Chapter 8 : Of Dates, DA and Espionage
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A/N: To be honest, I wasn't particularly looking forward to writing this chapter because, after Blaise's meeting with Voldemort, I really didn't have much else planned so thought that I might have to add a bit of filler. In the end, however, I enjoyed writing it and am pretty pleased with the end result; a fairly fluffy chapter at times but quite fun and hopefully you'll like it. Read, review, tell me what you think.
Harry was somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness, between life and death, where all there was, was eternity, the darkness and the endless journey of time as it both raced and stayed perfectly still. History of magic would do that to you. It was not a particularly comfortable sleeping position, but with Professor Binns’ incessant droning, humming like a lullaby in his ears, Harry had managed to drowse, resting his head on his hand and his elbow on the table, for the last hour and a half. There was only half an hour to go but, then again, time no longer had meaning, there had been half an hour left of this lesson three days ago. The strange thing was that he had actually tried to listen this time, he knew that in the endless battles of times gone by, there may be some strategy or offensive that could prove useful in the war that was currently tearing apart his world. But it didn’t matter; Binns had a power for putting people to sleep that was so great that, if it could be harnessed, Voldemort himself wouldn’t stand a chance.
“…off Harry Potter.” Harry’s head jerked up at the mention of his name, briefly worried that Binns had decided that, for once, he would pay attention to the blatant napping taking place in his classroom. “He who must not be named then disappeared for a number of years. It is thought that he spent much of his exile in Albania and ventured in to Montenegro before moving for a time to South America, in particular Peru, Chile, Brazil and Panama. During this time he avoided all human contact and made several attempts to return to a solid form...”
As he listened, Harry realised that Binns had, in fact, moved on to Modern history which, Harry thought, was odd considering that at the start of the lesson they were still in the eighteenth century. Though the professor had, of course, paid no notice to the fact that a major figure in his lesson was sat in front of him, many of the class were now looking up and glancing at Harry, speaking to each other in confusion before succumbing once more to the Binns curse and relaxing back in their seats for a nap. Curious, Harry spotted some parchment in front of Hermione; her notes, and magically summoned them over to find out why, all of a sudden, they were learning about events from his own life.
Plucking it from the air, Harry skimmed down the parchment but found that, about twelve lines into the notes, the History of magic tailed off to be replaced by doodles of otters and the word ‘Ron’ scrawled dozens of times across the piece of paper. Smiling to himself, Harry held the parchment up and pulled a face of mock outrage in Hermione’s direction, shaking his head in ‘disappointment’ that she had failed to take good notes. Hermione glared at Harry in reply and summoned her notes back to her before turning back to the lesson.
A torturously long time later, the bell rang to signify the end of lessons and Hermione and Ron came over to Harry’s desk.
“So what was that about?” Harry asked looking, it had to be said, more in Hermione’s direction than Ron’s. “Why are we suddenly learning about modern history?”
“I don’t know.” Hermione replied. “The last I heard, Binns was talking about eighteenth century changes in magical statute law.”
“Maybe nothing happened between then and Voldemort’s rise.” Ron suggested.
“For over two hundred years?” Hermione asked disbelievingly. “The two hundred years that contained both world wars and the rise and fall of Grindelwald?”
During their discussion, Harry had stood from his desk and, grabbing his bag, made his way towards the door with Ron and Hermione but they were interrupted and halted by a deep voice as it spoke from behind them.
“Excuse me Mr.…” Binns said and Harry turned around to see the ghost looking straight at him.
‘Potter’ Harry thought, unwilling to give in and tell his teacher of six years his name. ‘Come on, you’ve just said the name over a dozen times.’
Harry sighed. “Potter sir.”
“Yes, Mr. Potter, can I have a word with you?”
Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise and confusion but signaled to Ron and Hermione that they could leave and walked over to the desk where the professor was hovering.
“What is it sir?” He asked.
“Did you happen to notice that, having covered the twelfth amendment of the 1743 non-magical object charming bill, I moved past the events of the later eighteenth century and nineteenth century to more modern history?” He asked with what almost looked like an attempt at a smile.
“Actually yes sir.” Harry replied, more confused than ever. “May I ask why?”
“It was in support of you and the endeavors of the Council and Order of the Phoenix on the behalf of the side of good against he who must not be named.” He droned in reply, his ever-dull tone seeming to contradict his words which almost sounded enthusiastic (relatively speaking). “I postponed some moments of importance during the last two and a half centuries so as to comply with the headmistress’ wishes that professors should concentrate on recent events so as to prepare children for war.”
“Well thanks for your support sir.” Harry replied. “I’m sorry but I have to go now, I have transfiguration in five minutes.”
The ghostly professor nodded and Harry backed out of the room, more than a little confused about the conversation he had just had. Shaking his head to clear his shock at Professor Binns actually disrupting his timeline for the sake of the war, Harry looked at his watch and saw that he did in fact have transfiguration in just under fifteen minutes and headed in the direction of the classroom.
“Well it must be a hell of a relief to know you’ve got Binns on your side Harry.” Ron laughed.
It was now the end of the day, three weeks into the new term at Hogwarts and Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were all sat comfortably in the common room talking about the day.
