Midnight Duel, Midday Love
A Darkness Rising
A Darkness Rising
Dumbledore laid the map flat on thin air, the parchment enchanted to mimic a solid table underneath. The faint wind around the castle ruffled the edges of the map, causing the headmaster to frown slightly and hold down the offending corner. "Sirius, Hogwarts is here." he said, pointing to the school's location with his spare hand. "In what direction is Harry now?"
Sirius closed his eyes in concentration. "That way." he said with conviction, his arm pointing in a vaguely south direction. "A long way off, over a hundred leagues."
Dumbledore nodded and drew a line with his wand in the direction indicated by Harry's godfather. "Right then, Sirius, Alastor, Severus, you will come with me. Arthur, please gather Wodenbane and his aurors at their headquarters. We will triangulate Harry's position and collect you there before we apparate to Harry." Dumbledore turned to his deputy, her stern features twisted into a mask of denial.
"You cannot expect me to remain behind when two of my students are in danger!" she said, her impressive voice rising in anger. Behind her, Molly Weasley also took a deep breath.
Dumbledore held up a hand, hoping against all available evidence that he could placate both his deputy and Ginny's mother. "I need both of you to remain here for a reason." he stated, then waited for them both to calm.
"Molly, as much as your temper-enhanced prowess would be welcome on this foray, remember, for now we are only gathering intelligence as to Voldemort's location. We will not be launching any assault until he has been found. I suspect Harry will be able to return Virginia before we get there, and the portkey I gave him is keyed to the infirmary. Please, would you go and inform Poppy that she will hopefully be receiving some students soon."
The Weasley matriarch let out her breath explosively, then nodded once and once only, her temper only just defused. Accepting one last hug from her husband, she wordlessly set off back into Hogwarts to the infirmary, to wait.
Dumbledore faced his deputy, swallowing at the fierce determination in her stance. "Minerva, I can only request you stay behind on a hunch. I have a suspicion that you will be needed here."
McGonagall frowned. "I beg your pardon?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Something tells me that you will be needed here."
"Are you sure?" she demanded.
Dumbledore shook his head. "No, but if I am correct, your presence here could stop another student from doing something rash."
Dumbledore turned to Madam Hooch. "Xiamara, please remain here too, and I ask that you tell no one of Mr. Potter's animagi status."
The eagle-eyed flight instructor nodded, still in a state of bewilderment herself.
"My thanks to you all. Come then, gentlemen." Dumbledore said. "Somewhere in Wales will be a good place from where a good direction to Harry. Somewhere we all have been before."
"Godric's Hollow?" suggested Sirius.
The four nodded, and made their way outside the wards to apparate away.
Harry looked down at the body of his former instructor, feeling oddly empty. With a shuddering breath, the Gryffindor collapsed to his knees, and started trembling. Tears formed in his eyes and fell quickly.
"W-w-what's g-going on?" he asked the empty room. "W-what's h-h-happening t-to me?"
The fit intensified, and Harry dropped his sword, unable to control it enough to avoid doing himself an injury.
A powerful cramp shot through his lower abdomen, and an urgent need gripped him. Harry managed to drag himself to the corner of the room and open his robes before he violently voided his bowels. For long moments, Harry clutched his stomach, experiencing the worst runs of his life.
It took Harry several minutes to bring his body under control, yet he still felt ill. He summoned a towel and began cleaning himself up. He transfigured Macnair's severed knife blade into a metal bowl. Aiming his wand at the bowl, Harry cast aqueous. Quickly, the bowl was filled with clean water. After washing himself, he felt a little bit better.
Harry swallowed, noting that his stomach still sent occasional flashes of pain through him. The healing potion he drank just after his arrival had not healed all his internal injuries. Steeling himself, Harry extracted his second, and the last of his healing potions, cursing at the fact that he was still sore. "Must have really hurt myself hitting the wall." he muttered under his breath.
Once again, he felt the warmth spread throughout his body as the powerful draft did its miraculous work. Even the red mark on his ribs where Macnair had struck him faded. Harry sighed in relief, but looked at the empty potion flask in concern.
A second later, he rolled his eyes at his own idiocy, set the flask upon the ground, transformed, and began to fill it with his own highly potent healing fluid.
Cho gasped in relief as the pain in her stomach faded to a warm glow. She took a couple of slow deep breaths, relieved to feel nothing wrong.
"What happened, Cho?" asked her worried mother from the doorway.
