wand_wavers: (Daily Prophet)
Rita Skeeter's neon green Quick Quill slashes along the parchment.

"If you don't post now, you'll lose it all is the refrain on the street. Is this a goblin-run conspiracy? Or simply yet another a policy mistake from the Ministry? Time will tell."
wand_wavers: (Jonathan Rigby)
Bernard,

I'm free Tuesday evening, Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon -- and of course, as long as you let me have a lunch hour, I'm free to meet him then as well.

I've been wondering. I've been able to locate some schematics, and I think that the new product Aron's been working on may be a fit for what we're doing.

It's a pity we can't invite him along to test it, but I think he'd feel uncomfortable working so far... under the radar, I guess I'd say.

I'll await word.

--Jonathan
wand_wavers: (Jonathan Rigby)
morning


Survivors


It takes longer than expected, for Jonathan to wake up. He gleans that much from the concerned whispers around him as he drifts into consciousness.

"--been a week and more, and the healer said if he doesn't wake up soon..." His mum.

"I know." Allbright's voice, harrowed, tired. Jonathan tries to stir and can't quite manage it yet. "But with all that we've lost, from his team especially, we have to hope that he'll mend." A pause, then Allbright seems to buck up. "Now. Can I get you a pot of tea? Only I'm about to go myself, and--"

A sniffle. "Yes, please, that would be lovely."

Footsteps, and then the sound of a door opening and shutting.

A hand on his, squeezing.

He squeezes back, and pushes himself, pushes hard, as his mother gasps at the pressure on her fingers, and all of a sudden his eyes are open.

"Mum?" he mouths, his voice rusty from disuse.

Caroline Rigby stands, looking as haggard as her son has ever seen her, and bursts into tears.

***


noon


No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're 'longing to go out again,' —
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.



The slew of visitors is overwhelming. Jonathan can't quite-- There's just too many of them.

"--and then Harry Potter rose up and felled You-Know-Who like a bloody cherry tree--"

"You can say his name now, Augustus, honestly--"

"Well, he can say whatever he wants, now, can't he? Leave him alone, Caroline."

"Uncle Jonathan, Uncle Jonathan, I made you a drawing, d'you want to see? See, it's you and you're fighting the Dark Lord and kicking his arse!"

"Septimus Aleister Rigby-Bellwether you watch your mouth or I'll spell it shut!"

There's Aron, looking pale and joyful and awkward as ever, shuffling his feet on the sidelines till Jonathan reaches out a weak hand to him and grasps his wrist, pulling him down low to speak in his ear over the din of his family.

"B-Bernard. Elektra. Who else--"

Aron shakes his head. "No. No, Jonathan, they're all right. Well." He looks uncomfortable. "Sort of. The-- the bombs went wonky, one caught a stray hex and went off like mad -- it was yellow, I haven't quite figured out-- but no matter, the point is, we ran, and then they went off and Bernard threw himself on top of me." Aron flushes, and looks away, down at the blue coverlet under Jonathan's forearm. "Uh. Well, he broke his back. Head too, really. His leg was all messed up, and I guess there's some spelled shrapnel, all, all caught-like. Still in his back. B-But they fixed him up, there was this brilliant bloke there in the castle, I don't know what kind of magic he was using, but it was blue, and he didn't use a wand, and--and then I passed out."

Jonathan's eyes slip closed. "But he'll be all right?"

Aron nods, essaying a smile. "Yeah. Yeah, he's in traction spells right now, last I heard, but they think he'll recover all right."

A pause, and the family bickering rises around them like a blanket, warm and suffocating. Jonathan tries to breathe normally. "Elektra?"

"Um." He's shaking. "She-- um. Paul was one of the inferi, Jonathan."

Jonathan stills further, and his eyes fill with tears. "Oh, God." He can see that Aron's eyes are full as well.

"S-she's gone mad. Nothing seems to help except sedation. They're hoping to get through to her, eventually, but, um." Aron's voice breaks. "It's a slim sort of hope, really."

Jonathan nods, the tears spilling over. "Thanks, mate," he whispers, and shakily wipes his face before his mum and his sister see.

Aron's face, drawn and nauseated, pulls out of view. "Anytime." And he slips out before Jonathan can ask any more. It's just as well. He doesn't think he could manage it anyway.

***


night


They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride...




Ask anyone and they'll tell you.

The evenings at St. Mungo's, after the visiting hours are over and before you can possibly get to sleep, are the worst.

Jonathan thumbs through a copy of the Prophet, the one that came out the very night after the battle, in the dawn of a new world.

Heroes, they were called. Amazing, brave, singular individuals with iron wills, keen intellects, and brass bollocks.

Well. Maybe Jonathan adds that last bit in the margin. But it's implied.

It hurts to turn over onto his side, but he does. It hurts to read, even, but he manages it.

Ask anyone and they'll tell you.

The war isn't over when the last wand is dropped. He is afraid to sleep again, afraid of what he'll see. Afraid of never waking again, trapped with the images dancing on the backs of his eyelids.

You don't think about the carnage when it's happening. You have a job to do. You do it. That doesn't mean you don't think about it after.

Ask anyone. They'll tell you.

Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
wand_wavers: (Trio)
The foothills of Albania were pleasantly warm, as the afternoon waned; the jagged peaks, however, were chilly and shadowed. Severus Snape looked back over his shoulder, and suppressed the urge to sigh.

"Miss Granger, I thought I told you to put that book away. If you miss a step and take an unfortunate... tumble down the side of the mountain -- preferably taking Misters Potter and Weasley with you along the way -- I shall have quite a lot of tedious explaining to do to the Headmaster."

