Chapter 4 : Hallways
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"Time to get my guys cleaned up" Hermione Granger declared. She stepped back a little from both of them and began to wave her wand over her boyfriend attempting to remove the stains from his clothes. After several passes over him she stopped. "This will have to do until we can get some clean clothes."
While she was doing that Harry Potter was scrubbing his hands furiously in the sink. Hermione came up to him from behind and wrapped her arms around him. No words needed to be said as she held him as he struggled to scrub away not only the filth but the memories associated with them. When he was finished (or when he stopped, depending on your point of view) she gently turned him around and hugged him again. "In time the pain will go away. You said a few minutes ago that we need to remember them and we will. To celebrate their lives and be grateful they shared them with us. Remember the first day we boarded the train to Hogwarts? How Fred and George helped you? I was looking out the window saying goodbye to my parents. You were struggling and they got your trunk in. You became part of the Family that day. I was a little jealous at you making a friend so fast since I didn't know anybody either, but it worked out in the end. Now we need to clean you up too." Hermione waved her wand repeatedly over Harry but was not as successful as she was with Ron or herself. "New clothes definitely for you Mr. Potter. All of us actually. If they weren't so beat up maybe a charm to shrink them to fit better? No they probably will fall apart. We have some at the Burrow and Grimmauld Place. Those will have to do until we can pick up more."
"I think the Goblins may have something to say about that" Harry wryly commented as he looked at himself. Most of the stains were gone but his pants were ripped in several places as was his shirt. Fortunately the part over his chest wasn't so his friends did not see his two scars which had begun to itch again. Particularly the lower one which had been damp and the material was stuck to the open wound.
"Another obstacle. We can do this Harry. Griphook was there. We can explain it to him. Remind him what we discussed" Hermione replied.
"Remember what Bill said? The Goblins don't think the way we do. It may be a bigger problem than we think. But with his and Fleur's help it might work. Besides Harry killed Voldemort. That has to count in our favor" added Ron. He walked away thinking it was time they got moving. He knew he needed to return to his parents in the Great Hall where they would be huddled around his Brother Fred's body. Ron felt Hermione's hand in his and she waved her wand over the doorway so they could leave. She looked back over her shoulder to make sure Harry was coming too when she didn't see him.
"Harry? Harry where are you?" she asked looking perplexed. She retreated into the large room and began to get concerned as she went from stall to stall afraid he was understandably reluctant to leave.
"Right here" said a voice from behind them. She and Ron spun around and did not see him there either.
"C'mon Harry take your invisibility cloak off" Ron told him.
"I don't have it on" he answered now from the other side of the room.
"Then how are you doing this?" inquired Hermione with her hands on her hips in a 'now is not the time to be playing games' stance.
"Sorry" Harry replied from another different spot. "While I was washing up I was thinking it would be nice if we could walk there without anyone else knowing. It will be bad enough when we get there. Wanting to congratulate us when we don't deserve it. Me especially."
Hermione placed her hand on her boyfriend's arm preventing him from answering.
"Anyway a spell came into my head. I said it and tapped my forehead like this." They saw him mumble and touch his forehead with the tip of his wand and he vanished.
"That's brilliant Harry! I wish we knew that a year ago" Ron said admiring Harry again. It had been an ongoing thing for him being jealous of the attention and notoriety his best friend received until they began to make things up about him in the Daily Prophet, mostly by the reporter Rita Skeeter.
"Yes but the important thing is we can now. We didn't hear you go by us. How did you manage to do it so quietly? Did you use 'Muffalato also?" Hermione asked.
"No. I did this instead." Harry reappeared in front of him but his voice was now behind them. "I remember on the telly seeing people throw their voice so I thought maybe I could too." It seemed like he was walking from where he was 'standing' to where he actually was.
"That was remarkable Harry. To confuse your opponent would help in a tense situation. Can you teach us too?"
"Sure Hermione. But I thought of one more. 'Duplicus' " he said waving his wand. Another Harry Potter now stood 5 meters away and began to talk. "What do you think of this one?"
"Harry you amaze me more every day. I hate to break up the fun here but we should be getting on." Ron approached the second Harry and attempted to place his hand on his shoulder when it passed right through him. "What the ... " he exclaimed as he jumped back with his wand now drawn.
"It's just an image of me" he laughed from leaning against the row of white sinks. "By throwing my voice it can seem like me. I was thinking of how I could return downstairs and see what the response is. If they start to blame me, and I do deserve it, then they can say or do anything they want. When they are finished I will simply disappear."
"But Harry where would you go? Not that I think they will do that, but you can't go to Grimmauld Place! It was compromised so we had to leave too. You can't simply leave us after all that has happened." Ron slowly put his hand out and felt his friend's arm which he held onto firmly. 'He is not running away, not if I can help it'.
"And what about Ginny? You still love her don't you? Would that be right to walk away without talking to her first? Please Harry?" Hermione begged as she grasped his other arm.
