Voices drifted through his mind as he fell in and out of consciousness, stirring him from the darkness of his forced slumber. Shouting, some near, some far, all departing rapidly, pounded at his head as he struggled to open his eyes.
Another down. That makes three with him in custody.
The crunching of a boot mere inches from his head left him lying completely still once again. The longer they thought him to be unconscious, the better.
Harry Potter will save us!
Loud chuckling, a snide scoff, hissing of disdain filled his ears as his captors rebuked the people fleeing past them.
Harry Potter will do nothing of the sort, fools.
It was a cold voice, so filled with icy contempt that the hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention from his skin.
The mudblood and the minister have been… eliminated.
The pain in his head tripled as his eyes snapped open, nausea pouring over him so fiercely he feared that they would notice his audible heave. It couldn’t be. He refused to believe it. Not Kingsley. Not Hermione. There was no way; it was impossible.
It’s perfect, really. He’ll take the fall. Everyone knows he deserted them for the past two decades. We’ll say he was plotting… a conspiracy… we caught him…
The laughter grew louder in his ears as he forced his eyes open once again, slowly this time, as he realized the voices of his captors had slowly drifted away. He strained his eyes and ears to hear their hushed conversation as he sought to see his surroundings in the setting sunlight.
He was lying beneath a tall tree, his back pressed against the rough bark, but his movements remained uninhibited. The stadium lay before him, the entrance no more than a hundred meters in the distance. They had tossed him rather haphazardly in this heap; perhaps they were paying little enough attention that he could…
A twig snapped behind him before two hands grabbed his shoulders, bringing him to a sitting position so quickly his stomach turned and his head swam again.
“Mr. Weasley,” the voice whispered with a hushed urgency as George struggled to regain his bearings. He opened his mouth to respond, but found his tongue too thick and heavy for speech.
“Mr. Weasley!” the voice hissed again, inches from his face. “George! You must run. You must save them. Save them, Mr. Weasley; the fate of our world lies in their hands; in your hands. Go. Run!”
George felt the masked man, Man? Boy? He could not tell, pushing him to his feet and urging him toward the stadium entrance looming just through the underbrush. He felt his feet moving beneath him, carrying him forward of their own volition. Through the fleeing crowds he fought the hordes to reach his family. There was no time to think about the masked individual who had helped him as he pelted forward.
Entering the stadium, he looked around, sprinting through the tunnel and scanning the crowd for his family as he ran. And then the shouts of the crowd changed all at once as the icy chill of a thousand Dementors crashed over him. He stumbled, catching himself with his palms as the earth skinned his hands. The dirt assaulted his freshly opened palms, but he felt no pain as the panicked cries of the crowd assaulted his ears, jumbling together as he tried to decipher their hysterical screams.
George pulled himself to his feet, half crawling along the ground to avoid being trampled, as he moved toward the ever increasing screams. A crowd, seemingly stunned into disbelief despite the cloaked pursuers and Dementors bearing down upon them, had gathered around the base of the center stage.
He heard Ginny and Ron’s voices ripping through the crowd, and his heart dropped into his feet as he recalled the last time he had heard them make that sound. Anguished cries of heart wrenching despair; was he too late again? George pushed his way through the crowd, fighting forward as they once again resumed their stampede from the stadium.
A large man carrying an unmoving child in his arms pushed George aside as he ran screaming from the stadium. George’s gaze locked onto the child as the man carried him further and further away, his cries resonating through the stadium, a jumble of words George could not wrap his mind around. The child, no more than three, stared blankly out at the cold world, and suddenly in his mind, it was his own Freddy’s eyes. George felt the world slowing as the man, the boy’s father, shouted again, the words slowly penetrating the fog that had descended upon his mind.
Harry Potter is dead! We are doomed! He has been slain!
His heart stopped as he was shunted through the crowd; his brain unable to comprehend what his ears had heard. Harry. Gone. Charlie, Harry, Hermione, Kingsley. It was all too surreal. The crowd tossed him to and fro as he struggled to remain on his feet. He was oblivious to their cries as he stumbled to his knees, oblivious to the cloaked figures drawing ever nearer as he crawled desperately toward the foot of the stage. He could not see. He wanted to see. He could not see over their heads. He wanted to know the truth. He could not see between their legs. He needed to see. He could not see…
And then he was upon them, and all obstacles cleared his line of sight. He could see, but he no longer desired to do so. Blood. Fuck, there was so much blood. His vision narrowed as he pulled himself to his feet, staggering in the open field toward his brothers. The Dementors and cloaked figures circled ever closer to his family, the hindrance of the fleeing crowd having mostly dissipated.
Percy was there, pulling a blood soaked Ron to his feet as he struggled to tear Hermione from his arms.
“Let me carry her! Give her to me! You’re hurt. We have to leave, Ron!”
