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Chapter 22 : Chapter 22: An interesting start.
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August passed by with a minimum of activity from both the Order and the Consecrat. It seemed that both sides were too busy planning their next moves against one another to actually do anything. However, the Order, in particular Kingsley, had expressed his concern over the lack of news from Viktor Krum since the attack on Diagon Alley, and had managed to get both the German and Bulgarian ministries to look for him.
Meanwhile, Grimmauld Place was becoming more and more like home to Harry. Most of his birthday presents had been for the house, and now the living room was actually fit for, well, living.
Kreacher had helped Harry remove Mrs Black, much to her displeasure, as well as the mouldy old tapestry in the drawing room and the house elf heads on the stairs.
However, Harry’s favourite present had been the one given to him by Arthur Weasley-the fully repaired flying motorbike of Sirius Black, which Harry had parked in the garage attached to Grimmauld Place.
“It still needs a lot of work,” Ginny said as they snuggled together on the sofa on August the 31st, the day before Ginny returned to Hogwarts. Molly and Arthur were staying the night, but had long since retired to bed, so Harry had taken the opportunity to sneak out a bottle of Firewhiskey for himself and Ginny. “But it’s a huge improvement. You can even see out the windows.” Harry chuckled, and then turned serious. He'd been wanting to ask her this
“Ginny…when you get back,” he turned bright red, embarrassed about what he was about to ask. “Er, wanmoveinwithme?” he said all at once. She raised her eyebrow at him.
“What?” she said, giggling. Harry cleared his throat and took a couple of calming breaths. Way to go, Potter, he thought to himself. Really smooth.
“I-will you move in with me?” he asked again, avoiding her gaze. She turned his head gently towards his.
“Of course I will,” she said softly, kissing him. “I was wondering when you were going to ask me,” she added cheekily. “I thought you might’ve done it on my birthday, when you got me this,” she said, playing with the sapphire teardrop necklace he’d gotten her.
“I meant too, but there wasn’t enough Firewhiskey,” he admitted, taking another sip of the amber liquid. She laughed, punching him on the shoulder.
“I’d hate to see how drunk you’d have to be to make a proposal,” she giggled, and Harry blushed.
“If it was the right girl, none at all,” he said in a level voice, looking her directly in the eye. “But it’d have to be when I knew we were both ready,” he added firmly. Ginny shrugged and kissed him again. Ron and Hermione had already gone upstairs, although it wasn’t particularly late, but they had an early start tomorrow. They were alone.
Ginny pulled Harry closer, the kiss intensifying. Harry gripped her tighter, when there was a loud knock on the front door, startling them apart.
“Who the hell…” said Harry grumpily, getting to his feet and stomping towards the door. When he wrenched it open, he was surprised to see Dean Thomas, and an enormous package, covered in brown paper. “Dean,” said Harry abruptly. “What’re you doing here?”
“I finished,” said Dean, grinning and indicating the parcel. “I thought I’d drop it off, since you start work tomorrow, don’t you?” Harry nodded.
“Yeah, thanks Dean. How much do I owe you?” he said, pulling out his money pouch. “I insist,” he said firmly, forestalling any argument. Dean sighed.
“Just pay me for the materials,” he said finally. “Twenty galleons.” Harry handed the gold over. “I’ll be going,” he said, handing over the covered painting. “Tap it three times with your wand to wake them up.”
“Thanks, Dean,” said Harry sincerely. “I appreciate it.”
“No problem,” said Dean, before he disapparated. Harry heaved the painting inside, before charming it through into the kitchen with the Locomotor charm. Ginny wandered through to join him. James and Lily were already snoring in their frame.
“What’s that?” she asked curiously. “And did I hear Dean Thomas?”
“You did,” said Harry evasively. “And this is just a little something I asked him to do for me.” He flicked his wand at the package, and the brown paper wrapping flew off and scrunched itself into a ball. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, unmoving at the moment, stared blankly out of the frame. Harry tapped the side of the painting three times, and the figures came to life.
“Wh-hello Moony,” said Sirius cheerfully. “Been missing us, have you Harry?” said Sirius, grinning.
“Nice to see you Harry,” said Remus quietly. “This can’t be Grimmauld place?”
“The one and only,” Harry replied, smiling. “Two seconds, I’ll put you on the wall. He used his wand to levitate the picture onto the wall, opposite the one of James and Lily, before attaching it there with a permanent sticking charm.
“Prongs?” said Sirius loudly, his jaw dropping as he stared across the room. James’ eyes fluttered and opened blearily, and his own jaw dropped.
“Padfoot! Moony!” he yelled. “What’re you doing here?”
“Harry,” said Sirius simply. “Good to see you. Hello Evans,” he added, as Lily opened her eyes.
“Sirius! Remus!” she cried. “Oh it’s wonderful to see you!”
“All thanks to Harry,” said Remus. He looked younger than Harry had ever seen him, his hair was nearly all its natural brown and he had far less scars than Harry had ever seen him with. Sirius looked likewise-his face rounder, more youthful and fuller than it’d been when he’d known Harry.
“Is that little Ginny Weasley?” said Sirius, spotting her for the first time. She smiled at him.
“Hello Sirius,” she said. Sirius and Remus exchanged an amused look, as if to say 'I told you so'-had it been that obvious? Harry thought. “Harry, we’ve got an early start tomorrow,” she said, slipping her hand into his. “We should turn in for the night.” She winked at him. As much as he wanted to stay and speak to his godfather and Remus, Harry had to admit she was right. And he wasn't wasting a chance to finish what Dean had interupted.
“Harry’s starting work for the Aurors tomorrow,” said James proudly.
“Really?” said Remus, turning to look at Harry. “Haven’t you had enough of all that?” he said, smiling at him. Harry grinned.
