Chapter 21 : Chapter 21: Old Friends.
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“Right then!” called Kingsley over the babble of noise. “We’ve got a couple of items tonight. Firstly, I’d like you to join me in wishing a warm welcome to the assorted members of Dumbledore’s Army to the Order of the Phoenix.” He raised his goblet of wine. “Welcome, friends. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the good side,” he joked, and laughter rippled around the table. “Now, I believe Gawain has a few words to say, so over to you old friend,” he said, indicating the ever gruff looking Robards and returning to his seat. Gawain leant forward.
“I’ve made some progress on James’s plan,” he announced. “I asked young Mr Malfoy to write us a letter, which I had sent to Malfoy manor. Effectively, I’ve offered, through the guise of Draco, to give him all the information ‘I’ve’ been busy gathering since my ‘capture.’ Hopefully Grindelwald will fall for it, and we can end this quickly. On the other hand, he may not buy it and suspect a trap. If he does, we can hopefully identify our traitor and apprehend him, or at least force him into hiding, bringing the Aurors back into play. We can also try to capture as many of Grindelwald’s forces as possible, should he try for an all-out attack.” There was a murmur or approval around the table.
“So what size do we think Grindelwald’s forces are at?” Arthur Weasley asked. “Do we outnumber them?”
“By my calculations,” said Kingsley, “I think Grindelwald commands around forty six witches and wizards, not counting himself and his mole. Assuming we can count on everyone here, as well as the Aurors, we have about forty witches and wizards.”
“The Australian ministry has offered to send us a squad of Aurors,” Gawain put in. “They are extremely interested in apprehending Augustus Rookwood, on suspicion of murdering their Head of Magical Transportation in May,” he explained. “I’m in contact with their deputy head of office, I can have them over when necessary.” Kingsley nodded.
“Excellent,” he said, beaming. “I may be able to bring in help from the German and Bulgarian ministries-many of Grindelwald’s followers are wanted for crimes throughout Eastern and Central Europe,” he continued. “Another meeting will be called closer to the time, informing you of all the details. Sturgis, have you made any progress in your investigations?”
“I have, but I made a breakthrough only this morning,” said Sturgis, grinning. “I ordered Madam Edgecombe to run an urgent errand for me, nothing really significant, but it forced her to leave her desk at a moment’s notice. When she did, I checked the floo records and noticed a large number of floo transports between Malfoy Manor and somewhere in Eastern Germany.”
“Nurmengard?” asked Harry. Sturgis nodded grimly. “So Edgecombe’s been letting it happen?” he said incredulously.
“It would appear so,” Sturgis said. “I suppose she’ll be arrested?”
“Tomorrow morning,” confirmed Gawain. “I’ll take her in for questioning then have her carted off to Azkaban before lunchtime,” he growled. “Anything else, Sturgis?”
“One more thing,” said Sturgis. “I noticed Edgecombe’s been spending long periods of time with Ares Flint. While they’re both in my department, Edgecombe’s works in the Floo network division and Flint’s part of the broomstick regulatory division, so they shouldn’t have much to do with each other. I’ll keep an eye on him,” he promised.
“Flint?” said Oliver Wood sharply. “As in Marcus Flint?”
“His father,” confirmed McGonagall. “He’s every bit as ugly as his son and almost as stupid. The family always were Death Eater sympathizers, although like so many, they never openly declared their support for him,” she said bitterly. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved.” Hermione clapped a hand to her mouth in shock all of a sudden.
“He was in the lift at the ministry,” she whispered. “That day we visited you, Mr Robards. I was talking about my Mum and Dad,” she said slowly.
“So Flint could’ve heard, and passed the information onto Grindelwald?” suggested Ron.
“It’s possible,” admitted Robards grimly. “Sturgis, keep a very close eye on him. Arthur, maybe we should issue a search warrant on his house?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Arthur said. “We don’t have much on him, though. I doubt it’d stand in front of the Wizengamot,” he said bitterly. “Too many old pureblood families,” he added, giving Kingsley a suggestive look.
