A/N: I don't normally do these Authors notes, especially at the beginning of my story, but I felt it as warranted this time.

To start things off, I would like to apologize for my prolonged absence. As some of you may know, I just moved into a Condo that I bought. It didn't have the internet, thus I needed to get it set up. I called the people at CenturyLink, which is where I got the best deal, and they said 'sure, but we won't be able to set it up until December 4th' which is today, by the way. I just got the internet set up, like, 10 minutes ago. So you can see, my absence was not done by choice.

Still, I do apologize to those who have been waiting for this chapter and hope you can forgive me for taking so long to get it out.

With all that said, please enjoy.


Chapter 18: Aurors and Defense


The morning after the rogue bludger incident Harry and the rest of the school would discover that another attack had taken place that night.

As was always the case, Harry was sitting with his friends during breakfast as they made small talk; Tracey and Terry were discussing yesterdays Quidditch game (without arguing for once), Blaise and Neville were having a conversation about the latest news in a potions magazine (it had something to do with the new properties found in the Snargaluff plant), Hermione and Lisa were talking history and Susan and Hannah were gossiping about the latest in wizarding fashion (though it may be more accuate to say Hannah was gossiping and Susan was listening quietly).

He and Daphne were sitting next to each other, both being relatively quiet as they merely listened to the others talk. It was a comfortable silence, and one they didn't feel the need to break.

They were at the Gryffindor table today ― Harry had actually wanted to sit at the Slytherin table because it was the one table they had never sat at before, but didn't want to push his luck. He was making headway when it came to bringing the Slytherin's 'into the fold' as the old saying went, and he didn't want to play his hand too soon and possibly push them away. Yes, it was best to wait for a little while longer and work with making himself more well-liked among the snakes before sitting with them for a meal.

Harry looked down at his plate, absently noting the different fare he had today. He had asked the house elves if they could mix up his meals so that he would have some variety with what he ate. They had been all too happy to oblige and he had given them a list of recipes to try out during each meal.

This morning they had made him a breakfast burrito with a whole wheat tortilla, egg whites, grated cheddar, baked potato wedges, slices of ham, and a salsa of Harry's own make.

Needless to say, it was a very good, very hardy breakfast.

"What do you reckon Professor Dumbledore is doing here?" Tracey's question had Harry looking up from his breakfast to her. He then turned his attention to the staff table where the Headmaster of Hogwarts sat with Professor McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid, making conversation with the stern looking Transfiguration teacher. "I mean, he almost never shows up for breakfast, right? What's he doing here now?"

Harry absently wondered the same thing. The only time Professor Dumbledore came down from his office was dinner, in which he would share meals with everyone else, probably as a means of observing the students to see how they were handling themselves. It was what Harry would do in his position.

Regardless of the Headmasters reasons for being here, Harry could really only think of how fortuitous this was. It would be much easier to get an appointment with the Headmaster since he was already in the Great Hall. Now he wouldn't need to speak with Professor McGonagall and try to schedule an appointment or something.

"Maybe he has some kind of announcement to make," Hannah theorized. It was a sound theory, and one Harry agreed with. There were few reasons for him to be down in the Great Hall at such an early hour. One of those reasons would naturally be if he had an important announcement to make, maybe the delivering of some news that simply couldn't wait until later to be told.

"Do you think he's caught the person who cursed the Bludger that kept attacking Harry during his match?" asked Neville.

"Doubtful," Blaise frowned thoughtfully around the scrambled eggs he was eating. Swallowing the mouthful of food, he continued to speak. "I doubt anyone knows who charmed that bludger. A lot of people think it was someone in Slytherin, but Daphne and I have already done some investigating last night and everyone else in Slytherin was just as stumped about who had cursed that bludger as we were. And I know for a fact that neither Professor Dumbledore nor Professor Snape questioned any of the Slytherins about that event. No, this is about something different, I suspect."

Harry nodded his head faintly, a pleased smile on his face. Blaise was one of the sharper members of their group. Not necessarily smarter or more intelligent, but rather, more capable of using deductive reasoning and logic to correlate information together and bring about a relatively accurate conclusion, and using that knowledge to his benefit.

In other words he was very cunning.

Daphne was also like that, but she didn't like to talk as much.

"Do you think it has something to do with the reason that Professor Lockhart isn't here this morning?" Hermione gave a worried frown to go along with her question. Harry also frowned, though for different reasons.

The 'esteemed' professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts wasn't present in the Great Hall. While not the earliest of risers, the showboater had never missed a single breakfast before; and with it being so late it looked like he might end up missing this one.

"Maybe..."

As breakfast wore on, the trickle of students coming in eventually ceased. Most people who arrived early tended to stay there so they could continue socializing rather then making their way to classes early. It wouldn't matter if they arrived at class anyways since all of the Professors were sitting at the staff table.

