Act V, Chapter 2: The Breaking of the Defenders
Ginny jumped to her feet, racing over to where Harry lay amongst the rubble.
"Here," he croaked. Ginny dropped to her knees beside him, the Gemini Rune thrumming away with warmth, and pulled him into the tightest hug she could. Merlin, it felt so good to have her arms around him again.
He looked absolutely terrible. His throat was covered in bruising, his eyes were devoid of warmth, and his right leg looked like it had been crushed like an aluminium can.
"Are you okay?" She asked him.
"Yeah. Now that you're back," he said drowsily. She smiled softly, and helped him up, draping his arm over her shoulder.
"Where's your wand?"
"I don't know. I lost it in the collapse with…" Harry turned around, Ginny following. Her eyes locked onto Hermione, who was lying unconscious next to a boulder. In her lap was Ron, his eyes shut like he was sleeping. But there was no rise and fall to his chest, and he was completely still.
"No… No, No, No. No. NO!" Ginny screamed, rushing over to them as best she could with Harry draped over her. She lowered Harry to the ground, before grabbing Ron and shaking his shoulders.
"Come on, Ron. Wake up… wake up please… we can't lose you too," she whispered. But Ron didn't stir, and Ginny found she was all out of tears. She closed her eyes and whispered a silent oath, 'He won't get away with it. Tom will die, and I'll make sure I'm the one who does it.'
"Mr Potter, Mrs Potter?" Ginny turned around to see Dumbledore holding Harry's wand. "I believe this is yours." He handed Harry's wand back to him, before pointing his own wand at Harry's leg and casting a complicated-sounding spell. There was a faint cracking sound, and Harry let out a long-ragged breath.
"Thank you," He breathed, eyes still locked on Ron.
"I have numbed the pain and reset the bone so the wound heals properly. Go to Madam Pomfrey as soon as you get back to Hogwarts and she should be able to heal the wound more effectively."
"Hogwarts?" Harry asked.
"Yes. You both need to be gone before Fudge and the reporters arrive. Unless you want to talk to them, of course?"
Harry made to say something, but Ginny jumped in first.
"What about Hermione? And the students that came for the protest. We don't know if Jessica, Matt, Luna, Luke, Danny, Peter, Gwen and MJ made it out of the Department of Mysteries either."
Dumbledore sighed and ran a hand through his silver hair.
"I will look into the Department of Mysteries myself. From what I can discern, all but five of the students escaped back to Hogwarts via the Floo thanks to Mr Nelson and Miss Robbins' quick thinking. I will send Miss Brown, Mr Longbottom, Mr Thomas, Miss Abbot, Mr Nelson and Miss Robbins back to Hogwarts right after you. Miss Granger will be taken to St Mungo's with the rest of the wounded…" Dumbledore trailed off, looking to the elevators, where Cornelius Fudge had just exited. The Minister took one look at the destruction and fainted.
Ginny gulped but could see no other option.
"Okay," Harry said simply, still staring at Ron. Ginny looked back at her brother, but a glint of light caught her eye. She opened Hermione's closed hand, revealing the time-turner clutched tightly in her grip.
"Oh, Brains," Ginny whispered, taking the time-turner and tucking it into her pocket. She didn't want to know what Hermione had done, if anything.
"He threw himself in front of Voldemort's killing curse," Harry whispered, "He pushed me out of the way. I tried to collapse the roof, to seal the passage… he sacrificed his life to save mine." Harry's voice cracked, and tears slid down his face.
"Ron, Susan, Mr Weasley. Who knows how many people are lying out there, dead right now, because of me." Ginny's heart broke, and she knelt next to Harry, taking his hands in hers.
"It is not your fault. Voldemort is responsible for this. No one else. They all came here for one purpose, Harry. To help you fight this war. So, don't pity them, that's just an insult. Ron didn't die for you to sit here blaming yourself. He died so you could live. Use his sacrifice to take down that pale-faced bastard, instead of wallowing in self-pity. Because that doesn't help anyone."
She pushed as much love and support across their bond as possible, igniting the Gemini Rune once more. He looked up at her with a sad smile, and let his forehead come to rest against hers.
