Title: A Smarter Hunt

Rating: PG-15, A/U, Action/adventure, Drama

Summary: What would have happened if Harry had been a little smarter in book 7? Here's my version of book 7. (H/G, R/Hr)

(A/N: More cleaning of the hard drive… This will be a 3 chapter story of about 35K-words

The story starts around Halloween. This timeline does not totally fit within the real book 7, but it's close and where I want it. :) Assume the events from around Sep 1 in the story timeline in book 7 are about where we start at Halloween in this story.

Yes, I know I'm not the first person to think of using "them" to help, as I've seen one other story do this too (sorry, I can't remember the title to provide credit). I'm using "them" because it fits so nicely with the general premise and the other parts I want to do.

Because this is meant to be a replacement for book 7, the 'ships will be as in the books. FYI for those who hate those 'ships. :-) However, unlike book 7, R/Hr don't receive too much "page time".

In my mind, this story should be rated PG-15, but because of the rating system used here, I'm forced to bump it up to R (or M). This is only for 1 act that might be a little disturbing to some and is done several times. It's not graphic, but it's not a nice thing either.

Last, but definitely not least, I'd like to give a big thank you to XRaiderV1. He volunteered to beta for me on a trial basis. Things have gone well and it looks like he'll also beta my next longer story too -- which will only appear on as it's not SIYE compliant.)


A Smarter Hunt

Chapter 1

Harry threw his quill down in anger. "Damn it! There's got to be an easier way than this." He seethed at the injustice of all that had been thrown on his shoulders. To make matters worse, they did not seem to be making any progress on tracking down the Horcruxes. A small part of him wanted to give up, but the real Harry never would.

Hermione looked up at him. "I know it's hard, Harry, but we have to keep going."

"I know," he huffed, "I'm not giving up, but that's far easier said than done. Look at it," he pointed to the blank parchment in front of him. "After sitting here for an hour, I can't think of a single new place to go look. All we have are your guesses at the moment, Hermione."

"I don't think even Dumbledore thought it would be easy, mate," Ron told him. "If he had, he would have had someone else do it. Then there's the whole trust issue too," Ron added the last part almost as an afterthought.

Harry stared at his friend for a moment before a grin started to break out on his face. "You're brilliant, Ron. Right up there with Hermione," he paused for a moment to let Ron's expression almost start to glow with the praise, "at least when you want to be," Harry tagged on, watching his best friend practically melt into a glare at the joke.

"That wasn't nice, Harry," Hermione got after him.

"You're right," Harry admitted contritely. "I was joking, mate. You really were brilliant there a minute ago no matter how much I make stupid jokes. I'm sorry I said that."

Ron's grin returned, whatever ill will he had felt a moment ago already forgotten. "Thanks, but what did I say?"

"You pointed out that we don't have to do this, assuming we can trust someone else to do it right. And I know just the people." Harry started looking around for his cloak.

"Who, Harry? If it were that obvious, wouldn't Dumbledore have done it?" Hermione questioned him with narrowed eyes, looking like she sure he was having a lapse in judgment.

Harry stopped and looked at them for a moment. "I believe Dumbledore didn't do this because he was of the opinion that only he could do a good enough job. As for my idea, I think it's best you don't know. I'm not sure you'd be happy knowing."

Now Hermione threw her quill down and glared at him. "Harry, after all we've been through…"

"Yeah, mate!" Ron said, becoming as indignant as Hermione.

After all they had been through, he thought and then slowly nodded. "Well, just remember that you asked, OK?" Harry waited until he got two nods. "There are people who will do anything if the price is right. We just have to hire them and swear them to secrecy before we give them our information and then let them do everything but the final deed."

"Who?" Ron asked. Hermione looked just as perplexed.

"The Goblins," he said calmly.

"The Goblins! Are you crazy?!" Ron shouted. "They'd sell their mothers if the price was right."

"Precisely," Harry agreed with a smile. "All we have to do is come up with a good contract and get them to agree with it. We've got Sirius's money to help."

"I can't believe you're even considering this, Harry James Potter. That is preposterous," she accused him. "Actually, it's beyond absurd…"

"Hermione!" Harry shouted to get her to shut up for a moment. "Didn't you tell me that your parents had, uh, uh, out-sourced I think you said, some of the work around their office?"

"Yes, they out-sourced their accounting," Hermione grudgingly admitted. "But this is not the same thing. It's not even in the same league."

"Magical oaths and magical contracts, Hermione," Harry reminded her, getting a disparaging look in return.

It would take two more hours to wear them down, but Harry did it and kept the smug look off of his face at the end. Now all they had to do was come up with a contract and Hermione would help him with that.

With the extra free time this would give him, Harry could train more and there was one other thing to keep him busy.

The next morning, with contract and other papers in pocket and glamours all over him, Harry went to Diagon Alley with his cloak on and hood up, like almost everyone else that was there, and that was a small number of people. The shopping district was sparsely populated due to fear of Death Eater attacks.

Fortunately he made it to Gringotts without a problem. Inside, he walked up to one of the surly looking goblins at the counter. The goblin took nearly half a minute before he gruffly said, "What do you need?" Apparently the creature had hoped Harry would have gone away during the wait.

"I wish to contract a service," he said quietly.

The goblin sneered. "We don't work for your kind."

He had been prepared for this. "But you already do, as you guard my money. The transaction can be … very profitable ..." His voice trailed off, but there was no doubt he had been heard based on the goblin's twitch.

After a moment of examining him, the goblin crooked his finger at Harry and got off of his stool. Harry followed him to a back room, where he was seated in a small office with nothing in it but a desk and two chairs.

It took nearly twenty minutes before an old goblin entered the office and took the chair behind the desk. "What do you want?" he asked, only a little less surly than the goblin clerk.

"I wish to make a contract with the goblins to do a few tasks, one of which I think you will greatly enjoy," Harry threw out in one quick breath, trying to prevent his nerves from showing.

The goblin studied him. To make it a little easier, Harry slid a small gold key across the desk.

"This will identify me, if you don't already know who I am." Harry would not put it past the goblins to know every person who walked in, regardless of dress, magical garment, disguise, or even under Polyjuice.

The old goblin picked up the key and held it for a minute before putting it back down on the desk in front of Harry. "This account does not have enough funds to hire us."

"I'm not surprised, but if you know whose account that is, then you also know that I recently inherited an account that does have enough," Harry countered.

"Perhaps," the goblin grunted, as if he did not like admitting that. He continued to stare at Harry.

"I do not wish to give offense, so is there a special title or name I should call you?" Harry asked, trying to be firm yet polite.

"Director will do. What work do you wish to contract out?" he gruffly asked.

"Two tasks and they are somewhat connected. I need some items found. After you collect them, I wish to watch you destroy them as they are cursed. If you can break the curse without destroying the item and wish to sell the original clean item for a little extra profit, that is acceptable too. There will be traps guarding these cursed items, so you will have to be careful. There may also be wizards guarding these items; if so, you may kill them and it will probably be to your benefit to do so."

The Director's wiry eyebrows rose at that. "Really? You would want us to kill wizards?"

