Harry, Hermione, Hannah, Cho and Ron make summer plans. The Dark Mark makes an appearance - rather dramatically.
(Author's Note: What would it have been if, after Fudge's reluctance to admit the return of the Dark Lord, the Dark Mark had been seen in Britain? Would it have caused a panic? Would it force the Ministry to take notice? How would Voldemort react?
As usual, all criticism is welcome.)
Summer Plans and Dark Marks
As Fleur and Viktor left promising to warn their own classmates of the return of Voldemort and persuade as many people as possible of the imminence of the danger posed by the resurrected Dark Lord, Harry looked round at his four colleagues, “As I said, there are a few things we can do. First and foremost is to persuade our House mates of the return of Voldemort.” All the others had flinched at the name, but Harry continued undaunted, “Hannah, Cho – do you think anyone in your Houses will really believe that Voldemort is back?
Hannah looked thoughtful as she answered carefully, “Well – the problem is Cedric's death. He was one of the really popular 'Puffs. Many'll probably believe that we're hallucinating, but some'll blame you for Cedric's death. No matter what you or I say – even the memory you just showed us will likely be insufficient. Harry, d'you think Dumbledore will announce You-Know-Who's return?”
Harry had wondered the same thing. “I honestly don't know. He might.”
“If he does, we'll have some more credibility. But most people will not believe. I can think of maybe half a dozen people who'll believe what you've shown us.”
“But you've seen my memories”, countered Harry.
“Memories can be tampered with, Harry”, returned Cho.
“I didn't fake ...”, began Harry angrily.
“I'm not saying you did”, burst in Cho, hurriedly. “I'm just pointing out a possibility.”
“So you don't believe me?”
“Harry – please! I believe you and I am sure what you showed us is the truth. But what I believe is not going to change what others think.”
Harry considered her words for a long moment, before turning to Hannah and continuing, “Well, try to convince who you can, but please – don't make yourself a pariah. Last thing we want is you unable to talk to other 'Puffs. Voldemort is going to start killing again soon, so we'll want you able to communicate when we've got more proof.”
Hannah nodded, as Cho began, “Well, Harry, in Ravenclaw, the House is going to be split really. Even if You-Know-Who's back, not many will care. Ravenclaw has always been a neutral House in general. However, your word will carry more credence than Dumbledore's. Dumbledore has never been popular in Ravenclaw – you've at least never lied. I'll speak to a few people whom I should be able to persuade.”
“Why's Dumbledore unpopular in Ravenclaw”, inquired Hermione curiously.
“Many remember his actions in the last war”, shrugged Cho. “Besides, like I said, Ravenclaws are not politically active. Not many care about the war, and even fewer appreciate Dumbledore's efforts to recruit them in what is essentially his fight against You-Know-Who. Most'll try to keep out of the mess.”
“Voldemort's a threat to everyone”, snarled Harry.
“Harry – I agree with you, but many of my House mates won't. The problem is – You-Know-Who never attacked neutral purebloods – or even neutral halfbloods in the last war. Many think keeping their heads down will save them.”
“It won't”, growled Harry.
Cho shrugged helplessly, as Harry continued, “But will they believe his return?”, questioned Harry.
“Some will, some won't, but most won't really care – especially non-muggleborns who're not threatened directly by You-Know-Who will ignore it.”
Harry opened his mouth to retort angrily, but Hermione cut in diplomatically. “Harry, you were telling us what we can do over summer.”
Harry shut his mouth with an effort with an audible click and a visible effort. For a moment he strove with his anger getting it under control, before nodding at Hermione with a grateful smile, “Yes. Thanks, Hermione.” He continued, facing others, “As for what we can do other than get people to realise Voldemort's back – well, you listened to what Voldemort said to the Death Eaters when he returned. Did any of you find some of it ... interesting and peculiar?”
“What're you talking about, Harry”, asked Ron.
“The part where he spoke to Avery, Nott, Crabbe and Goyle. He seemed ... displeased with them. Do any of you know why?”
There was dead silence at the question. None of them had any answer to it, as Harry proceeded, “Hermione and I've been working on it. We got hold of a ton of reports of old Death Eater trials. We thought we could study them to get an idea of what Voldemort's organisational structure's like.” Here Harry evidently thought it prudent not to mention that he had some vague plans – no hopes, he reminded himself truthfully – for what he could do with that information in future. “Moreover, we know nothing really much about the previous war. We need to know whom Voldemort was able to get on his side.”
“That's not a mystery”, growled Ron. “He got gits like Lucius Malfoy – those who think being pureblood's everything.”
“He got them, yes, Ron, but he got a lot of others on his side as well. People like Wormtail also”, answered Harry grimly. “We need to know about his group before we know what we can do. Do any of you know anything about Voldemort's power structure?”
