The Grey Visitor

Harry awoke to sharp pains in his ribs. He twisted to try and avoid them, but they returned eventually. He groaned at the annoyance. Why couldn't they go away? He just wanted to sleep—

Harry's eyes snapped open and he jerked upright in his chair. The clock on the table read nearly noon. Standing next to him and extending a knobby finger was Kreacher. He had a strange, hungry look in his eyes and a smile filled with crooked yellow teeth.

"They have returned, master," he said while trying to hide a rumbling laugh. "Master should not have come back. Kreacher knew they would come for him."

Harry leaped to his feet and slipped his hand into his robes to pull out his wand. He reached out to gently shake Ginny's shoulder. Her eyes fluttered open, and she took only a moment to perceive what had happened.

"How could we be so stupid?" she hissed as she followed Harry to the cabinet he kept the spare Shield Cloaks in.

"How many of them are there?" Harry asked Kreacher as he tossed a smaller cloak to Ginny, grabbed one for himself and draped two more over his arm.

"How many?" the house elf laughed. "Kreacher only saw one. Of course, Kreacher was not told to count. Of course, there was just one the last time, too."

Harry tried to ignore him. He raced into the parlor and shoved Ron with a little more force than he intended. Ron tumbled off the side of his chair and swore loudly.

"What was that for?" he shouted as he sat up. Across the room, Hermione was rubbing her eyes groggily.

"The Brotherhood is here," Harry replied quickly. "Get your wand, take one of these and follow me." Harry tossed a pair of Shield Cloaks to him and Hermione and strode out of the room.

"No Dobby to help you this time!" Kreacher cackled. "Kreacher would help, but his knees hurt. He can't walk fast so early in the morning."

Hermione and Ron burst through the doorway looking a bit dazed and disheveled as they tried to figure out how to put the cloaks on. Ron was holding his wand and Hermione was staring at it as if trying to summon the courage to make some suggestion Ron wouldn't like.

"So, Harry," she asked hesitantly, "where are your spare wands?"

"Don't have any," he replied distractedly. He was slipping on a pair of heavy-looking dragonhide gloves. "The last one was incinerated by a Hungarian Horntail."

"So what are Ginny and I supposed to do?"

Harry finished tightening the second glove. "Stay out of sight," he said. "Ron will stay here, too. I'm going out alone."

"You're what?" shrieked Ginny.

"No, no, no," chuckled Kreacher. "Send out the filthy Mudblood," he croaked with a nod toward Hermione. "Let the nasty wizards attack it first. Retched things aren't good for anything else. Kreacher could tie its hands and slip a scorpion down its shirt. It makes them scream much louder—"

"Enough Kreacher," Harry snapped. He was finished preparing and began walking toward the front door. Ron, Ginny and Hermione followed, leaving Kreacher to mutter to himself in the kitchen.

Harry reached the doorway, unlocked the door with his wand and slowly opened it just a crack so that he could see the street. There were only a small number of Muggles about, but Grimmauld Place was far from deserted. Harry could see just what had caught Kreacher's attention. Standing on the pavement just across the street from Number Twelve was a single figure wearing a hooded grey cloak. It was tall, and its shoulders were too broad to belong to a woman.

As Harry watched, the man simply stood as though staring back at him. A Muggle out for a stroll with her dog trotted by happily, paying no attention to the man in the full cloak with golden trim. Not even the dog had hesitated for a moment.

"How many are there?" Hermione asked from behind the door.

"Just one that I can see," answered Harry. "There's no telling just how many are hiding out of sight."

Harry flinched as the wizard across the street began moving. He had slowly reached into his robes and drew something out. Slowly, the man had kneeled to the ground and placed something long and narrow on the cracked pavement. He then stood up, took a step backward, and held is arms out to either side in a signal of disarmament. He's put down his wand, Harry said to himself.

"I think he wants to talk," Harry announced quietly as he opened the door a little wider.

"I'm coming with you," declared Ron.

