Plans, Practice, Potions and Portkeys
Later that evening, Albus and Mad-eye met, at 12 Grimmauld Place, with Arthur and Molly Weasley and their four sons who were residing in London. A somber mood hung over the room as they discussed what had been learned from Pettigrew's interrogation.
"I don't think Voldemort's intent is to ambush any of you and kill you /outright/, unless, of course you put up a fight. I believe he's expecting to frighten you into fleeing and trying to escape...to Hogwarts."
"Why wouldn't we?" Arthur asked. "Hogwarts is the safest place we could go."
"He wants you all there, /together/, to make a, shall we say, /big production/, of killing the whole family at one time," Dumbledore explained.
"That's my worst fear," whispered Molly
"Or he'd make you and Arthur watch as he kills your children, one at a time," added Mad-eye. "Sorry, Molly, but that's the reality of it," he said, shrugging, after seeing her eyes widen with distress.
"Unfortunately, graphic as Alastor is, that is a very real possibility." Dumbledore sighed. "Charlie is the only one out of reach at the moment and even he is vulnerable, if he is lured back here with news of an attack."
"So, what can we do, Albus," asked Arthur Weasley as her took Molly's hand in his. "We can't just hide, we'd be just postponing the inevitable, wouldn't we?"
"You misunderstand me, Arthur; I want you all to come to Hogwarts, /eventually/, not to hide, but to help us prepare; which is why I brought Emergency Portkeys for each of you. However, until such time as they are needed, I think you and Molly can continue to use Headquarters without too much worry, as I know you are very careful when you leave the Ministry, so you are not followed. Just make sure you don't use the same exit or path everyday. We are creatures of habit and ambushes depend on knowing where someone will be, with some reliably, at a certain time."
Turning to Percy Weasley, Dumbledore continued, "This goes for you, too, Percy...and... Miss Clearwater, also. Try not to alarm her; tell her it's a new idea from the Ministry and you want her to try it out, see how easy it is to not have a set pattern to her coming and going to her Healer classes at St. Mungo's each day. A research project, so to speak."
"Yes, sir," replied Percy, frowning. He hadn't considered that Penny might be in jeopardy, too.
"I trust you two have sufficiently 'improved' your store with enough alarms and protective devices that any Death Eater entering your establishment will rue the day. Am I correct?"
"Done deal, sir. We've been testing all sorts of alarms, some of which we'll be installing at Hogwarts, if they prove effective."
"You and your wife are prime targets, especially considering your disruption of Fenrir's attack on your Mother."
"I've already taken care of that, sir. Fleur and I use a secret entrance at Gringotts and our house is warded and unplottable."
"I see. It seems your work with breaking charms and spells works both ways, eh?" Dumbledore laughed.
"You could say that, sir," said the oldest Weasley son, smiling. "Might I suggest that if you are planning on giving everyone emergency Portkeys, that they transport who ever is activating it to our house, rather than Hogwarts. We could regroup and travel when we feel it's safe, not when he wants."
"Yes, that sounds like an admirable idea. Can you all prime your Portkey to Bill's house location?"
"Yes, Albus, we'll see to it," answered Arthur.
"What are they; the Portkeys, I mean," Molly asked, having calmed down a bit.
"A bracelet." Dumbledore opened a bag and handed out simple copper bands, which the Weasleys all donned. "Inconspicuous but dead useful, as they say," he added with a smile.
"Speaking of dead useful, Headmaster," George said as he stood. "Fred and I have a delivery for the D.A. Their potion and ammo holders; redesigned and made to be worn with a minimum of bulkiness, but everything within easy reach."
He and Fred put two medium sized boxes on the table, addressed to:
--------Special Delivery ----------
-Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes-
"It's something we.."
"and Anna designed ..."
"We had them made up..."
"super rush job, too..."
"No extra charge, of course ..."
"So, if you wouldn't mind, sir ..."
"taking them back with you?"