“I considered that, but all I was ever good at was fighting evil and quidditch, and quidditch just didn’t seem right.” He checked his watch. “Ginny’s right, we really should turn in. Have a good catch-up,” he called, winking, allowing Ginny to take him upstairs. The sounds of conversation and laughter from the four old friends echoed throughout the house, and suddenly, Harry felt for the first time, Grimmauld place was his home. Ginny was already in her night clothes, wearing once again, Harry’s old t-shirt.
“When’d you start wearing that anyway?” he whispered as he threw off his own shirt and climbed into bed wearing just his boxers. By the dim light of the bedside candle, Harry could see Ginny was blushing.
“Since-since you left last year,” she admitted. “It smells of you. It helped,” she explained. “I’m taking another one of them for Hogwarts,” she told him. “Makes you seem a little closer.”
“Aren’t you a sweetheart,” teased Harry. She giggled and punched him in the shoulder, before snuggling into him.
“I’m going to miss you,” she said miserably.
“I’m never too far away,” Harry reminded her, snuffing out the candle.
“I love you,” she muttered sleepily, resting her head on his shoulder.
“I love you too,” he said softly.
“Feels weird, doesn’t it,” said Ron quietly as he and Harry watched the Hogwarts Express disappear round the corner. “Not going with them I mean.” Harry nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. They’d both had experienced a passionate but sorrowful farewell with their respective partners, and both now felt a little down because of it.
“Sixteen years I’ve put children on that train,” said Molly sadly, “and that’s the last one, gone. Hard to believe…” she sniffed, and Arthur put a comforting arm around her.
“You can always help with the grandchildren,” said George cheekily. He and Bill had come to see their little sister off, as well as providing extra protection, just in case of an attack by the Consecrat. “Can’t be long before Bill and Fleur start knocking them out, can it?” he said, nudging his older brother.
“We’ve only been married a year,” Bill reminded him sternly. “We’ve got no plans as of yet.”
“Good,” said Arthur, chuckling. “I’m far too young to be a grandfather.” He turned to Harry and Ron. “What time do you start?”
“Half eleven,” said Harry promptly. “We’ve got to go home and change, then we’re apparating straight to the ministry.” Arthur nodded.
“Off you go then,” he said, hugging his youngest son and clapping Harry on the shoulder. “Good luck. Robards is a tough boss, but he’s fair and he knows what he’s doing,” he said confidently. Bill and George both shook their hands, wishing them luck, before Molly pulled them both into a simultaneous, rib-cracking hug.
“As useless as it is to tell you two, stay safe,” she warned.
“We’ll try mum,” said Ron reassuringly. “Don’t worry about us.” She patted them fondly on the heads, even though they were now both head and shoulders above her, before she and Arthur along with Charlie and George disapparated. The crowd on the platform was thinning, although several people were stopping to gawk at Ron and Harry. “This is new,” Ron muttered. “I see why you never liked it.”
“Uncomfortable, isn’t it,” Harry said. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” They both disapparated, reappearing on the front step of Grimmauld place, since the wards Harry’d put up wouldn’t allow them to apparate directly into the house.
“Master is home, and Master has brought his Wheezy,” Kreacher said to himself as Harry and Ron walked through the front door. “Kreacher has laid out Master’s and Wheezy’s clothes for the Aurors out on their beds.”
“Thanks Kreacher,” said Harry appreciatively. He dashed upstairs and flung on his red Auror robes that Kreacher had ironed and folded on his bed, as well as buckling the shield belt Ginny’d gotten him for his birthday round his waist. He met Ron in the corridor.
“Not very stealthy are they?” said Ron critically, eyeing the deep, dark red colour.
“I doubt we’ll wear them on missions,” Harry said wryly. “Come on, let’s go to the kitchen, I fancy some chocolate.” But Ron, nervous about starting his new job, seemed unable to eat-he even went a strange greenish colour.
“Relax Ron,” said Remus soothingly. “You’ll do fine.” Ron tried to smile his thanks, but only grimaced.
“Got any Felix on you?” he muttered to Harry. Harry laughed, more in an attempt to lighten him up.
“Not this time. But if you remember, you didn’t have it last time. This is just the same, you won’t be anything like as bad as you’re thinking you’re gonna be,” Harry said bracingly. He checked his watch-twenty past ten. “We should go,” he said, standing. Ron looked positively terrified. “Come on,” Harry groaned, heaving him to his feet. “Honestly…”
“Good luck boys,” said Lily, smiling brightly and blowing Harry a kiss from her frame.
“Do us proud son,” said James, beaming. “Ron, I’ve no doubt you’ll be excellent.” He winked at Harry, and Harry mouthed his thanks.
“Want me to take you side along?” said Harry as they stepped out the door. “You don’t look so good.” Ron nodded briefly, still looking deathly pale, so Harry gripped his arm, turned on the spot and apparated to the Atrium of the ministry. Kingsley had finally removed the anti apparation wards that had meant the entire ministry staff had been forced to use the underground toilets in Whitehall to enter the ministry.
“Okay,” said Ron breathing deeply. “I can do this,” he told himself firmly. Harry pretended not to notice. The Atrium was relatively empty-Harry and Ron had arrived late on account of the fact that they’d had to see Hermione and Ginny off.
“Hi Harry, Ron” said a bright voice from behind them. Harry turned to see Hestia Jones and an elderly, diminutive witch he didn’t recognise. Both had several rolls of parchment stuffed balancing precariously in their arms. “Forgot you were starting today…This is Amata Hart, our secretary,” she said, nodding at the little witch next to her.
“Pleasure, Mr Potter, Mr Weasley,” said Amata from behind the stack of parchment that was almost higher than her head. “I’d shake your hands, but they’re a little preoccupied at the moment,” she said, nodding at the enormous pile of parchment. She had a kindly, quivery voice that made Harry think of her as a grandmother. “We’re just returning to the office, I expect you’ll join us?” she said cheerfully, moving with surprising speed.
