07 April 2016

Significant Digits, Chapter Forty-Seven: Hell







Significant Digits, Chapter Forty-Seven: Hell




And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

 - Genesis 11:1-8



≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Trafalgar Square, London
May 19th, 1999
4:40 PM

The deep timbre of the anchor’s voice was so low-pitched that it was hard to understand over Andrea’s earpiece, and she had to ask him to repeat his question.  She held one hand over the earpiece, both to help her make out his bass rumble and to serve as a visual excuse for the repetition.

“Andrea, have you been able to speak to anyone there to get an idea of what’s happening?” Bill repeated in an anchor’s practiced voice: warm and concerned, but confident enough to reassure.  Andrea was reasonably certain that his sort were grown in a vat somewhere.

“There is a lot of confusion, and a lot of fear, Bill,” she said, shaking her head and using the obvious for filler as she planned the rest of her response.  “We’re not sure what is going on, but we know that it’s something serious… and something dangerous.  Officials here will only say that there has been a dangerous incident to our south -- something so dangerous that they’ve evacuated everyone from the government buildings in Whitehall: the office of the Treasury, the Old Admiralty, and very nearly the whole of this area, the seat of the whole British government.”

“And just to confirm, we haven’t been able to get any more details?  Theories right now range from some sort of chemical spill to an attack with biological weapons, and many experts have stated that they believe this incident is related to the recent mass disappearances around the world.”

“There are no details available, Bill, but we can hear regular explosions coming from beyond the cordon...  and the police here are preventing us from advancing any further,” Andrea said.  Especially after what happened to the BBC crew.  The thought of those poor people -- of what she’d seen on the feed from their cameras -- it made her skin crawl.

There were seventeen crews here, and they’d all huddled around a monitor set up on the back gate of the BBC ops truck.  They’d sworn not to say anything until they were cleared to do so by the authorities.  How could they do otherwise?

The rough footage showed the crew advancing down the riverwalk on the Victoria Embankment, skirting a police cordon that hadn’t yet been established.  One of the producers was audible, talking to the other in rough, quiet tones as they moved at nearly a jog down the pavement.  There was a buzz of indiscriminate noise behind her words, and eventually it grew loud enough that they all fell silent, rather than raising their voices to be heard.  The late afternoon sun cut sharp shadows from the trees to their right.  No one else was visible.

The BBC crew had paused for a moment to get an establishing shot of the river and Big Ben, turning the camera south along the deserted street and panning past a long line of motionless cars and buses.

Then the camera had rocked and swerved, dipping forward as someone made a guttural sound of surprise or alarm.  For a moment, all that was visible was blurry pavement, and then the camera reared back up and to the right.  For one sickeningly long second -- no more than a second -- a heavyset woman in a thick, tan apron was visible, eyes wide and staring.  Her hair was streaming down the side of her face, torn loose from a bun, and there was a thick section of pipe clutched in her hands.  It was covered in blood, and a matted wad of gorey hair dangled from its end.  There were other people visible behind her, packed into a dense mob.  They were marching steadily forward in a single mass that parted around the Fleet Air Arm Memorial statue, heading towards the BBC crew.  A few people were distinct in the crowd: a man with a rifle in his hands, a child with a knife, a woman with some sort of large tube hugged to her chest.

Then the second was past, and the camera lurched away and leapt at the pavement, smashing itself dark.

“We know her Majesty the Queen has been confirmed as safe, and also the British Prime Minister,” said the anchor, “but how much is this going to impact the government there?

Andrea nodded thoughtfully to show that this was a meaningful conversation and not just speculation, and answered, “Some of the most important leaders of the country may be in danger, but we just don’t know enough yet to say for sure, Bill.”

“Thank you, Andrea.  We’ll be back with you later.  Stay safe out there,” Bill said, and she nodded sagely, as though she had a fucking clue whether or not she was safe.  “Let’s turn now to analysis from Lieutenant General Hassan.  General, what are some of the possibilities we might be looking at?”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


The entrance to the Ministry of Magic, Gwydyr House, London

After ten minutes of hell, the aurors began using lethal spells.  There hadn’t been any order to that effect, but in a moment of desperation or anger an auror animated the centaur statue on the fountain in the center of the atrium.  The stone sculpture clopped down off of its perch with granite feet, nocked an arrow, and sent the yard-long stone bolt across the atrium and through the chests of two Muggles.  They crumpled to the ground, dead.  Two other Muggles snatched up their weapons -- a knife and a gun -- but a taboo had been broken.  Another auror lit the clothing of his attackers on fire with a word, and the room dissolved into blood and battle.

Some of the staff and aurors at the Ministry recognized what was happening for what it was.  The more learned wizards and the amateur historians knew why the time-turners weren’t working and why they couldn’t Apparate, even though the only enemy visible was a monstrous wall of hate-faced Muggles.  They’d read the stories of the great battles of the old days, when warlord wizards had matched their armies against each other.

At least now there was no more wondering about where the missing Muggles had gone, stolen in their thousands from cities around the world.  Some were here.  Many were here.

History was full of accounts of wars much like this one; as the Mhlongo Scroll said, “The most fundamental principle of war is control.  Your beasts are a steady wave, and it is your task to unsteady your opponent, the better to wet them.  Direct your attacks so as to limit their options, not to damage the foe.  Then the waves will overtake them.”

Casting spells took energy and will.  Even the most powerful wizard wouldn’t have an infinite supply of both.  Keep them pinned down and eliminate their options for escape.  Eventually, they would tire or make a mistake or lose heart.  And as every student of magical history knew, that’s when the Muggles got you.

The wars of armies and attrition had been gone for generations, abandoned with the Statute of Secrecy and the creation of modern magical nation-states after the Peace of Westphalia.  Private armies of Muggles were not conducive to secrecy nor governance, and they had become a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, it seemed the past had caught up with them.

The well-equipped and well-trained aurors stationed at the Ministry of Magic had done their jobs.  Those few stationed outside had alerted their compatriots the instant the massed wall of humanity had charged down the street towards the Ministry, a mad parade of mayhem that seemingly had come from nowhere.  The aurors had managed to evacuate almost everyone except for active defenders; they’d gotten out word of the attack; and they’d sealed the Ministry at three points.  The stout doors hadn’t stopped the Muggle mob for very long, but successive layers of wards and traps had sealed away the atrium for nearly an half hour, despite the concussive power of the weapons the Muggles had brought.  Bodies soon littered the streets outside, mounded up among the Muggle government buildings, torn by shards of crystal, burnt by acid, and otherwise ruined by every craft of magic.  It was magical slaughter, and it was madness.  But the Ministry stood.

