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Children's Crusade by theelderwand
Chapter 15 : The Siege of Calais
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18


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The funeral pyre that was now Calais lit up the night sky, the Statute of Secrecy a memory. French Magi, some barely in their teens, screeched through the air on burning brooms, hurling curses at the multitudes of Inferi swarming through the streets.

The Muggle government had collapsed within minutes after their weapons first confronted magic. No bomb nor shell, no bullet nor mortar could pierce a Protego spell cast by the youngest, most inexperienced Death Eater. Muggle flames were ineffective against the tsunami of Inferi drowning the coastal city. Now, the remnants of the Muggle army were only added to the teeming population running for their lives.

On the rooftops, in the alleys, at every corner, Magi hurling hexes with English accents advanced on the haggard defenders of the port city. Buildings were engulfed in Fiendfyre; bridges shattered under barrages of Expulso and Reducto curses. Muggle and Magi corpses alike were heaped on mass fires for the dead that had blazed for days. Aware of the Dark Lord’s new ploy, the French were desperate not to provide him with any new subjects to turn into Inferi.

In clusters of twos and threes, small bands of French Magi, wizards and witches who used to be shopkeepers, Quidditch players, Ministry functionaries and students, fought side by side with the ever dwindling numbers of Aurors and Hit Wizards. Men, women, children, young or old, there was no distinction any longer. Anyone with a wand was pressed into service to save the dying French Wizarding Republic. Everywhere Confringo and Incendio hexes raged. Everywhere the cries of the dead and dying, Muggle and Magi, filled the night air.

To no avail; on the Death Eaters and their Inferi slaves came. The wards that should’ve held until doomsday had finally succumbed to the concerted effort of the Dark Lord and his minions. After months of brutal fighting, The First Wizarding World War had finally become a total, all-consuming firestorm.

No patch of earth was safe.

Save one.

“DuChamp!”

“Over here!” the aging Professor called out, creating a hole in the defensive barrier that the wizards in his charge had hastily erected. He was exhausted, bloody and filthy. But his wand hand still proved to be deadly enough to keep this small patch of coast, the entry point to Dover, free of the hordes grinding his country under its heel.

“Pierre, thank the gods you’re still here!” Olympe Maxime exclaimed.

DuChamp smiled despite his exhaustion. “When we didn’t hear from you yesterday we feared the worst.”

The pair of teachers had only just managed to escape from her study before Beauxbatons had fallen, shepherding a small contingent of students and teachers beyond the wards, they had Apparated to Paris. After Maxime told the Ministry of Hermione’s escape and her mission, at last sharing the secret of the Horcruxes, the Minister had immediately dispatched them to Calais with orders to hold it at all costs. All costs had come to mean more than either of them had dreamt in their worst nightmares.

The half-giant collapsed behind the barrier; even sitting she was still at eye level with the old Charms Professor. She was filthy. Her face betrayed the agonies she’d faced when she fought her way into the city to try and see if the reason for their valiant defense was anywhere in sight. Only the “Chosen One” could defeat the Dark Lord; that was why it was so vital for Hermione to bring Potter back. If the prophecy wasn’t fulfilled as it should have been, fate would subject yet another world to the horrors they’d been enduring.

Pierre asked desperately, “Granger?”

“No sign of her yet.” She shook her head, trying to keep up a tough exterior that faded despite her best efforts. “I think I’ll stay here, tonight. No chance of getting back to command. Besides, it looks like you could use the help.”

Pierre’s heart sank. “Olympe, we can’t hold this patch of beach much longer. Another wave of Inferi like last time…” He waved his hand at the battered and beaten wizards around him and shook his head. Old men and boys. He used to think it a cliché. Not anymore.

Maxime fixed him with a tired smile. “I know, old friend. I know.”

Pierre handed her what was probably the last bottle of wine in Calais. “Then what do we do?”

She drank and then placed the cork back in the bottle. “We hold anyway.”

****

Harry looked on at the unrestrained carnage that used to be Calais. “Hell on Earth. That bastard Riddle finally got his way.” Harry tried to contain the rage and channel it, save it for the duel he knew was only hours away. You need to mean it, Potter… *

The Quartet was holed-up on a ridge just west of the port city. Even these hardened veterans were shocked at the death and destruction spread before them.

“We could go around?” Ron suggested.

Hermione shook her head. “Too dangerous. No idea how far out into the sea the Teeth extend and this close to Dover, even contact with brooms might be lethal.”

“Then we fly through.” Ginny’s tone was defiant.

