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Chapter 11 : Secrets and Stealing
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‘But it tastes like... vomit... Hermione...’ Harry replied, eyeing his goblet with a look of utmost dislike.
Harry was sitting at the kitchen table of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, still not entirely sure how he had got there in the first place. He could remember a number of disjointed, flashing images and he could even recall walking on his own accord, but his memory was foggy to say the least. Ron was in the process of informing Harry of what had happened while Ginny was helping Kreacher with the dishes, eyeing Harry every other second out of concern.
‘Anyway, I heard a lot of yelling and commotion coming from the Auror Office so I rushed out to see what was going on. That’s when I saw Crawford walking towards you, Harry. I hit him with a Stunning Spell just after you were knocked out. Good thing I had to look after Bernard – I would have been affected by his curse as well if I had come with you and Williamson.’
‘Yeah, that curse...’ Harry said after painfully downing the rest of the concoction Hermione had made for him, remembering the bright blue light. ‘I’ve still got no idea what it was he was casting – I’ve never seen that before.’
‘It was a very advanced type of dark magic,’ Hermione jumped in. ‘The Disorientation Curse. It makes all living things in the general vicinity severely dizzy and nauseous, eventually knocking them out entirely. It really is a wonder that Crawford was able to cast it while under the Imperius Curse. Whoever was in control of Crawford must be a really powerful witch or wizard.’ Suddenly, Harry remembered something.
‘Williamson! Is he alright?’
‘Yeah, he’s fine,’ Ron answered. ‘He’ll have to spend a couple weeks in the hospital wing, but his Healers say he will make a full recovery.’
‘So that Crawford... he was under the Imperius Curse,’ Ginny exclaimed from the sink as she flicked her wand at the hovering wash cloth, signaling it to stop. ‘Whoever put that Auror under the Imperius Curse must be the same person who poisoned those snacks in the lounge.’ Harry nodded as Ginny pulled up a chair beside him.
‘I still can’t figure out how intruders are bypassing the security at the Ministry though,’ Hermione said softly. ‘The only way I can think of someone evading Fudge’s security is if they somehow –’
‘ – entered into the Auror Office directly? Yeah. I’ve put some thought in to that,’ Harry finished.
‘You’re not still going on about Mosteban are you mate?’ asked Hermione.
‘Well of course I am! He’s one of the very few who has access to the Auror Department’s Floo Network, we saw him in the lounge right before that Auror was poisoned and if you remember Ron, Mosteban was calling Aurors in to his office right before we left for Malfoy’s – and he met with Crawford then too! He could have jinxed him during their meeting!’ Hermione opened her mouth to retort but found no words to combat Harry’s.
‘Well... I guess there’s no looking around that is there...’ Ron said slowly. ‘You know... I think Harry’s right Hermione. I mean how do we know Mosteban is truly on our side?’ Hermione eyed him with a look of disbelief.
‘Ronald! Mosteban is the Head Auror! You can’t seriously be thinking that he is some sort of traitor!’
‘But why not?’ Harry responded pleadingly. ‘He was appointed that position at a very dark time. He keeps a pretty low profile... Maybe there’s more to him than what everyone thinks.’
‘There are so many possibilities, Hermione,’ Ginny said conclusively. ‘If I were you, I’d be keeping my eyes open around Mosteban you two.’ Harry could not help but smile; having Ginny back up his suspicions was something he was not accustomed to. He had always dealt with only Ron and Hermione in the past about these sorts of things but nevertheless, he welcomed this change of dynamic.
‘Well, I’m glad you’re alright Harry,’ said a slightly frustrated Hermione.
‘Yeah I’m OK too. I only saved Harry’s life today, that’s all.’ Ron stretched out his arms in front of him indicating Harry who nodded and smiled in thanks.
‘Oh, shut up Ronald,’ Hermione said, getting up from the table and pulling out her purse.
‘Yes I’m glad too because I’ve got something exciting to share,’ a smiling Ginny said. ‘Next weekend, the Harpies are having a – what are you doing Hermione?’
‘We’re out of bread and a few other things,’ Hermione said curtly as she strode across the kitchen, a few sickles in her hand.
‘Kreacher can do that can’t he?’ said Ron through a yawn. ‘Come sit down with the rest of us ‘Mione...’
