Title: Magic's Champion (A Gift of Ordinary Magic: The Hogwarts Remix) [Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Harry Potter] (part 1)
Author: M. Scott Eiland
Summary: A desperate attempt to stop Voldemort has drastic consequences—and Harry and his friends are challenged to justify their actions.
Rating: PG-13, for language and themes.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Harry Potter
Spoilers: All seven seasons of Buffy and all five seasons of Angel: the first six Harry Potter books (AU thereafter).
Title, Author and URL of original story: A Gift of Ordinary Magic, by Lizbeth Marcs. http://liz-marcs.livejournal.com/144724.html
“You can't be serious, Hermione.” Harry Potter stared at his best friend, unable to believe what he had just heard her suggest.
“I'm afraid I am, Harry.” Hermione was more tired than she could ever remember being, but she forced herself to look Harry right in the eye as she added, “This will end the threat of Voldemort, Harry—it will stop the killing.”
“At what cost?” Harry whispered, looking away from Hermione and out the windows of the astronomy tower. It was daylight, and the scene outside looked deceptively peaceful. The dozens of Death Eaters lurking just outside the wards weren't visible—the dead and wounded described in the lurid articles and photos of the copy of the Daily Prophet open on the desk next to him certainly weren't. He looked down at the letter in his hand—it was the last report they had received from Fred and George, dated two weeks before. The twins hadn't been heard from since, though he believed that Voldemort's toadies in the Wizarding media would be gloating about the deaths of the “blood traitors” had either or both of them been slain. He closed his eyes to ward off the despair that threatened to overwhelm him. Dumbledore was gone, and the others—God help them—were looking to him to lead. Fine—I'll lead. But I'm not committing to this without hearing other opinions. He turned back to Hermione and noted, “We're going to need several others to help us with this, right?” Hermione nodded, and Harry frowned, then nodded once before ordering, “Call the others together—we're going to do this as a group, or not at all.”
Hermione blinked, then nodded and left. Harry could see the doubt on her face, and he didn't blame her in the slightest. He looked out the window again. Can we really do this?
Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to stay calm as he looked at the group sitting at the table in front of him. They had been his steadfast allies during the Siege of Hogwarts—which was now going on its sixteenth week—and by now their faces were all as familiar to him as those of his best friends, or—less pleasantly—the Dursleys. He coughed self-consciously and said, “Thank you all for coming. As you know, Hermione has been conducting extensive research for a way to help us fight back against Voldemort, and she has uncovered something that she believes—and which I agree—would finish Voldemort once and for all.” The others at the table—save Hermione, who remained still and somber—straightened visibly and registered hope as Harry added, “If we do this, there will be a very, very serious cost—one which many would not want to pay if given a choice. I rely on you for advice, and I am asking you to be completely honest and open with any objections you have about this plan.”
“Well then, get on with it, Harry.” Mad-Eye Moody replied, his magical eye whirling in its socket as his ruined features took on a determined look. “Hermione wouldn't recommend it if it wasn't a workable plan, and you wouldn't look so concerned if there wasn't a real downside. We're here to listen.”
Harry smiled gratefully at the retired Auror for cutting through his discomfort and making him get to the point, and he nodded to Hermione—who spoke for ten minutes, with the only other sound in the room being the soft breathing of the other twelve people present. When she finished, she was pale and visibly upset, but she managed to inclined her head at Harry and sit down without further hesitation. Harry looked at her with concern, then turned back to the others and invited, “All right—anything anyone wants to say: now's the time to say it.”
There was silence for several seconds before Ron coughed once, then looked directly at Harry as he whispered, “You want us to get rid of magic?”
“'Want' isn't the right word, Ron: Hermione's found a ritual so that we can get rid of magic—and that will finish Voldemort. Considering that we're losing the war, I thought we should consider it as a plan.” Harry replied without hesitation, looking at his best friend without anger. “If anyone has another plan—or thinks that things aren't as bad as I'm making them out to be—I'm ready to listen.”
