Chapter 16:Not with a Bang but a whisper
A/N: I recommend that you re-read this story. I read it six times myself to figure out how to complete the story. The title is taken from the final line of a poem.
The former Minister for Magic sat in the first row of the viewing area, spinning his bright green bowler hat absently on his finger idly. His lips were curled in a slight smirk as he hungrily took in the assembly of the Wizengamot quietly.
The former Minister for Magic knew that he should not be here since he was ousted from office, but his successor was not sworn in which meant that he was technically still able to attend this session. In fact, the Dark faction had issued orders with his authority, ignoring the rulings of the Council of Inquiry.
He snort at the recollection of the Council of Inquiry. That Bitch had dared to oust him out of his office by claiming that his actions were illegal. Technically, he had no part in the conspiracy since it was all handled by his Undersecretary Umbridge but the Council would not hear of it and suspended him from duty.
He had immediately sought the counsel of his friend, who was sitting next to him in the viewing gallery. His sleek blonde hair framed his pointed face and he looked regal, watching the assemble with interest.
Like he, Lucius Malfoy had no official seat in the Wizengamot and could only sit in the viewing gallery.
Sitting across them was the Dark Bloc—the one traditionally led by the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. It was the bloc that Lucius Malfoy had led from 1981 as a representative for the Blacks since he was married to Narcissa Black, the only remaining Black who was not in Azkaban.
The seat that he had once occupied was empty, a reminder that he, Lucius Malfoy's power base was eroding slowly. It was something that he had to correct to ensure that Malfoy remained a distinguished family in Magical Britain. Yes, he needed to ensure that he was still of use to the Dark Lord when he finally take his place again.
Thorfinn Rowle, who was sitting on the right of the Black seat, nodded at him when their eyes met briefly. His cropped blond hair was plastered neatly on his skull and he was dressed in the plum robes of the Wizengamot instead of the dark robes which indicated that he was a director of one of the departments in the Ministry.
The head of the Malfoy family inclined his head politely before clasping his cane with his hands. He hoped that Thorfinn would be triumphant so that the balance of power could be restored. When the foolish Cornelius came to him, drunk, they hatched this plan to reduce the influence of Amelia Bones, the perpetrator of the winds of change, and see that she was imprisoned in Azkaban. Yes, he was of the same mind that Amelia had to be eradicated lest the Dark Bloc lose more foothold.
Cornelius shifted in his seat again, nervous.
"Do you think she will come?"
Lucius rested his hands on the head of his golden cane, peering at him with his cold grey eyes. "I most certainty hope not, Minister, not by her own will. A source tells me that it is impossible for her to attend this emergency meeting at such short notice." His lips curled into a smirk. "I do hope that Albus will be successful in his endeavour. Soon, you will be restored to your rightful position."
Fudge relaxed into his seat, satisfied with his confident answer. He was certain that they had Bones by her throat. "When I do, you will have my full assistance to regain the Black seat. You have my word, my friend."
"I thank you sincerely," smiled Malfoy and he dipped his head respectfully.
Suddenly, the doors of the hallowed hall burst open, revealing a petite woman dressed in dark robes. He dark hair was tied up neatly in a bun and her fringe framed her pointed face. Her bright eyes scanned the hall intently as she dropped her hands to her sides.
The two wizards traded looks of confusion when they could not identify her. "Who is she?" demanded Fudge, dropping his bowler hat on the ground.
Her black heels clicked loudly against the stone floor as she walked confidently into the hall.
"This is a closed emergency Wizengamot, an inquiry into the actions of—"
"I am aware." The dark-haired witch took a deep breath before smiling politely. "I am the Interim Minister for Magic, Hestia Jones, former Director of the Department of Mysteries," boomed Hestia, her eyes determined. "I call upon the magic of the land and claim the seat for the Minister for Magic until elections can be held on a later date."
In the middle of the front row where a single empty seat was, another seat glowed white to join it.
The Wizengamot burst into loud uproar, shocked.
The Dark Bloc was yelling at her, decrying her as a traitor and a cheater. Some of the older members recognised the magic that she had called—this arcane use of magic had been lost for a while—and they stood up reverently. The members of the Neutral and Light Bloc caught sight of this change of attitude and they rose to their feet immediately.
Hestia smiled inwardly, knowing that the battle was won.
Oh, how she loved Magic.
She ignored the loud protest and marched towards her seat regally, remembering the lessons drilled into her by Walburga Black, the mother of Sirius Black. She disliked the ideas that she had espoused but she did teach her how to conduct herself as a proper witch. Her heart hammered loudly as she felt all eyes on her. As the Director of the Department of Mysteries, she enjoyed complete privacy, now she was a public figure.
