When Hermione Fights
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 The Death Chamber, chapter 89

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Anzahl der Beiträge : 107
Anmeldedatum : 25.10.14
Ort : Bodensee

The Death Chamber, chapter 89 Empty
BeitragThema: The Death Chamber, chapter 89   The Death Chamber, chapter 89 EmptySa Nov 17, 2018 10:05 am

Chapter beta: Olivia
Chapter translator: Aivy

Panic started to rise in me, but then I suddenly felt a too familiar body pressing hard against me and my resistance was nipped in the bud.

“Sir?” I whispered questioningly into his near ear. He still wore this faceless, scary dark iron mask and hood, skilfully shielding me from what was happening in the arena.

All I heard was Neville screaming inhumanly loud. His cries of agony mixed with the mad laugh of his tormentor; the splendidly amused Lestrange cackled like crazy. The sounds reminded me of the time I tortured Pansy. Poor Neville, the same fate as his parents; and I knew Lestrange’s Cruciatus Curse would feel different than mine.

I heard Malfoy barking instructions at the remaining Death Eaters, Greengrass and Rabastan Lestrange, as well as Dolohov, who had emerged from the Space Chamber. Harry continued to stubbornly refuse to give up the orb, despite all the threats.

“Let me pass, I have to-” I rebelled, pressing against Snape’s unyielding chest, struggling against his hard, painful grip. He reacted very resolutely, grabbing both my wrists, squeezing violently, and growling furiously.

“Hold still or I'll hurt you!” he whispered threateningly. I looked at him, at a loss for words and breathed heavily. Being so close to him after what had happened back then was hard! Suddenly, I heard the rushing of my blood in my ears and tried to swallow that defenceless feeling when I didn’t manage to fend him off. Somehow he made me weak, a condition that worried me!

“What… What do you plan to do, sir?” I breathed resentfully, glaring, and I certainly didn’t hold still, causing him to press closer and closer to me until I felt him completely.

“Dammit, hold still… The others are coming soon!” he hissed, quietly commanding me and with a trace of impatience in his voice.

“But I have to!” I didn’t listen to him and yanked desperately to get my hands free.

“You do not have to do anything. Bellatrix is out of control. Draco would never forgive me if something happens to you and Lucius probably as well! So stay here, understood? It has cost Lucius enough attention to make sure Potter and the orb are not forcibly attacked by these idiots! Stop resisting, because I will force you if you do not hold still. Stop fidgeting like that!” The words were muffled by his mask, but you could tell he was nearing the end of his patience “Be patient! The others will arrive soon…”

“The others? Why are you here then?” I whispered excitedly and looked at him intently while keeping myself a little more still after this revelation.

“Well, what do you think?” the counter-question dripped venomously from his tongue and I thought I could tell he was rolling his eyes, annoyed. Because of me? He had tagged along with the Death Eaters because of me? Was that the reason why I had encountered only Nott in the Hall of Prophecy? And why only two Death Eaters had come through the shortly open door to the Space Chamber before it had slammed shut?

“The Order? What are they planning?” I asked immediately very controlled, while he didn’t away from me even a little bit.

“As soon as the Order arrives, I will be gone!” he prophesied calmly. “What happened up until now? Are you seriously injured?” he asked further and I was too perplexed to answer when he put his hand to my bloody cheek. I had to have small fragments stuck everywhere. Luckily, I had closed my eyes during the explosion; if the slivers had got into my eyes... But what was up with Snape? He was so tender, that was just not his style!

“Yes, a bit - but not much! Jugson did that, or whatever the guy's name is ... or rather ‘was’,” I admitted with a stammer to then lose my voice as I thought that Jugson was now already the third death to my name. I shouldn’t even start to count; in the end, I would surely not like the number!

“What did you do to him?” Snape wanted to know. I bit my lip and then looked into the slits of the mask and into the dark ravines behind it which were his eyes. The noise in the room grew louder and louder, but he didn’t let it disturb him and continued to look me straight in the eye, not saying anything further. It was more like he was looking deeply, very deeply into my soul. This stoic eye contact broke when we suddenly heard noisy kerfuffle when reinforcements came in and loud calls echoed through the room.

The Order had arrived to help us!

Immediately, Snape reacted. He took his hand from my cheek, straightened up smoothly and pushed away from me. Then, as usual, he vanished quietly, walking quickly through the door that led to the Brain Room. He made it and disappeared, unseen and unheard.

Scary, that was scary because I bet none of the members of the Order, who were all invading the room through the doors and hurrying inside, had registered that Snape had been here and now disappeared into the darkness.

I seized the opportunity as I stood so unrestricted from one second to the next but remained well hidden in the shadows, watching the action in the stone arena that formed this hall, and looked at the fray.

Roaring curses whizzed wildly and aimlessly back and forth. It was quite a bloody affair; it turned into an outright battle. I was just eying Harry anxiously and saw him still holding the crystal ball, looking battered and supporting a heavily injured and blood-smeared Neville with difficulty. The two were trying to climb the weathered, steep stone steps carefully.

This was very difficult because Neville had been hit by a Tarantallegra courtesy of Greengrass and couldn’t get any further as his legs wriggled unnaturally fast and he was unable to control them. Since Harry was busy with Neville, it happened as it was bound to happen and I observed, as if in slow motion, when the crystal ball suddenly slipped from Harry’s fingers, shattering into thousands of small pieces.

Fog poured out and formed the ghostly form of a young Trelawney. She spoke, her mouth moving and repeating the prophecy, only because of the loud noise and the roar of the battle did her words remain unheard.

Harry and Neville looked, horrified, at each other. Meanwhile, I hastily cast Finite Incantatem on Neville and he collapsed briefly in Harry's arms when his legs finally stopped performing their crazy dance.

In those fractions of seconds, the battle of the Order's members against the Death Eaters raged on relentlessly. I recognised Tonks, Remus, Moody, Shacklebolt, and Sirius, who were all enthusiastically engaged in the fighting.

