Last Time, on SVP, PB:
Since the conversation was clearly no longer relevant, Harry cast a look around again, making sure he wasn't missing anything else …
His eyes fell on the window of the carriage compartment to the right of the door Daphne had stepped out of, through which the brown-haired girl, Hermione Granger, was regarding him intently.
Their eyes met, and Granger's narrowed in suspicion, then dropped to his side where his holster would have been clearly visible when he reached for it, then met his again.
She saw I was carrying a gun, not a wand.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
'If You Wish for Peace, Prepare for War'
Act One – Preparation
London, Earth - 1055 Hrs GMT - September 1st 1995
Hermione fumbled the communications mirror out of her satchel, keeping her eyes on the black-haired man on the platform as she clearly enunciated, "Remus Lupin."
In '91, Hermione's name had, through a brief period of intense publicity after the troll attack, become widely known in the Wizarding population as 'that Muggleborn first year who was injured.' Although she had largely avoided the limelight since, the Headmaster had believed even that minimal level of notoriety could make her a possible target, and thus had arranged for her home to be given some unobtrusive wards and had provided one of the Order's charmed mirrors in order to call for assistance if any unwelcome visitors came around during the summer.
The stranger's eyes snapped down to her hands, and she realised she had raised the mirror above the level of the window.
"Yes, Hermione?" Lupin's voice came from below. She looked down to see the middle-aged former teacher looking back at her with a harried look, before quickly looking back up at the stranger to keep track of him.
"Professor, I'm sorry, I know you're probably really busy right now, what with the security and all – "
"Hermione, slow down." Remus interrupted kindly. "And I'm not your professor any more. I'm sure you have a good reason?" The intonation made it clear it was a question.
"Well, I think so, there's someone on the platform who I don't think is a student." Hermione rushed out, trying to control her uncharacteristic babbling. Just a slight adrenaline rush, calm down, it isn't helping. "I certainly don't recognise him, and he looks too old to be a student, and too young for a parent. But that's not the point: he's got a pistol."
Lupin's expression turned puzzled. "A what?" There was a sort of scuffling noise at Lupin's end, and Mad-Eye Moody's terrifying visage hovered into view. "Say that again, lass?"
"I said, there's this guy I can see on the platform and he's carrying a pistol, you know, like a muggle firearm?"
"You're sure about that?"
"Yes, I saw it on his belt when he reached for it."
"Reached for it?" Moody's voice became alarmed, and she looked down at the mirror again. "Why would he reach for it?"
"There were some Slytherin boys hassling a firstie, muggleborn probably. They were being more aggressive than usual. He didn't draw it, just put his hand on it, like just in case things turned violent but Daphne stopped them before –"
"All right, lass, I got the picture, where are you?"
"Fourth carriage back from the engine."
"All right," Moody said again, looking up, magical eye shifting in rapid side-to-side movements as he scanned along the platform. "I can see you. What's he look like?"
"Err … Caucasian, black robes, black hair, green eyes, backpack." Hermione looked up to see the young man leaving. "He's moving away down the platform."
"Got him," Moody ended the conversation without further ado, and the mirror went blank.
Chapter 5 – Burn Notice
"The life of spies is to know, not to be known."
Moody handed Lupin back his mirror while pulling out his own, tapping it to a pre-set all-points call to every other Order member on the station assignment. "There's been a development," he announced to his team gruffly as he stomped along the platform; he and Lupin had been up by the engine, so their new target was between them and the entrance.
"There's a person of interest on the platform. Caucasian, black hair, green eyes, black robe with a backpack, about twenty years old. Lupin and I are in pursuit. We'll flush him out. Emmeline, you guard the exit to King's Cross. That seems to be where he's headed. Kingsley, Tonks, if he gets past Emmeline, he's yours. Keep it subtle."
"Death Eater?" Tonks asked.
"Very unlikely. He's armed with a muggle weapon, with no wand seen." He cut off the resulting chorus of 'What?' with a terse, "I don't know why, obviously. Stunners only, I want to talk to him."
Moody and Remus sped up as much as they could without drawing any more attention than Alastor Moody already drew on his own. Quite a few students recognised both of them as they passed, but neither stopped to return the greetings, their eyes remaining fixed on the back of a dark-haired head bobbing in and out of sight in front of them among the crowd.
