We discover a new use for the Knight Bus. Neville goes to Auror Headquarters. More refugees begin to show up at #12. Susan and Harry spend some time together and the Weasleys finally make an app...
Chapter 6 - The Next Day
Harry woke to the savory smell of sausage. He was still exhausted. The night had been one of the longest of his short life. He had fought physically with Tom Riddle and verbally with Albus Dumbledore and somehow in each case the fight ended in a draw. If Hermoine did not have such a hang up on authority figures, she would be impressed when he told her. Ron Weasley, his other best friend would be proud of him, but in a decidedly ironic twist he would also be more than a little jealous. Harry considered burrowing back beneath the covers and trying to steal an extra hour of sleep, but was reprimanded by the growl in his stomach. The Dursley's had found yet another reason to deny him a meal. He clucked his tongue thinking of the next time Ron felt jealous of his great life. He imagined himself saying, "Gee old buddy, you can have it. Just remember one thing, when your with the Dursley's be prepared to skip every other meal. Hope you don't mind fighting evil on an empty stomach!"
He got out of his bed and looked around the room. It was depressing to be back at Number 12. It was his now. He half expected to see his godfather pop into the room and verbally give him a swift kick in the arse to get him moving. He tried not to dwell on it, biting his lower lip. Sirus wouldn't want it that way. Sirus would want him to remember the good, forget the bad and become a man he would be proud of. Looking at his nightstand and the shattered Death Eater mask he also knew that Sirus would want him to be triumphant. Harry dressed in silence as he considered his history, reflecting on battles both recent and old he came to a conclusion. He could win. At age eleven, he killed a wizard possessed by Tom. At age twelve, he beat Tom and his pet snake admittedly with some help. He has driven off a horde of dementors, competed in and won the Triwizard tournament. Harry was always telling Neville that he needed a confidence boost. Perhaps he should listen to his own advice now and then.
Harry looked over at the other bed in the room. Susan was buried under there. Her head covered by a pillow. He felt guilty. She no doubt had heard his nightmares. It was impressive that she didn't just get up and go to another room. She looked awful. Normally she was quite pretty and friendly. She was always smiling. It was rumored that Susan's trademark smile held up even during potions. The smile was nowhere to be found on the sleeping face he beheld. A second hunger pang reminded him that he needed to get some food. As quiet as possible, he crept from the room and went to the bathroom.
Minutes later he was descending the stairs into the kitchen. There were two house elves and a very tired looking Bill Weasley there. Dobby immediately rushed to him latching onto his right leg with a deathgrip. He pried Dobby from his leg with great effort.
"Hello Bill. Good to see you again."
"You to Harry. You can't seem to stay out of trouble can you?" He asked with a tired smile as he drank his coffee.
"Unfortunately, trouble has a way of finding me and I get the nasty feeling that it is only going to get worse."
"True enough. I just got off a Gringotts. They are checking security and also contracting us out to do private warding. Heck, I am supposed to be at a job this afternoon. Dumbledore caught me as I was leaving and asked if I would check the wards here and keep watch until he gets a relief for me."
"How are the wards?"
"They look nice and tight. Some of the best work I have ever seen. Though a lot of it is dark in nature, but the previous generations seemed to have a certain, how to say it? Ah yes, they possessed a certain moral flexibility when it came to the use of magic."
Harry chuckled at Bill's description. "Does dark magic make for better wards?"
"Nastier yes. Better not necessarily. Much of it is really intent based. If you are just looking to keep people out nothing beats a good Confundo wrapped around a muggle repeller. No need to flay their skin off their body when you can just as easily send them on their way. Unless that is, you are up for a good flaying."
"Did you happen to do Amelia Bones's house?"
"No. Cooper and Hawksworth's team did that job - I think. Why?"
"I was there last night. Voldemort attacked. The wards held for awhile. He's using inferni, had over twenty there. They swarmed the wards and brought them down."
"You fought him last night?" Bill asked wide-eyed.
"Not so much. I showed up and caught him with his knickers in a bunch and hit him with a lucky shot. He was worn out and that was enough to drive him off." Harry said trying to minimize his role. "My point was that he is using lots of inferni to wear out the wards. I don't know if you can do anything to compensate for that?"
"Well not really. You can always pump more energy into the wards during their creation. That will make them last a little longer, but not forever."
They both considered the information each had given. Harry broke the silence, "Bill, how strong are the wards on the Burrow?"
"Good not great. Probably not as good as the Bones job and nowhere near this place."
"Can they be upgraded?"
"I see where you are going. I don't think Mum and Dad will go for it, but they would have to be torn down and redone to do it right. With the current climate it wouldn't come cheaply either. I could do it by myself, but it would take the better part a week. Hiring a team is the best way to go, but Gringotts is booked solid and private firms will rob you blind!"
