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Chapter 23 : It Has Begun
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HOGSMEADE UNDER ATTACK
by Rita Skeeter
Last Saturday a large group of followers of He Who Must Not Be Named, commonly known as Death Eaters have attacked Hogsmeade, the only all wizarding village in the country. On the moment of the attack, the village was visited by students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reasons for the attack remain unclear, although many people believe that it was orchestrated with the purpose of capturing Harry Potter, who was also visiting Hogsmeade at the moment of the attack.
The Death Eaters were met by a group of students of Hogwarts, who were supposedly under the command of Harry Potter. They were quickly aided by Aurors and Hogwarts teachers. Unfortunately, one Hogwarts student found the death. Three Death Eaters have also been killed.
After some deep research we can uncover that the group of students that followed The Boy Who Lived into battle is known as Dumbledore’s Army. Many students of Hogwarts know of the existence of the group, but no one actually knows what their purpose is. The name of the group, however, indicates that it has been founded by Albus Dumbledore, current headmaster of the school, who was absent at the moment of the attack. Where Dumbledore was and why he apparently wasn’t able to help and protect his students is a question the Ministry of Magic will surely want to investigate thoroughly.
Hermione made a disgusted noise as she threw her copy of the Sunday Prophet on the table. She had been reading the article to Harry, Ginny and Ron at breakfast the morning after the attack.
“I can’t believe they blame Dumbledore.” Harry grumbled. It was one of the first things he had said since he had left the hospital wing the day before. “It’s like he could have known this was going to happen.”
“Of course he couldn’t have known, Harry.” Hermione said carefully. “But no one knows where he was. I think many parents will ask themselves the same question as that Skeeter woman.”
“Don’t you dare blame Dumbledore for this.” Harry blurted out. Although he had had the same thoughts at several moments, he didn’t want anyone to think bad of his headmaster.
“Of course I don’t blame him!” Hermione looked affronted. “I’m just saying that maybe if he had been here it would have been over sooner and – “
“And Angelina wouldn’t have died? Is that what you’re saying?” Harry asked aggressively. “Dumbledore will be blaming himself hard enough, Hermione. He doesn’t need you for that.”
He made to stand up and leave the Great Hall, but Ginny lay a hand on his arm. “Don’t go, Harry.” she said soothingly. “Hermione didn’t mean it like that, you know she didn’t.”
Harry looked at his best female friend who looked extremely anxious and suddenly felt bad for snapping at her. “I’m sorry.” he mumbled.
Ron changed the topic with a tactfulness that hadn’t been known until this day. “Well, so much for secrecy then.” he said, still looking nervously between his two best friends. “Skeeter found out about the DA.”
“You think someone blabbed?” Ginny asked.
“That’s impossible.” Hermione said quietly, still looking a bit nervous. “Everyone signed a magical contract.”
“Maybe you made a mistake.” Ron said. “It is very advanced magic to set up such a contract.”
“I don’t think so.” Harry said before Hermione could protest. “Look at the article. Skeeter is just writing about a group of students who call themselves Dumbledore’s Army. She doesn’t know anything about the purpose of the group. I’m sure some students have already heard the name. We’ve been talking about it openly quite a few times, haven’t we? And surely everyone who was at Hogsmeade must have noticed we weren’t just a random selection of students who joined the fight.”
Hermione smiled at him gratefully and Harry felt relieved. He had been afraid Hermione would be angry with him for lashing out at her like that, but he realized she wasn’t one to hold a grudge.
“I agree.” Ginny said. “I couldn’t think of anyone either. Even Smith has been rather civil lately.”
She looked at Harry, expecting him to act mockingly jealous like he normally would, but he didn’t give a reaction whatsoever.
“Yeah.” Ron said. “I can’t believe he actually fought yesterday. I didn’t think he would have the guts.”
Harry suddenly stood from his seat. “I’m going back to the common room.” he informed them flatly.
Ginny looked at him worriedly. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“No, I have some homework to do.” And without another word he turned around and left the Great Hall.
“He’s really taking it hard isn’t he?” Hermione said softly. “Angelina?”