The Elder Wand had done wonders to her injuries that even amazed Hermione. Her survival had been a close call. But a day after she’d first risen from bed and despite her fatigue and the soreness in her ribs and arms, Ginny was determined to continue their quest, over everyone’s protests. This even included Hermione, although she knew the disappearance of the Talisman could mean only one thing: Ronnie was being brought back. If they were lucky, they might have two days before he appeared; worse, Hermione wasn’t sure where, although she assumed he would be drawn to wherever the Quartet was.

Given Ginny’s injuries, she had tried to keep this information to herself. When Harry finally wheedled the truth out of a very tearful Hermione, the Quartet went deathly silent.
 
“Gods, Hermione,” Harry said breathlessly.

Ron had pulled his sobbing fiancée into his arms. “We’ll protect him, love. Don’t worry.”

Hermione pulled away from Ron just as Harry rested his hands on both their shoulders.

“I promise, nothing will happen to your son.” Harry’s tone was firm.

Ron nodded, conveying an unspoken “Thank you” with his tight-lipped smile.

Harry took a breath. “I’m sorry for what I said…”

Hermione pressed him into a hug. “Me too.” Her tears fell on Harry’s shoulder. “When I lost Ron…I lashed out at everyone. I know what it’s like…But, you were right…”

Harry silenced her with a shake of his head. “No. Don’t.” He couldn’t finish as he began to choke up. Seeing that, and the pain in Harry’s eyes, she nodded and hugged him again.

Ginny wiped tears from her eyes as Ron stood, stoically to the side until his best friends broke apart.

Harry and Ron shared a look.

“I’m not after your fame,” Ron managed.

Harry sighed. “Merlin, mate. I know that.”

“Since the Forest of Dean, I’ve always had your back,” Ron said defiantly.

Harry cocked his head at Ron. “And I’ve had yours.”

Ron just barely broke eye contact.  Then, grudgingly, “I’ve been a little distracted.”

Harry looked to Hermione and then back at Ron. “We have to get past this.”


There was an uncomfortable silence as the two best mates eyed each other.

“Git,” Ron said forcefully. But then his face broke into a lopsided smirk.

“Ponce,” Harry said, with a grin, resting his hand on Ron’s shoulder.

Then they laughed and nodded at each other.

“That’s it? That’s your apologies?” Hermione was dumbfounded.

Ron and Harry both stared at her, uncomprehendingly.

“Men!” Hermione exclaimed. Ginny could only shake her head. 


But the happy memories of reconciliation were long gone, consumed in the death throes of the anguished city that lay before them.

The flames from Calais reflected sharply off Harry’s glasses as he looked at his best mate and partner. They shared a nod.

Ron let out a deep breath. “Nothing for it. Top speed. No stopping. Steepest arc possible to avoid anyone else in the air and all…that on the ground.”

Hermione nodded, her face set. Ginny hefted Harry’s broom, her Firebolt having been too mangled to salvage after Dieppe. As she was more comfortable with her fiancé’s Firebolt, Harry had insisted she use it. Luckily, the other Hermione’s armor replaced her own, which had also suffered too severely during the ambush.

Ginny winced as a dull ache spread through her ribs. Seeing that, Hermione handed her some of the special potion she’d brewed for her. Part pepper-up, part healing and part pain killer, Ginny’s steady intake of the concoction had nearly brought her strength and stamina back to normal. She smiled gratefully as she handed the empty flask back to her best friend.

Harry mounted George’s broom. “Tight two-by-two formation. Ron and I are in the lead. Ginny’s on Ron’s tail, Hermione’s on mine.”

That prompted a nasty look from Ginny.

Harry turned to her. “No debate.”

That brought an even nastier look.

Harry softened. Please, love? “This way, we can separate, if need be and we’ll still be able to communicate through the link.”

Ginny gave in with a begrudging nod.

Harry didn’t relish the thought of separating from his fiancée, but steeled himself to the necessity.

Ron dropped him a wink to assure him Ginny would be fine.

Harry continued, “Hermione, once we’re on the descent and clear of trouble, take the lead to the Apparation point.”

Hermione nodded. “No problem. I have a feeling it won’t be hard to find tonight.”

Then he turned to his partner. “Ready mate?”

Ron dropped his signature line. “No. Do it anyway.”

As one, they kicked off; four Firebolts zipped into the blazing skies over Calais.

Like a rocket, Harry in the lead, he pulled the neck of his broom into as close to a ninety-degree climb as he dared, his robes flapping behind him.