Then chariots of fire swept down into the atrium from some sideways place, drawn by horses of stomping flame, and Muggles began to pour out among the defenders -- far more than should ever have fit on those chariots, as though the phaetons of fire had no limits on their capacity.  It was a novel attack, an impossible attack, casting an army in the midst of the aurors despite the thick protections that should have prevented such transportation.

Many of the Muggles were already injured or covered with blood, stained with the efforts of previous misdeeds.  They attacked with purpose and intensity, but showed no malice or madness.  They had guns, clubs, knives, and improvised weapons.  And there seemed no end to them.  Hundreds.  Thousands.  More.

The atrium soon began to fill with the dead and dying.  One auror team fought to create a new perimeter, conjuring acrid smoke in clouds enough to choke the Muggles.  But their attackers only staggered forward through the smoke, climbing over the fallen in an endless flood of grim murder, beating savagely on shields and wards with their weapons.

The defenders tore through them: stabbing hails of splinters; infectious pulses of green light; blasts of acid-filled wind.  Each dead Muggle was replaced with two more, and when shields began to fail under the rain of blows, attackers began to slip through the gaps.  Determined fingers seized one auror’s arm when he was a trifle too slow, dragging him down in an instant.  A man with an iron club smashed it against the wizard’s skull, and he stopped moving.  The man pulped the auror’s head with two more blows before the Killing Curse took him from the world.  Too late.

The defenders fell back to a choke point.  They abandoned the atrium, filling it with a last billowing cloud of fire and smoke, and then took the elevators down a floor to the DMLE.  They destroyed the magical lifts, filled the shaft with rubble, and began creating traps and barriers.

It should have been impossible for Muggles to breach the Ministry proper.  But then, it should have been impossible for Muggles to even find the entrance to the Ministry, much less break through to the atrium.

The defenders made frantic calls on their bubblers for reinforcements, desperate to create some kind of plan to drive away the enemy.  The possibility of simply abandoning the premises was considered, but discarded; it wasn’t a matter of pride or principle that they needed to retain control, but rather a concern for all the objects safeguarded in the Department of Mysteries, and the hidden hand that might be seeking them.  There were secret and powerful things under guard there, some beyond the understanding of the Unspeakables themselves, and they could not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.

Two dozen wizards arrived by Vanishing Cabinet, and two dozen more began to harry the close-packed horde surrounding the Ministry, killing as many as they could with their most devastating spells.  Still other aurors flew to Gringotts, hoping to beg or bribe to borrow the dragons that the goblins kept.  Beasts had been a method of Muggle control too, once.  Such control might even have been their intended purpose.  At this moment, however, the doors were found sealed, and another hope dashed.

The wizards were remembering and employing some of their more creative methods of killing en masse.  The Butterball Charm turned the road liquid, drowning its victims in a slurry of slippery stone.  Mandrakes had been fetched, and their screams killed everyone around them.  And magical fires consumed Muggle after Muggle.  The enemy fell in droves.  But there was simply no end to the Muggles.  There were thousands of them, pouring in every minute without stop, unleashed from some hidden hoard of humanity.  It wasn’t fair.  No, worse than that… it wasn’t even sane.  It was as though the hidden hand behind the attack didn’t care about their forces or any perceivable objective.  It was all pointless -- all the fear and blood and anger.

Some of the Muggles had little packages that exploded.  Blastbombs.  Inside the Ministry, those who had fallen back to the lower level felt the stone around them shake and heard explosions, and cast grim looks at each other.  Even if the explosives couldn’t really reach them, eventually more flaming chariots would arrive among them.

The Muggles were coming.  Endless.  Remorseless.  The defenders of the Ministry of Magic were fighting an ocean, and the ocean was winning.

It is perhaps understandable that some began to weep when they heard from their bubblers that a wave of Muggles, packed in a plenitude without end, had appeared at Hogsmeade.  And there was no one to stop them, for there were other attacks happening… all over the world.  Even the Tower was under attack, locked down and sealed off.  Tears were only natural.

Many of the aurors had children at Hogwarts, after all.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


“Oh, sacred Ether and you winds, masters of speed! You, waters of rivers and you, endless laughter of Ocean’s waves!  Oh, Mother Earth! And you, Sun, who sees all!

Look at me! Look at my suffering, I, a god who must suffer the punishment of gods!

Look at what outrageous torment I must endure for countless years! Look at these dire shackles this new ruler of the Gods has devised for me!

Ah! Ah!  I groan for my suffering now and for all the suffering to come.  When will I see their end?

But what am I saying? I know the future and all that it will bring and I know all my suffering beforehand, so I must endure as best I can what Necessity has sent upon me because she cannot be resisted.

Yet, neither can I speak nor stay silent about this agony that I am forced to suffer.  I’ve hunted down and stolen, inside the hollow of a fennel’s stalk, the seed of fire, a gift that has proven itself to be the teacher of every craft and the greatest resource for humans.  Such is the crime I have committed and this is the penalty I am to suffer: nailed and chained on this rock beneath the open sky.”

 -Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Tidewater, Boston, United States of America
Earlier
The same day

It was a fine, clear afternoon, and Councilor Littlebrook Strongbound was having his mulled egg-wine on the grotto balcony.  The Alþing had a lovely view of the harbour, sticking up from among the lesser buildings of Tidewater with sharp concrete edges, and one of the small perks of his long tenure on the Council was access to an office like this one.  He sipped his drink and looked out on the water, sighing contentedly.

Already, today had been a productive day.  Hig had been playing things close to the vest for months when it came to the Brits and their damned Treaties.  Strongbound had known it was all a power play by his old foe.  He’d tried to shore up support along traditional lines, making a deal with that little snakeling son of Lucius, only to discover that the little brute had turned the whole Independence movement out for fools, capitalizing on the idiocy of the Thunderer and the Cappadocians’ brute hatred, precipitating a conflict that was obviously doomed from the start.  The very evening of that one-day war had left the Malfoy boy in a position to negotiate his way into the top of that stupid Tower hospital/school/Thing, but had left all of his erstwhile allies out in the cold.  There was no chance of a better deal at that point, and so they had supported him, reasoning that it was better to have a seat at the table than be left alone in the world.

