parents!" Harry retorted angrily.
Phillipe sneered at him. "They did the killing, but you are the reason! If my parents 'ad not believed in you -- if they 'ad not put their faith in a stupid boy..."
Phillipe took a step towards Harry, but Harry did not move. Tonks was still sprawled unconscious at his feet, and he wasn't about to leave her behind.
"I didn't ask anybody to believe in me," Harry said quietly.
"Of course not!" Phillipe laughed. "Always modest, 'arry. But my parents threw away their most precious possessions -- their lives -- because they believed in you and your modesty." His eyes flashed, and Harry wondered if it was his imagination or if Phillipe actually made himself a few inches taller.
"I do not 'ave that problem."
Harry watched Phillipe's knuckles whiten as he gripped his wand more tightly. "I intend to claim my reward, and then, even you cannot 'urt me." He raised his arm and his mouth quirked into a strange half smile. "Dead or alive, yes?"
This time, Harry was ready for Phillipe's uncharacteristic burst of speed as he raised his wand.
"Ultro!" Harry cried, and a wall of blue light erupted from his wand at the same time that Phillipe shouted, "Avada kedavra!"
Harry flinched and turned his face away from the bolt of green light racing towards him. The shield spell would never hold against an Unforgivable.
A flash of light much brighter than his own spell or the killing curse aimed at him made Harry see spots behind his eyes. He wasn't dead. Turning his head cautiously, he saw Phillipe staring in shock at a large burn mark on the wall just over his left shoulder.
Somehow, Harry's shield spell had deflected the killing curse and the ricocheting magic had only barely missed its caster.
Seizing Phillipe's momentary distraction, Harry hissed, "Citro," lowered the shield spell, and took his aim. "Explliarmus!"
Phillipe had just enough time to turn his head to look at Harry before the spell slammed into his chest. It lifted him off his feet and threw him backwards against the window directly behind him. A terrible shattering noise filled the air as Phillip crashed through the window and out into the night.
For a moment, Harry was frozen, staring at the shards of glass still clinging to the weathered wooden frame, highlighted in moonlight. His feet took over without permission from his brain and carried him to the window in a few long strides.
Phillipe lay quite still on the ground below. He stared up at Harry with wide, surprised eyes, never moving, never blinking. Harry stared back at him, his brain refusing to process the still, still form lying in the dust.
* * *
Tonks was heavier than she looked, but Harry could not bring himself to use magic to lift her. After everything that had happened during the fight, he couldn't be certain that he knew his own strength any more, and so he struggled down to the entrance to the tunnel carrying her inert frame in his arms. Just inside the mouth of the tunnel, Ginny was waiting, slumped heavily against one of the rough-hewn walls.
"Harry!" she cried, quickly straightening. "I was just wondering if I should go back for you--"
"I'm fine," Harry said tersely, not having enough breath to elaborate. "Tonks isn't. Let's go."
Harry tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, but his mind was far away. In the darkness of the long tunnel back to the school, he felt as though Phillipe's eyes were staring out at him from around every turn.
Ginny went out first and froze the Whomping Willow, then helped Harry lift Tonks up out of the tunnel. Harry was beginning to worry; Tonks' hair, which had been a violent shade of violet, had begun to turn brown around the roots.
When they finally managed to extract themselves from the tunnel and move safely away from the Willow, Harry looked up and saw Professor Dumbledore striding purposely towards them across the grounds with Professors McGonagall and Lindell hurrying along in his wake.
"Harry," Dumbledore began.
"I think they're gone," Harry replied, as if answering Dumbledore's unspoken question. "But Phillipe--" His voice broke on the name and his stomach twisted rebelliously.
"Minerva," Dumbledore said, not waiting for Harry to finish, "escort them to the hospital wing, will you? Demetria?" He paced forward, freezing the Willow with a flick of his wand and descending towards the entrance to the tunnel. Professor Lindell followed silently, stealing only the briefest of glances in Harry's direction.
