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Stories begun in 2006 (post-HBP)

Author Notes:

This is the final, edited, complete version of Harry Potter and the Last Horcrux.  Chapters 1 through 14 were completely written prior to publication of Deathly Hallows in 2008; chapters 15 through 19 and the alternate ending were in draft or outline form by that time. 

TEN
The Warring Mind and Heart

Ollivander reverently paged through the Grimoire. “This... this is the true Grimoire of Ravenclaw... I never actually... good heavens,” he stammered. “There was a long-standing story in my family that our Grimoire was merely a copy, but we always believed that to be fiction. This... there are so many  notations. I... I thank you for allowing me...”

Hermione waved him off. “It belongs to you, Mr. Ollivander,” she said.

“You need it more than I, child,” Ollivander said. “Upon my death, I will the Grimoire of Rowena Ravenclaw into the custody of Miss Hermione Granger, or failing that, to Mr. Harry Potter – so mote it be.” A flash of light sealed the proclamation.

Hermione's eyes nearly bugged from her head; “Mr. Ollivander! I... I...”

“I have no remaining siblings, and none of us brought children into this world,” he said. “I am the last of my line. Use the Grimoire wisely. If you honour the ideals of Ravenclaw, then there is nothing to fear.”

“I'm a Gryffindor, sir,” Hermione said meekly.

“Is that so?” Ollivander said with surprise. “Eh, pay that no mind; you possess the proper intellect. The rest is a matter of perspective and will, and I shall instruct you if Miss Stefánsdóttir agrees.”

“There should be little pain until the end,” Gudrun said softly. “I can maintain you for perhaps five days.”

“Then five days it shall be,” said Ollivander. “One thing that old Dumbledore and I agreed upon was that death is nothing to be feared. Without death, there can be no life.”

Harry couldn't resist asking, “What else did you agree upon?”

Ollivander chuckled until he began to cough once again. “Little else, Mr. Potter – little else,” he managed.

“Mr. Ollivander,” Hermione began, “I've identified a number of spells and rituals that I believe may be useful against Voldemort. Since you're familiar with the Grimoire, I was wondering...?”

“I have committed the family copy to memory, actually,” Ollivander said. “We may as well begin. Miss Stefánsdóttir, would you remain? I would welcome your unique perspective on these matters.” The conversation quickly descended into rune chains and force potentials and Gudrun's occasional protestations that the old magics were much simpler and more direct. Harry listened, then fidgeted quite a lot as they drifted into a discussion about Harry's maternal protections.

Ron wandered into the Hospital Wing. “Ollivander looks worse than I did; didn't think that was possible,” he said in a whisper.

“Dunno... it's not like you're the best looking bloke...” Harry teased.

“Fine, I won't loan you this,” Ron said. He pulled out a worn copy of L'équipe du Quidditch. “It's from February, and it's French, but at least it's something. How long do you think it'll take to get the leagues going when this is all over?”

Harry started to laugh and drew a glare from Hermione. “Don't ever change, mate,” he said, and cast a translation charm on the magazine.

They left for a time, and Harry sat and talked with Ron in the kitchens during his friend's meagre meal – they had to turn away the house-elves five times as they continued to bring more food. When the conversation waned, he asked Ron, “Do you think what Gudrun does is better than our magic?”

Ron shrugged. “It's all magic,” he said. “Is any of it better or worse – other than the really dark stuff, I mean?”

“Dumbledore said once that Voldemort doesn't have any respect for the old magics,” Harry said.

“You think he respects anything at all?” asked Ron.

“He likes power, craves it,” said Harry. “That means he thinks old magics aren't powerful... do you suppose...? My mum's protections were old magic, too... thanks, Ron!”

“Erm... you're welcome?” Ron said as Harry bolted from the kitchens.

He clattered into the Hospital Wing so quickly that he knocked over a cart of supplies. There were no potion bottles atop it, but the sound of the metal striking the floor caused Hermione to draw her wand.

“Harry, what on Earth are you doing?” she demanded.

“Voldemort doesn't think the old magics are powerful,” he panted. “That's why he didn't think about my mum's protections; he didn't think they would matter. It was old magic. Don't you get it?”

“What am I supposed to 'get'?” asked Hermione.

