Chapter Twenty: Building an Army

It was the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year so naturally all the students were excited to leave the castle for a few hours and have some fun in the little village. There wasn't anything special about the village of Hogsmeade but it had been tradition for many centuries that the students would get to roam freely and without supervision through the village on certain weekends. Many of the students took this time to stock up on some candy from the famous Honeyduke store, buy some prank material from Zonko's or go on a date at Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop.

Today however the Hogsmeade weekend held another purpose for several students. Over the past few weeks Ron and the others had been training hard to master the spells Harry and Hermione had given them. It took them a bit longer than they expected but they wanted to be sure that they learned the spells correctly. Now, it was time to bring in the rest of the DA, or at least those they trusted. So yesterday, they had invited those people to meet up in the Shrieking Shack just outside Hogsmeade. It would be safe to meet there as nobody dared to enter that building as it was reputed to be haunted by ghosts. Of course, Ron and the others knew better.

Those they invited would be told what the four of them had been doing and what they were planning to achieve. They hadn't invited the entire DA as they wanted to start small and then, if possible, enlist new members. So when Hannah Abbot, Katie Bell, the Patil sisters, Lavender Brown and Seamus Finnigan had arrived they were all eager to hear what was going on.

"Alright, you lot calm down so we can explain." Ron said loudly. "We have a lot to tell you and not much time."

"Before we tell you anything however, we need an oath that you won't repeat this information to anyone." Ginny added.

"And no this isn't a joke." Neville said nodding while Luna twirled her wand around in her hand looking on.

"An Oath?" Katie asked shocked. "What the hell for? Don't you know how dangerous that is?"

"Sure we do." Luna smiled. "What's your point?"

"My point is that you could lose your magic and your life." Katie snapped. "What is so important that you require an oath for?"

"If you calm down, then maybe they could explain?" Hannah said calmly.

"Thank you Hannah." Ginny smiled at the girl. "All we can say is that it's about Harry and V-Voldemort."

"We know it's not easy. Heck, we were shocked as well but let me tell you; it's necessary." Ron said. "We need that Oath."

"Is Susan in this as well?" Hannah asked them. "I haven't heard from her in months. I know she's safe as her aunt became Minister but I'm worried. I miss my best friend."

"Yes Hannah, she's in this as well." Neville smiled at the girl. "In fact, she's with Harry and Hermione right now, training and preparing to fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters."

"Then I'm in." Hannah said without hesitation. "If Suzie will be fighting that kind of people then there's no way I'm letting her do it alone. What kind of Oath do you need?"

"An oath to never betray Harry and the Guardians of Hogwarts, it's members and its secrets." Neville explained.

"Guardians of Hogwarts?" Seamus, who had been quietly observing, asked. "Not the DA?"

"No, we changed the name." Ron said. "The DA stands for 'Dumbledore's Army' but that's not what we are. We're not his army any longer; we'll be training and learning in order to defend Hogwarts and the student's from harm."

"Are Harry and the rest part of this as well?" Parvati and Lavender wanted to know.

"You might say that." Ginny nodded. "It's more complicated than that but before we can tell you, we need that oath. I'm sorry but this is too important to talk about without an Oath. If you don't want to be part of this, we understand and no hard feelings. It's not an easy decision to make."

"Screw that." Hannah said. "I, Hannah Abbott, do hereby swear on my magic that I will keep everything that is discussed here and all of Harry Potter's secrets a secret unless given permission by Harry Potter. I will keep everything about the Guardians of Hogwarts as secret from those not privy to the secret. So mote it be."

Once Hannah had taken the Oath, the others followed quickly. Katie was still hesitant but didn't want to disappoint the others so she took the oath as well. She had no trouble joining them as it was a worthy goal but the fear of losing her magic was enormous. Still, she took the oath voluntarily and vowed to do everything in her power to help out Harry and the rest. Ron and the rest thanked them for joining them and started to explain what was going on. They left out any and all information about Harry's transformation as that had nothing to do what they were planning.

"So Harry, Hermione, Susan and this Tonks are actually training to take down You-Know-Who?" Katie said not believing what she had heard. "Are they crazy? He's the strongest Dark Wizard in decades."

"I'm pretty sure Harry know exactly how strong Voldemort is." Neville deadpanned. "After all, they fought several times now. Look, you all know what the Daily Prophet is calling Harry these days, right?"

"Yeah, they call him the 'Chosen One." Padma said nodding.

