Chapter 27 : Chapter 27: Quidditch and Tracking
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“I hate November,” said Ron glumly as they left Grimmauld Place. “It’s such a miserable month.”
It was the week after Halloween, and Harry and Ron were once again making the dull Monday morning trip to work. Since Grindelwald had apparated straight into the atrium, Kingsley had recast the charms so that nobody could apparate into the ministry’s atrium. Therefore, Harry and Ron had taken to riding two and a half miles to work on Harry’s bike, then use the ministry’s underground car park, rather than flush themselves in at Whitehall.
“It’s not brilliant,” admitted Harry as they squeezed through the gap in the traffic. “But look at it this way-the girls are back for the holidays soon.”
“Only thing keeping me going,” Ron shouted as Harry opened up the engine to full throttle down the straight. Harry laughed, and pulled into the entrance to the ministry car park.
The entrance was concealed magically, invisible to all but ministry employees, and so was one of the few secure ways left open.
“So what have we got on today?” Ron asked as they stepped into the elevator. “Auror office please,” he added, and the lift dropped violently.
“No idea,” shrugged Harry. “Robards will probably have something for us.”
“No doubt,” Ron grumbled. “Hopefully somewhere warm.”
“It’s November, unless we’re going to Australia again, it’s going to be cold,” Harry replied.
“Glad I wore three Weasley jumpers then,” Ron said, picking idly at his maroon sweater.
“Potter, Weasley!” barked Robards, causing Harry and Ron to jump violently. “I’ve got work for you.”
“Told you,” whispered Harry.
“We’ve got a new lead on Zabini,” Gawain explained. “Apparently he’s been hiding out in a holiday cottage in Northern Ireland. I need you to bring him in. I’ve left everything you need on your desks. You have three days.” Robards then proceeded to stalk off, seemingly in a foul mood and randomly shouting at anyone who got in his way.
“Ever been to Ireland?” Harry asked Ron as they sat down.
“Never,” Ron replied. “So where’s he hiding?”
“Knocknacarry,” Harry replied. “Sound familiar?”
“Yes!” Ron exclaimed. “They’re holding the World cup final near there tomorrow.” Harry gawked at him.
“Brilliant,” Harry said softly. “Well, we may have a lead. Come on; let’s go down to Magical Games and Sports. We might be able to find something there.”
“Alicia works here doesn’t she?” Ron asked as they stepped out of the elevator.
“No idea,” shrugged Harry. “Who’s head of department these days, Bagman never did come back?”
“Avery Hawksworth,” Ron replied promptly. “Former England captain and chaser, started out for the Cannons. Left when he realised he was good.”
“You sound bitter,” Harry commented.
“I am. Hi,” Ron said brightly, addressing the secretary. “We need to speak to the person in charge of tickets for the World Cup final.”
“They’re sold out,” replied the secretary without looking up. “But you want Spinnet. British and Irish Quidditch league, third door on the right.”
“Thanks,” said Ron cheerfully. “I guess Alicia does work here then.” Harry nodded, and opened the door. The large space was extremely messy, with desks scattered about with no real order. Posters of Quidditch players and teams were stuck all around the walls.
Alicia Spinnet was snoozing in her chair, her legs stretched out on his desk. Ron cleared his throat loudly, and she jumped, sending various papers flying and knocking over a bottle of ink. Harry managed to bite back a snort of laughter- just.
“Harry, Ron!” she said in surprise. “What are you doing here? A bit far from the Auror office isn’t it?”
“We need your help with something,” Harry replied, “Could you give us the ticket listings for the World Cup?” She looked mildly surprised.
“I can, but it’s huge,” she said. She bent down under her desk and pulled out eight rolls of parchment. Ron groaned, and Harry laughed.
“It’s fine Ron, we’re only looking for certain names. It’s alphabetical right?”
“Course it is,” replied Alicia. “I know it looks unorganized, but it’s not that bad,” she said, gesturing round the office.
“I’ll take your word for it,” Harry replied, privately thinking that Hermione would probably have a mental breakdown if she ever saw the office. “Can we borrow this? Auror business and that,” he said dismissively.
“Be my guest,” she replied, once again resting her feet on her desk. “Just don’t lose it, Hawksworth will have my head.”
