Hi, everybody. I'm back with a new one-shot. As always I own nothing about the HP universe, JK Rowling does.
This story has a good amount of Dumbledore bashing and some violence (against Death Eaters), so those that don't like it, should probably better not read this story. Pairing Harry / Hermione. The M rating is becasue one scene is slightly graphic. Now enjoy the story.
Harry Potter was looking through the documents that were in the drawer of Dumbledore's desk. It was two in the morning and tomorrow would be the funeral and after it they would take the Hogwarts Express home to London. He knew that this was his only chance to find out what other information Dumbledore had had on the horcruxes, Voldemort, possible hiding places, plans how to win the war and so on. He had taken a potion to get rid of his tiredness. Thankfully he had the marauder's map that for some reason could tell you every password in the castle. Professor McGonagall wouldn't be helpful with the mission he had. He knew that much. She would try to meddle and keep him from doing what was necessary.
Then he found a leather-bound journal and it was clearly written in Dumbledore's handwriting. That would be useful. He had an unnoticeably enlarged book bag with him, which he had got when he had bought his books for first year to be able to carry them all. One of the few things outside of the list for first-years that Hagrid had let him get. He put the book into the bag and continued collecting everything that he thought useful. From books about magic that could help during the search to the pensieve and the memories. After all, if he had to find four horcruxes, it would be good to be able to watch the memories again. And honestly, Dumbledore surely didn't need the pensieve anymore. Should he have left it to somebody, he would return it after the job was done. His need was definitely higher than that of others currently. He secured all memory vials in a box that was normally used to keep potion vials from breaking and then it also went into the bag.
In the end he found a secret safe behind one of the bookcases. While he felt a little bad for basically breaking it open, he really needed all the help he could get. Thankfully the password followed Dumbledore's preferences for the gargoyle and it opened to a whispered cockroach cluster after some failed attempts. While the paintings were all asleep, there was no reason to be careless. Finally, he had everything and left the office, feeling like he could now really prepare for his mission.
It was two days after returning from Hogwarts and Harry seriously considered leaving England for Australia or a similarly faraway place. After the funeral, where he had told Ginny some cock and bull story about not wanting to make her a target and that he couldn't stay her boyfriend because Voldemort would come after him, and her, if she stayed his girlfriend, he had boarded the train, fully planning to quickly start the preparations for the horcrux hunt. He shuddered thinking how much of a fangirl she had proven to be with her acceptance of his reasons. She knew he wouldn't be happy until he could fight Voldemort? Hello? When did he want to fight that monster? He only did it because he didn't have a choice in that, as the bastard wouldn't rest until he had killed Harry. Stupid prophecy. He had started reading the documents and the notebook from Dumbledore's desk and he honestly wondered if fighting this war was actually worth the pain he suffered.
Especially as he had found out the manipulations and plans of Dumbledore. How the bastard had played with countless lives, just for his idea of a perfect wizarding world. Hell, the bastard had basically decided who married whom for over sixty years. Potions, spells, runes on clothes or items a person regularly wore, nothing was left out in his great game of chess. Contrary to the purebloods, Dumbledore had realised in the twenties that the inbreeding wasn't doing the wizarding society any good. Still, he didn't want any muggle influence to get into their world. So he helped craft laws that disadvantaged muggleborns in finding good jobs, made it hard for witches to have a career and children at the same time, limited the creation of things based on muggle ideas, outlawed enchanting muggle items to work with magic, let bigots run wild and subtly let laws to discriminate magical creatures be passed, supposedly while being sad that it had come that far.
Thanks to his abilities with potions, alchemy and transfiguration, he had managed to play several roles to convince people to vote exactly as he wanted them to, while pretending that his real political goals were totally different ones.
Dumbledore, once he had started teaching at Hogwarts, had looked at the family trees of the students attending. He knew from observation that children from parents that were too closely related, were normally weaker than their parents. He fully believed in the superiority of wizards to muggles and wanted to keep their lines strong. So he started matchmaking, while manipulating things from behind the scenes.
Knowing alchemy helped a lot in getting the ideas placed on his targets unnoticed. Few would recognise a metal that had the ability to make the wearers of the same metal feel attracted to each other. The one thing he had to do was keeping track of who had which metal and where it had been placed. Some weak love potions in the food served by the house elves then did the rest. And marriage was permanent in the wizarding world, so once the knot was tied, there was no escape, even if the effect of the metal would cease after ten years. Even the best things didn't hold forever. His hope was that, over that long, the spouses would have come to love each other. And for those that he was on good terms with, it wasn't too difficult to replace the metal items with new ones, disguised as presents from a friend or benevolent mentor. Nobody thought anything strange about it. It didn't work out like that in most cases once the metal couldn't be replaced. But pureblood customs led to the spouses never publically showing their problems. And he had also added a layer that the spouses would attempt to have at least two children within the time the spells were still working.
The list of families that Dumbledore had manipulated was long. Bones, Longbottom, Weasley, Black, Malfoy, Nott, Greengrass, Lestrange, Abbott, Macmillan, Goldstein, Avery, Quirke, Stebbins, Perkins, Diggory, Robins, Bell, Ackerley, Vaisey, Watermoor, Prince and of course Potter. Many others followed, but Harry only recognised those names immediately. His own parents were victims of the old man's manipulations. He had seen that the Potters needed some untainted blood for their bloodline to keep it strong and, as there hadn't been any suitable halfblood that his father could have married, he had given his mother love potions in her sixth year in combination with the metal that was put on her favourite brooch. As his Dad had fancied his Mum for years, the only thing people wondered about were why Lily Evans had finally given him the chance. There was no comment if he had thought that true love had developed, only his pleasure at the information from a spy at St. Mungo's that the child born to the two was very powerful.
For the current students at Hogwarts there were also lots of comments. Some like how Hermione was not taking well to the jealousy potions keyed to Harry and tried to overcome them. How the counter measure had been to add love potions for Ron and how that seemed to work better, even if not fully satisfying. Love potions to get him and Ginny together. Yeah, that would explain the 'monster' in his gut. A potion that didn't want anybody else with the girl he was meant to be with. Thank god that he seemed to burn them so fast. There was a note of how annoying it was to have to dose him every second day because he got rid of them so fast with a comment that it could be the combination of basilisk venom and phoenix tears in his blood.
Well, that would explain why he had wanted to get rid of Ginny after Dumbledore's death. The potion would have worn off. The plan was to get Hermione and him to marry into the Weasley family to bring the power of that bloodline back in full. Then the mention of passing on some items in his will to cement the relationships. The fact that Hermione couldn't stand Ron and would be miserable with a man who was completely different to her wasn't seen as important. Or how Harry wouldn't be happy with a fangirl. It was all for the Greater Good.
In a second, smaller notebook that had come from the secret safe, there were Dumbledore's suspicions where the horcruxes might be hidden and how it wouldn't do for the hunt to be too easy. He had known about the horcruxes for sure since 1993 and he had searched since then. The only reason he hadn't finished things was that stupid prophecy that he actually believed Harry had to fulfil. Well, Harry wouldn't waste any more time. The places he had listed were manors of Death Eaters in the inner circle or their Gringotts vaults, places where Voldemort had felt powerful, places that proved his heritage, there was a mark of being right with the comments Gaunt Shack and Ring of Resurrections being written next to that point, and places that proved being a wizard and belonging to the wizarding world, with comments Gringotts and Hogwarts.
