First, to those of you wondering why there was no update on Sunday, it was my birthday! And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I am "born as the seventh month dies".

Anyway, here's a new chapter! Thank you to all who've been reviewing— almost 2650!— and sharing wonderful insights! I read everything, of that you can have no doubt. I even share some of the wacky ones on Discord!

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The next chapter is available on my website. You know the drill; the password is on my Discord, and the link to that is at the bottom of the page.

The four after that are for Acolytes, then the four after those are for Mages and up, and then the eight after those are for my Somnian Remnants and Alo-Ra supporters! The backlog for Alo-Ra members continues to build up, as well— we're all the way to chapter 82! 83 will be done by Friday.

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Those Who Fight

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June 10, 1992, 12:05 PM, Forbidden Third Floor Corridor

Adam Clarke

"Adam." Su's fearful voice sounded from my right.

"I see them." I said, nodding.

"And McGonagall is…" Tony continued from my left as we came in.

"I know. That wound does not look good."

"We need to—"

"You do." I said as we walked forward, my three shields absorbing the various spells the remaining Fifth to Seventh Years continued to cast on my group and Potter's separated one.

"You said—"

"I know what I said." I cut Tony off as we reached Potter, who was struggling to move. "But they need medical attention. You can't expect Ron to carry them all, do you? Plans almost never survive contact, anyway. Hopefully our friends survive with our help, though, yeah?"

Tony said nothing, instead watching with fascination and wonder as my shield merged with the one I held over Harry. Without prompting, he and Su began to drag Harry with us.

The injured boy was so taken aback by what was going on that he made no move to protest.

I winced at the strain that my leftmost shield was beginning to feel, but buried the expression quickly. "Hurry."

We rushed a little faster towards the rest of Potter's group, and I merged my shield with the remaining one over McGonagall, Hermione and Ron.

I exhaled with the exertion and concentrated the shield a little further, before holding it steady and powering it with my left hand, instead.

"Ron." I said, but the boy was staring at me with an expression of pure shock. It was like he'd never seen me before, like his mind was anywhere but here. "Weasley!"

The boy jumped in place, and I felt a little bad for him. Poor kid's suffering shock after shock this year.

"I can't hold this barrier forever." I said, watching his face pale as the implication began to dawn on him. "I don't want you to help in the fight, but I need you, Tony and Su to protect the others while I deal with them. Can you do that?"

"I—" Ron said and gulped, doing his best to steel his expression. "I'll try."

I stared at him as he stood. The boy was scared shitless, there was no doubt about that, but it seemed that he would do as he said.

"There's that Gryffindor courage." I smiled before frowning as the shield wavered from an impact which shattered all the stone around us.

I turned to face them when I felt a hand gripping my trousers.

"Clarke." Harry choked out, looking at me through bleary, emerald eyes. "Let me up— I can… Help."

I turned to stare down at him again. Even downed and beaten, he wasn't yet broken.

It would have been impressive had I not taken his gesture as an act of childish stupidity and suicidal stubbornness.

"You took down three of them, Potter." I said, shaking his hand off with enough force to make him cringe. "You've done enough— but you're hurt. Let me take it from here, yeah? That sound fair to you?"

"We can't let you go alone!" Tony said, heated again. "You're going up against four people! Prefects!"

But I laughed and stepped forward anyway, staring at my foes. "Just watch and learn."

Placing my wand and left hand against the Shield Charm, I linked my will with it and began to morph it into something else.

Attack and Defense.

"Odgovor!" The barrier shifted and writhed as it changed shape, taking the form of a massive, long chain, spinning in a spiral in front of me.

All the while, it kept absorbing and deflecting spell after spell off to the side or right back at them, not giving any ground to the older students.

I've been training to surpass people at your level, Quirrell. I thought, even as I saw a few bone breaking curses collide against my chains and fly back in their direction, forcing the students to dodge. You think a bunch of kids you Imperiused are going to do anything to me?

My eyes flitted to Mira's glazed over ones for a moment before I shook my head. No. I can't go easy on her, either.

I thrust my wand forward into the spell with a yell. The massive chain began to shrink in size as two, smaller ones erupted from the body, flying towards the group at breakneck speeds.

With a slash, I imbued the chain tips with the essence of a Cutting Charm, crashing my chains against their hastily cast Shield Charms and tearing through them, striking two of the students in the leg.

