Harry & Ginny
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semprini - Harry Potter and the Ring of Reduction
Chapter 10 - Chapter 10
Harry saw many robes start to catch fire, and heard a few dozen screams. He didn't know whether he was on fire, but he reflexively grabbed his wand and performed the fire-suppression charm on himself. Looking around, he saw that half of the teachers' robes were on fire, including John's; he turned his attention to John because he knew that John couldn't do magic. John thanked him quickly, then yanked off his robes and used them to smother the fire spreading on Sprout's back.
Looking down the line of teachers, Harry saw them using their wands, but it seemed to be having no effect; they were still on fire, and if anything, the flames were increasing. The first years looked terrified; some were starting to catch fire, and a few were screaming. Snape was pointing his wand at them, but nothing seemed to be happening. Harry took a few steps over and quickly put out whatever fires he saw, ending with Snape, who had just started noticing that his robes were on fire as well. Harry then ran along the teachers' table, quickly using the charm on everyone who needed it.
Harry looked out into the Hall, at the students' tables. There was still screaming, and he saw some people on fire, running desperately, and a few rolling on the floor. He rushed to the students' tables, baffled by the fact that hardly anyone seemed to be using the fire-suppression charm. It's a third-year spell, he thought, most everyone should know it. But the flames, and the screams, only increased, fueling Harry's adrenaline. He moved to the nearest students' table, which was Gryffindor, and saw Ron and Ginny busily putting out fires there, so he ran to the other side of the room. He ran the length of the Slytherin table, putting out fires as he went while dodging and helping panicked students, until he ran into Pansy doing the same thing. They moved to the Ravenclaw table as Harry saw the fires getting worse; several large sections of tables were now on fire, flames rising a few feet, and he could see a dozen people who looked like human torches. He knew that people would start dying, from burns or asphyxiation, in the next few seconds if something wasn't done, and he couldn't cover the tables fast enough.
Desperate, he decided to try the fire-suppression charm as an area-effect spell. He had never heard of it being used that way, but it had to work, it just had to. He pointed his wand at the Ravenclaw table, and fires in a ten-yard diameter suddenly went out. Thank God, he said to himself as he started to cough. He applied it as quickly as he could to the parts of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables at which the fires enveloping people were the worst. As he did so, he noticed that all of the Gryffindor fires were out, and saw Hermione and Neville working on a part of the Hufflepuff table. Using the area-effect spell about twice a second, sometimes pointing to fairly distant areas, he extinguished the rest of the fires in about five seconds.
There were still some screams, screams of pain from those who had been badly burned, and the air was thick with smoke. Standing in the center of the Hall, he heard McGonagall shout, "Harry! Get up here!" He ran to the teachers' table as he heard her shout again. "Any student whose magic is working, come to the teachers' table immediately!" As he ran, Harry thought, what does she mean, whose magic is working? When does magic not work? He suddenly remembered Hagrid's problem from yesterday, and felt sick to his stomach. This was done to us, he realized. How, he had no idea, but he knew it had to have been done deliberately.
Hermione and Neville reached the teachers' table at the same time as he did, followed by Ginny a second later; Ron and Pansy ran up a few seconds after that. "You six," said McGonagall. "No coincidence, obviously. None of the teachers can do magic, and it appears that you are the only students who can."
Madam Pomfrey rushed into the Hall, stopping near McGonagall. "Minerva, what–"
"Fires, Poppy, and very few of us can use magic. Get out there and identify the worst off. Harry, please put Fawkes at her disposal, have him take her to St. Mungo's so she can alert them to prepare to receive wounded."
"Minerva, I can't take people to St. Mungo's using Fawkes, I would have to carry them, and their burns–"
"I know, just use him to alert them, then come back and start triage. Harry, can you still Apparate within Hogwarts?" Harry Apparated to a spot a few feet away. "Good, you must escort the wounded designated by Madam Pomfrey to St. Mungo's." Fawkes burst into view as McGonagall was talking, and in seconds, he and Madam Pomfrey were gone.
"Of course I will, Professor, but Hogwarts is under attack, it must be," said Harry, shouting without realizing it. "I have to go alert the Aurors before I take anyone to St. Mungo's, and unless–"
"Very well, go," interrupted McGonagall. "Do it very quickly, and report to me upon your return."
Harry Disapparated, and was suddenly in the Apparation detection room, ignoring the startled glances of Aurors. "Quick, who's in charge?" Harry shouted.
Dawlish came running in from the standby room. "What's going on?"
"Magic suddenly stopped working at Hogwarts, we don't know why," Harry reported briskly. "We don't know how far it extends, maybe into Hogsmeade. Everyone was in the Hall, the candles fell, lots of burns. Fires are out now. My friends and I, the six of us can still do magic, but no one else. I assume there may be an attack on Hogwarts soon."
Shouting at someone Harry couldn't see, Dawlish said, "Full alert! Call in everyone!" To Harry, he said, "Probably with Muggle weapons, maybe Muggles using them. All right, get back to Hogwarts, we're on it. You and your friends defend Hogwarts from the inside, pay special attention to the gate; that's where they'll attack, if they do."
"McGonagall wants me Apparating the wounded to St. Mungo's, I'm the only one who can," Harry pointed out.
"Tell her I said, only life-and-death cases once an enemy is spotted," instructed Dawlish. "Six of you isn't much to defend a castle, we need all of you. We'll do what we can from Hogsmeade. Go."
In an instant, Harry was back at Hogwarts, near the teachers' table. He took a few steps toward McGonagall and his five friends, who Snape had just joined. "Dawlish is mobilizing the Aurors, they're going to go to Hogsmeade and do what they can from there. He wants me and the others defending the castle."
Snape spoke. "There will likely be an attack, by some sort of Muggle mercenaries using heavy Muggle weapons."
Harry nodded. "That's what Dawlish thinks, too." To his friends, he said, "Go out to the gate, but not past it. Look around to see if anyone's coming, but don't be obvious targets. Keep the Repulsion Charm on at all times. Ginny, call me on your hand the second you see anything coming, or anything unusual." They nodded, and started running as fast as they could out of the Hall, to the Hogwarts gate.
Harry turned to McGonagall and Snape. "Dawlish said that I should join them as soon as they see an enemy, stop getting people to St. Mungo's unless it's really serious."
"That makes sense," agreed McGonagall, "but keep in mind that you are under my authority, not his. Very well, go to the tables, find Madam Pomfrey, and begin evacuating the wounded."
Harry looked out into the Hall, found Madam Pomfrey, and Apparated to her side. "Good, there you are," she said. "These four first, then a few over there. Look for me when you're done with these." She walked off. Harry looked down at the first victim, a Hufflepuff fourth year, one of those who'd lost two classmates at Hogsmeade. He crouched down and touched him lightly on the shoulder, and yanked his hand away when the boy screamed. Harry knew from things he'd seen on Muggle television how painful burns could be, and said, "I'm sorry, but I have to touch you somewhere. It'll just be for a second." The boy nodded through his pain. Harry touched the other shoulder, no more firmly than he felt he needed to, and as the boy shouted in pain, they were suddenly in the emergency room of St. Mungo's.
Harry looked up to see three uniformed Healers waiting. "It's okay, we've got him," said an older woman with short brown hair, who looked to be in charge. "Just keep bringing them here, we'll send them where they need to go." He saw a Healer cast a spell on the boy, who relaxed visibly. The Healer then touched the boy gently, and they both disappeared. Harry nodded, stood, and was back in the Hall, near the other three students he was to take back. He quickly got them to St. Mungo's as well, taking about five seconds each to do so. He looked for Madam Pomfrey, found her among some Ravenclaws, and Apparated to her side.
"These three," she said, then walked off again. Harry crouched down and winced to see the very pained face of Luna Lovegood. He checked her right hand for burns; finding none, he took it. "It'll be all right, they'll take care of you," he said, suddenly heavy with emotion. In an instant, they were at St. Mungo's.
"I know," she said, in a raspy voice not much louder than a whisper. "Thank you, Professor." He squeezed her hand lightly, wondering if she was being deliberately humorous even through her pain. He let go of her, and she was whisked away as he returned to Hogwarts. The next two Ravenclaws were also sixth year girls.
He evacuated about forty people in the next four minutes, then he felt his hand tingle. Rather than look at it, he immediately Apparated to the Hogwarts gate, ending up just a few feet from his friends. "What?" he asked.
"People coming," reported Hermione. "Through Hogsmeade, on the main street. Looks like at least fifty... no, maybe more," she added as they started getting closer. "They've got weapons, looks like machine guns." Harry was surprised that the Aurors hadn't managed to stop them; apparently whatever was stopping magic had a greater range than he'd assumed.
"We should hide, wait for them to get into the gate," suggested Ron. "Leap out, Repulsion Charms on."
Hermione winced. "No, Ron. That's too much like murder."
Indignantly, Ron retorted, "And they'll be shooting at us as a kind of greeting?"
"Hermione's right, let's not make this any bloodier than we have to," decided Harry. "We'll Stun, then rope them as they pass through the gate; with any luck, there'll be a pile of bodies they can't get past." Glancing around, he saw Snape, standing about ten feet from Ron. "What are you doing here?" he demanded abruptly.
Snape raised an eyebrow at Harry's tone, but reacted calmly. "The headmistress wished me to observe–"
"Never mind, I don't care," said Harry, getting angry. "Get back, way back. As far as you can and still see. You don't have a Repulsion Charm."
"I will retreat when the mercenaries have reached–"
"You will retreat NOW," shouted Harry, "or in five seconds I'll Apparate you off to St. Mungo's!" As he glared at Snape, it fleetingly crossed his mind that his anger was motivated by genuine concern for Snape's safety; he realized he would be upset if anything happened to Snape. I wonder when that happened, he thought. With an angry glare back at Harry, Snape turned and jogged away, looking behind him as he did.
Harry turned and walked toward the gate for a better look. "Okay, they're not far now, maybe twenty seconds from the gate. Repulsion Charms on, now. Let's get back to–"
There was a sudden explosion very close to them, only a few feet from where Snape had been standing. Harry felt himself knocked back a few steps as he saw Ron, closest to the point of impact, thrown back fifteen feet. "Ron!" screamed Pansy, as she rushed to his side.
"What the hell was that?" Harry asked the others urgently.
"I think there's a tank out there!" shouted Hermione. "I thought I heard something like a motor while you were arguing with Snape. I can't see it, though."
