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Chapter 29: Chapter 29: January Blues
Chapter 29: January Blues.
In Harry’s opinion, the Christmas holidays were over far too quickly, even with the night out led by Charlie on New Year’s Eve to send the girls off. Once again he and Ron were stuck in the dull, boring routine of work. Well, not that dull and boring.
Robards was still drilling them furiously for the upcoming operation. Even though he hated it, Harry had to admit that the twentieth of January seemed a lot closer this side of Christmas.
“Yeah,” said Ron, when Harry pointed this out as they sat at Grimmauld Place’s kitchen table a week after the girls had gone back to school. “But we won’t be any good if Robards kills us all out of sheer exhaustion.” Harry laughed-no matter what, Ron could be counted upon to make light of any and every situation. “We didn’t do this much training when we were hunting Voldemort,” he said absently, eyeing the steak and kidney pie Kreacher had just served them. Harry looked at him, dumbfounded.
“You said his name,” Harry managed after a moment.
“What?” said Ron through a mouthful of pie.
“You said Voldemort!” Harry said, grinning at him. “About bloody time.” Ron clapped a hand to his mouth, looking momentarily horrified, then began to laugh. Harry joined him, and their laughter soon woke up the four people in the portraits. Ron’s toy lightsaber now hung on the wall beside them.
“What’s going on?” said Sirius blearily, rubbing his eyes.
“Ron said Voldemort,” Harry replied, grinning. “For the first time in his life,” he added.
“You know it’s really not so bad,” Ron commented. “You and Dumbledore were right.”
“And us four!” James put in, chuckling.
“Of course we were,” Harry said. “Dumbledore was always right,” he added, although he didn’t really believe it. He was about to change the subject, when something else did it for him.
Gawain Robards’s head in the fireplace.
“Potter?” he said questioningly, causing Ron, who hadn’t noticed him, to fall out of his chair with a high pitched squeal. “Sorry Weasley,” said Robards quickly. “Potter, I need a favour.”
“What can I do for you sir?”
“We need another house elf,” Gawain explained. “I thought someone else in the office would have one, but we don’t. You knew a couple, didn’t you? I’m sure Kingsley once mentioned you were…friends with the Malfoy’s old elf?”
“I was,” said Harry shortly, not wishing to discuss Dobby with Gawain. “He was killed by Bellatrix.”
“Pity,” said Gawain, though Harry got the impression he was talking more in terms of his operation than the loss of Dobby’s life. “Any other ideas?”
“Yes,” said Harry, a brainwave crossing him. “I’ll send you a patronus later.” Gawain nodded, before his head disappeared. Harry picked up some floo powder. “Fancy a trip to Hogwarts?” he asked Ron, who was trying to clean up the mess of his upturned dinner.
“Can I leave this?” he asked. Harry shrugged.
“Go for it. Kreacher loves cleaning.” Ron laughed and followed Harry into the fireplace, flooing to Hogwarts.
Grindelwald stalked the roof terrace of Malfoy Manor, thinking. He was tempted to withdraw all his forces back to Nurmengard, but abandoning his only hold on British soil would be tactically foolish, given that the item needed to complete his push for power required work in England. No, he wouldn’t let the manor fall without a fight. The destruction of Azkaban had proved a masterstroke, with half the convicts choosing to join Grindelwald to fight for wizarding supremacy.
Yet Malfoy Manor was full with about twenty or thirty of his followers. True, he was backed by Valko, Sabine and Dolohov, the core of his command, but if the Order and the Aurors attacked, he knew it would be difficult to repel them. Still, he had an ace in the hole.
Himself. Without Dumbledore, the Order and the Ministry had nobody on the same level as Gellert. He was the most powerful wizard alive, by his reckoning (which was generally right). And if he was attacked, he would show it. If the ministry were foolish enough to place all their faith in Harry Potter, a child, then they would suffer the consequences. His train of thought was interrupted by Dawlish’s arrival.
“My lord?” he said lightly.
“Yes?” replied Gellert, gazing out across the moonlit grounds.
“Mr Zabini has been gone for a whole week. Should we be worried?” Gellert sighed. Dawlish never seemed to listen.
“As I have explained many times, Mr Zabini’s relationship with us is purely financial. He is under no obligation to fight with us,” Gellert said icily. “He’d only get in the way,” he added in an undertone.
