Chapter Five: Harry's First Meeting
Harry, Ron, Draco and Ginny all loitered at the top of the stairs to watch as the ministry men arrived, and started levitating the delicate scrolls and trunks out of the hidden vault. Bill and Mr Weasley had lots of serious conversations, Mrs Weasley was rushing back and forth making tea for everyone, and as the four teenagers were just eating their evening meal, a pack of goblins arrived, with lots of clipboards and magical photography equipment. Harry was very interested to hear Bill speaking Gobbledegook to the goblins, with lots of hand gestures and nodding. The goblins didn't stay for long. They took down what Bill was saying, then left, debating the information on the clipboards in low voices.
The four teenagers were just tucking into Mrs Weasley's home-made strawberry ice cream and raspberries when Mr Weasley came tottering up the stairs, carrying his prized television.
"Here you are," he said, putting it down with a little groan. "Molly thinks you could all do with something to entertain you while the ministry are clearing things out, and Fred and George won't let you join in with the decorating."
"They'll just ruin it!" Fred's voice shouted from the floor above. "You know what Ron's like with a paintbrush!"
Ron frowned and muttered something incoherent as his father adjusted the television, and drew his wand. "Special charm," said Mr Weasley, smiling. "Just been passed from the Department of Experimental Charms... it powers muggle electrical objects. And as I'm the Minister for Inter-Muggle Relations, they thought it would be useful." He smiled, flicked his wand at the television and said, "Ammario!"
The television instantly flickered into use, and the screen filled with a large picture of a rabbit. Several puppets had a real rabbit at the bottom of the screen, and were playing with it, pointing out its wiffly nose and long ears. Ron recoiled backwards, and cried, "Stop them! They'll kill it!"
"They're puppets," Draco sighed. "They're not alive."
"How do you know?" Ron said, rounding on him.
Draco reached up, and whipped a sock off the pile of laundry Tonks was carrying past. He pulled it over his hand, miming a biting motion. "Is this sock dangerous?"
"Knowing you..." Ron muttered.
Harry moved forward, and pressed the button on the television to change the channel. The rabbit and the puppets vanished, replaced by a man with a comb-over, reading the muggle news.
"Good evening, and welcome to the news," said the man, with a little smile, shuffling his papers. "The time is six PM."
Ron checked his watch, and whispered, "He's right you know."
"Imagine that," said Draco, quietly. Luckily, Ron didn't hear him.
"The headline news you're tuning into," said the newsreader, as pictures appeared in the top right of the screen. "Another Egyptian tomb has been newly discovered, quite some distance away from the valley of the kings. Experts are already on the scene, though it appears the tomb was already breached by robbers, and little remains of the original site. A few paintings on papyrus have been found, and these will be taken to a museum as soon as possible."
Getting bored, Harry was about to change the channel back to the puppets and their rabbit, when a picture flashed up on the screen which made him stop dead. It was that face, the crocodile-mouthed hawk-eyed face, grinning at him from the top right corner. Harry gave a strangled gasp, and pointed at it, "Look!"
The picture, however, had just faded into a shot of a baby lamb sucking from a milk bottle. Draco stared at Harry in amazement, and Ginny blinked, but Ron gasped and leaned in for a closer look. "Whoa, what is that? It looks kinda vicious."
"No, not that," said Harry. "The thing on before. The face."
"Oh, that painting?" said Ginny. She shrugged. "What was wrong with it?"
"I've seen it before," said Harry. "In the glass of the jewellery shop, and I've dreamt about it."
They all gave him wide-eyed looks. Harry looked around at his friends, and then Ginny said, quietly, "So?"
Harry felt his face starting to burn. "Haven't you ever seen it?" They shook their heads. He now felt incredibly stupid at making such a big deal of seeing a face before, and he was realising what an idiot he must have seemed grabbing Lupin's arm in the shopping centre.
Luckily, Ron wasn't dwelling on the subject, and messing around with the television again. In a few minutes, Harry's moment of oddness seemed to be forgotten, as Ron was learning avidly about muggle rabbits. Ginny seemed interested, but wasn't too thrilled, more concerned about finishing her ice cream, and Draco was pretending to be bored. Harry could see his eyes fixed on the television though, and a hint of a smile curled his thin lips as the presenter was being particularly patronising to one of the puppets. Harry, however, was very bored. He'd learnt all about rabbits when Dudley got one for his birthday a while ago, but tired of it quickly, and Harry was left to clean it out and care for it.
