THE WAR BEGINS
Harry hurried from the classroom, his mind quickly changing gears. The extra five minutes would just about make his plan possible. It would depend on whether the Fat Lady gave him a hard time. Harry decided that at the first sign of a delay at the portrait hole, he would head straight back to the Headmaster's office. If it went well at the portrait hole, then he would proceed. Harry dug the semi invisibility cloth out of his robes, threw it around his head and ran for the portrait of the Fat Lady. The stairways seemed to be exceptionally cooperative. Two times a stairway seemed to wait for his footstep before lurching off with a creak and a spray of dust to the exact landing he had been headed for. The Fat Lady was asleep when Harry said, "Blatherskites."
She seemed to be taken off guard as she muttered sleepily, "Yes, all right" and opened up immediately.
It wasn't until the passageway was sealed and Harry was well inside, that Harry heard her say, "Wait a minute, come back here and let me have a look at you." Harry realized that he still shimmered with near invisibility. As far as the Fat Lady knew, she had just opened up for a ghost.
Harry bounded up the dormitory stairs with practiced familiarity. At his dormitory door Harry began to exercise more caution. He knew he was in this room sleeping and he couldn't afford to wake himself up. "This is mental," thought Harry. He took out his wand and focused his thoughts. "Muffliato." The world dulled around him. He headed for the trunk at the foot of his bed. Harry promised himself that if the trunk had been rifled, he would head straight back to the Headmaster's office. Time was growing short. The trunk was locked. The key was...where was the key? Harry billowed the cloak over the top of the trunk, aimed his wand and concentrated "Alohamora." There was a soft click and Harry threw open the lid. His belongings were in fair order. "I made it in time," he thought gratefully.
"No time to be neat. Whoever is coming isn't going to be neat," thought Harry as he quickly found the invisibility cloak. He was about to leave when his hand brushed a piece of parchment. "The Marauder's Map!" Grabbing the map, he closed the lid and headed toward the dormitory stairway.
Harry's heart almost stopped when from behind him he heard Ron shout, "Stop!" Harry turned slowly, expecting to see a wand pointed directly at him. How to explain this madness? Harry looked into Ron's sleep dazed eyes. Harry's fear was immediately transformed when he saw Pigwidgeon circling around Ron's head. Ron swatted blindly at the nocturnal nuisance, "Stop! You annoying little twit! Get off!"
Harry stifled a laugh as he backed quickly out of the room. He turned and tore down the stairs, across the common room and to the portrait hole. Without taking time to remove the semi invisibility cloak, Harry threw his invisibility cloak around his head and pushed through the portrait hole.
Harry headed quickly down the corridor, ignoring the Fat Lady's command to stop and be identified. He pulled out his timepiece, five minutes to get back to the Headmaster's office; it was going to be very close. Harry performed the spell to deaden the sounds of his footfalls as he checked the Marauder's Map, Peeves was the only moving dot on the map and he was far away in the astronomy tower. Harry walked hurriedly in the bright moonlight that washed through the tall mullioned windows. The moon in the cloudless sky gave the hall the appearance of daytime. Harry didn't even bother to light his wand. The trip back to the stone gargoyle was uneventful. Nothing, not even a mouse, was moving in the castle tonight.
As Harry neared the last corner before the stone gargoyle he stopped suddenly. There was something on the map that he had never noticed before. Just to the side of where the stone gargoyle stood protecting the entrance to the Headmaster's office was a smudged mark. Harry racked his brain. Had he ever seen the mark? He had looked at the map hundreds of times before. He knew it by heart. He was sure he would have noticed the mark. Something was wrong. He pulled out his wand. The world seemed dull and distant because of the sound-deadening spell he had used but he didn't dare remove it. Even though it dulled his senses, he knew he couldn't be heard either. Harry moved cautiously around the corner, staying close to the wall. He paused and strained his eyes, looking down the hall for anything that seemed out of place. He couldn't see anything, he couldn't hear anything, but something wasn't right. "Is it the way the air currents ran? Is it something in the air?" he wondered as he sifted his senses. It was almost palpable but it stayed just out of his grasp. "Go forward? Go back? Stop and wait?" Harry pondered his options. He knew he was at the time threshold Dumbledore had given him to return. Passing time buffeted his senses. Harry looked at the map again. "The smudge was small, maybe it had always been there and I have just not noticed it. No, there's no use in trying to convince myself of that," thought Harry.