That also meant the tables were now filled with students. One thing Harry noticed was that even though it looked like all of the students were now present, there was still a lot of empty space at the tables. Each table was capable of seating over two hundred students, but there were only around fifty to each house.

It was one of the unfortunate side effects of war. Even after twelve years, the war against Voldemort was still showing how far they had to go before truly recovering from the devastation the Dark Lord had caused.

Breakfast soon neared it's end. As everyone had their fill of food, Professor Dumbledore stood up from his seat and made to stand in front of the staff table. It appeared the moment had finally come to see why the Headmaster of Hogwarts was down here for breakfast.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned in their seats to stare at the old man with blue eyes hidden behind his half-moon spectacles. They were all wondering what kind of announcement he had to make, and after clearing his throat and casting a subtle Sonorus Charm, the powerful wizard began informing them as to the exact reason for his presence.

"I hope you are all doing well this morning after that exciting match between Gryffindor and Slytherin," Dumbledore's announcement was met with a few cheers and a few shouts of 'yes!'. The Weasley twins were particularly enthusiastic when it came to letting their joy at their victory over their rivals known.

Despite this, Albus Dumbledore did not smile, and Harry immediately knew that opening line was not made because the headmaster was bringing good tidings.

"While I do not like the be the bearer of bad news, I regret to inform you that another attack took place last night." His words created a tense silence. Many of the students began looking around, as if trying to figure out who might have been attacked by who was missing. "One of our staff was attacked and has been, regrettably, petrified."

Worried murmurs arose at this news. Many were now beginning to feel truly concerned. Understandable. Hogwarts teachers were supposed to be some of the best witches and wizards magical Britain had to offer. If one of them was attacked, how could anyone possibly feel safe?

"He was found in the hallway near his classroom early this morning," Professor Dumbledore continued, speaking above the rising cacophony of voices. "I am sure that some of you are aware of who I am talking about. He has not arrived to the Great Hall yet, and shall not be here for some time to come." Sitting opposite of him and next to Susan Bones and Terry Boot, Hermione Granger gasped in horror. Tracey would have gasped too, but she was too busy feeling numb to gasp. "Yes, I am speaking of Professor Lockhart, who we believe was attacked when on his way back to his room after the Quidditch match."

The voices became louder, the once quiet murmurs and rumblings turning into shouts of fear and exclamations of terror. Everyone began jabbering all at once. Some asked questions while others decried the possibility that someone as 'amazing' and 'powerful' as Lockhart could have possibly been petrified.

Harry Potter was none of those people. He sat there quietly with Daphne, his mind turning over this new information.

While Professor Lockharts petrification was a truly unanticipated event, Harry could not help but think that Hogwarts would be better off without the esteemed blowhard ruining this school's education. Maybe now they would end up getting a competent teacher.

Of course, that all depended on what the school planned on doing about this. A teacher being attacked was bound to have far larger repercussions than a student being attacked. There was a chance that this unforeseen crises would force the school to close down. It really all depended on how Dumbledore dealt with this issue and how the Board of Governors that ruled Hogwarts policy took this event.

"Silence!"

At the sound of Professor Dumbledore's booming voice, the entire hall fell into a steep silence. It was very impressive how quickly the students quieted down.

"I have spoken with the Board of Governors as well as informed the Ministry about what has happened," the Headmaster explained calmly now that he no longer had to shout over everyone else to be heard. "We will be getting a new Defense teacher, and the Head of the DMLE has agreed to not only lend one of her aurors for the task, but has also agreed to send in a task force to not only help discover the culprit behind these attacks, but also to ensure that all of you are protected."

Relieved whispers broke out amongst the population at this knew knowledge.

"I am also making a new policy that students are no longer allowed to walk the halls alone." Everyone quieted down as Dumbledore began speaking again. "All students will be walked to and from class by either a teacher, a prefect, or one of the aurors that shall be arriving later today. Furthermore, if you need to go somewhere such as the library, you must have a person in one of those three positions agree to go with you."

There was some discontent mutterings about this new policy. A few people seemed to be of the opinion that this would cut into their freedom. And it would, but it wasn't like they could do anything about it. With attacks apparently happening on even the teachers now, they really had no choice tbut o accept these new rules.

Albus Dumbledore was not done yet.

"The aurors will also be assisting the teachers and prefects with monitoring the halls to ensure that no one is out passed curfew and that there is no suspicious activity. And lastly, there will be a new curfew put into place. While the normal rules apply to the House Common Rooms, no one will be allowed out of the Common Rooms after class unless they are either in the Library or serving detention with a teacher."

That last comment got a number of loud protests, but Dumbledore was having none of it. Raising his wand into the air, a loud bang emitted from the tip, silencing any and all protests.