"Harry, if anyone is at fault here tonight, it is me. I tried to control everything. To manoeuvre everyone in a direction that I believed they should go in. And in doing so, I forgot the most important of lessons. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I let my arrogance and belief that I was cleverer than everyone else, even Voldemort, to cloud my judgement. I ignored the warnings that William, Stephen and Clarissa imparted upon me, and I turned a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent. I was so focussed on playing the long game, that I forgot I wasn't playing a game at all." Dumbledore sighed, and he removed his glasses, giving them a thorough wiping over. "I cannot change the past Harry, but I can endeavour to be more proactive in the future. And all an old man can do is ask forgiveness for his mistakes." Dumbledore held out a hand to Harry, and Harry took it, letting the Headmaster help him to his feet.
Ginny took Harry's arm around her shoulders once more, and Dumbledore whistled softly. Fawkes appeared in a flash of flame, landing on Harry's shoulder.
"Fawkes will return you to Hogwarts. I do not know how long I will be, but when I return to the castle, I promise to tell you my final secret. All of it." Dumbledore nodded to Fawkes, and the Phoenix's claws gripped tightly to Harry's shoulder. They vanished in a tongue of flame, reappearing in Harry's bedroom in the Home.
"Thanks, Fawkes," Harry whispered as Ginny lowered him down onto the bed. The bird trilled, before vanishing once more.
"What are we going to do, Harry?" She asked him softly.
Harry fell back against the covers and Ginny did the same, curling up against his side, the Gemini Rune thrumming with a warmth she'd missed for months.
You saw Voldemort. You fought him. You even had him on the ropes.
Mhmmm. I was pretty badass, wasn't I?
But the second he tapped into the Nether Force, he outclassed everyone. Even Dumbledore couldn't stop him. It was only facing the Dragon Force and the Aether Force at the same time that made him retreat. With that kind of power at his disposal, we can't hope to stop him. There has to be a way of levelling the playing field.
Clarissa and Will said its infinite power. We certainly don't have that. How do we fight infinite power?
Harry was silent for so long Ginny worried he might have fallen asleep, but then he stirred slightly, letting out a deep breath.
We have beat him, though. Together. Multiple times now. All in the same place.
It took Ginny a few moments to realise what he was talking about.
In our minds.
Four times we've repulsed Voldemort from the City. The First time with the Dementors, the second in the Detention Level, the third with the bazooka, and the fourth tonight with the shield.
But that's in our heads. How does that help us in the real world?
Not just in our heads. In the City. Remember what Clara Hunter said in the Library that day? The Ancients were wiped out by a plague, and the City was abandoned with the shield still active. That means Atlantis is still out there somewhere. I think the dreams are a message from Clara. She said she can't help us because of those Accord thingies that she's on trial for breaking. And none of the other members of the Council of Fire had dreams about Atlantis. I think Atlantis is how we defeat Voldemort, or something inside the City maybe, and Clara gave us the dreams so we'd go looking for it.
Suddenly a wind picked up in the room, making the curtains of Harry's four-poster bed sway slightly before it vanished and the curtains returned to normal. Only there was no window in Harry's room, and the air conditioner was not on.
"Well, that answers that I suppose," Ginny said warily, rising up on her elbows and glancing around the room.
"It's like you said. We can't bring back the dead, but we can honour their memory. I don't know what the prophecy said, and I don't want to. We're going to find Atlantis, and we're going to use it to destroy Voldemort once and for all."
Ginny grinned and stared into Harry's eyes, delighted to see his old fire returned. She leant up and kissed him softly on the lips.
"I think that's a great idea, but what do we tell the others? Where do we start?"
We can leave a letter for the others, Jessica can take over as leader. She's the best person for it. As for where to go… the one place Voldemort can't follow us. Not yet, at least.
New York City. The Doc might even be able to give us some pointers.
"It's settled then," Ginny said, a determined grin solidifying on her face.
"We have to leave soon. Before anyone can catch us," Harry said.
"Don't worry Harry, we have all the time in the world," Ginny told him, holding up Hermione's time-turner.
"Brilliant." Then Harry pressed his lips to hers, and they fell back against the bed, pouring all their love into the other to obscure the pain of the past, the mourning of the present, and the dread of what their futures might bring. But they'd stand side by side when they faced it, together forever. Always.
Ginny groaned as she sat up on the bed, a wistful smile on her face as she watched a shirtless freshly showered Harry finish throwing clothes into the magical backpack they'd used on their trip to Alcheringa and Ilvermorny. Hearing her, he turned back around, brows knit together.
"You alright?" Harry asked softly.
