AN: Happy 4th Americans. This marks the second year in a row I have written before/during a fireworks show. Last year I was writing Pax Lunae. And this will be the fourth fanfiction I've written since then so I'm kinda impressed with myself XD. You can also blame that holiday for the delay on this, though in my defence this chapter is as long as two.
Enjoy. Tissues are a prerequisite.
Disclaimer: Please refer to Chapter One
Last Time on Sailor Moon H: Summer at Grimmauld Place was going well for Harry Potter, and the Order of the Phoenix had three senshi among its new class of members. It was a peaceful summer away from the brewing war – up until a distraught Hotaru Tomoe arrived on the doorstep.
The Wizard In White
"And what are you reading this time?" Souichi Tomoe after knocking on the open door to Hotaru's room.
"The Nature of Space and Time," Hotaru said from behind the hardcover book held close to her face. "Mama Suna says it gets more right than it does wrong."
Her father chuckled. "And you're going to take Ms. Meioh's word over Hawking's?"
"Yes." Hotaru rolled her eyes. "She's the Guardian of Time, Papa."
"As I'm well aware – but she's barely got her doctorate, last I heard."
Hotaru lowered the book enough to raise one eyebrow at him. "Eternal. Guardian. Of Time."
He shook his head, walking over and sitting down on her bed. "That I simply don't believe," He reached out for the lamp on the nightstand and pulled the cord, leaving only the fairy lights and the twin lamps on the desk to illuminate the room. "Time for bed."
Hotaru sighed. "Okay," and she tucked the butterfly bookmark into the page she'd left off on and set the book down on the nightstand. She took a good look at her father and frowned. "Why're you wearing your coat?"
"Because it's raining out," he said, glancing out at the downpour pounding against the windows. "And I have to go into the office."
"But it's midnight!" Hotaru frowned.
"Which means the only people around to distract me will be the building security staff," Souichi smiled. "I've just got a couple things to wrap up before the parents orientation tomorrow." He smoothed her hair back. "I'll be home before you wake up."
Hotaru sighed. "Don't stay up all night again," she said. "It's bad for you."
He chuckled. "Of course, Doctor Tomoe," he said. Hotaru giggled. He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Goodnight, Sweet Pea." He stood up and glanced around. "Want any of these turned off?"
"No," she yawned, settling back against her pillow. "But could you turn on the one by the door?"
"Of course." He walked to door, switched on the large floor lamp, and stepped out into the hall. "Sweet dreams," he said before clicking the door shut behind him.
Hotaru listened as he padded down the hall. Her eyes blinking heavily. She shook her head. She could probably read until he got home. She turned her bedside lamp back on and grabbed her book, re-opening it to the essay she'd left on.
She managed three more pages before the words began to blur, and before she began to doze. Her head jerked up every few seconds as she realized she'd fallen asleep and each time she would refocus on the words. It was more of a struggle each time to find the correct place.
She'd re-read the same paragraph on page 103 about seven times without recalling a word before she finally fell asleep with the book open on her chest.
And within a few minutes, her brows were furrowed and her mouth frowning.
Hotaru often dreamed. Though she was loathe to tell her father they were not the sweet dreams he hoped for her.
She raised the Silence Glaive, excitement filling her as she levelled it at the figure kneeling at her feet with her arms spread wide. At last here was her mortal enemy, about to die by her hand. The blond's pathetic magic wand was broken in two under her heel. She sneered at the blond in her dirty white leotard, the blue collar and yellow skirt of her uniform torn and burnt.
Wait, Hotaru thought. She's my friend…
"You're pathetic, Sailor Moon," her voice was too loud and low and scornful to be her own. Never the less it spoke from her own lips.
"Stop!" Hotaru tried to shout. But no sound passed her lips. She tightened her hands on the glaive and strained to move it, but her arms would not budge.
Sailor Moon looked up, tears gathering in her wide blue eyes. "Hotaru please – come back. I know you're in there."
"I am!" Hotaru tried to shout, but could not move her mouth or her limbs. She was trapped some how, in her own body. Which, she realized, had black painted nails grown too long to be hers and heavy black hair so long it curled on the floor.
She trembled. It was not her voice speaking from her mouth.
"I am Hotaru," Mistress 9's voice left her lips as Hotaru fought to gain control. But she could not speak, could not fight. Mistress 9 moved her limbs as though she were nothing more than a marionette with someone else jerking the strings.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Mistress 9 whispered. Hotaru could not even scream. The green light rushed into Sailor Moon. She slumped over at Mistress 9's feet, and when the green light had faded, she was pale, her happy blue eyes, vacant.
Mistress 9 stepped over her, approaching the small person Sailor Moon had been kneeling in front of.
"CHIBIUSA!" Hotaru sobbed as the glaive was levelled at Chibiusa's chest. The green light of the killing curse engulfed her and she floated a few inches off the ground before falling limp at Hotaru's feet.
"No…" Hotaru could not even voice her protests, could not hear her own sobs as Mistress 9 carried on, walking down a dungeon hall like those that comprised Hogwarts' lowest floors. As her too-high heels clacked against the stones she came up against more of her friends: her glaive killed her first-year friend Ida Keelan next, then Mercury, then Hermione and Ginny, and Mars as she dove in front of Venus. Mistress 9 killed Venus too, and Hotaru had barely processed it before the Silence Glaive had felled Jupiter, Lauren Babbage, and Ron Weasley as well.
"Stop!" someone shouted. "Expelliarmus!"
The Silence Glaive wrenched itself free of Mistress 9's grasp and flew into the outstretched hand of a familiar boy with bright green eyes, messy black hair, and a scar that matched her own.
"Harry!" Finally! It was over. She couldn't kill anymore.
But even as her heart pounded in her chest, filled with relief, she felt the demon in control of her drag her arm up, her index finger pointed at Harry as he clutched the glaive close.
The green light shot from her finger and hit Harry where his scar was. He crumbled to the floor. The Silence Glaive clattered out of his limp hand.
When Hotaru looked up, she was not the only one in the dungeon.
"Don't…" she sobbed. "Please don't."
Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto stood in the middle of the cold hallway.
"Don't take a step further." Uranus commanded.
Hotaru screamed and fought against the force that made her raise her arm. "Don't make me," she watched, paralyzed, as her finger pointed at Uranus chest. "Papa…"
"We have to," Neptune said, her face turned away. "That's not Hotaru anymore." She raised her arm high over her head. Behind her Uranus hand began to glow bright yellow. Pluto readied the Garnet Rod.
The maroon, yellow, blue, and green attacks met between the four of them and exploded, the light blinded Hotaru and forced her back. She was falling. The dungeon rushed away from her until it was little more than a pinprick of light overhead.
She hurtled down into the dark, the nothingness rushing past. She was going to crash. She raised her arms, covered her head, and tucked her legs to her chest.
"I can move!" she realized.
At once the feeling of space rushing past vanished. Hotaru gasped. Her free fall stopped.
Breathing hard, heart going so fast she could barely distinguish the individual beats, Hotaru uncurled her legs, lowered her arms from around her head, and stood up.
She was still surrounded by blackness. There was no ground beneath her feet. She looked up. The pinprick of light from the dungeon was gone.
"Am I still dreaming?" Her normal voice left her lips, and echoed back to her from the darkness. She crossed her arms over her chest and pinched one. The slight pain was as real as it would have been in the physical world. "Where am I?" she wondered.
She spun around until she saw a light in the darkness, faint, small, and pink. She wanted to approach it and then she was. Space warped around her as she rushed towards it.
The light came from a crystal: a small, pale pink gem, cut into a simple, eight faced prism. She knew these sorts. She'd become quite familiar with them last year. This was a star seed. She cupped it in her hands to shield it from the darkness. Its light felt familiar – it glowed with the same warmth as the arms that used to rock her when she was small, in this life, and in her last one.
"Papa," she smiled.
"Sweet dreams," his voice resonated from the star seed in her hands.
I need to get it back to him, Hotaru thought. He surely needs this.
Her father was in his office right now. On the 62nd floor of the new Mugen Academy building. She could feel his fatigue. I told you: you need rest, she thought, intent on appearing to him there, in the office, and telling him so.
As she tried to reach through the darkness around her though, a chill raced up her spine.
"Avada Kedavra," a high, girlish voice whispered. Her father's star seed glowed bright green, and the light from it turned cold.
When the green light winked out, all the natural pink light in the crystal had vanished along with it.
"Papa?" She breathed, not quite believing that the now dark, hollow prism had just held all her father's light. She reached for it. If she could hold it, she could find him. She could get it back.
Her finger brushed against the cold crystal and a sharp crack echoed through the darkness. A splinter appeared on the crystal's face. Then another. More splintered off from there. Her heart stuttered to a halt in her chest as the dead star seed shattered in her hands.
Hotaru jolted up in bed, threw her cold, sweat soaked covers away, and dashed to the open window. She leaned halfway out it and gasping in the too-warm summer air, fresh and cleansing after the late-night rain.
"Papa!" she shouted, and waited. But he did not reply. She peered down at the parking lot outside their building. His car was missing from his spot.
Her communicator said it was 3:35.
I told him not to stay out all night, she thought, climbing through her window and jumping out. She was Sailor Saturn before she hit the ground. The frantic clack of her boots on the pavement was the only sound save the occasional yowl of a cat or bark of an alert dog.
It took her ten minutes running through the streets and along the rooftops to make it to Mugen. She calmed a little when she saw the light on the 62nd floor.
Saturn ran right off the roof of a neighbouring building, using the butt of the Silence Glaive to vault higher up into the air. She landed on the roof of Mugen Academy, still running, and kicked in the door to the stairs so hard its hinges cracked. The whole door landed with a loud crash on the stairs. She jumped over it, rushing down the single flight to the 62nd floor and then left down the corridor of administrative offices.
Her father's office door was open at the end. Light streamed out into the hall.
Why didn't he come out? Her pace hastened to a sprint. Surely he heard the crash.
She skidded through the doorway. Her heart stopped.
"Papa." Her hand came up over her mouth.
His body was on the floor, pinned up against the front of the desk. His eyes were dull, staring towards her without attention or emotion. But she needed none of that physical evidence to know.
She could see, clearly, that there was no light shining within him.
She stumbled forwards. There was something on his shirt, a mark. And his arms and legs did not seem to be set right. There was something red staining his face, under his nose.
As she took another step, knees shaking, and the Glaive shaking along with her hands, a lavender light stopped her. Mama Suna's black heels and billowing burgundy robes rushed through the Time Doors and blocked her way as the doors faded.
Saturn raised her arm to push her aside. "Let me go!" Saturn cried, her hand came up to push on Mama Suna's shoulder, but she clutched the neck of her robes instead as a sob tore free of her.
"No," Mama Suna tucked Sailor Saturn's head under her chin and sank to the floor with her when her knees gave out. "Don't look." She whispered as she held Saturn. "You don't need to see."
"I… I need to save him!" Saturn cried, beating her hand against Setsuna's shoulder. "I saved Sirius – I can save him!"
"It was very different circumstances," Setsuna murmured, "He's gone," she said, clutching Saturn closer as her sobs broke out in earnest. "I'm sorry: he's gone."
She held Saturn as her transformation gave way, leaving only Hotaru in her nightclothes, so much smaller than in her senshi form. Setsuna pressed Hotaru closer, pulling her cloak around her so she would not accidentally see. Then she turned and looked at the body.
Souichi Tomoe had not gone quickly. She knew that as surely as she knew the blood on his face had been from a nosebleed, and that his arms and legs had been fractured – his left leg in two places. Seared into his shirt with the precision of a Wix wand, was a skull, a snake protruding from its mouth. The whole thing was green and still smoking faintly.
Setsuna vanished the Dark Mark with a wave of her rowan wand, and Souichi injuries as well. Better to make it look like a heart attack, she concluded. He has had problems with blood pressure in the past.
Only when he looked neater, and was laid out more naturally on the floor, did she allow Hotaru to look.
Her daughter scrambled from her arms, kneeling close to Souichi's too-pale face and putting her hand over his cheek.
"Papa," she cried. "Papa…"
Setsuna knelt behind her, resting a steady hand on her back as she swallowed the lump in her throat.