The twins looked very proud of their contribution to The D.A. and Albus solemnly promised to make sure the boxes were at the next meeting.
"I'll deliver them, have no fear," he assured them.
"Thank you, sir."
"We'd make the trip, but..."
"we're right in the middle of another project..."
"for the D.A. and we're really working hard.."
"to get it finished and THAT one..."
"we'll deliver, /in person/!"
Bill shook his head and shot a glance over to his Father, who rolled his eyes and smiled. Molly just sighed and pursed her lips, keeping her thoughts to herself. Percy raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
Dumbledore turned his attention back to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
"One last thing Arthur...Molly; I have been giving it a lot of thought and I fear the Burrow may be destroyed, at some point, in the near future, to hasten your flight to the school. If you want to save any family valuables, I'd do so, as quickly and quietly as possible. BUT, I would leave duplicates, so it would seem as if they are destroying everything that has any meaning to you," Dumbledore suggested. "Only take what is truly sentimental and leave the household things that can be easily replaced. Contact Ron, Ginny and Charlie to see if there's anything in particular they want, but again, leave copies, to fool the Death Eaters."
"Very well, Albus, we'll do it as soon as possible. We'll send an owl to Charlie, tonight, although I think he's taken all of his personal things with him; we'll double check. Could you have Ginny and Ron owl us with their list of favorite things?"
"Certainly. Well, I must be going. Thank you for coming at such short notice." Dumbledore rose and headed for the fireplace. "Alastor, I'll speak with you tomorrow."
"Good bye, Professor." "Good night, Albus."
"Good evening all." And with a 'poof' of green smoke, the Headmaster returned to Hogwarts.
"The train is unguarded. You will simply search, as you did when looking for the Animagus Black. There will be no resistance, BUT, you will harm /none /of the students. Do you understand?"
The Dementor nodded, his rasping, death-rattle breathing the only sound in the room.
"Excellent. I will have plenty of souls, a veritable feast for you, later, at Hogwarts. A little time, yet, a little patience."
Again, the Dementor nodded.
"I believe ten of you should suffice; two for the engine and baggage car, and two each for the coaches. Come in from either end to thwart any escape attempts."
"I'm very pleased that you and your brothers have joined me; your rewards will be great, I assure you. I shall signal when it is time."
The Dementor bowed and turning, soundlessly floated out of the room.
The Lestrange brothers, standing against the far wall, gave sighs of relief. Voldemort sat back in his chair, a grim smile on his face.
"Do not tell Bella what I have planned; she wanted to attack the Hogwarts Express earlier and I told her no. Her own plans must proceed and I won't have her distracted. Do you understand, Rodolphus?"
"Yes, Master, I understand completely."
"I have a specific target for the two you, also; you shall finish what Fenrir started, by destroying the Burrow. I want the Weasleys to run home to Dumbledore like the rest of those fools. You will have one week to plan; how many Death Eaters you will need to assist and when you will do it. No fire! I want that hovel blown into splinters, not one brick left whole. Do you understand, TOTALLY gone. You have one week to plan. You may go."
"Thank you, Master. We will not fail you." Rodolphus' eyes gleamed.
"I assumed you realized failure was out of the question." Voldemort smiled grimly.
"Indeed, Master," replied Rabastan.
Rodolphus and Rabastan exited quickly, leaving Voldemort chuckling to himself, very pleased with how his plans were coming into line...a line that was pointing straight to Hogwarts. He threw back his head and laughed out loud.
Harry was sitting on the sofa in front of the Gryffindor common room fireplace, staring, unfocused, at the dancing flames in the grate.
"Harry." Hermione tilted her head, gazing, perplexed, at her friend. "/Harry/?"
He held up a hand for silence, then sat up straight and shook his head. He looked around at Hermione, eyes wide.
"I know what he's going to do next!"
"Who? Voldemort? How?"