“We’ll bring it back later,” Harry promised. “Come on Ron, we’ve got work to do.”
They returned to the Auror office to try and find any leads on Zabini in the ticket list. It was exceptionally dull work-looking up every person connected with Blaise and his family.
“Nothing,” said Ron grumpily after around an hour. He’d been looking for anyone related to Blaise through his late mother’s various marriages. “What about you?” he asked Harry, who’d been looking for any of his old school friends. A smile slowly spread across Harry’s face.
“I’ve got something,” he said. “It may turn out to be nothing, but the Parkinson’s have booked a box.” He looked up at Ron, grinning widely. “Good news Ron; it looks like we’re going to the World Cup Final.”
“Who says this job doesn’t have perks?” Ron said excitedly as they positioned themselves behind the Parkinson’s box where Robards had managed to sort them a pair of seats. “So who’s your money on?” he asked. Harry rolled his eyes.
“We’re working, Ron,” he reminded him. “We’re not here to watch the match.”
“I reckon Ireland will retain it,” Ron said obviously oblivious to what Harry was saying. Harry gave an exasperated groan. “The Germans are good, but they don’t have as much style as the Irish.”
“Wha-no, I’m not getting into it,” Harry said firmly. “Come on; let’s drop in on the Parkinson’s now, before the match starts. Then maybe we can watch the rest.” Ron was now reading his programme, still oblivious to what Harry was saying. With a flick of his wand, Harry rolled up the programme, which promptly began beating Ron around the head.
“Harry!” Ron wailed. “What was that for?” He covered his head with his arms, and Harry called off the programme, feeling rather pleased with himself.
“Just come with me,” he said, dragging Ron down the stadium stairs to the door of the box. “Right, on three,” Harry said, holding up his fingers. “Three, two…one!” The two Aurors burst through the door, their wands raised. Pansy Parkinson gave a shriek of surprise and fell off her chair. Mr Parkinson, first name Arnold, leapt up and drew his own wand, as did Pansy’s older brother Eric.
“Expelliarmus! Auror office!” thundered Ron, disarming Arnold and Eric, while Harry dealt with Pansy and Mrs Parkinson. “We need to ask you some questions regarding Blaise Zabini.”
“Blaise?” said Pansy angrily. “We haven’t seen him in months. Get out!” she spat, glaring at Harry.
“I thought you might choose to be uncooperative,” Harry said airily, reaching into his robes pocket. “So I brought alone this.” It was a small, corked vial filled with a clear liquid. “Veritaserum,” he explained. “I’m going to have to question each of you under it, here and now. Should you refuse, me and my partner here will be forced to take you in.” Harry was satisfied to see a flicker of panic in Pansy’s eyes.
“Pansy, you first?” said Ron sweetly. Pansy glared daggers at him, but her eyes widened when Harry poured a couple of drops of Veritaserum into her wine glass. “Drink up,” Ron said evilly, clearly enjoying every minute. Harry managed to hide his grin-he knew Ron hated Pansy because of how she’d always treated Hermione. Mainly, he knew this because he felt exactly the same way.
“What if it’s poison?” Pansy squawked. Harry rolled his eyes and handed Ron the vial, who then took a dose himself. Harry tested the Veritaserum by asking Ron a few questions, which he answered truthfully of course, before turning back to Pansy.
“See? Nothing to worry about,” he said coolly. “Drink.” Glaring at him, Pansy drained the Veritaserum laced wine in one swig. Instantly, her face became dreamy and serene, almost Luna like.
“You are Pansy Parkinson, yes?” Harry said, pulling out his notepad.
“Yes,” Pansy replied, her voice far off and distant.
“Right, let’s get started. When was the last time you saw Blaise Zabini?” Harry asked.
“This morning,” Pansy replied. Harry’s heart began to beat faster-he hadn’t expected that. They were on to something.
“Where?” Harry asked curiously.
“At our holiday house, a few miles from here,” Pansy explained.
“Why was he there?” Harry demanded. Veritaserum was a slow process sometimes.
“He’s been staying there since his trial,” Pansy replied. “It’s protected by many charms, so he’s safe from the Aurors and Grindelwald.”
Not safe enough Harry thought smugly. “I need to get in there. Will I be able to?”
