Unspeakable Truths Volume Two: True Lies
Disclaimer: Characters, places and events of the Harry Potter Universe are Copyright J.K. Rowling and her publishers. Certain other characters and what-not are Copyright Rorschach's Blot.
Welcome back to the Unspeakable Universe. Just a quick note before I begin Volume 2 will be much longer than volume one, but I also don't have the same amount of time as I did when I wrote the first volume so it won't be updated as frequently. Special thanks to my betas CassieP and KdtheRavenclaw, you two rock! Also thanks to Rorsch for a) a bunch of crazy ideas to borrow from, and b) having a Yahoo group where he let's me post my stuff for pre-beta picking. One last thanks to everyone who reviewed Volume 1, I hope you enjoy volume two as much if not more.
One last item before we begin, Volume 1 should be considered required reading, I reference a lot of things that happened before, and I will throughout the series so if you're new to the series coming in from a C2 or a fav list, (I know that I'm on someone's C2 based on a review, but that's all I know for sure) I strongly suggest reading Volume 1 first.
Okay enough banter without further ado I preset:
Chapter One: Life is Like a Boat
Harry and Ginny had finally returned to the Burrow as the night's chill was finally enough to overcome their very enjoyable quiet not-quite-solitude.
"All set, normal supplies in trunk, everything else in the pendant." They had both turned their Unspeakable trunks into pendants, and referred to them as such, just in case someone overheard parts of the conversation. It would confuse them and definitely raise suspicion, but pendant sounded much better than secret unspeakable trunk.
"Does your pendant have a pass door?"
"Of course, yours?"
"Naturally. I think we should set up a way to meet using the pendants then, and we need to plan for tomorrow."
"After everyone goes to sleep?"
"Works for me, got some spare pepper-up?"
She gave him a look that said he ought to have his own, but nodded just the same. "Yes, but I'll get it after dinner, which judging by that wonderful smell will be ready shortly."
"I wonder where your father is, isn't he usually home by now?"
Ginny frowned a bit, "I know he's not working there at the moment, so I wonder if something happened at the office?"
Harry shrugged and looked worried. "I hope everything is okay, it's public knowledge that I'm close to your family, you don't reckon Fudge would…"
Ginny mirrored his shrug and then bit her lip. "I doubt it, even Fudge isn't that petty."
"I can't believe that he's that petty!" snapped Perkins as he paced the floor.
Arthur Weasley sat at his desk in the department of misuse of muggle artifacts and stared at the piece of paper in his hand. As head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts he had been given the news by Amelia herself, and then been forced to inform his small staff of ten.
He remembered the earlier conversation vividly.
"I'm sorry Arthur, I can reassign you to another department and I'll even let you choose, but this is the minister's decision. We both know he's upset about the trial outcome and this is his way of childish vengeance because he knows the Potter boy is close to you."
Arthur Weasley returned to his office feeling as if his world had collapsed, his work as an unspeakable ensured that he'd have the talent to work anywhere at the department of magical law enforcement, but Muggles had always fascinated him, and his job had never seemed as such. Now, it seemed like he would never have the opportunity to add to his wonderful muggle artifact collection. To make matters worse he'd be forced to inform his staff about this.
"I know Perkins, I already spoke with Amelia, she and I will see that everyone is reassigned to a position as much to their liking as we can manage, but effective immediately the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office is closed."
Perkins, as well as the rest of his staff nodded and then left to clean out their desks and make their decisions on where they'd like to be reassigned. Most would attempt to rotate into the Auror squads, those who couldn't would opt for either the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures or the Improper Use of Magic Office.
With his own office once again vacant, he collapsed back into his chair staring at the clock. It was a charmed muggle digital one with no batteries needed. It had been confiscated on a raid. Normally they would overlook such a minor transgression but this clock also created a magical fireworks display for an alarm.
He blinked a few times as the minutes seemed to melt away.
He turned around to face his fireplace to see a surprisingly familiar face staring back at him. "Basil?"
"Come down to the department please, your presence has been requested."
He nodded mutely and made his way to the lift going down to level nine and then taking the hidden lift to level "S". He activated his SEP field charms as the lift doors began to open. While Basil and Clark still knew who he was, everyone else had been cleaned of that knowledge.
He stopped short seeing who was waiting for him.
"Hello Arthur dear, I just got the news and wanted to make sure you were alright."
"You honor me Madam Flamel, and I am very touched by your concern."
She waved him off. "Please Arthur I had to go through all the formality that you know I hate with Molly already, now are you alright?"
"I'll manage somehow, Madam Flamel, it was just a bit of a shock, I knew that Fudge was aware how our family is to Harry, but for him to attack my position just to get back at him was something I assumed was below him. Apparently I gave him far more credit than he deserves."
She smiled at him. "I know you do so love your muggle toys Arthur, and with your skill at charming them it's a wonder you're not a D-branch person. But I came first to see that you were alright. You're getting there I can tell, but what position would be best for you is the question I find myself asking. I am not trying to enforce anything on you, but didn't you mention you had a son who worked for Gringotts?"
"Bill, my oldest, is a curse-breaker for them. He specializes in creating and taking down wards and traps."