"I was just sitting here, daydreaming, watching the fire and I heard him. I suppressed my feeling of surprise, so as to not let him know I was there. But, he was in a very good mood and must have let his mental wards relax a bit. It was a little like standing by a fence and eavesdropping on the neighborhood bully on the other side. I don't think he felt me at all. It was very strange."
"Are you sure he didn't let you in, deliberately, to throw us off guard with fake information?"
"No, it was similar to when I was seeing through Nagini's eyes, remember?"
"What, exactly, did you see and hear?"
"A Dementor and the Lestrange brothers."
"I have to go tell Dumbledore," said Harry, as he rose and headed for the door.
"Yes, sir, the Hogwarts Express and the Burrow."
"The Burrow's destruction was not unexpected, Harry. Molly, Arthur and the children are planning on emptying it of personal valuables, as we speak; replaced by duplicates, of course. But now we have a time frame; I should say no more than four days, in case the plan is pushed forward for any reason."
"It's a shame, though, sir. It's their home..."
"Ah, well, perhaps you should remind Ronald of how he could well spend some of his 'finders fee' when the time comes."
"Yeah! That's a brilliant idea!"
"But, be sure and remind him not to tell Molly and Arthur. Let it be a surprise."
"A bloody great surprise, that!"
"Now, what were the orders for the Dementors?"
"They are supposed to stop the train and walk through, searching, like they did for Sirius, but he said they were not to harm any of the students."
"Ah, well, the Dementors wouldn't be able to distinguish the Slytherins from the Hufflepuffs, so he's protecting the children of his followers by that directive; how magnanimous of him."
"We should be prepared to repel them, just the same, don't you think?"
"Indeed. You were going to work on your Patronus spell with the D.A., were you not?"
"Yes, sir, and Professor Lupin is going to help."
"Excellent! Well, I'm glad you were able to 'eavesdrop' as well as not be sensed by Tom. Be sure and clear your mind before you sleep tonight, and I wouldn't deliberately try to repeat this, if I were you, Harry. You probably weren't noticed for the simple reason you weren't consciously trying to push your way into his thoughts."
"It was a chance happening and if, when you are not quite paying attention in class, perhaps, it could occur again. Be very careful if it does; stay calm, Harry, as you did this time, keep your mind blank, no matter what you see or hear and back away from the mental connection as slowly and carefully as you can. He may not be distracted as he was tonight and might become aware of your intrusion."
"Yes, sir, I'll be careful."
"Fine. Good night, Harry."
"Good night, sir."
Remus Lupin faced the D.A. and shaking his head slightly, wondered how the Wizarding world had come to this; relying on a group of twenty...twenty-one students, to win this war.
"Alright, Harry has told me that you have all tried to do the 'Patronus' charm, with some success, when you were meeting in secret during Umbridge's reign of terror. A few could only summon wisps of vapor, which, because of the difficulty of this charm, is quite a feat. So, don't be discouraged, it will come to you. The most important thing to remember is...well, a memory; a very happy one. It's best to have one picked out and ready, because coming face to face with a Dementor is not the time to start wracking your brains for a good memory."
There were nervous snickers all around.
"It took me a while," Harry volunteered, "to settle on the right memory for me to use. So take your time and really search for a good one."
"Maybe we should think of one that all of us could use," Neville suggested.
"Like what?" Seamus scratched his head. "Not much has been happy, for everybody, for a while, mate."
"Maybe something from last summer...oh...no...Bill" Ginny hung her head.
"The pie fight?" Justin said, eyes lighting up.
"I don't think that's happy, so much as silly," Padma replied. "Besides, it was messy."
"I agree, it was fun, but not happy," Lavender nodded, a thoughtful look creasing her brow.
"I've got it!" Terry jumped to his feet. "The luau at Anna's! If that's not a good, happy memory, then we're in a lot more trouble than we think!"
"Yeah!" "That was a great party!" "I had a blast!" "I smile every time I think of it!"
