A Different Kind of War @ajjax
Darkness Arising

TITLE: A Different Kind of War

SUMMARY: Confronted with the daunting threat of war looming over Britain, Harry must prepare for the inevitable confrontation. But when an enigmatic French Beauty arrives to assist Hogwarts in preparation for the coming dangers, Harry soon learns that matters of the heart and battlefield are of equal difficulty.

CHAPTER TITLE: Darkness Arising

PAIRINGS: Harry/Fleur


A/N: Writing this chapter was indeed inevitable.

It was the one from the original I could say I was the least proud of. It held a lot of points, particularly to set the tone, that needed to be pulled of. Did I manage that? I can't say for sure.

As always thank you to my Beta Reads x102reddragon and NerdDragonVoid who screen the chapters as always, alongside the Beta Reading team at the Harry/Fleur discord, the link for which can be found on my profile.

This shall push us over the 100k words mark. A mark I wasn't even sure I would reach again, yet, here we are. A massive thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way, be it through favourites/follows/reviews/beta reading.

Stay safe and as always, enjoy!


Somewhere hidden in the North Sea, an imposing castle rose high against dark waves.

An anomaly.

That's what the muggles had called it, warships and trading vessels battered against rocks they hadn't seen. Consumed by a sudden cold the likes of which they'd never felt. Their guns blared against an ethereal blue barrier as they were invited into the icy depths, cannons and turrets falling silent as they decorated the seafloor below.

There was history to the castle. Honour too, if he was generous.

But he wasn't.

A posting that fools and the outspoken soon found themselves in. Finding joy in such a duty was impossible for even the most sadistic that found their way onto the island. Only those same fools thought otherwise.

This same posting killed the last Warden. He thought, disdainfully. Azkaban withers every hand it has ever touched.

It had indeed killed the last man who tried to impose dominion over the tall towers and cavernous corridors.

Heed the call, they said. He mused darkly. I was a fucking fool.

Scrimgeour, the 'Old Lion' bares his teeth! They had cried. Do your duty and join the Auror Corps!

See the world, The banner had read proudly.

Fight a fucking losing war was more like it.

His boots clattered against worn cobbles, and his robes did little to fend against the cold sea breeze as he walked the battlements. His journey to ensure the watchmen hadn't absconded to find solace in a bottle of whatever drink they'd smuggled in.

He visited each of the five towers surrounding them, all seeming too tall, stretching upwards into the clouds above. Dark stone misshapen by centuries of spells and seas made them look more akin to fingers, reaching into the sky and strangling everything below within its grasp.

He passed another soul caught amidst the rain and sleet, hurrying through the ocean's gale. A haphazard 'sir' was all he got as far as acknowledgement went. Protocol dictated he should ask why the man had left his post.

But during nights like these. He thought as he let a gust of wind and water splash harshly against his face. It's best to let them do as they see fit, within reason.

He commanded a garrison of fifteen when by all rights it should've been closer to thirty. It was barely enough to man the walls, let alone keep the prisoners and dementors alike under lock and key.

He passed another man, this one praying, he tiptoed through the turret as to not disturb him.

To Merlin or Morgana. He mused. It won't matter who you pray to, what faith you arm yourself with - their ears never seem to reach Azkaban.

He had never been a pious man, few were. But some always found faith in Azkaban. A three-month sentence to guard the prison tore more away from the Aurors than he cared to admit.

A man's got to get it back somehow, I suppose.

Some turned to prayer, some to drink, some to gambling. Few subverted the influence of the North Sea for long.

Their only saving grace was that the Dementors had retreated to the highest floors of the castle to watch over the thirteen.

Thirteen witches and wizards of You-Know-Who's inner circle, some of the most dangerous witches and wizards in the Isles. Allies the Dark Lord would like to have returned to him.

And I've got two more men than they do.

All it would take was one corrupt Auror, a lull in their defences and the game would be over. They'd be spent, all it would take was one wand to hold a Patronus and the rest to plunder the barracks.

God's above, I hate Azkaban. He mused sadly but snorted, Maybe I am a holy man.

The question was no longer if, only when.

During nights like these, without the guidance of the moon and a cold mist settling over the pewter expanse of the surrounding waters, the time seemed nigh.

There he stood, a vigilant watchman on the battlements as he unfurled a soft piece of parchment from his robes.

His second-in-command came from behind, his cloak fluttering in the wind, making the man seem far larger than he was.

Man is the wrong word. The Warden thought, scratching his coarse beard. He's just a lad with shite luck, just like the rest of them.

"The wands have been destroyed, sir." He strained his ears to hear the younger man, words cast to the wind that barely sounded legible.

"All of them?"

"Aye, Rogers did it. I watched it with my own eyes."

If they couldn't end them, destroying their wands would be the closest thing they'd get to retribution.

Let them try and cast with ash.

"Why'd we do it?" The man asked, "Not that I'm against it, sir, just seems odd timing and all, what with them being here for an age already."

He neglected to respond, no answer the man possessed or ever would possess would ease the words he'd have to speak.

Lead from the rear. The Instructors had taught him, Head down, wand up, voice loud. Know your men, have them know you and let the pieces fall into place.

Though they clearly neglected the greatest lessons of them all in their effort to expedite the Academy.

They never tell you how to make your men look their death in the face, He mused darkly. They leave that lesson out of the books.

Tonight. The message had read.

He tossed that same piece of soft, offending parchment over the thick walls, casting it and whatever false platitudes it contained to the waves.

The man took the Warden's silence as an answer enough.

"What would you have us do, sir?"

"Wake the men and rally the watchers." He ordered, "Meet me here as quickly as you can."

"Aye Warden." The man said, his eyes alight with confusion, but his voice betrayed nothing.

"Good lad."

Aye, a good lad. One that doesn't deserve to die for the folly of this forsaken island.

He laughed at his situation and the wind seemed to howl back, mocking him in turn.

Azkaban truly is a cruel mistress.

Even now against the obscured horizon, he could see the flash of magic and the silhouettes of brooms. A battle that edged closer.

A battle whose conclusion had been decided long before it had even begun.

There were few words for Hogwarts.

A cauldron bubbling on the verge of something far greater seemed most apt.

