Chapter 11 : Chapter 11: The Order Reassembles
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Being the Minister of Magic was a lot of work, which was why Kingsley Shacklebolt was wide awake at one in the morning, hunched over his desk in the minister's office, his quill flying over paperwork. He inwardly cursed Voldemort, for what had to be at least the thousandth time. The Dark Lord's running of the Ministry had certainly not been careful, meaning nearly all the departments had to be returned to conditions considered ‘up to scratch.’ Kingsley sighed deeply and sank backwards in his chair. A nap would do him good, he reasoned. He’d barely closed his eyes when Ben Williamson, the Auror, burst through the door, looking rather agitated.
“Minister!” he yelled, causing Kingsley to leap to his feet and draw his wand.
“Ben!?” he asked, struggling to keep his voice calm as his heart beat violently in his chest. “What’re you doing here so late?” he asked suspiciously, lowering his wand.
“Gawain sent me, there’s been a breakout at Azkaban. Eleven high security prisoners have escaped,” Ben explained, his eyes wide with panic. Judging by his heavy panting, he’d ran all the way to Kingsley’s office. Immediately, Kingsley sprang into action.
“Where’s Gawain?” he said sharply, striding through the doors of his office, his purple and blue robes billowing behind him. Ben hurried to keep up.
“He’s in the office. Proudfoot and Jones are already at Azkaban, they were on nightshift. I’m due to go out to replace them in the morning,” he explained. Kingsley nodded.
“In that case, go get some sleep. You'll need it,” Kingsley said briskly, pulling out his wand. A large silver lynx prowled off through the Atrium as Ben disappeared through one of the fireplaces.
It wasn't long before Kingsley charged through the door of the Head Auror's office. Gawain was at his desk, looking extremely stressed. He glanced up as the door crashed off the wall.
“Kingsley. Ben told you then?” he asked unnecessarily. Kingsley nodded.
“Who’s broken out?” he enquired urgently. Gawain read the names off some parchment.
“The Malfoys, the Carrows, Yaxley, both Lestrange brothers, Dolohov, Rookwood and Rowle. Basically, everyone we wanted to keep in there," said Gawain angrily, slamming his fist on the table. “All the guards that were on duty are dead. We got one to St Mungo’s, but it was too late. He wasn’t in the state to tell us anything, and from examining his memories, it doesn’t look like he could. He was hit by a stunner pretty quickly after the first disturbance was heard,” he reeled off, his voice a deep growl.. Kingsley nodded slowly, as Sturgis Podmore came through the door. Contrast to his usual bouncing self, he looked deadly serious.
“I got your patronus Kingsley," he panted. "What’s the problem?” he asked, concern in his voice.
“Azkaban breakout,” Gawain grunted. Sturgis’s jaw dropped, and Kingsley nodded grimly.
“No… who?” he asked, awestruck. Gawain threw him the parchment with the list of names. “Merlin’s beard!” Sturgis yelped. “How the hell did this happen?” Gawain shrugged.
“No idea, Hestia and Luke Proudfoot are out there now, I expect we’ll know more when they return,” he replied stiffly, still scowling. Kingsley turned to Sturgis.
“I know it’s late Sturgis, but we need someone in your office," he said apologetically. "I need Portkeys, floo networks, apparition monitored now. Check tonights records, see if you can find anything suspicious," he ordered. Sturgis nodded curtly.
“I’ll call in Twycross to help, he never does anything anyways,” he said steadily, before turning and leaving the Auror office, just as Hestia Jones returned.
“Gawain, Kingsley," she said, her usual friendly manner gone, replaced with a firm, cold determination. “The wards surrounding the prison were gone, it looks like they apparated out of there,” she spoke quickly, and seemed very concerned, as well as a little shell shocked. “We found a hole in the roof near to where it looks as though the conflict took place. Looks to me like it was an outside job,” she concluded grimly. Kingsley swore loudly and Gawain looked extremely stony faced.
“Is Proudfoot still there?” he asked, his voice dangerously low. Hestia nodded.
“He’s with some of the Magical Law Enforcement squad. Williamson and Savage are replacing me and him in the morning,” she explained. Kingsley sighed to himself, deep in thought.
“The Auror office isn’t strong enough to cope with all this alone Kingsley," Gawain warned him urgently. Kingsley nodded slowly.
Gellert stood in the Malfoy’s drawing room, facing his new followers. They looked rather intrigued by him, as well as extremely suspicious. Understandable, but not acceptable.
