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Harry Potter and the Conspiracy of Blood by CambAngst
Chapter 34 : Transitions
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 14


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As always, anything you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling.





 
Minister of Magic Otho Wilkinson stared forlornly at the hastily scribbled notes lying on the desk in front of him. The reports from the few officials who remained loyal were arriving less and less frequently, and the news they contained was uniformly bad. Nearly all of the Aurors had defected to the side of the Wizengamot and they now controlled Levels Five through Ten of the Ministry. As word of the shift in their allegiance spread, more and more people were switching sides, abandoning ship before it was too late. The fighting had moved to Levels Three and Four. If nothing changed, it would soon be outside of his door.


He took a moment to try and reflect on how things had gone so wrong. All he had tried to do was preserve the stability of the government. He had counted on the progressives to understand the hardships that an open conflict with the pure bloods would impose on common witches and wizards and that turned out to be a severe miscalculation. Apparently, for all of their high-minded pontificating about The Greater Good, they had few qualms about burning the world down when their sensibilities were offended. Typical.


The low fire burning on the hearth in his office suddenly turned green and flared brightly. Out of his secure, private floo stepped two familiar figures. Wilkinson rose to his feet and hurried toward them with a palpable sense of relief.


“Arabela, Percy! Thank Merlin you’re here. We have to do something. The whole bloody Ministry is falling apart. You have to help me make the Wizengamot see reason.”


“They have seen reason, Minister,” Arabela replied calmly. “That is your problem.”


Wilkinson stared at her in disbelief. His features quickly shifted to frustration. “Arabela, this isn’t the moment to become philosophical. Time is running out. The fighting will spread to Level One soon. We need a plan and we need it quickly! Otherwise, we’re all going to wind up in Azkaban, or worse!”


“Speak for yourself, Minister.” Her voice was cold. “We have no intention of joining you in disgrace.”


The Minister’s look hardened. He stole a furtive glance at his wand, which lay on his desk several feet away. “Oh, so this is how it’s to be, then? You ride my coattails all the way to the top and when the chips are down, you abandon me, too? Well know this, Ms. Dynt: I am not going down alone! You’ve been by my side from day one. When they ask who drafted every decree, who was present when every decision was made, who advised me at every turn, I’ll be certain to give you all of the credit that you deserve.”


Wilkinson crossed his arms and glared at her. Arabela allowed the tiniest smile of satisfaction to find its way onto her thin lips. “You have no idea how much credit I deserve. I suppose that in your own mind, you’ve come to believe that it was your own intelligence and hard work that led to all of this,” she said airily, waving her hand around the posh office suite without breaking eye contact. “How easily we forget. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life writing your speeches, negotiating your alliances, fixing your mistakes, compensating for your inadequacies and when all else failed, derailing the careers of better men and women to remove them from your path.” She fixed him with a burning glare. “Your entire life is a lie, Minister, fashioned from whole cloth by me and me alone.”


The Minister’s neck and ears were turning red. His fists were shaking underneath his elbows and he appeared as though he might lash out at any moment. He began to slowly back toward his desk, where his wand lay.


“You disagree?” she asked, looking grimly amused. “Tell me, then, what leads such a wise man to try to build a political movement around a fringe group of pure blood terrorists? How does a politician as astute as yourself manage to alienate the entire Wizengamot and get voted out of office? You stand alone, Minister, surrounded by your enemies. And you don’t even know how it happened.”


The look on the Wilkinson’s face gradually changed from defiance to cold hatred. He stood at the side of his desk. His wand was nearly within reach.


Arabela continued to stare at him, her arms hanging loosely by her sides. “I made you. I put you where you are. And now that your usefulness has come to an end, I destroyed you. Your death will clear the way for the creation of a new world. My world. Even though you were completely unaware of your role in making this happen, I owe you a small measure of gratitude.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small flask filled with a translucent, green fluid. “Here is your way out, Minister. Your last shred of dignity.”