“I’m working on it Arthur,” Kingsley said reassuringly. “It’s not easy, this minister malarkey,” he chuckled in his deep, booming laugh.
“I’ve got some news,” piped up Hestia Jones. “The Auror training department has just officially qualified two new applicants-a girl called Daisy Richman, from somewhere up north, and Ray Lescott, from Ireland. They’ll be officially joining the department on September the first, the same time as Harry and Ron,” she said, shooting both boys a smile.
“At least we won’t be the only newbies,” muttered Ron, just so Harry could hear. Harry chuckled, but he knew they were both feeling quite relived deep down.
“Couple more things,” said Kingsley, checking the pile of notes surrounding his place. “We’ve had intelligence from Viktor Krum, who’s stationed near Nurmengard, of a lot of activity going on around there, as well as a few muggle killings. Every time, it’s the same mark left-this strange symbol that Krum is adamant is Grindelwald’s mark. If that’s so, and I’m sure it is, then we have to assume that Grindelwald is behind these attacks.” Kingsley took a deep breath before continuing.
“Krum also told me that there’s been several sightings of a woman known as Sabine Derschwarze, the black witch.” There was an outpour of frightened mumblings from the older wizards around the table, but Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny exchanged confused glances, along with many of their former classmates.
“For those of you who don’t know,” said Aberforth Dumbledore, looking sharp, angry and alert. “Sabine Derschwarze was Grindelwald’s top enforcer during his first uprising,” he explained. “I’m no wordsmith like my brother, so excuse me for this but there doesn’t seem to be any other word-Sabine’s a heartless bitch, a soulless killing machine who makes Bellatrix Lestrange look like a fairy princess.” Harry suddenly felt extremely uneasy at Aberforth’s word, not to mention the sheer loathing he spoke them with.
“Thank you, Aberforth,” sighed Kingsley. “But yes, that is the general picture. If Derschwarze is out there, Grindelwald just became a whole lot more dangerous. Now, moving onto the final topic, Miss Granger, I believe you had something to say,” he said kindly, smiling encouragingly at Hermione. She stood up, looking flustered. Ron patted her gently on the knee, and she seemed to regain some of her composure.
“Right,” she said in her teacher voice. “The main way the Order communicates with each other is through patronuses, but for our newer members, talking patronuses are complicated, long and pretty noticeable as well.” A few people nodded appreciatively. “So, if you could all hand in your old D.A coins, I’m going to change the charm so you can all send messages on them. I could do it for the rest of you if you’d like,” she added, glancing towards Kingsley. He looked at her, stunned.
“They told me you were bright, but I didn’t realise just how bright,” he said after a moment. Hermione turned a bright pink.
“Miss Granger,” said professor Flitwick, examining Parvati’s coin. “Is this a protean charm?” she nodded. “Most impressive,” he squeaked, looking delighted. “Especially when you consider you still haven’t completed your NEWT year.” Hermione flushed an even brighter shade of pink.
“Actually professor, I first did the charm in my fifth year,” she said, laughing nervously.
“How weren’t you in Ravenclaw?” asked Michael corner admiringly.
“Indeed,” said professor Flitwick. “There are not many fifteen year old witches or wizards that could perform a successful protean charm. I must say, I’m very proud,” he confessed, and promptly burst into tears.
“Hermione,” said Kingsley over the noise. “Would you be fantastic and make everyone a coin? They could be extremely useful,” he said, beaming at her.
“I’ll have it done by next meeting,” she assured him.
“It’s a shame,” said James from his portrait, which now hung on the wall of Grimmauld Place’s kitchen. He’d been sleeping throughout the meeting, but had woken up as people began to leave. “We could’ve used my mirrors, if only Sirius, Remus and I could’ve worked out how to make them able to contact more than just the other pair,” he lamented.
“I like the sound of these mirrors, James,” put in Gawain as the Order started to disperse. “They could come in useful, you know since Aurors always work in pairs?” James beamed at him.
“I never thought my ideas would be used by the Aurors,” he said, grinning. “I’ll sort it, Gawain,” he assured him.