“You may wonder why I’ve brought you all here,” he began, pacing in front of him. There were several mumblings of agreement throughout the group. “The reason is,” he paused, for dramatic effect. “I intend to kill Harry Potter.” The mumbling stopped, replaced by a shocked silence. Then;
“If the Dark Lord could not kill him, what makes you think you can?” asked Rabastan Lestrange scathingly. Gellert frowned at him.
“Voldemort, as far as I can understand from what Rita has been able to tell me, was bound to the Potter boy by fate and prophecy. Such petty tidings do not hold me,” growled Grindelwald. “If Potter is to die, I need your help. I have been imprisoned for over fifty years; my knowledge of this country is not up to scratch, my powers are still weakened. Therefore I need information, I need followers. I need you, ladies and gentlemen, to help me plot the killing of the Potter boy," he explained, drilling his point home. Rodolphus Lestrange spoke up.
“You dare speak the Dark Lord’s name?” he roared furiously. Gellert smiled wickedly at him.
“Voldemort is dead. There is nothing to be feared from a corpse, friend,” he said, his voice low and dangerous. Rodolphus appeared not to notice.
“How can you consider yourself to be so powerful if you were imprisoned for so long?” he grunted. ‘Not one for brains then…’ Gellert considered to himself.
“Mr Lestrange,” he began, his voice measured and calm as ever. “From what dear Rita has told me, you were imprisoned yourself, in Azkaban, three times. Twice you were broken out by Voldemort and once by me. I broke out of Nurmengard, which I must say has rather more powerful magical defences than Azkaban. And remember, I did so alone, evaded your former master, travelled here, defeated many of your number during the battle of Hogwarts and broke you out of prison,” he smiled at the dumbstruck impression on Rodolphus’s face. “Satisfied? Good,” he said curtly. Thorfinn Rowle looked rather confused.
“Why were you fighting against us in the battle if you’re after Potter now?” he asked. Gellert smiled briefly. At least this one was not so stupid. Not quite, anyway.
“Good question Thorfinn. The answer lies with a wand. A wand Voldemort had when he died, which was stolen by Harry Potter. The wand belongs to me, it was mine for many years. I intend to get it back, whatever the cost. With the wand, we can begin to seize power once more.” He smiled, and several of the Death Eaters cheered. ‘Well, that was easier than I thought’ Grindelwald pondered, before he whipped round, his cloak billowing out behind him.
Ginny’s alarm clock awoke Harry at around eight in the morning. The pain in his head was horrific-he had a sudden, wild thought that Voldemort was near him. But he quickly relaxed. Voldemort was dead, his headache was from a hangover and that was Ginny coiled up around his body, not Nagini. He felt her stir.
“Oh bloody hell,” she mumbled feebly. “I’m never drinking again.” She looked up to Harry’s face-her eyes were bloodshot, she was unusually pale and her lips were dry and cracked. He nodded in agreement, and his head hurt even more.
“Please tell me your mum has something to cure hangovers?” Harry muttered, rubbing his forehead and fumbling for his glasses. Ginny leant over him, picked them up from the bedside table and handed them to him.
“It’s in the bathroom cabinet. Go get it for me?” she asked sweetly, and Harry, grudgingly and grumbling, hauled himself from the bed and staggered across the hall to the bathroom. Angelina was already there, to his surprise. She looked him up and down, and then giggled.
“Looking good Potter,” she said sarcastically. “What happened to you?” Harry glared at her, before shutting his eyes from the pain in his head.
“Too much to drink,” he mumbled feebly, rubbing his scar unconsciously. She clucked her tongue and resumed looking in the mirror. “You off early?” he asked. She nodded.
“Before anyone else sees me,” she explained, fixing her hair into a long, braided ponytail. “Keep it quiet, yeah?” she asked pleadingly. He nodded “Thanks. All done, see you round Harry,” she said, flashing him a quick smile before moving past him and treading quietly downstairs. Harry rummaged through the bathroom cabinet, and found a small, blue bottle labelled ‘Hangover remedy.’ He took it and returned to Ginny, who was now sat up, rubbing her eyes blearily. Harry conjured both of them a small glass and poured two small measures.
“Cheers,” she said appreciatively, taking the glass and swigging it immediately. Almost instantly, the colour returned to her cheeks, and she sighed in pleasure. Harry took his own, and it seemed as though a cloud had evaporated in his head. Ron and Hermione traipsed in the door, looking as bad as Harry had felt moments before.
