"Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men."
― Miyamoto Mushashi
25. Deepening Resolve
Hermione was the first one to see Harry back in the Ministry and came running to greet him.
"Harry, it's so good to see you! We've been so worried about you."
"Thanks Hermione. It's feels good to be back. I came to see Kingsley. I have some news he'll need to hear."
"Are you back then?" she asked, with a wide eyed expression.
"I'll talk to Kingsley first – but yeah, I think so."
"Good to see you Harry," Ron said cheerfully and then after looking at Harry closely, "You look awful mate."
"That's terrible Ron," Hermione snapped.
"Well, I probably do. I think it would best for me to get back to a regular routine."
"I think that'll do you some good mate," Ron said smiling.
"Well... I best check with Kingsley. I hope to be back shortly," Harry said as made his way toward Kingsley's office. He wasn't sure if Kingsley would have him back. He knew he was in no condition to resume his regular duties just yet. He hoped Kingsley would give him a couple of weeks to slowly get back to normal. He had stopped at a jewelery shop on his way in and had the chain for the cross repaired. It was a difficult chain to repair, and the man told him it would be easier to buy a new one. "Just fix it will you. It has sentimental value."
"Certainly sir," the man said, seeing Harry was getting angry. As he left the shop, he put it immediately around his neck. He enjoyed it's touch along with the thought it was hers.
The gilded archway was coming up. The first difficult step today. He clinched his jaw and gritted his teeth a little as he prepared to walk under the arch. No matter how hard you tried to rationalize it away, you couldn't. There was something in the back of the mind, the primitive part of the brain. And that part would not give up hope. It would never see the finality of the situation. It would always keep hoping this whole thing was just a bad dream. Stopping just a few steps past the archway and slowly looking toward the desk, Ms. Pickersgill was clearly visible working behind the desk. He wondered if they would ever find a replacement. The head shot up.
"Hello Harry, are you here to see Kingsley?"
"Yes, if I could please."
"I'll work you in," Ms. Pickersgill said rising from the desk. She went over to Kingsley's door and let herself in. There was a pause for several minutes, and Harry felt unsure of the outcome.
"Come in Harry, he'll see you now," she said holding the leather padded door open.
"Thanks," he said and nodded.
"Harry... sit down," Kingsley said, pointing to the large leather chair.
"Thank you sir."
Kingsley rose from his chair and moved to sit on the edge of the desk to get a closer look at Harry. Harry had lost weight, and his face had a sallow appearance. His hair had a dull look to it.
"Harry... we've heard a little of your problems lately. Are you fit enough for service?"
"I've had some troubles the last couple of weeks. I haven't been well. But I'm doing better now, and I think I need to get back into a routine. I know I'm not up to resuming my full duties, but if you could give me chance to get back into the swing of things it would help a lot sir."
"I'm sure we can manage something. Yeah, we'll work out something to keep you busy. We'll get you back to normal. That is what you want – right?"
"Yes sir. Considering some information I just picked up, yeah I want to get back to full duties."
"What kind of information Harry?"
Harry reached in his pocket and extracted the envelope and handed it to Kingsley.
"I got this from Neville Longbottom. He's working at the castle." Kingsley read the note and paused for a few moments, and shook his head.
"Sorin Razvan, that's the man in your report about Amalgamated Transports."
"Yes sir, and I would bet he's the man we're after."
"Damn – first real break we get in this case, and it comes from a ghost."
"That's not the worst of it sir. Myrtle had been trying to give me this message for several months now,"
Harry said with a bowed head.
"Well, you just never know. We'll have to find out all we can about this man before we proceed. I don't think it's a good idea to ask the Americans. Not yet – they might get too close and spook him. He could go into hiding and we'd never find him. No... we need to check our sources in Europe for this man. Find out all we can, and then let the Americans in on it. Of course this does affect Malfoy. His court date was very close. We'll have to postpone until we get the whole picture, I'm afraid."
"Hermione will be very disappointed to hear that," Harry shot back.
"Oh and one more thing. You were debriefed before you left. You won't be able to get too involved in the case until Ms. Rosemarkie renews your clearance. Depends on how you're doing, but maybe we can get you back to full duties in a few weeks."
"I understand. Thank you sir."
