Barriers - Part V
Chapter 29 - EM-E - Barriers - Part V
Tonks wasn't sure how to read the look she'd gotten from Remus after her authoritative demand, but the tingle that ran down her spine suggested it had been complimentary. But, no time to linger in that distraction, the kids were on their own down the hall. She cast a Ministry patronus to summon backup, who would rearrest these captured intruders and reincarcerate those who were still alive. How had they escaped again, anyway?
Harry raced down the stairs and slammed into Severus, arms around his guardian, clinging with all of his might. He absolutely could not believe how incredibly cool Severus truly was. And Remus. And Lucius.
Severus hugged Harry back, taking a moment with his soon-to-be son, and letting the others lead the way to address the next scuffle. "Are you alright, Young Harry?" he asked, squeezing Harry hard. He couldn't read what was going on in the boy's mind at the moment, but at least he didn't seem to be falling apart …yet.
"Yeah," Harry said. He pulled away and grinned at Severus. "Off to the next scenario, then."
"Blimey!" Ron yelled as he and Neville appeared with Hermione at the top of the opposite stairwell, racing downward to where Draco and Dawlish had disappeared from sight in another skirmish. "Harry was so right about their goatees!"
Hermione rolled her eyes as she ran, but suddenly found herself stifling a giggle.
They could hear loud barks of spell casting, and the POPs and CRACKs of magical violence just around the corner of the corridor that flanked the side of the Great Hall, so they darted inside the vast room to take a shortcut to the back, where they could assess the trouble through the second entrance behind the professor's table.
Draco cast a contego to shield from Crabbe's sloppy cruciatus curse, while the auror Dawlish was struggling with Morton Rookwood and Allison Grable. I thought they'd been arrested? The former seventh year Slytherins were showing some considerable skill and Draco realized they could get the upper hand.
He caught sight of Weasley poking his head through the teacher's entrance to the Great Hall, about ten feet behind the Slytherins, who were unaware of their presence.
But Pansy and Benedict Baldwin joined in the melée just then, running up from behind Draco and Dawlish, and they hadn't come to help with their defense.
"Cruciomort!" Hermione and Ron shouted simultaneously, darting into the corridor to box in the attackers, and using Harry's other new spell on Crabbe and Pansy. Both of the fifth year Slytherins fell to the floor, writhing and crying out as if in terrible agony, to the point that the Gryffindors hesitated to keep them under the spell.
"Finite!" Baldwin cast at Crabbe, but the spell held. "Finem!" Nothing. Crabbe continued to writhe and scream to such an extent that tears were streaming down his face and the noise he was making brought the group to a brief standstill. Baldwin spun and shot off a forceful, "ABEO!" at Dawlish, intending his blasting spell to put an end to the auror.
"Protego!" Neville shouted, casting his shield in front of Dawlish by several feet, and catching the Abeo, deflecting the powerful spell back towards Rookwood and Grable, who both ducked just in time to keep from having their heads taken off.
"You could have killed us!" Rookwood yelled.
"And your point is?" Ron yelled back. "What are you idiots trying to do? Contego!" The last was shouted in response to Rookwood's Sectum sempra. Genu, Ron cast silently, catching Rookwood by surprise with his knee bender, and causing the seventh year to sit heavily and unexpectedly down, hard onto the stone floor. The resulting groan he emitted indicated a broken tailbone.
"Bastard!" Allison Grable yelled, holding her wand up to cast something lethal.
"HEMM HEMMMMM!" Ron rasped quickly, watching Allison's face snap side to side as if she was being slapped. He'd practiced it with a bit more uummph, so now the smacks made the witch's eyes water from the sting. He cast it again, and this time, Allison burst into angry tears.
"What are you looking at, mudblood?" Baldwin sneered at Hermione, who was watching him with her wand at the ready, waiting for justification….
"Incarcerous!" Draco yelled from behind her, sending ropes around the distraught Allison Grable.
Baldwin flicked his wand, casting another Abeo at Hermione.
"Neville!" Hermione shouted as she deflected the curse his way.
"To me!" Dawlish yelled, readily snatching the curse when Neville deflected it, catching it in a containment shield similar to the one Severus had used. He raised his wand to disarm Baldwin, but Hermione beat him to it.