The ground attackers were starting to come through the gate. As Harry made a decision, Fawkes appeared in front of him. "Pansy!" he shouted, getting her attention; she reluctantly left Ron's side and turned to face the gate. "You four work on them, I'll deal with the tank." He grabbed Fawkes's tail with his left hand, wand in the right; Fawkes flew upwards but didn't disappear. He flew over the Hogwarts gate as his friends shot Stunning spells at the attackers. "Repulsion Charms on!" he reminded them from the air, making sure that his covered Fawkes as well. He heard machine gun shots a second after he finished speaking, and saw a half dozen attackers go down, clearly from bullets, not Stunning spells.
Shooting off a few Stunning Spells himself, he heard another explosion, which thankfully happened far enough away from his friends that they were unaffected. Deciding to use a spell Dumbledore had taught him last year, he pointed his wand into the moonlit night, and a wave of bright red came out of his wand. He saw it hit trees... then make clear the outline of a tank, fifty feet from the Hogwarts gate. He realized the tank had not been invisible, just very hard to see. He heard bullets close to him, and glanced down to see a few more attackers go down, victims of their own bullets.
Harry quickly wondered what to do about the tank; it was too big for any conventional, impact-based spell to do any good. With a sudden inspiration, an image flashed through his mind of a scene from his first year at Hogwarts: Hermione, with a superior expression, causing a feather to rise and float. Can I lift a tank? he wondered, then thought, what's the point of being the strongest wizard in England if I can't put it to good use? Fawkes flew closer to the tank so that Harry wouldn't be a target of the mercenaries' bullets. Harry pointed his wand at the tank, concentrated, and the tank began to rise: one foot, two feet, three feet... When it was ten feet in the air, Harry twisted his wand, and it turned over in the air, now upside down, turret pointed away from the gate. He slowly lowered it, then decided to let it fall the last five feet, to stun the occupant in case he decided to try to shoot, even upside down. The tank came crashing to the ground, metal creaking, tank treads spinning in the air.
Harry turned his attention to the Hogwarts gate. The tank had distracted them enough that they hadn't started firing Stunning spells soon enough, and while a few bodies lay at the gate, many of the attackers had broken through. What looked like thirty or forty bodies were on the ground inside the gate, and more were going down every second, both from Stunning spells and their own bullets. Neville, Hermione, Ginny, and Pansy had formed a tight semicircle around Ron's prone form, clearly to shield him from bullets.
Harry Stunned the last fifteen attackers trying to get through the gate. Only twenty attackers were still standing, and they were going down fast; it amazed Harry that the attackers still used their machine guns despite seeing dozens of their comrades go down from doing so. He supposed that they thought they were being fired on with machine guns as well. Fawkes flew toward the fighting, and Harry joined his friends in Stunning the ones not being wounded by their own bullets. A few seconds later, no attackers were left standing, and the only sound was the moaning and pained cries of the wounded attackers.
"Professor Snape!" shouted Harry. "It's clear now!" He saw Snape run into the castle, then turned his attention to the others, especially Ron, who seemed to be showing faint signs of movement. Hermione pointed her wand at him, and he blinked, coming awake. He looked around, taking a second to digest the change in his surroundings.
"Ron! Are you all right?" asked an anxious Pansy, gently touching his face.
"Yeah, I am, or at least I will be," he said. "Got a terrible headache, feel like I've been beaten up a bit, but no real injuries, I'm pretty sure."
Neville shot off a Stunning spell at a Stunned attacker who had regained consciousness, then said, "We've got to wrap them up, more might try to get up."
"We can't wrap the wounded ones, they were hit by bullets," argued Hermione. "We have to get them to St. Mungo's."
"First, let's get rid of their weapons," suggested Harry. Seeing a machine gun on the ground, he waved his wand and sent it flying through the air, far from them or the gate. "Everybody do that, make sure they can't wake up and start firing. Not you, Ron, just relax."
"I was relaxing when I was unconscious," protested Ron, but did as he was told. Weapons flew across the grass, and soon a large pile of automatic weapons had formed, well away from where the action had been.
As the last of the weapons flew through the air, McGonagall came running out of the castle, followed by Snape, then fifteen or twenty students, mostly older ones. The students gasped at the bodies littering the ground, though McGonagall didn't react. Harry walked toward her. "It's over for now, but we have to keep an eye on Hogsmeade, the gate in general. We don't know that there couldn't be more."
McGonagall nodded, as Neville Stunned another who tried to get up. "Return to the castle and continue the evacuation. There are at least sixty more who require medical attention."
"But we had to use Repulsion Charms, half of these people were hit by bullets," said Harry, as Hermione nodded in agreement. "Some are probably dead, some might die if we don't get them to a hospital right away."
McGonagall fixed him with a hard stare. "I understand, Professor Potter. You will do as I asked. Report to me for further instructions when Madam Pomfrey tells you there is no one left to take."
Harry was amazed; he knew the people in the castle, while injured and in pain, could wait, while some of the fallen attackers would likely die while he was finishing the evacuation. Granted, they were the enemy, but to let them die when they could be saved? He looked at her for another second, then reluctantly Disapparated.
Apparating and Disapparating as fast as he could, Harry finished the task in seven minutes. When Madam Pomfrey told him there was no one more, he told her about the wounded outside. "I know, but I'm afraid I'm pretty useless without a wand," she replied. She suggested that he take her to St. Mungo's, where she would talk to the people there about what was to be done with the wounded attackers, then stay to help with the burn victims.
He took her, then reported back to McGonagall. "All done," he said stonily, not bothering to hide his unhappiness with her decision. "Madam Pomfrey is at St. Mungo's."
"Very well," she replied, ignoring his manner. "Anyone here with a visible wound, take to St. Mungo's. After you take the first one, find an Auror at St. Mungo's; there should be two there now. Tell them what you will be doing so they can make arrangements for how these wounded are to be dealt with." Harry walked over to a man who was obviously in pain, knelt and touched his arm, and they were suddenly at St. Mungo's.
He stood. "Where can I find an Auror?" he asked the nearest St. Mungo's worker.
"Just a second," she said, and ran off. A few seconds later, Winston Clark ran up to him. "Harry!"
"Winston, there's a few dozen of them, they fired bullets and we had to use the Repulsion Charm. I'm going to start bringing them here, McGonagall said to tell you so you could decide what to do with them."
Clark nodded. "Okay, thanks. We'll get them to a Muggle military hospital; I'll talk to the other Aurors." He Disapparated, then Harry did as well, back to the Hogwarts gate.
He had moved about half of the wounded attackers to St. Mungo's when suddenly Fawkes appeared in front of him, Neville holding his tail feathers. "Harry, grab on!" shouted Neville urgently. "The Aurors are under attack from Voldemort and lots of Death Eaters!"
Putting aside his shock that Neville had managed to get to Auror headquarters and find out–had he traveled there using Fawkes?–Harry grabbed the tail with his left hand, putting his wand arm around Neville's shoulder. The were suddenly in a large room in the Auror compound, spells flying through the air, almost a dozen duels going on, the Aurors clearly on the defensive. He had never seen the room before, but he guessed it was one that led to where the Death Eaters held by the Aurors were being kept, and this was a rescue attempt. He instantly put down an anti-Disapparation field; he hoped that Voldemort wasn't wearing his device, but even if he was, he wanted to make sure the fifteen or so Death Eaters with Voldemort didn't get away. Neville joined the fight as Fawkes sang.
Harry pointed his wand at Voldemort, and the beam came out. This time, Voldemort tried to physically move out of the way, but was too late. He was hit, and fell unconscious. Three Aurors shouted "Avada Kedavra!" and fired Killing Curses at Voldemort, but he disappeared less than a second before the Curses would have hit. Two of the three Aurors swore in frustration, which Harry could easily understand.
They were still outnumbered, but Harry was sure that they would prevail now that Voldemort was gone, and he was right. Harry started shooting off Stunning spells, stopping only to protect Kingsley at one point with the Killing Curse shield. He took down seven Death Eaters in a row with one Stunning spell each; five were unconscious, and two were knocked flat and dazed. As he did so, the Aurors were able to gang up on their weaker opponents. In less than a half a minute, the last Death Eater was on the ground, wrapped in ropes.
Kingsley approached him. "Thanks, Harry, Neville. That was... helpful," he said, with humorous understatement.
For the first time since the magic went out at Hogwarts, Harry smiled. "Any time." Turning to Neville, he asked, "How did you get here, anyway?"
Speaking to Kingsley and Dawlish as well as Harry, Neville answered, "While you were dealing with the wounded attackers, Hermione realized that the rest of us would be able to Apparate as well. Since all of Hogwarts' magic is down, that includes the anti-Disapparation magic. For now, Apparating at Hogwarts is no different than Apparating anywhere, so all six of us can do it."
"Oh, that's right, I have to get back–"
Neville shook his head. "I told Hermione I was coming here to talk to Kingsley; she said she and the others would help you move the wounded. I'm sure they're done by now. Anyway, I was near the room here when the battle started; I tried to Disapparate to get you when I saw Voldemort–he didn't see me, I think, or else he might have known you'd be coming–but he'd put down a field, and I couldn't, so I ran away from the battle area, called Fawkes, and asked him to take me to you." Turning to Kingsley, he added, "I felt bad, I didn't want you to think I was running away or something. I just didn't want Voldemort to see Fawkes being called."
"You did the right thing, Neville," Kingsley assured him, a hand on Neville's shoulder. "And helped save our lives, I should add. Harry, I trust you'll thank Dumbledore for us tonight. Also, would you do me a favor, and ask McGonagall to come here with you? There are a few things I'd like to talk to the both of you about."
Harry nodded, and he and Neville both Disapparated. Back at Hogwarts, he and Neville found that the others had in fact finished moving the wounded attackers.
Harry relayed Kingsley's request to McGonagall; she hesitated. "I do not feel comfortable leaving. Though I can do nothing magical, I am in charge, and I should oversee the aftermath of this. Perhaps..." She touched her pendant, then let it go in frustration. "It is very annoying not to be able to call someone. Harry, would you ask Fawkes to bring Professor Snape?"
Harry did, and Snape was there in a few seconds. "Thank you, Professor Snape, and you, Fawkes," said McGonagall. "Professor Snape, Kingsley wishes my presence at the Aurors' facility along with that of Professor Potter, but I do not wish to leave, so I am sending you instead. Miss Weasley, I want you with me at all times until further notice. Harry, I expect you to keep her informed of what is happening, and she will tell me. Miss Granger and Mr. Longbottom, come with me as well; I will be assigning you to accompany Professors Flitwick and Sprout, doing what magic they feel needs to be done around Hogwarts. Mr. Weasley and Miss Parkinson, I want you two to patrol around Hogsmeade, being very careful to keep your Repulsion Charms going at all times. You may offer magical assistance to the residents who request it as you choose, but your main responsibility is to make sure Hogsmeade is secure, and that there are not roving bands of armed Muggles threatening the residents. Does anyone have any questions?"