Harry wasn't surprised when his comment was met with silence: no one at the table needed to be told how bad things were.
Things had actually gone rather well for a while after Dumbledore's death: Harry, Hermione, and Ron had joined forces and found two of Voldemort's horcruxes—one concealed in the cup that had once belonged to Helga Hufflepuff, the other within the diadem that had once belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw—and destroyed them before Harry's seventeenth birthday. The locket that had once belonged to Salazar Slytherin eluded them, though—and when the new owner was revealed as none other than the vile Dolores Umbridge, they immediately went to her home with the plan of confronting her and either talking her out of the locket or taking it forcibly with an Obliviation spell as punctuation. They found her front door open, and her wide-eyed corpse lying in the entry hallway. A broken chain lay atop a folded note, and Harry had opened it with a shaking hand to read: “Nice try, Potter. I will be leaving this trinket in the care of Fidelius for the duration of this conflict. I underestimated Regulus Black—and you. I will do neither again. --V.”
With the hunt for the Horcruxes having been ended definitively, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had decided to return to Hogwarts for their final year—to serve as an example for others to come after Dumbledore's death, and to use it as a base of operations against Voldemort. However, what was intended as a simple regrouping turned out to be a lasting choice, as on the third of September Voldemort launched massive attacks on both London and Hogsmeade. Diagon Alley quickly became occupied territory, and the Ministry of Magic itself was forced to close its wards forcefully, leaving the leadership isolated and besieged. Hogsmeade also fell quickly, and Death Eaters formed a permanent watch around the perimeter of Hogwarts—allowing nothing to enter or leave save by the leave of Voldemort. Faced with a horrific situation, Headmistress McGonagall quickly made a hard choice and subjected every person within the walls of Hogwarts to Veritaserum to determine if there were any spies among those present. No Death Eaters were found—but there were two children whose parents had been taken and who were under threat to compel their status as informers. After a grim discussion, it was decided to put the children under a lasting sleeping spell, to protect them and to spare them the worry over the fate of their parents. Harry had watched the potions being administered, and left the sickroom with a heavy heart.
“So how exactly does it work?” Ron spoke again, bringing Harry out of his reflections on the recent past. “The magic goes away, this world merges with another one—do we just stop existing? Might as well go down fighting against Voldemort if we're dead anyway!”
“It's not quite that simple, Ron.” Hermione spoke up, sounding weary. Ron went silent, and Hermione gave him a wan smile before continuing, “As we know from our studies in History of Magic--” Harry stifled a smile—he doubted that even McGonagall and Flitwick had paid much attention to those particular lectures—as Hermione went on: “--there are countless worlds in existences parallel to our own: some have magic, some don't. The ritual we are proposing will—in addition to driving the magic out of our world—push our world into congruence with a non-magical world that is otherwise very much like our own, including in the people who live their. Our lives will merge with those of our counterparts, leaving both somewhat changed, but as individuals ready and able to survive in a world without magic.”
“What about the magical creatures, Hermione?” Tonks had been sitting quietly, holding Remus' hand, and her eyes shone as she asked the question. “Will there be a place for them in this new world?”
“The ones who are partly or mostly human will become fully so in the new environment.” Hermione replied, as she looked at Remus, Tonks, and then over at Hagrid. They all nodded, and Hermione swallowed hard as she turned to the seat to her left and added, “Those who are purely magical creatures will leave with the magic, and will join with counterparts in another world that is magical. Dobby. . .I'm afraid that means that you wouldn't be coming with us.”
The house elf looked up at Hermione and blinked, then turned to Harry and said quietly, “Dobby would be sad to live in a world without Harry Potter and his brave friends—but He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named must be stopped, and Dobby knows that other house elves feel this way too. Dobby will support Harry Potter's plan.”
“I'll miss being able to be able to turn into a cat.” Minerva McGonagall spoke quietly, and the others looked at her quietly as she snorted abruptly and amended, “Well, I suppose I won't, given the circumstances.” She looked at Harry and Hermione and commented, “We still need to work through the details, but I'm sensing that we're moving in the direction of agreeing to this. We should see if there are any serious objections, then move on to implementation if we're agreed.”
