Chapter Sixty Eight – Best Laid Plans Go To Waste
Four days later Harry was attempting to hide. He had rung Tony a couple of times, only to receive the same disheartening news that Bruce was still asleep. So he had remained in England with his other Godfather and had spent his time plotting and planning. With the combined deviousness of two of the remaining Marauders, and that had been a shock and a half learning his father had helped create the Weasley twin's maps, Harry was pretty sure that he had built an ironclad case to get Dumbledore to help them.
Which was why he was hiding.
Apparently Dumbledore was under the impression he had gone home, and so had arranged for his private army to meet at Grimmauld Place. Sirius and Remus had agreed that Harry should gatecrash the meeting seeing as he was an integral part of the war, even if Dumbledore didn't seem to have any plans for him to join the Order.
He had been given his own room, a reasonably small but clean and cosy room on the same floor as the other two occupants of the house. Once again he had the hand mirror in hand as he waited for the signal. As soon as the pommel on the handle started flashing Harry snuck through the door and down the stairs. Apparently there had been a full size portrait of Sirius' mother on one wall, but after months of research Sirius had removed it and burnt it. So at least he didn't have to worry about that waking up.
"Evening everyone," Harry said politely as he walked through the kitchen door and into the secret meeting.
"Harry!" Dumbledore said.
Harry had to hide a smile, incredibly happy at being able to get one over on the apparently omniscient wizard. There were a wide variety of people around the table and Harry did a quick scan before returning his attention to the headmaster.
He spotted Snape, the Weasley parents, Sirius and Remus, and Moody. There was a tall dark skinned man, sitting next to a small wiry woman. A bald shifty looking man sat slightly further down, with a straw-coloured haired man, and a couple of red-headed men that Harry could guess who they were related to.
"What are you doing here Mr Banner?" McGonagall appeared from the fire.
"Making sure that I am kept in the loop," he stated. "I already knew of the Order and I guessed rightly that you would be planning. Seeing as it's me that Voldemort is targeting I think I have the right to stay in the loop."
"You do not need to concern yourself with the plans of adults," Snape said.
"I beg to differ sir, if I have to kill Voldemort then I deserve to know what's going on," Harry countered, with no malice in his voice. And to solidify his point he walked up the table and sat down in a spare seat next to the two redheads.
"There is sensitive information that we were going to share that you cannot know, for their safety," Albus tried again.
"And I have sensitive information that they cannot know, for their safety," Harry shot back. "If it helps I am reasonably well equipped with mental defences, enough to keep your secrets."
"Severus?" Albus turned to their spy.
"He is not the worst in the room," Severus admitted.
"Good," Harry clapped his hands together and grinned. "So, council of war?"
Albus grudgingly continued the meeting, outlining plans for each member of the Order. Harry was surprised at how many people were being wasted on guarding the physical record of the prophecy about him and Voldemort.
"Why can't we just take it and get rid of it?" Harry piped up.
"Only you can touch it, it's a safety feature that means only those a prophecy relates to can hear their future," Severus explained.
"And I can't go get it because…?"
No one seemed to have a good answer for that, and Harry sighed. "I'm going to think up a plan for that."
"Run it by me before you go and do something we'll all regret," Dumbledore said with a commanding tone to his voice.
After a bit more planning, which again seemed to involve a lot of waiting and standing around, the group broke up.
"Professors, could I ask you to stay for a bit longer?" Harry asked loudly as the adults slowly started to weave towards the fireplace.
He was given a lot of odd looks by the rest of the Order, but eventually the room cleared to just have six of them there. Dumbledore gave two of their number a pointed look, which they ignored.
"Sirius and Remus know everything I know, so there really is no point in them leaving," Harry shrugged.
"Very well, what was it that you wanted to discuss Mr Banner?" Dumbledore said formally.
"Items of power linked to Hogwarts," Harry stated. "What could they be?"
"I fail to see the importance?" McGonagall glanced around at everyone.
"This is information that Professor Snape cannot know, if he is compromised," Harry said with an apologetic look to the mentioned man. "But knowing what I need to know could end the war a hell of a lot quicker."