Harry walked as quickly as he could, sliding between knots of people congregating on the platform; it was five minutes to departure, and a lot of goodbyes were being said. He accidentally bumped into a luggage cart and stumbled as he attempted to wind his way around one group but regained his balance, throwing a glance over his shoulder at as he continued.
It was pretty obvious who his pursuers were. He recognised both Lupin and the guy with the crazy eye from the Park as they forged side by side through the crowd after him, and they sure didn't look like they wanted to talk. He was closer to the exit than they were though, only twenty or so metres from it now, and surely they'd be making more effort to try to catch him before he got through …
… Unless they knew something or someone was blocking his exit, meaning they weren't pursuing him themselves but rather herding him towards a trap.
New plan … I need to beam out but the platform is too small and far too crowded, I'll be seen … If I can get out into the main station they won't be able to use magic …
Harry made a snap decision and veered right, even as he continued thinking through his new improvised contingency plan. He reached the carriages and stepped over the gap into one of the train carriages. There were some students in the compartments – which were on the platform side of the carriage – and in the passageway chatting at the far end. Another glance out the door and he saw he was still in plain view of a large number of the crowd. Even if one of the carriage compartments was empty, the windows still faced the platform too. He knew from his research that the various forms of magical transportation did not produce a bright white flash or music-tone sound; even if they weren't paying direct attention, someone would note it.
On the other hand, his half-baked plan wasn't much better. Another snap decision. No time, no good choices.
He swung the backpack off and thrust a hand into the bottom of it, grasping an item from what Minerva had been calling his 'back against the wall kit,' pulling the cylindrical metal object to the top of the bag, still out of sight of the students.
The M84 stun grenade was painted black, with hexagonal blocks at the top and bottom and perforated with holes along the cylinder. He paused for a second, once again reconsidering the plan; he was, after all, about to let off a military munition, even a less-than-lethal one, in the middle of a crowded civilian platform with children everywhere.
But he had no other ideas to get out of this mess, and getting caught was even less acceptable than potentially injuring a bystander. Besides, magical medicine was good enough to fix them.
He pulled the pin, tossing the device without much force so that it slid out of the carriage door to fall into the gap between the platform and the tracks. Then he walked quickly along the carriage towards the other end, quickly side-stepping past students along the way and counting the timer in his head.
Lucius Malfoy, as an experienced dueller, Dark Wizard and long-term pure-blood insurrectionist – three 'hobbies' which encouraged a well-developed sense of self-preservation – had a not-unconnected well-developed level of situational awareness. He was presently deep in a rather important if boring conversation with a number of other Slytherin parents – and more importantly, political allies – on the platform, but was not so absorbed that he failed to see the young man hurrying past them, as the fast movement standing out against the general ebb and flow of the crowd.
Although he quickly dismissed him as a potential threat, he saw the black-haired young man throwing a glance over his shoulder as he passed Lucius' group after tripping on a luggage cart, as if fearing pursuit. This caught his interest, so he followed the man's gaze, noting with some surprise the recognisable faces of James Potter's werewolf sidekick and the Auror bastard who had once arrested him with considerable prejudice in clear pursuit.
Hmm. "Excuse me a moment," he said to his little group, and detached himself to follow behind the two Order operatives, mentally reviewing all possible avenues available to him. He wasn't going to attack them; Moody's eye made that a losing proposition, but he could easily pretend he just happened to be heading in the same direction.
"He's doing something," he overheard Moody warning Lupin. "What is that – "
Within a one point five metre radius, an M84 grenade delivers a 175 decibel detonation and a 6 million candela flash: the equivalent of, without warning, being only a metre from a fighter jet engine operating at full afterburner for half a second, while also staring with wide eyes into the sun for the same duration. This was generated by a magnesium-based pyrotechnic charge, contained within an inner aluminium tube that was in turn inside the perforated steel cylinder; upon the detonation of the fuse - set in this case to the maximum of 2.3 seconds - the aluminium was immolated by the magnesium's deflagration while the stronger outer steel case prevented it from fragmenting, and the perforations allowed the flash and sound to escape. The effects would temporarily blind and disorient those nearby, but – in the kind of situations it was intended for – would not kill or badly injure either enemies (in order to capture them) or any hostages (or, in this case, civilian bystanders) who are likely to take umbrage at being fragged by their rescuers.