"What you are saying is the best bet is to get them moved here as fast as possible?"
"Pretty much. Dumbledore said he was going to go see Mum and Dad today and see if they will start moving over. I will feel safer when they are here."
"Do you know who is going to be on guard here?"
"I think he is going to use Emmy Vance, Mr. Diggle and Mrs. Jones. Though I am not certain."
Harry looked slightly disappointed. He had been hoping to spend time with Remus Lupin. Both had lost a great deal when Sirus fell through the veil in the Department of Mysteries. He missed the good-natured, but shabbily dressed werewolf. The man had a certain natural honesty that was almost a disarming quality. Trying to cheer himself up and take a shot at Bill, Harry raised and eyebrow, "Emmy?"
"Yeah. We were in school together. We went to Hogsmeade a couple of times. Obviously, you are not going to ever mention this to Fleur. My pranks are nowhere near as good natured as the twins and I think you would be impressed by my extensive knowledge of curses." Bill lightly threatened.
Harry decided to go with a cheeky response, "Bill, I am not afraid of the Dark Tosser. Why should I be afraid of you?"
Bill just shook his head. "You have a point there Harry. I would just appreciate it though. Fleur isn't used to guys being resistant to her powers. She is having an awful time dealing with the new found emotion of jealousy. She is used to being the girl somebody else is jealous of, not the other way around. I have already been forced to describe my last three relationships in painful detail and since Ms. Vance is further back than that, I believe that the less said the better."
"Don't worry just having a little fun. There seems to be a shortage of that these days. Lots of bad news and hardly any good news. Why do you think you are resistant to her powers? I am as well."
"Probably my curse breaker training. Their testing said I had an impressive natural resistance to mind altering magic. The training just reinforced it."
"Oh. That makes sense." Harry replied. He was thinking about how easily he could throw off the Imperious curse.
The breakfast made by Trixie, Susan's house elf was impressive if not unusual. The standard fare of bacon and sausages were there, but also she made omelets and sausage gravy served on top of biscuits.
"What exactly do you call this?" Bill asked the house elf.
"Biscuits and gravy. Is a dish from America. Miss Amelia go to meetings all the time. She like the food and show Trixie how to make. Miss Susan's favorite is biscuits and gravy. Trixie want to help Miss Susan be happy again."
"It is very good. I am sure Susan will like it when she comes down. You obviously take good care of her." Harry said trying to calm the frantic house elf. He knew from his experiences with Dobby to give a house elf as much positive reinforcement as possible.
The little female house elf was shocked by the praise. The other elf she had briefly met had told of the great and kind wizard Harry Potter, but she had been skeptical. Most elves speak of their owners in such a fashion. What had really surprised her was when Dobby explained that Harry Potter was not Dobby's owner. He had freed Dobby from cruel masters. Most house elves dreaded the idea of being free. Most would rather serve even abusive masters, then chance freedom. Dobby seemed to be enjoying himself though. Recognition and appreciation from your human mistresses was rare, but expected. However for someone outside of the family to house elf relationship to speak to an elf in such a manner was virtually unheard of. Trixie was flabbergasted. Humans could not tell when a house elf blushes, but she was blushing profusely at the moment.
Twenty minutes later, a very tired and still exhausted Susan Bones awakened. She tried for about five more minutes to recapture the comfort, but her effort was in vain. Her eyes darted around the unfamiliar room. For a brief moment she wondered where she was, until it all came back to her. She spent the next few minutes catching up on her crying as she sobbed silently into the orange pillow. She intended to stay longer, but the growl in her stomach combined with the need to go to the bathroom prevailed. She noted that Harry was already downstairs. Grabbing her dressing gown she went across the hallway to the bathroom. The face in the mirror was not the happily amused young woman that she usually saw. Her eyes and cheeks were puffed and red. Her hair was a frightening mess. Despite the incessant growling of her stomach, she opted to take a quick shower. While she gathered her things and started the shower, she tried to think of what she had to do today.
She would need to contact Gringotts and the family legal representation. They would be able to take care of the final arrangements for her mother and aunt. She didn't need to, but really wanted to talk to Hanna Abbott. Her best friend was a really good shoulder to cry on, she thought as she stood in the shower with her forehead against the wall, letting the water run down her back. As she showered, she tried to clear her mind and focus on nothing but the act of showering. It seemed to help - somewhat.
Eventually even her shower refuge ended. She felt guilty using so much hot water. Quickly she dressed and tried to tame her hair. A loose ponytail was about all that she could manage. She knew that she could not hide any longer and she made her way downstairs. Harry was first to see her.