It was some time before Hotaru's hands fell back to her side. She bowed her head. "Do we need to leave?"
"We need you to be somewhere safe, yes." Setsuna murmured. "I'm sorry."
Hotaru nodded stiffly, retreating into her arms. "Where's Mama and Papa-Haruka?"
"We're going to them," Setsuna whispered. She had already opened the Time Doors behind them. "We're going to them right now."
She led Hotaru into the Time Dimension and right through the door of Grimmauld Place where it was still evening on July 31st. She pushed open the door of the house and Hotaru threw herself Haruka and Michiru. Haruka looked up and gestured to Setsuna: her father okay?
The lump in Setsuna's throat that had been present since the birthday party seemed instantly heavier, and her eyes stung with tears. She shook her head, leaning back against the hard front door and wishing it were appropriate to slide down it and cry as Hotaru did.
It had been meant to be a wonderful day. Hotaru's father should have finished work at 3.00. He should have been home when she woke up and should have taken her to the park. They should have planned out the camping trip they were meant to take the week before Mugen Academy opened. The Death Eaters should not have been there; she'd foreseen them roaming the magical lands far, far north of Tokyo…
How did I let this happen?
In the minutes after Setsuna and Hotaru's arrival, Haruka and Michiru'd whisked Hotaru away while Setsuna informed the six students, and then the Order when they'd arrived, of what had happened. Mrs. Weasley's sniffling and repetitions of "that poor dear," were all Harry and his friends could hear of that meeting through the extendible ear.
When the adults meeting had concluded, Alice and Frank Longbottom were the first members to leave the kitchen, calling for Neville. Harry and the others followed him down the stairs to meet them and were just in time to see Alice crush him to her, her hands trembling and her face quite pale.
"Why don't I escort the three of you home," Remus offered in a voice low enough that only the teenagers clustered together on the stairs could hear. The other members of the Order were still slowly and silently making their way out of the kitchen.
Frank shook his head. "That isn't necessary,"
"We can't let every little thing scare the wits out of us, now can we," Alice added. "But thank you," she glanced at all of them. "If you could let us know though when they're going to get the school supplies…"
"Of course." Remus murmured.
"Come on, Mum." Neville said. He'd grown taller than her over the summer, tall enough to put his arm around her thin shoulders. "I bet Gran's got your favorite tea," he waved to the others. "S-see you."
"It was Bellatrix Lestrange," Remus murmured. "Setsuna showed us her memories…" he shook his head, "Lestrange's handiwork's easy to pick out even if you've only seen it once."
Harry swallowed hard.
"Did Hotaru see?" Hermione worried.
"I expect so," Remus whispered. "Ron, Ginny: I've a feeling Molly will want to take you home. Hermione, Luna: you're welcome to stay the night."
"Thank you Professor Lupin," Luna said. Hermione only nodded. Harry and Ron both frowned as she continued to stare towards her feet, fists clenched as she worried her lip between her teeth. Ron, next to her, put his arm around her waist and she turned into him, leaning her head on his shoulder.
"And I think we could all use some chocolate," Remus said, beckoning them all towards the now vacated kitchen. He stopped them in the hallway though, frowning, "Actually, why don't you all go to the den," he said. "I'll bring the chocolate."
Harry frowned as Remus carried on to the kitchen and looked at Ginny. She'd closed her eyes and put a hand to her ear.
"What?" Harry asked once Remus had slipped through the kitchen door.
"Setsuna and Dumbledore are still there," Ginny whispered. "They're…arguing."
"You can hear them from here?" Ron marvelled. The extent to which Ginny's transformation had enhanced her abilities was still surprising even to her.
"Is it about Hotaru?" Hermione asked.
"No… come on," Ginny whispered, seeing several Order members lingering in the hall and throughout the floor. She led them up a level, to the den, which had recently been cleared of the last few pixie nests.
Hermione cast a silencing spell on the door and Ginny plopped down in the high-backed, black armchair closest too it.
"It was about the Order," Ginny said. "Setsuna wants to go after Lestrange, and the rest. Hunt them down. Dumbledore says it's too dangerous," she scowled. "And, apparently not why the Order's here."
"What else is the Order for then?" Harry exploded. "They protect people don't they," he began to pace the floor as Hermione and Ron hovered near the door and Luna perched herself on Ginny's armchair. "Aren't they meant to stop the Death Eaters?"
"They do… I mean in the first war they did," Ron said. "But they were a lot bigger then. They had more Aurors. Dad says Mum's brothers used to hunt for the Death Eaters all the time before they could attack… but they had like… a hundred and fifty members then."
"Not all of the Order are trained to fight, Harry," Hermione reminded him. "Dumbledore probably doesn't want to put them in harm's way."
"But everyone's in harms way with the Death Eaters," Harry said. "And the Ministry's doing shit about it…" he rubbed his scar and took a deep breath, trying to get his anger under control. He hated that he could still feel how pleased Voldemort was by the turn of events. Harry'd rather not add to that by letting Voldemort feel his anger if he could help it. "Hotaru wrote me a few days ago… she reckons there's Death Eaters inside the ministry pulling the strings."
"There are," Ron confirmed. "Or at least sympathizers – you should hear some of the crap Dad hears at work." He swallowed. "There's lots of people still downplaying it all… they want to think Voldemort's just a lone wolf. They're still afraid a'course… but there's lots who refuse to believe he's still got followers. I mean there's loads who still think Mr. Malfoy got framed at the Department of Mysteries."
Harry looked out the Den window at the heavy rain illuminated by the street lamps. "If the Order's not going to face him, who is?"
When Remus brought them the chocolate, Harry barely tasted it. They all drank it in silence. It wasn't long before Mrs. Weasley came to usher Ron and Ginny away. Ron hesitated, looked between Hermione and Harry, and then gave them all a weak wave as he left. Ginny hugged Luna, and Hermione, and Harry last and longest. "I hope it was still a happy birthday," she whispered before pulling away.
When he, Luna, and Hermione, made their way up to their rooms, Harry stopped on the third floor, and stood outside Haruka and Michiru's door. He could hear them whispering, but not a sound came from Hotaru…at least she was sleeping, Harry thought. After Cedric's death, he hadn't slept a wink.
In the three days between Hotaru's arrival and her father's funeral, Harry barely saw her. She didn't emerge from Haruka and Michiru's room until evening on Thursday, long after Hermione and Luna had gone home. And not even his booklist and the Captain's badge that accompanied it drew Harry's attention away from worrying about her. When she did venture out, he found her in the kitchen when he wandered in for a snack. She was sitting on one of the stools, moving the leftovers from dinner around with her fork.
He saw the aqua-and-dark-blue striped snake animagus coiled up by the refrigerator, keeping a close eye on Hotaru without the girl being able to see her. Maybe Hotaru wanted to be alone? Harry thought.
Harry wanted to say something. Though he wasn't sure what. "Sorry your dad was murdered – so were my parents," sounded like a lame opener even with his track record.
Instead he snagged one of the remaining slices of birthday cake out of the fridge, debated for a few moments, and then topped it with a scoop of ice cream.
He set it down in front of Hotaru and grabbed his own snack off the table – cookies Mrs. Weasley had left because she didn't believe anyone in Grimmauld could cook.
Hotaru blinked, looking between the cake and him and back as if coming out of a daze. "Thanks," she whispered.
"Any time," Harry said. "Er…I'm sorry."
Hotaru shrugged. "They hadn't put wards on Mugen," she said. "They said the kinds of things that work for houses don't work on public buildings."
"I guess not," Harry sighed. "Are the others' parents okay?"
Hotaru nodded. "Mama says they've got aurors tailing them now." She sighed. "So that's… good."
Harry nodded. "Um," he clenched his fist. "I can't say I understand exactly…Voldemort killed my parents when I was little. I feel sad sometimes…and angry…but it's nothing like what you are, I bet." He broke one of the cookies in half. "Last year though…Voldemort killed a friend of mine in front of me: Cedric Diggory." He swallowed. "There wasn't any reason... he was just there"
Hotaru sighed. "I think there was a reason." She slumped closer to the table. "The Death Eaters aren't supposed to know who we are."
"Cause you're glamoured."
"Right. They only know about Mamas and Papa because Umbitch found them out." She bit her lip. "But anyone'd recognize my glaive… or maybe someone told the Death Eaters who I was." She looked towards him. "Maybe they wanted to know more about me… and went after Papa."
Harry nodded. "That sounds like something Voldemort would do."
"It isn't fair." Hotaru stabbed her spoon into the cake hard enough to split it in half. Harry gulped when he saw the purple symbol glowing on her forehead. "Papa doesn't… didn't know anything about this."
The snake animagus had raised her head, looking closely at the two of them. Harry reached out and put a hand on Hotaru's shoulder. "It isn't fair," he agreed. "We're…we're gonna make them pay for this."
"I'll drag them to hell along with me," Hotaru said without a hint of jest. "It won't be the first time."
"Right… uh," Harry stammered. "Well, you won't be alone. After all – I'm the Chosen One, or whatever."
Hotaru looked over at him, her eyes went to his forehead. "Cause of your scar," she said. "And the darkness in it."
Harry frowned. "My… connection to Voldemort?"
"Yes – that's probably the darkness in your scar." she touched her fingers to her own. "It's different than mine."
Harry stared at her. "Do you dream of him?"
"No," Hotaru whispered.
"Or…or feel his emotions… your scar doesn't hurt?"
"No," Hotaru tapped the lightning bolt over her sternum. "Maybe something different happened the night he attacked you – to do with the prophecy," Hotaru said. "Mine's just… a normal scar."
Harry kept going over Hotaru's words repeatedly in his head that week. He didn't discuss them with anyone. Not even Dumbledore when he stopped by Grimmauld. Did Dumbledore know? Had he lied when he said he'd told Harry everything? Part of him wondered if he should ask Professor Meioh. After all, Harry had the feeling Professor Meioh knew a great deal more things than she ever divulged. And she had been arguing with Dumbledore, which intrigued Harry. No one in the Order had ever questioned Hogwarts' Headmaster.
But he did not get the chance to ask her about his scar. Because, while he saw little of Hotaru in the days leading up to the funeral, he saw Professor Meioh even less. She seemed to appear and disappear from Grimmauld Place only when no one else was present, or to say goodnight to Hotaru. She was never around for longer than it took to hold an Order meeting.
The day of the funeral, Setsuna was in the kitchen when all of them woke up, hours early to account for the time difference in Japan. When Harry stumbled down the stairs intent on seeing Hotaru off, Professor Meioh was already making what Harry was sure were all of Hotaru's favorite foods.
At the end of breakfast, Professor Meioh glamoured herself, taking on the guise of a social worker. Haruka disillusioned herself, and Michiru took on her animagus form. Hotaru even smiled as the thin, three foot snake coiled around her neck. The sight unnerved Harry even if he knew it was really Michiru. Setsuna conjured a scarf to hide the snake and then summoned her time doors.
They were gone until 11:00, and in the time they were, number 12 Grimmauld Place saw one more surprise. Shortly after 10:00, Harry glanced up from The Compendium of Mischief when Mrs. Black's portrait began screaming "FILTHY MUD-BLOODS IN MY HOME!" Padfoot sprinted out of the library ahead of Harry.
He rushed into the hall and was met by Hermione, with a backpack on her shoulders and Sirius levitating her trunk behind her. Harry frowned. He thought she'd been planning to come stay only the week before term.
"My parents and I just thought," she said, tucking her hair behind her ear. "With everything going on… it mightn't be the best idea – so they're off to Australia for a while. They're going to have a nice holiday."
"Well you're always welcome here Hermione," Sirius said. "Be nice to have a kid around who doesn't spend all day brooding – Hotaru's got a good excuse, but this one," he grinned at Harry. "You'd think you were living with Snivellus some days kid."
Harry flushed. "Are you admitting that you're similar?" he asked his godfather, pointedly looking at his hair. "I guess I can see the resemblance."