Leaving his friends with the puppets on television, Harry took his bowl down to the kitchen, then headed upstairs again, going down a corridor, moving in the general direction of the ladder to the attic. Fred and George were now up there painting, by the sound of things, and all the content was piled around the bottom of the ladder. Harry glanced over the old paintings, house-elf heads, moth-eaten armchairs and cardboard boxes of what could be described as junk at best. His eyes then fell upon something else, a large wooden trunk, on which was carved, "THE MEMBERS OF MAGIC". Harry remembered it very well. A year ago, he had opened this trunk and found he was related to Ron, and also the family tree of his magical guardian, Peter Peelish. He hadn't seen it in quite a while.
Deciding that it couldn't hurt to have a look, he sat down cross-legged on the floor, and prized the lid open. It swung open. Inside were the familiar scrolls of parchment, tied with lengths of ribbon in various colours and widths, piled right down from the bottom of the trunk. Each piece of parchment had a wizarding family tree on it, as far back as it could be traced, and even though Harry hardly knew any of the people on the trees he found, he amused himself for a few minutes just reading through them and listening to Fred and George arguing in the attic about something.
After about twenty minutes of just reading, he started to come across people he knew, and found himself absorbed in them. He found Luna Lovegood was descended from a lot of astronomers and philosophers, which wasn't much of a surprise, and to his delight, he once again found Peter's tree. The eighteen-year-old boy in the picture waved up at him, smirking, and the girl next to him, Jilly, was smiling ever so slightly too. He then looked upwards, following the lines back, and finding that their mother was the daughter of one Baron Mortimer Carnet - the Bloody Baron. It was odd to think that Peeves, Peter's alter-ego, was the grandson of the gaunt Bloody Baron, but really, there were obvious links. The baron was the Slytherin ghost, and Harry knew that Peter had been in Slytherin. He was quite a good Slytherin, by the sound of it. The baron was also the only person who could ever really control Peeves, and quite obviously so. Harry knew he would behave properly if his grandfather was covered in silvery bloodstains that nobody knew the origin of. Wondering whether the family tree would have this information, Harry glanced along the miniscule text underneath the baron. He couldn't help but smile. The baron had apparently been at a fancy-dress party, wearing the costume of a Georgian lord that had been murdered, and for effect, had daubed fake blood on himself. He'd then drunk too much, and drowned in the fish pond after deciding a midnight swim was a good idea. No wonder the Bloody Baron didn't talk about it much.
Harry looked around, and saw Ginny standing at the end of the corridor. "Hi," he said. "How's the rabbit program?"
"Ron and Draco are both pretending they don't want to sing along," she said, walking over. "What are you doing?"
"Just looking through this," said Harry. He rolled up the scroll, retied the ribbon, and put it back in the box. Ginny sat down next to him, and he explained all about the family trees, showing her the interesting ones he had found. Ginny seemed particularly intrigued in Luna's, and then when they found Harry's, they spent a good few minutes just looking back through all the people there. Harry recognised some of them, having seen them in the Mirror of Erised years ago, and they all smiled and waved at him from the pictures. Harry wasn't sure what he'd been expecting of his family. He knew that a lot of people would have been hoping for generations and generations of powerful and prominent warlocks, who did marvellous things and met heroic ends, but really, the Potters were just... normal people. One of his great great grandfathers had worked at Ollivanders, and there was a man several centuries back who made cauldrons. A woman with silky black hair to her waist had been captured by muggle witch hunts, though during her burning, she apparated away and spent the rest of her life in Devon. That was probably the most exciting thing that happened to any of the Potters. But somehow, this made Harry feel better. The Potters were just normal people, a normal family, who told the sort of stories that would only ever be interesting at family parties when everyone was drunk.
"Hey, Harry! Look at this!"
Harry glanced up from his family tree, to see that Ginny had just unrolled a blood red scroll with black and silver writing. He leant over her shoulder to read it, and realised after a few moments that it was Professor Snape's blood line. It was, in simple terms, a very very messed up family. Inbreeding had taken place on numerous occasions, and there were about ten times more murdered people than people who had just died of old age. Lines criss-crossed here and there, when somebody died, their spouse married somebody else, who promptly murdered them and married yet another person... Harry tried to trace Snape back directly with his finger, following fathers. He could pick out very similar hooked noses, dark eyes, greasy black hair, that same sour-cheeked expression. Most, if not all, had met sticky ends. Snape's great great grandfather had been killed in a polyjuice potion accident, and another man had died in what was referred to as, "the reason why Needle Bats and serenity candles do not mix".