"Hello Susan. Did you sleep okay? This is Bill Weasley, Ron's oldest brother. He is here to check the wards and keep us company until the next guard gets here." Bill waved a quick greeting, which she acknowledged with a brief smile. Harry was babbling slightly, but Susan didn't mention it.
"I guess I slept as well as can be expected. Good morning Trixie. I smell biscuits and gravy. Thank you."
"Miss Susan is too kind to poor Trixie." The elf exclaimed while setting a plate of food in front of her and rushing to get a pitcher of juice.
"Harry can we use the floo to call someone?" She asked. Harry had to look at Bill.
"You can Susan, but you need to keep it short and not tell anyone where you are."
"What can I tell them?"
"Tell them that you are in a safe house right now and being guarded for your safety."
"Okay. I can do that."
Susan quickly finished her breakfast. She had been much hungrier than she had believed and then started a fire in the fireplace. She threw in a pinch of Floo powder and called out for the Abbott household. Chelsea, Hannah's younger sister answered and went to fetch Hannah. A minute later Hannah and her trademark pigtails came bouncing into the room.
"Morning Susan. Is something wrong with your Floo? I tried to call earlier, but it wouldn't work."
"No its not okay," Susan started in a voice that started out trembling and was threatening to turn into sobbing any second. "We were attacked last night. Mum and Auntie are gone!"
"Ohmigod! Are you okay? Where are you? Do you need us to come get you?"
"I am physically fine and I am at a safe location, but I am not supposed to let anyone know where right now. As soon as I can tell, you'll be the first to know."
"I am so sorry about your mum and aunt. Is there anything I can do?" Hannah said feeling quite helpless tears already starting down her cheek. Hannah had been quite fond of Dana and Amelia Bones.
"No. Not that I can think of, but if I think of anything I will let you know."
"Are you sure you are safe where you are at?"
"So, I am told. I wish I could tell you more. I need to keep this short so I better run."
"Be careful Susan!"
"You too Hannah. Keep your wand on you at all times. Bye!"
Susan pulled her head out of the fireplace and saw Bill and Harry were still talking. The odd thing was she hadn't heard them at all. Noticing that she was no longer on the floo, Harry nudged Bill who waved his wand dispelling the privacy charm. He smiled at her.
"Harry insisted you be able to talk without being overheard." Bill shrugged looking at Harry who got a slight reddish tinge on his face. Bill smiled thinking "That's for your 'Emmy' comment twerp!"
"Thank you Harry. That was very thoughtful. I didn't say where I was staying. Hannah is worried though. I can tell."
"We will know more when Dumbledore comes back. He will probably let you go to Hannah's or get her to come here at least for a visit."
"Do you really think so?"
"Probably, although you never know. He is usually pretty flexible - with everyone else." Harry said with a touch of bitterness. Both Susan and Bill let it go, but they each filed that information away for later use.
Neville searched the ruins of his family home for anything remotely useful. So far he scrounged a mostly undamaged cloak to wrap around himself, his grandmother's wand, her change purse with roughly fourteen galleons inside and some shoes. According to his watch, which thankfully survived being in the pond with him, it was just shy of eight am. He threw a couple of other odds and ends into a battered trunk and started dragging it towards the road. As he was headed up the walkway he heard a distinctive crack of someone apparting. Not wanting to chance it he drew his wand. Sure enough there was a cloaked death eater standing on the other side of the road.
"Well well! Come back to set off the Mark and what do I find. Little lost Longbottom." The Death Eater taunted dodging a stunning spell directed at him. "Lets see if you can hit what you can't see."
With that the Death Eater disillusioned himself. Neville cursed himself while aiming curses in the general direction his opponent was. Neville was upset about the one DA meeting he had missed. Harry had covered a bit of what to do when faced with an invisible adversary. Neville would have to improvise. As he ducked a bone breaker aimed where his head was only a moment ago. From where the curse originated his opponent was starting to cross the road.
Neville thought to himself as he stuck his wand out. "Well if I can't see him. Maybe they can't either."
Sure enough, as he dodged yet another curse from his unseen stalker. He saw the telltale signs of the arrival of the Knight Bus. It phased into being and blew its horn. Microseconds later, Neville heard a loud thump and saw a dent appear in the frame. The bus bounced slightly and he knew his invisible adversary was thrown under the tires. He ran over and grabbed his trunk as the bus came to a stop in front of him.
"Good morning and welcome to ...."
"Not to interrupt, but my house was attacked by Death Eaters. We need to get out of here."
"Holy Merlin! Come on get on! Hurry!"
"What was that noise. Sounded like we hit something?" The shrunken head asked.
"Don't know. Where to lad?"
"Somewhere where there are some aurors. I am not too picky."
"Right law enforcement headquarters it is. No charge for emergency service!"