Now it was becoming clear that the Malfoy boy had few ideals, if any, and was just waiting for his chance to depose the scar-faced pottery king.  And Hig -- damn that ugly stump! -- was in the catbird seat.  Strongbound could see it, now… Hig had spent months railing against the “new dark lord” and the Treaty for Health and Life in order to maximize his bargaining position.  Then Hig made one trip to Britain, and suddenly he was open to a deal.  And the deal he made with the Goddess just happened to include enormous subsidies to Salem and the Russell Institute, arithmancers to “help” with the Council finances, the end to damnable British support for the damned Cypriots, and the elimination of tariffs.  Hig claimed personal credit for the feat -- meaning that he could claim the gratitude of the monied merchants, the support of the elites, and the appeasement of all the Turcophiles who’d long distrusted him.

But today, Strongbound would finally begin to make inroads.  He examined the drink in his fingers, smiling at the thought.  Ever since the centaur bill, Hig had held the upper hand on access to the Earnest Ears Bureau.  More of his review requests were approved by the oversight committee than anyone else, meaning he had access to essentially any of the wealth of information that the Council programs were always bringing in.  Finally, though, Strongbound had struck gold with one of his own requests -- one of the few he’d gotten past the committee -- and soon, things would change.  A delightful, dirty little secret between two of the councilors on the committee, and now he knew it.  It was leverage, and that leverage would translate into information, and that information would translate into power.

Strongbound sipped his warm drink, and began to be happy and make plans.

“Hoooo,” called someone from the street, their voice lilting and strange.  Strongbound frowned, and leaned forward, to peer over the balcony railing.  There was no one standing on the cobblestones below: the afternoon light showed nothing but a scrap of lone parchment scraping its way along in the gentle breeze.

Strongbound leaned back.

There was someone behind him.  He could feel it.

He turned.

Large eyes.  Black and oily.  Wet.
White skin.  Flaky, run through with spidering cracks.  Ragged in places, as gnawed.
Long, thin limbs.  Sparse flesh.  Lumpy joint.
Mouth.  Smile.
Smile.

The thing turned hand finger open smile.  Teeth dark touching rough.  Rasping.  Skin part yawn moving scream.  Night whisper lust end cut.  Thousand no my ripping beyond wet.  Rough.  Red.  Black.  Black.  Cut.  Scream.

Smile.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


It took Councilor Littlebrook Strongbound a very long time to die.

When he finally did, the Alþing of the Mystical and Benevolent Council of Westphalia was left quiet and empty of life.  A bundiwig remained to walk the halls alone, pausing to lick wet spots on the floor now and again, its swarming mass of chizpurfles milling about on its back.  The gaunts moved on to the next taste of magic and time, moving from building to building in Tidewater.  None escaped, their magic dying in their veins.  Viscs lazily flapped through the air in their wake, borne on tissue-thin wings.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Hogsmeade, Scotland
At the same time
The same day

While a few stubborn and brave wizards stood their ground to try to drive off some of the Muggles, almost all the residents and workers of Hogsmeade evacuated their little village as soon as they saw the steady-marching mass of the unmagical.  The enemy’s presence was known instantly, of course.  Even before the Tower existed, security precautions had included  the closest settlement to the school.  Nicomedius Salamander and Holly Nguyễn had been stationed there.  It was a tedious assignment and one dreaded by aurors, but the pair had voluntary service in Azkaban on their record, and so their careers had stalled.  They were on duty, standing idly outside of Honeydukes, when they heard the first screams and saw someone send up red sparks.

Despite their current status, the two aurors were well-trained and experienced.  Salamander alerted the DMLE and the Receiving Room, while Nguyễn took to the air to reconnoiter the enemy.

Nguyễn barely caught sight of the mob before she was attacked.  They were lucky or too numerous, and a bullet tore through her outer thigh before she could shield herself appropriately.  She yelped and wobbled in her seat, but held on, pulling up and away.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  Firearms were surprising and instantaneous, but they only shot bullets -- a repetitive and easily countered attack.  Even if Nguyễn hadn’t been a Muggleborn, she would have been able to deal with a few gun-toting Muggles.

A thousand gun-toting Muggles were a different story.  They were crowding into Hogsmeade, their numbers so great that their weight brought down fences, and several of them were actually being pushed through shop windows as the village streets were filled to overflowing.  Nguyễn saw broad red puddles, smeary with dozens of trudging Muggles, where they’d already seized some poor innocents.  She didn’t see whoever it was who’d sent up red sparks, but scraps of bloody robes were visible underfoot in front of Dervish & Banges.  The front of the Magic Neep had been smashed in, and smoke was pouring out.

Nguyễn circled the mass in a wide arc, high enough so that their thrown weapons fell short, and looked for the wizards in control.  Some sort of bus or plane must have brought all of them, she thought as she tore open a package of Wondo-Slo-Blood, slapping the wet cloth on her leg.  Too bloody many for… well, even portkeys wouldn’t work.  You’d need hundreds of them.

But she saw no apparent magical attackers and no apparent transportation, which was very worrying.  It was as though a football stadium full of unusually well-armed hooligans had taken it upon themselves to go have a pint at the Hog’s Head, and had just walked straight into a magically protected village that was stacked with Anti-Muggle Charms.

Nguyễn returned to Salamander, finding him standing outside of the Three Broomsticks, and felt panic rising in her guts.  It got worse when Salamander told her curtly that the Ministry was under siege by Muggles, and that the Tower had been in lockdown and wasn’t operational, and that there were a hundred other things going wrong all over the world.  Had the Statute of Secrecy just been broken somehow, everywhere?  Had Muggles gone to war on wizards?  She’d always thought that was Slytherin bunk, but there didn’t seem to be any alternative.

“Everybody safely out?” she asked Salamander, dropping down next to him.  She remained on her broom, with one hand pressed to her thigh.

Salamander shook his head, and slammed the heel of one hand into the inn’s door again.  “No!  Almost everyone responded to the alarm, but this idiot won’t leave -- I was about to knock in this door and drag her out!”

Nguyễn glanced over her shoulder.  The Muggles would be there in minutes, a well-armed wall of humanity.  She shouted at the door, “Madame Rosmerta?  It’s Holly!  You need to leave -- you need to get out now!  There are hundreds of Muggles coming, and they’ve already killed some people!  We can’t protect you if they try to get in and get you… a few casks of butterbeer aren’t worth your life!”

There was a heavy thump, and the door opened.  Madame Rosmerta peeked out.  She’d been rejuvenated, but she’d already been so young that her appearance was little changed: bouncy brown hair, pale green eyes, and a skeptical pinch to her mouth.  “Muggles?  Well, why don’t --”

Confundus,” Nguyễn cast, her wand a flicker of motion.  She didn’t bother with any alternate states of mind, and leaving just a dull-witted confusion in place.  She pulled a Safety Stick from inside of her robes.

