Reposted by request
A/N Thank you so much Maria for taking the time to beta this.
Don't get used to the Voldemort plot. It's going to get dropped really quickly. It is just being used as a catalyst.
Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry shook his head. Though there were easily a dozen people in his office, the words he spoke were not intended for anyone in particular.
"We are missing something. It is something so simple, so obvious. I know it is, but I just can't figure out what."
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall's voice sounded too tired to properly convey her intended sarcasm. "You mean something obvious like your source of information is faulty?"
Albus had a suspicion that when Alastor Moody spoke up to agree with Minerva's words, there was something more than just the courage of the auror's convictions motivating him. It wasn't that he doubted the auror meant the words, he just wasn't sure the man would be so adamantly agreeing if it was someone other than Minerva who had said it.
"She's right. You haven't told any of us about your new information source. Maybe, the 'friend' who warned you isn't such a friend after all? He could be feeding you false information on You-Know-Who's instructions. Trying to divert resources to the wrong causes, or wear us down by keeping us on constant high alert."
James Potter turned his neck several times, producing a painful cricking noise. "Well, if wearing us down is the plan, it's working. When is the last time anyone here has slept?"
Albus suspected the man's young wife began massaging James's neck more from a desire to keep him from continuing to make the noise than anything else.
Frank Longbottom was always the voice of hope. "Maybe nothing happened because we frightened them off? Whatever they had planned, it was called off because we were so well mobilized?"
Alice Longbottom was a bit more practical. She threw one of Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans at the back of her husband's head. It ricocheted off of Frank and hit Peter Pettigrew who was asleep on the floor. Peter awoke with a start and scrambled to get out his wand.
"I'll get the one on the left!"
Sirius Black was sitting next to Alice and helped himself to a handful of her beans. With each syllable, he hurled a bean at Peter. "Worm-tail-I-am-the-one-on-the-left-!"
Peter had not been the only one asleep. Sitting on a sofa Pomona Sprout, Rolanda Hooch, and Filius Flitwick bore a great resemblance to fallen dominos given the way their heads rested on one another's shoulders.
Remus Lupin looked worse of all. He was working under the additional burden of having had his monthly transfiguration the night before this had all begun.
Albus wanted nothing more than to let all of them go home and to bed, but this was far too important. They had to figure out what it was they were missing. Maybe the lack of sleep was making him unreasonable, but he was absolutely sure they were overlooking something. He had never before in his life felt such a crippling sense of foreboding.
"Let's go over what we know one more time."
"Albus, whatever it is, we are not going to figure it out until we get some sleep. Sometimes the only way to see the answer is to get a little distance."
Alastor again offered his support for Minerva's words. "We can come back to this tomorrow with a fresh perspective."
Albus shook his head. He acknowledged the truth to the statement, but still he could not get past the dread that if they didn't figure it out tonight, tomorrow would be too late.
"Just once more. Then everyone can go home."
Several displeased moans could be heard, but they weren't as unhappy as those heard before an end had been in sight. Everyone was too tired to flinch as he said the name.
"According to the information I received late on Friday, Voldemort had something planned for Saturday. Voldemort hadn't yet given out any useful details, but he described what he had planned as 'a devastating blow to the people working against him.' Something to 'demonstrate his power, the futileness and the danger of working against him. A clear display that no one will be safe so long as he is opposed'."
James's words were slightly muffled by the hand that was supporting his head. "It is Monday now. That was…that was…how many days ago was that?"
Lily did the math for him. "Two days."
James's other hand went to help hold up his head. "Merlin, has it really been that long?"
Alice repeated the conclusion they had all come to days ago.
"Saturday was the day the Hogwarts Express took all the children home for the summer. So many of the people in the Order and the Ministry have children going to school here. What could be a more devastating blow to them than the loss of their children? I would hardly call an attack on a group of children a real display of power, but who knows how his mind works. As for, 'No one will be safe' - an attack on the children would show the lengths, the depravity You-Know-Who will go to. The people working against him are doing this to have a better world for their children than the nightmare he would give us. If he kil-"
Sweet Alice couldn't even bring herself to say it. "-Took away the children, it would make what we have been fighting for futile."
Frank again tried to offer hope. "I still think that was the plan. But we put together such a show of force, we made them reconsider. We had hit wizards, aurors, even professors in every compartment. The children were so well protected, they had no choice but to call it off."
