|SIYE Time:6:48 on 24th April 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Sequel to Darkness Within. This story begins the night before Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. Canon couples accurate to JKR. The romance between Harry and Ginny will develop slowly due to their ages. Please note rating and warnings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 21180; Chapter Total: 230
Awards: View Trophy Room
With thanks to everyone who has been reading and reviewing and to my beta, Arnel!
Charlie stroked his fingers lightly up and down her spine. Anna seemed to be barely breathing as she lay face down on the bed. Her level of relaxation was one he had never helped her reach previously, but if ever an occasion called for it, this was it. Charlie suspected from the moment he introduced her to Katerina that a difficult conversation was coming. He had never been a coward, but only a fool would fail to prepare in every way he was able.
Following the Order meeting, he had approached Anna with gentle persuasion and relentless ardor. She had welcomed his every kiss and caress. Their night of lovemaking had left her so calm, he truly doubted anything could rouse her. Her skin was warm and still slightly flushed from their most recent exertions -- her muscles completely lax. It was still rather early in the morning. Most of the inhabitants of Grimmauld Place were undoubtedly asleep. Charlie knew for a fact that Anna had slept for several hours in between their bouts of amorous activity, and she was clearly close to greeting Morpheus once more.
Charlie relaxed into the soft mattress, watching the first hints of sunrise filter in through the drapes at the window, before pressing his lips to the smooth skin of her lower back. They needed to talk, but he wouldn’t push it until she was ready. Working his way slowly up to her shoulder, he smiled at her slight whimper when he allowed his teeth to graze her skin. “All right there, love?”
“Mmmm,” she hummed an inarticulate response as she rolled to rest on her side.
He shifted to press his body against hers, spooning her from behind. “I love you, Anna.”
“Love you.” Her murmured response turned into a strangled moan as his hand wandered to the soft curls between her thighs. “Can’t.” She covered his hand with her own and raised it a few inches to settle his palm flat on her belly.
He chuckled and nuzzled her neck lightly. Nearly an hour passed as he listened to her even breaths. The grey light coming into the room revealed the overcast conditions in London this morning, but at least he could see her features more clearly now. She was beginning to stir — lazily stretching and flexing her torso and limbs on the bed.
“Do you want me to fill you in on what happened at the Order meeting?” Charlie asked.
“No need.” Anna yawned. “We were using Extendable Ears.”
“Of course, you were.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m guessing Ron always has a pair in his pocket.”
“They’re quite handy,” she muttered.
Charlie nodded into her hair before sitting up and rolling her gently to her back. “Anything else you want to talk about?” He looked directly into her eyes and waited.
She chewed her lip and stared at him for a moment. “You slept with Katerina?”
“I did,” he agreed. “She was my girlfriend for several months. I broke up with her the September after the World Cup two years ago -- a few weeks after I met you.”
Anna sat up, hugging her knees to her chest, resting her chin on her crossed arm. “She said I’m young.”
“You are young.”
“How old is she?”
“Thirty, I think.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Before meeting you, I pretty much always went for older women.”
“Yes. She is. And so are you.”
“You called her Kat.”
Charlie sighed. “I’ll try to avoid using her nickname if it makes you uncomfortable.”
Anna groaned, closing her eyes briefly before they flashed open. Her jaw was clenched, and she trembled slightly. Charlie forced himself to remain still, to resist the urge to reach out to her. Suddenly she flopped backwards on the bed, one arm coming up to rest over her eyes.
“I know I’m being ridiculous. I know I shouldn’t be jealous. I know you had six serious girlfriends before me that you slept with. I just…” She sighed heavily. Her next words came out as a whine. “I never thought I’d have to meet one of them! And she’s lovely and mature and sophisticated and a member of the Order.”
Charlie relaxed, sensing that the worst of this particular storm was already over. “Sorry, love. I guess I shouldn’t have slept around so much in my wild youth.”