“I know, I mean, disrupting his timetable of lessons just for a war, next thing you know, he’ll be signing up to Auror training.” Harry joked in reply.
“He’ll probably turn up at the next DA meeting.” Ginny chipped in and the four friends fell about laughing.
“We really shouldn’t laugh at him.” Hermione said as she wiped away her own tears of laughter. “He’s not a bad man; he just has a less than modern teaching style.”
“That’s putting it lightly.” Harry replied. “I heard that the teaching style came free with this building.”
The other three laughed but quickly stopped as they saw the expression on Harry’s face abruptly change. He nodded his head in the direction of his dormitory door before getting up and leaving the comfort of the fireside sofa for his own bed where he sat, waiting for his friends and girlfriend to join him.
As they three young witches and wizard filed into the room, Harry flicked his wand to lock and ward the door before pulling out his magic, two-way mirror and saying;
“Are you secure?” Blaise asked as his face replaced Harry’s in the mirror.
“Yes, have there been further developments?” Harry asked.
“You could say that.” Blaise replied. “I’ve had a message from Malfoy senior. He says that the Dark Lord wants to meet with me.”
“Tomorrow night!?” Harry exclaimed. “That doesn’t give us much time, do you know where you’re going?”
“No, I was just told to sneak out of Hogwarts and to the Hog’s head in Hogsmeade where I’ll be met by an escort.”
“That’s a little inconvenient but not entirely unexpected.” Harry responded. “I’ll place a tracking charm on you and follow you wherever you’re taken; obviously when I get there I’ll negate it so that it can’t be sensed.”
“And the blocks and alternate memories in my mind?” Blaise enquired.
“When do you have to meet with them?”
“Midnight.” Blaise replied.
“Very original.” Ginny muttered.
“O.K,” Harry began, “then I’ll meet you in the Room of requirement at six; it shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half.”
“Well, I suppose that’s all I need to know.” Blaise responded, looking a little nervous. “I’ll see you tomorrow at six.”
“See you then,” Harry said, “and don’t worry, we’ve planned every detail, nothing will go wrong.”
The DA lieutenant nodded before fading from view, leaving Harry’s anxious reflection in his place.
“That’s not an assurance you can make.” Hermione said.
“I know but every precaution that can be taken, is being taken.” Harry replied. “I’ll get him in and out of there alive if it’s the last thing I do.”
Ginny looked about to say something but Harry held up his hand to stop her and reached out with his magical senses. Someone was ascending the stairs up to the dormitory. Harry quickly reversed the warding and locking charms and lay back on his bed just as Dean Thomas entered the room.
“Not interrupting anything am I?” He asked as he spotted the two girls, his eyebrows raised and a knowing smile on his lips.
“Goodnight, Ron, Harry.” Hermione said, ignoring the question. “Good night Dean.” She added as she left the room.
“’Night everyone.” Ginny spoke before she too left the room.
“You do realise that my sister was in here with me right?” Ron asked, looking at Dean. “I don’t know what you get up to around your family Dean but the Weasleys have a little thing we like to call discretion.”
Harry and Dean laughed. “Ron, I saw you snogging Hermione in the common room the other day, the only reason you know the meaning of the word ‘discretion’ is because people so often use it in the following sentence; ‘That Ron has no discretion’.” Harry said.
“You’re one to talk Harry.” Dean began. “Remember when I caught you-”
Dean was cut off by a look from Harry and the realisation that what he was about to say may not be well received by Mr. Discretion.
“What did you catch him doing?” Ron asked.
“I caught him skipping naked around the dormitory.” Dean invented, prompting a bewildered and questioning look from Harry. Dean shrugged in reply as Ron turned to Harry and started laughing.
“Well, I could listen to humiliating stories about Harry all night but I am exhausted. I’m going to sleep.” Ron said.
Soon the room was filled with the red-head’s snores and Harry turned to Dean, secure in the knowledge that Ron would not awaken until the next morning and even then only reluctantly.
“Why?” Harry asked incredulously.
“Well would you rather I told him that I caught you in a broom closet with his sister?”
“But why did I have to be naked?”
“I don’t know, it was just the first thing that came in to my head.” Dean replied.
“Well I think that says more about you than me.” Harry said. “I’m going to sleep, try not to picture me naked.”
“It’s not you I’ll have the problem with.” Dean responded. “Ginny was looking very nice when I came in.”
He was shut up by a pillow which flew across the room and, with incredibly accuracy, struck him in the face.
“Point taken.” Dean said.
The next morning, Harry was feeling a little less light-hearted. Nerves about the plan about to be put into action were assaulting his mind and he was finding it difficult to concentrate throughout the day’s lessons. This would have been bad enough on its own but Kingsley had taken to a very Thane like trick of throwing curses at people who he thought weren’t concentrating. Harry walked out of that classroom considerably sorer and with much, much longer ears than when he went in.
The day did eventually pass, however, and at ten to six that evening, he found himself stood inside the Room of Requirement waiting for his lieutenant and wannabe spy to arrive. The door opened at five to and the Slytherin entered, closing the door and pausing to allow Harry to add his own wards on the room, before speaking.
