Appropriately, it was Arthur and Ginny Weasley who came up with the idea. They'd been spending part of the Christmas holidays watching a television that Arthur had spent some time getting to work magically, supposedly to help Ginny with her Muggle Studies work, but really for the fun of it.
Their interest was caught by the title of one of the multitude of old films that filled the airwaves at that time of year, and they settled down to watch it. They spent the next hour or so snickering, giggling and laughing out loud at the absurdities of the movie, though Ginny wrote down some questions to ask Hermione (or, if she dared, Harry) about aspects of Muggle history that she didn't quite understand. But when the climax of the story came, both Weasleys stared at each other. It was unexpected, it was dramatic... it might work in real life!
"Do you--?" they both began simultaneously before falling silent to allow the other one to speak. "Would that--?" they said, once again at exactly the same time, and then both burst out laughing. Finally, Arthur waved at Ginny to begin.
"Dad," she said hesitantly, "would that work against... against You-Know-Who?"
"I don't know, Ginny. I don't think anyone's ever thought of trying it. It certainly ought to work against the Death Eaters; they definitely wouldn't be expecting it!"
"No... they hate everything Muggle, so they wouldn't even think of it. But why didn't we?"
"I suspect that we were just as blind as them, Ginny. We're so used to using magic for everything, and thinking ourselves lucky compared to Muggles, that we never even imagined the possibility — the more fools, we. I think we need to talk to someone about this — to see if it could even work in the first place."
"All right." Ginny jumped to her feet. "Let me write to Hermione and ask her about it; if she thinks it's possible, we could tell the people in the Order about it and see what they say."
"Good idea, Ginny. We'll want to involve Professor Dumbledore as soon as we can, but I don't want to disturb him for something that can't work. He should know, though, if there's any chance that this might help; and we need to check if Hogwarts itself presents any problems; the magical intensity around the school is so high, you know..."
Ginny owled Hermione, who replied with her usual speed and thoroughness, sending a five-foot "essay" on why she thought their idea ought to work, and agreeing that it would be the very last thing that Voldemort and his forces would expect. That was good enough for Mr Weasley, who promptly informed the Order, and Dumbledore in particular.
The idea was received by those who learned of it with a mixture of stunned silence, astonished disbelief and hearty laughter, but, on reflection, it was considered well worth a try — on an experimental basis, to begin with. The question was, how?
"Leave that to me," Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eye. "I believe that this is one matter in which our esteemed Minister of Magic may be of some use." Derisive laughter came from a number of people, but the Professor continued, "At the very least, Cornelius has the ability to speak with the Muggle government, and they are the best ones to provide us with what we may require."
No-one could really argue with that, and so Dumbledore closed the meeting and returned to Hogwarts to plan how to persuade the Minister to assist the Order in this new venture.
Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, found the whole idea incomprehensible, but a mixture of flattery, reassurance and continual exhortation that the matter was both urgent and, at present, relatively small in extent, managed to persuade him to make one of his rare appointments to see the Prime Minister. It took a little more effort for him to agree that Dumbledore should accompany him, but eventually he was persuaded that it would be useful to have the Professor along if for no other reason than that, if the PM objected to the "intrusion", it could be blamed on the Headmaster rather than the Minister.
However, the meeting went well. The Prime Minister, only recently elected to the office, was intrigued by the existence of the wizarding world and alarmed at the threat posed by Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Dumbledore, as Chairman of the International Confederation of Wizards — in effect, a fellow Head of State — was able to reassure him that measures were being taken to defend both the wizarding world and the "normal" world. In fact, that was why they were there — to request his help in an experiment that potentially promised to enable the Ministry of Magic to deal with the villains; if all went well, they would return to make a formal request for assistance from the Government, but all they needed to begin with was the loan of one man (or woman) and his or her usual equipment.
That was easy enough to arrange; a few quick telephone calls and a "volunteer" was found for the job, conveniently located in Scotland — not even very far from Hogwarts. Dumbledore thanked the PM, thanked Fudge for his help, promised to keep both men informed, and promptly Apparated back to Hogsmeade. Behind him, he left an astounded PM, an outwardly nonchalant Fudge and a very worried security detail who had to have Memory Charms applied to stop them obsessing over the thorny topic of how to deal with potential magical assassins...