“We’ve just been down to magical records,” Hestia explained. “Gawain wants information on Germany, for some reason,” she said, feigning confusion but giving Ron and Harry a significant glance. “Auror office please,” she added as they stepped into the lift. Harry and Ron nearly fell flat as the lift descended, but Hestia and Amata remained perfectly upright.
“You get used to it,” said Amata kindly. “Are you okay dearie? You look rather pale,” she added, looking concerned.
“M’fine,” muttered Ron darkly. ‘He’s nervous,’ mouthed Harry, and Amata nodded understandingly. “Is Neville already here?” Ron asked Hestia.
“Yeah,” she said, shifting the stack of parchment slightly. “He was on time, unlike some,” she said, winking at them. “The two newbies, Daisy and Ray they’re called, they’re already there as well,” she added. “Gawain’s paired them up with a senior partner. Daisy’s with Ben, Ray’s with old Wilf Savage and Neville’s with Luke Proudfoot.” Harry nodded, although he had no idea who any of the people Hestia was talking about were.
“What about me and Ron? Are we getting a partner?” Harry asked.
“Well, sort of,” Hestia replied as the lift stopped. “Each other. Gawain thought you were too experienced to give to a senior Auror. And I don’t think he had the heart to split you up,” she explained, winking at them. Harry grinned at Ron, who looked surprised.
“Thought you’d rather have someone more experienced?” he said. Harry shook his head.
“You know for a fact that if there’s anyone I’d want to have my back, it’s you,” he said, clapping him on the shoulder. This, finally, seemed to reassure Ron, and he walked into the Auror office with a broad grin on his face.
“Gawain wants a word,” said Hestia as Harry and Ron hesitated. “I’ll show you to his office, I’ve got to give him these anyways.” She meandered through the tightly packed cubicles, many of which were empty, to a separate office to the right of the rest of the Auror department. She knocked on the door, and Gawain’s gruff voice rang out.
“Enter,” he said shortly. “Ah, Jones, Hart. No trouble from magical records I trust.”
“Only a little,” said Hestia nonchalantly. “They’ve got some new employee, a very law abiding kid called Justin Finch-Fletchley, made us both sign for every parchment,” she grumbled.
“Bloody nuisance that lot. Thanks you two, off you go,” growled Gawain. The two witches left the office, and Robards turned his gaze onto Harry and Ron. “Potter, Weasley, take a seat!” he barked, and Harry and Ron sat down so fast they nearly knocked their chairs over. “Good to see you,” he said calmly. “I’ll take you round the office in a moment.” He flicked his wand at the large pile of parchment, and it flew neatly into a set of holders behind Gawain’s desk. “Records on Germany, specifically the parts around Nurmengard,” he explained.
“Still heard nothing from Krum then?” asked Harry. Gawain shook his head grimly.
“Nothing, not for weeks, and that’s with the entire German and Bulgarian ministries looking for him. If he doesn’t turn up soon, I’m sending someone from the Order in,” he said darkly. Clearly, he wasn’t confident in the other ministries. “If we didn’t need to keep them happy so they’ll send some people over for the set up next week, I’d have sent people over already.” He sighed and got to his feet. “Now, I believe you need a tour?” he said, gesturing the door of his office.
Gawain led them round, introducing them to the other Aurors, including the two new trainees, Daisy Richman and Ray Lescott. Daisy looked to be barely out of her teens, with short blonde hair, petite features and frame and brilliant blue eyes that flashed with determination. Ray looked slightly older, and towered above both Harry and Ron. His hands were the size of dinner plates, and he had a short, brown Mohawk that together gave him a thoroughly terrifying appearance.
Finally, Gawain showed them to their own cubicles, right next to each other.
“Naturally, I have your first assignment here,” said Gawain, handing them a file. “I need you to watch a suspected Death Eater sympathizer, now that the Consecrat is recruiting they could turn to others related to You Know Who,” he growled. “I think you’re familiar with him.”
“Are you still watching that bloody television?” snapped Draco.
“Nothing else to do is there?” grunted Dudley, lazing on the couch.
“Never heard of conversation?” retorted Draco, jabbing his wand at the half eaten fish on his plate and watching it dance.
“Not with you,” replied Dudley, still transfixed by the television. Draco sighed heavily and wandered over to the window. He’d been confined in the flat for around two months now, and he was bored. How much harm could a little foray into muggle London do him? It wasn’t like Grindelwald had spies on every corner, or was watching his every move like in the muggle novel his boredom had driven him to read. 1984, that was it.
A familiar figure caught his attention as it moved evasively through the crowds of muggles on the street below. Surely not? Draco turned-Potter’s stupid cousin was still engrossed in his television show-he probably wouldn’t notice if a dragon turned up and danced the hula on the kitchen table. Draco slide the door open and climbed down the metal fire escape, sprinting after the familiar man he’d seen.
“Blaise!” he called “Blaise Zabini?” Zabini turned round, looking as bored as ever, although his eyes momentarily widened at the sight of Draco.
“Malfoy,” he said calmly. “Aren’t you supposed to be in prison?”
“Do you care?” snapped Malfoy.
“Not really,” replied Zabini indifferently. “I imagine it’s an interesting story though, the papers were all linking you to Grindelwald.”
“I’ll explain later,” said Draco quietly. “What are you doing in Muggle London?”
“Muggle women are exceptionally easy to pick up,” Zabini replied, a sly smile on his face. “I’d never consider dating one, but they do make for an interesting night. Some say I’m utterly…magic.” Draco couldn’t help but smile-Zabini was a scumbag, but somehow, he was so classy at the same time.
“I should’ve known,” he replied coolly. “Is anything you do not to do with women?” Blaise considered it for a moment.