“Wait!” said Salamander, reaching up to grab her wrist.  “The Tower just got out of lockdown -- I already told you.”  He handed her a milled metal rod, dimpled in the center.  “Use this.  It’s international, but I don’t have any others, and we can’t take the time to side-along her.”

Nguyễn didn’t argue.  She put the rod right into Rosmerta’s hands, then mimed a bending motion to the woman.  Rosmerta complied, a dull look in her eyes.  The rod bent, and she was lifted sideways and away, spinning off into a direction that didn’t exist and vanishing from sight with the familiar, comforting sound of a portkey.

“Signal to Hogwarts.  That’s where they’re headed.  And call for help,” said Nguyễn.  She kicked her broom up to be even with the roof, and heard the sound of Muggle feet, far too close.

“Call where?” Salamander asked.  “Broom,” he said to his pouch, and mounted.  He rose up next to her.  “The DMLE and the Tower are both under attack.  We can fly up to the castle, but who are we going to call to come help?  Those are the people who should be helping us!”

“Call someone -- anyone!” snapped Nguyễn.  “Bubble anyone you know who’s stationed at a Safety Pole.  Or Howie -- maybe they can spare some people.”

The two aurors pulled away as the first Muggles came into view.  They sped off towards the castle.

No one stationed at the Safety Poles or Howard Prison answered.  Either they were too busy -- an ominous possibility -- or they were unable to pick up a bubbler at all -- a much worse possibility.

Nguyễn and Salamander put on more speed and tried to think of someone else they could call for help… someone who might answer quickly, and with force.  The Hogwarts grounds whipped by below, the Forbidden Forest looming large and the school growing swiftly ahead of them as they approached.

Things were desperate, so Salamander resorted to desperate measures.  He bubbled a former auror who had been acting like a nutter for years.  It was true desperation, that it had come to this.

She picked up almost instantly, babbling in a strained rush.  “Hullo.  Just realized I missed a button and three weeks ago I saw a dog and it looked at me and I thought of five good names for it but when I was seventeen a dog vommed in my bed and so all the names had to do with vomit and I’m very worried about things right now at the Tower and we’re about to leave so you better make this quick.  Sorry about that, it keeps happening, what is it?”

“Tonks,” Salamander said, cupping the mirror with his hand and shouting to be heard over the rush of wind.  “We need help!”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Everywhere, there were attacks.  Everywhere, there were invaders.  Salem, Paris, Oslo, Huangzhou, Moscow, Cyprus, Johannesburg, Abuja, Dunedin.  Vast crowds of Muggles attacked, or hooting Unseelie, or newly-free dark wizards in their dozens, or other... things.  It was a masterpiece of coercion and coordination and carnage, as though some monstrous god were raining down the wrath of armies upon the world.   And in many places, there was no help at all.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Godric’s Hollow
At the same time
The same day

The alarm had been raised, and there was no one to come.

Ten monsters stood on a clear ridge above the village, looking down a steep slope at the thatched huts and low brick walls of the magical settlement.  The basilisks had been hooded, swaying in place uncomfortably, and the terrasque stood as impassive as the rock from which they had been made.  Four wizards stood behind the monsters, wands in hand.  Their posture was tense and uncertain; they were not the masters, rather merely the attendants to beasts beyond their ability to truly control.  The snakes and stones acted under the command of an unseen presence, and those dark wizards who’d accepted the cheerful offer of a chirpy young stranger now found themselves regretting that choice.

Still, they were free.  That was more than could be said yesterday.  And the power they had seen from their savior… no, they would do as they were told.  They waited where they had been told to wait.

The defenders moved rapidly in the village below.  Two of the patrol-wizards were escorting one last protesting inhabitant out of his home, a wizard who had refused to abandon his kneazles.  The others were working under the direction of the aurors and the Hit Wizard squad to try to set up wards and traps -- even simple barriers of stone, whatever they thought might slow down the earthbound enemy.  There had been some discussion of attacking the fiends on the ridge before the situation deteriorated even further, but… well, reason could be flexible in the face of fear, even among the trained and brave.  There were twoscore wizards to defend the ancient village, and they were afraid.

Should they have fled?  Abandoned Godric’s Hollow and its treasures and its history?  Perhaps that would have been wise.  But they did not go.  They found mirrors, instead, that they might bear the basilisk’s gaze from at least some distance, and they searched their memories for the spells that might work -- some of them desperately trying to remember combat magic for the first time in decades -- and they hoped for help.

No help came.

Goblins came instead.

The sound of their approach was like the grumbling of a great metal dragon.  One hundred goblins marched up onto the ridge from the west, their armored boots slamming into the ground.  They bore pennants fixed to their spears, bright with the colors of inscrutable traditions and clans.  Many of them bore shields of silver or gold or bronze as well, and every shield was different and every shield was beautiful.

They did not march in unison, but they had discipline enough, for at a shouted signal, they came to an abrupt halt on the ridge’s edge, twenty yards from the monsters.  One of the dark wizards behind the beasts nodded solemnly, as if in greeting.

The goblins turned to regard the cowed defenders of Godric’s Hollow.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull

The God grew restless at their racket,

Enlil had to listen to their noise.

He addressed the great gods,

“The noise of mankind has become too much,

I am losing sleep over their racket.

Give the order that surrupu-disease shall break out.”

 - The Epic of Gilgamesh


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Hogwarts

“The Tower is open again -- there was a takeover attempt,” said Salamander, lowering his bubbler.

In unison, all five of the Returned turned to stare at him, lowering their wands.  It was disturbing.

They stood in various places on the gentle slope in front of the castle’s gate, where a staircase led up to the main doors and Great Hall.  The path to Hogsmeade lay in front of them, time-smooth stones set in cement-hard earth, while the Forbidden Forest stretched out to their right, dark and dangerous.  The Malfoy flying fortress, The Declaration of Intent, was just visible to the left, around the edge of the castle where the greenhouses were located.

“They’re trying to sort things out, but the Goddess is fine,” he said, crossly.

Simon glanced at Susie.  She returned the glance with a frown, then turned back to Salamander.  “We’re going then, love.”

He stiffened, staring at her.  “Are you insane?”

Protego Totalum,” cast Tonks, her wand dabbing lightly at the air.

A few paces behind her, Simon was casting the same spell, and a few paces behind him, Charlevoix was putting her own wards up.  A barrier against physicality was the best defense at the moment, layered to buy time.  Twelve aurors and five fanatical criminals couldn’t do much to stop that horde of Muggles, so they needed to delay them for as long as possible.  Every minute that passed was another minute to allow reinforcements to arrive.  With Time frozen -- they’d gotten the warning, along with everyone else with a time-turner -- this was the best strategy.