"Language Mr Banner," Professor McGonagall said automatically.
"Each of the Founders supposedly had an item that they treasured and left behind," Snape said slowly. "Godric had his sword that you used in your second year. Salazar had a necklace."
"Helga had a cup and Rowena had a Diadem," Dumbledore finished. "But they've been lost for decades at least."
"That's a shame," Harry acted thwarted. "Thanks anyway."
After the three finally left he turned to the remaining men and grinned. "Now we know what to look for."
"Hang on…" Sirius frowned and seemed to be thinking hard, before he shot off.
"Any idea what he's planning?" Harry asked the werewolf, who merely shrugged in reply.
Before either of them could move to follow him Sirius bounded back into the room. Gingerly in one hand he clutched something on a chain, which he placed with almost exaggerated care onto the table.
"Tell me if I'm wrong, but that looks like a snake," Sirius pointed at the front.
"Holy shit, do you think?" Harry swore as he bent low to inspect it.
"How would that be here?" Remus instead took a step back warily.
"Regulus, my brother," Sirius said quietly with realisation. "He was a Death Eater. The last time we spoke was the night he showed me the Mark, I left and cried my eyes out that night."
"Do you think Voldemort gave this to him?" Harry asked.
"I doubt it, Snape never reported Regulus as being more than just a low level supporter when he vanished. If he gave anything precious to anyone it would have been a high ranking Death Eater."
"Like Snape or the Malfoys, or your cousin," Remus listed.
"Well he gave his diary to Lucius so he did give some things away without telling them of their importance," Harry pointed out.
"So that's two down," Sirius said happily.
"Well, we need to figure out how to destroy it first, but yes two found," Harry agreed, not wanting to correct the man.
"What about the cup and the diadem? Any ideas?" Sirius turned the smarter Marauder.
"What did your friend think of Voldemort?" Remus turned to Harry.
"He is self obsessed and determined to show off how powerful he is. He hates his family yet seems incapable of forgetting them or his past. He'd likely try to associate himself with anything of note so that people wouldn't forget him. Although he hated his family he's determined to raise their status once more so that he can be proud of his name once more," Harry summarised.
"Hence the Hogwarts items… Any chance something could be hidden in the school?" Remus suggested.
"How would he smuggle anything in there?" Harry countered.
"The same way we always got things into school," Sirius grinned. "Do you remember that party in sixth year Moony, the one with the firewhiskey?"
"The next morning was worse than any transformation I've been through, I was sick for three days," Remus grimaced at the memory.
"We can get in and go searching during the holidays," Sirius decided.
"Anywhere else he might want to hide something?"
"Gringotts is impenetrable, but for the same reason we couldn't get anything he hid there," Remus brought up another idea.
"Nothing is unsinkable," Harry argued, then sighed at their blank looks. "There was a famous muggle ship called the Titanic that was advertised as unsinkable… it sank."
"Point taken," Sirius chuckled. "Let's go rob a bank then!"
"Not exactly what I had in mind," Harry spoke quickly. "What time does the bank close?"
Dumbledore stood and merely stared for a good solid ten minutes. Harry took the time to merely stand and look smug, with Sirius unknowingly mimicking him behind his shoulder.
"How?" Dumbledore finally said as he sank into a chair, still staring at four items sitting innocently on the table.
"You aren't the only one who can put the dots together," Harry said smugly. "If you weren't so terrified of losing control, or were incapable of sharing responsibilities, then this war would have been over before it even started."
"Where did you find them all?" Dumbledore asked.
"The ring was at Riddle's house, hidden behind some very nasty curses and a Lethifold. The Cup was in Gringotts, and we managed to convince the Goblins to do a random search for dark objects. They handed it over willingly. The Diadem was at Hogwarts under your nose. And finally the Locket was here."
Dumbledore visibly started at that, and Sirius took up explaining. "Apparently Regulus wasn't as bad as I thought, he somehow found it and tried to destroy it. His spells backfired, but Kreacher kept it safe and has been trying to destroy it too, probably why he's off his rocker now."
