Chapter 41 : Year 5: The going away party
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It was a strange place for a house, miles away from civilization and out on a lone island; combined with the pouring rain and on such a foggy night, it was quite difficult to actually to make it out. The property was almost completely hidden amongst the high, pointy rocks that rose from the raging ocean a short boat ride away from the northern shores of Great Britain, and only a crooked rooftop could be distinguished from the waterline, where a group of men and women were standing side by side, holding their arms above their heads to shield themselves from the downpour, and to try to get a better look of the place they were soon heading for.
One of them – the tallest – scratched his red hair and shook his head before turning to his friend. “Why don’t Death Eaters ever live in homey places?” he asked. “They always have to have this spooky vibe about their houses; no wonders they’re all a bit mad. I reckon the smell of homemade bread and a nice, warm fireplace would do them good, don’t you think?”
Harry Potter grinned and shrugged. Then, turning to his right, he met his boss’ eyes and quickly became serious. Gawain Robards looked worn out, exhausted from months of working overtime, of a nation raging at him for not getting anything done with the Finnish Death Eater, and his wife’s daily complaints about his absence. Dark rings flanked his eyes, and his grey beard was more rampant than his younger Aurors had ever seen it.
“Okay,” Gawain said without breaking eye contact with Harry. His voice was shaking, and he cleared his throat before continuing: “Everyone ready?”
“Are you scared?” asked Jack Marwick scornfully, and then, as Gawain’s head flapped towards him, he coughed and added: “Sir?”
Gawain took two determined step forwards towards the younger man. For a moment, it looked like he was going to hit Marwick in the face, but then his hand landed on the boy’s scraggy shoulder with a soft thud.
“Of course I’m scared,” he said. “I’ve never been on a mission when I haven’t been. I’m scared of getting captured… I’m scared for all of you. I’m scared that my wife yelling at me for missing dinner again tonight will be the last conversation I’ll have with her.”
Marwick gulped and lowered his head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean–“
“–to be disrespectful and insensitive?” Gawain finished the sentence, his voice strangely soft and kind. “Of course not. Now, we will not waste any more time. As you all know, this house,” he said, gesturing towards the strange building up on the rocks, “is the Head Quarter for the remaining Death Eaters, and we are going to capture them this evening. We cannot count on a third chance to do it, and so it must be now.”
Harry let his eyes sweep over his colleagues; Hestia Jones nodded encouragingly at him as their eyes met, Dawlish smiled half-heartedly, and Ron was staring up into the sky with a determined look on his face.
“Very well then,” Gawain continued. “Mount your brooms.”
As he leaned to the side to swing his leg over his Firebolt, Harry heard Ron hiss through the corner of his mouth to Marwick: “I assume you aren’t scared then?”
“Why should I be?” replied Marwick.
“Oh, maybe you shouldn’t,” said Ron and shrugged. “But for the record – since you had only just started your theoretical training by the time the war was over – the Death Eaters will be the ones with the Dark Mark on their wrists. And if you can’t see their wrists, just look out for the ones that are trying to kill you.”
“Remember their plan, though,” said Hestia, who was just stomping off the ground on Harry’s other side. “They want to cast the Imperius curse on us to get us to wipe their names from our records… so that we’ll stop looking for them. They’re not looking to kill us. That’s what Veera Turunen said during her inquest.”
As it turned out, Percy had been correct when he had said that the Scandinavian Ministry would soon cave to the will of the people and start cooperating with the British Aurors. Only two weeks into May, their Head Auror, a Norweigan woman named Tone Halvorsen had showed up at the Ministry of Magic in London. She had not said much, but simply walked into Gawain Robards’ office, placed a small bottle of Veritaserum on his desk and mumbled:
“We apologize for the delay.”
And so it was that during her questioning that same afternoon, Veera Turunen had revealed everything; how she had started her Auror Training shortly after Voldemort’s first defeat, with all the best intentions. And how some of her fellow classmates weren’t quite as honest – she had barely heard of the word ‘Mudblood’ before she met them. It didn’t take them long to convince her, though, that when Lord Voldemort returned – which he surely would – he would be most grateful to have allies within foreign ministries as well as the British one. So Veera and her group of Death Eater supporters made it upon themselves to become the most trusted, established Aurors just in time for when the news hit Scandinavia that Harry Potter claimed that their master and hero had returned from death, as they had anticipated he would.