Ron’s face was pure concentration. As he pulled his wand from its clutch, the others followed suit. They knew their chances of simply arcing over the dying city without trouble were slim at best.

Hermione chanced a look below them. Worse than Dover…The duels taking place beneath them were simply too many to count. As their altitude increased, the blazing curses being exchanged became tiny points of red and blue light. But the shockwaves of the explosions below buffeted the air, violently shaking their brooms.

Her red braid streaming behind her, Ginny streaked like a comet into the night sky, keeping tight near her brother. She too risked a look below at the horrific scenes beneath them: Inferi tearing over burning cars, shop windows exploding, Magi blind-sided by killing curses. With a will, she ripped her eyes from the scene, only to see, Merlin no! twenty brooms circling over them.

They’d been spotted. The airborne Death Eaters descended on their prey.

Not this time, you bastards! The Elder Wand spat a stream of deadly magic before anyone else could react.

His spell would buy them time, but Harry knew the dark wizards had the advantage; they were above the Quartet. His team had to break off and increase speed to have any chance of winning an aerial duel.

“Down! Break the climb! NOW!” he ordered over his shoulder. Harry forced his Firebolt out of its ascent, the others following suit. The Death Eaters he’d cursed screamed as they fell from the skies.

“Bollocks!!” Ron shouted as the city that they’d hoped to avoid came rushing into sharp focus. Then he saw at least twenty more airborne Death Eaters below, as yet unaware of the Quartet screaming toward them. “Here we go.”

Harry?

I see them. Expulsos. Full pattern. 


Harry shouted the command to Hermione as Ginny did the same to Ron, who nodded grimly.

Four wands spat death. The air exploded in a vicious white shockwave, clearing the way ahead. The screams of outrage from the Death Eaters behind them when they saw their comrades fall were audible in the after shock. Curse and hex began to fall thick around the Quartet.

“Bugger! Into the alleys!” Ron shouted.

“Break! But keep angling heading east!” Harry yelled.

The Quartet divided, Harry and Hermione shooting up a tree-lined boulevard to the north, Ron and Ginny plowing through a burning street heading south. Windows began to shatter with the shockwave of the speed-wake their brooms were leaving.

Five blocks up, five blocks over, five in; we meet at the next east-west street!

Got it. 


The Death Eaters split up, hounding their prey.

Through the carnage Harry and Hermione sped, explosions and screams surrounding them. All the while the Death Eaters were hot on their tails.

Hermione shot curses behind her at the closing horde. Harry chanced a look over his shoulder, seeing the trouble she was in. “Dammit! Switch!”

Hermione sped past him as Harry slowed, weaving through the barrage of magic trying to consume them. A lucky Confringo curse caught the end of his broom just as his Protego charm deflected three Reducto hexes that would have vaporized them both. The combined effect threw him off George’s Firebolt. He was flung into space.

“NO!” Hermione screamed. Now’s the time to put those flying drills to the test, girl! Hermione heaved on her broom, looped, threw two hexes in rapid succession at the arc of her climb toward the nearest Death Eaters and deftly caught Harry on the neck of her Firebolt.

“Oi! Watch the hands!”

Hermione quickly pulled her hands from underneath Harry’s bum.

“I’ll fly, you hex! " He commanded. "Oh. And thank you.” Harry shot her a huge smile.

She returned it. “You’re welcome.” Hermione spun around on the broom and cast a sticking charm so she could wield both of Bellatrix’s wands at oncoming threats. Then she began to hurl a barrage of hexes and curses to her beaming heart’s delight, but much to the dismay of the Death Eaters that fell in droves at the hands of the brightest witch of the age.

Once he heard Hermione cast the sticking charm, Harry’s smile only got wider. Time to teach these ponces how to fly! The Firebolt danced over the streets at full tilt, an impossible blur of a target. All the while, Hermione’s aim only became more deadly.

Five streets over, the pursuing Death Eaters were about to learn a hard lesson that Harry and Hermione already knew. One angry Weasley was dangerous; but two angry Weasleys, especially if one of them were Ginny, was a gigantic cauldron of vengeance primed to explode.

The redheads had decided to let the Death Eaters close on them, which they readily did. The black-cloaked wizards never knew what hit them.

In and out Ron and Ginny weaved, with the instinctive skill and grace only siblings who’d been flying together almost since birth could master.