"This is all for your own good. While I regret having to do this, the situation has become far more dire than before. The person being attacked was not a cat, but a teacher. One of our own and the Defense instructor at that. I have no desire to see one of you getting petrified like Professor Lockhart, thus the reason these new rules were put into place. I have the Board of Governors support on this, as well as the Ministries. Failure to comply with these new rules will result in immediate suspension from school and you will be sent home and forced to repeat a year."

That got everyone to quiet down. Though it was clear very few students agreed with this decision, none of them wanted to protest at the risk of suspension. It was becoming abundantly clear that Dumbledore was very serious.

"With that, I would like all of you to gather around your teachers for whichever class you have. If you do not have class at this time, find a prefect to escort you back to your Common Room. I wish for all of you to remain safe. Hopefully, these precautions will not be needed for long and the culprit will be caught soon."

With everyone now being forced to get up and walk to their teachers or find a prefect, Harry stood from his seat and made a path right for Professor Dumbledore as he appeared to be leaving. His friends looked on in surprise, but could not call out to him as he moved too swiftly and was soon lost to them amongst the crowd of students.

"Professor Dumbledore!" Harry spoke loudly over the clamor of the students. Thankfully, with all that had happened and the news the Headmaster had given, no one paid any attention to him. "Professor Dumbledore!"

Hearing his name being called, Professor Dumbledore turned, then looked down in mild surprise when he saw who had stopped him.

"Mr. Potter," he said, masking his inquisitiveness admirably. "What can I do for you?"

"I wanted to speak with you, sir," Harry said as he stood in front of the much, much taller male. "I may have some information that holds relevance to these attacks."

"May?" Professor Dumbledore furrowed his brow at the strange choice of words.

"I don't know for sure that the information I have is related to what's happening," Harry shrugged helplessly. There was always the possibility that the House Elf he had the misfortune of meeting was simply delusional, but he didn't think so. "But there is a high probability that my information and these attacks have something to do with each other."

"I see," Professor Dumbledore paused, contemplating. After a few moments of what appeared to be deep thought, he looked at Harry again and gestured for the young man to follow him. "Very well, let us talk about this up in my office."

Harry nodded, and quickly followed the Headmaster out of the Great Hall.

XoX

Harry followed Professor Dumbledore as the man led him to his office. They eventually arrived on the third floor and ended up in a corridor that had a large, ugly looking stone gargoyle statue in it. Emphasis on the ugly. Harry was not sure why someone would create a statue like that. Most sculptors tended to put an emphasis on beauty. This thing had a face only a mother could love.

It was the statue they found themselves standing in front of.

"Laffy Taffy."

As he watched the stairs move with a slow, rumbling noise that sounded like two rocks being ground together, Harry shook his head at the password Dumbledore had used for the entrance to his office. He was beginning to wonder if the man might have an overly-obsessive fondness for non-magical treats. Though he supposed every old man deserved his foibals.

"Come along, Mr. Potter," the Headmaster bade Harry to follow him again. Together, they made their way down the staircase that ended in a single wooden door.

Entering the room, the first thing that Harry noticed about the place was that it was not filled with staff members. The last time he had been in this room it had been filled to the brim with all of the faculty at Hogwarts, because of that he had not gotten a good look of the room.

The second thing he noticed was that the room was littered with nicknacks; various silver instruments that Harry didn't dare guess as to what their purpose was stood on silver-legged tables, whirring as they emitted light puffs of smoke and steam. The walls were covered with portraits of what he recognized as the previous Headmasters and Headmistresses; all of them were currently dozing at the moment. There was also a large claw-footed desk that Harry assumed was where the Headmaster sat and behind that was a large shelve with a ratty old hat ― the sorting hat ― sitting on it.

The room itself was circular, large and beautifully crafted. While not very interested in architecture in general, Harry had to admit that the long since extinct Dwarfs who had built Hogwarts did an excellent job on this room.

Of course, while the room and the nicknacks were interesting, they were secondary to the large, majestic looking bird standing on a bird stand.

Harry found himself in awe as he stood before what had to be one of the most stunning creatures he had ever seen. Beautiful crimson feathers covered it's body and the long, golden tail feathers added a sense of regalia to the bird. It's claws and beak were a gleaming gold and it's eyes a dark black. The crimson body feathers were aglow with what almost appeared to be some kind of fire, as if the creature were made of flames.

Harry knew what this was, but he had never expected to see one in real life (and certainly not in the Headmasters office. It had not been here last time); a Phoenix, a fire bird that was said to be immortal, dying and being reborn from the ashes. They were one of the rarest creatures alive. Just seeing one was said to be an event so singular and rare that it only happened once a century. That Dumbledore had one as a familiar... well, it really made his respect for the Headmaster go up.