How did Harry deal with all the pressure?
She could see that Fudge had turned puce at the sight of her. Malfoy was glaring lethally at her.
She suppressed the smirk and maintained a nonchalant expression as she took her seat in the middle of the front row with great dignity. She could feel her magic interacting with the seat, intertwining with another source of ancient magic. The sudden influx of magic swept her anxieties away and she felt at rest. Was that how all Minister for Magic felt when they sat on this very seat? She swept her robes theatrically and perched regally in the seat, her knees pressed together and her back ramrod-straight.
Hestia could hear shuffling of fabric as the members of the Neutral and the Light Bloc sit down. She peered around her, noting that the front row was nearly empty: only Carl Young, the Court scribe was sitting at the end of the front row. The empty seat next to her reminded her of the absence of Albus Dumbledore, the Head of the Wizengamot. She resisted snorting since she had little respect for him. She glanced around her and found key members missing: both the leader of the Light and Dark Bloc were absent.
Her mind drifted to the purpose of this emergency meeting.
"Is Chief Warlock Dumbledore not informed of this emergency meeting?" asked Hestia, looking at the scribe, who was sitting at the end of the front row, for answers.
Carl rose to his feet before clasping his hands together. "The Chief Warlock was informed, Madam. I mean Minister. Uh, the Chief Warlock was tasked to retrieve Director Amelia Bones for this session, so he sends his apologies for his absence."
Immediately, the Wizengamot burst into angry whispers. Some of the members from the Light Bloc was yelling in anger.
The Minister held her hand and felt the magic of the court exerting on the members. Immediately, the other members became silent. "Oh? Wasn't this emergency session merely an inquiry?" The invitation to its members was for them to attend an emergency session, a formal inquiry into the actions of the Director of DMLE. She sounded confused. "Why does the Chief Warlock need to retrieve her as if she were put on trial?" She propped her head with a hand, looking at him interestedly.
"Who gave you the authority to look into the matters of the Wizengamot?" demanded a cold voice, silencing the hall. A brutal-looking wizard rose to his feet, glaring at her. "You are not elected to post!"
There were noises of approval from the Dark Bloc.
"The Wizengamot recognises Director Thorfinn Rowle," introduced Carl formally, his expression taut.
The brutal man grounded his jaw as he fixed his steely glare on Hestia, sitting one row below him. "As I was saying, we do not recognize your authority as the Interim Minister for Magic because I know for a fact that you do not have the support of all the departments. Minister Fudge remains our Minister for Magic until a proper hearing is called."
She steepled her hands together, staring at him unblinkingly.
Silence stretched uncomfortably in the hall, some of the members started to shift nervously in their seats.
A small smile appeared on her face. "You know that your claim is false, Director. I was voted and confirmed as the Interim Minister for Magic by the Council of Inquiry that was made up of all the Directors of the department." She allowed those words to settle into the crowd. "The idea that I do not have the support of all the department is simply preposterous. There were some heads who wilfully abstained; hence, the Council speaks for all departments. The Council of Inquiry was called a few days ago to look into the suspected misconduct of former Minister Cornelius Fudge and the Council has suspended him in light of the overwhelming evidence of his wrongdoing. I was then voted into the position and confirmed by the Council. This is according to the laws that were etched into our land." She paused in her recount, giving him a faint smile. "Director Rowle, I know that some magic can be obscure but the very appearance of the seat for the Minister for Magic indicates that my claim was accepted by Magic. That same magic, that flows in the blood of our esteemed ancestors and us, has confirmed me as the Interim Minister for Magic!"
There were affirming noises of agreement at her explanation. Some of the members even clapped at her speech.
Most of the members were coming round to accepting her as the new Interim Minister. What else could they do when their magic has already spoken?
Rowle looked as if he had swallowed something unpleasant. "Thank you for your clarification, Interim Minister." He returned to his seat, fuming.
His emphasis on 'Interim' did not obfuscate the fact that she was now the leader of the Magical government.
She inhaled deeply: she was actually the Interim Minister for Magic! Somehow, their three-day coup was accepted.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she could see Fudge storm out of the hall for the last time: his family did not have a seat so he could not be allowed into this hallowed hall again. She smiled inwardly: she never quite liked him since he was so corrupted. Lucius Malfoy remained at the stands because he had an impeccable image to maintain. Some of the members of the Dark Bloc looked at him nervously. She made a note to talk to her friend about ensuring that he could never represent the Blacks again.
"My pleasure, Director Rowle." She clasped her hand together. "As I was saying, this emergency session was meant to be a simple inquiry into the actions of one of our respected Directors rather than a disciplinary hearing. No matter the reason, the Chief Warlock is absent from this session. I believe that any inquiry into the actions of the important members of the Ministry deserve a full sitting—with the presence of the Chief Warlock presiding."