She nodded taking the information in. "As you well know, Fudge and his most likely successors are all very adamant on their stance on non-purebloods. Many of our fellow magical beings suffer because of there oppression. I think a man of your caliber in the Goblin Liaison office might have his hands full at first, but if he managed to befriend and understand the Goblin's better he might find it very much in his best interest. Especially with certain developments underway."
Arthur blinked, Perenelle Flamel obviously knew far more than she was letting on, but she wasn't willing to divulge anymore information and he wouldn't pry. "I've always been fascinated with the Goblin culture, perhaps not as much as muggles, but then Goblins have impressive inroads into Muggle society."
Perenelle smiled at him. "Very good Arthur, see if you can convince Perkins to come with you, I daresay you'd want your right hand man with you for this. I'll make sure that Cornelius can't block your path in this, and I believe Ragnok will have much to discuss with you." She gave him a smirk that surprised him, for as long as his family had known the Flamel's he had never seen a mischievous streak in her before.
"Basil, Clark, do join us; we were just discussing some options for Arthur now that his office is being closed." She said bringing two men out from the shadows.
"I daresay Arthur, still not willing to give us full time? Those two part-timers you found, Paladin and Firebrand? They are quite the capable pair. They'll be infiltrating Hogwarts this year?"
"Quite so, they'll be getting information for us from the inside and they'll also be on hand to protect certain assets in place that we don't want to see any harm come to. The Potter lad for example. You've both seen how Dumbledore has made inroads to controlling him." If Arthur Weasley were less an operative he'd have smirked or done something to reveal the truth. As it was, years of concealing the truth allowed him to brush the line off so naturally that both Basil and Clark, now void of any memories of Harry or Ginny assumed that the assets he had going into Hogwarts would report on them. They both nodded their agreement and turned to leave the room.
"Good luck Arthur, we'll still call you no matter where you go. Ragnok's a good man, err Goblin. He's aware of us and what we do, but keeps the secrecy as good or better than any personnel we have." With that Basil and Clark left, and Perenelle gave him a nod.
"I will allow you to inform Amelia of your decision; meanwhile, I need to send a letter to your two. Rosette!" the Phoenix appeared in a burst of flames and she quickly quilled a note and handed it to her. "Veuillez prendre cette lettre à Harry, merci." The bird nodded and trilled a lovely melody before once again vanishing in a ball of flame.
"My thanks Madam Flamel. I can see myself home, I'm sure Molly's wondering where I am by now."
"Do take care Arthur, and keep an eye on my godson and your lovely daughter. Adieu."
With that she apparated out of the ministry. For his part Arthur Weasley took the lift upstairs not realizing the full effect his decision would have on the Wizarding world when all would be said and done.
As they were heading to the kitchen Harry felt a familiar presence approaching and stopped suddenly. Ginny who had been right behind him smacked into him prompting a quick apology. Before she could ask why he stopped Rosette appeared in a flash of flame. She settled on Ginny's shoulder and held out the letter for him to take.
"Rosette?" he asked surprised before taking the letter. "Merci beaucoup, veuillez dire le grand-mère qu'i dit vous remercient de l'été merveilleux. " Rosette gently nuzzled his ear with her beak and then pushing off Ginny's shoulder was gone again in a flash.
"When did you learn to speak French?"
"I didn't, I used the pendant to do it for me."
She blinked. She had forgotten about some of his more useful items. He saw her expression and smiled. "I know I missed your birthday Gin, but I did get you a few presents. You'll have to wait till later tonight. Shall we see what Grand-mère has to say?" he asked as he opened the letter.
The contents of the letter almost made his heart stop and he abruptly sat down on the floor.
Ginny followed suit and that's where the twins found them a few minutes later. "Oi you two, best not let Mum see you like that…
"She'd go spare…"
"Either yelling about inappropriateness… "
"Or planning a wedding."
"What's wrong?" they asked in unison finally realizing that something was up.
Ginny looked at Harry and then shook her head. "It's not our place to say. You'll find out at dinner."
They made their way to the kitchen and mutely set to work setting the table. A minute later Ron, followed by the Twins, and finally Hermione, joined them just as Mr. Weasley flooed home from work. "Evening all, Molly whatever you've got in the oven smells wonderful."
He caught the eye from the two youngest people at the table and shook his head. He'd let everyone know after dinner.
"Hello Arthur," she said, giving her husband a welcome home kiss and hug. She waved her wand bringing the food to the table. "Now Fred, George mind your manners. We have guests after all."
"Because I think by now…"
"Harry and Hermione…"
"Count like family…"
"Rather than guests…"
"I do think they have a point Mrs. Weasley. Not that they shouldn't mind their manners of course," added Harry, backpedaling from his earlier statement before she could glare at him.
"Oh you children!" she sighed at long last and they sat down for dinner.
The meal was, as always excellent. Before long Harry and Ginny, as the two youngest, were clearing the table. Ron and Hermione stood up to wash the dishes, but Arthur indicated for them to wait.
"I have some news to tell all of you." Bill should be here shortly, but I couldn't get a hold of Charlie so we'll have to tell him later."
The twins exchanged a look and then turned to look at their father completely serious for a change. "What's going on Dad?"
