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Chapter 18

Harry's thoughts about Rita had proved to be prophetic. Two days after the attack on his home Harry got a letter from her requesting an interview. Next weekend was a Hogsmeade weekend and while he, Hermione, and Fleur had plans that mostly involved them disappearing into their bedroom at the Potter house and not leaving for the rest of the weekend, Harry was sure there would be enough time to squeeze in an interview with the reporter. He just had to get Fleur and Hermione's thoughts on the matter first.

Luckily the two were amenable to the idea and Harry wrote to Skeeter asking her to book a private room at the Three Broomsticks and he, Hermione, and Fleur would meet her there. He didn't want to set up the room in his name because he didn't want to risk Madam Rosmerta gossiping about where he was going to be. Because if that information got to the wrong people then the Three Broomsticks may be considered neutral ground but that didn't mean that people in masks would follow those rules. Harry didn't want his local pub destroyed and he didn't want to risk Madam Rosmerta banning him from the premises If he tried to explain why she shouldn't tell anyone he was there.

The week at school was fairly normal. Harry's friends had all ganged up and pushed Harry into restarting their combat class. Harry split his free time between homework, looking up things for the combat class, and working on his shield and the magical air compressor.

The design for the compressor was finished now and Harry was working on carving out the twenty identical plates that would be generating the air. Ironically, he wished he could use the engraving tool he was making to make the tool. He was also considering whether he should see about commercialising the engraver. He didn't want to sell the devices or the design but he couldn't be the only one who had mass production issues when it came to runes. Maybe he could set up a shop once he was finished with school and mass-produce rune plates for other businesses.

As for the shield bracer, Harry's first prototype was working fine. Now he was working on some modifications. For one, he wanted the bracer to hold more shields. As they could only be counted on to stop one spell each he didn't want to risk running out in the middle of a fight.

Saturday finally came and Harry and Hermione had to get to their Hogsmeade home. This posed a problem because it was obvious that Malfoy and his goons were planning something. Harry was sure that they were planning to ambush them, probably right outside the Hogwarts gates. It's what Harry would do in their position: wait for a time when you knew exactly where he would be then gather as much force as he could to overwhelm them.

That was why Harry planned to step to his home taking Hermione with him that way. He had offered to take Daphne and Tracey because they would be targets as well but the two of them had decided to stay in the castle and take advantage of the Room of Requirement.

So Harry stepped Hermione to their house. Fleur was already waiting for them with breakfast and as soon as Harry stepped in he found himself in the arms of his beloved French future wife who was doing her best to map out the inside of his mouth using nothing but her tongue. A few moments later Harry was left dazed as his brain tried to catch up with what had just happened while Hermione got the same treatment.

"So we have enough time for breakfast and then we will walk over to the Three Broomsticks?" Fleur asked.

Hermione shook her head. "While we have time for breakfast we won't be walking over. There is too much chance someone is watching for us today. Harry is going to go alone under his invisibility cloak and once he knows what room Rita has he is going to step us directly there. Hopefully that should keep our meeting private. At least until we end up in the paper." Hermione told Fleur the plan.

"Sounds good. Now the two of you eat up. You will need your strength later." And Fleur pointed out the full English fry-up she had asked either Dobby or Sassy to prepare.

The food, as always, was delicious and as they ate they talked about what they were prepared to tell Skeeter and what they specifically wanted to keep secret.

Once Harry was well stuffed with breakfast he called Dobby and had him bring him his invisibility cloak. Harry stepped out of the house under the cloak. He used his ability because he didn't want to risk that someone was watching the house and would see the door opening and closing. He kept his eyes open and paid attention as he walked through the village. Was he being paranoid? Not in his opinion there was a whole group of people after him. Besides he had a few of the goblin portkey coins on him. If he saw a potential target on their own, maybe he would take advantage of such an opportunity.

Harry was right to keep a lookout. He spotted groups watching the students outside a few shops. There was a group outside Honeydukes, Zonko's, Tomes and Scrolls, and the Three Broomsticks. He didn't recognise them but they could be members of the feuding houses he hadn't met or even under polyjuice. Or they could be undercover law enforcement. There was no way for Harry to know, either way, he decided to keep his distance.

He walked around the outside of the Three Broomsticks looking into the windows of the private rooms hoping to see where Skeeter was. Unfortunately for Harry, all of the private rooms seemed to have Charms on the windows preventing him from seeing who or what was inside. It was an inconvenience at the moment but Harry could guess that he would be glad of it once he and the girls were inside.

This meant he had to go inside if he wanted to know where he needed to be. That meant waiting for someone else to go in and follow them. That didn't take long. Despite it being not long after breakfast plenty of Hogwarts students were already going into the pub for a butterbeer. Harry slipped in behind what looked to be a group of fourth-year Ravenclaw girls.

The pub was already pretty packed so instead of trying to dance around everyone and hoping no one bumped into him he stepped across the room to the corridor that led to the bathrooms, kitchen, and private meeting rooms as well as the stairs that led up to the hotel rooms.

Harry checked the private room doors and only one of them had a sign on the door that said reserved. Grinning to himself Harry stepped back to his house to collect Hermione and Fleur. He decided to leave the cloak behind. They were too big for it to cover them all so hiding just one of them didn't seem worth it. Harry stepped them back to right outside the door and they immediately knocked and walked in.

Rita was a little surprised at the sudden knock and door opening but as soon as she saw it was who she was expecting she gave them a wide smile. "Ah Harry, Hermione, and miss Delacour. Welcome, come in. How are you?"