There were noises of agreement among the members sitting in the upper rows.
Hestia smiled inwardly. This was a good sign. "May I propose a motion? Those in favour for postponing this emergency session until all its members can attend?"
Most of the members raised their hands. Some members in the Dark Bloc raised their hands reluctantly, seeing that almost everyone agreed to the motion.
"Motion is passed. We will fix a further date for this session. The Chief Warlock will call for the next session to look into the actions of Director Amelia Bones. I will swear in formally before the entire Wizengamot too."
The scribe at the end of the front row hastily scribbled that down and nodded at her respectfully.
"Good. This session has concluded. Thank you for your time." Hestia rose to her feet and marched out of the hall, triumphed. She tried to hide her excitement that she had succeeded in her task.
Somehow, she managed to pull that off by herself. She breathed a sigh of relief when she was finally alone. A part of her was relieved that she had managed to secure more time for Amelia by becoming the Minister. Hopefully, that was sufficient to aid her on her mission. She conjured a black cloak and covered herself before she headed for the Department of Mysteries.
Her mind drifted to the teenagers and she hurried back to her office on level nine.
Every part of her body hurt like hell.
Her body felt like lead and her mind was so slow.
She could feel liquid dripping from her nose. She brushed that away from her face with the back of her hand. The Director of DMLE did not know how much more spells she could cast, especially without a wand.
She felt bile rising to her throat, burning it.
Her eyes burned from the smoke and she could barely see through the smoke. Someone grabbed her by her arms suddenly.
Her heart hammered loudly.
She tried to shove the person away with all her strength, but her efforts were for naught. Then she felt her assailant squeeze both of her hands twice.
She blinked in surprise, knowing that signal. It was Sirius! He had come for her.
She felt something stuffed on her face and her laborious breathing eased. It was an Auror-issued face mask! She inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with clean air as the person put her on her back.
The fog in her mind began to fade as she inhaled the clean air greedily.
She felt teeth clamped on her robes as he dragged her slowly across the smooth ground into safety.
She was certain that her men were trying to open the door so that they could leave the place quickly.
She felt a pair of hands carefully grasp her shoulder as she sat up. "No fire spells," murmured the director. To keep herself updated on the methods of warfare, she had participated in sessions in which the Non-magical British army had conducted on chemical warfare. She recognised the dangers of this gas. "We need to get out now."
If she did not remember wrongly, these three wards had no air extraction system or an air flow system. The air was stagnant and usually recycled within the ward which meant that the poisonous gas will not dissipate. A gust of wind would clear the gas and expose their positions, which was not helpful.
"We are working on the bloody door. It's jammed," bristled Rufus through his mask. "Our men cannot open it remotely or magically."
She nodded absently. "Keep at it."
"Just effing get us out of there!"
Rufus had issued evacuation order due to the presence of a dangerous gas.
Kingsley was examining the rune scheme to ensure air circulation in the underground wards, and he frowned: the air was recycled in the ward which meant a lingering presence of the dangerous gas.
Why did they not consider clearing the gas up? For tactical reasons?
The circumstances of the DMLE looked dire—they had downed two teams of men in the matter of minutes. Kingsley's focus was on the fight, updating Rufus about the conditions within the ward. He pumped his fist into the air when Rufus reported that they had retrieved Amelia and were working on an escape.
He turned to look at the leader of the warders. "Can you force open the door from here?"
"Oui. There is an emergency system that can override the system. I have booted that up two minutes ago so that we have full control over the doors. We should have control over the doors in another three minutes."
Kingsley nodded absently, a smile on his face. "Great. Great." He conveyed that message to Rufus. In another minute, they could extract their team out.
"And the wards? Will it prevent our team from escaping?"
"I will drop the wards that prevent the use of portkey in the mid-dependency ward for a while when we open the door. Your team needs to get there to leave."
Kingsley frowned. "A while?" He paused. "Just how long are we talking about?"
"About one minute?" He shrugged. "If we want to disable it, I need to send my team into the wards."
He pinched his nose. "No, I think they can get out in a minute. I hope."
He informed Rufus of the crazy plan to escape from the wards.
A slight beeping alerted Tonks to another presence in the ward. Her brows knitted as she checked the system again.
"Kingsley, there is an intruder." She tapped on the black dot that appeared a short distance away from the control room. How did the person break through the wards set up by the team of ward-breakers? The leader of the warders wore a worried expression as he halted his work to check the screen that Tonks was staring.
"Our wards were blown apart. Like paper!"
Kingsley frowned, looking at the upset Frenchman.
