Everyone in the audience not already standing stood up and applauded the couple’s marriage. Music began playing once again, and Harry and Ginny walked up the aisle hand in hand. Ron and Hermione followed behind as Ron stuck his arm out and Hermione slipped hers through it. The family on Ginny’s side walked up the aisle side by side with McGonagall and the others from Harry’s side. As soon as they were gone, the house elves disapparated.
By the time the guests started to file out of their seats, they discovered that a series of long tables had appeared behind where they had been seated. The tables were arranged in a series of squares within squares leaving a large open area in the middle. In that opening, Harry held Ginny close to him as they kissed once again, and this time no one made any move to stop them.
Minutes later, Harry and Ginny stood behind the largest wedding cake either of them had ever seen. As they gripped the knife together, they paused with the knife touching the cake while the photographer from the Daily Prophet prepared to take the only photograph that was being allowed for public presentation. The camera flashed just as they cut down through the cake.
Harry cut pieces of cake for he and Ginny. After they were seated at a table, Dobby took over portioning out the cake and causing the pieces to appear on the plates of the guests seated at the tables. Other house elves hand delivered pieces to the Centaurs. The Merpeople declined any cake. Harry and Ginny walked to the waters edge to speak with the Merpeople at their request. It was then that Ginny learned just how much Mermish Harry actually knew. They wished the couple a long and happy life together, and then they excused themselves before they sank back into the water.
After Harry and Ginny danced, other couples began to join them. Hermione led Ron, somewhat against his will to the dance floor to join Neville and Pansy, Lupin and Tonks, and several other couples. Perhaps the most surprising addition to the dancers was Snape. Fiona Moss had asked him to dance, and he had been so stunned that he let her pull him onto the dance floor.
Harry and Ginny spent a great deal of time greeting all of their guests, and as the party wore on, many of them started to say their goodbyes. Hermione’s parents left fairly early since they had to work the next day. The carriage waited to return them to Hogsmeade in comfort. Harry began to worry that no one would
be left to hear Ron’s speech if he didn’t make it soon. He was already wondering just how late McGonagall was willing to let the party go on.
Finally, after Hermione had slipped a little liquid courage into Ron’s drink, Ron stood beside where Harry and Ginny were seated and tapped his glass to get everyone’s attention. Slowly, the conversations died away as everyone turned to listen to Ron.
“When Harry first asked me to be his best man,” Ron said not seeming at all nervous and leaving Harry to wonder just how strong the potion Hermione had given him was, “he informed me that my main obligation would be to give this speech. It wasn’t until I started trying to write it that I realized what a difficult task he had put before me. How was I supposed to express to you all in such a short time everything that Harry has meant to me and to my family? Then I realized that there isn’t much I could tell you about Harry’s character that you don’t already know. I have seen him day in and day out work and give so much of himself to those around him. I’ve seen him put himself in dangerous situations without a second thought to help someone who needed it. I’ve seen him persevere through times of great personal loss and sadness. I’ve seen him comfort others when they’ve experienced the same. Since that first day I met Harry on the Hogwarts Express, I’ve been learning just what a truly special person he is. I couldn’t be happier to accept him into my family. There is no one I would trust more to take care of my little sist…”
Ron stopped suddenly as Harry stood quickly beside him with a terrified expression on his face.
“What is it, Harry?” Hermione asked as she and Ginny stood as well.
“I don’t…” Harry said as he began to feel something very intensely. “Get into the castle! Everyone get to the castle now! Go!”
Aurors and Order members snapped their senses to attention surveying the surrounding area for any danger that Harry might have sensed. There was a moment when everyone was still, but after Harry took hold of Ginny and disapparated, chaos broke out as guests jumped over tables and fought through the other guests to run for the castle. Only seconds after he had left, Harry reappeared and then disapparated again with Hermione and Ron. Harry returned several times to pick up what stragglers he could, and on his last trip he spotted the Centaurs gathered together with many of them running in confusion toward the tree line of the Forbidden Forest. As they did, more followed. Nearly all of the guests were in the castle by the time Harry went to try to convince McGonagall to go inside as well. Just as he appeared beside her, the aurors near the lake yelled and retreated slightly as multiple heads began to rise from the water. Somehow the death eaters had managed to enter Hogwarts through the lake.