The Minister reached across his desk with a quick swipe of his hand and snatched his wand, then pointed it at Arabela, who didn’t even flinch. He chuckled mirthlessly as he took a step toward her. “Maybe it’s all true. Maybe you really did plan this. And maybe I’m the biggest fool the world has ever seen. But you won’t have the pleasure of laughing over my grave. You won’t enjoy a bit of it, you bitch. I’ll see you in hell, Ms. Dynt! Avada...”


Wilkinson’s voice trailed off mid-curse and his hands flew to his temples as his wand clattered harmlessly to the floor. After seeming to struggle for a few seconds, his face went blank and his arms fell slowly to his sides.


“It’s a shame, really,” Arabela sighed. “I was hoping that perhaps you would accept your fate with a bit more equanimity. ‘I’ll see you in hell’? Seriously, Minister, you’ve been watching too many muggle films.”


She crossed the short distance between them and removed the stopper from the flask. He reached out and accepted it from her without even looking down. “Cheers, Minister,” Arabela said, and he downed the liquid inside without a moment’s hesitation. Several seconds later, he clutched his stomach and doubled over in pain. For one instant, he looked at Arabela with a terrible realization in his eyes and then fell to the floor, dead.


She ignored his lifeless body and picked his wand up, flexing it momentarily between her fingers. Satisfied, she pulled the wand she had been using from her pocket and returned it to Percy, who tucked it away inside his robes. The two of them turned toward the entrance to the Minister’s office. With his death, most of the enchantments that secured the doors faded away. Arabela withdrew a shrunken keychain from her pocket and enlarged several of the keys, then she opened the remaining locks. Percy walked to her side and together they stepped out into the Minister’s office suite, toward the battle raging beyond.


Two ranking officers of Ministerial Security were standing near the entrance, talking in hushed tones. The conversation seemed to revolve around potential evacuation routes. They both started as a muffled explosion from the floors below shook the room. Arabela cleared her throat, causing them to turn and face her with their wands drawn.


“The Minister is dead by his own hand,” she declared. The two security officers exchanged a stunned look, then slowly turned back to her. “Order your men to retreat to Level One.” The security officers nodded, still looking uneasy.


Percy stepped toward them with his palms open. “Please send a message to the leaders of the Wizengamot on Level Ten. Inform them of the Minister’s death and tell them that I am prepared to assume the role of Interim Minister if they will agree to support me. I want your men know that I will personally guarantee their safety as long as they stop fighting and gather peacefully here on Level One.” He gave the two a weary smile. “We’ve all been through too much. It’s time for the healing to begin.”

 





As the first light of morning reached the back yard of the Burrow, Harry sat on the ground beside Esme’s body. She looked unnaturally peaceful. All of the fire and cantankerousness were gone from her face. Her blond hair spread softly around her head, accentuating her pale cheeks. Harry thought that she looked almost angelic, and he was sure that observation would have irritated her if he’d been able to share it.


The arrangements for her journey home were all made. Harry had dispatched a patronus to Dauzat letting him know that she had fallen and her body would be arriving first thing in the morning along with a full explanation. He had no idea how the Head of the French Aurors was going to take the news of Esme’s death, but he was still feeling too overwhelmed to worry about it. On her chest, Harry laid a detailed letter that Hermione had written for him along with the lockets belonging to Elena and Katerina Porcher and finally the vials containing Terry’s memory of Lady Tenabra parading the Minister in front of the Blood Order and Hermione’s memory of Esme’s death. He had transfigured her cloak into a body bag, a spell that was disturbingly familiar after so many years as an Auror, and he began to slowly pull the zipper upward from her feet. He stopped himself when only her face remained visible.


“I’m sorry, Esme. About everything. You deserved so much better. From the day we met, I’ve done nothing but make you miserable. I lied to you, I took advantage of you, I dragged you into the middle of a war and just when it seemed like you might be able to forgive me in spite of it all, I got you killed.”


