“Was wonderin’ when you two blokes would show. Been freezing my arse off out here,” Seamus said as he rose to his feet. He’d been crouched by the window facing the decrepit old warehouse they’d had under surveillance for the past two weeks. The window was masked with a very complicated glamour that hid the occupants from view. “I let Dennis leave ten minutes ago; his mum’s sick. Besides, it’s been dead quiet.”
Harry wanted to chastise Finnigan for going it alone, even for a few minutes, but decided to save it for later. He crossed to the Irishman and handed him the supplemental report. “Take this straight to Hermione. Then rally the Corps.”
Seamus eyebrows shot up. “Bring everyone? Again?” The last time the Corps had been massed was the Battle of the Pitch.
Ron nodded. “Yaxley’s coming. He’ll be here in a little less than three hours. We have to move fast.”
“Bloody hell! I’m off.”
“Hold on.” Harry stopped Seamus before he could turn on the spot. “Make sure everyone knows the same rules that apply during the stakeout apply to this. They can Apparate into position and use Muffliato to mask the noise, but no other magic. No summoning charms, no Patronuses, not even a levitation spell once they get here. We can’t afford to tip our hand. Once they’re in position, sit tight and stay hidden.”
“Gonna be hard to coordinate this,” Seamus said. “Better let me know exactly where you want everyone.”
Harry looked to Ron.
“Don’t rush me,” Ron grumbled. “You know I hate that.”
“No choice. Besides, who else is brilliant enough to pull it off on short notice?” Harry asked with a grin.
The redhead shook his head wearily and moved toward the window. Seamus followed. “We’ll use these four buildings.” Ron gestured to four shops situated around the old warehouse across the street. “Assign the teams however you like, one team for each rooftop. Have everyone in position by noon.” Then Ron furrowed his brow. He turned to his best mate. “No one but the two of us will be able to see the entrance. We’ll be the only ones that know when he gets here.”
Harry cocked his head. Then he turned to Seamus. “When you see sparks shoot from this building, send everyone in.”
Ron continued, “Make sure to get word to Bill. We’ll need him here to drop their wards so everyone can Apparate into the warehouse. Once we’re all inside, Bill needs to put up our own DisApp wards to keep them from escaping. Tell him to use that new modified one he just came up with.” Bill had just perfected a new DisApp ward that would trap their prey but still allow the Aurors to Apparate through it, thanks to a special charm placed on their armor. “You’ve still got the warehouse floor plans I gave you?”
“Aye. They’re at my flat. I’ll stop there first and get ‘em before I head back to the Ministry,” the Irishman replied.
“Good. Geminio them and pass them out to the teams. Make sure they Apparate into the four corners of the warehouse on the first floor. Harry and I will go in through the main door that leads into the basement, come up the stairs and take them from behind. All the action seems to be on the first floor, so the basement should be empty. Then it should be a simple sweep and clear. Understood?”
“I’ve got it,” Seamus raised his wand as he prepared to DisApparate.
“Wait!” Ron grabbed his arm.
“You blokes do know that you’ll eventually have to let me leave, right?” Seamus smiled.
“Funny.” Ron smirked at him. “Last thing. And this is really important. That whole warehouse is supported by beams in the center of the building. Make damn sure everyone knows to watch what they’re firing at or the whole rickety mess will come down on top of us.”
Seamus cringed. “That seems like relatively important information.”
“I thought so,” Ron added.
“Thanks for sharing,” Seamus said. “Now, can I go?”
Harry and Ron shared a look. Harry nodded.
“You’re sure?” Seamus asked with a cocky grin.
Harry laughed. “Bugger off, Finnigan.”
“I’ll see you in the warehouse.” With a “pop” he was gone.
Ron started pacing, his head down. “I hate rushing into this. Just two more days, Harry. I could’ve worked this up properly and done a full briefing.”
Harry rested a hand on his best mate’s shoulder. Hermione’s definitely had an influence on him. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was channeling her. “You ready for this?”
“No,” Ron replied. “Do it anyway.”
Harry tried to soothe him. “Easy. No one plans on-the-fly better than you. It’ll be just like our Hogwarts days.”
Ron smirked. “And things always turned out so well back then.”
Harry shook his head. “C’mon. We’ve got some time. Fancy a game of chess?”
“Sure,” Ron answered, running his hand nervously through his hair. “It’ll get my mind off the tongue-lashing Hermione’s gonna give me if this goes pear-shaped.”
Harry paused for a moment. Maybe I should try to tell Ginny. But opening the link might not be such a great idea, now. He pondered it. Hermione will fill her in. With a satisfied nod, he got the board out. “I’m feeling lucky.”
As the pieces assembled themselves, Ron’s spirits rose. “Not lucky enough to beat me at chess, Potter. White or Black?”