It was frustrating.  On this day of insanity and emergency, the first responses had gone to the Ministry and to the Tower, and the second responses had gone… well, everywhere else possible, really.  Now, even if they’d been able to contact the big hats who could countermand previous orders, there was no one left that they could even reach to help defend Hogwarts.  It was Hogwarts and all they could find were seventeen wizards and witches to protect it!  Nguyễn had gone to enlist the faculty and even the prefects to help, but a swarm of a thousand Muggles was marching on the school, only minutes away.

And now the Returned wanted to go cling to the Goddess’ bloody skirts, taking years of fighting experience and those golden gauntlet weapons of theirs with them.

“We can’t spare anyone.  We need ten times as many.  You’re not going anywhere!” Salamander protested, bristling.

“We’re going to help Hermione,” Simon said, firmly.

“No, you’re not,” said Nguyễn, limping through the open front doors of the school, her voice fraught.  “There are protocols for Imperius and Confundus infestation, and they’re in effect.  No one is going in or out of the Tower.  The Terminus is following the letter of the rules, and no one is getting past the Receiving Room.  And since you can’t get in, you might as well stay here and help protect Ms. Granger’s life.”

This was a blatant lie, Salamander knew.  The lockdown was over, and the Tower was probably the command center, like it had been during the One-Day War.  But he said nothing, and didn’t meet her eyes.  They couldn’t lose five battle-hardened combatants right now.  Help would be coming, but there was fighting everywhere… they’d need every last wand.

To that end, there were nearly forty people following Nguyễn.  Eight professors, Salamander saw with some relief.  Competent help.  None of them were from his own time, but he recognized most of them from one place or another, anyway.  Slughorn, Sprout, Flitwick, Hooch, Sinistra, Vector, and Murkluk.  He didn’t recognize the fat one, but supposed he must be Professor Placela, the teacher they’d brought in to replace the proper Divination professor.

He was even glad to see the young adults who must be the prefects.  Fifteen years old was essentially an adult in many ways, and they’d be able to at least keep themselves out of danger and cast some wards and jinxes.  Fifth-years would have some experience with Care of Magical Creatures, after all, and that wasn’t so different from handling an angry Muggle.  From the back lines, they’d be fine.

But there were at least twenty students who couldn’t be past their fourth year.

“We can’t --”  Salamander began, glaring at one of them, and then he paused.  “Where is everyone else?  Where’re Moody and the Tower aurors?”

“This is everyone,” said Nguyễn.  “The Tower was almost captured and all the most important people in the world are huddled up in there, safe, but there’s so much going on… they’re going to send help as soon as they can.”  She sounded bitter.  “The Headmistress and two professors are guarding the students and activating more of the castle’s defenses, but this is it.”

You couldn’t Apparate into Hogwarts.  Any aurors sent elsewhere -- to the Ministry, to Antarctica, to wherever -- would be slow to return.

The Returned had already gone back to their preparations, turning their eerie hollow-eyed stares back to their work.  They were laying traps along the path from Hogsmeade: Transfigured caltrops and blades, and patches of slurry-soft earth.  The little goblin Returned -- Og?  Urg? -- was pulling little metal boxes from a pouch at his waist, fitting them into the golden gauntlets he wore on both hands (unlike the others, who only had one apiece).

“We can help, sir,” said one young man, a good-looking boy with dark skin and sharp cheekbones.  “I can help.”  He sounded as though he were terrified, but his jaw was gritted.

“You’re going to die,” Salamander said, harshly.  “We saw what was out there and it’s a bloody army.”  Best to be out with it.  Best for them to break now, rather than later.

“They know that,” said Professor Slughorn, cutting in.  His voice had none of its mellow roundness.  It was cool and tight.  “We all know that.  Auror Nguyễn told us what we were facing.  And she told us that there was no one else.”

The sound of metal ringing on stone came from within the doors of Hogwarts, and a line of animated armor and statues marched faultlessly out of the school.  They needed no direction and could endure disenchantment.  Old magic, not used in a very long time, and well beyond anyone now alive.

“We’re here to fight, sir,” said the boy again.  “I know it’s bigger than us, but we can fight.  We know things.  It’s…”  He reached for words, and again Salamander could see the fear in his eyes.  The fear that the young man was swallowing back like a stone.  After an instant, the boy seemed to find what he’d been trying to say.  “…it’s no crime to reach beyond your grasp if you can see where you’re reaching.”

A handful of other students gathered behind the boy, and Salamander had the feeling that he was seeing through a glass darkly: a narrow view of a complicated story.

“Bravo,” whispered Professor Sinistra.

“Well said, boy,” said Salamander, grudgingly.  “Well, we need to hold here.  We need to hold until help can arrive.  You can help.  What’s your name?”

“Lawrence,” said the young man, raising his chin.

Salamander heard a rumble behind him.  The Muggles were close.  Professors and aurors were already deploying, many of them mounting brooms.  Others took command of the students, putting them in the rear and giving them strict instructions.  He turned around, and felt his stomach tighten. He glanced back at Lawrence as the boy was led away by Professor Slughorn, squinting at the lining of the young man’s robes.  Green.  “You’re a Slytherin?”

“Yes, sir,” said Lawrence, turning back to the auror, and in that moment the fear was gone from his voice and his face, and he looked as calm as the morning.  “A Silver Slytherin.”

“They’re coming!” shouted Nguyễn, her broom rising rapidly into the air to Salamander’s left.  “Nicomedius, get on the line!”

Salamander forgot his surprise, and got himself sorted.

By the time the Muggles appeared down the slope, the battle order was set.  Behind the first layers of wards and shields, statues and suits of armor were arrayed, armed with their own enchanted weapons or whatever could be Transfigured for them.  Nguyễn and a team of broom-mounted aurors and professors were already in the air, flying towards the enemy; they’d attack from behind and try to do as much damage to disable and slow down the attackers as they could.  The rest of the defenders were in groups of three, arrayed just before the zig-zagging stairs that led to the castle’s main doors, except for the Returned, who’d formed their own broom-mounted, tight contingent off to one side, seemingly away from the main line of battle. The students were set on the staircase itself, in a position of partial cover where they could do some damage without being too vulnerable.

The fliers were out and off as soon as the Muggles were visible.  The leading front of the unmagical was broken and staggered by the traps laid in their path.  They weren’t mindless, and took some care in their approach, but their determination made them seem more like ants than people: when a knot of Muggles tumbled into a hidden pit, caught or killed on the barbs within, their compatriots didn’t even slow.  The Muggles just kept coming.  Some managed to shoot their guns here and there, where Extinguishing Charms from the fliers had left a gap, but even the rare impact fell on prepared shields.

