Empires Felled @ajjax
The Long Silence

Thank you to Taliesin19, x102reddragon and NerdDragonVoid for helping with the chapter. I haven't got much to say here except enjoy, and stay safe!


Harry nursed his sore wrists, shaking free the final vestiges of pain his bindings had left to linger.

With the lack of anything to otherwise impair his mind, he was free to glance around the room as he pleased. The room was larger than he was led to believe, myriad unknown eyes peering down upon him; their scrutinising gaze saw him bristle in discomfort.

Truth be told, it seemed a poor state of affairs.

Harry had been led to believe that the resistance was so much more than it appeared to be. Instead, his observations yielded sad truths. Haggard faces, robes so tattered even magic could not mend torn seams.

Men and women who had tasted the war of attrition and came off worse for it.

A gentle hand at his back freed him from his seat and placed a familiar holly shaft in his belt loop.

"Careful now, little wizard, don't go drawing your wand where you ought not to." He didn't need to see the man's face - his voice assured him it was still the same emaciated man that had led him in.

"Do not antagonise him, Champoux." Fleur warned, "You've inflicted enough damage for one day."

A response was not immediately verbalised; instead, he caught the soft grinding of teeth from behind him.

No love lost between that pair.

"Of course." Was the man's simple reply, words that made clear he was content to let the water before them settle but a tone that spoke of anything but.

Champoux, Harry recognised.

"Show him to the bunkings." Fleur demanded of Champoux, "A single room, if space allows it."

"As you wish." Champoux said, another curt response from the agitated wizard.

"When do we begin?" Harry asked, "I take it we want to move as soon as possible?"

"Waging wars and tired minds rarely go well together," Fleur said, "Take the rare opportunity to rest."

For many reasons, Harry was not so content to retire to a bed, no matter how much his body yearned for reprieve.

"I've trained for such." Harry added, "I'll be awake as long as you need me."

It felt an affront, though perhaps one not intentional. To be here to help and to be sent to bed like nothing more than a child.

"Truth be told, we're reeling from our own losses." Fleur explained, "We must secure our foothold here before we strike again, lest we leave ourselves open."

The logic was sound. Any insistence that he could help would only seem like impudence - an approach not conducive to first meetings and good relations.

"When shall I report?" Harry asked.

"When you awake, whenever that might be." Fleur said. "I'm well aware of the effects the use of my allure incites."

The smirk that forced her lips upwards seemed almost sly.

Arousal was something easily stifled; they'd been taught enough to not fall into bed with a Veela at first glance; not to spill secrets at the chance of revelling in their embrace.

But it would have a lingering effect on his magic, one that would persist until slumber invited him into its cold embrace.

Sleep was something Harry Potter detested - a foe that could never be bested, a battle that came without fail.

"Would you have anything else from me?" Harry asked, eager to shake the errant thoughts from his mind.

"I need my new ally rested." Fleur echoed, "If the tales speak true, you bested three of Grindelwald's enforcers alone, did you not?"

"Luck." Was Harry's simple response.

"Humility has its place in charlatans and socialites - you are neither."

"Truth be told," Harry said, "I am a bit of a charlatan, under the right circumstances, of course."

Another smile tugged at her lips, the jest eliciting a glimmer of happiness from her.

"War is complex business, Harry Potter." Fleur said, the air of finality in her tone spoke of a light-hearted dismissal.

So everyone says.

He knew well enough the complexities of what lay ahead.

"And our resistance begins anew when the sun rises, embrace the last few hours of being a man without a war."

It was a nice thought, but misplaced.

Harry Potter was always fighting a war.

"Actually, Madelaine, see Lieutenant Potter to his new bunks." Fleur requested, "Champoux, you, on the other hand, I'd like to regale the tale of how you managed to be bested."

Madelaine, as Harry had just come to know her, rested her hand on his shoulder, ushering him towards the makeshift door. "Come on, lad," she said, "No use seeing those two go at it, you won't gain much."

"Will I be wearing a bag again?" Harry asked, the barest of smiles gracing worn features, an attempt that, if nothing else, he hoped would defuse the stubborn tension in the air.

"If I had my way, you'd wear two."

Nope, Harry nodded grimly, Tension's still there.

Together the pair broke from the room and began to head down the corridor. From either side, skulls and bones decorated the walls like artistry. Lifeless glares were beyond cold, burrowing into his back as he kept his vision straight in an attempt to avoid more contact than necessary.