Fortunately for those who would be on the platform near to it, Harry had pitched the grenade to fall onto the tracks, where the more adverse effects would be mostly contained under the heavy carriage – flashbangs were capable of inflicting injuries at close range, but any such unfortunate person would have to be right on top of it. But he did need confusion to escape in, and the very, very loud bang should be enough to start that.
Of course, a stampede could also be dangerous, but the crowd wasn't that enormous and he'd seen some distinctive blue cloaks of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol amongst them, so the professionals should be able to manage the situation.
Hopefully, anyway. It wasn't a great plan – in fact, it was bloody awful – but it was the best he could think of on the fly and he was committed to it.
The loud bang made those Order members that were on the platform jump, but did not otherwise impede their movement towards the carriage.
Except that Alastor Moody had never encountered flash grenades before, so in trying to figure out what it was, he'd been looking right at it through the platform with his magical eye when it went off.
Lupin had never heard Moody cry out in pain before. In fact, he was probably one of a handful of people alive who ever had. Given the man's long career of going after the most dangerous suspects with maximum force, very few of the ones who had been skilled enough to actually hurt him had lived to tell the tale.
But the explosion was clearly the cause, and he immediately had other things to think about. Moody was stumbling towards the wall, people were screaming, ducking for cover, pulling out wands, running away or some combination thereof. Remus grabbed the old Auror under the arm to support him and shoved him up against the wall to get them both out the way of the crowd. Then he tried to look over said crowd to the carriage door their 'person of interest' had disappeared into, whose face he still hadn't seen. He couldn't be sure, but it didn't seem like he'd come out again yet.
"Remus!" Emmeline, forging her way through the panicking masses towards them. "What happened to him?"
"I don't know, I'll deal with it!" A few metres away, the magically enhanced voice of the senior patrol officer on scene began shouting, and the crowd began to calm down as the obviously in-charge voice began to take control of the situation. "Get back to watching the portal!"
"All right!" She turned and made her way back to the marked part of the brick wall which indicated where the gateway between the magical and non-magical stations was.
As it turned out, it very, very definitely wasn't the best idea he'd ever had. The thunderous crash of the grenade was followed by high-pitched screams – children's screams – and the sound of breaking glass as carriage windows near to the blast shattered. Harry had a moment of regret at the thought that he hadn't considered that risk to bystanders either – bloody hell, how many mistakes am I making today – but he had no time to ruminate on the mistake. He was committed to this plan, now focused on getting out of this bloody tactical nightmare of a station and far enough away from his pursuers and the public that he could beam out cleanly.
"Harry, what the hell was that!"
The students in the corridor very sensibly ducked. Harry also bent double, so as to look like he'd been taken by surprise as well – the bang had made him flinch even though he'd been timing the fuse – but continued along the passageway and out of their immediate earshot.
"Sorry, Min," he muttered. "Improvising."
"Badly. Just give me a heads up next time. What next?"
Harry stepped out of the carriage at the other end, now just opposite the portal, the crowd swirling every which way. He saw an older woman he recognised from the park ambush forcing her way through the crowd away from the marked area of the wall, leaving his way open. Some of the crowd were streaming out into the main station in their panic,so he joined them and tried to look equally panicked.
"Heading out into the main station. Find the building plans and work out some alternative routes."
Platform 'Nine and Three-Quarters' was not, in fact, between Platforms 9 and 10. Maybe it had been once; King's Cross had been reconfigured and renovated several times over the last century. Whatever had happened, the portal now exited onto Platform 8, while Platforms 9 through 11 were actually in an annex building next door, accessible by a walkway that ran above and just to the side of the portal. Unfortunately, there were no stairs available up to the walkway from Platform 8 - the scaffolding around them seemed to indicate they were being rebuilt as escalators - so he would have to go the long-route, back towards the main concourse at the front of the building.
Neither of Platforms 8 or 7 had trains on at the moment, so he had a clear line of sight to where the two watchers from earlier ... had been. They were already up and moving back along their platform to the front of the station where all the platforms joined, and they could block off his route. If Harry could get there first he had three exit options; unfortunately, they had a sizeable lead on him and he probably wouldn't.
As he walked he slid the rucksack off his shoulder, holding it with one hand as he pulled off the robe over his head with the other, juggling the backpack to get his other arm out of the wide sleeves. A few seconds later he had it off, shoved it inside and returned the bag to his back; now dressed in 'mundane' clothing he blended in again.