Despite it being the holiday season, time was of the essence. The initial trials needed to be undertaken while the school was mostly empty, for security's sake. Luckily, none of the children of suspected Death Eaters (or, in Draco Malfoy's case, of convicted ones) were staying at the castle over the Christmas-New Year break, and so there was every chance that no-one who ought not to know would find out, particularly if the Order took a few basic precautions to camouflage what their visitor was doing.
The trials proved that, as usual, Hermione was right. The intense magic around Hogwarts made no difference to the operation of the equipment, except that a Silencing Charm could render it almost impossible to detect or locate, thereby increasing the surprise factor.
Harry was involved early on; regardless of the effectiveness of this new concept, prophecy insisted that he was the only one who could defeat the Dark Lord, and so he would need to learn how to make use of these new additions to the arsenal of the Order and the Ministry.
He proved to have something of an aptitude for using them, despite his glasses; that ought not to have been that much of a surprise, given his skills at Duelling and at Quidditch, but Sergeant MacGregor, the Muggle volunteer-cum-advisor, was impressed.
"The lad has talent," he said in his quiet Aberdeenshire accent. "You say it comes from this Quidditch game. How many players do you have? They could be useful if they're anything like young Potter."
The sergeant was slightly disappointed to learn that Harry was considered to be an outstanding player, with few in the school to rival his skill, but he recovered when he was told that there was an entire professional League of Quidditch players, not to mention hundreds, if not thousands, of amateur players.
"Aye, well, you'd be well advised to recruit a few of them and train them. I wish we had more time; I could make them a force to be proud of."
It was not time that was the problem, but secrecy. If surprise was to be achieved, then the Dark Lord and his followers must not learn what their enemies were attempting to do. They might disdain it as Muggle rubbish, but there might be a few who refused to let their prejudices overwhelm their intelligence, and they might be enough to tip the scales. Better they not know.
Luckily, the Order was able to operate clandestinely, and the only other person who had any idea of what was going on was Fudge, and he was kept busy "co-ordinating inter-Ministry activities." In truth, he was doing nothing of any importance; after reporting the success of the trials to the Prime Minister, Dumbledore arranged to deal directly with Sergeant MacGregor's superiors, and as they had no contact with anyone else from the wizarding world, there was no chance of a leak that way.
Matters were coming to a head as the end of the school year approached. Voldemort had ceased all attacks after a final strike at Azkaban to free captured Death Eaters, including Lucius Malfoy. According to Professor Snape, still playing the incredibly hazardous role of double agent, he was gathering his forces for a final assault on Hogwarts, the stronghold of his enemies. The date of the assault was unknown, but it couldn't be far in the future.
For their part, the Order and their friends were preparing to meet the challenge. Lessons were suspended and many of the pupils, especially the younger ones, were sent home. Orders were issued to new and old allies, Portkeys were made to bring them all to Hogwarts when the time came, and further experiments were undertaken to try to expand on the original concept — in principle if not in exact detail.
The Trio were hard at work. Hermione almost worked herself into the Hospital Wing, what with researching weapons, tactics, history (Muggle and History of Magic) and anything else that anyone suggested, but she was having the time of her life. Ron threw himself into battle planning, both strategy and tactics, and even joined Hermione in some of her research. If, once or twice, Madam Pince caught them snogging in a secluded section of the library, she didn't disturb them and didn't comment — they weren't the first and wouldn't be the last to do so, and they needed the occasional break from their work. At least they were quiet about it.
Harry trained. He kept in touch with the others, but spent most of his time in physical activity or on his broom in what looked like intense Quidditch practise, but wasn't. When he wasn't working by himself, he joined in the training of the revived DA, pushing himself and the others hard as they practised the art of combat, using both the kind of magic they were accustomed to and the new weapons.
He, too, found blessed relief from the tensions and stresses of preparing for the coming battle in the arms of a loved one — Ginny. Their relationship had grown rapidly — or perhaps flared might be a better word — after Harry had learned that she and her father had come up with the original idea. He had sought her out to ask her about it, and long-suppressed feelings had emerged as they had talked. It might have been the thought that the long struggle was finally about to end, and perhaps gratitude for her role in bringing that about, but for once, Harry felt no need to deny what he felt.
It was much the same for Ginny: Harry had finally seen her as more than Ron's little sister, or even just a friend, and she was claiming him as her due. Their life was still fraught with danger, present and impending, but now they could rely on each other for support — and were remarkably happy about it.