The path back to normalcy would not be easy. The next week was the hardest. The temptation to ask Hermione how the investigation against Razvan was going, was pressing, but impossible since he was technically off the case. Maybe it was just as well. The simplest of duties had proved difficult. Just getting up and to work was hard enough. He still had nightmares of being stuck in the Abbey and hadn't had a full nights sleep since that dreadful day. Avoiding the Leaky Cauldron each evening was like losing a friend. It had been the only place where he could console himself to the loss. It was the hatred of dark wizards that motivated him to continue. They had taken all of those he loved. But the hatred reignited the little flame inside his chest and with it, the will to go on.
On the morning of the third Monday back at the Ministry a flying note landed on his desk with a long slide. He unfolded it and read it quickly. It was from Kingsley. He re-read it slowly, and was to stop by and see Kingsley when he had the time. Very anxious to know what Kingsley had in mind, he immediately entered the lift and headed straight away to Kingsley's office. Passing under the gilded archway still troubled him. It still hurt. He stood there frozen and unable to look.
"Oh Harry, sorry I didn't see you there," Ms. Pickersgill said in a merry voice.
"No problem," came Harry's wooden reply. "I believe the Minister is expecting me."
"Sure. I think he's free at the moment," she said rising from the desk. She walked over to the office door and stuck her head in. She looked back and motioned for Harry. The office was already smokey with pipe tobacco.
"Harry, come in," Kingsley said putting the pipe in a long tray to rest. "I've heard you're coming around very well, and we're all glad to hear it." and he motioned toward the large leather chair.
"Thank you sir. I feel much better."
"So how do you feel about resuming your old duties? You feel up to it?"
"Physically, I'm fine – back to normal and all that," he said while nodding. "But, emotionally I'm not quite my old self."
"We didn't think you were, but thought I should ask."
"I still miss her – there's no point in lying about it, and I still have trouble sleeping."
"We all miss her Harry. There would be something worse wrong with you if you didn't. Well, what we have in mind is bringing you back to partial duties. This way we can keep you informed of the case and find some things for you to do, that's not as dangerous as falling into that Abbey. Does any of this sound appealing to you?"
"Ah, it sounds great sir. All of it."
"Very good. I'll start with bringing you up to speed on the case. We sent inquiries to the other magical law enforcement institutions throughout Europe for any information about Sorin Razvan. We waited over a week and got very little back - not much more than what we already know. So we went on a different tack and contacted all the schools for any information. Turns out Durmstrang Institute had a book on him," he said reaching for the pipe.
"Well that's good news sir. What do we know," Harry asked as the excitement rose in his voice.
"Well, that's where you come in. Durmstrang is willing to give us the file, but prefers we sit down and talk to them. They claim the evidence is good but not all documented from the most solid sources. Sounds like some of the information is folklore," he said with a shrug.
"Oh, I see."
"Viktor Krum is on the staff now, and he'll be your contact."
"That make sense," Harry said and nodded.
"We thought at first of sending Hermione, but after second thoughts we decided to ask you instead."
"We do know a little. Apparently Razvan was ejected from Durmstrang. It seems even Durmstrang wasn't dark enough for him. But anyway, I'm sure they'll fill you in on all of this," he said as rose from the desk and motioned toward the door. "Harry, I know you have an affinity for trouble, but please try and avoid it this time," he said with a grin.
"Yes sir, I'll make every attempt."
Kingsley sat quietly looking over the drawings and documents Harry brought back from Viktor's pouch. Harry related as much of Viktor's story as he could recall.
"So, you're sure this is the wizard you met in New York?" Kingsley asked.
"Yes sir – it's not included in the pouch, but there was a photograph of Razvan as a student. Younger looking of course but there's no mistaking him. That's for sure."
Kingsley paused again for several moments.
"So, you're sure he'll go back to Romania? And this Hellhound he mentions, is that what you saw in the Abbey?" Kingsley asked, while tapping the page with his pipe stem.
"Viktor thinks that, under pressure he'll certainly retreat back to the Carpathians. And the fiery eyes of the Hellhound – I saw them briefly, but that's all you'll ever see of the Hellhound – if you take my meaning sir."
