Chapter 15 : Return
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Harry fought to remain calm even though he was sure either he or Hagrid would be discovered any moment. The fourth door opened to reveal movement just visible in the darkness.
One of the figures was lying on a thin mattress while the other dropped a bowl of soup and tried to protectively cover the other.
“It’s okay,” said Harry, throwing off his cloak and quickly advancing into the room. “I think there’s something in that food. Did either of you eat anything?”
Harry did a double take looking at the astonished face looking up at him. Those eyes and wild hair looked strangely familiar.
“Is he okay?” asked Harry, looking past her and down to the figure lying down. His eyes were open and moving but he looked delirious. His face was horribly bruised and bloody and one eye was swelled but he was breathing normally.
“How about you, Mrs Granger?” he asked, turning to the woman.
She held up a quivering hand and touched his face as if to make sure he wasn’t just an illusion.
Harry smiled and briefly pressed her hand against his cheek. He was pleased to see that she appeared to be uninjured although her clothes were ripped and she was filthy dirty.
“You’re Hermione’s friend. H-Harry?”
“We need to get you out of here. How bad is he hurt?”
“Harry, you can’t be here. They took us because-”
“I know,” said Harry, standing. “My cloak will cover three people but there’s no chance of covering Hagrid with it too. Can he walk?”
“No. I think he’s still concussed from his last beating. We tried to escape again two days ago, you see?”
“Just concussed? Nothing broken?”
“No. I thought he’d broken a couple of ribs but they fixed those. They were careful to fix anything life-threatening. Do you think you can carry him?”
“No, I’ll levitate him but you’ll need to guide him along. Remember that if I have to shoot or defend myself, the charm may break and he’ll fall.”
“Okay,” said Mrs Granger shakily. “Um, how’s Hermione?”
Mr Granger floated up off the mattress like a limp manikin and a groan of pain escaped his lips. Harry threw the cloak over him.
“You get under too,” Harry directed. “Grab his arm or something so you can follow. He won’t have any weight now.”
Mrs Granger felt for the hem of the cloak and disappeared underneath.
Harry straightened the cloak so they were covered completely and said, “Hermione’s been pretty upset but otherwise she’s okay.”
“Where is she? What about Remus and Tonks?”
“Look, I think we should get out of here first, okay?” said Harry, checking that the corridor was clear. They could hear distant shouts now and Harry was sure someone must soon come up to make sure the Grangers were still secure.
“Of course,” said Mrs Granger from right behind him.
“Okay, let’s go. At the first sign of trouble dive for the floor in case I need to shoot behind.”
Harry ran along the corridor to the staircase where Hagrid was hiding. He heard Mrs Granger padding along behind him and when he paused at the top of the stair she collided into his back.
“Sorry! I wasn’t looking.”
“This spiral stair is pretty tight,” he began to say when the sound of urgent banging came from below. “Come on!”
Harry jumped down the stairs taking three steps at a time. He got to the bottom just as Hagrid let go of the door handle. He had obviously been trying to keep the door closed.
“I’ve ‘ad quite enough of this,” growled Hagrid and he shouldered the door.
The heavy door and frame flew out, taking several lumps of masonry with it and collided painfully with three unfortunates who had been trying to get inside.
Harry dived after Hagrid and fired stunning spells at two more who were far enough away to avoid the debris. Meanwhile Hagrid was throwing bricks and rubble at the wizards now streaming into the courtyard.
Harry was sending a variety of hexes that were enough to keep them at bay but he knew it was only a matter of time before their superior numbers began to count.
He managed to block a volley of impedimenta spells but one got through and narrowly missed Hagrid’s head.
“Too many, ‘Arry!” shouted Hagrid. “Come’n, let’s find another way out!”
He backed into the gaping hole where the staircase door was and pulled Harry back with him.
“Mrs Granger?” called Harry, afraid she may have got caught in the crossfire.
“We’re in here, Harry!” came a muffled voice from inside the staircase.
“Harry, seal that opening while I make us another!” ordered Hagrid.
The opening where the door one was now about twice as wide as the old door frame, thanks largely due to Hagrid using the brickwork for ammunition. As a result, Harry wasn’t entirely confident about being able to close up the opening.