"That's it, then," Remus stood, beaming at them. "And I'll tell you something Anna said at the time, and I know she had no idea how prophetic her words would be. She said to me, as you all were running toward the barn, 'I want them to have one good memory to carry with them, Remus. One good 'remember when' to talk about'. Seems she knew what she was doing, huh?"
"Yeah, and it's a really good "remember when', too."
"Ok, just so we are all on the same wave length about this, let's talk about the luau and some of the things we remember that make us smile."
"You picking Anna up in your arms and jumping into the pool with your clothes on!" Ernie laughed.
"That insane movie we watched!" Zack looked over at Ernie and they both dissolved into laughter.
Ron leaned over to Harry, " 'Igor, would you give me a hand with the bags' ."
" 'Certainly...you take the blond and I'll take the one in the turban'." Harry responded, straight faced, then broke up, pounding his leg, roaring with laughter.
Remus was laughing as hard as the rest as they continued to recount their best memories of that special day last spring. Finally, everyone calmed down a bit, and the meeting got back to business.
"What about me?" came a voice from side of the room.
Everyone swiveled to look at Draco.
"I wasn't there. As a matter of fact, that was a pretty rotten night for me, all things considered."
"Blimey, Draco, you're right." Harry looked stricken. "Sorry, mate, we forgot about you not being there."
"I'm sorry I missed it, too. Sounds like a helluva lot more fun than my day," he replied with a smile. "It's ok, Harry, everybody; that's history. BUT, as a matter of fact, I do have a very happy memory of my own. Most of you don't know this, but I had a secret visit from my Mother and my baby Sister over the Christmas holiday."
"Really!" "That's wonderful!" "How are they?" "Is she cute?"
"She's adorable and Mother is as happy as I've ever seen her, so, that's it," he said, grinning from ear to ear. "That's MY happy memory; being with them and knowing they are ok!"
"Splendid, Draco, that sound like a good strong one, too," Remus agreed. "Well, with THAT in mind, I think we will be able to do the charm quite well, especially if we all work on it together. I do believe the Dementors are in for a bit of a surprise." Remus concluded.
"Poor old dears," Dean giggled.
"We can laugh now, but when we are facing the real thing, and that cold wave hits you, you better be ready," Harry said quietly, suddenly serious. "Let's get started practicing, Professor."
"Right you are, Harry." Remus stood and walked over to a trunk that had been sitting on the floor, rattling occasionally. "I brought our old friend, the Boggart, to help us. Remember when it formed itself into a Dementor for Harry back in third year?"
"Yeah." "You stopped it." "It was scary."
"I think if you all concentrate on a Dementor as being the thing you fear most, it will oblige us by transforming into one for each of you. Plus I've told the Boggart it could have a permanent home here as a teaching tool for D.A.D.A if it wants. It's thinking it over." Remus winked at them, lightening the mood just a little. "Ok, who wants to be first?"
"I will," Colin volunteered, "Dementors scare the willies outta me, anyway, so there's no pretending on my part, Professor."
"Right, Colin...well, wand at the ready, and say very distinctly 'Expecto/ Partronum/'."
" 'Expecto/ Patronum/', got it. Go ahead, Professor," Colin bravely took a stance and raised his wand.
A huge thunderstorm was rolling across the landscape, bearing down on Ottery St. Catchpole. The inhabitants of the tiny village were inside their homes, bracing for the torrents of rain and lashing winds that were sure to start within minutes. No one dared to venture out on a night like this, which was just as well, considering what was about to happen.
Half a dozen Death Eaters had just Apparated at the Burrow. They fanned out to surround the house, although it didn't look to be inhabited; there were no lights or movement to be seen inside. Just as they got into position, the heavens opened up and huge droplets of rain pelted down, harder and harder, blurring the surrounding scenery. Lightening flashed and the thunder literally shook the ground.