He also described how the sword of Gryffindor was able to destroy horcruxes because it was goblin made and the metal only took in things that strengthened it. Thanks to Harry killing a basilisk with it, it had the venom on the blade now, which had allowed him to get rid of the horcrux in the ring, which he had stupidly believed to also have broken all other curses on the ring. He had been dying and had then decided to set up a ruse that would get Snape deeper into Voldemort's trust by killing him. If he had to die, at least that way it would be painless.
The last paragraph made Harry's blood boil. So the old man thought that Harry's scar could also be a horcrux. So nice to know that he was set up to die. Well, not with him. He only needed to inject basilisk venom directly into the scar, wait for the screaming of the soul piece dying and then neutralising the venom with phoenix tears again. Really, that wasn't so hard with muggle tools. He would have to contact Hermione immediately. Her parents were dentists and would have syringes. Phoenix tears, while horribly expensive, would also be easy to get in any apothecary. He wouldn't die just because of the stupidity of an old man.
Great another plot. Harry really had enough of them. Well, no time like the present to get things done. He had to kill a dark lord, thwart the manipulations that would ruin countless lives and of course get the girl he wanted to. Now he only needed to get basilisk venom and phoenix tears and find a way to snatch the sword of Gryffindor.
Hermione looked at her best friend in total disbelief. He then, knowing that she would only believe it when she read it, handed her the notebook and told her parents, who had been in a heated discussion with her about leaving the country for Australia to be safe, that Hermione would be busy for two hours to get through all the notes in the book if he guessed her reading speed correctly. He then took the time to get to know the parents of his most loyal friend, the one that hadn't betrayed him. After all, the things she did in sixth year were the fault of the potions she was given without her knowledge. That wasn't her fault.
The outraged scream after one and a half hours told Harry that she had reached the part of the breeding plans for the wizarding world. Probably also the part she had been expected to play. It would be a major blow for her already battered belief in authorities. One and a half hours later, to the surprise of Harry and her parents, Hermione determinedly crossed the distance from the door of the living room to where Harry sat on the couch, pulled him up and kissed him full on the lips.
Harry didn't know what had happened and why she was doing this, but he put his arms around her and returned the kiss. He had wanted to do this so much since the Yule Ball and he had seen her in that periwinkle dress. He should never have considered how Ron would take it. This was too good to let any other guy have it. Hermione was his and he wouldn't let her go. He wasn't stupid. Especially as he knew that there was a great chance of her still being drop dead sexy in her forties if her mother was any indication.
"Harry James Potter, tell me you have a plan how to get rid of that stupid horcrux in your scar. I refuse to believe that my boyfriend has to die," Hermione demanded.
"I have, Hermione. I have some basilisk venom that I got from the dead basilisk in the Chamber two hours before I came here, a vial of phoenix tears that I found in Dumbledore's things to my surprise when I looked over everything before going to an apothecary and I think your parents have some syringes in their practice. The plan is simple. You inject the venom directly into the scar and wait until you hear an unholy scream. The diary screamed like that when I stabbed it. Once that is over with, you take another syringe and inject the phoenix tears into the scar to prevent that I die. I guess I'll need some time to recover from that, but as I already survived a basilisk bite, I should have a little immunity against the venom in my blood. That should be enough to keep me from dying," Harry explained his plan.
Hermione nodded and proceeded to kiss him senseless. She must have really felt more for him before the potions had messed her up.
Helen and Richard Granger took care of the injections in Harry's scar after the two teenagers had let go of each other, to their immense amusement. It helped a lot that they had both expected the two becoming a couple for years now. The letters from last year that Hermione had sent home didn't sound like her at all. She had never truly liked the Weasley boy, why would she then suddenly develop feelings for him, and not the boy she had swooned over since she was fourteen? And they were honestly relieved that the boy she had fallen for wouldn't demand her to completely leave the world she was born into behind, like they had felt she had done more and more over the years. Harry knew the non-magical world and while his relatives were horrible people, he knew that not everybody was like that.
For the process Harry had been strapped to the chair by Hermione to prevent him hitting somebody by accident as the venom was painful from his descriptions of second year. If the alternative to this hadn't been to kill the boy, the Grangers wouldn't have agreed to do this. But seeing their only child heartbroken, if the boy she loved had to die, just for the monster that wanted to kill people like her to die, then they would rather do this slightly unethical operation. Thankfully it worked out like Harry had said it should. The soul piece was destroyed shortly after the venom was injected and they directly countered it with the phoenix tears. Though there were still some left over in the syringe. Having heard how powerful the healing powers of the tears were, Helen decided to perform a small experiment.
The boy had really bad sight and therefore she let one drop of the tears fall into each of his eyes. It wouldn't harm him in any way and if it worked, he would be able to see without his glasses. He was already in pain anyway from the venom, so if the eyes hurt a little, it wouldn't even be noticed.
Harry looked into the mirror once he felt better. He had needed to keep sitting in the chair for an hour after the soul piece had been destroyed. His head felt much lighter now that it was out. And Helen's experiment had had unexpected effects. He had perfect sight now. No longer was he blind like a mole. He could truly see. He was really grateful for the idea. He had hated his glasses since he was a child; as, not only had other children mocked him for them, but Dudley had broken them countless times.
He had taken a shower, as he wanted to wash off the feeling of having been tainted like that by Voldemort and once he was done and had put on some borrowed clothes from Richard, as Helen had just had a look through his things and declared all his muggle clothes to be totally unsuited for him and had informed him that Hermione and her would take him shopping the next day, as she didn't want to risk any fainting spells over the removal of the soul piece today, there was after all no experience with something like this. Harry didn't dare refusing the order, as, while she had been polite about it, it was nothing else, and was slightly worried about the look on his girlfriend's face at the prospect of taking him shopping.
Right now he, Hermione and Hermione's parents sat on the sofas and armchairs in the lounge. Helen had made some peach ice-tea, which was welcomed by all of them. Of course she hadn't put a lot of sugar into the mix, she was a dentist after all.
"Now that that part is dealt with, how are we going to get the remaining horcruxes?" Hermione asked Harry, "I don't think that we can easily search the vaults of known Death Eaters or their manors."
"No, we can't, but I think we can get into some of them. For once that stupid inbreeding is good for something. Come here, I have had a look over the family trees of the Death Eaters," He told her and went to his bag and pulled out a book.
"Nobility's Nature, A Wizarding Genealogy," Hermione read out, "Wasn't that at Grimmauld Place?"
"Yep. The Blacks were after all a very prominent pureblood family and married into several other families. And guess who inherited the whole Black fortune?" Harry asked with a grin on his face.
"Of course, Sirius would have been the head of house and you're his heir," She exclaimed.
"Correct. Bellatrix Lestrange, Narcissa Malfoy, Persephone Nott, Druella Rosier and Ophelia Goyle were all born into the Black family. All wives of inner circle Death Eaters. There are also some Blacks a generation or two back in many families. Before Voldemort turned up, the numbers of the Blacks were high and they had many daughters that they let marry into influential families. What they don't realise is that, thanks to being head of the Blacks now, I can demand access to their vaults at Gringotts as per the marriage contracts that the Blacks always insisted on. They always slipped in that clause, normally without the other side ever noticing it over the long-winded legalese of the contracts. Only an expert at law would find the hidden clause and face it, no pureblood would do that.
"Sirius once told me that his refusal to marry a pureblood girl through such a contract, a girl that his parents chose for him, was a major part that made him run away, next to their demands that he joined Voldemort. So now all we have to do is going through all the vaults before Voldemort can fully take over. It will be a long day at Gringotts, but we will find out if there is a horcrux there. And nobody can deny me the right to do exactly that. I looked it up in the list of treaties."
