“This is the second most complex potion I’ve ever encountered,” Mad Eye said as he walked menacingly around the room. Kingsley rolled his eyes and glanced quickly around the room, ready to silence any of them who dared to ask what the first was. Thankfully, it appeared that their lessons had been learnt; everyone knew that to get Mad Eye talking on his past was almost akin to suicide. Death by boredom was not attractive.
“A lot can happen in three months,” Bill said thoughtfully, as he watched Mad Eye slink past him, and scowl slightly when he was not asked about his previous potions experience.
“At the same time, I don’t think I can think of a way to brew this any faster,” Minerva said. “At least not safely.”
“Then we have no other choice, and there is little point in discussing the matter further,” Remus said. “We’ll start brewing the potion today. Then we can focus on keeping an eye on Voldemort, and his actions.”
“And you three,” Mad Eye said, turning to Harry, Ron and Hermione, “can get a head start on your NEWT revision.” He grinned evilly at the collective groan that filled the room, along with several dark mutterings.
It was for that reason that anyone who wanted to find Harry, Ron or Hermione had to look no further than the library in Grimmauld Place. There they could find Harry idly charming books around the room, Ron hexing anything he could and Hermione glancing through some of the darker texts her eyes had found lurking in the corners.
“This is ridiculous,” Ron scowled as he blew a small hole in the wall, “no one else has to sit about revising for exams which aren’t for another three months, or learning magic which doesn’t apply to real life, or…”
“What would you rather be doing, Ronald?” Hermione scowled as she brushed fragments of the ceiling out of her hair; Ron’s last shot had been a little higher than he had intended.
“Anything!” Ron scowled and flung his wand across the room. “How about brewing that potion, for starters!”
Hermione opened her mouth to argue and Harry sighed inwardly as he got to his feet. He had been present at all too many of their arguments in the past to want anything to do with another of them. Silently, he slunk out of the room, unnoticed.
The door shut behind him, and a point was pressed against his neck. Harry turned sharply. A figure dressed all in white faced him, though what was most alarming, even with the wand tip jabbing into his neck, was the total lack of a real face. A white mask, moulded over the vaguest of features faced him, and nonexistent eyes watched his every move.
“Constant vigilance, Potter!” barked Mad Eye from behind him, striding down the landing to Harry. “If that had been a Death Eater, you’d have hit the floor five seconds ago.”
“But it wasn’t a Death Eater, and if it was then I don’t think I’d have spent a good couple of seconds looking for eyes,” Harry replied dryly. “What on earth is this thing?”
He moved as if to walk towards Mad Eye and a beam of red light shot out of the wand at his neck. Harry flung himself to the side just in time to avoid the shot, and had his wand out in an instant to defend himself against his mysterious assailant.
“Effective, wouldn’t you agree?” Mad Eye grinned. “Deactivate.” Instantly the white figure slumped against the wall to the side of it, sliding slowly down the walls. Harry wondered whether Molly had seen it; she generally didn’t approve of things that trailed along walls, or had any kind of destructive influence upon the house. This figure not only had the potential of blowing sizable holes in walls and people, but slid down walls when turned off.
“Seriously, what is it?” Harry asked, watching the lifeless figure warily. “That thing could have killed me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Do you honestly think I’d program any kind of magical being to cast the Unforgivables?” Mad Eye demanded. Harry raised an eyebrow slightly but Mad Eye either didn’t notice, or he pretended not to and continued, “It’s a fighting figure.”
“A fighting figure?” Harry repeated. “So you just program the thing to fight, and that’s all it’ll do?”
“Pretty much, though Remus said he managed to make one help him move house once,” Mad Eye said, “though the time it would have taken to charm that, it’d have been quicker to move the stuff himself.”
Harry glanced back at the figure on the floor. It was only now that he could have a closer look at it without fearing attack that he noticed it was of exactly the same build as himself. It even seemed to have a similar facial structure, though it lacked the more distinct features of himself. It had clearly been made to suit an opponent for himself, which made him wonder when Mad Eye had the chance to create magic which seemed so complex.
“Today’s lesson, I suppose?” Harry asked. Mad Eye nodded and shortly the two of them were in the attic. The room had clearly been expanded internally using a plethora of spells to ensure that they had the safe magical atmosphere that Mad Eye wanted. And so that the rest of the house was suitably protected from their magic, should it go awry as it often did.
“There are two spells used to create the fighting figure, as you’ve seen it. The first is a transfiguration spell, which is simple enough in itself, once you’ve a figure to take the model from,” Mad Eye said grimly. “The second part is a little trickier. Bringing something like that to life, with only the desire to maim. It’s verging on dark magic. Of course, you choose the spells which it can cast, and the skill of its fighting. But just imagine… hundreds of fighters like that. All trained in the dark arts. All advancing towards you. What do you do then?”