"Yes well, this is good work Harry. I'll need you to wrap all this up into a report for Beollan. We need his input on how best to handle this vermin." Kingsley ran his fingers through his hair and stared vacantly at the ceiling for a few moments. At some point in time, we'll have to coordinate with the Americans. But first, we'll have to locate this mountain lair of his, as the Americans may run him into hiding. We have Malfoy's court date looming in front of us, so we don't have a lot of time."
"Yes sir," Harry said nodding and got up to leave.
"Oh Harry, I'd like you to work with Beollan every day from now on. I don't want you to push it – you've made good progress lately. I just think when the time comes, we may need every man."
"Yes sir. I'll do that."
Everyday now he practiced with Beollan. 'Begin', Beollan would bark the order to commence a new round of practice. The order began to ring in his head. At first practice was slow – his timing was off and he had trouble getting into the bouts. This wasn't real fighting and he's been in enough skirmishes to know it. When it came time to enter the real fight, he'd be ready, he told himself. Beollan could sense his lack of concentration and scolded him for it.
"You must try harder Harry," is all he would say, shaking his head.
Over the next week, the black wand seemed to pick up his slack. It would often make up for his lack of tempo, ejecting the spell right on time. Even Beollan couldn't quite make out whether it was Harry or the wand making the difference. But it did make a difference. After the fourth day of practice, Harry defeated Beollan twice by unexpected and out of tempo attacks from the black wand.
"I'm not sure if that was the wand today or you Harry," he said with a grim expression. You must strive to control both wands and with balance," he said and returned to his office.
By the end of the week, the exact location of the Razvan's mountain hide-a-way in the Carpathians was still a mystery. From the information provided by Durmstrang, Razvan's family hailed from the Făgăras Mountains, which were a part of the Southern Carpathians or sometimes known as the 'Transylvanian Alps'. The region was served by the Olt River and the modern towns of Victoria and Fagaras were the closest to the mountains.
The Ministry had used it's connections with British law enforcement for any help it could get. The Romanian government had no record of a deed, or grant, or any proof of ownership to any property in the mountains that could be tied to Sorin Vucan Razvan. If the property existed, it would be magically hidden and unknown to the non-magical world. The urgency of the matter had been made known to the British government, and a trace of Razvan's financial records had been issued. Hopefully this would show his travel habits. Playing a long-shot, Shacklebolt had Quixwood ready to leave for Romania in an hour's notice. He would take another working model of his portkey detection device to Victoria. Razvan was thought to command Gypsies in the area and would surely use them to setup a portkey to get home. It should be a simple matter for Quixwood to get the coordinates of the landing area. With these precautions in place, Kingsley was ready to notify the American Department of Magic.
All the information the Ministry had picked up from Durmstrang was relayed to the Americans. The Ministry offered to send over all the Aurors they could spare to assist in the effort, but the offer was politely turned down. The Americans would 'apprehend' Razvan and notify the Ministry when this was done. But Shacklebolt didn't believe it. The Ministry had it's blood up and knew a little bit about dark wizards. After years of experience with Voldemort, his followers, and every scumbag wizard that carried a wand, they had doubts that he would be taken so easily. So a few days later it didn't come as much of a surprise, when the Americans admitted the wizard had slipped away during their efforts to apprehend him. Still, Kingsley was furious. If they had only accepted the Ministry's help, they might have him in custody by now. But Kingsley was a step ahead of the dark wizard. After the Americans had turned down the Ministry's offer of help, he deployed Quixwood and a small team to Victoria to set up the detection device. The results of the financial investigations were trickling in, and they showed activity in the towns of Victoria and Fagaras during the last several years. So Shacklebolt felt confident they were going in the right direction.
Everyone at the Ministry was calm, but embraced the fact they could be sent to the Carpathians at any moment. Harry was reading some information on the weather conditions in the Carpathian mountains when a letter arrived on his desk. Looking at the envelope, he could tell it had arrived by long distance Owl. On the back of the envelope, the sender address read, Flint Logan, American Department of Magic. Harry quickly tore open the envelope.
Bad news travels fast. I'm sure you've heard about ours,
as we've heard about yours.
Hope we can make it up to you. We can imagine where you guys
will be going next, and we're sending you something to help.
We have a few magical hounds, unlike any in the world.
We have to track down baddies across our countryside
and there's nothing these hounds can't catch. They're
considered a State treasure. Unfortunately Razvan bolted
before we could use them.
