Chapter 1 : A Call To Action
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As for the usual disclaimers, I own nothing related to HP, nor the song in this chapter, which come from the "Goblet of Fire" film.
Okay, now onto the story!
A CALL TO ACTION
That night, The Burrow had exceeded its holding capacity, and that was precisely why Mrs. Weasley decided to usher guests outside. In fact, outside was where people seemed to want to be anyway. But who could blame any of them, considering the backyard was where The Weird Sisters had set up their stage and were currently filling the night air with the loud and rhythmic beats of their music. The Burrow itself was aglow from the inside by the lights of each room and if one were to listen closely and tune out the music, they would be able to hear the excited chatter of countless witches and wizards.
Only family and close friends were invited tonight, but it still was difficult to maneuver in and out of all the bodies crowded inside the Weasley Family’s old but comfortable home. Harry told himself that such a turnout was to be expected as he wove through the crowd. After all, this was an event anybody who received an invitation to would be a fool to turn down: the engagement parties for Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley and Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
It had been two years since Harry’s famous defeat of Lord Voldemort, two years of well-deserved rest and relaxation. In that time, Harry and his friends had opted to go back and complete their final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They had all passed with top marks and had each instantly received opportunities to begin their careers in the Wizarding world.
Harry and Ron had been taken on by the Auror Department inside the Ministry of Magic and since then had embarked on many missions to track down any remaining Death Eaters who still persisted in their practice of Dark Arts, despite the downfall of their master. Hermione also pursued a job within the Ministry, but her interests fell within the realm of Magical Law. She had started out for a few months working as an understudy to a famous Wizard lawyer, but with Hermione naturally being who she was, she had moved up the ranks within a few more months to become a member of the legal council for witches and wizards herself. Hermione had received numerous accolades for presenting such incontrovertible evidence to the Wizengamot whenever she argued one of her cases.
And then, there was Ginny Weasley. Given the considerable talent she had shown during her brief stint on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, the Chudley Cannons had eagerly signed her on to fill the open position of Seeker. With Ginny on the team, the Cannons had won a string of games and went on to win the Quidditch World Cup her first year. It was then, at the moment when they were both at the places in life they wanted to be, when Harry had proposed to Ginny. Ron and Hermione’s engagement followed a week later.
Now here they were, the middle of June and just weeks away from Harry and Ginny’s wedding.
Finally, Harry entered the kitchen and spotted Ginny standing over the sink, cutting up some type of vegetable. Harry grinned as he stealthily approached his fiancé from behind and enveloped her into his arms before he kissed her on the cheek.
“Hey,” he greeted warmly. “We need some more firewhiskey, your brother finished off what we had.”
“Well, be specific,” Ginny replied as she turned around in Harry’s arms and kissed him properly on the lips. “Because I have more than one.”
“Alright. Specifically, it’s George.” He gave her another kiss.
“Oh, no. No, you’ve never seen George drunk before.”
“I think I can handle him,” Harry smiled.
“No, before you know it, he’s naked and hugging people and then maybe even kissing.”
“Okay, I’ll just sober him up.” Harry gave Ginny one more kiss before starting to head back to wherever Fred currently was. Ginny’s hand lingered in his.
“Hey, make sure he doesn’t make too much of a mess if he has to vomit in our toilet.”
“Relax. He won’t wind up naked in our bed. Not like last time.”
“This is my parents’ house. Our bed is nowhere near here.”
“He won’t pass out naked in any bed naked, then.”
Ginny smirked as Harry went back out into the party and she went back to preparing more food.
Harry made his way back through the throng of people who were standing around socializing in The Burrow. A few of them turned to Harry as he passed and congratulated him for the umpteenth time that night. Some of these people included former classmates of his, such as Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood and, quite to Harry’s slight discomfort, Ginny’s former boyfriend Dean Thomas. In fact, Harry got the impression Dean’s cheerful demeanor seemed somewhat strained.
