Chapter 16 : The Legion (Prologue Part 2)
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Back in Harry’s vault at Gringott’s …
Harry’s stomach made a loud grumbling noise, breaking him out of his reminiscences of the previous summer. He looked surreptitiously sideways at Ron, who had finished talking and was now sitting quietly, staring down at the floor.
Harry looked at his watch and was dismayed to see how late it was.
“Ron, we should really make a move.”
Ron nodded absently. Clearly his thoughts were far away too.
Harry got stiffly to his feet and offered his arm out to help pull Ron up. As Harry went around putting the lanterns out, Ron lingered over the selection of artefacts on the small table.
“I suppose this is really it,” he said. “I honestly never hoped to believe we could destroy all six.”
“I know,” said Harry, his head still full of memories of his seventeenth birthday.
Harry wasn’t entirely sure when he first realised that his birthday marked the start of the Order’s fight back against Voldemort.
They had found Wormtail lying unconscious behind some bushes in the next garden. Hermione had managed to hex him before the other Death Eaters got away and Harry suspected he had been hoping to avoid risking being fired upon.
Harry wasn’t totally convinced even then that he was doing the right thing by letting him go. He was such a miserable creature, crying and begging for leniency that Harry had been tempted to allow the Ministry to take him after all.
Instead he released him on condition that he act as a spy for them.
“You can’t trust him, Harry,” Tonks had told him. “Besides, You-Know-Who is bound to suspect he made a deal. How else could he have got away?”
“I’ve told him to tell Voldemort everything,” Harry had replied. “He’ll say Voldemort can feed us false information through him pretending to spy for us.”
“So? What use will he be, if everything he tells us is rubbish?”
“Well, Wormtail isn’t particularly trustworthy, is he? He’ll betray anyone if it serves his own interests. I think if he’s frightened enough, we’ll be able to get what we need.”
“You’re going to be more frightening than You-Know-Who?”
“Not to you, maybe,” he had admitted. “Besides, Wormtail has messed things up yet again. I know he’ll blame others, but Voldemort must be losing patience with him. His failure to torture and kill people targeted to cause me maximum distress wasn’t his worst mistake tonight.”
“It wasn’t?” asked Moody, whom Harry thought hadn’t been paying attention to their conversation.
Tonks took a step back to include Mad-Eye in their discussion. He was sitting on the low garden wall rubbing the back of his head.
Harry smiled seeing he was recovering a little and said, “Well, no. Voldemort’s biggest mistake was to show me how vulnerable he is. I can’t tell you how tempting it was not to, well, use what we learned from the Dementors.”
Tonks frowned but the eyebrow above Moody’s normal eye raised a little.
“You must mean the Kiss. You can do that?”
“Well, kind of. With Hermione’s help.”
“Why didn’t you?” demanded Tonks angrily.
“Now isn’t the time,” said Harry, holding his hands up to stem her protests. “All that would have happened is that he would be alerted to something that could help us. The Kiss would not have killed him, I promise you.”
“As good as,” retorted Tonks.
“No,” said Harry seriously. “Remember, he came back to a body from almost nothing before. He could do that again, except I mean to finish him permanently. That’s a promise.”
Tonks seemed to shudder a little as he said this and she looked away.
“What?” asked Harry, but Moody snorted with amusement.
“It- It was just something we were talking about a few days ago,” she said hesitantly, before looking him full in the face to answer him properly. “You know, um, Dumbledore?”
Harry just nodded slowly to encourage her to continue.
“I mean, well, sometimes he was a bit intimidating. I mean, he could be charming and witty and kind most of the time. But sometimes there was something scary about him. It was in his eyes.”
Harry smiled and nodded.
“I know what you mean,” he said fondly. “I could never describe him as scary, though. It was just like sometimes you saw a glimpse of the power he wielded.”
Tonks looked down and nodded.
“So, um,” said Harry, hoping she would continue.
“She sees it in your eyes too, Harry,” said Moody with a wry smile.
