The Tuesday D.A. class met in the room of requirement once again to see what Harry would teach them that time. Some of them were a bit disappointed to enter the room to find Harry waiting on them standing next to the frozen figure of Lucius Malfoy once again.
“What’s the matter?” Harry asked the class. “You all look disappointed. I had heard that you were all looking forward to this class.”
“We dueled Malfoy last week,” Rachael said. “We were kind of hoping for something different this time.”
“Are you all sure?” Harry asked in mock surprise. “I thought you may want to master this death eater before we moved on to someone else. I’ll tell you what, lets start with Malfoy just to get warmed up and then I’ll see if I can bring something new into the class.”
Everyone in the class nodded their agreement, but some of them caught the look in Harry’s eyes and thought that perhaps it may have been a mistake to ask him to make things more difficult.
“I’ll need five volunteers,” Harry said as five people immediately stepped forward from the pack. “You will be the lucky group that gets to duel Malfoy first. Before we get started, I need another group of five to join in the fight later on.”
The students looked around at each other in a moment of surprise. He had never let a second group join in a duel before. Rachael stepped forward with her group to take up the second position.
Harry waved his hand and they all found themselves standing in a much different room. Harry gave them all a few seconds to look around the room and take in their new surroundings.
“You will notice that we have switched locations,” Harry said. “You are now standing in a room within the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. A couple of years ago, I was unfortunate enough to find myself here dueling with death eaters. If you look down the steps you will see the stone dais in the center if the room. In the real room of requirement there is a mysterious veil standing there. If you fall into the veil… Well, actually it is not known exactly what happens to a person who falls into it. Suffice it to say that the person leaves this world, and there, as yet, is no way to get them back. Obviously, I’m not going to have the veil present for our class, because of the danger to you all. Just know that anyone who falls onto the center dais will be considered dead and will not be allowed to continue with the exercise. Is everyone ready?”
“Harry,” Rachael began before he had told them to start, “when do we join in?”
Harry looked back at her with a grin that made them all cringe slightly and said, “You’ll know when. Trust me. You’ll know. Begin.”
The first group of five fanned out around the stepped room and aimed their spells at Malfoy, who ducked below the edge of a lower step to avoid the onslaught. Malfoy popped his head up and hit two of the students with spells that made their movement slow considerably before he ducked to avoid a barrage from the other three. There was nothing the remaining three students could do to stop Malfoy from popping up once again as he took aim at the two students struggling to move and knocked them out cold. The three remaining students were ready for him once he popped up and prepared to strike, when they heard a noise on the other side of the room. It sounded like voices talking from behind a door.
The next thing the students knew, the door exploded and Dolohov and Lestrange ran through it. The students had to lay down flat on the top step to avoid the incoming spells from the two unexpected death eaters. They were pinned down. They couldn’t move thanks to the constant stream of spells heading in their direction, and the two new arrivals were circling to close in on them.
“I would say that would be the cue you have been waiting for,” Harry said to the five students staring in disbelief.
A couple of seconds later, the five new students entered the fight and almost immediately two of them fell unconscious. One of them tripped as he tried to jump down the steps while firing off a spell. The three that had been pinned down took their opportunity to join in the fight again only to realize that they had been so concerned about the new death eaters that they had forgotten about Malfoy. A couple of seconds later another student went down as Malfoy found his mark.
Rachael had managed to make it around to where the first two students who had been stunned were laying and said, “Ennervate.”
They were dazed at first, but a couple of seconds was all it took to remind the recently revived students of where they were. One of them was able to launch a stunning spell that hit Malfoy in the back and took him out of the fight, only to fall stunned again after Bellatrix spotted his head pop up.
“Next five,” Harry said just as Dolohov hit Rachael with a spell that made her slip and tumble down the steps. “You had better get in there if they’re going to stand a chance.
Another group of five jumped forward and began to run into battle, but before they could scatter, Bellatrix hit them with a spell that knocked them all backwards and off of their feet. They scrambled to stand up, but Dolohov stunned three of them before they could get out of the way.
“Another five,” Harry said over the taunts that Bellatrix was yelling at the students she was battling.
Five more students joined the battle, but waited for a time when they knew that the attention of the two death eaters was focused somewhere else before doing so. They revived the three stunned from the previous group as they passed, and they felt that they may finally have sufficient numbers to mount a decent attack. It was only seconds later though, that they heard more voices coming from behind a door opposite the one Dolohov and Lestrange had entered through. They all braced for the worst as the door exploded as the other one had, and eight more death eaters they did not recognize ran in to join the fight.