"Yes," said Pansy. "How long should we patrol?"
"Report back to me every hour until I tell you otherwise," responded McGonagall. Nodding, Ron and Pansy headed out the gate into Hogsmeade. McGonagall headed back to the castle, followed by Ginny, Hermione, and Neville.
Harry gestured to Snape. "Ready?"
Snape looked very unhappy. "It has been a very long time since I had to be escorted anywhere."
Harry chuckled lightly. "I suppose I can understand why you'd be annoyed." He stood behind Snape, put his hands on Snape's shoulders, and they were in the room in which the battle had been fought.
"Professor McGonagall doesn't want to leave, but I'll be keeping her informed through Ginny, on my hand," he informed Kingsley. "By the way, shouldn't we be trying to figure out how this was done?"
Kingsley nodded, as Dawlish joined them. "Actually, Harry, those of us who haven't been kept busy moving people to hospitals, rescuing Aurors, and fighting off armed Muggles have had a bit of time to think about that. But first, Professor Snape, I'd like to hear your thoughts."
"Either lutas, or the Four Corners artifact," Snape said simply.
"We thought of lutas," agreed Kingsley. "But the Four Corners... does that really even exist?" To Harry's confused look, Kingsley added, "It's supposed to be a legendary magical artifact, that when set up exactly the right way, can cause disruption of magic over a great area. But it hasn't been verifiably seen for over a thousand years."
"I have no more information about it than you do," responded Snape. "But it is my understanding that the Dark Lord has spent much time, both himself and his assistants, scouring the Earth for rare magical artifacts, in an effort to..." He glanced over at Harry, then finished, "... remove a particular thorn in his side."
"I'm flattered," said Harry wryly. "But what's lutas?"
"Don't you... oh, you stopped taking Herbology," recalled Kingsley. "You study it in N.E.W.T. Herbology. It's a rare herb, which has two magic-related properties. One is that it's invisible, which is why Muggles don't know about it. Two, it can't be pulled out of the ground, or cut. Three... okay, three properties. Three, in sufficient concentration, it disallows the use of magic in a rather large area. That's the one that makes the most sense to me, but it's going to be hard to find out if it's right."
"I think," said Harry, "it's time to have a little chat with Malfoy, and after him, then Nott."
"We don't have Nott anymore, Harry," said Kingsley, looking upset. "He wasn't one of the ones we were holding. While you were fighting off the Muggles, other Death Eaters were attacking the areas where other prisoners were being held. Thirteen escaped, Nott among them. So, even though you helped us catch fifteen new ones tonight, it comes out as a wash."
"Is it really that hard to hold onto these people?" wondered Harry, frustrated.
Dawlish nodded sympathetically. "We like it even less that you do, believe me. But look what happened just now. If you hadn't come and saved our asses, we'd be dead, and these ten gone. So it's hard to blame the ones guarding the others too much."
"Was anyone killed when the others escaped?" asked Harry.
"No, thank goodness," replied Kingsley. "Anyway, back to this topic, we've checked Malfoy already, a Legilimens has gone over him. We already know all we can from him. There's a Memory Charm, of course, there always is with Death Eaters we capture. We can't get past it."
"I could," said Harry simply. Snape, Dawlish, and Kingsley stared at him in varying degrees of surprise.
"Um, Harry... are you saying you're going to torture him?" asked Kingsley incredulously. "Somehow, I don't think you could."
"I don't have to torture him. I can do the Imperius Curse on him," said Harry with determination. "I can make him help me get rid of it."
"Professor, you have never done the Imperius Curse," pointed out Snape. "In addition, I do not think its use is consistent with what you refer to as the energy of love. It is a very Dark spell."
Harry smiled grimly. "Not the way I'm going to do it. Take me to him." The other three looked at each other for a few seconds in silence. Getting annoyed, Harry said, "Look, I'm serious. If it is this lutas thing, he probably knows about it, maybe even had something to do with it, and we have to know. Every minute Hogwarts is without magic, it's very vulnerable. There's over three hundred people there, including a lot of my friends. We've got to find out, and I can do it. I know how to break a Memory Charm with the other person's cooperation, and I can make him cooperate. Let me do it."
The others exchanged glances, and Kingsley gave a light shrug. "I suppose it can't hurt to try. All right, let's go." He walked off, the others following.
As they walked, Snape said, "It will be better if I observe from a spot out of Malfoy's line of sight."
Harry suddenly remembered why Snape was there, and that McGonagall wanted to be kept informed. He held up his hand, speaking as they walked. "Kingsley is taking me to where they're keeping Malfoy. Voldemort gave him a Memory Charm, and I'm going to use the Imperius Curse to make him help me break it." He listened for the response, then chuckled, and said, "Just tell her." He put down his hand and said to the others, "She said, 'you're going to do what?'"
"I don't blame her," said Kingsley.
Harry listened again, and said to the others, "McGonagall said, 'Well, just so long as he doesn't do anything rash.'"
"Okay, here we are, next one down," advised Kingsley. Snape stopped walking. Malfoy was being kept in what looked roughly like a prison cell, except that the bars were thin, and made of what looked to Harry like silver. Harry walked up to the door; Malfoy, having heard the noise, turned to see what it was. His eyebrows went high upon seeing Harry.
Harry wasn't sure exactly why he was so sure he could do what he intended, but he was, which he felt was more than half the battle. He felt he probably couldn't do it if he hadn't had the spell done to him before, and if he weren't a Legilimens. Already pointing his wand at Malfoy, he concentrated on Malfoy's mind, on infusing it with feelings of love. He sent out the energy... and Malfoy suddenly screamed, as if in horrible pain, and toppled to the ground. "Damn!" exclaimed Harry, as Kingsley and Dawlish gaped at him. He Stunned Malfoy, then walked back to where Snape stood, Kingsley and Dawlish following.
Kingsley looked at Harry with amazement and concern. "Harry, what in the hell did you do?"
"I focused on causing him to feel intense feelings of love," Harry explained. As he said it, he realized that he should have predicted what happened. Malfoy had been Cleansed, and so was unable to feel love; when forced to, he experienced it as pain, as he had during the Cleansing.
"And he screamed in pain?" asked a disbelieving Kingsley. "No offense, but I don't think you did it right."
"I did it right," Harry insisted, though he knew he wasn't going to be able to explain what had happened without explaining the Cleansing.
Kingsley tried again. "Harry, if you try to cause someone to feel love–"
"He did it properly," interrupted Snape. "The Dark Lord modifies the minds of Death Eaters in such a way that they cannot feel the emotion of love; they would feel very intense pain if forced to try." Harry found himself surprised that Snape had given even that detail of the Cleansing. He must think this is important, thought Harry.
Kingsley and Dawlish exchanged amazed looks. Kingsley looked at Snape and asked, "Why did I not know about this?"
Snape returned Kingsley's stare. "It has never been relevant until now."
Kingsley was silent for a few seconds, then looked at Harry. "Harry, I want you to do to me what you did to him."
"Sure," agreed Harry. He pointed his wand at Kingsley and focused on infusing him with love; he could sense Kingsley embrace the feeling. He sent a silent impression of what he wanted, and Kingsley dutifully hopped in place twice, then waved at the ceiling. Harry withdrew the spell.
Recovering, Kingsley gaped at him. "That's what you did to him? Harry, that felt wonderful, blissful. People would pay you to do that to them. I've had the Imperius Curse done to me, and I'm good at resisting it. That may have the same effect as the Imperius Curse, but it is most certainly not the Imperius Curse. I went into it with the idea of resisting it, but as soon as I felt it, I felt like, why in the world would I resist this?" He shook his head in amazement. "And that caused Malfoy intense pain..."
"Remember," pointed out Dawlish, "Professor Snape did say it was a Dark spell, and he said, 'not the way I'm going to do it.'" He looked at Harry as if trying hard to understand something. "How in the world do you just make up a spell like that?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. I just want this really badly, I want to find out what he knows, and I knew it would work... on most people, that is."
Snape looked at Harry significantly. "It still may work on him, Professor, but in a way you did not expect."
Harry nodded. "I had the same thought. But we need to know more."
"Indeed," agreed Snape, who turned to Kingsley. "Mr. Shacklebolt, please give me a five-digit number, and after I have memorized it, erase it from my memory."
Kingsley's eyes went wide as he realized why Snape was asking. "You can't be serious..." Turning to Harry, he asked, "And you're going to do this?"
Harry took a deep breath. "I'm not thrilled about it, and if it was just for the information I think Malfoy has, I wouldn't do it, even with Professor Snape's permission. But this could go far beyond Malfoy, and his information. It could be very, very, very important."
Kingsley calmed down as he understood what Harry was saying. "You mean, it could be a weapon against Voldemort."
"A very powerful weapon," confirmed Snape. "Please do as I requested."
Kingsley nodded. "Five four six seven two. Do you have it?"
"Five four six seven two," repeated Snape. "Now, please give me a second number, but do not allow Professor Potter to hear it." Harry took a few steps away as Kingsley whispered to Snape, then he walked back.
Kingsley waved his wand at Snape. "Do you know the numbers?"
Snape thought. "No, I do not, though I recall everything else, such as that I requested you to do this, and why. We may be back; we will find you if we need to see Malfoy again." He looked at Harry expectantly.
"Your office?" asked Harry.
Snape shook his head. "We must inform the headmistress first. Please ask Miss Weasley where she is." Harry did, and reported that she was in the Great Hall. "Ask her to meet us in the Transfiguration classroom, as it is nearby." Again, Harry did, then put his hands on Snape's shoulders.
They were in the Transfiguration classroom; McGonagall and Ginny walked in a few seconds later. McGonagall turned to Ginny and said, "Miss Weasley, you may go–"
"Miss Weasley should remain," interrupted Snape, drawing him a reflexive sharp look from McGonagall, who Harry knew very well hated to be interrupted. "If she is to be a conduit of communication, it is better that she know what is happening."
"Very well," McGonagall agreed. Harry and Snape related the story, earning frequent surprised looks from both McGonagall and Ginny. After they finished, McGonagall said, "Harry, like Kingsley, I feel that I must know what this feels like. Please do it to me."
Harry did, causing her to clap her hands five times; afterwards, she had much the same reaction as Kingsley. "Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable. You are having quite a night, Harry. Two new spells."
"The area-effect fire-suppression spell," she clarified. "Such a version of that spell did not exist."
"Ah. Well, probably better that I didn't know, I might not have tried. No, I take that back. I would have, I was pretty desperate. And, I'm pretty desperate to find out what's causing this, and I just have a feeling it's underneath that Memory Charm on Malfoy. I think I can get it."
