Harry and Co take a break for the holidays
“We need to simply have someone follow her and catch her in the act,” said Tonks.
“And how would you propose we pull that off?” asked Harold Smith.
“Simple. Invisibility cloaks,” said Harry. “Someone, preferably more than one person, would hide under an invisibility cloak or cloaks and tail the old toad until she does something incriminating.”
“That would be very risky. Who would be the one to tail her?” asked Lupin.
“The person with the most experience sneaking around unnoticed,” said Harry.
“And who might that be?” wondered Lupin, though seeing the gleam in Harry’s eyes he thought he could make a pretty good guess.
“Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and I,” said Harry.
“I appreciate your enthusiasm Harry, but I think the task should go to a more experienced Order member,” said Professor McGonagall.
“No one is better at hiding than I am, Professor. In my years at Hogwarts, I’ve put those skills to pretty good use. I used it to hide from Filch, Snape, Quirrell, you and even snuck into Hogsmeade several times and never once got caught. Although, Dumbledore may have suspected something a few times,” said Harry, who was somewhat proud to see the surprised look on the face of his Head of House.
“Well, I guess you’re right on that account,” conceded Professor McGonagall. “Ok, if the four of you are willing, I will allow you to take this mission.”
“You cannot be serious Minerva they are just children,” said Mrs. Weasley. “I cannot forbid Harry or Hermione from going but I will not allow Ron or Ginny to be a part of this.”
“You can’t stop Ron, dear, he is already of age,” said Mr. Weasley gently.
“Fine, but there is no way that Ginny is going,” said Mrs. Weasley.
“Mum, when we said we wanted to join the Order, we meant actually join. That means braving dangers and going on missions, not simply sitting in on meetings. You have seen Harry and I take on the rest of our family plus Professor Lupin, Professor Moody, Kingsley and Tonks. We can more than handle ourselves,” said Ginny.
“Molly, Harry, Ron and Hermione will be in more danger if she is not there. With her talents, it would take a whole army of Death Eaters to defeat her and Harry alone, much less them plus Ron and Hermione. But if you take Ginny out, you are removing one of the strongest pieces of that team, maybe even more powerful than Harry; certainly more powerful than any other wizard in this world, You-Know-Who included,” said Kingsley.
Unable to keep fighting with the whole Order against her, Mrs. Weasley finally gave in, only after Lupin, who had plenty of experience sneaking around Hogwarts and Hogsmeade unnoticed himself, agreed to also take part. The Order devised a schedule for those who would tail Umbridge. Harry and Ginny would follow from when she left work at night to when she returned to the Ministry the next morning. Once there, Ron, Hermione and Lupin were to follow her.
The next day, the mission began. The teens noticed nothing out of the ordinary in Umbridge’s behavior. She would fill out forms; write legislation and converse with various officials.
The only thing odd about her actions was the lack of owls she sent, though even at home she did a lot of writing. Often times, she would write pages, only to burn the parchment as soon as she had completed whatever it was she was doing. This behavior had the teens stumped for weeks, until Harry got a good look at the quill she was using for these writings. He had used that quill so much 5th year he wondered how he couldn’t have forgotten it. It was the blood quill he had been forced to write lines in during his detentions in her class.
“How is it she writes with that thing without flinching?” wondered Harry one day after his duty had been completed.
“There are plenty of potions and spells to prevent or stop pain. What I want to know is why?” said Ginny.
The next day it was time for yet another Order meeting, which meant that the teens had to neglect their mission for the time being. This was the first time the friends were able to confer since starting the mission.
“So far, we have noticed nothing incriminating on our end,” said Ron. Harold Smith looked particularly smug.
“We’ve noticed something odd. She writes with a blood quill sometimes, but every time she does she burns the paper with her writing. I’m not sure if it’s incriminating, but it is certainly something that needs looking into,” reported Ginny.
“Of course, that makes perfect sense,” said Hermione. “Whenever Voldemort and his Death Eaters to meet, what does he do?”
“He touches his or someone else Dark Mark. That makes it burn and they know they are to Apparate to wherever he is at once,” answered Harry.
“Right. The Dark Mark is a modified Protean Charm. Think, if he can do that, is it unreasonable to think that he to modify someone’s hand so that if writing appeared on it would also appear somewhere else, say on his arm or on the arm of a servant?” said Hermione.
“Brilliant work! Continue your mission to see if you can find any evidence. Try intercepting one of these mysterious writings,” said Professor McGonagall.
That Friday, while Umbridge was at work, Harry went to Hogwarts to visit Professor Slughorn.
“Harry m’boy, it’s great to see you. What brings you here?” asked the Potions teacher.