Harry moved cautiously. He took three steps toward the gargoyle and stopped again. He kept his back against the wall. "Nothing is going to get behind me," he vowed silently.
Still straining his senses, Harry looked at every shadow, at every torch bracket, at the tapestries along the wall. Everything was still. Harry realized that he hadn't looked up! He quickly scanned the arch of the hallway overhead. It disappeared into blackness at its peak. "Something could be up there but the only way I know to find out was to aim a lighted wand into the darkness. Do that and I might as well shout my location. I could leave quietly and get help. No. Dumbledore had been very specific about returning on time. Dumbledore also told me to be careful. Which instruction was most important?"
Harry took three more quiet steps. Now he was only three strides away from the gargoyle. He strained his senses. "Can I smell something? Yes. I can smell my own sweat. It smells like fear." Harry realized that he was afraid. "I have faced many things but I have always been able to see them. This is maddening. How can I prepare for what I can't see? Is it all in my mind?"
Harry took three more steps. He was now directly across the hall from the gargoyle. He was within touching distance of the scorch spot on the map. Still nothing. Harry's eyes searched every nook and cranny of the gargoyle. Nothing. "I could stand here and wait, silent and invisible. If there is something here with me maybe it isn't patient."
"What about the time? I can't take much more time." Harry's senses were strained to the breaking point.
"Dumbledore's glasses! Why hadn't I thought of them before?" He carefully reached into his pocket and pulled out the half moon spectacles. He removed his own glasses placing them in his robe pocket. After putting on the spectacles, Harry pushed them up the bridge of his nose so he could see through them. Slowly scanning the hallway, he looked for traces of magic. There was magic in the stones and woodwork and tapestries, but there was no bright glow of recent or strong magic. In fact it appeared that there was very little new magic in this hallway except around the gargoyle.
Harry relaxed a little. "Had it all been nerves?" he wondered. "Maybe this is just a side effect of Time-Turner use."
Harry considered the amount of time it would take to pass by the stone gargoyle. One second, maybe two. A couple of seconds for the wall to move out of the way, another two seconds for the gargoyle to resume its guardian's position. Harry wondered if the gargoyle would respond to a silent password. He prepared himself for a try. If the gargoyle did respond, he intended to spring silently into the stairway and allow the gargoyle to stop whatever might be here in the hall with him. Focusing all his thoughts, Harry concentrated. "Novus Ordo." Nothing happened. Harry tried again. Again nothing.
Harry faced the fact that either he couldn't concentrate well enough, or it was going to take a verbal password to activate the gargoyle. Harry remembered one of the Slytherin doctrines. "Don't let your enemy dictate the time or place of the confrontation." Harry realized that he was in control of where he would be and when he would say the password. "If there is something here, it would have to be prepared to act in the space of two seconds or miss the opportunity." Harry decided that surprise was his best tool. He made his way carefully across the hall and stood next to where the opening to the stairway would appear when the gargoyle stepped aside. Wand in hand, Harry prepared every muscle for action.
"Novus Ordo," though barely above a whisper, Harry's words seemed to boom in the silence of the hallway.
Things happened quickly. Harry threw himself toward the opening the moment the gargoyle cleared. As Harry passed the gargoyle, he thought he saw the visage of the gargoyle blur for a moment. Harry plummeted through the receding wall. Immediately the wall slid back into place and Harry could hear the gargoyle resume its guardian position just outside the wall, the ever watchful sentinel. Harry relaxed. He was in the staircase. The gargoyle was standing guard behind him. It was going to be all right.
