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Chapter 10:
Pacem vel Libertatem
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"You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once."
--Robert A. Heinlein

Harry pulled a knee to his chest and looked at his friends. "We're going to have to hurry," he said.

"What is it about this prophecy?" Hermione demanded.

Harry sighed. "There's some sort of prophecy about me at the Department of Mysteries; it's what the old crowd has been guarding."

"Do you know what it says?" Ginny asked, curious.

Before answering, Harry gave himself a mental shake. Anyone could have heard them! "Hermione, put up a privacy spell, please?" he requested.

"As long as you're going to let us in on this," she grumbled.

Harry watched as Hermione put the spell up, then looked at his friends. "I don't know what the prophecy says," he said finally. "But I haven't managed to block the dreams yet, and we need to find a way to get to London, fast."

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest. "So... you're still having dreams sent by Voldemort, and Professor Snape just told you to go to the Department of the Mysteries and destroy a prophecy?"

Ron snorted. "Why are you set on doing something that sounds that suicidal? Especially if Snape thinks it's a good idea? Sounds a bit mental to me."

Harry sighed and pulled a piece of folded parchment out of his pocket. "This is a map of the Department," he said. "I know exactly where the Hall of Prophecy is. And if we don't destroy this thing and Voldemort gets his hands on it, we're in serious trouble."

"It's a trap, Harry," Hermione said, frowning unhappily.

Harry nodded. "Oh yes, it is," he said. "Voldemort sent me a vision of him torturing Sirius. He expects me to go rushing in to save my godfather--not to destroy the prophecy."

"Sirius?" Neville questioned. "Sirius Black? But he murdered your parents, didn't he?"

Harry shook his head. "No, Peter Pettigrew did that, killed all those Muggles, and framed Sirius for it. But Sirius is fine!"

Ron shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at Harry. "So if Sirius is fine, there are other people who can destroy the prophecy, why are we going?"

"Because if we go, and I, well, let Voldemort know that we're going, we can trap him," Harry explained. "The old crowd knows, and they're going to be there to catch him and his Nachzehrers."

"Very funny," Luna said. "Death Eaters as corpse-munching vampires."

Neville paled. "Do'ya think--"

Hermione shook her head. "No. He's kidding, I think."

"So you're going?" Ginny asked. At Harry's nod, she continued. "He's right, though. We should go with you."

"No!" Harry objected without thinking. "Ron and Hermione, certainly; Voldemort would expect that. But I don't want the rest of you in danger because of me."

"There's your 'saving people thing' again, Harry," Hermione said dryly. "I know you want to keep everybody safe, but this is war and you need all of us to watch your back."

Ron rubbed his nose. "How are we going to get to London, anyway? We can't floo, and your broom is locked up."

"I'm not so great at flying, anyway," Neville muttered.

"What pulls the carriages every year?" Ron asked suddenly.

"Thestrals," Hermoine answered promptly.

"Hagrid said that he kept them in the Forbidden Forest," Harry said.

"Didn't Professor Snape give you a plan to get there?" Hermione asked.

Harry shook his head. "We hadn't figured that out yet."

"Just as well," Ron said. "You shouldn't trust the greasy git. For all we know, he's working for You-Know-Who and only pretending to be on our side."

Harry gave Ron an exasperated look. "I don't trust him, all right?" he said. "But Dumbledore does, and he's the one who set this up. Now, we need to get going--the Order is waiting to ambush Tom and his lackeys once they spring their little trap." He stood up, grabbed his bag, and slung it over his shoulder.

"We're coming with you, Harry," Neville said. "I--I know I'm not as brave as most, but I won't let you go alone. You wouldn't have a chance with only you and Ron and Hermione, but with me, Ginny, and Luna, too, we'll all survive."

Ginny grabbed Harry's arm. "He's right," she said. "And if you don't let us come, we won't let you go."

Harry knew that there wasn't really time to argue--and six wands were better than three anyway. "All right," he said finally. "We've got to go, then--I'll explain on the way."