Harry gave him a sceptical look but Moody shook his head.
“Oh, I’ve seen it too. Why’d you think that maggot Wormtail practically wet himself?”
“So, you think we were right to let him go?” asked Tonks.
“Not for one second,” replied Mad-Eye bluntly. “Still, it is consistent for a bunch of leaderless, no-hope softies like us, eh?”
“Let’s hope so,” seconded Harry.
Harry smiled remembering Tonk’s look of simple incredibility on her face.
Meanwhile, the Grangers had somehow managed to persuade the Dursleys to accept the protection offered by the Order and they were whisked away before noon complete with the entire house contents. The only time he had seen Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon since then was briefly at the following Christmas, although Remus Lupin insisted upon giving him regular reports about their well-being.
He saw a little more of the Grangers because they were moved to a small cottage in the grounds of the Beauxbatons Academy where they helped out by giving demonstrations of Muggle technology to sceptical students.
Professor McGonagall had been right to describe the temporary school facilities as impressive. Harry was amazed to see a massive tent the size of the Great Hall that had been erected in the grounds adjacent to the Academy’s great château. This had been the only equivalent space Beauxbatons had been unable to provide within their existing buildings, and Harry rather liked the interior décor which Professor Flitwick had conjured to match the original; even down to the enchanted ceiling. They hadn’t actually needed to replicate the Hogwarts kitchens as well, but Professor McGonagall seemed to think it would keep the house elves happier.
In addition no less than four of the high Hogwarts towers had been transported over to France and were now balanced impossibly on the side of the stable complex which Professor McGonagall had converted into classrooms.
The thing that made Harry smile widest, though, was seeing Hagrid’s house by the lake, complete with vegetable patch and a paddock for Buckbeak. Right next door was an almost identical house except that it that was Grawp sized.
At first the schools operated independently, and although lessons continued to be held separately gradually more and more students from each school would eat in each other’s dining Hall.
Harry suspected that Mrs Granger might have begun this as she so often wrapped her arm around his and insisted taking him off to eat in the Beauxbatons elegant white and gold hall just so she could quiz him. It would be years later before she admitted to him the anti-muggle charms inside the Academy meant she had to be in contact with a witch or wizard in order to see any of the finery.
Harry and Hermione both enrolled for their final year at the school, although Ron declined and preferred to set up shop in Diagon Alley. Ron tried briefly to get Hermione to skip school but gave up as soon as he saw for himself the extensive library facilities.
Harry himself actually spent relatively little time at the school once term started, his activities with the Order taking him away for much of the year.
Just as predicted, Voldemort had taken Hogwarts at the beginning of September. There had been no battle to prevent them.
Ministry Aurors, observing from brooms at great heights reported Death Eaters searching the deserted village and grounds before returning to wait for the train bringing the new students.
The train never even left King’s Cross Station. Unsurprisingly, not one student turned up.
Even the Slytherins had stayed away.
Harry’s main concern over the temporary surrender of Hogwarts concerned Dumbledore’s white tomb. He was sure Voldemort would desecrate it as soon as soon as he arrived but Professor Flitwick assured him that no such thing would happen.
“He’s still at Hogwarts,” the tiny Professor had whispered conspiratorially to him as they walked down to help Hagrid redecorate Grawp’s cabin. “We’ve moved him into one of the wilder parts of the forest, that’s all.”
Harry smiled remembering the smokescreen of seemingly pointless stunts they had conducted to conceal their hunt for the Horcruxes after that. He had been quite open with Fred and George when he approached them, telling them everything he could except about the Horcruxes themselves.
“You want us to plan this?” George had asked. “Surely the Order would be better equipped and far more experienced in hunting dark wizards?”
“Look, you must understand me,” Harry had said earnestly. “This isn’t the real hunt. What I need are a series of deadline grabbing stunts. I want Voldemort to see the Order blundering around and failing for the most part. We will be going after genuine Death Eaters and their sympathisers, but the true purpose will be to conceal what is really going on.”