A Death Eater broke left to close on Ginny’s tail, only to find a savagely grinning Ron, wand in hand blasting him off his broom. Another tried to blind-side Ron, just as Ginny cleaved his Nimbus in two with a graceful slash of Gryffindor’s Sword, her wand clamped between her teeth.

Below them, cars exploded and hexes fell thick, as the whoosh of their Firebolts, at near top speed, zoomed above the streets of war. Billowing smoke and flames were dragged along in their wakes; with every turn, fewer and fewer Death Eaters remained in the chase.

Continuing to scissor, cutting across each other’s tails, spells ceased to fly as Ron took to simply kicking the nearest Death Eaters off their brooms, Quidditch-style, as he shot past them. Ginny did likewise.

As the last Death Eaters turned tail and ran, she spat, “Gits should’ve learned to fly on the pitch at the Burrow.”

Speeding around the last turn, they saw Harry and Hermione waiting for them, circling over a blessedly peaceful intersection. Sticking charm removed, Hermione was facing forward.

Ron shot them a look once he’d closed the distance. “One broom?”

Harry shrugged. “We had some trouble. Hermione had to pluck me out of a tight spot.”

Ron shook his head. “I’m not telling George about his Firebolt. That’s your problem.”

Ginny shot a smile at her best friend, who had her arms wrapped tightly around Harry’s waist. “Take your hands off him. He’s mine.”

Hermione smiled back and looked at Harry. “Redheads.” She and Harry both laughed. “But come to think of it,” she continued eyeing the raven-haired wizard, “our lives would be much more simple if the two of us…”

Ron grimaced. “Don’t even think about it Ms. Know-It-All.” He pulled his broom even with theirs.

Hermione hopped on the back of Ron’s Firebolt, hugging him tightly as she kissed his cheek. “Don’t worry, sweetie. Glasses have always been a deal-breaker for me.”

“Oi!” Harry shouted. “I make these work.”

Ginny just smirked at Harry, as she pulled even with his broom and kissed him. “Ever thought of contacts, Potter?”

“Never,” he said through his smile. “Hermione? Can you lead us to the Apparation point?”

“Right. That way, Ron.” She pointed toward the east as the three Firebolts climbed above the rooftops and into the safety of higher skies.

****

“They’re coming again!” DuChamp shouted to the ever-dwindling Magi under his command. Grimly, he looked out over the beach.

Inferi. Everywhere. More than he’d ever seen. Hundreds. Thousands. And all of them heading straight for his redoubt. The wards had finally collapsed.

“INCENDIO!” was screamed from every quarter.

“Pierre, look to the sea!!!” Maxime shouted.

He looked to their right. Then, slowly, out of the murky waters on their right flank, first heads, then necks, then torsos…

“Gods!” he gasped. “Every third man, pivot right!”

Desperately, the few defenders shifted to face this new threat of Inferi emerging from the Channel. The air smelled of sulfur and death as flame spells sought to repel the walking dead that were intent on only one thing: their destruction.

Pierre hadn’t the strength to cast Fiendfyre and none of his surviving defenders had the skill to control it. He looked to his old Headmistress. “Olympe?”

“I can, but it’s not going to be well controlled.” She hefted her wand in a slightly shaking hand.

“WAIT!!” Pierre commanded. He thrust his arm in the air, pointing as a smile of untold relief spread across his aged face.

Out of the skies came three Firebolts. Maxime could’ve sworn she saw the wild brown locks of Hermione Granger on the back of one of them during one of the flashes. Then she was sure. “Bless the Fates!!”

“HOLD THE LINE!! KEEP YOUR SPELLS LOW! FRIENDLIES IN THE AIR!!” Pierre shouted to his men. 

Maxime saw the wizard that was flying double with Hermione hold his fist in the air. A red glow began to pierce the night from his left hand. Lightning cascaded from the cloudless night skies. Deafening thunder!

The hordes of Inferi exploded into dust. In a panic, their masters tried to run, but were cut down by the defenders.

As the brooms grounded to a swell of cheers, Hermione ran to Maxime, who nearly crushed her in a massive hug.

Hermione turned to the trio standing behind her. “Madame Maxime, I think you’ve met Harry Potter? This is Ginny Weasley, and this…this is my fiancé.”

AN: 1917Farmgirl has just posted an absolutely amazing one-shot entitled "Yes, Ginevra, there is a Santa Clause."  Words cannot express how awesome this story is.  Do yourself a huge favor and read it!
 
*quote taken/paraphrased from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," by J.K. Rowling, p. 810 Scholastic Press, 2003.  I don't own Harry Potter.  The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.


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