"Does it have something to do with you-know-who? "
"Does it have something to do with Hogwarts?"
"Does it have something to do with Quidditch?"
At that statement everyone looked at Ron like he had sprouted another head. "What?" he asked defensively, "Why does it have to be bad news? It could be something like Dad has gotten advanced tickets to next year's Quidditch cup, or better yet he was given season passes to the Cannons!"
The silence in the room was only broken by the sound of Bill Flooing into the family room. "Okay what's going on?"
"Hello Bill, have a seat." When all the Weasley's plus Harry and Hermione minus Charlie and Percy were sitting Mr. Weasley let the cat out of the bag.
"This morning the Minister of Magic saw fit to close the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office."
He paused as gasps echoed across the room except from where Harry and Ginny sat silent.
"Madam Bones has helped me reassign my staff, and Perkins will be coming with me."
"Dad what do you mean Perkins will be coming with you?"
"Well, I'll still be employed by the ministry, but I was requested for a new position and my office will be outside the ministry now, I'll have to go by a few times a week, so I'll maintain an office near Madam Bones. Perkins will be coming with me as my assistant."
"I will be the wizard ambassador to the Goblin Nations, recommended by both Madam Bones, and a few influential outsiders. The fact that my son works for Gringotts gets me a lot of sway by the Goblin nations, more than an outsider would normally have."
"Well technically my title will be Arthur Weasley head of the Office of Wizard and Goblin affairs, Perkins has always been my right hand man and has agreed to assist me. Officially my job will be to liaise with the Goblins to assist them to enforce ministry law on there people, err goblins."
The family was stunned. While the position was quite a promotion, albeit a forced one, the happiness about the forced promotion was tempered by the reminder that Arthur loved working with muggle things and his previous position was as much hobby as job.
Later that night Harry and Ginny cornered him in the family room alone.
"Okay Dad what gives?"
"What do you mean sweetheart?"
"Don't sweetheart me Daddy, Grand-mere sent us a letter letting us know that your department bit the bullet and she also mentioned the reason. What does Fudge have against you?"
"He doesn't have anything against me. He's scared of Harry," he explained, prompting a snort from the boy who lived.
"You've got to be kidding me, I'm just a sixth year at Hogwarts, why on earth is he scared of me?"
"Harry you just escaped his carefully planned plot to banish you into prison, you've managed to out-wit, out-smart or out-luck him at every turn this last year. He's a paranoid politician, of course he's going to view you as a threat."
"And he's going after you Mr. Weasley because he knows I'm close to your family?"
Arthur nodded and Harry developed a feral grin. "Hey Gin, I need to get a hold of the professor, I think it's time for the wizarding world to become flooded in charmed muggle artifacts."
They shared a grin before exiting the family room each heading for their own bed.
Much later that night they met in their Trunks. Ginny walked around Harry's, very impressed with the job he done with the furniture in the common living area. "This is quite nice."
"Thank you, I had a good deal of help with it, I wasn't trying to get into decorating as well…" he mentioned waving his hand around the room that was very tastefully decorated with Gryffindor colors. "But Grand-mère thought it would be a good idea to help keep my mind off the trial."
Ginny nodded and then hugged her knees. "I'm going to miss her this year. I've heard about her from Carver before, but I never thought I'd meet her. Now that I have I didn't want to have to leave her. She's a lot like Mum, except she respects our independence. "
"I know what you mean, last year I didn't even know I had a godmother, and now I'd rather stay with her than go to Hogwarts. Do you reckon he knows?"
"I don't know, before last year I would have said no, but my operation at Hogwarts didn't really begin until last year and that's when I started watching him more carefully."
"Wait last year? I thought you've been watching us since you started."
"Oh I have, I just haven't been observing Dumbledore until last year, up till then I was like everyone else in that aspect, he's the champion of light surely he would do no wrong. Looking at your life now though I know everyone is wrong. What kind of man would send a child to those monsters."
Harry shrugged, not really wanting to go into that at the moment. "The same kind of man who would sacrifice one innocent life to redeem a psychopathic madman bent on world domination and genocide?"
Ginny couldn't help but giggle at the way Harry had casually described Tom Riddle, it turned out to be contagious and after a few minutes both were rolling on the floor laughing. "It must be really late, cause that was not that funny," stated Harry, after the two had regained their composure.
"It is, but don't worry. I'll keep an eye on the way things are headed at
Hogwarts. You just have to be ready to throw the battle magic when the
hippogriffs come to call."
Harry nodded and then pulled out a package. "Happy belated birthday from Grand-mère, Uncle Nicholas, and me," he said, feeling a bit shy for some odd reason. He was suddenly glad he had taken off the card he had originally placed on the gift. He had written on it
I want you to know who I really am,
I never thought I'd feel this way towards you,
And if you ever need someone to come along
I will follow you and keep you strong.
It was something that sounded like a cheesy pick up line or song lyric, and definitely not fitting for a birthday gift for a friend.
"Thank you," she replied quietly and then proceeded to prove she was a Weasley by utterly demolishing the wrapping paper holding the gift.