Katie's attack had been a catalyst, the student's, agents of agitation and the war, a mere backdrop to it all.

It had been a fortnight. A fortnight that brought only unease and tension to one of the last places that could boast defences against that. Now, the castle felt closer to tipping beyond the edge into the perilous depths below than ever before.

My words can only placate them for so long. Harry thought, Soon enough, slights real or imagined, disagreement mistaken for dissidence will push us over into chaos.

The school was now little more than furtive glances cast against each other, hurried discourse and thinly-veiled threats. The school had become so much more than a school.

Yet, so much less.

Voldemort didn't need to infiltrate the castle proper, although he most certainly had. He was always more content to let the pieces fall of their own accord.

He doesn't need to tear us apart. Harry thought, We're doing a good enough job as is.

So, Harry threw himself into his studies. Into duels and Dumbledore's dissertation filled notebook. Filled mostly with empirical rants with words and jargon far beyond him and yet it held the knowledge he had so desperately searched for.

Written in two hands, elegant and untidy, sharp and soft.

He'd only been searching for spells inside the leather-bound book, scouring each page to sift through copious amounts of nonsense given written form. Arithmancy and odd symbols littered throughout the pages as if they were spilt onto the paper by accident. Broken sentences never meant for his eyes, or likely, never meant for any but the authors themselves.

He'd searched for spells and he had found them.

Creations of the Headmaster and others. Spells he'd collected over his time - primordial strength etched into the page.

They were not the same crutches employed by Wizards to change the world around them nor jinx their foes. It was power incarnate, not meant to be wielded by lesser wizards. Despite his capabilities, the spells took a toll.

Every bloody nose, every taste of copper on his tongue were a testament to that. Every aching tendon, every torn muscle was a lesson, and each lesson strengthened him.

Yet, the book was more than merely spells and dissertations.

It was something else. Something far more significant, and far worse.

Ideology, He assumed.

Behind each gesture, each inscription lurked something more nebulous—strings of words that seemed like nothing at first glance and everything when read together.

For the Greater Good.

It was written in the Headmaster's hand as much as it was the others. But he could seldom believe it was the wise wizards writing any more than his own. It was dogma, efforts to subjugate and dominate. To impose the will of themselves upon all, to win wars and share spoils.

Precisely what Fleur had warned him about of the men that followed Slughorn.

Now he found those same doubts in the Headmaster, a man who had given him a book that held power beyond comprehension. A man who did little but preach patience and counsel calm, even when his own walls were infiltrated, had held the same view as them.

There's a reason. He rationalised, There has to be.

But, whatever the words, whatever the spells, the book was sufficient enough in another regard. It was not just a guide but an escape. From thoughts that strayed to what lay beyond the walls, of a girl who still fought to cling to life in Saint Mungos and the wars being fought.

And from his eyes drifting to a Silver-haired woman.

Sometimes, he'd preferred that the revelation never came. That his feelings remained dormant. He could've continued his days without a pang of agony in his heart when he met her ocean-blue eyes, or when he thought of the futility of it all.

Every time he thought of her, the newly scarred flesh of his hand ached. Each time he looked to her, wondering if she felt that same ache or if she felt the same pang of agony in her heart.

But it was wishful thinking, he was beyond being naive.

She was engaged and he was destined for war.

That thought stung more than any scar on his forehead or hand, harsher than any pang of agony in his breast.

"Lost in your thoughts, Harry?" A familiar voice called out, though she emphasised her point with a dull curse. He quickly dodged to retort. "Am I no longer interesting enough?"

"Resorting to underhand tactics, Fleur?" He mocked. "Maybe you are losing your edge."

She merely shot an amused grin and sent her flurry of spells, Harry evaded the first two and flicked the third, sending it careening upwards into the rafters.

He responded with a spell, although not taught to him by the leatherbound book, but by Fleur herself.

She's a fan of using my spells against me. He mused, Let's see how she deals with her own.

"Flagrate Flagellum" He incanted softly, a thin trail of red hot flames pooling from the apex of his wand, sizzling against the air.

He could not crack the whip, nor use it with any great efficiency. Not how it was intended anyway, but he could still make use of the spell. The inferno crackled around his head as he swung it in vicious arcs, forcing her further backwards in their classroom.

The sharp snap of the flames met every attempt to cast a spell. Forced to shield or retreat, neither being a particularly appealing option - the former conceded power, the latter, ground.

To his chagrin, her shield remained inflexible, steadfast against the sudden assault. Each strike sent out a resounding thump throughout the room but did not pierce the ethereal barrier that protected her.

Then suddenly, she seized the offensive for herself.

"Don't grimace when you're about to change spells." She called out, "You're making it far too easy."


If it had been anyone else, anyone that hadn't duelled him as much as her it may have passed unnoticed. The nuances of an opponent made little difference in the grand scheme of a duel, yet, they made every difference against an exceptionally skilled French Veela.

She shifted her shield to parry, the flames seemingly rebounded off empty air. Despite having no weight, his arm overextended, forced to oblige the unyielding spell.

That was the gap she needed, off-balance and attempting desperately to regain it left him far more open than he would've liked.

Her spell struck true. Had its intention been to incapacitate him, he'd be seeing little other than black. Unconsciousness, however, made for a poor teacher.

A chain flew from her wand and captured his arm, forcing it stiff against his torso. Her offensive soon followed and lacking the capability to dispel the chains alone, he was forced to improvise.

He threw himself unceremoniously to the ground to avoid the incoming barrage and threw his wand scattering across the floor into his off-hand.

Inaccurate, unrefined and challenging. It wasn't an ideal situation.

But it's better than losing.

He risked injury if he attempted to remove his bindings in combat, if it had been anything other than a practice duel, he might've taken that risk.

Instead, he advanced towards her as fast as he could. His off-hand deflecting what it could as he attempted to weave through her other spells. If he couldn't be as precise as he'd needed to be, closing the distance was the only option that gifted him a win.

Fleur, unwilling to be caught out in such a fashion, began her own advance.

His defence remained strong, spells ricocheting off his shield as the distance between them closed.

A spell slipped past his wand, unable to be stopped by his magic. It missed, splashing harmlessly against the floor of the room.