"Oh!" Sirius smacked his hand over his heart. "I will have you know I wash these locks daily. Snivy hasn't washed since the last time I dunked him in the lake." He looked expectantly between the both of them, but Harry and Hermione had barely cracked a smile. Sirius sighed. "Alright I know it has been a shit week," he told the two of them. "But you've got to find some laughs somewhere," he insisted. "Bit of advice from someone who spent 12 years with dementors for dorm-mates: if you don't find some way to laugh, the Death Eaters will win this war before it's even started." He clapped both of them on the shoulders. "So find your smiles – Hotaru'd do well to see some." He checked his watch. "And if you could stay out of the kitchen for the next two hours, I've got,"
"Order stuff," Harry sighed. "No problem, we'll be in the library."
Hermione rambled the entire way across the ground floor. "They've always wanted to visit, Australia," she was saying as she tucked her hair behind her ear. Harry saw something affixed to her bare arm – a brand new wand holster. "I mean do you think it was a good idea? It's a good hiding place, surely."
"Erm, yeah." Harry asked. "Was it your idea?"
"Yes," Hermione cleared her throat. "You know I read Australia has a lot of restrictions on magical travel. Hard for the Death Eaters to get to."
Harry nodded, still distracted by the holster on her arm. "Where'd you get that? He pointed. "Hang on," he leaned closer to see. "That isn't your wand."
"Um, no," Hermione said. "I… actually I bought it in Diagon two days ago. It's not Ollivanders," she cleared her throat. "It's from…uh… Aldermaston's."
"I've never seen that one."
"It's on Knockturn," Hermione said. "It's not dark!" she assured him. "But it doesn't register to the trace they have on under 17's, which Ollivanders do." She slipped the wand out of the holster and sent green sparks shooting into the air. "I thought it'd be good to have… for security, you know."
"The ministry couldn't expel you for defending yourself," Harry scoffed. "I mean… I guess they might try, but they'd never get the case through."
"Well it's not just for if I'm attacked," Hermione said. "There's other uses for it." She looked at her feet. "I know I'll be seventeen in a month," she said. "But I couldn't wait until then."
"I hear you," Harry said. "By the way… we should talk."
"I need to tell you something Hotaru said about my scar," Harry whispered as they moved to the armchairs at the back of the library.
Hermione and Harry moved to the staircase once Order members had arrived for briefings. They tried to listen in, but Crookshanks ate their extendible ear, so resorted to a game of Exploding Snap in the library instead. Hotaru and her parents returned just as the Order briefins were finishing up and Hotaru curled up in the free armchair in the library with them. They dealt her into the game without any fuss. She even properly laughed for the first time in three days. Though, upon realizing it, her mood became even more sullen.
The Order briefings brought more bad news with them: Remus had an assignment, a long-term one that they'd been able to push back until after Harry's party.
"But given everything that's going on," Remus said. "Dumbledore and I both agree it's high time I get to it."
Officially, Remus couldn't tell them what he was doing. Unofficially, Sirius told them anyway: seeking out the werewolves around Britain – those who lived in groups and those who lived alone. They'd been heavily disenfranchised by the current ministry, and there was growing worry that more of them would side with Voldemort than before.
"And some of them know Greyback," Remus said, clenching his fist involuntarily. "Who is a werewolf we'd all feel a lot better for keeping tabs on."
Remus wasn't the only resident of Grimmauld to leave that night either as Harry learned first hand when he'd realized, after brushing his teeth, that he'd left The Compendium of Mischief in the library. He'd been making his way down the stairs when he heard the argument break out in the entrance hall.
"What do you mean you're going?" Haruka whispered harshly. And Harry leaned over the banister to see the floor below. Haruka was leaning against the front door with her arms crossed, glaring at Professor Meioh, who was staring resolutely at the floor.
"It's the best thing," Meioh whispered. Harry strained to hear her. "This way Hotaru can take my room. And she can be close to the two of you and still have her own space, if she wants it."
"There's plenty of room in this house!" Haruka said much more loudly. "She needs you too. Fucking hell, Setsuna,"
"She goes to the two of you when she's scared,"
"Only because you're never in your room," Haruka fired back. "Are you trying to ignore her – because that's sure as hell what it seems like."
"Don't," Setsuna pleaded, shaking her head. "Haruka… Tell her I'm not,"
Harry saw her reach for the door handle and Haruka move to grab her hand.
"No," Haruka argued. And she stepped closer to Setsuna, cupping her face and turning it towards hers. "Suna… this wasn't your fault. We all know that. Hotaru knows that."
"Maybe so," Setsuna said. She stepped away from Haruka and crossed her arms. "But it was still preventable." She shook her head "Wix spaces are nearly as clear as mundane ones to me now. And Souichi wasn't meant to die yet. But I didn't see it. And until I find out why, I can't stay here."
"Suna," Haruka pleaded, stepping towards her again.
"Tell Michiru where I've gone. Tell Hotaru…" she sighed. "I'll see her soon."
"Suna, I'm not letting you just,"
In the blink of an eye, Setsuna had disapparated from the entrance hall. Haruka growled and punched the wall, causing Mrs. Black's covered portrait to begin shrieking.
"SHUT UP!" Haruka shouted at the sheet covering the canvas. "Less you want the sword to the face, you old hag."
It was a testament to what sense Mrs. Black's portrait still had that she was silent right way. Haruka sighed and banged her head against the wall.
"I hate magic."
Grimmauld is fine. You'd never believe how quiet it is even with so many people in and out every day.
I wish I could tell you about the Order meetings… unfortunately Crookshanks has eaten my extendible ear and Mrs. Weasley has confiscated Ron and Ginny's. Poor Crookshanks even got scared by the extendible eye and shredded it. I guess I don't blame him; it was horrid looking. So the Order meetings are bared to us. And even Sirius will only say so much. Fred and George tell us the most when ever they're here, which isn't so often now. I think it's something to do with Mrs. Weasley. Fred hasn't been coming by at all. And we saw George arguing with his mother. Something about Fleur and Morgana. Ron's decided if this is how she reacts to girls, he's never dating anyone (I think he's kidding…)
Hotaru is fine. Quiet, but fine. I don't think she knows entirely how she wants to feel. Sometimes she doesn't want to leave Haruka or Michiru's side, but often she doesn't want to be around anyone. She and Harry are sort of alike in that way.
We're going to get our books at the end of the week. I'm only too relieved. I think everyone needs to get out. Sirius has been quite edgy with Remus away, and really the only bits of the outside world that get to Grimmauld are the Order's stories and The Prophet. Which, as you can see in these articles, is still publishing a load of drivel. Four muggleborns (ministry employees no less) disappear on their way home from work and it's only a coincidence. Oh, but heaven forbid a pureblood be bared from his Gringotts account for hours on end – then the goblins must have something nefarious afoot.
I'm doing fine. I sent my parents away… and I erased their memories so they won't accidentally reveal their connection to me. Don't tell Ron and Harry. I don't want them worry about me. But I needed to tell someone.
I'm looking forward to Hogwarts more than ever now. At least there I can learn…I can feel like I'm doing something instead of sitting around here watching everyone else getting hurt.
Harry and Hotaru are going a little stir crazy now. Even Sirius and Haruka and Michiru get to go out on missions. But not us. I'm not as offended about it as the two of them seem to be… Or maybe I'm just less confident. I still get nightmares about the Department of Mysteries.
But back to what you asked about: They're all fine. Though Setsuna hasn't been around the past few days. Harry says she blames herself for Dr. Tomoe. And other than sulking about that, Haruka and Michiru are fine too. They've been running a lot more missions with Tonks and some of the new members since Remus has left and Sirius is often the one home with us. I'm not sure if he's elected to do it or if he's been assigned to watch us, but Harry's taken notice. You can guess how he feels about being babysat (Hotaru too for that matter).
Hope all is well. See you in two weeks.
Minerva's boots clacked sharply on the stone floor of the North Wing as she approached the open door of the Muggle Studies classroom. She barged straight in and made a beeline for the office door, also wide open on the other side of the classroom.
Setsuna was passed out on her desk, a full, cold cup of tea sat neatly on its saucer on the edge.
"Rennervate" Minerva said brusquely. Setsuna gasped, shooting up at her desk and making the tea rattle on its saucer.
"Sorry," she muttered, rubbing her forehead. "Have I missed a staff meeting?"
"Hardly," Minerva raised an eyebrow at her, her mouth a thin line. "Most of the staff are still on their holidays. In fact. I was surprised to learn you were even here. So it's good that Severus brought it to my attention." She tapped her wand against her arm. "I generally find you to be a rather competent, sensible person. So I'm going to give you the chance to explain why you are here when, by all rights, you should be enjoying the summer with your family. Especially your daughter."
Setsuna sighed, leaning back in her chair and rubbing her forehead again. "I have important things to do."
"Try again," Minerva said.
Setsuna looked away and it was a few long, silent minutes before she spoke. "I can't look at her," she confessed. "Dr. Tomoe should have, in every future, had at least 30 more years with her. He's dead. And I can't for the life of me see how I let it happen."
"I was under the impression time carried on whether we wanted it to or not," Minerva said. "Unless you've been holding out on us."
Setsuna shrugged. "If it would do any good, I would," She said. And only staunch years of stoicism kept Minerva's jaw from dropping. "But traveling back would cause the most dreadful of paradoxes and I wouldn't be able to hold time long enough to save him." She sighed. "It's not fair."
"War has never been fair, a fact I'm sure you're aware of already," Minerva said. "And I'm sure even you can accept that sometimes there are events which are out of our control."
Setsuna nodded, reaching out for her cold tea and making a face at the taste. She set it aside. "But this I should have seen," She said. "And until I learn why, I won't know what else I'm missing." She sighed. "And I've had no luck on that front."
Minerva nodded. "It seems to me then, that you'll have no more luck uncovering the problem here than you will at Grimmauld. And since we've just established that blaming yourself for this is ridiculous, I stand by what I said." She levelled her sternest look at Setsuna. "Go. Home."
Setsuna turned away from Minerva, looking at the single photo she kept on her desk, charmed so that no others could see the people in it.
It was from Hotaru's birthday: the three of them were clustered around the blue-frosted birthday cake covered in star and crescent shaped candles, and Hotaru was between the three of them beaming from ear to ear. It had been a birthday where even Setsuna hadn't been sure what number to put on the cake. But it had been January sixth, and Hotaru had certainly grown enough for it to be commemorative, having grown from an infant into a toddler in barely a few months. So they'd frosted the cake dark blue like the night sky and covered it in star and moon candles. They'd blown them out for her. She'd been too excited to do it herself. And Hotaru'd liked the cake so much she'd taken a giant handful and smashed it all over Haruka's face.
"They're everything to me," Setsuna whispered. "They gave me a home when I hardly knew what it was like to have one. They gave me a family… something that I can't bear to leave even now or else I'd just stay behind the doors. And now I have this," she gestured to a thick roll of parchment on her desk – the names of the students in each of her classes. "I've come here playing character, as I have in the past, and come to find out I enjoy living that character's life so much I'd rather not return to mine." An abrupt, weak laugh escaped her. "I have everything Professor Meioh could ever want, and everything Setsuna Meioh could ever want, and none of those are things Pluto is permitted to have."
Minerva frowned at Setsuna who'd rubbed her palm over her forehead again. "I'm afraid I don't follow."
"It's alright, I'm not explaining well." Setsuna leaned over her desk and steepled her fingers together. "I have a duty: One which allows me to keep close watch over the intricacies of time, and one which I have been shirking, because I enjoy what I have here so much." She picked up her family photograph. "It's easier, when I can convince myself that my powers serve some purpose to those here." She set the photograph face down. "So perhaps I had no control over this… but it still means my powers have failed them. And I have to find a way to make sure that doesn't happen again. Or else I cannot justify shirking my duty, and I may have to admit that by doing so, I am letting them down."
Setsuna stared at the face down photo on her desk, one hand still resting on the frame.
"Yes well – don't count your win before the snitch is caught," Minerva said after a few moments. "And you're required to stay the year anyway – I am not relinquishing all of Divination to Sybil again, and if you force us to find a new Muggle Studies professor at this stage, I will transfigure you into a clock, and it will be the envy of any normal clock – since you have such a pension for always knowing the precise time."