He paused for a long moment, trying to decide whether he was ready to say the words that suddenly filled his mind, even to himself. “You know, I was starting to think that maybe the two of us had a chance. I thought that maybe, when this was all over, we could take some time and try to figure out whether the things that we felt all those years ago were real.” Harry shook his head in frustration. “There were so many things I never got to say to you, Esme. I never had a chance to tell you how special you are. How glad I was that you came back into my life...”


Harry stopped himself. When he spoke again, his voice had a hard, bitter edge to it. “But those sort of things don’t happen for people like you and me, do they? Happy endings are for children and dreamers.”


Harry took one last look at her expressionless face. “Goodbye, Esme.” Then he pulled the zipper the rest of the way up. He heard footsteps approaching on the frost-covered grass and turned to find a lone figure walking toward him from the direction of the house.


“Would you mind some company?”


“I’m not going to be very good conversation right now, Neville,” Harry replied dryly. He pulled a rusty corkscrew out of his pocket and used a spell to stick it to the outside of the body bag. Then he tapped it with his wand and it began to emit a blue glow. A second later, Esme began her final journey home with a loud whoosh.


Harry stared at the empty space on the ground for a moment before turning to face his old friend. “So you drew the short straw, I take it?”


“Well you have been out here ever since we got back from the warehouse, Harry.”


“I couldn’t leave her alone,” Harry answered. “And I really didn’t feel like being around anybody else.”


Neville stared into Harry’s weary green eyes. “You’re doing it again, you know? Brooding. Walling yourself off from other people. It’s not healthy. Everyone is worried.”


Harry wanted to lash out at Neville and tell him to mind his own bloody business, but his heart just wasn’t in it. Instead, he changed the subject. “What did Lorcan’s wife say about Hermione and Rose?”


Neville looked slightly amused. “She was in shock when she saw Hermione move her feet, but once she got over that, she thinks that her legs might recover completely. The case is unprecedented, but then again, so was that curse. In a worst case, she’ll probably be able to walk with a cane.”


“And Rose?”


Neville’s smile disappeared and he looked very uneasy. “Optimistically, she has a long, slow healing process in front of her. She seems to recognize people, but she hasn’t spoken yet. If the slightest little thing startles her, she curls up in a ball and starts to whimper and shake.” His voice dropped to barely a whisper. “Debbie’s hopeful that she won’t wind up like my Mum and Dad, but she can’t be certain yet.”


Harry lowered his face into his hand. “I’m sorry, Neville.”


Neville looked confused. “Why are you apologizing to me?”


“For putting you through this,” Harry replied without looking up. “For putting everybody through this. I should have sent Ron to go get her and Octavia and taken Susan to the hospital by myself. It’s been me they wanted all along. If I had just walked into St. Mungo’s with Susan and turned myself in, everybody would be safe right now, even the elves.”


“Stop it, Harry.” Neville’s voice was suddenly forceful and stern.


“Shut up, Neville! It’s all my fault! Why won’t anybody...”


Harry was suddenly bowled over by the force of a spell that struck him squarely in his side. He rolled several times in the grass and finally came to rest in a crouch, with his wand drawn. Neville stood in front of him, anger filling his eyes as his wand still pointed in Harry’s direction. “No, YOU shut up, Harry! Nobody wants to listen to you wallow in your bloody self-loathing again. You’re human, alright? You make decisions. Most of the time, they’re right. Sometimes they’re wrong.”


“Maybe you haven’t been keeping score, Neville, but my old friend Esme that I just sent back to France in a bag? She’s dead because of my decisions. Rosie may spend the rest of her life in a hospital because of my decisions. So don’t you stand there and tell me about the consequences of making decisions. I don’t see anybody asking you to take responsibility for the everybody else’s safety.”


“Oh, really?” Neville shouted indignantly. “So who is it that’s looking after your bloody grandchildren, then?”