Rodolphus held up his arm and the Death Eaters pointed their wands at the Burrow. He looked to the left and right to make sure all were ready then, dropping his arm, unleashed spell after spell, along with the others, as the Burrow exploded in millions of pieces, shooting debris over the whole yard and all the way to the edge of the orchard. It quickly turned into a sodden mess as the continuing lightening and thunder seemed to replay the sound of the explosions. The chimney swayed and collapsed as pieces of the roof crashed back to the ground. There was a blackened crater where the house had stood.
Rodolphus Disapparated, followed by the others. It had taken less than ten seconds.
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The Village News
Last night's severe storms did more than rain on the rhubarb, as local citizens were stunned by the sound of a horrific explosion from just outside the village. An investigation early this morning showed a blackened crater at the sight of an old abandoned farm house, west of the village proper.
"It must have been one of those old W.W.2 duds, got hit by lightening," said Charlie Spiggot, town constable. "It happens every so often; dud will have been buried where is crashed and rain will wash away the dirt over the years. Usually someone spots 'em and the army comes and takes 'em away. Looks like this one got hit by lightening, though. Just cause the firing mechanism failed all those years ago, don't mean it ain't ready to blow!"
No one was injured and there were no reports of any damage, except to the old farm house that had been sitting, derelict, for years.
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"Morning, Cissa," mumbled Gwen, as she shuffled into the kitchen, heading for her seat at the table.
Cissa looked up from feeding Lyn and smiled. "Good morning, lazy bones. Why so late?"
"Didn't sleep well; kept have nightmares of being chased by giants. So, by the time I did get to sleep properly, it was almost time to get up. I opted to have a bit of extra snooze when my alarm went off."
"Good morning, Missy Gwen, here is you's coffee," Winky put the mug in front of Gwen.
"Thanks Winky. Just toast, ok?"
"Yes, Missy Gwen."
Gwen took a sip and looked around. "Where are Anna and Severus... not STILL in bed are they?"
Cissa laughed, shaking her head. "No, they've come up for air, sort of; they're down in the potions lab, with Eileen."
"Wonder what they're up to?" Gwen took a piece of toast from the rack. "Think I'll take a peek. Morning, sweetie," she added, as she kissed Lyn on the head while passing her highchair.
Pushing the brick on the end of the fireplace, she started down the hidden staircase to the room under the kitchen. Eileen was sitting on the hearth, watching her son work. Anna was chopping another ingredient and took it to Severus, who tipped it into his cauldron, slowly stirring the bubbling mixture.
"That should do it. Now, we'll let it simmer for twenty minutes and see how it turns out." Severus waved his wand and the flames went down a bit. Satisfied, he turned and spotted Gwen.
"Good morning, Gwen. Bit of a late riser, aren't you?"
"So I've been told. Bad night...bad dreams...giants."
"Giants?" Anna turned and regarded her stepdaughter. "You don't even know what they look like, do you?"
"Sort of, from the descriptions I've read; twenty feet tall, ugly, dumb as a rock, but dangerous in the extreme."
"That about covers it," agreed Anna. "Why would you be having dreams about them?"
"I probably had the dreams because I just can't get my mind off the fact that - a - they exist and - b- Voldemort may use them at Hogwarts. Even as big as they are, they couldn't break into the school, could they?"
"No. Well, not easily, anyway. But, if he's planning on gaining entry from within, they'd be one hell of a diversion, don't you think?" Anna stood with her arm around Severus' waist, his arm over her shoulder.
"Bloody right, they would. They'd get my attention, straightaway! Anyway to stop them?"
"It takes at least a half dozen wizards to stun a giant," Severus explained. "The Ministry would send a special squad to handle them."
"Would they get there in time?"
"If we have time to send for them; we may be a tad busy."
"A /tad/?" Gwen was aghast. "No, that's not good enough." She got an evil grin on her face, eyebrow raised. "I got a plan. It came to me in the middle of one of my dreams last night, but I have to do a little research."
Severus looked at Anna, then at Eileen.