Bill was there, his jaw firmly set as he knelt beside Harry, holding Ginny tightly in his arms as she struggled, her wail piercing George’s heart as she pounded in desperation against her eldest brother’s strong chest. Neville was there too, wand hanging limply at his side, overcome by shock that held strong against his grief.
And still the threat loomed closer.
The sound of a child crying in the distance penetrated the cloud of George’s reality. His Freddy. He looked around wildly, no Angelina or Freddy to be found. They were safe. They had to be. He needed them to be.
His feet propelled him forward, and then his arms were wrapped tightly around Ron, restraining him in a hug he poured himself, his very soul, into. Percy caught his eye, gently removing Hermione from Ron’s death grip as Ron roared in protest.
“NO! Let go! You fucking bastard, give her back!”
George shook his head, wrestling Ron to the ground as he held him tighter. “You’re going to be the death of her if we don’t get her to help, Ron!”
“A pulse,” Percy murmured as he wrapped Hermione in his cloak and looked toward Neville scooping Harry into his arms. “St. Mungo’s,” he muttered before Apparating on the spot, leaving a howling Ron writhing in George’s grip.
George released Ron, putting his wand back into his brother’s hand as Bill disappeared, Ginny firmly in his grasp, and Neville, guarding Harry behind him, fired hexes at the figures now close enough to take aim. Ron whirled around, clearly searching for Hermione as Harry’s prostrate form swam into view.
“Harry.” The sound tore from Ron’s throat, more noise than word as he stared at his best mate, eyes open and looking to the sky. George watched him run, grabbing Harry from Neville who was struggling to fend off the curses flying their way.
George heard the closest figure roar as Ron murmured something to Bill and Disapparated.
“Burrow,” George hissed over the sounds as he grabbed Neville’s arm and followed to where he knew his family would be.
“NO! AL-” was all George heard before the dark compression of Apparition overtook.
“Please,” she called up the stairs behind her as she ran, taking them two at a time. “We must hurry, there is no time.”
“I have agreed to nothing more.”
“You gave me this information!”
“And it could cost me everything! What if he finds out?”
“We’ve been down this path before!” She whirled around to face her, nearly toppling down the last step as she came to a skidding halt. “They are children. They are our children. I cannot condone this! I did not then, and I most certainly will not now. They can have their bloody war, and we will continue to live by their rules, but they will not murder the children, our babies.”
“It is our right. We are only taking back what belongs to us!”
“If you truly believed that, then you would not have come here.”
“You are my sister.”
“And he is what?”
Her silence was deafening in the expanse of the room. Eyes locked, her answer could be no clearer. Two loud cracks rang out downstairs, and the moment was broken.
“Time is up. Your decision is…”
Events had not gone as precisely as he had planned, but then again, in war, when did they? Two of his greatest hurtles had been eliminated, and without them, the third was a threat greatly diminished. The threat still existed, but he was confident it could be handled. He turned slowly, fingers steepled together as he waited for their report. He had known all along the battle would not be an easy one. However, the support was behind him, and the families who had governed, if not by name, than in practice, would be restored to their former glory.
He had no almighty illusions of grandeur, as his plans did not include the eradication of all whose blood lacked the purity of the founding generations of wizarding society. Rather, he understood their importance to the structure and maintenance of the society he would now re-establish. Their place, beneath them, was important nonetheless. The house-elves could not manage all of their needs. Those who understood and accepted- no, reaccepted- their places, would live long and healthy lives. Those who did not would be managed.
“Potter is dead.”
He raised his eyebrow. What an absurd statement. Of course he knew this.
“Er-, of course you know this, sir. I mean- I meant… Potter is dead, as you know. His body has been taken, though- they took him when they-”
“You could not manage to hold onto one corpse?”
He waved a hand to dismiss him. “It is of little importance. Those who did not see his fall have certainly heard by now. Their hero is gone. Their spirit, their hope, their strength has died with him. We will break them now. And her?”
The man flushed pink before him, sweat beading on his brow as he looked to his feet. “She is gone as well.”
“You’ve lost both bodies, Larson?”
“They are dead!”
“Woods!” He whirled angrily to stare at another man lingering in the doorway. “Time is running through our fingers as we stand here chatting. We have placed a great deal of faith in both of you. Do not make us regret this decision. What is the status of our other targets?”
“I am waiting to hear from my teams, sir. The targets should be eliminated shortly. I will notify you as soon as I hear anything.”
“Yes,” he murmured, brushing a strand of hair out of his eyes. “It is time, and I must go. You know how to reach me. See that they are all taken care of.”
Walking toward the doorway he smirked as thoughts of the upcoming day flooded his mind.
“Oh, and Woods?”
“Try not to lose anymore dead bodies. I would really like to have something for proof. You know how loyal these fools are.”
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