“Okay class,” Harry said turning to those who still stood behind him, “I think perhaps all of you had better get in there now.”
Less than five minutes later, everything in the room went quiet as Rachael pushed herself up to a sitting position. She was acutely aware of the pain in her left shoulder that she had landed on when she had fallen to the bottom step at the base of the center dais. If her spirits were not low enough already, they sank even lower as she looked up and surveyed the steps around her. All of her D.A. classmates were lying unceremoniously draped over the steps throughout the room. She also could see the still figures of the death eaters standing around the top rim. A quick count showed her what she already feared. The entire class had entered into the battle, and other than Malfoy, they had only succeeded in stunning one other death eater. It was plain that they had let Harry down. They were not even close to being up to the challenge.
Rachael looked up once again to see Harry walking around the top levels and reviving students as he came to them. Once everyone had been revived, the room changed once again, and Rachael found herself sitting in a bed in the hospital wing. Several of her fellow students were also in beds nearby.
“Patch them up as soon as possible, Madam Pomfrey,” Harry said to the woman who had walked in to survey her new patients. “Class isn’t over yet and we have a great deal more to learn before it is.”
“I’ll do my best, Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said. “I don’t see anything too serious so far. To have this many students injured in one class would tend to suggest that perhaps the lesson was a bit too dangerous.”
“That it was,” Harry said. “I’ll try to take it easy on them from now on.”
“See that you do, Mr. Potter,” Pomfrey said. “I would hate to have to report something like this to the Headmaster.”
Harry grinned, having heard similar threats from the conjured Madame Pomfrey nearly every day over the past summer. Little did she suspect that he had little to fear from her threat. She would disappear from the room as soon as Harry was sure that all of the injuries had been mended.
“So,” Harry said as he walked over to Rachael’s bed, “how are you feeling?”
“I think my pride hurts more than anything else,” Rachael responded. “I’m really sorry, Harry. I know we let you down.”
“Not at all,” Harry said. “You all actually did better than I expected you to. I knew you weren’t ready for a fight like this yet. The only thing was that none of you knew it. All of you walked around ready to take on the world ever since the last class. This dueling exercise was just to show you that you may not be as ready as you think.”
“Will we ever be ready for a fight like that though?” Meagan asked as she and several other class members walked over to Rachael’s bed.
“In time, even a single group of five will be able to defeat all of the death eaters you faced today,” Harry responded surprising those who heard him. “That is, you will if you’ll trust me to know what you are all ready for when it comes to your training.”
“I certainly will,” Rachael said. “Anything to keep me from falling down any more steps.”
“I can’t promise that you won’t get a few more bumps and bruises during this training though,” Harry said. “At least there won’t be any more today. As soon as Madame Pomfrey releases everyone, we’ll go back to our usual room and I’ll teach you all a few new spells that will serve you a bit better when dueling against greater numbers.”
Later that evening, after the D.A. class had been dismissed, Harry walked down to Hagrid’s hut to see if he had been able to procure something from the forest that Harry was in need of. He was pleased to see that Hagrid had found more than he would be needing. Still keeping his latest project a secret from everyone except Ginny, who had agreed to help him where she could, Harry decided that it would be safest to let Hagrid keep it until he found time to come back for it.
Harry walked through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room, and spotted Ginny sitting with Ron and Hermione near the fire.
“My goodness, Harry,” Ron said as Harry walked over. “I don’t know what you did to the class tonight, but they sure seemed changed over last week. Last week they strutted through here like they were royalty or something. Tonight, they were a somber lot. Not one of them said a word to anyone. They just walked straight through and up to their dorms.”
“I suspect they were still smarting a bit from class,” Harry said. “I don’t think I’ll have any more problems with overconfidence from now on.”
“Just to let you know, mate,” Ron began with a smile, “I don’t feel confident at all after the last class. You don’t need to prove any points to me.”
“I’m not worried,” Harry said. “I’m sure word of what happened tonight will leak out by Sunday. I suspect I won’t have to worry about anyone else.”
“Then maybe I can give you something to worry about, dearest,” Ginny said with a smile. “It occurred to me today that you and I have never really had a date before. I know we’ve spent loads of time together, but we’ve never gone out on what you might call an official date.”