“Feeling rough?” asked Harry with a grin. Ron nodded blearily, and Hermione just groaned in pain. Harry handed them the blue bottle and their glasses. “It’s a miracle this stuff,” he explained as Hermione eyed it warily. They both took a dose and looked considerably better because of it.
“Good night though wasn’t it?” said Ron eagerly. Harry grinned at him.
“No, what I remember wasn’t too bad,” he chuckled. Ginny and Hermione both rolled their eyes. Ron noticed and looked at them incredulously.
The four headed out for an early fly after a quick breakfast of toast. Hermione borrowed Ron’s old Cleansweep eleven, while Harry, Ron and Ginny were on their new brooms. They were playing two aside Quidditch (Hermione and Ginny vs Harry and Ron) when a rather worried looking Charlie came running out to them.
“Kingsley sent us a patronus, we have to meet him and the Order at the Hog’s head,” He said, panting slightly. Harry landed lightly beside him.
“Why?” he asked, concerned. Charlie shrugged his shoulders.
“He said it’s urgent. Ginny’s not supposed to come along though,” Charlie added, giving an apologetic glance towards his sister, before cowering under her furious gaze as she hovered above him.
“Forget it Charlie," he growled forebodingly. “I undermined the Carrow’s all year last year, I fought in the battle and I fought Grindelwald with Harry. Nobody’s stopping ME going!” she snarled. Charlie took a step back, holding up his hands.
“Not my fault Gin,” he said, slightly nervously. It amused Harry to see the burly dragon handler so afraid of his little sister. “Take it up with mum; she’s the one who said you weren’t allowed.” Charlie had barely finished his sentence before Ginny had zoomed off to the house, her hair flying wildly behind her. Charlie gave an exasperated sigh.
“That is not going to be pretty…” Ron remarked forebodingly, hovering gently just above the ground. The four felt unsure as to whether they should return to the Burrow.
“You can say that again,” said Charlie grimly. “I agree with her in a way though. She’s done more than most of the family had by her age, excluding you Ron,” he admitted, and a grin flashed across Ron’s face. Having always been in his brothers’ shadows, a compliment from the former quidditch captain Charlie was particularly pleasing. The moment passed, however, at the sound of yells coming from the house. Somehow, Molly and Ginny’s argument was carrying across the fields to the orchard.
“We should get back,” said Hermione anxiously. “They’ll think we’re avoiding them.”
“We are,” Ron pointed out fairly. Hermione gave him an exasperated stare and flew back to the house, much to Ron and Charlie’s dismay. Charlie rode back on the back of Harry’s Firebolt, and they arrived just in time to see Ginny and Molly storm out the house, Molly looking livid and Ginny rather pleased with herself. A sheepish looking Arthur came out behind them.
“Dad said I could go,” she told Harry cheerfully, jumping on the front of his hovering broom and giving him a quick kiss. Mrs Weasley shot her husband a furious glance, and he removed his glasses, concentrating on cleaning them as to avoid any awkwardd eye contact. Ginny winked at him cheekily, and he gave her a brief smile, though it vanished at the look of disapproval on Molly’s face.
“Come on everybody, apparate straight to Hogsmeade,” she instructed strictly. “Harry dear, can you take Ginny along please?” she added, some of her anger disappearing as she glanced fondly at Harry. He nodded, taking her hand and returning his broom to the broom shed next to the house. The others began disapparating one by one until Harry and Ginny were the only ones left.
“Sure you want to come along Gin?” Harry asked with a wry smile. Ginny glared at him, suddenly reminding him of Fred and George when confronted with Dolores Umbridge.
“Don’t even joke,” she growled. Harry laughed, and held out his arm, and they disapparated, feeling the familiar sensation of being squeezed through a tight rubber tube, and then their feet fell on solid ground. Hogsmeade was much cooler than Ottery St. Catchpole, and Ginny shivered slightly. The little village bore no signs of the battle just days previous-Harry assumed that the fighting had never reached there.
He looked up to the castle, which unlike the village still had many battle scars. Windows were still smashed, and in some places there were chunks of wall missing. Harry sighed slightly-it was like seeing his own home destroyed. Ginny gave him a gentle tug on his sleeve. “Come on you. We’ll hold up the meeting," she said gently, and Harry obediently followed her. They entered just behind Ron and Hermione.