Other familiar faces were frequently seen in the school, several of them named Weasley. Charlie visited a few times, but it was Fred and George who seemed to have taken up residence in the castle. They spent many an hour locked in meetings with members of the Order and various visitors, emerging from each session with unusually thoughtful expressions — which, sooner or later, would become the familiar wicked Weasley grins. At times, Ron and Hermione were called in to report on their research and plans, and the twins came out of those meetings grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat; their brother and his girlfriend tended to be rather red in the face when they left...
For all of that, Fred and George were more usually to be found down in the Potions dungeon, from whence came louder and more frequent explosions than had ever rocked the Burrow. Professor Snape was going to be furious when he saw the mess they were making of his domain, but the twins laughed off that prospect, saying that they'd only have to listen to him if all three of them survived the war; for that to happen, they'd have to have won, and that would be worth suffering his ire.
Finally, the showdown began. An exhausted and wounded Severus Snape arrived at the school gates with warning that the assault was to happen that night. Word went out, by magical and Muggle means, and the castle prepared for war.
The DA and the few other pupils still at the school were assigned tasks and given weapons from a cache that had been assembled slowly and secretly over the months since the first trials. The first job many of them had to do was to help the host of new arrivals, brought to the school by the Portkeys, to find the Great Hall. Once there, Sergeant MacGregor soon had the newcomers organised to his satisfaction, impressing many a witch and wizard by his command of invective and the sheer volume of his voice, and he and the others were led out of the Hall to man the castle walls and ramparts.
When they were all in position, MacGregor made the rounds of his men, giving each group the same little talk:
"Right, lads, you know what to do. Do it the way we trained and this should be a piece of cake. And no heroics! We're doing long-range work this time; if the enemy gets close enough for hand-to-hand, we've failed — but we'll go down fighting!
"Remember what you were told about those Dementor things: you'll only be able to see them through these special goggles--" Here, he would hold up a pair of the goggles which had been issued to all the newcomers. "--and if you do see any of them about, spread the word, but leave them to the specialists — the Patronus boys and girls know how to handle them. If they get close enough for you to feel cold, don't hang about; fall back and call for support.
"One more thing: we don't think the enemy has air support, but we do. It's just not like anything we're used to, and I don't want any idiots panicking and causing a ‘friendly fire' incident. Got that?"
Each time, this question produced an answering chorus of, "Yes, Sarge," or words to that effect, and MacGregor would smile, drop a few words of encouragement into this or that man's ear and move on.
His final call was to a group who were standing around chatting to several young (and not-so-young) witches, all carrying brooms. Ginny was there, as were most of the female team members of the four House Quidditch teams, and Madam Hooch, also with her broom, was keeping a stern eye on the lot of them.
One or two of the men looked rather dubious about the thought of flying on a broom, but said nothing about their worries. MacGregor called them all over.
"You snipers, you know what you have to do; just like you trained — but remember, you won't have a safety belt holding you on the broom, so be careful and don't fall off! And keep your hands to yourself! You're there to fight, not grope, unless you want to be turned into a toad. Some of these young witches can do that, you know."
He leaned over to whisper to one young man, "And that goes double for you, Forbes. I know your taste for redheads, but that one is off-limits! Not only is she too young for you, but that young lady just happens to be the girlfriend of the lad whose job it is to take out the leader of the enemy, and I wouldn't want to make him angry. I've seen him work and, as good as you are, you wouldn't last five seconds! Even if you did, she's got six brothers: one of them rides dragons, another two are famous practical jokers, and the youngest one is 6-foot-4 with a nasty temper — and they're all wizards!"
Forbes gulped and promised that he'd look, not touch — and only then when he wasn't busy fighting.
"Good lad." MacGregor walked away to take up his own position among the defenders.
The enemy came, three or four hundred strong — Death Eaters, Dementors, a few magical beasts and even three Giants. And, behind them, driving them forward, on to certain victory, was Lord Voldemort.
They bypassed Hogsmeade, knowing that they could return and do with it whatever they wished once their enemies were smashed, and made for the castle. There was no resistance as they advanced, which led to a certain amount of raucous laughter and taunting in the vanguard, and to some uncertainty amongst the commanders, safe in the rear; but the latter was soon disregarded as their forces came closer and closer to their goal — and their ultimate triumph.
And then the trap was sprung. A faint whoomph meant nothing to the oncoming attackers... until four giant magical flares blossomed in the night sky, turning darkness into near-daylight. Up on the castle ramparts, Fred and George high-fived one another; the first of their new inventions had worked perfectly!
