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Chapter 22: Guarded
The Aurors stay for another two nights in the castle, and Scorpius and I experience the unusual phenomenon of having them follow us to class. The first day when we walked into Defence Against the Dark Arts with our bodyguards in tow, Professor Bones took one look at them, declared it her tea break, and left them to teach the class for the entire lesson. However, by Thursday McGonagall calls us back into her office to ‘discuss security arrangements.’ I note with slight disappointment that Professor Snape has not yet been put in a box.
“This is getting ridiculous,” McGonagall says bluntly. “We can’t spare two of the Ministry’s Aurors full-time to watch you. You’re leaders of the One Hogwarts Army, for goodness’ sake. I think you can defend yourselves.”
“Thank you,” I say emphatically. “Can we go back to the dungeons yet? My eyes are being assaulted by red and gold twenty-four seven.”
McGonagall glares at me, and I remember too late that she was the proud Head of Gryffindor for a considerable number of decades. “Not that there’s anything wrong with red and gold,” I add meekly.
“I should think not. And you may return, Miss Weasley, as soon as the password to your common room has been changed. Mr Malfoy, would you consider Damascus Zabini a threat to your safety at all?”
“Hell no, I can take him on any day,” Scorpius replies confidently. “Uh, I mean, he poses no threat to me, Professor.”
“You are not to ‘take him on,’ Mr Malfoy.”
“Of course not, Professor.”
“Miss Weasley,” McGonagall continues, “You have another meeting at the Ministry this afternoon. Security will be tight.”
“It starts in fifteen minutes. I suggest you go now.”
“I suppose I’m Flooing.”
“You are,” McGonagall confirms. “It is possible you will be asked to cast your Patronus as proof of your identity, or asked a security question.”
“They did that during the Second War,” I realise. “The security questions, I mean. Dad told me.”
“Yes, well. Polyjuice Potion is easy to make and effective.”
“So I’ve heard,” I comment mildly. Mum told me of her adventures with Polyjuice Potion once. She’s been half a cat, Uncle Harry, some woman at the Ministry and Bellatrix Lestrange. The Uncle Harry one raised a few questions. Mum told me not to ask them.
“So am I invited this time?” Scorpius asks. “To the meeting?”
“You were last time, apparently,” McGonagall says. “Professor Lupin must have just gotten confused.”
“Yes, I’m sure it was Professor Lupin,” Scorpius comments. “So we’ll see you later, Professor.” He makes for the fire.
“One moment, Malfoy. Do you wish to return to your own dormitory tonight?”
“Please,” he says emphatically.
“Very well. You are to return via my office, the password to your common room will be changed by the time you get back.”
Scorpius follows me through the Floo and into the bustling Ministry Atrium and I lead the way to the security booth in the far corner.
“Is the Gryffindor dorm that bad?” I ask quietly.
“Try sharing with Niall Prewett,” he mutters darkly. “‘Isn’t it a shame the Quidditch was cancelled this year, Malfoy? We were looking forward to beating you again.’ ‘You must be disappointed, Malfoy, the one chance you get to take the Cup before you leave, gone.’” He brightens a little. “Hey, d’you reckon, if I killed him, we could pass him off as a casualty of war?”
“It’s worth a try.”
We pass through security, where the wizard on duty checks our wands and waves us through.
“So much for added security,” I comment as we crowd into the lift with four other wizards and nineteen interdepartmental memos.
The flash of a camera behind us makes us wheel around, and I instantly draw my wand.
“Terribly sorry to startle you,” the witch holding the camera says briskly, extending her hand. “Liz Gallant, Witch Weekly.”
“Oh no you don’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“To what purpose do you intend to put that picture?” I demand.
“Rose…I can call you Rose, can’t I? Rose, our readers want to hear about you. You’re fascinating.”
I can’t curse her because we’re in a crowded lift with a bunch of Ministry wizards. Damn.
“Would you like to be prosecuted for invasion of privacy?” I ask sweetly instead.
She looks slightly nervous at this prospect, and I take advantage of it. “Under the Wizarding Information and Media Management Act 1999, section thirty-two, clause seven, any photo taken of a student currently studying at Hogwarts cannot be reproduced in popular media such as the Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly etc without express permission of the student or their parent or guardian if under seventeen. If such a photo is reproduced the publication is liable for a fine of up to 500 Galleons. Would you like to get rid of the photo?”
She does so, and the lift arrives on the floor with Mum’s office. I’m glad to leave her behind.
“That was nicely done,” Scorpius whispers.
“It was also complete bullshit. She’s going to realise it when she gets back to the office and tells her editor, but it’s okay, the photo’s gone. Mum! So good to see you!”
“She’s Polyjuiced,” is Mum’s only reply, turning to Dad.
“Your Patroni, please.”
I roll my eyes at Scorpius as we cast our Patroni, and the two twin owls fly a lap around the room. I’m glad Liz Gallant is gone, she’d have had a field day with this.