Professor McGonagall took over immediately, levitating Tonks out of Harry's tired arms. He was content to follow along, content to let someone else be in charge, content to let his mind go blank as they made their way through the Entrance Hall, through the empty corridors of the school, and up to the infirmary. As Harry followed Professor McGonagall into the hospital wing though, he stopped dead in his tracks.
Everyone turned to look as Harry entered the room and he stared back at them all in shock. Gwyn leapt up from a bed near the back and rushed forward. She threw her arms around him and buried her face in his shoulder shuddering quietly as hot tears seeped through his robes.
"This is all my fault," Harry said hoarsely.
"You hexed them all, did you?" Madame Pomfrey asked sarcastically as she hurried forward to tend to Tonks where Professor McGonagall had lowered her gingerly onto one of the few empty beds. "I highly doubt it. Unless you know a good deal more about the Dark Arts than you've been letting on, Mr. Potter. Find an empty bed and I'll be with you in a moment."
"Don't argue with me!" Madam Pomfrey snapped, her keen eyes locking him into a steely gaze. "Not one of you is leaving this infirmary tonight."
With Gwyn still crying on his shoulder and Ginny trailing him at the heels, Harry walked slowly down the center aisle.
The infirmary looked like the aftermath of a small war. Almost every bed was filled with a member of the DA. Justin was nursing a bad burn that radiated up one arm all the way to his shoulder; Padma was either asleep or unconscious in the bed next to him. Neville was awake, but lying quite still on a third bed, staring out a window while Luna, sporting various plasters and bandages, petted his hand and hummed softly under her breath. She turned her head to smile at Harry. She had a large bandage on the side of her face, and Harry could see where her ash blonde hair had been badly singed. The others seemed to be sporting only minor cuts, bruises, and various spell damage, but even these small slights were enough to increase Harry's feeling of horror.
At the back of the ward, curtains had been drawn around the last bed. Dreading what he would find, Harry tentatively reached out and drew back the curtain.
Ron was sitting next to the bed with his head bowed. He was rubbing one of Hermione's hands between his own, staring fixedly at nothing in particular. He did not look up when Harry pulled back the curtain, nor even when Ginny moved around behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders.
Hermione was still and pale, her hair spread out around her on the pillow like a bushy halo. Harry was reminded uncomfortably of the terrible time during their second year when he and Ron had spent weeks at Hermione's bedside while she lay cold, lifeless, and petrified. He watched her chest rise as she drew a ragged breath and thought that somehow, this was infinitely worse.
Gwyn took Harry's elbow and led him gingerly to another chair that she had found somewhere. Ginny did not even bother with a chair and sank down to the floor, exhausted, leaning heavily against her brother's leg.
"How is she?" Harry asked, his voice sounding strange and forced in the sterile silence of the ward.
Ron shook his head. "They don't know," he said gruffly. "She's stable -- which means she's not getting any worse, but she's not getting any better, either."
"Ron, I--" Harry began helplessly, but Ron cut him off with a quick shake of his head. He had yet to look Harry in the eye.
Feeling lonelier than he had in a long time, Harry reached out to brush a bit of hair out of Hermione's face when he noticed a gold amulet, about the size of a bottle cap, hanging around her neck. His fingers lingered on the raised runes and brushed over the red stone in the center. Confusion washed over him anew as he again noticed the exact same amulet swinging from a gold chain around Ron's neck.
Afterward, Harry could never tell how long he had sat there. At some point, Madam Pomfrey had shooed Gwyn and Ginny off to their own beds, but she had seemed to realize how pointless it would be to try to remove Harry or Ron. Neither of them was likely to leave their vigil at Hermione's side any time soon.
Before long, Harry could hear the voices of Professor Dumbledore and Professor Lindell as they conferred quietly with McGonagall.
"Potter is with Granger and Weasley if you want to speak to him, Albus," McGonagall said quietly. There was a very long pause.
"Harry has won his first battle tonight," Professor Dumbledore replied in an even tone. "But he has a much longer campaign ahead. Let him rest for now. He deserves time to grieve. Because indeed, apart from a battle lost, there is nothing half so melancholy as a battle won."