Harry had taken one step toward the spiraling stair when a pair of powerful invisible arms pinioned his arms to his sides and lifted him off the ground.
"I can't see you and I can't hear you, but I can smell you, and soon I will kill you." The words were a growl. With a thrill of dread, Harry thought he recognized the voice.
Harry fought down the panic that swelled within. If he was right, this was going to be one-on-one with Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf that had bitten Remus Lupin and had savaged Bill Weasley. Harry realized that he could expect no help. It was true that Dumbledore was expecting him, but what could Dumbledore do?
Harry's mind raced. "If I'm right about it being Greyback, how come these arms feel like werewolf arms? It isn't full moon. Lupin had no human speech or reasoning ability when he transformed into his werewolf alter ego. Does Greyback have a method of altering his full-wolf tendencies? The Daily Prophet reported Greyback was sent to Azkaban prison when he was captured after the battle on the tower the night Dumbledore was killed. How and when did he escape from Azkaban? Maybe I'm wrong about who this is."
Harry thought about the Slytherin rules. "Was it Fenrir? Was Fenrir Slytherin? Didn't matter," Harry decided, "Give him what he expects, a weak teenage boy frightened by a more powerful, older wizard." Harry shuddered purposefully and forced an audible whimper.
"Shut up boy," growled the voice, "It will all be over soon. I might even make it quick if you cooperate. There are things worse than death."
Harry could feel the hot breath on his neck, could smell the stink of death in each exhalation. As the stair spiraled up to the landing, Harry decided to use a second Slytherin tactic. He would get this person talking; gain some time to weigh his options. "Keep playing the scared little kid," Harry told himself, "Watch for your chance."
"Wha-what do you want from me?" asked Harry with a quavering whimper in his voice.
"You have helped me immeasurably already," sneered the voice in Harry's ear, "I was about to use my second bit of forced magic on the guardian the bottom of the stairs when you came along and provided me with access without the expenditure of my magic. Lord Voldemort is powerful beyond belief. He provided me with five Confundus amulets. One to get on the grounds of Hogwarts, one to get though the castle gate, one for the guardian at the stair, one for the Headmaster's door, and one to get back off the grounds. I also found a breach in the security spells that protect the perimeter of Hogwarts. My friends will use it to come back and complete anything that I don't have time to finish. So far, I only had to use one amulet...to get through the castle's doors. It seems that no one thought that entry though the forest was possible. How wrong they were, I'm as efficient at killing as anything in that meadow. A fact that one centaur found, much to his surprise."
Harry added up the words. Whoever this was, had the Headmaster's office as a goal, was in league with Voldemort, may have killed a centaur, and possessed powerful magic. "Keep him talking," thought Harry.
"I see that you have the power to get whatever you want," Harry faux sobbed, "Why do you need me?"
"You had the password to the guardian, you will obviously be able to get through the door at the top of these stairs, why else would you enter the stairway. You will save me the use of an amulet. I am well ahead of schedule. I'll do my work quickly and then I'll have a chance to visit the teacher's rooms and the dormitories. With my remaining amulets, I will let myself in quietly and then my fun will begin, there are so many throats to be ripped out tonight. Rest assured I'll pay special attention to all the little girls. You see, the Dark Lord designed a potion that allows me to transform at will, regardless of the vagaries of the moon. I can think, I can speak, I can reason, I can kill of my own volition instead of being driven by instinct. Tonight will be remembered as the night that Hogwarts died."
Harry's friends, all asleep in their beds, could fall victim to this monster if he didn't handle this right. The term "...so many throats to be ripped out..." made Harry more confident that this was indeed Fenrir Greyback. Harry had heard almost identical words used on the tower the night that Dumbledore was killed. "Keep him talking," thought Harry.