"There's a very good reason for that." Ron before he explained what happened at the end of Fifth year.

"So Prophecies do exist." Lavender said excited. "I knew Professor Trewlany wasn't a fake all along."

"Yes, well that's not the point." Ginny said rolling her eyes. "The point is that Harry will have to face V-Voldemort again sooner or later and that's why they are training. You know the stories about the first war and this time it's going to be just as bad, if not worse. We need to be prepared."

"So why this 'Guardian of Hogwarts' thing?" Seamus asked. "Wouldn't it be better to join Harry and help him fight Death Eaters?"

"Because Hogwarts is one of the most important things in our world." Luna said. "It's a bastion of light and it's where Dumbledore has settled. Voldemort hates Dumbledore and he knows all too well what the effect would be if he conquered Hogwarts. He would have control over the parents of the children that he holds hostage. Nobody would dare fight him when their child is at his mercy."

"I see." Seamus said with a pale face. "Not exactly a happy thought that."

"Don't worry, Harry will not let that happen." Luna smiled.

"You four sure seem to have a lot of faith in Harry." Parvati said. "Don't get me wrong, I think he's great and all that but still..."

"That's because you don't know him like we do." Ginny snapped before she took a deep breath and calmed down a bit. "Sorry, I didn't mean that. It's just that Harry has always been there for the Wizarding World since that night on Halloween and yet, all we do is either praise or curse him. Harry is the most amazing person I've ever met; caring, smart, strong, self-sacrificing and so much more but people just see the famous Boy-Who-Lived and the scar. I freely admit that I was one of those girls who chased the legend of the Boy-Who-Lived until I actually got to know him." Ginny sighed loudly. "Harry will protect us from V-Voldemort but we can't expect him to protects us all the time or to face everything on his own."

"We need to help him defeat Voldemort and his cronies." Neville continued. "It's only when we join and fight together as one that we'll be able to survive this war."

"But there's only ten of us." Lavender said. "Surely we need more people?"

"Of course but we thought it better to start small and then branch out." Ron explained. "It's going to be hard enough as it is to keep everything a secret and not arousing suspicion from the teachers. Once all of us have learned all we need, then we can look for more members."

"Okay, so what is our plan?" Hannah asked.

"So far we have been meeting up in secret every two days to work on our spells." Ginny told them. "We've been using the 'Room of Requirement' like last year and we practice for about an hour or two. We have several spells that you need to learn and Harry and Hermione are still sending us more. Once you guys are caught up, then we'll move on to preparing plans for the defence of Hogwarts and the students."

Seeing that they had been talking for about an hour, the group split up for now but agreed to meet up in two days to further discuss and practice. Ron and the rest were happy that their friends had joined them and were feeling very hopeful for the future. While small now, they would surely grow and become a force to be reckoned with. No Death Eater would set foot in the castle, as long as they were around to prevent it.

Albus Dumbledore was feeling every bit of his old age. It had been like this for several months now and being who he was, he knew the reason and that there was little or nothing that he could do about. For all the magic available there wasn't much you could do against the aging process. True, there were ways around it but none of them appealed to the aged wizard. Sitting in his chair at the head table of the Great Hall, he watched as the future talked, laughed and ate in front of him. He, better than anyone, knew that these kids were the survival of the Wizarding World. He had tried so many times to improve their society but it always came down to the same. Those in power didn't want to sacrifice it and those without power yearned for too much of it. There was never any status quo that would allow their world to evolve into a better place for all of them.

When he was young, he had so many bright ideas and plans but after what had happened with Arianna and Gilbert, he gave up on them. He had thought that because of their magic, Witches and Wizards were deemed destined for greatness and leadership; to rule and guide those without magic. It wasn't that he wanted to conquer the world but rather that he wanted to use his magic to make a better world for both Magical as Non-Magical beings. He truly believed that if both worlds would somehow learn to work and live together, they would live in paradise. Sadly, the betrayal of his best friend had shown him that not everyone agreed with his ways and saw Magic as a way to dominate the Muggle world and Muggles, reducing them to slaves or worse.

It had shown him that even with Magic, people were flawed and fickle. The human race in general could be a great people, Magical or not, but more than often they were violent, selfish, destructive and uncaring. It had frightened him when he saw the young boy he had adored so much, turned into one of the strongest the Dark Wizards of recent times. The day he had defeated Gilbert was burned into his memory forever as one of the most miserable days of his life. When he asked Gilbert why he had gone this way, the man had simply laughed in his face saying that it was only natural for the strong to rule the weak. After that, Albus had never shown any inclination of bringing his plans to reality. He realized that both worlds weren't ready to meet just yet so he focused on first bettering his own world.