Hermione was impressed that Harry had done so much research already and kissed his cheek. She was truly happy that she could finally express her feelings for her boyfriend.
"I think the best chance would be starting with Bellatrix's vault. She's one of the most devoted Death Eaters," Hermione pondered.
"Uhm, and how will you do this dangerous mission without backup?" Richard asked sceptically.
"In this case low numbers work to our advantage. We can't have Voldemort find out too early what we're up to. If he thinks that we're going after his horcruxes, he will take them away from their hiding places and we won't be able to find them. And he needs to be stopped before he destroys the world. He won't stop at Britain. He would cross over to the continent and take over one country after another like Grindelwald did under the cover of the Nazi army. While he let Hitler kill as many muggles as he could get away with, he took out his magical opponents. Until those items are destroyed, he can't die, so we are best off to operate in secret. But until we have finally won, he will try and target anybody that he thinks will help him get Harry, as he is prophesied to be the one able to defeat him," Hermione explained.
"Hm, I get getting all of the items before he notices, but how will you get rid of him if he's really that powerful as you said in the past, Hermione?" Helen asked, "Especially with an army of followers."
"I would think even he wasn't immune to a sniper shooting him in the head once they got rid of the items that keep him alive. It's a safe way to get rid of a terrorist. And I'm sure you could easily get the Prime Minister on board if you explained why you needed a sniper. Let professionals deal with that part of the job. You would only need to lure him into the open once you're ready," Richard commented.
Harry and Hermione looked at each other. That was something they hadn't considered yet. After all, prophecies weren't clear in any case. And this was a really woolly one. They would keep the idea in mind.
The visit to Gringotts was very effective. Not only did they have a bull's eye with the first vault they searched, which was Bellatrix's, they also arranged for loads of gold to be transferred to a new vault that Harry set up and which nobody but them had access to. The goblins didn't care. Per the old marriage contracts of the Blacks, their head of house had access to any vault that a Black descendent was main or at least part-owner of. They decided robbing the Death Eaters blind legally was too good an opportunity to pass up. Hermione had created five bags that had undetectable expansion charms on them, in which they filled all the gold and transported it to the new vault. Per historical agreement, the goblins would also only inform the vault owners that somebody who was permitted to do so had transferred the gold. That was if they asked.
Let them ponder who that might be. Hermione pointed out that they needed to secure Grimmauld Place before the Death Eaters could take over the Ministry. She had read about the fidelius charm and knew that you could take it down if you were the owner of the house. And that part didn't take active magic, therefore it wouldn't trigger the trace on Harry. She could recast it, making the house safe for them both to use. And if Hermione's parents really refused to leave England, they could move in there and be properly protected. Hermione really feared for them.
Harry had no problem with that. He even suggested setting up a handful of other locations with the fidelius to have more options to keep people safe. Hermione was all for it and they would send notes to all their friends to get it done if they could. The charm didn't require much magic, only some skill, but anybody with a NEWT in Charms should be able to put the charm on their home. There were many that they didn't want to see hurt. The Lovegoods, the Weasleys, after all, the breeding plan had been Dumbledore's and they didn't know as far as the notes told them, the Longbottoms, the families of their classmates and so on. They would send short letters with the instructions for the charm with a normal rental owl from Diagon Alley.
Their next stop was Grimmauld Place, where they came across an unwanted sight. Mundungus was sneaking inside again.
"I warned him," Harry growled, "But that dirty thief can't keep his fingers to himself."
"Don't worry, I'll take care of it," Hermione said grinning nastily.
She too was sick of the behaviour of the man. He had nearly got Harry killed with his negligence during guard duty and that was unforgivable in her eyes. She went after him with Harry only a few steps behind her. He couldn't help but think that it was a shame that she didn't wear tight jeans more often at Hogwarts. Soon he heard a fight.
"Dirty thief! Don't you dare take away Master Regulus' locket!" He heard Kreacher.
"Perhaps it would work better if you used the frying pan?" Hermione's falsely sweet voice spoke up.
Then a loud metal bang sounded and Mundungus screamed.
"Stupid girl, call that crazy elf back!" Mundungus begged, but there were two more banging sounds.
Harry decided to see for himself what was happening. In the kitchen, the cupboard in which Kreacher slept was opened and it seemed Dung had gone through it and taken a few things that Kreacher had secreted away.
There was a very familiar looking locket on the floor. Hermione looked at Dung smugly, Kreacher was holding a frying pan and looked hatefully at the thief.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the thief that I warned just a few months ago to never again try to take the things from my house," Harry said with an icy voice.
"H-Harry?" Dung stuttered, "W-Will you call back the crazy elf," Dung asked, but Harry only shook his head.
"Why should I? He's just doing his job, defending the possessions of the House of Black. Whom coincidentally I'm the new head of," Harry said, "Kreacher, would you be a dear and give him three more strikes with the pan to show him why it's inadvisable to ignore warnings from me?"
"Kreacher will be happy, Master," Kreacher agreed, looking gleeful and started hitting Dung hard with the frying pan again, "Dirty thief stealing from the Blacks."
"Now Kreacher, what did he try to steal this time? I warned him to never again try this, but he doesn't seem to learn," Harry asked.
"More plates with the Black crest, photos of Miss Cissa and Miss Bella and Master Regulus' locket," Kreacher answered, "I found him before he could look for more."
"You did well, Kreacher," Harry said, surprising the old elf.
Probably because he was being nice to him. Well, right now Harry could push the anger over the elf being essential for the trap in the Department of Mysteries away and deal with the thief that had ignored his warning and came back to steal from him. It wasn't that Harry was attached to the items, he couldn't care less about the photos for example, but the simple matter that it was Sirius' house and now his house that Dung thought it was okay to steal from wasn't something he would leave standing.
"Now what should I do with you? Handing you over to the ministry isn't a good idea, as you would blab on what the Order was doing, just to get some leniency and we don't want the Death Eaters to find out who was in the Order and what kinds of plans you made," Harry pondered.
"I wouldn't say, I swear," Dung tried.
"The problem is that I don't believe you. You aren't trustworthy, Dung," Harry stated, "You abandoned your post before my fifth year, which got me into the trouble with the Ministry, because I had to fight off the dementors myself. You're too greedy to not cave for the right price. Not to mention that you're a coward. No, we need to find another solution. Hermione, do you think you can do a charm that would prevent him from speaking about anything that has to do with me or the Order?"
"Uhm, sure, just let me think," Hermione nodded, biting her lower lip while she thought, which Harry thought looked really cute.
Then she chanted something and tapped Dung on the back of his head with her wand.
"That should do the trick as long as he isn't brought to Voldemort himself. I doubt my charm would hold against him," Hermione said.
"Good enough for now. He won't be able to give up this location anymore very soon. Now, Kreacher, please drop this piece of filth where he doesn't bother me anymore. No killing him, but I wouldn't mind of you found a nice, cold lake to get him somewhat cleaner," Harry stated.
"Yes, master," Kreacher said and took Mundungus away under the man's protests.
He was back after two minutes, grinning happily.
"Filthy thief fell into middle of a very cold and very large loch in Scotland. Should teach him not to steal from the Blacks," Kreacher declared vindictively.
Harry meanwhile inspected the locket and his eyes widened.
"Kreacher, you said that this locket belonged to Regulus Black. What was his middle name?" Harry asked.
"Arcturus, Master Harry," Kreacher told him.
"RAB, Regulus Black is RAB. He stole the locket from the cave!" Hermione exclaimed.