"So all that's left is the man himself, possibly something else close to his heart," Remus summarised.
"My bet is on his pet snake Snape mentioned, he seemed pretty damn attached to it in the graveyard," Harry voted.
"There is one more piece," Dumbledore said gravely.
"Well what is it? We can go find it," Sirius said cockily.
"It requires no finding, but perhaps the greatest sacrifice of all beyond destroying some historically important artefacts," Dumbledore built up.
"Cut the dramatics, I know you're referring to me," Harry cut in before Dumbledore could say more.
"What?" Sirius barked in a panic.
Harry was suddenly turned around by two powerful hands, and found himself staring into the wild eyes of his Godfather.
"How? How are you a Horcrux? You're living, sane, happy, normal!"
"Since when have I been normal?" Harry chuckled.
"Now is not the time for laughing!" Sirius thundered.
"Sirius, chill," Harry grabbed the man with both hands on either side of his face and forced the man to stop.
"You knew?" Dumbledore if it was possible sounded even more shocked.
"Knew and sorted it," Harry said happily. "In my year out I managed to find help to fix it."
"So you're not…?" Sirius eyes were boring into his, begging him to be telling the truth.
"I'm as much of a Horcrux as you are," Harry said firmly.
He then found himself enveloped into a tight hug, so tight that he almost couldn't breathe. After a while Sirius let him go and happily clapped him on the back. Harry just managed to make out Remus' joyful look before they turned back to Dumbledore.
"So, two left," Harry said happily.
"You have been busy," Dumbledore said.
"That I have," Harry agreed. "So, any more information I should have before we go any further?"
"You are insane," Snape said as he stared at all the people in the room.
"Which is why this will probably work," Harry said, hiding his uncertainty.
"He'll just kill you as soon as I bring you in," Snape continued.
"Not necessarily, we both know that he loves a good villain monologue," Harry pointed out. Snape not answering was enough of an answer for him.
"How exactly is everyone else going to follow us?" the spy asked for clarification.
"With this," the teen held up his wrist, with the faintly glowing bracelet. "It's not just a fashion statement. Tony built in a tracking device, he can follow it anywhere. In theory, it'll work just like your Dark Mark."
Harry left out how much of the theory was still unproven with apparition, no one needed to know that apart from him and Tony.
Around them an assembled group of people watched with baited breath. Sirius and Remus had barely left Harry's side since his arrival five days ago. Dumbledore had been in and out of Grimmauld Place since they had shown him the Horcruxes. Harry had only left to gather his adoptive family, minus his still asleep father. However, the number of Avengers that he trusted with such a secret as Magic was severely limited. With Bruce out of action, and Thor off world, that left only four of them to fight alongside Sirus and Remus.
However they hadn't told Dumbledore of their plan, and muggles outnumbered magicals in the gathering in the kitchen. Perhaps their success over the last week had gone to their heads, but Sirius and Remus had agreed that they likely didn't need assistance in destroying the last two horcruxes.
"What do you want me to say?" Snape sighed and seemed to relent.
"Nothing, but can you pass him this memory?" Harry asked as he offered over a vial with a silvery liquid in.
The severe potions master took the vial without comment. He quickly poked his wand to his bared left forearm and winced as the tattoo flared an even darker shade for a second.
"Thank you Professor Snape, I really am grateful for everything you've done," Harry said in as much of a sincere tone as he could manage.
Again Snape failed to speak but he nodded in acknowledgement before he winced as the Dark Mark flared black again. "He's expecting me."
"Good luck," Harry said as the man swept out the door to apparate.
"Everyone ready?" Tony asked as he handed two small metal discs with a blue glowing centre to Remus and Sirius.
"What are these?" Remus asked as he was given one.
"Signal trackers," Tony said as if that explained everything.
"You're going to be following me, and the signal from my bracelet. Apparate when you are thinking of that disc in your hand and it will lead to me," Harry filled in the blanks.
"How did you make this?" Sirius asked as he turned his over in his hands.
