Ginny Weasley bit the inside of her lip as she held the wrapped package in her hands. It was a nasty habit she had picked up when feeling nervous or guilty. And, unfortunately, it was a habit her whole family knew of, so she had retreated to the room she shared with Hermione in Grimmauld's so that no one would notice. The door was locked, much to her relief, for she knew if anyone found her, she would have spilled everything, though a part of her really did want to tell someone what she was doing.
So far all communication with Harry had failed. Owls simply came back the next morning, looking confused and disoriented, which immediately led to the conclusion that wherever Harry was, he was surrounded by wards. Fawkes the Phoenix was still a little hatchling thanks to the Killing Curse back in the Ministry and would still need another month to recuperate, so he was no help.
Ginny's plan was simple. Send an owl every single day until; at last, Harry left the wards. There was no doubt in her mind that The-Boy-Who-Lived was still alive. She knew how Harry worked. He would heal for only a small amount of time before worry took over and he took off once more, right into danger to save his friends. She knew he would try to get back to them, wherever he was. It was an interesting topic that she and the others discussed. Harry escaping on a flying carpet was an astounding thought.
Who would have thought anything from that suspicious little shop would be helpful? The whole shop was simply filled with interesting trinkets that, while amazing and interesting, were the type of items to be forgotten in a week or so. That flying carpet was proof, as everyone in England who owned one simply decorated their wall with one to be able to brag about having one. She had heard that the Malfoy family had fifteen flying carpets, but that was still a rumor. Ginny believed it. The Malfoy's always went overboard with anything, and it would be just like them to have so many items that couldn't even be used.
Ginny pursed her lips, ridding her thoughts of others. Right now she needed to do this. She needed to send this package, because she knew that this item could be the only thing that could provide some sort of contact with Harry, even if he were to be back under wards that not even a Phoenix could find. Inside her package was a single mirror. She had already stolen her mother's wand to put unbreakable charms around it before wrapping it. On her bed was the brother mirror that would allow her contact with Harry if he got it.
During the attack, when everyone had been overcome with fear and the heat of battle, Ginny had stolen the mirrors. It had been instinct, really. When she saw Harry soaring away on the flying carpet, face tired, bloody and shocked, she knew that she had to do something to help. And so she grabbed the two mirrors before anyone noticed. She desperately wanted… no, needed to help Harry. While she knew she wasn't entranced with a life debt, she still felt the magic within her calling out to help the young man that had saved her.
It was because of this feeling she told no on about her plan to contact Harry this way. It was also because she would like to be the one that got in on this adventure instead of just Hermione and Ron. While she loved the two, they, and Harry as well, had a habit of pushing everyone away when they should be asking for help.
"Please find him, Hedwig," Ginny whispered to the snowy owl in front of her as she tied the package around the owl's leg. If any owl could find Harry, it was Hedwig.
Hedwig cooed in response and puffed out her chest importantly. When at last the package had been attached to her talon, she took off out the window and into the darkening sky.
Hermione paced in front of the bed Ron was sitting on in impatience. She was terrified and still slightly in shock. The events of the battle, while having occurred yesterday, were still in her mind. How could they not, especially with what happened with Harry? Her best friend had disappeared into the sky on the same Magic Carpet that she had turned him away from in humor. At that time in the store, she had been having a good time, being able to hang out with her friends with no thought or worry about the war, but fate had taken an ugly turn.
"Did you see those spells Harry did?" Ron said suddenly, but only in a whisper.
Hermione's lip thinned in thought. "They were Black spells," she said thoughtfully. "I heard that awful woman, Lestrange, say so." Hermione allowed an amused smile to adorn her face. "The way Harry did it completely flustered her."
"And then she wanted to kill him even more," Ron pointed out bluntly. "But I think that's how Harry wanted it, to make her angry." He paused for a moment. "When did he learn all those spells?"
Hermione licked her lips, eyes unconsciously going to Harry's trunk. Ron saw the motion and lunged for it, grinning widely. "Oh, Ron, don't!" Hermione admonished, rushing over to grab him.
"Come on, Herms," Ron pleaded. "Maybe there's something that can help us find him, like the Marauder's Map."
"That only works for Hogwarts," Hermione pointed out, narrowing her eyes irritably at the sound of that ridiculous nickname Ron and Harry sometimes called her. "Ron!" Hermione tried to pull Ron's hand away from the already opened trunk. "You know as well as I Harry hates it when people butt into his private possessions."
"Well, this time it's important," Ron huffed, wrestling Hermione's hands away, but it was all for naught as Hermione gave his hand a nice smack. "Uhg, woman!" Ron scowled, retreating and holding his hand. "Hermione, it's not technically snooping if all we're trying to do is find something that can help Harry." Ron raised his eyebrows. "Something that might save his life," he added sweetly.
Hermione gave him a stern. Ron returned it with a look of innocence, hand still straying towards the trunk. Relenting, Hermione sighed. "Fine, but nothing too personal."