The night drifted past Harry in a haze. Madam Pomfrey brought him a potion to drink at one point, and he swallowed the foul concoction without so much as asking what it was. He listened half-heartedly to snippets of conversation that drifted across the quiet ward as the members of his little army told McGonagall and Dumbledore what they knew about what had happened.
Harry pieced together over time that Hermione had come back to Gryffindor Tower and sprinted up the stairs to find him. Ginny said that Hermione had been lit from within, the way she sometimes looked when she figured out the answer to a particularly thorny Arithmancy problem. Hermione had been the one to discover Harry's doppelganger and had been the one to guess where Harry might go.
She, Ron, and Tonks had gone straight to the seventh floor, but Harry, Gwyn and Phillipe were already gone. Still, it had been Hermione who had spotted the map, and she had seen three dots disappearing off the edge of the page.
At this point, the story became more muddled. Apparently, Tonks had wanted to charge out after them at once, but Hermione had insisted on calling backup. Using the coins she had enchanted to let everyone know about DA meetings, she summoned the better part of Dumbledore's Army to the seventh floor corridor.
After sending the Creevy brothers off to fetch Dumbledore, the entire DA had made their way out onto the grounds, through the passage under the Willow, and into the nest of vipers in the Shrieking Shack.
Harry was exhausted just listening to it. He didn't deserve such friends. He didn't deserve such trust, such loyalty, such fealty. He didn't deserve to have people he didn't even know -- people like Phillipe's parents -- risking their lives because they believed in him. And he certainly didn't deserve the kind of friends that would rush into danger to save his life.
Ron was snoring with his head nestled in the crook of Hermione's arm. Harry could almost pretend that she too was only sleeping, that she and Ron would both wake with the morning and be safe and healthy and whole.
Eventually, Harry fell into a fitful sleep, but even exhaustion, it seemed, could not keep the dreams at bay.
It began as so many of his dreams had begun, with a long dark corridor and a door at the end. Harry passed through the door easily into the round room, making each turn thereafter as one well acquainted with the twisting maze of corridors until he reached the room with the stone dais and the fluttering, whispering veil.
At the center of the room, Voldemort was waiting for him.
The Dark Lord began to applaud slowly, mockingly, as he descended the steps from the dais, approaching Harry.
"Well fought, young man," he said, his tone dripping with sarcasm. "You really have become the master tactician."
Harry frowned uncertainly.
"Sacrificing your pawns to save your own life," Voldemort continued, his voice as smooth as black silk. "Quite the daring move."
"I didn't sacrifice anyone," Harry said, fighting for each word.
Voldemort regarded him coolly. "No? You think your Scriptionist and your Auror will survive the night?" He shrugged his thin shoulders eloquently. "I wish I were in possession of such faith," he said with a mock sigh.
"Still," he continued in a firmer tone, "you bested my assassin, didn't you? How does it feel, to have killed a man? Oh! But I forgot. You've killed before." He turned part way to look over his shoulder at the fluttering veil suspended from the archway.
Harry struggled, feeling as though his body were made of stone, his lips made of lead as angry retorts fought to escape from them.
"In fact," Voldemort continued, a triumphant gleam playing in his eyes, "I'm beginning to wonder why we have always been on opposite sides, you and I..."
Something inside of Harry broke. It's a dream, a voice told him calmly. You're in control.
And suddenly he was. He found control of his limbs and took two enormous steps forward, closing the gap between himself and Voldemort to but a few feet. His wand was in his hand, warm and ready to duel, but he knew he didn't need it.
"We are on opposite sides because we are opposites," Harry said, the words coming from some place deep within him that he could not name. "And I will fight you. And you will die."
Voldemort took a step backwards, towards the veil.
"Go away," Harry said firmly. "And leave me alone."
Harry could have sworn he heard Sirius' bark-like laugh as Voldemort's form dissolved and faded into nothingness.
* * *
When Harry woke the next morning, a strange sort of calmness hung over him like a warm blanket. Mere moments after he opened his eyes, Madam Pomfrey and Remus were at his side.