“A few things sir,” answered Harry. “I am in need of several different potions for my work with the Order of the Phoenix. I have more than enough money, but was hoping that you could help me procure some of the ingredients. They are quite hard to find in the quantities I need. In some cases, the potions I am brewing are highly regulated. If you were to buy them for me in your capacity as Hogwarts Potions teacher, it would look less suspicious.”
“I’ll do what I can. What potions are you in need of?” asked Slughorn.
“Polyjuice Potion, Veritaserum and Wolfsbane,” answer Harry.
“The Wolfsbane is for your friend Mr. Lupin, I assume?” said Slughorn. Harry nodded. “I always liked him. He was the only one who ever beat your mother on a Potions test. Needless to say, she made sure she beat him on the next one.”
“Yes, I was hoping to give it to him as a Christmas present,” said Harry.
“I can get you what you need for those. Harry, you know these are very complicated Potions to make. If anyone of my students could make them you could, but would you like some help?” said Slughorn.
“Well, off the record I have experience with Polyjuice Potion, but this will be my first time with the other two,” said Harry.
Slughorn mail-ordered the necessary supplies and agreed to meet at Potter Manor tomorrow to begin brewing the potions. By the time he was finished, it was time for Harry to head to the Ministry to follow Umbridge.
That night, as Umbridge lit a fire in her study, Harry soundlessly cast a Flame-Freezing Charm. Like always Umbridge got out her blood quill and began writing. Without looking, she tossed the first piece of paper into the fire, where Ginny quickly grabbed it and read the blood-red words.
Aurors are planning for raid in Knockturn Alley. No luck convincing the Minister to feed Potter truth serum, still no word on Dumbledore’s actions before he died.
This was all Harry needed to see. Deciding that tailing Umbridge was no longer necessary, Harry charmed the fireplace to send everything thrown in it to Headquarters. Once he was a safe distance from Umbridge, he sent his Patronus to inform the Order of the change in plans. The next day, the Order convened and agreed that it was not necessary to follow Umbridge 24/7, but merely set people to whatever her house, as they could not present the evidence without incriminating themselves.
A few weeks later, the quartet decided to take a break, as Voldemort had consumed the vast majority of the past month. With Christmas little more than a month away, the teens decided to resume their search after the New Year, thinking the time off would do them some good. Harry was glad to have the free time, as he knew he needed to make his and Ginny’s first holyday together special. After spending several hour gift shopping in Diagon Alley, Harry returned to put the finishing touches on the Manor’s Christmas decorations.
“Harry, will you find Fred and George and tell them to stop whatever chaos they’re causing and help me decorate this tree?” asked Ginny.
Harry wandered around the various halls of the huge house in search of the two mischief-makers when he heard a very pleased George say, “Well, well, well Fred. What’s this?”
“I’m not sure George. If I didn’t know better I’d say we just caught our dear youngest brother snogging the brightest witch of the age…”
“But that can’t be. This is Ickle Ronnikins, the boy with the emotional range of a teaspoon,” said George.
“Oh, I’m not that bad anymore,” protested Ron, who had a looked that was both embarrassed and quite pleased with himself, while Hermione was attempting to look dignified despite the very compromising position she had just been caught in.
“Yeah, I’d say you’re at least a tablespoon now,” said Harry.
“Well, brother, it’s time we had a little chat,” said Fred
“You see, when a boy loves a girl…” began George.
“Guys, that is not a talk I want to have to get from you,” complained Ron.
“Ah but it’s necessary information,” said Fred.
“We wouldn’t be good brothers if we let you be uninformed,” said George.
“Harry’s practically your brother, why shouldn’t he suffer?” said Ron.
“Ron, think about this very carefully for a second. You just asked Fred and George to teach the boyfriend of our baby sister the facts of life,” said Bill, entering the room with Charlie.
“Oh, right. Bad idea,” said Ron, looking horrified at what he had just suggested.
“Harry, what’s going on? Did you find the twins?” asked Ginny. Her eyes drifted from the Mistletoe on the ceiling to Ron and Hermione’s tousled hair, causing her to smile knowingly.
“So, when did this happen?” asked Harry.
“This summer,” said Hermione.
“I knew it!” cried Ginny triumphantly. “Bill, do you have my money?”
“What money?” asked Ron.
“We all placed bets on when you two would finally get together. It had been obvious to everyone since fourth year,” explained Harry. “So when I came to the Burrow for the summer before sixth year we put our bets in.”
“Blimey, that’s a lot of money. How many people placed bets?” asked Ron, seeing the bag filled with Galleons that Bill handed their sister.
“Oh, you know, the family, us, Remus, Tonks, your parents, most of Gryffindor Tower,” said Harry nonchalantly, enjoying the moment.