Ginny stepped forward, concerned. "Harry, I understand why you're desperate, but you should think about this. Is it consistent with the energy of love to do something that'll cause intense pain?"
Before Harry could respond, Snape did. "It is a supreme irony, Miss Weasley, that it is the energy of love itself that causes intense pain, in this instance. It must therefore be consistent with it."
"I think he's right," said Harry, looking at Ginny with appreciation for her concern. "I know what you mean... but I don't think it's immoral. I'm not sure I can tell you why I think that, but I do, and it's not just because I want what Malfoy has. Besides, remember what happened to Albus after he killed Grindelwald. If this wasn't consistent with the energy of love, I wouldn't be able to do it."
"I know," she sighed, then stepped forward quickly and kissed him on the cheek. Looking into his eyes intently, she said, "Just never forget who you are."
"I won't, I promise," he replied earnestly. He turned to Snape. "Your office?"
Snape nodded, and they left.
They walked to Snape's office in silence. Inside, Snape closed the door and asked Harry to soundproof it. "The soundproofing notwithstanding, you should Silence me before you proceed."
Despite his determination, the idea made him a bit queasy; he slowly nodded.
Snape seemed to notice his expression. "It is important, Professor, that you not allow your concern for my condition to affect what you do."
"How can I not?" asked Harry.
"Having a feeling, and letting it affect what you do, are two different things," said Snape. "You will suffer for what you do; if you did not, it would be to your mind immoral, and Miss Weasley's concern would be justified." He paused, watching Harry mull this over. Then he said, "Do you recall, Professor, that on the night of the Dark Lord's return, the headmaster asked me to undertake a task, a thing he was highly reluctant to ask of me?"
Harry nodded. "I remember. He was really concerned."
"I would like you to view that memory; it may be of assistance." Solemnly, wondering what he would find, Harry cast Legilimens.
Snape Apparated in the graveyard, fifteen feet from Voldemort. "My Lord," he said. "I humbly apologize for my inability to appear promptly. I was at Hogwarts, and Dumbledore would have found my immediate disappearance suspicious–"
"You dare to show yourself in my presence?" hissed Voldemort. "Do you wish so badly to die? I will oblige you, of course."
The other Death Eaters were watching, though their heads were down. "I wish only to serve you, my Lord. I may be highly useful; I have Dumbledore's confidence–"
"And why should you not have his confidence, having been his spy?" asked Voldemort disbelievingly.
"I was not, and have never been his spy, my Lord. My memories are open to you; you will see that this is the truth."
"The ones who told me very much believed that it was true," said Voldemort coldly.
"They were mistaken, my Lord," maintained Snape calmly.
Voldemort regarded Snape with great suspicion, his expression one of 'do you really think I am so foolish as to be tricked in this way?' He stared at Snape for a half a minute, then asked, "And what have you been doing these thirteen years, Snape, that you feel gives you the right to be in my presence now?"
"Looking forward to the day of your return, my Lord, I insinuated myself with Dumbledore, telling him that I had seen the error of my ways and wished to be a better person. Dumbledore is quite foolish in this respect, as you know, his great magical power notwithstanding. Such a flimsy story would seem highly suspect, but it is exactly the sort of thing that motivates his sympathy. He now trusts me, which has been my aim for these thirteen years, so that I may serve you better."
Voldemort paused, thinking. "I detect no lie, but then of course, I know very well that you are an excellent Occlumens, almost my equal. I suspect that you would be capable of lying to me undetected." Snape said nothing, as Voldemort paused again. "Tell me, Snape, why should I believe you? What would you do if you were me?"
"I would attempt to confirm what I was told, my Lord."
Voldemort smiled cruelly. "But I have no way to confirm it, Snape, do I? I have only your word."
Snape levelly replied, "You need not simply accept my word, my Lord. I may be an excellent Occlumens, but there is a test that I cannot pass unless my words are true, and that we both know I must pass in order to hope to earn your trust."
Voldemort's smile became even more cruel. "And you look forward to this, do you?"
"I confess that I do not look forward to the test itself, my Lord," Snape admitted. "But I look forward to proving myself to you."
Voldemort laughed. "You are honest about that, at least. And how long should the test be for?"
"For the maximum possible time, my Lord."
Voldemort continued to smile, apparently enjoying himself. "And you are sure you do not look forward to the experience itself?"
"I am sure, my Lord."
Voldemort chuckled mirthlessly. "You are brave, Snape, I will acknowledge that. Very well, I will do as you suggest. Lucius, step forward." Malfoy did so. "Five minutes each time, three times, with pauses of thirty seconds. Understood?"
"Understood, my Lord," repeated Malfoy, taking off his watch.
"Very well, Snape. We will proceed. Malfoy, now!"
"Crucio!" shouted Malfoy, and Snape collapsed to the ground, screaming in agony, writhing uncontrollably.
Voldemort regarded the screaming Snape with amusement for ten seconds, then lazily took out his wand. "Legilimens," he said. He entered Snape's mind, and began searching.
The image faded, and the memory disappeared; Harry withdrew from Snape's mind. "I will not subject you to the entire memory," said Snape. "It is not necessary; you get the sense of it."
Harry felt that he didn't know what to say. "Was that your way of telling me that whatever happens here, it's not as bad as other things?"
"In part," confirmed Snape. "I could have shown you my memories of being Cleansed, but that would have been somewhat different, as I did not truly understand the nature of what was to be done. In this case, I did, but volunteered, so that I could oppose the Dark Lord."
"So... the idea of the test was that even though you're an excellent Occlumens, nobody could be tortured so intensely for fifteen minutes and still manage to hide a memory from a Legilimens," speculated Harry.
"So, the obvious question is... how did you manage it?"
"I have already told you of my ability to compartmentalize memories," explained Snape. "Before the event itself, of course, I could not know for certain that it would work under such mental and physical duress. It was crucial that I not fail." Snape gazed at Harry solemnly. "So... I practiced."
Harry gasped, and felt tears press against him instantly. "Albus..."
"Yes and no," Snape replied. "No wizard can perform two spells concurrently, and the headmaster had to be occupied by searching me with Legilimens. It fell to Professor McGonagall to perform the actual Curse."
Taking off his glasses, Harry buried his head in his hands. Despite his efforts, a few tears escaped, and he wiped his eyes before putting his glasses back on. "That's why she wasn't concerned, like Ginny was, about my morality. She knows what it is to be in my position, and then some."
"Exactly," agreed Snape. "I know they both suffered greatly. So, as I said, it is important that you not allow what I experience to affect what you do, as they did not in that situation. You must do what is necessary to find the information we need."
"I understand," said Harry gravely. "Are you ready?"
"I am," said Snape. He really is brave, thought Harry.
Harry pointed his wand at Snape and Silenced him, then focused hard on love, on infusing Snape with feelings of love. Snape screamed silently, writhing in pain. Trying very hard to focus, not to let what was happening to Snape interfere with what he was doing, he continued sending out love. Still in his chair, Snape continued to scream. Finally, Snape lost consciousness; Harry estimated that it had been about ten seconds.
Harry searched Snape's mind, looking for a Memory Charm. It took him about a minute to find it; he wondered if he would get faster with more experience, as he had never gone looking for a Memory Charm before. He focused on unlocking it, as he had his own Memory Charm as Hermione had guided him to the spot. Very soon he could feel the Charm slipping away, and he saw Kingsley tell Snape the first number, then whisper the second. Harry sat back in his chair, mentally exhausted, glad to have accomplished what he wanted.
As Harry started to wonder how soon Snape would regain consciousness, he had a startling revelation, and felt stupid for not having realized it sooner: what he had just done to Snape was similar to what Dumbledore did to Voldemort. Oh, my God, thought Harry, I can do to Voldemort what Albus does.
Snape started stirring four minutes later. Harry fought back an urge to walk over to his chair and prop him up, or provide some other unnecessary assistance; he wondered if this was what Molly felt like when she tried to straighten his clothes or fix his hair.
"Professor... are you all right?"
"It appears so," said Snape, as though Harry had asked an interesting question. "The pain notwithstanding, it was a... fascinating experience. The quality of the pain was far different than the Cruciatus Curse; it was not even exactly pain, so much as... unbearable stimulation. I cannot quite put it into words."
"I guess it's probably because what I do isn't intended to be painful," suggested Harry.
"No doubt," agreed Snape, looking at a clock. "I see that I was unconscious for less than five minutes. Have you informed Miss Weasley and the headmistress?"
"No, I wanted to wait until you came back, talk to you first," said Harry.
"Understandable. Apparently you retrieved the memory, since I can now recall both numbers."
Harry nodded. "Yes, once you were unconscious, it didn't take long at all. But I wondered about that, I thought I needed you to help me. It can't just be that you can break a Memory Charm by making someone unconscious, or Voldemort could do it that way. How did it happen?"
Snape thought for a few seconds before answering. "Since this is a completely new spell, we cannot know. I would speculate, however, that the reason is that you created the spell with the intention of breaking Memory Charms; since that was your intent, the spell allows you to do so, even if it does not happen in the way you thought it would. It has the same effect as the Imperius Curse, but it appears to have... additional functionality."
Harry raised his eyebrows; he wasn't quite used to the idea that he could simply create spells. "Strange. During vacation, just to see what would happen, I tried to create some new spells, but I couldn't do it. But with this, when I had the idea, I just knew that I could do it. I have no idea why. I really wish I knew how this worked, but I guess I should just be glad it does. Now, I can get into Malfoy's mind."
"And I assume you grasp the larger implications?" prompted Snape.
"Yes, I can do this to Voldemort. It's funny, it doesn't really change anything right now, since Albus could do it before. It's partly that he doesn't have to now, unless I'm unconscious or something... but I have a feeling that this is part of the puzzle, that there's more to this than we can see right now."
"Indeed. I would say this was quite worthwhile. We should meet with the headmistress, then with Mr. Shacklebolt. Where is she?"
Harry looked into his hand and spoke to Ginny, then repeated her answer to Snape. "The kitchens. Oh, that's right, we never had the feast. I should be hungry, but I'm not." They headed to the kitchens.
Ten minutes later, Harry, Snape, and Kingsley were walking to the area where the Death Eaters were being held. "After I do it," asked Harry, "should I give him a Memory Charm?"
"We don't plan on letting him escape, but it's probably not a bad idea," agreed Kingsley. "If he did, Voldemort would be pretty ticked off when he found a Memory Charm he couldn't get through. He'd torture Malfoy long and hard trying, though." He paused, then added, "No less than the bastard deserves."
Harry couldn't disagree, but couldn't contemplate the idea that it was a good thing. "Okay, I'll give him one when I'm done, it'll cover everything that happened tonight. Probably to him right now, one day's a lot like another."