I hadn’t moved from my spot and watched as Shacklebolt struggled simultaneously with Greengrass and Rabastan Lestrange as the Order member was hit by a beam of light from Bellatrix’ wand from behind. He went down screaming and bleeding due to a malicious, perfidiously executed Cutting Curse.

Moody immediately took on Dolohov, jumping in light-footed despite his handicap. An impressive and fast fight unfolded from which both didn’t come away unscathed. Moody lost his magic eye and it tumbled to the floor. He was so perplexed that Dolohov managed to strike him down, bleeding.

A Stunning Spell hit Tonks after she had immediately begun to rain spells down on Lucius from the top that he dodged skillfully or blocked them with shield spells. You had to give it to him, he looked still good even in an exhausting fight and was still acting as elegant, confident and superior as usual.

As focused as Tonks was on Lucius, she lost sight of her surroundings and Bellatrix took advantage of Tonks' carelessness and didn’t hesitate for a second. She hit, making Tonks instantly tumble down the stairs, unconscious, and coming to rest at the foot of the stairs in a slightly twisted position.

Remus jumped forward when he noticed all this, as he had been protecting Harry and Ron primarily until now. He put Rabastan out of action with a deliberate blow to the temple. There had to be really more power behind a punch with werewolves than with normal people because the head of his victim flew backwards and he remained down, totally knocked out, and already Remus rushed to help elsewhere.

Moody, who had recovered by himself, now crawled over to Tonks and tried to revive her magically.

Meanwhile, in the chaos, Harry tried to protect himself and Neville who was barely conscious after the torture with a Protego. He defended himself quite well, now that he no longer had a crystal ball to consider and protect. He was dealing with a somewhat reserved Greengrass, who evidently adhered to Lucius's policy regarding Harry.

Enjoying to finally be able to let off some steam and grinning joyfully while the curses darted around his ears, Sirius was fighting a dogfight with Dolohov. The battle was cut short when Harry managed to hit Dolohov from further behind with an Impedimenta which froze Dolohov in the middle of the movement and made sure that he fell down the stone steps, incapacitating the Death Eater.

Sirius turned around indignantly and immediately threw himself into the next fight. Watching Lucius take on Sirius and Remus with Bellatrix and duel them was wonderful, so powerful, so supple and so vicious.

But the individual couples seemed to complement each other well and one curse after the other bounced off or was elegantly parried; their bodies moved like they were performing a dance, stunningly beautiful but also highly dangerous.

I noticed how the atmosphere changed for me because Dumbledore walked slowly over the threshold as cool as a cucumber and I grimaced, at the same time sliding back into the shadows so he wouldn’t notice me immediately. Just then, it happened that Remus and Harry and Sirius disarmed Lucius with an Expelliarmus and he stared in disbelief at the werewolf. But I noticed somehow that Lucius seemed not actually worried.

At that moment, Bella fired a wicked black curse at Sirius who had just rejoiced over Lucius getting hit and thus not been attentive for a second and he was struck right in the middle of his chest. An incredulous, understanding expression flickered in his wide-open eyes as he gazed into the malicious face of his cousin, who grinned malevolently and gleefully. The light of life in his bright eyes flickered and finally faded as he fell backwards.

He fell limply and - as he stood unfavourably on the pedestal - through the eerie archway behind him, silent, as in slow motion. He fell and fell into the wafting veil, brushing it and falling farther and farther into the infinite darkness beyond. He was enveloped by the dreariness of the archway and then disappeared completely into the void.

Sirius was gone!

My breath caught... Sirius was dead! Even before passing the veil, I had read it in his eyes, even if Lestrange had not used the Avada.

“Siiiriiiuuuuus,” Harry howled with a bloodcurdling scream and headed headlong towards the archway, chasing after Sirius. A deeply shocked Remus quickly grabbed Harry's cloak though, roughly holding him back, embracing him and consoling him as the boy struggled desperately to free himself. At the same time, I heard Remus calling out loud:

“He is gone… stay… calm down, Harry!”

Dumbledore watched the scene in front of me impassively but had gasped in horror when Sirius died.

Now, in the very quiet arena, Lestrange’s mad, insane laughter echoed from the stone walls and Harry ceased his resistance in Remus' arms, instead choosing to lock up his emotions deep inside himself. A strongly embittered expression entered his eyes as he abruptly pulled away from Remus to follow a giggling and laughing Lestrange who was heading for one of the exits to flee.

“I killed Sirius, I killed Sirius!” she trilled in a crazy chant to herself. Harry took up the chase.

I was deeply shaken. I had seen Sirius die before my eyes. Why always me?

The second man with whom I had felt more deeply connected had now found death; only this time I had been there to see it. No matter that we had quarrels and had not parted in a good way, I had never wanted Sirius's death. It would also deeply affect Harry that his only family member from his parents’ era was dead!

Now he had only me left! I had to get to him quickly, not that something happened to him. As Snape had said earlier, Bellatrix was out of control; she had just killed her cousin in cold blood and was positively happy about it.

Dumbledore glanced at the battlefield below us, only to turn around indifferently and quickly follow Harry and Lestrange, who had taken another door. A bit perplexed, I stepped out of the shadows that had swallowed me earlier to prevent Dumbledore from noticing me.

Neville was with Shacklebolt and tried to help him. Moody, himself more unconscious than anything else, assisted the slowly awakening Tonks. Dolohov, Rabastan and Greengrass were hit and tied tightly.

A grieving Remus stared with a furious, resentful visage at Lucius who stood still very relaxed. They were still on the podium in the arena-like environment and right now Lucius was looking annoyed, his lips pressed tightly together while he scowled at the mess and chaos that lay before his feet. It was not over yet and I doubted that Lucius would acknowledge defeat!

Everyone except him was bruised and battered - except for Remus, but he was too much wrapped up in his pain - and I knew what I had to do.

I murmured “Stupefy” under my breath and the purple flash of light shot out of my white wand, striking Remus' back in a sneak attack. He immediately fell forward onto his knees and then unconscious to the floor, right in front of Lucius’ feet.

Lucius was completely taken by surprise, looking horrified and hectic into the direction the light had come from. He opened his eyes wide in disbelief when he spotted and identified me, realising that I had just enabled him to escape, that I had knocked out an ally for him.