They made their way out of the Hospital Wing and out of the castle. Remembering Hagrid's lesson on the Thestrals, Harry led them towards the Forbidden Forest, but he didn't know exactly where the herd was kept.

They stopped just inside the boundary. "How are we going to find the Thestrals?" Ron wondered out loud.

Hermione bit her lip. "Thestrals are attracted to blood," she said slowly. "Harry, do you have the knife that Sirius gave you for Christmas?"

Harry nodded and dug it out of his pocket. "Yeah. I've got some of the healing salve I made last week, too."

"Is it the magic-infused stuff that we figured out how to make last year?" Hermione asked.

Harry nodded. "Yeah," he said.

"Why'd you make it, Harry?" Ron asked. "I mean, you're not going to need it this summer, are you?"

Harry shrugged. "Habit, I guess," he said. "Now... if I'm understanding Hermione right, we need to give ourselves a few shallow cuts to attract the thestrals."

"Cut ourselves?" Neville looked a bit revolted at the thought.

"You don't have to if you don't want to, Neville," Luna said. "But it's the easiest way to attract thestrals, especially when half of us can't see them."

Harry made shallow cuts on the palms of his hands, then wiped the blade clean on the hem of his robes. He handed the knife to Ginny, then started looking around for the thestrals. He moved a bit deeper into the Forest, making sure to squeeze just above his cuts to make them bleed more.

Blood dripped onto the edges of the sleeves of his robes, soaking in, and, he hoped, making him an irresistible target for the thestrals. It didn't take long for the rest of his friends to join him. Neville handed back his knife, so he slipped it into his pocket.

Luna pointed to the right, and Harry turned to see thestrals creeping up on them. The winged beasts nosed the blood-smeared edges of their robes and started chewing on them. "Hey," Ron protested. "What's doing that?"

"A thestral," Hermione said, rolling her eyes.

"We'd better help them get on," Luna observed. "Since only you, Neville, and I can see them."

Harry nodded, then helped boost his friends onto the animals. He pulled himself up on his. "We'd like to go to the Ministry of Magic, please," he said.

The beast took off, with the others flanking it. Harry held on with his legs and twined his hands in its mane. The thestrals flew in formation, close enough for him to fill the others in on the plan. They were also flying faster than he'd ever managed to go before, and it wasn't long before they landed near the telephone booth that he remembered from the previous summer.

Harry slid off the animal and slapped it on the rump. "Go back to Hogwarts," he said. He dug out his salve and motioned to his friends. Quickly, he unscrewed the top and smeared some on his cuts, then on Ginny's. Hermione and Ron each got some and gave themselves, Neville, and Luna similar treatment. He capped the salve and shoved it back in his rucksack, which he then slung over his shoulders.

"We've all gone barmy," Ron muttered. "I am never doing this again."

Without answering, Harry strode over to the dilapidated red telephone booth and got in, with the others piling in behind him. "Come on!" he said. "Whoever's nearest the receiver, dial six two four four two!"

Ron did it, his arm at a strange angle to reach the dial. "Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business," a pleasant voice said as the dial whirled back into place.

“Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger,” Harry said as fast as he could. "Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood... We're here to stop someone, because the Ministry can't seem to do it itself!"

"Thank you," the voice said. "Visitors, please take your badges and attach them to the front of your robes."

Half a dozen badges slid out of the coin return slot. Hermione grabbed them and handed them silently to Harry over Ginny's head; he glanced at the topmost one.

HARRY POTTER
SECRET MISSION

"Visitor to the Ministry, you are required to submit to a search and present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is located at the far end of the Atrium."

"Fine," Harry said loudly, as his scar gave another throb. He had a feeling that Voldemort knew that they were coming, so they had to hurry! "Now, can we move?"

There was a soft ding as the telephone booth shuddered slightly, and soft yellow lights started to glow. The pavement seemed to rise up to cover the windows as it sunk into the ground. With another soft ding, the door opened and Luna and Harry fell out of the booth.

They got up and together, the six friends sprinted through the Atrium. Harry got a bad feeling when he noticed that the security booth where he'd gotten his wand weighed the previous summer was empty. Wasn't someone supposed to be on duty at all times?

