“We were going to have an evening of blowing stuff up,” I begin, “But Harry Potter left in a cloud of green smoke for a family emergency, so I thought we’d have another evening of blocking practice—”
A collective groan arises from the assembled members of One Hogwarts.
“Only kidding,” I say with a grin. “Professor Lupin agreed to supervise tonight, so we’re going to be covering Reducto, Confringo, Deprimo, Expulso, and of course Incendio. Who’s up for some pyromania?”
“Yes!” Fred shouts triumphantly, leaping up and punching his fist in the air. His enthusiasm is shared by Al and a large group of other boys, and I can see Scorpius rubbing his hands together in glee.
“Just to quickly go over them,” I say, “There are a few subtle differences. You would use Deprimo, for example, if you specifically wanted to blast a hole in the floor or something. This works if you’re needing a quick getaway to the floor below you, and don’t want to use the stairs. I wouldn’t recommend it to get around Hogwarts, though. Reducto works if you find yourself blocked by some impenetrable barrier. If cast strongly enough, it will destroy said barrier. Confringo will set fire to anything it comes in contact with, and more than likely explode it as well. Expulso has similar effects, but without using heat. Incendio conjures fire, but I’m sure we all know that one. Any questions?”
“What are we blowing up?”
“The room. The old furniture which I’m sure you’re aware is in the room. Anything, except each other.”
“Does McGonagall know about this?”
“Put it this way, what McGonagall doesn’t know can’t hurt her.”
The thought of blowing things up seemed popular enough, but the promise of doing it illicitly evokes an even more enthusiastic response, and I have to spend five minutes just calming everyone down enough to get them into some form of orderly line.
“We’ll start off nice and simple, with a bit of Incendio,” I say. “The useful thing about Incendio is not only will it give you a nice fire to play with, but it repels Inferi. The only thing you can fight Inferi with is fire. If you don’t know what Inferi are, it’s best not to, the thought of them gave me nightmares for weeks.”
“Do you think the Honour Guard will be using Inferi?” a Hufflepuff girl asks worriedly.
“I highly doubt it. Very highly doubt it. But it’s a useful bit of general knowledge anyway. Anyway, this chair here,” I wave my wand in its direction, “Is your target, until it gets burned to ashes, at which time I will find another one. One after the other, Fred Weasley, go.”
One by one they come to the front of the line, getting one go at setting the chair on fire. For those who manage it, I find a long table and designate it as Deprimo practice, with the kids stepping onto the table and blowing a hole in it. I’m on Aguamenti duty with the chair, Scorpius on Reparo duty with the table, and Teddy maintains a wall he proclaims as Reducto practice. We have a circuit of destruction going on, and it’s awesome.
“Time!” Teddy calls, and I glance at my watch in surprise.
“Wow. That went fast.”
“Time flies when you’re blowing things up,” Scorpius says, grinning. “Best session of One ever.”
We swarm out of the Room of Requirement, which lets us out from the normal default entrance. I’m more than a little surprised to see Natalia Dolohov and Emily Burke loitering beside the tapestry.
“Waiting for the Room?” I ask conversationally.
“More or less,” Natalia replies. “What were you doing in there?”
I tap the side of my nose. “If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.”
“I’d like to see you try.”
Does she try, or does being creepy just come naturally to her? “So what are you using the Room for?” I ask instead.
“If I told you that, I would have to kill you.”
There’s something about the way she said it that makes me think she is actually capable of killing someone, and the thought sends chills down my spine. She’s watching me with dark unwavering eyes, and I almost feel colder as something, some realisation, some thought, stirs deep in my brain, a thought that threatens to paralyse me with a fear I can’t even identify.
Emily’s watching me as well, but her gaze is more intense, a different kind of frightening. A flicker of something crosses her face; she’s watching me, but almost imperceptibly she gives Natalia some kind of signal and the pair of them turn sharply away, sweeping into the Room of Requirement without a word.
“Scorpius,” I whisper, stuttering slightly. “Something just happened there, and I don’t know what it was…”
“Dark magic,” he replies in a low voice. “They’re full of it. I don’t know how I can tell, but they are.”
“Emily’s a Legilimens,” I realise, horrified. “And she doesn’t need an incantation…or a wand.”
“You can’t perform Occlumency, can you?”
“No. Can you?”
“Dad taught me.”
“Can you teach me?”
“Definitely. We’ll borrow Teddy’s classroom—I’m sure he won’t mind. Can you remember what you were thinking about when Emily started staring at you?”
“It was something about Natalia…There’s something really creepy about her, you noticed when she said ‘If I told you that, I’d have to kill you’? There was something about her that meant it…That she could kill someone…”
“Tell me more. Tell me everything you know, everything you can remember from that moment.”
“It was something about Natalia…something terrifying, something that had already happened…green light…green light…”
Scorpius pales. “We have to get to McGonagall. Now.”
I don’t protest, just take his hand and run with him through the castle, ignoring the shouted questions from teachers and other prefects. The darkened corridors with their flickering lights, previously so beautiful and comforting, now seem menacing, as if hiding things in the shadows.