Even devoid of life they were quick to mock him, make it known to him he was an outsider.

Harry beat back an unconscious shiver as they walked, "I think I'd have rathered the bag," he said, "Your decor is somewhat… lacking."

"I'd say you get used to it," Madelaine offered, this time a bit gentler, "It does, in some ways," she said, "Until you focus on them, that is. Then you remember you've got hundreds of skulls staring at you."

"Your hospitality is somewhat lacking too," Harry grumbled.

"You'll forgive me if your comfort is not my priority," she retorted, "If you hadn't seen enough of the countryside, we're fighting a war—losing it too."

"I am here to help," Harry bit back, the day had been long, "If I hadn't made that clear enough already—we're more than ready to he—"

Madelaine looked behind him, her eyes were,, devoid of anything he could recognise, "It's good talk, really," she said. "All that talk of helping us, of a country ready to take up arms. It sounds good, maybe you're even right."

"I am right," Harry assured her.

"Or maybe you're not," Madelaine rounded the corner, picking up her pace, "Forgive my candour, but every promise the British made to us, they broke. Once they promised us a liberating force and we saw how that fared for them."

Harry frowned, his anger rose again, "We lost seventy-thousand men at Dunkirk," he snapped, "More ships, fighters and vehicles than I care to count. Don't you dare sully their memory."

"And for their losses, we got to see our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers carted out of this city!" Her sharp voice echoed through the corridors, "Chained like cattle, most won't see them again."

"It's our fault you lost your country then?" Harry shouted back, "That seems to be what you're trying to tell me."

The next words came out a growl, hot and angry, "We did not lose it! It was taken from us!"

"Which is somehow the fault of the Expeditionary that rot in the fields," Harry said, "Or the pilots that fell into the ocean or the ships that decorate the bottom of the ocean, torn asunder by the Germans?"

You put one of those ships there yourself, his mind mocked him. Though Harry was quick to push the thought down.

With his words, a tense silence befell them. The air was warm with rage, as if merely a wrong step could send them teetering over the edge into another argument.

"Aye, maybe you're right," Madelaine agreed after a few long moments of walking, "The jab was misplaced, I apologise."


"But your anger over their deaths, while justified, is no less justified than ours," she said, "Maybe you did help us. Maybe we did lose this country. But what we did see was hundreds of thousands flee back across the channel, we got to see our own fleet, rather than sail into the waves and reclaim our lands, get sunk by British guns—our only hopes dashed."

"We weren't left with many choices," Harry rationalised, "Alive we can strike again, I'm proof of our efforts. Dead by German air raids and armour? We're not much good to anyone."

"Again, maybe you're right, maybe you're justified," she said, "But to us? We lost hope. If you're asking for people to trust you after Grindelwald and Hitler, after Dunkirk, after Mers-el-Kébir? You're not going to see anything you'd like to."

Harry shrugged, "She trusts me—Delacour, the Firebird," he said, "that's good enough for me."

It'll have to be, for now.

"For you, maybe," Madelaine said, "Not for many others."

"Do you trust her so little?"

No use getting her to like me if she's bound to be deposed.

Madelaine shook her head, "I trust her with my life," she explained, "there was a time where we scuttered around Paris like rats. She bound us, gave us a semblance of purpose. Gave us the chance to stay on our feet, to not hang from our necks or be shot into ditches. Killed because we believe that people the circumstances of birth don't beget death, nor the permission to trample a continent underfoot."

"And now you're a pack of rats," Harry joked, hoping this mirth might land where its predecessor hadn't.

Madelaine weighed his statement in her head, "Perhaps," she agreed, "though once upon a time, rats had the continent on their knees."

"I'm not sure being compared to the plague is the analogy I would've gone with."

She shrugged but this time, her lips rose and a small smile soon followed. If nothing else, he succeeded in defusing what he could.

"Well," she announced, "This is it, in all it's homely glory."

'Homely' wasn't the word Harry would've chosen either. Make-shift partition walls closed off a section of catacombs with a cot shoved to one side. The walls still held their glare.


The woman snorted at his reaction, which must have been visible on his face, "I apologise if you were looking for something… grander," she said.

Harry put his hands up in a placating gesture, "No, no," he assured her. "It's fine…" Madeleine continued her smug staring, "Maybe a coat of paint wouldn't go amiss."

"Perhaps two," she corrected, "Even a nice chandelier."

"Now we're talking," Harry said, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a miniature rucksack. With a deft flick of his wand, it enlarged and landed beside the cot, one he'd likely transfigure into something more comfortable. "Do you have any owls?"