Veera had told the Aurors everything they needed to know about the Head Quarters; they knew that a pair of very old Muggles had owned it, and that the Lestrange brothers had killed them both and set up the place just before their break-in at Hogwarts three and a half years earlier. When the Lestranges got sent to Azkaban, Travers and another Death Eater whose name Veera had never known took over the roles as leaders, and they had kept the dead Muggles’ house as Head Quarters ever since. The Aurors also knew about the protective spells – they knew that they wouldn’t be able to surprise the Death Eaters, because intruders would set off an alarm before they’d get close enough to aim as much a single spell in the right direction. So it would be a battle from the air; they would soar around the house and try to avoid getting hit by the spells sent from within the protection of the walls. The Death Eaters had the home field advantage.
Gawain Robards was the first to cross the invisible line somewhere in between land and the island. A gust made his robe lift from his body like a flapping wing in the same moment that the alarm started ringing, piercingly drowning out the sound of the waves crashing over the wet sand far below.
Then came the first curse. Ron watched as it blazed past Andrew Saxby and set off into the night, and then he raised his own wand, his eyes sweeping over the darkened house; where were they? He needed to know where the spell had come from.
And suddenly, it was as if the world exploded. Spells and curses flew in every direction, and all Ron could do was dodge them. There was no time to look up, to raise his wand or form words – to fight back.
A green light in the midst of the others caught his eyes, and he furrowed his brows as he steered his broom to the right. The Death Eaters weren’t looking to kill, were they? Holding his breath, Ron watched how Harry dived down to avoid being hit by the curse, and then he turned his head forwards again. But it was too late – the purple blaze of light was right in front of him, and he felt a thrust as it hit his chest and spread out over the front of his body.
In the next moment, his fingers were losing their grip around the broomstick, his muscles turned into jelly, and he slid off and fell. One minute he was breathing in cold air, and the next he was under water, sinking further and further into the dark ocean. He tried to move his arms, his legs, to swim upwards, but his limbs refused to obey. His brain was screaming for oxygen, but he could not move. It was a lost cause.
Then, somehow, the cold air hit Ron again, and he was lying on something hard and wet – was it sand? Forcing his eyes open, he took a deep breath, coughed and looked up. The sky was being lit up by different coloured curses and spells. It reminded him of fireworks.
“How are you feeling, Weasley?”
Ron blinked and lowered his eyes, and it was only then that he realized that John Dawlish stood bent over him, his cloak and hair dripping with water and his forehead wrinkled with concern.
“Can you breathe?”
Ron took another breath, and Dawlish straightened up.
“I have to go back up there. You stay here, alright?”
Ron sat up as Dawlish took off into the air. He was back on the shore, and his broomstick was lying right next to him on the sand, moving slightly every time a wave washed over it.
Ignoring his shaking hands and heavy head, Ron grabbed the broom and stood up, taking a few steps backwards as he struggled to keep his balance. His eyes were fixed on the figures way up there above the water, flinching from side to side to avoid the constant flow of curses headed for them. He couldn’t stay on the ground and just watch them; he would have to get back up and help them out.
He was still shaking when he took off into the air, his wand ready and clasped between his palm and the broomstick. The icy winds made his teeth clatter, but he barely noticed – he was paying full attention to the battle that he was going to fly straight into in a matter of seconds.
Harry and Gawain both seemed fine; they were waving their wands as if their lives were depending on it (which they probably were – and if not their lives then at least their free wills). On the other side of them, Andrew Saxby and Jack Marwick were in a stickier situation – four clothed figures on the ground outside the headquarter were aiming their wands at them, sending hex after hex that both of the young Aurors just barely managed to block. Hestia was on Marwick’s other side, holding off three Death Eaters on her own.
Ron slowed down his speed until he stopped mid-air, quite convinced that no one had noticed him yet. The dark was a good hiding spot, and the flashes of light were still too far off to give him away. His hand was still shaking when he raised it, his fingers closed tightly around his wand as he struggled to aim it at one of Hestia’s opponents. Then, teeth still clattering, he mumbled: “Stupefy!”
The Death Eater in the middle fell to the ground. Before Ron had raised his wand a second time, Hestia had disarmed the other two.
“Nice,” Ron mumbled even though she couldn’t hear him.
A scream kept him from celebrating the small victory any longer. Harry. He would have recognized his voice anywhere.
