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Chapter 18 : Intimidation
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“I’m counted as a leader of Unity?”
“Definitely. And Scorpius too, I should think…Your dad got a bit vague there.”
“So, when and where are we going?”
“Oh, I’m not. You’re the Unity leader at this school, not me. You just use my classroom…And my time.”
“So, when and where do I go?”
“Tonight at six, at the Ministry, in the convention room opposite your mum’s office,” Teddy recites. “You’re to go by Floo.”
“Floo again?” I ask, allowing some exasperation to enter my voice. “What’s the point of even having an Apparition licence if you’re not allowed to use it?”
“It’s not a very practical transportation system in and out of Hogwarts, you know,” he points out with a small smile.
“I could walk down to Hogsmeade.”
“And get assassinated on the way,” he points out.
“Maybe I would believe that half the wizarding world wants me dead if I actually saw some evidence of it.”
“Evidence is not something you want, Rose. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Who are you and what have you done with Teddy Lupin?” I grumble.
“I’ve been masquerading as a teacher too long, forgive me,” he replies. “I think I am actually becoming one.”
“Don’t,” I threaten, “Or I’ll drop Transfiguration.”
Teddy sighs. “The fact that I would care shows how ingrained this teacher mentality is. If you dropped Transfiguration, I’d tell your mother. Anyway, you better go track down Ast—Professor Malfoy and tell her you’re using her Floo. I’m not risking it a second time.”
I’m met by Dad the moment I step out of the Floo in the Ministry’s Atrium, despite the fact that the place is deserted. It’s strange seeing it like this—I don’t think I’ve ever been here when politicians, civil servants and other assorted wizards aren’t milling around, Apparating along the far wall, Flooing in or generally bustling between departments.
“No Scorpius, then?” Dad notes.
“I didn’t know he was invited.”
“I don’t think I phrased that clearly,” Dad concedes. “I did invite him. Sort of. I tried.”
“You’re making an effort,” I observe, touched.
Dad grunts. “Just don’t expect me to act matey with his father.”
“Wouldn’t have thought of it,” I tell him.
“So what’s this meeting about?” I continue, deciding to change the subject from Malfoys.
Dad shrugs. “Just to get together, discuss the next stages.”
“How many people will be there?”
“Not many, about five or ten.”
We arrive in the small conference room off Mum’s office, where an assortment of food has been laid out on a central table.
“Food!” I say enthusiastically.
“Introductions,” Mum says, clapping her hands. “In case you don’t all know each other. Head Auror Harry Potter, in charge of the One Army, Dennis Creevey, Luna Scamander and Hannah Longbottom, regional organisers, and my daughter Rose, co-ordinator of Unity Hogwarts and One Hogwarts.”
Wow, Mum makes me sound about a thousand times more impressive than I am.
I take a seat amongst these leaders of the wizarding world, quietly marvelling at the concept that I’m one of them.
“Dig in,” Dad says, waving his hands at the spread, and I lunge forward, used to having to compete with a bunch of seventh-year Slytherin boys for dinner. I explain this to the assembled group, who are now watching me strangely.
“What we really need to do,” the weedy-looking man Mum introduced as Dennis Creevey says, “Is find out what DOWIAH are up to.”
“You mean a double agent?” Harry asks, ladling potatoes onto his plate. “We’re forgetting that the real danger is not DOWIAH itself, it’s the Honour Guard. From what I can gather, it’s a very small group, possibly with no more than ten wizards, led by Medea Avery.”
“We don’t know what we’re up against at all,” Dad says. “DOWIAH could be building a massive, strong army to attack us with. The Honour Guard could be a decoy. Can you imagine them leaving all the fighting up to ten wizards, no matter how powerful or dark they are?”
“We do have an insider in DOWIAH,” Mum interrupts. “Penelope Clearwater, Professor of Muggle Studies and Head of Ravenclaw House at Hogwarts.”
“Penelope Clearwater?” Dad repeats. “As in, Percy’s girlfriend at Hogwarts?”
“So she was,” Mum says. “She joined DOWIAH a week ago, and she’ll be reporting to us as soon as she has some news.”
“Good thinking,” Harry says, nodding. “At the very least, we’ll be able to find out if DOWIAH are raising an army or not.”
“They’d be stupid not to,” Dad says gloomily.
“Which is why we need to find out as much about it as possible,” Harry says. “And step up the training of our own army, if possible. Rose, what have you covered at Hogwarts?”
I begin ticking things off on my fingers. “Disarming, Stunning, revision of Patroni, fighting the Imperius. Most of the kids were also part of Dragons Awakening earlier in the year, so they’ve had some duelling practice.”
“I’ll organise an Apparition lesson for you sometime next week,” Mum says, conjuring parchment and quill and scribbling furiously. “In case anyone can’t Apparate, and you’ll all need to be able to if there’s a need for a quick escape.”