Or perhaps not so harmlessly.

The pale yellow spell erupted against the worn floorboards and a tendril reached for his leg, latching on to it.

A paralysis hex. He cursed, it was too late for the counter-curse and even if he could, it'd leave him open to her spells.

Bound by chains and time, the duel had to be won quickly.

The muscles in his leg went taut, then numb, then refused to follow his commands. He contInued his advance though it had slowed to a limp at the behest of his paralysed limb.

They were mere feet away. Shields were ineffective at this range. Each spell was deflected with a parry of each other's wand, careful not to direct it anywhere that presented a danger to themselves.

His leg buckled under him, but he managed to grapple and found solid footing, but that same move had set the conclusion. He was duelling with his off-hand with the other bound tightly to his body and losing function of his leg.

It was a valiant effort, but an effort was all it would ever be.

He slipped again and his disarming charm went wide, hers, however, did not. The red spell careened across the short gap quicker than it had any right to and knocked him off his tentative balance.

His holly wand flew from his hands and his back met the hard ground with a thud.

The roof seemed to mock his defeat, candelabra's flickering flames wavered as if laughing.

Fleur sauntered over to him, his Holly wand clutched tightly between her fingers. "You missed your last spell."

"If I start hitting them all, I'll stop improving."

"You'll also stop losing." She smiled.

"How very astute," Harry said sarcastically.

"Adhuc sentiunt." She incanted, her wand flared for a moment, his leg regained its feeling and the chains slackened, then vanished.

"You shouldn't use my own spells against me." She advised, "It makes for an easy duel."

"I almost defeated you." Harry argued, "With my off-hand too."

"A fancy trick." She said, "It's good, it'll save you if you practice with it. Though if you truly believe in your argument, remember who took out your wand hand."

"Fair enough." Harry conceded. "Next time."

"Next time." Fleur agreed.

Fleur offered him a soft hand, he took it and rose to his feet, savouring the contact a moment longer than was strictly necessary. He took his proffered holly wand back into his wand hand.

"I meant what I said. If you continue to use my spells against me, you'll never beat me."

"I'm getting closer."

"Perhaps," She agreed, "And if I use another tactic I haven't taught you?"

"Then I'll learn that too."

"Your persistence to beat me at my own game borders absurdity." She laughed, "To be forever learning spells sounds good in theory, less so in practicality. Use what you know - use what I don't know - against me."

"Then I'll start winning more." Harry joked, "Are you sure you're prepared for that?"

"Then I'll have done my job." She countered, "We'll both be better for it."

"Shall we go again then?"

"Focus on figuring out your own style first, not mine." She began. "Then we can have another."

She makes it sound far easier than it is. He frowned.

She was fire and flight given flesh, lithe and graceful. Even when paired against his reflexes honed from years from Quidditch and duels. He held power, yet, he refused to use it.

What is power against intelligence? He thought sourly, If I'm using it as a crutch, I'll never get any better.

She was forever the rapier he always thought her of in wit, temperament and skill. He could never be one himself. He needed a different tactic to beat her soundly.

He peered down into the wand clutched in his off-hand.

Maybe I'm getting there, he mused.

"You know the deal, Harry." She said expectedly.

"So the Master becomes the Apprentice?"

"Not quite." She smiled. "I expect something good."

This was the concession. The loser sacrificed a spell of their own. Be it her curse-breaking spells or some of his Father's or Dumbledore's they seldom left the room without another spell every time they met wands.

He usually received protective spells, wards and healing spells from her, although she occasionally offered other spells. In return, he showed her to harness the tempest and much more, even if she was not as powerful, each spell worked in their own way for the silver-haired as if explicitly crafted for her.

"Alright," He said, wracking his brain for a spell he hadn't yet taught.

"Terrent Praegrandis."

He brought his wand around his head in a wide, arcing motion before bringing it down on his target of choice, a well-worn blackboard pushed in the corner.

Dark purple tendrils shot from his wand, like a rope braiding itself in mid-air. It took on an ethereal glow before hitting the blackboard, crushing it under the weight of the charm.

His arm ached less than it once had, muscles didn't cry out in provocation as they could have. The spell left his wand without issue.

"What does it do?" She asked. Harry, supposed it was hard to see given the Blackboard relented, rather than struggled.

"A Beast Wrangling charm." He explained and she nodded her head in approval.

One of the few with any reference beyond an incantation, a charm meant to subdue wayward cockatrice rampaging across the continent.

"Another one of Dumbledore's?" She questioned.

He'd yet to show her his journal, out of respect for the Professor and his privacy, but then again, he probably wasn't meant to share the spells around but he was sure the man wouldn't be displeased.

It's not the spells I'm worried about her seeing.

"Yeah, a pretty good one too, haven't had the chance to use it properly."

She cocked her head at him, peering at his face intently with ocean eyes. He felt his throat tickle at the scrutiny of her eyes, the depths of which he found were inescapable if he peered too deeply. Hence, he looked anywhere but her own face.

"You're bleeding." She took a large step forward and with such close proximity that he could no longer feign ignorance.

He reached a soft pair of fingers up to his nose, coming away wet with the scent of copper and the colour of crimson.

"It's nothing." He waved off, "You just clipped me with the chains."

"I didn't." She refuted, "You're a poor liar Harry."

With you, maybe. He winced, I've had to get better at it, one way or another.

"It's my core." He explained, "It's getting used to the strain."

"Is this the opinion of someone who knows the subject?" She asked, "Or is this your attempt to rationalise something else?"

"Dumbledore told me."

"Did he now?" She asked, "Casting spells does not make you bleed Harry, contrary to whatever you've been told."

Well, not in so many words.

"I'm fine Fleur." He said, "There are more important things to worry about then bloody noses."

"Like Slughorn." She said with a frown.

"Like Slughorn." He agreed.

"Have you given any thought to the plan?"

"We're not dosing him with a potion." Harry said firmly, "Not unless there's no other option."

"Every other option is a gamble." She returned, "A gamble that has no guarantee of a safe return. You've had five separate lessons with the man. If he hasn't said anything by now he likely never will."