Unfortunately, when he neared the end of the platform, the two unsubtle watchers from before were already in position either side of the exit, scanning the crowd. Harry slowed his walk, hanging back to assess the situation, to try to ascertain if they knew what he looked like ...
… but that hesitation turned out to be as much of a give-away as if they had mug shots of him.
Both of them were more experienced than they looked, feeling the crowd as much as looking at the passing faces, and he immediately stood out as an island of stillness in the flowing river of people. The pink-haired woman's eyes locked onto him and she made a sharp gesture, gaining her partner's attention and they both started up the platform towards him.
Harry checked behind, only to see the woman he'd recognised on Platform 9¾ exiting the portal and coming up behind him.
He started to panic for a moment, but a door in the towering, multi-storey wall caught his eye, marked 'Staff Only', but to Harry it might as well have had a flashing sign saying 'Exit Strategy'. He checked the pair of watchers – yes, they had definitely seen him, he hadn't been mistaken – and moved towards the door. Which, he now saw, had a mechanical code lock, with a narrow vertical alphanumeric keypad mounted at eye height. Ten numbers and last six letters of the alphabet – over half a million combinations.
His hunters sped up.
"Minerva, code to the door if possible and a route out."
Harry prepared to attempt to kick the door in if necessary, which would be difficult, but he couldn't use his weapon, not right here in the middle of a crowded station with surveillance cameras installed. A Home Office report the previous year had recommended CCTV as a cost-effective crime deterrent in public spaces, a policy the British Transport Police had adopted with enthusiasm: they were bloody everywhere here.
"Manufacturer's master code is Yankee-three-five-Zulu-nine." As he reached the door, she continued: "It leads to an access stairway. According to the building plans, there's a camera covering the door and stairs from inside. It's a closed circuit landline, I can't hack it."
Harry punched in the code, darted through and slammed the door behind him, finding himself at the base of a steep set of stairs. He turned his head away from the camera as he quickly turned to the stairs, placing it at his back, and ran up them two at a time.
The door at the top had another deadbolt, but he was on the right side of it this time, and only had to twist and pull it open. As he did so, the door at the bottom clicked, swinging open and the pink-haired woman bulled through, pointing a wand up at him. He turned back quickly – getting out of sight through the door would be enough to beam out. Not perfect, but a satisfactorily mysterious disappearance.
A pulse of red light caught him high on the back of his right shoulder.
The impact threw him forward flat on his face – and just out of sight of his pursuers at the top of the stairs, as the door swung shut. He vanished in a flash of white light, appearing on the hard metal deck of the Raven's cargo bay.
"And you're out of there," Minerva finished. "Harry? Harry?"
Tonks sprinted up the stairs, catching the edge of the automatically-closing fire door with one hand and yanked it open again.
"What the hell?"
She'd expected to see the perp in an unconscious heap, but the corridor at the top was … completely clear. Ahead of her was a long access passageway, walls and floor tile lined for easy cleaning like most of London's public transport buildings, that lead to a door that probably in turn connected to the walkway between the station and the annex. There were no turnings, doors or people visible for its entire length. She could only have been two or three seconds behind him at worst – that next access door was over thirty metres away, he couldn't have reached it in time – and she knewshe'd connected with that stunner; she'd seen the spell splash against his back, seen him go down.
Kingsley and then Emmeline joined her at the top. "Odd," was all her stoic partner had to say. "You said you hit him?"
"I did! I'm sure of it! And I didn't hear an Apparition." Tonks paused, frowning, trying to remember. "There was a sound though, I think. Kind of like a musical chime. Definitely not an Apparition. Could have been nothing."
"Portkey?" Vance wondered aloud.
"Possibly," Kingsley allowed, "but I heard it too, and I've never heard a portkey sound like that. Why wouldn't he have used it earlier? Plus it takes a few seconds, with quite a bit of power and concentration to make an impromptu one; not something you can do on the move easily. I didn't see him pull a wand at any point either."
"Restricted charm too," Tonks pointed out. "Not something most people get taught."
"Like that's ever stopped the Death Eaters, or other assorted lowlifes?" Vance snorted. "Portkey's don't sound … musical though. More of a whistling sound."