"Unexpected intruder, over." Kingsley announced, waiting for instructions from Rufus. "The intruder has overpowered the wards and destroyed the external wards."
"Delay. We have exactly one-and-a-half-minute left."
Kingsley scrubbed his face tiredly. If the individual could blow such powerful wards apart, it meant that he or she was an immensely powerful threat. He could hazard a guess at the identity of the intruder. He dropped his hands and turned to meet Tonks's gaze calmly. "Do you think you can handle it? I just need you to delay as long as possible." He knew that it was a bit too much to send a rookie Auror into danger without a partner, but someone needed to man the control room.
Tonks motioned the leader of the team of the ward-breakers to protect themselves while she investigated the disturbance. The importance that she ensured that no one entered the wards was not lost to her: the DMLE trusted her to ensure that their operation was not disturbed.
The French wizard nodded, wearing a worried expression on his face. In a hush voice, he gave them the instructions to ensure that the wards in the hospital wing remained in their control. He continued to work on the door, trying to bring it down.
The wards the ward-breakers had set up in the security centre were sufficient to protect them. They would be safe if they did not step out of the security centre.
"No matter what happens, maintain control over the wards." Her jaw clenched and unclenched. "Our team is in there."
The leader dipped his head sombrely, assuring her that he would not fail her. "We will get them out."
With that assurance, her mind was turned to the disturbance. Chills went down her spine when she stepped away from the magical wards. The amount of magic used to maintain that ward was so much that it charged up the air, creating thick palpable tension in the air. Quietly, she checked her blind spots, her wand at the ready.
The team powered up the magical wards after she departed. She noted that they had reinforced with another ward to ensure that they will not be disturbed. Blending into the shadows, she moved stealthily towards the target.
The sight of him at the entrance of the low-dependency ward made her jaws dropped.
"What are you doing here?" She stepped away from the shadows, shocked.
His flashy purple robes billowed as he walked towards her. His eyes, hidden behind his half-moon spectacles were narrowed. "Good day, Miss Tonks. How are you on this day?"
She frowned. "This area is out of bounds, Headmaster."
He smiled grandfatherly. "I am afraid that I am on an important but unpleasant business. Is your director here? I was told that she was here."
"Respectfully, sir, you aren't supposed to be here. The DMLE have cordoned this area—"
"Under the directive of Lady Bones? Ah… Lady Bones is dangerous. She ousted a Minister out of office by making a mockery of the Council of Inquiry, arrested an innocent man, and took control of St Mungo's without a proper explanation. The Wizengamot have ruled that she is to be suspended from duty at once and needs to face up to the charges. The DMLE is to stop any operation. I need to see her immediately, Miss Tonks. Lady Bones needs to go before the Wizengamot to account for her actions."
The Wizengamot had exerted their influences at the absence of the Bones and Blacks?
Tonks steeled herself. "It's Director Bones. You have no right to be here, Sir. You may meet Director Bones after this operation has ended. You will jeopardise this delicate mission if you choose to intrude. If you do not remove yourself from St Mungo's immediately, I'll be forced to arrest you."
"You would go against the ruling of the Wizengamot?" whispered Dumbledore softly, peering at her through his half-moon spectacles as if he were speaking to a disobedient child.
She remained silent, trying not to take the bait.
"Miss Tonks, I assure you that the Wizengamot has every right to make such a ruling. If you persist in this course of action, your actions will be seen as an act of defiance." He shook his head. "I do not wish to raise my wand against you, Miss Tonks."
Tonks gritted her teeth, her spiky hair flashing red. "It's Auror Tonks. The ruling of the Wizengamot does not supersede the law. The Wizengamot cannot overrule the decision approved by Minister Fudge and Director Bones. Under section H, paragraph 5, Albus Dumbledore, you are arrested for obstructing justice. Please place your wand on the ground and put your hands on your head or I'll be forced to attack you."
"Miss Tonks, you're making a mista—"
"Surrender your wand at once! Place it on the ground before you!" She fired a warning shot at his feet.
"I'm afraid I'm unable to do so, Miss Tonks. I'm the chief warlock of the Wizengamot and I am tasked to take Lady Bones in for questioning—"
"I apologise for my rudeness, Headmaster." Her tone reflected no repentance.
Knowing that it was fruitless, she fired another warning stunner at the headmaster.
The headmaster sidestepped the spell easily, making a mockery of her spell work.
She gnashed her teeth, knowing that she was up against a powerful foe since Albus Dumbledore was one of the most powerful wizards of the world. Well, the Sorting Hat got it right: her Hufflepuff-loyalty knew no bounds. She grinned to herself fiercely.
The older wizard had the cheek to look almost regretful.