On and on they came despite the spells the aurors were hitting them with. Fifty death eaters walked out of the water and stayed clumped together. The aurors retreated as the spells they were using seemed to have no affect on the advancing death eaters. Battering spells knocked them down, but the ones behind them advanced forward as the fallen ones behind them stood back up and began advancing again.
“Look at their faces, Professor,” Harry explained to McGonagall. “They don’t have any expression at all. Spells aren’t working on them. They’re infiri. Voldemort turned his own death eaters into infiri.”
Just then the death eaters raised their wands in front of them and sent a deadly barrage of killing curses directly at the aurors in their path. The aim was poor, but the effects were devastating enough. Five aurors fell lifeless to the ground. The death eaters continued to advance taking no notice of the order members flanking to attack from the rear. A second barrage of killing curses were fired, and Harry grabbed McGonagall’s arm just before a green jet of light would have hit her.
McGonagall found herself standing inside the castle with all of the terrified guests and students. Harry disapparated almost immediately and reappeared seconds later with the Minister of Magic in tow. Before anyone could speak to him, Harry was gone once again.
Harry reappeared outside to see a wall of fire spring up from the ground and encircle the death eaters. The heat was so intense that Harry could feel the heat from fifteen meters away. The aurors near the fire backed away a safe distance to escape the heat. Momentarily, Harry held on to the hope that the fire would contain the infiri the way it had in the cave where he and Dumbledore had found the fake locket. Infiri were supposed to shrink back from fire.
Harry’s hopes were shattered as the watched smoldering wand tips emerge from the flames. Two more aurors died instantly as walking fireballs emerged from the wall of flame. The robes of the death eaters flamed mightily, yet onwards they came without a hint of feeling.
Again and again the aurors and Order blasted the infiri with spells that knocked them back into one another, but again and again the infiri righted themselves to continue their march toward the castle. As they advanced, their tight clumped formation began to spread out, leaving fewer safe avenues for the aurors.
The air was becoming thick with the stench of burning flesh by the time Lupin backed into Harry and turned in surprise to say, “Oh my god! Harry, what are you doing out here?”
“People are dying out here because of me, Professor,” Harry said as he whipped his wand forward and sent a battering blow to the head of one of the death eaters. “I have to do something.”
“Keep yourself safe, Harry,” Lupin ordered. “Otherwise all of this will have been for nothing.”
“No, Professor,” Harry replied. “If we can protect the people inside the castle it won’t be for nothing.”
“Stubborn,” Lupin said as he punched a hole in the chest of a death eater that continued to advance as if nothing had happened, “just like your father.”
“I get that a lot,” Harry commented as the line retreated still closer to the castle.
Disarming spells had no effect. A spell to freeze the wand hand of one death eater met with disastrous results as the death eater’s next spell blasted through the ice that had formed on the tip of his wand and sent sharp icy projectiles straight back to stab at the face of the Order member who originated the freeze spell. Harry ran to the injured Order member and disapparated into the castle with him. Harry returned almost instantly to see Kingsley slice upwards with his wand as a powerful cutting spell cut a death eater in half vertically. The two halves fell away to opposite sides, but even as it lay on the ground, the half still holding the wand continued to fire spells at them. Again, the line of defenders moved back.
Kingsley yelled an order to the aurors and their attacks concentrated exclusively on cutting spells designed to dismember and demobilize the infiri. They fell quickly. Lacking legs to stand on, their advance finally ceased. Everyone was ordered to flank one side or another to avoid the aim of the death eaters spells in the direction of the castle walls. Again, fire sprang up all along the line where the dismembered infiri lay. Wand after wand spewed fire into the line until the blaze raged and the defenders were forced to step back away from the intense heat. The spells emanating from the fire died away quickly as the wooden wands burned along with their users.
Seconds later, fireballs streaked across the sky as those on the grounds looked up to see fire spells being shot out of nearly every window in Gryffindor tower. Following the path of the fireballs, Harry and the others watched as they began impacting on the grass ahead of where twenty-five more death eater infiri were climbing out of the water.
“Right then,” Kingsley said as he looked around at those still with him. “Anyone with an injury go inside the castle. I’m sure the Minister has sent for reinforcements by now. The rest of you, follow me. We have a bit more work to do. Harry, go inside. We can’t take the chance you’ll be hurt. Don’t make your wife worry any more than you have to.”
“She has a clear view of me already,” Harry commented as he pointed to one of the windows in Gryffindor tower.
“Please, Harry,” Molly said as she and Arthur walked closer to him, “do as Kingsley says. Stay with Ginny.”