"No it wouldn't. I had to learn that last night. To do what was right, not what was easy. I owe her and your Family that Ron."
"It will always be your Family too Harry. If you are serious about my Sister then you two have to talk. Hermione and I will share some of what happened to help them understand while you do the same with Ginny" instructed Ron.
"And I think Kingsley and Minerva too" Harry added, now feeling he should be using the Headmistress' first name. "You won't have to repeat yourself. If it wasn't important I would say don't tell anybody but they deserve to be told. But please avoid the Hallows. I will tell Ginny that because I want her to know everything. The part with the Forest I promise I will tell you two later." Now leading the way he strode up to the door, somehow knowing the corridor was empty. He went out and they began their journey anew.
Problems arose within minutes however. Not 40 meters away on the sixth floor they heard a roaring sound from around a corner. Harry cautioned them to be quiet and he disillusioned himself to peek around the bend in the Hallway. He leaped back as a gust of fire blew by almost getting him.
"Harry that was too close. Was it Fiendfyre? It sure sounded like it?" wondered Ron. He had stepped protectively in front of Hermione when Harry looked.
"No but it might as well be. The passageway is blocked by magical fire. I can't tell if something is burning inside it. Should we wait until it is gone or back track and try and find a way around?"
"Maybe we can extinguish it. Water can put a fire out. If all three of us say 'Aguamente' it might do it."
"Maybe Hermione. Ok, but make it 'Aguamente Maxima'. On the count of three." The three best friends slowly walked up to where the Hallway changed directions. The heat was intense but bearable.
Ron held out his fingers. "One, two, three, now" he whispered. Three fire hose like jets of water came out as they turned together around the corner. The water pushed the front of the flames back but soon doubled in intensity as they seemed not to notice the water spraying on it. Suddenly a stone wall formed behind the fire, reaching all the way to the ceiling. A second wall, this time clear like glass, began to grow out of the floor in front of them containing both the fire and water. The closer wall moved upwards to match the speed the water was flowing, and finally it too sealed itself against the ceiling.
"A fish tank! That's brilliant Harry. But how can we get past it?" wondered Ron.
"We can't. But right next to us is one of the hidden ones. It will take us down three levels so we will be on the third floor, not too far from another stairway. A fire also needs air to burn. At least a normal fire does. Hopefully between the water and no air it will burn itself out. The Headmistress or the Aurors will want to investigate this."
"Harry was this one of the passages you and Ginny used to use?" whispered Hermione as she followed Harry in the semi darkness.
Behind them Ron said 'Lumos' to help them see. The rough hewn walls continued smoothly downwards showing no indication of changing direction.
"No. We had our special spots behind some tapestries mainly. This one ends at one actually. But we better be quiet. I hear voices" Harry whispered. In the brighter light he could see the bottom. Faint echoes carried up to them as they stopped a dozen steps from the landing.
"And why should we believe you?" a sinister voice hissed. "This has to be a trick. They sacrifice you to capture us. All we want is Potter, the blood traitor, and the mudblood."
"Yeah Selwyn. Dawlish you are pretending to be mad. No Auror would betray the Ministry especially now the Dark Lord is dead."
"Travers it is because of Potter. I was made a fool by him and Dumbledore. The Minister wanted the both of them arrested for conspiring against him. Potter got off scott free, and Dumbledore embarrassed me in front of the Minister!! Now I want him dead!!! The other two you can do with what you want. Potter's body I will claim to have found in the castle and give you credit for it."
"So the savior dies anyway? He should be the one dead right now not our leader. Yes we can do that. I, Walden McNair, swear that on the head of my Son."
"Who are you to decide this? And what name will this blood traitor say killed Potter? Certainly not you Yaxley! You had them at Grimmauld Place and the mudblood helped them to escape!! The name Augustus Rookwood will be feared throughout Britain as the one who killed Harry Potter and his friends. I will take over for the Dark Lord and a new reign of terror will begin."
The 'discussion' quickly deteriorated as the former Death Eaters argued over who will get credit for killing the trio. Hearing the disagreement escalate they knew the opportunity was there to disrupt them further, but it was three against how many? Ron formed a quick battle plan as they huddled at the bottom waiting for the moment to strike.
"I SAID IT HAS TO BE ME! NOT ANY OF YOU!" roared the voice of Yaxley.
"YOU IDIOT! THEY WOULD KNOW IT COULDN'T BE YOU! I WAS IN CHARGE OF PLANNING RAIDS AT THE MINISTRY!"
"TRAVERS IT WAS YOUR FAULT THEY GOT AWAY AND WE LOST THE PROPHESY. LOOK IN THE MIRROR SOMETIME! THE DARK LORD 'REWARDED' YOU FOR IT!!"
A flash of light got their attention. "Someone is coming" Dawlish hissed. "Just past these tapestries are two doorways. We can ambush them when they pass between us." The noise of shuffling feet was heard as the unknown number of people moved away from the hidden exit. Two heavy curtains were heard to move and the noise stopped.