"You knows about evil cave?" Kreacher asked shocked.
Harry in reply took out the fake locket that he and Dumbledore had found in the cave.
"What did Regulus tell you to do with the locket?" Harry asked.
Kreacher started banging his head on the floor until Harry ordered him to stop that.
"Kreacher is bad elf, he failed master Regulus' last order. Kreacher tried destroying the locket, but he couldn't. He tried burning it, but it wouldn't work. Kreacher punished himself and tried smashing it, but that didn't work and Kreacher punished himself again. And Kreacher couldn't even tell his poor mistress what had happened to her poor son, because Master Regulus had forbidden Kreacher to tell his family," Kreacher wailed.
Hermione whispered a few things to Harry, which made him understand more about how the house elf couldn't know that Regulus had broken away from Voldemort, as he hadn't told him to protect his family. And that Kreacher was loyal to those that were nice to him and that they should use that.
"You didn't do anything wrong, Kreacher," Harry declared, "The locket is a very evil thing and only very special ways can destroy it. I have one thing that can destroy it with me."
"Master Harry would help Kreacher destroy the locket?" Kreacher asked hopefully.
"Indeed. I have some basilisk venom with me and that can destroy something like the locket," Harry confirmed.
Kreacher eagerly put the locket on the table.
"Kreacher is sure that to destroy it you have to open it, master, but Kreacher never found a way," Kreacher told them.
"Hm, that's Slytherin's locket, so probably you have to speak parseltongue to open it," Harry pondered.
"Of course, that would be an added security measure," Hermione agreed, "Can you still speak it?"
"Hm, we'll see," Harry said, "Open."
"No, that was English," Hermione commented.
Harry concentrated on the picture of a snake and then hissed the locket open.
From the locket came a grotesque image of Hermione standing naked in Ron's arms.
"I've seen your heart, Harry Potter, and it is mine," the voice of Voldemort said.
Harry simply took the vial of basilisk venom from his pocket, uncorked it and poured some of the venom over the locket. It shrieked and after a few seconds a green smoke came out of the locket and the formerly golden metal was tarnished.
"As if I would believe such a ridiculous image," Harry scoffed.
Hermione rewarded him with a long kiss, which he happily returned.
Kreacher from then on was very helpful and even stopped being horrible to Hermione and later her parents after the two teenagers showed them the house to see if they would agree to live here if they wouldn't leave the country. In the end it was decided to have them live at Grimmauld Place, as they didn't want to be away from their daughter, knowing that she would be in dangerous situations and they wouldn't be there to at least give moral support and advice. They had already given up a lot of time with her over the years and they didn't want to continue that. Both Harry and Hermione accepted it and secretly Hermione was happy to have them here, but now protected by the new fidelius charm. As you needed two people doing the charm, one to become the secret keeper and the other one casting it, Harry was now secret keeper for Grimmauld Place.
The count of horcruxes was now already down to two. Something of Ravenclaw or Gryffindor and the snake. The cup, the ring, the diary, the locket and Harry's scar were all free now. Now they only needed to find out where the last item was hidden and how to get the snake. One thing in their favour was that, so far, the Ministry hadn't fallen yet and that nobody knew that they had had this much success so far. And even if the goblins were asked about the missing gold and valuables in the vaults, they would only inform the vault owners that by contract the gold and other things had been taken out. They didn't like the Death Eaters any more than Harry and Hermione did. They in fact didn't like Harry much better, but any wizard that they could screw over they would.
They looked over the list that Dumbledore had made in his smaller notebook and they crossed the five that were dealt with out. They also crossed the locations Gringotts, Death Eater manor, cave and Gaunt shack out. They were after all already done. That left Hogwarts as a major place to search.
"I think we should sneak into the school while it's still the summer break," Hermione declared, "We would have the time to search the school in those places that Dumbledore hasn't looked in."
"I think the same and I have two prime suspicious places where I want to start," Harry added.
"Which ones? I mean I think one could be the Chamber of Secrets, but which one is the other?" Hermione asked.
"The Room of Requirement," Harry answered to her surprise.
"But that's accessible to everybody," Hermione countered.
"Yes, but he's arrogant enough to think that he was the only to find it. Dumbledore didn't even know about it. He only found it coincidentally one morning," Harry reminded her, "And with how he dismisses house elves as unimportant, he wouldn't have asked them about it."
"You could be right. But without knowing what item we're looking for, we would be taking too long to find anything," she worried.
"Well, there has to be a book about Ravenclaw and Gryffindor in the library. He had to find out about which items they were famous for from somewhere after all. The locket and the cup were coincidences, as they went through Borgin and Burke's shop. So, if he was obsessed with using founder's possessions or things that connected him to them in some way, like the diary proving his position as heir of Slytherin or the snake in the same line of thinking, he would have looked up information of all of the founders, if he could find it," Harry pointed out.
"Alright, that makes sense. We can easily get into the school through one of the secret passages," she nodded.
"Yeah and as, according to the map, only Hagrid is on the grounds right now, we should easily be able to use one of the easier accessible secret passages from Hogsmeade. The one that comes out at the sixth floor would probably work best, as it is closest to the Room of Requirement," Harry stated while looking over the marauder's map.
"Good idea. Let's go. The sooner we get this done, the better. I don't want to experience a long-drawn war like the first one against Voldemort. From what I've read it was horrible and the ministry was terribly incompetent. From what we have seen so far, they have only become worse, thus, if the ministry falls, the Death Eaters would quickly take over control over the whole country. I don't fancy being on the run for long. And with how wizards tend to be sheep that follow whatever nonsense the ministry spews, I fear for what might happen," Hermione agreed.
Harry just nodded and they took the invisibility cloak, the map and once they were outside of the house, Hermione apparated them to Hogsmeade, next to the hidden entrance for the secret passage. It was a part of the cliff on which Hogwarts towered over the village. Harry tapped the stone in the right pattern and the wall disappeared and opened to a narrow path. Both teens entered and lit their wands. The wall then reappeared behind them.
They followed the path up several stairs until they finally reached the end after about fifteen minutes. Hermione tapped a certain stone four times and the wall disappeared. They made sure that nobody was inside the castle and then went to the seventh floor. It was their good luck that the teachers always left the school two days after the students and any preparation for the school year was done during the two weeks before the students came back, except for the muggleborn visits. Those were done during the last two weeks of July. They reached the Room of Requirement and Harry walked past the door, asking for the room where the horcrux was hidden. To his immense glee the door materialised, which meant that the horcrux was actually in this room.
"Well, now we only need to find it," Harry declared and opened the door, abruptly stopping once he saw it, "I don't believe it."
"What's the matter, Harry?" Hermione asked, worrying about his gobsmacked look.
"That's the same room Malfoy used to repair the vanishing cabinet that let the Death Eaters in. And where I hid my Potions book," Harry answered, still looking as if he had been slapped silly with a fish.
"WHAT?" Hermione exclaimed shocked.
"Yeah, it's quite a shock. Imagine that Malfoy was that close to Voldemort's horcrux all that time," Harry mentioned.
"I'm more confused that Voldemort didn't realise that his horcrux wasn't as well hidden as he had thought. I mean, Malfoy must have given reports on his progress in killing Dumbledore or finding a way to get the Death Eaters inside," it still irked her that because of the potions that increased her jealousy of Harry, she hadn't even considered that he might be right about Malfoy.
"Don't think about it," Harry said.
"What do you mean?" She asked, looking at him with a frown.