His usually expressionless, mask-like face showed several expressions now, ranging from surprise to incomprehension. For him, it might be an inexplicable choice of action, but he was the head of my family.

He was Draco's father, I couldn’t let him go to Azkaban. Although I did not believe that, I guessed that I had just saved the others from a bloodthirsty monster before it awoke. He just seemed too untouched, too indifferent and too quiet. Therefore, I had decided to forestall this decision so that the Order wouldn’t have another member to mourn.

I bowed my head to him and made an inviting gesture towards the door so that he would finally leave. He caught himself amazingly fast, shaking his head irritably, but typically Malfoy he took his chance to escape. In a fast run, he summoned his wand non-verbally into his hand, skillfully plucking it out of the air.

And that was the confirmation I had needed to realise I'd done the right thing. He could have summoned his wand at any time! There was a lot more to Lucius than he had shown us thus far. The other injured fighters hadn’t noticed the spectacle and so only I saw Lucius' light hair disappear quickly in the darkness of the hall.

Only a moment later, I also left the Death Chamber behind, which now bore this name quite rightly in more than one respect. I hurried after Lucius, Bellatrix, Dumbledore, and Harry, heading for the Ministry’s entrance hall.

I came skidding and breathless to a halt in the atrium of the Ministry. It had changed extremely in the short time since we last passed it. I had stopped because of the noise to peek around the corner.

The golden fountain in the middle was not really existent anymore. In the background on the floor laid the wizard's golden head and an arm of the centaur. The figures were apparently directed by Dumbledore, as the house-elf at the other end of the great hall pinned Lestrange to the ground and didn’t let her escape.

Harry, on the other hand, was shielded from stray curses by the headless wizard and I couldn’t spot the goblin anywhere. I was captivated by the picture in front of me.

From the corner of my eye, I could catch sight of Malfoy's white-blond hair and his fluttering black cloak disappearing when he swiftly threw himself onto his knees and slid over the smooth and polished black floor into one of the innumerable fireplaces. The green flames around his body flared up immediately and he vanished for good.

At the centre of the action, Dumbledore and the Dark Lord faced each other grimly. I was floored at the sight of the Dark One. I froze as I was face to face with him for the first time, timidly pressing myself against one of the pillars that abounded in the atrium, watching the event intrigued, downright banned.

The Dark Lord looked terribly inhuman, with his white, bald head and flat, snake-like nose, his tight-lipped, mockingly grinning mouth, and the red and unreal eyes staring out of his face. All this came together to make him look incredibly sinister. His night-black robes which fluttered and billowed around him added to that ominous impression.

The power he agglomerated around himself was gigantic and his adversary was a fiercely fighting Dumbledore in his typical powder blue flowing robe and cloak. The long snow-white hair wafted around the old professor as his power manifested itself almost visibly around him.

Here I was a live witness as the two strongest and most powerful wizards of our time fought a duel for life and death, both with dogged facial expressions.

To my astonishment, I noticed that the Dark Lord actually showed respect for Dumbledore and his power. It was like this old wizard was ‘the only one he had ever feared’!

Harry had been detained by Dumbledore. The one-armed centaur from the fountain protected him from the green-glowing Avadas of the Dark Lord that were darting rampantly through the hall.

I had wisely protected myself again with black magic shields. Well, they wouldn’t withstand the Avada, but better than nothing, since all sorts of curses and spells flew unsaid through the room and hit everywhere.

Just now, a spell crashed above me into the wall and plaster trickled down on my head. Yes, it was dangerous around here!

The many upstairs floors were robbed off their windows by a curse from the Dark Lord. The glasses exploded outwards and shards rained relentlessly down on us. I put my hands protectively over my head. It rang awfully loud.

Dumbledore pulverized the shards over himself and Harry with a soft wipe of his wand. The movements were so fast, precise and concise in their execution that they passed quickly by my eyes.

I was impressed that almost nothing was said during the fight; the spells were all performed non-verbally. They danced around each other and waved their wands infinitely elegantly. It was fascinating, with a morbid beauty. All of a sudden, two Killing Curses raced towards the very calm-looking Dumbledore in quick succession. He dodged the first one expertly, vanishing silently and abruptly reappearing in the Dark Lord's back.

The dark wizard whirled around and cast the second spell, so, suddenly and coming out of nowhere, Dumbledore’s phoenix opened his beak wide and swallowed the deadly curse. The jet went straight into his mouth; the bird shrieked in distress and died, crumbling into ashes. I watched intently as Fawkes raised his wrinkled baby head out of the pile. Amazing creatures, these phoenixes.

The concentrated power behind the spells and curses was gigantic. How the two moved smoothly and acted was also captivating. I couldn’t avert my gaze when the Dark Lord utilised fire, wordlessly fabricating it with terrific force and power. Dumbledore responded to the stable wall of fire with the water from the fountain and controlled the element to his will. It hissed loudly when fire and water met, steam wafting through the ruined atrium.

It was a very balanced fight, considering that Dumbledore faithfully used only ‘light’ magic in conformance with his current conviction and thus should actually be at a magical disadvantage. To my surprise, however, he was a tiny bit ahead, and the Dark Lord noticed that too, making him shriek in frustration when Dumbledore managed to lock and trap his opponent with an invisible force field that gathered around him. Suddenly, the Dark Lord disappeared from one second to the next, dissipating in front of us.

I still looked shocked at Dumbledore. Was that it?

He did not drop his cover though because he was still wary of an ambush. Rightly, as it turned out.

Suddenly, Harry began to writhe on the ground beneath the golden centaur, emitting animalistic sounds of pain. This croaking pierced my heart. It was a pitiful sight, his body twisting and turning; it looked like ‘The Exorcist’. He rolled his eyes so that only the white in them could be seen, then he closed them, tormented, and then it truly happened: Harry was possessed.

When he opened his eyes again they were glowing red!

Thanks to his connection, the Dark Lord had truly and completely taken possession of Harry's mind and was now guiding Harry’s body. In Harry's face, those richly red-glowing eyes looked so wrong that a cold shiver ran down my back. I shuddered when he started talking or rather begging and pleading:

“Please kill me! Put an end to my suffering. I don’t want to live anymore... oh, the pain!”

