A/N: Okay, here's the next chapter. Expect the usual slow-ish updates, although Christmas does beg at least some excuses. I need to spend time w/ my family, after all. Anywhoo, here it is. I'll try to update sooner next time.
Attack on Malfoy Mansion Leads to Capture and Imprisonment of Deatheaters Macnair and Lestrange!
This morning, an exhausted Ronald Weasley confirmed the eyewitness reports of a Ministry-led attack on the grove around Malfoy Manor last night. His team, consisting of Aurors Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, included one unknown agent, possibly one of the mysterious underground group known as the Rebels. Two Deatheaters, their identities as of yet unknown, were killed in the skirmish, and both Macnair and Rodolphus Lestrange are being held in a highly secure safe-house under twenty-four hour supervision by Aurors.
No other Deatheaters were captured at the time, but Mr. Ronald Weasley provided some comment on the subject. "I am almost positive that no trace of You-Know-Who remains at the Malfoy Manor, however, Aurors will be searching the premises presently, and the capture of two of His close supporters is encouraging to our side. It is very possible that they may provide us with crucial information."
Upon being asked about the death of two Deatheaters, in direct violation of the Code of Aurors, which strictly prohibits the use of Unforgiveable Curses, Weasley commented, "The area which we attacked was heavily wooded to provide cover for both sides. All of my agents were forbidden to use any Unforgiveables, and it is probable that a killing curse shot by a Deatheater rebounded off of a tree and hit the wrong target. I firmly believe that no Auror has violated his or her code in any way." For an eyewitness account of the night in question by Derek Boyden, turn to page 3.
Ron finished reading the article with a sigh. Derek had come through, and there were even a couple of photos depicting the fight, with Voldemort standing out prominently and glaring at Harry. Ron himself thought he looked rather impressive. He was shouting a curse and his wand was pointed dramatically at someone who he knew to be Lucius Malfoy.
Ginny had fully recovered, of course, after spending three days in her room, locked up with Harry. When they emerged he had looked worse than Ginny had when she was first put there. Ron had been tactfully ignoring any signs of his sister's budding relationship with his best friend, but they were being anything but subtle. He would have to say something soon, if they kept it up, or risk looking like a complete moron to everyone who knew him.
But Ron could not contemplate his sister's love life any longer. Remus barged into his office, followed closely by Sirius, in dog-form. Ron took one look at Remus' face and Sirius' fur, which was standing on end, and closed the door before turning to look at them both.
"Ludlow killed Fudge," Remus panted, before Ron could say anything. "The package…it was…"
Sirius transformed and took over. "Ron, I don't know how you want to handle this, but we found Fudge's body. It's not pretty." He transfigured the urn Remus was holding and Ron winced. Fudge looked as though he had been tortured. His face was contorted with pain, and his eyes, though squinted, were still open.
"This was the package that Ludlow sent to Albania. It was still in the warehouse when we got it, which means that no one had picked it up yet. But by now, Voldemort must know that we took it. Which means you've got to act fast. Get this into the press, and start to gather an army." Ron gaped.
"Sirius is right. This is going to be full-scale war, and whether you are prepared or not, you need to lead those who have the courage to fight. Harry has his own battle. People look up to you." Remus looked through his fringe at the ginger-haired boy, no, man, standing in front of him. It wasn't up to the Marauders anymore. It wasn't up to his generation. The torch had been passed on, and he only had to play his menial role before being swallowed up by time. "Now. Tell us what you want us to do," he said, face set.
Ron swallowed. He wished for Hermione right now. She was tactical and smart, and organized. But she wasn't around. He didn't know where she was. So he sucked it up. Took the burden and shouldered it, praying to whatever was up there that he wouldn't buckle under its weight.
"Send out messages. To everyone who is trustworthy. And tell them to do the same. We'll meet in Hogsmeade, in the Shrieking Shack, and we'll work out ranks and spells. But we need to meet before then. Just the Rebels, I mean. At the Black House, tomorrow night. This is going to be hell." Remus and Sirius nodded, and left.
"This is going to be hell," he said again, to no one.
Derek Boyden smiled as he walked down Diagon Alley, taking in the chatter, all of which revolved around his article. He could have kissed Ron Weasley for making his career like that. What a story! His name as a journalist was made. Even though he was now as big a target as Weasley himself, he felt invincible. He was famous.
Boyden was a classic reporter. Humanity was sometimes lost on him, and he would go to any lengths to get a story. Some thought that this qualified as bravery, but he knew better. It was calculation and self-interest and he was okay with that. Except now, he knew that things were about to change.
It wasn't until he had sent his story into the Daily Prophet that he realized that by publishing this with his by-line he was declaring sides. He was openly admitting that he was allied to Ron Weasley. This made his reporter's instinct of survival and self-interest kick-in. He wanted to be famous for his writing, not because he died on Voldemort's battlefield. Strutting up to the Floo Network Office, his resonating voice boomed out, "Ministry of Magic, please," and he stepped into the fire to tell Ronald Weasley that he wanted to join whatever force was fighting Voldemort. It wasn't bravery, he told himself.
