Chapter 13 : XIII. The Mission
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It was a dark day for the Aurors. Darker than any Harry Potter could remember, in all his years with the Ministry. They had lost one of their own and the loss had taken its toll on the morale of the team. They were all out at the moment, researching leads that the Order members had come across, interviewing various shopkeepers and magical researchers, in the hopes that something, anything regarding the Peverell Society might come up. His best lead hadn’t come forward yet and he was hoping that he might get an answer soon, preferably one that would put him right back on the course of catching the killers.
Ron was writing up the report on Penelope at the desk next to him and paused frequently to rub his eyes and shake his head. Harry understood his frustration, of having to classify the girl as a casualty in a case, giving her a number in an archive. It wasn’t something he was comfortable with but he couldn’t let that slip pass the Minister’s cabinet.
The door to the office opened and Harry’s secretary, a middle aged lady by the name of Gladys, entered. Gladys had been with him ever since he took the job of Head Auror and she was truly a treasure. She never misplaced a file or forget to write down an appointment. On holidays she would joke at the office parties, telling him how it was her alone that kept the office running and she should be paid at least as much as he was. With the chaos that had reigned in the Department in the last days, Harry mentally agreed with her.
“Mister Potter. There is somebody here requesting to see you.”
“Who is it Gladys?” Harry asked, checking his schedule and seeing it was empty for the day. Unwanted visitors were the last thing he needed, he thought, looking at the stacks of files that surrounded him.
“A Mister Draco Malfoy, sir. He says it’s urgent.”
Ron head snapped up as he heard the name and he looked at Harry, both his eyebrows raised in surprise. Harry didn’t mimic that look, as he instructed Gladys to let the man in and hold all his memos until they were finished. They were not to be disturbed.
Draco Malfoy entered the office and looked around, nodding in Ron’s direction then crossing the room in a few steps. He extended his hand to Ron, who shook it firmly and then turned to Harry, extending his hand to him as well.
He had aged well. His hair wasn’t as light as it had been in his youth and he might have had a receding hair line, but the lines that now crossed his face gave him an aristocratic air. His robes were tailored to perfection, the expensive material bearing no crease or wrinkle and his shoes were polished and shined. He looked in every way a respectable wizard should look like and his attitude mirrored that, as he took a seat in front of Harry’s desk and pulled out an envelope from his briefcase.
“Potter, I am here with the information you asked me for a couple of days ago.” he started and Harry had trouble containing his excitement at the news.
“I trust you have found something for me, Malfoy?” he asked in an even tone and glanced at Ron, who was leaning back in his chair and studying his old nemesis.
“Yes, I made inquiries and sure enough, as you said, these Peverell people have ties in all the old wizard families. As it happens, my father received an invitation to join them a few year back, having been recommended by the Parkinson family to them. You remember Pansy Parkinson from school, I trust?”
“I try very hard no to, thank you very much.” Ron mumbled and Draco looked at him in a curious way.
“Anyway, before you start hunting her down you should know that she left for France some three years ago and hasn’t been seen in Britain since. As I understand it, she owed some bookies down in Knockturn Alley quite a bit of gold and didn’t have the resources to pay them back. My father received this invitation, which I was unaware of until I asked about it.” he said and extended a letter to Harry, who opened it and recognized the same handwriting as on the notes he and his niece had received. But the note addressed to Lucius Malfoy had something else. A location for the meeting. His eyes rose to meet Malfoy’s.
“He didn’t attend, no. He wished to do so, of course.” Draco continued with a skeptical note in his voice. “But mother told him that if he wanted to join another secret society with a mundane purpose, she would send him to the Retirement Wing at Mungo’s.”
“How do we know the location’s good?” Ron said from his chair. Draco turned to look at him with cold eyes.
“Do you have a better lead, Weasley? I was under the impression you didn’t, which is why Potter came to me in the first place. This is what I have. Take it or leave it.” he said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms.
“We’ll take it!” Harry decided and summoned a folder in which he placed the letter Draco had given him. “Thank you, this is very valuable to us.”
“Don’t mention it, Potter. I mean, literally, don’t mention this to anybody. I have no intentions of being associated with your office, even though my son does work here. By the way, where is my son?” he asked, getting up and straightening his robes.
“In the hall, second door the the right.” Harry replied and got up to shake Draco’s hand. After shaking Ron’s hand as well, he left the office with a quick nod.
Harry turned to look at Ron, the wheels in his head spinning. Ron was shaking his head in a disapproving way.
“Of all the people, mate, you had to go to Malfoy?”
“It was our best bet, and it looks to me like it’s paid off. We need to get the team, we’re going to raid the location on the letter today.” Harry announced, looking at the letter once more.
The Aurors were buzzing with excitement at the prospect of a lead and were anxiously waiting for Harry to brief them on the mission.