“Difficult day Harry?” Blaise asked with a questioning look, as he spotted his commander’s ears.
Harry looked puzzled for a second but realization quickly dawned on him and he reversed the spell before answering.
“A little bit of advice;” he began, “even if you know the spells you’re learning inside out, don’t daydream in Shacklebolt’s lessons.”
“Thanks for the tip.” Blaise replied with a smile before his face turned serious once more. “I suppose we better get down to business, you know my occlumency is still a little shaky.”
“That’s OK; Voldemort won’t be expecting you to be a master.” Harry responded. “And it will be my fake memories and the blocks I place around your real ones that will protect you during the ceremony and any tests of loyalty. The occlumency I’ve taught you is just to protect against sneaky skimming of your mind both by Voldemort and his Death Eaters.”
Blaise nodded, looking a little more confident. “So what do I need to do?” He asked.
“First of all, I need you to gather together all of your incriminating memories; every DA meeting, every exchange with me or other DA soldiers, your true feelings towards me and the light. You don’t need to think of all of them, just concentrate on your allegiance with me and the DA, think of your feelings towards us and cast your mind over the meetings and then place them to the back of your mind.”
Harry paused to allow Blaise to do as Harry had instructed, utilising the occlumency techniques he had been taught over the past weeks. As the young Slytherin’s features relaxed, Harry knew that he could move on and gently started to push forward into Blaise’s mind.
‘Don’t resist me.’ Harry thought, knowing that Blaise could hear him. ‘Just concentrate on your thoughts right at the back of your psyche.’
Harry was happy to see that Blaise was doing just that, throughout his mind, his thoughts seemed normal but, in the darkest reaches of his consciousness, there was a shining ball; his collected memories. Still careful not to disrupt the spy’s focus, Harry slowly constructed mental barriers around Blaise’s true memories of him, the DA and the light and reinforced them with as much power as he could, before withdrawing from his mind.
“OK, you can relax and open your eyes.” Harry said as he returned to reality. “How do you feel?”
“Well my mind feels incredibly clear and I feel like my memories are sort of locked away, I can access them but only if I try. How does it feel to be protecting someone else’s mind?”
“Tiring.” Harry confessed. “I’m OK at the moment but as the night goes on, I will start to feel more and more drained, it’s like constantly having to perform leglimency and, rather than just look at your thoughts, I have to protect them from attack.”
“How will you keep it up throughout the year?” Blaise asked.
“I won’t. The alarm I’ll set up in your mind will tell me if your mind is being attacked and, when and if I sense it, I’ll re-enter your mind then. This constant protection will only be for your initiation ceremony when you’re least trusted and your mind is under constant bombardment.”
Blaise nodded. “So what’s next?”
“The fake memories.” Harry replied. “This is the long and complicated bit.”
For the next forty five minutes, Harry worked constantly, entering Blaise’s mind and transferring memories into it from his own where he had carefully created the fakes. It was a long and tiresome task but, eventually, it was done and Harry withdrew from Blaise’s mind once more. With the most complicated part over, Harry took little time in placing an alarm around Blaise’s hidden thoughts, one that would sound in his own mind if they were being invaded.
“Is that it?” Blaise asked as Harry came out of his mind for the final time.
“That’s it.” Harry replied, checking his watch and seeing that it read ten minutes past seven. “Go and get something to eat, you’ll need your strength for what’s to come. We’ll meet up at half eleven in the entrance hall. Do you think you’ll be able to get past the patrols?”
Blaise smirked. “Never underestimate a Slytherin Potter.”
Harry smiled. “Then, I guess I’ll see you later.”
Blaise nodded and waved his good bye before departing the Room of Requirement, looking a little paler than when he came in. Harry sighed, he wouldn’t want to put anyone through this, but it really was the only way. The Order’s lack of information was costing lives and that had to stop. His mind was still racing as he followed Blaise in exiting the room and walked up to the common room to meet up with Ron, Hermione and Ginny before he himself went for lunch. He needed his strength; it was going to be a long night.
Harry spent the rest of the evening nervously discussing the upcoming mission with Ron Hermione and Ginny, going over every possibility for the thousandth time and coming up with plans B, C and D. Eventually, however, and all too soon for Harry, the Gryffindor common room started to empty and, checking his watch, Harry saw that it was ten minutes to eleven (five minutes since the last time he had checked). Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to relax, Harry excused himself and left Ginny, Dean and Seamus, Ron and Hermione having gone on prefect patrol, to walk down to the entrance hall.
Covered by a disillusionment charm, Harry took the long way downstairs and was happy to see that there was a good level of patrols in the corridors of Hogwarts. He didn’t like the thought of leaving the place vulnerable while it was full of students but it was unavoidable and he had made sure that Ron and Hermione were on duty and were keeping a close eye on the entrance. Arriving at the front door and giving Ron and Hermione a discrete signal to tell them he was there, Harry only had to wait five minutes before he sensed another magical presence join him and, soon after, a small tap on the shoulder. Knowing that it was Blaise, Harry checked that he wasn’t being watched before magically unlocking and opening the door and slipping outside.
“Invisibility cloak?” He asked as he walked down the path to the outskirts of the Hogwarts grounds.
