The explosion shook Hermione’s chamber so violently that she was thrown from her bed. She scrambled to her feet, immediately awake, only to hear the furtive wailings of the young redheaded boy who shared her lodgings. “Easy Ronnie. It’s okay love,” she soothed, scooping the child out of his crib and pressing him to her chest. Ronald Harry Weasley was just slightly more than three. Every day, Hermione had been stricken by the fact that he looked more and more like his father, dead these four years.
Hermione grabbed her beaded bag and her traveling cloak. It contained all they owned; the past years had taught her the importance of always being ready to run. Another violent tremor shook the chamber, nearly knocking Hermione off her feet.
“Mummy, make it stop!” the child wailed.
Make it stop. The words rang in Hermione’s ears. She had wanted nothing more than to do just that, ever since that fated day on the Cliffs of Dover, the day Ron had died saving her and their unborn son. With a grimace, she forced that horrid memory out of her mind.
Just then, a Patronus in the shape of an Abraxan horse sailed through the wall. “They’ve breached the gates. Come to my study! You must go now!” The ghostly winged-horse spoke in the unmistakable baritone of Madame Maxime, Headmistress of Beauxbatons.
“Ronnie, we have to go,” Hermione said, trying to keep her voice calm for Ronnie’s sake. She could almost hear the voice of her dead lover, “Hermione, you gotta get out! It’s your only chance!”
“The bad men found us?” Ronnie’s eyes were wide with alarm, tears streaming down his face.
Hermione bit her lip, knowing that lying to her son would serve no purpose. “Yes, dear.” Two months! The French Ministry promised that the Death Eaters would be held up in the wards of the hedgerow country for two months! How in Merlin’s name did they get here so fast! “Remember what I told you. Hold on to me and don’t let go.” The child nodded, eyes wide; he had stopped crying. Hermione slid into her trainers with practiced speed. Squeezing him to her she flung herself out the door, still wearing her flannel nightgown.
The corridors of Beauxbatons were in an uproar. Students were running down the cathedral-like halls that were only now beginning to be illuminated by the dawn. They sought the hoped-for safety of the grounds behind the school; the professors and staff flew toward the gates. The scene threatened to dredge up the horrific images of the Disaster at Hogwarts. No time for ghosts from the past.
Screams and shouts in French were interspersed with explosions and Gods no! Hexes being hurled in German accents.
Just inside the now destroyed gates that had protected the grounds of Beauxbatons Academy, two wizards surveyed the fighting. The taller of the two was a German in his 50’s, grey-haired and portly; he wore grey robes, shot with gold piping. His name was Frederich Dorninger, newly-anointed Head of the Wizarding Chancellery. The younger, whose robes were jet black, was in his early twenties; his black hood covered his head and most of his face. A third wizard, also clothed in grey robes, ran up to them and addressed himself to the Chancellor.
“Mein Herr, the gates are breached and our men have begun to occupy the main floors. Resistance is stiffening, but should crumble within the hour.” With a dismissive wave of his hand, Dorninger sent the messenger on his way.
The Chancellor then turned to the young man dressed in black on his right and, in heavily accented English said, “You know why the French planted trees along the Champs-Élysées? So that we Germans could march in the shade.” He laughed heartily at his own joke. But the younger man displayed no amusement.
“Dorninger. We need to take them now, before the Mudblood can escape. My Master’s instructions were clear. This isn’t happening quickly enough.”
“Patience. We must clear through the secondary defenses first. The halls are choked, as you can see,” he finished, waving his hand at the chaos and confusion before them.
“The Dark Lord has provided you with a cohort of Inferi. Send them in on the flanks.” The younger wizard ordered, turning on Dorninger.
“Loose the Inferi?” Dorninger was no saint. A few unlucky youthful casualties would not cost him any sleep. But the idea of wholesale slaughter unnerved him. “My young friend . . .”
But the young wizard cut across him. “Dorninger. I’m not your friend. Today, I’m the voice of your new Master. Do not forget what you owe him. Failure to repay him, in full, will be most unpleasant. I assure you.” The pure ice in the younger wizard’s voice chilled Dorninger to the bone. “You’ll do as you’re told.”
Dorninger calculated the consequences; he made his choice almost without hesitation. “I will see to it immediately.” In rapid fire German, Dorninger called to a messenger, who then ran off back to the fighting. Almost immediately, the screams from within the corridors escalated as hex and curse fell thick.
Beneath his black hood, Draco Malfoy smiled savagely.