Harry nodded grimly and stated, “Anyone who wants to speak up—now's the time.”
“Any world where you're there and Voldemort isn't is fine with me, Harry.” Ginny whispered, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “It's just sad, that's all.”
“If this had happened six years ago I might have welcomed it.” Neville sighed, shaking his head as his friends smiled at the memories of Neville in his first days at Hogwarts. “Ginny's right—it's sad, but we need to beat that bastard. Too many of us have died already.”
Remus and Tonks looked at each other, then back at Harry as they said simultaneously, “We're with you, Harry” then turned back to each other with smiles as Hagrid nodded once at Harry, then took a long draft from the huge mug in front of him.
Mad-Eye also nodded at Harry, then muttered, “Maybe the other me will have a few more intact parts,” drawing a laugh from the others—except for Luna, who remained silent, with an oddly serene look on her face.
Harry looked at Luna with concern and asked, “Luna, you haven't said anything—what do you think about all of this?”
The blonde witch looked over at Harry with a calm expression and replied, “It's not going to solve the problem, Harry.”
Harry blinked at the blunt reply and asked, “Do you mean that we shouldn't do it, Luna?” He sensed Hermione tensing at his side—he knew that Hermione was uncomfortable with Luna's intuitive approach to the world, but he knew that sometimes her instincts were dead on. He pressed, “Luna—are we making a mistake?”
Luna shook her head, and replied, “We need to do it—but it won't solve the problem. Magic always finds a way.”
Harry frowned, but Luna did not elaborate further. He looked at the others, almost begging them for an objection with his eyes, but there was only silence. He sighed, then turned back to Hermione and asked quietly, “All right then, Hermione—what do we need to do next?”
@ @ @ @ @
Voldemort was not an individual used to feeling shock. Anger, yes. Random playful sadistic impulses—almost hourly. Shock was an emotion born of setback and being taken off-guard, and the Dark Lord rarely experienced either. Even the moment of his greatest defeat—his body's destruction by the Killing Curse that had rebounded from Harry Potter—was not accompanied by shock on his part, if only because the moment passed too quickly for him to perceive it while he was still corporeal and able to experience such emotions. It was a remarkable moment, then, when the low hum coming from a ring on his left index finger caused an icy chill to go down his spine and induced him to cease the rant he was directing at one of his servants.
“What. . .what is the matter, My Lord?” The Death Eater stammered, knowing from the expression on his master's face that something terrible had happened. Voldemort gestured savagely for silence, and the Death Eater complied instantly, watching as the reptilian features went blank, then assumed a look of resignation.
Voldemort sighed inwardly. No point in delaying the inevitable. He seized the arm of the Death Eater in front of him and touched the Dark Mark there, triggering its dark call to his minions. In moments, hundreds of Death Eaters had apparated into Voldemort's audience chamber, awaiting instructions from their master.
The Dark Lord looked at his servants for a long moment before announcing, “I am going to be conducting a ritual that will have side effects on you through my link with you through the Dark Marks—side effects that would leave you vulnerable should you be outside during this time. For this reason, I am ordering you to retire to your quarters and wait there for my next command. Severus will be bringing sleep potions to you to allow you to avoid the less. . .pleasant parts of the connection. Unless you enjoy intense pain, I'd suggest taking the potion.” The Death Eaters were silent, and Voldemort sighed again before gesturing and concluding, “Leave me. Severus, a word, please.”
Bellatrix Lestrange gave Voldemort a questioning look, but the Dark Lord shook his head once—causing the senior Death Eater to nod in affirmance and head out—before turning to his Potions Master and asking, “You have knowledge of sleeping draughts that require no magic to function, correct?”
