Categories > Books > Harry Potter > The Darkest Hour

Terror Filled Nights

by Ham 0 Reviews

Sixth Year!PostOOtp Its Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts and he has to make some hard decisions in order to survive. But will these decisions help him or make him weaker? Martial arts, dueling, anima...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Dumbledore, Ginny, Harry, Hermione, Neville, Ron, Voldemort - Warnings: [!] [V] - Published: 2007/04/14 - Updated: 2007/04/14 - 6168 words

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Title: The Darkest Hour (10)

Author name: Ham

Summary: Harry is back in Privet Drive just a few days after the happenings in the Department of Mysteries. He is struggling to cope with his loss and the immense burden placed on him. He suddenly finds it very hard to go on - To find a reason to live. Will his task break his spirit? After all he is just a sixteen year old...

He knows that he must fight. Knows that he has to win at all costs. But he knows that if he even is to have a slim chance of defeating Voldemort he will need to make some hard decisions. Decisions that would hurt him and those close to him.

But will Harry be able to take the hard road back when he finally realizes that his decisions only made him weaker? That they took away his only reason to live. His only reason to fight.

DISCLAIMER: If you truly believe that I own Harry Potter and that I'm making money out of this, just imagine in what other ways I can con you. (Rubs hands in glee)

Sharon, thank you for your excellent britpicking job.

Tricia once again thank you for all your excellent beta work.

I also thank Rachael, my second beta and friend, who gives me the motivation to keep writing.



~~~*~

Terror Filled Nights

~~~*~



"What is it, Mum?" Ginny asked curiously, as she, Ron and Hermione took seats at the kitchen table. She noticed that all the adults at the table had very somber expressions on their faces.

"We have something we need to tell you," Arthur said slowly.

"What is it? Is it Harry? Is he ok?" Hermione asked anxiously.

"It's not Harry," Remus said soothingly. "Nothing's happened to him."

Remus' conscience gave a sharp twinge at this. It might be said that Harry was physically fine, but mentally he was sure to be in pretty bad shape. Hagrid had been very close to him, and to see him die like that...

"Then what? Just cut out the suspense and tell us already," Ron said irritably. He was really fed up of all the plotting, secrecy and the lack of information. It seemed like everybody was hiding something or the other and they were the only ones not deemed old enough, or important enough to be told anything.

"It's Hagrid, dear," Molly said wiping a tear from her eye. "He... he got..."

"He got captured by Voldemort a few days ago," Remus said quietly, finishing what the Weasley matriarch obviously couldn't.

Molly had been totally against telling them about this, but finally Arthur had convinced her that it would be for the best if they told them. He reasoned that they would find out soon enough and it would be better that they heard it from them rather than find it out accidentally.

The three children looked like they had been struck by lightening.

"What! How?" Ron exclaimed in horror.

"We don't know how," Bill sighed. "We only know that he got captured."

"He's not just captured, is he? He's dead... that's why you are even telling us, isn't it?" Ginny asked in a small voice. She didn't really want to know the answer to her question, as she was sure she wouldn't like it.

The adults exchanged uneasy looks and Ron's temper began to rise again.

Finally Arthur nodded.

There was absolute silence as the three children tried to comprehend the immensity of the tragedy.

"How can you be sure that he's dead?" Hermione choked, her voice showing the effort she was making to suppress her tears.

Molly looked over helplessly at Arthur and then Remus. Both had tired looks on their faces. They had spent the past two days leading the search for Hagrid with the rest of the Order, and were exhausted.

"Harry saw the whole thing. That's how we found out," Tonks sighed.

"Harry saw everything? How could he see?" Hermione shrieked. "Oh! You mean through his link with V-Voldemort?" she said slowly, as it suddenly hit her.

Everybody except Remus, Bill and Ginny flinched at the name.

"Yes, thankfully Dumbledore was with him when it happened," Remus said running a hand through his hair frustratedly. He knew that Dumbledore being there had done nothing. No one could have done anything. Harry had seen every gruesome detail.

Ron's face darkened as he heard this. He still was upset that Harry had not told them beforehand about his lessons and not let them join him. Hadn't they always fought beside him? Didn't they also deserve to learn to defend themselves? That this was happening after the whole affair at the Ministry, where all of them had fought just as bravely by his side, made him even angrier.