She stopped and her jaw dropped as she opened the package and realized what it held. "Harry these are…"
"A set to match mine, and these…" he added producing a smart looking pair of reading glasses, "Have all the charms my glasses do, though with your already perfect vision you'll have to find some excuse to wear them around Hogwarts when you want to."
She smiled and gave him a friendly hug. "Thank you Harry, I'll have to write to Grand-mère and Uncle Nicholas to thank them. Oh will the owls be able to find them?"
"Yeah, I plan to write to her as much as I can. Oh she mentioned that with our new security measures we're still supposed to report on ourselves, that way no one back at headquarters would guess that you are Firebrand, or I'm Paladin." His face adopted a frustrated look before he continued. "I understand operational security far better than most, but I still don't understand why they had to go so far in protecting our identities. I mean the fact that grand-mère released us from our Oaths shows an enormous amount of trust. I want to live up to it, but at the same time I don't know what prompted this move."
Ginny sighed and carefully put on, or put away her new gifts and gear. While Harry's had been made practical and been built to hide, her set of rings, earpieces, and pendants were made to show off the fact that she was a trendy witch with some style. Instead of the earpiece that Harry had, her set was very pretty crystal earrings. "I talked to Grand-mère a little about that after you left. Apparently Fudge is trying to shake down every department trying to find out how you managed to escape the ministry. Right now it's just precaution."
Harry nodded and then yawned. "We should get started on planning, or we'll never be able to wake up in the morning."
Despite his words to the contrary Harry and Ginny rose quietly and early. They made their way outside where they went through their morning exercises. Finished before the sun made it's way up the pair did a final gear check. Satisfied that everything was where it ought to be they made their way to the kitchen and enjoyed a silent sunrise with a cup of tea and a pepper up potion. They had been up far into the night planning for the year and they were enjoying the peace of
Peace and quiet that quickly gave way to chaos as the rest of the inhabitants of the Burrow awoke.
Harry looked on, amused, as Ron scrambled to find his favorite Chudley Cannons t-shirt. He snickered to himself as Ron passed it twice while asking his mum where it was. Taking pity on his friend, Harry finally picked up the shirt and tossed it to him. "Try opening your eyes next time Ron," he said, with his tongue firmly planted inside his cheek.
On the floor below Ginny was watching the twins pack. As they were now of age they were swinging their wands around making all their belongings dance into their trunks. She held down a giggle as a pair of socks ran and leapt into the trunk without any feet in them.
"Hurry up now children!"
"How are we getting to Kings Cross Mum?"
"Your father arranged for us to have a couple cars from the ministry take us to the Station. The order will be standing by for our arrival so we have to hurry along now."
The group piled into the ministry cars with their luggage, Harry helped Ginny and Hermione with theirs using a bit of discreet wandless magic to lighten the load. The group arrived at Kings Cross station and paired up to go through the border at Platform 9-3/4. Harry and Ginny were to go in after Fred and George, with Ron and Hermione following them. Harry had his glasses running and was looking at the security measures in place. Most of the charms and wards he had already learned but there were a couple he made a mental note to learn. He then looked at the discrete guards in place; Dumbledore had what seemed like half of the order hidden in different areas of the station. The ministry had three Aurors tailing them and he noted that they had also placed some tracking and monitoring charms on them. He reached over as they walked through the wall and gave Ginny's shoulder a quick double squeeze. She recognized the sign for 'no immediate danger but we're being watched.'
She playfully pushed him and smirked. "Hey Potter, think you can handle a few rounds of exploding snap once we're on the train?"
He smiled at her response, for one he enjoyed exploding snap, for the other it gave them a setup for private conversation. "You're on Weasley, but this time remember to put up the silencing charms, the last time we did this on the train we got yelled at for making all the racket."
She snorted. "Yeah, Malfoy can throw open our door, insult us and threaten us, but we get a bit over enthusiastic with our game of exploding snap and we get snapped at."
He shrugged. "If there's one thing I've learned at my time at Hogwarts," he said mainly for the interfering ears that were listening in. "You can get away with anything if your name's Malfoy, but if it's Potter you can expect to be insulted and belittled at every turn, especially by greasy git potion masters."
He could hear snickering behind him and realized that Tonks must have been one of the people assigned to tail them. They waved to people they knew and made their way to the train. Ron left to find Neville, "Need to compare notes from what Moody gave us yesterday." He said by way of explanation.
"We'll save you both a seat mate, come find us."
"And don't forget Ronald, we have the prefects meeting so don't take too long!"
"I'll go find Luna and we'll be a complete set," said Ginny, handing Harry her trunk, which he took with no argument. The Twins had grabbed Ron's and they followed Hermione onto the Express.
"We'll find a compartment. Shall we?" she asked to the boys accompanying her.
Arthur Weasley took a deep breath and then walked into Gringotts. Bypassing all the lines he made his way to the counter and then tapped a panel with his wand. The portion of the wall slid away and an honor guard of five goblins immediately surrounded him. The rest of the patrons who were in Gringotts that early merely stood and watched in mute astonishment as the wizard walked into the back offices. The looks they gave were somewhere between horror, pity and wonder. No wizard except those employed by Gringotts ever went back through those doors, especially not one employed by the Ministry of Magic.