"Aren't you two even mildly curious as to what's she's going to do?" he asked, stunned at their calm acceptance of Gwen's announcement.
"No," his Mother answered. "She'll tell us when she's ready. Have a little patience, dear."
"Severus, she's got a bone between her teeth, so don't even think of trying to get it away from her; she's on a mission. You think I'm single minded? Gwen's got me beat all hollow. Let her go; she'll not do anything without our input, after she's looked at the problem from all the angles and found most of the solutions, too."
Gwen stood there, gazing at the flames, gnawing on the crust of toast, fire in her eyes.
"I've got a bad feeling about this." Severus muttered.
"Hey, get up here! Guess what happened last night!" Cissa called down the stairs.
"What the..." Anna, Gwen and Severus hurried up to the kitchen. Cissa had the newest copy of the Daily Prophet spread on the table, and she was pointing at the picture of what had been the Burrow. There wasn't much left to see.
"Right on time." Severus observed.
"Bella wasn't there; no fire, just blown to smithereens." Anna was scanning the article. "Albus was right; Voldemort is tying up loose ends and trying to herd everyone to Hogwarts."
"What do you think he'll come up with to get us to stick our noses...and necks...out there?"
"I'm not sure, short of daring us to 'come out and play'. We'll have to wait and see."
"Was anyone hurt?" Eileen floated up through the floor and hovered above the table, looking over Severus' shoulder.
"No. The Weasleys are living in London at the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. They're safe."
"Who's next on his list do you suppose?"
"Hard to know, his mind is so warped," answered Anna, a frown on her face. "It's his list of revenge, for real and imagined affronts, so, it's anyone's guess."
"Well, you all sit and enjoy your second cup of coffee, and I'll keep an eye on your potion, Severus." Eileen started down through the floor, with a wave of her hand.
"Thank you, Ma-ma. I'll be down in 15 minutes."
"Take your time, dearest."
Bella entered Voldemort's drawing room and bowed.
"Come here, my faithful one," he purred.
"Is everything ready?"
"Yes, Master, I picked the most reliable of your followers. They understand what must be done."
"Stun everyone as you enter. We don't want any alarm sent to the Ministry before you've had time to finish the job."
"Get in and /get out/. Remember, you cannot Apparate, the whole building is warded, except in the lobby and emergency room. If you meet resistance, kill them, but any bystanders, stun. I want the tale told of how I allowed you your revenge. Do not fail me, Bella. Do not become trapped, you are vital to my plan for Hogwarts."
"No, Mister. I've waited too long for this. I want them /dead/. I will not fail you."
"Excellent. Your patience is starting to pay off, isn't it, my dear Bella."
"Yes, Master. You have taught me well, teaching me to wait until the time was truly right."
"Indeed. And there will be more rewards, later, at Hogwarts; your sister, your nephew, and... your daughter."
"Oh, yes, Master."
"Come to me, Bella, my sweet."
"Oh, yes...Master, yes...oh, yes."
Artemus Pye rubbed his eyes and put his reading glasses back on. In his hand, a new patient chart; another victim of a seemingly random Death Eater attack, being transferred upstairs after a preliminary exam in the emergency room. Artemus was spending all of his time at St. Mungo's now; in fact, he was sleeping in the 'Long Term Care' unit, as it was the quietest.
Heading for the main lobby, to send his report to the Ministry, he heard a series of loud 'pops'. He skidded to a stop at the end of the hall, jumped to one side and peeked around the corner. Standing in the center of the main lobby, with their wands out, was a group of seven Death Eaters. They began stunning the Witches and Wizards who were so unfortunate as to be there; staff first and then those closest to the Floo Station and entrance doors.
The Memory Charm Albus Dumbledore had placed on him all those months ago lifted, and he knew what he had to do...and quickly! Without hesitation, Artemus dropped the chart and ran back down the hall to the staircase, and started sprinting up the stairs, pausing on the first landing only long enough to shoot a 'Colloportus' back at the door into the hallway, where a crescendo of shouts and screams could be heard.