"Yeah. Just a little sore," she said, pulling back the sheets and padding over to his wardrobe, where she'd been keeping a spare set of clothes since the previous summer. There was a dull ache between her thighs, but it was a good kind of pain. She opened the wardrobe door, and her smile brightened even further as she stared into the mirror, spotting a highly visible love-bite on her neck. She was still on the thin side, but she'd regained all the colour in her skin, and no longer looked like a walking corpse.
She grabbed the jeans and shirt she'd stashed, as well as one of Harry's jackets, and slipped into the bathroom for a long, refreshing shower.
When she returned, Harry had finished packing the bag.
"People have arrived. I can hear their voices," Harry whispered. She nodded and picked up the time-turner, now anxious to be gone lest their friends try to stop them or, knowing them, try to come with them.
She draped the chain around their necks and twisted the hourglass pendant five times, so they'd return shortly after Ginny left for the battle. They waited as time rewound, with no small degree of blushing given the events in the bed opposite them.
When the hourglass stopped moving, Ginny placed the time-turner down on Harry's desk and remembered her trip from earlier that day. Curiosity getting the better of her, she felt beneath the table for the compartment. Letting her fingers hook on the catch, she pulled back a false panel and felt a letter fall out into her hand. She pulled back her hand, revealing a muggle envelope with her name written on it in Lily Potter's handwriting. Gulping hard, she shoved the letter into her pocket and turned back to Harry, who was looking at her curiously.
"What was that?"
"I don't know yet. I found it by accident before. But we can check it later, right now we need to go."
They opened the bedroom door just in time for Ginny's younger self to disapparate from the Duelling Room. A few seconds later, Lightning the kitten came running out of the door and down the hallway. The cat stopped short when he saw Ginny, before bolting for her leg. Ginny bent down and picked up the cat, nuzzling him against her face.
"Hello!" Harry whispered to him, running a hand through Lightning's fur, "Nice to finally meet you, little man. Thanks for keeping Ginny company for me." The kitten didn't seem to care much for Harry, ignoring him in favour of Ginny. Which is how Professors Flitwick, Babbling and Madame Pomfrey found them when they rushed out chasing the run-away hairball.
"Potters!" Flitwick exclaimed, mouth opening and closing like a dead fish.
Harry turned towards them and smiled softly.
"Afternoon Professors. Madame Pomfrey, could I ask a favour before we leave?"
Hermione woke up in a cordoned-off wing of St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies, and the first thing she did was wiggle her toes. They flexed, curled and twitched perfectly fine, and she let out a sharp breath of relief.
"Alright, Brains?" Luke asked from a seat beside her bed. Hermione squeaked, suddenly realising the tall boy was there. She sat upright and glanced around the white-walled room, eyes finally coming to rest on two figures lying in beds next to hers. Jessica and Matt.
That's when it all came crashing back to her. The Department of Mysteries. Voldemort. The collapse. Ron…
"How are they?"
Luke sighed, scratching his bald head as he looked at the screen, monitoring Jessica's vitals.
"Matt should be awake within the hour, no permanent damage done. One hell of a concussion though."
"Harder to tell. She took a Blasting Curse to the stomach, then got it infected by Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder. If it weren't for her powers, she'd be dead already. But she's a tough one and should pull through. The Docs managed to heal the burns, on both her stomach and parts of the old wounds on her neck that were apparently never treated properly. But they won't know for sure they got everything till she wakes up, and we have no idea when that'll happen."
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief, "That's great news!"
But Luke didn't look happy. He just looked depressed.
"Initial reports say nineteen people are dead," Danny said, walking into the room with Luna, Sirius and Professor Lupin, expressions as if they'd just left a funeral. Hermione blanched as if struck.
"On the Death Eaters side: Allisandra Jones, Crabbe Senior, Avery and Jugson are all dead. Five ministry workers. And from the students, Susan Bones, Ernie Macmillan, Anthony Goldstein, a Hufflepuff first year, a Ravenclaw third year, two Gryffindor second years, and…"
"Ron," she whispered, eyes watering and lip trembling. She'd... she'd thought about using the Time-Turner. About going back. But she knew it wouldn't work. Time-turning didn't change time, it just allowed you to relive it. A rewind, instead of a do-over. She hadn't been able to bring herself to do it.
Sirius came and sat down on the bed beside her.