Ginny nodded. “He’s blaming himself of course. No matter what I say, he keeps thinking she would still be alive if it weren’t for him. He doesn’t say much, but I can see it.” She sighed.
“What?” Ron asked astounded. “Why?”
“Honestly, Ron.” Hermione sighed. “You’ve known Harry long enough, haven’t you? Of course he’s blaming himself.”
“But how could this be his fault? Pettigrew killed her, didn’t he?”
“Yes.” Ginny said. “But he thinks if he hadn’t started Dumbledore’s Army, she wouldn’t have died. And he was fighting alongside her when it happened. He thinks if he had taken Pettigrew out sooner, Angelina would still be alive.”
“He did everything he could.” Ron protested.
“We know that, Ron, but you know how Harry thinks.” Hermione said. She turned to Ginny. “So Pettigrew’s really dead then?”
Ginny nodded. “He was still alive when the Healers arrived and they took him to St Mungo’s. They intended to treat him there, before he was healthy and could be taken back to Azkaban, but he died after a couple of hours. Harry got an owl from Sirius last night.”
“He’s probably beating himself up over that too.” Hermione said concernedly.
Ginny nodded again. “He knows he didn’t mean to kill him, but well… it was his curse.” She paused before she softly said: “He thinks he’s no better than V-Voldemort or his Death Eaters. I think in some way this is harder for him than we can imagine.”
Harry didn’t show himself for the rest of the day and his friends knew better than to force their company on him. They knew if Harry separated himself from everyone, it wouldn’t do to bug him. It meant he just wanted to be alone for a few hours and he would come back on his own accord. But when they came back from dinner, he still hadn’t left his dormitory.
Harry lie on his back on his bed with a book on his chest he hadn’t opened all day. The only thing that he had done was just lie there and think about the events that occurred the day before. The images of the battle played before his eyes over and over again. Neville being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, Angelina falling to the Killing Curse of Peter Pettigrew, the same Pettigrew being blown backwards against a wall and dying because of Harry’s actions. Maybe that was the toughest thing to process. He was no longer an innocent teenager, he was a killer. He didn’t spoke the curse with the intention to kill his opponent, but still. It were Harry’s actions that ended Peter Pettigrew’s life. Harry felt like he had crossed a line and that he would never be able to go back to the other side again. Maybe Voldemort was right back in first year when Harry stopped him from stealing the Philosopher’s Stone. Maybe he wasn’t as good as everyone thought he was. Maybe he was a dark wizard.
He had barely noticed it was already dark outside. Suddenly someone softly knocked on the door of the dormitory. Harry rolled his eyes, but didn’t answer. It was probably Hermione trying to get him to talk to her about everything. Ron and Ginny knew perfectly when to leave Harry with his thoughts. Hermione did too most of the time, but she usually felt so bad about it that she still tried to get Harry to talk to her.
After a few moments, the door slowly opened and Sirius entered. “Hey kiddo.” he said softly.
“Sirius!” Harry said surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you.” he said.
Harry narrowed his eyes. “Did Hermione send you an owl?” he asked suspiciously.
Sirius laughed his bark-like laugh. “She didn’t.” he answered. “Kind of surprised me. She was terribly relieved when I showed up downstairs though.”
He sat down at the foot of Harry’s bed and said: “I kind of forced Dumbledore to let me come. I needed to talk to you after what happened.” He remained silent for a few moments before he said: “Quite of an appearance I made. A lot of your housemates were apparently anticipating a murder attempt.”
Although Sirius had been cleared of all charges and his name had been cleared publicly, it was still strange for some people to see him in public. They had been hearing he was a dangerous mass murderer for fourteen years after all.
“I’m sorry I didn’t see you yesterday, Harry.” Sirius said. “I was on a secret mission for the Order of the Phoenix and I only heard about the attack when I returned to Grimmauld Place in the late afternoon.”
“I’m really sorry to hear about your friend.”
Harry felt tears sting behind his eyes, but was determined not to cry. “You knew her parents, didn’t you?”