Setsuna cracked a slight smile. "Not to worry – I won't leave, at least not before the Christmas Holidays…I still have a suspicion that the reason I missed Lestrange's intentions might have a magical explanation. And I do need to uncover what that is to ensure it does not continue to meddle with time."
"Good," Minerva nodded, rising from the desk. "Then you can research that just as well at Grimmauld as you can here: Go. Home."
"You said you feel guilty, I've heard you out. I still think you're being ridiculous," Minerva said. "As Haruka and Michiru surely will as well."
Setsuna sighed. "As soon as I uncover why I let this happen." She reached into her desk, pulling out a muggle pen and a mess of parchment covered in her small, delicate writing.
"I'm not going to sway you are I?" Minerva said.
"I need to find the solution first," Setsuna maintained.
Minerva, shook her head. "Well good luck to you." She made to leave the office and lingered in the doorway. "If the route by which Lestrange bypassed you is magical, you won't find it in any of Hogwarts tomes. She dabbles exclusively in the Dark Arts." Minerva thought for a moment. "I'll put in a request to Durmstrang's library. You might find some relevant spells in their tomes."
"Thank you," Setsuna said, already bent over her desk again with her head in her hand. Her pen was scribbling furiously across parchment before Minerva'd shut the office door.
He sat up straighter in his ornate chair as the great, black and silver doors across the room were pushed inwards. At last, she'd returned. His most loyal servant sauntered through, high heels clacking sharply against the hardwood floor.
"My delightful Bella," he hissed, holding out his foot as she knelt by his feet. She gasped her high, girlish laugh that echoed through the chamber and kissed the polished toe of his shoe.
"My lord," she crooned. "My lord I have done it – I have brought him,"
"Excellent," he directed his eyes towards the doors, beckoning with his hand at the wizard who waited there. At last. At last.
"Your information has proved invaluable to our efforts," he hissed. "Who is it who has proven to be more an ally than even my most faithful?"
The man in strangely cut white robes brought his hands to the hood of his white cloak, chuckling low as he pushed it back.
Harry shouted, clutching his scar and tumbling out of bed. He hissed as it continued to burn.
He had rarely felt Voldemort so pleased.
Swallowing back bile, he stumbled to his feet and found his glasses on the nightstand. It was still dark outside. Harry kept his hand pressed over his scar as he hastened to the door. He needed to get that dream back, he decided, making his way down to the drawing room and its fireplace.
By the time Hermione found him though, he had found nothing. He told her about the dream as they made their way down to the kitchen for breakfast.
"You should tell Sirius and Dumbledore," she said, but Harry shook his head. "Why not?"
"What am I gonna tell them," he muttered back. "Voldemort's met a non-Death Eater he likes? It's nothing useful."
At least not yet. Harry rubbed his hand over his eyes, scrapping away the crust that had gathered around his eyelids. He cursed himself for trying to see more rather than getting more sleep. Why couldn't he have dreamed on a day they weren't going to be busy outside of Grimmauld?
It was finally August 13th: the day they'd decided to finally get the Hogwarts shopping done. Professor Meioh arrived after breakfast (dressed as Sirius had suggested all of them do in proper wizarding robes and a cloak) to escort them all to Diagon. "I believe extra security will be meeting us there, as are the Weasleys."
Harry's shoulders slumped as the large group walked through the Time Doors and they opened onto an empty bedroom in the Leaky Cauldron. Harry didn't fancy doing all his school shopping with a contingent of Aurors ushering him between shops. They had the three senshi after all, and Sirius. Surely that was conspicuous enough.
When they met Ginny, Ron, Arthur, and Molly at the bottom of the stairs though, it was not aurors who awaited them.
"Hagrid!" Harry grinned, running up to him as Hagrid hugged he and Hermione.
"This is Dumbledore's idea of security?" Haruka murmured to Michiru and Setsuna.
"If he means for him to be a shield," Michiru answered. "I've a better idea." And she took her snake form, slithering up to Hotaru, who picked her up and let her coil around her neck, hidden by her cloak.
"Harry," Mr. Weasley said. "This is from Bill," and he passed Harry a sizeable bag with the Gringotts logo on the side. "Thought you'd rather not want to wait in the lines – Gringotts has upped Security lately."
"Actually," Ron snickered. "He said you'd rather not get one of their probes shoved up your,"
"RONALD!" Mrs. Weasley glared.
"Well that's what he said!"
"Well, anyways," Mrs. Weasley looked at the other adults. "I've a feeling we should get their books first. Then the robes."
"Actually," Haruka said. "I was thinking we could split up."
"It will take longer if we're all together," she said.
"And it will take an hour as it is to get their robes fitted," Setsuna added.
"I like that plan!" Ron said. "Mum, you and Dad could get all our books and stuff – and then we could meet you at Fred and George's."
"I… but it would be safer,"
"Ah, don't worry Molly," Hagrid grinned. "I'll be with'em!"
"And we'll be with them as well," Haruka said. "Seeing as they're going to draw attention anyways," she said, with a pointed look at Hagrid.
"Al… alright," Molly said. "Don't wander off," she told all the teenagers as they moved out into the alley.
"You should go with them," Harry told Sirius, who frowned at him. "No, really. They're not aurors."
"He's right," Haruka told Sirius. "And we shouldn't have all of us with one group."
Sirius sighed. "Fine." And he transformed into Padfoot, bounding off after the two Weasleys.
Hagrid kept up a light conversation with Harry and his friends as they walked: about the creatures he had planned for the NEWT class (and both Harry and Ron traded sheepish looks rather than admit they wouldn't be continuing). And behind them, Haruka and Setsuna walked on either side of Hotaru.
"Haruka it's hot out," Hotaru exclaimed and Harry looked back, frowning. Hotaru never called her parents by their names.
Haruka, it seemed, had pulled the hood of Hotaru's cloak over her head.
"Well good that will keep your head cool," Haruka countered. She was looking away from Hotaru, so that she wouldn't see the pained frown on Haruka's face
Harry turned around, trying to look casual as he pulled his own hood over his head, then elbowed Ron, and managed (with what he'd hoped was subtly but was probably the glaring opposite) to get him to do the same.
They weren't the only shoppers on the high street over dressed for summer either. One woman even had a fur scarf wrapped completely around the lower half of her face.
When they reached Mme. Malkims, Hagrid stood as a guard outside the door and Haruka disappeared. She met them an hour later as they were leaving the shop with a distinctive looking, long, paper-wrapped package in her hand.
"You got me a broom!" Hotaru exclaimed, shoving her new robes at Setsuna and dashing up to Haruka.
"Yep, you can open it at home or," but Hotaru was already tearing into the paper. Haruka chuckled "Now's good."
"Wow…" Hotaru whispered as all the students and Hagrid gathered around to see.
"That ain't no Nimbus," said Hagrid.
It certainly wasn't. The broom was slimmer, with a gleaming black handle and grey bristles trimmed into a spiral. Bright white sparks snapped across them when Hotaru ran her fingers over the bristles.
"It's a Nagareboshi," Haruka said. "Shooting Star to you all," she ruffled Hotaru's hair. "Had Quality Quidditch special order it for me. They claim it dives like a dream."
"They claim that as an attribute?" Setsuna muttered. And the snake around Hotaru's neck rose up and glared at Haruka.
"Hey – I agreed never to buy her a motorbike didn't I?" said Haruka as they walked. "Sides, it's safe."
"Who cares about that," Ron said, gaping at the sparks that appeared when he touched the bristles. "How fast does it go?"
"Ehhh," Haruka glanced nervously at Setsuna and the snake animagus. "Decently fast."
"I love it," Hotaru said, beaming up at Haruka. "Thank you,"
"Well I wasn't gonna let you try for Ravenclaw on a school broom, now was I?"
"Hotaru, can I hold it?" Ron asked, grinning as she passed it to him. "Blimey, it's light. What'd they make it with? How's it stack up against the Firebolt?"
As they walked deeper into Diagon Alley, Harry became aware that the only people he could hear talking on street were Ron and Haruka. The other shoppers scurried from shop to shop along the high street, huddled in close groups like their own. And none of them talked, save a few hushed whispers.
"It's been like this all summer," Ginny said. "We went to visit Fred and George's last week. The shop across from theirs was boarded up. And I heard Florentine was attacked."
"Have there been anymore big attacks?" Hermione whispered.
"Not after the attempt on Ollivander's, I don't think." Ginny pointed out his shop as they passed. Harry recognized Mundungus Fletcher as the beggar loitering near the door. "Still got aurors on him too, I bet. They're probably not as obvious as Dung."
"That'll be the twins place," Hagrid announced, drawing their attention to the next block of shops.
"I can't imagine Molly's happy about this," Setsuna murmured.
Harry saw the shop they meant immediately. Next to the drab, unadorned grey shop fronts around them, the bright purple façade with its neon sign and eye-popping window display stood out like a firework show. Weasley's Wizard Wheezes scrolled across the top of the door in bright, pink neon letters. Harry's eye was drawn to the ministry purple sign that covered an entire window. In bright green letters it read.
Why are you worried about You-Know-Who?
You should be worried about U-No-Poo
The constipation sensation that's gripping the nation.
"Is this a shop or a circus?" Haruka asked as Setsuna and Hagrid ushered the group of them through the door.
"Bit of both, really," Ginny said. "They're definitely showing off."
"Think I'm gone ter wait out here," Hagrid said, eyes drawn to the Exotic Pet shop a few stores down.
"Sure," Harry said, waving to him, his gaze already looking all around the expansive shop: gazing around the crowded main floor, the gold-stained spiral stairs, and the loft with still more treasures above.
Harry's first impression of the inside of the shop was that a Lifetime supply of Bertie Botts must have exploded inside. The sheer intensity of the colors made his eyes water. He gaped at the display in the center of the room. The Skiving Snack Boxes that Fred and George had perfected last year were now proudly displayed in a pyramid that reached nearly the level of the second floor. Nosebleed Nougat looked to be the most popular.
"What are those!" Hotaru rushed to a shelf of cages on the left side of the shop. She clutched her new broom close as she stood on her toes and pressed her face to the bars of one cage
"Those are Pygmy Puffs," Ginny said. "Cute things. I've got a pink one myself."
"Cutest thing on four legs," the twins' voices announced as they appeared out of the crowd. They were dressed richly: in burgundy robes that Ron whispered were dragon hide, and had tall, matching wizards caps atop their red hair.
"This one smells like lilacs," Hotaru murmured, giggling as the purple-furred fluff-ball in the cage she'd pressed her face too crawled to her and licked her nose.
"That it does," one of the twins said. "And the new breed's can light up if you ask'em nice. Perfect for anyone studying for exams, or really just your typical Ravenclaw…" And then he beamed and gestured towards the stairs that led to the second floor of the shop. "And that is one idea I cannot take credit for." He cupped his hands over his mouth. "MORGANA LE FAIR," Fred boomed while George rolled his eyes. "YOUR PRESENCE IS REQUIRED IN THE PET AISLE. I REPEAT: YOUR –"
Before he could finish though, a pale, white lion-patronus, its mane twinkling like starlight, bounded down the stairs from the upper-floor, shoppers gasping and diving out of its way as they stared. The beast charged right up to Fred and stopped in front of him. His burgundy cap fell of his head.
"I heard you the first time!" the lion roared before disappearing. Fred was grinning as he walked towards the stairs.
Morgana Avery slid down the banister, her own dragon hide robes of midnight blue billowing behind her. She landed on two feet and bounded up to Fred, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him soundly.
"I was assisting in the disguise section," she said in a tone of faux irritation.
"I know, but I thought you'd want to see them," Fred said, gesturing to the group clustered near the Pygmy Puffs.
Morgana's face lit up when she saw the Senshi. She tore herself away from Fred and ran to them. She hugged Haruka, ruffled Hotaru's hair, and then stopped at Setsuna. She straightened up. "I got my marks!" she said. "I got an O on the NEWT."
"An O, she says," scoffed George.
"She got the highest score," said Fred.
"Of course she did." Setsuna smiled. "I got a copy of your essay, academically speaking, it was excellent." She waved her wand and a shiny brochure appeared in her hand. She handed it to Morgana "It's a good thing you wrote it as I taught you to."