The heavy wooden door jumped up and flew back towards him, spells bouncing off the back.
Pointing his wand out Harry stopped the door and held it in approximately its original position.
Mrs Granger gasped audibly as the brickwork around the gaping opening rearranged itself to neatly seal the door closed.
“Nice one, Harry!” yelled Hagrid from within a great cloud of cement dust.
Harry lit his wand and could see that where there was once just a plain internal wall there was another Hagrid-sized opening.
“Er, I think we’d better follow,” said Harry. “I suppose he knows what direction he’s going in.”
“We’re right behind you,” called Mrs Granger.
Harry stumbled over the brick debris into a large kitchen. Opposite, a larder door was wide open and Hagrid was already using a heavy bench as a battering ram.
“Can I help, Hagrid?” asked Harry as he hurried over. Just then there was the sound of more falling masonry accompanied this time urgent shouts of alarm.
“Opps,” said Hagrid, reaching down for more bricks to throw.
Harry ran forward and out through the opening. Through the confusion he could see that Hagrid had broken into a large staging area. Fortunately, Hagrid must have come through at a structural pier because he had brought most of the floor down on them as well.
Harry only needed to fire a couple of stunners to disable the one witch who had escaped injury by hiding in an alcove in the far wall.
They crossed the hall sized room with some difficulty while trying to ignore the groans coming from under the fallen floor.
“Why didn’t they Disapparate?” asked Hagrid, reaching out to help lift the Grangers over a massive overturned table that crossed their path.
“I think there’s an Anti-Apparition charm around this place, like at Hogwarts.”
“Good?” repeated Harry, scrambling over the table.
“Yeah. They won’t be going for help in a hurry, will they?”
“True, but we’re stuck too, remember? Anyway, where are we going, Hagrid?”
Hagrid didn’t answer. They were now at the end of a long wide corridor and at the end were a wide pair of doors.
Hagrid began to run at the doors.
“Hagrid, wait!” shouted Harry, running after him. “This must be a magical corridor! Stop!”
Hagrid ignored him and charged onwards. Harry knew from his observations of the outside of the property that this corridor could not be part of the original Muggle building.
Knowing that Hagrid would not stop, Harry pulled up and took careful aim at the doors.
His spell hit the doors a moment before Hagrid and they exploded outwards in a shower of red and gold sparks.
“Mrs Granger?” called Harry.
“In front of you, Harry!” came her disembodied voice. “Come on!”
Harry rolled his eyes and set off again after them. The cool night air hit him as he ran outside. Ahead, Hagrid was almost at the gate and Harry could see the gravel being kicked up as Mrs Granger ran after him.
Harry caught them up at the gate.
“I can’t get the damn gate open!” shouted Hagrid as Mrs Granger could be heard panting from under the invisibility cloak. “I can’t even touch the metal to climb over.”
“Let’s go over the wall, then,” suggested Harry.
“Nah, that’ll be charmed too. Hogwarts has the same kind o’ protection.”
“We should get out of sight, anyway. The boundary wall goes close to those trees over there,” said Harry pointing with his wand.
They hurried across the grass and entered the tree line. Soon they were standing next to the brick boundary wall which was around six feet high at that point.
Harry pocketed his wand and took a run at the wall. He pushed himself up and grabbed the top of the coping with both arms so he could pull himself over. He was about to pull when he felt a tingling sensation and he was thrown bodily backwards down onto the soft earth.
Hagrid chuckled and picked him up again.
“I thought that might ‘appen. That’s why they’re not in a hurry to find us.”
Harry swore and then remembered they weren’t alone.
“Sorry, Mrs Granger.”
They heard a quickly stifled invisible snigger.
“So,” said Hagrid. “Ideas?”
“That may not work, Harry. The charms may keep it outside.”
“Yes, but if we do get on the other side of this wall we may need to get away in a hurry.”
“Good point,” agreed Hagrid. “Here it comes now, look. My, that’s a fast broom.”
Harry neither heard nor saw the Firebolt arrive until it was right at the boundary wall. It hovered tantalisingly out of reach barely four feet away, but clearly it could not cross the boundary.
“What if I go back and grab one of them? I came in through the gate. Maybe it will open if we have a Dark Mark.”