"Professor, I was just--"

"Miss Granger. Do not make me tell you again."

Hermione's mouth snapped closed, and she tucked the guidebook back into her satchel, casting a dark look at Snape's back. Ron, however, couldn't seem to keep his mouth shut. "She's just trying to learn a bit about the local-- local whatsits, culture, isn't she?" he snapped irritably, pulling a few leaves from a low, scrubby olive tree beside the narrow path. "And anyway, you're not our professor any longer."

"But I am a senior Order member, and as such you ought to have a care not to overstep your bounds. And as for culture..." Snape casually flicked his wand, and a few rocks flew out of their path. "Considering the only culture we are likely to encounter would be the occasional goat, I believe we are perhaps safe in our ignorance."

At the tail end of the little group was Harry, who hadn't spoken for a while. That wasn't unusual for him, these days. Perhaps the business of meeting his destiny was weighing heavily on his mind. Perhaps he was mentally reviewing everything the DA had ever gone over, as a kind of last-minute preparation. Or perhaps he was just very, very tired.

In reality, it was some combination of all three, with an additional inkling of wondering when they'd get around to supper.

For a while, they walked in silence, and the sun dipped further and further below the horizon. All four of them kept their wands handy. These mountains were rugged and beautiful -- and likely hid more than a few dark creatures. In this part of the world, vampires weren't just a myth. Off in the distance, an eerie howl pierced the quiet, and Ron jumped. "--That's not a werewolf, is it?"

"No," replied Hermione and Professor Snape at once, in equally exasperated tones. Harry finally cracked a crooked smile, and Ron rolled his eyes.

"Not the full moon, mate," Harry pointed out, nodding towards a dip between two far-off peaks, where a tiny sliver of waxing moon glimmered in the sky.

Ron opened his mouth to retort, but Snape suddenly stopped short and held up a hand for silence. Harry, Ron, and Hermione froze, eyes wide, hands clenched tightly around their wands. The potions master peered ahead, and then nodded. "There it is."

"What?"

"The tower, Ron. Honestly. Don't you see it?"

"That old thing? Not much of a tower anymore, is it?"

"It is a sixteenth-century Ottoman outpost, Mr. Weasley. What did you expect?"

"Look, can we get on?"

"Oh yeah, Harry, I'm terribly keen to have my hand melted off, or whatever it is these horcrux things do. I saw Tonks' hand, before it healed up."

Harry paled, a bit, as he recalled the small glimpse he'd had of Professor Dumbledore's withered hand a few days ago. The Headmaster had amiably brushed off Harry's concern, but the boy knew he'd been in Egypt with Bill, looking for another of the horcuxes.

He didn't know what to expect, except...

No, there was no way to finish that sentence, Harry decided, and sighed.

***


The tower was no more inviting on the inside than it had been on first sight. The walls were crumbling, and clearly more than a few animals had made their home in it since it had been abandoned years before. Shrubbery had sprung up here and there, and only a few patches of the original stone floor remained.

Getting the door open had been easy. It was the ashwinder eggs smouldering just inside that had given them a few moments' trouble, though a few strong Freezing Charms had sorted things out before the tower had gone up in flames.

"Cor, it smells bloody awful," Ron remarked, wrinkling his nose and peering around. "Lumos. What, did something die in here?"

"I'm sure," Snape replied calmly, "but I think this is a rather different sort of problem." The professor lit his own wand, and the light fell upon a patch of greenish fungus, where the wall met the floor.

Fungus that... blinked.

"Ooohh, a bundimun!" breathed Hermione, her scholarly interest piqued despite the situation at hand.

"Correction, Miss Granger." He held his wand higher, and the growing swath of light illuminated perhaps a dozen more of the creatures. "Bundimuns. Plural."

Harry wracked his brain, trying to recall the half a lesson they'd spent on bundimuns in Care of Magical Creatures. "Jus' remember," Hagrid had told them, "Can't abide Scouring Charms, bundimuns. Don' like the competition for the dirt, I reckon," he'd added with a chuckle.

It took a solid twenty minutes of Scourgify-ing the perimeter of the tower to shoo the last of the bundimuns away. Ron sat down on a half-crumbled bench, and wiped his sweaty brow. "Right, so. Where's this horcrux meant to be hidden, then?"

Snape didn't reply. He was slowly prowling the far wall, wand aloft. Suddenly it glowed a faint blue, and he stopped. "Here," he said finally, and pointed to a seemingly innocuous patch of stone. "The hidden stair."

"But how do we get inside, if we can't even see the door?" asked Harry, coming over to stand beside Snape.

"Kindly use your head, Mr. Potter," Snape murmured, and began fishing in the pocket of his robe.

Shrugging, Harry pointed his wand at the wall. Could it really be that easy? "Revelare!"

And just like that, a door materialized -- rough-hewn and low, but a door nonetheless.

Well. Hunh.

Ron and Hermione moved closer, peering at it too. "Look, there's a keyhole," the witch pointed out.

"Which is why we have this," Snape replied, finally producing a heavy-looking iron key from his pocket.

Ron's eyes narrowed. "Where'd you get that?" he asked suspiciously.

"None of your concern, Mr. Weasley. Stand aside."

With some difficulty, Snape fit the key into the lock, and with a quiet click -- more like a popping in one's ear -- the door swung open with preternatural silence. A torch suddenly flared to life, its flame a sickly green, lighting up the narrow, downward-spiraling staircase that dropped into inky blackness.

***


It didn't look like much, really. The locket was tarnished, and somewhat crudely wrought. On its face was the impression of a striking snake; appropriate, Snape thought, for a possession of Salazar Slytherin. A small part of him couldn't help but marvel at this-- this mere trinket, at its magical importance, yes, but also at the physical connection to one of the Founders. To Slytherin.

