CHAPTER 1- Death Eaters Attack
Harry thought that the train seemed very full of students this year. "I thought the Aurors were supposed to be riding the train also" said Harry.
"That is what the folks told us" replied Hermione, "But I don't see any."
"Well I guess we had best do what we can just in case Lucius decides to create problems and attack the train" said Draco.
"My Dad and Severus said that they were not going to go with us because the Aurors were going to be on board. I bet our folks are going to go bonkers when they find out we are riding by ourselves" said Ron.
"Harry, you have the best Patronus so why don't you send a message off to Mom and Dad? asked Hermione.
"I'll give it a try, we should at least try and warn them" replied Harry. He then sent his Patronus with the message, 'Aurors not on board, we are alone'!
Harry and the kids made the rounds trying to organize the older kids into different areas of the train. They explained that the train was vulnerable and that they needed to take some responsibility in protecting the younger students. They had to stroke a lot of egos as everyone seemed to want to just play and touch base with friends they hadn't seen over the summer. By telling the older students that they (the poor young vulnerable kids) looked up to them and expected them to be strong and protect them, they touched many Ego's and gained support for their plan. It was amazing how a few whimpers and big 'cow-eyes' can work in these situations.
In their heart of hearts they all hoped that all this planning would not be necessary. They knew they were doing well in dueling, but they really didn't want to have to put it to work on the real thing yet. "OK, does everyone know who your partner is and do you have the tools you need?" asked Harry. Everyone did an inventory and nodded yes.
With everything ready they sat and waited. They tried to read and play games but were just too nervous to concentrate and kept watching the skies and listening for the popping of apparations. They even kept the door to their compartment open so they could hear down the hallways.
"We have passed the first place that provided an area that was good for an ambush" said Ron. "The next one is about an hour away according to our map. Everyone best hit the restroom and shrink down all your belongings that are not already shrunk."
Harry had a bad feeling and felt that Ron was not feeling at all comfortable. Something was in the air but he couldn't place the 'what or where'. About an hour later, Ron tensed up as they came close to the next good ambush point, which caused everyone else to tense up.
"Ginny and Luna" said Harry, "Lucius will be looking for some of us before trying to find you because he might not remember that you start school this year. So if something does happen, I want the two of you to hide in the tree line, when it is safe, port-key to Hogwarts and get help. We will really be depending on you because I don't know if my Patronus worked, they should have been here by now. It's really dangerous but I know you can pull it off". Ginny and Luna looked at each other then gulped but nodded yes.
They didn't have to wait very long before the train started to slow down. "This shouldn't be happening" said Ron, "Get ready to fly and draw them off. They are probably in the engineers cab making him stop the train."
"Ok," said Harry, "As soon as it stops let's fly off toward those woods. Remember we have to let them see us but stay low so that the trees can help block us from their spells."
Ginny and Luna made their way to the last car and stood on the outside stoop. They were under their cloak, ready to jump off the train and hide. Once the train came to a stop they jumped off and ran to the tree line where they hid under some branches and waited until the others could draw off the Death Eaters. They just hoped that all the Death Eaters followed and they didn't leave any behind to mess with the kids on the train.
The rest of the Companions exited from three different doors on the train and headed for the forest. Harry flew close to the windows where he saw some of the Death Eaters and they would see him.
It worked they saw him. There was a cry from the Death Eaters and they piled off the train, pointing at the kids and cussing a lot. Lucius told them to search the train quickly and grab brooms from the kids. "Do not waste your time with the kids, the ones we want are running away, just get a broom and get back here fast". It only took ten minutes for the ten or so Death Eaters to round up some brooms and get back to Lucius. When they were gathered together again they all took off after Harry and his group.
After they left, Ginny and Luna Port-keyed to Hogwarts.
Harry and the group headed toward the dense forest. Looking back he could see that the Death Eaters were following so the plan was working. He just hoped that the rest of it worked. He was a bit put out that the train wasn't moving yet. He hoped that once they drew off the Death Eaters the Engineer would start up the train and get it moving toward the castle.
They had studied the map and knew that if they could get over the hill top ahead of them the Death Eaters would lose sight of them for a short time. During this 'blindness' they were supposed to drop down into the forest and 'hug a tree'. This part of the plan worked out and they dipped down to the ground, each finding a spot near a large tree to get under their invisibility cloaks and hide.
Harry and Draco were under one cloak and as soon as they landed Draco brought out one of the sensors that they had confiscated from Professor Dumbledore's supply room. The sensor would alert them if anyone from the dark side was approaching and from what direction. Right now it did register a dark presence but they were still flying up in the air.
Harry hoped that by the time they noticed that the kids were not visible they would fly a bit further before landing to check things out. For the most part that worked out according to plan but Lucius sent a couple of the Death Eaters back to retrace their path and they were landing periodically to check the area.