His thoughts were interrupted by Ginny's horrified voice:

"Oh no! He must be devastated. He loved Hagrid very much... and for this to happen so soon after Sirius..."

Hermione realized this too and she couldn't control her tears anymore and they fell in hot streaks down her cheeks. "Isn't it possible... Couldn't it just be another trick of You-Know-Who?" she asked in a desperate voice, trying to cling to any hope possible.

There was a thick silence in the room as the three children waited for an answer.

The four adults desperately wanted to lie to them right now. To say that yes, it was a possibility that Hagrid was still alive. But in the long run it would backfire spectacularly on them. There was no use giving them false hope.

"No, there's no mistake. Not this time," Remus whispered.


~~~*~


Harry stood alone in a dark room. It was small and claustrophobic and he looked around, trying to find an exit out of the place.

Suddenly a large, pearly white form materialized in front of him.

Harry gasped. "Hagrid!! Is that you?" he said staring at the ghostly figure of the half-giant.

"Yeh didn' come," Hagrid said sadly, looking down at Harry. "Yeh just stood there an' watched him kill me."

Harry looked down at his feet, unable to meet his eyes. The guilt hit him like a ton of bricks and left him shaking.

"I... I tried my best Hagrid. If there was anything I could have done..."

"But yeh knew abou' the prophecy," Hagrid interrupted. "Yeh're the one supposed ter stop him. Yeh saved Ginny from the Basilisk. Why not me, Harry? Why didn't yeh come fer me?"

Harry looked up, his eyes full of tears. "I'm sorry... so sorry... I failed you."

"Sorry," said a new voice. "That's all you ever are, aren't you? You think that one word will solve everything."

Harry looked around and was stunned to see Sirius walking towards him.

"S-s-sirius?"

"Yes, Sirius," the gaunt figure of his godfather snarled. "You had to go and stick your nose into trouble, didn't you? Dumbledore told you that it was important to learn Occlumency. I gave you the damn mirrors so that you could contact me. But what do you do? You go and charge to the Ministry on a suicide mission, taking all your friends along, no less."

"I...I thought that he had you. I had to come to try and save you," Harry pleaded.

"You have brains for a reason, Harry. Learn to use it before you get everyone killed," Sirius barked.

"Of course he won't do that," another voice said coldly.

Harry closed his eyes. He knew who this was.

"I told him. Take the cup. But no! He has to go on his whole nobility complex. Voldemort comes after him and I get killed for it. Best part is that he actually managed to escape," Cedric said coldly. "You must have been very happy, Harry. You could finally move in on Cho."

"It wasn't like that," Harry said brokenly.

"Oh, no? I seem to remember you dating her all of last year. I had hardly been dead for a few months and you made your move."

Harry hung his head. He could see why Cedric would see it like that. Hearing it from Cedric's mouth he knew that it sounded exactly like that.

Two more figures materialized.

"How could you do this, Harry?" a woman's voice said softly, disappointment etched in her tone. "Your Dad and I died to make sure you lived. To make sure you took care of that monster. How could you be so irresponsible?"

"I'm ashamed of you, Harry," James said in a bitter tone. "This would have ended that night in the Shrieking Shack. Remus and Sirius wanted to kill that traitor. He escaped because of /you/... and now Voldemort is back. Three people have already died because of your actions. How many more will die before you realize your mistakes?"

"More of his nobility complex. Always wants to play the hero. I suppose that his friends will be the next to go," Cedric said angrily.

"I...I'm sorry," Harry sobbed. "I... I'll do anything. Just please don't hate me. I promise not to let anyone else die."

Sirius snorted. "What you will do is probably get Dumbledore killed next. You go and stick your head in all kinds of trouble and he has to bail you out."

"No... No... I won't let that happen," Harry said shaking his head violently, his entire body trembling.

Suddenly he found himself being gently shaken awake. "Wake up, Harry Potter, you is having a nightmare."

Harry jerked awake, his breaths coming in sharp, rapid bursts. Tears were flowing down his face and he slowly wiped them and untangled his feet from the sheets that were bundled up at his feet.

"Thanks Dobby," he whispered. "Might as well get up. I don't think I'll get any more sleep tonight."


~~~*~


Ron and Hermione sat on a couch in the living room. Both of them reeling with the news of the tragedy.