Cho stood and left the bathroom. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at her family. It was odd that they were all here; normally at least one of them would be minding the shop. "Harry was in trouble. I have to go to him." she said simply.
The six adults in the room shared glances. Finally her father leaned over and gripped her shoulder. "Cho, are you sure? It wasn't a dream?"
Cho shook her head. "I was awake, remember. This has happened once before, and Harry was in danger then."
Her parent's exchanged glances. "I'm not sure..." began her father.
Cho sighed, knowing her father would not let her anywhere near danger, and frowned in thought. "I need to at least warn the headmaster."
Her father nodded his permission, and Cho stood and walked over to the fireplace. She pulled down a green velvet bag and tossed a pinch of the powder into the fire. "Albus Dumbledore!" she said.
Cho frowned briefly, then tossed another pinch. "Albus Dumbledore's office!"
After a few seconds, the stern features of the deputy headmistress appeared in the flames. "Miss Chang? Is there something I can do for you?"
Cho bit her lip. "Has something happened to Harry?"
McGonagall caught her breath. "What do you know?"
"I saw him in a room, a big stone-walled room. He was in pain. There was an explosion. He was in lots of pain." she quickly related.
"When was this?" McGonagall asked intently.
"Maybe five minutes ago. That vision faded, then another one came a few moments ago. He was fighting someone with a sword. He won, but was in more pain when he finished."
McGonagall leaned forward, staring straight into Cho's eyes. Harry's girlfriend had never in her life seen the Transfiguration Professor so intense. "Can you see him now?" McGonagall demanded.
Cho frowned. "Do you know what has happened to him?" she retorted, more harshly than she meant.
McGonagall's expression hardened. "Miss Chang! This is important! Can you see him now?"
Cho swallowed and closed her eyes. For ten seconds she sat there focusing on Harry. She felt nothing.
"No, I see nothing, professor." she said, and opened her eyes. Cho let out a small gasp of fright. Even with her eyes open, she could see nothing. "I'm blind!"
Cho heard her parents start panicking, but McGonagall's tone calmed her. "Don't panic, girl. Focus! Can you see nothing, or can you only see a dark space?"
Cho took a few breaths. "I see nothing. Blackness. No! I see a glimmer, a light ahead. I'm in a corridor, walking towards a lit room!" she blurted happily.
McGonagall sighed. "I never thought I'd say this, but I wish Sybil was here." she muttered. "Miss Chang, can you let go of the vision?"
Cho blinked and shook her head to clear it. Her parent's sitting room swam into focus. "Apparently." she said.
McGonagall nodded. "Good. I think it would be best if you came straight here. I'll have someone meet you at the Three Broomsticks in five minutes."
Cho blinked. She had expected to have to demand permission to go to Hogwarts. "I'll be there."
"Excellent." came the clipped response. McGonagall's face disappeared.
Cho turned to her now extremely anxious family. "Um, I need to go." she said.
Mad-Eye and Dumbledore exchanged glances, and gave each other a shrug and a sigh. The pair waited for a break in the wonderfully entertaining argument currently running between Sirius and Snape.
"You expect me to believe Potter became an animagus without your help?" demanded Snape.
"I don't care what you believe." Sirius snarled back, not in the mood to verbally spar with anyone.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. The pair ignored him.
"Albus removed all the texts from the library that reference how to become an animagus!" growled Snape. "That was just after Potter's third year. There is no way he could have become one without your help."
"You mean in my copious amounts of spare time when not on the run from both the magical and muggle law, I stopped by and gave him several months of tuition without anyone noticing?" Sirius retorted, sarcasm dripping from his words.
Dumbledore cleared his throat again, louder this time.
Moody didn't bother. He just drew his wand and cast a silencing charm over the bickering pair. "Right kids, if I have to tell you to be quiet one more time, I'm going to send you to your rooms."
Both men looked a bit sheepish at the grizzled auror's reprimand. With a wave of his twisted wand, Moody removed the silencing charm.
"Sorry." said Sirius. He closed his eyes and concentrated. "That way." He said, pointing vaguely to the east. "Not too far."
Again, Dumbledore drew out his map and lay it on thin air. His wand traced out another line on the map. The two lines crossed north-west of London.
Moody grunted. "If we go to Auror HQ, we will be able to get a third fix on his location, and organise the raid."
His three companions nodded, and four pops indicated their apparation from Harry's first home.
Cho stepped through the fire into the Three Broomsticks. Coughing softly, she brushed the soot from her clothes.