"You teach essay writing?" Hermione asked. She flicked her eyes between Setsuna and Morgana, torn between looking at the professor and getting a better look at the brochure Morgana had opened in her hands.
"It's a useful skill – especially in non-magical academics. And, Avery's essay on the exam was passed on to a special committee of the ICW because of its strength in that regard."
"The ICW?" Avery whispered.
"You should be getting an owl from them close to Christmas," Setsuna said. "They'll have an offer for you, but I've a feeling you'll want to write back and tell them you want this option instead."
Avery nodded, tucking the brochure into her robes before any of them could see. Hermione was pouting. "Why did I quit that course," she muttered to herself.
"It's not too late to join," Setsuna said. "If you sit and pass the OWL within the first week of classes there's still time for you to enrol in the NEWT level."
"Oh no," Ron groaned. "Hermione don't – d'you realize how much work that'll be?"
"She's muggleborn, Ron," Ginny said. "It can't be that hard."
Then Avery shrieked as the aqua-blue striped snake slithered free of Hotaru's cloak and dove towards the floor. The snake rose up to her full height, warping and changing into Michiru.
"You'd think that," Michiru said, smirking as she brushed her hair back. "But Haruka's NEWT score would suggest otherwise."
"I passed," Haruka defended herself
"Merlin's balls," Morgana swore. "I forgot you learned that," and she rushed across the group to Michiru, grinning as she hugged her. "I was hoping you'd stop by – oh!" she looked at Hotaru. "You found the Pygmy Puffs!" Morgana grinned. "She can have one if she wants – I'll cover it,"
"Can I have one, please?" Hotaru trained impressively wide eyes and a well-practiced pout at all three of her parents. "Please."
The three older senshi traded small smiles with each other.
"As long as you remember to feed it," Michiru cautioned.
"YES!" Hotaru cheered, rushing back over to the cage with the purple animal inside.
"Do you want that one," George said, whipping a set of bronze keys out of his pocket. "Here." He stooped down to unlock the door of the cage and scoop out the fluffy, purple creature.
Hotaru passed her broom to Harry so she could take the pint-sized fluff-ball George offered her. It turned around once in her hand, sniffed her fingers, and then stood up, falling forward and bracing tiny purple paws on Hotaru's face as it leaned in and sniffed her cheek.
"Should get one for Usagi too," Haruka chuckled, looking around the store. "What else you got?"
"Oh loads!" Avery said, gesturing around the ground floor. "You know the snack boxes of course and…"
They split off into smaller groups once Harry, Hermione, Hotaru, and the outer senshi had been given a proper tour of the main floor. Setsuna'd been keen to see some of the twins more experimental inventory. Fred and George had left it to Ron and Ginny to make sure their friends saw the rest of the shop. "Harry," they'd said. "Take anything you like. Ginny, make sure Ron keeps his pockets empty." Haruka'd offered to stick with the kids (and attempt to come up with a way to prank the twins back for every time they'd pranked her over the summer).
Michiru and Morgana had followed the students group for a while, until Morgana had brought up the product line geared towards defending civilians against the Death Eaters, something Michiru'd been quite keen to see. Hence they found themselves below the shop's main floor, browsing through the Weasleys' wall-to-wall stock of shield cloaks, hats, scarves, and even gloves as Michiru caved to the long-over due need for a shopping slurge.
Having already set aside five piles of the adult sizes matched to the inner senshi's house colors, the two of them were now combing through the racks and boxes for the child sized clothes, hunting for anything that would match well with Ravenclaw's blue and bronze.
"If there wasn't so much to do for the Order, I'd just spend the year as her pet snake and accompany her to class," Michiru said as she set aside a blue scarf.
"Because that wouldn't be conspicuous at all," Morgana said. "Here, this box has some." She levitated it into the center of the room and the two of them began sorting through the cloaks inside, separating them out by size and color into different corners of the store room. "I'm sorry… about her father," Morgana cleared her throat. "How's she coping?"
"Like any twelve year old would, I suppose." Michiru sighed. "She's handling him being dead," she said. "But I expected her to bring up at least once that she blames herself. Which she has not mentioned once." She paused, debating between a light purple cloak and a navy blue and flicking her wand, directing both towards her approved pile, "And considering her mood lately, I'm inclined to think that it is bothering her, and she's just not talking about it."
"Well it might be good for her to get away to school then." Avery banished the clothes they'd decided against back into their box and summoned the next one. "Hogwarts has a nice way of distracting you from all your stupid family problems until you're ready to deal with them."
"Does that mean you were able to deal with your mother by the time we graduated?"
Avery shrugged, banishing the next cloak from the box with so much force that it hit a pile of boxes and sent them toppling over, saved from a crash only by a hasty cushioning charm from the two witches.
"I don't think anything in the world could help me deal with my mother," Avery said. "But it did help me stop reading her letters."
"Good," Michiru nodded. The only time she'd ever seen Avery lose her carefully crafted composure had been the days the severe looking screech owl had landed on her arm, thick letters with Avery's family crest sealed onto the parchment. "Has she caused any trouble for you this summer?"
"Not much – bet she's been too preoccupied with petitioning Voldemort to spring Dad out of Azkaban," Avery said. She cross her arms over her chest. "I saw her once… during the first Diagon attack," she said to her shoes.
"Was she part of the attack force?"
"No – no, she used them as a distraction." She swallowed hard. "She was convinced Fred had used a love potion on me…tried to get me to come home."
Michiru noticed Avery hug her arms tighter. "How?"
"Imperioed me," Avery sighed.
The cloaks that had been levitating around the room dropped to the floor as Michiru's concentration broke. "And you escaped?"
Avery snorted. "It's not exactly difficult to throw it off if you know what you're doing. Still, its never a pleasant experience."
"You've had done to you before?"
Avery nodded. "Like I said, never a pleasant experience,"
"How do you learn to fight it?" Michiru asked.
"You have it cast on you and hope for the best." Avery shrugged. "Or you learn Occlumency. Resisting imperio's a skill that's related to that." She nodded to Michiru. "You'd probably be good enough at Occlumency."
"Where have I heard that word before?"
"Defense Class, I expect. It was a paragraph in the back of Umbitch's Boring Book of Theories." She waved her wand, picking up the piles of the shield clothes off the floor and tossing them back in their boxes. "It's supposed to help you defend your mind from a Legilimens – a mind-reader," she explained. "Which, is also a skill you can learn if you're an Occlumens. It's pretty useful. It helps you lie to a Legilimens too if you get very good at it, There's rumors the best can lie to Veritaserum, but I don't believe that's true." She looked at Michiru as she conjured a box for the clothes she'd selected and raised her eyebrows. "That could be an entire trunk by itself. I hope you're not trying to sneak these into her wardrobe without her noticing – it's going to fail spectacularly."
Michiru chuckled. "No I'm not trying to sneak them in. I'll tell her they're shielded. She's not the type of child who'd find that overprotective."
"She's nearly a teenager."
"I'll thank you not to remind me of that," Michiru said. "These are strictly for my peace of mind."
"You know those won't stop the kinds of spells the Death Eaters will throw at her."
"No, but I am counting on those who might harm her at Hogwarts being a bit more squeamish about their dark curses," she shrunk the box and summoned it, putting it in her purse. "Which would not be necessary if screening students for the Dark Mark had not been vetoed?"
"Well Merlin forbid it not sit well with the Board of Governors," Avery said, rolling her eyes.
Michiru scowled. "Albus Dumbledore does not strike me as the type of wizard who caves to the fits and fancies of bureaucrats. What he strikes me as, is someone who gives too many chances."
Two floors above, in an office far too garish for her tastes and covered in an organized chaos of cauldrons, spell books, and spinning, sparking, and hopping bits and bobs, Setsuna was having a similar discussion with two of the Order's newest members.
"I mean, what's he think's so controversial about it!" Fred fumed, sulking as he leaned back against the bookcase behind the cluttered worktable. "He wouldn't even need to tell the board. It's just a modified Sneak-o-scope. You could put one at the door to the train and wheedle out the traitors as they got to Hogsmeade. The junior Death Munchers wouldn't know it was any different than a normal Sneak-o-scope."
"Assuming they knew what that was," Setsuna muttered, lifting the gleaming, silver instrument up to her eye.
"Exactly," George sighed. The mirror image of Fred, he was slumped back against the opposite side of the bookcase. "But he turned us down – said that's 'breaking the trust between student and professor.'" He kicked the bookcase with his foot. "Even Morgana agrees half of Slytherin house is just frothing at the mouth to join the ranks. Why we can't intervene at the source of their recruits?"
Setsuna shook her head. "I cannot comment on Dumbledore's reasons for doing things."
"Do you think he's being too cautious?" Fred asked.
She tilted her head as she regarded them both. "That, I think, is an opinion you must form for yourselves."
George rolled his eyes. "Once a professor,"
"Always a professor," Fred finished.
"Well look around you," she waved around the chaotic office space. "You're flourishing entrepreneurs. You have a pension for accomplishing whatever magic you put your mind to. And, by the looks of the rest of Diagon, you are one of a very few who have not yet been cowed into silence. And who are wise enough, I dare say, to live despite this war." She twisted the modified sneak-o-scope in her hand, examining it. It was a remarkable little trinket. "Given all that, it seems to me that telling you what to think would be a glaring insult to your intelligence."
Fred and George looked at each other, and then at her, and then back at each other.
"I hate when you do that," the twins declared.
"Set us up,"
"To question everything,"
"And make us think it was our idea," they chorused.
She laughed and shook her head, "You are not soldiers," she told them. "You're not aurors. You don't have to stand for what Dumbledore stands for or what the ministry stands for. That may sound like you have no power but, in fact, you have quite a bit more that even the aurors do." She tapped her wand and five galleons appeared in the air over Fred's head, and plinked into his hand. "Question things. Find out what you stand for, and how you're going to fight for it with the resources you have. It's going to make a world's more difference than an auror team treading carefully on politics toes." She tapped her wand against the sneak-o-scope, vanishing it into her office in the castle. "Just because there won't be checks of the students on the train, doesn't mean professors won't like to have these. Why don't you send out letters?"
"S-sure," George said.
"And if I could make a suggestion," she said. "Keep one of these by your register. It is a good precaution. Whatever you sell that might have the potential to be used in a fight, remember who's buying it determines which side it ends up on."
"We wouldn't sell to Death Eaters!" they exclaimed
"I never said you would, but you do have Owl orders," Setsuna told them. "Be very careful how you sell that Peruvian Darkness Powder over the next few months."
As if just realizing that could be a security breach, Fred and George exchanged a stunned look.
"I do believe we're profiteering, Fred," George realized.
"Bit unsettling," Fred muttered. He saluted Setsuna.
"You got it Professor M. Anything else we should wat –"
But he did not finish. A great crash interrupted him. Followed by the harsh chimes of glass shattering across a hardwood floor. The three of them had rushed across the office, wands ready by the time the shoppers below had begun screaming.
"Bollocks!" George cursed as the twins ran behind Setsuna to the office door. She wrenched it aside, running to the railing, frowning when she saw the glass and huddled bodies on the floor and the smoking lump that had knocked over the skiving snack boxes… but no attackers.
"Thank Merlin we flame-proofed the place," Fred said. "They're gonna have to do better than a fire bomb to get us."
"Those aren't Death Eaters," Setsuna said, pointing out the shattered windows. Long, black shapes zipped around outside. "Are those… Dementors?"
"No they don't fly the same way…" George squinted. "Fred… d'you reckon?"
"I do," Fred said. "Dad says they fought in the first war."
Haruka'd been reading over the description on the daydream charm, while trying to hide her mirth as Hotaru'd torn into Ron about the ethics of the love potions bubbling over in the front window, when she'd felt the chill run up her spine. Not the full body chill that accompanied the dementors, thankfully, but the sort that made the hairs on her neck stand on end. She set the charm down, scanning the street outside the shop.
Her eyes darted to the dark shape in the sky as it grew from the size of a cherry to that of a quaffle as it hurtled towards the windows.