"Just the man I wanted to see," Ron said as Derek entered his office. Derek looked apprehensively at the gleam in the young Weasley's eyes.
"Why, Mr. Weasley, I'm flattered," he said, grinning.
"I need you to write another story for me," Ron said, looking over to the corner where an urn stood on the floor. "And I want to know how queasy you become around blood and such." Derek grinned.
"I'm a reporter, Ron," he said. "I get paid to see what other people can't stomach and then tell them about it." Wordlessly, Ron transfigured the urn. Boyden's eyes widened, then he coughed lightly. "Well, well, well," he muttered to himself, then took out his pad of paper.
"Everyone, get down here!" Ron bellowed as he entered the Black House, armed with supplies. "Oi! In the kitchen!" Slowly, people began to appear in twos. First, Hermione and Draco, looking slightly ruffled, but Ron didn't notice because he was rooting through brown paper bags. Next came Ginny and Harry, looking puzzled, but amused at Ron's forcefulness. When they saw the contents of the bags he had brought, they exchanged glances. Lastly, came Remus and Sirius, looking tired and worn from a day of recruitment. When they saw what was on the kitchen table their faces broke out into grins. Was Sirius not just suggesting that they needed the help of something powerful?
"Firewhiskey?" Harry said, puzzled.
"Exactly, Harry," Ron answered gleefully. "Tomorrow, the war starts, but tonight is the last time we have that belongs to us. So I say we forget our problems for one night and wake up tomorrow with a pounding headache, ready to start the war." He looked around at all of their faces. Hermione looked scandalized, but reminiscent. Harry looked really amused, and Ginny and Draco had looks of faint surprise on their features. Sirius and Remus wore identical mischievous grins.
"Pour out a shot for everyone, then, Weasley," Draco drawled. "We don't have all night." Ron grinned, and for the rest of her life, Hermione would never forget that these two enemies had first bonded over fucking whiskey. Men were so idiotic.
Two hours later, two of the bottles were empty and a third was currently being finished by none other than Ron and Draco. They were slightly unsteadily pouring its contents into several different shot glasses and beckoning the girls over to take it with them.
"Come on, Ginny, have another one," Ron was saying. His voice was only slightly slurred as of yet. The boy could handle his liquor. "This is a historic family moment. I'm robbing you of your alcohol-virgin status and everyone knows that the first time you get drunk is wasted if you don't puke afterwards. I can't believe Fred and George didn't come. They would have been proud of this moment."
Ginny laughed and grabbed hold of Harry's hips to steady herself. "Ron, you're so cute. Do you really think this is the first time I've ever been drunk? I've even been drunk with Harry before! And pass me that shot…" she giggled as she sat down too hard on the chair and tipped back the whiskey with more ease than a girl of her size should have.
Hermione watched this exchange from her place on Draco's lap and snorted with laughter into his chest. He looked at her with a bemused, slightly unfocused, expression. "What?"
She didn't answer, she only snickered more. Then her breathing became deeper, and he realized that she had fallen asleep. No doubt lulled by the Weird Sisters song that Remus and Sirius were softly singing, swaying back and forth from their seats on the floor. Draco inched his chair towards the table, still balancing the passed-out Hermione, who was way too much of a lightweight for someone of her age, and poured himself another shot.
Ten minutes later, Hermione, Draco, and their chair went tumbling onto the kitched floor. Sirius and Remus were now standing, holding their wands, and grinning evilly at one another.
Draco got up, looking furious and unsteady, but Remus was too quick and hit him with a tickling curse that immobilized him and had him gasping for breath on the floor.
"Oh, no you don't!" Ginny slurred, and tried to cast her famous Bat-Bogey hex on Remus. It hit Sirius instead, because of her unfocused vision. Recovering, Sirius launched a Jelly-Legs curse at Ginny, but it hit Harry and they both fell over. Ginny squealed and Harry moaned as she landed on top of him.
Thus the drunken duel began. Yes, it was reckless, yes, they all passed out on the kitchen floor, and yes, Draco was turned into a giant slug at one point, by none other than Hermione, but it was fun, and they had been craving it like oxygen for ages, suffocating. The best part of it was that the next morning, Sirius made his famous hangover cure, and when he was making it, Ron brought out enough glasses for Draco to be included. In her overemotional, post-drunken state, Hermione burst into tears, and no one had the presence of mind to do anything. They only stared up at her through bleary eyes, as her confused emotions spilled over her face.
Harry, for one, thought that it had been a perfect night. They had had lots of fun, and this morning, the dawn of the end of an era, they had all woken up to light and sound sensitivity, headache, and nausea. How apt.
Meanwhile, in Diagon Alley, the Daily Prophet had been circulated and was now causing a large fuss. A huge photo of Cornelius Fudge's body stood out on the front page, with an article by Derek Boyden. The headline read, "WAR".
A/N: Here it is! My Christmas chapter! Did you like the Drunken Duel? I was going to have them madly toasting things, but then I realized it was too reminiscent of the Felix part of HBP. But there's nothing like drunkenness to bring people together. Next chapter: Battle! Ambush! Love! Innocence! Death? There's going to be 21 chapters plus an epilogue. PLEASE REVIEW!