He had quickly risen through the ranks and had amassed great power in their world and he had tried to use it to improve things. It proved to be an uphill battle with tradition, fear and ignorance. Many of those in power were unwilling to change anything too drastically in fear of losing what they had and so they fought against him in almost everything. Then there were others that simply feared what the changes might bring, so they took a stand against him as well. This group was less radical than the other but nonetheless they hindered him as much as possible. The last group was one that annoyed him the most; tradition and fear he could understand. Ignorance was not; if only they opened their eyes and took a look around them, they would see just how wonderful both worlds could be but no, they buried their head in the sand, not even trying to see what was out there.

After several years of politics he decided that the key to changing things was to be found somewhere else. He found it at the most prestigious school of Magical Britain, Hogwarts. It had come to him while teaching a class of Transfiguration as he watched the children. When he saw them, learning how to Transfigure a match into a needle he realized that they were a blank canvas waiting to be painted. If he could somehow teach them how to improve themselves and their world than the future might be a lot brighter. It would take a bit longer but that was fine to him; time was something he had plenty of.

It hadn't exactly worked out the way he wanted. He soon realized that parents had an enormous influence on their children; something that was to be expected but they also gave their views of the world to their children. Those views tended to much of the same and the children grew up just the same, or in some cases even worse than their parents. Not only that but Hogwarts was divided amongst the four great houses and made it very difficult to get the children to interact with each other. Even then the ideas of Blood Purity existed though they were much less pronounced as they were now. As a teacher, and later Headmaster, he tired to guide the young children to becoming better people but it didn't always work out the way he wanted.

Tom Riddle was the best example of how things could go wrong. He had noticed the darkness in the young boy, the second he laid eyes on him at the orphanage. The boy was a bully and a tyrant to the other kids in the orphanage but Dumbledore had hoped that spending time in Hogwarts, with other Witches and Wizards would allow the young boy to open up and make friends. It didn't happen. At first glance Tom Riddle was considered to be a studious and quiet boy, who rarely interacted with his classmates by the teachers. But as the years progressed, Dumbledore started noticing things about Tom. He was talented and had a strong affinity with Magic and could do things no other could do at his age. But he was also cold, distant, uncaring and when provoked utterly violent. Of course, he was also careful, cunning and intelligent so he never got caught harming others. His housemates had quickly learned not to cross Tom Riddle in any way as it was bad for their health.

Looking back at it now, Dumbledore cursed himself for not seeing the truth about the boy then. During Tom's time at Hogwarts, he had constantly hoped the boy would change but it wasn't meant to be. A few rare moments, he had seen the true face of what later would become 'Lord Voldemort' and even then it scared the aged Wizard. Foolishly he hadn't acted on his instinct and failed to do what he always swore to do; protect the Wizarding World from danger. Had he known then what he knew now, the world would surely be a different place. Would it be a better place? He could not possibly know but he sure thought it would have been better.

When Tom Riddle reappeared after years of hiding as 'Lord Voldemort' and started his campaign against those he deemed unworthy, Dumbledore knew what he had let happen. Even after all these years he still blamed himself for not dealing with the problem at hand. He had always kept an eye and ear out for several students that caught his attention and Tom was no exception but unlike others he hadn't found anything about Tom for almost three decades. It didn't take him much time to figure out what had happened during the years Tom had vanished. Using his resources he quickly learned that Tom had started dabbling even deeper into the Dark Arts and had even joined up with Gilbert for a while before starting his own movement. They stayed under the radar for several more years and only started to act at the beginning of the seventies.

It started small. A man murdered here and there; a woman disappeared never to be seen again; Muggles getting killed by Magic. Those kind of crimes had existed for centuries so nobody really paid attention to them. It was only until the movement started gaining momentum and followers amongst the richer and more influential families that people started reacting. In the second half of the seventies the dam bursts and the 'Death Eaters' came into the forefront. People started getting killed left and right; more people simply vanished from the face of the earth; Muggles were killed by the dozen and so on.

Dumbledore had caught on pretty quick with what was going on but once more politics and politicians proved to be the major problem. They prevented him from doing anything too worthwhile in order to stop these maniacs. Every time he tried to address the problem, the supporters of Death Eaters and their leader managed to block most of his efforts. It was only when older families started getting killed off, that they realized what mistakes they had made. Dumbledore had tried to take control again but it was almost too late. The Ministry was divided from within just like Hogwarts was and things went bad very quickly.