Ron wasn’t lying. He won three straight games without breaking a sweat. Not that the temperature would’ve allowed for perspiration anyway. Even in early November, the weather in Hogsmeade was less than pleasant.
Both Aurors took turns keeping an eye on the warehouse between moves. They’d found it was an excellent way to stay sharp during tedious stakeouts like this one. It also helped keep their minds off the cold. They couldn’t risk a fire or a warming charm for fear they’d give their position away. Even though Hogsmeade was full of magical energy, the building they occupied was supposed to be vacant. They weren’t taking any chances. The Muffliato spell that covered their Apparating and the glamour on the window were their only magical luxuries.
As the board began to set up for their fourth game, Harry checked his watch. “The Corps should be in position by now. D’you see them?”
Ron cautiously peered out the window, squinting. “No. Looks like Seamus has them well in hand. They’re staying out of sight, just like you ordered.”
“Good,” Harry said. “Now…”
Ron silenced him with a wave of his hand.
Harry was at the window in a flash. “They’re early.”
Below, six cloaked forms moved toward the warehouse’s main door.
“The one in the center has to be Yaxley.” The words were hardly out of Ron’s mouth when the form in the middle tried to break and run. A scuffle broke out as the other five manhandled him back to the middle. Then the cloak fell away, revealing that the wizard in the center had what looked like a pillowcase over his head; a length of cord secured it around his neck. He wasn’t one of the Death Eaters; he was a prisoner, a prisoner wearing purple Auror robes.
“Oh, bugger! They’ve got one of ours!” Ron shouted. Neither Auror hesitated. Ron shot sparks in the air from his wand as Harry turned on the spot. Not waiting for the wards to collapse, he Apparated near the door to the warehouse, firing stunners at the dark wizards. They were too closely packed for Harry to risk using any lethal spells.
“Here we go.” Ron followed his partner down.
The stunning spells caught the group unawares. Two crumpled to the ground and the four others, including the captured Auror, were thrown through the doorway by the blast and hurtled down the stairs to the basement. Ron just barely cast the charm Hermione had taught him to keep the alarms from going off before they crossed the threshold and leapt down the staircase after them. It’ll buy us a few seconds, if we’re lucky.
One dark wizard managed to keep his feet as he flew down the stairway, grabbed what must have been a Portkey hanging on a hook and vanished. Harry was sure it was Yaxley.
“Dammit!” he hissed.
But as soon as they reached the basement, Ron realized their luck had run out. The door shut behind them with an ominous thud.
Harry and Ron stood at the base of the stairs. At their feet, piled one on top of the other, were two dark wizards and the captured Auror. As Ron looked around the room, he saw that they were not alone. His eyes fell on some very surprised Death Eaters. A lot of very surprised Death Eaters.
Everyone stood frozen, eyeing each other in what amounted to shocked disbelief.
It was Ron who broke the silence:
Then the room exploded in a rain of magic.
Ron and Harry’s shields were up in a flash. Curse and hex fell thick as Harry and Ron shielded and riposted, neither daring to give ground as they loosed Expulsos and Reductos right and left, faster than the less well-trained Death Eaters could shield. The fury of their attack bought them some breathing room.
“Cover me. I’ll get him out!” Harry shouted, indicating the stunned Auror.
Ron nodded as he positioned himself in front of his partner and their fallen comrade. His shield flickered as he began to dodge and weave, keeping his Protego between his best mate and an early retirement.
Harry didn’t have time to remove the hood and find out which Auror it was that had been captured. He simply knew he had to get him out of here. Still too soon to Apparate; Bill can’t have the wards down yet. He swung his wand to the door behind them and forced all his will into the spell. “EXPULSO!” The door shattered and whatever magic was keeping it sealed gave way, if only for a minute. With another flick of his wand, Harry levitated the stunned Auror up the stairs through the doorway to safety, sending a Rennervate up after him. Then he turned back to help his severely outnumbered best mate, only to hear the door re-seal. This really is not going well.
Harry helped Ron shield the barrage of curses that were aimed at them, praying that the rest of the Corps would soon be there. Time to Apparate upstairs. He laid his hand on Ron’s shoulder. Wards have to be down by now. He turned on the spot.
Nothing happened. Where the bloody hell is Bill?!
“Can’t Apparate!” Harry shouted to Ron.
The curse slammed into Ron’s shield, throwing him violently up against Harry. They’d gone back-to-back instantly when they realized they’d walked into a trap.
Ron countered, conjuring a whirlwind that bought them some time as Harry braced his legs to steady them both. Then they heard crashes overhead.
“Bollocks! There’s more on the first floor!” Ron shouted.