The 'clicking' of the door closing behind him snapped Harry out of his reverie. He looked away from the Phoenix, who had been staring at him with a look that he could only perceive as 'guarded', though he did not understand why.

Professor Dumbledore walked over to the desk, absently stroking the Phoenix's head and causing it to croon a beautiful note, before sitting down in the large chair behind it.

"Would you care for a lemon drop, Mr. Potter?" asked Dumbledore, gesturing to a bowl of candy on his desk. The question was so unexpected that Harry actually needed a few seconds to come up with suitable response.

"Um... no thank you, sir," he replied unsurely.

"A shame." The Headmaster popped one of the non-magical treats into his mouth. "I have always enjoyed lemon drops. The combination of sweet and sour presents an interesting dichotomy that I have found to be surprisingly pleasant."

Harry had no clue what to say to that, so he said nothing.

"But I suppose you did not come here to listen to my ramblings on muggle candy, did you?" As the Headmaster of Hogwarts looked at him from behind those half-moon spectacles, Harry realized he was being given permission to speak.

"Yes sir, I have come upon some information that I feel is relevant to the attack on Miss Norris, as well as the most recent attack on Professor Lockhart."

With his introduction open, Harry quickly and concisely reiterated what he had learned from Dobby, both from his first meeting with the house elf back at the Dursleys, and their most recent meeting last night. Throughout Harry's tale, Albus Dumbledore sat silently, listening to the boy speak.

"While it is possible that this House Elf knows nothing and is merely making speculations, I feel that there are simply too many coincidences for that to be possible." Harry took a quick pause for breath before pushing on. "From what this Dobby has said, I have managed to draw several plausible scenarios as to who is behind this, though nothing as definite as a name."

Albus Dumbledore rubbed his jaw with his long, thin fingers, digesting what he had just been told. "And who do you feel is the most likely culprit to these attacks?"

"As I said before, I don't have a name, but from the facts that I just told you we can conclude that the attacks are likely being caused indirectly by Voldemort." Harry could see his use of the Dark Lord's name had caught Dumbledore's attention. "From the conversations I had with Dobby, who intimated that Voldemort was somehow indirectly related to this event, I can only conclude that he is the House Elf to the Death Eater that hatched this plot to open the Chamber of Secrets and cause as much chaos as possible, though the reason behind this still eludes me."

"While I do not doubt your convictions, have you given any thoughts on how one of Voldemorts Death Eaters would be able to open the Chamber of Secrets?"

"I have several, but only one of them really has any chance of succeeding," Harry informed the Headmaster. "I believe that the Chamber of Secrets likely requires some kind of key to open. One of Voldemort's biggest claims to fame was the fact that he is supposedly descended of Slytherin. If this is true, then it is likely he found that key and may have given it to one of his Death Eaters for safe keeping. The Death Eater could have then decided to have the key smuggled in and used to open the Chamber."

"Your theory is sound," Dumbledore agreed before deciding to play devils advocate. "But how would they get the key into Hogwarts and open the Chamber?"

"By using the Imperius Curse on one of the students," Harry's answer was immediate, proving he had already thought this question through. "It would not be very hard to cast the Imperious Curse on an unsuspecting student while they were out shopping for school supplies with orders to open the Chamber of Secrets and slipping the key into their bookbag."

Dumbledore took to running a hand over his long beard as Harry paused for breath. He did not say anything, so Harry continued.

"One of the more interesting facts about the Imperious Curse is that it doesn't just control people's actions, but that the people in question almost never even realize they are under it's control until after the curse has been lifted. Also, while most people think of the Imperious Curse for the absolute control it grants over a person, they never realize the more subtle abilities it has when someone has mastered the curse, like the ability to plant subliminal commands into a person's subconscious. This is how Voldemort had been able to put so many sleeper agents into the Ministry's auror forces during the war, and why he always seemed to be several steps ahead. It is also the reason those who claimed to be 'under the Imperious Curse' were able to get away with nothing more then a fine."

Professor Dumbledore leaned back, a troubled expression on his face. "If what you say is true and one of the students has indeed been placed under the Imperious Curse, then this situation will have become much more complicated." The older man blew out a deep breath. "Finding the Imperioused student will be very difficult, if not impossible."

"Unfortunately, I cannot help you there," Harry said, shrugging. "I only studied the effects because I had been doing an in depth analysis of the war and the actions of Voldemort and his faction, and during it I ran across the information about the Imperious Curse there. I never studied too deeply into the curse, however, therefore I only know what I just told you."

"I appreciate you telling me this much," Dumbledore smiled in the boy's direction. "You have given me a possible direction to this investigation. The information you have provided could very well prove to be the key to discovering the culprit behind these attacks. I will be sure to inform all of the aurors and faculty to be on the lookout for anybody acting suspiciously."

