Chapter 8 : Dreadful Note of Preparation
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‘Mione Apparated just outside the wards of Shell Cottage, pulling her traveling cloak around her. She’d changed into jeans and a jumper before she left for the Burrow.
It was still so odd to see the Cottage standing there, whole. The last time she’d seen it, four years earlier, it had been a smoldering ruin, destroyed by rampaging Death Eaters. She and Ron had dug through the debris to find some food and a tent. The tent. The thought of the only time she got to make love to Ron, the memory she’d been allowed to keep to herself earlier, flitted through her mind.
She was desperately struggling with the fact that, here, Ron was still alive. Strong, confident, so like how she remembered him. Except this Ron was happy. And so was her double. It had taken such an effort to keep her jealousy in check. She so wanted to have Ron take her in his arms, hold her and tell her everything would be all right.
This isn’t my world, she kept telling herself. No. Her world was full of pain, fear and war. But maybe, if this worked, at least there could be peace and an absence of terror in the place she was forced to call home.
Leaving Ronnie at the Burrow was nearly the most difficult thing she’d ever done. Seeing Molly and Arthur had brought her to tears. But sharing a few hours with her parents had been emotionally overwhelming. It took some doing, but with Molly’s help, she was able to explain how she and Ronnie had come to be here. The idea that she’d finally found someplace safe for her son was a relief she never could’ve hoped for and he seemed to take to her parents and the Weasleys readily enough.
She’d checked over the Talisman research she’d brought with her. Then, she’d performed some incantations over it once she was sure that, if she willingly returned to her reality soon, that would allow Ronnie several days, maybe even weeks, that he could stay here, out of harms way. The only problem was, it was hard to time when the spell would return her to her world, without Ronnie. They might have a day, but not any longer. Regardless, with any luck, Ronnie wouldn’t be forcibly pulled back to their hellish reality until after they’d killed the Dark Lord. If they failed, it wouldn’t matter; the two realities would merge.
As she walked toward the Cottage she hesitated. She could hear Harry and Ginny laughing. A peek through the window into the sitting room as she closed the distance and she realized why. They were half-naked, trying to find their clothes, but didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry. She stopped, deciding to give the couple a few minutes before she knocked. She couldn’t suppress the sad smile that covered her face. This is how it’s supposed to be. This is how everything should’ve turned out.
When she thought she’d waited long enough and knocked on the door, she had to remind herself again not to be too jealous of this reality.
“’Mione. You’re back!” Ginny hugged her and let her in.
It felt so good to be with Ginny again. Dealing with her double, on the other hand…
“Ronnie ok at the Burrow?” Harry asked.
“Very. Teddy’s going to come over later. I’d really like them to meet…” ‘Mione left unspoken that Teddy Lupin never lived to meet her son in her reality.
Ginny broke the silence. “You got to see your parents?”
Harry tried to be delicate. “In your reality, are they…”
‘Mione’s smile vanished. “No. I don’t think so. But, I haven’t risked trying to find them in Australia.” ‘Mione’s eyes drifted to the floor.
Dammit, Potter, Harry cursed himself for asking. Ginny placed a hand on his shoulder and he relaxed. Then she took ‘Mione’s hand and led her to the couch. “We’re packing, as you can see.” The floor was covered in books, clothing and provisions. “This is especially for you.” She motioned to a suit of Auror armor.
“What is it?”
Harry answered, “An edge. It’s the newest enchanted armor the Auror Corps uses. Gin and Hermione brought this back for you.” Harry picked up the suit. “It’s based on Quidditch Padding, but Hermione has made some nice modifications. It stands up to most stunning spells, dampens most hexes, even Crucio, and can heal most minor wounds instantly. Its got special clutches for wands at both wrists; Accio proof. Potions in the inner pockets, which are impervioused; Polyjuice and whatnot. It’s saved quite a few lives.”
“We really could’ve used these during the Horcrux hunt, Harry,” she said, smiling.
“Tell me about it. I don’t wanna leave anything to chance this time.”
“Good. Then I won’t have to make your face swell up like a bloated blast ended skrewt again,” ‘Mione said, chuckling.
Harry laughed. “I’d like to avoid that.”
The laughter was cut short when Ron and Hermione came down the stairs.
Everyone noticed that the temperature in the room had dropped ten degrees.
Hermione gripped Ron’s hand tightly, almost painfully.
‘Mione broke the silence, addressing Hermione. “Thank you for the armor. Harry was just showing it to me.”
Hermione nodded. Then, coldly, “You’re welcome.”
Ginny looked from one Hermione to the other. “So. We should probably pack everything up.” She stood and began to shrink their gear; the others followed suit.
“Where did you get this?” Harry asked motioning to the magical tent he had just began to shrink down.
Hermione answered, “This morning in Diagon Alley. I figured we’d need a bigger one than last time. Three bedrooms.” She finished the last pointedly, with a look at ‘Mione; that earned her a glare from Ginny.
Ron and Harry tried to ignore the exchange as they divided up their gear and then stowed it in five pouches that would fit nicely into a special pocket on the front of each of their sets of Auror Armor, which the Quartet then donned over their Auror robes and clothes.