Snape was, after all, ever loyal to his house.

"It doesn't look hot," Ron said dubiously.

Hermione tutted. "No, well, I suppose that cup didn't look too hot to Tonks either, did it? It must be activated on contact, if it's got a protection spell on it."

"I'll try," Harry broke in quietly, and Snape lifted an eyebrow, but didn't protest.

Harry stepped forward, his wand in one hand, the other reaching carefully for the locket. He wrapped his fingers around it, and then--



Nothing happened.

Snape's brow furrowed. "Potter, what's...?"

"It's fine," Harry replied disbelievingly, peering more closely at the ancient locket. "I don't feel anything wrong, look for yourself."

Snape started to reply, but Ron broke in.

"Do you hear something?"

They all fell silent, listening.

"No, but I feel it," said Hermione after a moment, her voice tight. "The bundimuns, they've liquified the foundations, we've got to get out, the whole place is going to come down!"

"Calm yourself, Miss Granger," Snape snapped. "Quickly, the stairs--"

But amidst the rumbling that was growing louder with every passing moment, there came a soft sort of... crooning, near the door.

They turned.

"Oh, fuck," Ron said with feeling.

It was a manticore. Fully grown, skin like armour, and a stinger that could kill in an instant.

"Apparate, now. All of you. Outside to the path." Snape closed his eyes, preparing to do just that, but in a split second, all four of them were sprawled on the ground, knocked off their feet by some invisible force.

"We can't Apparate, there's wards," Harry said, scrambling to his feet and helping Hermione up, eyes on the manticore all the while. The beast's sinuous lion's body begins pacing towards them, deadly scorpion's stinger curling up over its back.

Suddenly it lunged forward, and Snape dove aside, knowing his spells would be useless. "Weasley, make a hole! Now!"

Ron didn't need to be told twice. "Reducto!"

The blast made a crater in the wall, but didn't quite go through; Hermione helped Snape to his feet, and Harry joined Ron, firing spell after spell until the waning twilight could be seen through a hole in the mountainside.

And then the shaking of the tower grew so strong that even the manticore looked frightened.

"Move!" bellowed Snape, pushing them through the hole just as the very walls around them began to crumble. The four of them tumbled head over heels down the steep mountainside, coming to rest in a craggy ravine, chests heaving, covered over with nasty cuts and bruises.

After a moment, Harry turned his head.

The locket lay in the palm of his open hand.

"Right, that's it," he croaked, shutting his eyes. "Don't care what you say, Snape, we're stopping for food on the way home."

And for once, Snape couldn't find it in himself to disagree.
wand_wavers: (fire)
For a moment, the briefest of moments, Hogwarts is silent. It's the silence of surprise, of blank shock; even as deep below the castle, a wizard perhaps more powerful than any other in the building raised his hands and prepared to fell them, Voldemort's Inferi crumpled lifeless to the ground, every one. No wizard did that - nor any magic worked by an Old One - and for a moment, the briefest of moments, the fighting stutters to a halt as the combatants stare at the fallen bodies.

The silence of surprise, of blank shock, and - as something tenses in the air - the silence of a great, indrawn breath.

And then -

The explosion is bigger than it should be, bigger than it was ever supposed to be, and only in the furthest, deepest places of the castle will it not be heard.
wand_wavers: (voldemort)
One of the few remaining pieces of furniture in the manor's master suite is a grand old oak desk, and it is at this desk where the Dark Lord is busily engaged in putting the final touches to what even he would have to consider his master stroke.

Inch after inch of a parchment scroll, covered in meticulous and detailed instructions. With such explicit elaboration, even the most simple-minded of his followers will be able to carry out this mission. The best and the brightest of them would also benefit from further clarification, for they will have much to do this coming Sunday. There is no room for failure here, no room for any less than complete dedication.

He cannot contain a small chuckle of pure delight at the sight of his plan laid out so precisely. On Saturday evening, wizarding Britain would be sleeping peacefully. On Sunday morning, all of Britain would wake to the dawning of a new day.

His day.

And by Sunday next, he would be the undisputed lord and master of the wizarding population of the British Isles -- or rather, what would be left of them.

Unless...

The tip of his quill jolts on the paper, and a dark blot begins to spreads across the parchment.

With a scowl, he casts the necessary cleansing spell. A silly thought; his Horcruxes are safe. All five of them, all precisely where they had been concealed years before. And he would know if anyone had tampered with them.

Though you did not know when the diary was destroyed.

His scowl deepens further. All things considered, when Potter had committed that act of wanton destruction, he had not exactly been in a state to be aware of anything.

The thought was nonetheless unsettling, much as he loathed to admit it. There was time to follow through on the Horcruxes, time enough if he so desired. But until then, there were more pressing matters to consider -- matters which would commence on Sunday. All of pieces had to be put into place: pawns to arrange, opening moves to consider, an endgame to design.

Nothing, therefore, to worry about. Nothing to fear.

And everything to be won.
wand_wavers: (voldemort)
OOC: Warning for violence and extremely disturbing images

Gone.

All of them, gone.

All of the infinite care and precision put into making them, concealing them, searching for them...all for naught.

But what is worse, and what has been preying on his mind since the moment he Apparated away from Egypt, is the fact that if he does not have them, then someone else surely does. And there are no prizes for guessing who that someone might be.

It is not surprising that he has been rather liberal in his use of the Cruciatus Curse, in the last few days.

Not even the knowledge that the Horcrux which had been in his old diary is safe, ensorcelled in his wand, is of much comfort. One Horcrux is not enough; he must have more than that.