Anna lowered her arm and narrowed her eyes for a moment before giving into the smirk playing at her lips. “Wild youth!” she huffed. “Katerina probably taught you how to do some of my favorite things, or at the very least you probably perfected them with her!”
He quirked a brow. “Do you really want me to respond to that?”
“Are we okay?” Charlie tentatively began stroking her thighs.
She nodded. “We’re okay.” She was quiet for a moment before her lips quirked in a slight smile. “I think we should try to set Kat up with Sirius. He’s been alone too long and she’s apparently going to be around for a while.”
“Set up a cat with a dog?” He chuckled. “That could certainly be entertaining. Are you trying to be kind or wicked?” He leaned over her to suck on the tender skin of her neck as his hand wandered up to the full, round curves of her chest.
Her breath hitched. “I don’t think I can again.”
“Are you sure?” He murmured. “We’re only one away from breaking our record. Breaking records is always fun.” He nipped her neck lightly before kissing his way down past her clavicle.
Anna’s laugh morphed into a throaty moan. “One more time.” Her hand slid into the hair at the base of his neck as she arched against his seeking mouth.
“Bill.” Albus nodded for him to begin the meeting and took a seat at the large dining room table of Longbottom Manor. This was not truly a meeting of the Order of the Phoenix, though many members of the inner circle were present. This was a meeting to discuss the feasibility of a direct assault on Malfoy Manor in the coming months, with the primary objective of killing Tom Riddle.
“I’ve been analyzing the blueprints and information about the grounds and wards Narcissa Malfoy provided and cross-referencing it with the records held at Gringotts and in the Ministry about the Manor.” Bill spread several parchments on the table with a flick of his wand. “Assuming all of the information I currently have is correct, we’ll be able to dismantle the wards, but it’ll require a couple of hours of non-stop effort.”
“Hours! That rather eliminates the element of surprise, doesn’t it? I mean, how quickly will they realize the wards surrounding the Manor are under attack?” Sirius wondered.
“They won’t know until the wards actually fall.” Bill smirked. “They’ll have no more than a few minutes’ warning because I’m not going to actually attack the wards. I’m going to carefully dismantle each part without allowing a single one to fall until they are all ready to fall. Each layer, each section, will be left hanging by a thin magical thread so to speak, ready to be severed at the last possible moment.”
“How dangerous is that, son?” Dad asked.
“It’s definitely not the sort of thing a Gringotts curse-breaker would usually sign off on, but I believe I can do it safely.” Bill pressed his lips together in a thin line. “I’ll have to have Fleur with me, so I can draw upon her magic through our bond. We’re going to start practicing tomorrow. I need to learn how much power I can safely draw and work on applying it to actual spells. That will require practice, but we’ve decided it’s worth the risk.” He held Fleur’s hand in his own and attempted a confident smile, though he suspected it looked more like a grimace.
“What happens if you draw too much power from Fleur?” Mum asked.
“I won’t!” Bill’s voice shook slightly as his mind refused to dwell on the possibility.
“If Bill were to draw too much magic too quickly, I would likely fall unconscious.” Fleur shrugged with deliberate nonchalance. “Obviously, that would do no good, so he will be careful. He’s a brilliant curse-breaker. He will succeed!” She flashed him a sweet smile and leaned in to kiss his cheek.
“What’s the best-case scenario for getting the wards down safely?” Sirius asked.
Bill ran his fingers through his hair. “The wards fall in about two hours with Fleur and me still standing upright and about as magically useful as a couple of first years until our cores naturally replenish.”
“And the worst-case?” Remus inquired.
“If Fleur starts to pass out, I’ll have to ease off significantly,” Bill admitted. “If I can’t dismantle the wards in four hours, it’s a lost cause.”
The room was briefly silent as everyone digested the news.
Augusta took a sip from her wine glass. “How do we proceed once the wards fall?”