‘Mione was fumbling with hers. Without thinking, Ron began to move toward her to help, when Hermione grabbed his arm. Ron stopped dead in his tracks. Harry, who had just finished lacing up his boots caught the look between the two and rushed over to ‘Mione. “Here. Let me help you with that.” Harry buckled the gauntlets in place and then began to maneuver her into the chest piece that fit snuggly around her; Ron definitely didn’t need to be helping with that.
He turned to Hermione. “When you were at the Ministry, did you talk to Kingsley?”
“Yes. He’s been briefed; he knows what’s going on.”
“Good. Any messages or directives?”
“Three words: ‘Head Auror’s Discretion.’ He trusts your judgment.”
Ron turned to his best mate. “What else?”
Harry sat down on the ottoman, rested his elbows on his knees and steepled his fingers as he thought. “Firebolts. We only have four?” He motioned to the brooms standing against the wall.
Ginny answered, “I brought back our two from Grimmauld and the two at Ron and Hermione’s.” With Ginny’s training through the Auror sessions, Hermione had become a passable flyer. “I tried to find a fifth in the Ready Room but the stock was bare.”
Hermione chimed in, “Angelina got word last night when Mum got back that something big was happening. She’s got the teams out doing flying drills.”
“So, we’re going airborne?” Ron asked.
Harry nodded. “I want us to be mobile. Very mobile.”
“George’s. We can nick his from the shop in Diagon Alley,” Ron suggested.
“Good. Now, this anti-Apparation barrier, the Dark Lord’s Teeth? Only line-of-site Apparation is going to work right?” He looked at ‘Mione.”
“Yes. But only in Britain.”
“Well, that’s where we’re going, right?” Ginny asked.
‘Mione shook her head. “When we arrive, we’ll be in France. And I’m not certain where. That’s a problem because, by this time, there’s no way for me to know how much of the country will be under the Dark Lord’s control.”
“Riddle,” Hermione corrected. “We don’t call him that.”
‘Mione fought to keep silent.
Harry cleared his throat; This fragile peace keeps getting more fragile. Then out loud, Harry asked, “There’s still a jinx on the name ‘Voldemort’ over there, but what about ‘Riddle?’ That’s a mistake we can’t really afford to make.” Harry was again reminded of ‘Mione’s comment about bloated blast ended skrewts.
“No. That name should be safe.”
“That’s a relief. Well, the brooms will be very necessary. Ginny, I always want you airborne, understand? You’re the best flyer of all of us and…I’ll just feel better with you up there.”
Ginny felt a wave of worry come from her fiancé; she squeezed his shoulder. “No problem. I’ll hex anything that gets within 200 yards of us so badly they won’t be recognizable.”
That wasn’t exactly what Harry had in mind; rather, he was thinking a very fast moving target would be hard to hit. But the idea of Ginny covering all of them from the air whenever the rest were grounded made sense.
“‘Mione, how’s your flying?” Ron asked.
“About the same as before the Disaster at Hogwarts,” she replied. Everyone took in stride how she referred to the Battle.
“Well, stay near the center of the formation. Your dueling skills seem fine.” The words were out of Harry’s mouth before he could stop them, drawing glares from both Hermiones.
Ron decided to keep them on track. “We’ve got plenty of food.” Ron referred to the piles of Auror rations the girls had nicked. “Thank the gods for that. I really wasn’t looking forward to going hungry this time. Now, what are the rules of engagement?” Ron was expecting a specific answer and would be very displeased if he didn’t get it.
Harry’s look was deadly serious as he reflected on what he saw in ‘Mione’s memories. “We don’t have any friends where we’re going, do we?”
‘Mione answered, “There’s a small resistance in Britain; very few of them left.”
Harry frowned. “Unforgivables are authorized, but with restraint. Otherwise, hex first and ask questions later.”
Ron nodded grimly. Bloody well right; not taking any chances, not with the girls along for the ride. “What else?”
‘Mione interjected, “The statute of secrecy was holding, somewhat, until Riddle," she looked pointedly at Hermione as she said it, “invaded France. Secrecy hasn’t completely broken down, simply because Riddle doesn’t want to have to deal with ruling the Muggle population yet. The Muggles think there’s been a nuclear catastrophe of some kind in Northern France. That’s the cover story. With that said, we won’t have to worry too much about using magic in front of them.”
“Nuclear catastrophe?” Ginny asked.
“It’s a very powerful and nasty explosive. It leaves a residue that’s lethal. That story has pretty much cleared most of them out of Normandy,” ‘Mione finished.
“Mione,” Harry asked, “Are you certain that the only Horcrux left is Nagini?”
“As certain as I can be.”
Harry continued, “Gryffindor’s Sword. We’ll need to make a stop at Hogwarts.” The Goblins had tried, twice, to collect it after the Battle, but it refused to remain in non-Gryffindor hands. Harry wasn’t sure how McGonagall did it, but she eventually managed to get them to agree to let it stay in her office. For the time being.