Ginny was wearing a very pinched expression as Harry glanced up at her. "Real happy family, huh?"
"Yeah," he said, grimly. He glanced down at the tree, noticing black Bs next to the names of most males. "What does the B stand for?"
"I can think of something that's appropriate to Snape," said Ginny, corners of her mouth twitching.
She shrugged. "Beastly, maybe... bland, back-stabbing, bothersome, bitter... born of siblings, maybe. B for Born to Be Boring. Maybe it's for blah. As in, blah blah blah potions blah antidotes blah you are not working up to a sufficent standard blah."
"There's a date next to it though," said Harry. He pointed. "Oh, I see. It's for birth date."
Ginny grinned, studying the date underneath Snape's name. "Damn, he's had a hard life."
There was suddenly a lot of noise from downstairs, the sound of the door banging open, somebody shouting. Harry and Ginny jumped and turned around.
"Arthur!" a man's voice that Harry didn't recognise was shouting. "Arthur, quickly! Come quickly!"
With a worried look at each other, Harry and Ginny got up and hurried towards the stairs, just in time to see Mr Weasley come out of a door in the hall and look up at the shadow of another man in the door way. "What is it?" Mr Weasley asked, blinking.
"Arthur," the man sighed. "Thank Merlin you're here! There's been an attack, Arthur, it's Death Eaters! They got into St Mungo's and... oh Arthur, you have to come! The healers won't be able to hold them off for long!"
Mr Weasley was going pale. He grabbed his coat from the side, just as Lupin and Tonks appeared out of another door. "An attack? On St Mungo's?" said Lupin.
The man in the door nodded frantically. "Death Eaters, about six of 'em. Just strolled in and started cursing."
"We'll come too," said Tonks, as she drew her wand. "Where are Snape and Bill?"
"I'm here," said Snape's cold voice from behind Harry. He blew down the stairs so fast it looked as though he flew, and his wand was already out in his hand. "Have the muggles noticed?"
The young man shook his head, panting slightly. "No, it was all inside the waiting area. Contained attack. We don't want the muggles to realise if at all possible, but we've - "
Mrs Weasley had come out of the kitchen at all the shouting, wooden spoon in hand. "What's happened, Arthur?" she said.
"There's been a Death Eater attack, Molly," said Mr Weasley, already heading out of the door. "On St Mungo's."
"Wait! One moment, I'll get my wand!" she said, but Mr Weasley cut her off.
"No, Molly, stay here," he said. "Stay with the children, this might be a distraction to get Harry or Draco."
"We're coming too though," Ron said, looking down at his father hopefully. "Aren't we? Please Dad, we're of age, we can help the ministry!"
"Absolutely not," said Mr Weasley. "You're staying here with your mother. Bill! Bill, where are you?"
Bill hurried out of the lounge and ran after them, as all the adult wizards left the house, slamming the door. Harry saw them crossing the square through the frosted glass, but Mrs Weasley pulled the curtains over, and shooed them all upstairs. She sent them into the drawing room, and the moment the door shut, Ron said, angrily, "Why can't we go and help? Come on, we deserve a chance!"
"Speak for yourself," said Draco, sinking gracefully into an armchair and making himself at home. "We'd be slaughtered."
"We've got as much skill as anybody," said Ron. "We're coming up to seventeen, and we were fighting in the siege! Why can't we fight now?"
"Correction," said Ginny. "Draco was fighting in the siege. You and me were stuck behind a bubble, and Harry was tied up. We couldn't fight." She sighed, and patted Ron consolingly on the shoulder. "Come on, it's not a big thing... they won't need our help. The ministry will sort it all out soon enough. There are only six of them."
"But what if more are coming?" said Ron, hotly. "You-Know-Who doesn't just send in six Death Eaters! There'll be hundreds on their way now!"
Ginny shook her head. "There won't be. The muggles will notice if there are."
"He'll want the muggles to notice," Ron argued. "He wants to cause a big scene, remember? Not just on the wizarding world, he wants the entire world!"
"Since when were you the spokesperson for the Dark Lord?" Draco drawled, coldly.