"Geeze, Hermione." Ron rolled his eyes. "S'not like we're gonna go through his brief's." He again ignored the stern look given.
"Look at all these," Hermione said after a while. Harry's stuff had been distributed accordingly. School items were in one pile, personal items in another, new things Hermione and Ron had never seen before in a pile and then clothes strewn about on the bed. "These look like books from the Black Library. Well, at least when we first got here."
Ron nodded, remembering when he arrived with the Order. The place was somehow even more disgusting than now. The occasional small dark creature, such as Pixies and Shadow Dwellers, littered the house, as well as cobwebs, dust and dark objects. The dark objects and books had been gathered by the adults right away, but not before Hermione and Ron managed to see a few. Ron knew it was impossible to hide any book from Hermione in a library, and he was pretty sure she had opened at least one, but had probably not read it. As curious as Hermione was about knowledge and books, Ron knew the Dark Arts made Hermione wary and slightly ill, not that he blamed her. She had a strange wariness and sense of knowledge that was much like a pureblood.
"How did he get these?" Hermione wondered aloud, saying exactly what was on Ron's mind.
"Maybe he took them before the adults found 'em," Ron suggested, turning a book over and grimacing at the picture shown. It was of a naked woman held down by various types of straps. A bit green in the face, Ron turned it back over. "How on earth could he even look at this?" Hermione hummed in agreement as she too put a book away. She looked a little white, causing Ron to wonder what she read. "What was it?"
"It's just the pictures," Hermione explained. "Each spell has a detailed picture, and I saw the one that Harry attempted to use on Mrs. Lestrange. It was a blinding curse that doesn't just blind you, but it rots the eyes."
Ron pinched the bridge of his nose. What on earth was Harry studying? "I don't know if we should continue with this," he admitted. "It's just…"
"Wrong," Hermione finished, gazing at the books. She licked her lips before looking at Ron squarely in the eyes. "We can't do that, Ron." She paused, because even though she wasn't reading or touching the books, she could feel the dark magic oozing from the books. It wasn't intoxicating, like most people told her about dark objects, but instead made her slightly sick. Hermione had read that not all witches or wizards could use dark magic and not feel sick. By looking at Ron, she knew he felt just as sick as her. "We need to study these," she continued. "To learn the counter charms and how to avoid these spells in a fight."
Ron picked up another book. He could see her logic, but when he opened the book and saw a picture of a man eating his own flesh, it took everything not to say no. "Alright, but I think I'll get sick after a while," he admitted.
"I know," Hermione said, placing a hand on Ron's shoulder. She glanced down at the book, eyes scanning some of the spells. "Most of these take potions to cure, and even then, there is a very small chance, if the spell is strong enough, to be cured."
Ron groaned. "So we'll be making potions all summer?"
Hermione glared at Ron, startling the redhead. "Ron," she hissed. "This is a war, and how many times have you asked to help? It won't matter if you can't do anything, like offer a simple blood replenishing potion to a dying girl." She allowed Ron to grimace a bit before continuing. "But first we need to find out how Harry got these books."
"Why should that be important?"
"Because whoever gave Harry these books will most likely have more," Hermione explained patiently, obtaining a thoughtful look. "Who on earth would ever give Harry these books?"
"Definitely not mum," Ron muttered, leaning on his hand in thought. "She did send him a lot of food this summer, though, so maybe she knows something."
"I doubt it," Hermione replied. "You know how your mum is when it comes to information."
"And knowing that Harry was studying dark magic…" Ron shivered, thinking of the earful his mother would give to his best friend. "Do you think Kreacher gave him the books?" Ron offered. Seeing Hermione scrunch her nose in irritation at the mention of the House Elf, Ron quickly said, "You know, since Harry got the house from Sirius, which means that any House Elf or item that belonged to the house also goes to Harry. That's just the way things are," he finished at seeing Hermione's face become sourer at the mention of how House Elves are given away like furniture.
"That's an interesting thought, actually," Hermione said, quickly standing up. "Come on; help me put these books away." Ron quickly helped place all the books underneath all of Harry's stuff in his trunk, nestled in with his invisibility cloak so that they were invisible.
"Where do you suppose Kreacher is?" Ron asked softly, not wanting to gain any attention as he descended the stairs with his best female friend. Anybody would be suspicious if someone willingly sought out the wretched elf, especially because of what he did.
"In the boiler room," Hermione said. "Remember?"
When they got to the entry to the boiler room, both Hermione and Ron looked around cautiously. No one was around, and the few Order members that were here were in the kitchen, as usual. Not bothering to knock, they both entered quietly.
"Kreacher?" Hermione called softly, eyes falling upon the disgusting elf that was busy cleaning a dusty golden gargoyle statue with a damp and muddy cloth. "Kreacher?"
"Disgusting Mudblood calls to Kreacher," the elf rasped, not looking up from his task. With his back turned, Hermione and Ron tensed as they noticed the elf was covered in burns and cuts. All were healed, but it was clear that whatever happened to Kreacher it had been extremely painful. "Mudblood is not Kreacher's Master, but what does she want? Perhaps to torment poor, old Kre—"
"That's enough," Ron said irritably. "Kreacher, did you give Harry any books this summer?"