Snape nodded. “Some creatures are naturally resistant to magic, and require such measures.” He frowned, then added, “I should have enough—barely—to put everyone here to sleep for forty-eight hours. If you need more, I will need--”
“That will suffice, Severus. The matter will be resolved by then.” Voldemort replied quietly. It was not kindness, but an impulse towards honesty that caused the Dark Lord to add, “You have been a good servant to me, Severus—I have no doubt that you would do well in whatever role fate had in store for you.” Snape blinked in confusion, and Voldemort shook his head almost sadly and concluded, “Administer the potion to the others—then yourself. It's for the best.”
Snape bowed and departed, and Voldemort departed his audience chamber in haste, heading for the ritual chamber that he maintained with great care and at great expense. He closed, locked and bolted the door after he entered, then took a moment to feel the shock again.
This is madness, Potter—I never thought you'd do it.
In the course of his decades of magical research, Voldemort had long ago discovered a ritual that would—through drastic manipulation of dimensional barriers—cause all of the magic in the world to go elsewhere and cause the world to merge with another, non-magical one that was otherwise very similar to it. The ritual would take four hours to complete, and—once completed—would complete its grim work within thirty-six hours, with only the original participants in the ritual being able to reverse its effects. When he had discovered the ritual, he had shuddered, then decided that he would be ready should any madman decide to conduct the ritual. The ring on his hand was charmed to warn him should the ritual ever be started, and was also designed to tell him exactly where the ritual was being held—the emanations from the ritual were intense enough that even a Fidelius Charm would not hide them.
Unfortunately, the ritual was being held being the impervious wards of Hogwarts—Voldemort had immediately dismissed the idea of being able to breach those wards and storm the ritual site in time to prevent the disaster. Once it was done, magical powers of all kinds would be draining away—but more slowly from those who had held the ritual. He knew that he would not be able to force Potter and his friends to change their minds, even if they wandered out from their refuge in the last hours. No, his paranoia about this threat had borne fruit—but it would not let him avert the disaster that was to come. His only recourse was escape.
With great care, he drew a powerful ritual circle ten feet in diameter. He took the locket of Slytherin—now hanging on a new chain—and put it around his neck. He cast a gentle Summoning Spell, and Nagini floated over to him where he stood in the center of the circle. The mighty snake curled into a smaller circle around its master, careful not to disturb the ritual circle. Voldemort smiled briefly, then waved his wand and spoke a single word.
The ritual circle glowed, and a translucent hemisphere appeared above Voldemort and Nagini. Voldemort nodded in satisfaction and sat down to wait. The ritual circle would protect all of the magic within its boundaries as the magic was drained from the rest of the world. When the rest of the magic was gone, the protected area would be physically rejected by the now magic free dimension, sent elsewhere with the purely magical creatures. Voldemort would be in a new world with the remaining parts of his soul and all of his power. He would have lost one world. . .but he would have another, unsuspecting world to conquer.
Will Potter really go through with it? He had, oddly enough, been mostly truthful when explaining himself to his minions. From what he had been able to determine, the draining away of magic would be quite unpleasant for any wizards or witches exposed to it—and the Death Eaters would have been easy pickings for the less-affected ones who had conducted the ritual. If Potter changed his mind, Voldemort wanted his army more or less intact. If he didn't. . .well, it wouldn't matter one way or another, would it? Better to let the fools dream of a world they'll never see.
The boundaries of the circle flashed bright blue, and Voldemort scowled. So. . .it begins.
@ @ @ @ @
The stars were beautiful.
Harry ignored the dizziness that lurked at the back of his consciousness as the small group of wizards and witches moved along the boundaries of the well-tailored estates. It had been just over twenty-four hours since the ritual was completed, and the sequence of events that had brought them all here was a blur in his memories.
Hermione had determined that the draining away of magic would be very painful to those experiencing it—a revelation that had caused Harry a long moment of doubt before he once again agreed to move forward with the plan—and they had arranged for everyone who was not to be participating in the ritual in Hogwarts to be put into a deep sleep using a purely non-magical sleeping draught provided by Madame Pomfrey and Professor Slughorn. The—truthful if misleading—explanation given to all was that the group was about to conduct a major ritual aimed at Voldemort, and that it would be dangerous for those not participating to be awake for it.