Reaching the Fourth Floor, he yanked the door open and shot across the hall, "Alohamora", he yelled, to unlock the door of the Janus Thickey ward. Turning, he cast a 'Colloportus' on the stairwell door. The Matron was standing, talking to Penelope Clearwater when Artemus burst into the ward.
"Miriam, /run/, Death Eaters are coming up the stairs! Get down the hall to the break room and hide!"
"What about..." Healer Strout looked down the ward to where Frank and Alice Longbottom were sitting.
"I'll get them out! /Go/! /Run/! /NOW/!" Artemus gave her a shove and the chubby little Witch took off down the hallway, eyes wide, hands fluttering."
"Penelope, help me! Quickly!"
Slamming the doors to the ward closed, even as the noise of the Death Eaters blasting their way into the stairwell was heard, Artemus sealed the door and with a wave of his wand, moved the Healer's desk, chair, and two of the beds to barricade the door.
Hurrying down the ward, he grabbed Frank Longbottom by the arm and yanked him, none too gently, to his feet, as Penelope drew Alice out of her chair.
"Grab that backpack!" Artemus instructed her as he leaned over and snatched the picture of Neville from the nightstand.
Penelope picked up the bag and threw the strap over her shoulder as she put an arm around Alice. Just as the spell blasts hit the door Fourth Floor stairway door.
"Portkey. Grab hold."
Taking Frank's hand Artemus held the picture and following his lead, Penelope placed Alice's hand, along with hers on the other side of the silver picture frame.
A blue flash of light was overwhelmed by the smoke and flying debris of the ward doors, desk and beds as Bella and two of the Death Eaters blasted their way through the barricade and invaded the room.
The ambulance turned down the alleyway and slowed. Artemus looked back to make sure he wasn't being followed. So far, so good.
Gwen had been right; no one questioned an ambulance. He silently thanked his lucky stars he'd had Jerry, the Muggle kid living next door to his parents, as his best mate when he was growing up. It had been good old "Jer" who had taught him to drive all those years ago. Considering he had no license, he was glad he hadn't been stopped for any reason, as he was loath to use magic on a Muggle policeman.
He flipped his wand and the gate in the tall fence swung open as did the garage door at the end of the short concrete pavement. Pulling in, he turned off the engine as the door to the garage and the gate closed.
Turning to the woman sitting beside him, he saw that Alice Longbottom was gazing around, perfectly happy to watch what happened next. Artemus wondered if she understood, at all, what had transpired in the last few hours. 'Probably not' he thought, with a sigh. 'Just as well.'
He had no idea how bad it had been at St. Mungo's or if there had been other attacks. It didn't look good, in any case.
He patted Alice reassuringly on the arm, got out and came around to her door. Opening it, he unbuckled her seat belt and helped her step down. Holding her hand, Artemus led her back to the rear door, which, when he opened it, revealed Frank Longbottom, asleep on the gurney and Penelope, sitting in the attendant's chair.
"We're here." Artemus gave Penelope a hand as she stepped down. "How is he?"
"He slept most of the way. Where are we, if you don't mind me asking?"
"It's a 'safe house', where we'll wait for word from the Order and instructions on what to do or where to go next."
"Ok, that will do for now." The tall girl looked down at Alice and smiled. "Did you enjoy the ride, Alice?"
Neville's mother looked up at the Healer-in-training and smiled. Whether she understood what had been asked, was anyone's guess.
Artemus brought the gurney out of the ambulance and raised it to waist level. He put Alice's hand on the railing and patted it gently.
"Hold on Alice, you can walk with Frank."
Although she didn't acknowledge hearing him, Alice gripped the stainless steel railing, glancing down at the husband.
Artemus maneuvered the gurney through the garage and into the covered hallway which led to the "abandoned" factory building. Inside, an infirmary and emergency triage center had been set up, waiting for just such an event as had happened at St. Mungo's.