Hermione sighed. Ron was as blunt as ever but, surprisingly enough, Kreacher talked.
"Blood traitor no my Master, and Master has gone missing." A queer smile appeared on Kreacher's face. "Kreacher will have no more Master soon." He said it with both sorrow and excitement.
Ron scowled while Hermione paled. "Listen here, you," Ron snarled, finally losing his patience. "My best mate is out there, who happens to be your master, and we need to help him."
Kreacher finally paused in his cleaning. He turned around, finally, and both Ron and Hermione gagged. Kreacher's body was covered in scars, a floppy ear looked like it had been half torn off, his nose was even more crooked than normal and he was missing one eye. The other was a sickly yellow, but the elf seemed to be able to see well enough.
"Kreacher," Hermione whispered fearfully, "did you do that to yourself?"
"Mudblood and blood traitor wish to help Master?" Kreacher said instead. It spooked the two teens that the elf wasn't muttering under his breath like he used to. He gazed at the two of them distrustfully.
"Yes," Ron said quickly. "And as he's your master and he's missing, it's your duty as his elf to help out those who wish to help him. And don't lie," Ron said suddenly. "I know elves know when someone's lying about helping out your master."
Kreacher grimaced. "Kreacher sworn to help Master," he agreed with a sick grunt. Turning away, he opened the boiler and stuck his hand inside. Hermione gasped and made a move to pull him away, but Kreacher already pulled his hand out of the boiler. His hand was slightly burnt, but Ron and Hermione could see that it was beginning to heal. Elves were amazing when it came to healing, so whatever had caused all those wounds had to have been something horrid. "Use this," Kreacher rasped. "In attic, there is a portrait of Elladora Black. She does not move like a true wizarding painting. You'll know who she is when you see date…" Kreacher paused to cough. His throat was horribly raspy. "1850-1931… Stick this in her mouth." He tossed a silver cylinder object. It was very skinny and no longer than a finger.
Ron fumbled for a moment before finally holding it in his grasp. "What's in the portrait?" he asked suspiciously.
"Help needed," Kreacher sniffed before turning away and continuing with his pitiful cleaning.
Glancing at each other, both Ron and Hermione turned towards the exit, only to gasp as they took in the sight of Fred and George.
"Well, well," one twin, Fred, began.
"Lookie what we have here," George said, grinning.
"Two trouble makers…"
"But one's a rule abiding know-it-all…"
"…and the other our dull headed brother!"
The two laughed and grabbed both Hermione and Ron by the hand and apparated them into their room before the shocked teenagers could say a thing.
"So what do you think, dear Fred?" George asked as he dropped Ron to the floor.
"I think we has a pair of no do gooders," Fred laughed as he dropped an equally dazed Hermione to the ground. He grinned at the two. "And it appears, brother, that they weren't going to tell us."
"No!" George mock gasped. "A part of the golden trio not telling anyone about their plan?"
Both Ron and Hermione scowled. They, along with Harry, absolutely hated the nickname. It was like a brand that made them out to be little goodie goodies that excluded all but the three of them.
"So what?" Ron demanded. "You gonna tell on us?"
Both Fred and George clutched placed a hand over their heart, looking completely scandalized. "Of course not!" the two exclaimed.
"Really, you'd think he knew us well enough by now," Fred muttered to his twin.
"Sad, really," George sighed as he took the silver cylinder away from Ron. Ignoring his protests, George studied the item. "It looks like a key to a Lock In."
"A what?" Hermione and Ron asked at the same time.
"A special room that normally only family members know of," Fred explained. "All purebloods have one. It was to hide us away from witch hunters long ago." He took the item from George. "We have one in mum and dad's room," he told Ron, "but only they and Bill know where the key is." He handed the key over to Hermione who eagerly began to inspect the runes placed upon it. "Well, come on then!" he exclaimed happily. "Let's go find this room."
"You're coming too?" Ron goggled at the two.
"Of course!" they exclaimed indignantly.
"You really didn't think we wouldn't help our honorable brother, do you?" George demanded.
"Yea, besides, we could find something that can help with our products," Fred said eagerly.
"Nothing in this house can help with simple pranks," Hermione said coolly, not liking the fact that the two would use this chance to find something that could make them money instead of just helping Harry.
To her surprise, both Fred and George grimaced. "Not pranks… well, not nice ones, anyway," Fred said.
"Pranks for the Death Eaters," George supplied. "We've been making stuff that could be considered weapons against the Death Eaters. And no, mum and dad don't know," he said when he saw Ron's face.
"What kind of weapons?" he asked curiously.
The twins shrugged. "Well, you know our portable swamp?" Fred asked. He waited for two nods. "We're designing something similar, only it creates a magma pool. It's for a large group of Death Eaters only, so very dangerous."
"Where on earth do you go to test these inventions?" Hermione asked.