“If you say so sir,” Dawlish replied warily. “I would be worried though.” Gellert whirled upon him, his silver hand flashing ominously.
“I am in command!” he roared, spittle flying from his mouth. “I make the decisions! Go, leave me!” he snapped, returning to his pointless vigil.
“As you wish,” Dawlish said hurriedly, stumbling down the stairs. Dawlish had to admit to himself, he was having second thoughts. The regime under The Dark Lord had been perfect-he’d had a taste for power and he’d loved it, that was why he’d changed sides. But Grindelwald…he was unstable. Brilliant, but unstable. He seemed like a man who might snap at any point, and woe betide anyone who got in the way of that.
“How is he?” muttered Dolohov, joining Dawlish on the corridor.
“Moody,” replied Dawlish quietly. “He’s like a teenage girl,” he grumbled.
“Insane,” agreed Dolohov. “But without him, I’d be in prison and you’d be forced to agree with Potter and Shacklebolt.” Dawlish nodded sagely. “Plus he seems to lose his temper less than the Dark Lord.”
“I wouldn’t know,” replied Dawlish. “Still, we’re in this now. Let’s just hope we see it through.”
Meanwhile, Grindelwald continued to brood. Was he overestimating himself? No, he doubted it. Still, perhaps he should plan an escape route…it never hurt to have a plan B.
Harry and Ron appeared in the Headmistress’s office. McGonagall, not expected them, dropped the rolls of parchment she was carrying.
“POTTER, WEASLEY!” she barked angrily, and Harry suddenly felt he was going to get detention. “Do not sneak up on me like that,” she snapped, stressing each word before flopping down in a chair, clutching her chest. Harry flicked his wand hastily, and the rolls of parchment arranged themselves in a neat pile on her desk.
“Sorry professor,” Ron murmured nervously. Harry nodded fervently.
“It’s fine,” she sighed. “It’s been difficult, these past two years without Albus,” she looked up at the sleeping portrait. “I need a new transfiguration teacher, it’s too much,” she told them. Harry and Ron shuffled awkwardly-neither really knew what to say.
“We could ask around?” Harry suggested finally.
“Oh no,” she said, waving her hand. “I’ll put an article in the Prophet at the end of the year. Now, I assume you didn’t come all this way just to scare an old woman?”
“Auror business, Professor,” Harry replied. “We need a house elf. I was wondering if we could speak to Winky?”
“Crouch’s old elf?” McGonagall asked. Harry nodded. “Certainly, I’ll call her up. Winky!” she commanded, and the diminutive house elf appeared in their midst, her eyes frightened.
“Yes miss?” she squeaked, curtseying.
“Mr Potter would like a word,” McGonagall replied, indicating Harry. Winky turned to Harry, and then, to his great surprise, flung herself round his knees, hugging him furiously while crying.
“Harry Potter has come to see Winky!” she sobbed. “What an honour!” she pulled back, beaming through her tears. “Winky heard what happened to Dobby, Winky was very sad. Dobby was a good elf, he was.”
“He was,” agreed Harry heavily. Of all the friends he’d lost, he felt Dobby’s was the most unjust death. “Winky, I’m here on behalf of the Auror office, we need your help.” Winky looked confused, as did McGonagall.
“Why does the Aurors need Winky? Is the office dirty?” she asked curiously. Ron stepped in.
“No, it’s okay,” he laughed. “We need you to apparate a team into Malfoy Manor,” he explained. Winky seemed to consider it for a moment, before turning to McGonagall.
“Can Winky do this Miss?” she squeaked.
“I don’t see why not. Winky, you are to follow Mr Potter and Mr Weasleys instructions for the time being,” she said gently. Winky nodded vigorously.
“Could you stay in Hogwarts until I need you?” Harry asked her. “I don’t think it’ll be for a few days,” he added confidently.
“Winky will do as Master Harry says,” she squeaked, before disappearing with a small pop.
“Strange bunch aren’t they?” Ron said, smiling. “Professor, do you mind if we go and visit someone?” he said hopefully. She pretended to consider it for a moment.
“Of course not,” she said finally. “The password is ‘Barnabus’,” she added. Harry and Ron thanked her and headed down the spiralling staircase.