"Don't beat yourself up. He sacrificed himself to save you and Harry. If he hadn't that Killing Curse would have hit you both, and that's game over. If Harry dies, we're all lost," Sirius said, pulling her into his side and letting her sob onto his shoulder.
"Harry…" She burst into a fit of hiccups before she could finish, and Danny offered her a tissue to blow her nose.
"He made it out. Ginny apparated into the atrium on fire. Duelled with You-Know-Who for a good five minutes before he got the better of her. I've got to say, she looked like a fucking goddess flipping about firing spells left right and centre to keep Him busy. It was a sight to see," Sirius stated in a tone of pure awe and amazement.
"And? What happened next?"
"Dumbledore, the Dragons and Doctor Strange showed up all at the same time. Scared the bugger off. We managed to re-capture Rookwood, Dolohov and the Lestrange brothers. But Bellatrix, the Carrows, Barty Crouch Jr, Zebadiah Jones, Fenrir Greyback, Lucius Malfoy and You-Know-Who all escaped," Lupin said blandly.
Hermione took several deep breaths and wiped away her tears. Then she sat up and did her best to put on a brave face. She knew the others could see through it, but it was more for her than for them anyway.
"So, what's next? Where's Harry? And Ginny if she's back?" The trio shared a glance.
"What do you mean gone?"
Sirius fished a letter out of his pocket and handed it to her.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry about everything that's happened. If I hadn't have been so intent on getting a one-up on Voldemort, we never would have gone to the DoM, and Ron and Susan and everyone else who's died because of me would still be alive. I don't know what state everyone's in, and unfortunately, I don't have the time to wait to find out. And for that, I'm even more sorry.
We can't beat Voldemort. Before we had a chance. I truly believed we could do it. But now? We don't stand a chance. He's used the Darkhold to gain access to the Nether Force, one of the Enigma Forces that the Dragons told us about. Infinite power, in the hands of Tom Riddle. Makes me sick just thinking about it. And we all know he isn't going to show the restraint the Dragons do. To defeat him, we need to find a way to counter it.
That's why Ginny and I are going off the grid. We're going to find the one thing we think is capable of stopping Voldemort once and for all. The Lost City of Atlantis. Ginny and I have been dreaming about it since the Oracle placed the Gemini Curse upon us in the Chamber of Secrets, and now we're sure its a message to go and find the City. So, that's what we're going to do.
I don't know when we'll be back, but I promise that we will be. Until then, we're putting Jessica in charge of the Defenders and giving her complete authority to do whatever she needs to do, including recruiting. We'll stand by whatever you decide Alias, and we know you won't let us down. Go with your gut if something doesn't feel right, listen to Hermione's brain as much as you can, work with Dumbledore (I think he's come round, but always keep an eye open), and never dismiss something Luna might say, no matter how bizarre it might seem at the time.
Also, if you guys can feed the cat, it'd be great.
Love Harry and Ginny.
Hermione closed her eyes and counted to ten.
"How long have they been gone?"
"We don't know. They used your time-turner to go back in time after the battle, where they gave this letter to Professor Flitwick. After that he and Madame Pomfrey rushed out into the school to tend to the wounded students coming back to the castle via Foggy and Demelza's Floo. Who knows how many lives those two saved with their quick thinking? Once Hogwarts was settled, he raced here and delivered the letter. That was about twelve hours ago."
Hermione shivered. She had slept that long?
"It gets worse," Sirius said solemnly, "Fudge is going ballistic. He's trying to blame the damage to the Ministry on Harry. Even demanded he hand over his Vaults to the Ministry to pay for the damage. When Harry didn't show, he barged in here with a very worse for wear Lucius Malfoy demanding the identities of the wounded Defenders and to see Harry."
"We told him to fuck off," Luke said, leaving Jessica and Matt's side to join the others.
"With style," Danny added, igniting his fist. Hermione smiled slightly.
"I doubt he liked that very much," She said.
"Nope," Luna admitted, shaking her head rapidly.
"Stormed out of here very cross."
Three knocks rapped at the door, and Bill Weasley poked his head in. His eyes were blood red, his hair was hanging limply over his shoulders, and he desperately needed to shave.
"You need to see this." Bill stepped inside and closed the door, before handing a newspaper to Lupin. The werewolf groaned and began to read aloud.
The Potters: Saviours branded Criminals?
By Rita Skeeter.
"I am going to destroy that woman," Sirius growled.