"I'll let you in the office, just please don't kill me," whined Harry, "There's nothing in the office anyway; just some old books and pictures and junk. I am on a detention and have to spend the night cleaning all that old stuff. I only sneaked away to the kitchens for a snack. I used this invisibility cloak I found in the office so I wouldn't get caught going to or from the kitchen. Let me go and I'll let you in the office," Harry whimpered as he lied.
"There is more in that office than you know; a Porcrux and several ancient artifacts that are of interest to the Dark Lord, and you are in no position to dictate terms to me," snarled the voice as the stairway reached at the upper landing. "I am prepared to take what I want and I have the means to do it myself. Now let's see what we have here."
Harry was dropped and thrown forward at the same time. He extended his left arm, attempting to lessen the coming impact with the rough stone; nevertheless his impact against the wall was tremendous. He cried out in pain as he felt bones break in his left arm and wrist. A misshapen paw grabbed a handful of invisible cloth and ripped the cloaks from around Harry. Harry writhed in pain at the rough removal of his cloaks.
"Well! Two cloaks! Now I understand why even the Dark Lord's magic didn't allow me to see you," the snarl was tinged with subtle amusement. "I'll have even more gifts to present the Dark Lord than he expected." A paw protruding from an invisibility cloak made a quick twitch and the cloak swirled off, exposing a fully transformed werewolf.
Harry, through pain filled eyes, examined the werewolf. It was naked as Lupin had been when he transformed. It carried a short leather haversack on its muscular humped shoulders. The wand it held awkwardly in its right paw/hand was aimed directly at Harry's heart.
The werewolf blinked in surprised recognition. "Harry Potter! Now my evening is complete. Maybe I won't kill you. The Dark Lord so wants to do that himself. Maybe I'll bite you just to taste your blood. The Dark Lord told me to kill any who stood in my way. I may take him at his word. We shall see."
"Who are you?" asked Harry continuing his ruse in a sob aided by the pain in his left arm.
"No harm in telling you. You won't survive the day no matter what happens," said the werewolf. Then, licking his pointed teeth he continued, "I am Fenrir Greyback. I am the most trusted servant of Lord Voldemort. It was I who killed your precious Dumbledore."
Greyback grabbed Harry by his robe front and had lifted him to a nose-to-nose position.
Harry could see death in the yellow wolf eyes, only inches away from him. Harry realized he could see more than death, he could vaguely see what the creature was thinking. Without looking down at the wand in his right hand, Harry concentrated, "Legilimens." The images snapped into a sharp focus and flew by in rapid succession... a breakout at Azkaban prison, blood and carnage, Aurors killed, Fenrir as a man stopping to taste the blood of the dead and dying as he passed, a reunion of those liberated, assignments to kill, an urgent message about Dumbledore and Hogwarts...
Greyback twitched; he broke his gaze from Harry and looked quickly over his shoulder, as if expecting to see someone there. Seeing no one, he returned his attention to Harry.
The sharp images were there again...the brewing of a potion, the amulets, a stone crucible, and the assignment to steal Dumbledore's Porcrux. "That was it!" realized Harry. "That was why Greyback had come to Hogwarts!"
Greyback's ear twitched as if annoyed by a buzzing insect. The werewolf's eyes narrowed. Harry saw the question form somewhere in the werewolf's mind, "Is he in my head?" Harry relaxed the grip on his wand and blinked. The contact was broken. The images faded. Greyback seemed to reconsider a course of action.
"Enough talk," snarled the werewolf, "Open this door or die."
Harry feigned fear in his voice, "Anything, just please don't kill me." Harry knew from his incursion into the werewolf's mind, that fear was the expected response to the threat of death. Harry knew, somehow, that the wand in the werewolf's possession wasn't as effective while he was transformed into a werewolf. "Could I kill him?" the thought pounded through his pain. "I'm not sure I could do it. I'd better see what the panel does against an intruder," thought Harry.