‘Just because Kreacher can does not mean we can sit on our lazy you-know-what’s and not pitch in... he’s not a slave, he’s part of the family,’ Hermione called cheerily, smiling at Kreacher who responded with his own, over-the-top smile. Ron rolled his eyes as he put his hands behind his head, propping his feet up on the long oak kitchen table.
‘Oh, we need some flour too if you wouldn’t mind Hermione,’ Ginny called from the far end of the table. ‘Kreacher and I attempted to make my Mum’s strawberry and rhubarb pie the other day. Needless to say I don’t think I’ve got a knack for baking like Mum does. Isn’t that right Kreacher?’ Kreacher continued to smile, holding out his hands in front of him that – upon close inspection from Harry – were heavily bandaged.
‘The bleeding has mostly stopped now Mistress Ginevra!’ the house-elf squeaked, happily gliding out of the kitchen, his head bobbing back and forth as he hummed a tune.
‘Er, yeah. When we ruined the first pie attempt Kreacher stuck his hands on the burner as a way of self-punishment. I had to douse him with stream after stream of water just to get him to let go. He’s got a deceivingly strong grip...’ Harry chuckled as Hermione bent down to the small fireplace in the corner of the kitchen, tossing a small handful of Floo powder in to the flickering flames that roared to life in a flash of emerald.
‘Two loaves of bread, one bag of flour and a fruit basket please!’ she said clearly in to the flames, tossing the sickles in to the fireplace. After a moment of waiting, out of the fire came Hermione’s order, putting the basket, bag of flour and loaves of bread on the side table and closing the fireplace’s two small iron doors as the emerald flames disappeared.
‘Back to what I was saying,’ Ginny began, Hermione quickly putting away the items and flicking her wand at the tea kettle that instantly started to boil its water. ‘The Harpies are having a Christmas party next weekend and Davis wants all of you to attend! The Weird Sisters are performing and there’s supposed to be a fifty meter long buffet table!’
‘Well, I’m sold. How about you Harry? Hermione?’ Ron said gleefully.
‘It would really mean a lot to me if you came,’ Ginny replied eagerly at Ron’s acceptance.
‘Of course we’ll come Ginny, don’t be silly!’ said Hermione. Harry nodded his head in agreement, but as Ron began to ask Ginny of all the famous Quidditch players that may be in attendance at the party, Harry’s mind strangely drifted to the perfect smile of Davis. Harry laughed to himself as he imagined himself discreetly setting Davis’ perfectly manicured hair on fire.
‘Well, I guess I should write to Mum and Dad,’ Ginny sighed after talk of the Harpies’ party had died down. ‘If I wait until tomorrow to update them on Harry they’d have a panic attack. I’m almost shocked they haven’t made a surprise visit yet...’ Ginny pecked Harry on the cheek and immediately yawned, stretching her arms over her head. ‘These practices are killing me... I should be home for dinner tomorrow night though. Goodnight.’
‘Night, Gin,’ Harry replied as he watched her exit the kitchen.
‘Well, at least we all get the weekend off,’ said Ron softly through the silence of the kitchen, Hermione pouring a small bit of milk in to her tea.
‘Yeah, you two get it off being heroes... I on the other hand, get it off because my department believes that I’m unproductive. Can you believe that?! Me – unproductive? I’ve profiled more endangered creatures for my report that is seeking to construct protected habitats free of wizard poaching than the rest of the department combined. And on top of that –’
‘Alright Hermione I love you and all, but time for bed I think,’ Ron said, his head tilted back and his eyes closed. Harry could see that this had been a topic of conversation that Ron had apparently been through countless times before. Still, having not conversed with Hermione about it as many times as Ron had, Harry could relate to her being frustrated with her new job at the Ministry having just went through similar circumstances last year.
‘Hmmm. Yeah. You’re right Ron. Best not get worked up about it again right before bed,’ Hermione said quietly, though as evidenced by Hermione aggressively setting down her mug of tea on the kitchen table (at least half of its contents spilling over the edge and on to the table in the process) Harry could tell that Hermione was still frustrated about the subject.
‘What are you doing with your weekend off, Harry? You remember Hermione and I are off to Madame Richard’s Witch and Wizard Fashion Festival at Primpernelle Square on Saturday?’ Ron smiled very widely at Hermione as she looked towards him with an excited smile of her own. However, when Hermione was busy mopping up her spilt tea, Ron made a gesture to Harry that involved Ron taking his own wand, placing it near his head and quite theatrically falling back on to the oak table noiselessly.