“About bloody time we caught them, too.” Jeremiah was complaining loudly. “I haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in weeks.”
Next to him Derek only mumbled, keeping his eyes focused of Simone, who was playing with the sleeve of her robe, not looking at any of them.
“All right, team, settle down!” Harry called as he entered the office. “I’m pleased to announce that we have found a possible location for a Peverell Society house, in Essex. We apparate there this afternoon, get in and get out under the cover of darkness. Anything we find can and will be considered evidence, so we bring it back.”
“Potter, do we know for sure we’ll find anything there?” Derek asked. Harry shook his head.
“You realize I can’t promise that we will find anything there. We’ll get in and see what we uncover.” he said and could see the annoyance on the younger man’s face. “Look Smith, this is the best shot we have right now. If you have another idea, you’re more than welcome to skip this one out and go investigate on your own.”
The man had no reply and Harry set up a meeting point, outside Ottery St. Catchpole, for 5 o’clock that evening. As the Aurors left one by one, Scorpius approached Ron.
“Weasley, can I have a word?”
“Yes? Is anything the matter, Malfoy?” Ron asked and cocked an eyebrow at him.
“I was thinking, maybe we could move Rose out of Grimmauld for tonight? With the note, I don’t want to risk an ambush on the house tonight while she’s alone.”
“Who would ambush the house?” Ron asked, his voice betraying his skepticism.
“You know as well as I do there is a mole inside. What if these Peverell people learn what we’re doing and decide to take the chance to meet with Rose? What do you do then?” Scorpius answered, leaving the true meaning of his words hang in the air. What do you do when you find Rose like you’ve found Penelope?
“Fine, go get her, move her to the Borrow. I’ll send her mother there as well, they can all have a nice catch up with my sister.” Ron finally agreed, after a pause. “I’ll go tell Harry. You go get her and don’t be late!” he called after the man, but Scorpius was already out the door, leaving Ron to mutter to himself all the way back to his office about proper respect and conduct in the work place.
Rose was nearly bouncing with excitement when she heard the front door open and Scorpius calling for her. She ran down the stairs and almost crashed into him, not seeing that he was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs.
“You’re home early!” she noted and smiled at him. “I guess we can do a late lunch, or maybe even an early dinner.”
Rose started making her way into the kitchen, not waiting for his reply, but Scorpius grabbed her hand and stopped her.
“What’s the matter? Oh my! Who died?” she asked, alarmed.
“Relax, nobody died. We got a lead on location for the Peverell Society. We’re going to investigate this evening.”
“That’s great! Maybe you can catch who’s responsible for this and we can finally get a little peace!”
“Yeah, I’m not so sure. The source is rather… old.” Scorpius said, noting in his head how his father had taken precisely that day to visit him at the office. For the first time. This reeked of Lucius Malfoy all over, but he wasn’t about to question Potter’s judgment on the matter.
“Well then, why go at all?” Rose wondered, tapping her foot.
“Because if they are still there, it’s our best chance yet. Anyway, in light of recent events… you’re going to be spending the night at the Burrow with your mother. “ he said and steadied himself for the tantrum that was sure to follow his announcement. To his surprise, Rose fell into a deep silence and finally nodded.
“I guess you’re right. There’s safety in numbers. I’ll go pack a bag.” she said and went up the staircase one again.
She took Scorpius’ hand and pulled him up the stairs with her.
“What are you doing?” he asked, but followed her anyway.
“I was thinking. Are we in a hurry?” Scorpius looked at the grandfather clock on the wall and saw that it was half past two in the afternoon. The meeting was to take place at five.
“Kind of, why? Planning on going shopping before you pack?” he asked and she rolled her eyes at him.
“No! I was researching some of the old families and I want to take that with me as well! But I need a little time!”
Scorpius was just about to argue how they would apparate there and no special preparations were needed, when she pulled him in for a kiss. Deciding this wasn't a battle he was going to win, he followed her into the study to gather her papers.
It was a couple of hours later that Scorpius apparated Rose to the Burrow. Carrying her overnight bag, the two made their way quietly across the grounds, exchanging quick glances but not saying anything. They hadn’t had time for the big talk Rose wanted and as twilight approached, leaving the sky stained with lines of gold and cloudy gray, the task ahead of them seemed to sink in. It could all be over soon. Then there would be time to talk. Hours and days of talking, without the threat of death keeping its head pressed against the window.
There was a light on in the kitchen and the figures of Ginny Potter and Hermione Weasley became visible, both of them sitting at the table, lost in a deep conversation. When they got closer, Rose was shocked by the worried lines that grazed her mother’s face. She seemed to have age ten years since she had last seen her a few days ago and the thought that her mother was getting older now shot through her, gripping her heart and making her grasp for breath. If Scorpius noticed any of this, he said nothing.