“Nah, these lot aren’t good enough to be Death Eaters. I doubt if there’s a Dark Mark between them. Anyway, I don’t like the idea of you going back in there, either. Come’n, Harry. You must’ve learnt something we can use in six years.”
Harry leaned back against the bare brickwork as Mrs Granger pulled off the invisibility cloak looking daggers at Hagrid. Mr Granger was still floating just behind her.
“That’s hardly fair!”
Hagrid smiled at her and said, “You know, you remind me of someone.”
Harry looked up and said, “Sorry, I forgot you’ve not been introduced. Hagrid, this is Mrs Granger. She’s Hermione’s mother. Mrs Granger, this is Rubeus Hagrid.”
“I’m very pleased to meet you, Hagrid,” said Mrs Granger stiffly, holding out her hand. “Hermione written to us about you, of course.”
As they shook hands Harry turned to face the wall. He closed his eyes and held his hand up, trying to feel the charms on the boundary.
Harry felt along the wall. There was something there, but the clarity he’d felt before was just beyond him.
Sighing with frustration, he opened his eyes and turned to face the others.
Harry was taken aback to see Mrs Granger and Hagrid rigid with fear and shivering. He looked around and saw that at least a dozen Dementors were hovering just on the other side of the boundary wall. He hadn’t felt their presence at all.
“It’s okay,” said Harry. “Fight it, Hagrid. They can’t get you. They probably know that some of them in the farmhouse are dying, that’s all.”
As he spoke Harry looked out through the trees towards the farmhouse. He was alarmed to see a gathering of witches and wizards just outside the tree line. Fortunately, they too were affected by the Dementors even at a distance and showed no inclination to come closer.
He was fairly sure that his inability to feel the charms in the brickwork was linked somehow to his loss of feeling emotions.
He had assumed that it had been a side effect of Sapien’s legacy that had robbed him of his emotions, but what if that wasn’t true?
Voldemort had been ill recently. What if his cure had affected Harry as well. They were linked, after all. But what had Voldemort needed to cure himself of?
Harry felt a cold hand grasp his wrist. He looked down and saw Mrs Granger’s terrified wide-eyed expression. He knew she could not see him now. She was wrapped up in her own worst nightmares and memories.
“It’s okay,” he said gently. “It isn’t real.”
For the briefest of moments her eyes focussed on him and she released him. In that moment, however, Harry saw Hermione in those eyes and finally understood.
Harry’s knees gave way and he fell as the pang of emotion hit him.
“Blimey,” muttered Hagrid as the Dementor’s fell back, apparently in some distress.
Harry forced himself to get up and almost fell face first into the wall. His hands were spread wide and still smarting from the impact of his fall but Harry could feel the charms now. Harry closed his eyes, although this time it was more to stem his tears of emotion.
There were five overlapping charms that he could count, four of which were to keep intruders out. The one holding them in was strong but uneven. Harry realised, without understanding how he knew it, that these charms were placed imprecisely as if in a hurry.
He felt along the wall a short distance and smiled as he felt the charm dissipate. They hadn’t bothered to protect the wall right down to the ground.
Keeping his back to the others, Harry tapped the brickwork with his wand and blew a sizeable opening through the bottom of the wall. It would be a tight squeeze for Hagrid, but at last they had an escape route.
Harry turned back to see Mrs Granger looking at him with some concern.
“Are you okay, Harry?”
“I’ll be fine,” he answered a little croakily. “Let’s get out of here, shall we?”
“You go through first, Harry,” said Hagrid. “Keep those Dementors back.”
“What about the others from the farmhouse?” Harry asked.
“Some have run but most seem still affected for some reason.”
Harry scrambled through the opening and then helped Mr and Mrs Granger through.
“What did Hagrid mean?” she asked. “Oh, no. It’s going cold again!”
Harry turned to face the Dementors and then walked forward. One of the Dementors came forward to meet him.
“You bear the Legacy. You may leave. The others must stay.”
“No,” said Harry, his mind so set that several Dementors fell back. “These three people are my friends. They leave with me.”
The Dementors did not respond.
“You will release the Muggles in the village. All of them.”
“We must feed.”