‘Er, well...’ Harry said as he tried to stifle his own laughter, Hermione looking at him with a look of utmost seriousness. ‘I’m actually thinking of visiting an old friend.’
‘Sounds great Harry,’ Ron replied, now upright again. ‘You have a good time doing that, alright mate? Just be thinking of me looking at dresses and dress robes and funny little hats and fluffy undergarments and –’
‘Oh Ron, I won’t make it that painful for you. We’ll have a good time, I promise.’ Hermione playfully slapped Ron on the shoulder as she strode over to the kitchen sink.
‘I know we will Hermione,’ Ron replied seriously, hugging her from behind for a moment before retreating from the kitchen altogether.
‘Wish I could have a day with Ginny over the weekend,’ Harry said softly once Ron’s echoing footsteps had disappeared.
‘Oh Harry, I know. This doesn’t help things but... it’s really a good test of your relationship. Seeing each other as sparingly as you two do but still maintaining your relationship really shows how strong you two are. And trust me, she’s really looking forward to going to the party with you.’ Harry tilted his head as he looked at Hermione fondly. There was something about her that always made Harry feel better about the situation he was in.
‘You’re going to tire him out... aren’t you?’ Harry asked good-naturedly to which Hermione nodded. ‘Once your day of shopping is finished he’ll barely be awake for dinner Saturday night, I reckon.’
‘Yeah... if he makes it to dinner that is.’ Harry shared one last laugh with Hermione before extinguishing the flickering flames of the candles, putting his arm around his friend as they thought of the weekend ahead.
Harry had to put thoughts of his weekend plans on hold as the next morning he found himself back at work again. Upon arriving at the Ministry the next morning, Harry was mobbed by various groups of witches and wizards, some genuinely concerned for Harry’s well being after yesterday’s attack while others merely snuffed and walked away when they saw that he was perfectly fine. The fact that Harry was being congratulated by many passers-by for putting an end to Crawford’s rampage slightly frustrated Ron, but he was still taking it in good spirits even though he was the one who should be congratulated.
‘Once a hero always a hero, eh Harry?’ Ron sad joyfully as he watched yet another group of witches point up at Harry, that morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet clutched at their side. ‘Even if you were on the floor passed out, perhaps seconds away from a terrible fate... you’re still everyone’s hero!’
‘The ruddy Prophet probably thinks it would make a better headline if I was mentioned somewhere in it... no offence or anything,’ a frustrated Harry replied as he and Ron joined one of the long lines that was waiting to be inspected by Fudge’s security.
‘None taken. You can have all the gawkers you want, doesn’t bother me any.’ Ron laughed as he watched a particularly short, old-looking witch speak in a language that Harry could not understand, hugging his waist line as she smiled her toothy grin before moving away from them.
‘Quiet you,’ Harry joked through an embarrassed smile, shoving Ron just enough to knock him off balance. He recovered just in time to avoid colliding with a nearby witch who eyed Ron crossly at his seemingly strange behavior.
The massive Atrium at the Ministry was packed full of anxious witches and wizards who wanted nothing more than to begin their day of work. A couple of wizards behind Harry and Ron were especially frustrated, Harry overhearing their conversation.
‘What’s the point of all this ‘ere if people are gonna be cursed just as often as they had before this was put in place?’ the first voice said gruffly.
‘Well actually, it seems as if witches and wizards are being attacked at an accelerated pace after these restrictions were implemented,’ said the second wizard pompously.
‘Don’t know ‘bout you Thomas... but I wonder if all of this would be going on if Kingsley Shackelbolt was the man running the Ministry. He was an Auror y’know.’
‘I’ve always said that we need to keep our faith in Fudge. But now, even I must admit that if things do not improve soon... perhaps a change might be in order...’ The second wizard whispered the last part of his response as he (like Harry and Ron had) noticed that a Ministry official dressed in flawless purple robes was walking towards them.
‘Potter. Weasley. The Minister of Magic would like the two of you to meet him in his office – immediately.’ Harry and Ron eyed the tall, bearded official curiously, glancing at each other briefly after he had finished his announcement.
‘And why does Mr. Fudge want to meet with the two of us for?’ replied Harry with a hint of mocking in his voice.