“I see what you mean,” Harry said. “I guess we have always just sort of hung out together.”
“I think I might have a solution for that though,” Ginny said brightly. “Valentines Day is coming up and there’s a Hogsmeade weekend. I want you to make plans to take me somewhere we’ve never been before. Don’t tell me about it before hand. I want it to be a surprise.”
“How big of a surprise can it be?” Ron asked. “Hogsmeade isn’t that big of a place. Is there anywhere you two haven’t already been together?”
“Hmmm,” Harry said as he thought. “I’ve got more than a week to plan it. I think I might be able to come up with something by then.”
“Why do I get the feeling you may already have an idea, Harry?” Hermione asked.
“What makes you say that?” Harry asked with a grin.
“You did it again, Harry,” Hermione said. “You just answered my question with another one.”
“Did I?” Harry asked with mock innocence.
Elsewhere, in England, the mood was not as light. Lucius Malfoy walked down the dim hallway that would take him to the room where he knew his master to be. He did not look forward to the meeting. It was always a painful thing to deliver bad news to the Dark Lord.
“Forgive me for intruding on you, my master,” Malfoy said as he bowed low in the doorway of the room. “Something has happened, and I wanted to tell you about it right away.”
“Enter, Lucius,” Voldemort said as he looked up from the desk he was sitting at. “Tell me of your news.”
“We have had to abandon our hide out in east London, Master,” Lucius said expecting to feel pain at any time. “The aurors raided it this evening, and I am told that the death eaters stationed there barely had time to apparate out before they were captured.”
“Good,” Voldemort said surprising Malfoy. “What’s the matter, Lucius? Do you not see why I would be glad to hear this news?”
“I admit that I am puzzled by it, my lord,” Malfoy answered.
“Allow me to enlighten you while I am in such a good mood then,” Voldemort said. “I knew very well that the aurors would be raiding that hide out. It was I who allowed them to find out its location. You can tell those manning all of the hideouts in London to be on their guard. I will be giving up their locations soon as well.”
“I am more confused than before, my lord,” Lucius said. “Why would it be to our advantage to do so?”
“Because I want the keen eyes of the ministry to be focused on London, Lucius,” Voldemort said with something akin to a chuckle. “I want them to be crawling down every sewer pipe in the city while we focus our efforts on another target.”
“Potter,” Lucius said with a sudden understanding.
“Of course, Lucius,” Voldemort said. “Until he is dead, that is my one and only real target. Everything else is just a diversion.”
“So we finally get to take care of Potter once and for all?” Lucius asked.
“Not yet,” Voldemort said. “All of the pieces are not yet in place for such a battle. First we’ll just soften them up a bit by hitting them somewhere close to home. I still owe Harry a bit of pay back for that ministry model he sent to me.”
“I’m sure I could get my son to…” Lucius began
“He is not to touch Harry in the slightest,” Voldemort said with his voice rising.
“I was thinking more of the Weasley girl Harry is dating,” Lucius said.
Voldemort sat and though for a moment with a twisted grin on his face before he said, “I will consider that, but I’m surprised you would want to ask your son to do the job. I was under the impression that he was not in your good graces at the moment.”
“I believe that Draco just needs a bit of a reminder of exactly who he is,” Lucius said biting back what he really wanted to say.
“Don’t bother,” Voldemort said. “I wouldn’t use him to do the job anyway, just as I didn’t in the attack on the Mudblood.”
“I still don’t understand why that was, my lord,” Lucius said. “I assure you that Draco would have succeeded in carrying out your wishes.”
“I have no doubt of that,” Voldemort said. “He also would have been at the top of the suspect list if he had. How long do you think the student who attacked her will live if Harry ever finds out who he is? My reports tell me that he has become a shockingly powerful wizard of late.”
“I doubt that Potter has it in him to kill anyone, my lord,” Lucius said.
“Never underestimate the will of an enemy to cross a moral boundary when presented with the right pressures, Lucius,” Voldemort said. “Never underestimate Harry. He stopped me once. I don’t intend for it to happen again. Meet me here tomorrow with Bellatrix and some of the others and I’ll tell you where you will attack next.”
“My lord,” Malfoy said as he bowed and backed out of the room. What Voldemort had said about Draco still stung in the back of his mind. He was a Malfoy after all. No Malfoy could ever have his loyalty called into question. Voldemort may have said it was for other reasons, but Malfoy still had the feeling that there was something his master didn’t trust about Draco.
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