"Yes," Harry said with a grim smile, although it made him slightly sick inside to think about that in detail. "The second task is optional, but for every wizard or witch of a specific type that you kill, I will pay you. This type of wizard or witch is the most likely to be guarding the items I seek, so you have an excellent chance of collecting this bonus multiple times."

"You intrigue me," the Director admitted after a moment of contemplation. "You allow us sport and pay for it. The fact that you hire us allows us to do this and not break the present treaty. Why?" He stared intently at Harry.

"Because, Director, while I can give you some ideas of what to look for and where, I don't know where the items are, nor do I want to take the time and effort to find them. You have resources I do not. You could have multiple teams do this and find them far faster than I could. You also have the expertise to break the curses and traps surrounding the items. I've also heard the rumors that these people I would pay you to kill have not treated you well." Harry had put his cards on the table; now he waited -- and hoped for the best.

"These wizards and witches would be Death Eaters, would they not … Mr Potter?"

Being named did not surprise Harry; he had presented his vault key. "I'll give you a thousand Galleons for every recognizable Death Eater corpse you can produce. Such a corpse is easily identified by the Dark Mark on the person's left arm. On the other hand, for every innocent that is killed, unless they attack you first, there is a three thousand Galleon penalty," Harry said. "I don't want innocents slaughtered."

"Two thousand per Death Eater."

"If I agree to two thousand per Death Eater, then the penalty for dead innocents becomes six thousand," Harry said firmly. Hermione had pointed out the fatal flaw in the plan that the goblins did not have to disclose dead innocents, but some effort had to be made to prevent financing a goblin-wizard war. The contract stipulated that all wizards killed had to be presented. Harry, Hermione, and Ron hoped that would be enough to close the loophole.

The Director looked surprised. "Are the Death Eater's families really worth that much?"

Harry hated bargaining over someone's death, but he felt the Death Eaters had signed their own death warrants when they took the Mark. However, the others had not. "I will not pay for a war on innocents. That is a doorway I will not walk through. But those who have formally decided to leave the path of humanity and respect for life, no matter what form: Goblin, Centaur, Elf, Veela, Human, whatever, I believe they have given up their right to hurt others further."

The goblin looked at him for a long moment before he nodded. "And the items you want found and destroyed? Should we accept the task, of course..." The Director's expression gave no clue as to what his final answer might be.

"The current Dark Lord, formerly Tom Riddle, underwent an evil ritual six times. Each time, he split a part of his soul off and transferred it to some significant thing, or at least it was significant to him. Each of those things has been hidden somewhere in England. We have found and destroyed two of them. It is the remaining four we seek. I can tell you what I believe three of them to be and where I am almost certain one of them is located. I can give you research notes detailing this. I can also give you some memories, viewable in a Pensieve, that may help." Harry wondered if they would balk at going against Voldemort so directly. The trio had guessed it would depend on how badly they had been treated by Tom and his Death Eaters.

"We have heard rumors that such rituals were done. You ask us to risk becoming involved in a war we have no desire to be a part of," the Director objected, but not strenuously.

"I have heard of things they have done to goblins for sport. I offer you the chance at revenge." Harry was starting to sweat as the negotiations stretched out; he hoped it did not show.

The Director waved that off. "We can kill for revenge when we want."

"This is a very specific hunting license with a prize. I will also say that while I do not think that Delores Jane Umbridge is a Death Eater, if you should produce her corpse, I will pretend she has a Dark Mark. Given her size, I'll even pay double." Harry smiled, although he kept his mouth shut. He knew there was no love between the fat toad and the goblins, thanks to all the laws she had pushed against non-humans.

When the goblin did not say anything for a moment, Harry added, "There is also a list of Death Eaters that if you can capture them alive and let me talk with them in private for an hour before you execute them, I'll pay you double for them too."

There was silence for several minutes, while each looked at the other. Harry wondered what the goblin was thinking, or what he was more likely calculating. Hopefully, it was profits that could be made.

"What do you offer for each item?" the Director finally asked.

"Twenty-five thousand Galleons for each that you find, and another ten thousand for each that you destroy -- as I watch." Harry almost held his breath, as he seemed to be making progress.

The goblin laughed. "Fifty thousand for each we find and twenty-five thousand for each we destroy."

Harry smiled as Sirius's account had enough and it saved the lives of his friends, as well as sped the war up tremendously. "I have a contract." He slowly reached into his robes. The goblin stiffened and his hand twitched, but Harry kept going, albeit slowly. He pulled out a roll of parchment and laid it on the desk. Reaching in twice more, he pulled out another parchment and a self-inking quill, and finally a fist-sized chest. He unrolled the first parchment, then using his quill, he filled in a few blanks with the numbers they had agreed upon.

He passed the contract to the goblin, who read it very carefully. He grunted at the end before he put it on the desk. "Acceptable." He pulled out a midnight-black colored quill and signed the contract, before passing it back to Harry.

Harry was about to sign the bottom with his quill before the goblin stopped him. "My quill," the Director commanded and offered it to the wizard.

Harry shrugged and grabbed it. With the first stroke, he realized exactly what he was holding. As he scratched out his name, he felt the same letters scratched being applied to the back of his hand and his name was signed in red.

The goblin took the contract and quill back. He also searched in the desk and pulled out more parchment. With a complex waving of his clawed hand, the empty parchment filled with words. He handed the copy to Harry. "You said you had research notes."

"I do." Harry handed the roll of parchment over.

The goblin looked it over. After a minute he hissed. "What trickery is this?" The goblin's face held raw fury.

"What?" asked Harry, genuinely confused. "That is everything we know."

"Not what, where? You believe there is an item in one of our vaults? We can not get it without the owner. If we did, it would violate every treaty in existence causing instant war!" The goblin slammed the contract on the desk, breathing a little harder than normal.

"I didn't know about that part of the treaty," Harry said, the goblin look at him incredulously, as if that excuse would matter. "You do realize that the owner of that vault is a Death Eater?" Harry threw out, trying to calm the volatile situation.

"That does not matter," the rage continued. "For us to coerce an owner is the same as if we broke into the vault."

Harry thought furiously. "What if I brought the Death Eater in or perhaps got her to sign something? Maybe a sale of the item from her to me?"

The Director's glares stopped and he sat there for a moment, obviously deep in thought. Eventually, his scowl turn into a grin that showed many sharp teeth and he chuckled. "Yes, that would be sufficient. A contract of the sale with a transfer request from her vault to yours." He picked up the black quill and threw it to Harry's side of the desk. "It must be signed with this."

Harry looked at the Blood Quill with disgust and carefully picked it up with a thumb and forefinger only, putting it into a pocket.

The Director laughed. "How will you pay for this, Mr Potter?"

"The Black family vault will fund this contract."

"Very well, consider the money in the vault frozen until the contract is finished. I believe there are a few personal items in there you may retrieve if you feel the need. Per the contract, I will see you in two weeks for a progress report and for signing any payment vouchers."

Harry stood and gave a short bow. "Happy hunting, Director. May your swords and spears sing with Death Eater blood." He hoped that sounded goblin-like.

The Director gave another toothy grin. "And a good day of business to you as well, Mr Potter. If you'll follow me?" The goblin turned and led him back to the lobby.

Harry put his hood up and followed the Director. He wondered how high up the chain of command this goblin was, but at the moment, it really did not matter. Back in the lobby, Harry walked back up to the original goblin he had approached that morning and put his key on the desk.