“You mean we will?” grumbled Harry. “I had a nightmare with the last one.”
“Let Hermione do it,” James told him. “No offence, but she’s just…better.”
“James!” said Lily, who’d also just woken up, looking shocked. “No need for that,” she told him. Harry shrugged.
“It’s true,” he admitted. “See you later, Gawain,” he said, shaking Robards’ hand.
“Goodbye, Mr Potter,” Gawain said stiffly. “I shall see you at the next meeting.” Gawain was the last to leave, and Harry shut the door after he left, charming the lock as he did every night.
“Do you reckon we’ll catch them then?” said Hermione, as Harry returned to the living room. “The mole in the Aurors I mean.”
“Hopefully,” Ron said, once again settling on Hermione’s lap. “But Gawain’s planning it for September, so you and Ginny won’t be there.”
“What!?” demanded Ginny, sitting bolt upright and causing Harry, who’d been leaning on her, to fall sideways onto the sofa. “Why?” she said angrily. “Hermione and I can fight just as well as any of you.”
“Hermione’s better,” pointed out Ron. “It’s nothing to do with that, Gawain just said it’s a big operation and he needs time to organise it. I guess it’s pretty difficult, pulling one over the entire Auror department,” he added. Ginny still didn’t look happy.
“Be reasonable Gin,” said Harry, pulling her back to lean on him. “Besides, you’re a target, Grindelwald will want to capture you, to lure me,” he pointed out.
“Would it work?” she said, snaking her arm around his shoulders.
“Of course!” said Harry incredulously. “Do you even need to ask?”
“No,” said Ginny sweetly. “I just like hearing you say it.” Harry rolled his eyes and kissed her, snuggling closer to her.
“He’s been quite though, hasn’t he?” said Hermione. “Grindelwald. I mean, we haven’t seen anything of him since Australia. Maybe he’s backed off?”
“We haven’t seen him, but we’ve seen his work,” said Harry grimly. “My aunt and uncle, for example.”
“And those muggles in Germany,” Ron added. “He’s not giving up, he’s planning,” he said, looking nervous. “Put it this way, I’m glad you’re going to be safe inside Hogwarts this year,” he said. Hermione glared at him.
“I’m more worried about what you two are going to do without me,” she said haughtily. “You’ve never managed anything before,” she added.
“Yeah, you were a great help lying in the hospital wing while me and Harry dealt with Lockhart and rescued Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets,” Ron said sarcastically. Ginny rolled her eyes
“Trust me Hermione, you’re a big miss,” Harry said quickly, before Hermione, who looked murderous. “But I know where Ron’s coming from. It’s good to know you’re both safe.”
“Because I was so safe last year,” said Ginny sarcastically. Harry looked at her, confused.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that despite you breaking up with me for my ‘own safety’ I was still targeted by everyone. Especially that cow Pansy Parkinson,” she spat venomously. “Hogwarts wasn’t safe at all last year.”
“Safer than what we were doing,” Harry pointed out. He was feeling a surge of guilt rush through him-He hadn’t really done his job of protecting her. She yawned suddenly, stretching out catlike on the sofa.
“I think I’ll go to bed,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “Coming Harry?” Harry stole a glance at Ron, who’s expression told him ‘Only because you’re letting me live here.’ Harry grinned.
“Yeah, I’ll come up.”
July was an unusually quiet month in Harry’s life. He didn’t think so little had happened since the summer between his first and second year, where Dobby the house elf had cut off all contact between Harry and Ron and Hermione. Grindelwald, it seemed, was concentrating his efforts elsewhere. Hermione managed to create several pairs of mirrors for the Auror department, and extra two for her and Ron.
“In case I miss you,” she’d said when handing it over, blushing furiously. “And you can let me know if you need me,” she added.
Hermione had also managed to rework the magic on the old D.A coins, so that the writing around the picture on the coin could be changed by any user. Once the message was sent to the desired person, the recipient’s coin would glow with the sender’s initials. Kingsley had been extremely impressed when she’d handed them out and explained them at the next Auror meeting.