Neville looked out the back window as the bus came up to speed. He caught himself on one of the poles as it accelerated. In the distance he saw a spec that had to have been the Death Eater. In front of the smoldering ruins of his home. As he mentally patted himself on the back for such an inventive solution a strange thought crossed his mind.
"I wonder if I will be able to see a Thestral or not because he was invisible?"
Minutes later, the bus pulled up to a nondescript looking building. To the muggles it would look like a closed down factory, but in reality it was the secondary headquarters for British Magical Law Enforcement. Their primary headquarters was in Diagon Alley, but this one served to deploy forces outside of the alley. The ministry had learned a painful lesson during Voldemort's first rise to have several headquarters. Unfortunately recent budget cuts during the Fudge administration had lead to the closing of the other two headquarters outside of the Alley.
Neville disembarked dragging the trunk. He opened the door and found a small waiting area with only two people waiting and a grizzled looking desk wizard, who reminded him of Mad Eye Moody.
"Forget to dress boy?" He said noting Neville's bare chest not quite covered by his tattered cloak.
"Death Eater's attacked my house last night!" Neville snapped back. The man immediately became dead serious.
Neville recited his address and the man gestured to several aurors. A tall bald headed man came forward. Neville recognized him as one of the people from the battle at the Department of Mysteries.
"Kingsley, this boy's house has been attacked. Here is the address. Take a team over there."
"Um sir. There might still be one there." Neville said addressing Kingsley.
"Last I saw he was lying in the street. He might be dead though."
"Why is that?"
"They had been gone for several hours. I was grabbing what I could and leaving. He apparated back in and said something about setting of the Dark Mark and started cursing me. I tried to fight back but he made himself invisible. I uh, uh I did the only thing I could think of. I summoned the Knight Bus. They kind of ran him over. They were wondering what they hit, but I didn't tell them. I didn't want to make them upset."
Kingsley and the desk wizard looked at the young wizard with open mouths. Kingsley then smiled widely and shook his head in appreciation. The desk wizard chortled under his breath.
"Come on I will take you to my office where you can wait." He said looking at the address. "You are Frank and Alice's boy aren't you?"
Neville nodded. "Neville Longbottom sir." He introduced himself.
"I was at their wedding. They would be proud of you. Jenkins get over here. This is Neville Longbottom. Put him in my office. Get him something to eat and a shirt. I will get a statement from him when I get back. Tallwood and Fulton you are with me. You relax in there Neville."
"Sir. My grandmother's body is there." Neville said no longer able to meet the man's eyes. Tears welling in his eyes.
The expression on Kingsley Shacklebolt's face hardened. "We will take care of her. You have my word."
With that the trio of aurors disappeared. Auror Jenkins led Neville to a small office and gestured to a couch. He told Neville to wait here and he would return with a shirt. Five minutes later he returned with a shirt, a tray with a pair of breakfast pastries, a Styrofoam cup of juice and today's copy of the Daily Prophet.
"Here you go lad. My desk is just outside the office, a couple of cubicles down. Just come out if you need anything. If I am not there go see the desk wizard. Breakroom and restrooms are just down the hall to the right. Auror Shacklebolt will probably be at the scene for a few hours so by all means make yourself comfortable."
"Thank you sir." Neville said putting on the grey sweatshirt emblazoned with the logo of DMLE and settling in on the couch. He tried to get comfortable while looking at the Prophet. There was no mention of last night's attacks, but considering the time they occurred it was not surprising. Somehow catching up on quidditch team training camp news and gossip from the society page just could not hold his attention. Looking around the room he saw several awards and memorabilia. Beneath one award, was a picture of Kingsley receiving the award from none other than Alastor Moody. For a few minutes, he watched the photograph of Kingsley walk up to the podium take the award and shake the Ex-auror's hands, then turn with a big grin towards the crowd who can be seen applauding.
Shortly after 8 am, people went into a frenzy of activity. Neville heard several reports of Dark Marks being set off. Neville realized that last night must have been a coordinated effort. By 8:15 am the office was mostly deserted with virtually all-available personnel dispatched to the various crime scenes. Neville finished his breakfast and scrounged a pair of recent magazines from the breakroom. Sometime around 9:30 am, he actually managed to fall asleep on the couch.
Kingsley Shacklebolt woke the young man shortly after 1 PM. He had planned on returning quickly, but they were summoned from the Longbottom attack to two other attacks. Apparently, he-who-must-not-be-named had wanted to make his presence felt all over the English countryside last night. Most of the attacks were against old pureblood families, who were known opponents of the Dark. The Goldsteins and the Smith families had been completely wiped out. The Compton's fourteen year old daughter was missing and on top of which, Kingsley now faced the task of telling young Neville that aside from Frank and Alice, that he was the last of the Longbottoms.