The words came out of Harry’s mouth in a voice that didn’t sound like him and he stared hatefully at Dumbledore with those unnatural eyes. It was a scary demonstration of what the Dark Lord could do. I got goosebumps all over my body as I watched Harry fighting for his life on another, spiritual level, with Dumbledore looking worriedly at Harry, who was writhing on the floor, talking to him gently and soothingly. He let the headless wizard step away and so Harry flailed around unrestrained.

Harry's body reared up - he almost stood upright - only to sag again. He had screamed so loudly that I thought my eardrums were going to burst and his vocal cords could have been damaged permanently. Suddenly, he collapsed motionlessly on the floor, his previously tense body tense going limp and a visibly worn out Dark Lord appeared again in front of us and stared venomously at the harried-looking young man.

All of a sudden, from one second to the next, all the fireplaces flared up and a pompous Minister of Magic, Fudge, appeared in the formerly magnificent atrium, accompanied by many Aurors and other ministry employees.

They all stopped thunderstruck when they saw the three adversaries in front of their eyes, spread out in the heavily damaged hall, that had nothing left of its previous beauty, and stared in horror at the Dark Lord!

This was the affirmation, for now everyone saw him in all his ugly splendour, becoming aware that he had truly returned.

“What is that?” exclaimed Fudge, stunned, downright horrified.

Everyone stared in disbelief at the Dark Lord, who narrowed his red eyes into furious slits. With a wipe of his pale hand, he swept the golden fountain house-elf away from Bellatrix and grabbed her roughly, then tossed a death glare at the crowd and disapparated silently like a breeze.

“That’s him!”

“He is really back!”

“He was in the Ministry!”

“He has returned!”

“That can’t be true!”


That were the largely panicked, scared, and fearful cries of the people who were crowding into the demolished atrium.

“What is going on here? I demand answers, Dumbledore,” Fudge quickly caught himself, and turned, still unsettled, to the old professor who seemed to be an island of calm in this turmoil.

I quickly left my cover and ran anxiously to Harry, who was still lying as if knocked out on the ground but had moved. Now he cradled his head in his arms as if he had a terrible headache, which wasn’t really surprising. I could also imagine that when he thought about the death of Sirius, he had to feel very anguished. I, too, immediately felt a very thick lump in my throat and had to force it down violently, but I called myself resolutely to order. Hey, Hermione, you knew that could happen. It cannot always only be the ‘bad guys’ who bite the dust!

Suddenly, I heard Dumbledore quietly and deliberately talking to Fudge in front of all the curious and shocked wizards and witches.

“Well, Cornelius, this is what I've been trying to tell you for a year. Voldemort has returned and you let him act in peace for one year!” He let his accusatory statement sink in with an artful pause, evidently enjoying the stunned expressions, then proceeded poker-faced.

“Please send Aurors to the Death Chamber. There are some Death Eaters to be found and in other areas of the Department as well! They can be transferred to Azkaban,” he explained calmly. The mass of the curious gasped and shrieked, screeching cries and shouts intersecting the explanation.

I gently touched Harry's shoulder. He flinched, as expected, and buried his face a bit deeper in his arms. I retrieved a pain potion out of my school robes, grabbed Harry gingerly by his hair and pulled, which made him yell.

“Owwww! Hermione?!” he shouted in pain and blinked as he recognised me. Luckily, this time he looked at me with big, bright, emerald-green eyes and I gave a relieved sigh.

“Take this, Harry,” I requested harshly, noticing the tears in his eyes. He obediently pulled himself into a sitting position, moving as though sore, and drank my vial, looking at me lost, unhappy and sad.

“Hermione… Sirius… Sirius… is… is…” He suppressed sobs but appeared worn down.

“Shhh… Harry, I know. I saw it happen; I was there. Please, calm down,” I asked gently, taking his hand reassuringly in mine. I didn’t want to hug him among all these nosy people. “Harry, are you listening to me? Fudge is here! Do you want to show everyone what you feel?” I enquired urgently, looking into his infinitely sad eyes, but I could also see a trace of coldness leaching into those beautiful eyes and he began to shake his head. He struggled hard with himself.

And his guilt weighed particularly heavily since he had deliberately walked into the trap. For that very reason though, I found that he shouldn’t show this self-pity; he had known about the consequences, as did I... And I, too, had lost someone who had once meant more for me!

He confidently reached for my hand, showing me his determination. Gently, he touched my injured cheek and I knew, I had some scratches there. Already, the white flash of a camera taking our photo in this intimate moment flared up.

We turned our heads to the gaping crowd and saw Dumbledore, who - important, important - collaborated with Fudge. But the proceedings had turned his attention as well back to Harry and now, after the photo had been taken, he called to the head of the golden wizard from the destroyed fountain blown off by a Blasting Curse to himself. After that, he calmly turned it into a ministerially unapproved Portkey under the eyes of the huge crowd of Ministry workers. The object flashed blue for a moment, then he held it out to Harry in a clear request while Harry blinked at without understanding.

“Here, Harry, my boy, It will take you safely to my office in Hogwarts,” The professor smiled his grandfatherly, smarmy smile. Harry got to his feet and pulled me up with him, not letting go of my hand. Harry tried to grab the head this way but Dumbledore quickly pulled it out of reach. “You should let Miss Granger go otherwise she will be swept along,” he explained softly.

Harry looked at him, flabbergasted, and I, too, wondered what the old man was on about.

“I think Miss Granger will come along with the others. I would like to talk to you as soon as I can leave here... which should not take too long,” he declared deliberately with a gentle, understanding smile.

I felt how Harry slowly but surely struggled with his self-restraint. He began to tremble under my hand, although not because of the shock of what he had experienced but rather because of repressed anger.

“Shhh, Harry, that's not that bad, we'll see each other soon back in Hogwarts,” I said soothingly and attempted to pull my hand back and free it from its grip, which he didn’t allow, as he held it very tightly. Harry started to speak in a low-pitched tone, but since everyone was just whispering softly, it was easy to understand.