"Once I broke the whole 'magic short circuits electricity' problem getting them to work together was actually relatively easy," Tony shrugged. "I managed to find a couple of wizards in Stark Enterprises who were happy to take on a few extra hours for a lot of danger pay."
The assembled adults waited nervously for the return of one of the least liked members of the Order. Harry could see their view, the man didn't abide by social niceties and made five of his hours a week a living hell. However no one could deny that working for a psychotic man probably did leave the spy with a few unresolved issues that could explain some of his behaviour. He hadn't had to deal with the man outside of school though, so perhaps his antisocial behaviour got even worse at night time.
Eventually they were rewarded with the front door slamming again. Snape didn't bother even entering the kitchen this time, he merely opened the door into the room and gestured for the teen to follow him.
"He has agreed to a meeting, it's at the graveyard I believe he was resurrected in. Come," Snape said shortly.
Harry pulled his hand out of his pockets ready to follow. However, he made sure to brush his fingers against something important before he fully withdrew them.
"See you all in five minutes, good luck," Harry nodded to Sirius and Remus.
"Same to you, we're going to have fun," Sirius smiled grimly.
Without waiting further Harry turned and followed Professor Snape along the corridor to the front steps. Snape offered his forearm and Harry tightly gripped it. However they didn't immediately leave.
"Are you sure about this?" Snape asked one final time.
"It's the only way to end this now. If we don't then how many people will die?" Harry said with determination.
Snape inclined his head in agreement before he apparated.
Appropriately for such a meeting the clouds were rolling in and rumbles of thunder sounded in the distance. The sun had already set, and Harry chuckled at the sheer number of clichés that abounded as he looked over the graveyard.
"Do you think he can even come out during the day?" he muttered to himself.
Snape, if he heard his comment, completely ignored him in favour of sweeping forward and pushed between two of the Death Eaters and into the middle of the circle. The cloaked figures didn't even react to his arrival, or how he knelt in front of their leader who waited like a corpse in the centre of his men.
"I have brought him my Lord," Snape intoned, no emotion in his voice.
"Well done my loyal follower," Voldemort hissed.
"Potter," Snape said by way of an order.
"Show time," Harry whispered to himself for motivation before stepping forward.
Rather contemptuously he pushed between the two Death Eaters again and walked into the empty space in the circle.
"Voldemort," Harry said respectfully as he nodded his head. Calmly he clasped his hands behind his back in a relaxed stance.
"Harry Potter. I must admit that I am surprised to see you again, and using my spy as a messenger," Voldemort replied in monotone.
"It seemed the easiest way to contact you, rather than just waiting for you to appear," Harry shrugged.
"And why would you wish to seek me out?" Voldemort seemed impatient with Harry dodging the direct answer.
"Probably for the same reason you would want to find me eventually," Harry mentally grinned.
"And you think that you can end this already? You think that you can defeat me?" Voldemort sneered.
Around them the robed Death Eaters chuckled at their leader's joke.
"Perhaps, although I am willing to talk about the terms of your surrender," Harry smiled politely back.
And as he saw the skin around Voldemort's eyes tighten, Harry exploded into action. In one hand he had a small item gripped tightly, and as he dodged the first spell he rubbed his thumb across the flat surface. Then he slammed a hand onto the bracelet that was still sealed tightly on his wrist. He only just hit the floor from his dive as the world around him exploded with popping and whirring.
Harry rolled and jumped to his feet again, just in time to see a blast of energy shot past him and hit one of the robed men.
"Good shot Tony!" He laughed as he too sent a blast of energy in front of him and another robed man fell.
By his reckoning there were fifty Death Eaters, and seven of them at the time. Tony may be able to deflect spells with his armour, if the upgrades worked, and Steve probably would also be successful with his shield. But Nat and Clint could only work from the shadows. It may be how they worked best, but it did mean that five of them were being targeted by fifty psychopaths.
So Harry was rather happy when he heard the distinctive pops of more people apparating onto the scene.
"We have incoming!" he heard Steve shout.
"Do not engage them, they're friends!" Harry bellowed back as he ducked a nasty purple curse.