"I can't believe it. It has to be a trick of some sort," Ron said finally. "I mean not Hagrid... anybody but Hagrid."

Hermione listened to him silently, lost in her own thoughts.

"I mean how can they be so sure? What exactly did Harry see? They weren't very specific about that, were they? Maybe he's still alive," Ron went on, his voice rising slightly.

"I'm such a horrible person," Hermione said softly.

"What? Horrible person? What are you going on about, Hermione?" Ron asked in a baffled tone.

Hermione wiped a tear from her eye. "Last year... when he was gone... I... I couldn't help feeling glad that he wasn't there to conduct the lessons. Oh God! I hate myself."

Ron watched in alarm as Hermione put her face in her hands and started sobbing bitterly. He was totally unsure of what to do. Right now he would rather face Aragog again, than handle a crying Hermione.

He hesitantly reached out and pulled her to him, hugging her awkwardly. She clung to him and putting her head on his shoulder started crying more furiously.

Ron ran his hands up and down her back, remembering how his Mother would comfort Ginny when she used to cry.

"Don't talk like that, Hermione," Ron said softly. "You aren't a horrible person."

"Yes, I am," Hermione sobbed. "Only I could think like that. I was so happy with proper lessons that I never even gave a thought to Hagrid."

"No, you weren't the only one," Ron said firmly. "I would be lying if I said I didn't feel the same. It doesn't mean you don't love Hagrid. I... I was afraid that he would have brought a Chimera or a Manticore to class if he was teaching last year. It was a relief to actually attend a class where you weren't afraid of being eaten alive by the study material."

Hermione made a funny gagging sound and Ron had a weird feeling that she was trying hard not to giggle.

"Hermione?"

Hermione pushed herself away from him and wiped her eyes on a small hanky. "Thanks Ron."

Ron shrugged embarrassedly. "It's all right."

Hermione let out a small sigh. "I just wish I could meet him once more. He wasn't around most of last year and after that he had to go into hiding from the Ministry. We hardly had a good talk with him at all."

"Yeah," Ron said tiredly. "Times like this you realize just how little control you have over anything."

He looked over at Hermione who was staring off sadly into space again.

Hagrid's death had shocked Ron badly. Suddenly he realized that they were in a war, where anybody could die anytime. Tomorrow was just a promise, there were no guarantees.

"Hermione..."

"Hmm?" Hermione said absently, looking up at Ron. What she saw in his eyes made her heart beat faster.

"I... I have wanted to tell you something for a long time... but I just couldn't." Ron paused and took a deep breath. "I was scared... /so scared./But what scares me more now, is not telling you, and losing the chance forever."

Hermione gently took his hand and squeezed it. She looked at him with her heart in her eyes. "Tell me," she whispered.

Ron took a deep breath and gathered his courage.

"I... I care for you Hermione... for a long time now I have thought of you as something more than a friend. I guess what I'm trying to say is... Merlin this is hard! I kind of... fancy you," Ron muttered, his face going a deep tomato red. "I know you might not feel the same... and that's OK. I just wanted to let you know. I couldn't hold it in any longer."

He was unable to look at her after his little confession and he was sure that he was either going to be screamed at, or slapped. Privately he would rather take the slap. The screaming would be much, much, more embarrassing.

Hermione smiled and pulled his head up. "You prat! You can be so clueless at times. If you observed a little more closely you'd have seen that I felt the same way."

"Really?" Ron said incredulously, unable to believe her statement.

"Really," Hermione said softly, caressing his hand with hers.

Ron looked like he had been declared Quidditch Captain of England. He was literally bursting with joy.

Hermione laughed at him and reaching over grabbed his head and pulled him down to her.

"I've been waiting for this a long time, Ron Weasley," she whispered, her warm breath inches away from his face.