"You're thinking about how you behaved last year. Don't. It wasn't your fault, it were the potions that made you behave like that. You have always been at my side and now, with the reason behind your illogical behaviour last year gone, I don't blame you at all and you shouldn't do either," Harry explained.
"How do you know what I thought?" Hermione asked impressed.
"I know you and it wasn't that hard to see that you were blaming yourself for something, it was the same look you had shortly after McGonagall had taken my firebolt away to check it," Harry explained, "You felt guilty about it, because I was angry with you."
"Yes, I simply wanted to make sure that the broom wouldn't kill you. I couldn't stand that thought," She told him, quivering at the thought.
"I wasn't really angry about that part. Well, I was annoyed that after I, for once, had had something that I had really wanted, it was simply taken away from me like that. It reminded me too much about how Christmas had always been horrible at the Dursleys," Harry admitted, "What really hurt me was that you didn't tell me about your suspicions and went behind my back. That hurt much more in the long run. I felt that you didn't trust me and with how many secrets you kept that year it was worse."
"I'm really sorry about that. I wanted to apologise for that as soon as I saw your face the day after McGonagall took the broom away. But then Ron blew up over Scabbers being eaten by Crookshanks and I didn't have the courage," Hermione admitted.
Harry pulled her into a hug and kissed her forehead.
"Just remember that we can talk about things like that in the future. I will never blame you for looking out for me, but just don't simply go through with a plan without discussing it with me. I'm also open if you think I'm doing something wrong. But it should also be the other way round. I don't want to have a repeat of you overdoing things like in third year because of false pride," Harry said.
"I think I can do that. Now let's get to work, we have a horcrux to find and destroy!" Hermione declared, cuddling closer to him. She truly enjoyed him initiating hugs now, next to the kissing of course. Harry was a great kisser in her opinion.
"We should look for anything that looks valuable and collect it on a heap over there. After that we can see if we can identify it belonging to one of the founders. And in doubt we take anything suspicious and look it up at the library," Harry said.
"That's a good plan. I'll start with this row," Hermione said and pointed at a row to the right.
Harry nodded and went to the left.
They had spent five hours in the room and were exhausted. They had found a number of items that looked like they might be valuable and had brought them to the collection point. Among them was the crown that Harry had used to mark the hiding place of Snape's old Potions book. Which he had collected and told Hermione that they could use the better recipes that they knew worked to their advantage, but stay away from the dangerous spells. Harry even agreed to let Hermione test each spell on dummies to decide which ones could be used and which ones not. Now that she wasn't controlled by potions, she full-heartedly agreed with his plan and the book wandered into a bag. When she inspected the crown's back, she grew excited.
"Harry, this is Ravenclaw's lost diadem!" She exclaimed excitedly.
"Really? How can you tell? I didn't see her crest anywhere on it," Harry asked.
"The inscription: 'Wit beyond measure is a man's greatest treasure'" She told him, "I read about this in Hogwarts A History. Many Ravenclaws have tried finding this diadem, but it was thought to be gone with Rowena Ravenclaw herself."
"I have no idea why it's here, but it is a prime candidate for a horcrux," Harry said and took the box with the vial with the basilisk venom from his pocket.
He carefully opened the boy and took the vial out. Hermione put the diadem on the ground and took a few steps away. Harry poured a few drops of the venom over the diadem and it started to shake. Then it gave off a now familiar scream and then green smoke broke from the diadem.
"We found the last horcrux next to the snake!" Hermione exclaimed happily, jumping up and down, "We're really close to making him mortal again now!"
"I know, it's brilliant. Say, I thought that we found lots of valuable things in here while searching. Why don't we take as many as we can with us? Nobody would miss them after all," Harry suggested, a broad smile on his face over this success in their mission.
"That's a great idea. I really want to have some of those books that I saw while looking for the horcrux," Hermione agreed immediately.
Harry laughed and they called Kreacher to bring them a snack and something to drink. Once they were done with their lunch, they continued bagging all they wanted from the room. There were several things that would fetch a great price as they were really old. They worked through the next three days, with sleeping on cots that the room materialised for them and Kreacher taking care of supplying them with food and drinks. Once they were done, they left the castle the same way they had come, happy and feeling like they had managed a major accomplishment.
When Harry was informed that the Order would come to get him to another location shortly before his birthday, he snorted. They hadn't even noticed that he had been coming and going from Privet Drive as he liked over the past month and had already completely moved out of there. Not that the Death Eaters were any better. As far as Kreacher had overheard, house elves were really great spies, and Harry and Hermione had already decided to take in Winky and Dobby as well, as the two elves needed a new home now that Dumbledore was dead anyway, the Death Eaters had plans to take over the Ministry soon, but not before Harry would be brought to another location. The snake was also at Malfoy Manor, which doubled as the headquarters of the Death Eaters.
It was actually quite easy to get in there if you had a house elf that knew the layout perfectly. And coincidentally Dobby had been the former Malfoy house elf. Harry and Hermione's plan was that they would use the predator instincts of the snake to get rid of it. They had prepared a capsule with basilisk venom, getting the capsule to not dissolve immediately had been the tricky part about that, in the end they had used liquid nitrogen to manage, which Richard got them through one of his acquaintances, which would be placed into the stomach of a living rat. When Harry and Hermione had complained about it being impossible to make the capsule, Helen had suggested the nitrogen and the two magicals had wanted to bang their heads onto some hard surface for falling into the trap of only looking to the wizarding world for answers. The rat would be let running close to the snake and the snake would act instinctually and eat the rat. Once the capsule would dissolve in the rat, which they calculated would take about six hours, the venom would then dissolve the rat, aided by the digestion of the snake, and then the venom would kill the snake from the inside and with it destroy the last horcrux.
Simple, clean and not dangerous for Harry or Hermione, who would only have to make sure through Dobby watching, that the snake ate the rat. And if anybody was suspected, Voldemort's ire would target his Death Eaters over the death of his pet snake. Too bad. Helen and Richard's warnings that they should stay as far away from that group as possible was very true. But they had wholeheartedly agreed with the poisoned bait plan and helped with their knowledge of chemistry to make the capsule. After all, the rat couldn't be allowed to die too early.
Harry wondered how Ron would take the information that the horcruxes were already dealt with, that Harry and Hermione were a couple and that they only had to kill Voldemort and his Death Eaters now.
Alastor Moody looked at the letter from Harry Potter, after he had checked it for hidden spells, poisons and runes that could kill him or do other nasty things of course, concentrated. He hadn't expected to get a letter back from the boy, who should be waiting for them to get him away from his relatives' house and to an Order member's home. Not to mention that the letter had simply been handed to him by one of the Weasley twins with a grin. From what the letter said, there was no need to get him, just to relocate his relatives if they wanted to move. He had informed them about the situation, but left the decision up to them.
They would have to see if they would move or not. In case they didn't, Harry just asked to give them a way to get away from an attack to a safe house of the Order. He wouldn't do more. He also wrote that he and his girlfriend were safe in his house, which had a fidelius on it, which meant, he was safe there. He also assured him that he hadn't broken the underage magic laws. His girlfriend had put the charm up. Then there was a suggestion to ambush the Death Eaters and take out as many as possible and that Voldemort would probably be angry enough to fall for a trap with a tempting bait to draw him out. Snipers should then kill him from a distance.
No need to sacrifice lives unnecessarily. Moody had to admit, that this suggestion was promising and without Dumbledore blocking such tactics, they could finally try them. He was so sick of the bad guys that he sent to Azkaban escaping all the time and killing more people. Now he only needed to write back to Potter and arrange a meeting to plan this ambush. He didn't know if that prophecy really said that Potter had to kill Voldemort, but he surely wouldn't take the risk that the ambush would go wrong, just because he didn't have the boy participate.