Harry quickly ordered him not to. He didn't know what was happening, but if the entire Brotherhood had indeed come for him, there was little that Ron would be able to do to stop it. He opened the door wider and stepped out of the door and descended the stone steps. Harry waited for some hint of movement from the wizard, but he remained as still as a statue. It seemed as though he was trying to assure Harry that he was no threat.

Harry however, decided not to send any such messages. He was a threat, and he wanted the Brotherhood wizard to know it. He kept his wand clutched tightly in his hand and held out in front of his body slightly, ready to cast a curse in an instant.

As he reached the other side of the street, the wizard slowly reached for his hood and carefully pulled it back off his head. His hair was a dark brown, like most of the Brotherhood wizards, though somewhat richer in color and better kept than most. His features were strong without being bulky or heavy. He was, perhaps, the perfect example of the type of wizard the Brotherhood sent out to conduct public business. He was attractive, but not in any way that would prevent him from melting into a crowd.

There was only one flaw in his generic appearance: his eyes. They were light blue and piercing, allowing him to look kind and gentle while not completely hiding his cunning and a deeper mysterious nature. It was his eyes that had first convinced Harry to trust him. He had seen honesty and bravery in them. Now, he could only see treachery and deception.

"Good morning, Josef," Harry greeted him coolly.

"Good morning, Harry," Josef said with a smile. "That was a somewhat more sluggish response than I expected."

"I was busy. You're not worth rushing," Harry replied before he was able to stop himself. Josef had earned a second chance, but Harry had despised him for far too long to easily accept him as an ally.

"Of course," Josef said lightly. "I suppose I will have to defer to your expertise when it comes to rushed responses. Why did you come alone? All out of spare wands?"

Harry frowned. Josef had always known him a little too well. "Why are you here?" Harry asked.

"I bring news and gifts."

"So deliver them and leave," Harry replied flatly. He was in no mood to be patient, especially not for a wizard who had waited a year before trying to help him.

"There is something I must ask in return."

Harry felt his mood souring quickly. "They aren't gifts if you require payment, Josef. Whatever enchantment you cast on this area can only last so long. Neither of us wants to be visited by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, so do whatever you're here for and leave."

"Relax, Harry. I do not want payment. I simply want reassurance."

"I'm afraid I'm fresh out," Harry replied tartly. "I think I left the last of it in Romania the day you betrayed me to Grigore."

"I am sorry for that, Harry," Josef said with sincerity. "Someday I will try to explain to you just why I did what I did, but for now, please accept my apology and allow me to try and regain your trust."

Harry glowered at him for a moment. Despite all the horrible things Josef had done, Harry couldn't ignore everything he had done over the last few days.

"Does the Brotherhood know you're here?" Harry asked, hoping he might get some answers before hearing the price he would need to pay for more.

Josef paused for a moment, no doubt recognizing Harry's tactic. "Yes, they know I am here," he answered. "I have been sent by the Brotherhood, though not by the Brotherhood you knew. It is a new Brotherhood without the fear and corruption you experienced."

"A new Brotherhood," Harry repeated. "A better Brotherhood. A stronger Brotherhood. So you've gotten what you wanted all along: A Brotherhood led by you, your own little cult and a country to hide it in."

A small smile broke across Josef's face. "No, Harry. Dragomir has been appointed to take Grigore's place after his... disappearance. He has named Andros to take my place as Captain of the Guard. Nearly all of the Brotherhood has accepted this. Those who haven't... will be dealt with," Josef explained, adding, "Do not allow yourself to feel pity for them. They feel none for you, but they are our responsibility and we will handle them in our own way."

"And when you're done with that, you'll go back to destroying villages and protecting criminals?"

"Are you so blind?" Josef asked sharply. "Do you think that we convinced the other members in a matter of hours with nothing more than Dragomir's charming personality? No, Harry. The Brotherhood is pure because for the first time in its history, it has seen what it has been fighting to protect the world from."

"And just what is that?" asked Harry.

Josef gave him a curious look. "You do not know?" he asked doubtfully. "After all of this, you still do not know what our purpose is?"

"I was never interested in Grigore's fairy tales," Harry said coldly.