Ron glared at him, but clearly this comment had put him off. He sunk into an armchair with a defeated sigh, crossed his arms, and stared up at the ceiling. "It's still unfair though. It doesn't matter how many there are, we should be allowed to help. What was it Dumbledore said at the end of last year? We all need to stand together to fight against You-Know-Who? And yet they're leaving us out of it! Harry should at least be allowed to go, he's the expert on You-Know-Who!"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Weasley, Potter is wanted by the Dark Lord. If he is found or even glimpsed by a Death Eater, he'll just be massacred immediately. It's like sending the king out to do a pawn's job."
Ron turned to Harry, his eyes flashing, looking surprisingly like Hermione. He opened his mouth to possibly demand Harry's opinion, or try and get Harry on his side in the argument, but he fell silent at the look on Harry's face. "What's up with you?"
Harry was quiet for a moment. He then said, unable to keep the worry from his voice, "Kainda's in St Mungo's."
"They won't get past the entrance hall," said Ginny, consolingly. "Honestly, Harry... look at all the qualifications healers need. Loads of Defence the Dark Arts and everything. They'll be able to fight the Death Eaters back." She patted him on the arm. "Don't worry."
"See," said Ron, viciously to Draco. "If Kainda gets killed, it'll be your fault."
"My fault?" Draco snarled, abandoning his superior coolness immediately. "How will it be my fault? Did I stop you going to help? No! If you want to get yourself cursed into a hundred little bits, then go ahead, just go running out there to get mown down, do us all a favour!"
"You just - " Ron began, furiously, but Harry decided then and there he was sick of it already.
"Stop it," he said, firmly. "Just stop fighting. Nobody's proving anything." He sat back in his chair, crossed his arms, and closed his eyes. "All we can do is wait..."
It was two hours before Harry, Ron, Ginny and Draco heard the front door opening downstairs, and people coming in. They all leapt out of their chairs and rushed from the room, only to be intercepted by Bill Weasley.
"Hey, hey, back in the drawing room," he said. "There's an Order meeting about to take place, you're not allowed to hear."
"What happened?" said Harry, hurriedly. "Please, just tell us. Is anybody dead? Are the Death Eaters gone?"
"They disapparated," said Bill. "We managed to take out two of them, and the rest of them just realised they weren't going to get any further than the waiting room. Everybody's fine, Harry, don't worry. The moment the Death Eaters entered the building, the witch at the Welcome Desk got the safety measures in place. There were only a few little injuries... Lupin got a bloody nose, I think, and Snape got a nasty cut on his neck, but it's being sorted out now."
"Why can't we join in with the Order meeting?" said Ron, angrily. "Come on Bill, please!"
"No, Ron," Bill said firmly. "You're not members."
"Why?" said Ron.
Bill looked at him blankly for a moment, then said, vaguely, "No idea, but you're not allowed to hear... don't cause a fuss, Ron, I'm supposed to be in there right now."
"Bill?" said a voice from down the corridor. They all looked up. Lupin was standing before them, a wad of white cloth held under his nose, soaking up the blood. "Dumbledore wants to see the children while any injuries are cleared up."
Ron dodged past Bill before his older brother could stop him, and hurried over to Lupin. "He wants us to join, doesn't he?"
"I'm not sure," said Lupin. "He just told me to bring you all to him. Harry, Ginny, Draco... come on. Bill, if you're not hurt, could you help tend to the injuries? Everybody's in the lounge."
Bill nodded. As Lupin lead Harry, Ron, Ginny and Draco towards the kitchen, Bill headed off in a different direction towards the lounge. Harry noticed he was limping on every other step, but he had no time to ponder this, as Lupin opened the door of the kitchen. "Albus? They're here," he said.
Sitting in a chair at the old wooden table was Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, dressed in long purple robes decorated in gold stars. As always when seeing Dumbledore again after a break, Harry felt an odd sense of calm and safety. The headmaster smiled at them all, drawing out chairs with a flick of his wand. "Sit down, children... how is your holiday so far? Homework out of the way?"
"Potions homework," said Draco, idly.
"As if you'd dare leave it until the last week with Snape in the house," Ron muttered.
Dumbledore chuckled slightly. "Good, good... and Harry? How are you?"
Harry smiled. "Fine, thanks... a bit bored, but okay."
"Marvellous... now... I'm sure you all know that I have called you here for a reason." Dumbledore peered at them over the top of his half-moon spectacles. "A very serious reason... any ideas?"
"You want us to join the Order," said Harry, quietly.