Again came two shrugs. "We have our ways," George said airily as he began to lead them up to the attic, causing Ron and Hermione to wonder.
The old wand master drew in a deep breath on the twisted pipe in between in his lips. He held his breath for a moment, allowing the taste and smoke to last a bit longer before blowing out the blue smoke. Ah, Rutes, a nice, easy magical drug that always left him in a nice high. The world relaxed around him, but not enough for him to forget and blur everything around him. What a shame too, because that brat of a boy was in front of him.
Bert sighed as he blew the smoke away. Setting the pipe on a table, he brushed some dust off his chest and leaned forward to gaze at the boy in front of him, still wary of his leg. He had only basic knowledge in healing potions, and that meant he would need to deal with the pain. All other knowledge went to poisons and disguises.
"You coherent enough to help me get ready?" Harry asked gruffly.
He held Bert's crutches in his hands, ready to hand them over, but as the man gazed at him with blue glazed eyes, he wasn't sure if he should. He had little experience with drugs, and had no idea what the kind Bert was smoking would do to his mind. Bert certainly looked like he could pay attention, but could he help vocally? The only experience he had with drugs had been from a few of the older years in Gryffindor, and that was only because he walked in on them in an empty classroom when he had been looking for someplace to be alone. He had walked out after a moment, only taking the time to figure out what they were doing. That was about it.
"Course I am!" Bert snapped, glaring at Harry. He reached for the crutches and stood. "Didn't have that much," he grumbled, wrinkled face creased in a frown. "Come on, and pay attention. I already pulled out the pages to the potions you need, as well as gathered the necessary ingredients. If you're careful, you should have enough of everything to keep yourself in perfect disguise for up to three weeks before the potions go bad."
Hopefully he wouldn't be there that long to get out. Harry assumed it would perhaps take him a few days to get away from whatever trouble he got himself into, but he knew for sure he would be there for four days, as that was the date he had to give the item, but hopefully it wouldn't be too hard to get away unnoticed.
"Are you good at potions?" Bert asked as Harry gathered his bag and carefully placed the wrapped potion ingredients in the small black cauldron. It was a little bigger than a full grown man's hand.
Harry paused as he picked up the cauldron. No, he was absolutely horrid, but he could do decently enough on beginning potions. "I'll be fine," he said.
Bert sneered, the glaze in his eyes beginning to diminish. "If you run out of ingredients before you get out, best learn how to bargain."
Harry nodded as he followed Bert into the back. He allowed a smile to grace his face as he saw his wand, completely healed, sitting on the desk. He picked it up and grinned as a bright array of sparks and smoke erupted from his wand. While his new one was wonderful and felt great in his hands, and even more powerful than this one, his original always felt right.
"Take these," Bert said, motioning with his wand to a cupboard. A few items floated out and rested on the table in front of them. A black pocket knife made of some sort of wood, a silver pentagram necklace and a pair of black boots that looked like they would reach just below his knees. They seemed to be made from some sort of hide, something Harry didn't expect since usually he saw wizard boots made out of dragon scale. "This knife here is just a basic precaution. It'll cut through basically anything and won't break unless against somethin' real powerful. Also has a basic anti-summoning charm, but that's about it."
Harry took the knife carefully. To his amazement, a simple flick and it shot open. He glanced up at Bert. "Precaution," he murmured with a wry grin, "or a gift cause you're feeling a bit guilty about sending a sixteen year old into the underworld?"
Bert's face turned dangerous. "Listen here, sonny," he hissed. "I don't give a rat's ass whether or not you die. All I care about is you getting my package to the bastard before the deadline, and if that means giving you a few nice things then damn it I will."
Harry still felt amusement towards the old man. "Alright," he conceded, grinning a bit wider as the harsh look grew darker on Bert's face. "Thanks."
Bert sniffed before tapping the boots. "Check the heels," he said gruffly. "Press down in the circle."
Curiously, Harry did so. As soon as he pressed down on the circle design on the heel, it opened up, revealing a very tiny compartment. "Nice," he said.
"Place your Holly wand inside," Bert ordered. "It'll shrink to the appropriate length, but you can only put one item in each boot. It's made out of Porlock hide instead of their outrageous hair. Much more durable, and those horses are only good for their hide, even if their fur is used in some potions." Bert sneered at the thought of the black horses. They were simple nuisances, much like bugs as they bred so much but apparently had some sort of magical ability. The only thing Bert knew about them was that when their hide was used in clothing, it helped dull the sound of someone walking.
"What else do you think I should keep in this?" Harry asked after he put his wand in his right boot.
"A poison for suicide," Bert said immediately. He gazed at Harry seriously. "Just in case." To his surprise, Harry didn't argue. His face just turned grave as he accepted the green potion and put it in his left boot and put them on over his pant. "Surprised ye ain't arguing," Bert said as he watched Harry pack a pair of black robes and put one on just to see if it would fit as it did look a bit smaller than the other.
After Harry settled pulled his arms out of the robe sleeves, he shrugged, face dark. "Why should I argue about a possibility," he growled.