The problem for them was to figure out how long to keep the Death Eaters hunting for them. The longer they chased the kids, the more time the train had to get to the castle and the more time the Parents and Teachers had to get to the train. Ron figured out that the train was about three hours away from the castle so they had to keep these Death Eaters busy until then.
One of them landed not twenty feet from them and was looking around for signs of the kids. Everyone stayed very still and very quiet, hoping that he would leave again.
After a few moments his friend, who was still flying above, called out to him, "Let's get going we have a lot of territory to cover". Harry decided at that moment to attack and secure this Eater, so he signed to Draco to bind him then Harry then hit him with 'Stunning Spell'. This Death Eater was now down, silent and secure. They now waited on the second one to come and check on the first one. It didn't take long and they proceeded to do the same thing to him.
"Now we have to get out of here fast" said Harry. Having said that they started running in the direction that Ron told them they would eventually find the castle. They wanted to worry Lucius and keep him busy hunting, but also put as much distance between themselves and the Death Eaters as they possibly could.
They must have been jogging for at least an hour when they came upon a river. It was then that they realized how much their Fitness Class had helped them out. The river was not very wide but it would provide them with a water supply other than their wands, and a land mark that they could check against the map to make sure of their location and they were where they were supposed to be.
"It's going to be dark soon" said Hermione. "We need to find a place to stay the night. I don't think it would be wise to travel in this forest at night and we sure can't build a fire, someone could see it from a long way off."
As they were looking around they found a cave, where the entrance was blocked except for a small space that you had to squeeze past. Ron and Draco decided to check out the inside to make sure that some creature was not already calling it home. Once inside there was plenty of room and there were no prints in the dirt which told them nothing else resided there. If they were careful they could cover the entrance and build a fire inside where no one could see it. It provided safety in that no one could get in very fast and especially without one of them hearing them.
They filled the plastic containers they brought with them with water and squeezed themselves into the cave. Once inside they erected one of the tent-homes they had confiscated from Dumbledore. It was a multi-room magical tent with a Loo included. Harry looked at it once they had it up and just smiled, saying to himself, 'I do love magic'.
When they finished setting up their camp they put out numerous spy-ware products that would warn them of trouble, blocked the front entry, built a small fire then settled down to eat dinner and discuss what they were going to do next. There was really no reason to have a fire except that it just felt right. Hermione told them that camping was not camping if they couldn't have a fire. They all just looked at her then remembered the campfire they had during the summer where they roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. There were no hotdogs or marshmallows but they could sit around the fire for awhile and talk about what to do next.
Harry said, "I think we can use our port-key's and return to the castle in the morning. That should be enough time for the train to have returned the kids to safety".
"I agree," said Neville, "We have given them all the time we can without putting ourselves in a lot of danger we can't handle. Our folks are not going to be very happy with what we already did but even they would have to agree we didn't have a choice. But now we do have a choice and we need to pick the safe one." It would seem that Severus and his teaching was sticking with them.
Everyone agreed and after a time of just enjoying the fire and thinking they proceeded to go to their beds.
Severus and the adults arrived back at the castle after dropping the kids off at the train station and continued with their preparations for the arrival of the students that evening. Each of them had chores that had to be completed but at least it was not a rush because it was Thursday and classes would not start until Monday. It was one of those funny years when the first of September fell on a day when it just did not make good sense to start classes the next day. The by-laws stated that the students had to arrive on the first but nobody could remember why other than it had always been that way. It was another one of those acts caught in the idea of tradition that made no sense but had to be kept.
It was afternoon when Harry's patronus arrived beside Severus sharing with him the bad news. Severus ran to Dumbledore's office as quickly as he could finding Dumbledore, Alice, Minerva and Lupin having tea and discussing inventory.
"Dad, we have problems" said Severus. "I just received a patronus from Harry stating that the Aurors are not on the train, they are alone and very worried about an attack."
Albus went directly and Floo called the office of Aurors. Moody quickly answered and looked at Albus and quickly said, "Albus what in the world are you doing in your office, I thought you were going to be on the train?"
Albus replied, "I was told that the Aurors would be on the school train Moody, what happened?"
"Well," replied Moody, "Fudge told us you decided to handle the kids and that we would not be needed."
"It sounds like Fudge is playing some dangerous games with us" said Albus. "Join us we are headed to the train now and will meet you there."
With that Albus asked Minerva to watch the castle, as it could be a trap, and told the rest to get their brooms. "We are not sure where they are so apparition is not a possibility right now".
About that time Madam Pomfrey's face appeared in the fire. Albus, "Ginny and Luna have just arrived in the hospital. They look to be Ok but need to talk with you right now, can they come through?"
"Of course Poppy, send them through" replied Albus.
Ginny and Luna shared with them what happened and the plan that the Companions had put together to draw the Death Eaters away from the train and the rest of the kids. She gave them a map so they could apparate and also showed them the route that Harry would be taking once they left the train. "They will use their port-key once they feel that the train and the kids are safe."