"Invertere!" She shouted twisting her wrist as she casted the spell, and they all watched Benedict Baldwin flip onto his head, wand flying out of his hand, his body weight pressing his crown into the uneven stone floor. "Continere," Hermione added next, and Baldwin's hands were handcuffed behind his back. He continued to literally stand on his head with the same degree of balance he'd have done on his feet.
"Filthy mud-" Baldwin started, but a flick of Draco's wand and a quiet Haud os removed his mouth, and therefore the rest of his nasty explicative.
Meanwhile, Vincent Crabbe and Pansy Parkinson were continuing to writhe and wail, the noise they were making adding an extreme sense of agitation to the already violent encounter.
And that is what Remus, Tonks and Lucius came upon, followed shortly by Harry and Severus. The adults all had looks of confused alarm that was quickly turning into humor. Harry had a very smug smile on his face.
"Good lord, what will it take to silence those two?" Lucius asked about Pansy and Crabbe, although he was pretty sure he knew after seeing Harry's expression.
"Revelo!" Ron and Hermione cast simultaneously. But the noise didn't stop from either fifth year Slytherin when the spell lifted. They each continued to carry on for several moments until it registered that they were in control of themselves again.
"Good one, Potter," Draco said. He'd been there when Harry had shown the spell to Ron and Hermione. He assessed Baldwin for a long moment, who continued to stand on his head, compliments of Hermione. "You're very practical, aren't you, Granger?"
Tonks and Dawlish administered Ministry restraints on each of the student attackers, including Pansy, who had not actually used her wand, but it was clear she had been willing to be an accomplice. She, Crabbe and Allison continued to bawl loudly, not acknowledging or responding to the aurors' reciting their legal rights while they were placed under arrest.
Dawlish stopped Draco and shook his hand. "Well done, Malfoy," he said. "I appreciate your watching out for my daughter earlier as well." He turned to Lucius, who had moved over to see for himself that his son was unscathed. "Your boy spotted my Mabel and ushered her to safety with her House Prefects, while this one over here," he jerked his head at Pansy, "ran off to recruit more trouble."
Lucius gave Draco an approving look as he hugged him with his good arm.
"What do we know from Albus and Minerva?" Severus asked because he'd had his arm around Harry all this time and had yet to look at his coin.
Remus was frowning at the snotty tone Pansy had taken with Tonks, but he answered Severus, "Albus has cast Nagini off the grounds again, for the moment. Minerva reports that all of the students are accounted for, now that we've found these miscreants." Now he smiled as Tonks surreptitiously cast her smack-upside-the-head hex at Pansy.
"Could you eat now?" Severus asked Harry.
Harry nodded distractedly, as they made their way into the Great Hall, his mind reeling now that everything had calmed down. He was uncertain to what extent he could truly relax, because Wormtail could still wreak havoc. Harry wasn't at all confident that Pettigrew wouldn't pull him into a porthole again, and the rodent faced wizard could certainly mess with the wards of the school and Azkaban, as he and Bellatrix had done, to let the convicts out of prison and into Hogwarts.
"Well done, my friends," Dumbledore called out as he came in through the main entrance, along with AIC Shacklebolt and a few of his team. "I understand there was additional student misconduct just now?"
"Your Prefects handled it beautifully," Dawlish told the Headmaster.
Dumbledore clapped his hands and platters of sandwiches, frosty bottles of butterbeer, a flagon of pumpkin juice, and a bottle of Old Ogden's finest appeared on the nearest table. The large group filed over to find seats at the table. "Now, Harry, let's start with you, shall we? Where did Peter take you, and how did you learn how to dismantle the magical barrier?"
"I never did manage to figure out where I was, actually," Harry admitted, taking a seat beside Severus and across from all of his friends. "I was spinning so rapidly for most of the time I couldn't think straight. At one point, I just stretched my arm out and cast a contego, hoping to stop the spinning. My shield hit Wormtail's magical field. I felt the release a bit through my wand, so that was when I took his wand and his shiny hand with my wild magic. By then I'd figured out he could hear my inner voice, so I just visualized everything after that. I think it was Bellatrix who brought me to the Library." He watched Severus load up a plate of sandwiches and at once remembered how much flying his guardian had done. He caught Ron and Neville watching Severus, too, and grinned at them, happy for the momentary distraction while he enjoyed the feeling of pride a son feels for his father flowing through him.