“Yep.” Blaise replied, pulling off the cloak as he exited the Hogwarts grounds into Hogsmeade.
“Wow, aren’t they meant to be expensive?”
“Well, money is one thing I never had to go without.” Blaise replied. “I heard that you have one too.”
Harry nodded before realizing that he was still disillusioned and so couldn’t be seen. “Yes, but mine was inherited from my Dad.” He paused. “Nervous?”
“I think there’d have to be something wrong with me if I wasn’t.”
“Good point.” Harry replied. “Don’t worry too much about acting; you’d be crazy not to be terrified even if you weren’t on a dangerous espionage mission.”
“Thanks Harry, that’s really reassuring.” Blaise said before stopping, his gaze about two hundred yards in front of him. “There he is.”
Harry looked up to see Lucius Malfoy’s tall figure silhouetted against the midnight sky, glancing around somewhat impatiently. Holding his friend back, Harry took out his wand and waved it over him.
“What was that?” Blaise asked, curiously, but not accusingly.
“The tracking charm.” Harry replied. “As soon as I’ve followed you to Voldemort and the Death Eaters, I’ll remove it; I’m sure you don’t want old Voldy to sense that Harry Potter is tracking you.”
“If it’s not too much trouble, no, I’d rather he didn’t sense anything.” Blaise said, smiling nervously.
“Ready?” Harry asked.
“Not really.” Blaise responded before walking away from his friend and commander and towards the elder Malfoy.
Harry watched as the two of them exchanged a few words before Lucius took hold of Blaise’s arm and disappeared into limbo. He waited a few seconds before following the signal of the tracking charm, thinking that it may hamper their plans a little if he was to land on top of his spy and his Death Eater escort. As it happened, Harry landed closer to the Death Eater circle than he was expecting and, with a rush of panic, he spotted Voldemort glance up as he undoubtedly felt a surge of power in the area. Harry quickly waved his hands over himself to disguise his magical signal and negated the tracking charm on Blaise, but his heart was still racing as Voldemort continued to stare close to his position from his place inside the Death Eaters’ circle.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the Dark Lord seemed to convince himself that the power surge had been in his mind and turned to Blaise who had been standing nervously by Lucius’ side. Finally, Harry had time to look around his surroundings and found that he was in a field that could have been anywhere in the country, surrounded by tall hedges and with a small village just visible in the distance. Crouching down, Harry moved stealthily towards the circle of dark wizards as he saw Voldemort start to speak. He found himself a well covered spot between a large rock and a hedge and listened as the Dark Lord addressed his friend.
“…have been most impressed with what they have seen of you young Zabini. I, however, have somewhat more discerning tastes and if you wish to join with me, you will have to convince me that your intentions match my own, your life depends on it."
Blaise nodded and Voldemort continued.
“I am a busy man, so we’ll make this quick.” The Dark Lord hissed as he walked away from Blaise. “I could, of course, ask you of your intentions but that would not be very thorough of me would it? And not nearly as enjoyable. Leglimens!”
With this last word, Voldemort span around and thrust his wand at towards the young spy. Blaise winced in shock and pain as the Dark Wizard assaulted his mind, powering through any mental defences the young wizards may have had. Blaise continued to squirm, held up by Malfoy senior, as Voldemort continued to attack and search his mind, basking in the pain and discomfort he was causing to the young wizard in front of him. This torture went on for a full five minutes but, eventually, Harry breathed a sigh of relief as Voldemort pulled out of Blaise’s mind; the false memories had served their purpose and Harry hadn’t had to enter his spy’s mind to protect and hide his true intentions.”
“Good,” Voldemort spoke, a small and evil smile now playing on his lips, “but not enough. There are ways to fool even a master leglimens and, as a member of Potter’s, what was it, DA? You could quite easily have been taught them. Snape, the Veritaserum.”
Blaise still looked exhausted and in pain from the mental assault he endured and, as he prepared for his part in the operation, Harry knew that the next stage wouldn’t be any easier on him. At his master’s order, Snape had stepped forward from his position in the circle and was now pulling a small vial from his pocket.
“This, young Slytherin, is Veritaserum.” The Dark Lord whispered, his voice nevertheless carrying across the field to Harry’s position, filled with threatening menace and evil. “Three drops of this potion and you will be spilling to me, your deepest, darkest secrets. Be warned, if just one of your answers arouses in me, a trace of suspicion that you are Potter’s pet, your death will be slow, it will be excruciatingly painful and it will be by my hand.”
Voldemort smiled an ice cold smile before taking the vial from his senior Death Eater and pouring three drops of the clear truth-telling potion onto Blaise’s tongue. As the last drop hit, Harry, who had taken careful aim at his young spy’s head, fired the spell necessary for possession and felt his reality melt away as he was transported into the emptiness of Blaise’s mind. Focusing, through Blaise’s eyes, on the Dark Lord in front of him, Harry had to concentrate hard to hear the words;
“Are you Blaise Zabini?” Spoken from Voldemort’s snake-like lips.
“Yes.” Harry force Blaise to reply.