Minerva disagreed. "How would they have known though? The real students were given assigned seats and not allowed to leave their compartments. Polyjuice potion was used so all of you could pose as students."
Minerva wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Two days later and I still have that foul sugary scent on me. I don't think my hands will ever feel not sticky again. Really, Albus you should have been the one pushing the candy cart."
Her voice was adamant now. "There was nothing to tip them off, unless…"
Albus finished the thought for her. "Unless Voldemort is not the only one with a spy in his midst."
A heavy, not at all sleepy silence hung over the room.
Alastor was the one to break it. "How confident are you of your man?"
For reasons ever becoming clearer, Albus had not revealed any information about his recently acquired source of information. "Alastor, I never said it was a man."
Peter was looking a little more awake now. "It's a woman then, or you just aren't saying? It might help us to know more about where the information is coming from."
When it became clear that Albus had no intention of imparting any information about the identity of his source, Alastor's questions moved on. "And you haven't had any contact since? Nothing to possibly clear up the meaning of You-Know-Who's words?"
Albus shook his head.
Sirius asked a question that sounded casual, but could have a darker intent. "Is that usual? How often are you normally in contact with this person?"
Sirius stopped to allow for an answer, but seemed to realize in the resulting silence that given the recent suggestion of a possible spy in their midst, seeming eager to ferret out information about Albus's informant might be misconstrued. "I only meant, if he or she usually is in contact with you more regularly, then that could be an indication in and of itself."
Remus seemed to pick up on Sirius's train of thought. "Perhaps your spy was suspected and given false information as a test. We reacted, so he was found out."
Lily's thought was closer to Albus's own. "Or the plan may only have been delayed for whatever reason. He or she is held up with the other Death Eaters, still working on it."
Albus tried to steer the conversation back. "What, if anything else, of significance was supposed to happen on Saturday?'
Rolanda and the other dominoes had awoken at last.
"Chudley Cannons played." She scowled. "I had to give away my tickets."
"There was a flower show in London." supplied Pomona.
Dumbledore frowned. "Yes, and Honeydukes had a sale, but I don't think it's that either."
Alastor threw out an idea of his own. "What if it wasn't the day that was important, what if it was the date?"
Albus nodded, happy for a useful suggestion. "Okay what is significant about June 20th in history?"
Quite a bit of silence followed this question. Albus decided he should either invite Binns to these meetings, or get a History of Magic Professor that wasn't so adept at getting people to fall asleep.
Minerva's voice was uncharacteristically unsure as she offered a suggestion. "Wasn't Wendelin the Weird burnt at the stake that day?"
Remus shrugged. "When was Wendelin the Weird not burnt at the stake? Queen Victoria ascended to the throne that day in 1837."
At least that got the suggestions going.
Filius was next. "Tennis Court Oath. Vive la France."
Frank shrugged. "Boxer Rebellion began with the assassination of the German ambassador to Peking."
Pomona chimed in as well. "Ethelred the Ever-Ready died in jail on that day in I forget what year."
Alice became excited. "I have his chocolate frog card. 'Famous for taking offense at nothing and cursing innocent bystanders.' Card says date unknown though."
Everyone stopped to take a minute to stare at Sirius after his suggestion. "Pirates of Penzance debuted as the first operetta on television in 1937."
Alice furrowed her brow while asking, "What's a television?"
Albus sighed. "Go home. If anyone thinks of anything don't hesitate to owl or Floo, regardless of the hour."
For people claiming to be so tired, most of them cleared out of the room quickly. Beside himself, Alastor and Minerva were the last two remaining. Alastor looked rather unsure of himself as he made a polite inquiry of Minerva.
"Since you mentioned last week you aren't staying at the castle for the summer, would you allow me to escort you home?"
The man was treading in dangerous waters and he knew it. "I know you can take care of yourself. It would be for my own peace of mind, not yours. You can't be too safe these days."
Albus could tell the smile Minerva gave Alastor in response was forced.
"Thank you, Alastor, but I have a few things to do before I leave."
Albus suspected there was an underlying meaning to Alastor's response.
"I don't mind waiting if you can just give me some idea of how long."
Minerva didn't look up to meet Alastor's questioning eyes, but he got the hint and took his leave after her next words.
