Prologue: A Call to Arms
It was a quarter to eleven in the evening when the twins arrived at the Leaky Cauldron. The bar would be closing in fifteen minutes, and they arrived just in time for the last orders. They found a small table that was still covered in someone else's empty glasses, sat down, and began a good-natured argument over whose round it was this time. Neither young man appeared to pay any attention to the skeletal witch with wild grey hair who had followed them into the pub. In return, the witch appeared to ignore them and walked straight up to the bar.
'That's her,' said George, nodding towards a buxom blonde girl, who was now serving the wild-haired witch, 'The one whose teeth, lips, cheeks and eyes are competing to see which can be the biggest thing on her face.' Fred grinned at his twin's odd, but accurate, description.
'She's got a couple of bigger things, too; but perhaps you didn't notice,' his brother replied appreciatively. 'But you're wrong, it isn't her; did losing a lug damage your eyes, too?'
'It is,' George confirmed, 'She was fifteen when we left school remember, Fred. She'll be seventeen now. She's gown up.'
'Nah …' Fred continued to disagree. 'That barmaid's quite good looking, in a weird way. Hannah was little; blonde, plump, pigtails, Hufflepuff.' He shrugged dismissively.
'She is a blonde, and that hair is still long enough to be put into pigtails. Girls change shape as they get older, too,' pronounced George knowledgably. 'Just look at Ginny; she's got boys drooling over her wherever she goes. That isdefinitely Hannah Abbott. Look, she's coming over here now. She knows us.'
'Coincidence,' Fred told his brother confidently. 'She either fancies me, or she's mistaken us for some other pair of red-haired twins, one of whom only has one ear.'
'Hello gorgeous. You new here?' he continued, as the barmaid began to clear the empty glasses from their table.
'I've been here more almost a year,' the girl told him, 'I started in November last year. I'm Hannah; and I think that your faces ring a bell.'
Fred grinned, 'Oh … 'kay.'
'Tea?' George added immediately, 'D'you serve tea?'
'Go to the bar to order your drinks. Tea, Butterbeer, Firewhisky – whatever you want,' Hannah said, 'I've got work to do.' She pulled four beer mats from her apron. After clearing and wiping down the table she placed them in front of the twins. One of them, they noticed, was slightly frayed in one corner. The barmaid moved on to the next table and began clearing it too.
'Bloody hell,' Fred muttered, 'she has grown; upwards and outwards. Get the beers in, Georgie-boy.'
'I told you, it's your round.'
'Who's counting? We're business partners, remember! Put it on your expenses.'
Grinning, George walked to the bar and ordered two Butterbeers. When he returned with the foaming mugs there were only three beer mats on the table.
'"Room six, first floor, five minutes." The message was inside the beer mat,' Fred murmured as George put the glasses on the table. 'I've cast Muffliato, so we can talk freely. Big Blondie also says that the skinny old crone at the bar, the one who followed us, is a Death Eater; she's called Gertrude Green. I was right; we are being watched.'
'Time to try the Sickening Sherbert,' George grinned, 'and it's my turn to stay dry.'
Before George moved, Fred grinned wickedly, leaned across the table and nudged his brother's Butterbeer with his elbow. The glass tipped onto George's lap. 'Is it, really? Well, hard luck, little brother,' he smirked.
'Sorry, mate,' he continued loudly, 'I'll get you another one.' He stood and walked to the bar, heading directly towards the skeletal woman.
'Another one,' George yelled angrily, 'I want a Firewhisky, and you're paying my cleaning bill; these robes are brand new.' While everyone in the bar turned to stare at a furiously-shouting George, Fred smoothly tipped a packet of Sickening Sherbert into the Death Eater's Butterbeer, which foamed momentarily, then returned to normal.
'Sorry, George,' said Fred. 'I'll get you a Firewhisky instead, a double.' He ordered the drink from Tom and walked back to the table with it. George downed it in one.
The skeletal witch was watching them indirectly, using the mirror behind the bar. They watched and waited. She took a sip of her Butterbeer, turned green and dashed towards the door marked "Toilets."
'Well, that was impressive,' said George. Fred picked up his own, almost-full Butterbeer glass and George's empty Firewhisky tumbler and strolled towards the bar. Switching his own glass for that left by the Death Eater, he lifted her glass, waved it and the tumbler at Tom, and told the landlord, 'these are finished with.' He then followed his twin towards the door marked "Rooms."