See every enemy as an ally. Dumbledore had told him. Even if you're destined to become greater or lesser.

"We cannot keep our hands clean forever." She said gently. "There's more at stake than our morals."

"I know that." Harry scoffed. "But we shouldn't make enemies where we don't need to. We need allies far more than adversaries."

"And we can find them when this is concluded." She said, "We can't inspire allies if we don't know the battle ourselves."

Harry took a moment to ponder her words.

"Tomorrow." Harry resolved, "I'll ask him tomorrow."

"Shall I buy what we need?"

Harry let out a belated sigh.

"I'll pay for it." He agreed, "But I won't use it unless we have no other option."

"You'll need to get your side of the bargain then." Fleur said, "We cannot buy that without someone knowing something."

"I'll try." Harry said meekly, "There's no guarantee."

"We can discuss it more in my office." She decided, "But whatever you do, make sure your hands are clean by the end of it."

So they began the trek across the castle, leaving duels and spells behind them in favour of more unscrupulous pursuits.

"Will you be entering Snape's tournament next week?" She asked, attempting to make conversation as they walked past observant paintings.

"No." He said simply.

"I have assumed you'd do so." She said, "You said as much to me, have I trained a protege for nothing?."

"I would've." He said, "But I think we've all had our fair share of fighting each other."

"You're fearful of what will happen." She deduced, sending him a sidelong glance. "You shouldn't be."

"I'm not worried about me." He said, shaking his head, "I'm scared of what's going to happen when everyone steps up to the platform and decide it's a good time to settle differences with their wands."

The tension in Hogwarts wasn't going to abate that easily, no matter how many spells they threw at each other.

"I still think it would've been a good idea." Fleur said, "I'd reconsider."

"There's no purpose." He argued, "Nothing to be gained by beating people who can't fight as well as I can."

"It would give them hope, make it easier for people to follow you when they need to - when the time is right." She rationalised, "Let them see that you can fight."

"I don't want anyone to follow me." Harry frowned, "I never have."

"Yet, they will." Fleur laughed, the infectious melody seemed mocking, "You have a passion to you Harry, a power. It's infectious."

"I rather I didn't."

She let out a soft laugh, "If anyone has less of a choice in that matter, it's you."

He sighed, he could see the logic in her point, but he certainly didn't like it.

"I'll see what happens." He acquiesced.

She smiled, "You should probably head to bed. Tomorrow will be a big day." He checked the time with a flick of his wand. She wasn't wrong.

"Will you be here tomorrow?"

"Where else am I supposed to be? On second thought, I'm sure Diagon Alley would be nice this time of year." She joked.

"Yeah, yeah." He said in a faux sour tone, "With that tone, I might just have to take a fall in the first round of that tournament. Show everyone the measure of Fleur Delacour's teaching."

"Oh, woe is me." She sighed, "A shame you can't best me like this in a duel."

"You're hilarious." He drawled, "Speaking of duels, when shall we meet again?"

She thought for a brief moment. "Maybe the day after next, I know you're meeting Dumbledore and Slughorn tomorrow."

"Same wager?" Harry asked.

"I thought the winner would make dinner again." She said, a sly smirk across her features.

"So, somehow, I manage to lose either way?" Harry joked.

"If you lack the refinement to enjoy true cuisine, that is no fault of anyone's but your own." She defended.

"Sure." He tried, though more in an attempt to infuriate her rather than placate.

"There's nothing wrong with my cooking." She said again, her defence much less refined.

"Of course not," He said, "Except for the taste."

"Well, you'll be cooking a French dish when I win." She announced triumphantly as if she had already won, "That should teach you some respect for the finer arts."

"I think it might be worth eating your cooking then." He quipped.

There was the briefest moment of silence before Fleur asked a question he honestly hadn't expected.

"Has the Headmaster told you anything about Katie Bell?" Fleur asked suddenly.

Guilt still gnaws at her gut.

"He's gone to visit her." Harry answered, "Though as far as I know, all is well, she'll live."

She tried desperately to hide behind a facade of nonchalance when it came to the girl. As talented as she was at maintaining false faces, this particular one did her a disservice. She could not hide the beautiful smile that split her features at the news as much as he couldn't hide his own.

"I'll try and visit her sometime soon as well." Fleur said, "Just to see how good a job I've done."

"Of course." Harry snorted, "Ever so concerned about your craftsmanship."

"The talented should not squander their abilities, Harry." She mock-lectured. "We must put such on display."

"How very humble."

"Humility serves the humble little and less." She laughed. "We mustn't waste our talents with so much to be done."

Katie had truly changed her, he thought.

She was different in a way he couldn't describe. But it was better for her, better for the both of them.

She had appeared more beautiful to him that day in ichor coated snow then she ever had. But not in looks, her silver hair and features remained the same - cast from an angelic mould.

She had become so much more - so much that he couldn't describe.

Perhaps that's why I've fallen for her. He thought, Why I've fallen for someone I can never reach.

He dared, of his own accord, to gaze into the depths of her blue eyes as he'd feared to do so for being lost.

He did not find what he was searching for.

Instead, he felt hot passion and glee race through his veins. Emotions that did not belong on his features.

His eyes rolled back into his head for the first time in quite some time and he was granted something far more vicious than the eyes of Fleur Delacour.

The clouds seemed ever so dull tonight.

The twilight was the only guide through the dense mist, though even then it was fleeting. The moon itself seemed to retreat at the sudden threat.

He had almost forgotten how it felt, to be submerged into a mind beyond his own.

Though this was not the mind of Tom Riddle, it was not the cunning and charming visage of the dark-haired youth. It didn't have legible thoughts.

This was Voldemort.

His thoughts were a maelstrom of malevolence, each passing thought couldn't be grabbed and simply swirled past him. The rot had set in - the ritual had made him something less. Less rational, less patient. But all the more dangerous for it.

Tonight was a night of such dangers.

The griseous hue of the sky was all that allowed him to see beyond a few metres ahead.

Then, a sudden descent.

The sky rushed past him with an eager alacrity, and the dark waves below him flashed into view. As did the masses that surrounded him.

The sky was ladened with stars and black cloaks. Broom mounted wizards descended in the same fashion as the heavy rain that pelted the castle below.

