Force Interrupt

Chapter 4

Author's Note: After a long span of not actually checking my hard copies of canon, I flipped open DH on a whim and found this conversation. Well, it looks like it's time for me to enter the genre of 'collection of snippets altering particularly peculiar canon scenes'.

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Once [Mrs. Weasley] had him cornered in the tiny scullery off the kitchen, she started.

"Ron and Hermione seem to think that the three of you are dropping out of Hogwarts," she began in a light, casual tone.

"Oh," said Harry. "Well, yeah. We are."

The mangle turned of its own accord on a corner, wringing out what looked like one of Mr. Weasley's vests.

"May I ask why you are abandoning your education?" said Mrs. Weasley.

Harry could not help his incredulous laugh. "Because I don't like walking into a death trap."

She stared at him. Harry knew his tone was insolent, but in the heat of the moment, he didn't care.

"Dumbledore was the one man Voldemort-" She flinched- "-really feared. He's gone now. And Voldemort hardly hesitated to try to get at me in Hogwarts before - he came in on a teacher in first year -"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Long story," Harry said hastily as Mrs. Weasley blanched. Apparently Dumbledore had never gotten around to telling the Order about that one. "All you need to know is that he tried to kill me directly, and if not for my mum's sacrifice I'd have been a goner. Second year-" Mrs. Weasley nodded, her lips pressed together as though against vomiting. "Right. Third, he didn't try, but Sirius got in and could have easily killed me if he'd wanted. Fourth - you know what happened with fourth. Fifth -" Harry gritted his teeth at the memories. "I suppose Umbridge was technically preferable to Voldemort, but not by much. Besides-" He flashed the scars at her: I must not tell lies. "If she was able to get me alone for that, she could have easily poisoned me, or any of the students she punished, without anyone knowing. And last year-" He swallowed hard. "If Voldemort had dared come along with his followers," he said quietly, "I would be dead. And, very likely, Ron and Ginny would be, too."

He had hit upon the secret: all color had drained from her face. Feeling guilty, but knowing this was more important, he continued, "If Voldemort wasn't such a coward, he would have taken Hogwarts that night." He took a breath. "Hogwarts has never been entirely safe. Now that Dumbledore's dead, it's not safe at all."

"But Professor McGonagall-" Mrs. Weasley began, but Harry had an answer for her.

"No match for him. I know it, he knows it, she knows it." He shook his head. "Not that snakes even fight fairly. Fred and George showed me what determined students can do. And Malfoy-" A surge of fury shot through him at the name, but he wrestled it down. "If there's even one student clever as Malfoy left in Slytherin, all professors who can't be bribed, threatened, drugged, or put under the Imperius will be dead within the year. I wouldn't be surprised if the Ministry's in just as much danger-"

"The Ministry would never fall to him!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. She gawked at the grim smile on Harry's face.

He chuckled mirthlessly. "I would have said the same of Dumbledore," he said quietly. "I can say he was weakened, but - to tell you the truth, and it's better if you don't repeat this, all the traps that weakened him were Voldemort's doing, and, given the only person he would have respected enough to even regard as a threat, they might as well have been for Dumbledore specifically. Voldemort won."

Her mouth opened and closed like a fish. Harry was suddenly worried for her: she was a large woman, witch or not, and this bad of a shock...

"There's a plan," he said hastily, placing a hand on her shoulder. Normally, he wouldn't have dared, but under the circumstances... "Dumbledore - he left instructions. A way he was sure would beat Voldemort, even if he himself died before they came to completion. We- That is, not all hope-"

"And who's commissioned to do it?" she asked, her voice quavering - and then the fear vanished from her face, and a thunderous look descended upon it as she gazed upon Harry's expression. "No. Not you, young man. 'Chosen One' or not."

Harry took one look at her face and decided it wouldn't be a very good idea to add that, actually, Ron and Hermione were going too. "It's got to be me. I-"

"When did Dumbledore encounter these traps?" she asked in a saccharine voice.

Thrown by the sudden change of subject, Harry replied unthinkingly, "Hunting H- that is - I mean - on the same task we'll have to-"

"And even the greatest wizard of our times succumbed to them?" she asked, her voice equally sweet.

Harry had a sudden, horrid flashback to pouring the cups of poison down a weeping Dumbledore's throat. "Well, basically, yes-"

"I knew Dumbledore had put you through special training," Mrs. Weasley said, all pretense of sweetness dropping out of her voice, "but I wasn't aware you'd already become a greater wizard than him in the span of a year."

There was a long silence. The mangle was far more interesting than Mrs. Weasley's face, Harry discovered. Friendlier, too.

"Dumbledore thought I was up to it," he said at last, still not meeting her eyes.

"And Dumbledore, as you reminded me, died." Mrs. Weasley's voice was icy. "You will be informing adults of the plan - unless you became a qualified Auror, Curse-Breaker, and professional duelist all in the past year? And a Metamorphagus? And an Animagus over the weekends? I thought not - and let them see about conquering traps laid out by You-Know-Who himself, and whatever else needs to be done. You-"

"The prophecy says it has to be me!" Harry burst out, then clamped his mouth shut as Dumbledore's words resounded through his mind: You set too much store by the prophecy!

"Prophecies have a way of fulfilling themselves," she said, "and this one can do so, too. Since Dumbledore already did part of this task, though, I take it this isn't killing You-Know-Who, exactly?"

"Er..." Harry said vaguely.

"Then it's settled," she said firmly. "You may not be going to Hogwarts, but nor are you getting yourself killed on some mission vastly beyond your abilities - and don't look at me like that, young man, if it was beyond Dumbledore's abilities to complete it without springing You-Know-Who's traps, it's certainly beyond yours. You are telling adults, they are going to set about this plan as a team, and once they have done whatever is necessary, then you can see about defeating You-Know-Who. Understood?"

"It's supposed to be a secret," Harry emphasized, getting himself together. "If You-Know-Who finds out, somehow, that we're trying-"

"And if you take the secret of how to defeat You-Know-Who to the grave?"

The silence hung in the air between them, worse than before. Harry opened his mouth, thinking to mention Ron and Hermione, then closed it. The same logic held for Ron as for him, with Hermione being the outlier in ability. Then again, Hermione had a tendency to get emotionally overwrought, and thus careless; if she had behaved so bizarrely over Ron last year, solely because he was dating Lavender, how much worse, then, if Ron should die... and each of the protections upon the Horcruxes, which had so wounded Dumbledore, would surely have killed a lesser man...

And four Horcruxes yet remained...

"I... I think I need to speak to Order members," Harry said. At least two others, he thought blackly. At least one potential casualty for each Horcrux, with he himself needing to live to dispose of the final share of soul - the one in Voldemort himself. Such a neat calculus, the weighing of human lives. So dispassionate, so refined...

His breakfast was threatening to make a reappearance.

"Yes," said Mrs. Weasley, "I think you do."