“Father’s the secret keeper. You’ll have to ask him,” Pansy replied. Harry rolled his eyes and turned to Arnold Parkinson, who was as pug faced as his daughter and had a seemingly permanent sneer etched onto his face.
“I need to know,” he said simply. Arnold opened his mouth to protest, but Harry held up a hand. “It’s nothing to do with you,” he said patiently. “We’re after Zabini.” Arnold stared at him for a moment, apparently deep in thought, before nodding.
“Fine,” he said curtly. “Here.” He produced a small piece of parchment with an address written on it.
“The Parkinson family holiday house can be found at Strand House, half a mile North East of Knocknacarry,” Harry read. “Thank you for your cooperation,” he said, giving them an unsettling smile. “Now…obliviate!” he said sharply. There was a flash of pale green light, and the Parkinson’s all slumped to the floor, their eyes dreamy and unfocused.
“What was that for?” said Ron blankly as Harry pushed him out the door.
“I don’t want them remembering our visit,” replied Harry. They might try to contact Zabini, and we can’t afford to let him get away.” Just then, the announcer’s voice boomed out over the stadium.
“Introducing, the current World champions, Ireland!” Avery Hawksworth shouted, his voice magically amplified. “Here’s Troy, Mullet, Moran, Connolly, Quigley, Ryan aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand LYNCH!” The Irish team flew out to huge applause, and Harry found himself clapping along with Ron.
“Blaise can wait,” Ron said, and Harry smiled, shaking his head.
“Okay,” he agreed. “But don’t tell Robards, he’ll turn us into teapots.”
“And now, for a record ninth appearance in the final, please welcome the national team of Germany!” Hawksworth boomed. “Todt, Blijk, Brand, Von Glockenspieler, Eldritch, Weil aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand WEISS!” More applause greeted the German team.
“I don’t want them to win,” said Ron sullenly. “They beat England in the semi-final.”
“And now, here’s the referee…he’s blown his whistle, and the final is underway!”
“Alright,” said Ginny, her nerves creeping up on her. “We’re a good team, so I know we can flatten Hufflepuff if we all play to our best. So that means I want everyone at their best!” she said fiercely. “Now let’s get out there and play some Quidditch!” she said. The rest of the team cheered and followed their captain out of the door, onto the pitch.
The entire school was present, with Slytherin and Hufflepuff cheering for Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw for Gryffindor. Ginny stood in the centre circle, glaring at the Hufflepuff captain, an enormous, barrel chested beater called Andy Tompkins. Surprisingly, he didn’t try to crush her fingers.
“Mount up!” called Madam Hooch, and the fourteen players did, rising into the air. She kicked open the chest, and the two bludgers shot into the air, followed by the golden snitch. Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny could see Sean Bell following the little golden ball with his eyes. Then, Madam Hooch tossed the quaffle up, and pandemonium began.
Ginny zipped forwards, snatching the red ball out of the air with practised ease. She rolled easily out of the way of an oncoming Hufflepuff chaser, before hurling the ball hard up to Demezla Robins, who caught it superbly, racing off down the left hand side of the pitch.
In response, Ginny leant low on her broom, dodging neatly between the two Hufflepuff beaters as they tried in vain to block her path, soaring into a scoring position in the centre of the pitch. Demezla threw the quaffle across to Dennis Creevey, Gryffindor’s newest chaser. With a clever dummy, he sent the Hufflepuff keeper diving to the left before punching the quaffle into Ginny’s path.
However, the pass was slightly below her, so Ginny was forced to drop off her broom, holding on with just her hands, and volley the quaffle into the right hand hoop for a spectacular goal.
“And Ginny Weasley scores,” said a serene voice, floating dreamily across the pitch. Evidently, Luna was commentating on the game again. “She’s a lovely person. Very brave…” Ginny rolled her eyes as play resumed. She headed for one of the Ravenclaw chasers, but was forced away by a well-aimed bludger from Tompkins.
The chaser was now out of reach, and Ginny crossed her fingers, hoping her keeper, David Banks, would manage to save it. The chaser aimed for the right hand hoop, hurled the ball and…
“SAVED!” cried Luna. “That was a good a save by Banks. I tried to get him to read the Quibbler last week, he ran away…” Luna said absently. Ginny laughed aloud- she could see McGonagall looking nervously at Luna, as if contemplating taking the megaphone from her.