“You can feed on that lot in there,” said Harry, pointing over the wall.
“We cannot enter that place.”
“You won’t need to. I suspect that they won’t want to wait around here much longer. When Voldemort discovers they messed up my birthday treat, I expect he’ll pay them a visit. I should wait by the gate, if I were you.”
About half of the Dementors flew off over towards the boundary gate.
“Do you know how dangerous you are to us, Harry Potter?”
“I’m beginning to realise, yes,” admitted Harry.
“Will you betray us as well?”
“I will keep the word I gave to Sapien,” promised Harry solemnly.
“Sapien was more wizard than a brother at the end.”
“Sapien knew that Voldemort would destroy you all in the end. He must realise eventually that you know his secret.”
“So, will you join us in the fight against Voldemort?”
“That would not be wise for us. We will continue to use our instincts as an excuse not to follow his orders to the letter, but outright rebellion is out of the question.”
“But feeding on the occasional Death Eater or sympathiser is okay, right?” asked Harry with a smile.
“We must feed.”
The last of the Dementors floated off and Harry helped Mrs Granger pull Hagrid through the opening in the wall.
“I think I saw somewhere in the village that have some ropes we can use,” said Harry. “We need to rig up some kind of harness so we can all fly.”
“What time is it?” asked Mrs Granger.
“Just before one o’clock,” answered Harry. “It took about an hour to fly here, but we’ll be quicker going back.”
“What, even carrying all of us?” said Hagrid sceptically.
“What choice do we have?” asked Harry. “I can’t make a Portkey.”
“I say you should fly back and get help,” said Hagrid, brushing himself down. “I overheard that the attack was due to start sometime before dawn today. Mr Granger is in no condition to be moved and that Firebolt may be good but it’ll still struggle to lift me on my own.”
“I’m not leaving you,” said Harry firmly. “Especially around here.”
“I’ll use your cloak for a few miles. I’ll be able to cover quite a distance before dawn.”
Harry shook his head.
“You were taken because of me. I just can’t leave you in danger.”
“Harry, this wasn’t your fault,” said Mrs Granger gently. “We’re not in immediate danger now, are we? We’ll be fine with Mr Hagrid.”
Harry and his Firebolt Apparated into Privet Drive still travelling at top speed. He fired a stunner at one masked Death Eater and allowed himself to collide with another before coming to a halt.
Number Four and both adjacent houses were ablaze but there were no other Death Eaters around.
He could see huddles of frightened people covering in doorways and windows and there were distant cries of distress.
Harry climbed high over the rooftops and saw sparks and reflected light from a fire fight in the next street. He urged his Firebolt forward, just skimming a tile ridge and diving down right into the fight.
Hermione was cornered behind a low garden wall, surrounded by attacking witches and wizards.
Harry launched a barrage of spells against them.
“He’s here! The boy’s here!”
“Tell the Dark Lord! We’ve got Potter!”
Harry ran forward and dived over the garden wall to join Hermione. Unfortunately he landed on a very indignant Uncle Vernon.
“Oh, it’s you,” he shouted.
“You okay?” asked Harry, ignoring Vernon and crawling over to Hermione.
“Yes, just about. I tried to get them away, but they have the area surrounded. Have you seen Moody?”
“No. He was supposed to be back before midnight.”
“Yes, he did come back but we lost touch when the attack started. I hope he’s okay. He said the Order would be delayed but would follow. He said they had a lead and had to investigate.”
“It was probably a false one, Hermione. Oh, by the way. I’ve a message for you.”
Hermione ducked down as a hex blasted the stone coping before jumping up to return fire.
“Yeah, your Mum says Hi.”
Hermione had half jumped up again when she froze and stared at Harry. He reached out and forced her down under cover again.
“Hagrid is taking her and your Dad to safety. She’s fine but your Dad is pretty beat up. He’ll be okay, though.”
Hermione’s mouth moved but she made no sound.
Harry smiled and leaned towards her.
“They’re alive, Hermione,” he whispered. “Hedwig found them.”
Just then the gate pier exploded.
“I’ve just about had enough of this!” yelled Uncle Vernon. “Now look here,” he began angrily, standing up before Harry could stop him.