“Get together a Potions group as well, if possible,” Harry says. “Hogwarts has the best store of Potions ingredients in the country. We may need stocks of Polyjuice, Strengthening Solution, maybe even Felix Felicis...”
“Provided we’ve got people in the group who can make those potions,” I interrupt. “They’re quite complex.”
“Rose, your mother brewed a batch of Polyjuice when she was in second year, I’m sure you can do it,” Dad says.
“I was meaning the Felix,” I reply. “And I don’t think Professor Rochester will be keen on helping a group of students prepare for war.”
“Then nick the ingredients,” Dad says. “What?” he protests at Mum’s disapproving look. “You stole stuff from Snape when we made Polyjuice!”
“You learn something new every day,” I comment mildly.
“You should also cover Petrificus Totalus, Reducto, Protego, Finite, Finite Incantatem, Confundo, Confringo, Depulso—”
“All right,” I interrupt Harry before he recites every curse or spell that can be used in battle. “We’ll have an evening devoted to just blowing things up.”
“Can I come to that?” Harry asks eagerly.
“By all means. I’ll call it for…Next Thursday, so just under two weeks away.”
“Meet me in Professor McGonagall’s office at seven.”
“What’s that sound?” Luna asks suddenly, cocking her head and calmly picking up her wand.
Everyone around the table exchanges startled glances, and a hush descends in the room. There’s a sound of mild scuffling, barely audible, coming from somewhere below us.
“The Atrium,” Mum says grimly, getting up from her chair and going to the door. “Nobody’s meant to be here at this hour. I want everybody silent and following me. Rose, go back to Hogwarts. Portus.” She directs this spell to a fork on the table, and it glows expectantly.
“Let her stay, Hermione,” Luna says calmly. “When you were her age you’d already fought Death Eaters twice.”
“A lot more than twice,” Mum mutters. “If this gets messy, Rose, I want you out of here.”
“Of course,” I lie.
Moving silently, we creep out of the conference room and towards the Atrium. Dad grips my arm, eyes darting every which way, wand at the ready.
“In there,” Mum whispers, nodding at a group of dark, cloaked figures striding past the fountain.
Almost as one, Mum, Dad, Harry and Luna fire Stunning spells at the group. You can tell they’ve fought together before.
The figures scatter, some Stunned, most not, and immediately curses begin to fly.
“Lumos Maxima!” I shout, and the Atrium explodes with dazzling light. The intruders are not only wearing cloaks, but masks as well. There’s something terrifying about fighting the faceless.
We’re outnumbered, I realise with a sinking feeling; there are seven of us and eleven of them, and only two were caught with the original Stunning spells. They’ve reformed as a group, advancing slowly towards us, and desperately I fire off Stupefy and Petrificus Totalus into the group. The first misses, the second hits, and instantly three people wheel around to face me, shooting curses in my direction.
Mum, Dad and Harry are duelling with five of the intruders, the three others targeting me, Hannah and Dennis.
“Go back, Rose!” Mum screams at me. “Go back to Hogwarts!”
“No!” I yell as a jet of green light narrowly misses me. Heart pounding, I leap aside.
“Aguamenti!” I shout, thinking fast, and a stream of water erupts from my wand, which quickly becomes a jet, then a torrent. “Duro!” and the torrent of water flying through the air turns to stone, raining down on the intruders and forming a wall between us and them.
“Good thinking, Rose!” Stunning Spell after Stunning Spell are fired over the low wall, hitting the intruders as they shelter from the falling rocks.
“Finite Incantatem!” a voice calls, and the Atrium is plunged into darkness once more; the rocks turn back to water, and with a series of loud cracks the intruders Disapparate.
“That was the Honour Guard,” Harry says grimly, waving his wand and clearing up the water and debris. “I saw Medea Avery, her mask slipped when I was duelling her.”
“What did they want?” Dad asks. “They didn’t put up much of a fight.”
“They were aiming to scare us,” Mum says. “To scare us, and to suss out our security.They shouldn’t have been able to get in. The Ministry’s meant to be protected.”
“Success,” Medea declares, whipping off her mask and pacing energetically across the front of the room. “Good thinking with Finite Incantatem, Lily, got us out just in time.”
“Doesn’t it bother you that they were beating us?” Natalia asks.
“Not at all,” Medea replies. “They weren’t beating us, Natalia. We weren’t there for a battle, we were there to show them what we can do, make them doubt their security, to intimidate. And we certainly succeeded at that.”
“The entire Ministry is made of wizards who still look back in fear at the days of the Dark Lord,” Octavian says. “You could see that in their faces tonight, and that will be our biggest advantage. We take our cues from yesterday’s Death Eaters, and that terrifies them.”
“Does the Ministry know it was us?” Emerson asks.
“Most definitely, I let my mask slip when I was duelling Harry Potter.” Medea grins. “I’m the only known member, the rest of you are absolute mysteries. Rabastan is still meant to be in Azkaban. That’s the beauty of it, and it scares them. There is nothing more frightening than the unknown.”
“Except, perhaps, the memory of wars past,” Octavian says.