'Suspiciously fast acting,' considered Fred thoughtfully. 'I think we should try to build in a delay.' Fred opened the door and entered the corridor leading to the rooms.
'We'll probably need several versions – fast and slow acting.' George suggested as they followed the sign pointing up a narrow flight of stairs to "Rooms 4-14."
'And extra-long-lasting, doubly painful, for Death Eaters,' Fred mused.
They drew their wands, and George knocked on the door of Room 6.
Alicia Spinnett opened the door, pointed her wand at them and asked, 'Which of you slept in the bed next to Lee?'
'Me,' said George.
'Lugless,' confirmed Fred, asking curiously, 'when did you go sneaking around the boys' dorms, Alicia?'
'Lee told me,' she said shortly, motioning them inside. Katie Bell and Hannah Abbott sat on the bed.
'You two,' George looked suspiciously at Alicia and Katie, 'Who's missing?'
'Angelina's busy,' said Katie. 'You aren't the only two we're contacting.'
The twins stepped into the room. It was large, and almost empty of furniture, containing only a double bed, a comfy chair, a small table, and a wardrobe. Katie and Hannah stood when the twins entered. Alicia closed the door; then, she, Katie, and Hannah cast several spells in what was obviously a well-rehearsed plan.
'Thanks for coming, guys,' Katie said. 'We need your help.'
'Are you safe here, Katie?' said George, concerned. 'They're rounding up all of the Muggleborns.'
'Polyjuice potion to get here, and more for when I leave,' Katie told him. 'We don't have long. Tom will be locking up at half-past eleven. Welcome to Dumbledore's Free Army. Are you in, or do we have to Obliviate you?'
'Katie, lovely Katie,' Fred began, 'I'd do anything for you, you know that.'
'Don't start, Fred,' Katie told him exasperatedly. 'You know that I'm a friend of Angelina, and there are no secrets between Chasers.'
'We're starting a resistance movement, and you're being watched by Death Eaters; we don't have time for your jokes,' Alicia stressed. 'Are you helping, or are you leaving?'
'There is always time for jokes,' Fred retorted.
'We're in,' George added. 'What do you need from us?'
'We're relocating Muggleborns,' Katie said, 'trying to save them from this new Muggleborn Registration Commission. I'm in hiding; you don't need to know where. Justin Finch-Fletchley and his dad are helping us to relocate the Creeveys. They are going to work with us to relocate as many others as we can.'
'Fast work,' Fred said, impressed.
'Little Colin Creevey was tipped off about a week ago, and he telephoned every Muggleborn he knew; he and his brother had the phone numbers of a few kids from school. Then he managed to use his Galleon to send a message to the DA, so we found out.' Katie informed them. 'You haven't checked your Galleons recently, have you?'
Fred shook his head. 'We hid them when the Death Eaters arrived at Bill's wedding. The gits were crawling around the house looking for Harry, so we thought it best to ditch 'em.'
'We'll be able to retrieve them, though,' George said.
'Do you know where Harry is?' asked Hannah.
George shook his head, 'We haven't seen him since … for a while … He took off. Dumbledore gave him something to do. That's all he's said.'
'Not quite all,' said Fred grimly, 'the "Chosen One" rumours seem to be true. Either You-Know-Who snuffs it, or Harry does.'
'Are Hermione and Ron with him?' asked Hannah in concern.
'Our brother has spattergroit,' Fred said. 'He's in bed, seriously ill – you must have heard. Hermione is Muggle-born, and she's definitely not stupid. She's probably gone on the run.'
Hannah looked at him in disbelief and shook her head. 'You're telling me that they aren't together?'
Fred glowered at her.
'That's the story, eh? I won't ask again,' Hannah shrugged.
'We don't know where Hermione is, or her parents; we've looked,' asserted Katie. 'But, if you think she's safe…'
'She's as safe as you are, Katie,' George observed.
Katie nodded sadly, 'When I got the message from Colin, I checked. I got the same information from … a different source. We've sent owls to all of the Muggleborns we know, but we haven't been able to find Dean Thomas. If you hear anything about him, let us know, please.' The twins nodded.