“Dumbledore, I couldn’t care less what you want! Hermione is going to come with me or I'm not going anywhere…” he whispered very coldly, very threateningly, in a way I had never before heard him speak.

Well, who said you're still normal after the Dark Lord re-enacted part of the ‘The Exorcist’ with you? Right, nobody! Everyone had drawn shocked and indignant breaths when the boy-who-lived spoke so harshly, not to say stroppily, with the newly rehabilitated icon of the Light.

“But, Harry, you're in shock, I have important things to ta-” Dumbledore said sensibly and sensitively, though his eyes showed an indefinite concern. He got interrupted by an enraged Harry Potter.

“I don’t know if you don’t want to understand me... Anything you have to tell me, she can hear, too! She comes with me, or I don’t want to hear it at all!” he snapped now angrily and showed both stubbornness and an unwillingness to compromise. Oho, he was really upset and furious, apparently very much so at Dumbledore and I knew why!

I agreed with him that the headmaster had incurred much guilt in this drama. The old man now looked around covertly, registered the shocked looks of the audience that he was so publicly contradicted, looks which didn’t suit him in the least, and he deliberately reconsidered.

The fact that Harry's rebellion against his authority took place so publicly bothered him enormously and so he nodded curtly and offered the head, the Portkey, wordlessly a second time. Harry, who stubbornly refused to hold my hand less tightly, touched it without hesitation, and we were immediately drawn into a vortex that swept us away from the overcrowded atrium that released us after a short time into the headmaster’s round, quaint office. We staggered and had trouble to stay on our feet, but we managed.

Then we looked deeply, intensely, and piercingly into each other’s eyes. We held up the fervent eye contact, searching each other’s souls as deeply as possible without words, and then we just fell into each other’s arms, seeking comfort, sank exhausted on the ground, holding each other tightly enough to make it difficult to breathe. Both of us saw their own terrible visions replaying repeatedly in their mind’s eye as if in a cinema show in a seemingly endless loop.

We tried to cling to each other even more firmly, seeking mutual support, comfort and protection. Harry just did something that was not possible for me by starting to cry. I could feel suppressed sobs shaking him again and again. We swayed back and forth in a rhythm that evolved into something reassuring.

That's how we stayed for a long time. It was also very comforting for me to hold on to Harry. As often happens when I did something inhumane, I felt like I was losing some of my humanity, losing sight of myself, and that always scared me! Always!

Only after some time of contemplation and reflection, I could come to grips with it and analyse my actions with cold calculation. That wasn’t a pleasant thing most of the time because I tried to be bluntly open and honest with myself. Most of the time, I just didn’t like what I had to acknowledge.

Two Killing Curses in one day? Wow, I had outdone myself!

Okay, Jugson would have killed me if I hadn’t beaten him to it, that was clear. And the other... I lost the thread of thought when Harry gave a sudden, loud sob. I gently broke away from him and combed through his tangled strands of hair.

“Harry, what…? We...” What should I say? It’s not so bad? Sirius was dead! That was bad, dammit! So the reassuring words got stuck in my throat.

“I… Sirius… I truly bring only death!” he lamented, grief-stricken. I swiftly conjured a handkerchief.

“Bullshit!” I declared and dried his tears.

“Bullshit? He is dead, isn’t he?!” he exclaimed, spitting angrily.

“He was an Order member. They all know that they risk their lives! And you too were aware that we were walking into a trap. But you are not to blame. They knew what they were doing!” I qualified realistically when he interrupted me with a harsh gesture.

“Oh, and that should make it easier for me? Sometimes, Hermione, are you an insufferable know-it-all!” he snapped, interrupted by sobs.

Stoically, I let him insult me. After all, he had lost his godfather. I had only lost an ex-lover, though I'd probably been closer to Sirius for a few weeks than Harry had been to him the last two years! To know that I would never see that mischievous smile again hurt. The knowledge of such a miserable life that had begun so promisingly and now had ended so tragically always hurt.

“And don’t say that I’m not at fault! If I hadn’t consciously decided to go today, Sirius would still be alive! I'm guilty! You are guilty! We are guilty! Our friends... they're hurt, if not worse! ... And we are to blame!” he wailed and moaned. That was enough now! I was getting angry and so I broke away from the pit of misery drowning in self-pity, standing in front of him and looking down at him reprimandingly.

He knelt there and had resumed that soothing rocking rhythm. He was just wrapping his arms around his torso, as I raised my hand abruptly and gave him a resounding slap that made his head flew to the side. His hand moved to his reddened cheek. Incredulously, he covered the bright red, swelling area which reflected the fingerprints of my hand quite well, looking at me with horrified shock clearly visible in his widened eyes.

“Whaaa…?” he sputtered indignantly.

“Harry! Now get your act together, you're almost an adult and no longer a little kid as everybody likes to treat us. Bloody hell! I asked you again and again: ‘Will you be able to live with the consequences?’ And you said yes! Now take it like a man! Sirius knew that every fight could end like this. I know that too... Don’t tell me you didn’t know that! Since Cedric, you especially should be aware that... that it's about living or dying... But excuse me, I forgot, I'm a know-it-all!” I shouted, enraged, and gave him a furious dressing-down. When he grew smaller and smaller and wanted to lift his hands cautiously, I didn’t let him speak, hissing viciously instead, assessing coldly and accusingly: “And now just be honest with yourself. If it wasn’t Sirius... you wouldn’t even care...!”

“Never!” he shouted in a righteous way, shaking his head and I groaned because of his stubborn nature, for I thought he would have been less upset with another victim. However, I snorted and relented.

“Well, if you think so. It would not affect you as much as it does now though, at least admit that to yourself!” I said insistently and looked at him reproachfully, whereupon he fell silent and bowed his head in defeat, staring attentively at the round carpet on which he knelt. Resolutely, I pulled him up and put him in the chair in front of the desk, while I explained sombrely: “My advice: Come to terms with it as soon as possible. We will not get him back, unfortunately! Preserve his memory, but get over it quickly; we live in times too troubled for long periods of mourning. Mourn, yes, but don’t let the mourning define you!”