He has only one real option, and very little time to prepare it. There is no way to save time by cutting corners, not for magic of this degree. The price for failure, or even over-hasty execution of the spell, is high enough to make even Lord Voldemort think twice. But after several exhausting days and nights' work, he has managed to assemble all of the necessary ingredients to brew the required potion -- including the one that now lies upon the low table before the steaming cauldron.

Bellatrix had not questioned him, when he had ordered her to bring him a half-blooded child of a pureblooded mother. (Then again, Bellatrix was not likely to question any command of his that gave her the opportunity to sink her arms elbow-deep in blood; a pity, what had happened to her, but after all, every war demands its sacrifices.) The child is male, less than six months old, taken from his parents' home in the very first strike the Death Eaters had made on Black Sunday. Even under a Silencing Spell and a Full Body Bind, it appears to be attempting to scream its little lungs out.

The glass orb is floating in the thick, oily potion that fills the cauldron. Voldemort takes the child by its ankles, casts a spell to suspend it above the cauldron and leave his hands free for what he must do. A freshly-sharpened knife is in his hands, and the blade glints dully as he holds it aloft and begins to chant the words of the spell.

'Here I stand, and summon the darkness that dwells between the worlds!
Here I stand, and present my sacrifice to those who dwell within that darkness!
'

The temperature of the room seems to drop a few degrees, in response to his summons.

'Blood for blood -- '

The knife flashes.

'Life for life -- '

The Silencing Spell stifles the infant's final cry and even its last gurgling breaths.

'Soul for soul -- '

The potion begins to change colour, and the bubbling around the edges quickly expands to cover the entire surface of the cauldron's contents.

'Return that which is rightfully mine!' His voice rises to a high, vengeful shriek on the last word.
wand_wavers: (wand (green))
For one thousand years, Hogwarts castle has known dark times. Voldemort is not the first Dark Wizard to cloud the hearts and minds of the Wizarding community of Britain. He is the first, however, to directly attack the school.

Inferi plod through the front doors as Death Eaters swarm past, casting the Killing Curse as they go. The Ministry ground forces fall back inside, as the bombing unit does what it can to stem the flow of the walking dead. Dementors glide throughout the battle field, and more than one Auror is lost to their kisses.

The ghosts of Hogwarts flit through the halls, carrying messages and information from the severed lines of Ministry. Unlike owls or other runners, they can't be killed. Since Apparation is not possible - that charm at least has not been broken - they're the quickest way.


This castle was once a place of learning and laughter. Now it is a place of blood and terror.
wand_wavers: (Daily Prophet)
At some point, during a very brief lull in the steady stream of depressing, shocking and downright horrific reports from across the country...someone in the Minister's office realises that no one has contacted the Muggle Prime Minister yet.

Even the Minister looks a little ill at the thought of having to do so, but there's no getting round it.


........................


Nestled in the gently rolling Chiltern hills of the Buckinghamshire countryside is a grand country house known as Chequers. Built sometime in the late 16th century, given to the nation through an Act of Parliament in 1917, Chequers has served as the Prime Minister's official country residence since the 1920s.

The communication portrait, however, is only a recent installation. It was put in sometime in the late 1970s -- a time when both the Muggle and wizarding governments were having a very difficult time of it for vastly different reasons. In all the years since its installation, it has been used exactly twice: once to inform the Prime Minister that the Death Eaters were not responsible for the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, and once to bear the news of Voldemort's demise (and the Right Honourable Lady had not been as thrilled to hear the news as she might have been, since the then Minister for Magic had interrupted a very important dinner conversation with the Foreign Secretary concerning recent developments in the Falklands). After over a decade without use, the Chequers portrait has been called into service again -- and this time, the news to be relayed is anything but reassuring.

The Prime Minister looks understandably agitated when Scrimgeour steps out of the Floo fire. He fiddles with the top button of his shirt, tugging at the collar, but quickly clasps his hands behind his back as Scrimgeour dusts himself off.

'What's going on?' No greetings, no social niceties.

'Sit down,' Scrimgeour says, and he can't keep it from sounding like anything but a command. 'I have a lot to explain and very little time in which to explain it.'

The Prime Minister does sit, thankfully. He sits, and he listens to the Minister for Magic talk. By the time Scrimgeour finishes the colour has drained out of the Prime Minister's face, giving his summer tan an unhealthy chalk-like consistency.

'...so what happens now?' he finally manages to say.

'We have every available Ministry official working to minimise the damage.' That statement sounds false even to Scrimgeour's war-weary ears. 'Call it whatever you like -- something to do with those Irish Muggles or whoever has been giving you trouble recently, blame it on the hot weather, whatever you think will work. But at all costs, you must prevent a general panic.'

'"A general panic"!?' The Prime Minister all but launches himself to his feet, clenched fist pounding the palm of his open hand. 'There's no hope of explaining this away! Not to Parliament, not to the country, not even to my own staff! Word of this gets out, and I'll have half of the Cabinet calling for my resignation and the other half demanding my head on a plate! What am I supposed to do -- what do you want from me?'

Silence, for a long moment.

And then Scrimgeour smiles -- a twisted, unpleasant smile.

'I want you to keep the Muggles from making things worse, Prime Minister.' His voice is quiet and level, but the force behind it has the strength of an Imperius Curse. 'I have enough to deal with as it stands without a Muggle-led witch-hunt on my hands.'
wand_wavers: (hogwarts)
Grimmauld Place was as dank and dusty as ever, though Molly had tried to cheer the place up a bit by starting a roaring fire in the library hearth. The flickering candles, in their ancient sconces, cast an eerie glow on the faces of those gathered, and the late afternoon sunlight that crept through the heavy curtains only heightened the effect.