The light, so unexpected — so bright — was part of the signal the defenders had been waiting for. The other part soon came as the skirl of bagpipe music heralded the unfamiliar chatter of automatic gunfire as the soldiers, members of the Order and Hogwarts pupils opened up with assault rifles.
More than half the Death Eaters — those out in front — were cut to pieces in the first volley. And then figures at the back began to fall as the airborne snipers found targets. The Malfoys, father and son, died instantly; Bellatrix Lestrange, so proud of her beauty, became a beautiful corpse with a neat hole in the centre of her forehead; and the hand-picked corps of bodyguards protecting the Dark Lord quickly became bodies rather than guards. Voldemort himself, though, remained untouched — by order.
Elsewhere, the Dementors were being routed by massed Patronuses and were causing more harm to their "allies" than to their foes as they fled. The magical beasts and one of the Giants were caught unaware by a sudden sortie from out of the Forbidden Forest by a troop of centaurs, who wreaked havoc amongst their enemies before vanishing back into the Forest.
One of the other Giants was getting rather too close to the castle walls for comfort, but Fred and George took care of him with another of their inventions. The same soft whoomph that had accompanied the launching of the flares sent a rather more lethal projectile straight at the huge form, and the loudest explosion the twins had ever created announced the death of its target.
Voldemort's surviving forces were panicking and starting to run, but there was no escape. Sergeant MacGregor's "air support" had been biding its time, and now moved in for the kill. Six dragons swooped low over the battlefield and belched fire, incinerating many of the fleeing enemy. Then three more dived down, but did not breathe fire; instead, they dropped canisters that they had been holding in their front claws and climbed away sharply. The canisters fell swiftly, slamming into the ground and erupting in streams of orange-gold flame that, incredibly, pursued the running Death Eaters, enveloping those it caught in a fiery grasp and reducing them to ashes in less than a second.
Fred and George stared at the field, stunned at what they had created. That Muggle "napalm" stuff was nasty enough by itself, but add a Chase-Me Charm to it and... urrgh. They felt sick. Jokes were one thing, but this... this was horrible. They'd never make anything like that again.
The gunfire from the walls was dying away now, as there were very few targets left to shoot at. Some of the remaining attackers were trying to surrender, but there was no-one on the ground to surrender to, and the airborne troops weren't coming down. Finally, someone cast a Sonorus Charm on MacGregor, and his stern voice rang out, commanding the beaten Death Eaters to throw away their wands, sit down in a group and put their hands on their heads. They complied, and massed Stunning Spells put an end to that problem.
The flares were beginning to dim and drift slowly towards the ground, producing long shadows everywhere. Out of one of those shadows, heading inexorably towards the Dark Lord and his very few remaining followers, came the figure of a young man, until now hidden by his Invisibility Cloak. He was carrying an assault rifle and dropped to one knee before spraying the group around Voldemort with a long burst of fully automatic fire. All of those he shot at, even the Dark Lord, fell.
He got to his feet and raced towards the prone Voldemort. Above him, shots rang out as the airborne snipers took out anyone nearby who might have attempted to interfere — and soon, there was no-one left alive to even try.
Harry stepped around the bodies of the fallen Death Eaters as he approached Voldemort, his weapon at the ready and the unusual blade fixed to its muzzle gleaming brightly in the fading light of the flares. The Dark Lord, the only one still alive, saw him coming and struggled to raise his wand, but he was too slow; Harry slashed at his wand arm with the blade and the wand — and the hand holding it — fell to the ground.
Voldemort cried out in pain, but fell silent. Indeed, with two or three bullet wounds, any of which would have been fatal to anyone else, and now the loss of one hand, it was doubtful as to whether he could speak. Not that it would have done him much good; when he opened his eyes, he found himself staring down the blade and barrel of Harry's weapon, which was held to the young man's shoulder in readiness to fire.
They could have exchanged banter, the way a Hero and Villain are supposed to do; Harry could have taunted Voldemort about the way in which the hated Muggles, both in person and by proxy, in the form of their weapons, had utterly destroyed his army; he could have explained that the blade which had so easily lopped off the Dark Lord's wand hand was the Sword of Gryffindor, Transfigured into a bayonet for Harry's rifle; Voldemort could have cursed Harry and vowed revenge in the best tradition of an Evil Overlord; but they didn't. Instead, Harry muttered, "Goodbye, Tom," and pulled the trigger.