Horace, our game keeper, will be be bringing them over
Well, that was interesting if not somewhat amusing. He could see himself running around the countryside in a tent again looking for another dark wizard. Should he and Ron invite Hermione? She might get a kick out it, he imagined, as his thoughts turned facetious. But what would it be like seriously? Who would Shacklebolt send? He would probably send him and Ron together. That was an easy pick. But what about Lance? Would he also be a part of their team? They all had trained together. That too was almost an amusing thought. Running around the mountains looking for a dark wizard was certainly no beach in Australia.
A few days later, they got a message from Quixwood. Kingsley opened the message as soon as he got it, thinking Quixwood probably needed some more computer games. But, the message read:
We found a portkey. 70 Km from Victoria, 165.5 degrees South
Coordinates: 45.4924 24.8935
The coordinates were pointing to a spot clearly in the middle of the Făgăras. Could Razvan have a home there or was it some cave hide-a-way. And for what purpose was the portkey established? Was he amassing reinforcements? These questions were weighing heavily, but they couldn't be answered from the Ministry offices in London. They would have to go to Romania. There was whispers that Shacklebolt was assembling three teams of three to leave for Romania. Harry had received no word as whether he was a part of the teams. Going straight away to Kingsley's office, he carried the note from Flint. Ms. Pickersgill has a flustered appearance today but still maintained a polite demeanor and worked Harry in as best she could.
"Harry, good morning," Kingsley said from behind the green bankers lamp.
"Good morning sir, how are things?"
"Getting very busy now. How can I help you this morning?"
"Well, sir. I received this the other day, and I was wondering if you'd seen anything of them?" he asked and handed Kingsley the note from Flint.
"Oh yes, the hounds, they came in the other day. Our game keeper is putting them up for now," he said and then took out the pipe.
"I hope they can help, and I wondering what to expect next?" Harry asked a little sheepishly. Shacklebolt leaned back with an expression of pain on his face..
"Harry, I was thinking of letting you sit this one out."
Now the expression of pain was on Harry's face as he was gutted with the answer. "I was just looking at your performance records from Beollan and it says your game is off. Your results are good in practice but sporadic, and often unpredictable. You need to work on self control. You've made a good effort to get back in shape, but you're just not right for this assignment. You're too emotionally connected and you know it. If you rush in and get yourself killed, where will that leave your team members?" he said tossing Beollan's report on the desk as if to dismiss the subject. Harry paused and reflected on what Shacklebolt had said.
"Sir, if you want the old Harry Potter back, you have to give me a chance to square this thing up. As for the 'Game', well that's just what practice is. After what I've seen and what I've been through, I can't help feeling any other way. When the real thing comes along, I'll perform just fine. I've never asked for any favors or expected any compensation for my efforts during the war, but I'm asking for it now. I have to be in this fight."
Even Kingsley was hard pressed to argue with the last request.
"All the more reason to spare you Harry. We all know and appreciate what you've done for the wizarding community. This is our way of saying thank you."
It went back and forth for some time. Kingsley tried to reason with him, but couldn't deter Harry from his stand. The determination was fierce and Harry intended to go with or without the Ministry's blessing. Finally, with Shacklebolt sensing this, he rescinded and agreed to allow Harry to go.
"Alright, Alright, you go with Lance and Ron. Now get of here, and get ready by tomorrow morning," he said with exasperation.
"Thank you sir."
"Don't thank me yet," Kingsley added sullenly.
With intermittent sleep Harry awoke and got ready to go in to the Ministry early. Kreacher made a big breakfast this morning as he was suspicious his master was going away for a while. Feeling a level of excitement he hadn't experienced in some time, Harry did his best to finish most of the breakfast and said farewell to Kreacher. The huge eyes of the old house-elf began to swell up and water.
"I'll be back in a few days Kreacher," he told the house elf reassuringly. In truth, he didn't know how long it would take. The only thing of his he would bring on the trip, would be his rucksack. He would get Hermione to put the Undetectable Extension charm on it, the way she had done her beaded bag.
There was bustling activity in the Magical Law Enforcement department this morning. Everyone was scurrying about with a slightly anxious look on their faces. On his desk was several notes and one from Ms. Pickersgill.
The Ministry will provide everything you need for the trip.