“It's a power he doesn't know!” Harry groaned. “The power he knows not?

“Oh, Harry – of course!” Hermione said with delight. Gudrun put on an expression that was almost smug.

“There is far more old magic referenced in this Grimoire than I would ever have anticipated,” Ollivander said. "Perhaps you're on to something, Mr. Potter?”

“Why is it so different than your family's copy?” Hermione wondered aloud.

Ollivander said, “I suppose that some of the differences were intentional, but do keep in mind that magic is not easily copied. A grimoire is no mere book – it is a conscious collection of one's magical knowledge, and thus the text itself is imbued with magic.  There is a reason that any personal grimoires in Hogwarts' collections were kept on restriction.  Thus, copying such a book is not a matter for a simple duplication spell, as on a student parchment. Copies of magical items of any sort are inevitably degraded from the original. I recall someone who tried to create magical copies of pygmy puffs, hoping to create the next great wizarding business. With each copy, they changed. The poor fellow was nearly eaten by the fourth copy of a copy. This is one reason why the world needs wand makers, for a wand core cannot be duplicated.”

“Was your mother a mistress of runes, Harry?” asked Gudrun.

“Her wand was best suited for charms work -” Ollivander observed.

“I was asking about the casting of runes, not the waving of wands,” Gudrun said.

“All I ever heard about were Charms and Potions,” Harry told her.

“If you would have permitted, Miss, I would have added that the greatest masters of charms have all been gifted in the area of runes. The two disciplines are by necessity linked,” added Ollivander.

“Someone could have told me that before I wasted two years in Divination...” grumbled Harry.

“Potions could also be used...” Gudrun murmured.

“What are you after?” Harry asked.

“I believe the protection placed by your mother was runic in nature,” said Gudrun. “Why else would the scar left on your forehead take the precise form and scale of a rune?”

“Madam Ravenclaw was an expert in the casting of runes, according to lore,” Ollivander said.

“It's more than lore,” Harry said idly, thinking of the Hogwarts wards and the Great Hall ceiling.

“But what sort of charm or potion would deliberately cast a rune in the event of the caster's death?” Hermione asked.

“We all hold both grœð and græð...” Gudrun said slowly. “There are... rituals... practices that allow a dying mage to project grœð in defence of another. Without knowing what the Killing Curse actually does to the magics, I cannot know whether your protections were similar.”

“What about the Unspeakables?” Harry proposed. “Would they have an idea of it?”

“It's not exactly a curse you can research...” Hermione said, then stopped and added nervously, “Is it?”

She had her answer a few minutes later, after a fashion. The two Unspeakables who had examined the destroyed copy of the Grimoire came to the Hospital Wing when ordered by Shacklebolt to offer assistance. The Department of Mysteries had recorded data on over one hundred uses of the Killing Curse; one of the Unspeakables hastened to add that most of the data were centuries old.

“We know that the Curse displaces the life energy of the victim – the soul, if you're so inclined,” said the other Unspeakable. “The problem is that we don't know where the energy goes. Because of the existence of ghosts, most wizards believe that this energy is transported into an afterlife of some sort.”

Gudrun rolled her eyes. “Magic is belief,” she snorted; “You people, you understand nothing.”

“Magic is a qualifiable and, in many instances, quantifiable force,” the first Unspeakable said as though he were lecturing a child. “Our studies of a variety of charms and curses, from Lumos to Avada Kedavra, have allowed us to standardise force, velocity, displacement and a variety of other variables. Studies with the Veil of Death and the Room of Magical Energies have corroborated –”

“Veil of Death? You study a Veil of Death? The only means to study such an abomination is to put living creatures through it!” Gudrun snapped. “What is a Room of Magical Energies? I have not heard of such a thing. Magical energy, as you wrongly call it, is everywhere – it is not found in a single room.”

“Oh, no, we wouldn't put magical creatures through the Veil simply for study,” the second Unspeakable said. “It has been used solely for executions – but not for a number of years, of course.”

“You are savages,” Gudrun said flatly.

Both Unspeakables were affronted. “We are scientists, Madam!” they protested.

“As for the Room of Magical Energies... well, it's something of a state secret, but the Minister was adamant that we answer any questions posed,” the first Unspeakable admitted. “There is a room within the Department of Mysteries – ”

“There is a room...” Harry murmured.