Bert let out a scoff. "Boy, go get me two glasses."
Unsurprised at the fact that Bert was ordering him to get him his alcohol, Harry was, however, surprised by the order to get two glasses. He came back a moment later with two glasses and a bottle of black alcohol. When he opened the tap, black smoke leaked out. He poured two glasses of the Smoking Midnight. Cautiously, he picked up the second glass.
"Drink it, boy," Bert growled, sounding eerily like Moody. "Drink, because although yer just a boy, yer doing a man's job."
Harry gazed into his cup for a moment. "Thank you," he said, truly grateful for those words. He didn't know why, but when he was told something like that, everything just seemed to fit. "Cheers," he said, tapping his glass against Bert and attempted to down the cup.
He ended up coughing most of it up but managed to swallow some. When he did, it felt like smoke was traveling through his body, heating him up with a strange readiness that Harry liked, even if it did make him slightly wary.
"Ah, Smoking Midnight," Bert said, easily downing it all. "It warms the soul." He gave a dark grin as he saw Harry blink a bit slowly. "It's the best sort of stuff for a person about to get into a fight. Many young men drink this before getting into a gang bang." Giving a laugh, Bert handed the pentagram necklace to Harry. "Wear it at all times. It's my mark, and people will recognize it. They'll think you're my messenger boy and will not question."
"Have you gone to the Pit before?" Harry asked, sitting down.
"Ten times," Bert answered, pouring himself another glass. "Started when I was thirty."
Harry breathed out through his mouth in thought. "So you're eighty now?"
Bert just lifted a brow. "Who said I went in order?" Harry remained silent. "Now, let's think of a name before we retire. Its best not to go to an event like this completely exhausted."
Harry completely agreed.
"Look at all this junk," Ron moaned as the four of them scoured the attic. He brushed aside some dust, only to let out a loud yelp as his fingers touched some cobweb. The act sent a tiny black spider skittering. As soon as he caught sight of the spider, he let out a girlish squeak and tumbled back. In the process, he ran into some dusty items that teetered over.
"Ron!" Hermione hissed in distress. "Would you please be a bit more careful?"
"There was a huge spider," Ron protested as he rose a shaking had to point toward the arachnid. When the twins took sight of the spider, they laughed mockingly and easily squashed the spider that was little bigger than a pea with their shoe. Ron shuddered.
"There, there," Fred said happily, patting Ron on the back a bit harder than necessary. The scary monster is all gone."
Ron shoved Fred away. "Git."
Hermione cleared her throat to get the attention of the others. "If we may," she said impatiently. She really didn't want to be up here, nor did she want to find this hidden room that kept what were probably horrible dark objects and books that Harry thought he had to learn just to survive this war. It was distressing to know that her best friend was walking down such a dark path. "Here it is," Hermione continued, indicating to a large painting. It was at least five feet wide and high, and was covered in a solid gold frame, but it was so dusty that the gold looked gray, as did the painting of the beautiful Black.
"Open wide," George said happily as he brushed the dust away from the mouth of Elladora Black. Her succulent red lips were parted into a partly open mouthed smile that seemed just big enough for the pole to be inserted. The four of them, or at least Hermione and Ron, were expecting to hear a rip as the pole was shoved through the painting, but instead it seemed go through it like a ghost. George gave it a swift turn and, what sounded like a rusty lock being open, the portrait swung out, just like the Fat Lady.
George held out his wand, just in case, and led them into the hidden room. It was the size of a small walk in closet, but with all the items stored inside, there was barely any room for five people. Luckily with just the four of them, they could walk in and not bang into anything if they were careful.
"Amazing," Hermione whispered, staring at silver crown that was placed on a purple pillow inside of a case. It was covered in diamonds and purple gems. There were three spikes going up, and on each tip was a black onyx.
"Fletcher would die to get in here," Ron said in awe, reaching out to touch a statue of a dragon, only to leap back as it made a snapping motion. Glaring at the brownish red stoned statue, Ron turned away in a huff. "How are we supposed to know what'll attack and what won't?" he asked.
"Just try a few revealing spells," George supplied. "Try this… Fateor." With a backward swish with his wand that pointed at a case of vials filled with brilliant colored potions. Each vial gave off a different sense. "Just need to learn the different feels," George said. "But these are all poisons, and dangerous ones at that."
Nodding in thanks, both Ron and Hermione got started and began to look around.
"What exactly are we looking for?" Ron asked after a few minutes right after getting done with inspecting a book that held some curses made by the Blacks.
"Something that can help us help Harry," Hermione answered as she licked her lips in thought. She gazed at the book Ron was looking at. "We'll need to learn those," she said.
"Not all of them, at least," Ron said, nose scrunching up as he read a curse that caused a person to grow a sort of parasite that was sentient. It was a slow process, and very painful, but it could keep an enemy under control and constant scrutiny.