Tonks noticed something on the floor as the other two stepped into the corridor and tried some analysis spells. Leaning down, she picked up a pair of glasses, the frames slightly bent.
"Whatever, he's long gone now," Kingsley said after a few attempts. "I'm sure Dumbledore will want to review it in the Pensieve later. Now … who's going to be the one to tell Moody?"
"Bagsie not," Tonks said, a little too earnestly. The other two looked at her like she was talking in another language.
"What in Merlin's name does that mean?" Vance asked.
"Err … that one of you two has to tell him. Because I just … bagsied not …" Tonks trailed off at their blank looks. "Must be a generational thing."
"Apparently," Kingsley said dryly, "but speaking of generations, I believe you're at least one behind us."
"Oh no …"
"So, as the junior Order member present at this minor screw up, you can tell him," Vance finished with a smile.
"Oh no you don't, I'm too young to die!" Tonks protested melodramatically.
"Nonsense. Youth and vigour goes before age and experience."
"Old age and treachery, more like," Tonks muttered.
Kinsley grinned. "Now you're catching on, partner. Emmeline, go handle the tapes of that camera we passed before the Obliviators have to get involved." Vance had been an Auror herself during the First War, and knew the basics of the other department's job.
"Got it." She Apparated away; they all knew where the security room was. As the Order's core operational team – and all, with the exception of Remus, trained law enforcement – the five of them were firm believers in preparation and had familiarised themselves with the layout of the Station over the previous few days, just in case everything went to hell.
Which it only sort of had, but Moody wasn't really a believer in shades of grey.
"Kingsley? What's going on?" Moody's voice came from Shacklebolt's pocket. "Report!"
"Speak of Herpo and he shall appear," Tonks muttered. Kingsley grinned again, pulling out the mirror and holding it out to Tonks.
She sighed and took what would likely be her doom in her hands. "Moody, we lost him -"
"Urgh," was Harry's incredibly intelligent-sounding announcement of his return to consciousness.
He opened his eyes and looked around, finding himself in the medbay of the Raven. It wasn't much, just one of the spare cabins in which the medical supplies and equipment were stored. Minerva could operate the scanners and do some basic diagnosis and treatment, but if he started going to war against the wizards, he was going to need a fully automated surgical suite or something. Something to add to the list; or rather, to move to the top of the list.
"What the hell?" Harry asked groggily, sitting up.
"I was going to ask you that," Minerva replied. "I beamed you into the cargo bay as you moved out of sight, but you were unconscious. I moved you up here and administered a stimulant to wake you up once the scan detected nothing out of the ordinary."
"How long was I out?"
"A few hours."
Harry reached round to "I got hit by something. A spell, I suppose."
"Sounds like a Stupefy, or stunning spell. A non-lethal takedown spell that renders the target immediately unconscious."
"Ah. I remember that one. It's very effective. I was out like a light. The armour underlayer didn't stop it at all." Harry pushed himself off the bunk, rubbing at his chin, which seemed to be bruised, probably on contact with the concrete floor of King's Cross. "I'll have to learn it at some point. Any side effects?"
"Not from a single hit, fortunately. Multiples might be an issue. But there's something more interesting you might want to look at upstairs."
"Oh?" Harry headed up a deck, somewhat unsteadily, to the operations room.
"This is the feed from your glasses." Minerva announced with an air of deceptively nonchalance as an image appeared on a larger wall-mounted screen that was several metres across.
A supersized, piercingly blue eye looked out at him. It was also disconcertingly ... twinkly.
Minerva, in the spirit of sisterhood, would later tell Sam Carter that Harry screamed like a little girl at that point. Harry denied that malicious rumour to his dying day (there were, conveniently, no recordings) ... but would occasionally admit it was one of the creepiest things he'd ever seen.
And in a life that later included fighting Anubis, the Wraith and many other weird and wonderful things in several galaxies, that was saying something.
Hogwarts, Earth - 1400 Hrs GMT - September 1st 1995
Dumbledore examined the horn-rimmed glasses frames Tonks had just handed over. They seemed to be a fairly normal design, albeit a little heavier than he would have expected, and one lens was cracked. "And you're sure these are from the man you were chasing?"
"Yes," Kingsley answered for her, "those are definitely the ones he was wearing."