Josef's eyes locked on Harry's. "You should be. They are very interested in you."

"So long as you lot do your job, I shouldn't have to be, should I?" Harry replied, feeling even less comfortable. "That's Dragomir and Andros's job now. So just what part do you play? Chief Errand Boy?"

"I have accepted a lesser role in the Brotherhood, if that is what you mean to ask," he answered with the diplomatic formality that had always annoyed Harry. "I no longer enjoy my time at Orasul-de-sus. I do not enjoy the memories of my past. I will serve them as I have promised, but I have no desire to remain in Romania."

"So that's why you were ordered to talk to me?" Harry asked with some amusement. The idea of Josef falling from Grigore's lieutenant to some sort of courier did ease Harry's mood a little.

"No, I was asked to deliver news and gifts from the Brotherhood to you. My orders were to speak to someone else."

"Someone else?"

"I need to speak to Ginny, Harry," Josef said clearly. "That is my duty and seeing her safe and protected is the only thing I ask for in exchange for your time."

"Why her?" Harry asked, suddenly suspicious. "Why aren't you worried about Ron or Hermione?"

"The biggest threat to Miss Granger is from her own Ministry, and I can already see that Mr. Weasley is doing quite well enough." He nodded back toward Number Twelve. Harry cautiously turned his head and saw Ron standing in the doorway with his wand in his hand. "May I speak with Ginny, Harry? Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley may accompany her. It is useless to try and tell only one of you any piece of information."

"Then tell me and I'll relay the message,"

Josef frowned. "I'm afraid that is not good enough."

Harry crossed his arms. "Well that's all you're getting. Thanks to your mates, Ginny's got every Death Eater thinking up plans to separate her from her blood."

"The Death Eaters know nothing," Josef announced as he reached into his pocket. He retrieved a crumpled roll of parchment and handed it to Harry. The parchment was wrapped around something long and narrow. It was singed along one side, but the black ribbon binding it was still tied tightly. Harry ripped the ribbon and unrolled the parchment.

It was a note, written in flowing script and addressed to Nott. Wrapped inside it was Voldemort's wand. Harry quickly read the message. It was just what Grigore had said it was, but it had never reached its destination.

"Since you did not accept the discarding of my wand, or my indifference to the brandishing of your wand, or my willingness to answer your questions, would you accept this as a show of faith? I wish only to speak with her."

"She doesn't have a wand," Harry argued.

"A problem I wish to remedy," replied Josef.

Harry pondered the situation for some time. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to stun Josef, rifle his pockets for whatever he had been sent to deliver and then disappear with Ginny. She would go with him. She had already resolved herself to a life of running from the Death Eaters. He looked down at the parchment in his hands, and knew that it wouldn't be fair. She didn't have to run, and maybe he didn't either. He had taken many risks over the last year, but he knew that he owed this to Ginny. He owed her a chance at a normal life. His eyes met Josef's and he nodded.

Harry turned around and waved to Ron to walk out with him. Ron walked down the steps and began walking toward them cautiously. His wand was held out in front of him, and he was walking with the same tense alertness that Harry had a few minutes ago. Harry could see Hermione's silhouette in the doorway and he could tell that she was talking to someone. He motioned to her, but she didn't move.

Short of shouting at them and testing the ward Josef had cast, Harry knew of only one way of convincing them. Josef watched silently as Harry purposefully slipped his wand into an inside pocket of his robes. He turned around and stood at Josef's side. Ron had frozen in the middle of the street with his wand raised and a bewildered look on his face.

"Put your wand away, Ron," Harry told him. "There's no danger."

Ron relaxed a little and dropped his wand into a pocket very near his right hand. He waited a moment to see that Harry hadn't changed his mind, then turned back to Hermione and shrugged. Again, Harry motioned for them to walk to the pavement.

Tentatively, Hermione stepped out of the doorway and climbed down the steps. When she'd reached the edge of the street, she turned back and nodded to the open doorway. Ginny emerged from the darkness slowly. The sun flashed off her hair as her head turned about to search the area. Seeing no danger, she slowly descended the steps.