“Ginny!” cried Demezla. Ginny spun around, and saw the two seekers diving towards the ground, Sean just out in front, his face contorted in concentration. But Ginny couldn’t see a snitch…suddenly she realised what Sean was doing.
At the last second, he pulled up, while the Hufflepuff seeker crashed into the ground. There was a collective groan from around the stadium, but Ginny was fixed on Sean, who had pulled out of the dive too late. His legs hit the ground, and he was thrown violently from his broom, bouncing along the ground.
“Oh dear,” said Luna, as serenely as ever. “That was a nasty crash. Madam Pomfrey is on the pitch to check on the seeker…meanwhile Hufflepuff have the quaffle.” Ginny returned her attention to the game. Indeed, a Hufflepuff chaser had skirted round Demezla and Dennis, and was now hurtling towards the goal. Ginny sped up to meet her, managing to punch the quaffle out from under the chaser’s arm and catch it before it hit the ground. Skating along the grass, she managed to cause the other two chasers to crash into each other, before playing a clever one two with Dennis to avoid a bludger. She lured the keeper to the left, before passing right to Demezla, who crashed in a second goal.
Ginny beamed and high fived Demezla as she shot past. Gryffindor were now twenty points ahead. Sean had now returned to the game, although the Hufflepuff seeker was still receiving attention from Madam Pomfrey.
“Make the most of it!” she yelled to Sean, who nodded and flew above the general play, scanning the pitch for a flash of gold.
Ginny managed to score three more goals, as well as setting up Demezla and Dennis for a goal each, meaning Gryffindor led by a huge seventy points. Still, if the Hufflepuff seeker, who’d by now returned to the field, caught the snitch, Gryffindor would still loose.
Jimmy Peakes seemed to be doing his best to unseat the groggy seeker, pelting bludger after bludger at him, but he was obviously a decent flier, as he managed to avoid all of them. Hufflepuff finally managed to score. After a magnificent triple save from David Banks, Gary McTavish managed to beat him, just.
The game began to get heated. Bludgers were pelted with renewed vigour, the chasers seemed to be flying into each other deliberately (Ginny was nearly knocked off her broom by Gary-she scored a goal in retaliation) and the seekers were doing everything to put one another off, while still searching for the elusive snitch.
As Ginny had an effort well saved, she spotted it, circling the stands behind the goals. Sean had seen it too, and was diving for it, the Hufflepuff seeker trailing in his wake. In desperation, Andy smashed a bludger at him. Ginny screamed at him to watch out, but Sean ignored her. He could see the bludger coming at him, but he kept straight and true, managing to capture the struggling ball just as the bludger hit him. It flung him from the broom, such was his speed. He hit the stands hard and began to fall, unconscious. The entire crowd gasped in horror as he fell towards the ground. Jimmy Peakes and Ritchie Cootes, the two beaters, zoomed in and just managed to catch him before he hit the ground, and there was an enormous cheer.
“GRYFFINDOR WIN!” called Luna cheerfully. “That’s good, I wanted them too…” Ginny was smothered by the other two chasers and David Banks as they cheered, and she could hear the crowd chanting “Weasley is our Queen,” a new take on the song they’d sung for Ron. And maybe, just maybe, Gryffindor had a chance at the cup.
“Look at Weiss!” said Harry suddenly. The German seeker was flat against his broom, hurtling across the pitch, leaving Aidan Lynch trailing in his wake. Unlike four years ago, the German chasers had managed to more or less contain the Irish, and if Weiss caught the snitch, they’d win. The seeker brilliantly dodged two bludgers that the Irish beaters had sent at him, before rolling underneath a chaser and snatching the snitch. There was a great cheer from all around the stadium.
“No…” groaned Ron. “I owe Charlie five galleons now.”
“GERMANY ARE THE WINNERS!” roared Hawksworth. “Final score, Germany two hundred, Ireland ninety!” The Germans did a lap of honour, with Glockenspieler, the captain holding the cup above her head, the Irish looking thoroughly dejected.
“Ron,” hissed Harry. “Zabini.”