"I'd like one thousand Galleons from this vault."

"There will be a five Galleon fee for us to do the retrieval," the goblin all but snarled, as if he detested the work.

"I agree," Harry simply said, not wanting to take to time to go down in the cart himself. If all went well, this would be all he needed until the war was over. A moment later, a money pouch was set on the counter. Harry pocketed it and left for the Leaky Cauldron, then the Hogshead pub in Hogsmeade via the Floo.

Making sure, his hood was all the way up, he made his way to the bar. When he sat down, the old bar keeper came over. Harry still had trouble believing those two were related. He pulled out a Galleon and set it on the bar, on top of a small slip of paper that said, "Albus said you could get me into H." He made sure the scars on the back of his right hand were visible when the money went down. "A shot of Firewhisky," he said out loud, trying to deepen his voice a little.

The bar keeper scooped the coin and note up at the same time with practiced ease. A moment later, a small glass with an amber liquid with little orange flames dancing on top was put in front of him. Under the shot glass was an old paper napkin. On the corner of it was written, "1am & don't be seen". The writing faded away a few seconds later.

Harry nursed his Firewhisky, doing his best not to choke on it and barely succeeding. As he finished it off, he set the glass down a little heavier than required, which got the bar keep's attention. Harry nodded and walked out the front door. Three steps out, he Apparated to the old park in Little Whining and then immediately again to the front porch of number twelve Grimmauld.

Upon entering, he was almost immediately accosted by his two best friends.

"What happened, Harry?" Hermione asked in a rush. Ron looked very eager to know as well.

"We have an agreement," he said with a big grin.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, once. "I still can't believe we've basically just become murderers. I mean, hiring it done is just as bad as doing the deed" she fretted.

"No, Hermione," Harry fiercely responded. "You and Ron did not. You may have helped me write a contract and do research, but I made the decision and took it all to the goblins. I did not have to do that, but I did," Harry argued.

"And I did not have to help you, but I did," she argued back.

Harry walked over to her and put his hands on her shoulders and got her to look him in the eye. "What you did is like thinking. There's nothing wrong with that. People think a lot of bad things they never get punished for because thoughts don't hurt anyone and they don't take action on the thoughts. I took the action. I changed the thoughts into word and deed. Hermione, I have the prophecy to deal with, you don't."

At the mention of the prophecy, she broke down and stepped into his arms, hugging him tightly. Harry patted her on the back and looked over her shoulder at Ron. Ron looked like he could not decide whether to be uncomfortable or not.

"Hermione, you're family to me; you're like the sister I never had." She sniffled and nodded slightly, as if she felt he was part of her family too. Harry noticed that Ron looked at him sharply, as if he had not known that. Jealous prat, Harry thought. "Like a brother protects his siblings, so I'll protect you and Ron. I've done the bad part; you and Ron have the clean conscience."

"I doubt it," she said softly.

"Try your best," he told her. He looked at Ron again. "Help me here, mate." Harry turned Hermione and steered her to Ron, who happily held their friend. "I have to go somewhere for a few days to provide a distraction."

Hermione turned, looking alarmed and obviously about to protest, but Harry just put a finger over her lips.

Ron spoke instead. "Mate, we have to go with you. We always have, we always will."

Harry smiled. "I wish you could, but you've gotten too tall, Ron. Stealth and a trusty house-elf will be the best way for me to succeed. There will be very few Death Eaters where I'm going and I'll have lots of allies."

Hermione gasped. "You're going to Hogwarts!"

He smiled at her affectionately. "Sirius was right about you, definitely the smartest witch."

Despite her blush from pleasure, she tried to argue with him. "But Harry…"

"No," he stopped her. "I have a job, but there is one thing the two of you can do for me while I'm gone." At both of their puzzled looks, he explained. "One of few things I learned where I grew up was Muggle history, or at least history through war movies. Dudley loved them. About fifteen years before we were born, the United States found themselves in a war in southeast Asia."

"The Vietnam War," Hermione supplied.

"Yes," Harry said with a smile. "The documentaries I heard said they had a hard time for the first few years because of the hit and run tactics the locals used."

"Guerrilla warfare tactics."

Harry chuckled. "Is there anything you don't know, Hermione."

She sheepishly looked down. "A lot, Harry. There's a lot I don't know."

"Well, good, then you'll have something to fill your time for years to come," he joked. "Anyway, I want you two to think of things we can do to distract the other side. If it hurts them and takes them out, all the better, but the goal is to distract them to give the goblins an easier time to work without being found out. That's what I'll be doing at Hogwarts, providing a distraction. It will be small, but every little bit helps."

"Harry…"

"I'm sorry, Ron. You can't go this time. Work with Hermione. The more unexpected and the safer for us the ideas are, the better for us." Harry was sorry he could not include his friends in his next task, but it had to be this way. Just like one day soon, he would face Voldemort by himself so as not to let them get hurt.

Ron nodded resolutely. It was obvious he did not like the situation, but he would follow the directions. "When are you leaving?"

Harry was surprised Hermione was not objecting more, but he saw one of Ron's hands on her arm, as if restraining her. He would have to thank Ron for that later. "A little after midnight, so I have to go take a kip. Also, Kreacher will be with me most of the time, so you're own your own as far as cooking goes. I'll make sure you have enough food in the house. Good night." He turned and resolutely went upstairs.

In his room, he called for the elf. "Kreacher."

The elf popped in. "Yes, Master?"

"Kreacher, I need for you to do a few things for me. First, I'm about to take a trip and there needs to be enough food in the house for a week for my friends." He pulled his new money bag out and put it on the dresser. "There's some money if you need to buy more. Second, I need you to go to Hogwarts without being found out except by other elves. Can you do that?"

"Of course, Master." Kreacher looked a little offended, as if he thought Harry should know he could do that.

"Spectacular. Go talk to the elves and find out how they feel about things. Are they happy or not, and are they being abused by the bad teachers there. I want to know that if I go there in secret to make things better, will they turn me in or will they ignore me while I work. I need to know before midnight. Can you do that?"

"I can do that, Master."

"Wonderful. Lastly, I need you to wake me at midnight and have some food with you. After I eat, I'm going to sneak into Hogwarts. I'll call you when I'm there. I'll be in what Dobby called the Come-and-Go Room."

Kreacher bowed and popped away.

Harry packed a small bag he could sling over his shoulder before he got undressed and rolled into bed. He had a plan and it looked good. Of course, the other side could change that view. Hopefully, he would get lucky and do better than they.

---

"Master?"

Harry's eyes snapped open. When they did, the lights in the room slowly turned up. He put his glasses on and saw his house-elf with a tray of food and smiled. "Thank you, Kreacher. Have a seat and tell me what you found at Hogwarts." He started to eat while his elf talked.

The elf sat on the floor. "The bad teachers have been very bad to the elves. They are not liking it. If you will do something about the bad teachers, the elves will ignore you."

Harry grinned even more. It was easy to oppress the weak and those at the bottom. However, that could bite you too. The movie Spartacus had shown that. Harry had found a book in his primary school library about it after Dudley had seen the movie on the telly. There had not been many details in the book, but it did say that Spartacus and the slaves almost won in their rebellion against the mighty Roman Empire and its armies.