Bring your personals to Kingsley's office this morning
That should leave plenty of time for an extra cup of coffee. Ron and Hermione were chatting in the canteen as he got there. Grabbing a quick cup, he dropped by their table. Hermione had an uneasy look on her face.
"Am I intruding?"
"Course not, have a seat Harry," said Hermione.
"I understand you talked Kingsley into letting you go," Ron said scratching his head. Suddenly, Harry wondered how much Ron knew – and how he knew it.
"Yes, I did," he replied, suddenly feeling like an intrusion. "Are you up for this Ron?"
"Yes Harry – are you?" he said without a smile.
"Well, I guess we'll see. Got a note to be in Kingsley's office at nine, so I'll be shoving off."
"Watch over him Harry," Hermione said, drawing a sour look from Ron.
As nine finally came around, Harry, Ron, and Lance crowded into Shacklebolt's office.
"Good morning gentlemen."
"Good morning sir," the three replied together.
"You'll take the portkey this morning and join up with Quixwood and his team. More explicit instructions are contingent upon operations going on as we speak," Kingsley said and looked at the ceiling reflectively. "We think the best way to draw Razvan out of hiding is to cause some unrest with the Gypsies – Romas as they're called over there. He's kind of an overlord in his part of the world. It's been this way with his family for some time. Quixwood will fill you in with more when you get there. Good luck and good hunting gentlemen."
"Thank you sir."
They all three gathered around the portkey which was a new and black nylon rucksack. They didn't know it then, but the rucksack also had a Undetectable Extension charm placed on it, and was stocked full of supplies.
"Tallyho gentlemen," Lance said and they all grabbed the rucksack at the same moment. The portkey experience was pretty much like the previous ones for Harry. It was a little shorter than the trip to New York and longer than his flight to Durmstrang. They landed smoothly in a field on the edge of a wood. The foothills of the Fagaras were just beyond the wood. The chill in the air felt a lot like Durmstrang. Harry could already feel the cold through the windcheater he was wearing. Quixwood's small tent was only a few paces from the landing area. The tent would certainly have the extension charm on it, Harry thought. They walked up to the tent, poking their heads in to see. The inside was huge and supplies were scattered everywhere. There seemed to be a communication center on one side. Quixwood had a workbench strewn with gadgets of all kinds along with his portkey detection device. Quixwood introduced Steven and Jerry and informed them that the American game keeper was out running the hounds.
Ron and Lance appeared to be in good spirits and were happy being entertained from Steven and Jerry's stories of the last few days. Harry found what appeared to be an unused bunk and dropped his gear on it. Not feeling overly sociable, he went outside the tent for a little air. The American was coming back with the hounds. In the lead were two large chocolate brown dogs that looked quite ordinary. They calmly walked along with the game keeper. But, then trotting out from the woods and into the open view of the field were two creatures that were anything but easy to describe. They didn't walk like dogs at all and appeared to have the body of a deer. At the end of the muscular neck was the head of a wildcat. The feet were not those of a deer, but looked more like an Eagle's foot with long talons.
"Hello," Harry said to the game keeper.
"Good day sir. Just getting a bit of exercise. They don't like being tied up, that's for sure."
"No, I don't imagine. I'm Harry Potter by the way," he said extending a hand.
"Just call me Horace sir," he replied and a warm handshake. "Have you ever seen such hounds?"
"No never. What are they – their specialities I mean?"
"Pretty easy to see with these two isn't it," and he made a little sound, calling them. The first hound, being a lighter shade of tan gracefully walked to Horace and were a little over waist high. "This one's called Chloros, and the other shy one is Tenebris. There's nothing faster or more fleet of foot. They're as vicious as a Tiger and as sure footed as a mountain goat," he said beaming. "They're Calygreyhounds – the hounds of mythology."
"Bloody hell, I thought that was just imagination," Harry said shaking his head. "And what about the other two?" he inquired.
"Those are magical tracking hounds, Gelert and Gytrash." He made a little clicking noise with his mouth and hounds immediately ran to his side. "They can track to the end of the earth, and they never fail."
"Really, what if the quarry disapparates?" Harry asked, as if he had him in this one.
"There wouldn't be much magical about them if they couldn't follow, now would it?" he said with a huge grin.
"No, I guess there wouldn't."