"Of course, all this assumes that the Chamber of Secrets exists," Harry couldn't help but add. He did not want to discount the possibility of him being wrong. "While there is always a grain of truth to every myth, I'm not sure the Chamber of Secrets will hold anything that is capable of dark magic of this caliber. Not anymore at least. It is quite possible that this act of terrorism is just that and there is no chamber, but someone just using a very powerful magical artifact or cursed object to terrify the students."

"Oh, I have no doubt that the Chamber exists," Dumbledore told Harry confidently. "You may not know this, but this is not the first time the Chamber of Secrets has been opened."

"Really?" This revelation surprised Harry. He had not delved into any information regarding the Chamber of Secrets though, so his surprise was not unfathomable.

"Yes, it was back when I was the Transfiguration Professor," Dumbledore revealed. "A young girl by the name of Myrtle died the last time the Chamber opened. I sincerely hope that does not happen this time."

Harry grimaced. He hoped that no one died from this incident as well. There was no telling what kind of political upheaval a death at Hogwarts would cause. They would most likely be forced to close the school. Not a very pleasant thought in his mind.

"So do I."

He then looked at the Headmaster curiously.

"Out of curiosity, where exactly did you find Lockhart?"

"Standing in front of the window next to his classroom," Dumbledore said. For some reason, despite the serious topic, he looked faintly amused. "I believe he was using the window's reflection to practice his smile."

"Ah." Harry Potter had nothing to say, so he said that.

XoX

Classes that day were mostly the same, with the only difference being that the teachers or a prefect were now walking the other students to their next class. In turn, prefects had been given special privileges in regards to their classes. Just what those privileges were Harry didn't know, but he assumed it allowed them a certain amount of leeway when it came to completing homework assignments on time.

When everyone's classes had ended, all of the students congregated to the Great Hall for dinner. There, the mass of students were finally allowed to not only meet their new Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts, but also the members of the auror forces that would be in charge of helping protect the students and discovering the culprit behind the two petrifications.

Being one of the more observant students by far, Harry studied the new DADA professor, memorizing their facial structure, features, and general posture and bearing while the others ate and conversed.

The man sitting in the chair that used to belong to Gilderoy Lockhart was a very tall, dark-skinned wizard with strong facial features and broad shoulders. He was bald, but sitting on his head was a round flat hat with intricate purple and gold designs along the sides; it was very different from the standard wizards hat. His robes were a combination of blues and purples and made of a very thick looking material. They also appeared to have leather shoulder pads, though they looked more for decoration than anything else. The only other items of interest to note on him were the thick looking leather boots and the golden earring on his left ear.

"Anyone you know, Harry?"

Turning his head, Harry looked at a curious Tracey.

"I don't know who the Defense Professor is," Harry replied, "But I did see someone I know among the aurors that would be in charge of protecting the students."

"Which one?"

"The female with the bright, bubblegum pink hair."

"Bright, bubblegum pink hair," Tracey deadpanned before looking out at the crowd. "Who in their right mind would ― holy shite! She really does have bright pink hair!"

Hermione scowled at her friend. "Language Tracey!"

"Actually, looking at it, I think it's more of a hot pink then a bubblegum pink." Tracey dutifully ignored Hermione's scolding thanks to many hours of practice. "What do you think, Daphne?"

Daphne looked up from her food to stare at Tracey with a very bland expression. "Why should I care what color someone's hair is?"

"Oh, come on! It's pink hair! Bright pink hair! Who in their right mind would have hair like that?"

"Tonks would."

"Tonks?"

"That's the name of the girl with the pink hair," Harry informed the still somewhat stupefied brunette. "Her name is Tonks." He looked back at Tonks who was talking to another man, one that was heavily scarred and looked like someone had taken a cheese grader to his face. Though, it looked like it would be more accurate to say she was talking and he was scowling. "I'm actually surprised to see her here. Last I heard she was actually an auror cadet and still in training."

Tracey shrugged. "She must have graduated."

"What about the one next to her?" asked Hermione, who seemed much more interested in the wizard that appeared to be missing several parts of his body, including a leg, which had been replaced by a peg of wood.

Getting a better look at the auror in question, Harry noticed several other interesting facts about the man. Aside from the rictus of scars marring his face, he had a large chunk of his nose missing, and his hair was dark, gray and grizzled, looking almost as worn as the man himself.

Perhaps the most interesting feature about the man were his eyes. One of them was a normal looking eye, small and dark, nothing out of the ordinary about it. The other eye, however, was a vivid, electric blue. It was large and as round as a galleon, and appeared to be moving completely independently from his normal eye. Several times Harry even saw the pupil disappearing into the back of the man's head only to return from the opposite side, having made a full rotation.

"You mean the one who looks like he's taken several dozen cutting curses to the face?" asked Terry.

"Yes."