“You are brilliant, Hermione,” Harry’d told her admiringly after the meeting. She smiled.
“I try, Harry. Now, what do you want for your birthday?” she asked, setting her transfiguration text book down on the coffee table. Harry shrugged.
“Something to brighten the place up a bit,” he suggested. While the trio had managed to clean most of the house and rid it of any dark objects Kreacher had managed to sneak back in, it still didn’t feel like home.
“I’ll think of something,” she said calmly. “Have you asked Kreacher about removing Mrs Black and the house elf heads?” Harry shook his head.
“Good,” said Ron. “He might be nice now, but I don’t think he’d take that very well.” He glanced around the kitchen. “Where is Kreacher anyway?”
“Haven’t a clue,” Harry said. “Probably still crying in Regulus’ room,” he sighed. Harry had given Kreacher Regulus’ room to sleep in, since he didn’t feel making the elf sleep in the cupboard was very fair (Or at least Hermione didn’t.). Predictably, Kreacher had been astounded by the news, before throwing himself on the ground and wailing, taking almost half an hour to calm down, whereupon he’d curled up at the bottom of Regulus’ bed and fallen asleep for almost two days.
“Kreacher is here master,” said the elf, causing Harry to fall off of his chair in surprise. “Kreacher can help master take down the Black family decorations if master wants,” he said, clicking his fingers and levitating the empty glasses and goblets left from the meeting over to the kitchen sink, where he began washing them.
“Are you sure Kreacher?” said Harry warily, exchanging a nervous glance with Ron and Hermione. “It wouldn’t bother you?” Kreacher shrugged.
“Kreacher doesn’t mind. Kreacher no longer belongs to the house of Black; Kreacher serves the house of Potter now. Kreacher will do as his master wishes,” he said, turning to Harry. “Will Kreacher take the paintings down?”
“Yeah, thanks Kreacher that’d be great,” Harry told him, beaming. The elf gave him a toothy smile and returned to washing the dishes. “Living room?” he suggested to Ron and Hermione, who nodded, and the trio left Kreacher to finish his duties.
“He’s alright, really,” said Ron, stretching out on the sofa and using Hermione’s lap as a pillow once again. “I forget why we ever hated him,” he said. Harry laughed, but Hermione looked at him reprovingly.
“I never hated him,” she told him. “I always said we should be nice to Kreacher,” she reminded him.
“He may be alright, but he’s no Dobby,” Harry sighed. “Kreacher scares me a little, even now.” Ron laughed,
“I know what you mean mate,” he said. “But there’s no other house elf like Dobby, that’s for sure.” Harry smiled. Dobby certainly had been one of a kind. His train of thought was interrupted by a tapping at the window. “That’s Dean’s owl,” Ron said glaring at the owl and making no move to go and open the window.
“Honestly,” said Hermione, exasperated. “If anyone should have a grudge against Dean, it’s Harry!” she said angrily as Harry opened the window. He felt his ears burn as Ron struggled to form his next sentence.
“Harry’s her new boyfriend,” Ron began, but Hermione cut him off.
“Harry fancied her all sixth year, didn’t you Harry?” she snapped. Ron looked at him pointedly.
“Errr,” he said awkwardly. “Yeah, I did,” he admitted.
“Still,” said Ron, unperturbed. “I’m her brother!”
“You’re not mad at Harry!” she retorted, her voice rising.
“Hey guys,” said Harry, trying to diffuse the situation. “Dean wants me to meet him tomorrow for a drink again.” Ron and Hermione ignored him.
“It’s different with Harry,” he grunted. “He’s my best mate, he’ll treat her right.”
“Dean treated her just fine,” said Hermione waspishly. “You’ve got four older brothers, and none of them hate me for going out with you.”
“That’s different,” Ron insisted, and Harry had a sudden feeling he was about to step on a mine of his own making. Harry yawned theatrically.