By now, the whole world will have heard what happened in the Ministry today. You-Know-Who has returned, and it took the combined might of Harry and Ginny Potter as well as Professor Dumbledore to fend him off.
Dozens lost their lives in the attack, but hundreds more – including countless children – were saved by the Potters arrival. But now, as the dust settles and You-Know-Who flees into the shadows to concoct his next plan to attack the Wizarding World, Minister Fudge seeks to blame the damage on the two Potters and has called for both Harry and Ginny to be arrested!
This reporter herself witnessed the moment when Minister Fudge marched on Gringotts to have the Goblins hand over the Potter's vaults to repay the damage caused by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his Death Eaters. The Goblins, in a sign of respect shown to very few, shut the doors to the bank as the Minister walked up the steps. Minister Fudge then angrily told the Goblin guards to open the doors, to which they refused. They then blasted him off the steps and back into the alley!
I never thought I'd be saying this, but I'm actually thankful for the Goblins actions! But they came at a cost. Now, in retaliation for this perceived slight, the Ministers Office has called for the arrests of Harry and Ginny Potter. Madame Amelia Bones – Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and aunt to Susan Bones, a Hogwarts student who fell defending her peers in the Ministry attack – had this to say about the order. "It is not the place of the Minister's Office to order the arrest of individuals or groups. That authority remains in the hands of the Head of the DMLE and the Head of the Auror Corps."
I applaud Madame Bones for keeping a clear head in these difficult times, especially with the passing of her niece. But it seems Madame Bones' prerogative was for naught, as Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour has let the arrest warrant go ahead.
"I must follow the orders of the Ministry of Magic, regardless of my personal opinions. When the Minister tells you to do something, you do it," Mr Scrimgeour said when he announced the news a few short minutes ago.
This is a devastating blow to the Wizarding World. Harry and Ginny have not been seen since the battle, but rumour has it a team of Defenders was seen leaving the Department of Mysteries after the battle. Was You-Know-Who after something in the secretive department, and did the Defenders secret this weapon away while Harry and Ginny duelled with Voldemort? Albus Dumbledore is to address the Wizengamot at an emergency hearing in a few hours so we may learn some answers then. With any luck, the Wizengamot will restore the Professor to his position at Hogwarts, which has seen its own batch of chaos the past day that I don't have time to go into here.
At any rate, Harry and Ginny are now on the run or in hiding, and I urge them to remain safely hidden away until their names are cleared.
The second Lupin's narration reached the spot about the Department of Mysteries, Hermione gasped and began frantically looking around for her robes. She was dressed only in a hospital gown; had they been destroyed?! What about the prophecy!?
"Where are my clothes?" Hermione begged, throwing back the covers.
"In here, Brains, relax…" Hermione raced to the wardrobe on the far side of the room where Luke pointed, not caring if the hospital gown rode up. She wrenched the doors open and immediately dug her hands into the pocket of her Defenders Cloak. Part of the enchantment was a protection spell weaved into the pocket to ensure nothing inside became damaged. Her hand clasped around the glass orb, and she pulled it free.
"Oh thank God," she whispered, before turning around.
"How did you get that?!"
"Harry gave it to me before we fled," Hermione said, stepping into the middle of the group.
"What do we do with it?" Danny asked the obvious question.
"The smartest thing would be to destroy it," Luke said, "that way Voldemort can never learn what it says."
"But then we wouldn't know what it says either," Sirius retorted.
"What even is it?" Bill asked.
"That's what this whole thing was about. Voldemort wanted this prophecy about him and Harry, that's what was hidden in the Department of Mysteries," Lupin said softly, scratching his hair.
Bill pointed a finger at the orb, "That is what my father and brother died for?" He asked, angrily.
"Yes." Bill moved faster than Hermione could have imagined. One second he was across the room, the next he'd snatched the orb from Hermione's hand.
"Then I have a right to know what it fucking says!" he snapped, before rubbing the surface. A ghostly image rose up out of the sphere, capturing everyone's attention. Then Professor Trelawney's faint voice filled the room.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."
The voice and the spectre faded away, leaving everyone in a shocking sort of silence. Well, almost everyone.
"What the fuck was that?" Jessica wheezed, and everyone spun around, jumping for kingdom come as they fixed their gazes on Jessica, who was squinting at the prophecy with her jaw hanging open.
"That… was not good. Not good at all," Luna said stoically, eyes wide with what could only be described as fear.