Harry and Hermione sat in the kitchen of the Burrow, the temporary headquarters of the Order, contributing to the plans for the ambush, much to the protest of Molly Weasley, who tried to protest their involvement, arguing that they were too young.
Hermione finally had enough and spoke up.
"Mrs Weasley, we need to get rid of the Death Eaters and Voldemort as soon as possible. Now that Dumbledore is dead, the most tempting target for them is Harry, the only major roadblock for their victory in their eyes. With the mentality that those bastards have, once they take over the Ministry, they would outlaw attendance at Hogwarts for all muggleborns and perhaps even halfbloods. The latter I doubt, as the student numbers would fall too much to keep the school running, but who knows. They're not known to be thinking things through. Next to that they would go after anybody with creature heritage like Fleur, Professor Flitwick or Hagrid. After them the other sentient races would be their target. I say, the sooner we can get rid of them, the better. I have no intention to have to hide out in a tent or something like that, just because they decided that I'm not worthy to have magic. And you know that if they manage to kill Scrimgeour, the whole Ministry would fold like a house of cards.
"No, the only way that this war won't totally escalate is that we take them out before they can take over the Ministry. We can then root out their people in there. I'm sure you have identified lots of them already, but couldn't act for one reason or the other. But without the worst Death Eaters, and Voldemort out of the picture, we will at least have a chance," Hermione declared, "Otherwise we can all as well immigrate to Canada and hope that once Europe is theirs, the Americans can keep them out of their continent."
It had the effect that Molly was silent, not being prepared to counter the argument that Hermione had presented.
"Any arguments aside, Potter has to be part of the ambush team, not only as bait, but also as the one to kill Voldemort. I'm not going to take a risk with that prophecy to see if it's true or not," Moody growled, "We're going to strike decisively this time. We've managed to make them believe that we'd transfer Potter from his relatives' home at the thirtieth, one day before he turns seventeen, which will break the protection anyway. The plan was to use decoys under polyjuice to confuse them from their target. So we have some time to set up the location for the ambush. It would need to be a place with little settlement where we don't have to fear that innocents are killed. The idea I have is letting the location of where we take Potter leak at the Ministry and public places. Only snippets each time. For example Arthur taking a few free days around the thirtieth. Supposedly because of Bill's wedding, but they'll think that there is another reason as well.
"Next to that Remus can be seen buying supplies in large amounts in Diagon Alley. Pieces of the puzzle for them to solve, making it look as if we're preparing for a major operation. We can let them follow somebody who makes sure to travel to an isolated place over many stations to cover his tracks. Hushed conversations where we use code words that relate to Potter and the Order. Nothing can make sense on its own, but in the end they should be able to get the location where we set up the trap," Moody explained the plan.
"That means we can only strike at the thirty-first at the earliest," Harry said, "Otherwise the trace would inform the Ministry that I used magic if I'm not staying at a registered wizarding place. We could of course choose a place like that, supposedly to cover my tracks even better."
"No, we should wait until the trace breaks. No need to take an unnecessary risk," Moody shook his head.
"Well, then we should get the deserted location, prepare it with any traps we can come up with and run some simulations of the ambush to have everybody prepared," Harry suggested.
"But the Death Eaters would notice if we assembled in one location," Molly protested.
"Not if we used Hogwarts," Harry countered, "Right now Professor McGonagall is still headmistress. She can let us inside and if we don't use the floo, there is no way that any spies at the Ministry will find out. They don't monitor Hogwarts any other way. The Room of Requirement can simulate the location and let us train the scenarios we want to be sure of. All of the Order members can apparate to the gates and we can put up privacy charms to avoid being noticed by possible spies in the area."
"Yes, that would work, Potter," Moody agreed, "I heard of the room from the twins. It can take the form of whatever we need, right?"
"Correct. It would be the perfect place to train. We have two weeks till my birthday. That should be enough time to get things set up," Harry confirmed.
"A workable timeframe. We just need to make sure that nobody blabs on the plan. Which reminds me, where is that useless Fletcher?" Moody growled.
"Too afraid to come close to me. I caught him breaking into my house and stealing things at the beginning of the summer, despite having been warned clearly last year to not take anything from there. Still, he thought that, after Dumbledore's death, the valuables in there were up for the taking and selling on the black market. I taught him better," Harry answered.
"I think that you had Kreacher deposit him in a very cold and large lake also had something to do with it," Hermione said grinning.
"Hey, a bath can only have improved his health," Harry commented.
"I don't deny that," she replied.
"How can you be sure that he won't betray Order secrets?" Remus asked concerned.
"Well, my brilliant girlfriend here," Hermione beamed at him, "made sure that he can't tell anything and it would probably take a legilimency probe of Voldemort himself to find the secrets he knows. We can only hope that they don't catch him and bring him to Voldemort, but the most critical part of being able to kill Voldemort is done. He can't mess that up anymore. And face it, nobody would think that a lowly thief like Dung would be interesting enough for Voldemort himself to deal with. He normally leaves dealing with opponents of that level to others. Not to mention that I don't doubt that Dung will run to a hiding place if he only hears whispers of Death Eaters in the area," Harry pointed out.
"True, he isn't reliable at all," Molly agreed.
"Well, then I suggest that we meet tomorrow at nine in the morning at Hogwarts to get started on preparations for the ambush. We also need to stock up on healing potions just in case. It would probably be good if some of us worked with Poppy to be ready once somebody needs medical help. I doubt that Hogwarts will be open for us to use for long. If Voldemort really manages to take over the Ministry, he will take control over the school as well. It's what I would do and no matter what, he is smart," Moody said.
The others nodded and left for their homes to be ready for the next day. Only those who would be missed at work wouldn't be at the preparation.
Two weeks flew by quickly. Everybody that was associated with the Order was trained in different fields. Harry had also called Neville and Luna, as they had proven to be trustworthy. Luna and Ginny were sent to help brewing healing potions as they wouldn't be able to help with an ambush thanks to the trace on them holding for a while longer. Fred and George were working with Remus to produce as many copies of their arsenal that would be useful in an ambush as possible, with the old marauder being really impressed how good the twins were at what they did.
The active aurors in the Order had to go to work during the day, but they joined one simulation in the evening each day. And they were the ones that needed this training the least, as they were used to situations like that from the auror academy at least. The room helped the group a lot to go through all kinds of scenarios, even worst case scenarios, imitating that their ambush had been compromised. Moody was a harsh taskmaster and went over strategy and choice of spells with them all relentlessly. In the end even the most loyal Dumbledore supporters had to accept that they couldn't spare anybody in the ambush. This was their one big chance to end the war before it became really nasty and nobody wanted to have that on his head.
Those that absolutely refused to aim to kill were directed to the medical corps, as Moody called it. Training healing spells and administering healing potions was something they could fully support, therefore they joined the group around Poppy. During the training Ron tried to find out why Harry and Hermione were now together and they simply said that they had realised that they loved each other and with a war going on, they wouldn't waste any time they had. He didn't like it at all, thinking that he had a right to be with Hermione, but the twins quickly taught him better, before Harry could explode, which was infinitely more dangerous these days.
Nobody had forgotten the memorable fight he had given the room's simulation in the worst case scenario when Hermione had fallen. The room didn't stand a chance at all.