Blinking lights, similar to the ones Ron had seen in the sky a couple of minutes earlier, were filling up Ginny’s visual field where she stood in her kitchen, staring out at the fireworks George had just sent off into the air outside the window. She had spent the last couple of minutes frantically scrubbing a large ceramic bowl with soap, and she didn’t even notice that it was clean – she just kept on scrubbing. Her eyes were fixed on the sky, but she barely saw the spectacular light show. There were ahs and wows coming from all of her guests who had gathered outside with George, but she barely heard it. Truth was, that even though she was miles away from her brother, husband and the other Aurors, her mind was still with Harry.
Why had he had to become an Auror? Often, Ginny selfishly thought that he had done enough good by now, that the world shouldn’t demand more of him. She knew that if he had wanted to, he could have spent the rest of his life doing nothing, never taking a risk again, and no one would have blamed him. But then again, she probably wouldn’t have loved him as much if he had been any different from how he was.
“I was wondering where you ran off to.”
Ginny jumped and nearly dropped the bowl as her head flipped to the side to localize the voice. Hermione was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, her eyebrows wrinkled in concern as she studied her friend’s face.
“I know what it’s like,” she said. “I worry too.”
“Do you really know?” said Ginny hoarsely, louder than she had intended. “Because I’ve spent years feeling like this! You were always with them – for the Horcrux hunt and all the rest of it. I was at home, just waiting. I’m always at home waiting!”
Her voice cracked and she bit her lip, but couldn’t stop tears from welling up in her eyes. Instead of backing off, Hermione hurried over to her and pulled her into a hug.
“I do know,” she said quietly. “I may have been with Ron and Harry for the Horcrux hunt, but I still know what it’s like to worry. I worried about my parents that whole year. I didn’t know if they were alive. I didn’t know if you or your family were alive. Harry felt the exact same way you did. Ron was about to go mad from worrying. So yes, I do know what it’s like. It’s not just your husband and brother, you know. My boyfriend and my best friend are out there too.”
Ginny lifted her head from her friend’s shoulder and dried her cheeks with her sleeve. “I’m sorry,” she sniffed. “I know that it’s just as bad for you as it is for me. I just don’t think I’d survive losing either one of them. And I just keep picturing how this night will end with Gawain Robards showing up to… to tell me…”
She couldn’t finish her sentence, but she knew from the look on Hermione’s face that her message had come through anyway.
“If Voldemort couldn’t kill him,” Hermione said, “neither will a bunch of inexperienced Death Eaters. And that goes for Ron too.” She paused for a moment before adding: “We had a row this morning. He was out until really late last night and wouldn’t tell me where he was. Right now I don’t really care about that, though… I just need him to be okay.”
Ginny put the clean bowl on the countertop, wiped her cheeks again and nodded.
“This night wasn’t supposed to go like this,” she said. “I mean, this is Luna’s going away party, and then Gawain shows up in the middle of dinner and drags them both away…”
“Luna understands,” Hermione said and grabbed Ginny’s hand. “Let’s go out there and talk to her, though. We might not get to do that again for a while.”
Ginny nodded and they both headed out through the front door. Ginny shivered involuntarily as she felt the evening breeze on her skin. In the next moment, someone had put a warm arm around her shoulder, and she looked up into her eldest brother’s scarred face.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“Horrible,” Ginny replied. “Bill, if he doesn’t come home…”
“He will,” said Bill sternly. “They both will.”
“Can you please just tell me something? To get my mind off it?”
Bill nodded, grabbed her arm and pulled it gently, making her take a few steps to the side. Now that Hagrid and an awkward-looking Neville were no longer blocking her way, Ginny noticed that the guest of honour herself was lying on the grass in front of everyone, her long blond hair spread out on the grass as she looked up at the firework show.
“She said it gives her a better view,” Bill said, and Ginny smiled. “She’s brilliant, isn’t she? Fleur thinks she’s just strange. But I became quite fond of her when she stayed with us in Shell Cottage during the war.”
“She is brilliant,” Ginny agreed. “Just in a way that not everyone gets.”
“If you need something to think about, Fleur looks like she could use a hand with those little monsters,” Bill said and nodded towards his wife, who was just pulling an enraged Victoire off her crying baby sister. “You be good to your sister!” Bill called out to his eldest daughter while Ginny walked over the lawn to take at least one of her nieces off her sister-in-law’s hands.
She crouched down next to Victoire. “What’s going on?” she asked.
“She is just bored, I zink,” replied Fleur from above them as she rocked Dominique back and forth. “So she decided to start biting ‘er sister’s ear!”