"We don't provide them with a great deal of entertainment," commented Kingsley wryly.
When they reached Malfoy's holding area, Snape again hung back. Having prepared himself, Harry stepped forward, looking at Malfoy. Malfoy started to speak, but Harry Silenced him, then cast the new spell. Malfoy collapsed, screaming noiselessly. While not concerned about Malfoy as he had been about Snape, Harry nonetheless had to try hard to keep his focus on love, on what he was doing. He kept it going, not noticing Kingsley watching. As had been the case with Snape, Malfoy lost consciousness after about ten seconds.
Casting Legilimens, Harry started searching for the Memory Charm, and soon found it. Again focusing on love, it took less than a minute to dissolve the Charm. Viewing the memory, Harry made a fist of triumph. He exited Malfoy's mind soon thereafter, applying a new Memory Charm. He walked away, followed by Snape and Kingsley, and they were soon in the large room where the recent battle had been fought.
"It's the plant, the lutas," said Harry. "This is something Voldemort had him do at the beginning of last year, as soon as the term started. He was given these seeds, and told to walk around the perimeter of the school, just dropping them anywhere there was dirt. Apparently they're like weeds, they can grow pretty much anywhere."
"They are not, actually," Snape corrected him. "But they can be imbued to do so. I suspect the Dark Lord did not tell him the purpose of what he was doing."
"No, he didn't," agreed Harry. "All Malfoy knew was that it was very important. Well, looks like it's back to Hogwarts, to meet with McGonagall and Sprout." He looked into his hand and talked to Ginny, then put it down after a short conversation. "They don't know where Sprout is; they assume she's in the Hufflepuff area. McGonagall told me to come back and send for her with my dog." He looked at Kingsley. "Thanks for all your help, Kingsley."
"Wasn't much, I just took you to where we're holding him. Keep me informed, all right? I'll be in the standby room most of the time, so go there. If I'm not there, have someone call me." Harry nodded, then put his hands on Snape's shoulders.
Five minutes later, he, Snape, McGonagall, Sprout, and Ginny were sitting in McGonagall's quarters. Harry finished the story, and Sprout whistled in amazement. "I'd love to know how he got ahold of so many seeds. They're very rare, very hard to get. I try occasionally, thinking it would be an interesting N.E.W.T. in-class activity, but I can't get even a handful of them."
"It's remarkable what you can accomplish, Pomona, with great magical power and a total absence of morality," remarked McGonagall dryly. "So, what can we do?"
"There's only one thing," said Sprout simply. "Phoenixes." To Harry's surprised expression, she explained, "I'm sure you know from reading Reborn From the Ashes that phoenixes eat only herbs, a few specific ones. This is one of them, their favorite one. They love it. Lutas can't be pulled or cut; the only way they can be gotten rid of is to be eaten by a phoenix. The phoenix can eat all the way down to the root, eat the complete plant if they want to. Usually they don't, though; they want the plant to live, so they just eat down to a certain point, then let it grow again before eating from it." Sprout suddenly had a regretful look. "Too bad humans don't manage to do that with the things that are important to us."
"Lucky that there's a phoenix around here," said Harry. "Well, I'll ask Fawkes to do it, see what he thinks."
Sprout chuckled. "It's going to take much more than Fawkes, Harry. If the quantity is anything like what it would take to shut down magic over this kind of area, it's going to take a lot of phoenixes, as many as we can get. You need to let Fawkes know that this is important; he needs to tell other phoenixes, spread the word throughout the phoenix community, so to speak. The good news is that others probably won't be reluctant to come. This'll be like a feast for them."
"It's nice that someone gets to have a feast," remarked McGonagall.
"Professor, I know that a lot of phoenixes aren't bonded to humans," said Harry. "The ones that aren't, are they people-shy?"
Sprout shrugged. "Now you're getting out of my area of expertise, and into Hagrid's. You'll have to ask him."
"You might simply ask Fawkes," suggested McGonagall.
"Good point," agreed Harry. Fawkes suddenly appeared, and perched on Harry's shoulder. Sprout and McGonagall talked, but Harry didn't hear it, as he was focused on Fawkes, communicating with him. After a minute, Harry chuckled, and the others looked at him quizzically.
"You know that Fawkes communicates with images and impressions, not words," explained Harry. "When I let him know what we needed, he sent me an image of the Hogwarts grounds, with phoenixes all over the place. Obviously he thinks it'll be no problem getting them to come. He knows that we want them to eat them completely, and the impression I got from him was equivalent to the words, 'what a shame, such a waste.'"
Sprout smiled. "Yes, he would think that. Well, I may have you ask him and the others to leave several plants intact, if there are any near the greenhouse, which there probably are; I'd bet Malfoy saw that as a good place to leave some."
"Oh, that reminds me," said Harry suddenly. "Yesterday I was talking to Hagrid in his hut, and he admitted... well, he might not want me telling you this, so don't repeat it, but he uses magic occasionally–"
He broke off as McGonagall and Sprout started chuckling. "That's not exactly the world's best-kept secret, Harry," said Sprout. "But do continue, sorry."
"Right. Anyway, he couldn't do magic yesterday, he asked me to get a fire going for him. He thought it was just something wrong with him, and it probably confirmed his impression that I was able to do it."
"No doubt," agreed McGonagall. "Ironic, that we almost had warning of this, but missed it, for the same reason that we were saved later. You do understand, Harry, that if not for the energy of love, we would all be dead. Many would have been killed in the fire, and those not killed would have been helpless against the mercenaries. I suppose we cannot know or guess why this particular type of magic is immune to the plant's effect."
"There are quite a few mysteries about it," agreed Harry. "One of the reasons I've been hesitating to teach it."
McGonagall smiled sympathetically. "I believe you will now have no choice but to at least try. Between its normal utility, its staggering usefulness in this situation, and the Sorting Hat's song, your students will simply not allow you to avoid it."
Harry shook his head. "Funny, the Sorting Hat telling me what to teach, pretty much telling the students to make me teach it. It must have known I was reluctant, and decided to give me a shove. I suppose you're right, I'm going to have to do something. Anyway, about Hagrid, why did it happen to him first?"
"The area around his hut is also a logical place for Malfoy to have dropped a larger-than-normal amount of seeds," explained Sprout. "The plants have a collective effect, not an individual one; they don't inhibit magic until there are enough mature ones to reach a critical mass. There must have been enough near Hagrid's hut to do that."
"Which reminds me," put in McGonagall, "the timing of this was quite suspicious. It could have happened during the summer, or during the daytime, or when the Hall was empty, but it happened at just the right time to cause maximum damage. Could they have controlled the timing in such a way?"
Sprout thought for a moment. "The only thing I can think of would be that they might have set fire to a few of them. There may have been a local critical mass near the edge of the grounds, as there was near Hagrid's hut. If so, Hogwarts' normal defenses against aerial penetration would have been ineffective over that area, and a Death Eater could have flown in and set a few plants on fire. That would have caused a sudden increase in the intensity of the effect, and set off a critical mass involving all the plants at Hogwarts."
Snape spoke. "How long will it take for the phoenixes to consume enough of the plants that the effect will be lifted?"
"I have no idea," admitted Sprout. "Again, more of a question for Hagrid. Does Fawkes have any idea?"
Fawkes was still perched on Harry's shoulder. Harry waited a few seconds for any impressions, then responded, "Fawkes isn't really much for communicating numbers. Like, if he wants to get across the idea of 'two days,' he'll show me the sun rising and setting twice. He couldn't be sure even if he could tell me exact times, but my impression is that he doesn't think it'll be a long time. Definitely less than a month, he thinks."
"How does he communicate the idea of a month?" asked Ginny, who then added, "Oh, by the phases of the moon, of course."
"Right," confirmed Harry.
"Well, I am glad that it will be no longer than that," said McGonagall. "Now that we know what is involved, we must consider the question of Hogwarts' security until then, not to mention that of Hogsmeade, which is also vulnerable. As competent as you and your friends have shown yourselves to be, Harry, the burden is too great for even the six of you. Not to mention that as the only ones who can do magic, your services will also be needed around the castle. It appears that I must leave Hogwarts after all; I must confer with Kingsley about this matter. Professor Snape, you will be in charge until my return. Most everyone knows what they should be doing; you will need only handle new problems as they arise. Continue sending Mr. Weasley and Miss Parkinson into Hogsmeade every hour until further notice. Miss Weasley, unless Professor Snape needs you for some specific purpose, please patrol the Hogwarts grounds, with particular attention to the lake and the gate, in case something gets by your brother and Miss Parkinson. If you see anything unusual, call Harry on your hand immediately."
Ginny nodded, as did Snape, who asked, "How is the food situation being handled?"
Sprout answered. "The house-elves are beside themselves, poor things. They rely so strongly on magic, they feel like we would if our arms and legs stopped working. The food was already prepared; it was just a bit cold, but we got it to the students. But we still don't know what we're going to do about tomorrow; the elves don't have a clue how to cook without magic. We're thinking of getting the food imported from other places, like the Ministry, for example; we just have to work out the transportation."
"Well, I will discuss that with the Aurors as well," said McGonagall. "Harry, you will join us in the meeting, of course, as Hogwarts' security rests with you and your friends for the moment. Pomona, if there is any information on lutas that you do not have, or anyone it would be useful to talk to, feel free to leave Hogwarts; Mr. Longbottom can escort you. Harry, we should get going." The others left McGonagall's quarters as Harry put his hands on her shoulders.
Two hours later, Harry Apparated out to the Hogwarts grounds, and saw two figures standing by the lake. He Apparated to them, and was standing a few feet from Ginny and Justin. "Harry!" Ginny exclaimed, and threw herself at him, hugging then kissing him. "Does this mean you're free?"
"For the moment, anyway," he said, as she let him go and he exchanged greetings with Justin. They started walking, in no particular direction.
"I'm really glad," she said, her eyes emphasizing her words. "Justin was nice enough to come out and keep me company. I ran into him and Ernie the last time I went in to use the bathrooms. Thank goodness they don't need to use magic."
Harry chuckled at the thought. "I assume Ernie was busy doing Head Boy stuff?"
Justin laughed. "More like, looking for Head Boy stuff to do. He envies the hell out of you six; he'd like nothing more than to still be able to do magic, to be useful..." He grinned broadly, then continued, "... to be turning tanks upside down..."
Harry shrugged. "Like I've said, you do what you have to do."