“Okay, so what will really be going on?” asked Fred.
“I’d rather not compromise you by telling you too much,” Harry said carefully.
Fred looked offended for a moment but George said, “Fair point, Harry. Can we assume that your other teams won’t know about our activities?”
“The Order’s teams, you mean. That’s right, only the three of us will be involved with detailed planning. I’m going to ask you clear everything through me, but this is really your show. Ron and Hermione will know a little more, but everyone else will just follow your orders as far as your plans are concerned. Ron will fund anything you need.”
Fred and George looked at each other a moment.
“Sorry, Harry. It’s just that headline grabbing never seemed to be your thing before.”
“On purpose, anyway,” said Harry with half a laugh. “That’s why I came to the experts.”
“So, what are our terms of reference?”
“Whatever we do, it must either be hidden from the Muggles or easily explainable as a natural or normal catastrophe. But the most important thing is that all reasonable precautions must be taken to make sure there is no loss of life or serious injury. To anyone, not just bystanders.”
“Anyone,” said Harry firmly.
“That’s a tall order, Harry.”
“Remember we won’t be the main event. I want the wizarding world and Voldemort to see a couple of small victories in an otherwise misguided campaign that will be doomed to failure.”
Fred and George had shaken their heads but in the end agreed.
Less than a week later the twins contacted him with their first idea. Mr Weasley had received a tip-off that a wizard family was harbouring some fugitives and they had persuaded him to delay putting a report in so the Order could raid the place ahead of the Ministry.
The Daily Prophet and local Muggle news-outlets ran several stories on the wide crater that had appeared overnight and for a while it was feared that no-one had survived to bear witness to what had happened. However, it later emerged that three suspected Death Eaters had been taken into Ministry custody and the family they had held captive had been moved to safety.
Despite the minor inconvenience of the Ministry turning up a little too promptly, Fred and George’s pretend war went from strength to strength.
It had come something of a small shock when, not long after, Harry realised that Order members were coming to him for advice on their own campaign as well. He confided this to Professor McGonagall during one of their practise duelling sessions.
“Well, that shouldn’t be so much of a surprise,” she had said. “After all, you alone seem to have some idea of how to rid of us of Voldemort once we catch him. This way you not only know just about everything the Order is doing but you can also ensure our efforts are not misdirected.”
“I’m not even a member of the Order of the Phoenix,” Harry had said.
“We do not accept people who are still of school age,” she had replied with a small smile. “I thought you knew that?”
Harry snorted and was punished for his lapse in concentration by a hex that gave him a dead wand arm for the rest of that evening.
Harry instinctively rubbed his arm, remembering how Professor McGonagall had at once increased the ferocity of her attack. It was a pattern that they would repeat many times. Far from being annoyed with her, Harry was glad she understood that mercy was something the Death Eaters never showed their victims.
As Harry waited by the door to the vault, Ron reached under the table with the remnants of the Horcruxes for something wrapped in a dark cloth. He discarded the cloth and then pointed his wand at the last lantern over the table and plunged the vault into darkness.
Harry heard a curse as Ron walked into something hard on his way across towards the exit.
“Perhaps we should have put the lamps out from the door,” suggested Harry in an amused tone.
“Ha. Ha,” said Ron, coming out of the darkness rubbing his shin.
“Hm? Oh, just something I put to one side,” he replied, holding up a dusty green bottle with a wax sealed cork. “I’m not big on vintage wine, but this you just had to get. This is from the very last case in existence.”
“You’ve been lecturing me on how my inheritance has all gone and you’re proposing we drink my last remaining asset?” said Harry laughing.
Ron chuckled and nodded.
“Yep. That’ll teach you, won’t it?”
The Gringotts cart flew around the corner and stopped at the small platform to return them to the surface.
“I should be going, Ron,” said Harry nervously, still dragging his feet as they approached the back door. Now that he was finally here, Harry realised he would really much rather just go and face Voldemort.
“Not yet, Harry. You’re not leaving me to explain how stupid and inconsiderate you are.”