‘The Minister did not tell me why – he only told me that the two of you must come as soon as possible. It is urgent.’ With that, the official turned and weaved his way through the line of people, Harry and Ron following the official to the chagrin of many of the Ministry employees in line.
‘Hey! Why do they get to bypass the line!?’ a particularly plump witch called.
‘Margaret! That’s Harry Potter!’ her thin companion said awe-struck.
‘Well Harry Potter or no Harry Potter, I’ve got a whole stack of portkey requests to go through today, including one for the Falmouth Falcons! Any Falconss fans around here? If you want your team to make it to their match against Puddlemere this weekend I suggest you all let me bypass you!’
Before they knew it, Harry and Ron along with the Ministry official had entered the lift that would take them down to the bottom level where the Minister’s office was. Neither of them said a word as the lift descended; curious looks and shakings of the head were the only things exchanged by Harry and Ron who were both coming up empty in their attempts to guess why Fudge had called them to his office.
‘This way please,’ the Ministry official said as he opened the gold gate to let the two of them out.
This floor was by far the most lavish of them all with the purple carpet outlined in gold placed over the wooden floor and the portraits of past Ministers of Magic lining the walls. The archways that formed every few feet were seamlessly woven in with the golden sculptures and architecture, the many oak doors each having their own nameplate off to the side which indicated whose office it was. At the end of the hallway was the Minister’s office, two oak doors with golden handles being guarded by two Ministry officials, one on either side. They nodded at the official as he stepped to the side, Harry and Ron momentarily standing still before the two doormen each opened their own respective door to let them inside.
Having been in this very office when Kingsley was still Minister, Harry was not in awe of the small office’s extremely high ceilings with very tall bookcases, the grand oak desk with the Ministry logo carved on to the front of it or the intricate architecture around the back window that magically showed a backdrop of a bright, snowy day. Nor was Harry interested in the various posters that Fudge had put up of himself, including a framed Prophet front page headlining Fudge’s recent election victory and a golden framed portrait of himself dressed in vibrant emerald robes, his hair ruffling in the breeze as he looked confidently out in to the distance. No, Harry was focused on Fudge who was sitting in his great purple upholstered chair and on the man who flanked him; the Head of the Auror Department, his own boss, Mosteban. Mosteban looked unkempt; his beard was overgrown, his eyes swollen and his black hair was a mess and full of grease.
‘Take a seat Weasley... Potter,’ Fudge said forcefully, his face full of seriousness and focus as Harry and Ron obliged the Minister’s request. On the desk of the Minister was a small, crumpled package wrapped in brown paper, a couple of strings loosened around the outside of it.
‘What are we here for... Minister?’ Harry asked somewhat flatly, adding the last part to his sentence at the very last second after an eye-widening stare from Mosteban.
‘I’ll do the speaking Potter,’ Fudge said directly. ‘I’m a very busy man so I’ll make this short and sweet. If you’ve noticed, these attacks that have been taking place around the Ministry have one thing in common – you. Whether they take place in your presence or in your department, the common denominator is that they have all involved yourself in some way.’
‘Pardon me, Minister, but you can’t seriously be blaming the attacks on me... they are, after all, taking place at your Ministry...’ Fudge began to grow red in the face at Harry’s sarcastic response.
‘One more word out of you Potter and Mosteban here will suspend you before you can say “Impedimenta”.’ The Minister refocused himself, calming himself down before speaking once more. ‘This has gone on for far too long. Tomorrow, I am going to publicly propose to the public a special unit of my own choosing in order to protect the Ministry and all witches and wizards. A small... witch and wizard army if you will. That is, in fact, what I was talking to Mosteban here about... if the Aurors cannot stop the threat... then I will.’
Mosteban was not looking at the Minister, wearing a quite sour expression on his face. Harry could tell that Mosteban was furious with this news just as Harry was. Fudge seemed to take pleasure in the three Aurors’ disapproval, smiling a devious smile as he continued.
‘Furthermore... and this is the real reason why I’ve called the two of you here... I have passed a bill through the Wizengamot that gives the Ministry the authority to seize any suspicious incoming or outgoing mail in order to catch whoever are behind these attacks. Which brings me... to this.’ Fudge indicated the brown package that was sitting on his desk. Now that Harry had focused on it, he could see that something inside the package was glowing the faintest of glows.