“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it, Neville! You’re not leading those kids into a battle. Nobody’s trying to kill them.”


“Not yet!” Neville countered. “Who knows what’s coming next if we don’t put a stop to this madness? We need you Harry. Our whole world needs you. That’s why she tried to kill you. That’s why she tried to have you thrown into prison. And that’s why she went after Rose and the others. It’s because she knows that you can stop her, and she’s going to keep on hurting people until either she gets to you or you put an end to her.”


“So why don’t you just let her have me?”


Neville stared at Harry with contempt. Another blast erupted from the end of his wand and Harry was forced to block it before he was knocked off of his feet again. Neville unleashed a volley of curses, forcing Harry back. “Fight, you bloody coward!” Neville snarled, whipping his wand back and forth. “Or are you too afraid to carry on?”


“Have you lost your mind, Neville?” Harry shouted over the cracking of spells. “Cut it out!”


But Neville only increased the intensity of his attack. Eventually, Harry lost his composure. He parried one last curse and launched an overwhelming counter-attack. Within moments, Neville was sent flying as a knockback jinx caught him square in the chest. He landed with a thud, knocking the breath out of him. Harry stormed over and kicked Neville’s wand away from his hand, then grabbed him by the collar of his robes. “What the hell was that all about?”


“Are you mad, now, Harry?” Neville spat between gasping breaths. “Did I brass you off? Good. Because there’s a little girl somewhere who’s scared and lonely and all she wants in the world is to see her family again. And you are not going to save her by sitting out here, moping around and freezing your bollocks off.” He slapped Harry’s hand away from his collar and propped himself up on his elbows. “Maybe we ask too much of you, Harry. Maybe someday everyone will forget that you’re the hero who saved the whole bloody world and just leave you alone. But today isn’t that day.”


Harry turned away from Neville, staring into the orchard. The leafless branches glistened with a hint of frost in the cold morning air. He wished that he could visit Ginny’s grave. For some reason, he felt like it would be easier to sort things out if he could talk to her. “It’s not gonna be easy, you know? Now that we know who she is, she’ll go into hiding, use Percy to do her dirty work. If Malfoy is right about this curse he hit her with, she’ll have to try this mind transfer spell soon. We’re running out of time.”


“Then why are we sitting around here with our thumbs in our arses?” Neville replied. “Let’s get back inside and come up with a plan.”


Harry stared across the orchard for a moment longer. He knew exactly which direction led to Ginny’s grave and he still had half a mind to leave Neville on the ground and apparate there. But what would she say to him if she was here? Would she be any less disappointed in him than Neville? He put his wand away and offered his hand. “You’re a git, you know that?” Harry asked as he pulled Neville to his feet.


“I do what I must,” Neville replied with a bit of cheek. “For a hero, you’re a pain in the arse sometimes.”


They both turned and started to walk back toward the Burrow when they were startled by a loud crack. Harry spun around to find Hermys standing behind him, looking frantic. “What is it, Hermys?”


“Master must come quickly! Dark wizards has come inside the castle. Master’s grandchildren is in grave danger!”


Neville and Harry shared an alarmed look. Harry dropped to one knee and laid his hand on the elf’s shoulder to help calm him down. “Start from the beginning, Hermys. What happened?”


The elf tried to take a deep breath, but his words still came out in a rapid blur. “Hermys was preparing breakfast with the other elves after delivering clean laundry for Master’s grandchildren when the elves cleaning the Great Hall came rushing into the kitchens saying that dark wizards has been let into the castle and we was needing to warn the staff right away except that nobody could find Master Neville or Ms. Astor and all Hermys could think was that Master ordered him to watch over the castle and-”


“Hermys!” Harry cut him off. “How did they get into the castle? Who let them in?”


“The other elves was saying it was the defense teacher.”


Neville’s shoulders sagged and he kicked the cold ground with the toe of his boot. “Tennant. I knew I should have thrown him out of the castle before I left.”