Then she lifted her head up and pressed her lips to his, running her hands through his hair as she gently kissed him for the first time.



~~~*~



Harry found himself standing in a lush, green meadow. His eyes moved over the land around him, which rolled gently as far as the eye could see. He realized that he was all alone. A small brook bubbled merrily from nearby and he could hear a few sparrows chirping from a clump of bushes as they foraged for crumbs.

All around him the sounds of nature came to his ears. The sound of life in all its glory.

A cool breeze blew, ruffling his hair and making his robes flutter.

He lay down on the soft, springy grass and shut his eyes to enjoy the feel of the sun on his face.

With every breath he took he could smell the fragrance of the damp earth mixed with the scent of crushed grass and a faint whiff of lavender.

A smile tugged on his lips as he enjoyed the peace and quiet. He never wanted to leave here. If he could just stay here for ever he would ask for nothing else. Soon he felt himself begin to drift off as his body relaxed completely.

He woke up a little while later, feeling a strange sticky sensation on his face and body. He realized that he could no longer feel the coolness of the grass, and the ground beneath him was burning up. The sounds of the sparrows and the brook were all gone and there was a deathly silence all around.

He pushed himself up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and glanced down at himself. For a minute he couldn't believe his eyes and then he screamed.

He was covered in blood from head to foot.

His eyes fell on his surroundings and he stood mute in horror. He was standing in a hot, arid desert that stretched endlessly in all directions. The sun shone down mercilessly on him and there wasn't a hint of breeze to relieve him from the oppressive heat.

But that wasn't what shocked him.

All around him were bodies, /dead bodies/. Hundreds of people who were mutilated and tortured to an unrecognizable state.

He suddenly felt a shadow on his face and glanced up instinctively. The sky was darkened by the presence of large birds who were flying around in a circle above him. He squinted his eyes to be able to see better and immediately realized what they were.

Vultures. Hundreds of them.

The scavengers circled around lazily, biding their time. They eyed Harry warily, waiting to see if he posed any threat to them.

Harry suddenly saw a bunch of them swoop down on an old man's body nearby, apparently having waited long enough.

He was sickened by the sight of their sharp, greedy beaks tearing into the flesh of the man's body and reached in his pocket for his wand to scare the birds away.

He suddenly found himself frozen in place, unable to move his body. He panicked. What was happening to him? He looked up to see the birds still moving about and realized it was just him that couldn't move. He struggled to move again. The birds were scaring him, and he wanted the reassuring feel of his wand in his hand.

Suddenly the utter silence was disturbed by a cold, cruel laugh.

Harry was almost afraid to look up but he gathered his remaining courage and lifted his eyes.

Before him was a tall, thin figure, cloaked in midnight black robes. His face was unnaturally pale and flat and he had slits in the place of a nose, like those of a snake.

He looked at Harry maliciously through his pitiless red eyes.

"Harry Potter," he hissed, his voice sounding like a hissing snake. Oddly it sounded natural coming from him. "We meet yet again."

Harry closed his eyes and began to struggle again to try and move.

Voldemort laughed. "What's the matter, Potter? Having a little trouble?"

"What do you want?" Harry said through gritted teeth.

Voldemort smiled cruelly. "Oh, I'm in no hurry. Let's chat a bit and catch up first. Or do you prefer business before pleasure?"

"What I would prefer is that you shove a wand up your arse and say 'Reducto,'" Harry said angrily.

"Temper, temper," Voldemort said silkily. "I don't think you are in a position where you can afford to make it even more difficult for yourself."

Harry ignored him and continued to struggle against his bonds.

"Can't break the hold, can you? And they say you will defeat me. Pathetic little Harry Potter who is to defeat the might of Lord Voldemort! Tell me Potter, are you afraid?"

Harry looked up then, his green eyes blazing with hate. "I am not and will never be afraid of you."

Voldemort merely smiled. "Ah, such bravery! But perhaps I know of something that will strike fear of me into your heart, Potter."