‘There’s no address – just your name on it. Both Fudge and I have tried opening it to no avail, obviously,’ Mosteban growled.
Fudge ran his hand through his dirty blond hair, pointing at Ron and then the package. Understanding Fudge’s request, Ron carefully took the package in his hands, looking around for a moment before attempting to rip open the packaging. Ron looked up in shock; no matter how hard he tried he was unable to rip the packaging that seemed as if it was feet thick. Ron took out his wand but Fudge stopped him before he could open his mouth.
‘We’ve tried every charm or curse possible,’ he said frustrated, snatching the package from Ron’s hand once again, placing it in front of him on his desk. ‘Now Potter. Do something useful and tell us who you are corresponding with so mysteriously.’
‘I have no idea,’ Harry responded flatly and truthfully. Fudged kissed his teeth as he eyed down Harry who returned the stare. Fudge was the one to break it, kicking his chair back quickly and picking up the package roughly. He strode across the office, whipping open a small door that was slightly ajar in one of the back corners of the room. After he tossed the package in to the small opening, he slammed it shut, Harry hearing the locks magically click as Fudge – arms behind his back – began to pace the room once more.
‘I’ll be holding on to this, Potter. That is until we find a way to open it,’ Fudge threatened, seizing a small ring of keys from on top of the magical safe and sliding them in to his cloak pocket. ‘And if I find out you lied to me... if I discover you misled me in any way... I will not even bother to go to Mosteban – you will be terminated on the spot! Do you hear me?!’ Harry looked at Fudge expressionlessly speaking in the same vain.
‘Yes I do Minister. In the meantime, good luck in stopping these attacks with your... army, or whatever. For my sake, I hope you find out who’s doing this soon.’ Fudge stopped pacing at Harry’s words. He opened his mouth wide as if he was about to unleash all of his fury on Harry but nothing came out. Instead, growing dangerously scarlet in the face, Fudge looked away from the two of them.
‘Go. Leave us,’ he said simply and quietly. Harry and Ron did not overstay their welcome by a second, silently and quickly leaving the office, Mosteban and Fudge all behind.
‘That’s the second memory, Harry! It has to be!’ Hermione cried later that day after Harry and Ron told her about what happened inside Fudge’s office. The three had constantly talked about the meeting with Fudge from the moment they had met up at the Leaky Cauldron at the end of their day. Now, as they walked up to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place from the apparation point, conversation was now shifting to what they were going to do about it.
‘I know Hermione and he’s got it,’ Harry replied angrily. He wanted nothing more than to view the second memory; ever since he had viewed the first memory that featured his parents and Sirius, his mind had been extraordinarily curious to see the next, wondering who was sending them, what the memory meant and what clues would be embedded in the message.
‘We’ve got to get it back somehow. You know Fudge isn’t going to just hand it over,’ Ron stated as they crossed the street, a cold breeze touching their faces. Harry knew Ron was right.
‘We have to steal it. He’s got it kept in his office in some sort of safe.’ Harry saw his friends nod their heads, each resigned to their own thoughts of ways to steal back the memory that had been sent to Harry. Seeing his friends take his statement so smoothly, a brief thought entered Harry’s mind. Over the years, his friends had done some dangerous things with him, but funnily enough – compared to what they had accomplished before – stealing something from the Minister of Magic seemed rather routine, though as Harry thought, there was truthfully nothing routine about it.
‘Christmas Day. We’ve got to do it on Christmas Day,’ Hermione said suddenly and finally as they began to ascend the steps to Grimmauld Place. ‘The Ministry will be rather empty. From what you said and from what he’s said in the Prophet, he’ll be there. We can steal the keys, sneak in to the office and get back the memory.’
‘Yeah that sounds alright. Easier said than done though, Hermione,’ Ron said casually as he opened the door and let Harry and Hermione in.
‘Well obviously Ron. But it’s just logical – the Ministry is extremely busy around the holidays and there’s no sense in trying to sneak in to the Minister’s office around the busiest time of the year.’
‘How come they couldn’t open the package Hermione?’ Harry asked, remembering how hard Ron had tried. ‘Any ideas?’
‘No ideas. I know how,’ Hermione smiled as she hung up her coat in the closet. ‘Un-rippable parchment. It’s not used around here at all – it’s virtually unknown. The trees they use to make the parchment with grow only in the Amazon jungle... fifteen hundred galleons a pound for the bark, last time I heard.’