Of course, I noticed how demolished, battered and hurt Harry looked. His appearance was disastrous and I was sure I didn’t look any better. Ignoring the many sleep-faking portraits in the office, I stood patiently in front of him and waited, as Harry was silent for a long time before he took a deep breath and started to speak.

“When he fell through the veil, it was so terrible and then he was gone…” he breathed in disbelief, but beginning to accept what had happened.

“He was dead before he fell…” I supplied coldly.

“What makes you think that? No, I can’t believe it! Maybe he's still alive... There were voices behind the curtain... Maybe?” A spark of hope flashed in his eyes and I intervened immediately.

“No, Harry, Sirius is dead! I saw it in his eyes. He was dead when Lestrange's curse hit him. I could positively watch the light of life leave his eyes,” I said, shaking my head sorrowfully.

“Of course,” he stated bitterly, “Lestrange!”

He fell back into brooding silence for a while.

“I followed her after... I cast the Cruciatus on her,” he whispered fearfully. I stared at him with wide eyes and was flabbergasted.

Harry had carried an Unforgivable Curse on his lips! Gosh, I felt incredibly proud of him at that moment. Crazy, I know, but I was really glad he was not above using them. Very well! Fortunately, he didn’t notice the small, contented grin that spread across my battle-marked face.

“And, how did it go?” I enquired carefully.

“What? You are not shocked or repulsed?” he asked suspiciously and eyed me appraisingly.

“Why? She murdered Sirius. I would like to send her an Avada,” I confessed, shrugging, as he stared at me, his eyes unnaturally widened by shock.

“I already thought that I wouldn’t be able to shock you. I tried... really seriously, but, unfortunately, I did something wrong. She laughed... laughed at me for not doing it right. Oh ... I hate this disgusting madwoman!” He hissed furiously and clenched his hands into furious fists.

“Yes, she is probably not quite right in the head. Too bad you didn’t hurt her!” I summed up, deadly serious and very hard-hearted.

“Yes, I think so too. Isn’t that bad?” he asked very confused by his vindictive feelings.

“I don’t think that my thoughts are of any importance at the moment,” I tried to play it down.

“So shocking for me?” he asked very perceptively and I raised an eyebrow in astonishment that, despite the tragic situation, Harry was able to recognise that it touched me very little let alone gave me a guilty conscience.

“Maybe,” I made a concession. “Would you tell me what led to the fight in the atrium?” I steered him now in a different direction. I realised that he knew it and went along only because of the circumstances. However, his eyes held a promise which I accepted with a slight nod, and he indicated with a slight, affirmative lift of the corner of his mouth that we would postpone this intimate conversation.

“Mh-mh... I ‘tickled’ her,” he fumed again. “Then, then, she mocked me and I told her sod off and that the prophecy is gone, shattered, unheard...

“Suddenly he stood there as I remembered him from the cemetery, when a crazy, skull-splitting pain shot through my scar. He really didn’t like that the orb had broken. He was screaming and it was all a bit confusing because Bellatrix was pitifully begging him to forgive her failure. But he didn’t pay attention to her, ramping and raging instead. Finally, he threw the Killing Curse at me, and then the golden wizard came leaping from the fountain to divert the curse away from me. All of a sudden all the golden statues came alive and then... the battle...!” He waved his hands through the air, showing his excitement.

“I saw the battle. Impressive, what the two can do. What happened during the time when you had red eyes?” I interrupted him curiously.

“What!? I, I had red eyes?” he shouted shrilly. In a desperate gesture, he gripped his hair and buried his head in his arms. Then fell silent for a moment to breath only to groan quietly.

“I... Suddenly it was like two souls were sharing my body and he had control over every aspect of me. It was frightening, scary! I was too weak, much too weak and he was soooooo strong. Eventually, I resigned myself to his call for my death, accepted it and comforted myself with the thought of seeing all the dead again... He wasn’t amused that I was happy. He screamed loudly in my skull, raging over my nasty, useless feelings and then he was gone, poof... After that, I don’t remember anything,” he whispered softly and seemed exhausted through and through.

“Apparently, you instinctively did the right thing!” I said encouragingly.

“Sirius is dead, that's the only thing I can really think about right now. Why? What did he give his life for? For what? We still don’t know anything...! Why?” he yelled now and working himself into a frenzy and in that moment two things happened at once:

Dumbledore suddenly appeared in his office and Harry's magic was directly palpable as he released it and it swept like a wave through the office, smashing everything to bits. I ducked away quickly, noticing out of the corner of my eye that the professor had to do that, too, to avoid getting hit by any splinters. The office didn’t look better than the Ministry’s atrium when I straightened up again because there was also nothing left here, every last thing devastated and smashed to pieces.

When Harry saw Dumbledore, however, the magical storm didn’t stop, it only really started. Harry yelped angrily and let his anger run wild. Dumbledore just stood there and looked at him sadly.

He stoically allowed Harry to rave and burn himself out for good. He blew the office to smithereens, the whole inventory was no longer existent and all that without a wand. By the goddess, that was great. Show him, Harry, I thought in my covered pose. The magical storm rushed and roared over us at a thunderous volume.

Thanks to being right next to Harry, I was in relative safety and the old professor was able to protect himself. Harry stared at Dumbledore as if hypnotised, unable to calm down, so I slapped Harry repeatedly to stop him and his anger. Now both cheeks glowed in a rich red, but it worked and that was what counted. The magic outburst ebbed only slowly. The professor gave me an irritated look about my approach and I shrugged. The result was important.

“Well, let us take a seat!” Dumbledore said. He seemed a bit overwhelmed. When it finally was all over, he spelled the sitting area whole again, skillfully ignoring the chaos. I pulled Harry to the couch - he was still beside himself - and the professor sunk into his armchair like the old man that he was.

Harry firmly refused to lift his head or even his eyes and stared fixedly at the tattered carpet and so we fell into an awkward silence. I especially didn’t plan to say something since Dumbledore didn’t even want me there. Thus, I just grabbed Harry's hand reassuringly and he immediately squeezed it tightly. All this happened under the attentive and observant eyes of the headmaster.

