Hullo! Here's a little reminder: I don't own it. I know I said I'd only give the disclaimer once, but seeing as the first paragraph is almost entirely directly taken from DH I thought it would be a good idea to reiterate my un-owning-ness. Sorry, no Tom today. I'm a day early, though… forgive me?
"Avada Kedavra!" they simultaneously shouted. Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upward. Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snakelike face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was dead.
At least, that's what everyone in the Great Hall thought.
Relieved, Harry dropped his wand arm and sighed. It was dawn and he was tired. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. Gasps and screams forced his eyes to open. Voldemort stood, unscathed, resplendent, and alive, as if he hadn't even fallen. His malice, prevalent only moments before, was gone. His serpentine face was smirking- if that strange slit of a mouth could smirk. Harry raised his wand again, the Killing Curse ready on his lips. "Avada-"
"I don't think so, Potter," Voldemort hissed. He spun, and with a flourish of his flowing cloak, he was gone. Just as swiftly, Death Eaters who had simply been stunned or hit with a Full Body-Bind rose and disappeared. Bellatrix Lestrange was among them. Molly Weasley clutched Ginny's arm protectively and virtually growled with maternal anger.
"Mum…" Ginny trembled.
"Let's… let's go find your dad and brothers- your brothers-" Molly choked. As they began to walk through the throng of buzzing survivors, Molly felt a hand on her arm and flinched, wand at the ready.
"Oh, Harry! It's you."
He looked at her with pain evident in his eyes. His glasses were crooked and cracked; one of his pretty green eyes was sporting a shiner. "Mrs. Weasley… I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't-"
"Harry James Potter, don't you dare apologize for a thing!" Molly said. "You got him square in the chest- and the Killing Curse, Harry? We're lucky you're still alive! You have nothing to apologize for. We'll have him for everything he's done…"
"I could have done more!" Harry insisted, tugging his black hair anxiously. "Instead of just attacking him, I lectured Voldemort. He had time to prepare- and I thought sure he was going to die, and now he knows all about us having destroyed the Horcruxes! He could be ready to attack again tomorrow for all we know." Molly hugged him reassuringly. "It's all my fault-"
"Harry, no! You mustn't think that. You've done so much more than anyone could have imagined." Despite her words of comfort, Molly was crying.
"But it's all my fault! If I was faster at everything, Fred and Mr. Weasley would be alive, I know it!"
"Arthur?" Molly asked sharply. Ginny grabbed a fist full of her mother's robes so tightly that her knuckles turned white. "What's wrong with Arthur?"
Harry's face fell. "I- you didn't know yet?"
"What's wrong with Arthur? Where is my husband?" Molly howled. Ginny's breath was hitching.
"He… he's dead," Harry said lamely. "Hermione saw-"
"So you don't know for sure?" Molly interjected hastily. "He might just be hurt, or passed out? Where is he? We have to get him to St. Mungo's right away!" She moved to leave the Great Hall.
"Mrs. Weasley!" Harry called. "No- he's gone, he's- Hermione saw-"
"Hermione might have been wrong!" Molly shouted. "No one, not even her, is always right! Now take me to Arthur."
With great trepidation, Harry led Molly and Ginny to the Entrance Hall. There, next to Remus Lupin, lay Arthur Weasley. Blood matted his brow and was drying around his left ear. He was otherwise uninjured.
"You see, Harry? Just a little blood," Molly stated as she kneeled next to Mr. Weasley and looked into his blue eyes. They were wide open and unblinking. She waved her hand in front of his face. Behind her, she heard Ginny sniffle. "Arthur, can you hear me?"
"Harry, I'm trying to talk to Arthur!" Molly snapped. She shook her husband's shoulder slightly. "Arthur, honey, I need you to say something. You're cold, dear. We need to get you some blankets. Harry, Ginny, help me carry him to Gryffindor Tower; we'll light a fire and warm him up. Arthur, say something, for god's sake."
"Mum…" Ginny whispered, "He's not going to answer."
"Nonsense," Molly chided. "Maybe we ought to take him straight to St. Mungo's." She shook his shoulder again. "Arthur, come on. We've got to take you to the hospital."
Ginny rested her fingers on her father's cold neck and immediately let out a sob that echoed off of the stone walls despite the din of the crowd. Arthur had no pulse.