“That's what I said,” the Unspeakable began again. “Bosphorus Blake, the first Head of the Unspeakables, used a set of charmed mirrors and a spell of some sort to focus a store of magical energies into a special room at the Department.  The spell and the mirrors have long been lost, but the energies remain. It is self-replenishing – a completely confounding phenomenon. The energies in that room violate all arithmantic expectations save one, which is that magical energy reacts in equal and opposite fashion to the application of additional magical energy from an external source.”

“You... you filled a room with grœð!” Gudrun shrieked. “Thank all that is holy you did not secure græð, or you would have killed one another long ago! Do you find that your scientists either become quite healthy or quite ill when working around this room? I imagine that most become ill or injured, do they not?”

“Yes, but you couldn't know that,” the Unspeakable said.

“What you have done is evil,” said Gudrun. “Grœð is justice. It cannot heal a truly evil man or one who commits gross injustices; it is as likely to hurt him. It can bring a good man back from the edge of death if the healing is a just one.”

Ollivander stirred from what had looked like sleep. “Fascinating,” he said;  “You believe mankind to be good or evil and magic to be just or unjust. You live the Ravenclaw ideal.”

“I think this lot's a bit off, if you ask me,” the first Unspeakable said to the second.

“If you've finished with your questions...?” asked the second Unspeakable.

“Leave us,” Gudrun growled. When the Unspeakables had left, she added, “I must consult with the Healing Order. The faúra-gaggja and others of the Healing Order will look at these spells of yours, Mr. Ollivander, and they will also consider what is to be done about this Room.  Justice demands it.”

“Do not judge them too harshly,” Ollivander warned, “not until you make the effort to understand what drives their way of thinking. My House lost its way centuries ago. The Ravenclaw students and alumni of the present prize knowledge at any cost, whether to themselves or others. This thinking has even plagued my family, which is doubly dangerous when a family is cursed.”

“Cursed? Your entire family was cursed?” Hermione gasped.

“It was a line curse, actually, cast by the Egyptian witch Cleopatra. At the time, my forebear refused to create a staff for the vile woman,” Ollivander said. “It was that cursed forebear who earned my family its name, and her curse has manifested once every seven generations for two thousand years.” He took out his wand and with an unsteady hand wrote his last name in flames:

Ollivander

and then rearranged the letters:

An Evil Lord

“Just as well that my line is at an end,” he said ruefully; “In four, perhaps five generations, the cycle would repeat once again. There was my brother, you see... his name was Walden Ollivander...”

“You can do that with Voldemort's name, too. He showed me himself, right down to the flames,” Harry said.

“Why am I not surprised?” said Ollivander. “He is a thief – immensely powerful, but a thief nonetheless.”

Walden Ollivander...? What was your brother's middle name?” Hermione asked.

“You are a clever one, aren't you?” Ollivander said. “His full name was Walden Grindelius Ollivander.”

“My God! He was Grindelwald, wasn't he?” Hermione blurted out.

Ollivander bowed his head. “I have made my peace with that. Dumbledore was not so charitable. For the crime of not joining him personally to chase my brother toward prison and death, I have led a somewhat restricted life for the last fifty years – unable to leave Britain and return, unable to hold the Ravenclaw family seat on the Wizengamot, unable to invest except via the goblins...”

“I don't understand something, sir. How did you become heir to Ravenclaw if you're an Ollivander?” Harry asked.

“Ah, that would be due to Madam Ravenclaw's granddaughter, Rosina. Rosina had no siblings and three daughters. Her oldest daughter, Eleni, married Reinhardt Ollivander in 1073. That is how lines often end and consolidate – your family has received several lines in that fashion, Mr. Potter: Wright, Stanwix and Boothby come immediately to mind,” explained Ollivander. “Alas, I've diverted from my point. Ravenclaws such as the men to whom you just spoke have no beliefs. They understand what they can see and what they can measure. To them, magic is something to be studied and therefore controlled. That is their idea of a just cause.