The two women greeted them warmly as they entered, Ginny making sure Scorpius has something to eat before he left on the mission. Something about the entire atmosphere in the room struck Rose as off, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. One by one, people started trickling in. Simone came with Jeremiah and they were followed shortly by Derek. Fred came a short time later and let his aunts make a fuss over him, before their attention was turned to Teddy. Dean, Harry and Ron were the last of the Aurors, gathered in the house.
“Okay you lot, listen up!” Harry called as the time drew nearer to their departure. “You all have the location where we need to arrive. Apparating coordinates have also been supplied. Brent is going to stay behind to do some more research in case anything comes up that we’ve missed. I want vigilance, I want team work. Remember, no man gets left behind! Best of luck to us all!”
The Aurors trickled one by one out the back door and made their way to the back of the Weasley property, where they would be apparating in formation. Harry and Ron kissed their wives goodbye, Rose hugged her father tightly and the three women watched from the door as the men left. To her right, she heard Ginny whisper softly to her mother.
“Don’t worry, Hermione. They’re going to come back. They know they always have to return to us.”
Her words made Rose’s blood turn cold in her veins and the words Scorpius spoke to her just that morning echoed in her head. “As long as you need me to come back, I will.”
She looked at her mother and suddenly understood the worried look on her face. In the back of her mind, a young Rose recognized the same look from when she was smaller and her father would go on missions. It was why her parents never went to bed angry or leave the house after they had a fight. Tomorrow wasn’t a given for them, not even after all these years. Without thinking, she felt her feet start to walk and slowly she broke into a run. She didn’t want to think about this, she didn’t want to know how many pairs of eyes were following her or that her mother was calling after her.
The sound of Hermione’s voice made Harry, Ron and the others turn. Rose sprinted, her long hair blowing behind her in the cold winter’s air. She collided with Scorpius, nearing knocking him off his feet and wrapped herself around him, kissing him firmly on the mouth.
To their left, a shocked Ron took a step forward but Harry stopped him, shaking his head.
When the two finally broke apart, redness had spread from Rose’s cheeks to her whole face and her neck and chest. Scorpius grinned widely at her.
“What’s gotten into you?” he whispered, suddenly aware of their audience.
“I believe in desperate gestures, the kind that make you look stupid. I need you to come back to me.” she whispered back and peeked at her father out of the corner of her eye.
The man was shocked to say the least, but Rose decided she would deal with that later. Waving them all goodbye, she returned to the house and shrugged off her mother’s curious look and her aunt’s smile. There was no way they’d get an explanation before Rose had the time to process this herself.
Ron was fuming as the group made their way towards the apparition point, and kept throwing Scorpius dirty looks. Harry was silently trying to calm his friend, though he knew that in no time at all, Ron would snap and the first person he would blame would be Harry, with his idea of letting the two stay together in the house. Oh yes, there would come a time when Ron would go completely mental over what just happened and Harry was thankful the day was not today. He would need both Ginny and Hermione around when it happened.
Out of the corner of his eye, he searched for Scorpius in the group. Somehow, the kiss didn’t take Harry by surprise. In fact, it occurred to him that it was inevitable. The two just had so much in common and they were bound to click. The young man was walking with the rest, a dazed look on his face. Harry imagined that’s how he looked back in 5th year after he first kissed Ginny. Maybe it was a red hair thing.
They quickly regrouped and pulled themselves together after a few more moments and they apparated in a field in Essex. The location provided to them was an old house, partially visible in the distance.
The approach they had agreed upon was simple. They would split up and circle the place. Teddy, Derek and Jeremiah would try to enter through the basement, Simone, Dean and Fred would search the grounds for any sheds, garages or other such additional buildings. Ron and Harry would make their way into the main house through a back door or window and search.
They found the back door quickly enough and to their surprise, it wasn’t locked with spells or any other protective enchantments. The door opened to a small kitchen, that looked like it hadn’t been used in ages. There was dust covering every available surface and the moonlight streaming through the window gave them enough visibility so that they didn’t need to use their wands. The door on the left revealed a long corridor and the men entered it, trying not to cough as they inhaled the dust and the smell of the old house. Looking around, they found what looked like a study, judging by the old desk in a corner and the broken bookcases that lined the wall. Harry walked towards the desk and started searching the drawers, when a light appeared behind him. He froze and felt his whole body tensing, his ears straining to pick up on whether the person was on his team or a stranger. Then a man spoke up in a cold voice.
“Potter and Weasley. We finally found one another.”
AN: And that was chapter 13. Some of you guessed that the man with the lead would be Draco and you were right. How could I resist not bringing him into this? We're getting closer to the end now, just two chapters to go! Thank you again to those who read and reviewed!
Harry Potter and everything related to it belongs to JK Rowling.
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