“It’s late, Ron. Everyone is in bed.”
“Yeah, right,” he replied sarcastically.
They crept into the Burrow’s kitchen. The house was dark and quiet.
“See?” whispered Harry.
“See what?” asked Hermione, appearing at the door to the living room and holding up a small lantern.
Knowing he had no choice now, Harry entered the room properly while Ron just sniggered and fetched three large crystal wine glasses and an ornate decanter from a display cabinet.
Hermione placed the lantern down on the table and turned the brightness up. Harry sensed her tenseness as she waited in silence next to him.
Harry noticed that the latest edition of the Evening Prophet lay on the kitchen table, its headline confirming that countless numbers of Dementors had surrounded the Hogwarts grounds. The paper speculated if Voldemort was about to unleash another attack, but Harry knew better.
At Harry’s invitation, they had actually been blockading the school for some weeks now. The Death Eaters inside could not Disapparate nor any longer Floo out to safety. They were trapped. Tonight, though, would be the last night of the blockade. Harry fully intended to remove the wards keeping them out before he faced Voldemort.
Ron returned quickly and pointed his wand at the bottle top. The cork popped out and up into the air. Ron caught it expertly and sniffed the darkly stained stopper.
“Don’t you have to let it settle or something?” said Harry.
“The term is decanting, Harry. And, no, not if you have a wizard around,” said Ron, pointing his wand down at the base of the bottle and giving it a flick.
The decanter began to fill from the bottom and Harry saw that the deep red wine was completely clear.
Ron filled each of the wine glasses with a generous amount and placed the decanter back down. Harry was studying Hermione’s face as he did so. He could see she knew what this must mean.
Ron raised a glass.
“A toast,” he said brightly.
Harry picked up the glass nearest him and Hermione did the same. He sniffed cautiously and caught some of the bouquet.
“Here’s to you, Harry. I truly hope you manage to get out of one more scrape. Just one more should do it, eh?”
Ron took a deep drink, almost emptying his glass.
“Oh, yes,” he continued, refilling his glass. “Try to remember, just before the end, that I-” Ron hesitated before continuing. “Well, I wasn’t afraid to be with you for the end.”
Harry lowered his glass and watched as Ron took the decanter and his glass out of the room.
Hermione, who like Harry hadn’t joined in with Ron’s toast, was holding the glass at an alarming angle with the wine threatening to pour out and over the floor.
Harry gently plucked the glass from her fingers and poured all the remaining wine down the sink. He turned back to see her frowning at him.
“What did you do that for?” she asked seriously.
“Well, a couple of reasons, actually,” admitted Harry. “Firstly, I need to keep a clear head tonight and secondly I didn’t really feel like celebrating.”
“So, you’re really going then. I’m sorry if Ron made you come back.”
“No. I fully intended for us all to have dinner together before I went. I must admit, though, that I was dreading telling you.”
“You know I want to come with you? Ron too.”
“Yes, but if it happens tonight then it’ll only come down to the two of us in the end.”
“What if Wormtail lied? It could be a trap.”
“He did lie, Hermione. It is a trap. It is also exactly what I’ve been waiting for.”
“What about the wine?”
“What about it?”
“Was it poison?”
Harry shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. Clearly Hermione had been suspicious as well. Ron would usually draw attention to the fact that they hadn’t even tasted the wine.
“It’s not important. If I had to choose what to believe, then I’d choose to believe that Ron didn’t know. I’m sure it is slow acting, so you’ll have plenty of time to get him help if he needs it.”
“What about the missing gold?”
“Nothing is missing as far as I am concerned. I asked Ron to manage the finances and that’s what he did. I said he could take what he wanted.”
“No, Harry. You may have said to take what we needed, but not what we wanted.”
“Not if he’s been funding the Death Eaters! I told you ages ago, there has to be thousands of Galleons missing, Harry.”
“It’s not important.”
Hermione shook her head slowly and Harry sighed gently. This wasn’t what he wanted to talk about.