Hermione dashed down the halls, wending her way through the frantic students and harried teachers. One voice rose above the din, she recognized it immediately; Hermione’s French had become flawlessly conversant. “Madame Granger! Thank the gods you’re both alright! We are breached!”
“Pierre, how bad?” she asked. Pierre DuChamp was Beauxbatons’ Charms Professor. An aging and grandfatherly wizard, he had taken a special interest in Hermione and little Ronnie. At five feet four inches, stout, with a balding pate, he reminded her so much of Slughorn in appearance, Dumbledore in temperament. She was relieved to see him.
“We have only minutes before they enter the main hall,” he said, hitching his bathrobe around his ample waist. As if to underscore the urgency in his voice, a portion of the ceiling cascaded downward, barely missing them both. Pierre grabbed Hermione by the arm, shoving her and Ronnie out of the way. “The passages! Madame Maxime sent me for you. Come!”
Off they sped. As they approached a large statue of Athena, Pierre shouted an incantation in Greek. The statue shot aside, revealing a secret passageway. Before either could enter, the wall opposite them exploded inward, throwing them off their feet. As she righted herself, Hermione soothed Ronnie, whom she had shielded from the blast. Slowly, Pierre, too, picked himself from the cold floor. That’s when they saw a wave of Inferi, flooding through the gigantic hole where the far wall used to stand.
Hermione whipped Bellatrix’s wand from her robes in a blur as she shouted, “Infernalis Conflagratio!” The column of demon fire spewed from her wand, fierce, tight and deadly. In quick succession the nearest Inferi were consumed with an ear piercing howl, and the grey-clad wizards behind them leapt back through the breach, diving for cover.
It had taken a great deal of time and effort for Hermione to master the spell that had claimed her lover; containing her grief enough to even attempt it had cost her months of nightmares. But, given the horrific world she lived in and the need to ensure that their son never met with his father’s fate, she knew she had no choice. Now, facing down the very horrors for which she had prepared for so long, her face was a determined mask of pure control. Unwilling to risk further exposure of herself or her child to the inferno, she coolly and calmly spoke “Finite Incantatem.” The flames, grudgingly, were sucked back into her deadly wand.
Pierre looked at her dumbfounded. I knew she was powerful, but this . . .
Hermione tried to soothe her traumatized child as she faced Pierre and asked him the question to which she feared she already knew the answer. “The German Chancellery has fallen?”
“The sons of Durmstrang are now in open league with the Dark Lord.” The pain was evident in Pierre’s voice.
They dashed into the passageway, which sealed itself behind them. “Lumos.” Pierre’s wand lit, showing the way. The Charms Professor gingerly took the young boy in his arms as his mother donned her traveling cloak while they ran. Pierre was one of Ronnie’s favorites; he went willingly. “They invaded through the Alps. No one knows how the wards there could’ve failed.” He passed the trembling boy back to his mother.
The Elder Wand, Hermione thought. Though muffled by the thick stone surrounding the passage, the cacophony of the battle that raged outside was still audible.
Pierre continued, “We received a Patronus just as this assault began.”
There had been persistent rumors that Voldemort’s power and influence were rising in the East. Despite this, when his forces breached the wards in Normandy, it was still hoped that the eastern borders would remain at peace. The Baltic and Slavic ministries had long been closely associated with the Death Eater regime; given their assumed proximity to Durmstrang, this was not surprising. However, everyone prayed that Germany would remain steadfast and that the Eastern associations would not become alliances. These prayers had obviously gone unanswered.
They could hear the battle raging as they ran down the passageway. Although he was trying to be strong, Ronnie clasped ever tighter to his mother’s neck.
“Don’t be frightened, love. We’ll be leaving soon.”
She desperately hoped this was a promise she could keep after so many had been broken. Four years ago, Harry had promised to end Voldemort; instead it was he who had been killed by Bellatrix in the Forbidden Forest during what the Death Eater's called the "Battle of Hogwarts." To Hermione, it would always be known as the "Disaster," not the "Battle." Ron had promised never to leave her, but had died four days later on the Cliffs of Dover, consumed by the Fiendfyre he had conjured to destroy the company of Death Eaters that had ambushed them, allowing Hermione to escape to Calais. Hermione had promised Ronnie that they were safe with Fleur’s family, only to have to flee for their lives when Death Eater assassins had found them in the dead of night. For the past two years, she had assured Ronnie that they’d found a refuge at Beauxbatons; something she had only recently dared to let herself believe. Now, that promise too had been broken. In the end, this world seemed to offer no patch of ground that was safe from Voldemort and his minions.