"Grigore would have done anything for her," Josef whispered. "He admired her almost as a daughter." Harry turned to see a look of relief cross Josef's face. "He said her only flaw was her failure to see how flawed everyone else is."

"Then he never should have gotten her involved," Harry replied quietly. "Look what he's done to her."

"You're wrong, Harry," Josef replied even more quietly. "She finally perceives the true nature of the world. It is the greatest gift he could have given her."

Ginny could see Josef and Harry whispering to each other as she walked across the street. A Muggle car had only narrowly missed her, and when she looked up again, she saw Josef smiling at her.

"What are you two talking about?" Ginny asked as she stepped up onto the pavement.

"You," Josef answered simply, causing Ginny to blink at his surprising honesty.

"Do I get to know what you were saying?"

"No," he replied evenly.

Ginny frowned at him and Harry. With narrowed eyes, she looked back at Josef. "Then why am I here? Why are you here?"

"I have something you will want," Josef said in an overly official tone. "He reached into a pocket and pulled out a wand. He grabbed it by the tip and offered the handle end to Ginny.

She took it with a look of deep confusion. "How did you—" she mumbled as she inspected it. "But they took it. How—"

"As you said, they took it and I am one of them," explained Josef. "Of course I presume you mean the Brotherhood. Continuing on that assumption, let me assure you that the Brotherhood is not your enemy." He cast a quick glare at Harry to preempt any comment he might make.

"They're not my enemy," said Ginny, "but are they Harry's enemy?"

"A wise question," Josef remarked. "The Brotherhood —the Brotherhood as it should be— is not an enemy to anyone. We are protectors and maintainers. I will not lie to you. We have killed wizards, and I cannot say that we will not need to do so again. We have helped many good wizards and we have helped many evil wizards, but in all cases our goal is to protect the world from a much greater atrocity."

"Yes, and Tarus believed that atrocity's name was Harry Potter."

"It appears that some members of the Brotherhood might have been mistaken," admitted Josef. "Recent events have caused us to reevaluate our purpose and methods for fulfilling our goals."

Ginny gripped her wand and raised an eyebrow. "You're not answering my question."

"You have asked a question which has no answers, only explanations. Perhaps you would be more satisfied by hearing that the Brotherhood has no desire or plans to seek out Mr. Potter."

"But that might change?" Ginny prompted. From the corner of her eye, she saw Hermione and Ron exchange surprised looks. After dealing with Harry and Tarus, handling Josef felt almost easy.

She could see Josef had noticed as well. He was trying keep a smile from ruining his mask of formality. "Due to Harry's —pardon me— Mr. Potter's history and his well established nature as a wizard, it is likely that he and the Brotherhood might... be involved in some dispute. However—" Josef added quickly when he saw Ginny's stance stiffen, "—I promise you that we will seek to resolve these disputes without the use of wands."

"Is there some reason for this change?"

"I regret to report that there was an... incident last night at the castle residence of the Romanian Minister. He had agreed to host a... social gathering of a number of Romanian officials and a number of their close friends. During the event, a magical artifact malfunctioned. I am afraid that the Minister was seriously injured."

"Seriously injured?" Ron nearly shouted. "Losing a leg is a serious injury. He was dragged into a black abyss of death! Are you saying he survived somehow?"

Josef ignored Ron's question. "Grigore Tarus is currently being attended to by the best Healers in eastern Europe, however, I'm afraid he is not taking visitors at the moment. One of his close aides, Dragomir Debreczeni has agreed to see to various affairs and duties until Minister Tarus returns to health."

Ginny looked doubtful. "And how long will that be?"

"The Healers believe it may take two weeks, perhaps three," Josef answered comfortably. "However, they are quick to remind anyone who asks that Minister Tarus's injuries are very serious and his condition may worsen at any time."

Ginny took a moment to think about what Josef had said. Tarus was dead. She had seen it. Harry had told her about how Sirius had died. There was no recovering from that fate. No one could be brought back. Josef was lying —or perhaps he was simply reciting a message. Judging by his stiff, unnatural tone, it was almost certainly the latter.