Just then, someone raced up and hugged Harry fiercely from his right. The pungent smell of alcohol and the fact that the embrace felt tighter than it should have told Harry that it was George. George’s eyes were glazed over in the fashion of a wino and his speech came out slurred. But the most noticeable thing about George Weasley, and this had been so for two years now, was the silver artificial left ear that had been manufactured for him after his real one had been lost in battle. Every time Harry looked at the ear, he couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt because he was part of the reason George had lost it.
“Hiya, Harry,” George greeted in a drunken voice. “Or should I just call you Bro?”
Harry gently pried George’s arms off of him and placed his hands on George’s shoulders in case he would fall over. “Hey, George. How are you feeling?”
“Great!” George slightly exaggerated the ‘a’ in the word. “I’m just really enjoying this party!” His face took on what could only be described as an attempt at a serious face. “You know, someone should get some more firewhiskey. I’m afraid I drunk…I mean drank it all. I’m the one who’s drunk!” He then raised his eyebrows in surprise and put his hand on his stomach. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with a toilet bowl.”
George hurriedly walked away towards the bathroom, shouting “Oi! Sick drunk coming through!” to anyone in his way.
As Harry reached the living room of The Burrow, the lyrics of the current fast-paced Weird Sisters song reached his ears. The lyrics were accompanied by the sounds of various musical instruments, none of which Harry was sure he could place.
“Do The Hippogriff” was the name of the song, and it was one of the songs The Weird Sisters had played during The Yule Ball in Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts. When he and Ginny had hired them for the party tonight, they had requested that they play the songs they had performed during The Ball. And in case the band had forgotten, Harry and Ginny had provided them with a list of those songs.
In the living room, Harry spotted Ron and Hermione, who were surrounded by a group of more former classmates and were chatting happily. As Harry stared at his two best friends, Hermione seemed to sense that she was being watched and turned her head to face Harry’s. Hermione smiled warmly and Harry returned it with the same sentiment before picking up his cup of pumpkin juice from where he had left it.
Wanting to take a short break from socializing, Harry took a seat in a nearby armchair and sipped the juice.
Across the room, the people whom Ron and Hermione had been conversing with departed, leaving the red-haired young man and the brown-haired young woman alone for the moment. Hermione’s hair was rarely ever bushy anymore. Since graduating from Hogwarts, she had decided to straighten it out and cut it so that it fell just beneath her shoulders now, rather than her waistline. Ron turned to Hermione as he reached into his pocket.
“I’ve got something for you,” he said. “Think of it as a little engagement present. One that only your husband-to-be could give you.” Ron pulled out a thin jewelry box and opened it, revealing a shining silver necklace with a miniature heart connected to the chain. At the center of the heart was a small red jewel.
“Oh, Ron!” Hermione breathed in astonishment. “How…?”
“I saved up a few months’ salary. The first time I saw it, I knew it was perfect for you.”
Ron pulled the necklace out of its box and put the box down on a nearby table. Next, he uncurled the chain and placed it around Hermione’s neck; Hermione had to lift her hair up to get it fully around her neck.
Ron smiled as Hermione began to admire it. “I was right.”
“It’s beautiful,” complimented Hermione. “And you’re amazing.” She leaned in close and kissed Ron lightly on the lips.
“Well, I need to find Ginny real quick. I’ve got to ask her something about the wedding.” Ron complimented as he broke away, heading towards the kitchen.
“Okay. I’ll be talking to Harry if you need me.”
They both headed off to the people they were looking for.
Harry saw Hermione walking towards him, so he got up from the armchair and moved over to the couch, which had more space for two people. He noticed Hermione’s new necklace before she sat down.
“It seems Ron knew what he was talking about when he picked that out,” he said, indicating the necklace with his eyes.
“So I take it you knew he was buying this?”
“He showed it to me at the office the day after he bought it.”