“You know,” said Ron thoughtfully. “Despite the fact we left here, we’re seeing an awful lot of the place.” Harry laughed.
“We seem to be here all the time,” he agreed. “Now, where are they…I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” he muttered, tapping the Marauders Map he’d taken from his moleskin pouch. “Hermione’s visiting Hagrid, and Ginny is, for some reason, alone on the Quidditch pitch,” he said, feeling troubled by this. “Meet at the gates in an hour?” he suggested. Ron nodded. The castle was fairly quiet-most students seemed to be hiding from the bitter January cold in their common rooms. The two parted at the main entrance, Ron trudging alone down the familiar path to Hagrid’s hut, while Harry headed towards the Quidditch pitch.
Apart from Ginny and Hermione, the thing he missed most about Hogwarts was Quidditch. Taking his Firebolt out of his moleskin pouch, (His undetectable extension charm still holding strong, much to his surprise) he leapt on and hurtled over the stands, revealing in the cold air that blasted through his hair. Looking around, he spotted the red haired figure, alone, sat on a pitch side bench. He dived silently till he was but a few feet above her, before spinning upside down and Clinging on with his legs; he hovered down until he could touch her. He gently took her head in his hands. She gave a little jump of surprise, before looking at him, and her eyes softened. Grinning, he pulled her close and kissed her, still hanging upside down.
“What are you doing here anyway?” she asked a few minutes later, now on the back of Harry’s broom as they flew lazily across the night sky.
“Strictly speaking, Auror business,” Harry replied. “But we’re really just doing Robards a favour.”
“We? Ron’s here too?”
“He’s gone to see Hermione, she’s at Hagrid’s,” Harry explained. “What the hell were you doing all alone out here? It’s freezing!”
“Thinking,” Ginny said shortly, quickly regretting her tone. Harry looked slightly hurt.
“I was only asking,” he said quietly.
“Sorry,” she sighed. “It’s just this place,” she gestured around at the school in general as they flew gently around Gryffindor Tower. “Brings back so many bad memories from last year.”
“What happened?” said Harry innocently. He knew dreadful things had gone on the year before, but Ginny (or anyone else for that matter) was yet to confide in him.
“Not now,” she said softly. “Tonight I just want to be with you. I will tell you, when I’m ready,” she promised, fiddling with his short, messy hair.
“Try to concentrate on the good memories,” Harry advised as they drifted past the covered bridge, heading towards the lake. She kissed his ear, making him shiver with pleasure.
“Let’s make a few more while we’re at it,” she whispered seductively.
January the twentieth seemed to sneak up on Harry and Ron, even though they’d been preparing for the day for so long. They were woken by a loud tapping at the window. To Harry’s surprise, it was Dora. Harry’d left her with Ginny, as he and Ron had Pig, meaning they could send each other letters and parcels if they needed too.
“Hello girl,” said Harry affectionately, opening the window. She swooped onto his shoulder, nibbling his ear before sticking out a leg. A parcel and a letter were tied there, and Harry recognised Hermione’s neat, joined writing. “Ron,” he said. “Hermione’s sent us something.”
“Open it?” mumbled Ron, who’d sank back into his pillow after he’d seen Harry open the window for Dora. Harry chuckled and tore open the letter first.
Dear Harry and Ron,
I know I can’t join you on this ‘adventure’, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help. I’ve spent months making this, and Professor Slughorn says it’s perfect. We worked out a way to brew it in just over half the time. Stay safe boys, I love you both. Ginny sends her love. Good luck, you’ll see what I mean when you open the parcel.
Curious, Harry opened the parcel. There was a tiny vial with a sparkling, golden liquid that Harry knew only too well. Felix Felicis, or Liquid Luck.
“Wow Hermione,” he whispered. “Ron, wake up!” he snapped as Ron began to snore. He grumbled but finally heaved himself out of bed. “Look what Hermione’s sent us,” Harry said brightly, wiggling the little bottle in front of him.
“Great,” said Ron tiredly. “I’m gonna go get some coffee,” he muttered, trudging off out of their room. Sighing, Harry wrote a quick reply back to Hermione, gave Dora a couple of owl treats before watching her soar off out the window, heading back to Hogwarts.