Sirius nodded. “They were in the Order of the Phoenix. Extremely talented witch and wizard. Two of the finest Aurors the Ministry had back then. Together with Frank and Alice of course.”
“Yes.” Sirius said slowly. “He told you about them then?” Harry nodded and Sirius sighed. “Poor guys. I sometimes think I’ve got it the easiest of all of us.”
Harry hardly thought that twelve years in Azkaban could be categorized as easy, but he didn’t elaborated. “So you heard about Pettigrew then?” he asked softly.
Sirius nodded. “Dumbledore told me you were the one that…”
“Killed him.” Harry finished.
Sirius noticed his godson had a haunted look on his face and knew he had been right to come. Although Harry would never say it, Sirius knew he felt extremely guilty about killing Pettigrew. He remembered how James had acted after he first had killed a Death Eater.
“First of all, Harry’, he said, carefully pondering his words. “You didn’t mean to kill him. The intention is always more important than the action. Remember that.”
“Yes, but he’s dead.” Harry said. “He’s dead because of me. What does that make me? Am I any better than Voldemort?”
“I think you can answer that for yourself, Harry.” Sirius said calmly. “When you realized you had killed Pettigrew, how did you feel?”
Harry remained silent for quite some time, but Sirius didn’t do anything to break that silence. “Horrible.” Harry finally admitted.
“And that’s exactly what makes you so different from Voldemort, Harry!” Sirius said firmly. “Do you think Voldemort feels anything if he kills someone, however innocent or young that person may be? Do you think he ever thinks of their faces again? Of course he doesn’t. You killed Peter Pettigrew inadvertently Harry, a man who has taken so much from you and is responsible for so much of what you have been through, but here you are feeling extremely bad about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel that way, cause I know better than anyone you don’t choose to. But it proofs that you are a more good-hearted and admirable person than Voldemort or any one of his Death Eaters will ever be.”
Sirius’ little speech was followed by a long silence. Harry thought about what his godfather had said. He still hated the fact that he was responsible for the death of another person, but he knew that this was a war and death was inevitable. And if he was the only one who would be able to kill Voldemort, he would be facing a lot more Death Eaters and battles in the future before he got to him.
“He wasn’t the last one, was he?” he asked flatly.
Sirius looked at him sympathetically. “I’m afraid not. This was the first time the Death Eaters have openly showed themselves since Voldemort returned. There are bound to be other attacks soon. There will probably come times that you have no other choice than to take a life, Harry, but there is nothing we can do about that. Your safety and the safety of your friends always comes first.”
Harry nodded. Voldemort had been laying low until yesterday. He knew what the attack on Hogsmeade meant. Snape had given Voldemort his blood and had finished the potion. Voldemort was now able to harm him. The only thing he didn’t understand was why Voldemort didn’t come to Hogsmeade himself.
When he asked Sirius, he merely shrugged. “Voldemort rarely shows himself. During the last war I only saw him twice. He usually lets the Death Eaters do his dirty work.”
“Do you think I did a stupid thing?” Harry asked tentatively. “Giving my blood?”
“Oh right.” Sirius said. “Well, I wasn’t happy about it, I must admit, but Dumbledore talked to me and I think you did the right thing. Voldemort was bound to find a way around the protection one way or another and this way we still have our spy. And I am fully confident you’ll be able to defeat him one day without the protection.”
Harry looked at him sceptically. “He’s so powerful”, he said. “And I’m just.. I’m just me.”
“Well, I think ‘just you’ is pretty powerful as well.” Sirius said.
“I’m nothing special.” Harry said. “I’m just an average student.”
“You are.” Sirius agreed. “But I think that’s mainly because your priorities are more outside the classroom.” He grinned. “Besides, Remus told me all about your achievements when he taught you Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry.” Sirius said more seriously. “He said you were by far the top student in your year and better than a lot of the older students. He said even your parents couldn’t have matched your level and that is saying something.”
After a short silence Sirius said: “Well, there’s someone outside who’s been dying to see you. You think you’re up for some younger company than me?”