Madame Olympe Maxime’s study was adorned with enchanted paintings of former Headmasters and Headmistresses, works of art from around the globe and decorated with the finest furniture Wizarding Paris could offer. It represented a veritable fortune worth of Galleons. But the Headmistress would have traded it all for a squad of vicious French Aurors to save her dying school.
She had sent for help, which had been promised, but was still nowhere to be seen. She feared that the battles in the North were not going nearly as well as the papers had been reporting and, taxed to the limit, there was no help to send. Despite the terrific importance of the task that lay before her, she desperately felt the need to be in the middle of the fight, protecting her students. If this fails, more children will die. The thought helped steel her nerves and her resolve.
In the center of the room, Olympe had set up a boiling cauldron, to which she hurriedly added ingredients. She had just begun a counterclockwise stir of the elixir when Hermione, Ronnie and Pierre burst into her study. Another explosion rocked the Academy’s main building.
“Hermione!” she exclaimed as her English friend came rushing in with the Charms Professor. “We’re almost out of time. You must leave now.”
“Olympe, I don’t know how you managed to find it,” Hermione said breathlessly as she tried to comfort Ronnie.
“It just arrived last night.” She held up the vial that contained the last and most difficult of ingredients to obtain: the blood of Harry Potter. Looking at it gave Hermione a chill; it took a great deal of effort to restrain her grief. She couldn’t bring herself to ask how the Headmistress had obtained it.
Olympe instantly understood the wash of emotions that was nearly drowning Hermione, so she quickly emptied the vial’s contents into the cauldron. “No time for this. Here.” She handed Hermione a golden amulet in the shape of a teardrop, offset with an emerald stone, suspended from a long golden cord. The Talisman Deschain and the spells that were about to be cast represented nearly two solid years of work and research. Hermione hung the Talisman around her neck. In the hall beyond the door, they could hear the fighting getting closer.
“Pierre, please assist,” Olympe said, raising her head to the wizard.
Nodding, the aging Professor rapidly approached the cauldron and moved his wand in a figure eight, as he began repeating the incantations. Hermione knew the spells and the wand movements, having done the bulk of the research on the Talisman herself. However, there was too little time for this to be the work of only one magus; they combined their efforts. The shouts and curses of the fighting sounded as if they were coming from right outside the door.
Hermione lifted her arm over the cauldron, drawing blood from the limb with her wand. Several drops went into the mixture. Then she turned to Ronnie, looking into his blue eyes. His father’s eyes. His father’s blood . . .
“Ronnie, dear. Mummy needs you to be strong, ok?” The boy nodded nervously. “I need to prick your arm dear. It will just hurt for a minute. I promise.” Ronnie set his jaw and nodded. So brave. So like his father. Hermione had to restrain her tears as she lifted her wand to her young son’s arm and, ever so gently, drew a few drops of his blood. The child didn’t flinch and it was that display of strength that finally forced the tears from Hermione’s eyes.
“I’m ok, Mum,” he soothed through watery eyes. “Don’t cry.” Hermione tried to force a smile at her son and hugged him tightly as a few drops of his blood went into the cauldron.
With a last flourish of his wand, Pierre looked at Hermione. “It’s ready.” Hermione dipped the Talisman in the vat. Immediately, the stone changed from emerald green to ruby red.
Olympe banished the iron vessel, taking several steps backwards to clear the center of the room, which Hermione, Ronnie on her hip, now moved to occupy.
“I owe you both my life. Our lives,” she said, struggling to keep her voice steady.
Olympe, suppressing her own tears, said “This has to end or two worlds will be consumed in darkness. There is no other way. Remember, think of a better place.”
Hermione nodded as the tears spilled over her cheeks. Clutching her son in one arm and her wand in the other, she made the final incantation and wand stroke. Just as the door to the Headmistresses’ Study flew off the hinges, Hermione felt as though she was being pulled apart. The last thing she saw were curses and hexes flying through the air. Then everything went black …
Lucius Malfoy, his black cloak splayed behind him, walked briskly through the corridors of the Imperium; it hadn’t been called the Ministry in years. He took little comfort from the bureaucrats that cowed and scraped as they rapidly cleared a path for him. Providing this news to the Dark Lord would not be pleasant.
It had taken years of hard work and maneuvering, and the deaths of nearly the entire core of the original Death Eaters, for him to re-insinuate himself into the Dark Lord’s good graces. Now, having finally returned to his rightful place and restored his families’ honor, he was not relishing the audience that was about to follow.