"Good morning Mr. Weasley," said the voice from behind the desk in the office he had been escorted to.
"Good profit to you Director Ragnok," replied Arthur Weasley, prompting a look of respect to flash across the Goblin's face. "I see, Perenelle did mention you were a good sort. Here." He passed a small scroll to Arthur. "These are the current laws in progress of the Wizengamot that we have a problem with." He paused and then handed him a much larger scroll. "These are the questionable transactions made to the Minister of Magic's personal Bank account by several suspected and confirmed death eaters."
Arthur smiled and handed Ragnok a small scroll of there own. "This is an edict from the Ministry of Magic insisting that you reign in some of your people and conform to ministry policies regarding exchange rates." He then pulled out a much larger scroll of his own. "This is from Madam Flamel to you, contents unknown."
Ragnok smiled a toothy grin and did something that rarely happened. He extended his hand to Arthur Weasley. "Mr. Weasley I believe that this may be the start of a wonderful working relationship. And speaking as such here, this is a key to the Black Ink. Inc., vault. A copy of the key will be sent to all pertinent parties and do inform Mr. Potter that his ability to change and shift his aura is very impressive, but if he's transferring money from his own vault, it's rather obvious who he is. And also let him know that as a security measure all Goblin tellers are able to see through invisibility cloaks, disillusionment charms and magical disguises. Should he wish to disguise himself better in the future I would recommend the muggle way, at least for the face. It tends to work the best."
Arthur grinned and nodded. "I'll pass that along, forgive the lad, he's new to the game."
"Indeed, he was very impressive for a first timer then. He chose a remarkable disguise that looked enough like him that it probably was very simple to maintain, but different enough that no one would mistake him for his persona. Also advise him that Mr. Black will always be welcomed at Gringotts, at any time.
The pair then turned their attention back to official business and began debating on an important subject – the point spread for this years' Quidditch World Cup.
Not long after boarding the Express the group was assembled in one of the last compartments. A few minutes after that Neville and Ron entered and Hermione stood up blushing a little bit and grabbed Ron's arm. "About time you decided to join us, now hurry up, or we'll be late!"
The rest of the occupants just traded an amused look with each other. Neville finally took a seat and looked at the twins. "Ron told me you two were coming back for more, what brought this on?"
The twins traded a look and then shrugged and said in one voice, "Mum. Right scary she was, threatened to disown us if we didn't at least complete our NEWTS. As the shop is doing well in mail-order and as we prefer Mum's cooking to learning how; we decided in this instance it might be a good idea to listen to her."
Neville began to chuckle and Harry did an admirable job at holding his own laughter in. The group talked about several topics ranging from Quidditch to potions, and then Hermione and Ron rejoined them. As they did the twins said they were going to find Katie Bell and chat about Quidditch.
"So Neville, Luna; how have your summers been?" asked Harry.
"I've had fun learning from Professor Moody, he's a right good teacher when he's not being paranoid. I swear Harry I don't think I've ever met anyone that paranoid."
If Neville had known at that moment Harry was armed with enough security devices to make Mad-Eye Moody look like a clueless squib he might have changed his tune. Instead Neville continued talking about a few of his lessons while Harry and Ginny exchanged an amused look and then looked to Luna.
"Well I spent the first half of my summer with father in Holland looking for a herd of Crumple Horn Snorkacks, but it ended up being a pack of venomous doozled drinkos. Then we came home and I heard about your trial. Then I spent the rest of the summer at St. Mungo's."
"St. Mungo's! Did you hurt yourself Luna?" asked Ron, prompting Ginny to snicker quietly to herself.
"Oh no, father arranged for me to get some training there, he almost got mauled by an angry doozled drinko on the trip and he decided that one of us had to know more than basic first aid spells."
"But Luna," said Hermione being logical, "How did you get around the underaged laws to train? And those creatures don't exist how could he almost get mauled by one?"
Luna gave Hermione an almost pitying look. "Hermione, surely you realize that they trace our magic through our wands, I just used father's wand and he used a spare wand he had." She said answering her first question but acting completely oblivious to her second one.
"Right, well it's good to know that you've got some healing spells under your hat Luna, and we'd love to learn them at some point."
"Sure Harry, but don't you think what you learned over the summer is much better than a few healing spells?"
Harry gave Luna a bemused and cloying look while Ginny whispered "Humor her" loud enough for Neville to hear.
"Right Luna, but I think it'd be important just the same." And then gave her a sharp look and twitched his eyes in Neville and Ron's direction.
Luna caught the glare and returned her attention to her copy of the quibbler. Hermione excused herself to the girls room and Ron stood up and left to hunt down the food trolley and everyone rolled their eyes; Ron's appetite being the stuff of legends.
Harry was relaxing until he felt one of his wards tripped and leaned forward giving Ginny a countdown with his fingers as he spoke. "Hey Gin, would you show me your Bat-bogey hex again?"
As his last finger was moving down she cast her bat-bogey hex which nailed the face of one Draco Malfoy the moment he shoved the door open hard enough to rattle the glass in the window.