Hermione fingered the silver heart, gently caressing the surface as if it were a fragile artifact in a museum. Harry could see her delighted face in the small reflective surface of the red jewel given his close proximity to her, and he felt a curious sensation in the pit of his stomach. Was it because of Hermione’s smile? But, more importantly, what was the feeling exactly?
Hermione spoke again, which prevented Harry from dwelling on the matter any further.
“So, are you nervous about the wedding?”
Harry didn’t even take a moment to answer. “Of course not. I can’t wait to marry Ginny. She’s fantastic.” Harry paused. “You?”
“After spending nine years with Ron, I’ve gotten to know him very well. And what once bothered me about him, his eating habits or his general caveman attitude at times, don’t bother me that much anymore. I think that’s a sign that I’m ready to begin the next phase of my relationship with him.”
Harry reached out and took Hermione’s hand in his. “Well, at least someone can tolerate those things. I would wish you two the best of luck, but I know you don’t need it. You and Ron are gonna be great together.”
“The same goes for you and Ginny,” Hermione replied.
Harry and Hermione were still holding hands, but neither of them seemed to realize it until they both looked down.
Harry couldn’t deny the feeling of deep warmth and comfort he felt as he sat there holding Hermione’s hand, and he wondered if Hermione was experiencing the same sensations. By looking into her eyes, he figured she did. It took both of them a moment longer than was probably necessary to untangle their fingers. Harry moved as if to say something, but before he could say anything, he felt Ginny’s arms wrap around his shoulders.
“What do you say to a dance?” she said in his ear.
It was then Harry noticed that the song was coming to an end, signaling the imminent start of another in perhaps a minute.
“Sure,” Harry said as he rose up off the couch. “But you have to promise you won’t make me look so uncoordinated.” He saw that Ron had returned as well and was also guiding Hermione out into the backyard, where people were dancing to the tune of the music. Harry and Ginny followed behind them.
“That’s entirely up to you,” Ginny retorted jokingly.
The backyard of The Burrow was lit by strings of lanterns that ran from the house itself and connected with trees just outside the perimeter. A performing stage had been set up on the far side, while the other side of the yard had a line of tables supporting serving plates of food and bowls of drinks with ladles sitting in them. In the center of the yard, countless people stood and danced enthusiastically to the music, but the current song had just ended so everybody came to a halt and applauded the band.
On stage, the Weird Sisters grouped together momentarily, obviously to discuss how to prepare their instruments for the next song. When they broke apart, the lead singer stepped up to the microphone at the front of the stage.
“Alright, this next song seems to be a favorite among fans, so let’s see how fast you can recognize it.”
The band struck up the next song, the first tune bursting into the air like an explosion.
Both couples headed out onto the dancing yard, stepping in and moving along to the rhythmic pulse of the music within seconds.Harry and Ginny danced close together, broad smiles on their faces. The chorus kicked in for the next bit. Many people were looking towards both engaged couples as they danced the night away jovially.
Harry stole a glance over at Ron and Hermione. Harry had never seen Hermione dance, other than at The Yule Ball, but given how many years ago that had been, he’d forgotten how good she was at it. Hermione caught his eye, and all Harry could do was smile.
With one more stanza of chorus lyrics, the song ended and pretty soon, the lead singer was back at the mic. “I’m looking out into the crowd, and I see the four people of the evening.” There was a quick burst of applause. “Now, what do you say we make this next dance interesting? Why don’t the happy couples switch dancing partners?” This was met with more applause, even a bit of whistling. “Let’s have brother and sister-themed slow dance! Actual brother and sister along with brother-in-law and sister-in-law! C’mon!”
Everyone seemed to like this idea, so Harry acquiesced by pairing with Hermione while Ron joined Ginny. Seconds later, the Weird Sisters kicked the next song into high gear, or perhaps it was low gear given the fact that it was a slower song.
"And don't believe that magic can die
No, no, no, this magic can't die
So dance, your final dance.
