Chapter One: A Cry in the Dark
Author’s Notes: If Harry Potter were mine, I’d be a great deal richer. Thanks be to JK. And thanks to my beta karaokegal. Chapter One: A Cry in the Dark
Ron Weasley limped slowly down the corridor. Every step sent pain shooting up his leg, courtesy of a ricocheting curse. The mediwitches had barely managed to preserve his leg, so he was thankful for any mobility, however painful. He came to a halt, gathering his energy. It was going to be a long and draining night, and he might not be able to run anymore, but they’d needed as many wand wielders as possible to make Hermione’s plan work. Even Remus and Charlie were here, the largest gathering of the Order since the failed Azkaban raid three years ago. But despite the increased wizard power…well Ron hadn’t felt particularly optimistic in some time now.
Two former Aurors stood on guard outside the classroom. They snapped to attention, albeit sloppily, as Ron approached. Some habits were hard to break. Ron gave them a brief nod of recognition. He made a point of not getting too close to anyone, he’d lost too many people and not just to death either. He entered the classroom slowly and glanced around. The room had been cleared, though chairs lined the walls. He could see Charlie slumped over sleeping. Tonks and Remus didn’t look much better, their eyes ringed with exhaustion. Her once vibrant hair was dark, and his was filled with more than a hint of grey. The war had not been kind to the Lupins. Ron sank gingerly into a chair and a groan caught in his throat. He hated being this weak. He was meant to stand shoulder to shoulder with Harry and Hermione, not hobble about. No the war hadn’t been kind to anyone.
Only Luna seemed to have miraculously stayed the same, gazing off dreamily into space with her wand tucked firmly behind her ear.
“Hello Ronald,” she said, tilting her head slightly to peer at him with the same wide eyes as ever, but he’d known her for years and could read the weariness in her eyes. Perhaps he would have been fooled had he not heard her crying in the night. He smiled tightly at her but it didn’t reach his eyes. It never reached his eyes. Luna nodded in understanding and returned to staring at nothing in particular.
Hermione and Flitwick were hard at work in the center of the room where they had painstakingly drawn a pentagram on the ground. Ron thought he recognized runes for distance, journey, safety, victory along with a multitude of others that he didn’t know. He watched them creating two overlapping Diamonds of Protection, a wise precaution. Even Voldemort would have to pause in the face of two Diamonds. Not for long, mind you, but anything that could make Voldemort pause stopped almost everything else in its tracks. The door swung open again and Slughorn and Shacklebolt entered. That just left Harry and Ginny to be accounted for.
Ron glanced around the room. Only twenty left of the core of the Order. There used to be so many more. The door swung open a final time to admit Ginny and Harry. They were dirty and tired with burn marks on their face and clothes, but at least they’d arrived safely. Ginny sank into the closest chair, but Harry turned to face the pentagram. He frowned slightly.
“Almost done,” she replied, without bothering to turn. With a swish and flick, she finished her protection spell. She glanced down and nodded at the aging Flitwick, who looked as if he wanted to give her 10 points for excellent charms work. Of course she wasn’t a student anymore, and he wasn’t a teacher but it’s the thought that counts.
“We’re ready,” Flitwick said. A murmur went through the Order. Ron could see hope and desperation in their faces. They’d been losing ground steadily since the Ministry had gone into exile. Hermione’s plan was the Order’s last gasp and everyone knew it, whether they believed it would work or not.
Flitwick smiled wanly. As Ron rose a jolt of pain shot down his leg. The others formed a loose circle around the pentagram, just outside the confines of the diamond of protection. Ron took his place at Harry’s side and glanced over at Hermione, who nodded, her features softening slightly. Harry gave a boyish grin that he must have practiced in front of the mirror. Ron smiled back and it almost reached his eyes. The Trio stood side by side again. For a moment everything was as it should be.