“We are the perfect combination!” Medea declares, spinning on the spot with her arms outstretched. “Of mystery, of power, of history. The elite group of Death Eaters numbered the same as us, perhaps even less, and they held wizarding Britain in its entirety in their control!” She wheels around to face us, eyes sparkling. “And we can recreate their glory.”
I can’t give up the Honour Guard. Not now, when we’ve just done our first mission, when everyone’s revelling in the excitement, eagerly discussing what we can do next, to bring down the Ministry. Bring down the Ministry. The Honour Guard is huge. We may only be eleven people, but we’re huge, and with the backing of DOWIAH we can bring down the Ministry and save the wizarding world. I can barely sit still as we review the mission, and a quick glance around shows Lorcan, Natalia, Damascus and Emily are exactly the same.
“Thrilling, wasn’t it?” Medea asks with a smile. “And that’s just the beginning. Lily, can I pull you aside for a moment?”
I leap up from the table, following her into a small alcove shielded by a heavy curtain.
“Have you made a decision?” she asks quietly.
“Yes. I’ll…take the potion.”
“Good to hear!” Her face splits into a grin. “Honestly, Lily, your performance tonight was brilliant. You think on your feet, and we need you. I was really hoping we wouldn’t lose you.” She pauses. “But I don’t want to push you into anything. You’re absolutely sure this is what you want? Because it’s a big decision, I’m not going to pretend it isn’t.”
“I never wanted it anyway,” I reply. “That doesn’t sound callous, does it?”
“No, just honest. The potion takes about two weeks to infuse, I’ll get it to you then.”
“Two weeks?” I repeat. “But the deadline for me telling my parents is ten days away, otherwise Hogwarts is sending an owl.”
“Hogwarts knows?” Medea asks.
“It was Pomfrey who told me in the first place.”
“Ah, I see. But you’re estranged from your parents, aren’t you?”
The wording seems strange, extreme; I’ve never thought about it like that. “Yeah, I am,” I decide.
“Then it shouldn’t matter, should it?”
I must be unable to hide the worry on my face, because Medea bends down to look me straight in the eye. “Don’t worry about what your parents think,” she says softly. “They don’t matter, they’re not part of your life anymore. But we, the Guard, see a strong, powerful and capable girl who is going to help us defend wizarding honour. We’re not going to look down on you or judge you for a human mistake. Hell, I was in your situation once.”
Medea straightens up and sweeps out of the alcove, her words ringing in my ears.
I’m going to be okay.
I’m going to be okay, and the Guard is all that matters.
“Hey, Lily,” Molly says curiously, flinging herself onto the couch beside me, “Where’s your Prefect badge?”
I knew it would be only a matter of time before people started asking questions. And only a matter of time before the news travels through the whole school. Hopefully by then, I will no longer be pregnant and can dismiss the whole thing as rumour.
“I lost it,” I lie with a disappointed shrug. “I don’t know how or where, it just fell off my robes.”
“Have you tried Summoning it?” she asks, whipping out her wand as if to try herself.
“Underage magic outside the classroom to find a Prefect badge? Bit ironic, don’t you think?”
“Oh, yeah.” Satisfied with this answer, Molly drops her wand and settles back into the couch. She accepted that? Was I really that much of a goody-two-shoes before I joined the Guard? Bloody hell. I’m almost tempted to tell her the truth, just to see the look on her face. Almost.
“Someone broke into the Ministry last night,” she continues, eyes wide with this news. “They’re keeping it hush-hush, don’t want too many people finding out.”
Oh, did they now?
“Do they know who?”
“They’re saying it’s the Honour Guard,” Molly says in hushed, almost reverential tones. “Apparently their leader, whatshername—”
“Yeah, her, was duelling with your dad.” Molly lowers her voice even more. “And apparently Rose was there. You know, Rose Weasley. Fighting the Guard.”
Yes, she was. Nearly killed me with a river of stone, but that’s okay.
“Where did you hear all this?”
“Dad heard all about it,” Molly says with an air of triumph. “He knows everything that happens at the Ministry.”
“He wasn’t there.”
“How do you know that?”
Because I was.
“He’s not a Unity leader. They were the only people at the Ministry last night.”
“Did Rose tell you that?”
Sure, why not. “Yeah, saw her this morning.”
“And what did she say?”
“Just that there was a bit of drama at the Ministry when she went to the meeting last night.” Wow, I’m good at this.
“That’s an understatement,” Molly says. “I’ll bet it’ll be in the Daily Prophet today.”
“Probably,” I agree mildly. “We’ll see at lunchtime. Anyway, I should probably get to Herbology.”
I make my escape, envying Natalia, Damascus and Emily. They don’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to hide what they do. People just leave them alone. With me, everyone’s still under the impression that I’m good girl Lily Potter who won’t use underage magic to find her Prefect badge, when in reality I’m a sixteen year old pregnant Dark wizard.
I can’t imagine the reactions if anyone found out.
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