"Master? The elves also say that the portraits must be loyal to the Headmaster. You must be careful of them."

"Thanks, that's good to know." Yes, he thought, this might work very well. He finished his meal and went to the bathroom. It might be a while before he could go again.

Gathering his stuff, he told Kreacher. "Get some rest. I hope to call you in a couple of hours. Once we're there, we can both get more rest. When we aren't sleeping, most of the time, you'll either be getting food or listening to gather information."

"Yes, Master."

"Take care, Kreacher."

Harry walked downstairs and was not surprised to find his two friends waiting for him. No words were said; none were needed. There were long hugs all around. Harry told them both to "Take care" instead of "Good-bye". Ron was stoic; Hermione was working hard to hold back tears. He Disillusioned himself, put on his Invisibility Cloak, and then silenced his feet and clothes. Ready for stealth, he Apparated to the Shrieking Shack. Not seeing or hearing anyone for nearly a minute, he slowly walked to his meeting.

Once outside the pub, he only had to wait a few minutes before someone staggered out. Harry used that opportunity to sneak in. He found an out of the way spot where no one was likely to walk and stood there, leaning against the wall.

There were five people left, all in cloaks with their hoods up. They were in a group of two and a group of three. Harry watched them all and used his time of waiting to wonder what they might be up to. As his meeting time approached, the bar keeper sent all of the customers away and locked up.

Harry walked over and tossed an "I'm here" note on the counter, still not willing to make noise. The bar keeper quietly grunted and waved a hand to follow him. Harry and the old man went into a room in the back.

The man pulled his wand and cast multiple spells for privacy over the closed room.

"It doesn't get much better than that," he groused.

Harry pulled his cloak off and ended the Disillusionment. "Thanks for your help."

"Don't thank me yet, sonny. Do ya know how much trouble you'll get into if you're caught? They're looking for ya, ya know."

"I know. This is something I need to do," Harry defended himself.

The man snorted. "This is about a girl, isn't it? Ya know this can get you or even many of them up there killed," he said with a steely stare.

Harry controlled his reaction. "I've considered that, carefully. I need some things to happen, including some distractions," he explained.

"There are far better ways to create distractions then going up to that school. Both Carrows are there and they'd as soon fillet ya as look at ya."

Harry was not to be talked out of his mission. "I know who's there. The only real question I have is whose side is Snape really on."

A chuckle and a crooked smile came over the old man. "I think he's the only one who really knows, and that may even change from time to time."

"Can I ask you a question?"

The old man shrugged.

"Do you know the entire plan your brother had? What he expected? Especially of me?" Harry did not expect an answer, but he had to ask.

"Albus share an entire plan?" The man laughed hard, for several minutes. He also coughed and wheezed a few times towards the end of his mirth. "That's good, that's really good. Yeah, pull the other one, lad. Is there anything else ya need before I send ya on your way?"

"No, but thanks for helping me."

Aberforth nodded. "Be careful, Potter. Also, you can't come back this way except between two and eight in the morning. And even then, be absolutely sure no one can follow you."

"Right."

"A room to escape is what you need." With that cryptic remark, Aberforth Dumbledore walked over to a portrait, that was two feet wide by three feet tall, of a very pretty young girl with strawberry blonde hair, and swung it open. Behind it was a tunnel.

Harry gave a last "Thanks!" and crawled in. The tunnel quickly grew large enough to walk in. He pulled his wand and cast the light spell as the portrait closed behind him. It was a long walk, but eventually the tunnel came to a door. Carefully, Harry opened the door and came out into a room with only a few tables and chairs in it. He closed the door behind him and pulled out the Marauders Map. When he looked at it, he laughed. He was in the very place he wanted to be, and had found a new, although difficult to use, way out of the school.

Harry saw a door on the other side of the room. That was not good. He thought about a place for a person to hide and the whole room changed. There was now only one door in the place. He checked it out and found that it lead to a small bathroom. The main room had a bed, a few chairs, and a table. There was no door to the corridor outside and that was good. He thought about one last addition and a small bed appeared next to his bed. Satisfied, he called his elf.

"Kreacher."

The elf popped in. "I'm here, Master."

"We're both here then. I've created a bed for you. Feel free to sleep until morning," Harry said tiredly, despite his nap earlier in the evening.

"Thank you, Master."

Harry watched the elf turn in before he undressed and crawled into bed. He turned off the lights in the room and lit his wand. Looking at the Marauders Map, he quickly found Ginny's dot, in her dorm room where it should be. Neville's dot was in his room. Luna's dot was only a little harder to find, as he had never looked for the Ravenclaw dorm rooms before. He smiled as he turned off his wand and put everything on the nightstand. The other half of his core team was in place, even if they did not know it yet.


Harry woke to the smell of breakfast, which Kreacher had brought, presumably from the Hogwarts kitchens.

Harry spent the day reading and watching the map from time to time. He grew very concerned that evening when he saw Ginny walk off by herself and then meet Crabbe and Goyle in the Entry Hall. The three walked to a classroom where "Amycus Carrows" was. Harry grabbed his Invisibility Cloak and started putting Disillusionment and Silencing spells all over himself. He all but knew he was going to have to rescue her.

Checking the map and finding out no one was outside his room, Harry had the room create a door and he left, walking very quickly to Ginny's location, watching the Map the whole time. By the time he got there a few minutes later, he saw Crabbe and Goyle approach each side of Ginny on the Map and then walk out of the room with her. Harry was practically seeing red, and readying himself to kill them. The only good thing was that the Map showed neither of the boys nor the teacher had otherwise come that near her in the classroom.

The two big Slytherins came out the door carrying Ginny, one holding each elbow. Harry was only barely controlling himself as he arrived, seeing Ginny barely able to keep herself upright and walk. She was also shaking. It did not take more than a few seconds for him to figure out what had happened. To his surprise, no one talked the entire trip as he followed them closely.

When they got to Gryffindor Tower, Ginny had recovered enough to be able to mostly walk by herself. Crabbe said, "I hope you learned your lesson, Weasley. Purebloods rule." The portrait of the Fat Lady opened up and they let go of her. Ginny stumbled for a step or two and then walked in, only a little unsteadily.

Being careful not to run into Crabbe or Goyle, Harry hurried in after her. He watched her make it over to a chair by the fire with great effort before she collapsed into it. Neville hurried over to her.

"You OK?" he asked her worriedly.

"Fine," she quietly said, obviously lying to put up a brave front. A number of students were watching. She smiled and waved weakly at them, but it was not overly convincing.

"Hold my hand," Neville told her as he knelt down on one knee next to her chair. "Squeeze as hard as you need to." Ginny's hand found his, but she appeared to just be touching it and drawing comfort from his presence.

Harry watched and listened for a few minutes. It was not hard to hear others talk about how this was not the first time for her to be disciplined for standing up for others. As he moved over near them, Neville helped her up and moved them to a couch where he placed her and sat next to her. He held her hand this time and Harry barely heard him say, "Do what you need to, Ginny. I'll be here for you." She nodded slightly but did not otherwise move or say anything, beyond staring into the fire and taking slow breaths. Everyone else seemed to go back to studying.