“You’re in danger,” Scorpius pants. “McGonagall better be here, if not, we’re camping out with Ravenclaw tonight. No, not Ravenclaw, Ravenclaw doesn’t have a password. Gryffindor.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask, his urgency only heightening my sense of terror. “Scorpius, what do you know that I don’t?”
I do so.
“All I know,” he manages, pulling me up a flight of stairs, “Is from what you’ve told me. And what I know, is that Natalia Dolohov is the daughter of a Death Eater and she is proficient in Avada Kedavra.”
Pulling out his wand, he blasts open the door to McGonagall’s office and sprints up the stairs, still dragging me behind him. “Professor McGonagall!” he shouts frantically. “Professor McGonagall!”
“Good heavens, Mr Malfoy, what’s going on? Did you break my door down?”
“I’m sorry, Professor, it’s an emergency.”
“It had better be.” McGonagall surveys Scorpius and I. “Whatever is the matter?”
“Rose is in danger, Professor.”
“And why is Rose in danger?”
“Are you acquainted with Natalia Dolohov and Emily Burke?”
“I am acquainted with all my students, Mr Malfoy.”
“Are you aware Emily can perform non-verbal, wandless Legilimency?”
“No, I was not aware of that,” McGonagall says.
“She performed Legilimency on Rose about fifteen minutes ago, while Rose was talking to Natalia. Rose, you can tell this better than I can.”
“I asked her what she was doing in the Room of Requirement,” I begin. “She told me if she told me that, she’d have to kill me. There was something in the way she said it that made me think…that she was capable of it. And then I started remembering something, realising something, but I can’t recall exactly what it was. All I remember is seeing green light in my mind and feeling terrified. That’s when Emily was watching me intently. She seemed to give some sort of signal to Natalia, and then they walked into the Room of Requirement.”
“Green light,” McGonagall repeats. “Do you know what this means, Miss Weasley?”
“Do you know what you are suggesting?”
“Natalia is proficient in Avada Kedavra,” Scorpius says quietly.
“And how do you know that, young man?”
Scorpius stares at the floor. “I was worried about Rose, so I…attempted Legilimency on Natalia. It was weak, but it worked, I found out all I needed to know.”
“You’re a Legilimens, Mr Malfoy?”
“I’ve never tried it before now. Dad taught me Occlumency, but never anything else.”
“All right. You say Natalia Dolohov is proficient in Avada Kedavra.”
“You say Rose had some sort of realisation or memory relating to green light, an assumed Killing Curse, and Natalia.”
“And this realisation was observed through Legilimency by Emily Burke.”
“Do you realise when the only time Rose would have seen green light from a Killing Curse was?”
“Oh, God,” I whisper, the reality of everything finally sinking in, the truth, the horrible truth.
“Mr Malfoy, you’re saying Natalia Dolohov cast the Killing Curse that killed Hugo Weasley.”
“I believe she did,” Scorpius says steadily, gripping my hand tightly.
“And Emily Burke knows that Rose, if not already aware, would have soon realised this.”
“And Emily Burke and Natalia Dolohov are close friends.”
“Where are they now?” McGonagall asks sharply. “Burke and Dolohov, where are they?”
“We last saw them going into the Room of Requirement.”
“The Room of Requirement,” McGonagall repeats grimly. “All right. I’m afraid, Scorpius, you’re in danger as well. We cannot guarantee that Miss Burke didn’t notice you using Legilimency. Expecto Patronum!”
A silver cat bursts forth from McGonagall’s wand, and she quickly speaks to it. “To Head Auror Harry Potter, I apologise for the terrible timing, but you and two colleagues are required at Hogwarts immediately.”
She sends off the Patronus with a wave of her wand. “You will not be returning to the dungeons tonight. I will get Professor Malfoy to collect your belongings from your dormitories—”
“I have socks from one side of the dorm to the other, she’s going to kill me,” Scorpius mutters.
“You will stay in Gryffindor Tower overnight,” McGonagall continues, “And we will sort out the next course of action tomorrow. We will have a group of teachers and Aurors patrolling the castle through the night if or when Burke and Dolohov return, as well as Professors Lupin and Longbottom keeping guard in the Gryffindor common room. The castle will be put into lockdown, none may enter or leave apart from Aurors and teaching staff, and only after they have sought permission from myself or Harry Potter.”
“You picked a good night to be late,” Natalia mutters to me when we arrive at Headquarters. “No, I mean it. Rose Weasley and a bunch of Unity kids were coming out of the Room when we got there. They would have asked questions.”
“Did they ask you questions?”
“Yes, not that that got them anywhere.” Natalia drops her voice. “Listen. Emily and I are getting out. We have to. We’re not going back to Hogwarts tonight, but Medea will organise a Portkey for you.”
“Why?” I ask immediately.
“The less you know, the less they can get out of you with Veritaserum,” she replies grimly. “If anyone asks, we vamoosed and you haven’t heard from us in days.”