Again, there was complete silence at this question, as Harry nodded quietly to himself. “So, as I said, we need to find out more about the Death Eaters and that's what we're going to do over summer. At least, Hermione and I are going to do that. We'd appreciate your help, if you're willing.”
Both Hannah and Cho consented to help gladly, as Harry proceeded, “I just wish we had access to Ministry's records, but I'm currently out of favour with the Ministry and I doubt anyone'll help me”, he sighed.
“I can check the records in the Ministry, Harry”, offered Cho. “My mum knows a few people there – she's worked with them in the past. I should be able to get hold of them without trouble.”
“I'll come and help, if you like, Cho.”, cut in Hannah.
“That'll be great, Cho, if you and Hannah can manage. Thank you so much”, answered Harry with genuine gratitude in his eyes.
Cho nodded as Harry signed to Hermione to begin. Hermione opened her schoolbag, and took out three small stacks of parchments. With a tap of her wand, she enlarged the shrunken stacks and handed them to Ron, Hannah and Cho, explaining that they were reports of Death Eater trials. Harry continued explaining, “Hannah, Cho, Ron – Hermione and I are going to go over the details of the crimes they were accused of and see if we can spot anything worthwhile. We'd like you all to go over them – if you've got time and are interested that is. If you find anything suspicious – like innocents getting convicted, or Death Eaters going free, or motives being strange - let's know.”
“Will it cover all suspected Death Eaters, Harry?”, asked Hannah.
“Of course not! Plenty of people were chucked into Azkaban without trials, from what I've heard. It's those records that're probably only in the Ministry. If Cho can even find out who has been flung into prison without trial and what they were accused of, we'll have an idea of what to look for. Now we're just looking for the general idea of what Voldemort's methods were like, and who was involved in what.”
“Well”, Cho began tremulously. “There is an enormous lot of material to look in. Shouldn't we divide this work?”
“An excellent idea, Cho”, smiled Hermione. “How about we all begin on some cases – I've made some notes about what trials I think are important. Cho – you and Hannah can look through the Ministry records for those cases. Harry, and I'll go through this material. Ron – I have made a list of the Death Eaters we know of. I want you to check with your parents and brothers and find out what you can about them.” Hermione handed Ron another stack of parchments, as she continued, “This is what I've been able to find about their public Hogwarts records. Check if you find anything interesting in them.” She turned to the others, “We can all exchange summaries and views of what we've found. Send us owls when you find anything interesting.”
Hannah and Cho agreed to do as they were bidden. Harry thanked the two girls for their help, and all of them said their good-byes and disappeared back to their Houses.
The Leaving Feast was a painful and embarrassing occasion for Harry as Dumbledore announced the return of Voldemort and honoured Harry for his bravery in returning Cedric's body back to school. After that, they all packed and left Hogwarts, and the ride back to King's Cross was uneventful except for a brief scrape with Draco Malfoy which had left the stuck up pureblood hexed into something more at home in a Botany textbook than a human being.
As they all landed at King's Cross, Uncle Vernon had come to pick him up. Two days after Harry had returned to the Dursleys, who were their usual selves, hating Harry up to a point, but not actually daring to punish him – not physically, anyway, Harry was getting used to the dull routine of the daily existence at the Dursleys. Oh – he got a lot of chores to do, from cooking, and cleaning to painting the house and maintaining the garden. Harry was grateful to the muggle government for the hose pipe ban, or he would have spent even more time doing slaving for the Dursleys. However, considering the current environment he was in, Harry did not mind either the chores or the Dursleys too much. He had plenty to do and between doing his homework and reading the material he had got about the Death Eaters. He also got the Daily Prophet and went through it carefully to spot any traces of Voldemort, but the Dark Lord was keeping quiet for some reason of his own. Harry surmised that it was because his plans were not mature yet – Voldemort was preparing in secret, and with the Ministry in denial, he was being aided in his efforts. Bitterly Harry reflected that Voldemort would probably announce his return with a blast, and the Ministry would find it was too late to counter him.
It was on the third day of Harry's holidays that things began to go wrong. Harry was no stranger to nightmares, and but they usually consisted of memories of Cedric or his parents, or visions of other friends dying. On the contrary, it was a most unusual dream even by his standards.
It was the grey of the dawn as Harry watched from above a tall and thin man rapping at the door of a house politely. “Enter”, came a high, sibilant hiss from inside.
As the tall man entered and fell to his knees, bowing submissively, the snake-like voice continued, “Rise, Andronicus. What brings you here today?”
“My Lord, I am the bearer of some unexpected news”, replied the man rising from his position on the ground.
“And what is it?”
“The Dark Mark was seen in two places yesterday afternoon, my Lord.”
Whatever it was that Voldemort expected, it was not that. His surprise was evident in his voice as he queried, “Go on. What about the Marks?”
