As Demon instructed, Adam told Ron to send Pigwidgeon to her that night. The owl carried two letters with it -- one from George to Demon, and the other from Fred to Mina. The note the girls sent with Adam had calmed the twins slightly, but they were worried nevertheless.
It was breakfasttime when a reply arrived. Pig barely made it to the Manor from wherever he was because of the four large letters attached to his legs. When the letters were removed, however, the owl hooted happily and zoomed around the dining hall before Cupid managed to shoo him into the kitchen to be fed.
"Here," said the twins as they pulled off two leters for themselves, then carried the other two to Harry and Adam.
"What does it say?" Ginny asked Harry as he read his letter.
Harry didn't answer, but instead handed the letter to Ginny to read. When she was done, he had Ron and Hermione read it as well.
"She's...what?" Hermione asked, gaping at Harry.
"After breakfast," Harry muttered cautiously, taking another bite of toast.
Hermione did as she was told and waited until after breakfast before she started asking questions. Phoenix and Remus had gone out for a ride on the grounds, and Harry decided to go out for a walk as well. Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Adam and Emberlynn accompanied him. They began by telling Emberlynn and Adam what their plan was, so the two wouldn't feel left out in all of this. Harry still refused to tell the Order of the Phoenix, though; he knew they had enough on their plates as it was.
"So you're finding pieces of the Dark Lord's -- er, You-Know-Who's soul?" Emberlynn asked, mentally kicking herself. She'd been trying to start saying "You-Know-Who" rather than "the Dark Lord" for quite a while now. Her mother explained that was what Voldemort's Death Eaters called him, so Emberlynn thought it was better to break the habit her grandmother had gotten her so used to.
"Yes," Hermione said. "And Demon and Mina are out there after the last piece."
"Does that mean You-Know-Who will die?" Emmy asked.
"Not yet," Harry said. "The final horcrux will be destroyed, but not the final piece of his soul. The final piece is inside Voldemort," Emberlynn flinched, "so I've got to destroy that last."
"Why you, though?" Emmy asked.
"You've heard of a prophecy regarding Harry, right?" Adam asked, surprising the others in the group. Emmy looked at him and nodded, also slightly surprised. The group had no idea that Adam had been sneaking around, picking up pieces of their plans ever since he moved into Darkheart Manor. "Well, the prophecy basically says that Harry is the only one who can kill Voldemort, and Voldemort made it so. He marked Harry as his equal, so now Harry has to finish him off or else he'll never be able to live a normal life."
"If you think my life can ever be normal, you're mental," Harry said with a grin, looking at Adam. The boy grinned in return.
"Oh, come on," Ginny said, taking Harry's arm in hers. "One day you will have a normal life... I just know it." Harry smiled at Ginny and threw his arm around her.
"But what if you moved away?" Emberlynn supplied. "What if you just left so You-Know-Who couldn't find you?"
"He'd always be able to find me," Harry sighed. "Someone will see me and tip him off, then it would be back to square one. Besides...running isn't living, is it?"
Emberlynn looked at Harry seriously, then smiled softly and nodded. "I want to help."
"Glad to hear that," Harry replied with a smile. "I've seen your defensive magic...I think you'd be a great help later on."
"Later on?" Emmy asked.
"For the final battle," Hermione said, frowning. "We're all going to fight alongside Harry."
"Even you?" Emmy asked, looking up at Adam.
The boy nodded, smiling slightly, but did not look at Emberlynn. "Yeah, even me."
"Because that's what friends do," Adam said, his eyes still looking at the snowy ground in front of him. "Everyone here has been my friend since I showed up at this place."
"What's that noise?" Ginny asked suddenly.
The group stopped walking and stopped speaking. They could hear people talking ahead, followed by someone bellowing, "Expecto patronum!"
"That's Aunt Nyx!" Emmy said, taking off at a run. The others followed.
They came into a small clearing with Phoenix and Remus, wands drawn, but saw nothing. They were panting hard from running, the cold air chilling their lungs. Harry looked around in the trees, then took two steps forward. "What the hell is going on here?!"
Phoenix and Remus turned to see the group, smiling. "You guys look frightened," Remus said, obviously trying to hold back a laugh.
"We heard someone trying to conjure a Patronus, so we expected the worst!" Hermione wheezed, leaning on Ron.