And yet, they ignored their new injuries, pushing forward with the same expressionless faces. Whether it was from the adrenaline pumping through their bodies or just the effect of the Imperius Curse, I didn't know. I sidestepped a Bone-breaker and deflected another blue spell, sending it splashing against the floor beside me, melting the stone and filling the air with an acrid scent.

Fine. I thought. If I can't disable you through pain, I'll just take your wands!

With a jerk and a snap of my wand, I directed my chains to race towards their wand and snatch them away, but the students banded together under a single shield.

No matter. I thought, imbuing the chains with the essence of a Cutting Charm at the tips and launching them like spears again.

To my surprise, this time, the chains bounced right off.

What the… I thought with a frown before I smiled in realization. "I see. It's not a series of Shield Charms but only a single one cast in tandem."

It seemed that Quirrell taught them a little more than a few spells while he had them under the influence of the Imperius Curse.

I was impressed, despite my disgust with the entire situation.

I didn't think his Master, Voldemort, would even consider such a route, judging by his low, canon opinion on the worth— or lack thereof, I suppose— of underage wizards and witches.

I supposed that if people were desperate enough, then they would do anything to succeed, including compromising the tenets by which they lived.

Don't put it past Voldemort. The sly voice said. He's a dangerous man. Stop trying to project your own values onto him or even Quirrell. It's going to cost you, if you keep doing this.

I wanted to say something, but one look at Mira's expressionless face stopped any reply from coming out.

Maybe you're right. I thought and narrowed my eyes with new determination. Maybe I've been blinding myself to the truth this whole time, torn between two paths— neither of which are for me.

I called out to the others even as my chains continued to strike at the shield, filling the corridor with the sound of a loud whine. "Change of plans! Su, Tony; blast them with the Disarming Charm!"

"What?"

"Just do it!" I shouted even as I sent my chains into their combined shield, keeping the four Imperiused students occupied with the single minded determination of holding me off.

Seconds later, Su and Tony stood beside me, their wands pointed at the enemies.

"Expelliarmus!" "Expelliarmus!" The two cried, sending jets of red light towards the large shield, making it waver at the increased onslaught.

"More!"

The shouts of "Expelliarmus!" mixed in with the low whine, and flashes of red lit up the corridor as my two friends launched Disarming Charm after Disarming Charm.

A few seconds passed, and I abandoned defense altogether, moving the remaining chain towards the students and directing all three to cut through their shield.

One forced its way through and got stuck, creating a large crack in their bright barrier and prompting me to cry out in exhilaration. "Almost there!"

Another hit, and the shield went down, with the tips of two of my chains cutting through their wands while the other two were snatched away by Su and Tony's Disarming Charms.

"Well done!" I said and wasted no time, combining all of the chains back into a big one and wrapping it around all nine students, bringing them together and holding them all in place.

Awake or unconscious, I wasn't going to take any chances with them.

They continued to struggle, and started to bend their bodies in unnatural ways to try and escape their bonds.

Shit. They're going to hurt themselves. I thought and began to adjust the spell, creating little chains to wrap around them and immobilize them completely.

"What're they…" Su said, disturbed at what she had just witnessed. "What's wrong with them?"

"I—" I said, shaking my head at the sight and focusing my intent and desire to tighten the bonds around them. "Even now, I feel them struggling against me. I think that, if they think they only need to snap their bones or grind their organs into paste just for the chance to get at us, they would do it without hesitation."

A moment passed as the girl absorbed the information. "What sort of spell would do something so horrible?"

"An Unforgivable." Ron said, slowly coming to his senses as he realized that the fight had come to an abrupt close. "The Imperius Curse…"

I closed my eyes and focused on my next spell. I wasn't very good with this particular spell yet, but… needs must.

"Stupefy."

A red tinge traversed through the chain, starting from my wand and circulating all the way to the prisoners at the speed of a snail, but the pay-off was evident. As soon as the red light touched the students, it knocked them out.

There was a long moment of silence, in which we all watched the students for any sign of movement or even consciousness.

"Is it over…?"

"I think so." I said and let go of my spell, watching as they all flopped down to the stone floor, unconscious. "At least for now, anyway. Just to be safe, though…"

With a swipe of my wand, the wands of the Imperiused students flew towards me, landing at my feet. I pocketed my own and picked the others up, moving them far away from the unconscious students before dealing with the next-most important issue.

I turned to head to the others, passing by Tony who had a frown on his face. "What was that spell, Adam?"

I suppressed the urge to sigh and shook my head. "Look. I know that you probably have a lot of questions, but we honestly don't have the time for this."