And as if to prove his point one of the smaller groups of robed people sent a red spell straight into the masked face of a Death Eater trying to curse Tony. Thirteen to fifty, now forty eight or so, was not great odds but Harry was happier.
Whilst the Death Eaters tried to down the wily Avengers the smaller robed individuals sowed chaos, moving quickly and randomly around grave stones and in the shadows.
But Harry ignored everything in preference of focussing on the man who had started this all so many years ago. Harry kept Voldemort's attention on himself, purposefully sending annoying little hexes almost constantly. Voldemort had time to dodge or block the spells, and to retaliate, but not to really stop and look at the progress of the battle around them.
Bodies fell around them as Harry continued to bait and annoy Voldemort, waiting for the opportune moment. He finally saw it, when out of the corner of his eye he saw an unbelievably large shape slither through the grass towards him.
"Hey snakey snakey," Harry hissed.
Nagini paused in surprise as she heard another Parselmouth speak to her. That was all Harry needed, and he quickly moved into action by sending a spell towards her.
Although he had mostly been at spending his spare time in Grimmauld Place, he hadn't been idle. Fiendfyre was something known to destroy horcruxes, so Harry didn't hesitate when he sent the barely controlled ball of flames towards the reptile. He just had time to muse how it seemed to form into a snarling snout of some carnivorous mammal before it impacted with the snake.
It seemed that the entire graveyard paused for a few seconds as the sounds of two screams ripping above the sounds of the battle. Nagini flailed and shrieked as she burnt alive by the magical flames. But also Voldemort screamed as he fell to his knees.
Before anyone had a chance to move, and Voldemort had barely hit the ground with his knees, Harry was already moving. He launched himself the fifteen metres that had slowly been formed between them and punched Voldemort in the face.
The look of shock that crossed the snake-like features almost had Harry bursting out laughing, but instead he followed the physical assault up with a magical blast that sent the psychopath backwards. Not letting up, he followed and came to rest next to the older man.
"Resurrect yourself from this with no horcruxes," he said with a grim smile as he tightened his grip on Voldemort's neck and sent a pulse of energy out.
Harry had already seen how effective that method of execution was with Ross, but the second time around it was infinitely more satisfying. Without waiting for anyone else to interfere he quickly sent another blast of Fiendfyre towards the decapitated body. Harry almost gleefully watched as the flesh was reduced to a pile of ash.
He didn't hang around after the body had disintegrated and instead turned to the people who were milling around in the graveyard. With the end of their leader the Death Eaters were unsure of what to do.
"Listen to me Death Eaters," Harry shouted, making sure that his voice could carry to everyone present. "Unless you are completely blind you can see your leader is dead. And trust me, is not coming back this time around. I swear my magic on it."
That promise seemed to erode a large portion of the defiant air still lingering around some of the black robed men.
"I do not care why you followed Voldemort, I only care about what we do next. If you wish to leave, and you'll drop his stupid notion of blood supremacy and conquering the Muggles then feel free to leave. If you still want to carry on with his aims, well we have a problem."
A few people apparated straight away, and in trickles more left over the next few minutes. Soon there were ten left over.
"Do you really want this? Be aware that none of you are leaving here alive if this truly is the direction you wish to follow," Harry said sombrely.
"No jumped up Half-Blood is going to dictate to me what I do," one of the masked men snarled.
The Death Eater fired off a curse which Harry rolled under and sent his own curse back. The Death Eater was not so agile and crumpled as the green light hit him.
"You do realise that your beloved Voldemort was a Half-Blood too?" Harry pointed out.
Two of the others shuffled uneasily before apparating out. The seven that were left attacked as one, but were easily taken down by a mixture of bullets, arrows, repulsor blasts, and spells.
"So, time to destroy the Horcruxes then a party!" Harry said after staring down at the bodies for a few seconds.
"They all dead?" Tony nudged one with a foot.
"Yep, they aren't getting back up again," Harry nodded with certainty.
"What are we going to do these all?" Remus nudged a cloaked figure with his boot.
"I have a friend in the police force who was primed for this, but I think we managed to avoid the attention of the Muggles…" Harry thought for a few seconds. "We need to show the Ministry that these people were Death Eaters."