Spells careened from the near hundred fighters that swamped the skies above Azkaban. This was his gambit, his full strength thrown into battle to secure his first foothold.

Battle was perhaps the wrong word; slaughter was more apt.

Spells rebounded off the ethereal blue barrier that rose to the challenge of his forces, each barrage dulling the shield that sought to halt their passage.


The only thought that Harry could grasp from the maelstrom was enough to send him reeling. He weaved his caramel-coloured wand and loosed a guttural scream of rage, a sickly beam of light tore that same barrier asunder. The remnants scattering to the harsh winds like leaves in the autumn.

And death descended on Azkaban.

Soon, it was no longer the skies he saw, but turrets made from dark stone.

Those same stones were his canvas, his wand, a brush. A terrible piece of artistry detailed only in crimsons.

He began the butcher's work in earnest. A startling explosion heralded the loss of the castle's roof, wraiths clad in black with mouth's wide open soon joined in the fray. Encircling the island in search of souls and sustenance.

Men stood against him with little result, every flick of wand, every stroke of the brush tore men asunder.

It was brutality incarnate - senseless savagery that Harry could not escape.

But instead of dread, it was still the white-hot glee that coursed through his veins. A rational part of Harry's brain, wherever it may have been during that instance, knew that it was not his excitement but the jubilant glee he felt was intoxicating, even in this situation.

As quickly as it had begun, it had finished.

A mere blur against the vision, the Ministry had sacrificed its men for nothing.

They'd rushed to the shores of Azkaban, searching for their attackers and the wooden boats charmed to ferry them to the mainland.

They instead found death, a circling embrace that took over half of them within seconds.

A swarm of silver masked devotees knelt in servitude, joined by grey-robed prisoners and that same jubilant mixture of emotions rose to a fever pitch. Exhilarating, invigorating, intoxicating. He looked around and saw only knees in the dirt.

Where they belong, the thought flashed across the forefront of his semi-conscious mind, though it was not his own. It felt sickly as it passed through his brain, he felt bile rise - but yet, it didn't.

His lips curled into a wicked smile and he raised his arms aloft, the crowd around him rising. He seemed to cry something, an unintelligible smattering of shouts that seemed to raise the spirits of the figures. They all raised their wands skyward, and from the tips billowed smoke and pulses of light.

The clouds above seemed to part, giving the moonlight above an unadulterated gaze into their actions. With the racing smoke and flashes of light, new clouds seemed to form in the void left by their predecessors, writhing like an angered beast.

Then it morphed into a sign that Harry had become all too accustomed to over the past few weeks.

A colossal skull, a serpent slithering out bathed in an eerie green glow, like a star had died and birthed the image. It shone brightly against the backdrop of the sullen, grey clouds as if his servants had forged a new constellation.

No man is free, Harry Potter. A primordial voice echoed within his skull, sounding equal parts wroth and calm. Volatility encapsulated in mere words that shook him to the core. Every man is a servant, every wizard a piece I shall command. Only babes and fools think any different.

Which are you, Harry Potter?

A fool to cling to the words of Albus Dumbledore?

Or a babe, clinging to his mother's skirt as I rid the world of her ilk?

He willed himself to say neither, but no words came to his command.

This is my boon to you.

A single, bearded man was shuffled to the wooden boats they'd tried to flee to. Bound tightly, he was sat upon the rocking frame and sent to sea, paddles moving of their own accord back to the mainland.

There were still four others sat upon the stony shore, staring into the dark water.

With wands at their back, they stepped from the shore into the icy clutches of the North Sea, shivering as they went, their bodies were soon consumed by crashing waves.

To the victor goes the spoils, Harry, I have drawn first blood.

Then it seemed that was all he was gifted to see, Harry's eyes tumbled into the back of his skull and he saw through foreign eyes no longer.

Instead, he fell, careening downwards into the dark abyss below.

Back to ocean eyes that stared at him intently, glistening with fear.

She thought you were dying. He thought, his mind still miles away in the North Sea. As Katie had.

She clasped his hand in hers, their scar tissue connecting as it so often had. She had begun her frantic questions, and yet, they sounded quiet against his ears.

To the victor, the spoils.

He met her eyes again, a conversation would ensue in the coming hours, days even.

But not now.

"Azkaban." He croaked, his throat raw.

Before the same dark depths that claimed the Aurors claimed him in turn, dragging him under kicking and screaming as it had them.

Harry trudged his way through the darkened dungeons in search of a familiar quarry.

His eyes drooped, and he battled exhaustion, sleep had evaded him that night. Both from the glimpse into Voldemort's eyes and his dodging questions from a concerned Veela.

That's a conversation I'm woefully unprepared for.

Soon enough, Harry arrived at the familiar classroom and politely knocked on the door thrice.

He desperately didn't wish to barter with Slughorn today. Azkaban was still hot in his memory, thoughts that weren't his own still lingered. Yet, he could offer no explanation to the stout man as to why he couldn't be there.

Not much justice in that, he mused tiredly.

The wooden door was thrown open. The jolly man managed to keep the perpetual facade of surprise on his face as if they hadn't already planned it. With some quick pleasantries and ushering hands, the artless routine of seducing Horace Slughorn began again in earnest.

"Harry, my boy! Please take a seat." He gestured to the plush chair across from his own. They were both ornate, far more grandiose than any other he'd seen. Yet, Slughorn's stood head over shoulders taller than his.

Best not to let anyone forget who wears the crown.

There was always an intimacy to their lessons that unnerved Harry. Slughorn would hover over his work, directly on the adjacent as if reading his thoughts. The man would offer tips and tricks, point out mistakes made and help him along.

If he had held any interest in perfecting the craft, it might have assisted him greatly. But maintaining his guard and trying to woo the man was a task that was near impossible.

"What are we going to be brewing today sir?" He asked inquisitively, taking his seat across from the man. Sometimes it'd be potions, other days salves or solely theoretical work.

"Ah, I can proudly say we're going to be brewing a concoction of my own creation, Aconia Morea." He said with more than a hint of pride behind his words.

"What does it do, sir?" Harry asked.