They hurried to the lift, got in, and Harry pressed the button for the ninth floor before getting out the map that Professor Snape had given him the week before.

"Is that the map that Professor Snape mentioned?" Hermione asked, interested.

Harry nodded. "Yeah," he answered, studying it.

"Are you sure you trust the greasy git?" Ron questioned.

"No," Harry said honestly. "But take a look at this--" He showed Ron the map.

"That doesn't look like his handwriting," Ron said slowly.

"Exactly. I know who wrote this, because I recognize it, and I sorta trust him," Harry said.

"What do you mean, 'sorta'?" Neville asked.

Harry shrugged. "He's an adult. I don't trust them much."

The lift dinged softly and opened as they reached the ninth floor. "Department of the Mysteries," a cool female voice said. They stepped out of the lift to an utterly silent hall. Nothing was moving, making noise, or breathing other than themselves.

Harry turned towards the plain black door and started forward, clutching the map in his left hand. "Let's go," he said.

Luna was gazing around in wonder, her mouth hanging slightly open. Harry stopped short of the door and studied the map. "Maybe some of you should stay behind," he said. "The designated hiding spots are here, here, and here," he pointed them out on the map.

"Not a chance," Ron said.

"We're coming with you whether you like it or not," Neville insisted.

"You might need us," Hermione said.

Ginny and Luna nodded in agreement. Harry simply sighed and turned towards the door that he'd seen in his dreams for months. "Come on, then," he said.

Together, the six of them went through the black door. "Don't close it, Neville." Harry requested, as Neville had been the last through the door. He pulled out his knife again and carved a zero into it, just to make sure that they could find it again.

"Which door are we supposed to take?" Ginny asked.

"Um, I don't know," Harry admitted.

"Check the map?" Hermione suggested.

Harry pulled it out and tapped it with his wand. Like the Marauders' Map, little dots with their names beside them appeared on it. "Which door?" he asked it.

A thought bubble appeared next to the dot labeled, 'Harry Potter,' which said, "I wish I could find the Hall of Prophecy."

Harry repeated the words exactly, and a door slowly swung open. "Wicked," Ron breathed.

They filed through the door, which immediately shut itself behind them. Harry studied the map, which had begun to trace a path for them to follow.

“We ought to make sure we remember the way back,” Hermione said. “That way, if we get separated, we'll be able to get out.”

There were murmurs of agreement among the group. "It's this way," Harry said. "The Professor told me that the map would show the safest route so that we didn't find any trouble to get into."

Ron snorted. "Sounds like he thinks that we go looking for it," he observed.

"It comes looking for us," Harry said, distracted. He opened the door designated by the map to find a large storage room. He glanced at the map again. "The map says that this is for cursed objects, so don't touch anything."

They made their way through the storeroom, making sure not to brush against any of the shelving units that housed a multitude of objects. It seemed forever before they reached another door, which the map pointed to as leading directly to the Hall of Prophecy.

Stuffing the map into his pocket, he opened the door, revealing a room much like the one they'd just walked through. Shelving units filled with glass balls stretched as far as the eye could see. Each set of shelves was marked on the end with a number. Harry looked up to see that they were at number forty-five.

"So where are we going?" Ron asked.

Harry bit his lip. "Sirius should be on aisle ninety-seven, near the end of the row," he said, giving his friends a slight wink.

Ron started to say something, but Ginny stopped him by kicking his leg. "Let's go then," Neville said, looking nervous.

They started walking, with Hermione keeping track of their location. Harry noticed that some of the glass balls were glowing, surrounded by different color lights. It seemed an eternity before they finally got to aisle ninety-seven and started walking towards the end of it.

"I don't see him," Harry said, trying to sound frantic.

"Neither do I," Ginny said.

"He's got to be around here somewhere," Harry insisted. "I mean, I saw it happening!" He was glad that his friends had figured out what he was doing. On the way down, he'd decided that he should assume that they were being watched and should put on a show as if he'd fallen for Voldemort's ruse.