“It’s late,” he announced, although it was only around half past ten. “I think I’ll turn in.” He scrambled out of the living room as Ron and Hermione’s voices got louder and louder. He’d just reached Sirius’s old room when he heard a loud BANG from downstairs, followed by Ron swearing heatedly. Harry rolled his eyes and put a silencing charm on his door. He didn’t need to hear them fight, and he certainly didn’t fancy hearing them make up.
Valko Dragonov appeared in Gellert’s study, dropping a broken quill that had evidently been a portkey.
“You called, my lord?” Dragonov asked in Bulgarian.
“Indeed. Sit,” said Gellert, indicating Dawlish’s recently vacated chair across the desk from himself. He poured them both a goblet of wine. “How goes business at Nurmengard?”
“Well, my lord,” said Dragonov. “Sabine has located the spy, she was leaving in order to complete her mission as I left,” he explained. “We have murdered several muggle and wizarding families in the area, as you instructed.”
“Good,” said Gellert. “It will distract the ministry here from our covert operatives. After Edgecombe was sent to Azkaban, I have had to order them to take a back seat to avoid discovery,” he explained. “Fortunately, Edgecombe was unaware of any of her comrades within the ministry, so she could not betray them. Sadly, we lost Ares Flint also, as he was foolish enough to confide in her, and she sold him out,” Gellert growled.
“It is regrettable,” agreed Dragonov, slugging back his wine and pouring himself another goblet full. “My instincts tell me that you did not order me here for a simple catch up among friends, Gellert. Why did you wish to see me?” Gellert smiled.
“You know me far too well Valko,” he said silkily. “You are most correct. I require your leadership qualities. The former Death Eaters are located in this manor, I require you to cause a distraction tomorrow, at Diagon Alley.”
“What sort of distraction?” Valko said, an understanding smile spreading across his chiselled features.
“An explosive one,” said Gellert, and Valko laughed, a strange, high pitched cackle.
“That can be arranged,” he said icily. “Who am I to take?”
“I will allot you your forces in the morning,” Gellert replied. “However, I need Dolohov and Rookwood to accompany me, I have important work to attend to,” he said. Valko nodded, knowing better than to ask.
“It would be foolish to take all of us,” Valko said. “If we are captured, it would be a big loss.”
“Precisely,” said Gellert, beaming at his understudy’s understanding. “I will give you four of your own choice to take with you,” he said. Valko bowed his head. “You will stay her tonight, we must act quickly. I assume Blitz will take command at Nurmengard?” Valko nodded.
“He is my second in command, as it should be,” he confirmed.
“Excellent, he is trustworthy and more than competent,” said Gellert, satisfied. “It is late,” he said, glancing at his watch. “We should retire, tomorrow is an important day.” Valko nodded, draining his second goblet. “It’s good to see you, Valko,” Grindelwald said quietly.
“And you, my lord,” said Valko, filling his glass quickly. “To old friends,” he said, raising his glass. Gellert’s mouth twitched.
“To old friends,” Gellert agreed.
“Hey Dean,” said Harry, sitting next to his former roommate at the Leaky Cauldron’s bar.
“Alright Harry?” said Dean, grinning. He passed him a butterbeer. “I’ve been thinking,” he announced.
“Oh?” said Harry, although he had a feeling he knew where this was going.
“I want to go to Little Whinging,” Dean said, confirming Harry’s suspicions. “Today.” Harry shrugged.
“Why not? Drink up and we’ll head over,” he said, taking his bottle and downing it in one long, fluid motion. Dean eyed him, looking impressed. “When your girlfriend’s brother is Charlie Weasley, you get to be a good drinker,” Harry explained, and Dean chuckled. “Likes his firewhiskey, does Charlie.”
“Ginny told me,” Dean admitted. He finished off his own bottle and slid Tom some silver. “I haven’t a clue where this place is by the way.”
“Come here,” said Harry, pulling Dean into the corner of the pub and throwing his invisibility cloak over them. “It’s never a good idea to apparate into a muggle street in full view, they’re not used to it,” Harry reminded him.
“Considering I was brought up by muggles, I should’ve thought of that,” Dean said, and they laughed.