Until one night Tom made a mistake to go after Harry Potter, one of two candidates to be the child of prophecy. That night the strongest Dark Lord of the Recent Ages was defeated by a young toddler by the name of Harry Potter. Dumbledore had gone over every scenario about what could have happened but came up empty except for the fact that there was a prophecy that had just been invoked. After weeks of searching and investigating he started realizing that he wouldn't find anything from the wreck that was the Potter house. With only the Prophecy at his disposal he moved on to protect little baby Harry from everyone who might mean him harm. That there were plenty of those became obvious when Death Eaters were discovered left and right only to get away by claiming to be under the Imperious Curse.

He knew that Harry had suffered at the hands of his relatives. He had seen that sort of people before in his long live but there wasn't nothing to be done as he needed Harry to be protected. The wards invoked by the blood of Petunia and Harry were some of the strongest he could find and he was positive that nobody would find Harry until it was time for him to rejoin the Magical World.

When that day came, his heart went out to the small boy with the broken glasses. Seeing Harry again made him understand that the future of the Wizarding World rested on the little boy's shoulders and he couldn't help but curse fate as no child should ever have to bare such a burden. Briefly he pondered about when and how he would inform Harry of his destiny but it seemed so unfair to ruin the child's childhood years. Over the years he watched as Harry and his friends overcame obstacles and faced dangers that would made the average Witch or Wizard faint in fear. Yet Harry endured it all with surprising maturity and managed to overcome the odds each and every time. Be it a possessed teacher, a monstrous basilisk, Dementors numbered in the dozens or the Dark Lord himself.

After last year and the disappearance of Harry during the summer, Dumbledore knew that he had gone about it all wrong. Instead of sheltering Harry, he should have prepared him more for what was to come. He had hoped that he could rectify that mistake this year and help Harry with figuring out Tom's weakness. He was no fool and knew that he had lost a lot of trust with the young man but he was willing to work to gain back a little bit of that trust. Sadly, Harry didn't return for the new school year and this raised more questions. He knew that Harry was preparing to fight Tom and his Death Eaters but that was the last thing Dumbledore wanted. If Harry were to fall in battle, everything would be lost. No, he needed training first and only when he deemed him ready, would Harry fight in battle.

"Fawkes, what am I to do?" Dumbledore asked his companion. "Harry is too valuable to our world to let him fight but on the other hand, we can't force him to sit back and watch others fight." Fawkes just sang his song in the hopes of cheering up the old wizard.

Sighing Dumbledore went back to his desk and started reading his notes on Tom again, hoping to find out more about what made the man so terribly strong. He had a pretty good idea what Tom had done to achieve such powers but he didn't dare to believe it at that time. But after Harry's second year, he was proven right and fear had gripped his heart. To resort to such evil magic was surprising even for Tom; let alone how the young boy knew of such magic to begin with. For three years he had been trying to solve that particular mystery but came up short.

'Tom didn't use this magic without knowing what it did.' Dumbledore thought. 'He would have researched it extensively to figure out the advantages and the weak points.'

Going over the notes and memories that he had been gathering over the years again, Dumbledore looked at the clock and stopped as he noticed that it was getting late. He needed his rest now more than ever and once more he cursed how weak and fragile he had become. A few years ago this would have been nothing but now, it took all his strength and willpower not to succumb to tiredness. Slipping into his sleeping attire, he went to bed hoping that tomorrow would bring him some new insights and courage to fight.

Miles away, Voldemort was pacing around in his personal chambers. The gathering of his army was taking longer than he anticipated but that was something that he could live with. He didn't like it but there was no hurry at the moment. He preferred to wait and prepare properly this time instead of just attacking and possibly having to fight the old coot and the Ministry again. He left his chambers and went straight to the training court where his most faithful followers were educating the rookies on the Dark Arts.

When he appeared before them, they all stopped whatever the hell they were doing and bowed deeply to him. One unfortunate soul was in the middle of casting an disembowelment curse at a dummy and when he saw everyone bow he quickly turned around causing his curse to hit one of the men on the left. The man gave out a terrifying scream before he died on the spot. The caster started shaking as he was sure that he was going to get killed by his Lord or worse submitted to some torture at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange.

"Well Bella, I see training is proving to be useful." Voldemort said simply not even sparing a second glance at the death man on the floor.