“Right,” said Ron, tearing his gaze away from the pitch. “Let’s go.” The pair disapparated, appearing where Mr Parkinson had told them to go before Harry’d wiped his memory. “Nice place,” said Ron, glaring at it. It certainly was grand, Harry thought, but nice was not a word he’d use. The house was tall, imposing and dark.
“I’ll cast an anti-apparation jinx, you call Sturgis and get him to block off the floo network and stop all the portkey transportation out of the place,” Harry said, raising his wand. Ron nodded and pulled out his Order galleon, tapping it with his wand repeatedly.
“Done,” said Ron after a minute. “Just got his reply.” Harry nodded, and with a final flourish of his wand, completed the complicated jinx Hermione had taught him the year before.
“Let’s go,” Harry said grimly, stowing away his wand and pulling out his invisibility cloak, throwing it over them both. They snuck up to the door, which Ron unlocked with Alohomora, and they crept inside.
“Muffliato,” Ron muttered, waving his arms. “Reckon he’s here?”
“Has to be,” Harry replied, peering around the gloomy drawing room. “Hang on, Homenum Revelio,” he muttered. “Someone’s upstairs,” he whispered. He saw the excitement on Ron’s face, and felt his own rising. Finally, they’d get their hands on Zabini.
The two stalked up the stairs, there wands out, still under the cloak. They could hear a wireless crackling from a room at the far end of the room. Harry nodded towards it, and they headed down the corridor. Harry cast the human-revealing spell again, which confirmed that whoever was in the house was on the other side of the door.
“Ready?” Ron muttered. Harry nodded. “BOMBARDA!” Ron yelled, slashing his wand. Harry rolled his eyes as the door was blown of his hinges, crashing across the room. Blaise Zabini leapt up from his chair, going for his wand.
“Expelliarmus!” Harry yelled instinctively. Zabini’s wand flew from his hand, and Harry snatched it out of the air.
“You again!” Zabini groaned. “Can’t you just bugger off? I haven’t done anything and you know it.”
“Doesn’t matter,” shrugged Harry, ignoring the fact that Zabini had clearly been in contact with the Consecrat. “Robards wants to see you.”
“Are you going to come quietly?” Ron asked in a dangerous voice.
“Well I’m not going to struggle, since you’ve got my wand,” snapped Blaise sarcastically. “Although I’ll probably complain a lot.”
“Brilliant,” said Ron, rolling his eyes. “Can I stun him?”
“If you like,” replied Harry, biting back a laugh. “But you’re explaining to Robards.” Ron considered it.
“Not worth it,” he said finally. “Come here you,” he said, grabbing Zabini by the arm. “Back to the office then?”
“Two seconds,” Harry replied.
“At least you’re not taking me to Azkaban,” Zabini said calmly. “Absolutely no women in there for one thing.”
“Shut up,” said Harry, who was sending Robards a message. “Let’s go.” Harry and Ron turned on the spot, and they disapparated, dragging a protesting, grumbling Zabini with them. Robards met them on their arrival.
“Excellent work boys,” he said, grabbing Zabini. Harry handed Robards Zabini’s wand. “Williamson tells me you handled the Parkinson’s very well. Fill out your reports and you’re done for the day.” He then marched a furiously scowling Zabini off to his office.
“He’s so appreciative isn’t he?” Ron said sarcastically. “Oh, lovely. More Paperwork.” Harry had the sudden impression it was just another day at Hogwarts, with the two of them struggling over homework in the common room. Smiling, he began to write.
“So let me get this straight,” said Zabini coolly, leaning back idly in his chair. “You, the Auror office, need my help?”
“Yes,” snapped Robards, and Zabini was satisfied to notice he’d exasperated him. “We do. Enjoying yourself?”
“Thoroughly,” replied Zabini airily. “So, what do you want me to do?”
“I need you to infiltrate Malfoy Manor,” Robards said bluntly. Zabini managed to conceal his surprise-he wasn’t expecting that. He considered it for a moment.
“And what do I get in return?” he said eventually. Robards’ eyes narrowed.
“There will be a reward. In gold,” he said finally. “Delivered after you complete your mission.” Zabini stroked his chin thoughtfully.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked curiously. “I’m not duelling anyone if that’s what you want.”