This was the same ebb and flow they'd followed every lesson, almost like it was scripted. A question and an answer, a comment and then rapport built.

"This particular brew relieves some of the lycanthropic effects that victims of Werewolf attacks face." There was more than a hint of pride in his voice.

"I had thought Damocles Belby had already created the Wolfsbane Potion?" Harry said though he struggled to remember the name.

"Very well spotted!" The plump Professor congratulated, "Dare I say it, not without my help of course. But Damocles' potion retains the mind. Mine simply culls the urge."

The man flicked his wand towards the chalkboard. Various diagrams began to etch themselves into view.

"Not all Werewolf attacks lead to the creation of Werewolves, that itself is a misnomer." Slughorn lectured, "Scratches from claws, toxic bile even bruising in some instances can produce Lycanthropic effects. My creation merely thins the blood for letting, so that they may bleed the urge from their body."

Slughorn procured a bundle of soft cloth from one of his drawers. He laid it on the table and unfurled it. It was a familiar sight, a plethora of knives and utensils spilling out.

"Now, Harry, which knife should we use to mince the Aconite?" Slughorn prompted in an educational tone.

This was the part he struggled with the most. He could brew perfectly decently but the specificity behind why certain things did what they did and why they did such wasn't exactly his area of expertise.

"The bronze knife?" He guessed, plucking a dull-coloured instrument from the set.

"Why would that be?" Slughorn prompted again, his eyes eager.

"Because the silver blade might have adverse effects on the potions?" He said, unsure of himself.

"Very good, but why not the steel blade?" He questioned with a crafty tone in his voice.

Harry had to rack his brain for that piece of information; even then he was sure he came up short. "Because the steel blade might ruin the ingredients?"

"Close!" He praised, "Because this particular variant of Aconite, being from the Yorkshire and the Humber region, is particularly acidic to heavy metals. The composition of bronze, however, renders such properties inert."

Not close at all.

Harry gave the man a short nod and began wielding the bronze blade. Thankfully, while the potion itself had an aspect of complexity about its preparation, the ingredients list consisted of relatively familiar flora and fauna. Harry filled his cauldron and lit the flame before beginning his preparation.

He scored his lionfish spines, drained the heart of an Ashwinder and so on. Preparing his ingredients took some time, and he awaited his own moment to strike.

Then, the knock at the door and he knew the time was nigh.

"Pardon me, Harry." The man said and got up, heading towards the door.

He opened the door as he had done for Harry.

"Miss Delacour!" The man cried, "What a wonderful surprise, but not unwelcome."

"I was interested if you had those elixirs for me yet?" Fleur asked and Harry grasped the Holly shaft of his wand, slowly removing it.

"Oh indeed, please, follow me." He led Fleur past Harry and into one of the antechambers, his time was now.

Harry plucked a vial from the table and rushed over to Slughorn's storage cupboard.

It's warded. Harry thought dully.


He thrust his arm beyond the ward, the magic burned at his skin as his wand passed through.

"Accio." He whispered, daring not to utter his intended object, his mind handled such.

A bottle sailed across into his fingers, shaped like an hourglass with a dense cork adorning the top. He uncorked the bottle without any fanfare and poured a generous serving into it. Another flick of his wand sent it back to its position on the shelf and Harry closed the door softly.

He surveyed the damage to his arm. The hair had been singed and the top layer of skin reddened by the protective magic. Yet harming him had not been the intention of the piece of magic.

He walked back to the desk with lengthy strides and grabbed a handful of lionfish spines he had prepared and snapped them between his fingers.

He put a cork into the vial of stolen liquid and stowed it in his pocket.

Soon, both Slughorn and Fleur left the antechamber, the former chatting animatedly while the latter carried a box laden with potions.

Slughorn stopped to eye Harry intently, but as he saw him nursing his crushed ingredients, his fears seemed to be soothed. Harry, however, battled hard to control his racing pulse.

"An issue with your ingredients, Harry?" The man asked with a smile.

They'll play the fool to lure you in. The silver-haired woman mere metres away from him had said, But they rarely expect you to do the same.

Now, it was time to test the truth behind those words.

"I was moving my cauldron, and my lionfish spines rolled underneath." Harry lied, "I tried to gather some more from the cupboard and -" He held up his reddened arm.

"No harm, no foul." The man smiled, "I'll get you some more in just a moment."

"Horace," Fleur said, "Would you mind if I borrowed Harry for a moment?"

"By all means." The man said, "Far be it from me to stop friends from reuniting. Just be sure your potion doesn't start boiling, Harry."

"Thank you."

Harry practically leapt from his seat and followed her out the door. For good measure, they made it a fair distance down the corridor before they began talking.

"Did you get it?" She whispered as they hid in an alcove behind a suit of armour.

If it were anyone else, for any other reason, it might have been an entirely different situation when being pushed into a dark corner.

Instead of the blush that would've formed, he merely procured the vial and placed it in the box she was carrying.

"Did he suspect anything?" Harry asked.

"Not that I could see." She shook her head, looking into the box at the clear liquid, "But that doesn't mean he's not going to assume you're guilty of something."

"I'll keep his mind off of it." Harry appeased, "I'll be sure to leave before he gets too suspicious."

"Good." Fleur said, "Dumbledore has returned, there was a staff meeting this morning."

"I'll see him tonight." Harry resolved, "I'll talk to him about it."

"Be sure to see me afterwards. You'll be making my dinner yet."

"Don't start counting your victories just yet." He smiled, "I'll need to go before he suspects we're doing more than talking."

"Oh, what would we be doing Harry?" She smirked slyly, "Please do explain what a pretty French witch and a British wizard get up to in dark corners?"

"Pretty?" He snorted.

"Am I not pretty?"

Beautiful. He could've said, but didn't.

"That's a loaded question." He spoke instead.

"Such a grievous wound you've inflicted with your reluctance." She laughed, the melody echoing in the alcove, "I'll see you tonight."

With her farewell, he departed further down the corridor and he returned to the potions classroom and sat with the Professor as the hours waned on.

The potion simmered away for nearly an hour and a half, changing colour and texture with a slow monotonous stirring that Harry wouldn't really call stipulating. But soon enough, he'd completed the opaque potion. It shimmered in the low light of the dungeons and gave off a dark blue smoke.