The one time Harry had ever seen the Hog’s head this full was when Hermione had asked those interested in the then unformed D.A to meet there. Looking around, Harry recognised Sturgis Podmore, the Aurors Hestia Jones, Dedalus Diggle and Gawain Robards, Kingsley, Aberforth, who was standing behind his bar, his usual gruff face glaring around the room, Elphias Doge, Professors McGonagall and Flitwick, Mudungus Fletcher, who sat in a corner, occasionally receiving an angry glare from Aberforth or Molly Weasley, Hagrid, his vast frame taking up an entire corner of the room, as well as all the Weasleys, including Fleur, and too Harry’s surprise, Viktor Krum. Hermione gave a little shriek of surprise and ran to hug him. She kissed him on the cheek, and Ron went a strange shade of maroon. He sat to the left of Harry and Ginny, an extremely grumpy expression on his face, forcing a bemused Hermione to the right. He frequently shot venomous glances at Krum across the room, although the surly Quidditch star appeared not to notice.
Harry saw that Kingsley was deep in conversation with both Gawain and Sturgis, both of whom looked extremely concerned. Aberforth came round, offering everyone excluding Mudungus a bottle of Butterbeer or a glass of Firewhiskey. Harry took butterbeer, he had no desire to feel like he had that morning ever again. Eventually, Kingsley stood up.
“My friends,” he announced in his usual deep, calming voice. “We have a situation. Early this morning, there was a mass breakout from Azkaban,” he announced. Several people looked utterly horrified. Professor Flitwick gave a terrified squeak and fell sideways off his chair, spilling his butterbeer. Charlie Weasley cursed loudly, gaining him a stern reprimand from his mother. Hagrid opened and closed his mouth several times like a large goldfish.
“Who az eescaped ministeer?” Asked Fleur, her French accent prominent as ever.
“Eleven of those who we really needed to stay behind bars,” grumbled Gawain before Kingsley could say anything. Kingsley nodded.
“He has a point," Kingsley admitted morosely. "The Malfoys, the Carrows, the Lestrange brothers, Rookwood, Dolohov, Yaxley and Rowle all got out,” Kingsley said. Several people cursed this time, including Molly Weasley, much to Charlie’s indignation.
“It gets worse,” said Hestia sadly. “I was at Azkaban not long after the breakout, and they defiantly got out with help from someone outside. They’re not alone,” she concluded miserably. Harry gripped his chair very tightly. He had a suspicion as to who may be behind this.
“Either way, with the Auror office so understaffed at the moment,” continued Gawain, looking frustrated. “We cannot hope to deal with this threat alone. Therefore Kingsley and I have decided to reform the Order of the Phoenix in order to combat this new threat," he finished. He didn’t appear too pleased about having to share his duties with the Order.
“We’re going to need people on all the houses of those we know the Death Eaters are likely to use. Chief among these is Malfoy Manner, but Lucius put so many wards and protective charms on that place we can’t get anywhere near the grounds,” Kingsley explained, taking over. “Sturgis has his people in the Department of magical transportation watching for anything regarding the floo network or Portkeys. But apparation and brooms are still possible, so we’re going to need people watching round the clock, since they can’t apparate until outside the grounds due to Lucius’s wards,” he said briskly. Harry spoke up.
“Do we have any idea who could’ve helped them escape?” he asked. He was afraid, but his voice was steady. Kingsley shook his head.
“Not a clue Potter,” growled Gawain. “But we’re going to need to make sure you are protected. No doubt they’ll be seeking retribution for Voldemort’s death.” Harry shrugged.
“I’ve faced worse,” he said calmly, although he was struggling to stop his voice betraying his fear. “Has it occurred to you that Grindelwald could’ve helped them out?” he asked. Judging by their expressions, they hadn’t. Both Kingsley and Gawain looked thunderstruck.
“Merlin’s beard…” said Kingsley slowly, stroking his chin. “If that’s the case, we have a far more serious problem. I think the muggle prime minister should be informed," he continued, his usually mellow voice picking up speed. Gawain nodded shortly.
“Rita Skeeter will have a field day with this,” grumbled Bill Weasley. “She seems to love stirring up the panic.” Several people nodded. Harry noticed McGonagall and Robards in deep conversation with each other. McGonagall’s lips were tightly pursed-as they so often been when Harry had been in trouble, and Gawain looked rather irritable. The meeting broke up into several smaller groups of conversation. Harry turned to his three friends.