“Are you a pure-blooded wizard?” Harry felt a surge of anger at these words but, nevertheless, answered;
“Are you a spy, working for Harry Potter or any other witch or wizard on the side of the light?”
“To whom are you loyal?”
“To the Dark Lord. Lord Voldemort.”
Voldemort smiled a triumphant smile of satisfaction as he waved his wand over Blaise to negate the effects of the Veritaserum. Harry pulled out of Blaise’s mind at that moment and saw his spy regain his focus as Voldemort addressed him once more.
“Excellent. You are a worthy addition to the ranks of my inner-circle of Death Eaters, your place in Potter’s DA, along with your power and pure blood place you in a unique position. From this moment forth, you will act as my spy, delivering to me all information you can gain of the movements and actions of Potter and the light. Your job is a dangerous one but, do it well, and your rewards will be great when Lord Voldemort and his armies defeat the muggle-loving fools of this world and rises to power over the wizarding world.”
Harry rolled his eyes at this last little speech but the Death Eaters cheered in admiration and Blaise did a good job of looking nervously excited at his new position in the Death Eater ranks.
“Now go.” The Dark Lord hissed. “You will return to Hogwarts before your absence is discovered and you will be contacted when we next meet.”
Blaise bowed down and said; “Yes master.”
As Blaise stood, Voldemort suddenly reached out and gripped his arm, pulling it towards him, before placing his finger on it and watching as Blaise screamed in pain. It was over in a few seconds but Blaise looked shaken as his arm was released and he stumbled back away from the Dark Lord. As Blaise pulled back his sleeve, Harry saw the grotesque outline of the Dark mark on his arm; it seemed to pulsate with dark magic and glowed in the night before disappearing completely.
“It will remain invisible and untraceable, but when I wish for you to come, you will feel it burn.” Voldemort spoke. “When you do, you will concentrate on the mark and you will come to me.”
Blaise nodded, his breathing ragged.
“Lucius, take him back to Hogsmeade. We will meet again soon young Zabini.”
Blaise bowed once more before Lucius grabbed his arm and the two of them apparated away. Again, Harry waited a few seconds and saw the rest of the Death Eaters dismissed, before apparating back to Hogsmeade himself. Landing next to the Hog’s head pub, Harry jogged to catch up with his spy who he saw, alone, a hundred yards in front of him.
“You did it.” Harry spoke as he drew level with him.
“Yeah.” Blaise smiled through his pain and exhaustion. “It wasn’t exactly a picnic but it all came off perfectly, no need for plans B, C or D.”
“We must be smarter than we thought.”
“In your case Harry,” Blaise replied, “that would be impossible.”
Harry smiled and together the two of them walked back up to Hogwarts, sneaking back in the front door to the entrance hall where Harry gave Ron and Hermione the signal that they were back. Harry watched as the two of them locked the door once more before saying his goodbyes to Blaise and walking up the stairs to his dormitory. There, he happily collapsed onto his bed, a smile on his face as thought back on to a job well done.
“In a duel, the only way of incapacitating an enemy or multiple enemies is to not be dead. This means that you have to avoid being hit by fatal spells.” Harry addressed the DA. “There are two ways of doing this, you either block your enemy’s curses or you dodge them. The advantages of dodging are; you don’t have to use magic, so you won’t become magically exhausted as easily, some curses can’t be blocked easily; most people won’t have the power to block the likes of the killing curse and while you’re dodging you can launch an attack which, after all, is the best form of defence. So, for the first part of the session, I’ll be showing you how to dodge, roll and fall in a duel and then we’ll move on to techniques for beating multiple opponents.”
It was almost a month after Blaise had successfully infiltrated the Death Eater ranks and the young spy was currently watching, along with the rest of the DA, as Harry rolled out of the way of Dean Thomas’ stunner before hitting him with an ‘extrudo’ curse. Blaise smiled as Dean was sent flying backwards and Harry had to magically catch him to stop him from slamming into the wall. As Harry went into another speech, Blaise’s mind began to drift and he thought back on the three times he had been called to Voldemort’s side, the last time being just three hours ago; it hadn’t been pleasant, but so far he hadn’t been ordered to commit an evil act. The first two meetings had been fairly unproductive but at last, after the third, Blaise had some information to pass on to his boss.
Blaise was snapped out of his reverie when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a red bolt of light heading his way, he rolled out of the path of the stunner just in time and fired a stinging curse back at Harry who blocked it easily with a wave of his hand and smiled before carrying on the lesson. Two hours later, Harry dismissed his troops and, one by one, the wizards and witches of the DA started to file out of the room until it was just Blaise, Harry and Ginny. The latter, Blaise realised, was waiting to leave with Harry and he hesitated, but quickly decided that Harry would tell Ginny anyway so walked forward.
“I almost got you there.” Harry said, conjuring three chairs and sitting down as he saw Blaise approach him.
“Almost, but not quite.” Blaise replied, taking his seat and seeing Ginny do the same. “I have some information for you.”
“Excellent. What did you find out?”
“Your suspicions are right Harry; Snape is definitely regarded as above all other Death Eaters, even those in the inner circle. He sits at Voldemort’s side in meetings, speaks when the rest of us are supposed to be listening, has extra powers over the rest of us and receives extra training.”