"I wonder what happened after we left?" said Penelope in a small voice.
"Hopefully, most escaped. The Death Eaters seemed to be just stunning people, from the brief glimpse I had of the lobby." Artemus replied, taking off his gloves and scarf.
"Why were Fran and Alice the targets of an attack? They certainly aren't any threat to anyone."
"Truth be told, Albus Dumbledore and Anna Twigg-Jones knew this attack was a possibility, so they made the plan months ago, for me to get them out of there. That's why Albus asked me to stay at St. Mungo's recently, as the Death Eaters were getting more active and he knew it was just a matter of time before they tried to get to Alice and Frank."
"It was Bella Lestrange, trying to finish what she started fifteen years ago. A bit of a warm up for what's to come, I suppose."
"I see. Percy and I have been talking about it, too. He's going to move to Hogwarts soon, to help any way he can. He doesn't even care if he loses his job over it, that's how serious he is about helping defeat Vol...Voldemort."
"Oh, dear, he'll be so worried when he hears about the attack and that I'm missing. Is there any way of letting him know I'm ok?"
As if in answer, Wally swooped through an open window high in the wall and settled down on the railing of Frank's gurney. He held out his leg, on which was tied a scroll and hooted, blinking at them.
Artemus untied the scroll and leaned over to talk to the owl.
"Thank you. Will you take a reply, please?"
Wally blinked and hooted again, ruffling his feathers and making himself comfortable, swiveling his head and looking around. Alice walked around the end of the gurney and tentatively reached out and stroked the owl's feathers. He regarded her, eyes blinking, and then tilted his head for her to scratch. She smiled at him and obliged the friendly bird.
Penelope came over and Artemus held the letter so they could both read it.
Just a quick note to let you know what's happened since you made your escape. Well done, by the way!
Bella Lestrange and her fellow Death Eaters made their escape, but not before sustaining some injuries. Unfortunately, there was one death; one of the visitors tried to stop them and was killed for his trouble.
Healer Strout says Penelope Clearwater was in the ward when you sent Marian down the hall to safety. We're assuming Penelope's with you, helping with Frank and Alice. That may be the best thing, actually, when we get them settled. Talk it over with her, and I'll see what the consensus is at this end.
Everyone else at St. Mungo's, who was stunned or injured, will recover. That's the good news.
The bad news is...that takes us one step closer to the battle ahead.
Well, let me know how you all are doing and we'll get word back to you A.S.A.P. as to the next step.
P.S. Percy knows Penelope is with you and safe, so tell her not to worry on that score.
"Alright, that's a relief, then." Penelope sighed
Alice turned, looked at them and smiled. Artemus waved the piece of parchment.
"Good news, Alice."
Walking over to a desk at the side of the room, Artemus found a quill, ink well and some parchment, and sat down to pen a quick reply.
Arrived safe. Everyone is doing well, none the worse for the excitement. Alice is making friends with the owl you sent as I write this. Frank is asleep.
Thanks for the message about Percy; that put Penelope's mind at ease. She was a real trooper, considering she was just following my lead; she didn't panic and has been a big help.
Don't forget to send word to Anna and Gwen that we're OK, as I know they'll worry if they hear of the attack without the details.
Thanks for what good news you did have for us out of that mess.
WELL...NOW YOU LOT ARE CAUGHT UP - CHAPTERWISE - WITH THE OTHER SITES WHERE MY STORY IS POSTED. YOU WILL LEARN PATIENCE; AS IT TAKES ABOUT TWO WEEKS FOR ME TO GET A CHAPTER UP AND RUNNING. THANKS FOR READING........HOW ABOUT A COUPLE OF REVIEWS? I'VE HAD EXACTLY ... WELL ... NONE FOR THIS STORY. BIT DISCOURAGING FOR THIS OLD BROAD, BUT I'LL KEEP POSTING, REGARDLESS. TA!
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