Greyback placed his wand against the side of Harry's temple and urged him forward.
Harry moved to the panel and touched it with his wand. Following McGonagall's instructions, he did not look into the panel. When he tried to raise his left hand toward the panel, the pain from the broken bones made him cry out in agony. "I can't reach in to turn the lock," he said, half honestly.
Let's see if I can encourage you," said the werewolf grabbing Harry's forearm and shoving it toward the panel. Harry steeled himself for what was about to come. The mirr panel flexed and his fractured hand slipped inside the door. Immediate pain engulfed his hand. Rrecoiling in agony and with tears streaming down his face, he pitifully implored the werewolf, "It's no use. My hand is broken. I can't manage the lock."
The werewolf held Harry's hand in the panel for a moment longer, testing apparently to determine if anything would happen. When nothing obvious changed, the werewolf pulled Harry's hand from the mirr. With Harry's broken hand firmly in his right paw, Greyback growled, "Place your wand tip against the panel, any tricks and you'll have pain beyond imagination." To prove his point, Greyback increased the pressure on Harry's arm. Harry heard an additional bone break and a surge of pain coursed through his body, driving him to his knees.
"All right, anything," whimpered Harry. His tone becoming less and less an act, he shakily placed his wand tip against the mirr panel.
There was motion in the panel, Greyback bent slightly and looked into the panel, and was rewarded with a full view of the snapping snarling wolf. He laughed a cold amused laugh, "That pitiful whelp might scare off girls and little children, but I eat things like that for dessert."
With that, Greyback placed his left paw against the panel. The mirr surface flexed easily and his paw slipped through. There was a slight pause, Greyback began, "Where is the locking..." He never finished. A howl of pain filled the landing. Greyback aimed his wand at the panel and shouted "Bombarda."
The landing rocked with the power of the spell. Stone shattered, dust flew, the spiraling stairway ground to a halt, but the door remained solidly in place. The force of the reflected spell had knocked the wand from Greyback's right paw. Greyback swung a mighty blow in Harry's direction.
The force of the blow lifted Harry from his feet and smashed him into the wall opposite. He lay on his back, gasping for breath. Even though he had seen the blow a fraction of a second before it landed, no amount of warning could have prepared him for the pain that seemed to engulf his entire body. Through a fog of pain, he could see the outline of a huge figure swinging wildly, trying to make another blow connect. Harry tried to move but his body refused to obey.
"Get up Potter," ordered Greyback in a snarl punctuated by pain and panic.
Harry struggled to move, to turn, to escape in any direction, but unconsciousness dragged his mind down. As the cool blackness engulfed him, he could sense rather than see the moving arc of a foot swinging toward him in a kick. Mercifully, unconsciousness came faster than the kick. He never felt it land.
Unearthly howling roused Harry from unconsciousness. It seemed like days had passed; yet here he was on the landing with a maniacal werewolf. He could see that the werewolf's left arm sticking out of the mirr panel was bent at an odd angle. Apparently Greyback's arm had been broken by his own spell as it bounced off the enchanted door.
Instinctively, Greyback grabbed his left arm with his right paw and attempted to pull it free from the mirr. Bones grated as the werewolf pulled on his arm. Through the dust and haze, Harry saw that the werewolf's left arm was being pulled into the mirr panel. Greyback struggled and strained, finally putting his feet against the door and pulling directly on his left arm. Greyback was so intent on pulling his left arm from the mirr that he didn't notice his right hand come up against the panel and slip inside. Harry watched, horror struck, as the werewolf, now up to his left forearm and his right hand in the mirr, started to bite and tear at his own left arm. With a mighty snap of his powerful jaws, the werewolf severed his own left arm just below the elbow. Blood sprayed the door and pooled on the floor from the raw stump. The momentum of the pull combined with the freedom provided by severing his left arm, pirouetted Greyback half around. Before he could react, his right arm had been pulled inside the mirr nearly to his shoulder. The werewolf bit savagely at his own shoulder. As he did so, he bit cleanly through the strap on the leather haversack he was carrying. It swung precariously, and with nothing to stop it, it slid from his mangled left arm and fell in the centre of the stairway landing.