“Is he the one who placed the monitoring spells?” Harry asked. He realized that his list of concerns had grown too long to clearly remember them all.


“I believe so,” Neville replied. “A student reported seeing him casting strange spells in the corridors. It was your young friend Mr. Northway, actually. The next day, Bill flooed me to let me know that he had detected new monitoring spells.” Neville looked frustrated. “I never had time to confront him.”


“Begging Master’s pardon, but we must hurry!” Hermys chirped anxiously. “The dark wizards was ordering all the students to the Great Hall. Master’s family is in great danger!”


Harry rose to his feet. “Let’s rouse everybody. We’ll apparate to Hogsmeade as soon as we have enough wands.”


Together, the two wizards and the elf hurried into the uneven old house to raise the alarm.

 





Octavia awoke with her back against the cold stone wall of the alcove, shivering. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been asleep and she still felt dizzy, like she’d been spinning in a circle and suddenly ran headfirst into a wall. Her fingers hurt as she tried to pull her coat more tightly around her, and she noticed her teeth beginning to chatter.


“Hello?” she called out softly. She could hear the soft echo of her voice off of the cave walls, and she smothered an urge to make funny voices. It seemed like she was in a lot of trouble, and she didn’t want to make it any worse. “Hello? Can I have a blanket?” It was then that she first heard the whispers.


There is no need to ask, Octavia. Simply make it warmer.


Octavia looked around, trying to spot the person who was talking. “How do I do that?” she asked cautiously. She was still too drowsy to realize that the voice was coming from inside her own mind.


Don’t wish for it. Will it. Close your eyes and make it happen.


Octavia felt confused. She knew that adult witches could cast warming charms with their wands, but she didn’t have one. Reluctantly, she closed her eyes. The room felt like it was spinning slowly. “Make it warmer,” she said tentatively, imagining herself sitting in front of a roaring fireplace. She gasped as the temperature inside the alcove suddenly began to rise.


“How did you do that?”


I didn’t do anything, Octavia. We did. Together, we are powerful.


“Thanks,” she mumbled, rubbing her hands together as the blood returned to her stiff fingers. “I wish I could just make myself fly home.”


You don’t have to suffer like this, Octavia. I can help you. Together, we can make everything better. You can save your mother and your grandmother.


“Who are you?”


I am a traveller. I have crossed the expanse of time, looking for a witch like you, Octavia. One who is worthy of the gifts that I bear. Of the power that I offer.


“You have presents?” Octavia responded groggily. The voice wasn’t making much sense, but if somebody was giving away presents, she didn’t want to miss out.


I have gifts beyond your wildest imagination, Octavia. The power to do whatever you want. To make people obey you. To have whatever your heart desires.


Octavia decided that it sounded a bit suspicious. Nobody could do whatever they wanted. Even her Mum and Dad had to obey some rules. There had to be a catch. “What do I have to do?” she mumbled in response.


Help me, Octavia. Embrace the gifts I am offering. Use them to free yourself and return to your family. If you free yourself then you free me, as well.


“Won’t Arabela be angry if I leave?” Octavia snorted. “I can’t believe Uncle Percy likes her. She isn’t very nice. She gets mad easy.” Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “My cousin told me that when nobody is looking, he snogs her.” The mysterious voice seemed unimpressed by her gossip.


I once offered her the same gifts that I offer to you, but she proved herself to be unworthy. Now she is broken, dying. The future belongs to you, Octavia, not her. She is irrelevant.


Octavia frowned, trying to remember the words that her mother used when the witches who kept street carts in Diagon Alley tried to sell her potions that were supposed to make her look ten years younger. Too good to be true? As much as she wanted to be back with her Mum and Dad and have lots of presents and make everyone do whatever she wanted, she just didn’t see how all that was ever going to happen. Plus, she still felt really tired after running into whatever spell it was that Arabela used to seal the cave entrance.