"I am sorry it took me so long to get back to you Neville."
"I understand sir, I heard there were many other attacks. How bad was it?"
"Very bad. I am afraid they also attacked your Great Uncle's estate. There were no survivors. I am sorry to be the one to tell you."
Neville looked away from the man, who had placed his large hand on the distraught young man's shoulder. He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry. He wanted to break something, or someone. Kingsley watched as Neville's clenched his fists repeatedly. After a minute, Neville mumbled something. The auror had to ask him to repeat it.
"I said. Who else was attacked?"
"I am not supposed to say, but the Goldstein, Compton and Smith families. It will be all over the Prophet tomorrow and the Wireless Network by the evening."
Neville knew Tony Goldstein, Marcia Compton and Zacharias Smith from the DA. He also knew that Susan's house had been attacked. He reached into his pocket, retrieved the note from Harry Potter and handed it to the Auror.
"Sir, everyone who was attacked last night had a person who was in Harry's defense club at school and was from a pureblood family. Do you think there might be a connection?"
"You could be on to something there. Who else is was in that club, who might fit the description?"
The two spent the next twenty minutes listing the roster of the DA. It was ironic that Neville knew all the names, because for the first few meetings he had been passed from partner to partner, as no one had wanted to work with him. Kingsley called Jenkins and the other two aurors into the office to brief them on the theory. It may just have been a coincidence, but it certainly merited investigation. One of the missing pieces was how the attackers had known the current addresses of all their victims. There were two possibilities and both were within the ministry.
"Tallwood, you and Jenkins go to the Department of Magical Education and see if anyone has pulled the records for the people who were attacked and who might fit the description. Fulton and I will go to the Improper Use of Magic Office with Mr. Longbottom here. I have to brief the watch commander. You two go ahead. We will leave as soon as I tell Beverly."
Five minutes later Kingsley had his supervisor's permission and they were soon at the Office of Improper Use of Magic. Madame Hopkirk's secretary acknowledged them and went to get her superior. Madame Hopkirk was not very pleased at the implications of the theory when it was presented to her behind closed doors. She reluctantly agreed to show them how they access the records by tapping their wand on a filing cabinet. Fortunately, the system annotates each instance the file is accessed. The expression on her face became rigid as soon as the first three checks showed that Phillip Chambers had accessed all the records eight days ago. Coincidentally enough, Mr. Chambers had scheduled vacation for the next three days. She had her assistant continue checking, while she provided Kingsley with Mr. Chamber's address and allowed him to use her Floo connection back to Law Enforcement Headquarters.
Shortly thereafter, three aurors appeared outside of Phillip Chamber's flat near Kent. Mr. Kent was not home, but two sets of Death Eater garb were found in his bedroom closet. They went outside to wait for his return. Six hours later, Phillip Chambers would be in custody after a brief exchange of spells.
Meanwhile, Kingsley requested that the now pale Madame Hopkirk use her owls to warn the all the other families whose records had been accessed as the distinct possibility of more attacks loomed. Sadly, Kingsley could not tell if she was concerned more for her position and loss of prestige, then the actual crimes committed by one of her subordinates. Internally, he shook his head at just another instance where the Ministry continues to fail the witches and wizards it was supposed to protect. He left Fulton to finish up there and took Neville to a designated apparation point.
"You've done side-along apparation before? Correct?"
"Only once, a long time ago." Neville replied nervously.
"Don't worry. Hold on to me. I am a professional." The auror said trying to reassure him. With a louder than normal crack they disappeared only to reappear in front of the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. One of the calls he had placed in Mrs. Hopkirk's office was to Dumbledore to determine what to do with young Neville.
"Hear read this and then look up." He said giving Neville a scrap of parchment.
Neville did as he was told and watched as the house sprang into existence. As they walked up to the house, he remembered something that he wanted to ask the auror.
"Sir, the Death Eater at my house? What happened to him?"
"Oh, he was quite dead when we got there. The Knight Bus sure did a number on him. He was one of the Travers brothers. I won't lose any sleep over it and neither should you." He said clapping Neville on the back as the knocked on the door.
Susan was in much better spirits after speaking with Hannah. She had Trixie move her belongings into the room, which Harry had told her was normally used by Ginny and Hermoine. Susan actually managed to laugh when she encountered Dobby for the first time. The free house elf did his level best to knock Harry over as he flew across the room to hug him. Harry appeared terribly embarrassed, but seemed to take it in stride. She watched the interaction between Harry and the house elf with fascination. It was almost like watching an older brother play with a younger. Very few people would even make the attempt to become that close to a house elf. By contrast, Susan had always been polite to Trixie, and received her adoration, but it had always been a servant relationship. Susan promised herself that she would try to emulate Harry's example.