As he ran back down the hall screaming followed by his two goons Harry called after him, "Sorry Malfoy, didn't realize you were right there, if you had only knocked that wouldn't have happened!" He returned to the cabin to find Neville giving him a puzzled look. "Something on your mind Nev?"
"How did you do that Harry?"
"Do what Neville?"
"Time with Malfoy? That was too perfect to be coincidence, that you happen to trick Ginny into casting it right when Malfoy threw open the door."
Harry was surprised, he knew his friend was more talented than he let on, and one of the best members of the DA, but working under Moody's wings had done wonders for him. He hadn't caught all the signals but he did see far more than the average wizard and Harry knew he'd have to come up with something plausible so he went with a half-truth.
"I put a muggle device that went off when someone approached the cabin. If they had knocked first, or opened the door normally it would have missed them. I counted on Malfoy trying his annual attempt at intimidation and the fact that he's just thrown the door open in the past. That was brilliant by the way." He added, looking at Ginny who smiled back at him.
The rest of the train ride passed without event and the group walked toward the carriages with Harry once again trying to ignore all the staring from his fellow students. After they climbed into one of the carriages Neville turned to Harry.
"Hey Harry will you be starting up the DA again? I learned a lot last year from you and would like the chance to do so again."
Harry gave him a confused look. "Aren't you training with a Ministry Auror? How would I compare to that, if anything I should get you and Ron to give me lessons. Besides, the DA was for when we had a brainless defense teacher. I'm sure this year will be better and it might not even be needed. If anything, I'm planning on turning it into a dueling club or something."
Hermione gave him the look this time and Ginny just shook her head. Luna looked up and said what was on everyone's mind. "That's okay for now but would you be willing to teach again if we needed it?"
Harry reluctantly nodded but then added, "I don't mind, but if we need it we're changing the name. I don't want to be connected to Dumbledore like that; look how much trouble it caused last year." The rest of the group happily agreed.
"They're really not that bad looking once you get used to them," said Ginny to Harry as she nodded toward the Thestrals.
"When did you get to be able to see Thestrals, Ginny?" asked Ron, surprised, as he wasn't able to see them.
"Oh I've been able to see them since, well before term started," she said, trying to infer that it had happened during their trip to the ministry. In truth it had been on the assignment prior to the capture mission to prove Harry's innocence. She had been observing a suspected death eater hide-out and when the strike team was inserted they had been a bit enthusiastic in ensuring the death eaters wouldn't hurt
anyone else again.
Her words effectively killed all conversation and the remainder of the ride to the school was made in silence.
The sorting proceeded without any major mishaps and all was proceeding as normal until half-way through the meal. Nearly two-thirds of the student body let out a loud squawk and turned into giant canaries. A few seconds later they all molted and with a little pyrotechnical display a banner dropped down at the end of the Great hall.
"The New Marauders would like to take a moment to welcome all the students back to Hogwarts, and remind you that while you may be safe from You-Know- Who, you're never safe from our pranks!"
As the banner itself exploded, showering everyone with glitter, Dumbledore rose to give his beginning of the year speech.
"Thank you to the New Marauders," he said looking towards Harry and the twins. "And welcome students both new and old, to another year at Hogwarts. With Voldemort's return…" he paused while most of the students and staff gasped at the name. Harry and his friend rolled their eyes at this. "…finally acknowledged by the Ministry of Magic, it is time for a few changes to the rules here at Hogwarts. All students would do well to remember that the Forbidden Forest is just that, forbidden. In the past certain parties have felt the need to enter this area, but I would warn any who feel their lives a folly that special security measures have been implemented to prevent any of the dark lord's followers entrance through that route. As a result the area is even more dangerous than it has been in past years. Do not even approach the area unless you are accompanied by a staff member."
He made a point to look at the Gryffindor table before continuing. "Furthermore, with the latest developments in the war, I have decided to let one of England's premier experts on defense against the dark arts finally take his place as teacher for the class. Because of this I had to replace his former position so please welcome the new potions teacher Professor Slughorn, and welcome to the position of defense against the dark arts Professor Snape."
The Slytherins cheered, and the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs clapped politely, but if looks could kill Severus Snape would be dead from all the death glares given to him by the Gryffindors. To everyone at the table's surprise both Harry and Ginny stood up to give the professors a round of applause. They were quickly joined by Hermione and eventually everyone at the table joined in, much to Snape's shock.
"Mr. Filch would like me to remind students the use of magic is prohibited in the halls, and would like to mention that the entire product line of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes are prohibited items. The full listing of prohibited items, which I believe includes their mail order catalogues, can be found on the door to his office. On that note I would also like to welcome back Misters Fred and George Weasley who have decided with the retirement of Madam Umbridge, to return to Hogwarts for the completion of their NEWTS."
Fred and George stood to cat-calls and cheers from three-quarters of the hall and boos from the Slytherins.
"I would also like to congratulate all members of the entity known as Dumbledore's Army, all of who outscored their classmates on their defense scores, but would like to remind all students that such organizations must have a staff member as their advisor and abide by school rules. Any clubs not conforming to this edict passed by the board of Governors will be dissolved." Almost as one every member of the DA glared at him but he only met their gaze with his familiar twinkle in his eyes.
Before anyone could take any further action the members of the DA found themselves transforming into large Aardvarks.