"Too long, Alastor. Too long."
Always too concerned with order, despite her exhaustion Minerva took the time to banish the every flavor beans littering the floor. Or perhaps it was to put a little distance between her departure and that of her would be suitor. As she did head towards the door, despite his better judgment, Albus spoke.
"He's a good man, Moody. You should give him a chance."
Minerva's hand was on the door. As it paused there a moment, he could tell she was struggling internally on whether to respond. The line of her back wasn't quite as straight as it usually was. It had been a long few days for everyone and it would seem better judgment was not holding much weight of late. When she spoke, her voice was more sad than accusatory, but it was accusatory all the same. She didn't turn around to look him in the eye either.
"You don't get to do that. You do not get to do that."
"You just don't get to do that. You cannot throw me out of your bed after fifteen years and then pick whose bed I go to next. You just don't get to do that."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
She wasn't facing the door anymore. Instead, she was leaning against it with her hand behind her back, still on the knob. Her eyes didn't meet his. Not that he could blame her. He knew he had hurt her deeply, but he had felt it was necessary. And in time she would understand and appreciate it. Appreciate him for being the one to end the relationship that wasn't going to ever provide her with the things she wanted most.
"Did you tell him about us?"
At first he merely shook his head, but then he realized she still wasn't looking in his direction. "No, I didn't."
He hesitated, but there was no sense in denying it. "Alastor asked me if I thought you were seeing anyone. I said no and I encouraged him to…"
The small smile she wore was not at all what he would describe as happy. "And were you also the one to encourage Kettleburn?"
His pregnant pause was answer enough for her. He could see her biting the inside of her mouth, literally biting back her words.
His words again made her pause at the threshold of the door.
"Minerva, we've talked about this before. You know I can't offer you what you want. It's too dangerous, especially now. You know if there was a way that I could, I would."
"Albus, you are a coward."
He had been called a great number of things in the course of his lifetime, but 'coward' had never before been one of them. Still, he had no right to deny it. "Maybe I am."
"You defeated the most powerful dark wizard of your lifetime and yet you are so unwilling to take a risk. You speak as if they were just the things I want, but they are what you want as well."
"Minerva, you know it isn't something as simple as a risk. Do you want to hear me say it again? Yes, I want you. Yes, I want to have children with you, but we both know it isn't as simple as that. I have enemies, powerful enemies. I have even before Grindelwald. Now with this new Lord Voldemort threat..."
He gave a sigh before continuing. The emotion in his voice was rising.
"If it were the normal risks in life that everyone has to face, accidents, disease, age, I would gather all of my Gryffindor courage and boldly charge ahead. But we both know it isn't that simple. If our relationship had become public knowledge, if we were ever to have children, it would be like declaring a direct challenge to my enemies."
Each wonderful year they had spent together, his love for Minerva had grown relentlessly. But with it had grown his sense of danger, the fear and worry of what would happen should his enemies, or even some of their less discreet friends and colleagues, become aware of their relationship, of the depths of his feelings for her.
Albus had tried to warn her away at the start of their relationship. He had told her of the limitations he had felt it necessary to place upon himself. He had spoken of the impossibility of their ever completely sharing their lives together and of never being able to create new life together. Minerva could be known at times to charge ahead imprudently, but he was confident she had carefully considered her options before deciding to pursue a relationship with him, regardless of his limitations.
And she had never protested or tried to change his resolve. No, not in words, but he had seen it in her eyes more than once. The regret, the longing whenever she saw another woman with a child.
His voice had a lifeless quality to it as he continued speaking. This idea was painful in an altogether different way than the idea of how his enemies might respond. "But that doesn't have to stop you from having all those things. Marriage. Children. Just not with me."
Minerva looked absolutely furious at him again. "When did I ever say that I wanted those things? When did I ever tell you that I was unhappy with the way things were between us?"
"Do you deny it? We have never lied to each other, Minerva. Can you honestly tell me this is the way you want things to stay? That you don't want to have children? A family?"
Indeed, Minerva was the one person that he could trust completely. Especially now, she was the only one he was sure would never betray him. He listened as, unwilling to lie to him directly, she changed the discussion to avoid his questions.
"So you get to decide what is best for me? I am supposed to just forget all the years we have spent together and just find someone else? Get married and start having babies so you can go on playing the part of the selfless martyr?"