The closer they got to the end of the aisle, the more nervous Harry got. Where were the Death Eaters? Why hadn't he and his friends been attacked by now?

"Harry?" Ron called.

"What?"

"Have you see this?" Ron asked.

Harry hurried over to look. "What is it?" he asked.

"Dunno, but it's got your name on," Ron said.

Harry knew that it must be the prophecy. He eyed the small, dimly lit ball. It was thickly covered in dust, as if it hadn't been touched in a long time. He had to crane his neck to read the label; years of starvation rations with the Dursleys had made him rather shorter than his year mates--especially Ron. In spidery writing was written a date sixteen years previously, and below that:

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.
Dark Lord
and (?) Harry Potter

Harry stared at it for a moment before reaching out cautiously. In order to destroy it, he had to touch it.

"Harry, maybe you shouldn't touch it," Hermione said sharply. "It could be dangerous!"

Harry pulled a face. "It's got my name on, doesn't it?" he demanded. "That means that it's something to do with me."

He turned to glare at Hermione, only to have her give him a slow wink.

"Harry, don't!" Neville chimed in. His friend looked nervous, and was covered in a sheen of sweat. But Neville also had a tiny smile on his face, so Harry knew that he, too, was going through with the ruse.

He reached out, grabbed the prophecy, brushed the dust off it, then looked at his friends as if to say, 'now what?' Before he could do anything, from right behind them, a drawling voice said, "Very good, Potter. Now turn around, nice and slowly, and give it to me."

Black shapes were emerging from out of thin air around them, blocking all avenues of escape. There was just enough light in the dusty storeroom to see eyes glinting through slits in hoods. A dozen lit wand tips were pointing directly at their hearts. He saw a glint of silver behind one wand. Harry knew that the Order would already be in position--they had the Death Eaters right where they wanted them. Pity that their boss hadn't got up the courage to come along as well, but at least they could round up some of his minions.

"To me, Potter," repeated the drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy as he held out his hand, palm up.

Harry turned around, not as slowly as the man would have wished and gave him a slight smile. He grasped the prophecy ball tighter and stepped back a bit before dashing it on the floor. It shattered, with two white figures coming out of it, but he jumped on top of the pieces for good measure and the figures disappeared.

Malfoy growled and lunged toward him and Harry uttered a single word, "EVADE!" He stepped back, causing the elder Malfoy to stumble and almost fall, then pulled out his wand.

Neville rammed into the nearest Death Eater and knocked him into the shelves. The shelf tipped, then fell, starting a domino effect with the other aisles. Spun-glass balls shattered, each emitting the same white, ghost-like figures that started to speak. The teenagers started cursing and hexing Death Eaters, clearing a path out in the chaos.

"RUN!" Harry yelled and then started sprinting towards the exit, dodging various curses. In the back of his mind, he spared a grateful thought for all the years of Dudley's 'Harry Hunting,' because it had taught him how to both run and dodge at the same time.

He barely had time to notice that his friends were mostly with him, though Neville was breathing heavily and looked ready to drop back.

Suddenly, Neville tripped and landed on his wand, point first, which snapped. Harry spared a hand to help him up, then continued running. Finally, they reached the door they'd come in, and dove through it, with the Death Eaters in hot pursuit. "We have to get out the door room," Harry said, breathing heavily.

Ron, taking a chance, turned slightly and fired a curse back at the Death Eaters. Half of said people were sporting an interesting variety of effects from curses. As far as Harry could see, the only curse-free Death Eater was Snape; his hood had fallen down so that he could clearly see the man's identity.

They ran flat-out through the next storeroom and dashed into the door room. "Colloportus!" Harry muttered, locking the door with a squishy sound. The door that they'd first come through had somehow gotten closed, and the mark on it was gone.

"I wish we could find the way out," Hermione panted. A door popped open, and they sprinted through it. The Order was waiting on the other side. They ran to them and were immediately pushed behind the adults as they closed ranks around the children. Some members that Harry had never seen before ushered them towards the protective hiding spaces and stood guard over them as the Death Eaters ran into the Order's waiting arms.