"Yes, but most," Hermione said, finding quite a lot of spells that weren't as bad. This book was most likely stored in here because each spell was written down by a Black. "Do you remember how angry Mrs. Lestrange was? We need to be able to make our enemies falter in surprise or anger so that we can, well, take them out." Hermione faltered, embarrassed by her own words.
Ron patted her back in comfort. "Alright," he said, placing the book in his satchel that he had brought with him. "Anything else that interests you?" he asked, hoping to get Hermione into her element. The girl was usually a sucker for new knowledge.
Hermione smiled her thanks before grabbing a book on different magical creatures and beings, and that didn't just include the usual vampires and werewolves. "In the last war, You-Know-Who had a lot of dark creatures on his side."
Hermione didn't need to say more, Ron understood. Taking hold of the book, Ron flipped it open at a random page. It revealed a creature that seemed to be made out of nature. Wood, leaves, vines and rocks made up this creature. It was a beast that could be summoned through a ritual in a forest, which reminded Ron of the rocks he had seen in the store at Diagon Alley that could briefly summon an animal for a few minutes. Just enough time to confuse or take down an enemy. Thinking of the store, his hand went to his pocket unconsciously, his fingers tracing the smooth stone he had taken during the chaos. It was one of many, but he always had one on him, just incase.
Over with Fred and George, the two were huddled over some rare potion ingredients that were packaged very carefully. They took great care in placing the items in their own bag that seemed to bulge.
"Do you think he'd like that?" George muttered quietly to Fred as he gestured to a metallic mask.
It had nothing pretty or eye catching about it, other than the chain it was connected to be put around ones head. It only covered half the face, down to the nose, but it had a strange sense about it. The detailed instructions on a piece of parchment proved that this was a rare find. The mask, according the parchment said that it could temporarily give you the allusion of being someone else, and only after having a clear picture of who it was that you wanted. It only lasted for thirty minutes, half the time of polyjuice potion, and didn't physically change you, but it was still a nice prize. In fact, this whole house was a treasure chest, and Fred and George were under no delusions that they were incredibly lucky to get the chance to explore an old pureblood family house.
"Take it," Fred muttered, barely glancing at his twin to see if he would hide it away before the other two saw them. Instead, he was eyeing some crooked and bent looking knives in a small case. As if their eerie appearance weren't enough, dark magic could practically be felt coming off the items in waves. Fred shivered. Nasty business, whatever those were.
"We should leave now," Hermione said quietly, shoulders hunched and eyes darting around almost as if someone would catch them.
None of them blamed the young muggle born. This magic, this filth that they were willingly educating themselves about… it left them feeling dirty, defiled and so much more. It would take so much more than an apology to get anyone to ever forgive or trust them again, but it was all for Harry and the chance to survive this war.
"Right, let's go." Ron, after some hesitation, wrapped an arm around Hermione, hugging the girl closer in a protective embrace. In return, the young witch squeezed his arm in appreciation.
If it had been any other situation, Fred and George would have loved to make kissy faces or perhaps make some comment, but this was not the time. So, with whatever items the teens had grabbed being carefully hidden, the four of them crept out of their little secret place.
"I'll hold onto this," George said solemnly, pocketing the device Kreacher gave them. "Don't worry," he told the two younger teens when they shot him a look. "We'll be here more than enough when you two are here, but since we're out of school we'll need it more than you."
Reluctant, Hermione and Ron nodded.
"Should we make a code in case one of us wishes to come back?" Hermione asked, biting her lip.
Ron scratched at his arm, uncomfortable. "I feel dirty," he admitted.
George grabbed his younger brother by the shoulders and brought him face to face, expression firm and strict. It was a scary look, one that Ron had never seen before, and it frightened him. "If you feel even the slight bit hesitant on one thing, no matter what it is, don't do it," he warned, fingers tightening. "I don't care if you think it seems childish to act afraid, but don't do it. These are things that I would normally beat you into the ground for even looking at, but this isn't the time. Please, Ron, don't think you have to force yourself to do anything."
Ron flinched, blue eyes glancing into George's brown eyes before darting over to Fred's duplicate brown. Fred gave him a small nod, face just as serious, if not more grim. "Alright," Ron promised, relaxing a bit as he felt Hermione lay a comforting hand on his arm. "Thanks," he muttered, finally looking away.
"Don't worry, we'll be here to talk whenever you need us," George promised, finally releasing his brother. "You too," he addressed Hermione.
Hermione took a deep breath, holding the covered items in her bag close to her chest. "Thank you." She gave them both a hesitant smile, but lurking in her deep brown eyes was determination.
They all held that gleam now, even if all they really were, were scared children.
It was raining, much to Harry's distaste, but he walked proudly, face half covered by a thick black scarf with fierce green eyes glaring out at everyone he passed. He was beyond pissed, having to do this, but there was no use fretting about it. He was in this mess, and he would deal with it.
Didn't mean he wouldn't glare at every prejudice git he passed, though.