“Take my arm,” Harry told him, and Dean gripped it tightly. Harry turned on the spot; there was the familiar sensation of being squeezed through a rubber tube, before they appeared in the seemingly constantly deserted play park on Magnolia Crescent. “Come on, Sarah lives on Wisteria Walk,” Harry said, throwing off the cloak once he’d made sure the coast was clear. They passed Privet Drive, and Harry saw with a strange pang that Number 4 was up for sale. He never thought he’d miss his aunt and uncle.
“Number two, did you say Harry?” Dean said, stopping abruptly.
“Wha-yeah. Yeah, this is the place,” said Harry absently. Dean strode purposefully up to the door, and hammered hard on it, a scowl on his face. A tall, generously proportioned man, the exact image of both Sarah and Dean, answered. Harry noticed he smelt strongly of muggle whiskey.
“Who the hell are?-oh. Shit,” said the man, and tried to slam the door shut.
“Flipendo!” shouted Dean, drawing his wand in a flash. Mr Thomas flew back from the door, landing in a crumpled heap at the back of the hall. “You dirty, rotten, SCUMBAG,” roared Dean, jinxing his father with every word.
“I’m sorry!” wailed the man, who was desperately searching for his wand. “I didn’t know-“
“Liar!” bellowed Dean, standing over the pathetic, prone figure. “You knew, Mum wrote to you loads. You just didn’t want a thing to do with me. Expelliarmus!” he added, catching his father’s wand neatly as it flew into the air. Harry had to wonder whether all family reunions went like this.
“What the hell’s going on?” came an indignant voice. Sarah Thomas was charging downstairs.
“Oh Hi Sarah,” said Dean, in a falsely cheery voice. “I’m your brother, who you’ve never met. Ask your Dad about me,” he said, aiming a venomous kick into his father’s side, throwing the wand he’d taken down at his feet and storming past his newly found half-sister. “Sorry about that Harry,” he whispered when they’d got out of earshot of the house.
“It’s okay,” said Harry calmly. “I understand.” Even though he really didn’t. “Come on, let’s get back to the Cauldron. I’ll buy you a Firewhiskey,” Harry said, and Dean grinned. After making sure the coast was clear, Harry and Dean both disapparated, returning to the pub. “Disappointed, then?” said Harry warily as Dean knocked back a second shot of Firewhiskey.
“Not really,” he admitted after a second. “Mum always said he was a tosser.” Harry chuckled. “I just wanted to let him know he’d missed out, you know?” Dean said, and Harry nodded. He raised his glass to his lips, when the there was a tremendous crashing sound, a splintering of wood and metal, and Harry felt himself thrown bodily across the room. He flew over the bar and landed heavily on his back, winded. He could hear voices, spells and curses being shot and people screaming. Struggling to his feet, he peered over the bar.
Thorfinn Rowle, Yaxley, Rita Skeeter and Rodolphus Lestrange were standing in the centre of the destroyed bar, alongside a tall man Harry didn’t recognise, but appeared to be their leader. They were shooting off curses in random directions-several people appeared to have been wounded by the explosion. Rodolphus was engaged in a furious duel with Tom the barman, who was bleeding heavily from a wound in his side, although still managing to hold his own against the Death Eater. Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out his D.A coin, tapping it with his wand and calling in Kingsley, Gawain, Hestia, Dedalus and Sturgis Podmore. He spotted Dean, crouching behind a table, just out of sight. Their eyes met for a moment, and Harry mouthed the words ‘on three.’ Dean nodded grimly, and pulled out his wand. Harry counted down, and then leapt up from behind the bar.
“EXPELLIARMUS!” Harry yelled, aiming for the apparent leader.
“Flipendo!” Dean roared again, aiming for Lestrange. The leader managed to deflect Harry’s attack, but Lestrange, preoccupied with duelling Tom, was hit full on by Deans knockback jinx, and was thrown across the room, smashing through a table and into the wall, where he lay groaning.