'Cause this is, your final chance. "
During the course of this song, as Harry and Hermione danced together, the same feeling that Harry had felt when he had been holding hands with Hermione returned. This time, there was no second-guessing if Hermione was sharing the experience; Harry could easily tell from the expression in her eyes that Hermione was indeed going through the same confusion. When the song had ended, the two of them lingered momentarily before mutually breaking apart, each of them completely oblivious to the applause that had replaced the music.
Shaking his head slightly in order to clear it, Harry made his way over to the refreshment table. He grabbed the handle of the ladle that was in the punch bowl after having picked up a cup and filled it to the rim with the red liquid. Harry downed the whole cup in one gulp, so he didn’t notice the figure that came up beside him, pretending to decide on something to pick out from the array of food. When Harry did acknowledge the person, a frown immediately crossed his face.
It was a man of tall height, with hair as black as Harry’s, but nowhere near as messy. His eyes were a light shade of blue and he had about a day’s growth of stubble dotting his face. The man was well-built, obviously muscular underneath his Muggle attire. The only thing that might have misled anyone from the conclusion that he worked for the Auror Department was the kind, relaxed expression that seemed chiseled onto his face. His name was Marcus Bloom, one of Harry’s superiors at the office.
“Nice party,” Marcus said by way of a greeting. His voice was as smooth as silk, something that suggested he could have been a ladies’ man.
Harry carefully kept his displeasure at seeing Marcus tonight in check. “I thought you couldn’t make it.”
“Well, my schedule got cleared up at the last minute, so I thought I’d swing by.”
Harry went about the motions of collecting fingerfoods onto a plate. “Just swing by?”
Marcus smirked. “Two years of working together, and you already know me as well as if it had been ten.”
“I’m off-duty tonight, Marcus. So whatever you have, take it to someone else.”
“There is no one else. At least, no one else who’s good enough.”
Harry set the plate down and turned his head to look at Marcus dead-on. “It’s my engagement party. What could possibly be so important, it would prompt you to come to me?”
Marcus reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a small, tied-off pouch and casually put it down on the table in between them. “This.”
Harry looked down at the pouch with reluctance.
“The only reason I’m bringing it to your attention is because it’s about John and Daniel. Listen, I’m not forcing you into anything, I want that perfectly clear. All I’m asking is that you take a look at it, and then decide whether or not it’s worth the time and effort. If you do end up wanting the case, then let Ron in on it and get back to me by morning.” Marcus finally gave up the charade of choosing snacks.
It took a while, but Harry eventually took the pouch, the contents of which he was all too familiar with, and stuffed it into his own pocket.
“Look forward to hearing back from you,” said Marcus as he started to recede into the crowd. “Oh, and tell Ginny I said hello.”
By the time Harry had turned around, Marcus was completely gone. Harry then studied the crowd and saw that Ginny was occupied with the latest song blaring from the stage, as were Ron and Hermione. Harry waited a few moments before he stealthily slipped back inside and started to make his way upstairs, where he could have some privacy and use a fireplace.
After making a bit of small talk with a few more friends, Harry was finally upstairs and inside Mr. Weasley’s private office, which he knew had a fireplace. He closed and locked the door behind him, then made his way over to Mr. Weasley’s cluttered wooden desk and turned on a lamp that was sitting on top of it. After that, Harry walked over to the fireplace and crouched down in front of it.
First, Harry removed a small black iron cup from a cradle nailed to the brick wall beside the fireplace. Next, he untied the pouch that was now in his other hand and poured the contents inside the cup: one-way Floo Powder. Due to this room’s constant coldness, Harry knew Mr. Weasley always kept the fireplace alive, and tonight that came in handy. Without wasting another second, Harry tossed the Powder into the flames.
Instantly, there was a contained roar of wind as the flames turned from reddish orange to brilliant blue. Harry shut his eyes briefly to account for the sudden change of color, then reopened them to be met with the face of Marcus floating directly in the center of the blue flames.