They set out from Grimmauld Place around an hour and a half later on the motorbike, both their faces set in cold, hard determination. This war had already claimed enough lives, caused enough destruction. It was time to put an end to it once and for all.
The rest of the Aurors seemed to be of a similar mind-set. Neville was pacing the front of the office, his face set in stone. Dedalus Diggle wasn’t wearing his ever present purple hat, and was practising stunners on a dummy to the left. Hestia Jones was biting her lip so hard a trickle of blood was running down her jaw. But none were more focused than Gawain Robards. He stood silently at the head of his office, his jaw set, his eyes blazing with an unnatural power. The office was quiet, every one of them knowing what they soon must face.
“Call the house elves Potter,” said Gawain suddenly, before returning to his unmoving state.
“Winky, Kreacher!” Harry commanded, satisfied to hear his voice wasn’t shaky. The two little elves appeared in front of him. In contrast to the Aurors, they looked quite excited.
“Kreacher is here sir,” croaked Kreacher. “What does master wish Kreacher to do?”
“Gawain?” Harry prompted. Robards stepped forwards.
“Kreacher, Winky,” he said, surprisingly kindly. “I’m Gawain Robards, I’ll be giving you your orders today.” He turned to Kreacher. “You’ll be taking Mr Potter, Mr Weasley and Mr Lescott directly into the basement. Winky, you’re taking Mr Longbottom, Miss Jones and Mr Diggle into the attic,” he explained, gesturing each of the Aurors in turn.
“Kreacher will do it sir,” croaked Kreacher. “If Master Harry allows it?” he added, turning to face Harry.
“Perfect, Kreacher,” Harry said, smiling at him.
“Winky is ready sir!” squeaked Winky. “Winky will help in the fight too if she has too! Winky will be brave like Dobby was!” she added, a determined look crossing her tiny face.
“Kreacher will help too sir!” interjected the older elf quickly. Harry got the impression Kreacher saw Winky as a threat.
“That won’t be necessary,” said Harry hurriedly. We don’t need any more house elves dying in that hell hole he thought to himself. Kreacher and Winky nodded fervently, although Harry thought they both looked disappointed. Gawain pulled out a pocket watch.
“It’s time,” he said gruffly. He turned to face his department. “You all know what to do. If we succeed, then we can avert any more death, any more destruction. This is our best chance at beating him. Good luck, friends, I hope to see you on the other side,” he said, for once not a hint of a bark or growl in his voice, but genuine concern for his Aurors.
“Shall we get this over with then lads?” said enormous Ray Lescott in his thick Irish voice. He had an almost excited grin on his face. Harry knew where it was coming from-he could feel the buzz rising in his chest, as it so often did when a battle was coming.
“Let’s do it,” said Ron firmly. He took his swig of Felix, and Harry followed suit. Kreacher held out a hand for Harry, who took it and felt Ray and Ron grab his robes tightly. Kreacher turned on the spot, pulling all three of them with him, and with a loud crack, they were pulled into a twirling blur of light and colour, before reappearing in the dark, dingy cellar of Malfoy Manor.
“Thanks Kreacher,” Harry whispered. “Wait for me at home, unless I call you.” Kreacher nodded and disapparated silently. Harry turned to Ray and Ron-he’d been charged with leading the two of them.
“You know the plan,” he said quietly. “We make our way to the front door, taking out anyone we meet on the way, and then neutralize the guards on the door and on the front gates.” Neville, Hestia and Dedalus were taking care of the guards on the balconies at the front and rear of the manor. Ray and Ron nodded, drawing their wands.
They crept silently up the stair, their ears alert for any sound of movement. Blood pounded through Harry’s head, his senses all more alert than usual. But, possibly due to the Felix Felicis, their path was untroubled. They reached the front door well inside the twenty minute limit Gawain had set.
“Right,” muttered Harry, pulling out his cloak from the inside of his jacket. “I’ll take the one on the left; you two take the one on the right.” Ray and Ron nodded, and Harry threw the cloak over himself, sneaking across the dark hallway of the house that was the subject of some of his worst nightmares. He remembered every inch of the room, even though he’d been half blind as he was dragged across it by Greyback.