“Stupefy!” roared the leader, flicking his wand at Harry. Harry deflected the stunner, but it shattered several of the bottles behind him, blinding him and drenching him in firewhiskey. “Avada Kedarva!” the leader yelled, and Harry instinctively ducked, but out of the corner of his eye saw a jet of green light soar far to the right. “Quickly, into the Alley,” the leader ordered, and Harry heard their running footsteps as they ran from the destroyed pub. Harry jumped over the bar and ran towards Tom, who was slumped against the shattered remains of a table, breathing shallowly.
“Dean,” urged Harry, and Dean ran to join him. “You okay? Nice work on Lestrange,” Harry said encouragingly, trying to calm Dean. Dean flashed him a worried smile. “I need you to get him to Saint Mungo’s, the Order are on the way but I need to slow them down,” Harry said firmly. “Go, quick!” he urged, and Dean gripped Tom, heaving him to his feet with Harry’s help.
“Good luck mate,” said Dean, before he disapparated with a crack. Seconds later, as Harry made a dash for the back door, Gawain, Hestia, Dedalus and Sturgis appeared.
“Harry-“ Kingsley began, before noticing the state of the pub. “What the hell…”
“No time,” said Harry urgently. “They’re in the alley now, five of them, we have to stop them!” Kingsley nodded, drawing his wand in a flash. Gawain followed suit, and the five Order members charged through the door. Diagon Alley was utter pandemonium-the five Death Eaters or, more likely, members of the Consecrat, Grindelwald’s army, were shooting off curses without mercy. Harry could see several people badly injured, some possibly dead.
Gawain raced forward immediately, and began duelling Rodolphus Lestrange, who’d evidently recovered from Dean’s attack. Kingsley was duelling with the leader of the group so fast that their wands were mere blurs. Hestia was taking on Thorfinn Rowle, and seemed to have the upper hand over the enormous Death Eater thanks to her agility and speed. Dedalus was being forced on the defensive by Yaxley, leaving Harry to duel Rita Skeeter.
“Oh Rita, I’ve been waiting for this,” he said, grinning. “Stupefy!” he yelled. Rita dodged it, narrowly, and shot back a severing charm, which Harry easily blocked. “You’ll have to try harder than that Rita-Levicorpus!” he yelled. Rita blocked the jinx, but it threw her off balance. “Expelliarmus!” Harry bellowed. Rita blocked again, but the force of Harry’s signature spell knocked her off her feet regardless, and she dropped her wand. “Petrificus Totalus,” Harry said, flourishing his wand. Rita lay still, her arms and legs pinned tightly to her sides. However, Harry had no time to bask in his victory, as Dedalus fell with a strangled yell, clutching a bloody wound on his forehead. “Stupefy!” Harry roared, leaping in to take up the fight with Yaxley. He deflected the stunner and shot a Cruciatus curse back at Harry, who managed to step out of the way.
“It’s complete!” the leader yelled suddenly, as Harry raised his wand for another attack. “Retreat!” he ordered. There were several loud cracks, and a single flash of light, and the four remaining attackers were gone. Kingsley hurried over to Dedalus, who was barely conscious, while Gawain was talking quickly to Hestia.
“Go to Saint Mungo’s,” he ordered, “bring as many healers as you can, explain the situation. Then go to the office and bring everyone down here. We need to cordon off the entire Alley and start a clean-up operation. Get Arthur to send down some of the magical law enforcement squad.” Hestia nodded briskly and disapparated. Suddenly, there was a loud yelp from behind them. Spinning around, Harry saw Sturgis fall to the ground, clutching his face. Rita Skeeter sprung to her feet, the body bind curse lifted. She winked at Harry, before twisting on the spot and disapparating.
“He’ll live,” said Kingsley simply. “He’s a tough old boot, is Dedalus.” Gawain gave a grim smile before turning to Harry.
“Well done today Potter,” he said sincerely. “You did well.” He clapped him strongly on the shoulder. “Now go home, we’ll take it from here. And,” he sniffed, and looked at Harry quizzically, “you might want to lay off the Firewhiskey for a while.” Harry grinned.