"Not at the moment," Madelaine said, "Germans tend to shoot down any bird that doesn't look native and half of those that do. And I take it you probably don't want whatever you're sending to fall into their hands?"

Harry inhaled sharply, "No, I imagine not," he said. He could write the report and find another way to send it across the channel. For now, a fitful sleep beckoned him like a Siren's song.

"Then I shall leave you to it, Harry Potter." She announced, "I'm unsure of what to make of you, but you don't strike me as the makings of a terrible man."

"Don't ask Command for their opinion," he mumbled to her tittering laugh.

She turned for the door, "We'll send a runner when the need for you arises," she said, "Until then, rest. You likely won't be doing much more of it."

"Thank you, Madelaine," Harry offered sincerely before she made her exit.

Worn hands came up to try and banish the darkness that bit at the corner of his eyes, the hounds of sleep baying for the kill.

The cot became a more hospitable single bed with a tired incantation and twisted wrist before a pillow soon joined their ranks. An alarm spell bordered the open door, for safety's sake, and finally, he took a seat on the bed.

Kicking off his boots, he rested his head. Eyes closed, and before long, a familiar dream of twisted steel and sharp waves broke through the haze of slumber and invited him back to a time he sorely wished to forget.


Sirius Black had been having a bad day.

Another barrage of artillery shells careened across the desert sky, burrowing themselves into the sand. Waves of shrapnel dispersed from their landing sites, smashing into the shield covering their tents harmlessly.

He flinched as the cacophony of explosions rang loud, bouncing off the wards as if it were a gong. Ducking beneath the canvas barrier that separated him from the command tent, he barged in and searched for his staff.

"Squad leaders," Sirius addressed with a loud bark to get his voice over the shelling, "I want a bearing on that artillery!"

"Muggles reckon they're one-hundred and twenty milimetres coming from," The radio operator glanced down at his notes, his quill trailing through the words, "The north west, they haven't got a bearing yet."

With a wave of his hand, the pins dislodged themselves from the command map, "They're wrong," he said, "Saw them splash the shields. They're seventy-five from the north."

"Aye, sir," The operator agreed before turning back to his radio.

His aide rushed alongside him, his hands cradling a steaming, metal cup.

"We're being shot at and your first instinct is to make me tea?" Sirius demanded, his tone dry.

"Sorry, sir," he muttered before attempting to flee the tent.

"Leave the tea!" Sirius called after him, making the boy run back and place it on the table in front of him. "Go get me a status on the wards."

With his orders given, the man gripped his wand and fled the tent.

"Remus?" Sirius called out before the man poked his head out from around the corner.

"Here," he called, donning his helmet, his scarred visage peeking out from within, "I thought the Italians were out of steam?"

Sirius scratched his beard, "I thought the same," he said, "They must've stole the night, unloaded supplies and got fuel from the coast." Sirius turned back to the radio operator, "Tell the muggles to advance with the Matildas from the right flank. They're focused on us."

"Aye, sir!"

"You're sending the tanks?" Remus's brow furrowed, "Is that wise?"

"They're focused on us for the moment," Sirius said, "Through our charms, you know what that means—"

"They've got a wizard in command," Remus surmised, "Grindelwald wouldn't trust the Italians, the Frank Twins?"

"No, Grindelwald wouldn't take his best enforcers away for the Italians either," he shook his head, "My money's on Eisler, he's more cautious. Especially if they're trying to crack the wards from a distance."

"What could they possibly want in North Africa?" Remus murmured, staring at the map as if it would give him some answers.

Judging by the look of consternated pondering that marred features already worn by desert sands, Sirius reached the conclusion he hadn't found an answer.

"Who knows?" Sirius said, "They could want the pyramids, the muggles sniff out artefacts like hounds do blood. Maybe there's something they want amongst all that stone, though I would've assumed the Goblins would find it if there was. They've been rooting around those tombs since before the treaty."

"Well, Grindelwald won't exactly be bound by a treaty, will he?" Remus asked, trailing his eyes as the map moved down, the words 'EGYPT' coming into view, "They'll tear it apart stone-by-stone until they find something of value."

Sirius shifted the map back to their current location," For all we know they could just be here to help the muggles," he said, "though Italian Sorcerers aren't anything to be scoffed at, there's a reason they're here alongside whoever Grindelwald sent. Send a squad to Egypt, have them run reconnaissance."