Bill Weasley left and had been replaced by Ms. Vance. Susan caught an exchange between Harry and Bill as Bill welcomed the attractive woman who looked to be just about thirty. She was certain there was a story there. Perhaps Harry would tell her later. She watched with mild amusement as Dobby and Trixie quarreled over who was going to make lunch. Harry settled the argument by having Trixie make lunch and asking Dobby to go to the Burrow and help the Weasley's pack. The matriarch of the Weasley clan briefly arrived to drop off some items and made a tremendous fuss over Harry, further embarrassing him. She hardly even noticed Susan, which depressed her slightly. Mrs. Weasley let Harry know that her family would be there just before sundown and thanked him for sending Dobby over. It was obvious to Susan that Mrs. Weasley had a special place in her heart for the Boy-Who-Lived. That revelation made a pang of longing surface under Susan's carefully maintained faÃ§ade. She trembled slightly wondering if anyone would make that kind of fuss over her again. Savagely, she forced those feelings back down inside her.
After lunch, Susan asked Harry to help her look through her Aunt's spell books for useful material. They opened the trunk and selected several books to start reading. They spent the next two hours in relative silence that was broken on occasion.
"Harry, come look at this. It looks like a very powerful cutting curse!" She said pointing to the page she was reading.
"Oh. I think Tonks mentioned that one before! Let's add it to the list. Make sure you get the page number and the book title."
"Okay. Do you think the DA will be an official school organization this year?"
"I don't know. I can't see Dumbledore turning us down. Well at least turning you guys down. If we get a competent Defense against the Dark Arts instructor, he might say no. I will believe the competent part when I see it. If I have to I will just practice and whoever shows up I will practice with."
"Just let me know and I will be there. Will you teach me the one you used on Voldemort?" She said with just a hint of a pause saying the dreaded name. Susan figured that she had laid eyes on him and survived, that earned her the right to say his name.
"Sure, but I still wasn't thinking straight when I cursed him. There were at least two other spells I should have used that would have done more damage. Oh well hindsight being what it is, I am just glad I remembered the Mad Eye's golden rule of dueling."
"What's that?" Susan asked as she started mentally going over everything Moody had taught them during class.
Catching her confused expression Harry continued, "Not the fake Moody. The real one once told me the most important thing in dueling is 'Do Something'. Don't sit there and think about the best curse to use. You will paralyze yourself by trying to out think yourself. If you are in a duel and you are casting a spell, you are at least doing one thing right. Well that and CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" He added bellowing the last part with a laugh.
"Forgive me for asking, but what is it between you and Dumbledore? I always thought you got along, but lately it doesn't look like you get along at all."
"I would rather not say. It is personal. Lets just say he could have told me some information, but chose not to. The information might have prevented someone's death."
"Sirus Black you mean." She asked cautiously.
"Yes. The whole bloody Department of Mysteries rubbish could have been prevented if he had just told me!" Harry said slamming the book down on the table. He looked up a minute later and apologized. "I am sorry. I don't want you to think I am taking it out on you. I am still pissed and you are the only one who happens to be around."
"S'okay Harry. I shouldn't have asked. Do you want to take a break? I wouldn't mind meeting that Hippogriff you have upstairs."
"Sure cmon. Buckbeak will be happy for some visitors. I wish we could take him out for a flight, but I am betting that we wouldn't be allowed."
With that the pair went to the attic, where they found the Hippogriff resting. It stirred as they walked into the room. Harry repeated Hagrid's instructions to Susan and demonstrated by bowing and waiting for the noble creature's approval prior to approaching. He stroked the side of the beast's head and fed it some vermin that either Dobby or Trixie had left. Susan nervously repeated Harry's actions. It took a bit longer for Buckbeak to bow to her. Susan felt as if she were being judged, but finally it bowed and she was allowed to approach. Buckbeak's feather's were quite soft to her touch. She also fed him a dead rat. They made small talk as they petted the Hippogriff and fed it rats. For Susan it was one of the most surreal experiences of her life. Harry mumbled something to Buckbeak about wishing that one of the rats had a silver paw. Susan almost asked him, but decided not to ruin the mood. Her earlier question about Dumbledore had all but killed a rather productive study session. They spent a good hour and a half up there. Susan admitted that she enjoyed watching, but not playing quiddicth. She preferred just flying without a purpose rather than competition. She also freely discussed her ineptitude at herbology and how much she relied on Hannah in that subject, but she made up for it by helping her friend through Ancient Runes and Charms. They talked about their future plans after school, Harry's goal of becoming an Auror and Susan's lack of any future plans.