“Since the Great Separation, it has only become worse. Twelve generations of wizards have come to believe that secrecy is necessary and therefore any means to achieve it is just. It is a very small reach to conclude that magic controlled should be magic wielded in support of the cause. My brother concluded that the only means to maintain our secrecy in the long term was to control the Muggles entirely, and he acted to that end. He used and supported the vilest of Muggles in his attempts. In so doing, he was complicit in millions of deaths.

“Remember, Miss Granger, that a false sense of justice can lead a good wizard to perform unjust and even evil acts. Remain true to justice – remain true to magic herself – and you can use Madam Ravenclaw's magic as it was intended. The challenge is knowing when to let the heart govern the mind instead of the reverse... not the simplest of choices to make, I'll grant you,” Ollivander's eyes fluttered. “I am tired and cold. Return tomorrow, Miss Granger, and we shall continue our lessons.”

 

July 26, 1998     Hogwarts Castle & environs, Perth & Kinross, Scotland

“I don't understand – you're saying that my mum found the Grimoire when she was a student?” Harry asked.

Hermione shook her head. “I'm not saying that... well, not necessarily. Somehow, some way, she found this protection ritual. This simply must be it!”

“It is a surprise to me that one of those who created the English magical ideal was so versed in old magics,” Gudrun said as she paged through the section of the Grimoire that Hermione had marked. “Perhaps she did not realise what she had wrought, with this schooling and these houses of yours?”

“The Houses worked for a thousand years,” Hermione said defensively.

“Is that so? One of your houses is set on knowledge but lacks the wisdom to use it; another mistakes foolish risk for courage; the third is use by the others to show that loyalty lacks value; and the fourth has lain waste to your country,” Gudrun snapped; she looked to Harry and added, “I do think your partner speaks the truth about the protections placed by your mother.”

“My partner...?” Harry mumbled.

“Please do not play the fool,” Gudrun said; “You are partners in every way now – this is clear to anyone with eyes that see.” Hermione blushed to her toes at that.

“Here's hoping some people need glasses more than I do,” muttered Harry.

“Ronald has excellent vision,” said Gudrun with a small, soft smile. “Do not be concerned; he would give his blessing, if he was asked of it –”

“Perhaps we should come back to this ritual?” Hermione cut in.

Gudrun nodded and said, “The faúra-gaggja agrees that this is likely what your mother cast upon herself prior to the attack by Skí-maðr –”

“This Skí-maðr of yours must be Voldemort, but I never figured that you'd be the sort to avoid his name,” Harry said.

“It is not that at all,” Gudrun insisted. “We knew that Voldemort was a name of his choosing. The members of the Althing – the elected leaders – instead chose their own name for him. It means 'The Pretender'. In our legends, The Pretender sought the throne of the Lord of Death.”

“That's appropriate, isn't it?” Hermione said. “So we know what your mother did to protect you, Harry; what we don't know is the result.”

“Er... I'd say the result was pretty clear,” Harry snorted; he pointed to himself.

“She refers to that which remains,” Gudrun said. “This is not a hard thing to find.” She tossed one of her rune stones and a bed appeared similar to the one she had used to examine Hermione at their first meeting; she patted the top and motioned to Harry.  Once Harry laid down, she placed a series of the stones around his head and feet.

“What are you doing, exactly?” Hermione asked.

“Finding the connections between Harry and the magic is a simple matter. We do not tell the magic what to do – we do not coax it. We must follow the magic where it goes,” Gudrun said. She tapped the stones with her strange charred stick in an intricate pattern, and Harry was suddenly bathed in a white light that seemed blotted with grey above his head. Gudrun took in a sharp breath.

“What? What is it?” Harry asked.

“I have never seen such a light,” Gudrun said slowly. “You are not just connected to grœð, as the rest of us – you are filled with it...”

“O... kay... I'm guessing that's the white light, but why is there grey above me?” he wondered.

“It isn't grey,” Hermione said; “Your scar is pitch black.”

“It is pure græð – the complete opposite of the rest of you,” Gudrun explained.

“That's the horcrux, then,” said Harry.

“I think this is a good thing,” Gudrun said cautiously. “The scar holds the horcrux; it is not a part of you. It is like a cancer being attacked by the body's defences. If it is not a part of you, then it can be removed without killing the body.” Hermione let out an enormous sigh of relief.

“But we still don't know how to do it,” Harry added.

“You're averse to good news, aren't you?” grumbled Hermione.