Unfortunately, there was no such relief available for Hogsmeade. When the ritual was completed, they exited the castle—leaving Dobby, Tonks, and Hagrid deep in the protective slumber of the sleeping draught—and moved to the edge of the wards near Hogsmeade, hoping to catch the presumably distracted Death Eaters by surprise. There were no Death Eaters, but they could all hear the faint sound of screaming coming from the direction of the town. They ran to the edges of the settlement and looked on in horror as dozens of wizards and witches screamed in agony and without comprehension of what was happening to them. Harry and Ron looked at each other, and without verbally agreeing to do so they began casting Stunning Curses at the hapless townspeople, knocking them out and stopping the pain. Hermione's research had suggested that after twelve hours, the pain would be gone and those still conscious would be too disoriented to be in significant pain. “When this is over, Harry, they won't remember any of it. It'll be all right.” Harry had been silent, but “all right” was the last phrase that came to mind as he passed the still forms on the ground as they left the town behind.
They had walked to a nearby muggle town and rented a van—Remus, of all people, knew how to drive—and they drove for hours, stopping at communities along the way to see what the effects of the ritual were on them. The muggles seemed to be mostly unaffected, though Harry believed that he noticed some of them looking distracted, as if they weren't quite sure of their surroundings.
The van broke down in a small town about twenty miles to the northwest of London, and no one present saw any point in bothering to get it fixed. They abandoned the vehicle and had a very nice meal in a small inn before they walked out into the night. None of them put a name to what it was that made them wander in their last hours in this incarnation, but they all agreed that they didn't feel like renting a room and waiting for the end.
There were a number of small estates outside the town, and they walked past them quietly, stumbling occasionally as the continued drain of their magic made them clumsy. No one spoke.
Harry was the first one to spot the figure emerging from the darkness behind and above them as they passed the fifth estate. He caught the attention of the others and they all turned to face the approaching man. He was about Ron's height and looked to be in his early twenties. His hair was dark and medium length, and his right eye was brown—the left one was apparently missing, as it was covered by an eyepatch. He was looking at the group with an expression that Harry couldn't quite interpret—except that it clearly wasn't friendly. Professor McGonagall stirred at Harry's side and was about to speak when the man glared at them and shouted, “What in the hell did you idiots do?”
Harry felt a wave of guilt, which faded quickly as he realized, We're trespassing—he wants us off of his property. Professor McGonagall had apparently come to the same conclusion, and she was already replying in a soothing tone, “I'm very sorry, sir. We were at a costume party at one of the nearby estates and there was an unfortunate incident that caused the event to break up. We'd be glad to leave and we won't trouble--”
The man laughed bitterly, and Professor McGonagall stopped in mid-sentence. Harry winced slightly—never in his wildest dreams of rebellion had he ever imagined shutting down the intimidating witch quite that thoroughly. He listened as the man stared at McGonagall and snapped, “Nice try—you can sell that line to someone who doesn't know what's going on. I know that you're wizards and witches and that you've been getting beaten by some crazy guy named Voldemort--” Everyone except Harry and the dark-haired man visibly reacted to the forbidden name, and the man nodded grimly and added, “--and since I know that everyone else with any magic in them is dying or just nuts right now, I bet that you're the bunch of fools who decided to solve your problem by just getting rid of magic. . .aren't you?”
“What do you know about it?” Ron stepped forward, glaring at the newcomer. “You're not a wizard.”
“Are you a squib?” Hermione stepped forward, looking at the man with fascination. “My studies indicated that the ritual should have been rather disorienting to squibs.”
“I thought you called people like me, um, muggeds.” The man sounded puzzled, though the anger was still audible in his voice.
“I believe you mean 'muggle,' young man.” Remus spoke quietly, looking at the man calmly. Harry watched him with some concern—he knew that leaving Tonks behind had been a terrible strain for his friend, but he had refused to abandon Harry and his friends during their final hours of exploration.