“Listen, thanks for making it warm in here. I’m going to take a nap now. Is it alright if we talk again when I wake up?”


Consider my offer carefully, Octavia. Once the others return, I may not be able to help you any longer.


Octavia let out a huge yawn. “Alright, I’ll think about it. Wake me up right before she gets here, alright?” She curled up and drifted off to sleep as the whispered offers tugged at the edge of her mind.

 





As the sun rose over Scotland, the stone wall across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy in the seventh floor corridor of Hogwarts rippled and a doorway gradually appeared. A moment later, the door burst open and Artie Potter dropped into a crouch in the middle of the hallway with his wand drawn. Portia Scamander and Dennis Northway tumbled out of the room behind him, gesturing in either direction with their own wands. Contrary to their expectations, the corridor was deserted.


Dennis breathed a sigh of relief as he lowered his wand. “Tennant must have given up and left.”


“It’s awfully quiet,” Portia observed, slipping her wand into her pocket. “The castle is usually noisier at this hour.”


“Maybe everybody is at breakfast already,” Artie replied, tucking his own wand away. “It started half an hour ago.”


The three sixth years started to make their way toward the Great Hall, and they grew more apprehensive as they reached the second floor corridor without seeing any other students or teachers. “Something’s wrong,” Dennis mumbled. He suddenly realized that he was holding his wand at the ready and he noticed that Portia was gripping Artie’s hand more tightly. They reached an intersection with another hallway and he heard Artie cry out in alarm a moment before a familiar feeling passed over him, like walking through a wall of cold water.


“Watch where you’re going, Nick,” Artie hissed in frustration.


“Quiet!” the ghost whispered urgently. He held his head in place as he leaned to peer down the corridor, then drifted toward an empty classroom. “Come with me, quickly!”


Dennis and Artie shared a confused look. The three students followed the mostly decapitated spirit into the room and closed the door gently behind themselves. “What in Merlin’s name is going on?” Artie demanded.


“You’re all in great danger,” Sir Nicholas replied urgently. “Dark wizards stole into the castle at first light. Somebody opened the front gates and the main entrance for them. They’ve been rounding up all of the students from their dormitories, herding them into the Great Hall. The Fat Friar and I demanded an explanation, but so far they’ve ignored us.” He looked at them curiously. “How is it that the three of you evaded capture?”


“We were, um, up early,” Artie answered quickly. “Studying. We met in a classroom on the sixth floor to practice our spellwork.”


“Well thank Merlin for small favors,” Sir Nicholas fretted, “but your schoolmates are still in terrible danger. I knew most of your parents. They thought of me as a mentor. I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to look them in the eye again if I allow any of you to be harmed. Might as well go ahead and cross over.”


“Nick, can you slip back into the Great Hall and take a look around for us?” Dennis asked. “Figure out how many of them there are, where they’re putting the students, which of the teachers might be helping them?” Dennis put extra emphasis on the last request. There was a sick feeling in his stomach. He was pretty sure that he already knew the answer.


“Of course, lad,” Sir Nicholas replied, looking very taken with the idea. “I can perform reconnaissance for you. Nobody will ever suspect me!” He started to float out of the room, then turned back to them with a quizzical look. “What are you planning to do with this information?”


Dennis sighed. “We don’t know yet. Maybe we’ll think of something once we have a better idea what’s going on.”


Sir Nicholas put his hand atop his head to hold it in place, nodded, and disappeared through the wall.


“Any ideas?” Dennis asked dejectedly as soon as the three of them were alone.


“We have to get a message to somebody,” Artie replied determinedly. “Papa Arthur or Great Uncle Bill. Nobody’s arrested them yet, as far as I know. They’ll bring help.”


“How do we do that?” Dennis asked. “The only floo in the castle is in the headmaster’s office. I’m sure somebody’s guarding it if they’ve taken over the whole school. Same with the owlery.”