“What do you think?” he asked in a low voice. “Could it be Grindelwald?” Ginny and Hermione looked concerned, but Ron appeared not to hear, still staring sourly at Krum, who was talking to Sturgis Podmore.
“It’s possible…” said Hermione slowly. “But it seems a big risk for him, and he’s broken out the most dangerous people there. He’s been very specific,” she said thoughtfully. Ginny nodded.
“It seems to be that whoever broke them out knew who was the most dangerous,” she said, looking nervous. Suddenly, Ron seemed to snap back into the conversation.
“Rita Skeeter!” he said loudly. Harry and Ginny looked at him blankly, but realisation dawned on Hermione’s face, followed by a look of scorn.
“Really Ron?” she said, slightly waspishly, “You think Rita Skeeter broke into Azkaban?” Ron nodded his head frantically.
“Remember what I told you in the restaurant?” he asked urgently. “I saw Rita with that muggle waiter, so the one with Rita must’ve been in disguise. We even said then it could be Grindelwald!” he said triumphantly. Harry gave them an exasperated look.
“You’re telling me this now?” he snapped before Hermione could retort. “We have to tell Kingsley,” he said firmly. Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but Harry cut her off. “Even if Ron’s wrong, it could be important.” Evidently she couldn’t think of a response to this, and shut her mouth, glaring at Harry. He and Ron strode across the room to Kingsley, where Ron explained what he’d seen. Kingsley looked concerned.
“Gawain,” he said after a moment. “I think you need to pay Miss Skeeter a visit. Head over to the Prophet offices and bring her in for questioning,” he ordered. Gawain didn’t look pleased.
"Gawain," said Harry quickly. "You know Rita's an animagus? She can turn into a beetle." Gawain looked surprised.
"Unregistered?" he said slowly. "If nothing else, we can charge her for that. Thank you, Potter."
"Off you go then Gawain," said Kingsley impatiently.
“In a moment, minister,” he growled, indicating Professor McGonagall.
“Potter, Weasley, a word please?” she said. Hermione was already next to her. They nodded and sat at a table. “Gawain has informed me that you two have been offered positions in the Auror office?” she said. Gawain looked rather sulky for some reason. They nodded, slightly nervous. “And you intend to take these positions?” she asked. Harry shrugged his shoulders.
“I guess so, Professor. I’ve wanted to do it since I was fourteen,” he said awkwardly, avoiding eye contact with the Headmistress. McGonagall smiled at him.
“I remember you telling me, in that rather…shall we say colourful interview with the delightful professor Umbridge," she said, a frown streaking across her face as she recalled the toad faced teacher. “I would expect no less of either of you,” she said, looking delighted.
“Thank you professor,” said Ron, looking relieved. Gawain cut in at this point.
“However Miss Granger has agreed to return to Hogwarts and complete her NEWTS.” Hermione looked down at this, rather than meet Ron’s surprised and hurt stare. Harry, however, had expected her to do so.
“I thought you might Hermione,” he said, flashing her a quick, reassuring smile. She looked up at him, still avoiding Ron’s stare. He sat back so Ron couldn’t see him, and mouthed ‘He’ll come round.’ She gave Ron a quick, nervous glance before returning to stare at her knees.
“Thank you, Gawain,” said McGonagall acidly. “I’m sure Miss Granger appreciates your timing.” Gawain blushed, but recomposed himself almost instantly. He turned to Harry and Ron.
“Part of your duties will be regular check-ups on the schools security,” he explained. “When these assignments come up, I will allow you the rest of the day off so that you can spend some time with some…favoured people,” he finished awkwardly. Harry, however, felt a rush of joy at his words. This would make things between himself and Ginny that much easier, as well as for Ron and Hermione.
“Th- brilliant,” Harry stuttered, and Ron nodded fervently. “Thank you Gawain, professor,” he said gratefully. McGonagall bowed her head slightly.
“My pleasure, Mr Potter,” she replied, giving him a small smile. “I specifically requested you and Mr Weasley, I understand you know the castle…better than most,” she said. Harry and Ron grinned sheepishly. It was true-the Marauders Map had given them an uncanny knowledge of the school’s passageways and shortcuts. “I must be off,” she added. “Work is to begin on the West tower today,” she explained, fastening her green cloak. “I shall see you soon, you three,” she said, giving them an unusually broad smile before striding out the door.