 

July 27, 1998     Hogwarts castle and environs, Perth & Kinross, Scotland

“The French will be offended by your choice of name,” warned Pedersen, the Norwegian representative from the International Confederation.

“Voldemort has taken our country, and I'm to worry about French sensibilities? Where are their gendarmes? Where is their financial support? The answer is the same for the Germans, the Italians, the Spaniards... at home, and in their banks. Will Norway be troubled? Sweden? Denmark? Iceland? We are at war! This is a Council of War!” Shacklebolt snapped.

“I do not disagree,” Pedersen said. “I am merely saying that the French will use this as an excuse for why they have withheld support, as will the other European ministries.”

“Then they do not understand,” Magnus said. “They are fortunate not to have faced Voldemort during the last war.”

“Many of them supported Voldemort in the last war,” Mr. Weasley pointed out. “Just last month, the Albanian minister called Voldemort's takeover a vindication of Grindelwald.”

“We're better served without any of them,” Amos Diggory spat.

“Let's call this to order, then,” Shacklebolt said. “Miss Weasley, thank you for agreeing to take the notes. This is the first full meeting of the Council for War of the Ministry-in-Exile of England and Scotland, Minister Shacklebolt presiding. Present are myself, Arthur Weasley, Amos Diggory, Herbert Macmillan, Bertrand Blake, Augustus Calloway, Harry Potter, Ernie Macmillan, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Fred and George Weasley, Bill Weasley, Fleur Delacour, and Ginny Weasley; three representatives from our Icelandic friends: Gudrun Stefánsdóttir, Magnus Jorgensson and Einar Stefánsson; Erik Pedersen, representing both our Norwegian friends and the International Confederation of Wizards; and Johan Lund, representing our friends from Sweden. Anders Twing is in transit; he will represent Danish interests.” Ginny gave a sudden smile at the last name, Harry noticed.

“Amos, give us an update on the numbers,” Shacklebolt went on.

Diggory pulled out a parchment and perched a pair of small spectacles at the end of his nose. “After the attack on us, our estimates are that Voldemort is down to about seventy marked followers and a number of irregulars – no more than fifty of those. One pack of werewolves is still in his corner, numbering between fifteen and twenty-five; he has a handful of vampires; and a colony of giants, numbering between eight and twelve. We believe several of his foreign interests have cut off funds since he failed to take us out, and our man in Wiltshire says that a group of Russian irregulars has fled the country.”

“What about the Dementors?” Mr. Macmillan asked.

“They don't appear to be in Voldemort's control any more,” said Diggory. “I received a report that a large group of them have been wandering the streets in Luton.”

“They surely won't stay; 10 Galleons says there won't be another sighting there,” Ernie Macmillan said with certainty.

“And on what basis could you possibly come to that conclusion?” Blake – one of the Unspeakables – said with a sneer.

“The things seek out Muggles so they can, erm, graze on all of the happiness in the air, right?” Ernie confirmed.

“That is correct.  Dementors rarely kiss Muggles but will seek out their ambient positive emotions.  What is your point?” Blake demanded.

“Happiness, sir?  Again, they're in Luton,” Ernie dead-panned; his father nearly managed a spit-take. 

Mr. Weasley gave a parental glare of disapproval and then said, “Right, then... control of the Dementors will have to be an early order of business when this is over.”

“Agreed,” said Shacklebolt. “What do we have, then?”

Diggory reported, “We've seventy-eight able bodied adults ready to fight, seven healers, sixteen of the under aged students who Longbottom has trained up, the six Guardians from Iceland, thirty-three Norwegian irregulars who are coming through from Shetland -”

“I can promise another twenty by the 31st,” Pedersen cut in.

“Good, good,” said Diggory. “We have twenty-two Swedes -”

“Twenty-three,” Lund said. “You don't expect me to sit here and wait, do you?"

“Twenty-three, then,” Diggory returned with a smile.  "Anders said he was bringing eighteen with him from Copenhagen. They were coming in via Edinburgh. I haven't been able to reach them yet.”

“Do you think they might make the rendezvous in the Orkneys?” Ginny asked.

“That's likely,” admitted Diggory. “Kingsley, can I leave a man there for a day or two?”