"Suppose it doesn't matter at the moment," Remus deadpanned, pulling his wand from his uniform, "We're getting shot at all the same."

"Fair enough," Sirius agreed, "Neville, have the muggles got a bearing?"

Another shell crashed into the barrier that kept the true state from the muggles, "No sir," Neville said, "They're still trying to triangulate it."

"Maybe you should try telling them to hurry the fuck up," Sirius demanded, before peering down onto the desk with the radio, "I see you brought Trevor," he noted, watching the toad leap around in time with the shells.

"He's my mate," Neville mumbled.

"Keep the toad, get me those coordinates."

"Yes, Major."

Remus turned to Sirius, "What's our plan then?"

"We've been tracking his Lieutenants for months," Sirius explained, "No matter who's in the field, capturing them has to cripple them." He turned to the map, "The muggles can deal with the muggles, we've got to catch the rat."

"Shall I rally the Broom Sergeants?" Remus asked, looking towards the tent exit, "We could do some reconnaissance, make our move."

"I've got a better idea," Sirius smirked to Remus's chagrin.

"If the next words out of your mouth are dra—"


"We're not using the dragon," Remus disagreed vehemently, "You remember what happened last time."

"She's grown!"

"Not by very much!" Remus retorted, "I'm not obliviating the soldiers again, I hate it."

"But I want to use the dragon."

"We're not," Remus said with an air of finality, "It's a terrible plan—the worst."

"I am your superior," Sirius grinned, "I think we should use the dragon, Captain."

"You won't be if you use the dragon, Major," Remus challenged, "Command is just looking for a reason."

"Fine," Sirius grumbled, looking at the map.

I'm using the dragon next time, he decided.

"How many brooms do we have?" Sirius said, plotting out a course on the map with his wand.

"Twenty-six Star Riders, eight Twigger Twenties, eight Tinderblasts," Remus recited like clockwork, Sirius straining to hear him over the shells.

"Right, I'll take the Tinderblasts in the rearguard," Sirius explained as Remus came alongside him, "You rally London and Emma squad, flank from the left side and destroy the field guns. From there, push onwards past the wreckage and try and engage the Commando Magico and whoever's in charge."

"Aye," Remus nodded, "It'll be done."

"Brief the Sergeants," Sirius said before rushing for the tent's exit, "I'll get mine ready."

Sirius fled from the tent with haste, his feet struggling to gain purchase over soft sand. The artillery barrage struck the wards again with renewed vigour. Each strike earned the inhabitants of the wards an ear-screeching percussion of magic against machinery.

A flick of his wand tore open the tent flaps of the adjacent barracks as he rushed in, searching for his squad.

And he certainly found them.

Playing cards.

"McLaggen!" Sirius barked, a voice filled with wrath cut through the clangorous bombardment, "What in Merlin's fucking name do you think you're doing?"

"Cards, Major," The wire-haired man barely even mustered from his chair, facing the rest of his men who seemed unsure whether to rise or continue with their game, "The muggles taught us, you see, quite fu—"

A rough hand hauled him up by the scruff of his neck, forcing McLaggen to stumble from his chair and to his feet.

Sirius got closer to his ear, but louder still, "Do you not hear that fucking bombardment?" He asked, "Are you thick in the head, McLaggen?"

"No, Sir," McLaggen muttered.

"So you saw the camp being bombarded and thought cards were the correct way to respond to an attack?" He tossed McLaggen towards the tent, "With a brain like that you'll be lucky if they don't send you to St Mungo's, you pisspot."

"We didn't have any orders, sir," McLaggen launched a feeble defence, anger rose red in his face. Though angry, he knew well enough, even in his current state, not to level at his Commanding Officer.

"Then you fucking find them out!" Sirius screamed, "Now go, before you kiss the inside of the veil for insubordination."

"My Lord F—"

"Your Lord Father, is a prick and an idiot, like yourself," Sirius shoved him out of the tent and followed close behind him, "If you want to follow in his footsteps, a fat, drunken slob who thought his son would find glory in the desert? Be my guest, I'll dig the hole for you, send you to Morgana myself." Finally out of the tent, Sirius grasped him by the collar, "Is that what you want?"

"No sir."

He was sure McLaggen could smell the rationed shortbread on his breath, "Then get your squad ready, get your fucking brooms," Sirius growled, "And get ready to fight, or I'll ship you across that sea myself."