"Remus is trying to help me form one," Phoenix said simply. "Without a dementor, for starters."
"You can't make one?" Ron asked.
"I thought that would have been obvious after what happened at Hogwarts," Phoenix said. "I've never had the right amount of power to."
"It's not about your power, Phoenix," Remus said, motioning for her to raise her wand. She shook her head, smiling, and followed his instruction. "You're not thinking of happy enough memories."
"Very few to choose from, Remus," she replied.
"Hmm," Remus said, toying with his own wand. "Ah... try this one." He leaned over and whispered something in Phoenix's ear that made her smile broadly. "Will it work?"
"It had better, hadn't it?"
"Then give it a try," he said, standing back.
Harry and the others moved forward to watch Phoenix as she closed her eyes to concentrate. A few moments later, she opened her eyes and gave her wand a determined wave. "Expecto patronum!"
Something silver shot from the end of her wand, but it was faint so the others had to squint to see its form against the white snow.
"Well done!" Remus laughed, walking to Phoenix to give her a hug. "That's one hell of an improvement!"
Phoenix's eyes lingered on the Patronus until it vanished. "Was that... what I thought it was?"
Remus smiled softly, kissing the side of his wife's head. "It looked like it to me."
"It looked like a wolf," Hermione said, squinting at where she'd last seen the silver figure.
"That wasn't a wolf," Adam said. "It was a dog."
Harry smiled broadly. "A big shaggy dog..."
"Care to show off yours, Harry?" Remus asked, pulling Phoenix aside.
Harry nodded and waved his wand. "Expecto patronum!" A silver stag shot from the end of his wand, cantering around the clearing before coming back to Harry. He reached out to touch it's head, smiling, and a moment later, it vanished.
"Can you teach me?" Emmy said in a faint voice, watching the creature.
"Sure," Harry laughed, pulling her forward. "Adam, do you...?"
"Why not?" Adam shrugged, stepping forward.
"Just think of a happy memory," Harry told the two as they stood with their wands out. "A strong, happy memory." The two thought for a minute, then each began to smile and nodded. "Try it, then."
After a half an hour, Emmy's Patronus had grown from a pathetic vapor to a silver shield. Adam's was beginning to take a shape, but it was so undefined that no one could make out what it was.
"I think that's enough for today," Remus said finally, motioning for the group to head back to the house. He and Phoenix led the horses along with them, but remained on foot with the others.
"Sir," Hermione said, turning to look at Remus. "What is your Patronus?"
Remus smiled. "It used to be a wolf," he said. "But about eight months ago, it turned into a giant cat..."
Phoenix blinked and looked at her husband. "You haven't told me that before."
Remus shrugged. "Must've slipped my mind."
Remus turned to look at Phoenix in time to catch a snowball in the face. It scared him so badly it knocked him off his feet, but when he sat up he was met with a wave of laughter. "How dare you!" he roared, grabbing a snowball to chuck back at Phoenix.
"Now, now, Moony," Phoenix said, grabbing a handful of snow to pack into a light ball. "You should know better to hit a girl!"
"You haven't been a girl for a very long time, Nyxie," Remus replied, rolling over so the snowball hit his back. He then reappeared with another to throw at Phoenix, but before he could launch it, a rogue snowball caught him in the chest.
"Oops!" Emmy laughed evilly, covering her mouth with her hand.
"Why you!" Remus shouted, chucking the snowball at her instead. She tried to hide behind Adam, but he shoved her back into the snowballs path. She glared at him for a moment before tackling him into the snow... and then the war started.
By dinnertime, everyone in the house had settled down -- except Phoenix and Nick. The two were getting owl after owl from the Ministry even after their shifts had ended for the night. Throughout the meal, owls kept flying into the dining room to drop letters and other documents into their food, upsetting the pair. "I'm going to kill those girls" was all Phoenix would say before throwing the parchment into a corner behind her, shooing the owl off with a shout or two, and going back to her food.
It was when a howler was dropped in front of Phoenix that she'd had enough. With a snap of her fingers, the howler vanished with a ear-splitting scream, and she rose from the table to go to the entrance hall. Nick sighed and followed her, and Remus followed out of curiousity.
"Where are you off to?" Remus asked as Phoenix pulled on her long, fur-lined travelling cloak.