“Gawain!” said Kingsley sharply. “Hate to break up the little chit-chat, but you really must be going,” he said. Gawain scowled furiously at him, before whipping up his cloak and storming out the Hog’s Head without another word. Kingsley walked over, shaking his head. “He hasn’t had time to get used to the fact I’m his superior. He’ll come round," he said, though he didn’t sound particularly confident. “I assume they’ve explained the new arrangement?” he added. Harry and Ron nodded, and Kingsley beamed. “You accepted I assume? Fantastic, that’s a weight of our shoulders. Thanks Harry, Ron," he boomed, before turning back to Sturgis. Harry sat down next to Ginny, and noticed Hermione beaming.
“Well that’s sorted!” she said happily. “We’ll see plenty of you two,” she said, pulling Ron into a hug, which he didn’t return. “What’s got your wand in a knot?” she said sharply. Harry quickly pulled Ginny up.
“Fancy a walk? I should explain what happened,” he said evasively, already pulling her to the door. She looked briefly confused, until Harry nodded subtly at Ron and Hermione. Most of the Order had already left, with several leaving for guard duty at the various safe houses the Death Eaters could be using. As they exited, they heard Ron’s response.
“Sure you wouldn’t rather hug Vicky?” he said tartly. Ginny groaned at her brother’s tactlessness, and they heard a furious intake of breath from Hermione before the door slammed shut.
“Oh bloody hell…” Ginny murmured. “He’s hexed himself right in the foot there.” They suddenly noticed Bill Weasley was standing in front of them, alongside the ever beautiful Fleur.
“Harry, I was just wondering.” He said, shaking Harry’s hand warmly. “Why don’t we use Grimmauld place as Headquarters?” he said curiously. Harry gave a start-he hadn’t given the gloomy house a thought since he, Ron and Hermione had been forced to leave it in September.
“The Death Eaters got in,” Harry explained sadly, and he told Bill the story of how Yaxley had followed them there after they’d stolen they'd broken into the ministry, leaving out the details of the Horcrux. “It’s probably got more curses than I care to think about,” Harry concluded sadly. Bill smiled at him.
“You forget Harry,” he said cheerfully. “I was a curse-breaker for Gringotts. If I can break through the curses on those Egyptian tombs you can bet I’ll be able to break through the ones the Death Eaters put on your place,” he assured him. Harry grinned at him.
“I forgot,” he admitted apologetically. Bill laughed. “When can you do it?” he asked. Bill looked at Fleur.
“Is there anything big at work?” he asked. She shook her magnificent head.
“No, ve finished accounting for ze accident, ve can cope wizout you, love,” she said, giving him a quick kiss. “Go, I vill explain for you," she told him, dropping his hand and disapparating. Bill turned to Harry.
“Seems I can go today then,” he said with a chuckle. “Shall we go now?” he asked. Harry turned to Ginny.
“You should go home. It could be dangerous,” he told her, knowing before he’d lost the fight before it had begun. She whirled around and gave him a glare exactly like the ones her mother had given Fred and George so many times.
“Don’t even start,” she said warningly. Harry glanced at Bill, who shrugged his shoulders.
“Alright Gin, you can come. But you're not allowed to use magic yet, so stick behind Bill and me at all times,” he said firmly. Ginny didn’t argue, merely shrugged her shoulders exactly as Bill had. “Shall we then?” he asked, turning to Bill.
Gawain appeared in the leaky cauldron with a small pop. He gave Tom a small nod before striding out onto the alley, his hand clutched tightly around his wand in his inside pocket. He fumed to himself; Kingsley had no right to order him about like that, no matter how high his authority.
The Alley was fairly quiet, due to it being so early. He made it to the Daily Prophet office quite quickly, finding that it was already up and running. He entered and was faced with the paper’s secretary- a miserable looking young witch with an abundance of curly black hair, and today, a violent purple shade of lipstick. She looked up at Gawain, as though daring him to ask a question.
“I need to speak to Rita Skeeter. Where’s her office?” Gawain demanded. The young witch didn’t reply immediately, first she blew a large bubble gum bubble, staring insolently at Gawain all the time. His temper rose quickly, and he was about to give her a piece of his mind when she finally replied.
“Second floor, first door on the right. She’s not been in the last couple of days, disappeared with some big blonde bloke.” She said dryly, before conjuring up a small mirror and attempting to tame her wild mass of hair. Gawain frowned at her.