"No, Harry," corrected Justin. "You do what you have to do; the rest of us do what we can do. There's a real difference. Anyway, he's found a few things, but nothing that important. He spent some time talking to the first years, being all 'I'm Head Boy,' and like that. He was telling them about Hogwarts, but of course by that time the story of what you guys did was all over, so all they did was ask questions about you, when their first class with you was, why you could use magic when no one else could, that sort of thing. I was near the wall watching, and it was all I could do not to laugh. He wrapped it up pretty quickly, and left." He shook his head and added, "Usually, the Head Boy is the most important seventh year student, but not this year. You might want to be tolerant of him, Harry, if he seems weird around you for a while. I mean, he likes you, of course, but this is kind of hard for him. He'll be okay once things around here get back to normal."
"I hope so," said Harry. To Ginny, he asked, "Have you seen Ron and Pansy lately?"
"Yeah, we saw them at their last check-in, talked to them for a few minutes. Apparently they're becoming popular in Hogsmeade, people asking their help with all kinds of stuff, like starting fires, using their wands as flashlights to help them find their lanterns. One woman apparently tried to get them to rearrange her furniture."
Harry laughed. "Better them than me. Of course, they probably don't envy me, either, spending the last two hours in meetings."
"I just realized, you haven't eaten, have you? You've been too busy."
"No, I ate during the first meeting. Kingsley had their house-elves bring me and McGonagall about two meals' worth of food each. So, I'm set for the night."
"Good," said Ginny. "So, about security, what are they going to do?"
"First, it was just Kingsley, McGonagall and me at the Aurors' facility," explained Harry, "then we went to the Ministry, and met with Bright for almost an hour. Then Bright started making arrangements, and people were coming in and out of the room. They're calling people into the Ministry, it's pretty busy there right now.
"Anyway, what it looks like they're going to do is call in the Muggle military," he said. To their raised eyebrows, he added, "Yeah, that was my reaction too, but they don't have a lot of choice. It's either that or the six of us, and it would be hard for us to provide twenty-four-hour security. We could do it, but it would be tiring, like the Apparation crisis shifts. It's not going to be a whole army or something, though they haven't decided the exact number. They're making an emergency request right now; Bright and Kingsley are meeting with the Muggle Prime Minister... oh, what's his name again?"
"Kenneth Barclay. Don't read the Muggle papers much, do you?" asked Justin humorously.
"I can barely get myself to read the Prophet," responded Harry in the same vein. "They're going to ask him to send a small number, like fifty or a hundred, no more than that. It would be too disruptive, and they don't need much more anyway, since they'll still have us six. They'll still call us if there's another attack, and we could probably handle it by ourselves if we had to. The Muggles will be kind of an early-warning system, just so we can be safer until the phoenixes eat enough of the lutas that we get magic back. I assume she told you about that."
"Yeah, but I asked her how you found out, and she wouldn't tell me." Justin's tone made clear that he was teasing Ginny.
"Sorry, but I'm involved in some stuff that can't be public. I would tell you, I know you can be trusted, but..."
"'Tell no one, even people you trust,' I recall you saying last year," said Justin. "It's all right, I understand."
"How did the first years seem, Justin?" asked Ginny.
"Pretty nervous, which I could really understand," said Justin sympathetically. "I mean, their first day at Hogwarts, and there's a big fire in the Great Hall as they're getting Sorted, and most people lose the ability to do magic? Thank goodness you got to them fast, Harry, and none of them had to go to St. Mungo's."
"I happened to be near them, and figured they wouldn't know the fire-suppression spell," said Harry. "I didn't know at that point that the magic was out."
"Funny, when you say it like that, it sounds like something that the Muggle repairman comes to your home to take care of," said Justin. "'Right, Mrs. Johnson, we've got your magic back on. That'll be twenty quid, please.'"
Harry laughed heartily at the thought. "I wish it were that simple."
"That would be nice," agreed Justin. "Anyway, back to the first years, at one point I passed the Hall and saw all of the Slytherin second years, talking to the first years. So I think they'll be pretty well briefed on the Harry Potter situation."
"Oh, good," said Harry sarcastically, as Justin and Ginny chuckled.
As they walked, they turned toward the Quidditch pitch. "Hey, look," said Harry, pointing.
Not far from the pitch, Harry saw over twenty phoenixes on the ground, and two in the air. "Oh, wow," said Ginny admiringly.
"Hannah is going to go nuts," said Justin. "How many do you think are going to be here?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "More than this, though. I got the impression from Fawkes that it could be as many as a hundred. I just got an image, though, not a number."
"He must still be spreading the word," said Ginny. "'Come to Hogwarts! All you can eat!'"
"That's about it," agreed Harry.
"Do you think it's okay if we get closer?" wondered Justin.
"I think so, as long as we're slow," answered Harry. The walked slowly, getting to within ten feet of the nearest one, then stopped.
"They really are beautiful," said Justin softly.
"They sure are," agreed Ginny. They stood and watched the phoenixes for several minutes, then turned and headed back. "I just realized, I'm supposed to be patrolling," said Ginny, abashed. "I was watching them so closely, the castle could have been invaded and I wouldn't have noticed."
"I think we'd have heard something." Harry put his arm around her reassuringly.
She leaned into him, then leaned over and kissed him. As an afterthought, she said to Justin, "You don't mind blatant public displays of affection, do you Justin?"
"Not if they're directed at me," he joked. "No, I don't mind. I wouldn't be hanging out with you two otherwise, you're pretty famous for it."
"Are we?" asked Ginny, surprised. "I try to restrain myself when it's not just the six of us."
"You fail more than you think," said Justin, grinning. "But it's all right. I do it with Susan occasionally, so I couldn't complain."
Harry saw a concerned look cross Justin's face, in spite of his humor. "I'm sure she's all right, Justin."
"I know," said Justin. Harry recalled that Justin had been with Susan when he'd Apparated her out of Hogwarts. "But she was in a fair bit of pain, even though she was one of the last twenty you got out of there. By the way, Harry... Ginny was telling me, before you got here, about what happened after the Muggles attacked, how McGonagall made you finish evacuating the Hogwarts wounded, even the ones who weren't that bad off, before the attackers. For what it's worth... I see your point, and it's very noble, but I see McGonagall's too. These Muggles, obviously being paid for what they did–paid by the people who tried to burn three hundred people to death–started firing automatic weapons at what they thought were unarmed teenagers. If I had to be making the decisions, I'd really hesitate before asking people suffering from painful burns to wait and deal with it until after saving the lives of paid killers. Ginny said you were mad at McGonagall, but it's not an unreasonable decision. Not that I know from experience, but it seems to me that if you're a leader, you have to think about your people first."
"I know," said Harry heavily. "And I wouldn't be thrilled to look at Susan and say, 'You had to wait in pain so I could save these other people.' It's just that when that happened, there were about thirty or forty of those people on the ground, bleeding from bullet wounds. I guess I think more about what's right in front of me."
Justin nodded. "I'm not saying I think you're wrong, Harry. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer. Just that maybe you shouldn't have been so mad at her. Of course, I thought Ron's idea wasn't a bad one either, about jumping out with the Repulsion Charm. What could be more just than for them to get hit with their own bullets? I didn't exactly cry for Goyle last year, and I wouldn't for them, either."
"I understand. It's just a choice, a judgment we make," said Harry, echoing Dumbledore.
"Funny how you and Hermione are on the one side of that question, and the rest of you–I think–are on the other."
"I think Neville's with Harry and Hermione on that," put in Ginny. "I think he'd make the same choice they would. But you know, Justin, even though Ron, Pansy, and I wouldn't agree with Harry about that... if there was some battle, and Harry decided to save the lives of some Death Eaters before helping us get helped with our moderate injuries, we wouldn't hold it against him." She gave Harry a serious look before continuing. "We would know that it would pain him to make us wait, but he has to do what he thinks is the right thing. He's certainly earned that."
"I wouldn't argue with that," agreed Justin. Humorously, he added, "And I try not to argue with people who can turn tanks upside down. By the way, isn't there someone inside that tank?"
Harry knew what Justin was driving at, but pretended he didn't. "I assume so."
"And he's still there, right?"
"I assume so." To Justin's nonverbal prompt, he continued, "I think we're seeing the limits of how noble I am. Right after it happened, I was way too busy to think about it, and now... I feel like, to hell with him, he can wait until morning. I'll let him out when the Muggle military people get here, they can take him. He's not going to die, spending a night in an upside-down tank. He almost killed Ron, not to mention Snape."
Justin laughed. "She told me about that, how you threatened him. I couldn't believe it. Getting back at him for all those years of him being a bastard to you?"
Harry smiled, wishing he could tell Justin the truth. "Saving someone's life doesn't seem to be a good way to get back at them, does it? He was endangering us, not to mention himself, and I was mad at him. I did what I did to make sure he got out fast. I really would have done it, would have Apparated him to St. Mungo's."
"Ginny said that, too, that it was really clear that you were serious. Which only makes it funnier."
"Always happy to amuse my friends. Usually I do it by being made fun of, but this is fine, too." Justin and Ginny chuckled as they continued walking.
Upon returning to the castle a half an hour later, Harry and Ginny headed for McGonagall's quarters. Harry had pulled out his Hogwarts map before realizing it wouldn't work. "Guess we have to find her the old-fashioned way, by looking," joked Ginny. Fortunately for them, it turned out that she was in fact in her quarters.
Harry knocked. There was a pause, then a frustrated noise. "Just a moment," they heard McGonagall say from inside. A few seconds later, she opened the door. "Harry, Ginny, come in," she said politely, but Harry could tell that she was under stress.
Still, Harry couldn't resist teasing her a little. "You tried to open the door with your wand, didn't you."
She gave him a reproving look that told him he was right. "It is easy for you to make jokes, your magic still works. I assume that that is not what you came to say."
"No," he said, turning serious. "First, I wanted to apologize for how I reacted when you had me–"
"The evacuation, yes," she interrupted him. "I had a feeling that was why you came. Have a seat, both of you." They sat on her sofa, as she took a chair.
Her expression seemed weary but compassionate. "This is one of those times, Harry, when Albus would have said, 'he is only seventeen,' and he would be right to say it. Decisions must be made in these situations that may cost lives, and you had to carry out instructions that you did not agree with, perhaps even felt were immoral. It was a highly stressful situation. You may have displayed your displeasure, but at least you did not argue with me."
"Maybe partly because the more time I took doing that, the longer I had to wait to get people out," he admitted. "But I was just talking about this with Justin, and I do see the reason you did that. I guess I just have to get used to the fact that I'm not going to agree with everything you decide."
"Yes, Harry, but there is one other aspect of this which you may want to be aware of. Albus had told me that on a few occasions, such as the question of whether to endorse the ARA, you felt as though if you made a choice that differed from his, you must have made the wrong one. It was not that you had no faith in your own judgment, but that you had such great faith in his, in him as a person in general. Believe me, there have been times when I felt like that.