"It's okay, Ginny. The Healers will fix him right up," Molly said cheerily. "Now help me carry him, you two. Or can we Apparate from here now?"
"Mum, he won't wake."
"Of course he will, don't be silly. Look, I think I just saw him blink. I'll Apparate with him. You haven't taken your test yet, Ginny; you'll have to side-along with Harry. We'll meet at St. Mungo's right away. Oh, but someone needs to let the boys know where we've gone." Her voice took on a hysterical tone. "Ginny, you round them up and side-along with any of them."
"Mum!" Ginny shouted. "He's not going to wake up! He's dead!"
Molly slapped Ginny with all of the strength she could muster. Ginny put her hand to her cheek and stared at her mother in shock.
Harry watched in horror. "Mrs. Weasley, she's right… Hermione saw someone cast the Killing Curse at him."
"Nonsense! The Killing Curse doesn't make you bleed, Harry! And don't say such things. Now give me some room so I can Apparate to London," Molly insisted.
"He hit his head when he fell…" He didn't want to be the one to tell her this. This shouldn't have happened at all. It was all his fault, all his fault…
"SHUT UP, Harry," Molly virtually screeched. "He isn't dead, I know he's not." As Harry began to loosen her grip on Arthur, Molly laughed bitterly. "We've been together since we were in school. He can't leave me- he wouldn't. He wouldn't leave the kids. Percy just came back to us, Arthur wouldn't leave. He wouldn't. He's going to stay, help us get on without F-Fred, he is!" Ginny began to help Harry pull Molly from the corpse. "No, no-" she began to cry. "Ginny, Harry, let go, we have to get him to the hospital! We have to take him b-before it's too- too late! Oh my god, Arthur, WAKE UP!" she screamed. Harry's own eyes prickles with tears. "Arthur… wake up…"
The next day, Professor Flitwick took Harry to a location known to only one other, Kingsley Shacklebot.
"Why are we hiding?" Harry asked fervently. "Vold-"
"Don't say his name, Harry! For all we know, it's still a taboo."
"Okay, You-Know-Who could come back at any moment, Professor!"
"I'm not your Professor anymore, Harry," Flitwick squeaked. "Call me Filius."
"Okay… Filius. Why are we in hiding? I have to fight him before he kills anybody else!"
"We're hiding for precisely that reason," Flitwick explained. "We need you alive so that when the opportunity arrives we can strike."
"But I'm the only one who can kill him!"
"I have to look for him. I have to. Somebody should be teaching me to be an Auror so I can kill him right away! And where are we?" He looked at his surroundings. This was an old house. Mold crept up the walls and the pungent odor of rotting wood filled the air. The wallpaper was faded and peeling; the carpet was threadbare. There were no windows.
"We're in a safe house. Albus set up a few before his death."
"Where are we, though? Geographically?"
Flitwick sighed and shook his tiny head. "It doesn't matter."
"THEN TELL ME!"
"Fine," Flitwick said, looking Harry in the eye. "We're in Sudbury."
"Why not?" Flitwick squeaked. "We're staying here for a few weeks, then Kingsley will be taking you to another safe house. I don't know where it is-" he said, anticipating Harry's question, "so it's no use asking."
A pregnant silence filled the little room as Harry heavily dropped himself onto an old sofa. As he landed, a cloud of dust puffed out of the cushion. Once again he looked around. Three doors and an arch connected to this dilapidated room. One of the doors had a letter slot. Another was open just enough to reveal a tiny toilet. The third was shut completely, but Harry assumed that it was some kind of bedroom. The arch opened to a small, dirty kitchen.
"Harry, I have something important to ask of you," Flitwick said tentatively after a few moments. Harry looked at him curiously. "I need you to get a Muggle job. It's unsafe to use magic-"
"You-Know-Who controls the Ministry, as you know, and the Ministry has always been able to keep tabs on where magic is being performed. We don't want to be found. Anyway, I obviously can't blend in with the Muggles and we need money for food."
"What about house elves? I have a house elf who could bring us things."
"House elves are magical creatures, and while they use a different type of magic that we don't fully understand, if they pop to one location frequently, the Ministry will figure out what's going on. Like I said, we have to keep you alive; in order to do that, we need to keep you hidden."
"Just until Vol- You-Know-Who shows up again, right?" Harry asked.
