Clashes of Power - Part IV
Chapter 36 - Emancipated Minor - Clashes of Power - Part IV
Harry let out a long, frustrated sigh. They'd spent the entire afternoon attempting to get the ROR to open the room that held the hidden horcrux, but had gotten nowhere. He stood beside Lucius and Severus, the three directing identical glares at the current chamber before them, which to Harry appeared to be a drop site for old discards that had been donated for a rummage sale.
"We gave up a Saturday afternoon for this? Looks like the spot where I picked out my first and only pair of glasses," Harry muttered under his breath. He looked up at Lucius and saw the man had literally curled his lip in distaste. He couldn't help but burst out laughing. When Lucius gave him a curious look, Harry said, "Nobody expresses disdain quite like you, Lucius."
"It is a gift," Lucius agreed, smirking at Harry. "Well, what now, gentlemen?"
"We need to keep those two girls away from this room until we find the horcrux," Severus said grimly.
"I'll do frequent sweeps down this corridor," Lucius said. "And will monitor the map for them."
"What about stationing Dobby here at night?" Harry suggested. "He'd stay out of sight, and keep track of anyone else who might be acting a bit off."
"That's a brilliant idea," Remus said, coming over to join them.
"Did you and Dumbledore find any new information?" Harry asked as they all turned to face the approaching Defense professor.
Remus shook his head. "Nothing that stands out. Tom Riddle was the son of a well-to-do muggle man who had family money, and of a witch from a pureblood family, by the name of Gaunt. Historically, the Gaunts had had enviable riches, but for several generations before Tom's, they had been impoverished and rumored to have inbred their family line into idiocy."
"Charming," Lucius sneered, and Harry couldn't help but snicker.
"Is Albus going to pursue the search for Gaunt family heirlooms?" Severus asked.
"It would seem so," Remus said. "He is also expecting to be tasked with deflecting additional Ministry activity on the school grounds that might arise in response to yesterday's events."
"Why is it that the only thing the Ministry of Magic seems to be adept at is getting in the way of stopping Voldemort?" Harry griped.
"I've yet to be contacted about the ongoing status of my post here," Lucius added. "I'll be curious to see who will be put in the role of Interim Minister, and if I will still be considered reliable for this post at that time."
"I don't suppose we could hope it will be someone who is not interested in resurrecting Voldemort?" Harry asked.
"Hmmmm. Do you perhaps mean someone like Fudge?" Severus asked, smirking at Harry's frown. "Regardless, he or she will be a politician. It's rather pointless to hold out hope for an effective leader to come out of this."
Gregory Goyle watched through the one-sided window from the Room of Requirement as his Head of House draped an arm around Harry Potter's shoulders and walked off with him, presumably for a spot of tea, along with Lucius Malfoy and Professor Lupin. Goyle turned to look at Thora Breckin, but the girl had wandered off, and the surroundings of the room were altering dramatically right before his eyes.
"Oy!" he called out. "Now what are you after?"
"Hush!" Thora screeched angrily, walking further away to weave in and out of the endless aisles of stuff. "Just keep watching for intruders. I'll let you know when I need something from you."
Severus was directing Harry back to their quarters with the intention of following up on the boy's revelation in Albus' office earlier today. He'd not yet formulated what he wanted to say to his ward, but he didn't want to let any other distractions prevent him from responding. Harry needed to know how much he mattered to Severus. They were already down in the dungeons when a sleek wolf patronus landed in their path, sitting back on its haunches and saying in Lupin's voice:
"Gregory Goyle and Thora Breckin just flew through the fourth floor corridor at high speed on a broom, firing lethal curses at students in their path. There are casualties. I believe they are planning to exit the castle."
"They've found it," Harry said in agitation. His heart pounded heavily in his chest as he shook his wand from his sleeve. Severus' hand gripped his shoulder tightly, almost painfully.
"You will use your magical strength to protect yourself first, understand?" Severus said harshly. "Remember how much you matter to me, Harry."
Harry jerked his shoulder away. "First of all, ow," he said dramatically, turning and having to put in a tad of effort to match Severus's speed as they jogged down the corridor, back towards the stairwell before adding, "and you will do me the same courtesy," and realizing he'd sounded exactly like his guardian.