When Albus and the Order arrived at the train they found no Death Eaters but the Engineer was dead. The Death Eaters had also killed two seventh years and one first year. The kids were crying but managed to tell them that the Death Eaters came in looking for brooms. The Seventh Years tried to protect the younger kids but the Death Eaters just shot the "Avada Kadavra" curse at them as they walked through and grabbed the brooms.
Moody arrived shortly and one of his men knew how control the train so they got it started toward Hogwarts. Leaving a contingent on the train to help guard it against any future attack the rest of them went hunting for the Companions and the Death Eaters.
Albus, his crew and the Aurors that were not on the train followed the plan, shared with them by Ginny and Luna, as they tried to trace Harry's path. Moody's special eye warned him that there were Death Eaters ahead so he told everyone to spread out and hug the tree line. He was hoping that the Death Eaters were busy looking for Harry and they could sneak up on them.
They were almost right next to them before the Death Eaters saw them coming and started firing curses at them. An aerial war ensued with the 'light' cursing three of the Death Eaters out of the air before the rest of them port-keyed out of the area leaving their brooms to fall into the woods.
Moody left two Aurors to secure the dead and send them to headquarters. The rest of them tried to find where Harry and his team had landed. Lupin was the first to notice the smell of 'human' although it was not his cub. They all landed to find two more Death Eaters stunned and tied up. Moody sent them to headquarters while Lupin looked around to see if his senses could pick up any traces or tracks.
Harry and the kids had been asleep just a few hours when a weird groan swept through the forest and into the cave. The kids all woke up as the tent fell down around them. They struggled to climb out of the mass of tarp until they had everyone out. Hermione pulled out her wand and cast a "Lumos" so she could see what had happened. When nothing happened she cast it again and still nothing happened. "Hey guys, I think we have big problems here" she said.
"Harry, try and cast a spell with your wand" said Hermione. Harry tried to cast "Lumos" and again nothing happened. "Ron, build up the fire quick, I think it might be the only light we will have right now" said Hermione.
As Ron piled more wood on the fire each of the kids tried to do something with their wands but none of the magic worked.
Hermione then got a very sick look on her face. "Guys, I am going to try to use my port-key, I don't think it will work but if it does then the rest of you follow right away, OK?" The rest of them nodded as she grabbed her port-key and said "Companions". Hermione was correct with her assumption, nothing happened.
"What is going on Hermione" asked Harry. "Why can't we use magic anymore?"
"I think it has to do with this part of the forest Harry. I remember reading in 'Hogwarts a History' a story about a portion of the forest that does not allow magic. We must be on the edge of it and it just took a bit of time for it to reach out and circle us. We are going to have to get to Hogwarts without magic, which is not a trip that I look forward to very much."
Ron stood up and after a moment he said, "OK, let's salvage what we can from this mess that we might be able to use. It looks like the blankets are in tact and we can take some of this tarp to use later as protection. Our food and the like are all shrunk so it won't do us any good but the plastic containers of water look to be Ok."
After they had salvaged and packed what they could of their possessions they sat around the fire and began to discuss their options.
"We can go back the way we came and probably get out of this 'non magic' area" said the Twins.
"But then again the Death Eater might be back that way also" said Percy. "We took two of them down but as I figure it that still leaves about eight to go. The ones we did take down were probably the stupid ones and I don't figure Lucius to be that careless."
Harry spoke up saying, "I think we ought to stay right here. We all know that our folks will be looking for us and the deeper we go into that forest the more dangerous it gets. We are pretty safe in this cave and if something attacks we have a very good chance of winning what with the doorway being so narrow. I don't think an adult could get in here, I mean most of us had to squeeze through. We have a river to try and catch some fish and we can pick berries or something. If we put our heads together I am sure we can survive until they find us. If Ginny and Luna made it back they will have given them a map showing our route."
George added, "I agree, knowing Severus and the rest of them they are not going to just sit and wait for us to return."
Fred jumped in, "You know, Lupin will be with them and if some of us 'guys' go out and mark a few trees he will be able to smell us what with his super nose and all."
"You know that is a great idea" said Hermione. "But you need to go out in pairs and watch out for each other. Also if we could think of some type of map that they would recognize and not the Death Eaters then we could lead them to us if they find one of the marked trees."
Percy added, "That would work we could use the phrase 'a great place for bats like you to live in' or 'bat house before dungeons'. If we marked each tree with that phrase then they would know to look for caves. Then with Lupin's smelling abilities it should not be a problem. We just have to hope that he comes with them."
"He should" said Hermione, "The full moon in not for another couple weeks."
Everyone agreed that this was the best plan so they divided into teams, those who would drink a lot of water and mark trees, those who would look for berries and eggs, and those who would figure out how to fish.
About lunch time there were a number of boys who would be very happy not to have to drink water again for a very long time. The freshly caught fish, caught with grubs, on a makeshift hook tied to nylon thread, was roasting on the fire. There were eggs for breakfast and a number of unhappy birds along with fresh berries.
Now they just needed Lupin's nose to go to work.