The silence that filled the room was heavy, and Harry felt a strange feeling of dread twisting in his stomach. He had the urge to run to the window and stare out, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t see such an army advancing on their already well-protected house.
“How else do you think that the Inferi are brought to life? It’s not true life, no one can give the gift of true life,” Mad Eye said, with a hint of wistfulness that touched his gruff voice for an instant, but then it was gone. “The animation which is given to the Inferi, or in this case, the fighter, is chosen by the wizard who charms it. It’s a strong spell, and it must only be used under the most intense concentration. You need to mould, in your mind, the entire personality of that single fighter. The entire reason for their fighting, how they fight, with what weapons they fight, the level of their skill. Everything. It takes time to mould the perfect fighter, and it is for this reason that mastering such a skill is difficult beyond measure.”
“But if I can manage this…?”
“Then you can control anything, and almost anyone, in the world,” Mad Eye said quietly. “This is one of the fundamentals of an effective use of the Imperious curse. If you can give someone reason enough to act a certain way, and implant it into their mind, they won’t want to fight the spell they’re under. Or worse still, they won’t realise that they act the way they do because of a spell.”
Harry glanced back at the figure on the floor. Suddenly he felt less compelled to create such a creature. Even if he could train it to fight himself, to keep him duelling well and duelling fiercely also. He’d need those skills if he ever made it to Voldemort, though it probably wouldn’t help if his own fighter killed him first.
“All right then,” Mad Eye said, pulling out his wand. “Let’s get started.”
The centre of the town was silent. Unsettlingly so. The fog had rolled in once more, which was a clear sign to the magical populace to stay indoors, wands at the ready. They had all been aware of the last time such a fog had rolled in, it had been a very short space of time before their own fears followed. The Dementors were never far away, and as the magical population remained indoors, the Muggle ones did too, not desiring to enter the deserted streets.
Shadows crept silently around the edges of vision, fleeting silhouettes across a silent street but there were few at the windows to see them. Most windows had been blocked by magic, the community being one widely of magical heritage, and not wont to letting others see into their home. They huddled in their houses, near routes of escape, wands clutched tightly, and fear twisting around their hearts. There was no happiness here to attract the Dementors, but it didn’t matter; they hadn’t come of their own free will to satisfy themselves, they were there of someone else’s orders. They were there simply to search and destroy.
The Dementors were entering the town.
Behind them, far behind them, several figures slunk around the outskirts, watching and waiting to pick up the pieces. The Dementors were incapable of killing, after all, but humans were not. Once driven mad by their fears, and their souls stolen from within them, the whole town would be disposed of. Every man, woman and child.
Eerie fingers brushed over spellbound wood. There was a soft screeching resistance from the wood itself as the Dementor broke in. Not by force, nor by magic containing such, but by magic in its purest and darkest form. It was said that Dementors could not kill, and indeed they could not, but the power to do so was within them, and it would be only too easy to unleash. The darkness upon which they fed manifested itself within each of them, and as their fingers brushed over any resistance they found, so the magic devoured it and made it into more darkness than before.
The door crumbled, turning first to dust, and then twisting into the darkness which had released it. From within the house, screams were heard and people fled the house into the streets. Two young women raced out into the road, screaming for help, for anyone to go to them. The houses along each wall remained silent, unlit and apparently unoccupied. No one went to them. No assistance was given to them as the Dementors closed in, and the Death Eaters watched from not too far away.
In the houses close by, the screams pierced their hearts, and the younger children fought to get to the windows, to see the commotion outside. Each moment that passed was one of driving agony as the soft scratching, crumbling sound filled the air – door after door being broken down, and the hungry Dementors filing inside. The community was filled with families, ones who would not and could not leave the others behind. Each of them petrified with fear and none of them prepared.
Only in each of their deepest nightmares had they dreamt such a thing would occur. Never had they seen such a swarm of Dementors as they saw that day, before their own terrors swept over their vision. Few felt their own end, their own fright and the images which accompanied them filling their sight, tearing at their minds.
Few, but not none. A single man ran from his home, abandoning the silent halls as the front door crumbled. He sprinted out into the streets, finding no one and nothing. All the Dementors were hidden inside the homes of others, screams now filled the air, sending shivers down the spine of the only one sane enough to hear them. The only one with a soul in his body. The doorways which had been broken away into the darkness were dim, even in the dinginess which had been brought about to begin with. The Dementors turned all they touched to darkness, killing the light slowly as they gained more power and, one by one, the houses became dark and silent inside.