Terrified screams were bouncing off of the corridor walls as Remus ran after Goyle and Breckin. He was alarmed at the ferocity of the curses that were hurling out of their wands. He could lose his life if he was hit by one. Any student in their way was in terrible peril. He'd caught a brief view of young Thora, and noted in horror that the girl was wearing an antique tiara, and that she'd looped one arm over Goyle's shoulder in an effort to harness herself to him. Her eyes appeared red as she glared malevolently around her, as if seeking someone in particular.
There were way too many children in the path of destruction. Remus could visibly see the word was spreading quickly that students were down, and that those out and about should take cover. He spotted Lucius on a lower level, racing towards the castle entrance, and other Hogwarts staff were herding students behind closed doors. Minerva was leading that effort. He knew Albus was off site, but had directed his patronus to go to him after notifying Severus and Harry. That had been easier for him to do while running than using the galleon.
"We haven't got any way to destroy the horcrux!" Harry rasped as they raced up the last stairwell that led to the Entrance Hall. "And we're definitely close to one - my scar hurts!"
"We will take it down to the Chamber if possible," Severus said in a low tone, not reacting to Harry's confession, but slowing and gesturing for Harry to stay behind him as they crested the final stairs to get a full view of the castle's entrance.
"Nooooooo!" a terrified young girl's wail of fear echoed off the immense stone walls, far above their heads, growing progressively louder.
Harry recognized Mabel's voice. He looked up in horror and saw that she was being dragged beneath the speeding broom, dangling precariously by her jumper, arms and legs flailing, fifteen feet above the hard, cold floor, and headed toward the vast doorway. Thora Breckin and Greg Goyle were on the boom, wands moving in unison, as if they were one unit, firing off blasting and scorching hexes that created constant explosions of flying debris. It was quite apparent that the curses were coming from some sort of combined energy field that was sourcing both students' magic, and also utilizing both of their wands. Harry wondered how much additional power was coming from the horcrux.
"They need to be broken apart!" Severus called, but his voice was overpowered by the volume of noise from the blasts. He watched the pair of students zip by, aiming to fly directly over Lucius' head as he stood in the doorway with feet planted apart, wand at the ready, rage and determination pinching his expression. Severus craned his neck to yell back to Harry to summon his Firebolt. A second later, the teen was passing the broom to his guardian, who mounted it and launched into the air.
But the Thora-and-Greg duo had already sailed through the doorway, seemingly impervious to Lucius' hexing, and still hauling poor Mabel by her jumper. Another second passed and Remus appeared on his Firebolt, racing after Severus and out the door into the frigid winter air. Harry chased after them, following Lucius, who was also on foot. They watched in frustration as both Severus and Remus were forced to throw up shields to block horrifically powerful scalding hexes that had been cast simultaneously from the flying assailants' wands as they engaged in a ferocious midair wand battle.
Harry and Lucius spun back to see Ron and Draco racing toward them on their brooms. Ron jumped off of his as it flew lower toward the ground. The Cleansweep flew on its own to Harry, who yelled his thanks as he jumped aboard and sped after the others. His scar was growing more and more painful, and he had a very bad feeling about where those troublemakers were going on their broom, and what reaching their destination could yield for Wizarding Britain.
Lucius had nearly caught up to Harry. "Those two need to be broken apart!" he called out. "Harry, you must not put yourself in danger!"
"I'll be careful!" Harry called over his shoulder. "My scar really hurts - we've got to catch them. They're off to find Nagini!"
They sped along through the sky, high above the snow covered grounds to join Severus and Remus who were circling around the assailants, attempting to block their progress and force them off balance. In the meantime, Mabel Dawlish's jumper was beginning to tear at the seam on one side. She'd soon break through it, and her fall would be fatal. Severus and Remus each cast a silent, but very forceful expelliarmus, and Goyle's wand broke out of his grip. The teenager pulled up on the broom handle, causing himself and his passenger to tilt backward, but they quickly redirected their flight path towards Severus, and now Harry. Pain erupted in Harry's scar and he cried out. The sound made Severus' heart stop, but he kept his focus, and immediately felt the Dark Lord's venomous wrath in the vicinity. Then he saw it, in the red orbs glaring through Thora Breckin's eyes, as she peered around Goyle's back to rage at Severus.