The man nodded emphatically. “That's it—that's what I am.”
Harry swallowed hard and spoke for the first time. “What do you know about what has happened?”
The man looked at Harry closely, as if realizing that he was somehow more important to this group than would be apparent by looking at the ages of its members. He looked into Harry's eyes and replied in a low, even tone: “What I know is that you were losing the war, and you decided that the only way to win was to end the whole damned thing—get rid of all of the magic, and the evil wizard goes away with it. Well, congratulations—it's working!” He gestured savagely behind him and bellowed, “Except that now I've got a house full of people who need that magic to live—including just about everyone I love in this entire world—and they're dying and I can't do a damned thing to save them! So thanks a lot for dragging us all to hell with that bastard!”
Harry felt a chill down his spine, and he saw Ron and Hermione look at each other in confusion. The older wizards and witch were silent, and Harry had a feeling they were less in the dark about the young man's anger. He forced down the confusion and addressed the man again: “I didn't think--”
“Yeah, I got that. This whole thing doesn't feel like something that was thought through real well.” The man spoke wearily, turning away from Harry and looking back at the estate with a pained expression on his face as he continued, “Did you really think that you people were the only ones on the planet who used magic—or who needed it to exist? WRONG! I've got a house full of Slayers, and Watchers, and vampires, and magic users—hell, I've even got a God-King and a mystical Key in there! They're all just fading away while I watch!”
McGonagall spoke again, and she sounded old and tired. “The Council.”
“Bingo.” The man whispered. “Did you forget about them? Did you even think about picking up a phone or, right, sending an owl to let Giles know what was going on?”
Hermione looked at McGonagall, and Harry saw an expression on her face as she spoke that he rarely associated with his brilliant friend--utter bafflement: “The Council?”
“It's a long--” McGonagall began, then stopped, looking embarrassed. She hesitated, then began again, “There are others who. . .who use magic in a different way than we do.”
Harry laughed. The sound of it was bitter and angry and everyone except the newcomer flinched at the sound of it. The man looked carefully at Harry, clearly noting the reaction, and Harry met that gaze for a moment before turning on McGonagall and snapping, “So muggles aren't just muggles? We could have asked for help and you didn't think it would be a good idea to tell us about the possibility?”
“Harry, it's not that simple.” McGonagall sounded apologetic, but firm. “It isn't their fight.”
“Like hell it's not, lady!” The man snapped, taking two steps forward and confronting the headmistress. “This is our world too!” McGonagall opened her mouth again, but the man hadn't finished: “And don't give me any crap about a treaty! The world is at stake here, and we could have helped, damn it! I'm not saying we would have said 'Yay, a new apocalypse!', but we've saved the world enough times that we're pretty much the go to guys for dealing with that kind of thing! Some wizard with a stupid name and a little wand doesn't even rate as a contender for biggest problem of the year as far as we're concerned!”
Harry stared at the man in wonder. He means it. There was a whole group of people who deal with magical dangers to the world, and we ignored them and blew them up along with Voldemort. We need to do something about this. Harry began to open his mouth, wanting to reach this man who had so unexpectedly upset their applecart, when he was interrupted.
“ A little wand, huh! I'll show you what a wand can do, boy!” The voice of Mad-Eye Moody boomed out, causing the others to turn in surprise and Harry to wince. Oh Merlin, this is not a good time for one of your paranoid outbursts, Mad-Eye! Moody had his wand out and was leveling it at the stranger as he began to utter a familiar and dangerous curse: “Imperi-”
The man moved so quickly that Harry thought at first that he had somehow apparated. The Imperius Curse only hit air as the man ducked under the spell and tackled Moody, sending the two of them tumbling to the ground. Moody put up a good struggle, but youth prevailed, and the man managed to grab Moody's wand and snap it as the older man gasped in helpless outrage. The man got to his feet, tossed the pieces of the wand to the ground, and glared at the group again as he screamed, “I've had it with you people—bring back the magic, NOW!”