Their numbers had swelled, of late, and that in and of itself was comforting in some ways. The old familiar faces were there; Moody glowered near the fireplace, Dung Fletcher idly chewed on a cold pipe from his seat in the far corner, Snape stood silent as a statue in front of the closed door, and Remus paced before the fire.

"The Inferi are proving to be-- rather difficult to contain," Remus continued in a quiet voice. The perpetual circles beneath his eyes looked even darker tonight, partly from the full moon the week previously, and partly from the news Kingsley had brought of an entire family of wizards -- all of them Muggle-sympathizers of course -- who had been killed early that morning. "Enough that I'm inclined to agree with Nymphadora on the possibility of Voldemort having allies... beyond this realm. Certainly no wizard could cause so many to be raised, and if Voldemort really is in league with some sort of devil, or spirit, then we may be facing..." Remus trailed off, shaking his head, but the unspoken words weren't lost on anybody. "In more ways than one, Inferi are similar to Dementors. Most magic doesn't appear to apply to them, and even though they're able to be contained by fire, setting everything to light isn't really a viable plan in the long run." A wry, humorless smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.

There were absent faces, of course. People whose names didn't get mentioned terribly frequently, because their loss had been keenly felt. And moreover, a reminder of their collective vulnerability.

But there were new members, now. Younger, but age had all but ceased to be a factor in this war; that much was clear from the amounts of Hogwarts students who, fresh from their seventh year, had wasted no time in enlisting in the reserve civilian defenses set up by the Ministry. The older sets of eyes in the room, however, kept casting watchful glances at the too-somber faces of the students. Particularly on the three seated side by side; red, brown, and black heads bent unconsciously together, even as they listened closely to the proceedings.

"So basically you're saying that we'd better not come across any social mixers between the Inferi and the Dementors, or else we'd be bollocksed, huh?" George asked from his spot next to Fred on the windowseat.

"George, language," Molly admonished, but Arthur nodded gravely.

"You're right about that, son. They're difficult enough to deal with on their own, but if any of us were to get caught in a situation where Voldemort brings them both along for back-up--"

"Which is probably exactly what he has planned for any sort of large-scale attack," Tonks broke in. The witch shifted in her cross-legged position, leaning back against the sofa next to Bill's legs. "So I reckon we ought to come up with some kind of plan to fight both the Inferi and the Dementors at once, since it's a bit more than just a possibility that we'll need it."

Silence, for a moment, as everyone mulled this over. With an absent flick of her wand, Molly sent the teapot 'round to give everyone a refill.

"--What about dragonz?" Fleur said abruptly, looking over in the direction of her brother-in-law. "They love nothing more than to make fire, non? So let them have a little fun, and use them against the Inferi at the same time. Iz tastey snackz, iz no problem."

Charlie looked uncertain. "I dunno," he replied. "Be a bit tricky, to just let a bunch of dragons loose in the sky and hope for the best. The ones I used to work with are tamer than most, but they're not that tame. Need riders to really control them, and there's only a rare handful that'll let people climb all over them. On top of which, I'm the only one qualified to do that in this group, am I right?"

There was a general murmur of assent. "Still, it's worth thinking on," Remus said, nodding to Charlie. "I know you're working with the Ministry's reserve forces now, but write a few letters, ask around at the preserve. You were there long enough to know who's sympathetic to our cause and who's not, I reckon. Might be able to drum up a few more riders that way. Meanwhile, Tonks, how's it coming with the explosive end of things? That's another possibility for a large-scale attack on the Inferi, I'm thinking."

The Auror opened her mouth, and then paused, looking a bit uncertain.

"Is everything quite all right, Nymphadora?" Dumbledore's voice made her look up. The firelight glinted off his half-moon spectacles, and he gave her a small smile.

Hesitantly, "They're having some problems, but in the past couple of weeks Bernard's been able to work out some of the major design flaws. They've a long way to go, though." Tonks paused. "Bernard might be-- he might going into the Ministry, to work directly with the team. Cut out the middle man, sort of thing."

Arthur raised an eyebrow. "I was under the impression he couldn't leave that bar of yours, Tonks, or has something changed?"

"It might be changing. Possibly. Yeah." The witch curled her legs up to her chest, hugging her knees, and Kingsley rested his large hand on her shoulder for a moment. "I'll keep you posted."

"Please do." Dumbledore nodded kindly, his blue gaze as piercing and percpetive as ever. "Meanwhile, another rather pressing matter is that of Tom Riddle -- who, many of you know, exists in Milliways as a twenty-nine year old wizard who has renounced the path he would have taken in order to become Lord Voldemort. He has also confided in me information with which we can win this war.

"Some of you may know about horcruxes – they are made from the darkest of magics when the soul is torn asunder with the act of murder. This fragment of soul is then hidden within objects of the makers choosing, in the case of Voldemort’s, in objects that have a special relevance to him. Two years ago, I broke the horcrux contained within a ring, a family heirloom of Tom’s mother. Two years ago, on the exact same date, Tom Riddle found himself in Milliways. The last thing he remembers doing in his previous time and place is being in the midst of creating the horcrux he sealed within that ring. Tom Riddle of Milliways is a horcrux incarnate. We have nothing to worry about regarding that piece of Voldemort's soul. In this plane of existance, the horcrux was destroyed.