"That's Alastor Mad-Eye Moody," Neville was the one who answered. "They say he's one of the best aurors in the entire world; half the cells in Azkaban are filled thanks to him. Gran says he's one of the strongest aurors to have ever existed."

"Then I'm going to hazard a guess and say all those scars are battle souvenirs," Harry said, shaking his head. "I don't envy what he had to go through to get those."

"I think he got all those injuries during the war against You-Know-Who and when he was chasing after the Dark Lord's Death Eaters after the war ended," Neville replied. He seemed to be the most knowledgeable about this subject among them. "Gran told me he's really paranoid these days. He's also supposed to be retired. I'm surprised he's actually here."

"Hmm."

Dinner continued for nearly half an hour more before Professor Dumbledore stood up from his seat and made his way to the front.

Everyone quieted down as the Headmaster raised a hand for silence.

"I hope you have all enjoyed your meal. As I informed you all this morning, we would be getting a new instructor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. I would like to present auror Kingsley Shacklebolt, who has agreed to become your Professor with the approval of the Ministry of Magic." Having been announced, the new DADA Professor stood up and offered the students a curt bow to some mild applause. "He will be here with us only for a single term, but I believe with him here, it shall be a very productive year."

The Headmaster paused in order to give the students some time to digest what they had just been told. A number of whispered conversations broke out, all of them about the new teacher and what they thought of him. It was not surprising that they had already judged him before he even had a chance to teach a single class.

Harry decided to adopt a more wait and see approach before making any conclusions about the dark-skinned man.

"With him is Auror Alastor Moody, who has agreed to temporarily come out of retirement to help Hogwarts in her time of need, along with a squadron of aurors to assist him. While Professor Shacklebolt will be teaching you Defense Against the Dark Arts, their job shall be to protect you and screen students coming and going from Hogsmeade to ensure no potential dark objects are being entered into the school. Auror Moody will also be in charge of heading up the investigation over the recent string of attacks in order to capture the culprit before anyone else can be hurt."

As another series of murmurs broke out, Harry found himself nodding his head at the sound decision that had been made here. It was a good judgment on the Headmasters part. By getting aurors involved, Professor Dumbledore not only ensured that the students would feel safe and protected, he also had a group of people that would now be dedicated to the task of weeding out the one responsible for the petrifications. It was a wise move, both politically and morally.

He didn't know anything about any of those aurors other then what he had been told and Tonks, but with the information he had given Professor Dumbledore and whatever wit and skill these aurors possessed, catching the culprit should not take too long.

"So what do you guys think of this?" asked Hannah as she looked around the table at all of her friends. Out of the entire group there, she was probably the least knowledgeable about this type of situation; not including Hermione for obvious reasons. "I mean, getting aurors into the school and having an auror teaching us?"

"It's definitely an improvement to having Lockhart teach us," Terry said carelessly.

"Hey!" Tracey shouted in anger, her eyes glaring at Terry. "You take that back! Professor Lockhart was an awesome teacher!"

"Awesome at teaching us his favorite color, maybe," Terry snorted at the very idea that Lockhart had been good at teaching. Him? A good teacher? Preposterous! The man couldn't teach his way out of a wet paper bag! "But he wasn't much good for anything else, except for being a bloody fool and a liar."

"You're just jealous because you're not as strong, smart, or handsome as Professor Lockhart is!"

"Oh yes, I'm so jealous of the guy who got himself petrified."

"And there they go again," Lisa looked at the pair with an expression that was a mixture of exasperation and fondness. "I'm beginning to think these two just love arguing with each other for the sake of arguing."

"They're like an old married couple," Daphne declared succinctly. Fortunately for her, said 'old married couple' were far too busy having a lovers spat to hear her. If they had, there was no telling what sort of ranting she would have to put up with on the way to the Slytherin common room. "I swear I can see these two doing this for the rest of their Hogwarts years and beyond."

Harry Potter looked at the two as they argued, which had somehow changed from 'reasons why Lockhart is an idiot and it's counter argument' to 'why the Nimbus 2001 will not be the hottest broom on the market next year'.

He then promptly agreed with Daphne's statement and turned his attention to another conversation. One that was less likely to cost him any brain cells.

XoX

The atmosphere was tense. The air as heavy, the tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. It was a fitting atmosphere given the situation those present found themselves in.

After dinner in the Great Hall was finished, Dumbledore had the Head of Houses escort their students back to their common rooms. With the new rules put in place, no one was allowed out after class hours without a auror, teacher or prefect escorting them. A few people had protested for a while, but Albus stood firm in his decision. While it may rankle some of the more... rebellious of students ― his mind conjured up an image of a certain pair of red head twins ― it was for their own safety that he did this.

Now all of the faculty and the auror forces that were on loan from the Ministry were standing in his spacious office, waiting for the meeting he had called to start.