"Isn't that awful. I still don't know what I want to do. Mum and Auntie wanted me to intern at the ministry and eventually take a position there. Being a healer sounded like a good career, but I realized that the sight of blood makes me a little queasy. I was always telling myself that I would know what I want after I took my OWLs. Well they are out of the way and I still have no idea! Good for you though, I am glad one of us knows what they want. You might want to talk to some of the aurors you know to get an idea what the rest of the job is like. They spend a horrid amount of time just processing paperwork. Auntie used to joke that the key to fighting evil was the timely processing of paperwork, because you spend more time fighting paperwork than chasing evil."
"Did she like her job?"
"Yes very much so, but she also lost herself in it. Mum used to say that Auntie never really got over Uncle Edgar's death. She would be gone before dawn and rarely made it back before supper. She became her job. If you go that route, try to remember to have some fun every now and then."
"I will try to remember that. I probably should talk to Tonks and Kingsley to see how much they really enjoy it and what their days are really like."
"You know Mr. Shacklebolt? Auntie is, was always talking about him. She said he used to get so mad when she called him Moody Jr. or Mini-Moody. She did say that he was one of the best she had ever seen."
Harry chuckled wondering if calling the towering auror by one of the aforementioned nicknames would evoke the same reaction as calling Tonks by the dreaded "N" name - "Nymphadora". "What the hell. Why not? According to Dumbledore only Voldemort can really kill me. Why not give it a try?"
They chatted for a few more minutes, before leaving the hippogriff and heading downstairs. Unexpectedly, they found Emmeline Vance speaking to Lisa Turpin and her younger brother. They both had trunks sitting on the ground next to them. They both looked very shocked to see Harry Potter walk into the room.
"You just missed Professor Dumbledore. He brought the Turpin children here. He said he would be back with the Abbott children soon."
Harry was first to ask, "What's going on?"
"I have been following the wireless while you two were up in the library. It looks like there were several other attacks last night against pureblooded families who are traditionally against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. From what I have been able to gather, the headmaster fears that there may be more attacks. So, he is trying to warn people who may be at risk. He also said that Charlie Weasley will be here this evening to take Buckbeak away. We may actually need the room depending on how many people this place will end up housing."
"Oh okay. Hello Lisa. I would say it is good to see you, but under these circumstances I really don't know what to say other than welcome to my home. I have never met your friend. Is it a safe guess to say he is your brother?"
"Yes. Harry this is Kevin. Kevin this is Harry Potter. Kevin is a second year Hufflepuff. Kevin, you might already know Susan Bones. She is in your house. Harry, you actually own this place? It seems a little ..."
"Dark?" Harry answered. "Yeah, but it recently came into my possession. It was the Black family home. Not exactly the 'light' side of the Black family either. Susan, you want to show Lisa where she can bunk. I'll take Kevin to my room." Kevin's eyes were huge at the prospect of rooming with Harry Potter.
"I will come up in a minute, I am going to transfigure some bunk beds. Not as cozy as the ones you have right now, but I get the feeling that we are going to need them. Susan your house elf is cleaning some of the other spare bedrooms. I am not sure how many we are going to need. Professor Dumbledore mentioned that he might send a team of house elves from the school to lend a hand.
Harry helped Kevin Turpin with his trunk. The young Hufflepuff seemed to be another incarnation of one of the Creevy brothers from the way he was staring at Harry. Harry tried to answer just enough of the boy's questions to prevent him from becoming upset but at the same time discourage him from asking more. Crossing the hall and knocking on the girl's bedroom door, Harry could already hear the sounds of giggling. He was amused that girls could do that. In a way it was good to see Susan happy about something or at least happy to have someone else to speak with. When Lisa answered the door, he asked if she and her brother would like to see Buckbeak. Lisa need a bit of Susan's prodding, she seemed a bit squeamish. Kevin on the other hand wanted to race up to the attic. Harry had to physically restrain him and remind Kevin that he needed to be shown how to correctly approach the hippogriff.
Buckbeak took to Kevin very quickly. Lisa took much longer. Buckbeak could sense her anxiety and huffed at her uneasiness. The petite Ravenclaw finally managed to successfully approach Buckbeak but cringed at the sight of a bucket of dead rats.
"I think I will go down and find that library that cousin Emmeline was talking about. Nice to meet you Buckbeak." She said as if trying to convince herself.
Susan spoke up, "I will go with you. Harry and I have some books out right now and we are still taking notes for next year's DA." Lisa looked excited about the prospect of a continuing DA. The two young witches left and Harry and Kevin continued to pet Buckbeak. Kevin had never encountered one and Harry was doing his best to regurgitate his third year lesson from Hagrid about the flying creature.