Harry was expecting him to be shot down, but instead the firing stopped and they heard laughter from their attackers.
“I insist you cease this nonsense at once! This is a respectable neighbourhood. You weirdo types should know that you’re-”
“Oh, be quiet, Muggle, before I silence you permanently.”
Harry began to stand but Hermione grabbed his front and pulled down hard.
“Not going to say hello, Harry? We’ve been looking everywhere for you. I so wanted to wish you a happy birthday.”
There was more laughter and Harry touched Hermione’s hand gently. She released him at once and they stood up together. Aunt Petunia remained hidden below the low wall, sobbing quietly.
Lord Voldemort’s lipless mouth stretched into a wide smile.
“The Order seems a little light on the ground tonight,” he observed as two masked Death Eaters dragged a limp Moody over and dumped him in just in front of the wall.
“I expect they had a prior engagement,” said Harry, stepping through an opening made by a spell impact.
“Yes, they’ve been rather busy lately,” said Voldemort conversationally. “They were hoping to spoil a birthday surprise I’d planned for you.”
“It wasn’t that much of a surprise, was it?”
“Perhaps not. Still, it’s the thought that counts.”
“I heard recently that you’ve been ill, Voldemort. Is that right?” asked Harry.
Voldemort’s smile vanished at once and his Death Eaters looked at each other with distinct uneasiness, but Voldemort quickly regained his composure.
“Thank you for your concern, Harry. I’m quite well, thank you.”
“Oh,” said Harry, hearing Hermione join him at his side and feeling his strength grow. “Unfortunately your followers at Hobb’s Weir didn’t seem to be quite so sure.”
Voldemort gave no indication that he was in pain, but Harry knew he was in agony. Harry’s scar hurt when Voldemort felt anger or hatred. It was only to be expected that he would suffer when Harry felt strong emotions of love.
“So, where’s my surprise?” tormented Harry. “I don’t mean to hurry you but you know you don’t have long.”
Harry stepped forward, utterly unafraid. This was the first time since his return that his scar hadn’t burned with pain in Voldemort’s presence.
“You do know that, don’t you, Tom?”
Anger flashed across Voldemort’s face and he raised his wand. Harry did the same.
Then three of the Death Eater’s wheeled around and were immediately hit by red stunners. Voldemort and the other Death Eater’s Disapparated with a loud Crack! before Harry’s stunners could hit any of them.
More cracks followed and witches and wizards appeared all over the street.
Ron came running up to them looking very pleased with himself.
“D’you see that! I got him! Did you see, Hermione?”
Harry turned to see Hermione looking up at him.
She was about to say something when Ron called, “Hermione, what’s the charm for ropes again?”
“Incarcerous, Ron,” she said absently. “No, you’re forgetting the hand movement too.”
She stepped reluctantly away and Harry nearly stopped her. It was almost too much to bear for her to be ignorant of the fact that he had his feelings back in force and what the most important of those feelings were.
The next few hours went by in a blur for Harry. Privet Drive and the surrounding streets were a hive of activity as several teams from the Ministry of Magic modified people’s memories and repaired the building damage.
Number Four and the adjoining properties had been expertly restored after their fire damage, although Aunt Petunia insisted there was still an unpleasant smell of tar and fried tomatoes in the kitchen that had the officials from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes completely baffled.
Professor McGonagall turned up later in the morning bringing Hagrid and the Grangers with her. Mr Granger seemed back to himself if a little tender and was able to appreciate the emotional greeting Hermione gave them.
As they hugged and cried with relief, Professor McGonagall took Harry off to one side for a quiet word. They went out into the garden.
“Hagrid told me what happened. I’m not sure whether to congratulate or reprimand you.”
“I know,” said Harry. “I just couldn’t bear to do nothing.”
“Indeed. It was a mistake for you to leave Miss Granger and the Dursleys unprotected. We were very fortunate that there were no fatalities this time. Fortunately Voldemort wanted an audience for once.”
“Would you have got to the Grangers in time?”
“No,” replied McGonagall. “We had no idea where they were being held. We didn’t even know Hagrid was missing. I thought he was up in the mountains.”
“Well, I’m glad he was there to help. I’d never have got them out without him.”