Greyback's shoulder and torso were now jammed tightly against the mirr panel. Harry was sure that the werewolf's progress would stop there, imprisoned as he was against the door. Harry was sickened by a crunching, cracking sound as the werewolf seemed to fold and break as it was pulled inexorably onward. The howls and snarls turned into whimpers and finally silence as the last of the werewolf was pulled out of sight into the panel.
Silence thundered in the landing, dust settled. Harry could barely see through the pain caused by his crushed left arm and hand. Forcing beyond the pain, Harry dragged himself to the centre of the landing, cradling his left arm; he gathered the leather haversack, the three discarded cloaks and the wands. With each breath coming in a labored gasp, he stuffed everything, except his own wand, into the haversack and slung the pack painfully over his right shoulder. Harry started down the unmoving spiral stair. He needed Madam Pomfrey. He knew if he didn't get help soon he could very well die of shock.
Harry had made his way to the lower landing when he heard commotion on the other side of the stone gargoyle. Moody, Slughorn, and McGonagall burst past the gargoyle and nearly collided with Harry. Harry, strength almost spent, consumed by pain, collapsed against Moody.
McGonagall stared in disbelief, "Potter... what's been... you're supposed to be in bed!"
Harry cut across McGonagall's babbling, his words came in pain filled gasps, "Breakout at Azkaban, ...breach in Hogwarts' perimeter defense, ...Greyback in mirr panel... ...centaur hurt or killed in forbidden forest, ...Voldemort's supporters attacking all over tonight, ...must warn..." Harry sagged toward the floor, only Moody's quick levitating spell kept him from smashing into the stone paving.
As McGonagall bent to examine Harry she immobilized his arm with a wave of her wand, then taking control, she launched into a series of instructions, "Horace, take Mr. Potter straight to Madam Pomfrey. When you have him situated there, get a message to GRASSP and have a goblin crew and a level-two mirr panel brought here immediately. Alastor, go roust all the boys and girls from Gryffindor house. Take them to the perimeter of the grounds. Teach them how to check the spells that protect our school. I'll check on Remus and make sure that Greyback didn't visit him during the night, as there was no love lost between the two of them. Then I'll get a message to Scrimgeour and warn him about Azkaban and the attacks."
As McGonagall was checking Harry's injured arm, she came across the gold chain around Harry's neck. She paused, slipped her little finger under the chain, turned slightly to screen her action from Slughorn, and looked directly at Moody. Their eyes met and she led Moody's gaze to the gold chain over her finger. McGonagall added almost casually, "Alastor, when you round up the Gryffindor students, leave Mr. Potter alone, he'll need his rest."
Moody's magic eye traveled to where the chain disappeared under Harry's robes. Understanding seemed to flash between them. Moody said, equally as casually, "I doubt Madam Pomfrey will let Potter go with us anyway." Then to Harry, "Sorry lad." As he turned away from Slughorn, Harry saw Moody wink and nod at McGonagall.
"One more thing Alastor," added McGonagall, "While you are on the grounds, find Hagrid and send him to the Headmaster's office. We'll need him if a centaur has been injured."
"Quickly everyone, time is short, let's get busy," McGonagall said as she turned and headed to check on Lupin.
Moody stumped purposefully toward the Gryffindor dormitories.
Slughorn conjured a floating stretcher out of thin air and motioned for Harry to lie down. Even though McGonagall's immobilizing spell had alleviated much of his pain, getting on the stretcher proved the last of Harry's strength. He closed his eyes and blanked his mind to the terror he had just endured. Slughorn hurried the stretcher to the hospital wing and Harry's appointment with Madam Pomfrey.