Artie shrugged his shoulders. “I wish we’d had a few more dueling lessons before they tried to arrest Grandpa Harry. I almost got the hang of casting a patronus at the last one. Dad told me that you can use them to carry a short message.”


“My grandmother showed me how to do that once,” Portia replied thoughtfully. Both boys looked at her in disbelief. “We were picking daisies in the field near her home. It was a beautiful, sunny day, the kind where not even the nargles can bother you. We were skipping across the field when we came across the biggest patch of huge, perfect daisies that you’ve ever seen. Suddenly she pulled her wand out and waved it and this beautiful, silver hare appeared and hopped all around us before disappearing into the air. I asked her how it happened and she told me that she was so happy that she just had to let it out somehow.”


Dennis looked confused. “Um, well, alright then. Just so you know, some people also use them to fight Dementors. Do you think you can make one?”


Portia pulled her wand out of her pocket and screwed up her pretty face in concentration. “Expecto patronum,” she whispered, and a thin mist began to form around the end of her wand. It dispersed almost as quickly as it appeared. “Hrmph,” she muttered. “It was so much easier with my grandmother. I’m always so happy when I’m around her.”


Sir Nicholas suddenly floated back into the room along with the Grey Lady. He looked even more agitated than before. “This is bad, bad, bad,” he was muttering. “Terrible things. The shame of it all...” The Grey Lady stared at the three students and rolled her eyes ever so slightly.


“Nick, calm down!” Artie yelled, putting his hand through the ghost’s midsection before he remembered exactly who he was dealing with. He yanked his arm back with a muffled yelp, then said, “Just tell us what’s happening.”


Sir Nicholas continued to fret, seemingly unable to compose himself. The Grey Lady finally answered for him. “There are sixteen of them. They have pushed the house tables back against the walls and lined the students up in the middle of the Great Hall. All of the teachers have been locked in the Staff Room, except for Professor Astor, who seems to have gone missing, and Professor Tennant,” her nose wrinkled with disdain, “who appears to be helping the intruders.”


“I knew it.” Dennis fumed. “I knew he was up to something.”


“There’s more, I’m afraid,” Sir Nicholas added, finally settling himself enough to speak. He fixed Artie with a sad stare. “I’m afraid that they appear to be separating your cousins and your brother from the rest of the students. Why, I cannot say, but they’ve all been made to stand in a separate part of the hall.” Artie’s eyes grew very large and Portia wrapped her hands around his for support. “I’m so sorry, Arthur. I should be doing more. Most of them are members of my house and all of them are descended from proud Gryffindors. The shame is unbearable.”


It took Artie a moment to gather himself. Dennis looked helplessly back and forth between his friend and the house ghosts. “We have to get a message to our family,” Artie finally said, looking grimly determined. “I don’t think we’re gonna be able to figure out the patronus spell in time. He looked at the two ghosts. “Can you help us get into the headmaster’s office? We can use the floo to contact the Burrow or Shell Cottage. We just need a diversion, in case they have somebody standing guard.”


Sir Nicholas looked humiliated. “Arthur, we would do anything within our power to help you. But I’m afraid that we’ve already tried to engage the intruders in a rational discussion in the Great Hall and we were completely ignored. I’m not sure how we would be able to distract anyone we might find guarding the headmaster’s office.”


“Maybe you can’t,” Portia replied thoughtfully, “but I know who can.”


The Grey Lady stared at Portia for a moment and then nodded approvingly. The tiniest hint of a smile crossed her lips. “I’ll go and find the Bloody Baron. Wait here.” Then she disappeared through the wall, leaving Sir Nicholas and the two young wizards looking at Portia in confusion.




 


Sorry for the long delay between chapters. They seem to get harder and harder to write as the story approaches its end. Perhaps there's a bit of reluctance on my part to get there.

Huge thanks, as always, to my beta reader, sophie_hatter. Anything you type in the box below can and will be used as inspiration for future chapters.



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