"You traitorous scum! You'll feel my wrath again very soon, Severus!" Voldemort's voice intermingled with Thora's as the adolescent screamed at Severus.
Severus scowled and cast three back-to-back expelliarmus charms at her, to no avail.
Harry held onto his broom, caring only about helping Mabel. Seeing his chance, he went into a steep dive to get directly below Breckin and Goyle, where he was less visible to them and far less of a viable target.
Lucius cast a blasting hex at Goyle, and then another, and then another. All three bounced off of the large teenaged boy as if he had the same kind of magical field around him that Harry could create. Severus noted this in the split second it took to witness it, and instead of firing his own hexes, he threw up a solid contego shield in their flight path. First the broom, then Goyle slammed into it, and the impact was strong enough to break Goyle and Breckin apart, effectively disrupting the link combining their energy, as Goyle toppled off the broom and plummeted down toward the rocky hillside below. A blast of yellow magical energy shot at the unconscious Goyle from somewhere on the grounds. The magic slowed the last twenty feet of his decline enough so that he only fell with the impact of having fallen five or six feet. Harry looked down and saw Dumbledore had cast the spell from the snowy hillside below.
"Lashio!" Lucius yelled as he looped downward toward the unconscious Goyle, sending thick leather straps to bind his arms and legs together behind his back.
Thora was still on the broom and had risen higher up. She was aware of Harry hovering below her, but the distractions, albeit ineffective efforts, of the curses flying at her from Severus and Remus prevented her from attacking Harry. She cast a series of wicked shredding curses at Remus, forcing him to shield himself repeatedly, as she yelled angry war cries that were utterly nonsensical and completely agitating. Severus shot blasting hexes her way, but she still had that magical field of protection around her. Lucius saw that Harry was poised to catch the falling Mabel, and sent a slicing hex to cut through the section of her jumper that had her trapped beneath Thora's broom.
Mabel shrieked in fear as she fell, but Harry caught her as easily as he'd caught the winning snitch in his last quidditch match and promptly shielded them both under his magical field. He flew out of hexing range, one arm around the small second year. He was struggling to remain coherent against the pain in his scar, but her fear was palpable enough to keep him focused. "You're okay, you're okay," he said into Mabel's ear, one arm circled around her middle as they flew, lower and lower, to land on the edge of the wood and hover behind a tree to obscure them from Thora's view. "Dumbledore's here now," Harry told her. "He'll help end this."
But the tides shifted right about then, as it occurred to Severus to set Thora's broom ablaze, and in the time it took for Harry to blink his eyes, the broom had burned to ashes and Thora was falling through the air. He heard Dumbledore call out an arresto momentum and she landed about thirty feet away from Harry, flat on her back, not moving. Lucius was the first to land beside her and was immediately blasted backwards and down the incline. Dumbledore managed to cushion the impact Lucius suffered on landing as well, and the blond wizard was angrily on his feet in a matter of seconds. Now Dumbledore held up his hands to warn them all to keep their distance. Severus and Remus circled above on their brooms. Lucius had moved over to where Harry had landed and was positioning himself to shield Mabel. Thora sat up and looked around, wand in hand, red eyes that didn't belong to her glaring at everything they focused upon. When they landed on Harry, he felt it, full force.
"Harry!" Severus called down when he saw Harry drop to his knees, hands clawing at his scar.
Harry struggled desperately. The pain was excruciating, and although he was frightened by it, he couldn't bear the thought of not doing what he could to protect Severus and the others from what he sensed was about to happen. He dragged himself to his feet and forced his eyes open, taking in the sight of that nasty Thora Breckin, noting belatedly that she was wearing the Ravenclaw diadem. A rush of hostile tension that was not his own pulsed through his veins. Harry was certain that Thora's seal of protection was in place because she had the diadem on. He felt that familiar pull, realizing he was being drawn to her. He stepped a few steps closer, watching Thora watch him.