Voldemort grinned when he had finally managed to put the clues that his Death Eaters had collected together. Oh, the Order thought they were so clever. They had split up the work for this seemingly important plan. They were going to get Potter to safety without him finding the boy. His last major obstacle to undisputed power. Weasley taking a few free days for his son's wedding was one clue that his Death Eaters had dismissed. Foolish. There had always been Weasley involvement with Potter's little adventures at Hogwarts, of which Severus had told him all the details he knew about. So anything out of the norm that the head Weasley did was suspicious.
Then Avery had spotted the werewolf Lupin buying large amounts of certain supplies like clothes and potion ingredients. They were preparing in case they had to go into hiding. They knew that they wouldn't be safe once he, the dark lord, took over the ministry. Severus had reported that the Order didn't trust the Ministry with anything, as they thought it was undermined. Therefore, the information from Yaxley about the auror Dawlish tattling on the date when Potter would be moved was to be taken with a grain of salt.
While he wouldn't be able to puzzle out the correct date easily, even if he had a fairly good guess, he had found more than enough clues to find the destination of transferring Potter to a safer place. Bella had come across her niece who had been shopping with her mother. While Bella's sister had flooed home, her niece had apparated away and Bella had decided to follow her, knowing that she was one of Dumbledore's lot. The girl was good, she had tried to erase her trail through going over four stops before she reached a small hunting lodge deep inside a forest. There she had been met by Moody, who had done ridiculously complicated identification measures.
Bella had kept at a distance to not tip the old auror off or get caught by his eye. The Death Eaters had long since figured out what reach that eye had. So he would give Potter a very nice birthday present. He would be at the lodge on his birthday. Once Rookwood had gone to the place Bella had found two hours later, he had noticed that somebody had started the process to put the place under strong wards.
Next on his list was having Diggle buy a number of books that all dealt with training somebody for combat. It seemed that with Moody as the new leader of the Order, they wouldn't be as soft as Dumbledore anymore. Well, he would crash the party for Potter before they had a chance to really get started.
The Order was lying in wait for the Death Eaters to appear. Everything was ready. They were sure that Voldemort wouldn't pass up the chance to attack Harry on his birthday. And having Harry out of the way before he could take the Ministry was too tempting for him to not take the bait. Dobby had confirmed meetings at Malfoy Manor for a raid at a location that Voldemort would only reveal at the last moment to prevent anything leaking to his enemies.
Dobby also reported that he hadn't seen Draco Malfoy for a while at the manor after the snake had been killed. Some Order members suspected that he had been killed for his family's failure to ensure the safety of the snake. Not to mention that the Malfoys had lost standing in the Death Eater ranks with Lucius' failure at the Ministry in the DOM or the loss of the diary. The Order had waited here since six in the morning, now it was noon. It was taxing to stay on guard all the time, but this was their best chance to beat Voldemort and they wouldn't waste it.
Finally, at half past twelve, the perimeter wards were triggered and the Order members got into position. A quick check confirmed the setting up of anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards, certainly done by Rookwood, who was the best at things like that among the Death Eater ranks.
Moody gave some silent handsigns and the others nodded, confirming their orders. Then they acted. Fred and George triggered the first line of their traps. The screams of pain were easily heard and they knew that the explosions behind the Death Eaters had taken them completely by surprise. Not to mention that having sharp silver needles sticking out from your limbs was very painful and you didn't need to be a werewolf to think that. Knowing that there was a large possibility that Voldemort would take some of his werewolves with him, the twins had been tasked to set up traps with silver needles to weaken them considerably. Remus was wearing full body armour to be protected against accidentally falling prey to that.
The ward scheme that Fleur and Bill had set up required any attackers to move in waves. You had to bring down the first ward, then the second one was only accessible after having moved forward five metres past the first ward. This should make the attackers believe that the ones hiding here would use the time to flee if they couldn't win. Not that the Death Eaters thought they needed to fear anything with Voldemort being there to lead them to victory in person. Soon they heard orders being shouted by Voldemort.
"Don't let them trick you! They can't escape and they never had the courage to truly fight. They're only good at running away! Have faith! Today we will bring down the last bastion of the light and then the way to the complete victory will be free!" Voldemort shouted at his followers.
"You have to give him a flair for dramatics," Harry deadpanned.
"Won't do him any good," Moody grumbled. "Twins, next step."
Fred and George grinned at each other and tapped a remote control with their wands. The next attack was making spider-like creatures drop on the Death Eaters and have them shoot sticky threats on them. The threats would harden after thirty seconds of being out of the mini spiders and hinder the manoeuvrability of those getting hit. The plan was to stick to annoying and slightly painful attacks in the beginning that would herd the Death Eaters to the points where worse traps were placed. And the wards being set one after the other made sure that lots of those traps would get them. It was one thing they had realised in the Room of Requirement training regime.
One powerful ward wasn't any good. Voldemort had enough power to bring it down faster than they could take out enough of his backup. The most that scenario had done was taking out about a quarter of the Death Eaters and werewolves. It had been a disaster, except the one time Hermione went down. Then Harry had slaughtered the opposition in his rage. But nobody wanted to take that risk.
So they waited and annoyed the Death Eaters with traps that hindered their progress or forced them to take alternative routes, like the activation of three portable swamps being placed between the third and fourth ward. That was when the real attack would begin. The Death Eaters split up to get around the line of swamp. Two were stuck in there and were attacked by the vicious piranhas that the twins had put into this special version. They were lost. And the other Death Eaters decided to avoid the death trap.
Sadly, that was exactly where the Order was going to strike. They all knew that this was going to take up a lot of the magic used for the wards, but if they managed to pull it off the right way, they would win this war before the Death Eaters and Voldemort could ever really take over. For, next to the sides of the swamp, there were muggle explosives buried in the ground. For a length going around the whole house with the exemptions of the three swamp parts. There were three wards left before the Death Eaters could reach the house and just when they were about to start taking the third to last ward out, another one sprang up, corralling them in a limited area. Then the world around them exploded.
"Yes, we got them all!" Fred bumped his fist with George.
"Don't count your dragons before they hatch," Moody warned, "We can't be sure if some of the bastards didn't survive. Keep vigilant."
The twins faces turned serious again and their wands were directed at the outside. It took five minutes for the smoke to disappear, but when it did, a horrible sight was revealed to them. The explosions had certainly done their job. There was only one ward around the house left and that one was flickering, barely holding out against the power that had been unleashed by the bombs in the ground. And where they had been, there were craters with human body parts lying around in a horrible, sickness causing fashion.
Hermione couldn't help herself and vomited into a bucket she conjured just before she couldn't keep it in anymore. Many others followed her example. It was something that would cause them all nightmares in the weeks to come.
"I know that this is horrible, but they wouldn't have spared us either. This way at least the innocents of our world will be spared the horrors of a new war," Moody said solemnly, "Let's finish this. We dump the earth we prepared beforehand on top of both craters and then it's done."
The other order members that weren't vomiting their stomachs out, followed him out and levitated the earth that they had prepared with potions over the craters. They dropped it and were sure that it would do the remaining work. The earth was drenched in a potion that was used to quicken decomposition of anything. In six months there wouldn't be anything that a curious muggle would be able to find. Every remains of the Death Eaters and Voldemort would be earth, giving nutrients to the forest around. A fitting end in many eyes, even if they would have wished that there would have been another way. They would need therapy for this, so much was sure.