“Harry, please, let me explain…” Dumbledore now began to tell his story of events in earnest to present our fifth year from his point of view.

He openly confessed his faults, stood by them, shared responsibility for Sirius' death because of the secrets that had contributed to it. He defended himself by referring to his old age which blinded him to many things, important things, because he had forgotten the impatient nature of youth. In a calm, deliberate and apologetic tone, he gave Harry his point of view. From time to time he desperately kneaded his hands, and the twinkle in his bright blue eyes seemed more like the subdued glinting and gleaming of oncoming tears.

He acknowledged himself:

“Harry, only I am to blame for the events of last night, especially Sirius' death as I kept you, Harry, in ignorance and in the dark about all the important facts until now!” He paused briefly and visibly swallowed heavily as his gaze shifted to me - he didn’t like the fact that I was present for that - before he continued. “I thought this would be the best and the wisest decision ... I do not know where to start... In the beginning, yes in the beginning!”

Now he told us about the Halloween night of October 31, 1981, and we learned that he suspected immediately that the lightning-shaped curse scar that Harry had received on his forehead had created a direct link between him and Voldemort.

When he described it so calmly an ice-cold shiver ran down my spine. It was incomprehensible to me that Dumbledore had suspected this for such a long time and had never found it necessary to begin Occlumency even a few years earlier. He could no longer justify this with his age; I would only accept Alzheimer's as an explanation and nothing else. Harry's hand in mine trembled with this revelation; but it was only the beginning and that scared me.

He now stated that his concern about a spiritual connection between the two of them had been confirmed since the Dark Lord’s return and that it had become more intense over the years. Do tell! Really? I didn’t have to be a senile old man to recognize that. I started seething ever so slightly.

“Harry, I know that I behaved in a way towards you this year that was incomprehensible to you by shunning you and avoiding any personal contact. This had a good reason!”

Oh well, I knew that Dumbledore never did anything without a reason, though most times nobody could comprehend it. Consequently, I was curious, very much so, what he would now reveal to us.

He had known, or rather assumed, that not only could he, Harry, feel the Dark Lord's emotions, but Voldemort could also use the connection to spy on him, Dumbledore, or others, or manipulate Harry's mind.

“That is why I kept my distance and avoided any direct eye contact, my boy. Unfortunately, you seem to have misinterpreted that I wanted to punish you, or distrusted you,” the headmaster explained further.

Aha. What else should he think? The old man had just declared that Harry could have been misused as an unintentional spy and that he deliberately kept him away from all relevant information; ergo, he had distrusted Harry. What bunch of bullshit was that?

But worst of all, how could Harry and I have reacted differently to the dismissive way of Dumbledore without explanation? Oh, now he doesn’t even want to look at us anymore? Well, that doesn’t matter, it will be nothing? Okay, he was senile, there was no another, nicer explanation. I could feel that my hand got squeezed so tightly that I no longer had any feeling in my fingertips, but please, if it helped Harry to maintain his composure, I would gladly sacrifice the sense of touch in my hand.

Now, Dumbledore took off his little half-moon spectacles, ran his fingers over his tired old eyes.

“As it stands, Harry, Tom did not realise that there is a connection until the attack on Arthur. Afterwards, he started using it deliberately!” He took a deep breath and continued, sounding very exhausted.

From Christmas on, Harry's lessons in Occlumency with the technically very competent Snape had begun, where the beginning had been very difficult and not very promising. That was also his mistake as he had forgotten the hatred that hindered Snape, or rather, he hadn’t taken it seriously enough!

Hello? Every blind person could see that Snape loved Harry like a son! I was about to hit my head against the wall with force. It hurt!

Although I was grateful, as the relationship had steadily improved since Harry's and Snape's mental collision when Snape's memories of his difficult school days had been revealed. Well, Snape was as snappy, mean, and spiteful as ever, but Harry was courtesy and correctness personified since the unfortunate incident. The professor didn’t perceive it as an attempt to make fun of his person - which it wasn’t - so he just paid less attention to Harry and hence their relationship had improved remarkably. It was almost as if they accepted and respected each other's existence.

An enormous step for both of them, and I was glad for I knew how hard it was for the professor to accept Harry's new and very correct behaviour towards him. For Harry, it pleased me as he left behind a part of his past and was no longer deterred by Snape's rough exterior. It meant that he tried to look behind the masks of people who didn’t wear them for the joy of it.

And Dumbledore, who didn’t have the faintest idea about all this? He fabulated about the hatred of Harry's father which had led to Snape becoming an unfit teacher in the area and Harry’s failure to learn successfully. And he explained that Harry hadn’t understood why Snape had been giving him this lesson, and so the Dark Lord had had a chance to manipulate Harry's mind with the visions.

Aha, very well thought out, Professor Dumbledore. Harry and Snape were to blame that Dumbledore's clever plan to make Harry a master in Occlumency in such a short time - and although he had suspected the connection for fourteen years - didn’t work out. Very surprising that this project had failed, my sarcasm got the better of me.

Yeah, right. That had to be it.

By his standard, Harry had made amazing progress over the last few weeks under the tutelage of Snape and me, given that his mind was under fire every night, and it absolutely should be acknowledged. You just couldn’t expect miracles. Harry didn’t have the cold, structured mind of Professor Snape or me. His mind worked very differently and so this field of magic was not easy for Harry to learn. That made it all the more incomprehensible that Harry hadn’t been taught this subject by Dumbledore since his very first year.

He didn’t even consider that Harry had been in such a pent-up emotional state through this all, all the dreams and vision; that he had been so curious, so incited by the Lord, that he could no longer defend himself without having to worry about going crazy. With the background knowledge that anyone who knew anything would tell him nothing, absolutely nothing at all, the circumstances could drive such a spirited mind as Harry's to the verge of despair. It would have done that to me too, I, who had to get to the bottom of all secrets.