McLaggen stumbled back into the tend, slipping on the sand; he was unaccustomed to being on to lead troops he was unqualified to lead. His retreating form warranted a single thought in Sirius's mind.

Fucking idiot.

"Accio," Sirius muttered, pointing towards his tent. Within seconds an object flew from beside his bed—a broom. Streamlined and painted the same colour as the sand, 'TINDERBLAST' embossed on the side.

Drifting to the side where his squad had begun to rally, Sirius barked commands to and fro, trying to get command of wizards barely out of school.

They were little more than boys.

War has a habit of tempering the young before their time, he thought grimly, his mind drifting to a brother who fought for the wrong side and paid a price too dear.

With a kick of his feet as they settled into the stirrups, Sirius and his command shot across the desert, wiping yellow sand around their uniforms and wind past their ears.

Battle was nigh.


The ship rocked and listed in the heavy waves, the battering of the sea's harsh kiss rebounding off the hull as the bow cut through walls of water.

Harry Potter rested in the junior officer bunks, his back against the bed rack he'd been assigned. He peered at the book in his hands in the low light, eyes trailing to and fro over the spells in his handbook he felt he hadn't practised in an age.

"So tell me again," His bunkmate asked, the other four racks left empty due to changing shifts, "This magic thing, it's real innit?" Harry heard the wood of the frame creaked as he stared at him in interest, "Like, real, yeah?"

Stripped down to only his pants to combat the warm air of the spring sea, the wiry frame of the only other occupant of the room turned to face him from across the way.

"It's real, Harvey," Harry assured and tossed his wand forward to cover the man with his sheets, "Like I told you four times already, it's beginning to wear a bit thin."

Harvey was older than him though he hadn't bothered to ask by how much. He was talkative, though the man never really said much, which was fine with him.

To his credit, Harvey sounded apologetic, "Can't blame a bloke for wanting to know," he said, "Just… you reckon I've got magic?"

"You don't," Harry said succinctly.

"How'd you know that?"

"Did you get a letter when you were 11?"

"Got quite a few actually," Harvey began, "Gran's big on letters."

Harry rolled his eyes at that, "Specifically anything that mentioned you were magical, inviting you to a school? Delivered by an owl?"

Harvey frowned, "Not that I can remember."

"Then looks like Midshipman is the job for you," Harry said, "I'm not sure wizard will work out for you."

"Shame that," he sighed, "Do you at least ride brooms like those witches?"

"We do," Harry nodded, "Even have sport with them, I've got one in my trunk right now."

With the enthusiasm of a giddy child, Harvey almost leapt out of his bed to go search for it, "Can I see it? Please?"

Harry brushed it off, "Later," he promised, "It's nothing flashy, just some wood and twigs."

"Wood and twigs?" He asked, short of breath, "You can fly."

"So do the reconnaissance planes, you see those fly overhead every day."

"This is different, you know it's different."

"Maybe," Harry shrugged, "Just don't see it that way."

Harvey nodded and fell back to his bed, dejected at the answer.

"There's one thing I'm not getting though—" Harvey began, only to be cut off by Harry.

Harry smirked, "I think there's quite a few things you're not getting," he said, "but go on, I'm interested."

The repetition grated on his nerves after a while, but Harvey was the only sailor he had even talked to beyond orders, he could weather a few questions for the company.

"Why'd you tell me then? Aren't there those Statues of Secrets?"

"The Statute of Secrecy?" Harry corrected.

"Yeah, that," Harvey nodded, "I guess…"

He shrugged, though he wasn't sure if Harvey could see it, "Because you're my bunkmate, the rest are on rotation and here," Harry gestured around the room, "is the only place I can practice. It's easier having you know than doing it all in secret."

Perhaps he was looking for an answer of because you're special if the long, awkward silence was anything to go off.

It took a while before Harvey let out an incredulous scoff, "Eileen won't believe me when I tell her."

Harry sighed, and his head fell back against his cot, "that's because you won't."

"What's that?"

"She won't believe you because she'll never know—she never can," Harry explained, rolling the page between his fingers, unsure of what to do with his hands. "You won't even know soon, once the Ardent has gotten back to port, I'll have to erase your memories."

The long silence came again before Harry could make out a muttered, "Blimey," under Harvey's breath.

"I'm sorry," Harry said. "It's just the way it has to be."

He could hear Harvey's cot creak beneath him, "so why are you here then? If no one can remember you, what's the point of sailing with us?"