Dad watches the Patroni with an odd look on his face, glancing from them, to me, to Scorpius, and back.
“Your dad looks confused,” Scorpius comments. “Does he not know?”
“He does now.”
Mum calls us to order, and I quickly find myself a seat around the table.
“Hermione,” Ginny says urgently before anyone has a chance to speak.
“We have infiltrated the Honour Guard.”
With these words everyone around the table sits bolt upright, eyes fixated on Ginny.
“How?” Dad asks feebly.
“We have a source,” Ginny replies. “A reliable source, loyal to us yet belonging to the inner circle of the Guard.”
“Didn’t hang a portrait of Snape in their meeting place, did they?” Dad asks.
Ginny ignores him. “We have information—a lot of information, that is not to leave this room. The safety of our source is paramount, I’m sure you can agree. Harry, you’ll need to brief the Aurors.”
“Will do,” Harry confirms.
“Who is the source?” Mum asks.
“I cannot identify them.”
“You’re sure about their loyalty?”
“Then let’s hear the details,” Mum says.
“There are ten of them, led, as expected, by Medea Avery, not counting our source. Two are fugitives from Hogwarts, Natalia Dolohov and Emily Burke, two are still at Hogwarts.”
“Still at Hogwarts?”
Ginny nods. “Damascus Zabini.”
“I maintain I can still take him on in a duel,” Scorpius whispers.
“The other members are as follows,” Ginny continues. “Rabastan Lestrange, escaped convict from Azkaban—”
Mum sucks in her breath. Lestrange. I’ve heard enough of that name to know what it means.
“Adrian Rosier, son and grandson of Death Eaters, Octavian Prince, second cousin of Severus Snape, Emerson Montague and Cadmus Lestrange, recently left Hogwarts and sons of Death Eaters.”
“You said two students still at Hogwarts,” Dad says.
Ginny nibbles at her fingernails.
“Who’s the other one?”
“Ginny…” Harry says.
She sighs heavily. “Don’t go after him, please. I don’t know how he got mixed up in all of this.”
“Who is he?” Harry asks.
“Give me your word you won’t go after him.”
“Who is he?” Harry repeats.
“Your word, Harry!”
“My word,” he says.
“It’s Lorcan Scamander.”
“That’s impossible!” Harry jumps up from his seat. “Lorcan Scamander? Scamander? Luna’s son? Impossible!”
“Where is Luna anyway?” Mum asks.
“She couldn’t make it,” Ginny replies. “She doesn’t know, Hermione, just...leave Lorcan out of everything, okay? It’d break her heart.”
“You’re right, it would,” Mum says at length. “All right. What else can you tell us?”
Ginny looks gravely at us. “The Honour Guard is more than an offshoot of DOWIAH,” she says carefully, waving her wand as she speaks to once again check security.
“What is it?”
“Those wizards that have been killed by Muggles over the past few months…Turns out it wasn’t Muggles.”
“Yes, it was,” Harry says tersely. “Dark magic always leaves traces. Always. Dumbledore told me.”
“What if they didn’t use Dark magic?” Ginny asks. “What if they used normal magic? Alohomora to break in, maybe a conjuring spell or two to leave their messages on the doors of the victims, they all died of stab wounds, not Killing Curses.”
“But that dog…” Harry trails off.
“What dog?” I ask, and several of the adults glance over at me as if surprised to find me still here.
“There was a dog in the house of the first victim,” Harry says. “Elderly, died of apparent natural causes. A textbook Avada Kedavra, but Killing Curses leave traces. I know it like I know my own name, and there were no traces of Dark magic.”
“Then we’re dealing with far more powerful wizards than we expected,” Mum mutters. “And Darker, I would venture to say, than the Death Eaters, or at least Darker than the majority of Death Eaters. What they’re doing here is making it seem Muggles will kill us if we integrate with them. It’s terrorism, outright terrorism.”
“They call it Operation Crusade,” Ginny says quietly.
“Ron,” Mum says sharply to Dad, “I want a list of every wizard living in Muggle Britain. We need to contact them, put protective charms on their houses, warn them. Hopefully, the Honour Guard won’t go to great lengths to infiltrate a protected house. I want an alarm charm on each house as well that connects to the Auror Office, Harry, if you could set that up.”
“I’ll get right on it,” Harry says, pulling parchment and quill from his robes and scribbling furiously.
“Ginny, what about your source? Are they part of the Guard?”
“Will they remain part of the Guard?”
“As long as they can.”
“We’re relying on them to feed us information. They hear anything about the Guard’s activities, they tell us. Can they do that?”
“Right. Rose, Scorpius, I want you to step up your training in defensive magic. It sounds like the Guard is even more dangerous than we anticipated. Scorpius, I want you to keep an eye on Damascus Zabini for us. If he does anything suspicious, anything dangerous or threatening, send a Patronus message to myself or Harry immediately.”
“All right. You’re dismissed.”