Dumbledore nodded. "I do, Harry... you may have wondered why I left it quite so long to offer you an invitation. The truth is that I wanted to wait until Miss Weasley was of age, so I wasn't extending the offer to all but one. It is dreadful to be the only one left out."
"What about Hermione?" said Ron. "Isn't she joining?"
"I went to visit Miss Granger earlier," said Dumbledore. "Also, Mr Longbottom, Miss Lovegood, and Miss Zabini. I believe it is time for a new generation to join our ranks. Though I must speak with you now... this is not something to be taken lightly, in the slightest. The Order of the Phoenix is still a secret organisation, completely unknown to Voldemort or any of his followers. This is the way I wish for it to stay." He reached into his pocket, and took out a scroll of parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink. "Therefore, you will all have to sign to promise your secrecy. This is a magical contract, somewhat like the ones used for marriage and magical guardians, and I should warn you now that those who break such a contract are punished most heavily by magic itself. You cannot go back on such a thing."
Harry picked up the quill without any hesitation. Dumbledore smiled, unrolled the parchment, and held it still as Harry signed his signature on the dotted line. He knew that he would never join the dark side, and would never willingly help Voldemort in any way at all. Ron and Ginny clearly felt the same. They signed their names right after Harry, though when Draco was handed the quill, he glanced up at Dumbledore.
"Does this contract forbid loyalty to a Death Eater as a person?" he asked, raising one eyebrow. "I shall sign nothing which requires me to hate my own family."
Dumbledore shook his head, and said, "Don't worry, Draco. I would not dare force anybody to stop loving their family or friends."
Happy with this answer, Draco took the quill, and carefully inked, "Malfoy", on the line.
"And first name, please, Draco," said Dumbledore.
Draco raised an eyebrow, and added his first name afterwards in brackets. "There."
Dumbledore smiled. "Thankyou all... I'm sure that you will make the Order very proud indeed. Now... I think it's about time you all attended your very first official meeting. Oh... one thing first..." And from his pocket, he took four candles, then handed one to each of them. "These are very secret... I hope you will all use them responsibly."
Harry blinked as he received his own candle. "You mean, not playing with matches?"
"No, no, Harry," Dumbledore chuckled. "Though, of course, that is very important. These are not normal candles. Every single member of the Order of the Phoenix has one of these candles, and if you light the flame, and speak the name of the person you wish to contact, their own candle will light, and you may speak to them. We use these to contact each other when floo powder, owls, portkeys and apparition are not possible."
"Cool," breathed Ron. "But... hang on... what if we've got the thing in our pockets, when somebody wants to get in touch? We'll catch fire, won't we?"
"No," said Dumbledore, with a small smile. "The candle will simply become warm, until taken out into the air, at which point the candle will light and communication will be possible."
"What if it starts getting hot in lessons?" asked Ron.
"Simply ask if you may be excused," said Dumbledore. "Most of the teachers at Hogwarts are members of the Order, and will let you leave. Come along now. You all have a meeting to attend, and I have one to give - coincidentally, the same one."
They all stood up, and made their way from the kitchen into the hall, then down a corridor into the lounge. It was very dark, as the curtains were shut, and there was a great sense of importance in the air. Every single seat was taken, and there were more people standing around, tending to minor injuries and talking in low voices. A lot of eyes turned in their direction as Dumbledore lead them in, though he nodded graciously, and gestured to the candle still in Harry's hand. The other members of the Order all made noises of understanding, smiling at the new members, and from the back of the room, there was a loud whisper of, "Over here!"
Harry looked around, and saw Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, and Neville Longbottom standing by the back wall. Hermione was grinning and waving them over. They picked their way carefully through the crowd, and squashed up on the sofa that Hermione, Luna and Neville had saved. Ron got a hug from Hermione, and with slightly pink ears, he hugged her back.
"How are you all?" she whispered. "What's been happening?"
"Not much," said Ginny. "We've been inside all the time. Harry went to see Kainda a few days ago though, and there was that St Mungo's thing earlier... but nothing apart from that. What about you?"
"Oh, doing homework, revising, the usual," said Hermione, airily. She turned to Harry, and smiled. "Did you get my present?"
"Yeah," he said, smiling back. "It's really... useful, thanks."