Too bad it smells like death, Harry grimaced.

Slughorn came around the table and gave his obligatory inspection, using one of his ladles, he scooped up a sizable portion. He held it up to his eye, swirling it around and even ventured a finger in to taste it and if it was anything like it smelled, Harry wouldn't have been so brave.

"An excellent first attempt, only a little too bitter. Likely not enough Mooncalf hair." He explained,

"I'll be sure to remember that for next time." Harry offered, "It is quite a potion."

Maybe flattery will give me an opening.

"Your compliments are well received, Harry." The Potions Master smiled, "I dare say Miss Delacour would give you assistance in such a matter if you asked, no?"

"She's a good friend." Harry said, peering into the man's gooseberry eyes.

Those same green eyes had a familiar glint in them, the one the man often wore - cunning. His darker green met the Professor's lighter.

"Perhaps something more, Harry?" The man said slyly, "Forgive me for saying the two of you appear far closer than I expected."

"Just a friend sir." Harry refuted, perhaps more forcefully than strictly necessary. "She's already engaged to Bill Weasley."

"Oh yes," He said, his face portrayed ignorance. If Harry had been less prepared for his game, he may have missed the feint. "I'm sure I had come across the information somewhere, it all tends to meld together in business."

I'm sure social extortion and war profiteering is very taxing, Harry snarked.

Harry made an attempt to reiterate his stance, "Just good friends, I've learned a lot from her."

"You certainly could've found less appealing teachers, my boy." The man laughed. "I do have some information that you may wish to hear."

The laugh was forced, it was only in those same eyes did Harry find the truth, or at least he thought he had. The man's eyes concealed his thoughts, sincerity and insincerity - fact and fiction looked congruent, hidden behind that same glint of cunning.

"Of course, Professor. I'm sure you've always got something worth saying."

For a price.

"You flatter me, as always." The man grinned, "Well, as you know, I'm quite good friends with Dirk Cresswell."

You might've mentioned him once or twice.

"He's always a reliable source of information when one needs to discern what happens inside the walls of Gringotts. For instance, a meeting both you and the Headmaster happened to attend reached my ears from the mouth of Dirk."

"I was keeping my affairs in order." Harry lied.

"Of course." The man said, his disbelief was acutely evident.

He's trying to dissuade me from lying when it counts. Harry thought, If the man already knows everything, why tell anything but the truth?

"Anyhow, I found myself very interested when the ruling council gave command of one of the larger contingents to a relatively fresh Curse Breaker. Obviously, my interest was beyond piqued."


"So, I naturally thought it prudent to make the acquaintance of such a man."

"Did you?" Harry asked, "Make his acquaintance, that is."

"Sadly, no." The plump man shook his head, "But Dirk did give me something of great interest. As far as he's aware, the Goblin's have been quite displeased with the young William Weasley."

"Why's that?"

"Hearsay, of course, Harry." The man iterated before going any further.

"Hearsay." Harry agreed, "Nothing more."

"Smart man, Harry, you've got more than enough of your mother in you." He praised, "But I've been told the Goblin's employed quite a well-renowned European witch to help in their excavations."

"Fleur is a European witch of renown." Harry pointed out.

"Oh, indeed." The man agreed, "But this was no Veela, nor French - but a Romani."

"Romani sir? I'm not familiar."

"Quite rare after the wars, especially Grindelwald's. But incredibly resilient and well suited to find things that others cannot see."

"So she was the problem?"

"In a way, apparently, our own Mister Weasley has become, perhaps, a bit too 'attached' to such a witch. Enough so that Dirk was concerned about losing the operation to some Spaniard the Goblins were interested in."

Maybe her being a forgotten bride wasn't too far off the mark. Harry frowned deeply, but he still distrusted the man's words, no matter how much he wanted to believe them.

"What would you have me do with his information?"

"Share it, horde it, whisper it, shout it." The man said, "It's yours now, Harry - a gift from me."

I could've done without your gifts.

"Thank you, Professor, you're quite generous."

"Think nothing of it, my boy, though there is perhaps a way you could repay me?"

Here comes the bartering.

"If I can do it, Professor, I will."

"Oh, excellent." The cheerful man clapped, "Another of my parties is being scheduled soon, perhaps you would do me the honour of attending?"

"It'd be my pleasure."

"I'll be sure to pen you a letter with the date." Slughorn promised, "Be sure to bring Miss Delacour, I'm sure we can cater to her taste for fine vintages."

"She'll be delighted to come, sir."

"As am I to know the company will be that much greater for it," Slughorn announced, standing up, his large stomach only just clearing the desk. "I would say we've learned enough for today, a pleasure as always, Harry."

Harry left the room unsure of who truly won their exchange, uncertain if he really gained anything or simply conceded more ground to the man.

Was he the fool? Harry pondered, Or was I?

He'd sowed the seeds of doubt in Harry, indebted him to the man and left him unsure if he spoke only half-truths, ensuring the blame wasn't on himself.

Perhaps that was the greatest danger Slughorn possessed.

Harry moved past the vigil gargoyle that seemed to stare at him as he passed. It felt almost unfamiliar, it had been an age since he last met the man in his office. He ascended the winding stairs in silence until he reached their apex.

He reached the top, stepping onto flat ground. The Headmaster held Fawkes in his lap, his burning day seemed to have passed only days ago. The phoenix was still in its infancy, feathers of gold and crimson yet to sprout. The man fed the bird treats while he rubbed its crest.

A sweet sight destined to be interrupted by bloody business.

"Harry." The man said at his arrival, "Please, be seated. I have some unpleasant business to discuss with you."

Harry stepped forward and took his regular seat, waiting for words he had known for over a day.

"It would appear that in the late hours of last night, Tom struck Azkaban with the bulk of his forces." The man appeared sullen, his gaze solely affixed to the Phoenix. "As we speak he consolidates a foothold in the North Sea, poised to strike at the Isles."

"I know." Harry said, his voice seemed raw against the warm air of his office.

"How did you come across such information?"

"I saw it." Harry answered, "He was too excited to block the connection."