Ron relit his wand and in the semi darkness he pointed to the left holding up four fingers. The same number was on the right leaving them to have second thoughts. This was seven of the strongest Death Eaters and a former top Auror.
"Harry we are outnumbered. It would be suicide to try this" whispered Hermione.
Grimly Harry Potter looked at his best friends. "I know what it means to have no hope. Last night I almost felt it. But I was counting on you two and Neville. We had them outnumbered and they didn't even know it. Just like right now. Ron's plan is brilliant. Now that we know how many we are facing we can add the final touch." Harry waved his wand creating several more figures in front of them. A stunned Hermione hugged Harry as the figures disappeared.
* * *
"Sorry Selwyn. Didn't see your foot."
"Dawlish I swear if this is a trap I will kill you myself" he growled.
"Would I come here alone if it was? We are using each other. Both of us want Potter dead. For the others like I said kill them now or later it's your choice. I am going to Europe after this. I have no Family so I have no reason to stay."
"Suit yourself Dawlish. Now quiet. I hear voices. It sounds like Potter and his friends coming from the left."
"No I hear something else. From the right. Two voices, one of them McGonagall. Let me step out and see." Auror John Dawlish peered between the crack in the curtain first and saw Travers doing the same. Both snuck out and met in the center. A short discussion and they returned to their respective conspirators.
"He hears them too. McGonagall and a man. Shacklebolt perhaps? And definitely Potter and his friends from the other way. His voice is unmistakable. The plan has changed. We can't let them join together. Too many good wands. Two of us from either side will attack when Potter is here, and the other four will do the same only with the two coming up to us. Whoever lives can fight over who killed Potter."
Seeing there was no choice Dawlish nodded to the Death Eater he had never met and pulled the tapestry slightly open. He wished he knew a spell to disillusion all of them so they could attack unseen but that was impossible. Too much magic was required to create the impression no one was there and the spell when they overlapped tended to cancel themselves out unless you were at least 10 meters apart. Shadowy forms were visible if you weren't.
Up the wide Hallway came Harry, Hermione, and Ron. They were busy chatting away talking about the future- how things are better with Voldemort dead, how Professor McGonagall is the new Headmistress, and Kingsley Shacklebolt has been appointed by the Wizengamot as the new Minister of Magic.
"Dad never liked Fudge. All those funny colored cloaks" Ron joked.
"I met him several times. He tried to get me kicked out of Hogwarts but Professor Dumbledore stood up for me. Those dementors were sent to kill. I think Umbridge was behind it, but they never proved it" Harry exclaimed.
"That's because Fudge didn't try. He was too busy pretending to be Minister. Professor Dumbledore could have been Minister if he wanted to. They offered it to him several times but he turned them down so they settled on Fudge" added Hermione.
Auror John Dawlish was beside himself. He knew Dumbledore was offered the position but he refused. 'A better man was chosen for it. Much better in my opinion' he thought. In moments the threesome would pass in between them.
"Mr. Potter? Is that you?" came a voice from 30 meters away. In the distance could be seen Headmistress McGonagall and Neville Longbottom, not Minister Shacklebolt.
"Excellent. The one who defied the Dark Lord" mumbled Augustus Rookwood from his hiding place. The curtains had been replicated to create another hiding place 10 meters further down, giving unobstructed views for all eight conspirators.
"Headmistress! Hang on we'll be right there. And congratulations on being promoted. You are a welcome change to Professor Snape and his band of Death Eaters" replied Hermione. They moved faster and passed unknowingly in between the openings in the walls.
"STUPIFY" rang out from four voices as the trio passed. With four thuds they collapsed, paralyzed by each other.
Simultaneously the same thing was heard by the other four who attacked Neville Longbottom and the Headmistress. They leaped out and shouted their spell again when they suddenly froze.
"Expelliarmus" was heard and eight wands flew into the air to land in the outstretched hand of Harry Potter.
"You don't have to say I told you so. But like I said earlier it seemed impossible" Ron said still shaking his head. "Eight captured in a matter of seconds and what did we do?"
"We all chipped in Ron. I imitated the Headmistress and Harry did Neville. And we all directed our duplicates while petrifying the last four. We did a lot" Hermione responded as she hugged him.
"Yes I guess we did. So now we have eight prisoners. Do we leave them here too or bring them with us?"
"If there are any more they can revive them. We have to bring them with us. The Auror particularly" Hermione said as she waved her wand. The prisoners rose off the floor and lined up in single file.
"Incarcerus" Ron added. Sets of brown ropes came out of his wand binding their hands and feet in case they awoke. A separate rope connected them together enabling them to be pulled behind.
"Now where were we? Oh yes, we were talking about Grimmauld Place. Hermione you are right we have to fix it up" Harry continued with the conversation which 'they' had started.
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