It was agreed upon by the Order members that they wouldn't inform the Ministry about the demise of the Death Eaters immediately. They first needed to clean up at the Ministry. There were still unmarked supporters of Voldemort running around free and they couldn't risk them slinking back into their comfortable lives like they had done before. Which meant that they needed to be drawn out, judged and convicted for life. This part of the operation was left to the ones that worked at the Ministry. When Yaxley had died with the other death eaters, the imperius curse that he had managed to place on Pius Thicknesse, the head of the DMLE, broke, which allowed Kingsley and Tonks to bring him in on the plan. The man was eager to get back at those that had controlled him.
Secretly, they arranged meetings with the ones that were on Voldemort's side and slipped them veritaserum and questioned them about their involvement with the Death Eaters and Voldemort. The results were horrifying. Umbridge was also arrested for the crimes she had committed. While she wasn't a Death Eater or acknowledged supporter, her crimes at Hogwarts and the attempts to kill Harry were enough to see her sent to Azkaban.
It took a month, but then they were fairly sure that they had got all those that would work against change in the wizarding world, which was long overdue. Azkaban had a lot of new inmates, the Ministry stood much higher in the respect of the common witches and wizards and the worst bigots and roadblocks for more cooperation with other races or integration of muggleborns were also there or dead. It was then that Harry, Moody, Kingsley and McGonagall informed the Minister of the demise of all Death Eaters and Voldemort that ran into a trap while trying to kill Harry. They didn't tell him what exactly had happened, just that they were dead, thanks to having triggered hidden traps. They swore that they hadn't used any dark magic and didn't fire any spell except in self-defence.
They knew that it would be necessary, in case that some idiot tried charging them for killing 'upstanding purebloods'. There were some idiots left that hadn't helped Voldemort after all, but still believed in that rot. Scrimgeour agreed to not tell anybody how it had happened, he was just glad that the threat was over and he could go back to bringing the country back to its feet, without having to fear for his life. Harry gave him a few good suggestions what needed to be done and warned him to not fall back into old, bad behaviour patterns. It would only open the doors for another idiot with delusions of grandeur. They needed more transparency at the Ministry and more fresh ideas had to be implemented. Which meant letting those that had the grades in their NEWTs get the jobs they qualified for, and ignore their blood status.
Scrimgeour, knowing what kind of power the boy held, both magically and politically, promised to get it done. He needed a high number of new employees anyway. The list of transgressors that Thicknesse had sent him was staggering and Azkaban was fuller than ever before. And while he was a pureblood, he had nothing against non-purebloods. So, for the first time in history, the ads for the open positions at the Ministry explicably asked muggleborns and halfbloods to apply for the positions. He needed over a hundred new employees to keep the Ministry running properly, and if the ones applying could show the NEWTs he wanted them to have, he would hire them immediately.
He also had a number of laws voided, especially those that Umbridge and her ilk had got passed, which would lessen the tension with groups like werewolves, vampires, those with part-creature heritage and so on. Instead he had a law passed that allowed werewolves to take up any position they were qualified for, as long as they signed a binding contract that stated that they would take wolfsbane potion, which would be supplied by the Ministry, the week leading up to the full moon and to lock themselves away on those nights, just in case the potion didn't work. It would open more ways to earn an honest living for the werewolves. The violent ones would still be persecuted.
It was a major improvement and if it continued in that direction, Scrimgeour could hope to have a long time in office.
Harry and Hermione looked at their Hogwarts letters with happiness and somewhat surprise for Harry. They had been named head boy and girl for the coming year. Harry was confused why he had got the badge, as he hadn't been a prefect, but Remus explained that you didn't have to be prefect to become head boy, which had been the same for his father. Hermione told Harry that he deserved that acknowledgement and cemented it with a long kiss.
Ron and Ginny didn't like the new relationship between Harry and Hermione, but after the two had shared their findings from Dumbledore's journal and notebook, many others cursed the old manipulator. Especially as Harry had sworn an oath that they were the real thing, as far as he knew it. He had found them in Dumbledore's office shortly after his death, planning to get any kind of information that the headmaster might have had that could aid in the fight against Voldemort. The mere idea of Dumbledore having planned who had to marry who for decades made many sick. The love life of people shouldn't be decided by one person, just to avoid inbreeding and didn't involve personal feelings.
The destruction of the public image that Dumbledore had built up took some time, but more and more people, who had often wondered why their marriages had failed as spectacularly as they did after a certain period of time, when they had been in love when they had married, now went for solutions that had previously been considered out of the question. The most radical pureblood extremists had died with Voldemort and those that still believed that purebloods were better than others, but were victims of the manipulations of Dumbledore, decided that they would need to become creative to not suffer for the rest of their lives, especially as the reasons were now out in the open.
They settled for separating from their partners, with contracts being set up to care for any children from the relationships properly, as the children weren't at fault for what had been done to their parents. While divorce didn't exist, the Ministry acknowledged officially married people taking a new partner, should their names be on the so-called 'Dumbledore's List'. These partnerships weren't vilified by the public, which was what normally would have happened, and any children coming from them were seen the same way as those children that were born in wedlock.
A lot of children had trouble dealing with their parents separating, but Hogwarts employed a mind healer from Canada, as there weren't enough mind healers in Great Britain to free one from their normal position, to help all the students over the trauma of what happened to their families, be it from family members being killed by Death Eaters to their parents going through the closest thing to divorce in their world. Harry and Hermione, the ones that knew most about the conspiracy of Dumbledore, were often asked about the situation and they told their opinion. Everybody should be free to love and marry the person they wanted to, and nobody, not parents, society or other parties should have any say in that.
Scrimgeour took that opinion up and voided lots of laws that allowed the creation of marriage contracts, outside of settling terms of the marriage, mainly when large monetary assets were involved. The classical part was if a house only had a daughter as its heir and wanted a younger son of the couple that wanted to marry to take up the bride's maiden name to continue the family name. Those things nobody truly cared about, but many were happy that the threat of being placed into such a contract was dealt with.
It would take time for the country to become a better and fairer place to live, but, as the roadblocks were eliminated, there was no excuse anymore to not finally start the path towards that goal. And this time around, those that had suffered from the results of that kind of bigoted, privileged laws would make sure that this chance wasn't wasted again. They had enough of people spouting nonsense about pureblood supremacy and blocking all kinds of research into areas that could bring their world forward. Well, the Ministry had a lot of things to do and they were actually willing to do them. Mainly because Scrimgeour knew too well how close he had come to being murdered, he had seen the secured plans of the Death Eaters that had been taken by aurors when they stormed Malfoy Manor, which showed clearly that they had only been days away from taking over the Ministry. If not for the unspecified trap that had killed them and Voldemort, he would by now be dead. That was more than enough motivation to get things changed.
Harry and Hermione didn't really get involved anymore. Harry had declared that he wanted to finally enjoy a normal year at Hogwarts, where his only concerns were getting good grades on his NEWTs, making his girlfriend happy and winning the Quidditch Cup again. With Snape dead, Dumbledore dead, Voldemort dead and even the pest Malfoy dead, the main aggressors were no issue anymore. He could finally be normal, or what passed as normal for Harry Potter, and leave all the other things to the adults. He would act if something went into the totally wrong direction, but otherwise, he was a student at Hogwarts and the one thing he wanted to do was not being bothered by catastrophes again.
Hermione was very happy about his attitude and often rewarded him for his willingness to study with her. Harry wasn't sure about being an auror anymore, he thought he had fought enough, but there were many other professions out there for which he would have the qualifications, should he pass his NEWTs with the right grades. And for now, all was well in his world.
And I'll finish this story at thins point. Sure, there are still a number of things unanswered, like Tonk's and Remus' relationship, but for this story, everything is said. Until next time.