"The members of the Elite 5 wishes to thank every member of Dumbledore's Aardvarks for making the rest of the student body look pitiful on our tests last year. We wish all students good luck on their tests this year and extend this challenge to the so-called New Marauders: an all out Prank-War, but with no interruptions during classes. Some students take their studies seriously. Sincerely, the E5."
That night there the Gryffindor Common room was entreated by a loud argument in which all parties involved agreed.
"I don't know who this E5 is but they challenged the wrong group of pranksters!" shouted Fred Weasley.
"I agree, attacking the DA was a low blow, even if it's disbanded now. I want to know who did it, and I want to prank them until they beg for mercy."
"Gee Harry why don't you tell us how you really feel, and for that matter, what makes you so sure we can out prank this E5 group anyway?"
"We'll prank everyone and watch for reactions. Simple really."
The group began speaking of pranking plans and didn't seem to notice the door to the common room open and close with no one there. They continued their long discussion on pranking for another 5 minutes.
"Are we clear?" asked Harry who was watching the room with mage sight, it wasn't easy; there was so much ambient magic innate to Hogwarts it was giving him a splitting headache.
"We're all clear," announced Ginny who along with Fred had been monitoring the Marauder's Map. "Target Twinkles just started up the stairs to his office. And target Meow is safely in her room."
"Excellent, so how do we run this prank war?"
"We'll mainly let the Marauders do small pranks, a few major ones here and there but the big ones will be E5, that way the suspicion's not on us. As a rule the Marauders will avoid over pranking the Gryff's while E5 will avoid the Claw's."
"One thing I don't understand is why do this prank war thing in the first place?"
"Two main reasons Hermione. Reason one, with the war looming everyone could use a good laugh now and again. And more importantly reason two, it gives us an excuse to meet each other in odd situations at odd times and won't arouse anyone's suspicions."
"What do you mean won't arouse suspicions? People will think we're meeting to plan pranks and they'll be plenty suspicious."
"And that's the true genius behind my plan. If people already think we're meeting secretly to run a prank war they'll never suspect we're doing some kind of special training, or doing something that would give Dumbledore's order ulcers."
Hermione's mouth dropped open and Harry grinned. A second later she grinned back and responded. "We need a name for ourselves. Not for the prank war, but when we operate outside of Hogwarts."
"Already taken care of. One of my cover names is Mr. Black, so I started a new company. As of now we are all members of Black Ink."
"You mean Black Inc?"
"No Black Ink, I thought it'd be a bit funnier that way. We could leave a bottle of Black Ink when we work, as a calling card of sorts."
The twins were strangely silent for a time looking at Harry with new respect.
"Let us get this straight…"
"You arranged a prank war…"
"In which we will be running both sides…"
"So that you could hold secret meetings…"
"And operate outside of Hogwarts…"
"Without anyone getting suspicious…"
"Of what we're really up to…"
"When we aren't around?"
Harry nodded in amusement that was furthered when they dropped to their knees and began bowing to him.
"We're not worthy!" They chanted in unison, managing to make even Hermione snicker.
"I can't take all the credit, it was actually a true pranking genius who came up with the idea of running a prank war with two sides so that we could do other things without people thinking we were up to something. Well something other than pranks."
"A true genius eh Gred?"
"Indeed Forge, tell us Harry who is this pranking genius?"
"It can't be Hermione she's already admitted her ignorance to this matter."
"And it can't be Ronniekins as we're not including him in this meeting."
"So it must be…"
"Call me Gin-gin again and you can be the first real victims of an E5 attack." She snapped at them. "Besides it's something Grand-mère taught me over the summer, always plant a lie inside a truth, it makes it easier to swallow."
Hermione nodded sagely at the bit of wisdom. "Okay we better turn in, tomorrow's the first day of classes and we don't know what we'll have."
"Well hopefully you and I will share most of the same schedule, since I dropped divination and picked up Ancient Runes and Arithmancy."
"Harry I thought Nicholas said you weren't that good in Arithmancy?"
"I'm not, but I'd like to get better. Runes will be my easy class."
"Easy? Harry I'm not sure if you realize it, but Runes are a terribly difficult branch of magic, for the most part we only cover the theory there have been only three wizards and four witches in the last century who could actually do any Rune based magic outside of wards."
"You mean like this?" he asked innocently and quickly used his wand to trace two runes in the air which created a strong breeze around them.
Hermione's mouth dropped open and Harry beat a hasty retreat up the stairs to his dorm room before she could start asking questions. As he was gone she turned her attention back to Ginny.
"Don't look at me; this is only the second time I've seen him do that."
Up in his dorm he walked over to where Ron and Neville were poring over their assignment from Moody.
"Hey guys," he said by way of conversation. As he walked toward his four poster bed he glanced at their assignment. Recognizing it as one of the first spells Clark had taught him he bit his lip before he could explain it to them. He was impressed though, Moody wasn't messing around with the lessons; the bone crushing hex was a nasty piece of work. Not as bad as the bone shattering hex that Harry had come to prefer which was also easier to cast, but nasty just the same.
"Hey Harry, take a look at this," said Neville, motioning him over.