"The Ministry," Phoenix snapped, though by her tone, Remus knew she wasn't snapping at him. "Those two girls broke into Hogwarts, and have engaged in open duels with Death Eaters four times today!"
"They what?" Remus asked, looking to Nick.
"Muggles keep getting caught in the crossfire. One's ended up dead and several jinxed badly. St. Mungo's is having a fit, the Obliviators are furious, and Scrimgeour himself is demanding to know who the witch fighting them is," Nick explained. "They can't identify the Death Eaters because they're in black robes, but everyone keeps catching glances of a redheaded girl around the age of seventeen. She rides a red motorbike with a gold lion on it, and wears a black jacket with a red lion on the back."
"That's Desdemona, allright," Phoenix sighed, pulling on her gloves. "The girl wouldn't know subtlety if it smacked her in the face and called her a whore..."
"Language," Remus said, pulling Phoenix to him for a one-armed hug. "Just take it easy, would you?"
"Easier said than done," Phoenix sighed. "Mina's poisoned three Death Eaters and left them dead in dumpsters. Whatever it is she uses makes their bodies start to decay rapidly, so Muggles are attracted to the smell... and they find them covered in a sort of green ooze. Not a very easy thing to cover up..."
"You realize you're criticizing these girls for doing the things that you yourself have done?" Remus asked politely.
"They're doing it in a stupid way!" Phoenix growled at him. "Desdemona gets herself into trouble and doesn't bother with subtlety... but then she gets in over her head and can't get out! Wilhelmina has to step in then and kill people, but she does it so sloppily it's going to be traced right back to her! These girls don't think things through, nor do they do anything rationally!"
"Phoenix," Nick interrupted, his blue eyes turning on her. "Do you think...maybe...they want all this attention drawn to them?"
Phoenix raised a brow at Nick, who smiled and continued.
"They're being sloppy on purpose!" he said ecstatically. "We've seen Mina kill someone and not leave a trace behind, other than the witnesses. If we hadn't seen her kill Claudia, we would have never known she did it! It was perfect! And Des...remember the day we met her?! She'd been stalking the Death Eaters for weeks...she was right above their own heads and they didn't know! They can do things rationally, but they've suddenly gotten sloppy!"
Phoenix suddenly looked pale. "The idiot girls are going to try and draw them into a trap..."
Remus, who hadn't comprehended what Nick said until Phoenix explained it, suddenly looked to his wife. "What are you going to do?"
Phoenix sighed and rubbed her forehead with one hand. "Nothing."
Nick and Remus both looked shocked to hear this. "What do you mean?" Nick asked her. "You can't just let them--"
"I'm in no state to go looking for them myself," Phoenix stated simply. "Besides, she's left no clue to where she was going. She told Adam that she couldn't."
"It would obviously be a place Voldemort would go to look for her," Nick said. "Her father's house, most likely. I'd bet all the gold in Gringotts."
"But Desdemona has never told anyone in this house where they lived when he was killed," Phoenix stated with a long sigh. "She planned it this way..."
Outside Dublin, something waited in the tall grass outside a small little house in the middle of a dense forest. She'd been hungry for days now, but this was the first time her master had ordered her to kill in months. Usually she just took stray animals, feasting on a Muggle or two once in a while. But her master had a need for her now, and she would not disappoint where his precious Death Eaters did.
The thirteen-foot-long snake slithered up to the house, circling around to the back door that she knew was off its hinges. She waited until the lights from inside faded, listening to the two girls' movements. There was an occasional grumble from them as they tossed in their sleep, but the deep breaths they made now could only be those of a slumbering human. This was her chance.
Moving her giant body along the dusty floor, she made her way into the kitchen, through the open door, and out into the living room where the two girls were sleeping. She raised her head up off the floor and looked at the two of them, then decided to take the witch first and save the Squib for after. But her master needed something from the witch, first -- a trinket around her neck.
No matter which way she turned, she couldn't see the locket on the girl. Maybe it's in her pocket, she thought, circling around. But then she saw it -- a golden locket on the floor between the two beds. It must've fallen from the girl's bed...
No more waiting, Nagini, the snake told herself. It's time to eat...
As she opened her massive mouth, her giant fangs lengthening, the redheaded witch stirred. Nagini paused, watching her, but then a quick flash made her realize what had happened. Now! she told herself, lunging down upon the girl. But as she did, the second girl had attacked her from the side, and the first rose up with a sword in her hand.