The Dark Lord snapped his fingers and a moment later the figures of Ron, Hermione and Ginny materialized before them. They were all tied up and struggling against their bonds.

Harry's eyes widened with shock and the beginnings of very real fear.

With another snap a long sword appeared in Voldemort's hands and he walked around the tied up group, looking at all of them in amusement.

"Still feeling heroic, Potter?" Voldemort taunted

"Leave them alone," Harry yelled.

"Hmm... No, I don't think I'll do that, if it's all right with you. Now let's see... who should die first?"

Harry struggled, putting everything he had into the effort of making his hand move.

"Eenie meenie miney mo, tell me Potter, who should be the first to go?" Voldemort rhymed cruelly.

"Leave them alone, you bastard. I swear if you harm any of them I'll tear you apart with my bare hands," Harry screamed.

"Words won't get you anywhere, Potter. Now is the time you test your powers against mine. Save your friends, if you can."

He stopped before Ron "I guess he'll do. Any last words you want to say to him?"

Harry furiously jerked against whatever was holding him in place.

"Guess not." Saying this he plunged the sword right into Ron's heart. Blood flew everywhere, and splattered all over Harry's face.

It happened so quickly that it left Harry dazed. How could a precious life be ended so easily? He watched in horror as Ron screamed and fell to the ground, blood staining his robes from the mortal wound.

Voldemort pulled the sword out with a jerk and smiled. "Afraid yet, Potter?"

Harry's face contorted in rage and he jerked his body till he felt he was coming apart at the seams. He yelled obscenities at the monster before him, overcome by maniacal rage.

Voldemort walked forward and stepped in front of Ginny. "Ah! Ginevra Weasley. I remember you quite well. You keep a delightful Diary. Ready for round two, Potter? On the count of three... One...two...three."

"NO," Harry screamed. He could do nothing but watch as Voldemort plunged the sword straight into Ginny's chest.

"I had told you this would be how it ended." Voldemort's voice hissed over Ginny's dying screams. "But you played the hero. 'I won't let you harm them!' Isn't that what you had said? Well, I'm waiting, Potter. Last chance. Save her if you can."

He stopped in front of Hermione. "Ah! The smart little mudblood. It's almost a shame to kill you so quickly. If I had my way I would definitely have made different plans for you," he said running a pale finger over her face and lips and moving it down her body.

"Let me go, you bastard. If you're so powerful fight me fairly."

"I really do need to teach you some manners, Potter," Voldemort snarled. "What's the matter? Surely the great Harry Potter, the savior of the world, can get out of this little situation. Or perhaps you await Dumbledore? Perhaps you feel he will come to your rescue?"

He looked at Harry and smiled cruelly. Out of a corner of his eyes Harry noticed the group of vultures suddenly take off and saw in horror the body that they had been feasting on.

The dead man was tall and thin and wore sky blue robes which were scattered with golden stars. He had a long silver beard and a long crooked nose.

'No it can't be him. It could have been anybody,' Harry told his terrified brain desperately.

But then his eyes fell on the pair of cracked, half-moon glasses lying near the body and he knew.

Suddenly all of the bodies around him started to become clearer. He looked in horror at the fallen bodies of the Order - Moony, Tonks, Molly, Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Mundungus, Moody, Kingsley, Hestia Jones, Dedalus Diggle.

His body slumped defeatedly and he stopped struggling. It was over.

He lifted his eyes and met those of Hermione and he saw the despair and hopelessness reflected there too. She had accepted that she was going to die.

He watched as Voldemort raised his sword and quickly brought it down, thrusting it deep into Hermione's chest."

"NO," Harry shrieked, his voice sounding like it held the despair of a thousand years within it.

Suddenly his vision began to blur and he felt the scene vanishing. He felt tiny hands shaking him awake.

"Wake up, Harry Potter, sir," Dobby said shaking him gently. "You is having a nightmare."

Harry's eyes shot open and he looked at the tiny House-elf through horror filled eyes, from which tears were slowly trickling down.

He angrily wiped his tears away.