He had only recently received word from Draco, who was “observing” the advance of their allies into southern France. In truth, Draco was actually leading the assault. That fool Dorninger couldn’t be trusted with something so important. Finally pulling Germany into the Dark Lord’s orbit was largely Lucius’ doing; thus any failure in the south would be, indirectly, his fault. At least the news from the north of France was no better than the news from the south. The Normandy invasion was the Dark Lord’s idea.
In Normandy, the coastal wards, which were hastily thrown up in the weeks following the Battle of Hogwarts, had collapsed easily. However, the new wards they faced in the hedgerow country had not been so easy to thwart. Now, the Death Eaters were forced to advance on foot and broom. The casualties were enormous.
In the South, Beauxbatons had fallen; the Academy’s coat of arms, two crossed golden wands each shooting three stars, was already on its way to London as a trophy. They were mopping up the last of the resistance now. But the Mudblood had escaped. Draco’s information suggested that, somehow, she had managed to Disapparate despite the Anti-Disapparation Charms that had been placed around the Academy by their fellow-dark wizards. The girl was infuriating; she had slipped the noose countless times and many had paid for their incompetence as a result.
Four years ago, Voldemort ordered Yaxley’s death shortly after Granger and Weasley had escaped the ambush Yaxley had set for them at the Tonks’ home. Not long after, Greyback was lucky to have been obliterated by the blood traitor’s Fiendfyre (at least the Unspeakables believed that was what happened at Dover); if Fenrir hadn’t, he would have met an even worse fate at Voldemort’s hands upon his return. The sole assassin who had survived the assault on the Delacour’s Chateau two years later had been Crucioed into madness before he could finish his report.
And now, that same ire was about to be focused on the delicate flesh of one Lucius Malfoy. Grimly he entered the Audience Chamber, which had formerly housed the Wizengamot. The Dark Lord had disbanded the assembly years ago. As he approached his Master’s throne, he dropped to his knees.
“What news, Lucius?”
“My Lord, Beauxbatons has fallen. Cannes will be in our possession shortly.”
“The city is of no importance, Lucius…She has escaped.” It was an accusation, not a question.
“It appears she was able to Disapparate…” The remainder of Lucius’ explanation was never uttered as the Elder Wand descended, dealing one of the most vile Cruciatus Curses ever inflicted.
AN: If you've been reading this story and asking yourself, "How can this be a post Hogwarts tale? Where's the engagement party for the Quartet I was promised in the story summary?? Hold tight; all will become clear by the end of Chapter 5. Promise!
I owe a HUGE thanks to ArithmancyWiz, who has now, twice, made sure this tale is ToS compliant. Thank you!!
This tale is part of a whole universe of canon post-Hogwarts stories that are completed and posted. (I've included a timeline below). I wrote Crusade first, and the rest of the Crusade related stories (primarily prequels) were written later. Special thanks to 1917farmgirl, ghostchicken (who tragically passed away on May 26, 2011- she will be missed) and AvadaKedavra1 for beta and muse help. Check out their magnificent stories in my favorites!
Here's the updated Crusadiverse Timeline. (As of September 29, 2011).
1996 – Fall – "More Skill than Luck" (main story line) one shot - posted as Chapter 87 of "Phoenix in the Ashes," site-wide collaboration. It's in my favorites.
1998 – July – "Hermione's Wand" – one shot - posted as Chapter 1 of "Tales from the Crusadiverse."
1999- August – "Journey of a Thousand Miles" – one shot - posted as Chapter 1 of "The Staffers Choice Awards," a Prefects Collaboration. It's in my favorites.
2000 – August – "The Battle of the Pitch" (main story line) – short story – posted
2000 – November – "The Adventures of Reckless Git and Danger Ponce" – short story – posted as Chapters 2-4 of "Tales from the Crusadiverse."
2002 – Spring – "Best Laid Plans," one shot, and "The Proposal" – short story-both posted
2002 – Early Summer – "The Tipping Point" – short story – posted.as Chapters 5-7 of "Tales from the Crusadiverse."
2002 – Summer – "Children's Crusade"- novel – sequel to "Stop All The Clocks" – posted
2003 - ? - "More Skill than Luck" (introductory story line) - one shot - posted as Chapter 87 of "Phoenix in the Ashes," site-wide collaboration. It's in my favorites.
2003 – December – "The Gift"- one shot - posted as Chapter 30 of "The Final Battle," site-wide collaboration. It's in my favorites.
2004 – May – "The Battle of the Pitch" (introductory story line) – short story – posted
I do not own Harry Potter; the toys belong to JKR, she just lets us play with them.
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