The bartender nodded to her, gesturing to one of the many empty tables. Cho smiled and shook her head, heading straight for the door.
The cold, late December Scottish wind swept into the warm, cozy interior of the pub as Cho opened the door. Shivering slightly, Cho stepped out into the main street of Hogsmeade and clutched her cloak more tightly around her shoulders.
A figure flying on a broomstick appeared at the end of the street, swooping with such control and ease that Cho thought it may have been Harry, except that this person was flying far too safely. With an efficient technique, the witch landed in front of Cho. The eagle-like eyes of the new arrival easily allowed deduction of their identity.
"Hello, Madam Hooch. Were you here to meet me?"
Madam Hooch quickly removed her scarf from her face and neck and nodded curtly. "I was. Minerva sent me. Apparently you have some information about young Mr. Potter."
Cho nodded. "But I think I'd better give it to the headmaster directly."
Madam Hooch withdrew her wand and a tiny stick from her robes and cast an enlarging charm. Instantly, another broomstick appeared. "That may be difficult, but I'm to get you to Hogwarts as quickly as possible."
Cho nodded and grabbed the offered broom. "Hey, this is my Comet!" she exclaimed, missing the comment on how giving information to the headmaster may be difficult.
The Hogwarts Flying Instructor nodded, a smile on her face. "It has been a while since you flew it."
Cho nodded happily and launched herself into the air.
Draco's sudden appearance had surprised Madam Pomfrey, but she quickly had the badly injured boy into a crisp white bed.
"I hope you don't plan on kidnapping another one of my patients today, Mr. Malfoy." the nurse said as she catalogued his injuries.
Draco weakly shook his head. "I was under the imperius last time." He coughed, spraying some pink blood. "Am I going to die?" he asked pointedly.
"Not unless you don't shut up and let me do my work." she snapped back at him.
Draco smiled in spite of the pain in his chest and lay back.
With practiced ease, the nurse raised her wand and summoned several items from her stores. Working quickly, she deftly apparated most of the blood from Draco's damaged lung and started healing the torn organ.
A few minutes later, Molly Weasley ran in through the door to the infirmary. She took one look at Draco and spun around almost in a complete circle. "My Ginny! Is my little Ginny here?" she asked.
Madam Pomfrey sighed and shook her head. "I'm afraid not. Mr. Malfoy here just appeared out of thin air. Miss Weasley was not with him."
"Where is she?" Mrs. Weasley demanded of the injured boy.
"Molly!" snapped Madam Pomfrey. "He needs peace and quiet in order to recover. He is in no condition to answer your questions."
Draco shook his head, with no blood in his lungs he felt much better. "We were captured by You-Know-Who. I don't even know how I got back here. One moment he had me under the Crutiatus, the next I'm kneeling on the floor in here."
Mrs. Weasley took a deep breath and tried to calm down. "Albus sent me, Poppy. He said to tell you to expect some students. Harry was given a pair of portkeys to bring Ginny and Draco back here."
Madam Pomfrey started in shock, sending a tray of medical implements crashing to the floor. "What?" she demanded.
Mrs. Weasley swallowed. "From what Albus told me, Draco left a portkey for Harry to take, and a note saying that my little Ginny would be returned if he went."
"And Albus sent him?" shrieked the nurse.
"No, he volunteered."
Behind the nurse, Draco snorted to himself. Madam Pomfrey didn't notice. "Albus let him go?"
Mrs. Weasley frowned in thought. Running the recent events through her mind calmly, she noted that the headmaster hadn't suggested that Harry go. He had been agreeing with Sirius that no one should go. Then Harry received a vision, and afterwards literally ignored everyone else while issuing orders.
She gave a weak smile at the memory. Harry had dismissed Albus with a wave and a minor task, something about calculations of speed. The Auror Chief had also been dismissed, instructed to gather his forces until called for.
Wodenbane was almost apoplectic with rage at being ordered around by a teenager, but his arguments and claims of jurisdiction had been casually dismissed with a wave of Harry's hand.
Molly Weasley may not have been brilliant, but she had raised six devious children (and Percy). The short time frame demanded in the ransom note has caused everyone to be indecisive. After Harry's vision, having someone calmly take charge like that was almost comforting.
The teachers had tried to talk Harry out of his plan of action, even though they had no contingency plan in place. Harry had ignored them all, even Albus hadn't been able to convince the young man otherwise. Only Sirius seemed to get any respect from him, any respect at all.