“Haven’t you noticed if she’s come in?” he asked grumpily. She shrugged disinterestedly. He sighed; this was like getting blood from a stone. “Can you remember what her companion looked like?” he asked, preparing for the worst. To his surprise, she nodded enthusiastically.
“Course I can, he was gorgeous!” she said with a cheeky, wistful smile, putting extra emphasis on the ‘gorg’ of gorgeous. “He was tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes, perfect teeth and he was such a charmer,” she said giggling. Gawain frowned. Behind her giggles, the girl had described the man Ron and Hermione had seen in the restaraunt.
“Thanks for the information," he said, inclining his head slightly before striding past her up the stairs. He came to Rita’s office, and knocked loudly on the door. There was the sound of hurried tidying and parchment being stuffed somewhere, and then Rita’s voice rang out.
“Come in!” her voice grated. Gawain entered, his hand still clamped around his wand. “Ah, Robards, what a pleasant surprise,” she said in a falsely cheery voice-it was clear she did not want to see him. “I’m just doing a write-up of the Azkaban breakout, perhaps you could assist?” she said sweetly. Gawain glared at her. He’d never liked the foul woman and he wasn’t about to start now. She’d already wormed her way out of being an unregistered animagus, Gawain was determined not to let her escape if she’d done any wrong this time.
“Miss Skeeter.” He growled, removing his wand from his pocket with a subtle movement, but leaving it concealed within his robes. “I’m arresting you on suspicion of consulting with a known criminal, as well as being an unregistered animagus. I’m afraid you’re going to have to come into the ministry and answer some questions,” he thundered. Rita’s smile dropped away instantly. She reached slowly for her wand under the table, just out of Gawain’s sight.
“Me?” she simpered innocently. “With a known criminal? I’m afraid you must be mistaking me, Robards," she said. Gawain stepped forward quickly and slammed his heavy fist into the table, causing her to jump violently, her glasses falling askew.
“You are in NO position to argue!” he yelled furiously, spit flying from the corners of his mouth. “I am the head of the Auror department, and I order you to come quietly!” he roared. What happened next was so fast Gawain barely had time to react.
“Diffindo!” Rita yelled leaping back from her chair, drawing her wand in one fluid motion. The severing charm was on target, and slashed Gawain’s knee and threw him off balance. Gawain roared in pain but reacted quickly, blocking her stunner with a shield charm so powerful she staggered against her desk.
“Expelliarmus!” he yelled, aiming to disarm her so she could be questioned quickly. She threw herself to the floor to avoid the charm, which hit the window, causing it to shatter. She sent another stunner at him from underneath the table, which he blocked once more. She seized her chance and leapt to her feet, brandishing her wand once more.
“Reducto!” she yelled, and Gawain was forced to jump aside. The curse smashed into the door, which splintered into pieces.
“Incendio!” he yelled, and the pieces burst into flame. He whirled his wand, and the flaming sticks zoomed towards Rita, who charmed her desk to leap into the way, before extinguishing the fire with another flick of her wand. “
“Stupefy!” yelled Rita, forcing Gawain to hide behind the doorframe to avoid the stunning charm, which punched a hole straight through the wall behind him.
“You’re going to jail Rita!” Gawain roared from behind the doorframe. “There’s no way out now!” he yelled, blasting a stunner round the corner. He looked round the door, and to his shock, Rita was gone. “Homenum Revelio!” he yelled. Nothing came up; the office was empty. By the looks of it, she'd turned into a beetle and flown out the window. Gawain performed a quick search, but the destroyed office was a mirriad of hiding places for something as small as a beetle. Fuming, he sent Hestia a patronus, ordering her to come and search the office, and then added charms to the room that would prevent anyone from leaving, before storming back out the office. A man stood, looking utterly gobsmacked, in the corridor.
“Wha-who-why?” the man spluttered weakly, his knees shaking. Gawain, recognising him as Barnabus Cuffe, the Prophet’s editor, shoved him out of the way.
“No time, Cuffe!” bellowed Gawain, limping down the stairs. He reached the secretary’s desk, who was looking rather terrified. “I need Rita Skeeter’s address.” He said firmly, his voice shaking with the effort needed to keep him from utterly losing his cool. He hadn't lost a target in years. She seemed to notice his strained temper, and hurriedly turned, pulling out a piece of parchment from a set of files. She spread it out and traced the lines with her finger, until;
Grimmauld place looked as miserable as ever. Harry, Bill and Ginny were sat, rather drained on the sofa. Bill had managed to remove the curses that had been on the entrance to the house, and together he and Harry had managed to clear the ground floor. There had been all manner of obstacles, including the kitchen being full of Dementors, which Harry’s Stag had driven out the window, and then guided them down the street like a bizarre, shining sheep dog and its flock, keeping the Dementors away from muggles.