“No, I suppose not… although you are intriguing me at this moment Malfoy. How about we head back to my flat for a drink and a catch-up?” he said, flashing Malfoy a strangely vampire like smile. Reasoning that even Blaise Zabini was better company than Dudley Dursley, Draco agreed.
“Why not?” said Draco calmly, “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“Indeed it has,” said Blaise. “Come, there’s a spot we can disapparate from round the corner,” he said in a low voice. Draco followed him into an alleyway off Tottenham Court Road, where Zabini gripped his arm and side along apparated him into a large, well-furnished room apartment.
“Where are we?” said Draco, peering out at the unfamiliar city.
“Paris,” said Blaise, as though it were obvious. “Drink?” he asked, summoning a large bottle of wine. Draco nodded. “It’s French, nearly ten years old,” he said proudly, pouring them each a goblet full. “Now, sit down and tell me what’s been going on,” Zabini said, lounging on a chaise longue.
So Draco told him of his brief imprisonment, how Grindelwald had broken him and the ten others out of Azkaban, his ensuing month or so trapped in Malfoy Manor and his escape and hiding with the Aurors. Zabini gave out a low whistle.
“You’re playing it dangerous Draco, these people aren’t to be messed with,” he said, taking a sip of his wine. Draco raised his eyebrow.
“Had dealings with them have you?” he said sarcastically.
“As a matter of fact, they have approached me several times,” replied Blaise, tracing his finger around the rim of his glass. Draco’s hand instinctively went to his wand, and Blaise laughed softly. “Really Malfoy? If I was with them, you’d probably already be dead.”
“You said no?” said Draco. Zabini nodded.
“Naturally. I am my own man Draco, I don’t have the time to answer to a crackpot old man, there are many woman in the world to seduce,” said Zabini calmly. “However, it’s not easy to keep saying no to these people. Lucky for me my dear departed mother owned several properties all over Europe, so it’s rather easy to stay one step ahead of them.”
“I didn’t know your mother was dead,” said Draco. “I’m sorry.” Blaise waved a hand.
“Don’t be,” he said, smiling like a vampire again. “It was no more suspicious then the deaths of all her husbands.” Draco decided not to pursue the subject. “More wine, Draco?” he offered.
“No-no I should get back,” said Draco uncertainly. “They check up on us a lot, if I’m not there they’ll come looking.” Zabini shrugged.
“They won’t find you. I’m not that careless you know, nobody knows I live here.”
“Well, you’re wrong there then aren’t you,” said a voice from the doorway.
“I hate France,” said Ron grumpily. “The foods horrible.”
“That’s what you base your opinion on?” said Harry, exasperated. Ron shrugged.
“Foods important,” he said defensively.
“The women aren’t bad,” said Harry fairly. “Look at Fleur.”
“Very true,” admitted Ron. “But don’t let Ginny hear you say that.”
“But you’re going to tell Hermione?” said Harry sarcastically.
“Fair point,” said Ron. “Doesn’t look like he’s in,” he added, peering through the window. He and Harry were hovering on their brooms, just outside Blaise Zabini’s apartment in downtown Paris, concealed by disillusionment charms. “We could take a poke around?”
“Why not?” said Harry. “We’ve got the cloak.” He pointed his wand at the window. “Alohomora,” he muttered, and the window clicked open. Harry slid in, pulling his broom in after him, and Ron followed suit.
“Doesn’t do too badly for himself does he,” said Ron darkly, glancing around. “This living room was probably more expensive than The Burrow.”
“Only because his mother murdered all her rich husbands,” Harry pointed out. “Get under the cloak.” Harry’d just thrown it over both of them, when there was a crack, and two people appeared. One was unmistakably Blaise Zabini, while the other was…
“Malfoy,” whispered Ron, and Harry trod sharply on his foot.
“Muffliato,” Harry muttered under his breath. “What the hell is he doing here?” he said angrily.
“Good question. First day, what a coup,” said Ron, grinning. They listened to the conversation between Draco and Blaise. “We can nick him for that, can’t we? He as much as admitted he killed his mother,” said Ron quietly.
“Probably,” whispered Harry. “But let’s wait, see if they say anything else.” At that point, the front door flew open, and a familiar face stepped in.
“That’s Dolohov,” whispered Ron. “If we can bring him in on our first day, that’d be a hell of a start.” Excitement and apprehension shined on his face.
“Hello Draco,” said Dolohov through gritted teeth. “You’re not exactly popular back at the Manor.”
“What do you want, Dolohov?” said Zabini calmly, although Harry noticed he had a tight grip around his wand in the pocket of his jeans.
“Grindelwald has sent me to ask if you have reconsidered his offer,” said Dolohov, his eyes fixed on Malfoy. “We need your gold, Mr Zabini.”
“I don’t have time for you,” snapped Zabini. “Get out.”
“Only with Mr Malfoy,” said Dolohov, raising his wand.
“Now!” Harry muttered. Ron blasted Zabini with a stunning charm, while Harry hit Dolohov in the chest with a body bind curse. They threw of the cloak.
“What the-Potter?” spluttered Draco incredulously. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Thank you Ron, Harry for saving my life!” Ron snapped sarcastically, in a rather insulting (but quite accurate) impression of Draco's voice. “Encarceorus,” he said, flicking his wand at Draco, who was instantly bound in tight ropes. “Silencio,” Ron added as Draco opened his mouth to protest. “Don’t know about you, but I can’t be arsed to listen to him,” said Ron offhandedly. Harry grinned at him before bending down to check Dolohov, relieving him of his wand.
“Not a bad first day,” Harry said, levitating the petrified Death Eater up to waist height. “Grab Zabini and we’ll head back to the office. Ron nodded, petrified Zabini and gripped both him and Malfoy, while Harry grabbed Dolohov. They both turned, and with a simultaneous crack, they disapparated. Amata’s jaw dropped when they returned.