As the Muggles drew in range, broken from their initial solid wave, wizards and witches began to lay flames and blades of crystal and other barriers in front.  The Muggles pushed past and kept going, but their advance came at a cost of time and blood.  Their injured were crushed underfoot.   Scores died for every inch gained.

Salamander hurled curse after curse, and felt like he wanted to vomit.  It was butchery, not combat.

At some hidden signal known only to themselves, the Returned swept away to the right, moving obliquely down the slope towards the Forbidden Forest.  Most of the Muggles ignored them, even though the hollow-eyed fanatics continued to attack as they flew, lashing into the mass of the enemy with curses and conjurations.  They opened up a second front, far enough away from the stairs to the main doors that the enemy was forced to either divide their attention or simply endure the attacks smashing into their flanks.  Hammer and anvil.

The Muggles chose to ignore the attack, perhaps deciding that it was pointless to send part of their massed waves at the highly mobile Returned.  Or perhaps the hidden wizard controlling them decided such.  Or perhaps they’d simply gone mad, and were not capable of responding tactically.  Whatever the cause, the Muggles just kept coming.

Before too long -- indeed, after a sickeningly short time -- they’d reached the first layer of wards.  Ten hands began hammering on the unseen barriers, then twenty, then forty.  The Hogwarts shields responded, sparking lighting and fire into their attackers, but it just wasn’t enough.  Though they died in droves, there were hundreds more to take their place.  Within a few minutes, the pressure of the smoking bodies alone was enough to break the shields, collapsing from sheer blunt trauma, like a wave crashing over a wall.  Blood sprayed and foamed as the first shield warped and wept crimson energy, and then failed.

Salamander gave up on flame, which was doing too little damage and had no deterrent effect.  He softened the earth instead, so Muggles were swallowed into sudden holes, drowning in liquid soil and crushing their allies beneath them.

He watched as the Returned began activating their gauntlets, pouring geysers of swelling, sticky foam into the mass of Muggles.  It was effective, but short-lived, as those trapped were pressed down into the foam, and others began avoiding it.  Less effective were bursts of wind or quantities of some stinging gas; neither did more than temporarily slow forty or fifty of the enemy.

But there were just too many.  That was all.  No failure of strategy and no surprises.  Just hundreds upon hundreds of Muggles, pouring forward in a thick mass.  Thousands upon thousands.  A city’s worth of men and women.  More than should have been possible.  More than was sane.

As more shields broke, the animated statues and armor began to step forward and attack.  They wielded whatever weapons they’d been provided: one suit of armor swung a greataxe mechanically to and fro through Muggle flesh, while a marble statue of Vindictus Viridian swung a club of granite.  The aurors and professors supported them, casting flames and noxious smoke into the front lines, while the students picked off those Muggles who broke past with the Sleep Hex.

The Returned poured fire into the flanks of the Muggles.  Astonishingly, it seemed like they were actually using Transfiguration: transforming earth or flesh into thick clouds of acid or burning chemicals or poisonous gas.  Despite everything, Salamander was shocked.  That was madness -- the actions of someone who didn’t expect to live through the fight.  But that was probably correct.

More than a thousand must have fallen already, Salamander thought numbly, looking at the heaped dead on the slope before him.  He lashed arrows of steel through four Muggles, and then again through the ones behind them.  He was beginning to feel burned-through and hollow, magically exhausted.  They couldn’t keep this up.

Nicomedius,” called a pleasant, silvery voice from his elbow.  Salamander glanced to the side only long enough to see a corporeal patronus floating next to him.  A cat.  The Headmistress.  “Help is coming.  Ten minutes.

He lashed out with a wave of flame as one of the statues toppled over, smashed too often by a Muggle’s iron bar.  Two of the suits of animated armor were also down, and the Muggles had reached the second layer of wards and shields.  Salamander spared another quick glance around him.  Three of the fliers were down or dead.  One of the professors had passed out from magical exhaustion.  And he saw, to his surprise, that Lawrence was running away.  He and a young woman had mounted brooms and were fleeing away from the fight and to the left, where the greenhouses and the looming shadow of The Declaration of Intent were visible.

Slytherins, he thought with disgust.  Then he was fighting again, ignoring the black spots that were beginning to dance in front of his eyes.

“Hold the line!” he screamed.  “Help is coming!  Hold the line!  Hold the line!”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr.  Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. - HUCK FINN

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now.  But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking -- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell.  And went on thinking.  And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing.  But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind.  I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place.  I took it up, and held it in my hand.  I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.  I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll go to hell" -- and tore it up.

- Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Godric’s Hollow
At the same time
The same day

One goblin stepped out in front of their gathered army.  He was small, but his bright-silver helmet had a proud tilt to it.  When he leveled a spear at Godric’s Hollow, making some gesture to his fellows, the blade was studded with a fat ruby, but the tip was sharp enough to shave the sun.

Basilisks hissed quietly, and the terrasque stood with obdurate stillness.  Waiting for the signal to attack the wizards and consume their flesh and taste their blood.  Waiting.

The goblin handed the spear to another, and raised the visor of his helmet.  He had a sneer on his face as he stared down at the village.  A shiver ran up the collective spine of the defenders of the Hollow.  They looked at goblin silver and basilisk scale, and they knew despair.

The goblin removed a shining gorget from around his throat, and drew a wand from a simple leather holster at his side.  He waved it in the air and touched it to his throat, saying something.  Nothing happened, but sharp-eyed wizards divined he was attempting the Amplifying Charm.

It was a simple spell, but it took him ten or eleven tries to cast it properly.  Still, considering it was the first time many of the wizards had ever seen a goblin cast a spell, it was a remarkable achievement.  The goblin cleared his throat, and began to speak, his voice raw with emotion and thick with a Gobbledegook accent.

“I am Bilgurd the Marrowed.  I speak for the Urgod Ur, work-leaders of the Great City of Ackle!  I speak too for the Burgod Bur of Curd, the Malwirt Mal of Podhurt, the Salwirt Sal of the Freihammer Mons, the Curl of Shikoku, and the Curl of Waimate Wam, and the Curl of Singurd!  I speak for the goblin nation!”

His voice rang out over Godric’s Hollow, the assembled monsters, and the shaken defenders.

“We are goblins, and we do not forget!

“One thousand years ago, our cities were bright and proud with our will-work -- the secret arts of transfiguration known only to us!  Ackle was a city of marble and diamond, beautiful to behold.  Wizards saw the will-work of the seven cities, and were jealous, and so men like Severus Hortensius took our wands by force!  Goblins were banned from owning wands, and the seven cities became small and dark, and we do not forget!”