“We'll decide that later,” Shacklebolt said. “In the meantime, keep trying to reach Anders. Is that the lot, Amos?”

“That's all of us,” Diggory said; “We're just shy of two hundred.”

“This is the first time since the collapse that we've had them outnumbered,” said Shacklebolt. “This is why we need to strike now.”

“Why not wait until we can raise another fifty to one hundred fighters?” Blake asked. “Why not try harder to get the Colonies into the fray?”

“The United States is ready to help with reconstruction but won't commit fighters, and Canada will send sixty irregulars but can't have them here until mid-August at the earliest,” Shacklebolt said. “Would you rather we give Voldemort time to recruit? I know we had losses – far too many losses – but we've rooted out Dawlish and we did take down over thirty of their people.”

“Could you consider hiring mercenaries?” Calloway – another Unspeakable – asked.

“And what if You-Know-Who buys them off?  It's a good way to surround yourself with traitors, and we've had enough difficulty with that as it is,” Diggory pointed out.

Mr. Weasley added, “Hiring mercenaries also implies the means to pay them.  We remain dependent on charity, I'm afraid.  It's neither fair nor practical to tax a citizenry in exile, and we haven't access to the Ministry's funds despite the ICW's repeated orders to the goblins.”

Shacklebolt's smile, always present but often forced in recent days, slipped completely.  “What's the excuse this time?” he growled.

“Ragnok's happy to hand us bags of galleons.  All we have to do is walk into Diagon Alley to collect them.  They claim it's unsafe for them to convey any vault contents outside of Gringotts at this time,” Bill Weasley said.

“More evidence they're on You-Know-Who's side,” Diggory grunted.  “We'd damn well better pull all the Ministry gold out of there when this is over,” said Diggory.

“Which would set off a rebellion,” Bill returned.

“Which is why we should never bank with them in the first place,” Diggory growled.

“Which is why every settlement agreement since the 1500's has required us to do exactly that.  Gold is leverage,” said Bill.

“Five hundred year old problems aren't on the agenda today, gentlemen.  Today's problems are quite enough,” Shacklebolt cut in.  “We have the forces that we have.  We haven't the money to rent an army, and we couldn't trust that army even if we had the money.”

“And so you move forward without sufficient personnel?  Will you consider it a victory if no one is left standing on either side?” snapped Blake.

Shacklebolt looked him dead in the eyes and said flatly, “If Voldemort is dead, then the answer is yes.”

“I say...” Blake mumbled.

“We haven't the luxury to wait for Canada, I'm afraid.  The Muggles aren't going to let this go on until mid-August,” Shacklebolt continued. “I've met with the Prime Minister and he's made that clear. They don't know where Hogwarts is located exactly, but they have a fair idea. Tell me this, Blake – do you know how high the Muggle aversion charms extend above the castle?”

“How high? What, do you expect them to ride in on brooms?” Blake scoffed.

“No, I expect them to ride in on aeroplanes and drop bombs atop us until they hit something!” Shacklebolt shouted. “Hermione, do you want to explain to Mr. Blake precisely what a Muggle bomb can do?”

“What sort of bomb?” Hermione asked.

“The PM said, and I quote, 'We'll turn the Highlands to glass if that's what it takes to convince you',” recounted Shacklebolt.

“My God... he wouldn't seriously use nuclear weapons on his own country?” Hermione gasped.

“He would, and he'd blame it on those terrorist chaps – you know, the IRS?” Shacklebolt said.

“It was the IRA, I'm sure, but I doubt he'd blame a group native to the country.  Even the thought of nuclear weapons... Mr. Blake, they could easily reduce Hogwarts and everything for miles around it to to a pile of ash,” explained Hermione.

“Pish-tosh,” Blake said; “Next you'll be telling me that their muskets can hit us here from London.”

Hermione groaned and then told him, “Muskets were used hundreds of years ago, and Muggle missiles can hit any target on Earth.”

“This is nonsense, like those stories about Muggles travelling to the Moon,” chuckled Blake.

“They did that in 1969,” Hermione sighed.

“She's telling the truth, Bert,” Mr. Macmillan said. “An atomic bomb can lay flat an entire city the size of London. It happened twice during the War with Grindelwald. Even without those things, think of what the Muggles did to German cities. Have you ever spoken to any wizards from Dresden?”