Dumbledore was more then happy to oblige them.

"I would like to start off by thanking the Ministry for loaning your services to Hogwarts and thanking you for agreeing to aid us. Hopefully with your help, we'll be able to solve this little mystery before any of the students get hurt."

Dumbledore paused for just a moment to see if anyone had anything to say.

'They didn't.

"Now then, I believe we should get down to business. As you all know, there have been two attacks, one on Filch's cat and the more recent one on Gilderoy Lockhart. We do not know who the attacker is or how they have managed to perform such high level magic. Even I do not know what kind of magic that was performed on these two, only that it has the taint found within all spells that have been classified as dark magic."

The knowledge that even Albus Dumbledore did not know what spell had been used startled the aurors present. It was well known to all of the magical community (and not just Great Britain) that Dumbledore was one of the strongest wizards in the entire world. Point in fact, the only person with the classification of wizard that was said to be even more powerful than Dumbledore was in America, and he hardly paid any attention to the wizarding community and didn't actually call himself a wizard, so the point was moot.

That one of the current greatest and most knowledgeable wizard of their time did not know a spell was worrisome.

"What clues do we have to go on?" asked Alastor Moody, who appeared to be the only one among the aurors that was not shocked by Dumbledore's admittance of not having all the answers. "Any kind of information about the attacks would be helpful."

"I have compiled a report on both of the attacks and all of the clues we have been able to gather," Dumbledore informed them, "Along with a theory of who might be responsible and how."

"You have a name?"

"No," Dumbledore shook his head. "We do not have a name, though considering the theory put out was that the one responsible may be a former Death Eater that escaped getting sentenced to Azkaban at the end of the war does give us a long list to choose from."

There were a couple of murmurs around the room. A few of the aurors shuffled nervously as they realized how serious this case might actually be. Nymphadora Tonks was one of these people, though the firm hand on her shoulder belonging to that of her mentor, Kingsley Shacklebolt, went a long way towards calming the girl down.

With a flourish of his wand, several copies of parchment flew from his desk and into the waiting hands of every auror and staff member there.

"That parchment contains all of the details behind this theory along with the evidence to support it and a detailed report on both 'crime scenes'," Albus informed everyone. "I would like all of you to read and memorize it. We'll have another meeting tomorrow after the students have gone to bed to see if any of you have any evidence that may support or deny this theory. And now I would like to bid everyone except for Severus and Alastor a goodnight."

With the dismissal readily apparent, everyone except for the two aforementioned men left the room. When the door sealed shut, Moody spoke up.

"The information in this report is pretty damn plausible, well thought out too." The man tapped the parchment with the back of his hand a few times in emphasis. "I definitely get the feeling that it just might be right." He then sent Albus a look. "I also know it's not the kind of scenario you'd think up on your own," the man's voice was a deep growl, like his vocal chords had been put through a blender much like his face.

"You are correct in that I did not come up with it," Dumbledore nodded at his old acquaintance. "The one who created this theory and gave me much of the information was Harry Potter."

"Of course," Snape sighed exasperatedly. Rather then looking angry and irate, he simply looked tired. "Naturally, Potter would have found himself nose deep in this situation."

"I get the feeling that Mr. Potter wants as little to do with this situation as possible," Dumbledore informed Snape. "I believe that is why he gave me this information, so that we may deal with it instead of him."

"Smart lad," Moody growled.

"Indeed."

For a moment, Albus allowed himself to feel a stirring of pride in Harry Potter. The young man had definitely proven himself to be a capable student and leader. He had great expectations for the emerald eyed youth.

"Now onto the reason I both called you here. Severus," Dumbledore got the man's attention. "Does the name Dobby sound familiar to you?"

"Dobby?" Snape's eyes widened marginally. "That's the name of Lucius Malfoys house elf. But how could you know that? Only..." the Head of House Slytherin trailed off, his eyes widening further as the only reason Dumbledore could possibly know about the Malfoy family house elf came to him. "Potter..."

"So Malfoy's the one behind this, eh?" Moody looked like he had tasted something truly foul. "Shoulda known this would be that no good piece of filth's doing. It has his handy work written all over it."

"I did not mention this in the report because I did not want the knowledge leaking out to any wrong parties, but Mr. Potter had a late night visitor," Dumbledore explained to the two. "The house elf, Dobby, was the one to appear before him and warn him of the plot going on at Hogwarts. He did not say it was about the Chamber of Secrets, but did admit to it being indirectly tied to Voldemort. It was through this that Harry came to believe that one of Voldemorts followers was behind the attacks."

"And you suspect they managed to smuggle a dark object in with one of the students?" Moody demanded clarification.