“How did you find them so quickly, by the way?”
“The Ministry has had several reports of Muggle motorists phoning into local radio stations with reports that a giant set of legs was running along the motorway just before dawn.”
Harry laughed and said, “Well, maybe we can find him a bigger invisibility cloak?”
Harry felt the smile slip from his face.
“You should have told me,” he said seriously. “You should have trusted me. Mad-Eye and Mrs Weasley too.”
“I know,” said McGonagall quietly. “I rather assumed Miss Granger would tell you sooner than she did, despite her convictions to the contrary. She was afraid you’d go off an do something stupid, for some reason.”
Harry watched as Hermione and her father hugged in the kitchen. She seemed unwilling to let him go. She turned her head and stared directly at Harry.
He looked away feeling awkward and saw that Professor McGonagall was observing him closely.
“I still wonder if I’m doing the right thing,” she said lightly, distracting Harry.
“What do you mean, Professor?”
“Well, I’ve hardly been gone five minutes and look what happens.”
“It would have happened anyway,” Harry assured her. “Voldemort knew the wards were coming down.”
McGonagall smiled to herself and looked at her watch.
“Well, I’d better be getting along. Needless to say, Sibyl is proving to be just as impossible in France as she was in Scotland. Honestly, what does it matter which non-existent mystic line her tower is on?
“Anyway, please give my warm regards to Miss Granger. I shan’t disturb her at the moment but I’ll make contact with her soon. The temporary library facilities at the Beauxbatons Academy are rather impressive and I know Madam Pince wants to show it off to someone who will appreciate it.”
“Of course, Professor.”
“By the way, now that it is no longer necessary for you to stay here, I’d like you to come early to Beauxbatons. The facilities there are quite excellent and we might as well make good use of our time.”
“Actually, Professor, I’ve still not changed my mind. I won’t be coming back to school.”
“Nonsense, Mr Potter,” she said crisply. “You have yet to complete your education.”
“I thought after we spoke before that you understood.”
“I have had time to reconsider my position.”
“There are things I need to do. Things Dumbledore wanted me to do.”
“I have no objection to you studying under a more flexible timetable and there is no reason why you can’t base yourself at Beauxbatons and excuse yourself when necessary. I suspect that Miss Granger will have need of the library facilities and as far as I’m concerned there is no reason why you can’t occupy your spare time with lessons to further yourself.”
Harry smiled and nodded. It was true that he anticipated that there would be quite a lot of idle time between their hunt for each Horcrux and he didn’t object to learning more advanced magic. He wasn’t so sure Ron would be so enthusiastic, though.
“Good, that’s settled then. I’ve asked Hagrid to stay with you in the meantime.”
“Thanks,” said Harry quietly.
McGonagall walked over towards the house where she was less likely to be seen and Disapparated with a soft Pop!
Just then there was the sound of flapping wings and Harry instinctively held his arm out. Hedwig landed heavily.
“Hedwig! Are you okay?” he asked with concern. Her white leg feathers were covered in blood but she seemed to be uninjured.
Hedwig hooted softly and held out a foot.
“Oh, my,” breathed Harry, as she gently dropped the heavy Eagle’s head into his hand. “Been in the wars too, have you?”
Harry dropped the decapitated head at once and began stroking her, wondering that she could have defeated such a large opponent.
“I’m just glad you’re okay. How about Pig?”
As he spoke Pig dived into the kitchen causing pandemonium as he attempted to deliver his message to Hermione. Unfortunately, Pig had brought a larger and significantly more bloody trophy back with him.
Harry went over and sat down at a garden chair with Hedwig.
Inside they heard Aunt Petunia shrieking and chasing Pig from room to room, and everyone else chasing after Aunt Petunia.
Hermione sat down quietly next to Harry. She was red-eyed and apparently feeling too emotional to say anything. Together they quietly began stroking Hedwig, each completely oblivious to the chaos inside the house.
AN: Back to Gringotts for the last Chapter and conclusion to the Prologue…
The Legion (Prologue Part 2)
“Harry, your eyes. They seem different, somehow.”
Harry and Ron finally return to the Burrow where Hermione is waiting. Before Harry finally leaves, the three share a toast.
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