Albus cleared his throat. “This is the general battle plan I’ve put together, open to suggestions and alterations, of course.” A large parchment settled on top of the others on the table. “I believe attacking in the early hours of the morning will allow us the best opportunity for success. Narcissa Malfoy will be sent in to retrieve her husband as soon as we know the wards are about to be overcome. She will move him to the lowest level of the Manor or vacate the property altogether if possible.”
“Do we know if anyone is being held prisoner at Malfoy Manor?” Mum asked. “So many people have simply disappeared lately.”
The old professor nodded solemnly. “Severus has reported that a few witches and wizards have been captured and held prisoner at the Manor in recent months. I will ask for an update the night before the attack.” He stroked his beard. “Fortunately, prisoners are almost always held in the lowest level — the dungeons. I believe any house-elves on the premises will descend there as well once the attack begins. Due to the nature of the initial attack I have planned, the lowest level will be the safest place. Hopefully, there will be little or no collateral damage from our actions.”
A few quiet murmurings were heard throughout the room.
“The first wave of the assault will be an attack from the air using dragons.” The Headmaster paused to meet Charlie’s suddenly captivated gaze.
“You want me to lead an attack using dragons?” The surprise in his brother’s tone could not mask the veiled excitement.
“Your former director, Nicolas, and I first discussed the possibility a couple of months ago.” Albus’s eyes twinkled. “He’s been kind enough to assist me in making arrangements with Richard Smyth. I believe you know him.”
Charlie nodded. “The director of the Welsh Green Sanctuary.”
“Indeed. He has approved the use of his Welsh Greens and will provide two dragon keepers on the day of the attack. A half-dozen of your old colleagues from the Romanian Reserve will also be available on the scheduled day to hold the dragons here.” The Headmaster pointed to a spot on the map a few miles from Malfoy Manor. “Nicolas suggested you would likely fly them in a slow circle and descend here to attack the Manor.” He indicated the direction on the map. “Then, you can return the dragons to the clearing where they can be safely contained.”
“So, we’ll only have the one pass over?” Charlie rubbed his chin as he frowned.
Albus inclined his head. “Nicolas indicated the dragons could accomplish a significant amount of damage in one go, setting fires that engulf the top floor of the Manor.”
Charlie studied the map for a moment. “It’s a huge property. You’ll need to give me a definite target. Will I have two dragons or three?”
“You can control three dragons?” Dad shook his head as though trying to clear it and organize his thoughts. “I know you mentioned last week that you’ve been working on training them, but how exactly will you control three?”
“Well, it’s easiest to control just one, obviously. I would ride her in, tell her when to breathe fire, and fly back to the holding area. If I’m handling three, I’ll have to ride the middle one and have the other two on either side of me. It’s not something I’ve done often, but I should be able to manage a single pass fairly well.” The gleam in his eyes made it clear he was eager to begin training the dragons. “I’ll need to start working with them at the Welsh Green Sanctuary immediately.”
Albus smiled. “Richard is expecting you, and just to clarify you’ll have access to five Welsh Greens.”
Charlie nodded. “That’s good. I can work with them all for a few weeks and decide which are the most trainable for something like this.”
“You misunderstand me,” Albus said quietly. “As you already mentioned the property is large. We need the entire top floor engulfed in flames. You’ll need to fly in all five to achieve that goal.”
Charlie’s eyes widened, and he stared at the Headmaster in shock. “I’m sorry if Nicolas misled you, but I’ve never controlled more than three at a time. I don’t have the ability to —”
“That was before you entered into a bond with Miss Henry.” He gestured towards his fiancé. “Just as Bill will be able to draw extra power from Fleur to dismantle the wards, you’ll be able to draw extra power from Miss Henry to control the dragons.”
“That won’t work,” Charlie began slowly. “Bill will be able to gain power from Fleur because she can stand right next to him, literally hold his hand. I can’t draw power from Anna without physical contact, so…”
Albus was nodding in the benign way a grandfather would to a child being slow to understand the obvious.
“Fuck, no!” Charlie shouted. “Have you seen her on a broom? She’s a rubbish flier! She’ll fall off!”