“You’ve only been gone a couple of hours,” she whispered. “Is that Dolohov? And why’ve you arrested Mr Zabini?”
“Long story,” said Harry, grinning. “Is Gawain about?”
“He’s in his office…I’ll fetch him,” she said, still staring at the slowly bobbing figure of Dolohov. The Auror office was almost entirely empty, apart from Ben Williamson, who had several sheets of parchment spread over his desk. His jaw dropped.
“Merlin’s beard,” he said softly, looking at them. “And I’m stuck on surveillance watching the Parkinson’s,” he said jealously.
“I thought you were working with Daisy, the new girl?” said Ron, dropping Malfoy and Zabini to the floor with identical heavy crashes. Neither Harry nor Ben acted as if they’d noticed.
“I was,” he sighed. “But Gawain says I have to finish this report on the Azkaban attack in July or he’s going to put me on office duty,” he said grimly. “Dawlish has taken over my shift today.”
“And if Dawlish misses anything I’m going to bloody kill you Williamson,” snapped Gawain as he strode out of his office. “You know fine well he’s not supposed to be on activite duty while he’s being worked on at Saint Mungo’s,” he grumbled. “Potter, Weasley, Amata said you had-bloody hell,” he said softly. It was the first time Harry had ever seen Gawain look actually impressed with something he’d done-normally he’d only admit it grudgingly. “What happened?” he demanded, and the moment was gone.
Harry and Ron quickly went over the details of Dolohov’s capture, as well as explaining why they’d brought Zabini. Gawain nodded sagely once they’d finished, stroking his short, greying beard.
“Right,” he said finally. “Potter, take Mr Malfoy back to the apartment, and make sure he can’t leave again,” Gawain instructed. “Then return here, and help Weasley file your report. I want it on my desk by Friday.”
“And the prisoners?” asked Ron.
“I’ll do the questioning,” said Gawain firmly. “This calls for more experience, unfortunately for you,” he said, not sounding remotely apologetic. “Off you go then!” he barked, and Harry hurriedly grabbed Malfoy, who was yelling silently, struggling against his bonds.
“Stupefy,” muttered Harry, and Draco instantly went still, his eyes rolling back in his head. “Locomotor Malfoy,” he said, flicking his wand and waiting until Draco was floating at waist height, before grabbing him and disapparating back to the grimy little flat. He dumped Draco on the armchair (Dudley was snoring on the sofa) and reinforced the charms on the flat, making it impossible for anyone bar the Order members to enter or leave.
Hermione’s charm books he’d been studying had come extremely useful, even if they were mind-numbingly boring-in fact Harry had only started reading them because he couldn’t sleep. “Enervate, finite,” he said clearly, pointing his wand at Draco, whose eyes fluttered as he woke and his bindings fell away.
“What the hell-“ he began angrily, before noticing where he was. “Oh come on,” he groaned.
“You’re staying here,” said Harry angrily. “If Ron and I hadn’t been there, you’d be dead by now,” he said shortly.
“Why were you there anyway?” said Draco curiously.
“None of your business,” snapped Harry, stopping himself before he told Draco. “I’m going, and think yourself lucky you’re not in Azkaban,” he said, before disapparating. Ron was sat at his cubicle desk, his quill poised and an absent, dreamy look Harry knew only too well. “Stuck?” he said, grinning and pulling a chair up next to him. Ron nodded glumly.
“Remind me what offensive spells we used,” he groaned. “I miss Hermione.”
“She only went this morning,” Harry reminded him. He looked over the parchment. “I miss her too,” he confessed. “But we’ll manage, if we put our heads together.” He pulled a ball point pen out from his inside pocket. Ron looked at it curiously.
“What the hell’s that?”
“A muggle pen, I’m getting your dad a set for Christmas,” Harry replied. “It’s better than a quill.”
“Good,” said Ron, leaning back. “You can write, I’ve done loads.” Harry glared at him-he’d done a couple of paragraphs. Still, Harry didn’t argue, and began to scribble down the events of the day.
“Grindelwald?” said a voice. It was Rookwood.
“Enter,” said Grindelwald. Perhaps he’d have news from Dolohov regarding the rich Mr Zabini. Rookwood entered, looking apprehensive.
“Dawlish dropped this off today,” he said, handing him a copy of the Daily Prophet. The headline read.
The Chosen One strikes again.
Harry Potter, the vanquisher of He Who Must Not Be Named, became a member of the esteemed Auror office yesterday, and began his new job in style. Ministry sources have confirmed that Mr Potter, alongside close friend and new colleague Ronald Weasley, managed to apprehend the highly dangerous Antonin Dolohov, one of He Who Must Not Be Named’s most feared supporters as well being strongly linked to the re-emergence of Gellert Grindelwald, rumoured to be the dark wizard’s leading man in England. Dolohov was captured in France at one of the many homes of Mr Blaise Zabini, who is currenlty helping the Department of Magical Law Enforcement with their enquires. Both men have been questioned, and Dolohov has been returned to Azkaban, with a trial to decide how many years to add to his sentence, while Mr Zabini is awaiting trial in the ministry holding cells. Further report on page 36.
Grindelwald flung the paper across the room, glaring angrily into space. Rookwood didn’t move, although he looked thoroughly intimidated.
“Will he talk?” Grindelwald said eventually.
“No sir,” said Rookwood, sounding confident. “He never sold out the Dark Lord or any of his followers, I see no reason why he would do so to you.” Gellert interlaced his fingers, placing his elbows upon his desk and studying his hands intently.
“There’s nothing we can do for him now,” said Grindelwald finally. “Security on Azkaban has been increased massively since the riot and the breakout, it would be foolish to even attempt a rescue. Antonin will have to sit it out.” He sighed. “Rookwood, you are now my second in command here, I will inform you of any duties I need carrying out when the time comes. Rookwood bowed.