"Take the bloody diadem off, Thora," Harry ordered her.
"Hahhahhah!" She cackled, sounding far more like Bellatrix Lestrange than any twelve year old should ever do. "Thora Breckin has ceased to exist, Harry, just ask her little friend over there," again Voldemort's voice mixed in with the girl's.
A thrill of dread rushed through Harry's veins as he realized he was being told Thora Breckin was as good as dead. His memories of Quirrell resurfaced, and he had a horrible feeling Thora was far beyond saving. The pain in his scar continued to throb horribly, and suddenly increased dramatically as he sensed a flash of motion from the wood behind Lucius. "No!" he yelled in horror as Nagini slithered so quickly from the shadows, Harry felt like he'd been stunned into long seconds of immobility when he remembered it later. But in actuality, the snake moved at lightening speed, sliding past Lucius and Mabel and heading directly for Harry. He shielded himself with his wild magic, and she seemed to be diverted, continuing directly onward to Thora. Harry was aware of Severus and Remus watching helplessly from above, unable to effectively cast any sort of spell to deter the snake without hitting the girl. They all seemed to realize that the real danger would set in if the snake and horcrux-hosting witch linked their magic. Harry visualized his magical barrier around Thora, which was a significant task for him while he was in so much blinding pain. The airborne wizards immediately cast innumerable slashing hexes at Nagini, many making contact and slicing into her flesh, perhaps even reopening last week's wounds, but there was a frenzied drive in the way she attempted to bite through the barrier around Thora. Thora laughed maniacally, watching with glee, clearly confident the snake would succeed.
Another memory surfaced in Harry's mind, this time of the fight with the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. Where the hell is the bloody Sword of Gryffindor when we need it? he griped inwardly. He looked down. It lay at his feet! Struggling with waning strength, Harry grabbed the heavy sword. He had to release his own magical field to get enough strength to charge toward the flailing beast, who was still attempting to break through the field he'd put around Thora.
"No, Harry!" Dumbledore's voice broke through Harry's concentration. "We cannot destroy Nagini just yet. I believe there is an important order to their destruction."
Harry stopped in his tracks. Suddenly, an enormous tongue-like wave of frigid water washed over Nagini, swirling itself and the massive snake within it, into a tumultuous ball of turbulence. The ball spun in place, like a top, the chill temperature rendering the snake immobile. Harry looked over at Dumbledore, who was using his wand and his hand to mold his magic while he continued to keep the snake captive. After another several moments of the winding and rolling within the waterball, Dumbledore finally cast an extremely powerful burst of magic that flung the ball of water, along with Nagini, fiercely into the air, where it sailed out of sight, presumably deep into the Forbidden Forest. The Headmaster immediately directed a similar containment spell at Thora, also encircling her in rushing water, as he'd done to Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic. She was not strong enough to end the spell, so she remained trapped. They could see her mouth moving as she screamed her vile, vitriolic rant, but she was not a threat at the moment.
The pain in Harry's scar receded a bit, but it still hurt. Severus landed beside him, leaving the broom aside and cupping his hand around Harry's head and gently pulling the young wizard against his chest, ducking his own head down to press his cheek against the boy's temple.
"Harry, can you summon a basilisk fang from the Chamber?" he asked in a low voice.
"Yeah," Harry whispered, leaning into the rush of comfort that he always felt from Severus for a moment, before pulling away so that he wouldn't trigger an ebb to his adrenaline just yet. If he did, he'd start to shake and probably burst into tears. This was not yet over. He was aware of Severus' hand moving to his neck as he closed his eyes and visualized one of the bottom fangs still intact in the basilisk carcass' mouth. It was in his hand in the next moment.
"Hold it steady," Severus requested. He conjured a small glass flask and cast a summoning charm used for gathering delicate liquids for potions ingredients. They both watched as a small amount of basilisk venom dribbled upward, out of the jagged top of the fang, and into an arc to pour itself into the flask.
"Is it enough?" Harry asked fretfully.