"Now he is gone, and I am in his position. You are a year older, and more experienced; you have had to make many difficult judgments, and you are becoming more comfortable doing so. In addition, you will not have the same automatic faith in my judgments as you did in his. This is not a criticism," she said quickly, forestalling the objection she saw coming, "simply a statement of fact. I would not wish you to have automatic faith in my judgments, but rather to feel free to make your own. I mention it simply because you must get used to dealing with me rather than him, and it may be an adjustment for you. I know perfectly well that in this situation, he would have made the same choice that you and Hermione would have had me make. But I must make my own judgments, not ones based on what he would have done. It did not tend to happen with Albus, but it may with me, that you must follow an order that your instincts and values tell you is wrong. I am confident that you will adapt to it. You did well in this situation, considering the circumstances."
Harry wasn't sure that he had. "Thank you, Professor, I appreciate your saying that. But you know I have a lot of respect for you, and whatever you decide. I guess it's that there wasn't much time to think in that situation."
"Not to mention that you had been extremely busy, at the center of a high-stress situation, since the fire broke out," she pointed out. "You have done extraordinarily well this evening, Harry; your fast reactions saved many lives." To Harry's surprise, she laughed softly. "Including Professor Snape's."
Harry and Ginny chuckled. "He told you," said Harry.
"Yes, but I believe some students were watching from a distance, and saw and heard what happened; I have overheard the account being given in the halls. I would have preferred that he keep a better distance. He also should not have argued with you; you were the commander on the scene, as it were, and he was more or less a spectator, albeit an authorized one.
"I have a suggestion for you, Harry, but first I want to know if you have any questions, anything else you wished to discuss."
"I just wondered what would happen tomorrow," he asked. "No classes, I assume?"
"No, certainly not," she confirmed, "not until the security situation is settled, and the first years Sorted, both of which I expect to happen tomorrow. Hogsmeade is, I believe, not totally magic-deprived; we will do it in the open air if we have to.
"Which brings me to what I wanted to mention. The first years cannot sleep in the dormitories, of course, as they do not yet know to which they belong. Well, two do, but I do not wish to separate them from the rest. They will sleep in the Great Hall tonight. It would be preferable for them not to sleep at the site of so recent a destructive fire, but there is simply no other place for them. I visited with them a half hour ago, and they are somewhat anxious, which is understandable. They are also quite curious about you, which is also understandable. I thought it might be helpful to them if you were to stop by and talk to them for a while. Your presence would be reassuring to them; for many, this may be the first time in their lives that they have been totally unable to do any magic. It may be good for them to know that there is someone around who can."
Harry was reluctant, but could see that it made sense. "You really should, Harry," said Ginny softly, obviously recognizing the possible sensitivity of the topic for Harry. "Think about how you would have felt if this had happened at the beginning of your first year. It wouldn't have bothered you that you couldn't do magic, of course, but the fire would be terrifying enough, and hearing about dozens of armed attackers... you'd have been thinking that the Dursleys were a better bet than this. Think about how they must be feeling."
He nodded. "You're right, of course. I'd have been scared to death, wondering what kind of horror chamber I'd gotten myself into. Okay, I'll go talk to them, stay with them for a while. Now I feel kind of bad, I've been so busy that I hadn't thought about what it was like for them."
"Thank you, Harry," said McGonagall. "Ginny, I wonder if you would be willing to sleep here tonight. On the sofa, or Harry can conjure you a comfortable bed. I need to be able to contact him at a moment's notice, and you are the only way to do that right now."
Ginny smiled. "Little did I know that having the Joining of Hands done would make me a 'conduit of communication,' as Professor Snape put it. But no, I don't mind at all. The sofa looks fine, but I'm just curious, Harry, how are you at beds?"
"I'll try to come as close as I can to the ones Albus did for Hermione and I that night," he said. Focusing on how that bed had looked and felt, including blankets and pillows, then moving aside McGonagall's coffee table, he waved his wand, and a bed appeared. Giving Harry an impressed look, she climbed into it. "Wow, very nice. You do good work."
"I learned from the best," he replied. To McGonagall, he asked, "Oh, what about the others? How long will Ron and Pansy be patrolling Hogsmeade?"
"I have asked them to continue until one o'clock. I have also asked Professor Snape to prepare a Wakefulness Potion for Neville and Hermione; they will patrol Hogsmeade until seven a.m., at which time either the Muggles will arrive, or you and Ginny will take over until they do."
"Okay, I understand. I'll give Ginny a call on her hand if anything happens." Harry started to leave, then looked back at Ginny, lying on her side in the bed he'd conjured. "Good night," he said.
Before Ginny could respond, McGonagall stood. "I am going into the bedroom; you may say goodnight privately." Harry couldn't tell by her tone whether she intended any humor or not. After she closed the bedroom door behind her, Harry bent over and gave her a long kiss. "I love you," he said.
"I love you too, and I'm proud of you," she replied. Harry felt very good as he left McGonagall's quarters.
Harry walked into the Great Hall, and saw immediately that half of the tables, presumably the ones that had sustained the most fire damage, had been moved to one end of the room, pushed against the wall so that half of the room was open space. Most of the students were sitting at what would normally be the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor tables. Some were talking; some seemed adrift, not knowing what to do.
Harry walked up to the space between the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor tables. He saw some students' eyes go wide on seeing him. "Hi. I'm Harry Potter." Now everyone stopped talking, all eyes on him. "I'm a seventh-year student, but I'm also a teacher. I'll be teaching you Defense Against the Dark Arts. It's an important subject." He deliberately paused, looking around, and added, "Which I guess you can kind of tell." Some students giggled nervously.
"Here, let me do something," he said as he headed past the tables to the open part of the Hall. "It's hard to talk at these tables, so I want to make a carpet, we can all just sit down." He conjured a large, thick red carpet, ten yards long and ten yards wide. As the carpet appeared, the students ooohed and ahhed. Harry sat down on the carpet, saying, "Anyone who wants to talk a bit, please, come over here and sit down. It's probably more comfortable than the tables." Students hurried over, and soon all forty were sitting in front of him, most looking eager.
Be yourself, he told himself. Think about how they must feel. "One thing I want to say is that what happened today doesn't usually happen." He heard more nervous giggling. "I mean, you're probably thinking, fires? Attacks? What kind of a place is this? But usually it's quiet and peaceful, just with classes and people doing magic and studying and playing outside. It's a nice place, I look forward to coming here every year. You just had bad luck, that this happened on your first day here. But we're doing our best to get things back to normal."
A black-haired girl raised her hand. "Professor?"
"Yes, what's your name?"
"Sandra Branford, sir. Is it true that a plant caused all this?"
"Yes, Sandra. The Death Eaters–which, you may know, are Voldemort's assistants–they planted this plant all over Hogwarts. The plants grew, and if there are a lot of them, they cause magic not to work. That's what happened, and it just happened at a really bad time. But we'll get it fixed."
"How?" she asked. He was surprised and pleased to see that his mention of Voldemort's name had caused only the mildest of reactions.
"Phoenixes will help us," he said as Fawkes burst into view, prompting louder ooohs and ahhs than his conjuring the carpet had. "This is Fawkes, he and some other phoenixes will help."
"Is he yours?" asked a brown-haired boy sitting at the front.
"I'm sorry, but when you ask a question, please say your name, I'd like to get to know all of you. What's your name?"
"Dennis Forest, sir."
"Ah. I have a friend named Dennis, he's on the Quidditch team with me. About Fawkes, I wouldn't say he's 'mine' because phoenixes don't belong to people. They can disappear and appear anywhere, so you can't capture them. They choose the people they want to spend time with." Smiling, he added, "So, in a way, I'm kind of his." Many students laughed. "Seriously, the people that phoenixes choose are called 'companions,' and once a phoenix chooses you, he or she stays with you for the rest of your life. I was really, really happy that a phoenix chose me. Fawkes, can you say hello to the first years?"
Fawkes sang, and half the students' mouths dropped open in amazement; he stopped after a half a minute, and the students applauded. Harry smiled at their enthusiasm. A blond girl raised her hand and said, "Sir, can–sorry, sir, my name is Darlene Tifton. Sir, could he say hello again?"
Harry and most of the students laughed. "Well, Darlene, he can't do it all the time, because–" He was interrupted by Fawkes singing again, prompting a little more laughter. Harry stayed quiet as this song lasted almost a minute. After Fawkes stopped, Harry heard awed exclamations, students whispering 'wow!' and 'cool!' I would have thought that was pretty cool when I first got to Hogwarts, thought Harry. Of course, it still is, I'm just used to it.
"Thank you, Fawkes," said Harry after Fawkes stopped. "Anyway, the plant is one phoenixes really like, so Fawkes has talked to other phoenixes. Some of them are already here, and more will be coming. They'll be around until we get our magic back, so that'll be nice."
Another student raised his hand. "I'm Timothy Zeller, sir. You said that he talked to other phoenixes? Can he talk to us?"
Harry smiled. "Sorry, bad choice of words on my part. When I said 'talk,' I meant 'communicate.' Phoenixes communicate without words, by sending images and feelings. They can communicate with each other easily; they can communicate with people, but only the one they've chosen. Fawkes knows how I'm feeling, and I can know how he's feeling."
"How is he feeling, sir?" asked Timothy.
"Good question, just a minute," said Harry. He closed his eyes and cleared his mind, and soon had an answer. "He's kind of... excited right now, this is an interesting time for him. He's happy that he was able to tell the other phoenixes about a place where there's so much food, and he's also happy that there'll be a lot of phoenixes around here for a while. Usually if he's with me he can't be with other phoenixes, but right now, he can do both. So, he likes it. But he also feels a little stressed, because today was a stressful day for me, and that affects him. If I feel something, he feels it too, especially if he's close to me. That's why phoenixes are very careful about who they choose; they don't want to be around someone who feels bad a lot."
Darlene raised her hand. "Did he choose you because you use the energy of love?"
"Another good question. By the way, everyone knows what that is, right? It's a new kind of magical energy I found last year, and it lets me do stuff most wizards can't do. It's also what's letting me do magic now, even though the plants are around."
A blond boy raised his hand. "My name is Evan Snowdon, sir. Why don't the plants affect it?"
"I don't know, Evan. This energy I use, and my friends now use, it's very new. We don't know a lot about it. I learn things from experience. But to answer your question, Darlene... I'm not sure you can say there's any one reason he chose me. But I have a feeling that had something to do with it. If I asked him–not with words, just the way phoenixes communicate–the answer would just be that I seemed like a good person to choose; he wouldn't think in terms of specific reasons. But it is true that phoenixes are attracted to love, and he joined me about the time I started trying to focus on love so much. So, probably."