“The Marks were found at the site of the disappearance of two mudbloods, my Lord.”
“Two separate places, Andronicus?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Voldemort's surprise had given way to fury, as he snarled, “Which fool of my over-zealous followers was responsible for this? I thought I had made my wishes quite clear in regard to attacks.”
“It is unknown, my Lord.”
“We shall soon find the idiot who was responsible for this”, murmured Voldemort in a cruel whisper. Rising to his feet, he touched the Dark Mark on 'Andronicus's' forearm, and a terrible pain shot out of Harry's scar on his forehead. Harry screamed as the Dark Mark burned, and was ejected rudely from his dream. He had awoken with a frantic cry, and grabbed his scar, which was burning furiously. Harry lay back on his bed, trying to calm himself – he was breathing hard, and the dream had seriously shaken him. His first instinct was to write to Sirius and Dumbledore about his dream, but on reflection he recollected that the Dark Mark had actually been seen. If the Dark Mark had been seen, it would likely be in the day's Prophet. Harry decided to wait for the full news before he started sending any letters to anyone.
Nor was Harry's anticipation regarding the Dark Mark unjustified – the reasons for Harry's dream soon became apparent with the arrival of the Daily Prophet. Harry grabbed the newspaper and opened his copy quickly, when the headlines struck a sudden chill to his heart.
Dark Mark spotted again! Two girls disappear!
Old terror revisited the Wizarding World yesterday afternoon, as the Dark Mark, which has rarely been seen since the demise of You-Know-Who, was found hovering over the residences of two muggle-born witches yesterday. At 1445, the Ministry detected magic – a couple of cutting curses, a shield charm, and a stunner at the home of muggle-born witch, Hermione Granger, in the University town of Oxford. The first reaction of the Improper Use of Magic office was that the spells had been cast by the underage witch herself. However, the Dark Mark was found hovering over the Granger home a few minutes later, and was reported to the Ministry by person or persons who have not been named. The Aurors hurrying to the Granger residence found evidences of a struggle, in the form of a broken door and upturned furniture. However, the muggle-born witch, a student starting her fifth year at Hogwarts, herself was nowhere to be found and has been listed as `missing'. Dr. Daniel Granger and his wife, Dr. Emily Granger, who were at work at the time of the attack, have reported that their daughter had no enemies as far as they know and they cannot account for the assault on the teenage girl.
Roughly an hour later, a stunner was reported at the residence of another muggle-born witch, Ms. Hannah Abbott, another student starting her fifth year in Hogwarts, in the southern town of Dover. The Aurors hurried to the place, but found the Dark Mark over the place, but again no trace of the muggle-born witch in question. Mr. Peter Abbott and his wife Sophie were similarly at work when the attack on their daughter occurred. Mr. Abbott, a manager in a muggle-bank, is similarly unable to account for the attack on his daughter.
Ministry sources have pointed out that in both cases, stunners have been used, and the lack of any evidence of injuries indicate that the witches are likely alive, although their condition is unknown. Ministry officials have claimed that they have found some clues and are on the track of the culprits, and have promised us that everything that can be done is being done. They also requested the public to be calm and assure us that they have the situation well in control .
When questioned about the Dark Mark, the spokesman of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement said that the Dark Marks are blinds intended to hoodwink the authorities into believing that You-Know-Who is involved. 'We at the Ministry can assure the public that You-Know-Who is dead and gone, and there is no truth in the rumour that he is back. The present crimes have nothing to do with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named'.
Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, however ascribed the crime to the followers of You-Know-Who, and claimed that the dreaded wizard is back. Ministry officials however, have pooh-poohed the Headmaster's claims.
The complete failure of the Ministry in protecting underage witches is despicable and it is likely that the other muggle-borns will think twice before entering our world, which has proved unequal to the task of providing them the basic right of safety of their persons. We at the Daily Prophet hope that the two girls are safe and join the readers in expressing the heartfelt wish that they are returned safe and unharmed. In the meantime, we wish the families the fortitude in their affliction.
Harry's mind had gone blank, and the paper dropped from his nerveless fingers. His first reaction was one of complete shock. Nothing could have prepared him for this, and he collapsed heavily into his chair.
Recovering from his shock, Harry swore an oath that the Death Eaters would pay for this – but before he could do anything, he needed more information. Was he responsible for these disappearances as well? Was it because they had agreed to help him that they had been attacked? Grief and self-reproach wracked his soul, as in hindsight he realised how dangerous the probe into the Death Eaters had been. Harry resolved to do all he could to set this matter right. He thought for a moment and decided that the first thing to do was to go and check the residences of the two witches. For that, he would go to whoever was handling the case, and put any and all information he could into their hands. He had already been indirectly responsible for the death of Cedric. He vowed that he would not lose Hermione and Hannah as well.
---(End of the Chapter)---