'We can help, Katie,' Fred told her. 'We're members of the Order of the Phoenix now. We joined the day after Bill's wedding. There are about twenty people in the Order, but there are quite a few Aurors we can count on, too.'
'I thought that the Auror office was closed.' Alicia said.
'It is. When Thicknesse was installed as Minister he called an urgent meeting with all Aurors; only a few were stupid enough to go. The Death Eaters were waiting and they tried to Imperius them. If that failed, they were killed. Some of the Aurors who didn't go to see Thicknesse were captured but there are about two dozen, including Kingsley Shacklebolt, in hiding with their families. If you could find safe houses for them, that would be brilliant. They're living in tents and Apparating from place to place to survive. Kingsley can contact them.'
'Not many people call old Mouldy-wart by his real name,' added George. 'Kingsley did, it nearly got him killed. Use the name, and the Death Eaters can find you. We don't know how they're doing it, yet, but pass it on. Don't say the V-word.'
'Thanks.' The girls nodded gratefully.
'We'll need to get organised quickly,' declared Alicia. 'Lee and I are trying to set up a pirate wireless station, to tell everyone the truth. We need lots of stuff, here's a list.' She handed Fred a sheet of parchment.
'We're trying to hide people in the Muggle world,' said Katie. 'We've been using the Galleons to pass messages, but we're not sure whether any of the Galleons have been handed over to the other side. Ask around, see what you can find out, and ask Ginny to check at Hogwarts, too.'
'We can do that,' promised Fred. 'So what's your involvement, beautiful young Hannah?'
'I'm a barmaid, remember? I hear all sorts of interesting things, including better lines than yours every day,' Hannah emphasised wryly.
'Best give George a few tips then,' chortled Fred.
'I'm everyone's contact,' Hannah explained, ignoring Fred and watching George. 'Everyone talks to the barmaid, no one notices the barmaid.'
'Oh, I reckon everyone will notice you,' George told her. Hannah gave him a shy smile.
'Scribble on a beermat, accidentally leave something at your table and the barmaid will tidy things up,' she told them. 'She may even leave things behind, purely by accident. First contact will be the same as we arranged today. To make sure that no one is a Polyjuiced fake I'll give a DA surname and you'll give the correct forename in your reply.'
'I'd like to see you slip the name Finch-Fletchley into a conversation.' George grinned.
'You managed Katie, easily,' said Hannah. 'I'd like some stuff from you, too, please. There are some Death Eaters and a lot of Ministry types who meet up here; I want to be able to eavesdrop on their conversations. The rumours are that the Ministry are organising something called "snatcher squads" to look for missing students, I've heard people in the bar calling them Mudblood-hunters. How many extendable ears can you spare?'
'Tell me how many you want, and you'll get them tomorrow,' George said admiringly; Hannah smiled at him again.
'I'd like some Peruvian Darkness powder, too,' Hannah added.
'Good idea,' George grinned, 'I'll get you some and some Decoy Detonators as well.'
'Shouldn't you be back at school?' Fred asked Hannah, grumpily.
'I'm not clever enough; I only got five OWLs and I didn't take my re-sits because I left when the Death Eaters killed my Mum last year,' Hannah declared bitterly. 'I'd be a seventh year retaking fifth year lessons. I've been working here for ten months, and Tom knows people in the Ministry. He persuaded them to make an exception for me. I can do more good here than I could at school.'
'Five OWLs are better than we did,' George smiled. He looked at her shrewdly. 'Exceeds Expectations in DADA would be one, of course.'
'Of course,' Hannah laughed.
'Who's paying for this lot?' Fred interrupted, glaring at Hannah as he looked through Alicia's list.
'Do you want it to go through your books?' Katie asked acidly.
'Stock shrinkage,' George smiled, 'I'll be writing to the Minister to complain about the lawlessness of his new regime. Things are getting so bad that honest businessmen can't make a decent living.'
Katie looked at her watch. 'Time to go,' she announced, picking up a goblet and swallowing its contents. 'Keep in touch, boys, and get those DA galleons. We'll need them.' Alicia opened the door and ushered the twins out as Katie's features began to shift and change.
'This,' George said happily, as they descended the stairs, 'is going to be fun.'