“Hello, Harry,” the face said. This type of Floo Powder was now a common tool among Aurors. Superior officers in the Department used it to record messages which explained any sort of high-value mission an Auror needed to embark on. It was a useful method which eliminated the risk of any spy in the office gaining wind of any mission that needed to remain secret for security purposes. Harry knew Marcus wouldn’t have given him the pouch unless it was extremely important.
“I’m going to get straight to the point,” Marcus’s face continued. “Two weeks ago, Sybil Trelawney was abducted by men we’ve positively identified as muscle workers for Lucius Malfoy.” Marcus’s face had disappeared, but the voice was still speaking. Harry was now looking at an image of Professor Trelawney, followed quickly by one of Lucius Malfoy. “As you’re well aware, Malfoy regained his dark tendencies shortly after the downfall of the Dark Lord two years ago. Since then, he has been heavily involved in shady business, such as smuggling illegal Dragon Hide wands into London and attempted attacks in Muggle communities.
“Two days after Trelawney was taken, we received reliable intelligence that she was being held in Malfoy Manor. So, I sent in two old teammates from your early days: John Milligan and Daniel McNally. But the problem is, we haven’t been able to establish any communication with them since they reached the target zone, and that was more than a week ago.” Marcus’s face was back in the flames.
“Normally, we would just leave our people to fend for themselves, but since Malfoy is such a high-value person of interest, we need this operation to be successful. So, if you feel up to it, I would like you and Ron to stage a rescue attempt. The two of you have studied the layouts of Malfoy Manor extensively as well as having been inside. Now, Barnes has no idea I’ve put this idea into play, so we need to be as discreet as possible. And we need to do this quickly, so it’s imperative that you give me an answer within 24 hours.” Marcus’s face paused, as if it could see Harry’s face crunched up in deep thought.
The ‘Barnes’ he had referred to was Liam Barnes, the no-nonsense Head of the Auror Department who would have certainly disapproved of Marcus’s willingness to break standard protocol by staging an off-the-book rescue attempt.
“Take some time and think it over,” pressed Marcus’s voice. “Oh, and Happy Engagement, Harry.”
The image of Marcus’s face disappeared from the flames, making them return to their original orange hue. This left Harry in a thoughtful silence.
Going on assignment was the last thing Harry wanted to do at the moment, but there were factors in play that Harry couldn’t simply ignore. For one, Professor Trelawney had been kidnapped, which brought up the possibility that her life was in danger. Even though Harry had never been particularly fond of Trelawney during his time at Hogwarts, he still knew she was an innocent woman who didn’t deserve the cruel treatment Lucius Malfoy was bound to inflict upon her.
Then there were John Milligan and Daniel McNally to consider. John and Daniel were close friends of Harry and Ron; they had been on their team of Aurors traveling the world in an attempt to round up remaining Death Eaters in their first few months on the job. John and Daniel had become really close friends with Harry and Ron during their time together, so choosing not to go out and save them from trouble would be a disservice to their friendship, Harry knew.
Given the circumstances, there was simply no other alternative.
Sighing, Harry lifted himself up off the floor and unlocked the door, making his way back downstairs in search for Ron. He finally found him in the kitchen, fooling around with Hermione, but not too much.
“Hey, uh, I need to talk to you,” Harry said in a slightly guarded tone. He made sure he still sounded as casual as possible, so as to not alert Hermione and worry her.
After Ron followed Harry out near the shed next to The Burrow, Harry filled Ron in on what Marcus had asked of them. As he listened, Ron’s face slowly turned from happy to depressed. Once Harry was finished, Ron slammed his fist against the shed.
“Damn it! Marcus knows we’re on vacation!”
“Ron, are you seriously putting downtime ahead of our friends?”
“Of course not, Harry! But all I’m saying is that he could’ve come to us with this information earlier! Why’d Marcus wait until now to involve us, a week before our weddings?”
“I don’t know, maybe he thought he could try something else before coming to us. But the point is, John and Daniel’s lives could be in danger and we’re the only hope they’ve got. And given how good we are at our jobs, we can get this done in a day, tops.”