‘So how are any of us going to open it?’ Ron asked incredulously.
‘Well, Harry will be able to. Honestly you’re really lucky that they didn’t ask you to open. It would have been as easy as ripping through tin foil for you. See, only the person who the letter or package is addressed to is able to open it. That’s why it’s so valuable.’
‘Brilliant,’ Harry replied with a smile. ‘Whoever’s sending us these memories is an intelligent one.’
‘And a very rich one too, mate,’ added Ron.
‘Yeah. OK but how are we exactly going to steal –’
‘Talk about this later,’ Hermione interrupted, stopping Harry in his tracks. Footsteps were coming from the kitchen and a moment later, Harry saw who they belonged to. Mrs. Weasley – being closely followed by Mr. Weasley, George and Ginny – bounded out of the kitchen, taking Harry in her arms a second later.
‘So glad you’re alright dear!’ she said as she hugged him and moved on to Ron. ‘We don’t mean to intrude or anything, but we thought we’d pay our children a visit.’
‘You couldn’t have sent us an owl Mum?’ Ron asked through forceful kisses from Mrs. Weasley.
‘I’m your mother Ronald Weasley! I don’t need to send a letter! I’m sure you’ll be alright with the arrangements once you finish your roast beef dinner tonight though,’ Mrs. Weasley playfully smirked as Mr. Weasley clapped Harry on the back, guiding him in to the kitchen.
‘How was practice today Ginny?’ Harry asked as he sat down beside her. Ginny gave a short laugh.
‘Two wins and the team thinks they’re invincible. I’m sorry but wins over Tutshill and Caerphilly are hardly any reason to celebrate. We’ve got Puddlemere in a week and that’s going to be a real challenge. Davis thinks we can pull out a victory though.’
‘Davis thinks so eh? Well that’s good then,’ Harry said through gritted teeth.
‘I’m going to go freshen up – anything you need before I go Mrs. Weasley?’ Hermione asked politely.
‘Heavens no dear. You’ve had a hard day at work – you leave the cooking to me,’ Mrs. Weasley replied with a motherly smile as she waved her wand at the dishes which neatly assembled on the kitchen table.
‘Harry, Ron – this might be of some interest to you,’ Mr. Weasley said eagerly, fetching an edition of the Daily Prophet out of his pocket. ‘Page three.’ Harry opened the edition of the Prophet, Ron standing over him as he chomped on a biscuit. At the top of the page, Harry read the headline that told him all he needed to know.
FLAMEL’S VICTIMS WERE UNDER IMPERIUS CURSE, SAYS MINISTRY OFFICIAL
‘That curse is really going around,’ Ron said as he put the rest of his biscuit in to his mouth.
‘That’s good news for Flamel then, isn’t it?’ Harry asked openly. ‘If the men who he killed were under the Imperius curse, then he must have been defending himself. I bet the Death Eaters were the ones to Imperius Flamel’s victims – getting them to do their dirty work for them.’
‘If Flamel was defending himself though Harry, why would he still be on the run from the Ministry? I don’t deny that you may be right, but if he was so innocent he wouldn’t have fled the scene completely, now would he?’
‘Unless he doesn’t want to be found,’ Ginny said darkly.
‘A man his age... he won’t last out there for long unless he’s got someone to take care of him,’ said Mrs. Weasley gravely
Harry thought of Flamel for a while but once Mrs. Weasley’s brilliant cooking had been served, all thoughts of Flamel were wiped clean. He had a pleasant evening, enjoying dinner with the Weasleys while talking of their plans for the weekend, George’s joke shop and Mr. Weasley’s increased responsibilities at the Ministry. Still, as Harry crept in to bed that night, Harry only envisioned the safe inside Fudge’s office, desperately wanting to view the memory that it contained.
Once Harry woke the next morning, he quickly leaned over to see that Ron had already left his own bed. Hermione had undoubtedly wanted to get an early start. Not wanting to waste any of his own rare day off, Harry quickly got out of bed and dressed at a quick pace. He bounded down the stairs and entered the kitchen where he found that a plate of eggs, bacon and toast had already been made up for him. Sitting down at the table, he quickly began wolfing down his breakfast, noticing that a few letters had been left opened on the table.