“This is more difficult than I thought,” Bill confessed, stretching. “Whoever did this really knew their stuff.” Harry nodded.
“The Dementors were a particularly nasty touch,” he said grumpily. “You want to keep going?” He asked. Bill nodded.
“May as well finish today,” he said, looking around the room. “You ever plan on living here Harry?” he asked suddenly. Harry was surprised.
“I’ve never thought about it to be honest. I suppose I could,” he said with a shrug.
“You’re not living in it the way it is,” said Ginny grumpily. “It’s bloody horrible, Sirius’s family were a dodgy lot.” Harry laughed.
“The house is the least dodgy part about the Blacks Gin. I just wish we could get rid of Mrs Black.” He said regretfully, glancing towards the hallway where the portrait of Walburga Black hung. Bill nodded in agreement.
“What was that charm you got from the Prince’s book last year?” said Ginny suddenly. Harry looked at her blankly.
“You mean Snape’s?” he asked. She nodded. “Urm… plenty. Levicorpus, Sectumsepra, Muffliato, Langlock…” realization suddenly dawned on his face. “Langlock!” he yelled in delight, drawing his wand, and practically skipping through the hallway. “Hello Mrs Black!” he roared, to which Bill groaned in astonishment and annoyance. Mrs Black, predictably, began screaming and hollering.
“HALF BLOODS, BLOOD TRATIORS IN MY ANCIENT AND NOBLE HOUSE!” she shrieked, until Harry yelled out the spell.
“LANGLOCK!” he bellowed over the screams of Mrs Black, and there was a strangled spluttering, as Mrs Black fell silent. Harry returned to the room, grinning broadly at Ginny. “Not a bad idea that Ginny, I must say.” He winked at her. “Well done.” She smirked back at him.
“How long did the Order live her and nobody ever thought of that?” Bill laughed, ruffling his sister’s hair as he always did.
Rita breathed a sigh of relief-the Auror searching her office had finally gone, and she'd forgotten to replace the charms that werre preventing her leaving. She’d turned the place upside down in her search, and had taken all of Rita’s research on Potter and the Order. Making sure the office door was closed, she crawled out from the soil in her plant pot and with a small pop, turned back into a person. Hiding as a beetle was remarkably easy.
She quickly rummaged through her drawers, but found nothing worth taking. Cursing, she disapparated to her own house, which she found ransacked as well, with most of the furniture turned over, papers torn up and many doors hanging off their hinges. Knowing the house wasn’t safe, she disapparated once more, landing just outside Malfoy manner, slipping silently inside the gate, permitted by Gellert’s magic, which he’d added to the Manor’s existing protections. She met him in the study of the house, where he sat with Dolohov and Lucius.
“Rita?” Gellert said, looking both confused and angry. “What are you doing here?”
“Bloody Auror,” she growled furiously. “Came to the office this morning and tried to arrest me. I fought him off, but they went through everything I had researched, both at the office and at home,” she explained, her eyes blazing furiously. Gellert stood up.
“Why did he try to arrest you?” he asked, his voice quivering slightly with fury. She pointed an accusing finger at him.
“YOU!” she raged. “I was seen hanging around with a known criminal. It has to have been you!” she said angrily. Gellert shrugged.
“You wanted in on this Rita, you have to deal with the consequences. You’ll just have to stick around here from now,” he said firmly. Rita opened her mouth to argue, but Gellert silenced her with a wave of his hand. “Hush Rita, we still have our contact in the Auror department, we’ll be okay without your information,” he said curtly. Rita swallowed her retort before storming out the room. Grindelwald turned back to the two Death Eaters.
“So, Potter is to become an Auror,” he mused.
“According to our spy,” replied Dolohov. “And he’s been correct on everything so far,” he added.
“I think there is no doubt-we can trust him,” confirmed Gellert.
“If the Potter boy is an Auror, surely he will come to us,” Lucius pointed out. Gellert nodded slowly.
“I would expect so. This could work in our favour, gentlemen,” he said, smiling his most evil grin.
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