"... Fine." Tony said and the two Ravenclaws followed me to where the others were. "But we will talk about this later."

"Sure." I said, kneeling down and digging into my robe for any supplies I may have on me. "How are they?"

"I— I don't know." Ron said.

"'M fine." Harry said, though he could barely move without cringing in pain. "Help the Professor first. She got hurt because of us."

"Went in without a plan, huh." I said, not even trying to mince my words.

"Sorry…" Hermione said as she held the Professor's head up with her good arm, looking to be on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. She had remained silent ever since we had arrived. "Please help her— I'm so sorry…"

I opened my mouth to say something before sighing and looking over Professor McGonagall.

A quick check of her midsection told me that something had cut deep in her— a piercing curse, I realized after checking the other side.

"I'm no doctor— Healer." I said, drawing out a single vial of Wiggenweld and frowning. "I only kept one of these on me— the rest are in my room… Damn it. Whatever, let's hope this helps. I don't think the curse hit anything vital."

I raised the old woman's head with a gentle motion, and McGonagall opened her eyes with such weakness that it almost took me aback.

"Mr. C— Clarke…" The woman choked out, but I shook my head to stop her.

"Easy Professor, you'll go into a coughing fit, and that'll make everything worse." I said and showed her the vial. "This is Wiggenweld; do you think you can drink it? Don't speak; just open your mouth if it's a yes."

Minerva responded by opening her mouth, and I popped the vial open, tilting its contents down into it. I breathed a sigh of relief when the whole potion was emptied and she had not choked.

That could have gotten very bad. I rather liked the woman and didn't want her to die on me anytime soon.

"Right." I said, turning my eyes to Hermione as Professor McGonagall sagged with a bit of relief. "You all need to take the Professor— and yourselves— to the Hospital Wing. Can you all walk?"

"Yes." Hermione said as Harry and Ron got up with a slow, great effort.

"They can barely stand..." Tony muttered.

"You and Su have to help them get to the Hospital Wing." I said. "They're too hurt to do this on their own."

"And what about you?" Tony said, though there was no heat in this voice this time. "Adam."

I turned to look at him as Su, Harry, Hermione and Ron tried to figure out how to carry McGonagall.

"I have to go and help Professor Snape." I said, and that got the rest of them to snap their heads toward me.

"...Help Snape?" Ron said, aghast. "He's the one after the Stone!"

"No, he isn't." I said, shaking my head. "Quirrell is. Snape's trying to stop him."

"What?"

Stupid. I thought, annoyed myself for even revealing that.

"I've had just about enough of your questions. What part of 'later' do you not understand?" I said, my anger finally overriding my patience with this lot. "I don't know if you noticed, but she's starting to bleed out. Are you waiting for an invitation to leave? Get your asses moving, now!"

I didn't even bother waiting to see if they complied before I stormed past the unconscious students and through the door to the room holding Fluffy the Cerberus, closing it behind me with a slam.

I stopped for the barest of moments, staring at the three massive, mangled and severed heads before proceeding down the trap door, plunging into the darkness.

I hope Snape doesn't look like that when I get to him.

Alef Ard buzzed in agreement.

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Around The Same Time, North Wing, Warden's Office, Remords de l'Âme, France…

Prison Chief Auror, Jean

"Keep them in line!" The warden called out over the cries of the prisoners here.

Jean nodded and took a few steps outside of the office. He waved his wand over the entire room and cried out. "Silencio!"

Within an instant, all of their noise quieted down.

"Thank you." Warden Louis said when the man was back. He gave his head Auror Jean a nod of gratitude before turning to the two Aurors before him. "Report!"

"Warden!" One of the Aurors, a lady by the name of Clarisse, took a step forward. "The outer walls are breached! Destroyed!"

"What in—" Warden Louis blurted before collecting himself. "Explain yourselves."

"There were massive explosions, sir." The other Auror, Raphael by name, joined her and elaborated on the situation. "Three of them."

Jean nodded. "We had felt the shocks as if they were right here."

"They made a hole large enough to fit dozens of buildings through." Clarisse added, swallowing her fear down. "We witnessed a group coming through the flames as we raised the alarm."

Warden Louis frowned before glaring at them. "And why are both of you here? We must fight against this enemy until help arrives. We cannot afford to lose the prison! Where are our Aurors?"

Clarisse and Raphael stared at each other with uncertainty for a moment, and Jean knew that nothing good would be coming out of their mouths.

"They're gone, sir." Raphael said.