“So old Voldy’s got himself an apprentice then.” Harry responded.
“How powerful is Snape?” Ginny asked. “Is he a threat to you or the senior Aurors?”
“He’s powerful enough.” Harry replied. “I don’t think he has enough innate magical power to match Voldemort’s abilities or mine but, as we saw in the holidays, he can already put up a good fight against Thane and, if he continues to receive training, he could certainly overtake him and Moody. Did you find anything else Blaise?”
“Yes, Voldemort has indicated that, as well as carrying on the muggle attacks, he will be moving back to targeting magical targets as well. I’m not sure when or whereabouts exactly but Diagon Alley has been suggested. He’s gaining more and more influence in the ministry doesn’t currently have enough to take over. That’s all I have at the moment.”
Harry nodded. “Good, thank you Blaise. I’ll pass on the information Council and make sure that the Order guards are increased and on the alert at places like Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. If you hear anything else, you can contact me at any time and let me know.”
Blaise nodded and said goodbye before leaving the room and Harry and Ginny alone.
“So, Voldemort’s looking at magical targets again.” Ginny said. “Do you think Hogwarts is in any danger?”
Harry shook his head. “If he’s not ready to take the ministry then he’s not ready to take Hogwarts. But, we can talk about this later, because tomorrow is the beginning of a Hogsmeade weekend and you are a very lucky girl Ginny Weasley, because I happen to be dateless.”
Ginny smiled. “Is this your cocky way of asking me on a date Mr. Potter?” She asked.
“Yes it is.”
“Well then, I accept.” Ginny replied. “Madam Pudifoot’s here we come.”
“I’d rather take Ron out on a date than go back there.” Harry said. “And I think he’d accept too. I’ll sort out somewhere nice to go; just don’t expect me to beat Paris.”
With that, the two of them walked out of the Room of Requirement and up to the Gryffindor common room where they found Ron and Hermione waiting for them.
“What took you so long?” Ron asked as they sat down next to the fire.
“Well,” Harry began, “I don’t know what your sister was thinking but when we were alone in the Room of Requirements, a bed appeared, so we-“
“We received some information.” Ginny interrupted as Ron reached for his wand. “We’ll tell you about it later.”
Ron and Hermione nodded in understanding.
“So, it’s Hogsmeade weekend tomorrow and Sunday Ron.” Harry said. “Could this be the first big date?”
“Yes.” Hermione replied as her new boyfriend’s ears turned red. “We’re going to Hogsmeade together and no Harry, we won’t be going to Madam Pudifoot’s. You’ve told us so many times how that placed scarred you for life; I have no desire to force Ron into the same fate. What are you two doing?”
“We’re undecided.” Ginny responded. “But if my big brother’s going on a big date, we could follow him around, shouting things and firing funny hexes at him, what do you think Harry?”
“That’s a good idea.” Harry replied. “Stink bombs may add to the atmosphere quite nicely as well.”
Ron smiled and shook his head, knowing full well that his best mate and sister wouldn’t ruin his big date with the girl he had loved for years. “You know, I can’t believe Mum thinks that Fred and George have been a bad influence on you Ginny.”
Ginny just smiled and, ten minutes later, she excused herself to go to bed, soon followed by Hermione.
“I suppose I better get some rest too.” Ron said as he downed the rest of the butterbeer summoned for him by Harry. “It’s a big day tomorrow.”
Harry wished his best mate goodnight before sitting staring into the fire as the common room started to empty, thinking of the night’s developments. Taking out the watch gifted to him by the Order, Harry called a meeting of the Council for the next night before he too trudged upstairs to bed.
The next morning, after Harry’s daily exercises and breakfast, found him standing in front of the mirror, Ron by his side, as the two of them got ready for their big dates in half an hour’s time. In truth, they had been ready a while ago but still they stood, tampering with their clothes to make sure they looked right, Harry trying to flatten down the back of his still unruly hair.
“I’m a bit nervous about this date, mate.” Ron said as he stared critically at his reflection. “Any advice?”
“You’re coming to me about dating advice?” Harry asked incredulously. “Do I need to remind you of Cho? And everything’s going great with Ginny so far but I could mess that up any day now.”
“You better not mess it up.” Ron warned.
“Are you actually encouraging me to date your sister young Ronald?”
“Until I can convince her to become a nun, you’re better than someone I don’t know.” Ron explained. “Besides, she seems quite fond of you. Now, my date with Hermione?”
“I don’t know, on TV they always say to be yourself, so don’t possess anyone. Other than that, just act normally around her. Don’t think of it as a big date, just as hanging out with a good friend, with privileges.” Harry said.
“Thanks mate.” Ron replied. “How do I look?”
“Absolutely stunning.” Harry replied jokingly.
“Thanks. Time to go and meet our dates I suppose.”
Harry nodded and together, the two of them walked out of the Gryffindor common room and downstairs to the entrance hall. There they stood for half an hour, repeatedly checking their watches to make sure they had the right time. Eventually, after seeing dozens of people pass by on their way into Hogsmeade and as the hall started to empty, Harry and Ron spotted their girlfriends. Harry was about to say something when Ron rushed forward and embraced Hermione, telling her how beautiful she looked.