“He tried to tell me earlier, Hermione. I’m afraid I wasn’t paying much attention though. I was remembering about last summer and Sapien.”
“He admitted helping Voldemort?”
“Ron hasn’t helped Voldemort,” Harry assured her. “He just got mixed up with a few of his followers while he was making the deals that got us here. Some of them don’t need Voldemort to make them take advantage of people. I think he just found himself in a corner.”
“So, what did he admit?”
“He didn’t need to admit anything, Hermione. Ron’s our friend. He didn’t know it, of course, but he’s actually been helping in a strange kind of way. The Ministry and Gringotts have been tracking where the money goes for months now. They couldn’t before, because they didn’t have any serial numbers.”
Harry took half a step closer and said gently, “None of this matters now. By the morning either I will be dead or I won’t. If I die, there will be no proof of Ron’s duplicity. If I live, I can protect him.”
“How did this happen? Ron, of all people.”
“Like I said, I wasn’t listening to the detail. Maybe he was blackmailed into it or maybe they used an Imperious curse on him. He never could shrug that one off, could he? Look, in the end, it was my fault it happened.”
“Attempted double murder and a suicide was your fault?” she responded sarcastically.
“That was never going to succeed. Even if I hadn’t known you would have-”
“Known?” Hermione said sharply.
“How about suspected, then?”
Hermione just tutted.
“If I live, then everything will have been worth it,” he assured her.
“Surely, only Voldemort being dead would make that.”
Harry smiled coldly and said, “Oh, he’ll be dead alright. Besides, Snape and I have unfinished business too.”
“But, Dumbledore made him. He was dying anyway from when he destroyed the ring,” began Hermione, but then she stopped herself. “I refuse to argue with you tonight, Harry. Please,” she added as her voice cracked. “Please come back so I can lecture you some more.”
Harry smiled down at her and lifted his hand to wipe away a tear from her cheek. Hermione grabbed his hand tightly and kissed his palm.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’ve been an idiot.”
Hermione just nodded.
“I supposed you’ve known all along?” he asked.
“Yes, pretty much. Ron’s continued jealousy was one reason, even though you never gave him any reason to be. Quite the reverse, actually. When did your feelings really return?”
“I saw you in your mother’s eyes the night of my birthday. Whatever Voldemort had done, it began to break down when I thought of you. When he turned up, I could feel his discomfort. But when you stood up beside me to face him, that’s when he was really hurting. He was in agony at so much emotion going through me.”
“For all this time you’ve been pretending not to care?”
“I had to, Hermione. Voldemort has no idea where my strength really comes from. He only knew his pain started as the wards began to come down. I had to let him believe it was that.”
“I hope you appreciate how much I’ve suffered too,” said Harry with a smirk. “It hasn’t been easy.”
“Oh, poor you!”
Harry’s face fell as he prepared to tell her what he knew he must.
“I’ve left letters for you, Ron and a few of the others. If it all goes horribly wrong, I’ve made plans for your escape. There isn’t much money, but it will do you for a while. Don’t share the contents of your letter with anyone until you are safe. Anyone, okay?”
Hermione shook her head as if refusing to hear him.
“I told Hedwig that you’d look after her. She’ll bring you your letter when,” he said before hesitating. “Well, she’ll know.”
He felt a fresh tear run down over his hand.
“Try not to worry, Hermione. I’ve still not forgotten what Sapien tried to tell me, although I’ve tried hard enough.
“He told me I shouldn’t be afraid. He said I should just let go and accept it; that my feelings were just what happens when you fall in love.”
Hermione let go of his hand but pushed herself towards him. Harry wrapped his arms around her back while she sobbed quietly.
“I used to think that only a Dementor could make me feel like I’d never be happy again,” said Hermione, sounding muffled against him. “I know better now, though. Sapien told me I’d be unhappy. I told him I could bare it; I was determined to be as strong as you, Harry.”
“He knows,” Harry said gently.
The kitchen clock chimed and Hermione tensed.