The 3-round burst blew away most of Voldemort's head. Harry then drove the Transfigured Sword into the ex-Dark Lord's heart, stabbing viciously and repeatedly. Once he was certain that his foe was dead, he reached over and took Voldemort's wand from the severed hand and snapped it with an abrupt burst of strength, and then threw away the pieces.
Finally, he slung the rifle over his shoulders and drew two grenades from the webbing belt he wore around his waist. He pulled the pins from the grenades, being careful to hold the trigger handles down, and placed one on top of the mess that had been Voldemort's head and the other on his chest. Then, in one quick, definite movement, he released the grenades and turned and sprinted for the castle.
Five seconds later, as he raced away, the grenades went off, flaring brightly in the gathering darkness and utterly destroying what remained of the body of Tom Riddle, alias Lord Voldemort.
Having reached a safe distance by the time of the twin explosions, Harry slowed to a walk, then stopped and looked back towards the scene of his triumph. A cheer went up from the troops and other defenders on the walls, and another from those in the air, but Harry didn't really care. The only thing that meant anything to him at that moment was that it was over. The war, the battle against the evil that had robbed him of his parents, his childhood and his godfather, the struggle, the suffering, the death... it was all over.
But then a broom touched down a few feet away and a young, redheaded witch hurtled towards him, half laughing, half crying. As they enfolded one another in a joyous, loving embrace, Harry came to a realisation that, in his current state of mind, seemed astounding: he did have something to care about, after all — he had Ginny. He had this gorgeous, wonderful girl, and he had her family, and his friends... and there just might be something to look forward to in the future, now that Destiny had hopefully finished with him.
The soldier who'd also been on the broom watched as the spunky little redhead threw herself at the young man with the glasses and the messy black hair. He realised that the Sarge had been right: those two were completely nuts about each other, and the kid was no-one to mess around with. He'd seen the way the boy — Harry, was it? — had taken out the group of minders around the enemy general, not to mention the way in which he'd dealt with the Chief Villain himself... Nope, he'd stay on the right side of that lad and content himself with imagining what his "chauffeur" might look like in a few years' time — pretty damn devastating, if he was any judge of women, and he liked to think he was.
The boy's a lucky lad, Forbes thought, but I reckon he deserves it. Wonder if he's ever thought about the Army as a career?
Harry and Ginny separated, but only enough to begin to stroll back towards the castle, arms firmly around each other. Forbes followed, carrying the broom and wondering if there was any way he could get one of them for himself. Somehow, he doubted it.
The standard of a certain famous Scottish infantry regiment lists the battle honours of the unit, as is its purpose; this one, though, is rather unusual in that there is a quite recent battle mentioned there that is unique to the regiment, but hardly anyone remembers it. For that matter, almost no-one can see the small banner on the flag that reads "Hogwarts 1998", but it's there, and those few who know that and remember the battle consider it to be as proud a moment in regimental history as any other. Anyone who doesn't has to deal with the outrage of now-Regimental Sergeant-Major MacGregor, and no soldier in his (or, these days, her) right mind wants to do that!
~ Finis ~
[A/N: This story resulted from the bite of a Plot Bunny from Hell when I was discussing OotP and the HP world in general with my elder son, who, like me, is a wargamer and writes fanfiction. He is also the author of that wonderful story Plasma Cannons of Gor, which does to the works of John Norman what I've just done to JKR — but is a bit nastier about it. Certain elements might be traced to such varied sources as Dave Isby, the designer of the game Air War, and a recent issue of Dork Tower. I added some H/G stuff because it seemed to fit and made this more of a story than an essay; besides, I like H/G — rather more than I do the canon.
Thinking of PCoG made me remember Ralph Bakshi's film Wizards, which is the film that Ginny and Arthur watch at the start of the story — hence the name of the tale. I won't spoil the film any more than I already have, but it did make me wonder: why wouldn't Muggle weapons work against Voldemort? I'm prepared to accept magical interference with electronics (though perhaps I shouldn't), but basic chemical reactions must still work around Hogwarts or nobody would be alive there! And explosives are just that: very fast chemical reactions.
So, since I freely admit that I am no expert on the HP canon, I put it to my Gentle Readers: is there a sensible explanation from the books as to why a Muggle Army, using standard weapons with no electronic aids, couldn't take on Voldemort and his lackeys in open battle and wipe the floor with them? I've only used infantry here, but I could have added artillery (vice Fred and George), combat engineers with anti-personnel mines, and even tanks — older ones, without the electronics. I don't know why they couldn't be used, by wizards if not by Muggles, to fight the Dark Lord; do you? -- PA]