“I blocked a curse and it shattered the bottles behind me,” Harry explained. Gawain gave a single, gruff laugh, and Harry disapparated. Ben Williamson appeared next to him, and Gawain had to do his very best not to jump.
“Sir,” he said breathlessly.
“Give yourself a moment Ben,” said Gawain calmly. Ben nodded appreciatively and sucked in several mouthfuls of air. Ministry wizards started appearing all over the Alley.
“There’s been an attack, at Azkaban,” he said. “Nobody on our side was hurt, but Madam Edgecombe and Ares Flint are both dead.”
“Grindelwald,” spat Gawain angrily. “He’s tied up the loose ends. This must have been a distraction,” he grumbled. “When did the attack happen?”
“We got a message from Arthur Weasley, asking to send half the squad here,” Ben explained. “I stayed at Azkaban to lead the remaining force. One patrol found the bodies about five minutes ago, and I came straight here to tell you.” Gawain nodded.
“You’ve done well Ben. Get back to Azkaban,” he ordered. Ben disapparated, leaving Gawain and Kingsley to organise the mass of supporting wizards and witches that had just arrived to deal with the aftermath of the attack.
Valko stepped into Grindelwald’s study once again.
“Ah, Valko,” said Gellert pleasantly. “I trust your mission was a success?”
“Partially, my lord,” said Valko warily. “We caused a great deal of damage, and duelled with a group of the Order of the Phoenix. However, Harry Potter was present.”
“And?” said Grindelwald, leaning forward.
“He incapacitated Skeeter. I managed to cast the counter curse as we left. She’s downstairs. Potter is still at large.”
“It matters not. His time will come,” Gellert reasoned. “It means there are no more loose ends.”
“Your mission was a success then?” Valko enquired, sitting in the chair opposite.
“Naturally,” replied Gellert. “The guards rushed to Diagon Alley after your attack, and we were able to get to the prisoners without any combat. It was simple,” he said, grinning. The Hallows symbol on his wrist momentarily burned, and a small ‘S’ was flickering just below it. “Sabine,” he muttered. He tapped the symbol with his wand, and moments later, Sabine appeared in the room, seemingly bringing the temperature down several degrees.
“It is done,” she said simply. “The spy is dead.”
“Excellent,” said Gellert, shooting her a smile. “Once again, you have performed your task admirably. I will have other work for you shortly, for now you may return to Nurmengard and rest. Both of you,” he added, nodding at Valko. “As always, it’s been a pleasure working with you.”
“And with you, Gellert,” said Valko, bowing his head. “Portus,” he muttered, pointing his wand at a scrap piece of parchment. The pair put a finger to it, it glowed bright blue for a second, and they both disappeared. Gellert sat back in his chair-there was nothing to do now but wait-wait for the moment the Order would be foolish enough to try and lure him, Gellert Grindelwald, the most powerful wizard of his time, into a trap. They would soon see what they were toying with.
Harry, suddenly feeling exhausted, opened the door of Grimmauld place and wiped his brow. He really did stink of Firewhiskey. He’d barely finished kicking off his shoes when Ginny tore round the corner and leapt on him, knocking him back into the door. She didn’t speak, merely grabbed his face and kissed him, and for a long time, she didn’t stop. Harry deepened the kiss, revealing in the bliss, in the feel of Ginny, the softness of her hair, the flowery smell of her perfume…
“Harry,” she said, breaking apart. “Why the hell do you stink of Firewhiskey? And are you alright, Dad send us a message to say you were involved in a fight at Diagon Alley.”
“Slow down Gin,” said Harry wearily. “I’ll tell you all about it, but first, I really need a bath. The Firewhiskey’s making me feel ill. Ginny grinned at him.
“Why wait?” she said cheekily, linking his arm and leading him upstairs. Harry shrugged-Ron and Hermione could wait.
A/N: I've been doing some reading, and I discovered that Dedalus and Hestia aren't actually Aurors, just members of the Order. Oops! Sorry for the canonical break, I'll be keeping it because changing it would take forever.
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