“I’ll be back if it looks like you need help,” Harry said just before he disapparated.
Harry appeared suddenly in his dorm room. No one noticed that he had arrived. The windows were crammed with D. A. members. Ginny, being able to feel his presence, turned and ran to Harry. Hermione and Ron turned in time to see Ginny wrap her arms around Harry tightly.
“What on earth were you thinking, Harry?” Hermione asked as she came away from the window. “You could have been killed out there.”
“He knows that, Hermione,” Ginny said still not letting go of Harry.
“Well I’m here now,” Harry said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“None of us are, mate,” Ron commented. “McGonagall and the Minister were going to evacuate everyone.”
“Only, the floo network is down,” Hermione said quickly. “They think Voldemort may be behind it. In order to take down the entire network, he would have had to do that from inside the Ministry. They’re assuming the worst. They’re going to every fireplace in the castle and placing blocking spells on them to keep any death eaters from entering that way.”
“I’m sorry, Harry,” Ginny said with her head on his shoulder.
“For what?” Harry asked.
“I know you wanted us to have more time together before this battle happened,” Ginny explained. “I know you can feel how desperately I wanted that too.”
“There may still be time,” Harry said softly. “This may not be…”
“It’s alright, Harry,” Ginny said as she clutched him tighter. “I love you. It’s okay to be scared. We both know that Voldemort wouldn’t have gone to this trouble if he didn’t intend to come after you. Just hold me. Hold me for as long as you can.”
Harry was still holding her five minutes later when he felt it. Ginny took her head away from his chest for the first time to look into his eyes. She knew what he had felt. Clasping Harry’s hand in hers tightly, Ginny turned to look at Hermione and Ron.
“The Centaurs are under attack,” Ginny explained. “I’m going with Harry to help them.”
Before Hermione or Ron could express any argument, Harry and Ginny disapparated. Appearing in a clearing in the forest, Harry and Ginny could feel the chill immediately. Harry’s wand was out quickly as he pointed it to the area where the dementors were swirling above and around the already weakened Centaurs. The silvery light from Harry’s wand washed over the Centaurs like a wave and pushed the dementors away from them. Their path to the Centaurs blocked, the dementors continued to ram into Harry’s patronus only to be thrown back repeatedly.
Magorian looked up and shielded his eyes from the blinding light that had driven the dementors back even as many other Centaurs did the same. Seconds later, they detected two human forms through the light coming closer to them.
“Magorian,” Harry said as he and Ginny ran to the Centaurs, “are you alright? I don’t know how long I’ll be able to hold them off.”
“So let it be,” Magorian said in amazement. “You’ve saved us, Mr. Potter.”
“Not yet,” Harry pointed out as he kept his wand trained at the air above them. “Is the entire herd here?”
“Yes,” Magorian replied. “We were gathered here after the panic at the wedding.”
“Good,” Harry said. “Have everyone join hands. You take Ginny’s hand and make sure that all hands link through someone directly to you. Everyone has to be touching for me to get us all out at once.”
Precious seconds ticked by as Magorian spread the word throughout the herd. Finally, they were ready. Magorian took Ginny’s free hand as Harry gripped tighter to her other. Harry lowered his wand, and the Centaurs felt the slight invasion of a chill before the scene shifted and they found their hooves on stone instead of earth.
It was a surreal sight for those sequestered in the Great Hall as the entire Centaur herd appeared there suddenly with Harry and Ginny still in their wedding clothes.
“Harry,” Narcissa said in surprise. “Are you both okay?”
“We’re fine, Mrs. Malfoy,” Harry responded as he and Ginny walked toward their unfortunate guests. “I’m sorry that this night has been such a disaster for you all. Ginny and I had hoped it would be a much happier occasion for all of you.”
“There is no need to apologize for things obviously beyond your control, Mr. Potter,” Mr. Ollivander said as he stepped forward. “The death eaters can strike at any time. Fortescue and I certainly know that.”
“Still,” Harry persisted, “all of you were my guests. I bear some responsibility in assuring that you arrive home safely.”
“We’re all trapped here for now, dear,” Madam Malkin said. “The Floo network is down. The Minister of Magic is trying to find another way to evacuate us.”
“If I got you all to Diagon Alley, would you be able to get home from there?” Harry asked.
“How do you plan on doin’ somethin’ like that?” Stan Shunpike asked. “The Minister of Magic said we’d have to wait.”