“I don’t want you too,” Robards growled. “I want information. Recon, if you will.”
“What do you need?” Zabini asked.
“I need their numbers, maps, patrols, everything you can get,” Robards replied. “The more you get, the better your reward.” Zabini eyed him for a while.
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll do it. But I want protection.” Gawain’s eyes narrowed. He handed him a small mirror. “I know I’m good looking but what good will this do?” Zabini snapped.
“Don’t try to be funny with me,” barked Robards angrily, and Zabini smiled coolly. “Say my name into the mirror, and I’ll answer,” Robards explained. “If you’re in trouble, we’ll do everything we can to get you out.”
“Fine,” said Zabini. “I’ll do it.”
“Harry,” said Ginny, beaming at him through the mirror. “We won!”
“Excellent,” said Harry proudly. “Did you notice if Gwenog was there?” Ginny’s jaw dropped.
“I forgot she would be!” she said, clapping a hand to her mouth.
“Relax,” Harry told her. “Did you play well?”
“Pretty well,” admitted Ginny. “I think she’d have noticed.”
“She’d have to be blind not too,” Harry replied. “You’re easily the best chaser I’ve ever played with.” He meant it. Ginny turned bright pink.
“You sweetheart,” she said eventually. “So what about you, how was your day?”
“Not bad,” said Harry airily, looking forward to the face he expected she’d pull. “We captured Zabini, filled out some paperwork, watched the world cup final…”
“YOU DID WHAT?!” Ginny yelped. “How? It’s been sold out for months.”
“Auror business,” said Harry cheerfully. “Jealous?”
“Massively,” admitted Ginny. “I miss you,” she added, pouting. Harry grinned-she looked so cute when she did that.
“Christmas soon,” he reminded her. “Ron and I are staying at The Burrow all holidays; we managed to take time off for once.” Ginny beamed at him.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “How is Ron?”
“Holding up well,” Harry replied. “He’s a great partner. How’s Hermione?”
“Bookish,” Ginny replied offhandedly. “She misses you two though, I can tell.”
“It has always been us three,” Harry said fairly. “We miss her.” He yawned deeply. “I’m exhausted.”
“Me too,” admitted Ginny. “Speak tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Harry replied. “Night girl, I love you,” he said softly. She blew him a kiss, and Harry felt a flutter in his chest.
“I love you too,” she said softly. “Stay safe.”
“Always,” he replied. She rolled her eyes, and then she was gone.
“Right you lot, staff meeting!” barked Gawain. The other Aurors crowed around him, perching on desks and chairs in front of Robards’ office. Harry strained his neck, trying to see over the enormous Ray Lescott’s shoulder.
“As of tomorrow, Blaise Zabini will be infiltrating Grindelwald’s headquarters. Assuming all goes to plan, I’ve decided to set a date for our attack. We’re going in on the twentieth of January,” he said firmly. There was a murmur of interest around the office. “Between now and then, we’re pulling out of all less important operations. I want everyone to go through drills. It’s vital you know exactly what we’re doing.”
Robards spent the next hour and a half going over varying aspects of the plan he’d begun to develop. Ron was snoring gently on Harry’s shoulder as Gawain outlined every detail, reminding Harry of Oliver Wood and his long team talks. Ray, Hestia, Ron and Harry were being apparated by Kreacher into the basement and were going to attack from the inside once Lucius had removed the wards. Meanwhile, Daisy, the now recovered Dedalus, Ben and Proudfoot were coming in from the top. The Order of the Phoenix was mounting the frontal assault, led by Robards and Kingsley.
“I’ll be making adjustments to the plan once Blaise brings in what he can,” Robards concluded. “In the meantime, I want you all practising duelling in the training rooms. Well, what are you waiting for!” snapped Robards, and the other Aurors hurried away, Harry jerking Ron awake.
“Wha-bacon and eggs!” Ron garbled randomly.
“Come on,” said Harry, ignoring Ron’s remark. “We’re going for a duel.”
“What did I do?” Ron asked groggily.
“Nothing,” said Harry, laughing. “Robards’ orders.”
“Don’t hurt me,” Ron whimpered.
“I’ll try not to.”
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