"They are brilliant books," said Hermione, enthusiastically. "I bought one for myself, you know, just so I won't have to keep borrowing yours all the time. They're ever so good. It covers all sorts of techniques for revision, and - "
"Could I possibly have everybody's attention please?" Dumbledore was calling for quiet, and so Hermione hushed up about the NEWT revision books. Dumbledore smiled around at everybody, standing up by the fireplace. "Firstly, I would like to thank you all for attending this meeting, as I know many of you now have busy schedules, so I am eternally glad to see you all here. Secondly, as you have all noticed, we welcome eight new members to our ranks today. Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, Ron and Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and Kainda Zabini have all agreed to join the Order, though regretfully, Miss Zabini cannot be with us in person. A link by candles must suffice..."
He took his own candle from his pocket, placed it on the mantelpiece, and clicked his fingers. A little flame appeared on the wick, dancing in the darkness, and he murmured, "Zabini, Kainda". There was a noise like a wind-chime, and the next moment, an echoing voice filled the room.
"Good evening, Miss Zabini," said Dumbledore, pleasantly. "There is an Order meeting taking place, and we wish for you to be part of it... I do hope we aren't intruding upon something important."
Harry could almost hear the smile in Kainda's voice. "It's okay, sir. I could do with the company."
"I'm sure you could," said Dumbledore, with a little sigh. "How are things inside St Mungo's, Kainda?"
"To tell you the truth, I didn't even know we were under attack," said Kainda's voice. "There certainly wasn't any major damage done in my ward at least. The healers sorted out any injuries pretty quick. Things here are fine, I guess."
"Good," said Dumbledore. He turned to the rest of the people present, and asked, "Were there any significant losses to our side?"
"No," said Lupin, from his place near the bookshelves. "We've got everything sorted out. Nothing a good charm won't fix."
"Excellent. Has the total count of losses in the siege been counted yet?" Dumbledore asked.
"We lost quite a lot from the ministry," said a dark-skinned witch nearby. "Only three-quarters of people who went to Hogwarts that day came back safely. Hogwarts pupils, I believe we lost around half..."
Dumbledore nodded solemnly. "Indeed we did. Slytherin seemed to suffer the heaviest casualties... we only have thirty left, out of seventy..."
"They'll have gone to join their parents," said the dark-skinned witch. "The Death Eaters, Dumbledore."
"Objection," Snape said, coldly, from his seat near the fireplace.
"I'll second that," said Kainda.
"As will I," Draco said, in a tone not unlike Snape's.
Snape swept his dark eyes around every face, and said, seriously, "I would like to dispel this ridiculous notion you all have of my house. Salazar Slytherin was not a Death Eater, nor was he an approver of the Dark Lord. Slytherin house, therefore, stands not for Death Eaters, but for the things the sorting hat describes once a year - ambition, cunning, independence. Not every Slytherin will become a Death Eater, and nor is every Death Eater a Slytherin."
Nobody wanted to argue against this, and there was silence for a moment, before the dark witch said, with a raised eyebrow, "Then only four-sevenths of Slytherin house will become Death Eaters."
"By your logic," Snape drawled, "Slytherin house did not receive a single death, and forty children simply vanished into thin air to join the Dark Lord. If they had joined forces with the Death Eaters, we would have seen them leaving the grounds in some way."
"Their bodies have not been found," the dark witch said, coldly.
"There are ways to dispose of bodies," said Snape, and luckily, he didn't elaborate.
"If I may speak," Dumbledore said, calmly, over the start of the dark witch's reply. "We are not here to argue. However this happened, Slytherin house has lost the most students, though the other houses are not without losses. Because of this, I am lowering the barriers between houses at Hogwarts. There will not be house tables, but smaller tables where students of all houses and staff will mix together. The Quidditch tournament will be as it was last year, with mixed-house teams, and house points - "
"If there aren't house points - " Hermione started loudly, but when everybody turned to look at her, she hushed her voice a little. " - then students won't have anything to work for," she finished, quietly.
Dumbledore smiled. "Exactly the argument that came up in my own head, Miss Granger. Thankyou. However, house points will not be abolished completely... my plan is to have a cumulative total for points, and once certain amounts are reached, for example, 100 cumulative house points, a reward for the school will be arranged."
"I'll vote for that," said Professor McGonagall's voice, crisply. Harry glanced around the crowd, and saw her sitting on a sofa with Professor Sprout, tiny little Professor Flitwick, and to his great surprise, Professor Alrister, the Pure Arts master.
Alrister glanced at Harry, and gave a slight smile, before raising a hand. "I'm with Minerva."