He was almost upset with what Neville was doing, but in truth, Neville had done very little with Ginny. Certainly, his friend had done no more with her than he himself did with Hermione. Also, he had let Ginny go after Dumbledore's funeral, and maybe this was her being happy, but it still hurt to see her with someone else. He hoped she still cared for him in some way.

His stealth charms still working, Harry walked over and stood in front of them. "Ssh," he barely hissed. The two of them froze at the sound, even holding their breath. Harry pulled out his wand with the tip of it just visible outside of his Cloak. He whispered, "Muffliato," on the three of them.

"There, we can talk now," Harry said in a normal voice.

Neville and Ginny looked they were going to have a heart attack.

"Yeah, I know, it's a surprise for me to be here too, but I came to give you some information. Try to look normal."

"Is it really you?" Ginny asked in a soft and quivering voice, sounding scared to death.

"Yes," he assured her. "Other than your brother who walked in on us, I think only the two of us know that the last time we kissed was in your bedroom."

She nodded but did not seem to relax.

"Are you monitored in here?" Harry asked.

"Just sound," Neville said cautiously, trusting Ginny to know that Harry's answer was valid.

"Right. I don't think anyone can see your laps, but look quickly." Harry pulled out the Marauders Map, which was still activated, and put it in their laps.

They both looked down and saw themselves and a dot labeled "Harry Potter" in front of them.

"Harry?" Ginny looked like she was going to cry.

He pulled the Map back and put it away. "Ssh, it's OK, Ginny. I'm fine and you will be too. Although, I have to know... That's not the first time Carrow has tortured you, is it?"

She looked down, unable to answer.

"It's the third time," Neville finally answered for her. "They don't do it long, mostly about five or ten seconds. Long enough to get your attention and persuade you not to do anything stupid."

Based on how she looked and acted, Harry wondered if she had had a more intense session tonight. "He hasn't done anything else to you, has he?" Harry asked, his voice growing harder as he thought about what had been done tonight.

She shook her head.

"Have the Slytherins done anything to you?"

She shook her head side-to-side again.

Harry knew his plan was the right one now. "Don't worry about it, Ginny. I'll take care of it, which is what I wanted to talk to you two about."

"No! Don't!" she hoarsely whispered, as if trying to shout but her voice wouldn't let her. She also looked like she was trying to hold back tears. "Please go, Harry. You can't get caught here. You have to fight your battles, and win. This is our battle."

He reached out and his disillusioned hand gripped her slightly shaking hand, which loosely gripped his back. "My battle is still being fought, but things are changing. I think I've become smarter about fighting the war."

"Then go fight and win sooner," Ginny told him fiercely.

Neville watched and said nothing, almost looking embarrassed for being a witness, but knowing he had to keep sitting there for appearance sake.

"One thing I realized is that we need distractions," Harry confided. "I've heard the rumors about here, Ginny, and now that I see what they're doing to you, I'll fix things here to distract them from elsewhere," he said with conviction.

"But people will get hurt," she said.

"I know. I've come to realize that happens in war; but if I do things right, it won't be the good people who get hurt. Both of you, protect the younger ones when the fireworks start. If you're in the Great Hall, get them under the table. If it's in the halls, get them into a classroom."

"The Carrows are good fighters, Harry," Neville told him. "They're borderline sadistic. I've done my best to make them focus on me, but they like to punish people. They won't take anything lying down."

"I understand. I only have one question before I should go…"

"Harry, it's not what it seems," Neville told him hurriedly, as if he had to get this off of his chest. "I'm just pretending with her, to protect her. Her heart is still yours."

"Thank you, Neville," Harry told him gratefully, his smile unseen by them. "That wasn't my question, but I'm glad to hear it." He squeezed Ginny's hand and felt a light squeeze back. "I need to know about Snape. Do I leave him as Headmaster or not?"

"Yes," Ginny told him without hesitation. "He's still a greasy git, but he does protect us from worse things."

"I agree," Neville said.

"OK, I'll leave him for now. Neville, I'm going to end the spell for you, but start quietly talking to Ginny about things that she doesn't have to answer you on. OK?" Harry asked him as he drew his wand.

"Sure, Harry. Be safe, Harry."

"You too, mate. Finite." Harry squeezed Ginny's hand.

Neville was mumbling about classes, but Harry ignored him and looked at the witch in front of him.

"I'm so sorry, Ginny. If I had known they were doing that to you…"

"Stop, Harry. You have your burdens, I have mine. In fact, you really need to go. It will be hard to get out of here soon," she told him, her voice cracking slightly with emotion.

"I still love you," he told her gently.

"I know, and that's why you have to go," she said, her voice gaining strength by determination of will. "If you stay much longer, everyone else will know you're here too when I...." She stopped herself and squeezed his hand instead of finishing.

"Ron and Hermione are safe and send their love. You'll be safe soon too. Good-bye for now, Gin…"

Harry let her hand go and stood up. As he was about to end the muffling spell on her, he saw her lips move and barely heard, "I love you too." He canceled the spell and walked over by the door. This was harder than when he had left her after the wedding. His heart was telling him to return to her and take her away from all of this. It made him all the more determined to not only do this mission, but to kill Voldemort.

It took nearly ten minutes for the portrait to open, but Harry dashed out after someone else came in. He easily made it back to the Room of Requirement and called his room back into existence. He found the room like he had left it and made the outside door disappear.

Sitting at the table, he started writing down his plans, making a list of what had to happen and in what order. Hermione had influenced him more than he cared to admit sometimes, but this planning was probably for the best. Mistakes could be very costly on this mission.

Not too much later, Kreacher popped in with a snack. Harry ate and managed to get the elf to eat a little. It was actually a big victory, as it was next to impossible for Harry to get Kreacher to eat with him.

"How did your mission today go, Kreacher?" Harry asked while he dug into some ice cream.

"Kreacher found what Master wanted. You must watch for Crabbe, Nott, Goyle, Parker, and Ramsey."

"Hmm, five of them with the Dark Mark," Harry mused. "I had hoped it wouldn't be so many, but that's still doable. At least Malfoy's not here too. We need to get up at six and have a quick breakfast. Tomorrow morning at breakfast in the Great Hall, your task is to make sure that Headmaster Snape does not get involved too soon. Spill hot tea in his lap, make his robes fly over his head, his chair fall down, whatever you have to do short of attacking him directly. Small injuries from an accident are OK, just not large ones. Understand?"

"Yes, Master. The Snape must not join too soon or be hurt much."

"Exactly. He can't be stopped forever, and I do want him involved, but I need a few things to happen first. Get a good night's sleep, Kreacher. Tomorrow may be a long day." Harry got ready for bed and turned in. He knew what he wanted to happen tomorrow. He hoped fate was kind to him, despite how many things could go wrong.

---

At six the next morning, Harry quickly took a shower and changed into clean clothes to avoid giving away his presence with body odor. After wolfing down his breakfast, he left his room, getting it to lock behind him, and in full stealth mode, made his way to the dungeons. There he waited impatiently for Theo Nott to come out.

Unfortunately, the boy came out with four others with him. Mentally cursing this bad turn, Harry followed them. When they neared a set of bathrooms, Harry hit Theo from behind with a weak Bladder Emptying charm.