"Hmm." Dumbledore rummaged in a side drawer of his desk for a few moments, producing, of all things, a pair of tweezers, the reason for which became quickly apparent as he removed a hair from the glasses' hinge. Putting the frames down, he placed the hair in a vial used to take samples of potions and sealed it. He shot a glance at Moody, but addressed Kingsley. "Any idea on who he might be?"
"No, I've never seen him before. But then again, I don't think any of us got a good view." Tonks and Vance shook their heads in confirmation. "I assume you'll want copies of our memories to review?"
"Yes, please. Of the entire assignment at the station, not just the chase. You may have been close to him earlier, but not remembered. Alastor and I will go over them and meet with you later to continue debriefing."
As the four of them removed the silvery strands of the memories and departed, Albus flicked another glance at Moody, who nodded slightly, confirming it had been who he thought. Interesting.
"You are certain of it?" Dumbledore asked Moody as he poured Kingsley's memory into the stone bowl.
"As much as I reasonably can be. Got a clear look at the scar this time, definitely concealed under a seamless flesh-toned patch, and not a glamour. I won't say for certain it was Harry Potter; could be an imposter with a self-inflicted scar who just happens to look exactly like James Potter, or is Polyjuiced as someone who looks exactly like him, but that's looking ever more like an outside chance; after today, he fits the profile of an imposter even less. And even if it is Polyjuice, it has to using Potter's hair - that scar wasn't a cosmetic addition, it was a part of him - which means Potter is still at least recently alive."
Dumbledore picked up the vial with the hair in it and examined it. "Still doesn't explain why he looks twenty. Well, I retrieved some hairs from the Dursley house when Harry went missing. I'll run a few tests later to confirm they're his."
In orbit, listening to the slightly scratchy feed - interference from Hogwart's wards - from the glasses, Harry and Minerva exchanged a horrified look, and swore simultaneously. "Oh, crap."
In Kingsley's memory, which began at around 10:25, 'Harry' was clearly visible leaning on a wall next to the portal into Platform 9 3/4 for some minutes before following a first-year family group inside. He did not appear again until after the warning from Moody, and Kingsley had been behind Tonks and had not seen what happened at the top of the stairs.
The clearer areas of Vance's memory – i.e. what she had been directly focusing on – but the wonders of memory magic allowed for recall of peripheral events that were not directly observed or even noted. In this case, 'Harry' appeared immediately after the explosion that drew Emmeline out of position, using the distraction apparently as intended to slip out into the main station. Albus frowned at the use of whatever device had been responsible for that explosion - it seemed to demonstrate a reckless disregard for collateral damage - but he resolved not to jump to any premature conclusions. He'd done so before, to his shame, and it wasn't like the young man was casting Killing Curses into the crowd.
"Minor cuts only. Train was delayed while the MLEP figured out what happened and ran containment. Amelia arrived pretty quickly and decided to get the train on its way once the medics were done. There's an Auror and ten officers on board for security and taking statements. She took one look at me and Remus and told us to get lost; the other three were already outside the perimeter MLEP set up." Director Bones brother Edgar had been an Order member, and Albus knew she knew that. He also knew she did not approve of his merry band of vigilantes.
"Should I expect a visit?"
"A relatively irate one probably."
Moody's Pensieve recall was, as always, somewhat disconcerting, even for Albus who had viewed many of the old Auror's memories of Order operations. The odd properties of his magical eye meant that patches of hyper-enhanced detail – whatever he'd been looking at with it – appeared nearly at random, flickering all over the place as he examined his surroundings continuously. It did, however, allow the clearest view yet of 'Harry,' as Moody had focused almost exclusively on the young man as soon as he saw him.
"Is he … talking? To himself?" Albus wondered aloud as they examined the frozen image. The muggle weapon was clearly visible at that moment, and after letting the memory run on a moment longer, so was the scar, as Moody's magical eye focused on that instead. Dumbledore now had no doubts of the young man's identity, and since the scar was hidden, he presumed Harry knew at least some of its significance – and the trouble it would draw to him if it were to be noticed.
"Seems so," Moody muttered. They let it play on, now observing it from the position of standing inside the carriage.
"That was the thing that blinded me," Moody announced, crouching to examine the device frozen as it rolled across the floor.
"Grenade of some sort," Dumbledore opined. "I remember them from fighting against Grindelwald. Unpleasant but effective, like hitting an Erumpent Horn with a spell."