“So you’re okay with this then, Harry?’ asked Ron.
“I only have one thing to say. Remember the chat you and I had when Ginny and I got back from our walk after she won the Quidditch Cup?” asked Harry.
“You mean the, ‘she’s my sister, just don’t hurt her or I’ll kill you’ one?” said Ron.
“That’s the one. Well, Hermione doesn’t have any blood brothers, but she’s practically my sister so it is my duty to warn you that if you hurt her, you’ll have a lot more to be afraid of than spiders,” said Harry.
“I told you he’d be ok with it Ronald. You were just being a chicken and didn’t want to have to face your family,” said Hermione.
“I am not a chicken,” said Ron.
“Ron, a little advice on dating. Your girlfriend is always right and your ex girlfriend is always wrong,” advised Harry.
“See Hermione, I told you they could be trained,” said Ginny.
“Yeah, but cats are easier and they don’t leave as much of a mess,” countered Hermione.
“Yeah, smarter to. Still, at least mine can follow simple verbal commands, watch,” said Ginny. “Harry, fetch me a butterbeer.”
“Oi, I’m right here you know,” said Ron.
“Yes, we know Ron. Harry, how about that butterbeer?” said Ginny.
“Yes, Master,” said Harry with a House Elf like bow.
Ginny responded with a hard smack on the back of his head which was accompanied by a sound that sounded an awful lot like a whip cracking emitting from Fred’s wand.
Harry spent the next few days learning how to be a kid again. When he wasn’t having “quality time” with Ginny, he was riding Buckbeak or on the Quidditch Pitch. Harry and Charlie were generally considered to be the two best Seekers in Hogwarts history, and members of the Order frequently dropped by to see the two men face off.
“Wake up Harry! Presents!” Harry began Christmas morning with Ron’s traditional greeting.
Harry got up and went down stairs (though a bit less enthusiastically than Ron) to exchange gifts with his adopted family.
“All right, youngest first,” ordered Mrs. Weasley. Ginny opened up her presents, though one notably absent gift was the one from Harry.
“Hm, I seem to be missing something, don’t you think Harry?” said Ginny.
“Nope, looks like you’ve got everything,” said Harry, grinning cheekily.
“All right Potter, that had better be a joke and it had better be over now,” said Ginny.
“Okay, Okay,” said Harry, who handed Ginny a small box.
In it was a gold necklace with a Golden Snitch charm on it. The snitch could be opened, revealing a picture of their first kiss, which had been taken by Colin (Harry made sure that he got the only copies). Ginny loved the gift and gave Harry a thoroughly non-verbal thank you, which the Weasleys chose to ignore.
Next, it was Harry’s turn. Apart from the usual sweater courtesy of Mrs. Weasley, Harry received a new set of Quidditch pads from Ron and a photo album with pictures of the four teens from Hermione. The twins had given him a large pile of products from their shop, which they were planning to expand to Hogsmeade once Hogwarts re-opened. Harry opened gift after gift, deliberately leaving Ginny’s for last. After opening a Defense book from Kingsley and Mad Eye, Harry had only one gift left.
“Wow, Ginny! It’s amazing,” said Harry when he opened Ginny’s present, a ring with emeralds encrusted in it.
“The center one is from the sword of Gryffindor. It fell off in the Chamber when you were fighting the Basilisk and I picked it up as a memento before we flew out,” said Ginny.
“But green’s a Slytherin color,” said Ron. Voldemort himself would have quelled under the death glares he received from Ginny and Hermione.
“I think they match your eyes perfectly,” said Ginny.
“Yes, you did always like my eyes didn’t you? You can be quite creative in you descriptions as well, if I recall. I seem to remember one Valentines Day card,” said Harry, enjoying Ginny’s blush.
“You had to bring that up, didn’t you?” said Ginny.
“How did that poem go again Harry?” asked Fred.
“His eyes are as green as…” began Harry.
“Harry, if you ever mention that poem Voldemort will look like a puppy compared to what I’ll have in store for you,” said Ginny, interrupting Harry’s rendition of the singing card she had sent him five years ago.
After all the gifts had been unwrapped, Harry had a few more surprises in store for the Weasleys.
“Why don’t we go check the broom shed? There are a few more gifts in it,” said Harry.
The family went outside and all stopped in shock. In the broom shed that had once held one Firebolt and several Cleansweeps and Comets, there were now seven Firebolts, Harry’s and one for each of the Weasley children. Every one of the Weasley children had their name engraved on the handle of one of the newly acquired brooms.
“I know most of you are past Quidditch age, but it never hurts to have a good broom,” said Harry.