"I don't know, and that is the problem." Dumbledore steepled his fingers together, his expression perturbed. "Fifty years ago, Voldemort opened the Chamber of Secrets when he was a student here. That year, one of the students died and we would have been forced to close down had young Tom Riddle not framed Hagrid for the crime. So far there have no deaths, just petrification. It's likely that whoever is behind this, whether it's Malfoy or another, is using fear of the myth behind the Chamber of Secrets as a means to terrorize the school for some purpose, likely my sacking, and has simply forced a student through the use of the Imperius Curse to use a dark artifact in order to petrify the unsuspecting."

"Finding an Imperiused student is going to be difficult," Snape remarked, "Especially if they have had the Imperius Curse on them since the summer." Lucius Malfoy was a master of the Imperius Curse. Maybe not to the degree that the Dark Lord was, but certainly enough that they would not act out of the ordinary. And if the curse has had time to entrench itself into the psyche of the student... Snape shuddered at the thought.

"I know, which is why I want you to keep an eye on your Slytherins. I do not know if we will find any clues from your house, but it's better to be safe than sorry."

"You suspect Draco may know something?"

"Doubtful. If Draco Malfoy knew something he would have likely already mentioned it. He has never been one for keeping things to himself."

Snape nodded. "I can do that. If nothing else, he may reveal something we can use against Lucius."

"Speaking of which, is there anything we can do to cast suspicion on Lucius Malfoy?" Dumbledore inquired of Moody.

"Not bloody likely," the growl in Moody's tone darkened, as if just mentioning Lucius Malfoy was enough to make the man mad. "The man's arse currently smells like fresh spring roses. He's actually the only reason this entire debacle hasn't been revealed to the Daily Prophet yet. It makes sense if he's the one responsible. He can act like a concerned citizen doing his civil duty by allowing the aurors to work without the media getting involved, then swoop in when something goes wrong and inform the press about his version of events after the situation has been dealt with."

"I see," Dumbledore sighed, "So there is nothing we can do to Lucius Malfoy at present. And it will likely do us more harm then good, especially since he has the ears of the Minister and a number of contacts within the rest of the Ministry."

"Don't forget the auror corps," Moody added, "While Amelia's been doing her best to screen people who have any connection to Death Eaters or 'Former' Death Eaters, she can't catch everyone. It's more than likely that there are several aurors currently under Malfoy's thumb. I suspect there may even be one or two on the squadron that was sent with us."

"Then it is a good thing I did not inform anyone else about what I have just told you," Dumbledore stroked his beard thoughtfully for several seconds before deciding what they would do. "In that case, we shall simply continue with the original plan. Aurors and faculty will patrol the corridors in pairs and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Alastor, aside from heading this investigation, I want you to see if you can discover who among the aurors present may be in league with Lucius Malfoy. You'll need to be subtle though, I do not want any hint of this leaking to Lucius."

"Got it," Moody growled, "Was there anything else you needed to talk about?"

"No," Dumbledore shook his head.

"In that case, I'll see you in the morning, Dumbledore."

As Moody stomped his way out of the room, his wooden peg-leg making a dull 'thud, thud' as it hit the floor, Snape turned to look at Albus.

"I shall take my leave as well," Snape informed the man, "I'll keep an eye on Draco. He may not know about this plot, but he may know something else."

"Very well, Severus. Thank you."

Snape gave a curt nod before he walked out of the room, his robes billowing out behind him. As he watched the man go, Albus Dumbledore sank into his chair with a weary sigh.

With all that had gone on last year, he had been hoping this year would be a quiet one, but it seemed that was not going to be the case.

"I guess that old saying is true, Fawkes," Dumbledore looked up at his familiar. "There is no rest for the weary."

Fawkes studied the much younger being before him, then crooned a soft, soothing tune. While it did not diminish his fatigue nor the aches and pains that came with age, the song did lift Dumbledore's spirits again.

Deciding to go over everything he knew about this most recent problem with the Chamber of Secrets one last time, Dumbledore reread the parchment containing all the relevant information he now had and could only frown. He couldn't help but feel like something was missing, a piece to the puzzle that was just in front of his nose and would potentially allow him to solve this mystery if he could but remember it.

Unfortunately, he couldn't for the life of him remember what that something was.

He could only pray that this did not come back to bite him.


Another short chapter, but I felt this was the best time to end it. As I said a few times in my blog, I don't let myself be confined by my word count.

I would like to thank the 104 people who reviewed my last chapter. Your thoughts, opinions and ideas are invaluable.

Before I go, I would like to implore everyone to look at my blog. A good few of you have been asking me the same question for several chapters (such as: is Selene going to come back to the story?). Many of these questions have been answered on my blog, and because I do not like to needlessly add to my word count, I will not answer them here. If you want to know the answers to those questions, read my blog.

Thank you all for reading, reviewing and enjoying my fanfic.