“Surely Grindelwald burned Dresden,” Blake insisted.

“Nuclear weapons are quite real.  Clearly you have much to learn about the capabilities of the larger world,” Pedersen said flatly.

“The PM also knows exactly where the Ministry is, thanks to Scrimgeour, and he's willing to bomb that as well.  Apparently they have something smaller than what you've described but enough to collapse the entire facility,” Shacklebolt added.

“If they were to somehow disrupt the Department of Mysteries...” Blake shuddered.

“What would happen if the Room of Magical Energies exploded?” his colleague Calloway wondered aloud.

After a long silence, Gudrun said quietly, “No one could give a certain answer to your question.  This 'magical energy', as you call it, can be asked to generate heat that melts copper and force that diverts the flow of a small volcano.  When there is nothing asked of it, grœð responds to the world in equal and opposite measure.”

“You're saying that there would be a second explosion equal to the first, then,” Calloway confirmed.

Hermione said, “Equal and opposite.  If the government's explosion would create a 200 foot deep hole, more or less...”

Calloway offered, “Without taking expansion charms into account, the Ministry building is 418 feet high, 230 feet wide and 377 feet deep.”

“The explosion caused by this bomb is supposed to destroy or render useless a volume of more than thirty-six million cubic feet.  It seems likely that this bomb would explode in or above the level closest to the surface.  If the reaction is equal and opposite, and this bomb is supposed to affect the space beneath it, then it follows that a thirty-six million cubic foot space above the building would be affected by a second explosion,” Luna said as though she were describing the weather.

Blake scoffed, “This is nonsense.  No Muggle machine – ”

Shacklebolt cut him off, “That's enough, Mr. Blake.  You're just going to have to trust that this is a very real threat.  If Miss Lovegood is right – and thank you for speaking up, by the way – then the buildings above the Ministry would be hit from below.”

Luna chimed in, “The result would be a hole several hundred feet deep and several hundred feet wide, partially filled with debris.”

“There would be no hiding that from the Muggles,” Diggory said.

Mr. Macmillan gave a rueful laugh and said, “No hiding it?  The Muggles travel underground, they run the sources of their power through underground tubes – gas and such.  There would be fires, perhaps thousand of deaths outside of the Ministry...”

Calloway spoke up, “There would also be the magical effects to consider.  Every ward stone and rune stone inside the Ministry would be disturbed in the span of a few seconds.  I have no idea what the effect would be when every ward collapsed simultaneously, other than to say it would be very, very bad.”

“When I was in Egypt, a goblin crew accidentally collapsed the ward scheme surrounding an ancient tomb.  I'd say that the tomb was probably one hundred feet in all dimensions.  I was standing a half-mile away at the time and my hair was singed,” Bill Weasley told them.

Hermione sank deeper into her chair; she said, “Everyone would think that London had been nuked.  It would be the end of the Statutes for Secrecy, at best.  The implications all across the world... if it led to other weapons being used... I don't even want to think about this.”  

“That's why we attack now – this can't be allowed to happen,” Shacklebolt said. “Now, we've worked up a plan. It involves a four-pronged attack. We'll be sharing information with each group shortly before the actual attacks begin. Bert, Gus, you can go now –”

“There's a way into the Ministry other than the public entry and the Floos,” Blake said quickly.

“You're giving them the back door?  Not that I'm opposed, of course!” Calloway gasped.

“Three of us worked for the Ministry for years,” Mr. Weasley said; “I'm hard pressed to believe that there's a third way into the building.”

“I don't know if it's still accessible,” Blake admitted, “but there's a single-person elevator that leads directly into the Department of Mysteries.” The gathering went silent.

Harry broke the quiet. “Hmm... that changes things, doesn't it?”

    

The sound of chanting brought Harry to a stop. It came from a classroom that he didn't remember ever using; then again, he'd had little call to visit the corridor for Muggle Studies, Ancient Runes and Arithmancy. It was a strange, haunting sound – almost mournful. Something about it drew him in. The door to the room was ajar and he moved to peer inside. He caught a glimpse of two women in gossamer robes but couldn't make out faces in the dim candlelight...

“Hello, Harry,” Gudrun said.

