Chapter 16 : Chapter 15: The Battle That Wasn't
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Thank you to JPx for being there to beta two days before Christmas!!
Chapter 15: The Battle That Wasn’t
The mist clung to the ground, hugging the trees and shielding Harry as he crept slowly along the tree line towards the outer wall of the castle. He passed an old, large Willow, dodging around its branches and paused to wait for the others to catch up with him. Very slowly, Ron, Neville and Luna joined him and paused to watch. Unlike the other times when Harry had come to visit Ginny, there were actually guards on top of the walls, on the lookout.
“So,” Ron asked casually, “what do we do now?”
“We’re going to need to split up to make sure that we take out enough of the guards to capture the castle. I think that Luna and I should go over the wall and try to get to Ginny and Draco while you Ron and Neville go after Snape over in the village. He probably has guards posted there as well so you’ll need to stay hidden as long as possible.” Harry looked over towards the main road that led into town and the tree cover. There should be just enough trees for them to make it.
Neville softly cleared his throat and Harry turned his head to look at him. “Harry, I don’t think I should be the one trying to sneak into any place.” His round face was anxious and the hand that gripped the hilt of his sword was pulsing, clenching and unclenching every few seconds.
A heavy silence hung over the group until finally Ron spoke up. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“But you agree?” Harry looked between them, trying to figure out what he was missing.
“I don’t think it will matter that much,” Luna told them seriously. “If Neville gets caught on the way into town, it won’t be good for us but if he falls while climbing the wall, that could be worse.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re concerned about,” said Harry.
Neville sighed. “I just think that I’m too clumsy for this. I’m bound to trip over my own feet while I’m fighting and ruin everything.”
Harry nodded, finally understanding and clapped Neville on the back. “Not to worry mate, we’ve got your back and you’ve been practicing for this. You’re not nearly as much of a liability and you seem to feel you are. I have faith in you, but Luna’s right.” They all waited silently for him to continue. Apparently I’ve lost them this time. “Well, it would be worse if you took a tumble down the wall.”
Neville let out a snort of laughter and nodded, “Right, well Ron and I will be off then. Hopefully we’ll find Hermione soon enough.”
Harry nodded and they moved off. Hermione had disappeared some time in the middle of the night and had not returned for their fight. Harry assumed that the world they were in had taken her and that she was not able to get back to them. Harry was sure that she was taken someplace safe, but it was like walking into a room blind. Maybe that is what Dumbledore intended for us all along, Harry suddenly mused as he and Luna got ready to throw the hooks up the wall.
“Are you stronger than you look, Luna?” Harry asked her as he got the first hook over the wall. He’d been doing it to see Ginny so often that it was almost second nature now.
“I’m strong enough for myself,” she answered slowly, taking hold of the rope and giving it a swift tug. When it didn’t budge, she nodded and started her assent up the wall.
Harry secured the next hook and also began his climb, his muscles straining as he made his way to the top. He got there, just as Luna had pulled herself up. “Guard coming,” she whispered and I looked and saw that she was correct. He hadn’t spotted us yet, but it wouldn’t be long before he was on us.
“Follow me,” Harry muttered and turned to go in the opposite direction only to come face to face with another guard.
The second guard’s face contorted in surprise and then anger. “You can’t be here!”
Harry drew his sword, “I’m afraid that we’ll have to solve this one the old fashioned way.”
“Don’t worry, Harry. I’ve got this one,” Luna informed him and he heard her pulling her sword as well.
The guard facing Harry moved like lightning. He had his sword out and swinging heavily towards him before he knew it. Instinctively Harry blocked the first onslaught and felt his hand shake with the power of the blow. Harry thrust the sword at the guard but it was blocked instantly. The guard tried another blow, swung back to get a lot of power, and once again Harry was nearly knocked from his feet. That is when he saw it. This bloke is going for power but his wind up is time consuming! His mind cleared and he saw the guard begin his swing again. Harry acted quickly, sinking his sword into the man, straight up to the hilt. Horrified with himself, Harry pulled back, expecting to see blood but instead the man disappeared. His form went hazy and then fizzled out, as if he hadn’t been there at all.
Harry swung around, looking for the man but he wasn’t there. Only Luna was there, sitting on the wall; watching him search. “That part surprised me too. I didn’t much fancy having to kill anyone.”
“Right,” Harry replied, unsure of what else to say.
“Let’s climb down and get to Ginny before she tries that on Malfoy,” she said as she threw the rope down the wall and Harry laughed.
“It’s a shame it wouldn’t work on him,” Harry told her and he too prepared to rappel down the wall.