“Hi Gin.” Harry said as he walked up to his girlfriend and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “You look incredible. You look great too Hermione.”
Harry added as he turned to face her. Hermione smiled and thanked him and the two couples set off down the path towards the edge of the Hogwarts grounds and Hogsmeade.
“I guess this is where we split up.” Hermione said as they came to the main street of the village.
“We’ll see you later then.” Harry replied. “Good luck.”
“Where do you think he’s taking her?” Ginny asked as they watched the new couple disappearing.
“Either to a quidditch match or a chess tournament knowing Ron.” Harry replied. “He’ll be fine, though I doubt he’ll beat Paris.”
“Speaking of which, where are you taking me today Mr. Potter?” Ginny asked.
“I thought that we could walk around the town first and then we’ll go somewhere, in Britain, for lunch.” Harry replied.
“Sounds good to me.”
“Oh and I want to make a suggestion.” Harry said. “Tonight, I’m going to a Council meeting where we’ll be discussing Voldemort and Snape and all that nastiness. Until then, how about no mentions of the war?”
“Deal.” Ginny replied.
So for the next two hours, Harry and Ginny walked hand in hand through Hogsmeade, their conversation light and playful, stopping in the Three Broomsticks before walking up to Zonko’s and Honeydukes. Only when their stomachs growled with hunger did Harry and Ginny interrupt their walk and Harry grasped Ginny’s arm and apparated them into London. Walking around the capital city, the two of them spotted a muggle Italian restaurant and went inside.
“This place looks pretty expensive.” Ginny said as a waiter escorted them to their table.
“Ginny, Ginny, Ginny. You forget who you’re with.” Harry replied. “Lord Harry James Potter, heir of Merlin and Gryffindor and head of the Potter estate.”
Ginny laughed. “Sorry, I forgot that I was in the company of magical royalty Lord Potter.”
“Exactly, plus a little memory charm and the bill just goes away.”
“I don’t think your beloved ancestors would like you taking advantage of muggles.” Ginny said.
“Believe me, they aren’t that beloved.” Harry replied. “I had to sort out the mess Granddad Godric made with the Rock of Initium.”
“So do you think Ron’s panicked in conversation and made a fool out of himself yet?” Ginny asked, changing the subject as she sensed them getting ever closer to the subject of the war.”
“I hope not, he was really nervous about it this morning, you know.” Harry replied. “He even asked me for dating advice.”
“He asked you for advice?” Ginny asked in mock incredulousness. “He must have been desperate.”
“That’s what I thought.” Harry replied with a smile. “Naturally, I was my usually sensitive self over the issue.”
“Naturally.” Ginny responded sarcastically.
The conversation was briefly interrupted as the waitress walked over to their table and asked them what they would like for their starter. Opting to skip the starter, Harry went for the lasagna and Ginny chose the risotto.
“Risotto?” Harry asked. “Very fancy.”
“How is Risotto fancier than lasagna?” Ginny asked.
“Because I’ve never heard of it.” Harry replied as if it was obvious.
“And that’s the definition of fancy?”
“Of course.” Harry said with a smile.
Soon after, their meals arrived and Harry and Ginny spoke lightly as they tucked in to lunch. Having worked up a large appetite walking around Hogsmeade, the ravenous couple made short work of the main course and managed to finish off a dessert as well before paying and leaving the restaurant.
“I think I might have to join you on your run tomorrow morning Harry.” Ginny said as she and Harry wandered aimlessly around the streets of London. “Ron would have been proud of the amount I’ve just eaten.”
“Well, you’re always welcome to join me, just be in the common room at half past six in the morning.” Harry replied.
“You know what,” Ginny said after a few seconds of mock consideration, “I think I’ll give it a miss.”
Harry smiled. “How about we go and get another drink in the three broomsticks before heading back?” He asked, changing the subject. “I could do with a few butterbeers to wash down that meal.”
Ginny agreed and together the two of them apparated from London back to Hogsmeade and started walking in the direction of their favourite pub.
“Hey, that’s Ron and Hermione over there.” Ginny said as they were about to enter the pub, pointing to a couple sat together on a bench about a hundred yards away.
“I think you’re right.” Harry replied. “Do you think we should go over?”
“No. They look so cute sitting there together, leave them alone.”
Harry obeyed and led the two of them from the September weather, which was gradually getting colder, and into the warm coziness of the three broomsticks public house. Inside, the couple quickly got a booth and Harry asked Madam Rosmerta for two butterbeers, which she quickly obliged. Taking a sip from his drink, Harry allowed his mind to drift, basking in the comfortable silence that had developed between him and his girlfriend.
“You know, a few years ago, I couldn’t have dreamed of having a moment like this with you.” Ginny eventually spoke. “There was plenty of silence, just none of it comfortable. I was just Ron’s little sister who ran out of the room whenever the great Harry Potter entered the room.”
“You were never just Ron’s little sister Ginny.” Harry said. “And it was only natural for a ten year old to be nervous around me because of my greatness and God-like tendencies.”
Ginny laughed. “OK, so maybe I was never just Ron’s little sister but, you have to admit, the only time you noticed me was when I was lying beneath a huge, man-eating snake.”