Her words of fury had petered out into a more cutting voice of weary sadness.
"I have never wanted just anyone's babies, Albus. I wanted yours or none at all. And in case you haven't noticed, you aren't the only one being targeted. The Bones, the Prewetts, it's anyone who says no to him."
They were both exhausted and this was the same argument they had been having for months now.
"I still need you, Minerva. Right now, I need you more than ever. I am certain Voldemort has someone working for him in the Order. Too many times now our work, our plans, have ended in ruin. I had thought it was someone on the Ministry end of things, but recent events make me think otherwise."
Minerva nodded. "I thought it odd how little you have told Millicent Bagnold at the meetings of late."
"There still may be a leak in the Ministry, but even if there is, there is someone in the Order too."
"Do you have someone in particular in mind?"
Albus didn't hesitate at all before answering her. He was confident in Minerva and wanted her thoughts. "I suspect it may be one of the people that was in the room tonight. Which one, I am not certain."
Minerva frowned, apparently not happy with her own thoughts.
"The most obvious choice being Remus, because You-Know-Who is claiming to be willing to offer rights to werewolves that the Ministry is simply not willing to concede. But Remus would never be foolish enough to actually believe him. As soon as You-Know-Who gets what he wants, he will turn on the impure werewolves who supported him as well."
Albus shook his head at Minerva's refusal to say the word 'Voldemort', but did not interrupt.
"And then of course there are rumors about Sirius's brother being involved with Death Eaters. He just graduated, but already a few of the Slytherin group from his year have gone on trial. Which doesn't necessarily mean anything, as Sirius has never been the model Black that his parents wanted him to be. He was after all in Gryffindor, not Slytherin like his brother. Anyways, the rumors about his brother are at the moment, just that. Rumors.
Clearly it couldn't be Lily and I find it impossible to believe it would be James, given his feelings for Lily. Peter I don't see as being, well, bright enough to pull it off. If its Frank or Alice, then it's both Frank and Alice and a Ministry leak as well. Alastor is, well, Alastor. Which leaves the three sleeping beauties."
Minerva's lips twitched before she went on.
"Of course, I know it isn't me, which makes me have to ask the question. Albus, have you been passing information on to You-Know-Who?"
Albus had to laugh, despite the seriousness of the situation. The past few months he had missed desperately Minerva's particular humor.
"Do you remember Severus Snape? Slytherin student of the same year as James and the others?"
It was of course a ridiculous question. After the shrieking shack incident, Minerva had championed the young Slytherin over her own Gryffindor charge, Sirius. She had pressed even harder than Severus to have Sirius expelled, not an easy feat given Severus's rage. It had taken a intense campaign to get her to see his reasons against expelling Sirius.
Minerva frowned. "Yes, there have been a few rumors linking him as well."
Albus nodded. "They are true. Or were. And somewhat are."
Minerva was never slow to grasp an idea. "How long has he been feeding you information?"
"Almost a month now. He always was a bright boy. He may not be fond of muggles, but he knows if Voldemort ever succeeds in purging the world of those of impure blood, he will just turn on whoever is left."
An eyebrow went up. "And the possibility he might simply have had a change of heart and isn't merely trying to save his own skin has not occurred to you? Turning spy is, after all, twice as likely to get him caught."
Albus again smiled. He knew perfectly well what Severus's reasons for turning against Voldemort were. However, baiting her had always been a happy pastime for him and she knew it. "Well, of course there is that possibility as well."
Minerva shook her head at him, but he could see the smile in her eyes. He all too quickly made the mistake of breaking the mood. "It's late, Minerva. Your cottage hasn't been inhabited in years. You should just stay at the castle for the night. Deal with it in the morning."
It was a poor choice to point out the lack of use of her summer home, given the reason for it. Both staying at the castle had in the past provided a simple cover for their summers together. Again, she wore a smile that held no joy.
"I think I would rather do battle with a houseful of doxies than spend another night alone in Gryffindor Tower. I will see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Albus."
Lacking anything better to do, Albus retired to a fitful, entirely unrestful sleep.
A/N Okay care to take a guess what else was supposed to happen the day that the students went home? I was trying to go for something so obvious it could easily be overlooked, particularly by a group of sleep deprived people.