“Wait Ron!” Neville looked around and listened, once again; sure that he’d heard something. Yes, there it is! A clinking of metal or… or coins. “Do you hear that?”
Ron had frozen in place, “Yeah is sounds like-”
They both saw them at the same time, soldiers. Marching back and forth along the road. Neville wasn’t quite sure that he was actually seeing it, so he turned to Ron but Ron was already on the move. “Ron!” Neville hissed but followed him anyway. Then he did the unthinkable. Ron stood up tall, gave a loud war cry and charged straight for the soldiers.
Neville’s first reaction was to freeze but then his instincts took over and he mimicked Ron on the charge. The soldiers looked up, froze and then as a single unit they fled, straight for the forest.
Once they were out of sight, Ron turned to me and grinned. “Well, that was easy.”
I shake my head, “That was stupid Ron, they could have easily fought back.”
“No, they wouldn’t have,” he said and leads me up the dirt path, right where everyone can see him.
“What are you doing? Snape might see us!”
“Good,” he said. “We’ve scattered his guards, so he really hasn’t got much of a choice but to come quietly or-”
“What was that Weasley?”
Neville swirled around to see that, speak of the devil, Snape was standing behind them, sword drawn. Ron also had his sword out so he hastily drew his as well. “You can’t win against the two of us,” Neville shouts, trying to sound braver than he felt.
Snape studied us for a few minutes before lowering his sword, “Has it occurred to you, Longbottom, that this might not be about you defeating me?”
Neville felt his jaw drop but it was Ron who spoke up, “Yeah, we did… or Hermione did, but we needed to play it out.”
“And so we have. I am your prisoner,” and with that he dropped his sword.
He looked over at Ron and asked, “What do we do now?”
“We’re going up to the castle to help for Harry save Ginny,” Ron said.
“There won’t be any need for that. Your sister has already captured Draco, and is waiting for Potter in the main dining room. They will be along shortly.”
“Wait, how do you know that?”
“I watched her break into his room this morning. The guards asked me if I was to protect him and I…” here Snape paused. “I told them that if they had any love for their prince that they should try.”
“But no one stopped her?”
“No,” he said in a cold voice. “Your sister fed the hungry, gave clothes to the poor and cared for a few of the sick.”
“She’s only been here a few days!” Ron said looking flabbergasted.
“Yes but she decided to make a difference. You would do well to follow her example, Weasley.” Snape scowled darkly and then pointed up the road. “Here they come.”
Sure enough, Harry, Ginny and Luna were walking down the road. Harry and Ginny holding hands and Luna helping to drag something, along with two large men. As they grew closer, Neville saw that it was a burlap sack of sorts and it seemed to be squirming.
“Did you have to drag him?”
“Hermione!” Ron called, looking up at her.
But Hermione ignored him, and was instead glaring at Ginny. “Why couldn’t you let him walk?”
Ginny shrugged, “It was the least we can do.” Then she turned to the guards. “We can take it from here, thank you. Please go back and tell the cooks to start cooking a feast for the whole town. After that, they get a week off.”
“Thank you, My Lady,” the one answered with a bow and they both ran back towards the castle.
“That was nice of you, Ginny.” Hermione then smiled down at everyone. “Well, you’ve done what we set out to do.”
“Yeah and why did this require a week?” Draco asked as he untangled himself from the blankets. “Snape and I would have surrendered the first day just to get out of this,” here he swept his arm around, “This place, where ever we are.”
“It was part of the rules,” Hermione reminded him.
“Where did you go last night?” Ron asked her.
Hermione sighed heavily, “I got moved to watch Ginny break into Malfoy’s room very early this morning. Except I was invisible so she didn’t know I was there until it was almost done.”
“Be thankful she was there,” Ginny growled at Malfoy. “She saved you.”
“You don’t scare me! I know you can’t kill me,” Malfoy told her, his voice quavering.
Ginny got right into his face, “It wasn’t my intention to kill you, just end your family line.”
“You’re all talk, you wouldn’t actually-” WHAM! Ginny had reared back and decked him. He fell straight to the ground and Neville saw what she intended next, so he ran over and grabbed her, hoisting her in the air before she could kick him in the groin.
“Ginny, stop! It’s over, leave it so we can get home!” Neville told her as he set her down.
She nodded once before walking over to glare down at him, “Don’t presume to know what I will and won’t do. I just might have to prove you wrong.”
“So now what?” Luna asked, seeming oblivious to the conflict that was swirling around her. “Do we get to put on red shoes and click our heels? I’ve always fancied having a pair of ruby red slippers.”
“I don’t know, exactly,” Hermione replied slowly.
“Then maybe I will be of some assistance.” They all turned and everyone’s mouths hit the floor. It was Dumbledore.
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