"Because there are people like me, wizards and witches, on the other side too," Harry said, looking at the hard steel above him. "They shouldn't have helped them, but they did. They broke every rule we have in order to try and fuel the German war machine. That's why I'm here, in case they come for us."

Harvey chose to laugh at that one, "We're a destroyer of His Majesty, I don't reckon they'd be much good against us."

"Until someone you can't see sneaks aboard and places an explosive in the ammunition storage," Harry retorted. "Or takes control of the Captain's mind and, suddenly, we're an enemy destroyer and no one knows it."

"Oh." Was the simple response.

Then silence befell the pair again, the sort that shouldn't be broken. Harry returned to his idle scanning of pages, a small pang of guilt working its way through his gut. It took a few more long moments before it manifested into anything.

"So, this bird of yours," Harry said, trying to change the mood, "she good looking?"

He should've known it'd work. Harvey sprang from his bunk to find a picture of the woman in question. "Oh, just you wait," he promised, "get a load of this."

The picture, old and creased, was thrust into his hand, and he brought it closer to his glasses to get a proper look. She seemed a kind woman. If one could gather that by first glance alone, though all-in-all, her looks were simple, mild in place of beauty. Cradled in her arms was a child, wrapped in blankets and held to her chest like a commoner would hold the words of the king.

"I didn't know you were a father," Harry mentioned, turning the photo over.

Eileen and Robin Foster, 1939

Harvey seemed to struggle for an answer, "Well, you see…" he swallowed, "not really mine, so to speak, but he's mine, yeah?"

"Yeah," Harry nodded, "I get it," he turned the picture back over to peer at the front. "Well, you know, I could make this picture move."

The other man shot up, "you're taking the piss."

Shaking his head, Harry plucked his wand and wiggled it so he could see it, "if you're comfortable leaving it with me, I reckon I could show you."

"Blimey," Harvey looked as if Christmas had come early, "Sure, sure, of course."

Harry stowed the picture gently in his pocket, "I'll take a look at it later," a wave of his wand disillusioned the book and he placed it beneath the sheet. "I've got to go speak to the Captain, we'll be getting closer to port."

"Right," Harvey mentioned and sat back down on his cot, "I'll see you later then?"

"Yeah," Harry nodded, "I'll be back for our shift."

With another wave of his wand at the door, his silencing charm faded from existence. It wouldn't do any good for others to hear their conversation.

When his wand fell, the world screeched around him in blaring blasts.

Sirens, Harry realised.

They could've been running for an age and he'd never of heard them through the charm—he'd made a mistake. He could barely throw open the door, wand in hand, before the ship lurched as it was hit by a shell. Harry grappled with the handle as he pulled himself back to right and exited.

The world was on fire, the scenery a rush past his eyes as he dodged past sailors, covered in sweat and in the case of a few, injuries, to the stairs to the deck.

Wood met his feet as he reached topside, confirming his worst fears.

Flashes of hot white and a deep purple flared above him, spells arching down into the deck, splintering wood and sending men flying overboard. In the distance, a ship that had to be twice the size of theirs lit the horizon in hues of red, orange and yellow as its batteries fired at them.

It was a quick fight, messy butcher's work.

His only job had been to protect them, and he had failed. He raised his wand, water coming to his command to swat at the attackers with such force that he felt the tendons of his forearm scream in protest, tearing in order to stop his retaliation.

But the water rose at his command, and soon, all he could see was the Atlantic.

It was futile, old memories passed him by in a blur and, soon, His Majesty's Ship, the Ardent, had sunk into the ocean.

He'd searched for bodies as seaplanes flew overhead. He returned those he'd failed to shore, all with the mantra screaming in his head.

You failed them.

Eileen had forgiven him when he'd showed up at her door, picture in hand, sorrows in his heart and with platitudes that'd never give life to the dead, warmth to the cold, or a father to the child.

When Harry Potter awoke, it was kicking and screaming at an enemy he'd left in the Atlantic Ocean.

But one he always carried.

There was a long silence when his eyes adjusted to his new surroundings, the skulls peered down at him as if they were the skulls of the Ardent's crew. A rough swallow let him shake free of the past and throw his legs over the bed.

"You scream in your sleep, you know that?" Fleur said from beside his bed, he hadn't even taken notice of her. He grappled for his wand under the pillow before a hand, gentle, stilled it.

"I mean you no harm," Fleur followed up, "I came to collect you, we discuss what we do next today, all my Lieutenants have gathered."

"And so it begins?" Harry guessed.

"And so it begins." Fleur confirmed.

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