"You leave me no choice, Miss Tonks," announced the old wizard calmly as if he were giving her the space to repent of her choice.
"No, Headmaster, you leave me with no choice." Without warning, she fired a volley of powerful spells towards the Headmaster with frightening speed. "I can't let you in when the DMLE is conducting an operation."
Dumbledore sidestepped these spells and returned her attacks with several flourishes of his wand. She would have admired his well-practiced move if he was not her opponent. The twinkle in his eyes was suddenly replaced with a cool calculating gleam. "Delay tactics?" He frowned as his wand paused mid-air.
Tonks's stomach coiled in fear. No. No.
There was a burning flash as the burning phoenix appeared above him, its wings stretched out fully as he swooped.
"No, no, no!" She leapt at him as he grabbed the plumes of the phoenix nimbly.
"Don't you dare! You'll screw up our operations!"
He turned to look at her sadly. "Then I must go. Fawkes."
The infuriating wizard and his familiar phoenix disappeared in a smouldering flash.
She dropped on the ground and smacked it hard with her hands. "Goddamn Albus freaking Dumbledore!"
His body felt leaden and dead. He was so weary that he could barely make out anything through the haze that was clouding his mind. He cracked one of his eyes open, squinting when the light blinded him.
There was a foreign sense of wholeness. There was an incessant beeping in the background, filling the oppressive silence.
There was a weight on his hand, and he recognised it immediately: someone was holding his hand.
"Mione?" His throat felt parched.
He grunted when she crashed into him like a missile. Her bushy brown hair obscured his vision, but her distinct scent soothed and comforted him. He wrapped his arms around her, resting in her embrace.
It took him a while to realise that he was holding Hermione.
He was alive. He was alive! He had succeeded.
He held the girl closer to him, savouring her warmth. He could feel her pressing closely to him, trying to bury herself in him. He reached to grab his spectacles and put it on.
Harry shifted her gently so that they lay on their sides, facing each other. He wasn't surprised to see tears clinging on the corners of her eyes. "Silly Mione, didn't I promise that I'll return to you?" Tenderly, he brushed them off with the back of his hand tenderly.
Hermione smiled weakly at him as she held his gaze.
"How do you feel?" whispered Hermione hoarsely, closing the distance between them so that she could press her forehead on his.
She drew away and snorted. She sat up as she shook her head in amusement.
A small smile appeared on his face as he sat upright. He glanced around, surprised to see that he was alone. "Uh…Where is everyone?" he expected the adults to be milling around.
An indescribable look flickered across her face. She slid to sit next to him. He reached for the glass of water next to him. Greedily, he gulped the water and allowed it coolness to sooth his parched throat.
Her voice trembled as she recounted the events that transpired while he was asleep. He frowned when he realised that the inevitable was unfolding at a rapid pace as if Death had a hand in orchestrating this final showdown. All he could think about was that Amelia and Sirius needed help with Voldemort.
He set the empty glass aside as he swung his legs out of the bed. "I need to find them! Now. Riddle is mortal!"
She gave him a puzzled look.
"Death has removed all the horcrux," bristled Harry as he reached for his shoes. He stuffed his feet into them before he scrambled to grab his wand from the desk filled with books.
Hermione placed her swollen hand on his chest, halting him.
His brows narrowed when he saw the state of her fingers. They were wrapped in bandages just like that time when the pus exploded on her fingers. "Mione?" He waited with bated breath as he stared at her wounded fingers.
He picked up the hand on his chest carefully and took her other hand into his as he examined them closely. "What in Merlin's name happen?"
She averted her gaze.
"Hermione," began Harry softly. "What did you do with your hands?" He held her wrists carefully, cradling them on his chest. "How did you injure them?"
Silence stretched between them.
"The ritual?" prompted Harry gently.
She gave him a wry smile. "That's what I get for trying to be you."
"And have this need to save people?" teased Harry.
She shook her head. "Just you. I always have a need to save you, since our first year."
His gaze became gentle. "That you do. That you do, Mione." He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the tip gently.
The silence in the room was comfortable.
"Harry, can you not go to St Mungo's please?"
His eyes narrowed as he dropped her hands. "I should be there—"
"No, you've done enough." She inhaled deeply to centre herself. "Sirius and Amelia are trained wizards and witches. We're just fourth years. If you really want to help, you could help others to defeat Riddle. Amelia and Sirius need that support to ensure that their operation is undisturbed."
"But the prophecy…" For most of his life in the magical world, Harry had dealt with the issue of Voldemort. He was hesitant about leaving the task to the hands of his godfather—he just had him back for good!
She turned towards him. "You shouldn't. You aren't feeling up for a fight. You have just returned from the underworld. We don't know the effect it can have on you." A hint of plea entered her voice, an appeal for him to understand her perspective.