Ron rubbed his eyes wearily, clearly uncomfortable with having to make this kind of decision at this specific time.
“Look, I need a definite answer from you,” Harry persisted. “Are you in or not?”
Ron lifted his head back up, his eyes now reflecting a mixture of disappointment and angry amusement. “Of course I’m in. I can't let you do this by yourself. Ginny wouldn't want you to have to get married to her in a hospital bed.”
“Alright,” said Harry after a short pause. “I’ll get a hold of Marcus and tell him.”
They started to make their way back inside The Burrow.
“So when are we planning on telling Ginny and Hermione?” Ron asked as they walked across the front yard.
Harry mulled over the question for a bit. “We should wait until after the party. That way, they won’t have everyone else concerned as to why they suddenly had a change in mood.”
Four hours later, all the guests had gone home after bidding the happy couples goodbye, which left Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to clean up. However, since they all had the luxury of magic on their side, the task took them no more than a few minutes. But nonetheless, Harry and Ron knew that now was the time to divulge the details of their latest assignment to Ginny and Hermione.
“Listen, um, something’s…just come up,” Harry told Ginny as he pulled her aside in the kitchen, Ron and Hermione close by and in the same situation.
“What is it?” Ginny asked, a knowing tone present in her voice. Harry looked over at Hermione and saw that she was giving Ron that cross expression she reserved for whenever she knew there was something important she didn’t know.
“Marcus dropped by…”
That night, Harry was dreaming. More importantly, the dream was one of great discomfort.
It started out with Harry and Ron, accompanied by John and Daniel, in the midst of a very intense battle they had fought during their first few months as Aurors. Multicolored lights of spells and hexes flew past their heads, barely missing them; obviously, their adversaries didn’t have very good aim.
Each Auror took cover behind stone columns inside an abandoned and nearly torn-down house, the roof of which was missing completely. This bathed the scene in a sea of moonlight, which was frequently punctured by bursts of light, whether it be red, purple or orange. Suddenly, a portion of the column Harry was hiding behind exploded, sending chunks of debris and small clouds of dust into the air.
Harry dove out into the open and then rolled behind the next closest column of stone foundation, joining Ron.
“We’re pinned down,” Ron said through gritted teeth. “The slimy buggers have an advantage because they’re on higher ground.” He leaned out from behind the column and sent a curse flying toward one of four cloaked figures standing on what was once the second level of the house. It connected, causing the man to fall heavily to the ground.
But what happened next was something Harry didn’t remember happening.
The remaining three cloaked men simultaneously sent three flashes of green light, Avada Kedavra, spiraling towards Harry and his compatriots. The first violently blasted away a few bricks above Harry and Ron’s heads, making them duck for cover as the bricks rained down upon them. The other two, however, found their targets.
The Avada Kedavra curse hit both John and Daniel square in their chests. Harry watched, shocked, as the life instantly drained from their faces and they were thrown backwards, hitting what remained of a wall with a force that would have broken bones, if they hadn’t already been dead.
Harry awoke with a jolt. He was breathing hard and sweating slightly. After realizing that he was still in his bed along with Ginny, Harry rubbed a bit of perspiration off his brow to prevent it from falling into his eyes.
He then looked towards the digital clock that was mounted on the bedside table; the green digital numbers read 3:45. Harry sighed as he put his head back onto his pillow, struggling to calm himself. It was the first time in a long time a dream had been able to wake him like that. Plus, the fact that John and Daniel had been killed in that version of the past event was enough to unsettle Harry.
Harry turned his head and was met with the sight of the lump that was Ginny’s curled-up form. Her back was to him, and Harry deduced it was a way of signifying that she was still upset over him taking on an assignment so close to their wedding. Harry gently reached out and stroked Ginny’s red hair, but was careful not to wake her.
He then rolled back over on his left side and did his best to fall back asleep. He would have to be awake again in two hours and fifteen minutes, and Harry knew that he would need all the rest he could get to make it through the coming day.