He turned toward the hand on his shoulder. “Sorry – I didn't hear you,” he said.

“They probably don't want to be disturbed,” she said. “Runic rituals are complicated things.”

“Runic rituals? What the devil – ?” Harry said, and he headed back toward the door.

“Many people are performing rituals in these last days,” said Gudrun; “There are purification rituals, joining rites, even rituals for those who believe they are about to die. What I hear from that room speaks of a ritual incorporating love.”

“Oh... OH,” Harry said. “Best that I don't interrupt, then... er... that would be... wouldn't want to do that, would I?”

Gudrun said, “There are many forms of love, Harry, but I will leave it to Hermione to explain this.  You and she have your own rituals for love, do you not?”

“Err... I'll just be going now,” Harry said quickly.

Hermione came to their room two hours later, looking drained.

“Hard evening?” Harry asked.

“A difficult one,” she said; “There are so many things to do before the attacks.”

“You don't have to –” Harry started.

“Yes, I do, and you know it,” Hermione cut him off. “What did you do this evening?”

“Manned part of the watch,” he said, “and spent a lot of time thinking about how to get this thing out of my head. I'm on to an idea, but it's a bit out there...”

“Tell me,” she said.

He shook his head and said, “You'll think me an idiot.”

“As if I have any better ideas? I'm at a loss, Harry,” she said.  “Even if it only starts a new line of enquiry... please tell me.”

“All right, but remember, you asked for it,” Harry pointed out. “Here's the thing: if I'm filled up with this grœð that Gudrun's always on about, then more of it shouldn't hurt me.”

“That's a reasonable assumption,” said Hermione. “Go on...”

“There's a room filled with it at the Ministry,” Harry said. “If we're planning to end this there anyway, then why wouldn't I just go for a swim in it? If I already have enough grœð to hold the horcrux at bay on my own, then wouldn't that be enough to finish it off?”

Hermione brightened even as she said, “It... I don't know, it might work... yes, it makes quite a bit of sense, Harry, quite a bit indeed!  I should tell Gudrun this straight away.” She leaned forward and kissed him soundly. Harry kissed her in return, hoping to shut off her idea-of-the-moment.

“You've something different in mind, I take it?” she asked with a smirk.

“Gudrun says a lot of people are doing rituals and other sorts of things, with the attack coming soon,” he said.

“Rituals... really? That's interesting. When did she mention this?” Hermione asked sharply.

“I was walking past the Ancient Runes suite and it was being used. She just happened upon me,” Harry answered.

“It's a good thing she was there, then,” she said. “It's dangerous to interrupt a ritual of almost any sort... especially the sort of rituals people are probably doing right about now.”

“I'd have had my head taken off, I imagine; she said it was a ritual of love,” Harry told her.

“A ritual of... love, you say? Well... that is interesting, isn't it?” Her eyes narrowed. “Do you think there's something wrong with love-based rituals?”

“Er... not exactly... it would depend on what was involved...” Harry back-pedalled.

“Some people might say that what we've been up to is a love ritual, wouldn't you agree?” she asked in a way that brooked no argument.

Harry said, “Erm... some people might say that, yeah.  We can call it a ritual if that's what... oi, what did you do to your arm?”  He lightly touched a white dressing wrapped around her bicep.

“Oh, that? It's nothing, honestly. I was clumsy – just a... just a sharp bit of metal, that's all,” Hermione explained quickly.  “Ginny put some salve on it so I won't end up with a scar. Really, it's nothing to worry yourself about.”

“I just wouldn't want to hurt you, that's all,” Harry said.

She smiled indulgently at him. “You'd never do that, not purposely – I know that.” After a long deep breath, she added, “Harry James Potter, I love you with all my mind, heart and soul.”

Her declaration was so formal and so unexpected that he nearly choked. “Erm... really? All of that, eh?” he managed. “I'm not so good with this. You know that I... you know it, right?”

“That you love me, too? Mind, heart and soul?” she asked. He thought she sounded afraid that he didn't.

“Yeah, that – exactly that,” he told her.

She smiled at him in the strangest way but he wasn't about to complain. Then she kissed him, first on the forehead, then on both cheeks, and then full on the lips. With that, the rest of the evening was spoken for.

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