“Everyone knows what to do?” Hermione said, glancing around the circle. They nodded grimly. She let out a deep breath. “OK, let’s do this.” She drew a dagger and contemplated it for a moment. Then with a swift motion she sliced open her palms, two shallow cuts. The dagger went around the circle, as one by the Order members followed her example. No one so much as whimpered, and there was barely a flinch among them. This was Voldemort’s England; pain was a way of life. Finally the knife came to Ron. He swallowed his disgust. The Weasleys had been staunch defender of the Light for generations.
Distrust of old magic, of blood magic practically flowed through his veins. Hermione’s spell was borderline Dark. Part of him was screaming for him to stop. Was this what Percy had died for? So his brothers could perform a dark ritual at the dead of night? Ron sighed. There was no other way. Everyone in this room would gladly give up a piece of their soul for the greater good, and so would he. He glanced down at the knife cold against his flesh. Just two quick slashes, one for either hand or it was done. He welcomed the sharp stinging pain. Black Magic should hurt, but more than that it drowned out the ache in his leg. He reached out and took Hermione’s bleeding hand in his. Around him the Order formed a circle of blood, hand by hand. Merlin he hoped this worked.
Hermione gave his hand a quick squeeze and their eyes met. He could tell that she was desperate, cold, and tired, but she was Hermione and she was beautiful, so very beautiful. Ron squeezed her hand back. She smiled grimly and then they began to chant. Ron didn’t know the language, didn’t know what the guttural sounds meant, but they’d all spent months learning the spell phonetically. Long tedious months, saying them over and over again, until he’d started hearing them in his sleep. Again and again they chanted while their blood mixed, but nothing seemed to be happening.
Finally the runes began to glow slowly at first with a strange golden light. Ron could see the surprise written in the other’s faces, and his heart swelled. Maybe this would work. Just have to keep chanting. On and on the chant went. The pentagram was glowing now, brighter and brighter as it began to spin round and round. The carefully drawn lines began to shift and blur merging with the runes to become a single whirlpool of light swirling inward faster and faster, until suspended in the air at the exact center of the circle was a small radiant sphere no more than a centimeter in diameter. For a moment it just hung there glowing, and then without warning it exploded outwards. The energy burned through the first diamond of protection in seconds and stuck the second with a loud bang. The whole room shuddered sending the Order sprawling to the ground, but the protection held and the glow subsided.
Ron couldn’t help the moan of pain that escaped as he landed squarely on his back. Glancing around, he could see that the others weren’t in any better shape. Perhaps three diamonds would have been more effective. Harry and Hermione both reached down to help him up.
He surveyed the situation in order to distract himself from his leg which he knew would keep him from getting much sleep that night. The floor was charred. The symbols Hermione and Flitwick had so carefully drawn were burnt into the stone, but that’s not what had attracted everyone’s attention. There was a man crouched in the center of the scorched pentagram.
It had worked! Ron clutched Hermione’s hand tighter, almost afraid to believe. A mop of dark hair hid the figure’s face. The room seemed to be holding its collective breath. Ron could feel the excitement building. Could it be? Suddenly the man’s head snapped up and he rose to his feet in a single fluid motion. One moment he was bent over the next he was standing tall. He was dressed elegantly in a green silk shirt and tie with a vest and coat of the purest black inlayed with dark threads of arcane symbols. He had a rosette pinned to his lapel. The man with a rosette stood deceptively still, but his eyes quickly scanned the room missing nothing.
His eyes! Ron couldn’t restrain a gasp of shock at the sight of them. He thought he’d been prepared, but the reality was mind numbing. He could feel Harry tense next to him. They all knew the man’s face, knew it as well as their own, if not better. From the scar in shape of lightning, to the emerald eyes ensconced behind silver frames. But there was something wrong, and somehow the familiar features seemed alien. Ron had known Harry for over a decade now, had seen him brooding, angry, vengeful even, but the Man with a Rosette’s face was blank, devoid of even the barest hint of emotion. His eyes at last rested upon Harry. Emerald eyes met their twin, and for a moment it seemed as if the universe itself held it’s breath. Then the Man with a Rosette tilted his head inquisitively.
“My name is Harold Potter,” he said. “Who might you be?” ***