Green eyes moved from the passing shoppers, narrowing in on the end of the island. Despite the rain, there were plenty of people about, all with fancy umbrella's and the like, but as he neared the end of the island, where a large building rested half on the land and half above the sea, there were far less cocky rich wizards and witches, and instead wizards and witches that truly looked like they earned the right to carry a wand. These people, they were tough, dangerous, but they weren't what Harry was expecting. Suspicious glances were thrown everywhere, at himself included, but none were about to pick a fight. And why should they? These people weren't pathetic bullies, looking for attention. These… beings were people who were just looking to survive in their dangerous little world.
For some reason, it excited Harry.
Striding up to the unnamed building, Harry walked in with his back straight and head held high. The heat of the room hit him immediately, and eagerly he lowered the scarf to uncover his face. A few looks were thrown his way, but mostly to see who had opened the door, but after that he was ignored.
Harry gazed around. It looked like a large pub, but near the back he saw a door that, when opened, revealed many staircases that led both down and up. Rearranging his pack to make it a bit comfortable on his shoulder's, he strode over to the front bar stool, ignoring the twitching thing on his back.
To his great misfortune, the carpet had to be brought along. No matter where he went, the rug followed him, even if it seemed reluctant and angry at the idea. So Harry had to forcefully roll it up and tie it together with magic rope that would not release the blasted thing. The darn flying carpet had been attached to his pack, and was now squirming to get free.
What'll ye have?" a great brute of a man asked as Harry dropped into his seat and pulled his arms onto the counter.
Sit at the front, act like you know what you're doing there, and a big man, Samuel, will come to you, Bert had said. The Pit has opened, he greets everyone now just incase they come for the entrance. When you're there, say…
"The sea has been calm lately, so perhaps to celebrate some White Wash would be best?"
The large man scratched at his greasy brown hair, brown eyes narrowing as he really took in Harry's form. A large, pale hand tapped the counter. "The sea has been more temperamental than usual," he snapped. "Sure you got your facts right, sonny?"
Harry fought back a grimace at the derogative sonny statement. This man could really make you feel insecure with a quick lash of his tongue, even if it was what was meant to be said next in this dangerous little game. One slip up and, well…
"I get my facts from Branwyn, the old crone." Harry made sure his tone sounded affectionate, as he was naming a sea god and was sure to provoke anybody's temper in such an area where people were raised right by the water. Also Bert had told him so. "You know how forgetful she is," Harry finished, meeting the man's eyes, glancing quickly at the badge on his chest to see that this really was Samuel.
He'll be silent for a full minute. Don't look away or make a sound, you're being tested.
It was true, because Harry was soon in a staring contest with this monstrous man, but it certainly didn't feel like just one minute.
"Don't look like much," Samuel finally sneered, taking out a shot glass and pouring a clear liquid into it and sliding it toward Harry. "This ain't some ally fight club, boy."
The liquid is just water. Raise it slightly, as if in toast and down it. If he hasn't already asked why you're there, mention my name and that you have come in my stead.
Harry raised the water, tilting it slightly before downing it all quickly, not that it was hard, being water and all, but he did see Samuel looking pleased that even though he was young, he knew and had enough respect to do the code properly.
"My master sends me in his stead," Harry said, pulling out the necklace from under his robe and scarf to show Bert's symbol.
Samuel sucked in his breath, meaty finger's curling. He leaned closer to Harry, but not in any way to attract the attention of the other drinkers. "His business is no one but his own," he growled, glaring down at Harry.
Harry bit his lip. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. He had done the code, like Bert said, and should have been led down, again like Bert had said. Harry took in Samuel's angry posture, comprehending after a few minutes of mental debate.
This man was Bert's friend.
"Bad experiment," Harry said carefully. "Spell went awry and lost feeling in his leg."
Samuel leaned back and started cleaning a cup. "Damn it," he hissed, glaring at a wall. "Put that away," he said after a moment, referring to Bert's necklace. "Come on, boy, you need a real man's drink."
Harry took that cue to stand up and take a firmer hold on his pack as Samuel gave a swift nod to another burly man. Once his shift was taken for the moment, Samuel led Harry to the back. It was like a large room of staircases that led in every direction. Harry glanced up; taking in all the hallways that were made into ways that only magic could make this possible. Much like the Weasley house.
"Get ready, boy," Samuel warned as he led Harry passed all the different staircases and down the only hallway in the room. "I'll be honest," Samuel grunted, "you don't look like much, but I've been here too long to realize that appearances can be deceiving."
Harry didn't say anything; he just followed the large man through the only door at the end. To his surprise, it revealed the kitchen. Men and women were working diligently, barely sparing the two a glance, but two men at the very back next to a large, unused and old fashioned stove in the very corner gave him very dark looks.
"A kid?" the one on the right of the stove growled. He had bleached blond hair and pale skin. He was on the skinny side, but full of muscle with scars everywhere. His battered brown robes gave him the appearance of a traveler.
The one of the left gave a snort. "More kids this year than any other," he drawled, blue eyes glancing at the ceiling. This one had reddish brown hair and tattoo's covering most of his face.