“As you wish, my lord,” he said. Gellert nodded at the door, and Rookwood left. Gellert fumed to himself-losing Dolohov was a big blow; he’d been of Gellert’s most dangerous and devoted followers. Still, they would recover. He sensed an impending battle, although it’s outcome was clouded.
The next Order meeting was on September the 12th, and Grimmauld Place’s kitchen was alive with anticipation, as the following day would be the day that the Order and the Aurors finally put their plan into action and drew Grindelwald and his mole out into the open.
“The Aurors from Australia, Germany and Bulgaria arrived this morning,” announced Percy Weasley, who Kingsley had put in charge of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, the department he’d worked for under Barty Crouch Senior. “I’ve told them to report to you in the morning, Mr Robards.”
“Good,” grunted Gawain. “I hope you all know your positions,” he growled, “because we’re only going to have one shot at this.” The set up was to take place on the deserted moor, near the Quidditch World cup stadium. “We can’t afford any mistakes, if all goes well, we can end this war before it starts.”
“He’s right,” said Kingsley. “So, once more, just in case anyone’s forgotten. I will be leading the Order, who will position themselves, invisible, in the woods to the right. Meanwhile Gawain is leading the Aurors, who will come in from the south, and Harry, you’re leading the D.A from the left. Remember people, we want to capture anyone we can alive, we’re not Death Eaters,” he said firmly. “Now, I think it’d be best if we all got some sleep, tomorrow is an extremely important day.” With that, the Order quickly dispersed, leaving Harry and Ron alone in the sitting room.
“Harry,” said Ron quietly. “If-if I don’t make it…”
“You will,” said Harry firmly.
“But if I don’t,” Ron persisted. “Look after Hermione for me?” Harry saw the tears in his friend’s eyes, and nodded. “I spoke to her today, on the mirrors. Told her I love her,” he said, looking dreamy. Harry didn’t laugh-he’d done the exact same thing with Ginny.
“We should sleep,” said Harry firmly. “Come on.” The two were sleeping in the room they’d shared during the summer and Christmas holidays because, and though neither of them would ever admit it, to each other or anyone else, they’d both grown accustomed to having someone in the room with them.
Harry stood on a hilltop, overlooking the clearing where Draco’s letter had instructed Grindelwald to meet him. The D.A stood behind him, every one of them under disillusionment charms, waiting. Ron was by his side.
“Do you think he’ll know it’s a trap?” He asked in an undertone. Harry shrugged.
“No idea. But he’d be a fool to come alone.”
“Grindelwald doesn’t seem like a fool,” Ron pointed out.
“Exactly,” Harry replied darkly. “Look!” A small group of people, around ten, were striding towards the clearing from the North, just as Gawain had expected. Looking closely, Harry could see slight disturbances in the trees opposite-Kingsley’s group were moving. His D.A coin burned in his hand-it was time. “Follow me,” he said, loud enough for the group to hear him.
They moved quickly towards the group, checking for danger as they went. But none came, and they soon arrived. Mere metres from them, Grindelwald was looking around, his wand drawn, apprehension lining his ancient face. Kingsley suddenly moved appeared, along with Sturgis and Aberforth.
“We have you surrounded,” said Kingsley in his booming voice. “Lay down your wands, or we will attack.” Grindelwald looked him in the eye, not a trace of fear appearing in his face.
“Ah minister,” he said pleasantly, as though Kingsley was inviting him round for tea. “Surely you didn’t think it’d be this easy?” He grinned manically. “Where are your Aurors?” And then Harry heard it-the sound of fighting, not too distant. “You really think I didn’t expect a trap?” he said softly. “NOW!” he roared to his followers, who shot curses in all directions. Harry managed to leap aside, avoiding a jet of green light and knocking Ron over with him.
He removed the disillusionment charm from himself and shot a stunner at Rodolphus Lestrange, who blocked it and shot back his own at lightning speed. Ron and Harry engaged Rodolphus and his brother Rabastan in a fierce duel, spells flying this way and that, before Harry managed to disarm Rabastan and send him crashing into a tree with an impediment jinx, while Ron cleverly conjured a rock out of thin air, dropping it on Rodolphus’s head with a sickening crack.
More of Grindelwald’s forces had joined the fray-whether they’d broken through the Aurors or been lying in wait, Harry didn’t know. He saw Augusta Longbottom and her grandson battling together against a fearsome looking blonde witch, both looking hard pressed to deal with her.
Dean and Seamus were duelling Thorfinn Rowle, who appeared to have the upper hand, laughing manically as he battered their defences. Sturgis Podmore shot past, duelling a short, balding wizard, his hands mere blurs as he fought to overwhelm his opponent.
“Stay close to me!” Harry told Ron, who nodded briefly, before sending a well-aimed hex straight into the face of an angry looking Bulgarian, who crumpled to the floor, writhing in discomfort.
Harry began duelling Yaxley, who like the Lestrange brothers, appeared not to be aiming to kill him. Harry was forced on the defensive by the powerful wizard, but was rescued when Oliver Wood hit him with a beautifully placed body bind curse.
Meanwhile, Grindelwald was locked in battle with both Kingsley and Aberforth, looking entirely unconcerned as they threw spell after spell at him, unable to break his defences. Flicking his wand, he managed to knock Kingsley off balance with a powerful knockback jinx, before shattering the minister’s hastily conjured shield charm with his curse of purple fire. Kingsley gave a cry of agony and fell to the ground, leaving Aberforth alone to duel Grindelwald.
“It’s been a while, Aberforth,” called Grindelwald cheerfully, as though the man attempting to kill him was an old friend. “When was the last time again? Remind me,” he taunted.
“BASTARD!” howled Aberforth, increasing his attack.
“Why me?” replied Grindelwald mockingly. “You have no proof it was me who wiped that pathetic excuse for a life off this earth. It could’ve been your oh so brilliant brother, or even you,” he said, staring into Aberforth’s blue eyes.