His face fell. "But it's Sirius."
"He's an Auror," returned Hermione sharply. She scrubbed her face with a hand tiredly. "I'm… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you. I just think you should stay away from fights. The journey between the worlds would have exhausted your magic. The DMLE will be supporting Sirius and Amelia. There are other ways we can help with the fight."
Harry hesitated. "I don't know if –"
The vibration of Hermione's mirror interrupted their conversation. It was from Sirius. Immediately, the witch answered it with clumsy hands and frowned.
She could hear warbled voices.
"What's going on?"
Rufus should not have rejoiced so early when the countdown was up, and the door had opened. He waved his team through the opened door towards the mid-dependency ward. Some of the men picked Amelia up and dragged her to safety, leaving him to ensure a safe retreat.
He did not understand what Voldemort and his crew was waiting for. Were they trying to open the other door?
He knew that they were screwed when a familiar flicker of flame appeared in the middle of room.
Was that phoenix's fire?
Briefly, it illuminated the other figures.
A teenager and a child, standing next to a door. There were dead bodies lying around the hall.
It felt as if time had stopped as that spark lighted up the entire cloud in split seconds. First the middle, like a large mushroom cloud. Then. there were explosions, multiple of them at the same time.
All occurring at the corners of the hall.
The world became oppressive silent.
This is a dead land.
This is a cactus land.
The bright light blinded him, and he could feel it burning his retina. Merlin! It bloody hurt!
The heat wave tossed him back, throwing him through the entrance into the tunnel as white flames exploded. He groaned in pain when he landed on his back, stars dancing in his vision. He could feel heat on his skin, and he tried to pull himself up into sitting position to assess the damage.
His ears were ringing loudly from the explosion.
He felt arms grabbing him and pulling him through the tunnel hurriedly.
When his vision finally cleared, he was horrified.
The place looked like Dante's version of hell, with hot flames licking every corner of the room, consuming everything in its enraged path. What the hell happened?
"Shut the blood door. Shut the blood door! It is collapsing." He could hear the person behind him yelling as he dragged him across the ground, doubling up the pace. "I shouldn't have planted it at the supports."
His heart hammered.
What did they plant at the supports of the ward?
What was that word again: explosives?
Bloody explosives in an underground room with no ventilation? They must have been desperate or crazy.
There was a sudden loud whoosh—like a cork popped out from the bottle due to the pressure building within it. He could hear the ceiling caving in.
"Blood hell! The bloody wards are collapsing!"
"Sirius, you bloody arse!"
His mind could not comprehend what they meant until he felt invisible hands yanking him back to that burning hell. Wind gushed loudly around him, dragging him into the vortex that was created due to the collapsing wards. Someone—a wizard with superhuman strength—caught him around his waist and yanked him in the opposite direction, towards the mid-dependency ward desperately, keeping him alive.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash and the fierce winds died.
The heat dissipated almost immediately.
He heaved a sigh of relief when he crashed on the ground in a painful heap—safe! He felt his consciousness slipping.
"Stay with me, Rufus. Stay with me!" The face of Remus, slightly burnt, swam above him. There were tears in his eyes. He felt himself dragged across the ground. "Nearly there. C'mon."
With all the strength he could muster, they crossed the threshold into the mid-dependency ward. Remus reached down to his belt for the emergency portkey.
He grabbed him around his waist tightly. "Activate. Activate!"
A familiar hook around the navel signalled that they were finally safe.
With that, the Head Auror lost his consciousness completely, surrendering to the darkness.
Epilogue- 10 years
"When we find ourselves at a dilemma between what is easy and what is right in pushing the frontiers of Medical Science and in turn, the humankind, I hope that we will always be remembered for doing what is right. Once again, congratulations, my fellow classmates." The girl dressed in dark graduating gown shifted the microphone away from her.
The hall boomed with polite applause.
"We present to you again, the Valedictorian of Class of 2005, Miss Hermione Granger." The beautiful woman with wavy brown hair bowed at the introduction before waving at the crowd. "Congratulation to the Class of 2005. I am sure that you will do us proud!"
She took the black mortarboard cap from her head and threw it upwards as the rest of her classmates sitting in the first few rows joined her. A loud applause rang in the hall as she picked up her cap from the floor and headed off stage, a large smile on her face.
It had taken her six years to complete her degree, Medicinae Baccalaureus Baccalaureus Chirurgiae in the distinguished University of Oxford. She would have to do another year as a houseman before she could practise as a doctor.
"Harry, you're here!" smiled Hermione as her eyes curved with happiness. He was dressed in a green dress shirt and a pair of black trousers. His dark hair, tamed with gel, looked stylishly messy.