Through a handful of toast and marmalade, Harry quickly browsed through a letter sent from Mr. Weasley which indicated that an Order meeting was to take place sometime after Christmas. Harry could not help but wonder if this meeting had been organized in some sort of accordance with the most recent attack at the Ministry.
Though it was the third such attack at the Ministry in a matter of months (including two inside the Auror Department of all places) Harry was still no closer in discovering the true goal of the attackers. In all of the years he had lived in the wizarding world, he had never experienced anything quite like this. He was astounded at the relative ease and frequency of these attacks, not being able to get over the fact that even with extreme precautions being put in place, the attacks were still continuing. No matter how hard he thought about it, he always kept coming back to Mosteban, convinced he had something to do with it.
Checking his watch, Harry stuffed the last bit of bacon in to his mouth, grabbed his jacket and quickly left Grimmauld Place. Carefully making sure that no one was watching, he crossed the street in to the heavily wooded area and apparated, finding his feet touch down upon snow once again a second later.
Harry began making his way down the hill, walking by Zonko’s Joke Shop and making his way in to the heart of the village. Hogsmeade was beginning to fill with Christmas shoppers, a light snowfall beginning on the chilly December morning. A few groups of happy magic-folk nodded enthusiastically when they noticed him, Harry smiling back as he appreciated the absence of elongated gawking on the part of the passers-by. A merry tune from a small five-piece band assembled outside the Three Broomsticks met Harry’s ear as he looked up at his former school, wondering what sort of classes were on at the moment or if there was a Quidditch match that Gryffindor’s team was preparing for. He strode past the Three Broomsticks and opened the door of the adjacent pub, the Hog’s Head, quickly stamping his feet on the mat to avoid traipsing any excess snow in to the pub. The tune that the band was playing was shut out by the closed wooden door, Harry all of a sudden feeling quite hot now that he was out of the cold.
‘What’ll it be stranger?’ called a voice Harry knew to be Aberforth’s. Harry saw the shadowed figure of Aberforth behind the bar; the rest of the pub was entirely empty.
‘Just a visit will do, if you’ve got the time,’ Harry replied cheerily, removing his jacket and making his way over to the bar. Aberforth laughed silently, quickly pouring a Butterbeer for Harry and setting it down in front of him.
‘How are you doing Harry? Well... apart from being attacked at the work-place, of course...’ Aberforth said slowly and with a hint of humor in his voice.
‘Never been better,’ Harry responded cheekily.
‘Guess you’re right – knowing what you’ve been through, if you’re not in some sort of danger it just wouldn’t seem normal, now would it?’ But Harry did not hear everything Aberforth was saying. He had just now noticed that something was terribly wrong with Aberforth’s face; his entire right side had changed to a ghastly purplish colour, his left eye featuring a fresh-looking cut underneath it. He looked as though he had been in particularly violent duel.
‘Aberforth! What happened!?’ Harry exclaimed, Aberforth’s smile fading as he turned away from Harry, shielding the right side of his face from view.
‘Nothing! Nothing at all,’ Aberforth said gruffly, turning his back to Harry.
‘You can’t seriously be telling me that there’s nothing wrong with you,’ Harry replied concernedly. ‘Are you alright?’
‘I’m fine. I’m sure this will clear up in the coming days.’
‘But how did it – who did this –’ Harry began but he was cut off by Aberforth who responded loudly.
‘Harry there are some things that I just can’t tell you! Not now anyway. Be understanding, boy. Please.’ Harry could see that Aberforth was serious, reluctantly nodding his head in agreement.
As Aberforth opened his mouth to speak, the door of the pub swung open, Harry catching a brief, icy breeze whip by his face before the door closed once again, shielding out the cold weather. A small man who was mumbling to himself limped over to one of the tables, clumsily pulled out one of the little wooden stools and after plopping himself down on to it, let his head hit the table with a loud bang. A moment later, the man was snoring.
‘That’s Horatio... he does this a few times per week. Don’t mind him, he’s harmless.’ Aberforth turned slowly and fully around to Harry who tried not to stare at Aberforth’s ghastly, discoloured face and long, deep cut.