The boy quickly excused himself and entered the bathroom that was right there. The others went onto breakfast, not fearing anything. Harry smiled and entered the bathroom. After ensuring Theo was the only other person in there, Harry soundlessly locked the door.

As the boy came out of the stall, Harry waved his wand and cast, "Imperio." He knew Hermione would verbally blast him about going down to their level, but Harry was tired of always taking the high road. Look where it had gotten Dumbledore -- killed. There was a big difference between him and the Death Eaters. They did this for pleasure and to take over the world; Harry did it only because he had to save the world. He saw it as fighting fire with fire.

"Nott," Harry whispered. "Are you a marked Death Eater?" The boy was struggling a little, but he was otherwise very easy to control. In fact, it was sickening how easy this was to do.

"Yes."

"Do you have a girlfriend or favorite girl?" Harry asked.

"Yes."

"You will go to breakfast and act normally. You will also not tell anyone about this. Once you see that both Carrows are at the head table, you will wait one minute, then you will stand and yell at Ramsey to stay away from your girl and then you will cast the strongest cutting curse you know at him and try to make it fatal. After you do that, you will start casting strong cutting curses at the other four student Death Eaters who have the Dark Mark. Do you understand?" Harry asked.

"Yes."

"Once you have killed the other four Marked students, you will attack the Carrows, trying to kill them too. You will kill as many Death Eaters as possible," Harry ordered. "Now go to the Great Hall and follow my orders." Harry released the active part of the Imperio and unlocked the door.

Nott left the bathroom and Harry followed. When they reached the Great Hall, it was about half full. Harry saw Nott spot Ramsey and look at the head table before he sat down. He ate quietly and glanced at the head table every minute or so. Nott was half done eating when the two Carrows walked in together while quietly talking.

Harry quietly crept up behind the female Carrow, standing about a yard behind her. When Nott stood up and started yelling at Ramsey, Harry stepped forward and whispered, "Imperio." Alecto Carrow struggled mightily, but Harry had the stronger will and dominated the woman just as Nott cast his first curse. While everyone was staring at Nott and his antics, Harry quickly whispered, "Kill your brother and then kill every Marked Death Eater student that's still alive, and then Snape. Now."

Everyone was scrambling after the surprise of Nott cutting off Ramsey's head and then starting to fire cutting curses at Crabbe and Goyle. The teachers were moving too, most of them ducking to the floor.

Snape tried to stand, but his signature black cloak acted like it was alive and used that moment to wrap itself around him. That prevented him from doing anything useful for several crucial seconds.

Amycus Carrow stood to try and stop the apparently insane boy when "Avada Kedavra" was heard at the head table. A sickly green light hit Amycus and he fell. Alecto then turned and cast the Killing Curse at Parker, who never saw it coming as he was dealing with Nott.

McGonagall and Flitwick shot off Stunning spells at Alecto, both hitting her, just after she let a Killing Curse go at Nott. The spell hit true and Nott fell over.

While everyone was watching the last Killing Curse fly across the Great Hall, Harry silently sent a Heart Stopping curse at Alecto. He had really hoped they would have all taken care of each other, but sometimes, you just had to do things yourself. Only the thought of what type of person he had killed kept Harry from losing his breakfast.

With no spells being cast, the large room was suddenly very quiet except for the sound of multiple whimpers and one girl crying. Harry looked around and saw that the majority of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff were under their tables. About half of Ravenclaw was as well. A few Slytherins were under their table, but most had tried to get away from the table and were standing against the wall with their wands drawn.

Snape took charge as his cloak seemed to release him suddenly. "Everyone, stay where you are!" he bellowed, not really needing a voice amplification charm in the mostly stunned silence. He looked around. "Poppy, Filius, Minerva, please check on the students." Snape himself came over and checked on each of the Carrows.

Harry stood out of the way against the wall behind the head table and grimly smiled to himself.

"They're both dead," Snape said disgustedly to himself.

"Headmaster," Minerva called from the main floor. "I would suggest the Prefects take the students back to their common rooms."

"Yes, I was just about to order that," Snape drawled. "Prefects, lead your house back to your common room and stay there for the morning. Your head of house will be by later to inform you of the afternoon schedule."

Noise burst to record levels as the students pushed benches around and started talking about what had just happened. A few more girls started crying too as most students hurried to leave the scene behind them. By the time the Hall was empty of students, Snape had made his way down to join the three professors.

"What do we have, Poppy?" Snape was clearly unhappy.

"All five of them are dead. I was almost able to save Mr Goyle, but he had lost too much blood." She actually sounded sad.

"Bloody effing hell!" Snape cursed. "How am I supposed to explain this?"

No one said anything.

"Where's Potter when you need him?" Snape growled.

"Potter? Why would you want Mr Potter now?" McGonagall asked in the most confused voice Harry had ever heard.

"Because he attracts trouble and I could then blame him for this." Snape muttered another string of curses under his breath out about how fate hated him before he turned to Pomfrey again. "Poppy, please take these to the hospital wing and put them in stasis. I will notify their families." He turned and left, his cloak bellowing behind him.

When Snape had left, the others started to help Pomfrey.

Flitwick was the first to speak. "While I dislike seeing anyone die, I do believe that the school will run a little more smoothly now."

"Filius," McGonagall hissed, "be careful of the walls."

"I don't think my observation is a secret, but your point is well taken," the Charms professor said, as he put a corpse into stasis.

"But what will the response be?" Sprout quietly asked. "Is there anyone worse than them?"

No one said anything for a moment.

"The only ones worse, that I'm aware of, are the three Lestranges. I have trouble imagining You-Know-Who letting them go from whatever they are doing to come here and teach," McGonagall theorized.

"The lessons they would teach would have nothing to do with our curriculum," Professor Vector said.

"We shall have to wait and see," McGonagall concluded the short discussion after casting a stasis spell.

"All five are ready," Pomfrey said. "Minerva, Filius, Pomona, and Septima, if you would each levitate a body and follow me please."

Harry watched the caravan of bodies leave and then left himself, heading for his room. He spent the rest of the day there, with the Marauders Map spread out in front of him, watching for visitors. When he had to go to the bathroom or stretch, Kreacher watched the Map.

The job became harder after lunch, as the students returned to class. The Muggle Studies and Defense classes were led by the Head Girl and Head Boy respectively. Harry suspected everyone was happier with that arrangement.

As dinner was starting for everyone in the Great Hall, Harry notice three new dots suddenly appear at the front gates and start walking in.

"Shit!" he exclaimed and started grabbing his stuff. While not Voldemort, and two cronies, it was the next worst thing. A part of him cursed McGonagall for tempting fate as he finished getting ready. After one last thought, he summoned his broom.

"Kreacher, without being seen, I need you to keep the front doors closed. I don't want those three people in this castle if at all possible. You can enlist the aid of the other elves, if they will volunteer and also help without being seen."

Harry did not wait for an answer but sprinted out the door to his room, asking the castle to lock it after him. A window was not too far down the corridor. He flung it open and then jumped out, seven stories above the ground. That gave him plenty of time to get the broom under him and start flying. It also gave him the opportunity to realize the broom was still visible.