"I'm Lisa Wilson, sir. Why did you do that? Focus on love, I mean?"
"Because of Voldemort!" said Sandra, before Harry could answer.
Harry was surprised. "How do you know that, Sandra?"
Looking pleased that Harry had remembered her name, she said proudly, "My parents told me about you before I came here, and they know from reading about you in the newspaper, I think. They said to pay close attention to everything you said."
Smiling, Harry replied, "Well, I'm glad to hear that, but really, you should pay close attention to what every teacher says." A few students giggled, and Harry added, "I understand what they meant, though. But to answer Lisa's question, yes, it was because of Voldemort, but a lot of you may not know how that works, so I should try to explain it. You can understand it a lot better if I do."
He launched into the story of last year's events and how they had pushed him to use love as a defense against Voldemort. Students continued asking questions, which he answered, and he was eventually asked about what had happened after the fires had been put out. He decided to show them rather than tell them, using the Pensieve, and include the short battle with the Aurors. He wanted them to be able to see that Voldemort could be defeated, or at least made unconscious, and so puncture the mystique of fear and invincibility that Voldemort desired. He Summoned the Pensieve from his office, explained how it worked and how to use it, and showed them the memory in two groups of twenty, which he found could fit with some students sitting and some standing and leaning over. After viewing it, the obviously awed students asked more questions, which he was answering when Ron and Pansy walked into the Great Hall. Harry looked at his watch; the time was twelve forty-five. Wow, I didn't realize how late it was, he thought.
Ron and Pansy walked up to them, Ron looking unusually jovial. He gestured to the Pensieve and gave an inquiring look. To the first years, Harry said, "Everyone, this is Ron Weasley and Pansy Parkinson, two good friends of mine."
One of the first years said, "And they're also boyfriend and girlfriend, aren't they?"
A few students giggled, and Ron and Pansy smiled at each other. Ron said, "That's just a rumor," then, to Harry's great surprise, leaned down and kissed Pansy on the cheek. Embarrassed, pleased, and startled, she glanced up at him as the students roared with laughter, Harry joining them.
"I've heard that rumor," said Harry after he finished laughing. "What's up? Are you finished patrolling?"
"Not quite, but almost," explained Ron. "Just going to see McGonagall. Another thirty attackers, wanted to let her know."
Harry leaped to his feet as the first years exchanged anxious looks. "Thirty? We've got to–"
"Relax, Harry, it's over," said Ron, still smiling. "D'you think I'd be in here making jokes and kissing Pansy if they were still running around? Give me a little credit. We took care of it."
"He took care of it," corrected Pansy. "I mostly just watched."
"I wouldn't say that," said Ron modestly.
"Well, c'mon, tell us," urged Harry. "Oh, wait, you've got to see McGonagall, you should do that first. Pansy, can you stay and tell us while he does that?"
"Since you have this here, I'll just let you see it," she suggested. She started moving the memory over as Ron headed to McGonagall's quarters. Twenty of the eager first years crowded around as Harry stood and leaned over, and they all put their fingers in.
Ron and Pansy were walking down a side street in Hogsmeade, having just turned off the main street. "Looks clear, as usual," said Ron. "Not much happening in Hogsmeade at twelve-thirty in the morning. Fortunately for us."
"I hope it'll be this quiet for Neville and Hermione," said Pansy.
"Me, too," agreed Ron. "I think it will be, they've probably done all they're going to do. Check the roof again?"
"Sure," she said, and suddenly they were on the roof of a three-story building, the tallest in Hogsmeade. "Looks like– oh, no! Look!"
She pointed to the Hogwarts gate, which was rapidly being approached by a group of what were unmistakably armed Muggles. "We just looked thirty seconds ago! How did that happen?" asked a disbelieving Ron.
"Never mind that, what are we going to do?" asked Pansy urgently. "They're almost through the gate! They're going to get through before we can do anything!"
"The hell they are," said Ron, determined. "I'm going to Apparate us both, I want us to be in this exact position when we get there. Focus on keeping the Repulsion Charm going, I'll stand behind you. Okay?"
Pansy nodded, and Ron stood behind her, took her shoulders, and suddenly they were five feet behind the last of the attackers. All were facing forward, but they heard the sounds caused by Ron and Pansy's Apparation. As they turned, Ron reached around Pansy with his wand, and to Harry's amazement, all of the attackers started to rise into the air. Wearing a look of intense concentration, Ron watched them go up, until they were what Harry estimated to be thirty feet in the air. A few of the flailing attackers fired their weapons, again machine guns, but they fired wildly, having no purchase on anything and unable to turn.
"All right, now cut that out, and listen!" shouted Ron as loudly as he could. "You're three storeys up, and a fall's going to be pretty painful. Now, drop your weapons, or I'll drop you!"
Machine guns started to fall from the hands of the likely terrified attackers. After ten seconds, Ron shouted, "Not bad, but that wasn't everyone. I still see at least five of you with your guns. Now–"
One of the attackers started firing, and all started falling. There were cries of alarm as they fell, but they stopped falling about three feet off the ground, and started rising again. What Harry could see of their faces showed quite a bit of fear.
"Okay, that was a warning," shouted Ron. "Believe me, it's the only one you'll get. Now, the rest of you, drop them!"
Amid cries from the air of 'do it!" and "whoever it is, drop the damn thing!", more machine guns fell. "Is that all of them?" Ron asked Pansy urgently, still concentrating.
"I think so... no, one still has his."
"What's wrong with these people?" wondered Ron, amazed. "I don't want to drop all of them just to teach one a lesson, and he can't hurt us anyway... still... can you whisk it away from this distance?"
"I think so," she replied. "I'll have to drop the Repulsion Charm to do it, of course, but it should be all right."
"Okay. Get behind me, then do it."
Pansy laughed. "I love you too, Ron. No way." She raised her wand and flicked it, and the last machine gun went flying away.
"Good, thanks," said Ron, still focusing hard. "Oh, better yet, can you throw him into the lake? I have an idea."
"I guess I can," said Pansy, her tone suggesting that she didn't understand why Ron wanted her to do it, but not wanting to argue. "I think I need to be closer, though." She ran forward, then the one who hadn't dropped his weapon started to move sideways fast; he yelled in alarm as he went flying into the far side of the lake. Harry wondered why she'd made sure he was that far away.
"If the giant squid in the lake doesn't eat him, he should be all right," announced Ron to the others still hovering in midair. Harry chuckled, now understanding why Ron had asked Pansy to throw him into the lake: the giant squid wasn't dangerous, but the mercenaries didn't know that. As Pansy walked back to him, he added, "Now, when I let you down, if anyone moves, that's what happens to them. Here we go."
He set the mercenaries down, saying, "When you hit the ground, lie down." All did, and Ron and Pansy started wrapping them in ropes. The memory ended, and Harry exited the Pensieve. Pansy put the memory back as Harry watched the first years who had seen it exchange very impressed looks.
"You can show the other ones if they want to see it," said Pansy to Harry on finishing, "but McGonagall may be out any second, and–"
"I understand, I'll show them my memory of it," said Harry. "That was really good, you did it without anyone getting hurt. What about the one in the lake?"
"Oh, we fished him out after we finished wrapping the others," said Pansy offhandedly. "I think the squid was playing with him."
Harry laughed. "Wouldn't surprise me."
McGonagall entered the Hall, followed by Ron. They walked up to Harry and Pansy, the first years watching avidly. "Miss Parkinson," said McGonagall, "if you will come with us, we will collect Miss Granger and Mr. Longbottom, and you can help get rid of these thirty; then you and Mr. Weasley will be finished for the night."
"I'd be happy to–" started Harry, but was cut off by McGonagall.
"The others can handle it," replied McGonagall. "I would say you have already done enough for the night." Gesturing to the first years, she asked, "And why are they not asleep?"
"No one's mentioned anything about being tired," answered Harry with a straight face. A few first years giggled.
"Why, Professor, your sense of humor is coming along quite nicely," said McGonagall sarcastically. "Well, it is nearly one o'clock, and everyone in this room will be roused at no later than seven-thirty, so I suggest you encourage them along in their tiredness. Mr. Weasley, Miss Parkinson..." She walked away briskly, and Ron and Pansy both gave a little shrug to Harry and the first years before following her.
Harry turned to the first years. "Unfortunately, she is right about it being late. I'll put the memory back in so the rest of you can see it, and then we should start thinking about going to sleep." A few started protesting, saying they weren't tired, which made Harry smile. "I know how you feel," he said. "But things at Hogwarts run on a schedule, and sometimes you have to try to sleep even if you're not that tired. But you must be a little tired; I can't believe your parents let you stay up this late every night." He put the memory into the Pensieve, and as the first years watched it, he started conjuring sleeping bags and pillows. After they finished, he let them stay up for another ten minutes so they could talk about what they'd seen and ask him questions. Finally, he told them it was time for bed, and had them get into their sleeping bags.
"Will you be sleeping here too, Professor?" asked a girl, obviously hopefully. A quick glance around the room told Harry that it was a popular idea. Guess I can't blame them, he thought. Considering the latest attack, they're probably wondering, what if something gets by Hermione and Neville.
"Yes, I will," he replied. "It's been a while since I've slept in a sleeping bag." He conjured one for himself, and climbed inside. Fawkes, who had left in the middle of Harry's talk with them, returned, and again Harry wondered whether this had been his idea or Fawkes's. "I know this has been a hard day for everyone, and it might be a bit hard to sleep. So, Fawkes is going to be nice, and help us out."
To Harry's great surprise, five more phoenixes appeared in the next few seconds, forming a rough circle around Harry and the first years. Harry was amazed as Fawkes nonverbally confirmed what Harry had assumed. "Believe me, you're going to have no trouble sleeping," announced Harry. "What you're about to hear is extremely rare for anyone to hear. Good night, everyone."
He heard many voices saying, "Good night, Professor," then the six phoenixes started singing. The first years made a few awed and amazed noises, then became quiet, listening to the phoenixes. Harry lay back, started his Occlumency exercises while at the same time enjoying the song, and was asleep in ten minutes.
Next: Chapter 11, Muggles at Hogwarts: Muggle military officers arrive to protect Hogwarts, but a lack of close contact between the two worlds leads to unanticipated consequences.
From Chapter 11: Barclay turned to Ingersoll, now annoyed. "Captain, I am not your direct superior, and was making a request, not giving an order. But I can send orders down through the chain of command that you will find most unpleasant once you get them. Now, I ask you again, will you and your men keep such distance from the phoenixes as Professor Potter requests?"