“I’ll kill you!” roared Aberforth, slashing his wand. Grindelwald pirouetted neatly out of the way of the killing curse, shooting back his own. Aberforth managed to forward roll underneath it, before slashing his wand again, as though trying to cut Grindelwald in half. Grindelwald blocked the attack, but a small slash appeared on his shoulder, and bled harshly.
“Fool!” Grindelwald shouted. “You think you can stop me?” he flourished his wand, and fiendfyre leapt forth, but Aberforth had been expecting it. Whipping his wand, he battled back the intense flames, and Grindelwald was forced to end the curse before Aberforth turned it on him.
And then Harry saw him. Gawain, bloodied and battered, but still fighting a man Harry recognised as the one who’d led the attack on Diagon Alley. Other Aurors started to appear amongst the trees at the base of the slope, each duelling a dark wizard with Grindelwald’s symbol on their robe sleeves. Gawain was managing to hold his own, even in his weakened state, but he couldn’t see the threat sneaking up on him, his wand raised…
Dawlish. With a howl of rage, Harry leapt forwards, the strange feeling of power once again rising inside him. He embraced it, felt it flow through him. One of Grindelwald’s men tried to stop him, but Harry simply raised his palm, blasting him aside with a ball of orange light. Dawlish readied his wand to strike, the words forming on his lips…
“STUPEFY!” Harry roared, pouring his newly found power into the attack. Dawlish turned, and was smashed full on in the face by the spell, which hit him like a ton of bricks, hurling him backwards and causing him to crumple, unmoving against a tree. Turning around, Harry saw Ron battling alongside Gawain, and together they were driving their opponent into submission.
And then he disappeared. As did the other wizards Grindelwald had brought. There was silence for a moment, then voices began to ring out.
“Gawain!” Harry yelled as the Auror staggered.
“I’m fine,” grumbled Robards. “We lost a few from of the Germans, half the Bulgarians, and the Australians were utterly decimated,” he said grimly. “Only Mille survived, and she’s badly wounded. Ben’s looking after her.”
“And the others?” said Ron urgently.
“We came out okay,” Gawain admitted. “Dedalus is down, but Hestia says he’ll be fine, and is that Dawlish over there?” he said, suddenly concerned.
“I got him,” said Harry grimly. “He was the traitor, Gawain, he was about to kill you.” Gawain looked at him curiously for a moment.
“Then it seems, I owe you Potter,” he said gruffly. “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” Harry assured him. “The others…” and, Ron and Harry supporting Gawain, they walked back up the hill to where the D.A and the Order had fought. “What happened?” he asked Seamus.
“I’m not sure,” he admitted, wiping blood from a gash on his arm with his robe sleeve. “They just left it after Grindelwald got Aberforth,” he said miserably. Harry felt a terrible fear grip him, and turned around. Sure enough, there lay Aberforth Dumbledore, a heavily bleeding gash across his chest. Molly Weasley was tending to him, but his breathing was shallow, and he looked a strange greenish colour. Harry hurried over to him.
“I got him good,” Aberforth grunted weakly. “But the git’s done me in.” He coughed, blood dripping down his chin.
“What’d he hit you with?” Harry asked, kneeling next to Aberforth’s head.
“That bloody purple fire thing,” Aberforth croaked. “Molly…leave it. It’s too late.”
“Nonsense,” said Molly sternly, although she was extremely pale. “You’re going to be fine…”
“Your brothers were always terrible liars as well,” Aberforth croaked, managing a weak grin.
“Katie!” Harry shouted, beckoning the uninjured Katie Bell to his side. “Get him to Saint Mungo’s. He hasn’t got much time,” he urged. Katie nodded grimly, and Harry conjured a stretcher, levitating Aberforth onto it. Molly had managed to stop the bleeding, but Harry knew the curse would’ve still severely damaged Aberforth internally.
Meanwhile, Gawain was helping Kingsley to his feet. The minister looked groggy, but otherwise unharmed.
“What’s the situation?” he said, leaning against a tree.
“The D.A has a several wounded,” said Neville, “but nothing too bad, everyone’ll survive,” he said confidently.
“The Order didn’t lose anyone,” Sturgis informed them. “But Aberforth and Mudungus are in pretty bad shape,” he said grimly.
“Mudungus didn’t run?” said George Weasley in surprised. Sturgis shook his head.
“I was surprised too. He actually took a curse for Michael Corner,” he said. “He took him to Saint Mungo’s when they disapparated.
“Good,” said Kingsley. He turned to Gawain. “And the Aurors?” Gawain’s face told the story. “How many?” he said quietly.
“At least thirty,” said Gawain quietly. “None from our ministry, but the others suffered severe losses.”
“I guess they just weren’t as prepared as we were,” said Arthur heavily. “We’ve been hardened by the war, we know what to expect a little more.” Kingsley and Gawain nodded sadly.
“Right,” said Kingsley, taking charge. “Everyone who doesn’t need medical attention, return to Grimmauld Place for debriefing.” He turned to Robards. “Can you and the Aurors handle the ones we managed to took down?” he said. Gawain nodded.
“I’ll have them rounded up,” he said briskly. “Potter, Weasley, Longbottom, you’re with me!” he barked, conjuring himself a walking stick. “Damn leg,” he cursed, wincing as he took a step. The rest of the Order began to disapparate, some taking others to Saint Mungo’s, but most heading to Grimmauld Place. “Longbottom, go and find the others. They’re to the south,” Gawain ordered. Neville nodded and headed off down the slope. Meanwhile, Harry and Ron began petrifying and binding anyone the Order had managed to stun.
“Not many is there?” said Harry grumpily, flicking his wand at the prone figure of a dark haired man who looked vaguely Eastern European.