"That's not a bad idea, actually. Give the Death Eaters a nasty surprise."
When the grenade went off, the area of perception from Moody's eye blanked in a flash of white. His normal eye was unaffected however, and the disparity – and the pain from his magical eye's optic nerve, which he described as "like someone shoved a knitting needle in it," – had caused nearly fifteen seconds of disorientation before could even hold himself upright again. Had it been an ambush, and not just a distraction, he would have been killed, and from his gritted teeth it was clearly grating on his mind.
"How's the eye?" Albus asked casually as he picked up the next vial. Moody's present one had a green iris, and the old Auror was a mite touchy on the subject of what he viewed as the result of his most humiliating defeat.
"Burned out by the flash," came the growling reply. "I'm going to have to use an old prototype until I can find another trustworthy Charms Master to make one."
"You have the old diagrams?" Moody nodded. "Send them to Filius; he'll be somewhat busy teaching, but I'm sure between the two of us we'll make short work of it."
Tonks' memory was largely the same as Kingsley's, but this time they clearly observed Harry vanishing in a flash of white light behind the closing door even if she hadn't seen it directly. The only thing that had remained were the glasses that now sat on Dumbledore's desk.
"I'm pretty sure we'd have heard if the Muggles had come up with anything like apparition," Albus said contemplatively. "Would have been all over the papers. Still, a memory can't be faked without obvious traces, and it clearly isn't any magical transportation system I've ever seen or heard of."
Lupin's was the last one they observed, which at first seemed the least useful; at no point had Remus directly observed their subject in the crowd except the back of his head. But, as he had reported in the debriefing, he had observed Lucius Malfoy splitting off from his friends to follow them. The Death Eater's look of intrigued interest directed at the young man, quickly masked, and his subsequent tailing of the pair had Albus and Moody looking at each other grimly.
"Do you think Malfoy identified him?"
"Unlikely," Moody responded, "None of our people did except me. Lucius doesn't have a magical eye so I don't see why he would suspect anything."
"So why would he look so interested, and split off like that?"
"Well … he saw us chasing an unknown young man he didn't know. We're only in conflict with the Death Eaters; we don't chase ordinary criminals. That alone would attract his attention. Perhaps he thinks that, if he can identify whoever we were chasing, he can recruit that person to Voldemort's cause. Especially since, unlike us, he doesn't know Harry already intervened by killing Thorfin Rowle."
"Ah. Excellent point." The two of them exited the memory and returned to their seats in the office, deep in thought. "So we apparently don't have to worry that Harry will join the opposition."
"Maybe. We did attack him today."
"Indeed. Nonetheless … it seems unlikely. After tonight's meeting we'll go over this again with Kingsley, Nymphadora and Emmeline, and let them in on this development in its entirety. And Minerva. And possibly Miss Granger. She alerted Remus to Harry's presence, and will want to know what happened; speaking of which, did you remind her not to talk to the MLEP?" Moody nodded. "She's a peripheral part of the Order; it wouldn't hurt for her to see that her warning resulted in swift action. She might have some ideas as to explaining the disparities between Harry's apparent and real ages."
"Was it really a good idea, Albus, bringing the girl in? She's only fifteen for Merlin's sake."
"Nearly sixteen, but I take your point. I am holding her at arm's length, Alastor. Only the two of us, Lupin and Minerva are aware of her connection to the Order. Severus has not been informed, and will not be informed of the … ongoing situation with Mr Potter either, lest he be compromised. She did good work de-constructing the arithmancy of that 'panic button' enchantment too; she had a counter-jinx ready within a week or so."
"That's all very well, Albus, but she's a child!"
Dumbledore removed his spectacles and rubbed the bridge of his nose, sighing. "You aren't going to let this go, are you?" he asked rhetorically. "Very well, there are several reasons. Most immediately for the Order's needs, Miss Granger has proven exceptionally capable, which takes a small part of the research workload to counter the Death Eaters' new tricks of off the senior Professors and myself, and it gives her an intellectual outlet she sorely needs, as she is years ahead of her peers academically. She may be a fifth year, Alastor, but she could well sit her NEWTs today: she wouldn't break any records, but she would pass, which is impressive enough by itself, and better than a few of our actual seventh years can manage. Second, she wants to help, Alastor, and since, with her … situation, she cannot engage in combat – not that I would ever send a student on such missions anyway – this is a meaningful way to use her talents for good. She has no contact with the war other than with those Order members I named; it might as well be extra schoolwork.