"Down!" she shouted, racing around the large display and tackling Hotaru and Ron, She banged her elbow against the ground as she saw Harry push Hermione and Ginny to the ground just in time for something to crash through the windows, sending shards of glass spewing across the ground floor.
The dark object slammed into the pyramid of Skiving Snack Boxes and fizzled as a plume of smoke rose off the top. Several of the boxes caught fire and burnt to ash on the shop floor.
"The hell?" Ron asked as customers around the shop shouted, and murmured to eachother. Several in view of the destroyed windows screamed, scrambling back into the shelves and floor displays as they pointed outside at the dark figures zooming past.
"Look at their skin!" Hermione said. And Haruka noted the sallow, paper-thin appearance of the flesh on the closest figure's hands. "Those are vampires."
"But its daylight!" Ginny exclaimed.
Haruka narrowed her eyes at the black clouds that had covered the sky overhead. "Not anymore." She stood and helped Hotaru and Ron to their feet and pulled her henshin wand from her pocket. "They're not coming in."
"They have to be invited," Hermione said.
"Good." Haruka nodded to them. "Am I gonna have any luck telling you to stay here?"
"No," Ginny and Harry chorused at the same time. Hermione and Ron nodded to each other, wands already in hand.
"Thought so." and Haruka jerked her head towards the basement door, running as Hotaru and Ginny followed her. When it opened a few moments later, Sailor Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune and Sir. Jadeite sprinted out ahead of Morgana Avery. The students watched as they gathered in front of the broken windows, Sailor Pluto jumping from the loft above to join them.
"They're fire-bombing the other shops," Pluto noted. "The civilians will run out into the streets."
"How do we kill these things?" Uranus asked.
"Sunlight," Hermione said immediately. "Oh but that's not an option right now. Fire. Wooden stakes, but those have to be very precise. You can tear off their heads."
"Can I just cut them off?" Uranus asked.
"If you have a silver blade…" She lifted her wand and Uranus held out her twin swords, which shimmered as the metal that comprised them turned from a slight blue to a darker grey." Jadeite, Neptune, and Saturn held up their blades as well.
"Okay," Uranus said, spinning her two swords to test the changed weigh. "Neptune."
"I'll get the fires out."
"Good, Saturn, help the others keep these things away from the shoppers.
"Pluto, you're with me," Uranus said then she glanced down at Jadeite. "You practiced enough with that sword yet to be in the thick of it."
Jadeite smirked. "Don't need practice," they said, turning the gleaming Sword of Gryffindor. "It's like riding a broomstick."
"Good," Uranus nodded to Pluto. "Then follow our lead." And the two of them ran right up to the windowsill with Jadeite on their heels, stepped up onto it, and leapt out into the chaos on the street, Dead Scream incinerating two vampires unlucky enough to be right in their path.
"They have magic too," Harry reminded the others as he moved to follow them through the window. "Don't catch their eyes. Don't get bitten"
Out the window, amid the mass of people who had streamed into the street from the burning buildings, The onlookers in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes caught sight of the bright, purple curse shooting into the crowd.
"That's Dolohov's," Hermione whispered.
"Thought they put him back in Azkaban?" Ron frowned.
"Guess he didn't stay there," Neptune said, rushing out the window with Saturn. They others sprinted out after them with Harry in the lead. "That's too many people to get into the safe buildings," Neptune observed, launching a Deep Submerge towards the fire across the street.
"I'll get into the middle," Saturn said. She jumped up into the air, beating back several vampires with Silence Glaive Surprise. And landed somewhere in the crowd.
"Come on," Harry said, nodding to the other students, "Let's help her." he led the way forwards. Shooting small fireballs at the monsters overhead as he and the others shouted at the crowd to group closer together. In the middle of the street, Saturn had the glaive ready.
"Try to get the people inside. Watch for whoever shot that curse." Neptune told Avery and the Weasley twins. She used a Submarine Reflection to push back several vampires and scanned the burning shops "Leave the fires to me."
"Jadeite Noble Flame!" Jadeite's attack shot an arc of flames into the air as they fell and landed on the awning over a shop. Uranus landed on the ground nearby and watched as the vampires Jadeite had it recoiled from the flames, burns on their sleek black robes. She'd just taken a pass at two more, cutting off a hand and gouging one in the chest but narrowly missing he head. In the east Dead Scream clashed with another. And a tidal wave crashed over a burning block of buildings. Silence Wall had most of those huddled in the street covered and she could see Harry and their friends were making progress leading the others back to the safe buildings.
But the fires continued lighting all over the street, and it wasn't only vampires they were fighting, Uranus determined as Jadeite cast Protego to cover them both from a rain of jinxes.
She could hear the faint pops of Death Eaters apparating into the fight, and shot Space Sword Blaster at the shimmer in the air that she'd come to learn was a disillusioned wizard. The shimmer vanished with another pop. She really hated this apparation business.
"You handle the bloodsuckers," she said to Jadeite. "I'll handle the Death Eaters."
Further down the street she saw Sirius Black appear, beside the pink-haired Tonks, countering a red spell shot at them out of thin air and shouting something to her as she sprinted around the bend in the street, in the direction Uranus had seen Dead Scream.
She surveyed the battle, blocked a curse off her sword, and spotted a cluster of dark robed figures appear in a line along the street before disillusioning themselves, the blurs of at least ten vampires sped past on foot and by air into the large crowds. Many felled by stakes from the Order and more composed members of the massive crowds, several slammed right into Silence Wall and were stunned long enough for Jadeite and several students to set them aflame. Uranus couldn't see Pluto, only her attacks, lighting up around a bend in the road.
She saw the blur of two vampires speeding towards her from either side and flipped into the air, cleaving both their heads off with the two Space Swords. The collapsed onto the ground, pale bodies darkening and blotting into well rotted corpses, Uranus covered her face with one hand and turned away from the sickly sweet smell of them, most of the vampires were airborne. She ran towards the center of the street, the faster she could cut them down the sooner they could focus all their resources on the damn Death Eaters.
Pluto shouted as she grappled with one pale monster for control of the Garnet Rod, it having grown back together from the tatters Dead Scream had left it in.
With the element of surprise lost after the first few minutes, she was finding these much more difficult to combat than she had initially assumed. They were fast for one, perhaps even faster than Uranus. And they were strong. She grunted and jerked the Garnet Rod free at last, using the butt of the staff to knock the monster back. It somersaulted in the air raised its hands, a cloud of brick and mortar debris rose up between it and her. She gritted her teeth. Psychokinesis was new.
She leapt away from the debris as it shot towards her and when she landed on a low roof she took stock of the panicked crowd. Her eyes narrowed.
The raggedy, unmistakable figure of Mundungus Fletcher was elbowing his way towards one of the none-burning buildings.
He was guarding Ollivander's…but Ollivander wouldn't have to move. His shop's surely flame-retardant.
Her eyes scanned over the vampires: hovering over the widest, busiest, block of Diagon and the random spells from disillusioned combatants corralling shoppers up the street towards them. "It's a distraction," she realized. She disapparated with a pop over to the opposite side of the Alley.
She landed right in the middle of the wand shop to the sight of a wild dark haired witch leaning over the old wandmaker who was bound in ropes on the floor near his overturned desk.
She shot a silent stupefy from the gem on the Garnet rod and the red spell hit the shelf behind Ollivander, its target having vanished.
There was a pop close behind her, and an arm cinched around her throat. A spell glued her arms to her sides.
"Well, well," Bellatrix Lestrange giggled close to her ear. "Time Keeper: I've been dying to meet you."
Tonks had been patrolling the block around Ollivander's using various faces that morning when the attack had started. She'd had joined Sirius very early on, apparating towards the main fighting. She'd put out three fires, staked seven vampires, and stunned two of the sodding Death Eaters when she realized she'd made a bad call.
Because the Dark Eaters, she wanted to kick herself, weren't terrorizing the street at random, they were shooting from one line, not advancing, though their disillusionment would have permitted it. Which meant, she thought, they were protecting something: something on Diagon's south side.
"They're going for Ollivander," she announced to the two Order members closest to her – young Stebbins and Fawcett. "I need backup." She apparated away with their hands on her shoulders, appearing down the street from Ollivander's as a magenta explosion blasted away the entire front wall of the wand shop
"That's Pluto's," Tonks muttered. "Come on!"
The debris from Ollivander's was smoking and strewn all over the street and they raced to the ruined shop. There was no sign of Lestrange or Pluto. Ollivander was on the floor by his desk. Fawcett checked his vitals. "Stable," he said, vanishing the ropes around the wandmaker.
"Where's Pluto?" Tonks asked though she needn't have. The pops out in the street signaled Meioh and the Death Eater's return, as did the volleys of spell fire and the bright magenta lights of Meioh's signature spell as the two apparators dueled their way around the ruined block of shops.
Two red lights shot at each other from either side of Diagon. As the three Order members ran to the gaping hole in the wand shop the spells clashed in midair. Sparks flew. Sailor Pluto sent off another stunner on the heels of the first and disapparated away from the knife thrown towards her middle, appearing several feet to the left. The knife sailed past the ruined shop front, narrowly missing Tonks' ear.
"It's my aunt," Tonks muttered, scanning the street as Pluto did. "Stay inside," she told Stebbins and Fawcett. "She'll come back for him."
She ran out into the street, transfiguring one of the charred building stones scattered in the street into a shield. Moody had made her study the tactics of Voldemort's followers relentlessly over the past year. She had groused about it day and night then, but it was paid off when she saw the mass of stones shoot up into the air and dive towards her. she used her wand to banish them and put the shield behind her back, wincing as the force of Crucio hit the shield with a white hot burst of heat.
"Chronos Typhoon!" Pluto shouted, and a great, magenta cyclone spun out of her garnet-capped staff. It pulled up the debris in the street, including the ruined stall that Lestrange was hiding behind, and dragged Lestrange towards the whirlwind with it.
Tonks swore as Lestrange disapparated out of the trap, appearing right behind Pluto and entrapping her in a lightning locker hex: ropes laced through with live electricity constricted around Pluto's arms and legs. Tonks countered it with a freezing charm that turned the ropes to brittle ice that Pluto easily cracked. Tonks carried on by waving her wand to the left and right, summoning two chunks of stone walls on either side of the street intending to crash them together around Lestrange.
As the duel on the south side of Diagon intensified, the debris around the duelists and across the alley rose up into the air. It drew Fawcett and Stebbins attention away from the rudimentary wards they were racing to throw up over Ollivander's ruined shop. The duelists hadn't paid it any mind, Tonks and Pluto too busy trying to capture Lestrange and dodge her dark magic in the process. Fawcett tracked the debris as it flew into the sky, towards the north side of the Alley where the battle against the vampires carried on in earnest. Over the battered, high buildings that belonged to the Daily Prophet, Fawcett saw a cloud of the debris gathering above the street, spinning, he noted, like a hurricane around the dark figures of the vampires hovering inside. He stepped towards the street, and was stopped by Stebbins hand on his shoulder.
"Ollivander's the objective," Stebbins reminded Fawcett as he moved to leave the shop. "We stay here."
Fawcett nodded, looking out towards the three duelists. Tonks hurtled her warped and twisted shield at Bellatrix and she and Sailor Pluto sent twin twisters – one magenta and the other grey – spinning towards her.
The growing whirlwind many shops away, and the feeling of the dark spells being cast just beyond the shop made every hair on his body stand on end.
"If we can put an anti-apparition ward over the shop," Stebbins said. "We can help them."
Fawcett nodded, directing his attention back to the wards. He knew all the incantations by heart, and the wand movements. The diagrams from his textbooks remained perfectly clear in his head. Even so, he had to do several steps of the incantations over due to the shaking of his clammy hands.
Neptune threw the sphere of sea water into the three vampires who were racing towards her, knocking them back through the air and putting out the large fire that had started in the cauldron shop. She threw the silver-tipped trident at them while they were regrouping from her attack. It ripped the first vampire's head from its body, skewering the second, and barely missing the third as it vanished in a cloud of smoke.
Michiru felt a chill behind her and summoned the trident back. She whirled around, stabbing the vampire, but the weapon passed straight through. It was a mere projection. And it dropped lower, feet passing through the floor of the roof she stood on, so that its wide yellow eyes caught Neptune's.