"Gone?" Warden Louis said, his mouth parting slightly as his brain processed that statement and his skin paled. "What do you mean, 'gone'? Surely not…"

"They have all been wiped out by the coming group."

"It's him, isn't it?" Jean said, stepping forward. "Grindelwald."

Clarisse nodded, her face looking strained.

Jean closed his eyes for a moment, trying to get a handle on the situation.

Most of their forces had already been wiped out, either from the various explosions or the impromptu fighting against the attacking wizards. He moved towards the window overlooking the thousands of prisoners in the North Wing.

With all of these criminals here at their backs, and an implacable foe to their front, Jean nodded to himself, relaying the severity of their situation with a single word.

"Shit."

Without hesitation, he reached into his robes and pulled a small, palm length twig.

"What is that?" Warden Louis asked Jean, who snapped it in half without hesitation.

"This object is enchanted with a certain Charm." Jean said and tossed the broken branch aside as he prepared himself for the worst fight of his life. "The person on the other end will know what to do, and bring the cavalry. Until then…"

A depthless silence swept over the room, driving a cold chill up everyone's spines.

"It's safe to assume that Grindelwald has taken control of the west, east and south wings." Jean said, moving to action when the Warden said nothing. "Clarisse, Raphael."

The two stood at attention, though fear dulled their certainty and comfort.

"We will live through the day." Jean said, knowing that this was an empty promise and that they were all likely to die before reinforcements even got close to arriving. "We'll all go home to our families. Follow me."

The two nodded and followed the man as he left the gibbering Warden behind.

Jean allowed himself a moment to curse. "Don't know why they even allowed that swine to be Warden of a place such as this."

He noticed Raphael's and Clarissa's smiles and they all shared a laugh, ignoring the silent flurry from the prisoners in the North Wing as they made their way towards the entrance.

On the way to the exit, they met with six other Aurors who were stationed at various points, bringing them along until they were at the exit.

"Listen up." Jean said and pointed at the exit. "We draw the line here. We cannot let anyone through. Is this understood?"

"Yes, Chief." Everyone said.

"Don't put your lives at unnecessary risk." Jean made sure to say as he moved towards the door and unlocked it with his wand. "The less of us there are, the more trouble France will have with all of the prisoners who have already escaped. Is that clear?"

Another wave of affirmation filled the small room before Jean smiled. "Then let us fight."

He opened the door and stepped out into the courtyard between all of the prison wings. The others followed behind him, wary and frightened as they witnessed the droves of prisoners escaping the other wings and rushing down to the south.

Jean was seized by the urge to chase them all down and stop them, but held himself back. The reason for this was simple.

Gellert Grindelwald stood at the center of the courtyard, looking as if he had not a care in the world. Behind him stood a gaggle of wizards and witches from different countries and walks of life.

"..." Jean stepped forward, flanked by his men and women, and began to speak. "Grindelwald."

"And who might you be?" Grindelwald replied in English as he stepped forward, his wand in hand but not poised to strike at any of them. Something was strange about him.

It's like he's younger, somehow. Jean thought before getting his act together and sending the older wizard a glare.

"My name is of no consequence." Jean said.

"I beg to differ." Gellert said in disagreement. "I would like to know the names of the people who oppose me; to honor them."

"Is that what you call this?" Jean gestured at the still running prisoners and criminals. "You let this criminal scum escape and speak of honor? Quel faux cul!"

"There's no need to be rude." Gellert said, shaking his head.

"You may not have my name." Jean said, raising his wand. His Aurors followed suit. "But I will write yours down in the casualty list."

Grindelwald smiled and assumed a stance, thrilled by the prospect of the challenge set before him.

Jean hesitated, noting that the wizards behind Grindelwald did not move to back him up, despite having their wands out and ready for action.

"They will not raise their wands against you." Grindelwald said, watching as the Aurors perked up at this. "Not that it will make a difference, in the end. It has been too long since I've had such odds."

Jean narrowed his eyes and initiated the duel with a Stunner, which Grindelwald smacked aside with his wand. The rest of the Aurors cried out, and Jean watched as spells of varying colors flew to Grindelwald, only to be met with the exact same result.

Reducto! He added his own to the onslaught, casting as fast as he could, but Grindelwald continued forward, implacable and completely without concern as he continued to bat their spells away with little effort.

"We cannot allow him to pass!" Jean shouted over the sound of their cries. "Hold nothing back!"

But despite these words encouraging the witches and wizards under his command to ramp up their casting and power, it did nothing but force the man to slow down a little.