"Until an opportunity to defeat You-Know-Who once and for all is presented," Flitwick sighed. "And no one knows how long that might be."
It was certainly longer than Harry suspected it would be. May turned to June and June to July before any news reached his ears.
He returned from his petty job at the Town Mayor's office one evening and found the front door to the little house he shared with Flitwick ajar. Peering in carefully and with his ears pricked up, Harry noticed a familiar personage. "Kingsley!" he shouted, rushing in and slamming the rickety door.
"Hello, Harry," Kingsley said with a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "How have you been?"
Harry snorted. "I've been stuck without magic for weeks and have no idea where You-Know-Who might be, or how to kill him, and I've had no news whatsoever. It's been very frustrating."
"I'm sure." Kingsley's deep voice resonated off of the shabby walls. "I'm here to take you elsewhere, Harry."
"You-Know-Who has been spotted?" Harry asked anxiously.
"No," Flitwick interjected slowly, "but there is word of him."
"Rumors, anyway," Kingsley added. He let his dark eyes bore into Harry's, as if to relay the gravity of the situation. "People are disappearing left and right. Kids, even. It's not pretty out there, Harry. There haven't been any open attacks, but there are things that indicate You-Know-Who is gaining strength. Our contacts on the continent say they're having similar problems with disappearances. Also, people who have been suspected of Dark Magic in the past are going. Muggle-killings are becoming more frequent, and more Muggle-borns are being found dead every day."
"Hermione?" Harry whispered. Suddenly he wished he didn't know the goings-on of the world outside the little house.
"Last we heard, she was in Australia with her parents," Kingsley replied, resting a reassuring hand on Harry's shoulder. "That was only two weeks ago. There hasn't been much news from the Aussies; I think that's a good sign."
Harry nodded. "The Weasleys?"
"Safe and sound," Flitwick piped up. "They're not doing well, but they're safe… for the most part."
"That's something," Harry agreed. "Wait, what do you mean 'for the most part'?"
"We don't know where Bill and Fleur are," Kingsley said gravely. "Charlie is safely in Romania- or, as safe as one can be when handling dragons," he smiled.
"You mean that no one is at Shell Cottage?"
"Maybe they're with Ron's Aunt Muriel," Harry suggested. Flitwick hung his head. "What?"
"No one can find Muriel, either," Flitwick mumbled. "The Weasleys are blood traitors, Harry; remember what You-Know-Who thinks of blood traitors."
"Don't be so pessimistic, Filius," Kingsley interjected sharply, seeing the near-horrified expression painted on Harry's face. "Harry, why don't you gather your things? We need to be going."
"Going?" Harry asked. "I thought I was staying here, in Dumbledore's safe house."
"We can't keep you in one place for too long," Flitwick explained in his tiny squeak of a voice. "You've been here since May; we should have moved you sooner."
Harry nodded and went to gather his few belongings. "Kingsley," he asked, "how are we getting… wherever? We can't Apparate; are we taking brooms?"
"Muggle transport, actually." Kingsley grinned widely. "I've taken care of everything."
Kingsley's idea of 'taking care' of things was stealing a Muggle car and driving it almost 70 kilometers to London.
"Kingsley," Harry queried, "why London? There are so many Wizarding places here."
"We're hiding in plain sight," Kingsley answered.
"What if You-Know-Who thought we'd do that?"
"We have to hope that he hasn't considered it," he replied grimly, furrowing his brow. "We're in Fitzrovia; there's a lot going on here. It will be easy to get lost in crowds if that becomes necessary." Harry nodded dumbly and focused on the buildings around him. "In addition, we're near some embassies; some of those have portraits in them. That's how I got what little information I have."
"Whoa," Harry suddenly gasped. "What's that building?" He pointed to a tall cylindrical office building with odd shapes carved out near the top. The letters 'BT' adorned the pinnacle. Had he seen this before? It looked oddly familiar.
"That's the BT Tower," Kingsley explained. Harry went red; he should have figured. "It was Unplottable for quite some time, but a Squib let it slip after she showed some pictures to her husband." He laughed heartily and turned a little too sharply. "Here we are: home sweet home."