‘Mione interjected, “We have to unite the Hallows.”
Harry’s brow furrowed. “Ron mentioned that.”
‘Mione looked at him quizzically.
Ron responded, “You talked in your sleep.” That drew a dagger-filled glare from Hermione.
Harry rushed to fill the awkward moment. “The cloak is packed. I’m not thrilled about taking the Elder Wand back, but I suppose there’s not much choice.”
“Take it back?” ‘Mione asked.
Ginny answered, “Harry put it back in Dumbledore’s tomb. We’ve tried to keep it a secret that Harry ever had it.”
‘Mione had to ask. “You killed Riddle with it?”
“No. He tried to use a killing curse on me with it, but I was its true master; I countered with Expelliarmus and his curse rebounded because of that and the blood protection. Nagini had already been killed by Neville,” Harry finished. He didn’t like recounting this tale, but realized it needed to be said.
“I figured something like that was what Dumbledore had in mind. It just didn’t work out that way…” She began to mist up. It was all Ron could do to keep from going to her; Hermione noticed and gripped his hand even more tightly.
Harry changed the subject. “But why do we need the Resurrection Stone?”
‘Mione steadied herself. “The Inferi. It may be the only way to stop them.”
Harry let out a breath. “Dumbledore had mentioned that Grindelwald believed it could be used that way, but I just thought he had it figured wrong.”
‘Mione was taken aback. “When did Dumbledore tell you that?”
Harry briefly explained the discussion at King’s Cross.
‘Mione was shocked as she continued. “Unfortunately, Grindelwald was right.” She saw Harry’s face fall. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure exactly where the Stone is,” Harry said steadily.
Ron shuddered. “That’s not a very nice place to be rummaging around looking for something.” They all immediately took his meaning. Harry had dropped the Stone somewhere in Aragog’s lair. It would literally be crawling with the remnants of all the Acromantulas that survived the Battle, and their very angry descendants.
Hermione sighed, “I suppose it can’t be helped. We’ll have to find it.”
‘Mione spoke up. "We don’t have much time. Insuring that Ronnie stays here has cut my time short. The return spell will activate on its own soon.”
“How long?” Harry asked.
“Not much more than a day.”
“Alright.” Harry rose to his feet; the rest followed suit. “Ron, go get that fifth Firebolt. Also, track down Seamus and Angelina. Brief them and let them know they have full authority while we’re gone. Make sure they know they need to prepare for Inferi; so, drills with all flame spells.” While he was talking to Ron he sent to Ginny, Love, I need to talk to the Hermiones. Would you mind tagging along with Ron?
She sent back, Do you really think that’s a good idea?
No. But I don’t have a better one.
Be careful. They’d just as soon hex each other as breathe.
Ginny rose. “I’ll go with you big brother.” Ginny conjured five clutches for the Firebolts. It was a spell of her own design for the Auror Corps that allowed the wearer to strap the broom to their back and retrieve it in one swift movement. Taking hers and handing one to Ron, the two gathered up their brooms and walked to the front door.
“We’ll meet you at Hogwarts?” Ginny asked, kissing Harry.
“Yes. One hour?”
Ron barely hesitated when he kissed Hermione goodbye, but she noticed. He gave her a solemn look as the two redheads left the Cottage.
When the door closed, Harry turned to the two Hermiones and said, very formally. “Madame Undersecretary, sit down please. ‘Mione, you too.”
Hermione was taken off guard by Harry’s tone. ‘Mione was still trying to digest the fact that her other self had risen so far in the Ministry in just four years. Hesitantly they took their seats.
“Madame Undersecretary, you received the message from the Minister?”
Hermione didn’t like where this was going. “Yes.”
“Then you understand that, under the Security Charter of 1609, this is an emergency situation and, pursuant to the Minister’s directive, I have full authority over this mission and all of its members, independent of oversight from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
“Potter…” she said archly.
“Madame Undersecretary, answer the question.”
Hermione was seething. “Yes, Acting Head Auror Potter.”
“Excellent. Because I’m about to put my people down in very hostile territory. I have every intention of bringing my team back alive and in one piece and I can’t do that if I have to worry about two of its members warring with each other at every turn.” He surveyed the two witches before he finished. “Are we clear?”
They both nodded, but Hermione’s was defiant.
Harry sighed. “I know how difficult this is for both of you, but we have to stick together. We have to work as a team and that needs to start now. I’m about to ask you two to do something together and I need to know that you can put your animosity aside for the good of the mission.”
“What do you want?” Hermione demanded, her tone bordering on insubordinate.
“ ‘Mione I need you to tell Hermione everything you know about the Talisman; not the general stuff we saw in your memories, but the fine details. It’s too important for that information to be held by only one member of the team. I want you two to go in the kitchen and get started on that now. Can you do that?”
Hermione didn’t answer, but she got up and trudged toward the kitchen. Then she stopped and looked at ‘Mione. “Are you coming?” she asked stiffly. ‘Mione rose and followed.
Harry collapsed back into his chair and took off his glasses. As he massaged the bridge of his nose he muttered, sarcastically, “Brilliant.”
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