With her flexible body, Nagini wrapped around the blonde girl, tightening her body. The girl let out a scream as Nagini cracked a few of her bones, but then the redhead tackled her with the sword, slashing at her. Nagini tried to fight back, but this girl was quick. If she couldn't attack the one attacking her, she could at least frighten her by devouring the blonde, right?
She took a bite at the blonde, but it was misdirected when the redhead nearly sliced Nagini's throat open. The snake managed to get the girl's shoulder at least, causing her to scream again. Another stretch of her body made the girl's bones crack even more, which seemed to frighten the redhead so badly she was now demanding that Nagini drop her.
The slices in the snake's body were starting to have an odd effect on her. Her head felt cloudy and she wasn't thinking as clearly. What was happening?
A final attempt to consume the blonde girl was what ended Nagini's life. The redhead was so determined to save her friend she threw herself in front of the snake's fangs and thrust the sword through Nagini's head. The snake hissed as it's body fell to the floor, writhing. It took almost ten minutes for her to die, but by that time, two other people had arrived; two red-haired men, who were kneeling with the two girls as Nagini's large eyes closed.
When everyone in Darkheart Manor learned about where the two girls ended up, they immediately rushed to St. Mungo's hospital. To most people's surprise, Matthew was in the lead, followed closely by Adam. When they got to the hospital, Desdemona had left. Fred and George remained with Mina, though George was the only one who seemed to be capable of speaking.
"They met up with You-Know-Who's snake," he explained to them when everyone managed to crowd inside the large room. This room had two beds instead of one, and Demon was supposed to be occupying the other -- though she ran off without telling either of the twins where she was headed. "The one that attacked Dad two years ago. It was trying to crush Mina, and we got there just as Demon killed it."
"She... killed it?" Harry asked as though he were barely capable of speech.
"Yeah," George nodded. "With Godric Gryffindor's sword. She rammed it right through the beast's head."
"That explains why she broke into Hogwarts," Nick muttered, looking to Phoenix.
"How is she?" Mrs. Weasley asked Fred as she took a seat by the elder twin. Fred gave his mother a surprised glance, then she threw her arms around him when he started to cry again. "There, there, dear..." she said, patting him lovingly on the back.
"The Healers said they were able to give her something for the poison, but they don't know how well it will work because it spread through her body so quickly," George muttered as he sat on the empty bed. "They've also been trying to heal all of her bones, which has been hard since many of them are broken in more than one spot."
"I'm going to kill that brat," Fred growled angrily. He looked at George, his eyes still full of tears. "Why did that little bitch have to drag Mina along?!"
"Don't call her that!" George shouted. "Mina said she wanted to be there!"
"She's a Squib!" Fred roared. "How could she defend herself against a giant snake?!"
"You haven't seen the girl fight, have you, Fred?" Phoenix interrupted, causing the boy to tone down a bit. His bottom lip trembled, but he didn't look at Phoenix. "Mina is quite capable of taking on a fully trained wizard and coming out on top. Between her potions and combat fighting, she's lethal."
"Not against a snake," Fred muttered. "Not against any of this..."
Mrs. Weasley continued to comfort Fred while everyone started filing out of the room. Many of them went on their way, thinking about everything they'd just been told. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were the most pensive.
"She's killed Nagini," Harry said breathlessly. "That means..."
"There's only Voldemort left," Hermione nodded. "But we've got to make sure that Nagini was a horcrux, first."
"You'll have plenty of time to look at her when you get back to the Manor," said Demon.
The group turned around to see the redheaded girl...not so readheaded! Demon had gone back to her true appearance and it was clear she was having control problems with her transformations because she was hiding behind her sunglasses. A few tear stains on her cheeks hinted why, so they all let it go.
"I took the snake's body back to the Manor," Demon told Harry, her voice quiet and shaky. "It's in a small cave at the foot of the mountains, about twenty feet away from the eastern riverbank. There's a bunch of branches blocking the entrance, but I suggest you hurry before something finds her. With all of those wolves roaming around..."
"Thanks, Demon," Ron said, voicing what everyone else was thinking. "We owe you one."
"You don't owe me anything," she muttered, walking past the group towards the door to Mina's room. She pushed it open slowly, stepped inside, and let the door swing shut behind her.
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