“He spoke with me yesterday, and gave me the places and the items he’d marked as his future horcruxes. We knew, of course, about the quill that belonged to Ravenclaw was to be kept in a cave near Saint Mary's Bay. That one has been taken care of, so only three remain. A goblet of Helga Hufflepuff’s hidden in a pauper's grave in the church graveyard at Little Hangleton. A dagger purported to be Gryffindor’s should be found in a crypt in the old Wizarding Quarter of Alexandria. A locket belonging to Salazar Slytherin, will likely be found in a ruined tower on a desolated Albanian peak. The diary and the ring horcruxes were destroyed, but sadly, as Severus has informed us, the horcrux from the diary has been recalled. Voldemort, as a young man, thought to make seven. In fact, I believe that the seventh part of his soul resides inside his regenerated body. That seventh piece of soul will be the last that anybody wishing to kill Voldemort must attack - the piece within his body."

He nodded to Harry, the one who would have the dreadful honor. Harry nodded back, his piercing green eyes never wavering, and Hermione slipped her hand in his.

"However, as Tom relayed one last location he'd had in mind, we'd be wise to check a ruin on Anglesy island. We must destroy all the horcruxes we can now, before Voldemort has time to collect them and hide them somewhere else."

Dumbledore looked round the room at the grim, brave faces surrounding him. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, he felt the honour and pride of knowing these fine people.

"I know this isn't an easy thing to ask. Not right now when you and your families are already in great danger. I shall be dealing with the horcrux in Alexandria myself. That is the one which Tom admitted would be guarded with the most vicious of spellwork."

Bill nodded and raised his voice. "Take me to Alexandria with you. I know Egypt and I know curse-breaking." He glanced quickly to Fleur but his eyes riveted back on Albus's face nearly immediately.

Molly's gasp broke the following silence. After a moment, Dumbledore said quietly, "Are you quite sure, Bill?"

"Yes, Mum, of course I am. I know Egypt better than anyone here, and if I can't break a curse on yet another crypt or tomb -- I've not yet met the curse that has bested me -- then it will be bloody well impossible for anyone else to do, and I'm not just saying that out of a misguided sense of pride. I can do it, Headmaster. And I can do it without jeopardising... well, enough said about that. I'm decided: I'm honoured to do this with you." Bill's eyes were set like cooling steel: no turning back. Not with a call to action like this, and an opportunity as precious as this one. It's only our whole world at stake, after all, said his expression. Most any risk is worthwhile when faced with those odds. Fleur bit her lip, but took up his hand and settled it in her lap, close to her belly. Because it needed to be done.

Tonks craned her head back to look up at Kingsley. "What d'you reckon, mate? Fancy a bit of an adventure?" The witch gave her partner a rakish smile, but Kingsley knew her better than that. There was a spark of fear in her grey eyes, along with the usual glint of steely determination and sheer bull-headedness. Everytime we have to do this, she has more to lose, he thought grimly, but smiled back.

"Wouldn't have it any other way. You bring the tea this time, my dear, and I'll pack a lunch."

"Now, now, Nymphadora," Snape cut in smoothly. "Are you quite sure that husband of yours would want you gallivanting off, trying to get yourself killed?" A pause, as his lip curled into its customary sneer. "Again?"

Tonks shot him a scathing look, and the twins rolled their eyes. Arthur cleared his throat. "Tonks is a fine Auror, very fine indeed. More than capable of handling herself in the field, if I may say so. Kingsley, Tonks, I'd be happy to offer my services to you, as well. Between the three of us we ought to be able to track down one of these horcrux things."

Kingsley and Tonks beamed gratefully at Arthur, and Dumbledore nodded. He started to speak, but paused when he realized there was a flurry of whispering coming from Ron, Harry, and Hermione. Finally the three of them looked up, and Ron cleared his throat. "We'll go after one. Us three, I mean."

Mrs. Weasley gasped again, but Arthur put a calming hand on her knee, and merely looked to Dumbledore.

"I think that is quite fitting. Now, Remus, I know you told me earlier you would go after one yourself, but I suspect you'll need some company--"

"I'll go." Charlie flushed as everyone's attention shifted towards him, and rubbed the back of his neck. He looked not unlike Ron, in that moment. "I've a day or two off-duty from training the recruits, come the end of this week, so..." Tonks caught his eye, giving him a tiny, encouraging smile, and he smiled tentatively back.

"Excellent. I shall meet with you individually, then, in order to give each group the most recent intelligence we have on each horcrux. I fear you shall need all of the weapons you can muster, tangible and intellectual, in order to do what must be done."
wand_wavers: (dementor)
The grounds of the Riddle Manor are desolate now. Since right after Frank Bryce was found dead in the house itself, the residents of Little Hangleton... seem to have forgotten about the manor's existence. No one goes out there anymore. The boys who might have thrown rocks through the windows wheel their bicycles around and go the other way. Birdwatchers or drivers through the country take the other fork in the road.

Mist creeps across the overgrown lawn, and a single candle glows in the darkness. There are shadowy figures stationed close to the moldering house.

They are not human.
wand_wavers: (hogwarts)
The light is turning grey as the last of the village residents scurry through the front doors of Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Rosmerta, heading up a straggling train of tenders and shopkeeps, most of whom - the reason for their tardiness - are laden down with bags. This doesn't endear them to anyone at first, until they're stopped on the castle steps and the contents are revealed to be not personal possessions, but flasks of butterbeer, simple rolls and scones from Puddifoot's, and as much Honeyduke's chocolate as could be carried.

They're waved inside with backslaps and slightly heartened grins, pointed towards the Room of Requirement (Dumbledore's express orders - anyone not fighting is to stay here, under guard).

Outside, the atmosphere soon tenses again, and it's not long in spreading through the castle, particularly anywhere there are north-facing windows. In the distance, nestled between the dark masses of two harsh Scottish hills, there is a faint red-orange glow against the dusk; that's where Hogsmeade used to be.