“Veritaserum?” I ask in alarm.
“Yes. Anyway, that’s not why we’re here.”
“Operation Crusade,” Medea says with a smile. “It’s been a while. The guys are going for a separate target, I thought I’d take you girls with me.”
“Who’s the target?” Natalia asks.
“A young pureblood man who decided to leave our world behind,” Medea says with a trace of distaste. “Wears a suit, works in an office and drives a flash Muggle car. Lives on his own in an apartment complex.”
“Name?” Emily asks.
“It’s easier when they don’t have names,” Medea replies. “We’re Apparating just outside the complex. I alone know where it is, so you’ll have to Side-Along with me. Before we go, we’ll be casting Disillusionment Charms on ourselves, and remember the masks and cloaks.”
We throw on our disguises and cast the Disillusionment Charms so we appear blurry and transparent. We link arms: Medea on one side of me, Emily on the other; and with a loud crack we Disapparate.
We arrive in a darkened alleyway, where a pair of drunk Muggles stumble by, giving us a wide berth.
“Disgusting,” Medea murmurs quietly, walking out of the alleyway and climbing up the concrete steps that lead to the door of the sleek grey high-rise building. She casts a cursory glance around her and beckons us forward.
“Who wants to do the honours?”
I step forward, tugging at the door. The blinking screen next to the handle tells me to enter a code.
The lock clicks and I pull open the door, striding through into a large, gloomy foyer.
Medea overtakes me, leading us up several flights of stairs. We see the occasional Muggle, though they don’t seem to realise we’re here; the Disillusionment Charms must be working extremely well.
“Or they’re drunk,” Natalia whispers.
Medea stops outside a door, once again beckoning us forward. This time Natalia unlocks the door, and once inside Medea lifts our Disillusionment Charms.
Glowing digital numbers in the kitchen show the time as 1.43am and the room is dark, lit only by the glow from the city coming through a small crack in the thick curtains. We move cautiously, although logic tells me we have nothing to fear; four powerful witches against one wizard who doesn’t even have a wand.
A wave of nausea washes over me at the thought of what we’re here to do, but I force myself to keep walking. For the good of the wizarding world, I remind myself with every step. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Medea pushes open a final door, and the man within stirs in his sleep.
The coverup is the most important—planting the false trail, as Medea puts it. Without it, there would be no point to what we do.
I’m given the task of the door.
“Make it look Muggle,” Medea warns me. “Use magic if you must, I can erase the traces. But make it look Muggle.”
I nod, lifting my wand to the wood of the door and beginning to carve into it. Fragments of the door fall in curling splinters to the carpet.
“Rougher,” Medea says. “Make it look rougher.”
I nod determinedly as Emily and Natalia get to work on the kitchen and Medea disappears into the room.
It takes me ten minutes to carve the cross, and another five to conjure the paint required for the words and paint them onto the door. By this point, Medea proclaims our work finished, raising her wand and murmuring an incantation I can’t hear.
“Now, we get out of here,” Medea says. “Remember, no sign of magic.”
She pauses to deal to the outside lock to the apartment room. “We opened it using alohomora,” she explains. “We need to make it look Muggle.”
She casts incendio on the door, waiting until it’s burnt just enough to be opened easily, extinguishes it with her wand and waves us forward. We stride through the hallways and down the stairs, coming across a startled-looking Muggle who blocks our way.
“Confundus,” I whisper without hesitation, and as his eyes glaze over in confusion we hurry past, through the foyer which is still dark and still, and out into the glaring lights of the street.
Medea Disapparates in moments, quickly followed by Emily and Natalia. Where are we going? Back to Headquarters? I can see a Muggle far ahead, is it safe to Disapparate with him around? What if I compromise the entire mission? I bolt into the alleyway we came from, coming face to face with three aggressive-looking Muggles.
“Confundus,” I say hastily, casting the spell again and Disapparating.
“Took your time,” Medea comments when I arrive at Headquarters. I’m shaking.
“Success?” Natalia asks quietly.
“Success,” Medea confirms. “You did well, for your first mission. Lily, I have your potion.”
She carefully extracts a small glass bottle from inside her robes and hands it to me.
“Don’t take it until you’re back at Hogwarts,” she tells me. “Portkeys, you’ll find, are less than comfortable after you’ve taken it. You’ll have to get to the hospital wing. Remember, the effects are natural.”
I almost forget that I’m travelling back to Hogwarts alone until Medea hands me my Portkey, a small scrap of paper.
“Where are you guys going?” I ask Emily and Natalia.
“To a secret location,” Medea answers for them. “I’ll be in contact, Lily.”
“This paper. It’s enchanted to show you the next Guard meeting time. It’ll also be your Portkey every time from now. Don’t let it fall into the wrong hands.”
I nod, clenching the paper into a tight ball.
“You did well tonight.”
The paper glows in my fist, jerking me back into the Room of Requirement. I slip it into my pocket, taking out the small bottle of potion. Still shaking uncontrollably, I pull the stopper off the bottle and drink it.