The broom quickly disappeared from visible sight with a Disillusionment spell as he flew up and around the castle. He needed to approach the three from the rear. Harry had to think fast. Taking out two should be easy, three at once would be hard, and any one of them would be very hard to beat in a duel. Fighting fair would be suicide and so was not an option, neither was using the Imperius like this morning.

The three visitors were already half way. Damn! What he would not give to have Ron and Hermione here now. He felt sure the three of them could take the last one out in three-on-one. Looking down near the edge of the lake, Harry got an inspiration.

Zooming down, he found a fist-sized rock and then levitated it straight in front of him. They were now a good hundred yards in front of him. This would be over in a few seconds, one way or another. It was also going to hurt like hell and be messy.

Harry lined everything up. Bella was on the right, Rodolphus in the middle, and Rabastan on the left. He put the rock on the left and aimed his broom for Rodolphus. Keeping it all steady, Harry leaned over the broom and urged it to accelerate as fast as it could. Four seconds later, he let go of the rock, letting it continue on its own, and whipped his wand over and silently cast "Stupefy!"

Rabastan's neck exploded at the same time Bella fell like a sack of potatoes. Rodolphus saw or heard something and started to move. It was a case of good news, bad news.

The end of the broom missed Rodolphus's head by a little less than a foot as he ducked to the ground. Harry's right foot caught Rodolphus's head as he went by, knocking him off balance. Harry could not control the flight any longer, despite his skill. All he could do was to throw on the brakes so he was not going as fast when he hit the ground in -- he hoped -- a semi-controlled way. He tucked as he hit and rolled nearly thirty yards before he came to a stop.

Fortunately, he was still conscious. He looked back at his adversaries and saw that two were down, but Rodolphus was struggling to get up. Cursing, he looked around and saw his wand just out of reach. He stretched and grabbed it, although he nearly screamed at the pain when he pushed off with his injured foot, an injury he had been unaware of until then. Twisting, he fired a Blasting curse at the Death Eater just as the man saw part of him in some way. Rodolphus never had chance to bring up a shield, and that was fine with Harry. The hex hit the man in the upper chest leaving a good-sized hole there. He fell face down.

Momentarily exhausted from the adrenaline rush and the throbbing pain in his foot, Harry lay back down for a minute to catch his breath and to take stock. He hurt in so many places it was not even funny. His right foot and ankle seemed to be the worst though. Knowing he did not have long, Harry forced himself to sit up.

"Kreacher," he called raggedly, his breathing just starting to come under control.

The elf popped in. "Master."

"You can not worry about the doors now. I need you to remove all wands from those three." Harry looked around and could not find his broom. It took a moment for him to remember it was disillusioned. So he did a gentle summoning spell and caught the waver in the air. Carefully, he slid it under him and was pleased to see that it still worked, as he started to hover. Slowly, he flew to the three Lestranges. Kreacher handed him the wands, which Harry stuck in his pocket.

Harry seriously considered sending Rabastan's headless corpse back with something nasty via one of the Portkeys to cause havoc, but could not think how to do it on short notice. Another research project for Hermione, if she had time. Harry bound the other two in ropes.

"Kreacher, would it be possible for you to take Rodolphus and Rabastan and give them both to the Acromantula in the forest and not get hurt?"

"Of course, Master." Kreacher snapped his fingers and the elf and Rodolphus's corpse disappeared.

Harry cast a sleeping spell on Bella, just in cast the Stunning spell was not good enough.

Kreacher returned and then disappeared again, this time with what was left of Rabastan. Harry Vanished the mess on the lawn. He also looked up towards the castle and was very pleased to see that no one was coming down. He hoped they had been far enough away that no one had seen the fight.

When Kreacher returned, Harry had another task for the elf. "Can you take Bella back to the Come-and-Go room and watch over her? I don't want her to escape, but I really need to do something before I take care of her," he said through gritted teeth, the pain in his foot steadily becoming worse.

The elf seemed to have to think about that for a moment. "I'm sorry, Master, but Kreacher can not take a prisoner inside the castle."

Harry mentally cursed. There was something about the way Kreacher was looking that piqued his interest. Maybe because he was not part of the castle elf staff... "Kreacher, if I take her back in the window so she's inside the castle, can you then take her to our room and keep her there."

Kreacher brightened. "Of course, Master."

Success, Harry thought. He Silenced Bella before levitating her after him. Once she was in the window, Kreacher appeared and snapped his fingers, both of them disappearing. Now the hard part, he thought.

Harry flew around the castle until he got to the hospital wing. He had to take the end window to avoid being in sight of the Headmaster's tower, just in case Snape was in there. With an unlocking spell, he opened the window and carefully flew in. He had barely made it inside when Madam Pomfrey came out of her office and saw the open window. Scowling at it, she walked over to shut it.

Not knowing what else to do, Harry hit her with a paralyzing jinx and caught her with a Levitation charm. Her eyes were wide with fear as he leaned her against the wall.

"Madam Pomfrey. I'm very sorry to do that, but I need to talk to you without you screaming," he said gently, trying not to scare her. "I know it's hard for you to see me like this, but I'm sure you recognize my voice, considering how many injuries I've had and how often I've visited you over the years. Please don't scream when I release you. I don't want anyone to know I'm here." He pulled the top of his cloak down and canceled the Disillusionment charm so she could see his head, then he cast a Finite on her. She recoiled, although to her credit, she did not scream.

"Mr..."

"Ssh!" he hissed, interrupting her. "I'm told the walls have ears here."

She nodded. "They do, but the ones who monitor them are dead now."

"That works for me, but you don't want this recorded for someone else to find later, do you?" he asked.

She realized he had a point and vigorously shook her head.

"You should convince either McGonagall or Flitwick to make those recording devices disappear," he suggested, getting a nod from her. "Now, I need to get a diagnosis and a few things from you and leave before I'm found. Will you help me, please?" he quietly begged her, hoping she said yes because his foot was killing him.

Pomfrey seemed to have regained most of her composure. A deep breath helped her a little more. "What seems to be the problem?"

Harry dismounted the broom, standing on one foot, and eased himself onto the edge of a bed, where he stuck his right foot up on the bed. "I'm pretty sure I broke it."

She tsk'd and came over. After waving her wand, she looked at him. "You've broken your ankle and crushed a few bones in your foot. Are you able to take it easy for a few days?"

"Yes." Hopefully, he added in his mind, but if duty called, he would have to answer.

"Stay here for a minute then." She turned and went to her office.

Harry locked the hospital doors. At most, it would give him about ten seconds to fly out the window.

Pomfrey returned and waved her wand above his ankle.

Harry felt the swelling go down and something move into a more comfortable place. The loss of the ache there was heavenly. "Thanks," he told her with a large sigh. She nodded and waved her wand again. He felt his leg from just below his knee down to his toes go stiff.

She handed him a small goblet. "Drink it all. It's Skele-Gro, so you should know what to expect." He grimaced and she chuckled. "I would keep you here overnight if everything was normal. Since that's not possible, I put a bind on your leg to keep it in the right position until the Skele-Gro finishes. Even with all of that, stay off of it for a day, but two would be even better. You also have a number of bruises and pulled muscles, but nothing major."

He handed the goblet back. "I can't thank you enough." He pulled his Invisibility Cloak back up and Disillusioned himself again. Only his broom was now visible.