Bill watched Anna’s mouth drop open in mute horror as she realized what the Headmaster was proposing. From around the room, other voices added to the cacophony of disbelief.
Augusta’s voice was the loudest. “Albus Dumbledore, if you think for one moment that I will allow my–"
“There must be five!” Albus finally cut through the arguments. “My understanding from Nicolas is that Charlie can easily control three, but they would only be able to set about half the Manor on fire. We need the entire house ablaze!”
Turning to Charlie he continued more calmly. “Nicolas believes you can control five dragons with a small amount of extra power. You’ll only need to pull a minimal amount of magic from Miss Henry. There will be no danger to her because she’ll be riding directly behind you on your dragon. She doesn’t need to be a competent flier. You can simply use a Sticking Charm, and perhaps physically secure her to you with a rope or belt of some kind.”
Anna mutely stumbled the few feet towards Charlie who pulled her tightly against him. The fire that had briefly burned in his eyes at the thought of working with dragons again had vanished completely.
“Now, the second wave of the attack will begin immediately after the dragons exit the area. I will lead an aerial assault on brooms. The team will include Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Fred, George. Well, I have the entire list here,” the Headmaster continued, pointing to a long list of names.
“As we’re approaching by air, a second group will be rushing forward across the grounds.” He set another list on the table as he traced the line of movement he expected that group to follow on the map. “The aerial assault will be primarily concerned with neutralizing anyone attempting to flee the Manor. They’ll land here and infiltrate the house by this set of doors at the rear of the property. As the ground force arrives, they’ll be attacking from the front entering the main doors here.” Albus pointed out the doors on the map as he was talking.
“Anti-Apparition wards are already in place at Malfoy Manor, and will not be dismantled when the other wards are brought down, so no one will be able to escape easily. We also have a contact at the Ministry who will ensure the Floo Network is shut down. There is, of course, nothing we can do about illegal Portkeys. Speed and surprise are our most formidable weapons.” He glanced around the room as he concluded.
“Where will I be?” Harry asked. Ginny was standing beside him, holding his hand.
Albus smiled stiffly. “You’ll need to be flying in on a broom during the aerial assault. I need you to remain close to me at all times. Once we’ve landed, you’ll follow me into the Manor, and we’ll seek out Tom. I honestly don’t believe he’ll attempt to flee the encounter. From his perspective it will be the perfect opportunity to finally kill you.”
“We can’t just set up this confrontation and hope for the best, Albus!” Sirius spat. “Harry’s still an underage kid.”
The Headmaster shook his head slowly. “We’ve discussed this multiple times. Once the Prophecy was put in motion by Tom Riddle’s attack at Godric’s Hollow this confrontation became inevitable.” He suddenly looked older and more tired than ever before.
“I’ll be with Harry, won’t I?” Ginny asked. “He’ll be able to draw extra power through our bond, right?”
Mum whimpered softly and leaned into Dad.
“I believe so,” Albus spoke slowly. “When you and Harry initially bonded, I believed the purpose of your bonded magic was simply to forcibly remove the…” He trailed off thoughtfully.
Bill glanced around the room. Everyone present had been informed of the magical bonds existing between the three couples, though few knew all the details of those bonds. The word Horcrux and the fact that one had been in Harry for so many years was far less widely known.
“Miss Weasley, I do believe it would be best to assume that you’ll need to be there with Harry.” Clearing his throat, he redirected his attention to the group at large and continued. “The snake, Nagini, must be killed. A Severing Charm would be best I believe. It doesn’t matter who kills the snake, but whoever has the opportunity must act as quickly and decisively as possible.” He paused and looked very seriously at Harry and Ginny. “I fully intend to try to destroy Tom myself. Unfortunately, I don’t believe I’ll be able to do so,” Albus smiled ruefully.