Expelliarmus! Reducto! Reducto! Stupefy! He thought as he cast spell after spell, before throwing all caution to the wind and leveling his most powerful curse at the man. "Confringo Maxima!"

The space which Grindelwald occupied exploded in a blinding flash of hot, orange light before the shock wave hit them all, forcing them to shield their eyes and take a few steps back.

There was a moment of silence in which they all did their best to stare through the dust to find their enemy.

"I think you did it…" One of the Aurors said before the dust was blown away, revealing Gellert Grindelwald, who looked to be unharmed by the spell.

"Impossible…"

"He took that spell head on…!"

"That was a very powerful spell." Grindelwald said, looking to be impressed as he stood in a small, untouched spot among a large circle of orange flame. "Would you consider joining our cause?"

Jean gritted his teeth and held his ground, giving no answer.

"I suppose I should have expected an outright refusal." Gellert shook his head and pointed his wand at them. "Still, allow me to at least return the courtesy of your assault with one of my own..."

"Defend!" Jean shouted even as Gellert slowly raised his wand. The air filled with the cries of "Protego!" as Grindelwald uttered his spell.

"Expulso Maxima."

Jean's world exploded in a fierce, deep blue and, for a moment, he lost all sense of himself, blacking out from the incredible pressure set upon him. The next thing he knew was that he was laying down on the ground.

His eyes caught the Sun, which had reached its apogee, before a man stood above him, blocking out its rays and making Jean blink as his eyes adjusted.

It was Grindelwald.

Jean looked around and tried to reach for his wand, only to realize that his arm was not moving. What?

He turned his eyes to his right arm and stared at the bloody stump in disbelief. Then the pain came, and he screamed.

Above him, Grindelwald shook his head in disappointment. "I had hoped to avoid killing any of you, but it seems you forced my hand."

Jean blinked through the pain and tore his head away from his wound, understanding what Grindelwald was talking about when his eyes saw the brutalized and mangled corpses of his fellows. I am the only survivor. Clarisse… Raphael…

He was eating his words, now.

Jean stared up at Grindelwald with fear, anger and hate in his eyes. "Murderer!"

But Grindelwald only shook his head again, pointing his wand down at Jean with the intent to end his life. "I gave you the chance to step aside. You have no one to blame but yourself."

What kind of choice is that!? Jean screamed in his own mind. Set these criminals loose or lose my own life?

The space behind Jean erupted in a flash of red fire, illuminating Grindelwald's face for a few moments.

"Ah…" Grindelwald said, moving his wand back to his side, forgetting about Jean entirely. "My old friend."

Jean struggled to turn his head and almost could have cried with relief at the sight. It was Dumbledore and Jean's old teacher, Alastor, with many others he did not recognize.

The Phoenix above the two men noticed his presence and flew to him in an instant, grabbing hold of him and dragging him away from between the three great wizards and moving him to the side.

"Gellert." Dumbledore's voice was clipped as Alastor moved to Jean and checked over his injuries. Jean relaxed, feeling something strange in his right arm as he saw the Phoenix cry into it.

"Jean, stay with us." Moody force fed him a few potions and sat him up against the wall.

"Took you… Long enough." Jean said, feeling his consciousness fading from the shock, but he held on through sheer will. "Go. Defend the prison."

"Came as fast as we could." Moody's eye continued swinging between Jean, Grindelwald and all the wizards in the back. "Those in the back, they're—"

"Yes." Jean said, coughing. "World's most wanted."

"I see you've gathered yourself some new allies." Dumbledore said, eyeing the wizards and witches behind Grindelwald with curious, but wary eyes.

"You have done much the same, Dumbledore." Grindelwald replied.

Dumbledore did not answer, and the courtyard filled with silence, which Grindelwald broke.

"And so we are at odds, once again."

"It does not have to be this way." Dumbledore said, shaking his head. "There is no need for any more bloodshed; just turn yourself—"

"I agree, old friend." Grindelwald cut the Headmaster of Hogwarts off, raising his wand against him. "There is indeed no need for anyone else to shed their blood."

Dumbledore's grip tightened around his wand. "Surely you do not believe you stand a chance against me? I have not been sitting idle for these past decades."

"Your only recent challenge was a wizard who was defeated by a child." Grindelwald said and smiled. "Perhaps it is not I who was sitting idle."

Jean felt himself losing hold of his consciousness as the two powerful wizards began to engage in a duel.

Not now! Were his last thoughts before he succumbed to the darkness.

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