"If you will, sir," she said to avoid his name, "were you responsible for the morning's events?"

He carefully stood on one leg and mounted his broom before he answered. "As much as I wished people didn't have to die in this war, I am quite happy two of the seven did. I'm sure you know what else I need from you, Madam?"

"I won't say a word," she said softly. "And thank you for … everything."

"We all do our part." He unlocked the doors before he slowly few out the window and then around to the window he needed to get back to his room and Bella.

As he was about to fly in, he heard voices. He stopped his flight just in time and hid next to the window. Carefully pulling out his map, he saw two names on it that he did not know. He guessed they were fifth year Prefects or something. He had to wait a few minutes. Soon, he was back in the Room of Requirement and had the door hidden behind him.

It was with amusement that Harry noticed the cage that was now in his room, a cage with an unconscious woman in it and an elf in front of it. Harry canceled all of his charms and took his cloak off before he eased himself into a chair, putting his injured leg up on another chair.

"Kreacher, how long do you think she'll sleep?"

"Several hours, Master. She started to wake moments before you arrived, so I had to reapply the sleeping spell." He looked like he feared he had done wrong, so Harry smiled.

"That was a good job, Kreacher." The elf looked proud. It was interesting to see what a little praise could do for the poor guy, Harry thought. He pulled out his wand and summoned writing materials. He wrote a short note. "Kreacher, please take this note to Hermione and wait for what she has to give you. Then bring back dinner and we can both eat and rest. I'll watch over her while you're gone."

"Yes, Master." The elf took the note and left with a pop.

Harry sat back and contemplated what needed to be done next. He could only think of one way to do it and he hoped it worked. With nothing else better to do while he worked up his nerve, Harry pulled out his Map and looked at it. He found Ginny sitting near Neville and Parvati in the Gryffindor common room. He wondered what they were talking about.

---

Hermione let out a small scream as a pop sounded near her right elbow. Ron chuckled and she glared at him.

"Miss, Kreacher has a note from Master."

"Thank you, Kreacher," she said politely, doing her best to always set a good example for Ron.

"What does it say?" Ron asked, putting down his quill, eager to take a break from his task.

Dear H & R,

I'm safe and don't plan to move for a day or so if I can help it. I banged up my foot, but I got a potion for it and should be fine in a few hours. Really, don't worry!

Anyway, part 1 and 2 of my plan went off pretty well. I also got a bonus which will lead to us having a cup together in the very near future. That's how I hurt my foot. Again, I'll be perfectly normal in a few hours.

Since I have a little time to sit and think, please send a copy of your list of possible monkey activities for me to consider. Also, please think about how to safely contact F/G, as they may know how to find more help for our monkey business. I hope to return in a day or two.

H.

p.s. The score was 10 for me and 0 for them -- YES!

Ron laughed at the postscript.

"It's not funny," she said, lightly chastising him. "He wasn't supposed to be near more than a 'few' Death Eaters and he found ten." Hermione looked at the elf. "Kreacher, how bad was Harry really hurt?"

The elf did not look comfortable, but he said, "He only broke his ankle and foot. Nurse gave him a potion and he is resting with it up. He is following directions."

"I wonder for how long." She sighed. "If you'll wait here, I'll get the list for you to take back."

A few minutes later, Hermione gave him the parchment Harry wanted and the elf left. "I wish we were with him," she said wistfully.

"I know," Ron agreed fervently, "I know. We're just going to have to trust him. Still, if he thinks we can get a hold of the cup, that must mean he captured Bellatrix. That's quite an accomplishment."

"True, but if we'd been there, maybe he wouldn't have gotten hurt," she said.

"Or maybe we would have instead," Ron countered. "We'll have to wait until he returns to hear the story."

---

By the time Kreacher returned, Harry had a contract written up. He also had another idea. With the elf there to back him up, Harry put parchment and the Blood Quill just outside of the cage. Thinking very carefully, he applied some glamours. Looking in a mirror, he thought he looked about right. "Man I'm ugly." The altered voice surprised him, even though he was expecting it.

With a wave of his wand, he woke her up. Before she could figure out what was happening, Harry hit her with a strong stinging hex to the cheek. "Bella, I'm so disappointed in you."

"My Lord," she fearfully said as she looked down. "I don't even know what happened."

"You failed and had to be rescued," he hissed. "For your punishment, take up that quill and sign that parchment. I need something I once gave you."

"Yes, My Lord." Bella looked over and saw the midnight-black quill and an enthralled look came over her. "Thank you, My Lord," she said as she picked it up and quickly signed her name to the bottom of the parchment, not even reading what it said.

Harry summoned the contract to him and looked at it, pleased to see the signature there without any magical coercion. He would sign it when he was done with her.

Then he had another idea. To make sure she did as he asked, because it would sound even more crazy to her, he cast "Imperio" on her. She put up a fight for a few seconds before she succumbed. That the fight was that short or that she could not throw it off surprised him. Then again, he considered that maybe she had spent too much time in Azkaban and she was not as mentally strong willed as he had expected after so much exposure to the Dementors.

"Bella, I want you to write down all the names of the Death Eaters that you know and possible places they might be hiding," he commanded her. He put a regular quill and ink next to the cage for her.

She kept the Blood Quill in her hand, caressing it, ignoring the normal quill in front of her. To Harry's amazement, much like when she had signed the contract, Bella seemed to enjoy using the Blood Quill. She was definitely touched in the head.

Kreacher had to give her two more sheets of parchment to finish the task. Harry just stood there and watched her write, never once flinching from the pain in her right hand -- a hand that was turning darker and darker red.

"Kreacher? Please visit Madam Pomfrey again. Be sure she is alone before you approach her. Tell her that her earlier patient has the need to keep an enemy adult asleep for at least a day and likely for two, and he desperately needs the potions to do that. Also tell her that addiction will not be a problem."

"Yes, Master." The elf popped away.

"Bella?" Harry got her attention, and in her compulsion state of mind, she seemed happy as she was. "Please tell me about any plans I have told you about. I want to verify that you remember correctly." She happily started babbling and Harry made a few notes. Kreacher returned about fifteen minutes later with three phials. Bella kept talking. Kreacher left to go get dinner and returned with enough for both wizard and witch. Harry let her have a last meal as she talked about what she knew.

Her dialog was very interesting to him for the information it contained. He was sure a Mind Healer would have found it even more interesting as he studied her, but the witch would never have that sort of therapy. She talked long into the night about all sorts of things, including magic that Harry had never heard of. She also mentioned a few things that she thought he, the Dark Lord, was afraid of. Harry found that interesting too, but was not prepared to consider it reality, no matter how much her twisted mind believed it. Still, perhaps it was information that could be used if things got desperate. When she was done talking, Harry gave her the sleeping potions. He then wondered where he could get a Pensieve so Hermione could review this memory.

Taking the Blood Quill from the floor of the cage and putting a Galleon in her pocket, what he was required to give her by the contract, he signed his real name to the bottom of the contract and made it valid. With a smile, he removed the glamours that made him look like Voldemort and went to bed.


(A/N: There's the start of the story and you can already see how Harry has made some major changes -- much more logical changes, at least in my mind. :-)