And between there and the castle - almost to the gates now, though with a long trek across the lawns afterwards - another glow. Except this one, this one is a sickly green, and comes not from one source, but from many, far too many wands, held aloft above a solid swarm of black robes. Behind these tight-serried ranks, a still larger horde crowds the narrow roadway, some figures slow and shambling, some switching freely between two feet and all fours, and some, silhouetted against the ghostly light, horrifyingly, stomach-clenchingly huge.

It seems strangely cold - colder than it should be, for a midsummer's evening. There are slow tendrils of mist sneaking and snaking their way out from the Forbidden Forest.

It's nearly night.

It's nearly time.
wand_wavers: (voldemort)
Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Voldemort had waited a very long time for this. This day would be the true beginning of his march to victory. He'd allowed enough time for the populace of the Wizarding world to grow more complacent. Even with the neverending stream of minor attacks planned to unnerve them on a daily basis, his spies reported that many people thought they were safe, that the war would not impact them.
Do breed unnatural troubles
They were wrong. Oh, so wrong. He would strike quickly and fiercely. His army is ready.
Be bloody, bold, and resolute
There is a map of Britain on the wall of the borrowed ballroom. Little lights glow upon it, marking the houses to target. Teams have been assigned, and timelines and checkpoints established.
Blood will have blood
He faces his kneeling minions, his arms outstretched. "Now you shall know carnage, my loyal fighters. You will spare no one. The smallest child, the weakest grandmother, all must die. Their bodies shall be brought back to me, but leave blood. Leave the Dark Mark. Leave blood traitors as witnesses. Leave no doubt that we are ruthless and will do what we want when we want it!" His voice rises to a maniacal shriek and the Death Eaters kneeling before him are silent as the grave.
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

"Arise, Death Eaters," the Dark Lord hisses. "Arise and show no mercy."
Those clamorous harbingers of blood and death.
In clusters the Death Eaters disapparate in a series of pops.
The cry is still, "They come!"
Voldemort smiles and waits. This is a glorious day.
wand_wavers: (inferius)

[ H A B E A S C O R P U S ]


It's easy enough to slip away, Crowley finds. He feels the faint tug of the summons at the back of his mind - growing stronger much, much faster, now that they know who they're calling - and lays a hand on Aziraphael's, flashing him a grin through the dark. I'll be back in a bit, he mouths, and hopes it's true. An awkward passage along the row of seats, picking his way over the legs and bags of other cinema-goers, and he slips quickly up the aisle and out into the deserted second-floor lobby.

Barely audible, over the muffled sounds of explosions from the next screen over:

Bang.

[ C O R A M ]


And much louder this time:

Bang.

The same cellar, the same quivering old man backing from the room, the same salt-and chalk cages writ on the stone floor.

"Good evening," says Crowley.

"Good evening," says Voldemort.

[ B O N A F I D E ]


The contract hangs in midair between them, suspended on a wing and a prayer - or something like that. There are gaps here and there, amidst the close-packed letters - a few things still must be discussed. Terms, details, insert-name-here. The binding of the Dementors is to be transferred to Crowley when Voldemort has won; what that means, exactly, is debated upon for some minutes. Body-count, as Crowley suggests with a smirk, is rejected - the slipperiness of demons is legendary, after all. There would not be much to stop him making off with his prize at any moment at which Voldemort's losses measure less than his opponents'.

[ M U T A T I S M U T A N D I S ]


"No," Voldemort decides, voice sharp. "You shall have the Dementors, demon Chaim, when I decide that we have won."

"Very well," Crowley answers, enunciating each word with an air of careful finality. "The Dementors go to me when you consider that you have won."

In the gaps, the here-and-theres, a few more words fade into view. Somewhere Down There, on pre-submitted copies (in triplicate), the same terms appear. Crowley's smile curls oddly.

He produces a sleek black pen from some inner pocket, floats it and the contract across the unseen barriers to Voldemort. "Sign," he says, leaving a dramatic pause between the words. "Here." The scratch of ball-point against heavy paper, and the two drift back to Crowley. He clicks the pen once, twice, then snakes his hand over the underlined space, tracing a complex, wiggly sigil that glows an ugly orange-red and then fades.

There's a beat of silence, entirely unmomentous, before Crowley folds the contract, tucks it neatly into his breast pocket with the pen.

"Now," he says with a pale grin, stepping neatly over the wards. "Shall we?"

[ A D L I T E M ]


Standing in the lee of an outsized stone angel in the Little Hangleton graveyard, Voldemort narrows his eyes impatiently, fingers playing idly over the flat of his new dagger - Hell-forged, pro forma. The demon stands a few yards in front of him, gazing unfocusedly out over the mist-shrouded tombstones, an expression of intense concentration on his face. He looks a little grey. His hair is damp, also, though it's not apparent whether this is from exertion, or simply the condensation of mist.

Presently, a bead of moisture rolls down from his hair-line, drips off the end of his nose.

[ A C T U S R E U S ]


The silence is thick, a pressure against one's eardrums - increased somehow by the deep, subaudible pulse of power coming from the carefully-folded master-copy in Crowley's pocket. It's not just an object, binding their agreement; it is the means by which he becomes the conduit for... for this. He lifts a hand and presses it to the ouside of his jacket, listening to the faint crinkle of paper against his ribcage, so different from what he was once used to. And will be again, he promises himself, though the haze, if this works like it's supposed to.

It isn't easy. Works better when they're fresh. Last longer, too.

As the ground beneath their feet starts to shift slightly, and Voldemort's face starts to split in an unholy grin, Crowley vaguely hopes he didn't say that out loud.