“A good broom? Harry these must have cost you a fortune! You didn’t need to do this,” said Bill.
“No, but I wanted to. Besides, they were more than willing to give the majority shareholder a discount,” said Harry. Harry then turned to Mr. Weasley. “Sir, you’ll find your gift out by the gate.”
The family went to the gate, where they discovered a new car. This wasn’t just any car, however, this was a Gryffindor red Jaguar sports car.
“Harry, this is really too much. I can’t accept this,” said Mr. Weasley.
“It’s not too much and you can accept it. Besides, it’s at least partially my fault that you don’t have your old car, so it’s only right that I replace it,” said Harry.
“Now, last but not least, Mrs. Weasley. I have never seen anyone work harder than you. Attempting to control Fred and George alone is hard enough, much less keeping track of all your other children. Despite all of this, you still manage to keep a sane mind and make your home open for others. No one close to you leaves your house unfed. If anyone deserves a good vacation it’s you. That’s why on January 2, you and Mr. Weasley will take a Portkey to Majorca, and you will not return until January 16th. I will pay all expenses,” said Harry.
“You really are sweet but we can’t accept this, it’s too much,” said Mrs. Weasley. “You already gave us all presents. All of these brooms and cars and trips are unnecessary.”
“I gave you Christmas presents. The brooms, the car and the vacation are my way of thanking you for everything you have done for me. You took me in, not because I was rich, not because I was The-Boy-Who-Lived, but because you saw a neglected, scared child who needed someone to look out for him, someone to stand by him,” said Harry, in a tone that told them under that no circumstances were they to refuse these gifts.
That evening, Lupin and Tonks had dinner at Potter Manor. Both seemed more jovial than usual, and Remus was especially thankful when Harry gave him several years’ worth of Wolfsbane as his Christmas present. It wasn’t until dessert that anyone noticed the ring on the Auror’s finger.
“So, Nymphadora, anything you want to tell us?” said Harry.
“I’ll let you get away with that this time because I hear it was you who finally talked some sense into Remus. But if you call me that again, I’ll hurt you,” said Tonks.
“Congratulations Tonks! I knew he would come around,” praised Mrs. Weasley as the women converged to examine the ring.
“So, when’s the wedding?” asked Bill.
“Sometime around next Christmas. That should give us enough time to plan, make the security arrangements and so on,” said Lupin.
“Well, between friends, security may not be as big of an issue by then,” advised Harry.
“What do you mean? I’ll have the entire Order there! That many targets in one place is bound to have Voldemort drooling,” asked Lupin.
“Not if he’s not around,” said Harry.
“I’m not sure I follow,” said Lupin.
“I can’t give you details, but Voldemort is closer to defeat than he realizes, closer than he’s ever been before. I’m not making any promises; all I’m saying is that one day the time is going to come when I am going to tell the Order to make plans for a decisive battle, an attack on Voldemort and his Death Eaters. There are certain things that I need to do that have to wait until just before the battle takes place. So, you will have to wait and trust me when I say you need to do as I tell you if we want to have a chance to win this,” said Harry.
“And what will be the purpose of this battle? You were adamant that we not fight Voldemort when he attacked the Burrow,” asked Lupin.
“The purpose of this battle will be to kill Voldemort. Without their master, the Death Eaters will panic and not be as formidable a foe,” answered Harry.
“And why didn’t you want to do this before,” inquired Lupin.
“Because, Voldemort was not as close to defeat then as he is now,” answered Harry. Seeing the confused look on his former teachers face, he decided to elaborate and let the Werewolf figure it out. “All I can tell you is this; when Voldemort’s Killing Curse backfired 16 years ago, he should have died. Tom took steps to guard himself against death. Before I can kill him, I need to get through these steps.”
“And Dumbledore figured out what these steps were and told you so you could fulfill the prophecy,” said Lupin.
“Correct,” answered Harry. “He told you the prophecy?”
“Not word for word, but he gave me the general idea,” said Lupin. “I was worried for you, but having seen what that bond has done for you, I have no doubts you will succeed.”
“You know, I’m starting to think I might have a chance at this as well. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it this far when Dumbledore first told me what I had to do,” said Harry. “We’ll let the battle come when it comes. I have orders from Ginny that I am not to discuss Voldemort.”
Before the holidays, the last time Harry remembered having felt as content and relaxed as he did then, was at the Quidditch World Cup three years ago, and even that was quickly interrupted by Death Eaters. Though Harry knew that this period of relaxation would likely be interrupted in a similar manner, he found that he wasn’t as concerned as he might have been. Despite all the chaos and bloodshed of the war, all was well. It was, he figured, the calm before the storm.