Bilgurd’s voice was black with bitterness.

“Five hundred years ago, we were wandless, and we had to rely on our hammer-work and our wits!  Yet still, wizardkind was jealous!  Our goods were taken by force; Gringotts of London and Lurgods of Kochi were stolen from their rightful owners, and their gold heaped into wizarding coffers!  We were robbed, and still today that gold sits in the vaults of wizards of noble blood, and we do not forget!”

Two of the dark wizards standing behind the basilisks and terrasque exchanged mocking smiles, their unease forgotten in their contempt.

“Three hundred years ago, wizards decided that their dominance and blood-thirst was not yet sated!  Wizards -- that people that held elves in thrall and murdered Muggles and hunted centaurs for sport -- these wizards feared reprisal from their victims!  And little wonder!  And so wizards closed themselves away from Muggles and decreed that no goblin could ever again roam free on the land!  Wizards dared to lock away entire peoples in a bondage of secrecy so complete that few even question its justice!  We have been bound by the Statute for centuries, though our Things have no voice in the Confederation that gives it authority, and we do not forget!”

A silverwork goblin helmet shifted to turn to regard the monsters nearby, and the shiny mirror of its brow shone like a lesser moon.

“Since time began, the mudwater wizards of the world have stolen from us -- taken our will from us and borne it away in pieces.  The fruit of our forges and the light of our souls, put on display or waved around like trophies, and justified through illegal and unconscionable contracts, as though any goblin could contract away his soul!  Betrayal burns in every stolen suit of armor and every stolen spear, in every goblin-work mirror and every hoarded blade.  Our hammer-work has been stolen, just as our power of will-work was stolen, and we do not forget!”

Bilgurd’s shouts died down.  He paused, then spoke again, quietly and with emotion.

“Goblins have honour.  A new wizard spoke to us, of ancient name and great lore.  The Archon, he called himself.  The Archon Meldh.  He knew that we had suffered, and spoke well to us.  He spoke of wands, and banks, and prisons, and thefts.  The Archon told us that he would give us back the knowledge of transfiguration that we once held, to do things that even the wizards could not do -- to transfigure for days, not hours.  The will-work of our ancient purpose.  The Archon told us we would be free, too, and masters of our destiny and lives.

“Goblins have honour, and so we told him that we had allied ourselves with the Tower, and that he had treated us fairly.  We told him that he had given us wands, and that we had been given a seat in the Wizengamot, and would soon have more, and that we were given all the healing arts in the Tower’s power to give us.  We told him that we did not doubt that wizards were changing, and that the world was changing, and that it could be different.  We told him that, and he told us to weigh up all the wrongs and all the rights of our long history, and to ask ourselves: where did the balance lie?”

Bilgurd turned to face his own people now, and it was clear now, for the first time, that he had never been addressing the village of Godric’s Hollow or the gathered monsters or their dark wizard companions.  He was speaking to his own folk.  And he spoke with passion, his voice ringing clear.

“Goblins have honour, and so we gathered in our Things, and we debated.  We argued over the value of contract and good-will, and we argued over the very meaning of our lives.  We argued over the inheritance we would leave to our children.  We argued over what we might owe to our friends.  And then we decided, and the seven cities took a vote.”

The goblin’s voice rose again, and now it was the roar of millenia.

Goblins have honour!  Goblins of Ackle and Curd!  Goblins of Podhurt and the Freihammer Mons!  Goblins of Shikoku and Waimate Wam and Singurd!  The Tower is threatened!  His people are in danger!  Wizards have put out their hand to us and --”

One hundred goblins roared in unison, as bold as iron and fierce as brass, “We do not forget!

They wheeled in place.  They turned upon the monsters.  They leveled their spears.  And they charged.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


John Snow Center for Medicine and Tower School of Doubt (The Tower)
Now

The Tower had dissolved into chaos when they found out that Hogwarts was under attack.  In a manner entirely unbecoming to a room full of wise and experienced leaders, everyone broke away from what they were doing -- sending messages abroad to keep information coming in; coordinating deployment of aurors and patrol-wizards and anyone else they could find; working to find a pattern behind it all -- and began shouting.  It became even worse when three different wizards cast the Amplifying Charm and tried to cut through the chaos with simultaneous shouts of “Enough!”

It only stopped when Hermione Granger stomped her foot into the stone underfoot as hard as she could, smashing into it with a cracking boom.

“Quiet, please,” she said.  She turned to Harry.  “I’m taking everyone who can hold a wand out there, now.”

“Not everyone,” said Harry.  “Luna,” he said, turning to Lovegood, who somehow still managed to look vague and aloof, “I need you to get Basil and Percy’s brother.  I have a job for the three of you… an incredibly important one.”  He didn’t wait for a reply, moving to jab his finger at ten people in turn.  “All of you -- get to the Records Room!  Each of you grab two drawers and pull them free.  The incantation to release them is ‘Fuzzy-wuzzy was a seventeen Manila.’  Get them out of the Tower, somewhere safe -- the RCP.”

Harry turned to two aurors, seemingly at random.  “You two.  We’re evacuating.  Your job is to tell me when everyone is clear.”

The room was silent.  Everyone was staring, even those who’d been assigned a task.  Alastor Moody had his eyes clenched, and he was leaning on the meeting room table.  Hermione found her eyes filling with tears.

“Harry, what are you --” began Madame Bones.

“We’re evacuating.  Set up what we need in the Great Hall.  Everyone who can -- and all the aurors we have -- go and fight.  There’s no more reason to stay.  I’m bringing the Tower down.  Then I need to consult with Hermione about something I’m going to do,” said Harry, and his voice was as icy as the determination in his green eyes.  

“And then,” he added, as people gaped at him, “I’m going to the library.  Now move!


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Outside

Salamander had seen Nguyễn die.  She’d simply fallen off of her broom.  He didn’t know why.  Maybe she’d passed out, or maybe something had hit her.  But he’d watched her wobble in her seat mid-flight and fall, dropping in amongst the Muggles.  She was dead.

Some of the students had fainted.  Others were levitating professors or aurors up the stairs -- others, too tired even to do that, were just dragging the fallen, physically.  

Every lost combatant was a disaster.

There was only one layer of wards left.  Salamander stood behind it, flanked by twenty others.  Three fliers were left, reduced to weak curses and hexes.  Everyone did what they could for as long as they could.  They all fought as though it were the end of the world.  Perhaps it was.

Somnium!  Somnium!  Inflagrate!  Phlogisticate!  Phlogisticate!”