Morgana Avery was right below, ushering the crowds of people into the fireproofed shops, when she saw the astral projection fly back to the physical vampire, hovering high above the rest of the crowds. It lifted its pale hand and beckoned towards the roof above her. Sailor Neptune floated off the roof, drifting towards the vampire. The three prongs off her trident scrapped against the shingles as she moved slowly into the open air. The weapon dangled in her loose grip.
"Michiru!" Avery and the Weasleys shouted at the same time as Uranus raced down the center of the street and threw a World Shaking up towards the vampire.
The attack though hit a chunk of still smoldering roofing from a nearby shop and sent ash and splinters of wood spewing out in all directions. They and the panicked shoppers and Order members and Hogwarts students all stared and dodged out of the way as debris began to rise above the street along with all of the remaining monsters. Disillusioned Death Eaters continued to preoccupy most of the Order and the students as a great wind circled round overhead, created by the growing cloud of debris orbiting the monsters.
And Sailor Neptune…
Uranus threw another attack, and another, and charged the whirlwind, only to get knocked back by one of the bricks zooming past. Rolled across the torn-up cobblestones of the Alley and growled when a vampire appeared several paces ahead of her. She charged it.
"Wait!" Harry Potter of all people ran in front of her. He flinched back from her twin swords. "It's the projection."
"It's trying to catch your eye," Sirius Black's voice hollered from across the street. And in the crowds, she could see several other witches and wizards being levitated off the ground as those around them tried in vain to hold them down by the ankles or with summoning charms. To no avail.
The whirlwind had stretched down to street level, protecting the vampires and their captives far above and tapering off into a funnel that continued to tear up the cobblestones. Uranus cleaved one in two with her sword as it rocketed towards she and Harry Potter. Everyone around rushed to press against the buildings, far from the wind.
"Neptune!" Uranus shouted. But it was clear Neptune could not hear her over the roar of the wind. She sent Space Turbulence towards it, and the funnel was blown apart. But the vampires only darted up higher into the air, reforming their protective shield of debris in barely a second as their projections continued to surprise people in the crowds, entrapping them with their gaze and then summoning them up into the air. Uranus strained to see through the wind. Neptune was in the very center of the vampires and their captives, trident still limp in her hand.
"Why isn't she fighting them!" Uranus shouted.
"She can't," Potter explained. "If they look at you it's like getting imperioed. You can't think."
A flash of purple caught her eye as Sailor Saturn leapt towards the whirlwind, glaive poised, at the same time as several vampires projected their images into the air near her. Uranus leapt towards her, knocking Saturn away from the whirlwind, rolling the both of them across the street towards the Weasleys' shop. When she looked up, she saw the translucent black boots of a vampire hovering over the ground close by.
"Don't look," she told Saturn, averting her gaze from the projection.
"But we need to get past them!" Saturn shouted. "I'm trying to reach her," Saturn said putting her hands over her temples. "But she's not answering!"
Uranus stared up towards the whirlwind, away from the astral projection that still hovered near, hoping to catch her gaze. "Just…just stay here," she ordered Saturn. "I'm working on…"
Uranus heard Morgana Avery's voice whisper the spell and turned in time to see Fred Weasley fall back onto George, his eyes wide and his mouth glued shut as he tried to shout something at Morgana, who'd walked away from him.
"Morgana!" George shouted.
"Let me try something," she said, continuing to walk, past Uranus and Saturn, her eyes on the ground. She walked right up to the vampire's projection, still hovering near them. She raised her gaze.
Fred Weasley shouted as Morgana's arms slackened, wand barely held in her loosened grip. The projection vanished and Morgana's body sailed into the air, right up through the funnel of debris and into the vampires' trap.
"The hell is she doing?" George Weasley muttered.
Uranus raised both her swords, running back towards the whirlwind after Morgana, she squinted through the debris, watching the witch's body sail up, into the middle of the crowd of Vampires.
Only Uranus was close enough to see the slight wave of Morgana's wand a wooden stake formed in front of it. She waited tense as it hovered through the cluster of vampires, guided by the slightest twitches of Morgana's wrist, until it hovered behind the vampire on Neptune's left. Morgana's arm thrust forwards. So did the stake. With just enough force to stab up, through the vampire's ribs, piercing its heart.
It shrieked, and its body turned dark and blotted as it plummeted out of the air, its body hit the pavement with a splat, a very decomposed mess.
Neptune had gasped as soon as the stake had driven home, the thrall that had entrapped her broken. She raised the trident high, the silver prongs and the mirror on the weapon's handle shimmered as the fresh power of the sea filled it.
"Trident Tidal Wrath" she shouted, surprising Uranus and Saturn. The new attack sent the weapon launching into the air, driven by a giant wave of water, it arced back down, driving through the crowd of vampires, the silver tips shearing heads off of each monster it its path. It felled ten of them before the power in it disappated, the majority of the captives now free of their control. The remaining vampires screeched, pale, veiny faces strained as the task of maintaining the whirlwind became much more taxing. The headless corpses of the killed vampires smashed into the street.
"That was rude," Neptune whispered as she summoned the trident back. Along with her several of the captives, Morgana included, raised their wands.
Uranus was preparing her own World Shaking when her ears caught a sound unheard by the others on the street, the wind too loud for normal ears to hear anything else.
It was the pop of many disapparations, one after the other. Uranus glanced to her left. Indeed, further down the street, the spell fire from the disillusioned death eaters had ceased. They were leaving.
Something gleamed on the cobblestones – golden rings attached to the fingers of all the felled vampires.
And in an instant they, and their living counterparts, vanished.
The captive witches and wizards began to fall towards the street. Uranus heard several people casting cushioning and banishing charms and cast a cushioning charm of her own under the majority of the captives. Then she jumped up and vanished her swords, catching Neptune herself.
"Well that was gallant," Neptune muttered after Uranus had finished kissing her and set her on her feet. They looked out at the destroyed street, the nervous crowds and the captives getting to their feet and saw Morgana nearby, dusting herself off. The order, their student friends, and Sailor Saturn, were converging on them from all sides.
"Lucky you could break their hold like that," Sirius Black said.
"Lucky indeed," Neptune said, looking meaningfully at Morgana. "Did they disapparate?"
"Portkeys," Mad-Eye Moody growled, looking through the crowd. "They all had 'em," His magical eye focused on something far away, twitching furiously. "Nymphadora," he cursed, scowling. "I keep telling that girl: constant vigilance!"
Pluto sent another Chronos Typhoon spiraling across the street towards Bellatrix, who conjured a cyclone of her own – the dark spell laced through with ethereal figures that screamed at a pitch so high Pluto felt sure her ears would bleed.
On the heels of that, Bellatrix slashed her wand down towards the street and something noxious and yellow billowed out of her wand, rushing over the street and rising into the air in a dense fog. Tonks recognized the odor before it had reached her and conjured a bubblehead charm, prompting Fawcett and Stebbins to do the same.
The yellow poison rose up above their heads, hiding the entire street.
And consuming Sailor Pluto and Tonks still out in the street.
"She didn't put up a bubblehead charm," Fawcett worried about Pluto. "Did she?"
"Not sure she knows it," Stebbins replied. They rush out into the street, hearing the tell tale pop of apparation within the fog. A red spell flashed through it. Something heavy thudded against the cobblestones. Stebbins and Fawcett rushed towards it. They nearly tripped over Tonks legs, stunned on the ground with the bubblehead charm thankfully still active.
And then as Fawcett moved to renneverate her, the yellow fog around them pushed back until the blue sky was visible in a circle overhead, and the cobblestones in a circle below.
Tonks stood and they all saw the Garnet Orb flash as it and Pluto emerged from the fog too, the yellow poison appeared to warp away from her as she joined the circle of clear air.
"Did you do this?" Stebbins whispered. And Pluto nodded, putting a finger to her lips. The fog continued to swirl in a dense circle around them and she pointed out into it.
Stebbins, Fawcett, and Tonks all stared where she pointed as she aimed the Garnet Rod. For a few minutes nothing was visible.
Then Tonks put her wand up. She saw something dark moving within the poison fog exactly where Pluto pointed. It was the swish of black robes. Stebbins and Fawcett raised their wands too.
As Bellatrix approached, they could hear her giggling.
"Time Keeper," she called. "You can't have walked far in this…"
She doesn't see us, Stebbins realized as outside the circle, Lestrange wandered to the left and then right, weaving back and forth across the street. Surely she'd use "Homenum Revelio?"
Pluto raised her gloved hand, motioning for them to move. They followed her as the circle of clear air moved with her, closer and closer to Lestrange. Stebbins stepped slightly in front of Fawcett. As the advanced, the Death Eater's whole figure came into view.
The four of them cast stunners at the same time, and Bellatrix dark form fell back and thudded to the ground. Pluto raised the Garnet Rod and the gem flashed, all the gas in the street rushing away and vanishing, leaving only a yellow ring painted across the surrounding buildings, and many rose petals drifting down towards the ground.
They stepped up to Lestrange. She was stunned on the ground, her eyes tracking Pluto as they circled her with their wands drawn. Her mouth was frozen in a twisted grin.
Tonks bent down and pried the curved black wand out of Bellatrix hand. "Let's see you try…" and she paused, frowning. "Is that a wedding ring?"
They had time to take in the gleaming gold bit of jewelry on Bellatrix left ring finger before it, and she flashed and vanished.
"A Portkey," Pluto said. "She was toying with us."
"Ollivander!" Tonks realized, and all of them charged into the ruined shop.
Just in time to see a similar gold ring, jammed onto the still recovering Wandmaker's thumb, flash. It and he disappeared as Pluto and Tonks reached the overturned desk.
"Ollivander's been captured," Moody informed those of them gathered on the north side of Diagon. "Blasted portkeys."
"They must have planned this a while to have so many," Sirius said.
"I'm aware of that Black!" Moody snapped.
"Did Setsuna not see any of this?" Michiru worried, gazing into the mirror. Pluto was fine, currently walking back towards them with Fawcett, Stebbins, and a still cussing Tonks.
"I guess not," Haruka said just as something green flashed overhead. All of them stiffened, heads darting up as the Dark Mark formed over the Alley, the green snake slithering around the giant skull.
"Who cast that?" Moody growled.
Michiru gazed into the Aqua Mirror and whipped around, looking up at the roof of Weasleys Wizard Wheezes.
They drew their wands, though only Moody appeared to see what she did: A figure in white robes with a white hooded cloak standing on the edge of the joke shop roof.
Moody shot a stunner up towards the roof, but the figure was already gone, seeming as Michiru stared, to be swept away by the breeze.
"That was no Death Eater," she murmured
Harry Potter's head snapped towards her. "Were they wearing white robes?"
"It's got to be Lestrange," Setsuna said at the emergency Order meeting called that evening. All of the Order was there, even both of the twins and Remus Lupin with a fresh looking set of scars on his face. "She's clearly found a way to bypass my sight. I could predict the movements of every Death Eater there, and the vampires. But I missed her pass at Ollivander."
"What about the person in white?" Michiru said, thinking back to the figure she'd seen briefly above the Alley.
Setsuna frowned and closed her eyes as she considered Michiru's memory. But she finally shook her head. "I've never encountered him before." She said.
"Harry said he might be working with Lestrange," Haruka said. "If he's following her orders, it'd make sense you can't see him."
"Mhmm," Setsuna said, looking all the way across the kitchen table at Dumbledore, who'd been listening impassively. "Regardless we have to move fast to cripple her abilities. She's got to have accounts at Gringotts – we could freeze those. And put scrutiny on those she's known to associate with…"
Setsuna trailed off. Dumbledore was shaking his head.
"It would break several ministry laws to close her Gringotts accounts, they're all from very ancient, noble Wizarding families."
"She's a criminal," Setsuna scowled. "She'd be less of one without money to finance her – and Voldemort too."
"The Goblins won't allow it," Dumbledore said, "Nor the Wizgamot."