Harry nodded. Sirius walked over to the door and opened it. Jacinta Malfoy entered the room anxiously. When she saw Harry sitting on the edge of his bed, she didn’t seem to be able to withhold herself anymore. She ran towards him and hugged him tightly.
A smile appeared on Harry’s face for the first time since the previous morning. “Hi.” he mumbled as Sirius sat back down on the edge of Ron’s bed.
“I was so worried.” Jacinta said with a small voice.
“It’s alright. I’m okay." Harry said reassuringly, but Jacinta seemed reluctant to let go of him. Harry didn’t realize he had had such an impact on the girl.
Harry’s stomach grumbled and he realized he hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Sirius laughed. “Let’s go down to the kitchen, I bet those house elves are still as helpful as they used to be right?”
Harry grinned. “Don’t let Hermione hear you.”
Sirius laughed loudly. “You want to come?” he asked Jacinta.
“I can’t” she answered softly. “It’s passed curfew for the first years.”
“No problem.” Harry said, as he pulled his Invisibility Cloak out of his trunk. “I think it’ll cover both of us.”
As he saw Harry standing there with his Cloak, Sirius got hit by a memory of James standing in that precise dormitory holding the same Cloak. His smile faded.
“Something wrong?” Harry asked.
“Nah.” Sirius answered quickly. “I’m glad the Marauders still have their heirs in these halls.”
Harry laughed, but when he followed his godfather to the door, Harry thought about what Sirius had said before Jacinta had come in. Just before they entered the common room he stopped. “It has begun, hasn’t it? The second wizarding war?”
Sirius stopped too and looked more serious than Harry had ever seen him. “Yes. It has begun.”
“Come in, Potter.”
Harry entered Snape’s office for the umpteenth time that year. His lessons had improved dramatically since Snape had been acting more civilly towards him. He knew they would never become the best of friends, but a sort of mutual understanding had risen between them. Harry had finally made great progress with Occlumency, he was now able to push Snape completely out of his mind. Today they would be starting on Legilimency, which promised to be even harder.
“Good evening, Professor.”
Snape nodded at the chair in front of his desk and Harry sat down a bit nervously. Snape had never asked him to sit down but always started the lesson immediately.
“First of all I want to offer you my condolences for the loss of your friend.” Snape said.
Harry looked at him unbelievingly. Snape had never shown any interest in students that weren’t in his own house. “Thank you.” he mumbled.
“Secondly I wanted to congratulate you.” Snape said. He smirked when the disbelief dripped of Harry’s face. “Don’t look so surprised, Potter. You have done a great job on Saturday. You stayed calm and you evaluated the situation well. I believe your decisiveness and your efficient actions have spared a lot of lives that day.”
“Not all of them.” Harry mumbled.
Snape looked at him almost sympathetically. “Not all of them.” he affirmed. “But a lot. I am afraid no mortal has the power to save everyone, Potter.”
Harry was waiting for him to add ‘not even the Boy Who Lived’ with a sneer, but Snape considered the topic closed.
“Now, I recall we were planning on starting with Legilimency.” Snape started. “But first I want to teach you some useful magic. Magic that will help you in situations like last weekend.”
“I am already practicing defensive magic with Professor Dumbledore, sir.” Harry said.
“I realize that.” Snape said. “But there are spells – lesser common spells – that Professor Dumbledore would not be able to teach you. Spells that are not known by many witches or wizards.”
“Why wouldn’t he be able to teach me?” Harry asked. He knew Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard alive and that he was extremely smart. He would have thought that he would know even the lesser known spells.
“Because I invented them.” Snape said smoothly. “There is a chance the headmaster may not like what I intend to teach you, but I think that it will be useful to you.”
Harry nodded. He realized Snape left it up to him to tell Dumbledore about it or not, but he had made it clear the headmaster wouldn’t hear it from him.