"Third, and most importantly, it gives her self-validation. Her injury left her believing that she was somehow less than she was before; less intelligent, less useful, with her future in either world crippled along with her spine. Her placement in Gryffindor House did not help either, not initially. Gryffindor is the House of the Brave – with the specific connotation of courage in battle, of course, being provided originally from Godric and repeatedly reinforced by the not-inaccurate historical reputation of its alumni as fighters and leaders. After she returned to the school in February 1992, only now restricted to her chair, mobile though it is, Miss Granger had persuaded herself that her injury made her incapable of … following in the House ethos, shall we say.
"It sounds somewhat ridiculous now, perhaps, but that is because you have met the Hermione Granger of today, who is as stubborn as she is smart, and not one with the mind-set of an exceptionally precocious eleven year old girl who thought herself completely friendless – not just at Hogwarts, but for years before as well – and who, while not renouncing her love of books and learning, still had long believed herself abnormal for her age because of said love. Finding out she was a witch as well at first explained but later compounded that feeling of abnormality, as her social isolation continued at Hogwarts apparently unabated. So did her injury, which is almost unique in the magical world. Minerva took Hermione more directly under her wing – or rather, in her paws, perhaps – specifically to pull her out of that vicious circle, and perhaps also because she recognised something of a kindred spirit in Miss Granger. I believe Minerva may have had some small role in the rallying of Gryffindor around Hermione in her first year as well, for the same reasons, although most of them needed no prompting.
"Imagine, if you will, someone with those by-now deeply ingrained beliefs, returning to a place that held memories, if only of a brief few weeks, mostly consisting of the pain and terror of the troll attack as well as no small amount of bullying in the weeks before it. It took Minerva several months to persuade her that the simple act of returning should be viewed as extremely courageous, but the mind is rarely truly healed; such fears and phobias can remain for a long time even after they have been thought dealt with. Fortunately, Gryffindor House – and most of the other Houses, frankly – have reacted with commendable sensitivity and, in some cases, ferocity in Miss Granger's favour. Certain … shall we say denser members of the school still pick on her from time to time, but they are usually met with a barrage of spells from anyone above second year who happens to be observing, whatever their house, and frequently even if they've never met Miss Granger themselves. Most of the time she doesn't need the help anyway."
"Encouraging duelling in the corridors now, are we Albus?" Moody needled. "My, how standards have slipped around here."
Dumbledore eyed him over his glasses. "I remember you being Sorted, Alastor; I also distinctly recall you being brought in here for very similar offences."
Moody waved a hand. "Ancient history. And Rosier got his eventually."
"Indeed. Anyway, to resume, I'm not against certain … factions of students having a point made to them by their peers. So long as it isn't taken too far. It seems to have worked, but I did have to clamp down on it when it seemed about to turn into a generalised war on Slytherin in early Ninety-Three, which was hardly fair on those members of that House who have done nothing to deserve it, and in some cases themselves befriended Miss Granger. It has had the plus point of forcing the scions of the Death Eater families to be rather more circumspect when before they had been prancing around my school as if they owned the place. They still do prance, from time to time … overcome by their inborn arrogance, one might say … but usually they get slapped down even without a professor's intervention."
"And by inborn you mean …"
"Inbred," Dumbledore replied without missing a beat. "And although they may be more circumspect these days, within these walls I am always watching, and I am no longer so naïve to believe they will all see the light if given enough chances. 'A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.' I am no longer so arrogant as to believe myself an infallibly wise man, Alastor, and you know what events caused that self-realisation … but I am most certainly nobody's fool."
Damn, Albus is just rattling off those wham-lines, isn't he! See, Good!Dumbledore can be fun too (or rather Ruthless!Good!Dumbledore), whatever the fandom's apparently prevailing opinion of him as an manipulative old bastard (which could be fun too, but I think Harry's got enough enemies for this story already).
Yes, I am aware Harry screwed up repeatedly in this chapter. That was deliberate; he isn't perfect. He's got all this technology, training, information, but all these advantages don't insulate him from the fact that he's very inexperienced. But he's a quick study and will adapt quickly.