"Then we are settled," said Dumbledore, smiling slightly. "And as with last year, there are more changes to be made at Hogwarts. Pure Arts is currently being taught and learnt very well - "
"Hear hear," said Harry. Alrister gave him another smile.
"Thankyou, Harry," said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling. "Yes, as it has become such a popular subject, I have decided to introduce another new subject to be taught this year - Miscellaneous Magic. Penny Pebblebank has very kindly agreed to teach this to the students for an hour a week, and I hope it will be received well."
"What sort of things...?" said Ron, tentatively.
Dumbledore just smiled. "You shall have to wait and see, Mr Weasley. Now..." He gave a little sigh. "We must address our most important issue. Voldemort. What information do we have on his current activities and next targets?"
A young witch with green hair spoke up from the corner, stepping forward a little so her face could be seen properly. "It's been hard getting any information from him, really..."
"Yeah," said a man next to her, looking up from his hands. "We have been trying though, but he's not even talking to Death Eaters anymore. Only ever Rookwood."
"After the siege, he sort of withdrew into the corridor with the vampires and necromancers in their cages," the woman said, raising her eyebrows. "He spent all his time with them, just watching them being fed. You know the pureblood vampire girl he got? The rumour is he was actually feeding her himself. On his own blood."
"How old is she now?" asked Dumbledore, seriously.
The man gave a nervous little laugh. "We're not sure... you see, it looks as though he got bored with waiting for her to grow up. Spent a month looking after her, then I dunno... he realised she's not going to be grown up for quite a while."
"So he decided to just skip ahead," the woman said. "He just had her drink from one of the necromancers, hoping she would absorb the skill. But she didn't. It turns out that it was a pretty bad move... she's started to grow faster than she really should. She got to about twenty years old a few days ago. He just took her out of her cage, and took her away from the compound. We don't know where they went, but she wasn't with him when he came back. He killed her. She wasn't useful to him anymore."
"At least we now have one less worry," said Dumbledore, gravely. "Do we have any idea where his next target is?"
"None at all," said the woman. "Well... as we said, he's being really secretive. He'll only let Rookwood in to see him. Says that Rookwood is his only truly loyal servant anymore, after Lestrange and Malfoy have been killed, and Snape's been shown as a traitor."
"He's sending Rookwood to do some weird things though," said the man next to her, his left eyebrow arching up. "Robbing muggle museums, mostly. Bringing back Egyptian artefacts and information. Everyday, Rookwood goes out to one of the muggle bookshops in London and brings back loads of book about ancient civilisations. We've got no idea what he's up to."
"They've unearthed a new tomb in Egypt, just today," the woman added. "But the muggles say it was pretty much empty, just a few paintings and stuff left. It was full until this morning. Rookwood must have caught wind of a tomb about to be discovered by the muggles, and gone down there right before. Picked it clean. We don't know if he's looking for something in particular, or if Voldemort just wants to improve his collection." She smiled grimly. "It's his new hobby."
"Odd," said Dumbledore, thoughtfully. "Somehow, I doubt whether this is as innocent as it sounds."
"Perhaps he's decided to give the conquer of the world a miss," said the green-haired witch, grinning slightly. "He might be planning to get on muggle television with a documentary series. Voldemort's Wonderful World Of History."
There was a soft outbreak of laughter, and when it died down, Dumbledore smiled and said, "Well... I believe that is all..."
"Would anybody like to stay for something to eat?" said Mrs Weasley, hopefully. "You're all welcome, I'm sure."
A few people murmured and nodded, while others stood up, heading for the door. Professors Sprout, Flitwick and McGonagall all gave the children fleeting smiles before they left, and when everybody who was going had gone, Harry looked around to see who had decided to stay. To his delight, Alrister remained; Harry quite wanted to talk to him. Dumbledore still stood by the fire, some of Mr Weasley's ministry friends were standing around and chatting to him, a blonde witch that Harry didn't know was talking animatedly to Tonks, and all of Harry's friends were peeling themselves from the sofa.
"A new subject," Hermione said, excitedly. "I wonder what we'll be learning. It's probably just another other magic we don't get taught normally, like theory and stuff."
Ron groaned. "If it is, we'd better not have to do a NEWT exam about it."
"Come on," said Ginny, heading towards the door. "Let's go help Mum with the cooking. Maybe we can weedle out of Lupin what we'll be learning in Misc Magic."
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