“Phlogisticate!  Somnium!  Ventus!  Ventus!  Prismatis!”

“Stupefy!  Stupefy!  Stupefy!  Stupefy!”

“Somnium!  Somnium!  Prismatis!”

They fell back.  They were a tight knot of magic at the base of the stairs.  Muggles smashed their weapons against Prismatic Shields.  Salamander sustained his with his will.  He had no magic left.  He fed his spell with his life.

There was a shadow, he thought dully, as a Muggle brought a sledgehammer down on his shield.  A shadow.

The Declaration of Intent was aloft, rising slowly from where it had rested near the greenhouses and floating towards them.

Another Muggle was beating on his shield with a pipe.  It was an old man, Salamander saw.  Thin-faced.  Dressed in torn pants, with no shirt over his shrunken chest.  Salamander blew him apart with a shower of gore.  Thousands of Muggles dead.  Always more.

Down the slope, Salamander watched the Returned charge.  He’d seen them spend all of the charges from their gauntlets and cast spell after spell into the endless flow of Muggles.  Now he supposed their magic was gone.

They swept into the side of the crowd of Muggles like a knife, leaning down from their brooms to smash their gauntlets into the heads of their targets.  Then they pulled up -- one broom short, Salamander couldn’t see who.  They flew in a tight circle, then did it again.  And again.

An auror’s shield gave.  She died a moment later as three Muggles buried knives into her chest and stomach.

Salamander knew he should clear some space to move back, to maneuver.

If he dropped his shield, he wouldn’t be able to cast it again.

He stayed.

He held on.

The Declaration of Intent was flying over them now, a squat fortress of stone gently soaring overhead.

Oh, Salamander thought, as his vision went black.  That’s where the boy went.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


When The Declaration of Intent came crushing down on the entry stairs of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it pressed into the rock, sending a shudder through the earth.  It rose and fell again, and then again, deliberately and grandly.  Three times it smashed itself into the stairs before it ruptured, exploding into a small mountain of shattered stone.

People died.  Nicomedius Salamander was among them.  So too were many, many innocent people, kidnapped and enslaved and whisked far away, to die in a war beyond their understanding.

So too were Lawrence Bradwian and Annabeth Dankesang.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Hogwarts endured.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


The Unseelie arrived first, borne by flaming chariots.  They found interest in the ruined bodies that littered Hogsmeade, strewn here and there, battered into meat.  The horror-gaunts gave their strange cry of amusement, driving lejis before them, as they turned towards the castle of Hogwarts.

Dark witches and wizards followed, and almost all of them kept a distance born of stark terror from the Unseelie.  Only two moved without fear ahead of their fearful compatriots.  One trotted along with mincing step of madness.  The other trudged with the hateful step of despair.  Bellatrix Black and Limpel Tineagar made an odd pairing.

Perenelle du Marais brought basilisks and terrasque with her.  She did not bother to hood the great serpents, paying their gaze no mind.  The full-figured witch in her green dress walked among them towards the killing fields, and seemed lost in her own thoughts.

One individual came last, unheralded and unarmed, clad only in plain robes of grey, bringing no one and nothing with them.

From everywhere, the armies came to Hogwarts.



13 comments:

  1. Awesome stuff so far! A worthy sequel to HPMOR.

    It's a pity I have to wait for the next chapter now though!

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  2. NOOOOOOOOOOOO
    This would be an awdully good time to pull an Eliezer Yudkowsky and upload ten chapters at once, you know?

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  3. I'm really enjoying the story, but Johannesburg is spelled without an 'h'. I used to live there.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Wait, why did Lawrence die? I thought he was inside the Declaration of Intent?

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    1. Yeah. He was inside it when he smashed it to pieces against the ground.

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    2. I don't think it's clear that the Declaration of Intent was damaged to such an extent that it's obvious anyone inside would die.

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  6. This has to be one of the best Harry Potter chapters ever.

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  7. It's weird that the defence of Hogwarts from muggles is so difficult. Hogwarts is a castle, so it is supposed to be easily defended from crowds of armed people even without magic, let alone with it. Of course it's not a problem for the wizard who controls these masses of people, especially considering the fire chariot that can be used, but they are not used. Instead Hogwarts defenders allow the enemy to drown themselves with corpses for some reason.

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    Replies
    1. it's a good example of the difference in attitudes between the commanders imo.

      if Harry had wanted to arm Hogwarts with flaming archer towers out the wazoo like a proper castle to stand a siege, or any magical siege equivalents, he might have been able to save more lives by enabling more efficient wholesale slaughter of brainwashed muggles.

      just the possibility of an inferi apocalypse should have meant this would be implemented.

      but the defenses of Hogwarts in the long centuries after Herpo the Foul vs. the Founders are....well....defensive. they have the statues and armors, they have walls, magic walls, magic illusions in the castle......it's all more designed to try to keep people safe than to attack. more design to 'try to not lose' instead of 'try to win'.

      it's in keeping with all characterizations shown so far that this attitude is theirs and that it is ends up being so costly here. when it finally came to safekeeping the Stone of Permanence itself, the amount of lethality they were willing to use was....appallingly low, by Monroe's standards.

      and Hogwarts isn't the Tower. and everyone else is just an Extra.

      there's also real reason to have believed that the Statute of Secrecy wouldn't be dispelled so horribly directly and completely and viciously and quickly and purposefully--- reason to believe that they would have time to sense that threat coming from the political theater.

      Harry had ONE magical artifact ready against "Evil Divine Intervention", "Act of Satan" instead of Act of God. He had the Goblet of Fire. for the most part, he has not been able to fully concentrate on preparing wars against gods.

      further, even if he had considered expending the resources into such an effort, the social capital? he was barely able to manage to push through what he pushed through on society. turning Hogwarts into more of a Monroe-Style Fortress in just six years was not something he could do in six years.

      Oh the physical and magical means were of course within their grasp to wage better war than this. but wizards are not goblins. wizards do forget.

      that's obviously the lesson being learned here.

      guns might not be enough to credibly threaten Hogwarts at all, but bombs are enough force to credibly cause structural problems of inconvenience to wizarding establishments. kind of like how we could anti-earthquake all our buildings, but we don't do it.

      and this is a very deliberate army, rushed together in shocking numbers and force for how unannounced it was. the only reason they weren't facing tanks and rocket launchers and helicopters is because the Three are going for the maximum element of surprise with the worst possible conditions for a defensive response.

      what's weird is that you forget that something had to catch up to Harry eventually. they literally just got done dealing with Herpo Himself.

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  8. It took me a full day to realize how the prophecy was fulfilled. That was a good pun.

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