"You have my condolences, Harry." The man said, finally meeting his eyes, "I had always thought I had seen the worst this world had to boast. But at the hands of Voldemort, I know you'll see far worse."

It was a reminder he didn't need.

"It was…" Harry grappled to find an eloquent word. "Quick. I suppose."

"Far more than we could've hoped for." The Headmaster said, "I shall not ask you to recall what you don't wish to, but did he communicate with you?"

Harry merely nodded.

"He told me we were all servants and pieces for him to command." He took a moment to swallow the weight that sat on his tongue, "He let one live as a boon to me."

"It is a fine piece of bravado when fighting ill-prepared men, out powering them six-fold." Dumbledore said darkly, "Have you told anyone what you saw?"

"Fleur was with me when I had the vision." He confirmed, "She knows, as do you."

"It may be best to keep it that way for the moment."

"Will it not be in the papers tomorrow morning?"

"No." Dumbledore shook his head, "Rufus and his Administration have decided to conceal the attack for the moment."

Harry clenched his knee in anger, his leg bouncing to try and bleed off the rage from the man's revelation.

I'm glad I wrote those letters praising the Ministry only for the people to be lied to because their government is run by cowards.

"And you support their decision?" Harry said, his tone very much accusing the man of exactly that.

"I do not." The man refuted, "I do, however, understand his rationale. War is a simplistic act morphed into complexity, decisions that seem simple are rarely so. What seems a good decision today is seldom so when the next day rises."

"So you do support it." Harry amended, "Surely telling the people the truth, to raise their guard, would be a benefit. Rather than committing them to know nothing."

"Truth is a fickle mistress Harry." The man counselled, "Be it candid or concealed, both options have consequences. The likes of which aren't always apparent."

"Such as?"

"Should the Ministry be truthful about the situation, the isles would likely erupt into hysteria. Voldemort struck first and struck true, a neighbour would turn to foe and the bureaucracy to weakness. Those same men who put their lot behind the winning faction suddenly have their champion."

"If we told the truth?"

"Admittedly, far less. At first, we may experience an exodus of people to the continent. Those left would likely be the stubborn, the sympathisers and the squalor. The first would perish and the latter two would bow. The winning side and knees in dirt go hand-in-hand, Harry. With men and supplies dwindling and morale dropping, it would be a poor defence."

"So Scrimgeour's sacrificing them for a bigger scheme," Harry noted, disgust evident in his voice.

Just like he did at Azkaban

"I told you that chair that Rufus Scrimgeour occupies is a perilous one." Dumbledore said, "Tom has a strong force and fortress at his heels. He chose one option out of many, all unfavourable in some regard but that is the curse of such a seat."

"He can call it what he wants." Harry shot back, "He's still sacrificing people."

"The philosophy of legislation and executive decisions in wartime, while relevant and likely very interesting, will have to wait for another time." the Headmaster said, "I had intended for us to visit another memory, one of the few left. But I doubt you're all too amicable for such visits. So, I relinquish you back to your bed for a rare early night."

"Actually, sir." Harry said, "I do have one question."

"By all means, Harry."

"It's about your book." He began, "There were some passages I couldn't make sense of."

"Most of them are simply phrases to reignite a spark I had when I wrote." He explained, "I wrote much of that book beyond my school years, I wouldn't expect you to understand some of the greater esoterica within its pages."

"It's not the calculations that confused me, sir," Harry said, shaking his head. "It's some of your words."

"As I said when I gave you my journal Harry, some thoughts were best left forgotten." Eyes that once twinkled seemed dull at the mention of the words.

"But I want to understand." Harry said simply, "It's full of nothing but hatred and I want to know why."

"I wrote in anger. Do keep in mind Harry, that my own father was imprisoned for crimes against muggles. My words were callous and cruel, but there was still a man behind them."

"So you wanted revenge against them?" Harry asked, "Was that it?"

"I did, but not for my father. Not in the way you would assume."

"Then tell me." Harry pleaded, "Explain this all to me."

The man was reluctant, lingering on the border of acceptance and refusal as he idly scratched the soft head of his Phoenix.

"In my youth Harry, I had a very good friend."

Harry didn't dare interrupt the man who seemed intent on laying down the unadulterated truth.

"We were of an equal, he and I. In both martial might and intelligence. In all my struggles to outgrow the shame of my family name, of my father, I had somehow procured a friend instead. We learned, we shared our intelligence between ourselves to our benefit and believed ourselves cut from a superior cloth."

Fawkes jumped from his lap with a mournful trill and stepped over to his desk.

"Then, the war came." The man said, his voice deprived of anything but sound, "The Great War, they had called it. Wizards and witches rallied to the cry to test themselves against the one true danger. We had thought ourselves hardy enough to end a war the muggles had started alone. Grandiose dreams of finding honour on the battlefield and recognition for our greatness ruled us and those same dreams died a bloody death on the battlefield. Instead, we lost ourselves."

The man's voice was dull, devoid of anything save for resignation.

"We wet the fields of Gallipoli red with the blood of our foes. We flew dragons across France and burned whoever stood as an affront to our power. We spread pestilence on the muggles who dare defy our superiority. We thought the world would praise us, we had won their war. But we had lost too much to get there."

"Sir…" Harry tried, but the man hadn't finished.

"I wrote what I wrote, Harry. No words I can utter will ever change that. It was hatred, it was dogma, ideology. It was what I once felt. But there was a simple truth behind my words, one that not even the great Albus Dumbledore could escape."

"What is that sir?"

"War makes monsters of us all."

He ended up at her door as he had so many times before. He knocked and she opened.

"Did you meet with him?" Fleur asked.

"I have."

"Are they planning to retake Azkaban?"

"It's lost Fleur. There will be no more battles for Azkaban."

Not yet.

"They plan to let him have it?" She scoffed, "Are they that foolish?"

"Most of them." He agreed.

"What's our plan now?"


The same clear liquid he stole earlier that day flew from its hiding place into his outstretched hands.

I've made my choice.

"We take what we need." Harry said solemnly, "We try and end this."

"You're making the right choice, Harry." She offered lightly, "I mightn't seem like it, but it is."

He hoisted the vial before his eyes and shook it to and fro.


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