“Okay.” Snape said. “Let’s begin with one of the easier spells. This spell is very useful to keep your conversations private. The incantation is Muffliato…”
By the end of the week Harry was approached by several members of the DA to ask when there would be a meeting. Harry had been putting of changing the date on his coin, because he didn’t exactly look forward to it. Right after the battle at Hogsmeade, Harry had wanted to quit the DA, but his friends had quickly talked him out of it. He realized last Saturday had shown exactly why the DA was needed, but Harry asked himself how he could expect anyone to turn up for the next meeting after it became so painfully clear how dangerous it was. The constant inquiries of the members, however, showed him at least most of them still wanted to go on with it. By Friday, he was constantly stopped between classes by members. His answer was every time the same. “I’ll let you know in the usual way, but it’s not tonight. I’ve got an appointment with Dumbledore.”
Indeed after dinner, Harry made his way to Dumbledore’s office for his private lesson of that week. Dumbledore and Harry had agreed on a fixed day for their lessons at the beginning of the year, but seeing as Dumbledore had been away a lot and Harry had a lot of other commitments, it varied a lot.
Dumbledore, like Snape, started with praising Harry for his bravery and actions during the attack on Hogsmeade. Despite all the praises and consolations he had received over the past week, Harry still felt slightly guilty about the death of Angelina. He was no longer sorry he had started the DA, but he did still believe he should have been able to take out Pettigrew sooner.
“Secondly, I owe you an explanation, Harry.” Dumbledore said seriously. “I am extremely sorry for the fact that I was not here when the Death Eaters stroke. If I would have been here the battle would probably have ended sooner and maybe…” His voice faded and Harry saw tears blinking in his eyes.
He realized he had been right. Dumbledore felt at least as guilty about Angelina’s death as he had felt. “I have received quite some angry letters from parents about that matter.” Dumbledore continued. “And of course they are right in their concern.”
“No one of the students blames you”, Harry said firmly. “We know you wouldn’t leave without a good reason.”
“Thank you for those words, Harry”, Dumbledore said. “On a more positive note. I have heard that your group has done a great job in the battle.”
Harry shrugged. “Actually, I wanted them to keep safe, but they all wanted to help.”
Dumbledore smiled at him. “A great sign of loyalty.” he said. “I must congratulate you for composing this group. It seems you have chosen the right people. Thank you for that.”
“I don’t think we have done so much good.” Harry said. “They are all talented, but to put them against Death Eaters…” He paused. “And we lost a member.” he quietly added.
Dumbledore nodded sombrely. “Unfortunately you did. The loss of Miss Johnson has hit us all rather hard. But the first part of your statement could not be more wrong, Harry.”
Harry looked up at him, surprised. “What do you mean?”
“I left Alastor in command of the Order of the Phoenix in my absence.” Dumbledore said. “Professor Tonks immediately apparated to Grimmauld Place when Mr Creevey came with the news of the attack and the Order members immediately alerted the Auror Office and apparated straight to Hogsmeade, under Alastor’s lead. He told me if you and your friends hadn’t been there, they would have been outnumbered three to one until the Aurors got there. The presence of the DA has saved a lot of lives that day, Harry.”
Harry nodded and couldn’t help but feel proud of the members of the DA. This was the first test they had, the first time they were ever exposed to real danger and they had all fought more bravely and valiantly than could be expected from them.
“Now Harry, I realize you have been very curious as to where I have been all those times I left the school.” Dumbledore said. “But I am afraid the truth is far less exciting than the many theories you have undoubtedly formed yourself.” He smiled serenely. “The truth is, I have been tracking an old friend and colleague of mine.”
“All this time?” Harry asked puzzled.
“Yes.” Dumbledore stated. “He is an extremely intelligent and competent wizard and he has been trying very hard to remain undetected.”
Dumbledore stood and walked over to the cabinet that he used to store his Pensieve. He took the Pensieve, sat it carefully on his desk and sat down in front of Harry again. “The man I am talking about is Horace Slughorn. He was the Potions master when he was at Hogwarts. Among others, he has taught your parents, Sirius, Hagrid and Tom Riddle.”
“He has taught Voldemort?” Harry asked eagerly.
“Indeed”, Dumbledore said. “The reason Horace was in hiding is that Voldemort has people looking for him ever since he came back. Luckily for him, those Death Eaters do not possess the powers – forgive me my immodesty – and means I possess to track him.”