“I believe you will find,” Bane said as he stepped forward from the group of Centaurs, “that Mr. Potter is capable of extraordinary achievements. He just exhibited a great deal of skill and bravery as he saved my entire herd from certain death. If he says he can get you home then you should believe that he is capable of doing just that.”
“Oh, sure,” Stan said seeming a bit intimidated. “I was just curious.”
“I’ll take you all there right away,” Harry said. “Mrs. Malfoy, I’ll come back for your group as soon as I know everyone else is safe.”
“I’ll try to have everyone ready,” Narcissa said. “Snape is helping to seal the fireplaces. I’m not sure exactly where Theodore went.”
“He won’t want to leave,” Draco supplied.
“I understand,” Harry said with a knowing look in his eye as he moved toward Mr. Ollivander.
Minutes later, Harry stood holding hands with Ollivander as the other guests chained together in the same manner the Centaurs had earlier. When he was sure they were all connected, he turned and held his free hand out to Ginny. She smiled as she stepped forward and took his offered hand. Soon after, the entire group disapparated en mass.
Draco and Narcissa were left alone in the Great Hall with the Centaurs. It didn’t seem to bother the Centaurs as they conversed in hushed voices with one another about the amazing events of the night. Less than a minute after the other guests had left, McGonagall and Scrimgeour entered the Great Hall with Snape following behind and stopped immediately in surprise.
“Mrs. Malfoy…” McGonagall began, unable to even form an adequate question for the situation.
“Harry brought the Centaurs here,” Narcissa explained.
“We were under attack from the dementors, Headmistress” Magorian said as he stepped toward McGonagall with Bane and Lisian along side him.
“Had the Potters not arrived when they did,” Lisian said, “our entire herd would have been lost.”
“The Potters?” McGonagall asked as her eyes opened wider in surprise.
“Indeed,” Bane said. “They are now as one. It is as it should be.”
“What of the other guests?” Scrimgeour asked.
“Harry took them all to Diagon Alley,” Narcissa replied.
“He should have consulted with us before evacuating them,” Scrimgeour said.
“Really?” Draco asked as he spoke up for the first time. “Did you find a way to evacuate everyone without using the Floo network?”
“Well, no,” Scrimgeour replied.
“Then there was no need to consult with you to find out what your plan might be,” Draco said. “Harry took responsibility for the safety of his guests. There wasn’t one of them who didn’t have complete faith that he would do as he promised. Someone who commands that kind of respect doesn’t need your permission.”
“Thank you, Draco,” Harry said as everyone looked around to see he and Ginny holding hands. “I think you’ll find that isn’t always the case though. Getting the guests to a safe location was a logical goal. If the Minister had been here I would have informed him of my plans. Since he wasn’t, and believing we were still operating in a crisis situation, I did what I thought was best at the time.”
“You usually do, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall pointed out. “You usually do it alone though.”
“I didn’t want him to leave me, Professor,” Ginny said. “If this battle proves to be what we suspect, then I want to spend all the time with Harry that I can. I don’t know if that makes sense to you.”
“It does,” McGonagall admitted with a sigh.
“After I take the Malfoys, Professor Snape and Theodore back home…” Harry said.
“I’m going to stay,” Draco interrupted surprising everyone.
“Draco…” Narcissa said.
“I have to do this, mum,” Draco said turning to Narcissa. “For once in my life I need to stand up for what I believe. I believe in this. I want to do my part to insure that no death eater ever enters this castle again.”
“Our latest report says that the situation outside is being managed effectively by the aurors,” McGonagall said in a soft tone. “There is no need for you to think of going out to battle the death eaters.”
“Then give me something to do inside the castle,” Draco said. “There must be some way for me to help.”
As McGonagall considered Draco for several seconds, Narcissa said, “I’ll stay with him.”
“As will I,” Snape said.
McGonagall hesitated still as she looked at Draco and finally said, “Very well. Then I will leave it to you to lead the Centaurs to Professor Firenze’s Divination classroom. I believe they will feel more comfortable there. Professor Snape can help you to expand the room to the necessary size.”
“What can I do to help, Professor?” Harry asked.
“You can take your wife back to your common room and stay there,” McGonagall replied. “As you might have guessed, all students have been confined to their common rooms for the time being.”
Without argument, Harry disapparated with Ginny to reappear in his dorm room. Hermione turned to them with a gasp.
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