“Harry, I highly recommend that you and Miss Weasley begin working on joining your magic. The dueling practice you’ve been engaging in is all well and good, but you must learn how to channel your magic and direct the greatest amount of power possible. Practice casting spells -- individually while holding hands, as well as simultaneously. Practice both of you holding the same wand and pushing your magic into a single spell. You must learn how to summon and control your combined power in the most effective way possible. That will take time.”
Harry put his arm around Ginny and managed to give her a small smile. “What spell should we be working on specifically? The Killing Curse?”
The Headmaster shook his head. “I don’t believe so. For now, practice simple cutting charms, Stunning Spells, that sort of thing. I’m considering options and working on what spell would be best, but for now, simply work on controlling and directing your combined magic. Please do not attempt any of the Unforgivables.”
Harry looked visibly relieved as he nodded.
“What time frame are we looking at to try to accomplish all of this?” Remus asked.
“I’m hoping everyone will be ready to strike in a couple of months,” Albus replied. “We will of course have frequent meetings to discuss progress and work through any difficulties that crop up.” Rising from his seat, he clapped Harry on the back before ending the meeting and wishing everyone a good night.
Remus threw back another shot of Firewhisky and peered blearily around the room. The responsible adults, of which he was clearly not one, had departed from Longbottom Manor or retired upstairs some time ago. Vaguely, he wondered if he would suddenly become more of an adult if he married Tonks. Watching her giggling with Katerina, he sincerely doubted it. Sometimes his werewolf metabolism and resistance to alcohol were complete shite. This was one of those times. He could get drunk. He knew that from past experience, but it would take several more shots in quick succession. He was almost too tired to make the effort.
“So just to clarify, Bill.” Sirius’s Firewhisky sloshed precariously as he waved his hand, yet somehow remained in the glass. “Your worst-case scenario was absolute bollocks, right? Because if you’re not completely fucking brilliant, you’ll accidentally kill Fleur and yourself to bust the wards on Malfoy Manor, right?”
Fleur cast such a look of scorn at Sirius that Remus was surprised he didn’t stutter an apology. “Bill is ze best curse-breaker at Gingo…Grinningo…Gringotts! And, don’t you forget it, Sirius Black!”
“Easy, love.” Bill pulled his fiancé into his arms. “Sirius doesn’t mean to sound like an arse. He’s just trying to understand the situation.”
Tonks nodded. “Sirius is wonderful really. My favorite cousin!” She bumped into him, landing surprisingly gracefully into his lap before descending into giggles.
“Charlie, do you really think you can control those dragons?” Neville demanded as he tottered unsteadily. “Because…what if one tries to eat Anna?”
“No worries on that score,” Charlie muttered. “She’ll probably vomit all over the place but that’ll be the worst of it.” He threw back the last of the Firewhisky in his glass.
“Oh Merlin, I will, won’t I?” Anna grimaced. “I don’t want to ride on a dragon. Why do you have to like dragons so much?” She frowned at her fiancé before taking another sip of her drink.
“If it makes you feel any better,” Katerina said. “I’m a terrible flier as well.” She clinked her glass with Anna’s and smiled. “That’s why I’m part of the ground force.”
Ginny finished refilling Harry’s glass and dropped the bottle of Ogden’s on the table with a dull thud. “So, you’re a…what are they called? Emissary? From the wizard government in Albania?”
Katerina nodded. “I work in the Ministry, and I volunteered to come. Many years ago, your Lord Voldemort killed my mother’s sister and her entire family.” She emptied her glass quickly. “I’d like to help kill him. If he takes over here in Britain, the rest of Europe will soon be at his mercy.”
“Fucking reassuring thought,” Sirius muttered. “Pup, you need to go to bed!” He pointed at Harry before gesturing around the room with his empty glass. “All of you need to get some sleep. Molly may have been too stunned by Albus’s brilliant plan to send you to bed before but come morning she’ll be eyeing every one of you.”
Ron nodded, and the teens murmured their good nights before making their way out of the room. Remus bit back a smirk as he watched Sirius talk Katerina into returning with him to Grimmauld Place.
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