“Why does Voldemort wants to find his old Potions master?” Harry asked. “It can’t be for the potion to get around the blood protection. He has Professor Snape for that.”
“Indeed he has.” Dumbledore agreed. “But there are some things that Horace knows that could be dangerous for Voldemort to get out in the open. He could have spared himself the effort. It has taken even me hours to persuade Horace to give me this.” He took a glass phial out of his top desk drawer that clearly contained a memory. “It has affirmed to me what I expected, but the problem is more complex than I initially thought. I would like you to see it.”
Harry and Dumbledore entered the Pensieve together and watched a memory of the sixteen year old Tom Riddle who asked his large Potions master about some very dark piece of magic.
When they resurfaced from the Pensieve, Harry immediately said: “A Horcrux! Did he create a Horcrux?”
Dumbledore nodded as he indicated for Harry to take his seat again. He took his own seat after his desk before he said: “Yes. I was fairly certain that he made one even before I found Horace. It seemed to me that was the only way he could have survived when the Killing Curse he fired at you backfired and hit him instead. Normally he should have been killed on the spot, but he wasn’t.”
“So if you find this Horcrux and destroy it...” Harry said slowly. “He’ll be mortal again.”
“That’s the general idea.” Dumbledore said. “But I am afraid it will be a bit more complicated than that.” He paused. “You can barely call Voldemort human anymore. He has a human body, but his features have been so twisted and distorted… I can hardly believe that is the work of one Horcrux.”
“You mean he has split his soul more than once?” Harry asked disbelievingly. “He has made more than one Horcrux?”
“Do you remember what the young Tom Riddle asked Horace in the memory, Harry?”
“Isn’t seven the most magical number…”*, Harry mumbled. Dumbledore nodded. “Seven Horcruxes?!”
“Actually, six. The seventh part of his soul still resides within his body.”
“So all of the Horcruxes, which could be any object hidden anywhere in the world, have to be destroyed and only then there is a slight chance of defeating him?”
“Yes.” Dumbledore said. “That is quite correct.”
“Well, we’d better start thinking than, hadn’t we?”
The first thing Harry did when he was back in the Gryffindor common room was tell Ginny, Ron and Hermione everything Dumbledore had told him, after performing Snape’s Muffliato charm. Dumbledore had asked him to keep the information secret, but agreed with Harry when he said his two best friends and his girlfriend ought to be trusted.
“Wow.” Ron said. “So there are six Horcruxes out there that have to be destroyed before he’s even mortal?”
“Actually five.” Harry said with a nervous look at Ginny, who was sitting beside him. “One has already been destroyed.”
“By Dumbledore?” Hermione asked.
“No”, Harry said, hesitating. “By me, actually.”
“By you?” Ron asked non understanding.
Ginny didn’t seem to follow either, but Hermione gasped. “You mean the diary?”
Harry nodded and looked at Ginny who had paled. “That was a piece of his soul?”, she asked softly. “I was possessed by an actual piece of his soul?” She looked disgustedly.
Harry put a comforting arm around her as Hermione and Ron left the two alone. “It’s okay” Harry said softly. “It’s destroyed now, isn’t it?”
Ginny nodded, but she was still looking appalled.
After a few moments Harry said: “Look Ginny, I’m really sorry about how I acted towards you after – after what happened.”
Ginny looked at him surprised. “You don’t need to apologize, Harry. We were all shaken by what happened. And quite understandable at that.”
“No, I do.” Harry said determinedly. “I know you don’t deserve that. You have done so much for me. Much more than you know. And you’re always so good to me, even when I’m an ungrateful prat.”
He hugged her closely and she rested her head on his shoulder. “I love you, Ginny.”
He had said it before he realized he had formed the words in his mind. Ginny looked up at him abruptly. “Did you just say…?”
Harry felt himself reddening when Ginny looked at him with wide, brown eyes.
“I guess I did.” he said softly. Ginny pushed him backwards on the couch forcefully and kissed him passionately.
“I love you too, Harry.”
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” – Love Story (film)
*Quote from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
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