"I don't think Albus had a choice." she said, still frowning. "He tried to object, but Harry just held up his hand and said, 'Don't'." Mrs. Weasley took a breath, working the scene over in her mind. "I don't think Harry respects his judgment any more."
Draco interrupted the pair. "Are you saying that Potter saved me?" he said, his aristocratic features screwed up into an almost comical expression of denial and disgust.
Mrs. Weasley nodded. "He was given a portkey for you, and one for my daughter."
Draco slumped back. "He did it. Somehow, he did it. That little bastard outsmarted him again. Oh, I almost wish I was back there." he said to himself.
"What do you mean?" asked the nurse, curious at his mumbled statements.
Draco smiled. "You-Know-Who set a trap for the person who used the portkey. A containment charm was sprung as the portkey activated. He was expecting lots of aurors, but only a backpack arrived. The thing exploded, destroying the containment spell and knocking him to the ground. It almost ruptured my eardrums too, let me tell you."
Madam Pomfrey frowned. "But if the containment charm activated when the portkey did too, how did Harry survive the explosion? Or how did he get around it to use your portkey?"
Draco shrugged, then winced. "No idea. That was what I was saying. Potter managed to outsmart the bloody Dark Lord again. He'll be seriously pissed off."
"Where is my daughter?" Mrs. Weasley demanded.
Draco gave her a smirk. "With You-Know-Who, of course."
Molly Weasley was not a naturally violent person, usually preferring to use her incredible vocal range to punish people. Madam Pomfrey had to put a warning hand on Molly's chest to stop the woman from attacking the Slytherin.
Draco continued, satisfied at the reaction he received. "She was tied to an altar the last time I saw her." he said, grinning at the expression of horror dawning on Mrs. Weasley's face. "I was near her when Potter got the portkey to me, I'll bet he was under his invisibility cloak." Draco's eyes lit up with another realisation. "If I'm here, and your daughter isn't, I'd say Potter decided not to rescue her."
"Don't be ridiculous. Why wouldn't Harry rescue Ginny?" demanded Mrs. Weasley.
Madam Pomfrey interrupted. "That's enough." she said, hoping to keep the pair apart. "I need to tend to Mr. Malfoy here, in private." she emphasised.
Neither of the pair paid her any attention. "You don't know, do you?" said Draco, his voice filled with self-satisfaction.
"Know what?" demanded Mrs. Weasley.
"Enough!" shouted the nurse. "You, out." she demanded, facing Mrs. Weasley. "You, stupefy!" she cast at Draco.
If the nurse thought that having the antagoniser unconscious would make things quieter, she was soon disabused of that idea. "What was he talking about?" demanded Mrs. Weasley, her incredible voice rising effortlessly.
Madam Pomfrey sighed and looked over at Draco, noting that he was stable enough for now. "If you can keep quiet, Molly, I'll tell you." she said softly.
Voldemort lowered his wand, and the high pitched screams faded into sobs. Ginny lay gasping for breath on the stone altar, weakly straining against her bonds. Perspiration made her hair stick close to her scalp, turning the vibrant red curls into a dark rusty colour.
"Your kidnapper has left you in my power; your father has ignored your peril. Even your hero Potter didn't try and rescue you, not that I blame him, after what you did to him." taunted the Dark Lord. "The entire world has abandoned you. No one loves you, no one cares."
Ginny clenched her eyes closed in an effort to stop the tears from falling. So this was how Harry felt, she thought morbidly. Having everyone turn their backs and just leave you, leave you alone in the hands of your worst nightmare.
Voldemort's thin hand grasped the youngest Weasley by the throat. "I sense myself in you. Lucius told me of his little sleight of hand, putting my diary into your school things. How long have you fought me, how long have you denied me?"
Ginny couldn't control her voice enough to make a voluntary sound, let alone speech. As the hand at her throat tightened her eyes flew open. On looking deep into the blazing red eyes of her captor, Ginny lost what little control she had, and started shivering in fear.
"Master!" called Wormtail, appearing in Ginny's peripheral vision, looking as though he had just sprinted a fair distance. "Macnair!" he gasped.
"What is it?" spat Voldemort, glaring at the short wizard with contempt.
"Macnair!" he gasped again. "Dead!"
As Voldemort spun and grabbed a handful of Pettigrew's robes, Ginny felt his sharp fingernails scratch her white neck.
"How!" demanded the Dark Lord, shaking his servant violently.
"S-s-swor-r-r-rd, M-m-mas-s-ster-r." stammered Pettigrew, the rough shaking breaking up his speech.