But then Lucius asked the key question that reignited Harry's fears: "Harry, do you not have a means to stop Pettigrew from pulling you away again?"
"I don't think so," Harry said softly. "I could have portholed back, but…" he flashed another look at Severus and found the predictably raised eyebrow. "Yeah, so I didn't. But even if I'd decided to risk getting in trouble, I couldn't have managed it while I was spinning like that. It was awful."
Albus nodded. "I agree with your judgement, and with Severus' concern, about your using that means of magical transport, Harry. There are just too many unknowns, so please refrain from using it. We would not recover from losing you, my boy." He scanned his eyes over the rest of the fifth years. "And each of you have risen to the occasion to protect your fellow students and your school. I am awarding two hundred points each to Gryffindor and Slytherin, which I will be sure to credit to your valor. I am extremely impressed with the way that you have united your Houses."
Harry's friends, which now truly included Draco, all looked at each other with mild smiles, but the points seemed trivial in the light of all that had just happened.
"And you, Albus?" Severus asked after he'd swallowed down a fifth sandwich, his sixth already held in the fingers of one hand, while the other reached out to rub Harry's back for a moment before coming to rest on his neck. "We saw that you were entertaining the giant snake while we tussled with the intruders." His tone was sardonic, and there were chuckles from both aurors and students, who'd really never gotten to experience Severus' humor before now.
"I was studying her magic," the Headmaster admitted with a smile, but his tone was grim nonetheless. "And am not pleased that I could not completely define how she was able to bypass my wards. I believe Harry's conclusion that Peter Pettigrew had helped her through them is sound, and am assuming that she cannot return without his assistance. Therefore, the sooner we capture Wormtail, the better." That final comment was directed at the aurors. But the dream team knew they would likely be the ones to handle the rat/diadem duo.
Harry noticed they were conveniently avoiding calling attention to the horcruxes again, and wondered what the aurors were assuming about both Wormtail's and Bellatrix's extensive power that had surpassed even the most secure wards of Hogwarts.
"Will you keep the school open, Headmaster?" Hermione asked.
"I must confer with the other professors first. I will make my decision in the morning," Albus replied. He looked at Harry and Severus over his spectacles. "I would advise the two of you to go ahead with your plans. Family first, by all means."
McGonagall came in to join them after another few minutes, and the aurors began to take statements from the individuals. The students were asked to go first, so Hermione, Ron, and Draco sat with Walton, Shacklebolt and Jones for their interviews. Neville looked worried enough to draw Severus' and Lucius' attention.
"What should I say about what I did to Bellatrix?" Neville asked in a quiet but clearly frightened voice when they questioned him.
"Exactly what you perceived the scenario to be," Severus answered calmly.
"We were all in terrible danger, son," Lucius added. "You were acting in defense. You had no way to know that any of the adults, or your friends, for that matter, would have been able to get away from that conflict with their lives intact. You acted in the right, and it's quite possible that your intervention saved us all."
"Oh," Neville said, seeming a bit relieved, but also not completely comprehending the weight of Lucius' declaration. "But should I tell them about how Harry mixed his magic with mine?"
Severus allowed his expression to soften at Longbottom's overt loyalty to Harry. "Absolutely. We don't want to mislead or misconstrue the extent of the risk and response we had to undertake, to resolve an issue that the former Ministry of Magic was unable, or unwilling to handle. This new branch of Magical Law Enforcement needs to be well-informed. And they wish to be, so do not fear them, Mr. Longbottom. We are in the middle of writing history, you realize. Voldemort's demise has caused catastrophic destruction to the corrupted framework that has overrun our society for years."
Harry heard what Lucius and Severus had told Neville and realized the same applied to him. He had been distracted again, watching Remus and Tonks carefully approach each other, continuing to guard feelings he knew they had for each other, even though today had probably helped break down some barriers. Remus had both hands in his pockets, but he was leaning towards Tonks as he spoke to her, so that their arms touched. A small but progressive step for the reserved Marauder.