“I know by now that you talked to Kreacher through the Floo. He lied to you, Harry, and he did so on behalf of Narcissa Malfoy. Sirius was in the attic at this time with Buckbeak,” Dumbledore disclosed. Well, that was only new insofar that I now knew that I would take revenge on someone very specific and that I certainly would never regard that someone as family, come what may. Delivering his own relative to the knife was despicable.

After this confession, we three sat quietly in silence and digested what had been said. We kept back the information that we had made the decision to go to the Ministry knowing that it was most likely a trap in best Dumbledore fashion. Harry and I agreed on that in silence, though he still held his head lowered like a penitent.

We heard a painful sigh emanating from Dumbledore's chest and he continued talking.

“Harry, now I come to why this all happened. There was a good reason why Voldemort came to your home on Halloween in 1981. My boy, a prophecy was made that led to Voldemort hunting you down! Since he was reborn, he has been trying to get it but as you know by now, Harry, only someone affected by the prophecy can take the orb off the shelf and he, Tom, did not want to reveal himself for that, hence his plan!” He paused for effect but when he didn’t get a reaction he went on. “It's like that, Harry, back in 1981, he was only aware of part of the prediction. Now he wants to hear the rest so there would be no further, grave mistakes for him to make. He learned from his mistakes!”

If he expected Harry to react when he made his famous dramatic pause then he was wrong. My best friend was sitting there doing nothing but listening, though he did that very attentively as I could make out by his tense posture.

“Well, I've planned your life, many years ago, Harry. Your mother wove a strong protection for you out of her love for you when she died so consciously for you. I have been able to extend it and therefore, as long as you call the house of your maternal blood relatives home, you are protected by the blood protection until your seventeenth birthday because your aunt sealed the pact at that time. That's why you always have to go there for a while during the holidays!” he announced self-importantly. I didn’t think that Harry was especially caring for those details right now. What was the wording of the prophecy?! He was just making a dangerous egg dance. But we both said nothing, waited quietly.

What came next was so bad that you wanted to vomit. He really was senile!

“Harry, I have to admit that, as I said, I am to blame for everything because I have made many mistakes, including the fact that I have always been reluctant to reveal the contents of the cruel prophecy to you and to burden you... with it… I wanted you to remain a child as long as you possibly could,” said Dumbledore.

Um, what nonsense! When the Lord was reborn last year, Harry had been fourteen and certainly no longer a child since the night in the cemetery and ready to endure the truth. It might have helped him to find the will to successfully shield his mind. But as it was?

All right, Dumbledore wanted to leave a child its childhood when it had never had one to begin with. But well, we moved on, because now Dumbledore pulled a silvery thread from his mind, quietly working his magic with it, and before us, a scene set itself up. Harry raised his head for the first time since the conversation had started, glancing at the memory of the young Trelawney ominously proclaiming in a harsh, croaking voice:

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...." [*]

The memory dissolved and Dumbledore intently watched Harry's reaction. I just sat there and maintained my indifferent mask, pondering the information I had just learned. It was staggering that it was only Harry who would able to destroy the Dark Lord. Somewhat expected but nonetheless staggering, so I also dared a side glance at Harry who had now lowered his head again and looked at the carpet with a blank expression.

Well, that was one way to react to such a dramatic prophecy about yourself... The professor did not seem pleased with Harry's apparent indifference, urgently addressing Harry:

“Well, Harry, this is the prophecy, and I hope you are ready to forgive me for not wanting to place that burden on you too early. You must know that the first two points would apply to Neville Longbottom as well. However, the spy of Voldemort who overheard this prophecy was thrown out of the Hog's Head after the first few sentences. He immediately reported them to his master who acted immediately, validating the prophecy by marking you as his equal ... Harry, you're the only one who can face him successfully!

Wow, Harry would have to become a murderer! Would he be able to do that?

Now Harry started to scare me too because he still didn’t stir at this revelation of his fate and so Dumbledore spoke on desperately. It seemed like he wanted to get rid of everything he had been holding back for the last few years.

“Harry, you have a chance. You know a power Tom doesn’t know, never knew and will never learn! You also unconsciously applied it today when he took possession of your mind. You are capable of positive, loving feelings, compassion and worry, which has made him unable to endure possessing you for long; it caused him physical and mental pain. You have chances against him because he won’t be able to fight against it.

“Please, Harry, say something!” Dumbledore said desperately, now pleading with Harry who now raised his head very slowly and looked at the headmaster with a severe lack of emotion. No more tears, no anger, no feeling marred the young man’s face.

“Well, Professor, it looks like I'm going to be either Voldemort's killer or his victim. What is there to say?” He sounded very controlled while I felt him beginning to caress the back of my hand with rough brushes of his thumb. It seemed as though it truly didn’t affect Harry what his destiny was going to be.

We saw tears well up in the professor’s eyes at Harry's cold demeanour and he began to cry. Man, I was uncomfortable, but I had no sympathy; he had only himself to blame. Additionally, I had my knowledge of his past. I just found it embarrassing and wasn’t overly touched by his emotional outburst.

Harry had to feel the same because he suddenly got up, pulling me up alongside him. I stood next to him and looked piqued at the sobbing Dumbledore.

“If there is nothing else, Professor, we would like to retire,” he informed the headmaster and pulled me to the door. We had just reached it when Dumbledore spoke hoarsely:

“Harry, please forgive an old man his mistakes ... I did not make you a Prefect this year because I did not want to impose any more responsibility on you than you had to carry already!”

Ouch, very bad choice of topic. What did he want to achieve with the statement? Harry had been heartstricken at the time. Dumbledore had been making his decisions as if Harry had known of his fate and responsibilities back then, which he didn’t. It was not a good idea to remind Harry of that now.

Hence, Harry nodded brusquely and opened the door, pulled me out of the ruined office and left a grieving Dumbledore behind. Silently holding my hand, he hurried through the dark hallways and corridors of Hogwarts.

Don’t worry, Hermione, you don’t have to count the kills. We’ll do that for you Wink
There is an official WHF death list and at the moment, Hermione is leading with three kills, followed by a Devil’s Snare (offscreen) and Bellatrix with one kill respectively.

If we missed any deaths up until now, please let us know!

[*] cited directly from the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy)
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