"About time, too," Samuel growled, running his hand through Harry's hair as if he were a friend's pet that had suddenly interested him. Harry stepped away, shaking his head and throwing Samuel a glare. The large man just laughed. "More bodies, but the ones that survive will live on to keep our legend." He gave a devilish grin, yellowing and chipped teeth make him all the more repulsive. "Show them yer master's sign."
With a nod, Harry brought out Bert's necklace. The blond one brought out his wand, signifying that he was about to cast a spell as to not startle him. Without saying a word, the man sent a quick flick Harry's way. Harry's skin glowed for a moment, along with all his belongings.
A scroll poofed into existence as soon as the glow faded, Samuel snatched it out of the air. Unrolling it, he looked through it carefully. "A flying carpet?" he asked with amusement, finally glancing at Harry's back and taking in the quivering rug. "Heard those were rare."
Harry could feel himself tense. Great, another test. "A kid sold it to me," he said smoothly, trying with all his might to hide how nervous he felt. It had suddenly just occurred to him that people would know Harry Potter had escaped from Diagon Alley on a flying carpet. "A few towns back, some kid looked real beat up and needing money. Offered the carpet and there you go."
The two men behind Samuel exchanged glances. The kid wasn't using any glamours or spells to hide his appearance, and everybody in this dingy little town of theirs were connected to the dark in some way, and no matter how small, none would willingly help Harry Potter, so this kid couldn't be the lights savior. Beside, curse scars could never be covered up with an illusion, and this kid had no scar.
"Know which town?" the blond drawled.
Harry glanced at him. "Looking for a flying carpet as well?"
The man just grinned. "Might be."
Harry just returned the dark grin with a cool look. "The kid was beat up, probably trying to sell something he stole from his folks after running off. Doubt he would have anything else of value, but if you must know, I have no idea. Like I said, it was a few towns back, and he wanted Muggle money."
The guards frowned at him, but Samuel threw the two dark looks. "Enough about that," he barked, eyeing the chief's bustling about, almost as if he were daring them to glance their way. "Sign your name here." He placed the parchment on a table and produced a familiar looking quill.
Most contracts need to be signed in blood, so don't act so surprised, Bert had said, eyeing Harry's scarred hand warningly as he said it.
Harry took the quill, nose scrunching up in distaste, but he signed away with the name Bert had chosen for him. His eyes barely even glanced at the words. It was just a list of his possessions. As soon as he pulled away, the scroll rolled into itself and burst into purple flame, disappearing completely.
"Done," Samuel said simply, giving Harry a hard look that clearly meant he better not screw this up for Bert. Turning away, Samuel began to fumble about with the different knobs on the stove. He seemed to have an order, because after turning the last knob, runes began to glow a bright gold for a moment before white flame produced from the stove. Samuel muttered a spell in a type of language Harry didn't think could really exist (it sounded like clicks, sucking and hissing), the white flame turned gold.
You'll have to walk into the flame, but make sure you bow… don't look at me like that! I'm not talking about getting on your hands and knees, you damn kid.
Remembering what Bert had told him, Harry offered a swift bow, but his rebellious body did not permit him to lower himself too much. Once he straightened up once more, he strode into the fire and felt himself being transported downward.
"Interesting kid," the blond bodyguard muttered, eyes looking into Samuel's.
"Don't even think about it," Samuel growled. "We have nothing but our suspicions. Besides, even if he is the Potter kid, you really think he won't get caught down there?"
"Or act that way?" the brown haired body guard said, watching the flames disappear.
Samuel grunted, eyes glancing at the uninterested cooks. All workers swore an oath of secrecy and had grown up in this world of illegal activities. They were of no threat.
"Don't matter if he's Harry Potter or some street rat, because the Pit has accepted him as Hyde Bastel."
"Appropriate," the blond said after a moment.
"Aye, and he does belong to Bert, whoever he is." Samuel gave another grunt. "Also, the lad has a Cracklin'." The two guards narrowed their eyes in thought and amusement. They could hardly wait to see this years events. Bert gave a rough cough. "Need to get back to me post. More'll be showing."
And with that, the two bodyguards got back into position and Samuel strode back to his post at the bar.
AN: Porlock – A type of magical horse that comes in all colors but are smaller than normal horses. It's their hair that's the most valuable since a lot of potions use their hair.
I see a lot of fics where Ginny is always in the scoop with Ron, Hermione and Harry, but not here. Ginny was always the tag along in my eyes, and in a real serious situation, Ron would never allow his baby sister to even think about what they're about to do. And if Ron is like that, I doubt the older brothers would be much different. But its ok, she'll have her own way of helping out, even if she is a bit blinded by her crush on Harry.
Also, a lot of smart people (hit wizards, aurors, ect), are really good at picking up something after only one clue. Flying carpets are rare, Harry's story would have been heard by then thanks to the Prophet, so their instant suspicions are understandable, but they can do nothing because they bound to let all into the Pit if they know the code.
Also, what's this Cracklin'? Super important, and more so the reason why Harry truly wasn't stopped.