Bang.

[ E X P A R T E ]


Bang.

He almost forgets, before slipping back into the cinema screen, to conjure himself a bottle of water. He's glad he does, though; he hadn't realised how dry his mouth was. The darkness is a plus, too. What took you so long? Aziraphael mouths, laughing silently as Crowley trips over someone's feet. Sorry, Crowley returns, dropping back down into his seat. Queues were bloody murder.
wand_wavers: (voldemort)
Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Voldemort waits for his assassins to return.
Do breed unnatural troubles
He stalks up and down the shrouded ballroom of the borrowed castle, lost in his own thoughts as the remaining Death Eaters stand in attendance. Their numbers have grown, and larger meeting places are required now. No matter how much his army has grown, he never forgets that he is surrounded by inferiors for the most part. 'Pity Bartemius was killed,' he thinks randomly. 'He'd have brought me more Ravenclaws and they have brains, at the very least.'

The tension is palpable. If this fails... but it can not. It will not.
What's done cannot be undone.
Several pregnant minutes pass. Then there is the sound of cracking as five wizards Apparate into the middle of the large room. Voldemort turns on them. As one, they cringe back without even realizing and drop to their knees.

"Well?" His voice rings through the chamber. It is so quiet that he can hear the breathing of those gathered, and the rustle of scales against parquetry as Nagini slithers closer to him.
There's husbandry in heaven
"It is done, my Lord," says Gibbon. "They're all dead."
Their candles are all out.
It's not time to celebrate. Yet. "And were you seen?"

"No. We were in and out again, before anyone else came."

Lord Voldemort smiles. "Well done. Where are the bodies?"
There's daggers in men's smiles
The men behind the masks shift uncertainly. Gibbon, their leader, clears his throat. "My Lord, there were hidden alarms, they were triggered before we could stop them. There wasn't time."

"So you didn't carry out your mission completely?" Each word is bitten off and spit out as the anger builds within him. Transfiguring bodies into portable objects takes less than seconds, and they know it. He had made plans.

Gibbon shakes his head no.

Voldemort's eyes flash red, and he shrieks in fury. "I WANTED THOSE BODIES. YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BRING THEM TO ME!" He rages up and down the length of the ballroom.

The Death Eaters await their punishment for they know they have failed.

Then the Dark Lord stops suddenly. His features smooth out and he clasps his hands in front of him. When he speaks, his tone is almost kind. "No matter. The most vital part of the mission was accomplished."
To beguile the time
He stands directly in front of his faithful murderers.
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye
He waits until the moment he sees chests under dark robes rise and fall in sighs of relief.
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower
Then he sweeps his wand over all five and screams, "Crucio!"
But be the serpent under 't.
He watches them writhe, and the expression on his face is one of elation. Despite this mistake, Voldemort knows the tide has truly turned.
What hath quenched them hath given me fire.
He is going to win.
wand_wavers: (Daily Prophet)
Under the cover of night and the Darkest of Dark Arts )

A special edition of the Daily Prophet is hastily written and rushed out all over Britain, and then over the world, on the wings of tired owls. The front page headline screams:

Horror in Wandsworth


The Minister of Magic, Amelia Bones, along with her husband and security attachment of five, were murdered in the pre-dawn hours at the Minister's home in Wandsworth. The Dark Mark was in plain evidence, and the Ministry has released an official statement that this was, indeed, the work of You-Know-Who and his followers.

The bodies were recovered thanks to prompt action by Aurors alerted by special security wards linked to the Ministry.

It is not known at this time how many Death Eaters were involved or how they entered the residence, as security was stringent and Anti-Apparation charms were placed upon the home to keep anyone from Apparating into the house or onto the grounds.

Rufus Scrimgeour, Head of the Auror Office, has been named acting Minister of Magic, and is personally overseeing the case. "We have nothing more to say at this time," he said at the official press conference. "Know that we are doing everything in our power to track down the perpetrators of this terrible crime. We ask the wizards and witches of Britain to remain calm whilst implementing the security measures we've promoted in the past year."

No word has been released on funeral arrangements.


The rest of this thin newspaper is comprised of security reminders and brief obituaries on all those assassinated.
wand_wavers: (voldemort)
Riddle House, perched on a hill above the village of Little Hangleton, might as well be in another world entirely. Unplottable, as of late, and should any hapless Muggles somehow wander through the Repelling charms, Dementors roam the grounds. The constant cold, clinging mist further obscures the place, much to its owner's pleasure.

The house is empty today, but for two figures, one standing, one kneeling in the cellars. The stone walls drip with moisture as red-tinted, acrid steam rises from a cauldron.

Voldemort leans against the wall, twirling his wand idly. "This had better work, Peverell." There is a sudden flash of light and a rat squeals in surprise as it dies. "Or you'll wish you'd never existed."

"N-no, my Lord, it will work," says the elderly wizard, stooping, chalk in hand, to trace a large triangle on floor. "I've called several demons in this fashion and bound them all to me." He adds quickly, "Or to my master."

"Get on with it then," the Dark Lord snaps, beginning to pace restlessly, tapping his wand against his palm. A demon... this will be most promising. Dementors are all well and good, but to harness the power of Hell's legions? Oh, yes. Voldemort is not, nor ever has been, particularly inclined towards religion - but he believes in power. Be it that of the Dark Arts or of Hell, it will be his.

He watches with glowing red eyes as Peverell traces another shape on the cold flagstones - a circle around the triangle - watches as the salt is scattered, as the rite is performed. The air thickens and sulphur wafts through the cellar.

With growing impatience, Voldemort waits for more power.
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