They all looked at him in shocked silence for what seemed like forever to Harry before Remus managed to say in a frighteningly normal and soothing tone: “If we bring the magic back, people will die.”
“People die every day, man—that's pretty much a part of the whole human condition thing, you know?” The man shook his head in frustration and continued, “If the crazy wizard doesn't get them, a car will. If a vampire doesn't drain them dry, they might drink themselves to death or put a bullet in their brain five years from now. Demons kill people. . .but so do brain aneurysms. We all die sooner or later—that's no reason to give up, damn it!”
“You're a cold one, aren't you?” Ron snapped, fed up with being yelled at by some muggle who thought he had all the answers. “You're not the one who's been watching his friends die for years now.”
“I've been watching them slowly dying for a day now—and I've been burying them for almost ten years now, kid.” The man looked at Ron wearily. “Don't tell me I don't know what it's like.”
“But they're not dying!” Hermione protested. Harry could hear a hint of desperation in her voice, as if she was trying to convince herself along with the stranger. “This world will merge with another one when the magic has left—and everyone will merge with their counterparts on that world. We'll all be safe.”
The man just looked at her and whispered, “Are you sure?” Hermione nodded emphatically, and the man pressed, “So. . .the two ensouled vampires in there who are both on the far side of one hundred and thirty will have a counterpart in that new world? How about the girl who was created by magic to hide a magical Key? Or the God-King living in the body of a woman whose soul was destroyed years ago? Will they have a place there?”
Hermione blinked, began to open her mouth, then stopped and looked down as she whispered, “They'll end up somewhere—maybe not the same world, but somewhere. I'm sorry, I know the theory but the specifics. . .there's no way to know for sure in advance.”
“That's the problem with doing things based on a theory—that first step is a doozy.” The man looked back at Harry and asked bluntly, “How do we know that this new world will be better than this one—hell, how do we know that it will be worth having period?”
Harry knew that he couldn't let himself be intimidated—he had to do his best to justify his decision even in the face of his own growing doubts about it. He looked back at the man and replied with the most direct justification he could imagine at that moment: “When he's gone, the nightmares go with him.”
“Maybe, but you're sending the fairy tales away with him too.” The man's response caused a few bitter laughs from the others, but he shook his head at the response without visible anger and continued, “Yeah, maybe that doesn't seem like so much to you, and sometimes it doesn't to me, either—but the people in that house have been fighting for years to let other people have the chance to dream, and live, and love—and I've been proud to fight with them. You may kill your personal demon by doing this, but you're also throwing away a lot of good with him—and you're doing away with some people who'd be willing to fight the good fight with you against him, if you'd just bothered to ask us.”
“What do you want us to do?” Harry whispered, seeing that the man was exhausted and at the end of his wits.
“Just stop this.” The man looked back at Harry and spoke urgently. “Whatever you've done, whatever it takes to stop this—just make it end. Let us help you deal with this problem. Killing magic is no way to stop it from being murdered.”
Harry was speechless, and the others were silent as well. The man slumped, defeated, and he turned away, calling out, “Merry Christmas—and I hope you enjoy that new world, because I'm going to miss this one.” He disappeared into the darkness, and after a few moments they heard a door slamming shut above them.
Harry was silent for a few more seconds, then turned to Hermione and began: “Hermione, how long--”
“Eleven hours, twenty minutes. I have all of the materials we need, along with the ritual language. We can rent one of the rooms at that inn we ate at and complete matters within three hours.” Hermione's response caused Harry's jaw to drop, and she laughed, sounding simultaneously frazzled and relieved. “Oh please—like I can't read your expressions by now. .. and as if I wouldn't have been prepared for a last minute change of plan.”
Harry smiled at Hermione, and turned back to the others. He met their gazes one by one, and though he saw various emotions in their eyes, he also saw assent to the new course he had arrived at. He nodded once and turned around, beginning the walk back to the inn. (continued in part 2)