~~~*~


The nightmares had been plaguing him everyday for the past two weeks, ever since Hagrid died. They didn't let him have a single night's rest and he was lucky if he got more than three hours of sleep on any given night.

He had thrown himself completely into his training, working as if he was possessed. He had made progress in leaps and bounds in Occlumency, and he could block Dumbledore out for upto five minutes now. The Headmaster had been greatly surprised and pleased with his progress.

McGonagall had started teaching him Conjuration and he had surprised her with how fast he picked it up. He wasn't up to conjuring large objects like armchairs and beds yet, but he was quickly progressing. One problem was that he couldn't make his objects last for more than half an hour at most. McGonagall assured him that this would improve with time.

Flitwick, too, was very impressed with him, as Harry mastered many of the more powerful hexes. The tiny Professor was also stunned at the power behind some of Harry's hexes. It was beyond what he had seen for any normal sixteen year old. Harry was sure to become a very powerful wizard when older.

His shield charms were getting very powerful as well, and Flitwick had trouble breaching it at times. He had started teaching Harry the advanced silver shield that Voldemort had conjured in the Ministry while dueling Dumbledore. This was very difficult but Harry was making progress on it.

But the most progress was made at Dueling and Apparating.

Harry had started working like a madman at his dueling and spent nearly every spare moment at the Auror Headquarters working with who ever was available at the time.

His signature had been given access to the Headquarters and now he could apparate in whenever he wanted and he made great use of this.

Kingsley had arranged for him to be granted his apparition license early and since Sirius had already emancipated him this was done immediately. The testers had been quite impressed by his skill.

He had taken Mad-Eye's advice to heart and started working on controlling his noise while apparating and increasing his speed.
Now, nearly two weeks later, he had managed to lower his sound until it was a soft pop and his speed was down to one-tenth of a second. Still not perfectly safe to use in a duel but much better than before.

His lessons with McGonagall and Flitwick, as well as his Martial Arts training had helped him tremendously. He had improved his speed, reflexes and his knowledge of spells by leaps and bounds. This, coupled with his raw magical power was a deadly combination and he was now on par with a few of the Aurors in dueling capability. He had managed to duel Tonks to a draw several times. But Moody still managed to wipe the floor with him every time.

One of the problems that Moody had been on Harry's case about was his habit of shouting the spells out.

"You give the game away as soon as you cast," Moody had yelled. "Your opponent already knows what you are going to hit him with and can easily block or dodge your spell."

He had drilled Harry thoroughly in silent spell casting. At first Harry wasn't able to get the hang of it and the few low level jinxes he managed were laughably weak. But he had practiced it hour after hour, day after day, until now he was fairly proficient at it. He still couldn't generate as much power as he did when he cast the spells out loud but they were still effective.

Moody reassured him that this would change with time and as he got more comfortable with silent spellcasting. It was just a mental block. He had been so used to saying the spells out loud that this new way was foreign to him.

The Aurors had been impressed with Harry's vast improvement and there was large scale betting going on as to when he would finally beat Moody. They all knew that once Harry was fully trained not many of them would be able to match him. His magical potential was just being tapped into and he would only improve with age. One of the great examples of this was his ability to cast a Corporeal Patronus. While all of them were required to be able to cast the Patronus in order to become Aurors, none of them could have cast it in their third year at Hogwarts.

Harry worked on his spellbooks and Arithmancy most of the night. His nightmares never let him sleep anyway, so he threw himself into his research and studies.

He had not been answering his friend's letters all that often and when he did they were short and to the point. He noticed that Ron hadn't written back after the first few times.

He just couldn't bring himself to answer their questions or to listen to their comforting words.

He had subscribed to the Daily Prophet at the beginning of the summer to keep himself informed of the news and now there were nearly daily reports of attacks on Muggles, Muggle-borns and Squibs.

Not a day went by without seeing the sight of a Dark Mark in sky. Voldemort had announced his return with a vengeance, now that everybody knew he was back, and the days of terror had resumed. The second war had truly begun in earnest.

The attacks only made Harry push himself harder and increased the severity of his nightmares. He tried his hardest to keep himself so busy that he wouldn't have to deal with any of it.

Pat, Sean, Jack and Alan had tried several times to get him to ease up and go out for an evening on the town but he had steadfastly refused all their attempts. He didn't want them in any danger and he was in no mood to be near anybody.