His iconic spectacles were missing since he started to wear contacts since he was fifteen. He opened his arms and she bolted in his arms automatically.
The ten years of peace did a lot of good to him. Harry had a growth spur when he turned sixteen, growing four inches in that year with proper nutrition and exercise. He towered over Hermione and was roughly the same height as Sirius and Dan. He was an avid sportsman, falling in love with anything that was fast. At the moment, his interest was in sport cars. He could easily afford it after he became the head of the Potter Family.
He lifted her easily and spun her around as she giggled brightly.
Harry set Hermione on her feet as she wrapped her arms around his waist tenderly. "It has been a while," admitted Harry softly, looking deeply into her eyes. "I miss you."
"I know. I miss you so much too." She buried her face into his toned chest as she breathed in his familiar scent.
He held her closer to him.
It took them a week to realise that Hermione had lost her magic, since the magical world was in upheaval. There were so many funerals to organise including the venerable Albus Dumbledore who had died in the fire—no body was recovered. Fawkes was found under the rubble of the ward as a new-born chick. Professor McGonagall house him temporarily until he could find his bearings. When Fawkes grew into an adult, he disappeared from the magical world for good.
Some said that the grief of playing a critical role in the death of his wizard was too much for the majestic creature to bear. Others felt that the phoenix was disillusioned: Skeeter published all the dirty secrets of Albus Dumbledore. The British Magical World was struck by the nasty deeds that he had done before he tragically died. Perhaps, his age had made him too arrogant that he focused on the landscape of his grand plan rather than the little people who made up that picture like Harry Potter, Sirius Black, the Dusleys, and other individuals.
Riddle was properly dead, along with the girl, Marietta Edgecombe. Team Alpha of the Hit-wizards had also perished. Unlike Alastor Moody and Josef Eddings who were giving state burials, they were considered merely casualties in an after-action report.
Amelia Bones faced harsh criticism from their families but she refused to divulge her reason for not offering them the same privileges: they had willingly became Voldemort's lackey when they were faced with a choice between loyalty and life.
Harry was devastated when he realised that Hermione had lost her magic and thus could not complete her education in Hogwarts, even though she could still see the school. Death had taken it away from her in exchange for his safe return. It was Madame Pomfrey who discovered that Hermione had lost her magic when she could not do magic in class. He was upset that she kept such a big secret from him. Harry, without a second word, took Hermione's hand and stepped into the floo in the medical wing of Hogwarts and returned to the Granger's house. Despite all her protest, Harry remained steadfast in leaving the magical world with her. It was not such a big change since he grew up in the non-magical world mostly.
By some obscure law, Harry was declared as an adult since he was recognised as one when he became a participant in the Triwizard Tournament. He did not need to lose his magic or his memories as a result.
Hestia helped to find another technicality to declare Hermione as a squib, which allowed her to keep her memories of the magical world. Since Dan and Emma were considered to be magicals, they also retained their memories.
When magical British begin to complain about their saviour Harry Potter abandoning them, Harry decided to shift to France permanently and allowed them to communicate with him through the French government. In reality, they continued to live in Non-magical Britain in the neighbourhood where the Grangers and the Evans lived.
When they had sorted out the legality of their status, the adults focused on getting them a good education. Sirius put them through a non-magical education in Le Rosey, a prestigious boarding school in Switzerland. Gaston pulled some strings for them to attend the school. Harry and Hermione were eternally grateful of how supportive he was. The mirrors were godsent, they could maintain close contact with everyone.
Hermione had to admit that she was very grateful that Harry had chosen to come alone with her. While they did not grow up together as children, they stuck with each other through attaining their International Baccalaureate Diploma before they headed to college.
Harry had finished a degree in History, a strange change when he realised that how much he adored the subject when he was studying in Le Rosey.
"Another Dr Granger in the house!" catcalled Sirius, grinning from ear to ear. The years had been kind to the wizard, and he did not seem to have aged. He was the face and main proponent of SEE, Society for Education of Elves while remaining the Senior Undersecretary to the Director of the DMLE. He put the money that his family had left for him behind the initiative to fight for change of legislation to allow the education of the elves. His reasoning that better educated elves make better help, along with the support of Amelia and the Light Bloc, the reluctant Dark Bloc, and the departure of Harry Potter produced results. They did not want the Blacks to join the Potters in France too and was more inclined to support his actions. A school was set up in the middle of London, at a certain 12 Grimmauld Place which was transformed into a school for House elves.
He stayed with the Grangers and Harry anyway: he expanded the house that the Potters had left behind. Besides, Harry tended to stay at the Grangers since he was recognised as their ward.