“What kid is ever bored when watching fireworks?” said Ginny and shook her head, as if she couldn’t believe it. Scooping up her niece in her arms, she added: “You have to be good to Dom, though. I’m a little sister too, and trust me when I say it isn’t always easy. You should try to make it as pleasant as possible for her, okay?”
Victoire stared at her with wide eyes. “What?”
“Pardon, chérie,” Fleur corrected her
“Pardon?” Victoire said.
“Just be good to Dom,” Ginny said and smiled. “Okay? No biting.”
“No biting,” Victoire nodded.
Just as the noise of the last firework died out in the night, two pops, one particularly louder than the other, echoed in the newfound silence. Within seconds, Ginny had put Victoire back down by Fleur’s feet, and then she rushed towards the gate that led into hers and Harry’s garden, squinting in an attempt to make out the faces of the two dark figures who had just Apparated there in the dark.
It was as if the weight of a Hungarian Horntail was lifted off her shoulders when she saw the familiar, straggling walk that only her brother seemed to be able to pull off, and the silhouette of just the pair of shoulders and arms that she desperately wanted to be held by.
She ran up to Harry and threw her arms around his neck, and he hugged her so tightly that it almost hurt.
“How did it go?” she mumbled as the sound of footsteps behind her indicated that Hermione was now running over to Ron.
“We got them,” said Harry. “But Dawlish…”
“He saved my life tonight,” Ron said, his voice absent and flat. “And now he’s dead.”
Ginny noticed in the corner of her eye how Hermione’s one hand left Ron’s cheek and flew to her mouth. Behind them, someone said: “Who’s dead?” and someone else, most likely Hagrid judged by the volume of it, hushed.
“There was this curse… it cut him completely open, from his chin down to his waist,” Ron continued in the same strange voice. “Blood everywhere. I could have… I should have gone to him. I was helping Hestia but I should have turned the other way…”
“It happened right in front of me,” said Harry quietly. “And I didn’t have time to do anything either.”
“I’m so sorry,” Ginny whispered and tightened her grip around him. “That it happened, and that you had to see it.”
A few minutes later, Ginny and Hermione returned to the group of guests outside the house while Harry and Ron snuck inside to clean themselves up. The entire party had gone dead quiet – even Victoire and Dominique were keeping still for once. By the time the two Aurors came back, someone had yet to speak. George patted both of their shoulders, and Fleur reached out and squeezed Harry’s hand as he walked past her. Then, Luna stood up from her spot in the grass, walked over to them and gave them a hug each.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” she said. “No one should have to die like that. And don’t worry, you don’t have to say it – I know that you’d like us all to leave now. I’m very grateful that you threw me this party. No one’s ever done that for me before.”
Harry opened his mouth to protest, but then he shut it again. It was true – he did want everyone to leave. He shot Luna a grateful look and she smiled faintly before turning away.
“I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way we thought,” Ron said. “But I hope your trip does. I just hope it’s not too great, so that you’ll still want to come back and see us soon. Life is so much more dull without you around.”
“What a nice thing to say,” Luna said in a slightly confused voice. “Of course I’ll be back. I’d like for all of you to meet Rolf. I think you would love him.”
“We’ll be looking forward to that,” said Hermione as she stepped forward to throw her arms around her friend. “Take care, Luna. I hope you find your nargles, or whatever it is you’re looking for.”
While Luna walked around among the guests to say her goodbyes, Ginny stepped closer to Harry again and slid an arm around his waist. He leaned his head against hers and closed his eyes for a second, just taking in the feeling of her body next to his.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” she whispered.
Harry opened his eyes just in time to see Neville and Luna awkwardly shaking each other’s hands, Neville’s eyes firmly fixed on the ground and his cheeks burning red. Then, turning his head to Ginny, Harry smiled for the first time since the start of the mission that night. He knew that she had worried about him, and he hated that he had to put her through that. But the fact that she was willing to could only mean one thing – that she loved her almost (just almost) as much as he loved her.
Chérie is french for honey.
A/N: Here we go, finally. Year five. I feel like the worst person ever for taking so long between my updates now that I've moved. My life just seems to be a bit crazy right now. However, there are some major things happening during this year that I can't wait to share with you... so hopefully I will be able to get the next chapter up sooner. You can also expect to get some replies to those amazing reviews you have left me very soon! I'll just say it for the millionth time, in case anyone has missed it: I can't thank you enough or explain how much I appreciate you reading this story and taking the time to share a few of your thoughts on it with me. You are wonderful and you deserve more chapters soon! Trust me, I know that. :)
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