"Then we need to put more resources towards finding her," Setsuna said. "Spells that could track her,"
"Are by and large dark spells," Dumbledore said as around the table the Order members looked back and forth between their leader and the young professor. "Nor am I willing to risk out people on the hunt for someone as volatile and dangerous as Bellatrix Lestrange."
"She's Voldemort's right hand," Setsuna said. "Unless we gain more information about her and how she's operationg more attacks like today's are going to happen and more people are going to die."
"She and the others would not exist without Tom Riddle," Dumbledore said. "Whose downfall, I am working day and night to orchestrate. It is imperative that this Order continue defending civilians where they can, and persuading those populations on the fence to remain neutral, or to take our side." he looked around at all of his members, most of whom were nodding resolvedly at him, though all four of Setsuna's former students continued to frown, glancing back towards her. "Tom Riddle is the key. Even Bellatrix Lestrange would not be organized enough to maintain her current levels of terror without him."
"Or she could be empowered enough to take his place," Setsuna said, standing abruptly from her seat. "She was a Slytherin, that madness you see could be a clever mask for cunning. And the longer this goes on, the bolder she, and Voldemort will get."
"And if we continue to focus on Tom," Dumbledore said, "it won't last much longer." He rose much more calmly from his chair, Fawkes, on his shoulder, squawked and ruffled his feathers as though he were nervous. When he spoke again, it was in a calm, low tone Sirius and Remus were familiar with from the Marauders' more dangerous offences. "I have a plan for Tom Riddle, one which requires time and discretion to be enacted, and one that will ensure that the means through which he was resurrected will not be possible a second time. The Death Eaters will crumble without him, and as Bellatrix is known to fight by his side, she will likely be there when we are eventually able to kill him, and I believe we can count on her being shocked long enough to apprehend her. That is why," he said, nodding to each member of his Order, "it is important that everyone here work together to head off his bolder attacks, keep the Wizarding community safe where we can, and do not move on he or the inner circle until I am 100% confident that he cannot return."
He ended his survey of the room on Setsuna, who still met his gaze with her equally cold look. "Tom Riddle," he told her, "is a brilliant wizard who has grown arrogant over long decades of proving himself at Dark Magic. He is over-confident in his invincibility, and I am counting on that being his downfall."
As Setsuna stared at him, she saw the path of his near future: his quiet talk with Sirius, Remus, and Tonks following this meeting, his quest with them the day before term would begin, the 100% chance that it would kill him and the 73% chance that it would kill him, and his secrets, quickly.
"He's not the only powerful man prone to over-confidence," she said, storming from the room without pausing to see the slack-mouthed looks on most of the order or hear the affronted gasps from Molly Weasley and Rubeus Hagrid.
"Let her go," he said to them all, and Michiru put her hand on Haruka's arm to keep her from storming out too. "She's quite right," his mouth was turned up in a slight smile. "I have been known to make mistakes…I can only hope, as anyone can, that I am not making one now."
"You've been fighting this war longer than she's been alive," Moody said and Michiru resisted the urge to roll her eyes at that assumption. "And none of those weak-kneed pure-blood ninnies had even an inkling towards this kind of organization before Riddle came and riled 'em up."
The meeting continued as usual from there, breaking down what they had learned from the battle and where they might look for clues about Ollivander, at last landing on the reasons for his kidnapping.
"It likely has to do with Voldemort's consistent failure to duel Harry," Dumbledore said. "He's most certainly sought Ollivander's skills in the hopes of solving that problem."
"D'you think Ollivander will have the answer?" Hagrid asked.
"That," Dumbledore said, "we shall unfortunately have to wait and see." He checked his watch and clapped his hands. "Now – I've certainly kept you all from your families and your dinner a very long while. I think we can adjourn." He pet Fawkes feathered head as the Order's chairs scrapped back and they vanished, tucked in the seats, or transfigured them back into the cats, cookie jars, and a coat rack they had once been. "Mr. Black, Mr. Lupin, Ms. Tonks, if you could remain behind a few moments."
Michiru and Haruka hung back to walk with Minerva and Rolanda, who'd staunchly looked away from their side of the table when the Order had sided with Dumbledore.
"I thought you'd at least see her point," Michiru said as they walked up the basement stairs.
Mcgonagall sighed. "Setsuna is a dear friend," she said. "As you both are growing to be. That said," she looked back towards the kitchen. "Albus weathered us through the first war. More of us are alive than not because of him. I still believe he can steer us safely through this one as well."
"I'm indifferent to the whole thing, really," Rolanda said too then as Minerva rushed ahead across the ground floor. "She's the soldier. I'm just here so there's fewer secrets between us." She lowered her voice. "And she won't play both sides, it's not in her nature. That said," she lowered her voice. "If Albus gets any battier than your Setsuna I doubt it'll be hard to change her mind."
They caught up with Minerva in the entrance hall, hanging back out of view of the door where three Weasleys were having a rather loud disagreement.
"That man has been protecting this family since before your brother was born, Fredrick Gideon,"Molly was shouting. "And I needn't remind you you're named for a wonderful boy who fought for his ideas."
"And died for them!" one of the twins shot back.
"Boys!" Arthur said in a warning tone.
"Well it's true!" the twins said again. "And Professor Meioh knows more than you'd think, Dad."
"And yet you'd let her divide you from your family!" Molly sniffed. "When Dumbledore's been trying to keep this country together since he was barely a man. He has done great, great things."
"But…but Mum we're not,"
"No one's trying to divide anyone," Michiru said, stepping through the door of the entrance hall. She looked between all four red-faced Weasleys. "The light side needs to stick together if we're going to defeat the Death Eaters."
"But everyone is allowed to disagree," Minerva said. "That is the makings of solid strategies and team work – understanding every angle and point of view."
"You see," Molly looked pleadingly towards her sons who stood together by the half open door. "Come home boys, have dinner. You're never home anymore – and you're always arguing like this when you are."
"Well what are you going to do at dinner," Fred said, "complain about Fleur again? Or maybe about someone else you've been talking about behind my back."
"I have not."
"You still can't tell George and I apart either. Or you wouldn't have told him what you did last week when he came home looking for our mini menagerie plans."
Molly turned chalk white, "Freddy…"
"You can talk a lot about hearing all our points of view," Fred said, "but you only ever listen to your own." And he and George turned out of the house, dragon hide robes whirling around them, as they disapparated on the stoop.
"Now Molly," Minerva said rushing forwards as the Weasley Matriarch emitted a strangled sound and turned her face into Arthur's shoulder. "See here…"
"I think we'd better get her home before she sets that portrait off," Rolanda said with a nod towards the curtain covered portrait of Walburga Black. "Don't let Setsuna brood for too long."
"As if we ever have any luck with that," Michiru sighed and grabbed Haruka's hand. "Come on,"
"Where'd she get to?"
As soon as the meeting had ended, Rigel Fawcett and Hamish Stebbins had been the first ones up the basement stairs, not keen to get caught in the gossip of the other Order members.
They'd exchanged the same look when Setsuna Meioh had stormed from the room. They'd seen enough of her power in class and now in the Order to trust her opinion as much as they'd ever trusted the beloved Headmaster's. Now, with the two figureheads seemingly at odds, the two of them had come to a mutual realization of whom they trusted more.
As they reached the top of the stairs, Rigel grabbed Hamish's hand and dragged him to the left, through the door of the Black Library.
"Rigel?" Hamish asked, raising one black eyebrow. "Is this really the time or place?"
Rigel flushed from the neckline of his forest green robes to the roots of his mousy-blond curls. "Get your head out of Knockturn!" he said, dragging Hamish towards the plush couches and chairs at the back of the room. "We're meeting Professor Meioh here."
"We are?" Hamish said.
"Yes," Rigel said, letting his hand go once they'd reached the couches and pacing. "I mean I think so."
"Well she does have a habit of turning up if you wait for her – remember when Muggle Studies got suspended last year. We still had class. And whenever her students needed to talk to her, it never seemed like they set times beforehand."
Hamish considered that for a moment. "Fair," he finally decided, then sighed and fell back onto one of the black, satin chairs. "Man ancient and noble houses lived richly. My cousins have a tiny estate but it's not nearly so…" he surveyed the room. "Foreboding – is your family's like this."
"Mum's side is – they're related to the Rowles," Rigel prattled, having wandered over to a nearby shelf of books and begun pacing the length of it, flicking his eyes over the books. "Dad's side's newer pure-blood. Though they're adamant our ancestors were squibs, not muggles. He's odd that way,"
"Are you sure this wasn't just your excuse to look for summer reading?" Hamish wondered and smirked when Rigel froze with his fingers close to the spine of a particularly old-looking tome.
"I'm not going to pass up the opportunity," Rigel said in a high-pitched voice.
Hamish shook his head. "Oh go on then, I'm sure Professor Meioh will show up just like you said."
He didn't quite believe him, but Rigel so rarely had the courage to act on his brilliant deductions. Hamish was more than willing to go along with this until he'd at least found some book or another to distract him.
He was thus surprised a few minutes later when the door to the library really did creak open, and he jolted up from the couch when two pairs of feet could be heard padding across the wood floor towards them.
Haruka and Michiru appeared from between the shelves, and Hamish relaxed towards the couch.
"I thought we were meeting Setsuna?" Haruka said.
"We are," Michiru replied, dragging her over towards the couch beside Hamish and pulling her down onto it. "They had the same idea."
And as she spoke, a lavender light shone in the air and the Time Doors appeared, swinging open and revealing Setsuna, her robes billowing in the slight breeze that came from the Time Dimension.
She smiled when she saw Rigel rush back to the couches from deep within the stacks. "I hope you both realize you're making a reckless move meeting us here," she said. "Ours, right now, may become the part of the Pariah."
"And we're much more used to playing that part than you," Haruka warned them.
"Well," Hamish looked at Rigel, "We think you're right."
"The last war had more casualties for wizards and muggles than every campaign of Grindlewald put together," Rigel said matter-o-factly. "And I d-don't want to just react when they hit us." He nodded to Setsuna. "I'd rather be prepared."
"And I stick with him," Hamish said. "And with people I trust."
Setsuna nodded "very well."
"Are you they can handle it if we're to take a more offensive approach?" Haruka asked. "I mean…they've just graduated."
"So have you," Hamish reminded them. "We're just your age – I aced my Defence NEWT, I'll have you know. And Rigel's aiming to be a curse breaker."
"And we are, comparative novices with Wix magic," Setsuna reminded Haruka and Michiru. "It would valuable to have their comparative expertise."
"If you're sure…" Haruka said.
Setsuna directed her gaze up towards the Garnet Orb, spinning it and letting it catch the soft lamp light that filled the library. "It is a very good idea." And when she looked back to Haruka and Michiru they nodded at her, and Setsuna vanished the Garnet Rod, taking a seat beside Michiru on the couch. "Good, now," she put her hand under her chin, looked around at all of them. "I've just spoken to Mina – the girls will be cutting their vacation short in light of today. I'm picking them up in two days."
"Are there any more attacks coming before term."
"Several smaller ones," Setsuna said. "None that involve Bellatrix Lestrange… or that wizard Michiru saw."
"Any idea who he might be?" Michiru asked, but Setsuna shook her head.
"Our guess is as good as Harry's as of yet," she said. "I did, however, glean some information about Dumbledore's next mission which makes it imperative that we intervene." She looked between the four of them and her eyes landed on Rigel Fawcett. "You'd know how to access a fair lot of Wizarding books, I imagine."
"Yes," Rigel said. "I – I mean I've done loads of research and I'm on a first name basis with l-lots of the booksellers."
"Good, then I have something I need you to look up for me before September 1st."
"I only have the word," Setsuna said. "It's something Dumbledore's searching for: Horcrux."
The former Ravenclaw boy nodded, mousy curls flopping over his eyes. He muttered the word to himself several times and took out his wand, summoning a parchment and quill that began jotting down what appeared to be book titles and shop names.
Setsuna left him to it and looked at Hamish. "Brush up on all the Defence and Charms knowledge you can in the next two weeks," she told her former student. "And make sure you meet us at Kings Cross on September 1st. We'll be escorting the Order's children to the train."
"You got it."
Setsuna nodded and looked to her fellow Outer Senshi. "We have work to do."
~I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good~