"Harry," Remus whispered, his voice thick and gravely. He looked terrible with deep, barely healed scratches all across his neck and face and hands, and heavy purple bags in the hollows under his eyes.
"Let me look at you," Madam Pomfrey interrupted, stepping between Remus and Harry to examine him with her eagle eyes. "Miss Weasley tells me she thinks you threw off the Imperius Curse. Is that true?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't really remember," he admitted. "There was... something, though, and then Hermione..." He turned to look back at her still inert form lying exactly as it had been on the bed as Ron yawned and began to sit up. "Is she going to be alright?" Harry asked.
Madam Pomfrey looked grave. "To be quite honest, I don't know," she replied, her voice low and heavy. "I am not even certain why she has-- why she isn't..." She sniffed loudly and cleared her throat. "But the fact that she is still alive can only be a good sign," she said firmly. "It means she is strong, and that she has a strong will to live."
"Dumbledore has contacted her parents," Remus put in, glancing reluctantly at Hermione's still face. "They're moving her to St. Mungo's this afternoon."
"I'm going with her," Ron said suddenly.
"You're staying right here," Madam Pomfrey replied without missing a beat. "You need rest. All of you," she said, looking to Harry sternly. "You're all in shock."
"I want to go with Hermione," Ron repeated stubbornly.
Madam Pomfrey threw up her hands. "Fine! Do whatever you want! Go out and get yourselves killed! Don't listen to what I say!" She turned to storm off, but Remus caught her elbow.
"Poppy," he said gently, and Harry watched the matron's stiff shoulders sag a little. She nodded once and moved away with a bit more grace and composure.
Remus came around the end of the bed and perched on it lightly, looking Harry directly in the eyes. "Dumbledore and Demetria captured Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange in the Shrieking Shack," he said. "And they found Phillipe Fontaine as well."
"I hope they killed the bastard," Ron spat vehemently. Harry looked down at his hands, that same, horrible twisting feeling gnawing at his gut.
"He was already dead," Lupin said quietly.
"Because I killed him," Harry blurted out. Neither Remus nor Ron spoke for a long time. Harry could feel the guilt and shame burning inside him like hot coals until he thought he would burst into flames right before their eyes.
Suddenly, however, a warm hand landed on his shoulder. Harry looked up and saw Remus gazing at him with such an intense expression that it took him aback.
"I don't know what happened in there, Harry," Remus said quietly, his voice barely audible in the still silent dawn of the hospital. "No one will ever know what really happened except for you, but I can tell you what I do know." He searched Harry's eyes for a moment longer, his expression becoming firm and strong despite his tired appearance.
"I know that you are not a murderer, Harry. Whatever happened in there, whatever you did, whatever you were forced to do -- I believe that you were only doing what you thought was right. You are a good man, Harry. You would do well to remember it."
Abruptly, Remus stood and pulled his hand off of Harry's shoulder. "Dumbledore will be in to see you later," he said casually, as though nothing unusual had just passed between them. "Until then, you should rest. I'll see you soon."
Harry watched him walk away, unable to tear his eyes from the shabby robes, the graying hair, and the man who carried himself with more poise and dignity than most men could ever hope. A warm feeling burned in his chest, and he realized that this time it was gratitude for the faith Remus had in him.
Turning back, Harry suddenly met Ron's eyes across the bed that lay between them. They were wide and staring.
"I..." Ron began slowly. He swallowed audibly. "What he said."
"Ron," Harry said quickly. "About what happened -- with Hermione, I mean--"
"You don't have to explain," Ron said bluntly, looking down at Hermione and taking her hand into both of his. "I kind of suspected for a while now."
"Suspected what?" Harry demanded, dumbfounded.
"Ron," Harry persisted. "I don't think that Hermione meant that she loved me."
"Ah," Ron said, frowning. "That's good. 'Cos normally people don't mean that when they say, 'I love you.'"
Harry sighed. "Well, we'll just have to ask her then, won't we." Ron looked up suddenly and Harry met his eyes. "When she wakes up."
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by Hallie Dove