He received admiring looks from other adults because of his dark good looks but he ignored it. The idea of dealing an enraged Amelia Bones was enough for him to behave well. They dated for two years while Amelia Bones prepared her niece, Susan to take up her position as Head of the House of Bones upon graduation from Hogwarts. They married in a small ceremony in the Potter's house since there were people possessing no magic in attendance. The couple had no children due to Sirius's stay in Azkaban but he was happy to adopt any child of Remus and Tonks as future heir of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black. Harry remained his immediate heir, following by any of the children from the line of Andromeda Tonks—the others were cast out of the family of Blacks including the Malfoys.
"Am and Gaston send their apologies for not being here. There were some issues—"
"And why are you not with them?" questioned Hermione, arching a brow. "Are you skiving off again?" She gave him a dirty look.
Sirius merely barked in laughter. "Don't be ungrateful. You can't imagine how hard I fought just to attend your graduation ceremony."
She snorted. "Sure, Sirius. I'm sure Amelia is used to your absence, Senior Undersecretary Black-Bones" They decided on using this last name in that order because it reminded Sirius of pirates: he was after all, Lord Sirius Black-Bones."
"Is for horses," added Hermione without missing a beat, grinning at him as Sirius spluttered nosily. "The last time I checked, you were a grim."
He whined, putting a hand on his chest. "I had the perfect gift for you. I shall not give it to you since you're such a meanie." He blew raspberries at her.
"Children, play nice." Emma added as a force of habit. "Congratulations my dear." She hugged her daughter before Dan hugged her.
"My princess is a Dr Granger too! I knew that you could do it."
Harry smiled affectionately at her. "We have three Drs Granger in the house. I think I will need some time to get used to it."
Sirius gave him an incredulous look before he cleared his voice melodramatically.
Harry gave him a perturbed look.
"C'mon, show some of that Gryffindor courage that Hogwarts inculcated in you for four years." He reached for his pocket and withdrew a small box that could only hold jewellery.
Hermione gave Harry an enquiring look.
Harry merely sighed, running his hand through his hair. "Bloody Dogfather, always spoiling my surprise. I planned to do this later at the restaurant where we celebrate her graduation."
He held her hand as he dropped to a knee gallantly.
She gasped when she realised what he was up to.
"Hermione Granger, for the sake of having less confusion at home—three Drs Grangers is far too many—will you marry me?"
Sirius handed him a dark purple box and he opened the small box in front of her. A beautiful ring with emerald cut in princess-cut sat in the middle of an entwining vine that formed the rest of the ring.
She gave him a look as if questioning if that was the way he was going to propose to her.
He laughed brightly. "OK. Mulligan. But seriously—"
"I am Sirius, not you—"
"Oh, shut it, Sirius Black-Bones," snapped Hermione, rolling her eyes.
"Mione, I have always wanted to ask for you hand on the day you graduate from a university from the moment that I realise that you lost your magic. Before I learnt of your sacrifice, I always believed that I would propose to you on the day we graduate from Hogwarts. But life has better plans for us and I have never been happier. If you have me, will you marry me?"
She put a finger on her lip, as if considering the question seriously.
"Babe?" hedged Harry, looking a bit uncomfortable. "Too early? Should I wait for you to finish houseman?"
"Then it wouldn't in time for me to change my last name legally to Dr Potter-Granger. Patients address houseman as doctors you know," countered Hermione, keeping an impassive face. "Of course, it's a yes." Her lips curled in a smile.
Harry brightened up like the sun before slipping the ring up her fourth ringer with trembling fingers. Grinning like an idiot, he hugged her and spun her gaily around the room, much to the amusement of the onlookers.
"Mione, I just realised something: Potter Family is gonna have our first doctor!"
"You prat! Put me down!" She squealed aloud as he danced around.
"We're going to be married!" announced Harry proudly. He never felt as happy as he was at that moment. Since the day that she left him to get help, leaving him to go after Voldemort in their first year, he could never dream a life without her. That ring on her finger signified new beginnings even for them.
He lowered her carefully on the ground. "Thank you. I am glad that I have the chance to spend the rest of my life with my best friend and lover."
She smiled, hooked her arms around his neck and pulled him close for a toe-curling kiss.
A/N: Hello readers, I hope you enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. This story was a start to my habit of collecting information to create more believable contexts. In fact, I was reading up on chemical warfare to decided the chemical used by Voldemort, which is cyanogen chloride to make it more authentic. I also did a quick research into ventilation systems and building codes for basement for the UK but I realised that I can just blame it on magic. I might start a new story if I have enough drive to write a couple chapters.
If you are curious about the poem that inspired the title, it is "The Hollow Men" by TS Elliot.
Please stay safe whenever you are.