“Well then, here’s to foolish boys coming to their senses.”
Ginny smiled and tapped her glass to Harry’s before finishing her drink and walking with the once foolish boy out of the pub and up the path towards Hogwarts.
“Do you think Ron and Hermione are back yet?” Ginny asked as she and Harry walked up the stairs towards the Gryffindor common room.
“I hope so.” Harry replied. “It all got a bit emotional towards the end of the date; I could do with a bloke to make fun of.”
Ginny grinned. “Don’t be too hard on him; you know how sensitive he can be on the issue of Hermione.”
“I’m sure it went fine.” Harry said.
Walking into the common room, Harry and Ginny found that Ron and Hermione were yet to return and so, summoning two butterbeers, they sat down on their favourite couch and chatted as they waited for their friends to arrive. Only fifteen minutes passed before the portrait hole opened once more and Ron and Hermione entered hand in hand.
“So how’d it go? Ginny asked; a smile on her face as Ron and Hermione sat down together in the same chair.
“Brilliantly.” Hermione replied, blushing a little as she grinned from ear to ear. “We walked around in the countryside around the village and then Ron took me to this beautiful little country restaurant.”
“You old romantic Ron.” Harry teased his friend.
“You don’t have to apparate across the channel to impress the ladies Harry.” Ron responded.
“For your information, I didn’t apparate across the channel.” Harry said. “Just to London.”
Ron laughed. “So you haven’t messed it up yet?”
“Not yet.” Harry grinned.
“Messed what up?” Ginny asked.
“Nothing.” Harry replied.
For the next five minutes, Ginny and Hermione tried, to no avail, to convince a grinning Harry and Ron to tell them what they were talking about. Eventually, however, the conversation moved on but, keeping to their deal, avoided the war like the plague. The two couples told each other about their dates before moving on to quidditch and homework and all manner of subjects as they laughed and drank butterbeer together.
Sitting in his comfy chair by the fire as the light conversation around him filled his ears, Harry was reluctant to get up but he knew that, as he had called the meeting, he was expected to be the first to arrive. So, pulling himself to his feet, he excused himself from his friends and walked down to the entrance hall and then to the edge of the Hogwarts grounds where he apparated away. Appearing in the kitchen of the cave ten minutes before the meeting was due to begin, Harry sat down in his regular seat and waited for the others to arrive. The first to do so was Remus, arriving with Tonks and Harry embraced his guardian in a one armed hug before greeting the two of them.
“How have you two been?” He asked. “Has Remus messed the relationship up yet Tonks?”
“Not yet.” Tonks replied and Remus glared at her playfully.
“It’s good to see you Remus.” Harry said.
“You too Harry.” Remus replied.
“Wow, it’s like some sort of re-union in here.” Thane Harding said as he walked into the room. “We all only saw each other three weeks ago at the last Council meeting. So Harry, can we have a preview of what the meeting’s about.”
“What an interesting turn of events.” Harry said, grinning evilly. “Thane Harding wants to know something that I know, I wonder if I should tell him or not.”
“Oh no, I’ll have to wait five minutes to find out.” Thane responded in mock frustration. “That’ll teach me.”
The conversation was interrupted as Professor McGonagall entered the room and Harry and the others sat down as more people started to file into the kitchen.
“Thanks for coming everyone.” Harry spoke as the rest of the Council took their seats. “I come to you today with news; some good, some bad. The bad news is that Voldemort has taken Snape on as an apprentice and is training him up in the Dark arts; he is also going to start targeting magical buildings and places once more. I don’t know when and where exactly, but Diagon Alley has been mentioned. The good news is that I am able to bring you this intelligence because I have a new source of information.”
“A spy?” Kardos asked. “Who is it?”
“I’m afraid I’m not willing to divulge that information.” Harry replied.
“I realise that there may be leaks in the Order but surely in the Council we have to share information.” Kardos argued.
“Potter’s right.” Moody ended the discussion. “The less people who know, the better. As for the threat to magical targets, I’ll have the guards stepped up. Harding, I want you to organise a twenty four hour patrol of Diagon Alley with Kardos acting as team leader and Tonks, you can look after Hogsmeade. I doubt Hogwarts is a target but Shacklebolt and the teachers and Potter, of course, should keep on their guard.”
“What are we going to do about the Snape problem?” Tonks asked. “The last thing we need is another Dark Lord.”
“The only thing we can do is continue to train as we have been doing.” Thane replied. “I knocked out the greasy haired last time and if he fancies another go, I’ll do it again.”
Harry smiled at his friend’s enthusiasm and realised that he was right, he himself had been concentrating on the training of others, but none of them would be facing as big a challenge as he. Snape was one thing, Voldemort another entirely. He needed to start training in earnest once more.
A/N: There you have it, once again, all of your reviews are greatly appreciated and I will always respond. As a further transparent attempt to boost my review total, I would like to point out that the good thing about reading a story in progress is that I will listen to any suggestions you make or errors or weak points that you point out and may well edit the story accordingly. Chapter 9 is now under way and Harry throws himself back into training, but there is a potential sticking point for the Order; there is a traitor in their midst.
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