By the time Kevin had run out of things to ask him, they were out of rats to feed. So, they went back downstairs. Harry stopped by the library just to point it out to Kevin, who sighed seeing his sister already surrounded by a small pile of books. Susan smiled at Harry from the book she was looking through. As he started to close the door, they heard a series of loud noises from below.
"That must be the Weasleys." Harry said reassuring the two startled witches.
Harry went down to greet his adopted family leaving Kevin in the library with his sister, but not before warning him that not all the books on the shelf have been checked for curses or dark magic. He mentioned it might be best to read the title of the book first and if it sounds the least bit sinister to not pick it up. Kevin paled slightly while shaking his head vigorously.
Harry walked back into the kitchen only to be crushed by Molly and Ginny Weasley's combined hugs. He smiled and greeted each of them while getting a manly back slap from Ron. Dobby was already hauling the trunks up to the bedrooms, but beamed in pride when Harry thanked him for helping the Weasleys get moved from the Burrow.
"I wanted Fred and George to come as well, but they refused. They have a flat above their shop. I do hope they will be careful. They did plan to drop by sometime and send their best. I do worry about them so." Said Mrs. Weasley casting a worried look at the family clock. The hands representing the twins alternated between 'work' and 'mischief'. "Yes. It's a special category I added just for them." She sighed.
Ginny decided to add, "But Mum, to them mischief is like breathing. It is their natural state. Am I right or what?"
"I definitely agree there. Good to see you mate. Have you been keeping up with the news? There were a bunch of attacks last night? I started to get worried for you." Harry sensed the serious tone in Ron's words. It caused Harry to reflect on the changing times, where in the past the first words out of Ron's mouth would have something to do with either quidditch or eating. He saw Ginny was wide-eyed and nodding in agreement with her brother.
"Well you can see I am fine. Nothing to worry yourselves over." Harry decided not to mention last night's encounter with a certain Dark Lord.
"Of course nothing at all, Harry." Susan's sarcastic voice could be heard from the base of the steps.
Harry turned and gave her a look that screamed "LATER! NOT NOW!" She obviously got the hint as she walked over and shook hands with Ron and Ginny, who both looked a bit confused. Ginny actually looked slightly angry and confused, truth be told.
Deciding to explain Harry said, "It looks like we have lots of people joining us in purgatory this summer. Susan's here and so is Lisa and Kevin Turpin. From the sounds of it there is a chance that even more people will be here soon. So you might want to claim your bedroom soon."
As if on cue, Hannah, her sister and Dumbledore emerged from the floo connection. Susan immediately conceded the strange staring match she and Ginny were engaged in and rushed over to hug Hannah and Chelsea.
"Susan, we were so worried about you! Mom and Dad are going to take a trip to the mainland and see some of the muggle sites. Did you and Harry really fight You-Know-Who last night?"
Harry cringed at Hannah's question as this immediately brought the full wrath of both Weasley women on him.
"Harry Potter! What in Merlin's name were you thinking? You could have been killed! That's it! You will not be setting one foot outside this house! Do you understand me? Albus, I will be giving you a piece of my mind over this!"
Harry shrugged his shoulders as Mrs. Weasley continued her tirade. He was pretty much expecting that. Ginny's fierce scowl was much less expected and a bit more unnerving. Ron merely had his mouth open and was mouthing the words "Bloody Hell" over and over again. Unfortunately, the noise woke Mrs. Black's portrait, which proceeded to add to the cacophony. Lisa and Kevin were now on the steps listening to the goings on and Hannah looked mortified by the chain of events her question had triggered.
It was into this scene that the front door opened and in walked Kingsley Shacklebolt and Neville Longbottom.
Authors Notes - Longer chapter. I am trying to break the 40k barrier with the next installment. Not a lot of action, but a rather unconventional use of the Knight Bus. Many have expressed a concern that Neville will be a Super-Wizard. (Some also said he is a loser and should have died.) Please note there will be no super wizards in this fic. The closest will be Voldie and obviously he is not as powerful as he is in most fics. That said, I am getting a bunch of reviews that are praising my portrayal of the Dark Lord. I want a villain that you can really sink your teeth into instead of the usual portrayal. Number 12 is going to be a bit on the crowded side this summer as more refugees arrive. Lisa and Kevin are just bit players. The plot will begin to take shape. The coming attractions include; Sirus's will reading, ramifications of emancipation, hereditary voting, an emotionally charged viewing of pensieve memories and Voldie's assault on Azkaban. How am I doing so far on the "Lets Keep Susan from becoming a cheap imitation of Ginny/Hermoine"? I will be picking up the pace of the story (heck 6 chapters and I have barely covered 1 day - at this rate I will have them getting on the Hogwart's Express about the time JKR releases Book 7!) I honestly don't know if they eat Biscuits and Gravy overseas. For the most part it is a southern dish here in the USA, so I imported it.