Sean and Jack were tempted to kidnap him from his room anyway, but Pat, who had found out about the Death Eaters attacks from her parents talking one night, and later from Harry, had made some excuses for him and told the boys to leave him alone for a few days.


~~~*~


Ron entered the library looking for Hermione. She had come to spend quite a bit of her time in here, browsing through the old tomes of the large Black family Library. He too had started to spend a lot of time here, partly because he wanted to be with Hermione, and partly because he was bored.

He looked around and noticed that she wasn't in the room. He sighed and turned to leave when he noticed Bill's open briefcase lying on the table. A thick, green ledger inside it caught his eye. He moved closer and saw that it had Harry's name on it.

His curiosity was totally piqued now. He knew that he shouldn't be looking through Bill's briefcase, but he had been kept in the dark too long and he felt that Harry had not told them half of what he had been upto during the summer. He suddenly had to know more.

Looking around to make sure that Bill wasn't anywhere near, he quickly opened the book and glanced through it.

He realized with annoyance that it was all about properties and shares and investments and was about to shut it with disgust when he noticed an entry. His eyes widened and he bent down to look closer.

Suddenly he was roughly pushed away and found himself face to face with a furious Bill.

"I didn't know I gave you permission to look through my briefcase, Ronald," Bill said coldly. "All my work is extremely private and I do not appreciate you putting your large nose where it does not belong."

Normally Ron would have been red with embarrassment by this stage, instead he glared at Bill.

"Harry gave two million Galleons to Mum and Dad?" he said angrily.

Bill's eyes narrowed. "It's none of your business, Ron."

"Don't give me that! How could he? How could Mum and Dad accept it?" Ron yelled.

"I hardly think they need to take advice from you as to what they should and should not do," Bill said crossly.

"So, you think its all right to accept charity like that?" Ron asked furiously.

Bill looked at Ron in distaste. "Harry is your best friend, Ron. Do you really think he thought of this as giving us charity?"

"Well, what is it then? Who gives that much money away to somebody?"

Bill shook his head sadly. "You are so petty, Ron. You will not understand it. It's a waste of my time to even try to explain."

He snapped the briefcase shut and walked out of the library, leaving behind a very frustrated and angry Ron.


~~~*~


Harry threw himself to the ground, rolling forward to avoid the shriveling hex that Moody threw at him and getting up smoothly, threw a stunner back at him.

Moody put up a shield and blocked it easily, sending it back to where Harry had been standing a second before.

Harry was rapidly getting frustrated. It always happened like this. Though Moody wasn't very athletic, he had an amazingly fast cast rate and he could throw a barrage of spells so quickly at him that he had no choice but to go on the defensive.

He wished that there was some kind of shield spell that you didn't have to actively keep up. Then he would be able to attack Moody as well as defend himself.

Unfortunately, there wasn't such a shield. Even the silver shield that Voldemort had conjured had to either be maintained wandlessly once conjured or held up with one's wand, leaving the person unable to cast any spell.

Harry was fast enough so that Moody found it very difficult to hit him, but finally it was all down to endurance. One wrong move on his part would hand him defeat.

Moody also had the very unfair advantage of having the bloody magical eye, which negated the use of all masking, cloaking and illusion charms.

Suddenly Harry had an idea and he dived to his side and flicked his wand.

Moody gave a surprised yelp as his magical eye shot out of his eye socket and flew to Harry's hand.

"Let's see how well you do without this," Harry muttered as he caught the eye and shoved it in his pocket.

He quickly cast the Disillusionment charm on himself and began moving carefully around the room, advancing on Moody.

"Good one, Potter. You're finally learning," Moody growled.

Harry didn't answer and silently moved closer to him.

Suddenly Moody flicked his wand and a jet of white powder flew out of it. He moved around swiftly, spraying it everywhere.

Harry, who had not been expecting anything of the sort, was hit fully by it.

"Aha!" Moody yelled triumphantly as he shot a stunner at the white, powder coated Harry.

Harry had reacted the same instant and he too shot a stunner at Moody.

Moody was unable to avoid the stunner in time and both he and Harry went down.

Tonks, who had been watching the duel with undisguised glee, hastily revived the two.

"That was brilliant, Harry," she said as she helped Harry up.

"Yes, Potter, you are finally getting somewhere. You need to work more on your casting speed, but you're improving," Moody said grudgingly.

They were interrupted by the arrival of Kingsley. All three of them immediately noticed the look on his face. He looked tired, sad and very angry. His face looked like it had aged by years.

"Moody, we have a Code Red," he whispered.

Mad-Eye and Tonks both looked up in shock. Harry didn't understand what a 'Code Red' was, but he knew that it had to be something really bad to get that reaction from Moody and Tonks.

"What happened?" Moody growled.

"Three Aurors were ambushed near Brighton. They went to check out a phony Death Eater sighting when they were jumped by Death Eaters. All three were killed," Kingsley said bitterly.

"Did they manage to get any of the attackers?" Tonks asked hopefully.

"It seems that they managed to stun them a few times but they were revived as soon as they were stunned," Kingsley replied slowly.

"I keep telling Amelia that we can't go on like this. If they use Unforgivables on us we need to have the authority to kill in defense," Moody growled furiously.

Kingsley clenched his jaw angrily. "You're right. It can't go on this way. I'm going to talk to Amelia about this. Enough is enough! "


~~~*~
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