The guard on the left was, to Harry’s pleasure, Thorfinn Rowle. Raising his wand, he cast a nonverbal stunning charm, before gently lowering Rowle to the floor with a levitating charm, petrifying him, binding him and stuffing him into an alcove.
Ray, on the other hand, was far less subtle. The guard on the right, who Harry didn’t recognise, was suddenly body slammed into the wall. His wand went flying, courtesy of Ron, before Ray’s enormous fist collided violently with the side of his face, knocking him out cold. Ron, who looked quite shaken, petrified and bound the man.
“Merlin Ray,” said Harry quietly as they regrouped. “What the hell was that?”
“Weasley did a silencing charm,” said Ray briskly. “So it didn’t matter how much noise I made.”
“Ever thought of using a wand?” said Ron darkly. “I think you broke his jaw,” he added, gingerly poking the Consecrat fighter with his toe.
“Probably,” Ray shrugged. “Between the end of school and joining the Aurors, I was a semi professional boxer,” he explained. Ron shook his head, while Harry took out one of his mirrors, this one paired with Neville’s.
“Neville Longbottom,” Harry said as loud as he dared. A few seconds later, Neville’s face appeared.
“You done already?” he asked in surprise.
“Waiting by the door now,” Harry confirmed.
“We’ve taken out the guard on the far left balcony,” Neville said. “Met Amycus Carrow on the way, he won’t be getting up for a long time,” he grinned, and Harry smirked back. “I’ll call you back when you can go and take out the guards at the gate.”
“Great,” replied Harry, settling down to wait as Neville’s face disappeared. “Ray, next time try to be a little more conventional?”
“Sure Harry,” said Ray casually, examining his massive fist. “You’re the boss.”
It took Neville, Hestia and Dedalus another ten minutes to dispatch of the guard overlooking the front of the house on the left, meaning that Harry, Ron and Ray had to hurry across the lawn as quietly as possible if they were to keep with Gawain’s tight schedule. They managed to get there in time, however, and to Harry’s delight, one of the guards was Rita Skeeter. He was certainly going to enjoy stunning her. He nodded quickly for Ron and Ray to take the guard on the left, who Harry recognised as Rabastan Lestrange, before hitting Rita silently with a stunner so powerful she was lifted off her feet and crashed hard onto the grass around ten feet away. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Rabastan collapse, this time without a brutish punch from Ray.
“Petrificus Totalus, Encarceorus,” he muttered, jabbing his wand. Rita was simultaneously bound and petrified.
“Done?” said Ron from behind him, looking pleased with himself. “I got him right in the head, you’d have been proud,” he joked. Harry chuckled, before hiding Rita’s ensnared body in some bushes to the right of the front gates. “Right, I’ll call Gawain,” Ron said, pulling out a mirror. He had a quick conversation, before putting it away. “They’re coming,” he said simply. A few moments later, there was a loud crack, and Lucius Malfoy, accompanied by Gawain and Kingsley, both of whom had their wands pointed at his back. Ben Williamson, Luke Proudfoot, Daisy Richman and Bill Weasley had also arrived.
For some reason, the wards at Malfoy Manor could only be lifted from the front gate, which was why Harry, Ron and Ray had been forced to do what they’d done. Lucius raised his hands and began to mutter counter curses under his breath. It took a while-nearly half an hour in total, but finally, the wards Lucius had put up, as well as the ones he could remove that Grindelwald had added, were down.
“Done,” he drawled in a voice that made Harry’s blood boil. “I assume I’ll be escorted back to the ministry now.”
“Yes, yes,” said Gawain impatiently. “Richman!” he barked, causing the blonde and ever ditsy Daisy Richman to leap about a foot in the air. “Return Mr Malfoy back to his holding cell. Bill, you’re up.” Daisy nodded, retrieved Malfoy’s wand and disapparated with him, while the oldest Weasley sibling stepped forwards. Bill, as a curse breaker, would be able to break through any of the remaining wards, although it would take time, which was why Robards had decided to use Malfoy in their operation to weaken the house’s protection. As Bill worked, Gawain sent off patronuses to various members of the Order, who began to arrive in numbers until there was a veritable army waiting behind the gates.
“Alohomora!” Bill finished, flourishing his wand.
“This is it,” said Gawain, drawing his wand. “This is the end.”