The silence filled the streets and the lone man clutched his wand tightly, aware of the prickling on his neck, and the way his fingers shook. There were others there, men who had accompanied the Dementors, but there was nothing he would do to them, nor them to him. To announce themselves would be to announce themselves to the Dementors. To risk their own lives. No, they presented no threat until he tried to escape. But escape was not an option; surrounded by Death Eaters and Dementors. There was no hope for him.
Even as the total silence descended upon him, covering the small town like a blanket, the lone man felt them coming, saw his own end. One by one, the utter darkness surrounding each doorway was broken by a figure leaving the house. A Dementor. They closed in on him steadily, and yet he did not run. He showed no sign of fear, and it was only when the closest of them was an arm’s length away that he raised his wand.
His last words echoed through the air. “Expecto Patronum!” A burst of light and hope flared up, lighting the deserted town for a moment, before total blackness descended, and the bounding figure faded away into both darkness and distance, racing to its destination, even as its castor faded from life.
The lone Patronus was almost faded from existence when it came to a halt in its location. At the feet of one Minerva McGonagall. Her fingers reached out, gently into the very fabric of it, listening to the message it delivered, and seeing the images it gave. Her fingers shook slightly as they dropped to her side, and the Patronus, having done its duty, faded as entirely as its castor.
Minerva stared out at more than three dozen solemn faces. They had gathered in the Great Hall of the school, during the middle of the night, just to speak. Just to gather together those who were known to fight, who would fight until the last and give all that they had to ensure that light would prevail. And to ensure that the memory of those who had done as such would never be forgotten.
They had been originally the minions of Albus Dumbledore, and they had passed on from him to her. They were just as loyal but not quite as young as once they had been. Others had joined their ranks where some had not been so lucky. Though they had been replaced, no one forgot those who had been lost, and none ever would be. They themselves and the work which they did were a standing tribute for those who could not make it, due to weakness, to unluckiness, or to pure sacrifice for others. They were the nameless faces, forgotten as the limelight passed onto the truly heroic, each of them committing feats of bravery in their own way, each of them fighting for causes just as noble as the highest and the most famous. They were not Harry Potter, nor were they Albus Dumbledore, but they were brave and noble, intelligent and loyal, and they would fight for each and every person who could not fight for himself.
“It has begun,” said Minerva softly into the silence which smothered the group. It was not the eerie silence which had been present at the town hundreds of miles from Hogwarts, but a silence of anticipation, of mingled fear and resolve. “This night, a town was attacked. Dementors took every single person who hid within the walls of their home, and of one who tried to escape. Voldemort is no longer in hiding.”
The fear and resolve strengthened in each of them at this. They looked to each other, they held hands, clutched at each other, clutched at straws in the semi darkness, in the total silence. Not everyone could be their best in times of fright and stress, not everyone could hide their home and their family under the Fidelius charm, though they tried for the sake of those they loved. They could only fight in every way they could to ensure that they got though this, or as far through as possible.
“He will break out soon, there will not be much time before he roams the streets with those he commands, destroying all he passes. One town has fallen into the darkness this night, in more than one sense,” she continued. Things were becoming too real, too fast, once again. They weren’t prepared for the onslaught that was inevitable, and those who fought in secrecy, brewing potions of ultimate destruction and plotting one final theft were not either.
“Every magical being will be involved in this war, everyone who can fight will do so, in whatever way they can. You are the people who give the most in such a war, and the people who receive the least recognition. You give your lives, your souls, you families, you fought last time with everything you had to give, and you were rewarded with light.
“Now that darkness is looming once more, I ask of you, nay, I beg of you to give what you once did for the continuity of the light. Voldemort and his minions are closing in, and you are the only ones who can keep it at bay. It will spread all too fast, but as darkness, suspicion and fear spread, hope, faith and the light you can bring will do the same. Protect the Wizarding world, as once you did, and have faith that the world you love will remain together forever more.”
She fell silent, her own emotions too strong to fully hide. Her audience remained grave and quiet. Moments passed, and the hush was broken: Arthur Weasley got to his feet and began to clap. Several more followed suit, and Minerva couldn’t hide her smile as Weasleys, Bones, McKinnons and Browns joined in. Tonks, Dedalus, Elphias Doge, Aberforth, Arabella Figg, Hagrid, Mundungus and Hestia did the same. Few of the Order were missing, excepting those involved with the Horcruxes, and all who were present felt renewed, rejuvenated, and ready for their next battle.
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