"We'll keep the Sword nearby," Dumbledore said. He'd made his way over to where Severus and Harry stood, and now Remus had joined them.
Lucius was still a small distance away, down on one knee and speaking quietly to the very frightened Mabel Dawlish.
"Do you think we can save Thora if we can get the diadem off of her head?" Remus asked Dumbledore.
"The longer she keeps it on, the less likely, I'll bet," Harry said painfully. His heart was racing, and he was beginning to feel sick, between the pain he was in, and the level of fear he now felt for the girl who was being held hostage by a piece of Voldemort's soul.
"Indeed, and we should not delay any further," Dumbledore said. He led them toward the girl in the ball of water. "Now Harry, I believe you will need to demand that the diadem release itself from the girl." He looked first at Harry, and then Severus and Remus with a grim look. "I do not know what will follow, my boys, so be prepared for the worst."
"I'll use my wild magic to hold her down," Harry told them. "Hopefully, she won't be able to break through it." He stopped a few feet from the splashing edges of the swirling water cage and began to imagine Thora feeling incredibly heavy and weak. After a moment, he nodded at Dumbledore and the water disappeared, leaving Thora flat on her back, staring up at the sky, much the way Harry had done that day in the Forbidden Forest. Harry glared at the diadem on her head and said in parseltongue, "Open! Open! Open!" he kept repeating the command. Thora began to scream in fury and the tarnished tiara began to smoke.
Her screams began as rage, but shifted to agonized pain with each successive command from Harry. Harry blanched in horror, realizing he was torturing her, and not knowing whether it was the little girl in pain, or Voldemort. Horrible guilt clogged his throat and he stopped speaking the directive.
"Keep trying, Harry!" Dumbledore called.
Harry noticed Severus moving closer to Thora with the flask in hand. Realizing they expected him to continue, Harry repeated the command for the diadem to open, watching as Severus knelt beside the girl, conjured an eyedropper and began to carefully apply basilisk venom to the band of the diadem, where it had contact with the girl's forehead and scalp. The smoking grew more intense, as did Thora's screams. Nausea rose in Harry's stomach and he had to stop, doubling over, and struggling not to vomit, just as the ancient Ravenclaw headpiece popped off of Thora's head, releasing a horrifying surge of dark magic. A burst of hot air filled with a fetid stench blew each of them off their feet. Now Harry really did sick up, but any sound he made was engulfed within a blaring howl of Voldemort's exponential anger. Remus grabbed the Sword of Gryffindor and swung it mightily down across the center curve of the diadem. The swirl of black smoke rushed out, seeking and finding Harry, and possessing him through the curve of his back as he lay collapsed over his bent knees, struggling to stop vomiting.
Inside Harry's mind, Voldemort laughed tauntingly, telling him exactly what he most feared: You just tortured an innocent girl, Harry. You made her scream and writhe in pain. And you call me a monster. I've told you, we are one and the same, have I not?
Severus scrambled over to his ward, kneeling beside him to whisper urgently into the boy's ear, "Harry, push the bastard out, son. Let him see how much I love you." He quickly vanished the sick from the ground around the boy, and then lay his hand on Harry's back. "Just remember that I love you, and I'm right here."
Harry heard Severus and smiled for a flash of an instant amidst the battle of nausea, guilt, torment and horrible pain in his head. Just remember that I love you, and I'm right here. There was a horrible wrench of force that seemed to yank itself through Harry's body, and then the swirl of sandy black smoke evacuated and disappeared into the air around him. Harry let out a groan of frustration.
"Is it the standard nausea, or something more, son?" Severus asked as he threaded his hand through Harry's hair, gently massaging the boy's scalp. Harry let out a sob and began to rock forward and backward, staying collapsed over his legs. Severus let him cry hard for a few moments, but that was all he could stand. "Shhhshh," he said, rising up on his knees and pulling Harry up by his arms so that he could hug him properly. "Hush, son, you've handled yourself beautifully." Harry clung to him, and Severus knew without asking that this event had done real damage to the boy's conscience. At the moment, Severus was at a loss as to how to console Harry, because he himself felt the same guilt and strain.