“I have to go,” Harry said quietly. “I have a Prophecy to fulfil.”
Finally Hermione released him and looked up. As determined as he was to go, Harry had found himself quite mesmerised. Hermione frowned slightly, and this broke the spell.
Knowing he had no more time, he leaned down and kissed her lightly. Their kiss deepened but it was Hermione who eventually broke away.
“Harry,” she said. “Your eyes. They seem different, somehow.”
Harry stepped out into the yard and walked the few feet from the house before he could Disapparate away. Harry had no idea what Hermione meant when she said his eyes seemed different. He pushed this notion to the back of his mind and as he allowed feelings that had been suppressed for far too long to come to the fore.
At one time he would not have acknowledged the true source of his inner strength. Now, though, as he turned and thought of his destination, Harry knew he had never been stronger or more confident in himself as he was right at that moment.
He thought of Hermione waiting for him and a fresh imperative surged through him. Voldemort had better hurry up and die because he was determined not to keep Hermione waiting.
Harry reached the gate, thankful that he’d resisted the temptation to look back at the window he was sure Hermione was now looking at him from. He wondered briefly if he might not have the strength to go if he saw her anguished features.
He was about to Disapparate when he sensed something.
He looked far into the distance with his mind’s eye just as Sapien had shown him. Voldemort was over a hundred miles away, and yet Harry picked him out straight away.
Suddenly two cloaked figures jumped out of the darkness towards him.
Harry disarmed them with barely a flick of his wand; finding himself faintly annoyed that Voldemort should have sent such inept and clumsy attackers to him.
The two attackers would be found the next morning still trembling with fear and begging to be released from the permanent sticking charms Harry had used to glue them to the trees. Unfortunately, their ordeal would be exacerbated by the attentions of the Dementors who were never far from Harry these days.
Harry looked out at the horizon once more and summoned the remaining seventh of a soul to him. Just like a Dementor, he found himself compelled towards Voldemort’s remaining life essence, damaged as it was.
As he approached, Harry fancied he could see fear in that dwindling unnatural soul. It was as if Voldemort had suddenly felt the chill of his soul being exposed to him.
Harry thrilled as he felt his connection with Voldemort tense.
Could Voldemort really know? Harry neither knew nor cared. Tonight for the first and hopefully last time in his life he would deliberately take a human life. Well, he was human once, he supposed. Harry knew this wasn’t what Voldemort feared, though. What he really feared was what Harry fully intended to do: he was going to expose Voldemort to the full extent of Sapien’s legacy.
Harry had suspected before that Hermione knew at least part of the truth that not all of Sapien had perished that night.
It had been Harry, not Hermione, who had actually succeeded in releasing Sapien that night. Harry had instinctively known that it was love that released the soul during the Kiss. Knowing this, Sapien, or part of him, had not been able to leave.
For all this time, Harry had nurtured a Dementor’s essence within him; a soul with the knowledge Sapien intended him not to know.
Harry now knew the dangers that Sapien foresaw.
He hadn’t once been tempted to abuse his knowledge. This seemed to surprise the remaining elder Dementors. Perhaps that was why Harry was now able to communicate freely with the legions of Dementors, even if he couldn’t command them.
They would shortly begin hunting down the last of Voldemort’s followers, although Harry knew they would follow his suggestions only to a point that suited their interests. Regardless, he was determined to free all the Dementors, and the last of Sapien, before dawn.
Just as Dumbledore had speculated, Harry could read a person’s soul just like a Dementor. After only a short period in a stranger’s company, Harry knew enough to judge them. No secrets or lies could protect them. Even so, Harry never judged others; not even Ron.
Harry’s knowledge did allow him to examine himself, however. He had confirmed his own suspicions that he himself was fractured. That fracture would be healed tonight, even at the cost of his life. Hermione had the right to him whole or not at all.
Harry urged himself onwards through the night.
Before the end, he thought grimly, Voldemort would truly understand the Dementors’ abhorrence at what Voldemort had done to his soul.
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