“Expulso!” Harry countered, blasting two Death Eaters out of their way as they made for the stairs that lead to the first floor. “We gotta get out of this basement! Up!”
Ron went first, as Harry turned and loosed a Bombarda at one of the support beams.
“Blasting out the beams?!” Ron shouted. “Are you mental!?”
“Gotta make them drop the wards! If they think the building’s coming down on them, they’ll bolt.” Harry continued to shield and riposte as they fought their way up the stairs.
Ron grunted as he rammed his fist into a closing Death Eater’s face. “Mate, that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard!”
“Our backup should’ve been here by now.” Harry loosed another Reducto and then shielded for Ron. “We’ll have to improvise. Something’s gone wrong.”
“You think?” Ron asked sarcastically. “I knew this was gonna happen. I told you I needed more time to plan this out.”
Harry spat, “Just like old times.”
Ron covered their rear as Harry shot flames from his wand, clearing a path to the first floor. Then Ron began to shoot stunners in rapid succession, stopping only to shield as they advanced. “You really gotta leave the planning to me.”
Sweat soaked Harry’s brow as he struggled to keep his shield up. “Fine, Mr. Chessmaster. What’s the plan?”
Ron cast Oppugno at a row of wooden barrels that hurled themselves at some closing Death Eaters. But it didn’t seem to slow their advance. There were just too many of them to fight. “Oh, bugger all. Blast the beams!”
The Aurors hefted their wands.
The force of their combined spell shattered the support columns in a blinding red explosion. Then silence. Everyone stood stock still, Auror and Death Eater alike, almost as if an unscheduled truce had descended on the fighting. Then the building began to moan, then rumble, then shake. Violently.
Ron tried to turn on the spot. “Nothing yet.”
“Wait for it.”
“Sure. Wait. Brilliant!”
Ron dodged out of the way as one of the rafters came careening toward him. He deftly pulled Harry with him. But the rafter was just a harbinger of worse to come. The roof gave way. Stone and steel came crashing down with a deafening roar. Harry had his shield up trying to keep the building off of himself and his partner, but the weight of the debris was simply too much. He felt himself being crushed into the floor. But, then he heard the telltale sounds of DisApparation. Harry poured every once of strength he had into his shield to try and shift the debris pile.
“Now!” he gasped.
Ron could move just enough to execute an Apparation turn. The two Aurors vanished just as the entire structure imploded, taking several Death Eaters with it.
They appeared just outside the blast zone. Then Harry saw Seamus, tending to them.
“Easy mates. I’m taking you to Pomfrey; Hogwarts is closer than St. Mungo's. Just hang on.” The last thing Harry remembered before he lost consciousness were the torn shreds of a pillowcase still hanging from Seamus’ neck.
“Collapsed the building to make them lift the wards?” Ginny was gobsmacked. “That was your plan?” She was too shocked to be angry.
Harry nodded sheepishly.
“I told you it was Harry’s fault,” Ron added. Then he chortled. “But you can’t argue with success. I can’t think of anything else we could’ve done. Can you?” he asked his girlfriend.
Hermione opened her mouth to retort. Then shut it.
Ron cocked an eyebrow at her. “Yes, love?”
Hermione turned to Ginny for help. The redheaded witch simply raised her arms in mock surrender. “Don’t look at me. I’d like to Bat Bogey them both until they suffocate. But...”
Hermione sighed, shaking her head. “They captured Seamus at his flat. You both must be cursed. And us along with you, I suppose.”
“Well, love of my life, there are worse fates.” Ron took her hand in his.
“Uh, well…” Ron turned to his best mate. “A little help here?”
“Sorry.” Harry eased his legs over the side of the bed and began to pull on his Auror’s robes. “All out of ideas. I got nothing.”
Ginny gently helped him stand. “No, Reckless Git, that’s not quite true. You’ve still got me. Gods know why…Let’s go home. We’ll figure it out later.”
Ron forced himself out of bed. Then he shot a sheepish glance at Hermione as he motioned to his best mate and sister. “Don’t suppose I can sell you on their solution?”
Hermione frowned at her boyfriend. Then she rolled her eyes. “Fine.”
Ron perked up.
Hermione caught his expression. “But don’t go thinking you got away with this!”
Ron shook his head. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
As the Quartet made their way out of the hospital wing, Ron couldn’t help but drop a conspiratorial wink at his best mate.
AN: Thanks for all the great reviews, and a very special shout out to 1917farmgirl who’s an amazing beta and an even more amazing author. Check out her stories in my favorites. I do not own Harry Potter; the toys belong to JKR, she just lets us play with them.
Here again is the Crusadiverse Timeline:
1996 - Fall - "More Skill Than Luck " - 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 Staffer's Choice Awards," a Prefect's 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 – 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) – posted
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