‘Aberforth... did... did you know my parents at all? When you were in the Order last time, I mean.’ Harry could not help ask. He had been dreaming of his parents and their role in the first memory for the past few nights, ever since Fudge had taken what was surely the second memory away from him. He wanted nothing more than to view the stolen memory and see if it contained anything else regarding his parents. Additionally, having seen Nicolas Flamel in the memory along with his parents had wet his curiosity even further, especially since Flamel was still apparently on the run.
‘Not well enough to call them friends, I regret,’ Aberforth said slowly, not looking directly at Harry. ‘But the few times I spent with them... they were really brilliant people Harry, as I’m sure you’ve been told before.’
‘And did they ever work with Nicolas Flamel at all while they were in the Order?’ Aberforth eyed Harry somewhat suspiciously, but after a brief split-second, he reverted back to his normal stance.
‘Not that I’m aware of, no.’
Harry looked away disappointedly; he had hoped that since Aberforth had been an Order member when his parents had been that he could have been some help in trying to shed some light on what had occurred in the memory.
‘But I do know that there was a time – around the time when your parents were in the Order – when Flamel was highly sought after,’ Aberforth continued after a moment. Harry looked up quickly to meet the eye of Aberforth who sat down on a high stool behind the bar. ‘See I was an outside member even then Harry. I was not at all the meetings or in on all the day to day goings-on when Voldemort was still in power. Yet I know that Flamel was in high demand at one point.’
‘Why? What do you mean “in high demand?” Harry asked intrigued.
‘Well he did create the Philosopher’s Stone boy, something very attractive to Voldemort and his Death Eaters as you saw firsthand way back when,’ Aberforth said. ‘But even though that was his greatest creation, that was certainly not all he ever did. I’m no expert on Flamel’s accomplishments but I do know he did more than just create the Philosopher’s Stone – much of which has been kept hushed up by him. I never knew if there was some sort of important reason why he was so highly sought after – in the Order you never stop to ask. We were too busy back then.’
Harry mulled over what Aberforth was saying, remembering the great risk that his parents, Sirius and the Longbottoms had undertaken to help Flamel escape. Why was he so important at that moment? What reason was this high risk worth?
‘Knowing my brother, Albus could have just wanted to help him because they were friends – buddies. Not needing him for the Order but perhaps just getting his old friend out of danger. They were extremely dangerous times, Harry.’
‘What ever happened to Flamel? Do you have any idea why he’s on the run now?’
‘I haven’t heard his name around here for a long time... a long, long time.’ Aberforth looked out in to the non-existent distance as if a plagued memory was hampering him. ‘Truthfully, I was shocked he was still alive, the old bloke. He never, ever did anything wrong, dangerous, against the law or against the Order as long as I’ve ever heard of him. I don’t think he’s guilty of killing those men and if he somehow did, it was for a bloody good reason. He’s a good man, that Flamel.’
‘I don’t think he did either – and I didn’t even know him. If he was trusted by Dumbledore, then that’s good enough for me,’ responded Harry wondering where on earth Flamel was now. He knew it was no coincidence that he was sent a memory of Flamel at the same time that he seemingly had committed a triple murder. Harry was set on finding out why.
Half an hour later, Harry was getting ready to leave the Hog’s Head. Horatio still had not moved from his spot at the far table, snoring ever louder. Harry had caught the eye of Aberforth looking at him awkwardly throughout the rest of the conversation and he knew exactly why. He could not help but think about his parents and the mystery of the memory to a point where he knew he had looked distant from the conversation with Aberforth. Twice he had to ask Aberforth to repeat what he was saying, not hearing what he had said the first time due to the high volume of the thoughts existing in his head. It was as Harry was putting his coat back on that Aberforth came forth with what Harry dreaded.
‘Are you alright Harry? To me, it seems as if something’s on your mind.’
‘I’m fine. Thanks Aberforth,’ Harry said slowly as he began zipping up his jacket.
‘Because an unbiased, open mind is always here for you. Whenever you need it.’ Harry stopped, looking from Aberforth to Horatio who was only a few feet away from where he was standing. He wanted nothing more than to include Aberforth in what was bothering him.
‘I-I have to take something back. Something that’s mine. And I can’t be seen doing it.’
Aberforth’s smile grew from a small one to a much larger one, nodding his head as he beamed at Harry from across the pub.
‘You mean you have to steal something? Well, that shouldn’t be any problem for the son of James Potter, now should it?’
Harry returned the smile, nodding his head before returning to the cold outside the pub.
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