Harry inwardly sighed and walked over and glanced at the paperwork. "Ouch! That looks like a nasty one, Nev."
"It is," put in Ron, "Moody decided we needed a hands on demonstration so each of us had our non-wand hand crushed."
Harry winced in sympathy for his two friends, he had been the unlucky recipient of the curse in a training accident where he dodged the wrong way and it took a cup of Skele-Gro and a night to recover.
"So you guys have it down now?"
"We hope so, we have to meet up with him this weekend to go over it, if we don't get it we get to experience the curse again as a refresher."
Harry shuddered and not for the first time was glad he had gotten his training from his godmother and her associates… though Moody's training method reminded him an awful lot of McLain's so-called Spartan training. "I'm glad it's you two and not me doing this, at least I won't have to worry about you two learning how to protect yourselves."
"Yeah, Moody's gotten the ministry to approve of a junior Auror force. Neville and I are already a part of it. It should be in the Daily Prophet in a day or two."
Harry smiled at his red-headed friend. "That's great mate! Good on you two! Anyone else I know involved in this program?"
"A couple of the older DA members joined, I think Katie Bell might have been approached too, Cho Chang, Macmillan, and Smith are the ones I know for sure. Luna turned it down, said she had to go to France to check on a Crumple-Horned Snorkack sighting."
Harry saw Ron blush when he mentioned Luna and saw Neville roll his eyes. "Well congrats mates, if we can work some kind of defense club training perhaps I can get you guys to teach us instead of me." He yawned and stretched, "I think I'm gonna turn in now, don't stay up too late, we've got classes tomorrow and we don't know who or what yet."
"Before you turn in Harry, what was the deal at dinner?"
"Clapping for Snape?"
"Gringott's Goblins Rules of Acquisition number 37: Once in a while declare peace. It will confuse the hell out of your enemies." He gave them a wave and then turned in for the night leaving his two friends staring. They were looking at him completely gobsmacked, if they only knew that his Goblin Rule of Acquisition was a piece of fiction he'd gotten from an American book a year back they'd curse him. He made a mental note to give the book to Mr. Weasley, if the Goblins had a sense of humor they'd probably enjoy the book. He also hoped they'd think that he was implying he spent his summer with the Goblins, he took out a parchment and wrote a quick note 'Drop hints spent time with Goblins, ask "G" for tips on how Goblins live.'
"What are you talking about Hermione?" asked Ginny confused.
"How did you and Harry do that? Potions? That was an amazing bit of transfiguration that affected every member of the DA."
"Now Hermione what makes you so sure that it was me and not Harry?"
"The shock on his face showed me that it the timing was a surprise, the fact that you aren't surprised I'm accusing you, the fact that I saw you put your hand under the table right before we all changed."
Ginny smiled. In fact it had been Harry using a strong bit of wandless, wordless magic. She had pretended to pull her wand out under the table to make everyone think it might have been her. Just in case. "You've got me Hermione, I used a three part spell. The first part was a potion that I smuggled into the pumpkin juice, the second part was keyed into the DA galleons, the final part was a quick burst of magic to activate it."
It was in fact mostly the truth, the only difference was that Harry had triggered the spell and not her, she had brewed the potion and Dobby had smuggled it into the kitchens and into the drinks.
Hermione finally nodded, her curiosity satisfied, and she went up to bed leaving the youngest Weasley to watch the fire, her hands absentmindedly stroking her new pendant around her neck.
In his office Albus Dumbledore sat troubled. On one hand he had his weapon, the Boy Who Lived. The prophecy ensured that Harry Potter was the weapon to be wielded against Voldemort. He himself had proved that fact 15 years ago when he marked the child as his equal. On the other hand there was a boy, Harry, just Harry, who wanted nothing more than to finish his schooling and live his life innocent about some of the harsher realities of the world.
Watching Harry interact with his friends he once again felt an emotion he hadn't felt in a long time; in fact he hadn't felt it in nearly fifty years, since the time he had killed the Dark Wizard Grindelwald: guilt. Is it right for me to meddle in the life of this boy? I've never felt this empty before.' he had asked himself on more than one occasion in the last hour. Watching him plan his prank war reminded him of his own school days back in far more innocent times.
If I don't manage to turn Tom back from the dark, the wizarding world is doomed. Young Harry has great potential but he will never be allowed to live long enough to develop it. And the prophecy states that neither can live while the other survives, but if Harry can force Voldemort to regress back to the man Tom Riddle once was both could co-exist. But if Harry were to amass enough power to defeat him…' He shook his head determined not to think down that road. For any wizard to have that much power would almost certainly turn them dark.
So absorbed in his own thoughts, he missed the pitying looks Fawkes gave him. Fawkes, seeing his thoughts, was reminded of a man he had known is an age far past. A man whose own magical power made him a legend in his own time, as even the mighty King Arthur sought his council for years. He had used the so-called dark-arts in battle and yet had never become a dark wizard. Yes, Merlin was perhaps the only being that Fawkes thought could accurately be compared to the potential power in young Harry Potter. If only Albus would realize what he had in front of him. The phoenix sang a sad tune hoping that his companion would see the light before he strayed from the already narrow and perilous path he was walking down.