"Morsmordre!" a deep voice called out.
Soon the scene was bathed in a sickly green light from the ghostly symbol curling in the sky. Harry looked over to the black figure who appeared out of the shadows and nodded approvingly.
"Good idea," he turned to look at the Dark Mark for hopefully the final time.
"Professor Snape?" Cedric said warily.
"It's alright, he's been spying on Voldemort for Dumbledore," Harry quickly explained.
"That explains a lot," Fred said slowly. His twin nodded by his side.
"Anyway, can these guys come back with us? There's a few things we need to destroy before this is all truly over," Harry turned to Sirius.
"Snape can side-along apparate three more of them, Remus and I can take another two each," Sirius nodded.
"Grab on guys, just one more spell and then I'm cracking out the firewhiskey… or butterbeers," Harry added as he caught Snape's disapproving stare.
DEATH EATERS DISCOVERED DEAD!
By Rita Skeeter
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was in turmoil last night as reports of the Dark Mark flooded in. Apart from the false alarm of it being cast at the Quidditch World Cup, the last time the symbol has been seen was during the last Wizarding War. Understandably, many people were concerned.
Reports from the scene are still unclear, but what is clear is multiple bodies have been found wearing the robes used by Death Eaters before. We are still waiting on news as to whether the bodies in question bear the Dark Mark. The DMLE refused to comment.
For more details on the Death Eaters see pages 3
For more information on You-Know-Who's rise see page 4
For the major events of the Last Wizarding War see page 5
"Well it had the effect we wanted," Harry said smugly as he put the paper down and helped himself to some toast.
"They haven't come to any conclusions yet though," Hermione had read the short piece over his shoulder.
"With something like that they can't just dive straight in with accusations. We don't know who we killed last night, and there could be some serious repercussions," Remus pointed out.
"At least Skeeter is being quite to the point and unbiased," Kevin said happily.
"If she tried to put slanderous rumours in here it could have a major backlash on her," Cedric poured himself coffee.
"For all I care now they could publish that Fudge killed Voldemort," Harry stood up and shrugged his jacket back on.
"Where are you off to?" Sirius had only just walked into the room to see his godson getting ready to leave.
"I've still got a bit of a to-do list to get through," Harry pointed out. "Defeat Dark Lord, check. Actually get to talk to my dad for the first time in two years is next on the list."
"You are coming back though aren't you?" Neville asked quickly.
"Of course, you guys wouldn't have any fun without my bad luck ruining it all," Harry grinned mischieviously. "We still have three more years for me to muck up."
And without further ado he quickly slid from the room and once in the corridor he easily teleported to America. He had aimed to arrive in his room to avoid startling anyone or interrupting something, and he was still pleasantly surprised when he got it spot on. Quickly he trotted through the quiet building, aware that it was only four in the morning and most sane people would be asleep.
He was soon tiptoeing through the doors to his dad's room and sank into the chair next to the bed. Bruce was looking a lot healthier than when he had last saw him, there was colour to his cheeks and the supplements that had been given to him had added a small amount of weight to his face. The full face mask was gone, and all that was left was the small nasal tube to ease breathing.
Harry made himself comfortable and picked up a discarded book that had been left on the table to idly flick through. It wasn't really his cup of tea, but it would do.
However he didn't have to wait long, as only an hour later the heart monitor beeped plaintively. A quick check had Harry dropping the book and leaning forward. Slowly Bruce's breathing increased as well, and soon his eyelids were flickering erratically.
"Hey Dad," Harry said quietly, a huge grin threatening to split his face.
"Mateo?" came a mumbled reply.
"Ah, it's Harry now," Harry corrected him.
"Hmm? What?" Bruce was regaining consciousness surprisingly quickly.
Harry had been worried that it was taking him a long time to wake up, and whether the Hulk's regenerative capabilities had been broken. However Bruce's almost immediate awareness proved that it was only a temporary relapse.
"Why are you going by Harry again?" Bruce asked again.
"You are not going to believe the story I have to tell you," Harry said happily.