"You just hold onto them with this special leash – and wait for their heads to go point up," he said nodding. "They'll take you there – and everyone connected!"
"Yes, that is impressive."
"HARRY," Quixwood stuck his head out of the tent and called. "We're about ready to go." Lance and Ron were getting into their cold weather gear as Harry entered the tent. "Best to find something," Quixwood announced, pointing to a pile of cold weather gear and plopping a big flop hat over his head full of wild hair..
"So what's up Quixwood? Has Razvan jumped?" Harry asked.
"We've arranged a little dispute between two rival clans of the Roma. Razvan's family has always run a little protection racket. He helps them with problems like Vampires, Werewolves, and rival clans. He charges a fee for the effort. He's rich and doesn't need the money, but he'll retaliate if they hold back a penny. Hopefully he'll turn up at this meeting."
"Sounds like a charming fellow," Lance said, sliding a jumper over his head.
"So how do we keep him from just returning to the hide-out?" asked Ron, puzzled.
"Leave that to us," Jerry entered. "We'll destroy the portkey and place a magical barrier around the hide-out.
"If we can find it," Steven said.
"Even if you can't see it, his home is got to be close to the portkey and magic leaves traces. They should be able to find it," Quixwood explained. "Besides, Razvan may not to return there – not with the hounds on his tail."
"You're right there. I've seen the dogs and they're very impressive." Harry said.
"They're special indeed from what I understand," said Quixwood.
Harry found boots and all the outdoor gear he needed. He found weather-proof trousers to slip over his own. There was a heavy waterproof Anorak about his size with a hood for wet or really cold weather. He stuffed his rucksack with the extra items he needed along with a tent like the one Hermione had carried in her beaded bag. Quixwood, knowing the location of the meeting would lead the apparition of the team and then return to help Steven and Jerry complete the barricade. Horace the gamekeeper, would also stay hidden with the hounds until Razvan was spotted. He would turn control of the hounds over to Harry, and the team, once they were comfortable working with the hounds.
Lance took the special leash of the Calygreyhounds, and Horace took hold of the tracking hounds. The group all joined hands with Lance and Horace on the ends. With a big swoosh they were off and hurdling to a spot just short of the village of Romas. There was small box sized huts everywhere you could see, and in the center of the community was a large marquee sized tent.
"We have to find our guide – we have to spot Gunari," Quixwood said straining to see. "He should be somewhere along the tent. Horace, you'll have to stay here with the hounds."
"We'll be okay," Horace said nodding.
They hurried along a wagon trail through the shanty of huts and approached the tent. There was already a large gathering. The rumbling of the men could be heard before they entered. A man ran up to them just as they were about to enter the tent. Harry snapped around to see him. He had a long white shirt and a colorful sash tied around his waist. Quixwood, by this time had recognized him.
"You must follow me," he said and pointed to a little hut a few paces from the tent. They quickly moved away from the door of the tent. Toward the shadows they crept and settled in the doorway of a vacant and unlit hut. "When Razvan comes to the meeting, I will signal from there," he said in a low voice and pointed to the opening of the tent. They stood in the dim light and watched the opening of the tent for over an hour.
"I don't think he'll show up," Ron Finally said.
"He's certainly taking his time," answered Lance.
"Shh... I think that's Gunari, but he's just standing there," Harry said. They could hear the pounding of their hearts as they anxiously awaited any signal from Gunari. Harry's mouth was as dry as cotton. Out of nowhere, a tall figure quickly approached Gunari. They talked for a moment with Gunari looking up at an acute angle to make eye contact with the man. The tall one was wearing a very dark full length coat that looked like a duster used in the American west. Covering his head was a wide brimmed dark flop hat. The tall one looked behind him as if cautiously checking his back-trail and turned to enter the tent. As he moved his right side came into the light, and Harry couldn't believe his eyes. He could clearly make out a tall wizard's staff exactly like the one he returned to Ms. Tilliedaff.
"That's him, we've got him." Harry said. The others stood wide-eyed and waiting for a signal from Gunari. Finally Gunari made a move back toward the opening of the tent. He glanced back inside quickly, and then looked their way and waved. Quixwood signaled his intention to re-join Steven and Jerry, and disapparated. They stepped out of the hut moving quickly to the opening of the tent.
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