“I never did like Dawlish,” replied Ron. “But what did you hit him with,” he said, levitating him over to the pile of stunned Consecrat fighters.
“A stunner,” Harry replied. “He did hit a tree afterwards though.”
“Explains a lot.”
“The fact he… well the fact he looks like he hit a tree.”
“Yeah that might give it away,” Harry laughed, checking behind a boulder. “Looks like that’s everyone.” There was around twelve wizards in total, including Dawlish.
“Recognise anyone?” Ron asked. Harry shook his head.
“None of them are Death Eaters,” he said firmly.
“I assume they’re some of the fighters Grindelwald recruited in Europe,” Robards said, glaring at the wizards. “One of the German Aurors told me he’s still recruiting heavily in the area. I’ll need you two to help me get these back.” He added, glancing at them.
“But at least there’s no reports to fill, with it being an unofficial meeting,” said Ben Williamson cheerfully. Gawain grunted in agreement. Ben had conjured a stretcher to hold Millie and was levitating it along. The Australian Auror looked badly burned, and much of her robes had been scorched away, revealing even more dark burns all over her upper body. “Fiendfyre,” he explained to Harry and Ron’s horrified gazes. “It’s what wiped out most of her unit, although she managed to get it under control before it killed us all, to her cost,” he said, sounding impressed. “I should get her to Saint Mungo’s, Gawain.”
“Yes you should,” said Gawain. “Where’re the others?”
“Hestia and Neville are bringing Dedalus up, I think I’ll have to take him along too, and Luke and Wilfred are helping the others with the dead,” Ben said grimly.
“I’ll have to inform their families when I return,” said Gawain grimly. “Ah, Dedalus. How’re you feeling?”
“Been better Gawain,” wheezed Dedalus, a large hole blown through his trademark purple top hat. “A few days in Saint Mungo’s’ll sort me out though, don’t you worry,” he said firmly.
“Good, pleased to see you’re alive,” said Gawain. “Longbottom, escort Dedalus to Saint Mungo’s then return to the office for debriefing,” he ordered. “Jones, help me, Potter, and Weasley to get this lot back to the ministry.” He aimed a sharp kick into the side of one of the captured Consecrat fighters, before grabbing three of them. Harry, Ron and Hestia did the same, and with three cracks, they disapparated.
Valko and Sabine hauled Grindelwald Malfoy Manor. The duel with Aberforth had taken its toll-the enraged barman had managed to cut off Grindelwald’s left hand with a severing charm. Gellert was breathing heavily, his chest fluttered and each breath more ragged than the last.
“A blood replenishing potion, quickly!” barked Valko. Thorfinn Rowle lumbered off to retrieve one from the Malfoy’s potion room. “Ve need to stop the bleeding,” he said to Sabine. “He’s lost a lot of blood already, any more could kill him.”
“I have an idea,” she said curtly, raising her wand. “Tergeo,” she muttered, and the wound was cleaned. She then waved her wand, muttering a complex spell under her breath. An eerily shining silver hand appeared, attaching itself to the stump and melding seamlessly with Gellert’s flesh.
“Impressive,” said Valko. “When did you learn that?”
“During the years between the formation of the group near Nuremburg and Grindelvald’s fall, I studied the Dark arts extensively,” she explained. “I discovered this spell on my travels in Albania.”
“Why is it a dark spell?” said Valko, confused.
“It's not," she said simply.
“Are you confident it works,” rasped Grindelwald from the chair they’d set him on.
“Fully confident, my lord,” she replied. “I vould not put you in danger,” she assured him. Gellert nodded.
“I suppose…thank you, Sabine. Valko, fetch Lucius and Narcissa for me,” he ordered. The Malfoys had stayed behind during the battle, in case the Order launched an attack on the manor. Valko nodded and swept regally from the room. Thorfinn Rowle entered as Valko left.
“Your potion, sir,” he said, handing it to Gellert. He took it in his new, shining hand, flexing it experimentally.
“A wonderful piece of magic,” he said quietly, dismissing Rowle with a wave of his hand. “You’re full of surprises, Sabine. How did the battle go for you?”
“Vell, my lord,” she said. “I believe I managed to wound several of the younger Order members, although I don’t believe I managed to kill any,” she said, looking disappointed with herself.
“No matter. We have sent them a message today,” Gellert said firmly, swigging down the potion. He made a face. “Foul.”
“It is necessary, my lord.”
“That doesn’t make it taste any better,” he snapped. Valko returned with the Malfoys. “Ah, Lucius, Narcissa,” said Gellert, smiling and folding his arms. “I’m afraid I have some bad news. Your son’s letter proved to be a trap, as I suspected.” Narcissa gave a wail of anguish and threw herself into Lucius’s arms, whose gaze remained quite impassive, boring into Grindelwald. Gellert, however, simply met his stare. “He has made his intentions quite clear. I have no choice,” said Gellert in a soft, dangerous voice.
“NO!” screamed Narcissa, squirming in Lucius’s grasp. There was a loud BANG, and she slumped in her husband’s arms, unconscious. Sabine stood with her wand out, a cold expression on her face.
“Control your wife,” she spat at Lucius.
“Go,” said Gellert shortly. “Sabine, lower your wand.” She did, but she did not lower her gaze from Lucius, who continued to stare at Grindelwald, before scooping up his wife into his arms and leaving.
“Valko,” said Grindelwald. “Return to Nurmengard with the others. How many did we lose?” he added.
“Around twenty,” said Valko. “It matters not, from what I saw today, we far outnumber the Order and the Aurors.”
“Potter got him,” interjected Sabine. “Stunned him.” Grindelwald cursed-Dawlish had been so useful to them.
“We’ll get around it,” he said curtly. “Valko, you’re dismissed.” Valko nodded and left the study. “Sabine. I have work for you. You know what to do,” he said simply.
“The Malfoy boy won’t last a week,” she said coolly.
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