July came to a close. For the first time since he was eleven, Harry received no birthday presents from anyone at Hogwarts. Kingsley took him to the Fitzroy Tavern and Harry pretended to be interested in the history Kingsley was telling him about the area. Very little information came through the embassy portraits; two half-blood siblings had disappeared without a trace in El Salvador and a Muggle-born was found dead in Croatia. The authorities couldn't be certain of the cause of death; aside from being dead, she was perfectly healthy. Harry kept telling himself that no news was good news, but he felt a nagging in his stomach. He wanted to do something, to be productive.
"Not a chance, Harry."
"Huh?" he jumped. Kingsley must have been using Legilimency on him.
"The most important thing for you to do is to stay alive. Am I clear?" Kingsley asked sternly. Harry mumbled in assent and took a gulp of pop. "Here's something that will cheer you up," Kingsley smiled. Harry looked at him suspiciously. Happy? "You'll be going to stay with the Weasleys in September. I just found out today."
"I get to see Ron and George and Mrs. Weasley and Ginny?" he exclaimed, spilling his drink down his shirt.
"Don't forget Percy," he was reminded.
"Yes, and Percy, too," Harry agreed. He didn't want to welcome Percy back into his life just yet, but he was forced to care by circumstance. Percy, snobby or not, was family, just as Fred had been.
That night and several nights thereafter, Harry dreamed of the Weasleys as they had been when he was fourteen. They all sat around a cramped table behind the Burrow and talked of the Quidditch World Cup and a surprise that would happen at Hogwarts that year. Then the dream would fast-forward to Bill and Fleur's wedding. Bill's face was scarred almost beyond recognition and George was missing an ear. The dream always ended as the screams of the guests began. He was grateful for that.
September first. They drove in silence, only speaking when they stopped for petrol and Kingsley asked if Harry would like a snack.
"What?" Harry asked. "How do you know?"
"I can just tell," Kingsley replied gravely. He exited the vehicle and began to walk towards a house that should have danger signs around it. Harry followed, having to take two steps for every one of Kingsley's. Carefully they entered the building. "This is where they were supposed to be, Harry."
Harry shuddered. Wouldn't there have been news of the disappearance of six fully grown wizards? His insides turned to ice. There was little furniture; all of it looked like it had been pushed and jostled. Next to a fallen three-legged table was a broken bowl peppered by vegetables and a few letters. And- a letter!
"Kingsley, look!" Harry pointed.
Kingsley crouched next to the broken flatware and picked up a broth-stained piece of lined paper. "'Edward the Elder's cross with ick'. What on earth could that mean?" he murmured.
Harry screwed up his face. Edward the Elder… he knew that name. "Hertfordshire!" he exclaimed. "They're in Hertfordshire!"
"How do you know?" Kingsley asked, one eyebrow arched.
"That's where Edward the Elder was from!" he explained, exasperated. "I don't know what 'ick' means, but I'm sure they're in Hertfordshire." A look of determination crossed his face. "We have to get there, now. You said something was wrong; we can't take a chance on their safety."
"Calm down, Harry," Kingsley commanded quietly. He pondered. "It could be a trap."
"I'm willing to take that chance," Harry said firmly. "I have two of the three Hallows; that has to count for something- an advantage, if it is a trap." Kingsley pulled the car keys from his pocket and moved toward the splintered door. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WE MIGHT BE TOO LATE IF WE DRIVE!"
"There's no other way to get there, Harry."
"No, we can't."
"We can, people just won't! It's the fastest way, Kingsley, and you know it."
"It isn't safe-"
"Are you coming with me or not? Because I'm Apparating whether you want me to or not."
"Okay," Kingsley solemnly agreed. "You're very stubborn, you know. That's not a compliment. To Hertfordshire."
Yeah, no Ginny or Tom this time. I had to set up a future important scenario. There's TONS of Tom next time, I promise.
No one guessed the meaning of our new DE's name last chapter (it's a faefolk name associated with powerful magics), so I've got an easier one for you this time: why did I talk about the BT Tower? When did Harry see it before? Here's some incentive for a correct answer: write a line, serious or silly, whatever you like, and I'll plop it into a future chapter. This extends to everybody who gets it right, not just the first person. Put your line and guess in a REVIEW or a PM.
Next Time: "I'm not a heartless monster. I can be munificent," Tom replied. Ginny snorted. "You have something to say, little one?" "No," Ginny answered saccharinely. "I was stifling a cough."