Voldemort dropped him, and stalked back to the center of the room. "How? The outer wards have not been breached. Malfoy's son didn't bring back anyone else." Voldemort spun round and faced the petrified pair. "How? Who?" he spluttered.
Wormtail got unsteadily to his feet. "Master, we are vulnerable." he said, flinching at the expected outburst. "If there is a gap somewhere in the wards, then there could be many aurors coming through the labyrinth."
Instead, Voldemort looked thoughtful. "Perhaps you are right, for once. Move, Worm. I will begin the summoning."
Instantly, Wormtail jumped from the etched circle in the stone floor. Ginny, grateful that the torture had ceased for now, turned her head to see what new horror Voldemort was about to commit.
Slowly, carefully, Voldemort poured the tiny, sand-grain-sized crystals from the glass container. As the faintly glowing particles landed into the etchings, their glow steadily intensified. Skillfully, the Dark Lord filled the engravings in the stone with Macnair's very essence.
"I had hoped for a larger audience for this, but you will have to do, disgrace that you are." Voldemort said, positioning himself at the opposite side of the circle to Ginny. "Wormtail, prepare yourself, remain vigilant."
Accepting his servant's hurried nod as acceptance of his orders, the tall, serpent-faced man took a deep breath and assumed a wide stance. With graceful movements that bespoke long years of practice, he started chanting while drawing figures in the air with his yew wand.
As the unfamiliar figures of fire were drawn, they floated down to the floor, writhing, twisting, dancing. As they landed, the fiery lines linked the horrible etchings with each other, forming an evil, fire-edged jigsaw puzzle.
Voldemort changed the tone of his chants, from a droning, soft voice to a powerful, confident summoning tone. The fire edges of the figures brightened, burning through the hard stone floor beneath them. First one, then another, then more individual pieces fell through into what looked like an intensely hot ravine.
With a rush, the rest of the floor to the edges of the circle collapsed. Only the glowing essence of Macnair's magical sacrifice held the fabric of the world together at Voldemort casually tore a gaping hole to another plane of existence.
Voldemort's casting took on an insistent tone, commanding through the arcane words that he must be obeyed. For long minutes, the Dark Lord mentally searched what truly looked like hell for the object of his summons.
A gigantic, clawed and scaled hand broached the hole, grasping the edge hard enough that the stone beneath the ebony talons cracked and splintered. Thick tendons rippled down the back of the hand, easily two feet across.
The second hand appeared, grasping the opposite edge of the portal with similar results. Long cracks appeared in the floor, streaking out away from the demonic creature.
Demonic indeed, as what could only be the head rose from the depths. Dark twin pools of pure blackness dominated the hideous, bestial face. An enormous cranial ridge swept from either side of those awful eyes up and over the cranium, before splitting at the peak. The two bony protrusions twisted into horns sprouting out and up from the sides of the head.
The nightmare's canine-like maw was filled with glistening shadows where the teeth should have been. Somehow, the fact that it didn't have solid teeth did not make Ginny feel any better at all.
As awful and terrifying as the face was, the rest of the creature was truly gut-wrenching. Thickly muscled arms were attached to a bent and twisted torso. Dozens of faces of damned souls could be seen pressing against the inside of the creature's chest, each one screwed up in expressions of agony, horror and despair. As one face slid under the beast's leathery hide, it opened its pitiful mouth in a silent scream, begging for release. It disappeared, pulled back into the creature's belly, but was not gone for a second before another took its place.
Wormtail fell to his knees, retching violently.
Once the monster's torso was clear of the portal it spread its wings. Obsidian coloured feathers covered the enormous wingspan, easily six meters tip to tip. The feathers showed their razor edge, leaving great gouges in the stone walls.
Still higher the beast rose from the portal, its backwards hips clearing the portal's edge to reveal equally powerful legs, though the knees were reversed. Triple-clawed feet finally completed the release of this monster, the talons crushing the stone beneath their grip.
The Shadow Demon towered just over three meters tall, the twisted horns scraping on the domed ceiling. It spread its wings, curled its hands into fists, took a deep breath and Screeched!
The earth itself responded to the otherworldly presence, twisting and jumbling. Cracks appeared in the granite ceiling and up the thick pillars. Wormtail clutched the sides of his head, Ginny screamed in pain, while Voldemort stood stock still, his arms still raised, reveling in the sound of pure power.
None of them heard the gasp of surprise coming from one of the entrances to the room.