"If —tragically— such a turn of events were to occur," continued Josef, "your position as Liaison to Romania would be suspended, and you could be questioned about anything you had seen or heard since the... incident. It would take some time for the next Minister to arrange another agreement."

"You were sent to deliver this message?" Ginny asked. Josef nodded. Ginny paused for a moment, then continued: "Who sent you? Why am I interested in this?"

"I was sent by Mr. Debreczeni. He felt that it was important that Romania, as a strong supporter of international cooperation among wizards, share this news with its friends in Britain, due in part to the fact that some British wizards were in attendance, and also due to the recent strides taken to forge a bond between Romania and Britain. He did not want the British Ministry to feel that that bond would be broken."

Ginny let out a short laugh. "I don't think the Ministry really cares if that bond is broken."

"I apologize," Josef said with a small bow. "My mastery of the English still fails me at times. What I meant to say is that Mr. Debreczeni does not want the British Ministry to believe the Romanian Ministry will tolerate the severing of that bond. Was that easier to understand?"

Ginny nodded. The message was pretty clear. "Perhaps you can pass a message back to Mr. Debreczeni telling him that I don't work for the Ministry of Magic anymore. I've got a band of dark wizards who need me to prove that they really can't resurrect their old master."

Without saying a word, Harry handed her the parchment and wand. Ginny felt a wave of relief wash over her. The idea of being forced to spend the rest of her life running from the Death Eaters didn't sound at all appealing. She knew that Harry had spent his whole life doing just that, but somehow it felt so much worse thinking they would be looking for her as well.

"Despite that, it might be best if you found someplace safe to hide," Josef said. "Despite the confidence of our Healers, I seriously doubt Minister Tarus will recover. I also suspect that you will return to your job by the start of the next week."

"How do you plan on doing that?" Ginny asked.

Josef smiled. "Romania has influential friends."

"What about the rest of us?" Hermione asked. "What good will it do to keep Ginny quiet if the Ministry can just interrogate the rest of us?"

"These questions have already been answered, Miss Granger," he replied. "No one will ask Mr. Weasley because no one will know that he was there. Harry will not be asked, because he is presumed dead and it would be best if he remained that way for the time being. And none of the wizards in the Department of Mysteries will ask you, because they will already know the truth."

Josef reached into another pocket and drew out Hermione's wand. He handed it to her. "Like Ginny, you should remain in hiding for the present until everything is prepared. Then, you will return to your job and you will return Voldemort's wand with you. Reynard will be told what has happened and there will be nothing more he will need to learn from you. His arrogance and greed will keep him from letting anyone else know."

Ginny frowned. "So that's it then?" she asked. "We wait a week, go back to our jobs and pretend that none of this happened? What did happen? How did Tarus die?"

Josef's face fell, and Ginny thought for a moment he looked frightened. "I don't think I know the words to describe what happened," he began. "Grigore was killed by the thing which he had been trying to protect the world from."

"What is it?"

"It is the Brotherhood's responsibility, now, and we will do all that we can to see that it is kept safe and secret. I do not know yet just what your role in this story will be, but I know this is not the last we will see of each other."

He nodded to Ginny and the others. "I must go. I have a lot of work to do. Stay hidden. I will contact you when it is safe. Have patience. I promise it will not be long."

Josef bent down to retrieve his wand, then turned and walked toward the darkened alley. As he pulled his hood up over his head he called out one last time.

"See that Harry gets some rest," he told her. "He looks exhausted."

Author's Notes:

And thus ends the first story in the trilogy. I hope everyone enjoyed it. The next part is named Amulet of Stone, and I've already started it. I will begin posting it on soon, but until then those of you who are impatient can read the chapters early by going here:

http/ are two chapters checked and posted and two more waiting in beta (as of 2006-06-14). If you're fine with waiting, you might consider re-reading this story. Once you know the full story, there a re a number of scenes which take on a drastically different meaning. And, of course, feel free to email me any comments or questions you might have. The story is for entertainment, but I expect it will be more enjoyable if you understand what is going on.