"Yes My Lord." Bellatrix giggled still bowing. "They have been getting better but they still need some work."

"Excellent; I want them ready by the end of the year." Voldemort ordered. "Do not fail me or else..."

"Of course, My Lord." Bellatrix said kissing the hems of her master's robes.

"My Lord, if I may?" Lucius asked.

"You may." Voldemort said allowing the question.

"My Lord, why only by the end of the year?" Lucius asked humbly. "I'm sure we can get them ready much sooner than that. Some of the men are quite eager to serve you."

"Patience, Lucius, patience." The Dark Lord explained. "Right now the Ministry and Dumbledore are still on high alert so any attack would be responded too quickly. We shall wait a bit and let their attention disperse a bit before hitting them head on. Those fools think they can outsmart Lord Voldemort but they shall soon learn of the power I possess."

"It shall be done as you desire, My Lord." Lucius said.

"Do not disappoint me any further Lucius." Voldemort said knowing nothing else needed to be said. Lucius knew how thin the ice he was walking on was and no more screw ups would be allowed. "Continue the training." He turned towards the mansion again but halted at the door and turned around, wand in his hand and aiming the man that had killed the other. "Crucio!" The man screamed and trashed around on the floor for almost half a minute before the curse was lifted. "Bella, put this fool in the dungeons and ensure that he learns his lesson."

"Yes My Lord." Bellatrix smiled with an evil glint in her eyes. "It shall be done."

Harry's hair stuck to her face, sweat pouring of her cheeks onto the floor as she continued with her push-ups. Ever since she had made that promise to protect everyone, her training had doubled to what she used to do. She ran, swam, did push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups by the dozens just to increase her physical powers to the maximum. She trained harder in her martial arts and sword fighting and quickly became as good as Tonks was. Neither Hermione or Susan could hold a candle to her when it came to fighting.

However, she wasn't the only one training harder than ever. Tonks, Susan and Hermione had followed Harry's lead and practiced more than ever. Tonks was already fit and strong from her Auror training but the things she was doing now, no other Auror ever learned. Martial arts was an unknown to the Magical World; sure people know how to brawl and throw a punch but that was the extent to what they knew about fighting with your fists. This was a huge advantage the girls had now as no Wizard or Witch was fully capable of defending themselves in case they lost their wands. Having to fight someone who knew Martial Arts was begging to get your ass kicked six ways from Sunday.

Hermione and Susan had a lot of catching up to do but they were getting there as well. They had already said that they wouldn't be on the frontlines during the fight but rather have a supportive role. Harry insisted however that they trained just as hard as she did so that they could defend themselves when necessary. Hermione's parents and Amelia agreed with that and forced the girls to train hard. As they couldn't use Magic for a whole month, they studied, trained and practiced everything else which made their skills jump to new levels.

Amelia had authorised Susan to search the Bones library, something she didn't have access to before, for any Magic that might help them get stronger. Susan also gave her aunt any Magic that Aurors could use as well so they would have a better shot at fighting and surviving Death Eaters. Together Susan and Hermione had found several useful spells that they wrote down to learn as soon as they could use Magic again.

"Alright, that's enough for today." Harry said once they finished up. "Time to hit the showers."

"Nice, my favourite part of the morning training." Tonks said rushing off with a blushing Harry following more subdued.

"TONKS!" Hermione yelled at the innuendo.

"Let it go, Hermione." Susan giggled. "You know she's only doing that to annoy you."

"I know that but still..." Hermione sighed.

"Look at this way; it always brings a smile to Harry's face." Susan said simply. "She's always so much more relaxed and calm after they return."

"Yeah, from having her brains shagged out." Hermione snorted but froze when she saw her mother glare at her.

"Hermione Jane Granger, I beg your pardon?" Emma said tapping her foot which was not a good sign.

"Euh, I mean, well..., argh I give up." Hermione said not knowing how to get out of this one. "What's my punishment?"

"I think two days of helping Dobby doing chores will suffice." Emma said. "I'll let you convince him to let you help him as part of the punishment."

"But Mom, Dobby hates it when someone helps him." Hermione argued.

"Then you had better explain to him why your helping him." Emma said shrugging while giving Susan a wink.

After lunch Harry and Tonks went to practice the new spells they were learning while Hermione and Susan went to make a few Potions and did some further research for new things that they could use. The combined library of the Black and Bones family gave them enough books to read through on just about every topic possible. It was good fortune that they didn't want to waste and so the girls poured everything they got into their search.