"Good morning Rita. I hope you don't mind me putting up a few privacy and security charms?" Harry asked, but he hadn't even waited for an answer before he drew his wand and started casting a bunch of spells with Hermione and Fleur each following his lead and casting more on top.

"You know I already have a number of privacy charms up. Don't want to risk one of my competitors getting this scoop after all." Rita said.

"Yeah, but we don't want to risk anyone we are feuding with knowing we are here and trying to start something in the pub. That leads to innocent people getting hurt." Harry explained.

Rita nodded her understanding and offered to get everyone a drink which was gladly accepted. If they were going to be doing a lot of talking, something to keep their tongues from drying out would be welcome. A quick trip to the bar had Skeeter returning with a tray of butterbeer for them all.

Once they were all settled into the comfortable chairs that the room had, Rita was the one to broach the topic they were there to discuss. "So Harry you basically declared war on a lot of people. Can you tell me why you did that?"

Harry took a deep steadying breath and let it out slowly before he said. "The short answer is they are all death eaters. People who have chosen violence, to attempt to commit mass murder just because they don't like who someone's parents are. They hide behind masks creating just enough legal doubt that the D.M.L.E can't touch them unless they are masked up and committing obvious crimes. Due to a number of factors and a combination of sources I won't name for obvious reasons I know who a lot of them are and decided to make it so that they can't hide behind anonymity anymore."

"But you did get two wrong, didn't you? The houses of Greengrass and Rookwood." Rita asked.

"Nope, I only got one wrong. I believed the whole house of Rookwood was rotten to the core and it was only one member. The house of Greengrass I never believed to be death eaters."

"Then why accuse Warlock Greengrass?" Rita asked.

Hermione took over answering at this point. "Warlock Greengrass may not be a death eater but he is a greedy asshole. We knew exactly how he would react to being given the opportunity to maintain his neutral status. So we used that to demonstrate that giving a vow to prove your innocence is no big deal. That stopped the real death eaters from being able to claim that requiring vows was something unreasonable."

"And you did that without him knowing? Don't you think he will be angry when he reads this in the paper?"

Harry shrugged. "I honestly don't care. I told him after why I did it and I paid him a thousand galleons. I consider that ample apology."

There was a short pause as Rita scratched away with her quill writing down what was said. "You said that you did this because you wanted to highlight who the death eaters are but a few days ago when your house was attacked you captured a number of death eaters, and an Auror, and sent them to what can only be described as a private prison run by goblins. That seems like more than just putting a spotlight on specific people."

Harry took this question because there were some very specific things he was contracted to say regarding the goblins. "First about the goblin guards. Yes, goblins are guarding the prison. Any magical prison has the right to hire goblin guards to protect whatever they like. The only requirement is that you can meet the fees that are charged. The only thing that the contract I have with the goblins will have them do is guard my prison. They won't be fighting any of the death eaters for me, they won't back me up in my feuds. The goblins are more than willing to provide similar services to the other side of this conflict, they need only pay for it. They are still a neutral party."

"Sorry, I'm under contract to say all that. The goblins understandably do not want their position misrepresented. As to the how and why I have the prison. I had this plan for a while before I went in front of the Wizengamot to make my declaration. I had to decide how I was going to handle things. I could have chosen to just kill them. That would have been legal. Yet I can't help but think that would mark us in a way we could never come back from. I have killed enough already and I will likely need to kill more before this war is over. but I have to at least try for a better option."

"What will you do with the people you captured after the war ends? I doubt you have enough gold to continue to house them for the rest of their lives?"

Fleur took this one. "We have no intention of housing them for long. Once they sign a magically binding contract that will bind them to never again break the law and compel them to confess their crimes to the D.M.L.E and the Wizengamot we will hand them over to the D.M.L.E. to face legal justice. What that justice is will be decided by what it should be, the legitimate courts and laws of this country."

"But doesn't the law protect people from being compelled by magic to confess their crimes?" Rit asked.

Hermione answered. "Not really. The law prevents the Ministry, Wizengamot, and the D.M.L.E, basically any part of the government, from forcing you to confess with magic. We are not a part of the government. It also says normal citizens can't. However, it is one of the protections that you lose in a blood feud."

"What do you say to the people who say that if your feud is successful then it will decimate the British pureblood lines?" Asked Rita.

"Not likely. For a start, as you know we intend to capture as many of them as we can and have them face legitimate justice. So if this were to destroy the pureblood breeding stock of the country it would be their fault for committing the crimes. However, as the houses for the most part have children Who are not yet of age and have likely not committed any serious crimes yet then they won't face any consequences. They will be free to grow up and marry, have kids, and continue their lines." Harry said.

What he didn't say was that he was sure a number of lines were about to end. For example the Malfoys. With only one heir who will have to confess to having used the Cruciatus curse on Harry without being Imperiused to do so, if the two Malfoys survived this war then they would both be facing life in Azkaban.

"But you have killed death eaters before, why change that now?" Rita asked.

Harry tried to answer but couldn't find the words so Fleur took over. "It is because up until now Harry had not had any choice. The death eaters and Voldemort attack him when he isn't expecting it and Harry has no opportunity to do anything but react. The previous occasions where Harry has killed were because he had no other options, forced to fight or die. Now when our Harry is acting instead of reacting we see tactics that are a better reflection of who he is. He would rather capture and have them face justice. At the same time don't assume he, or any of us wouldn't kill if we need to. It's the death eaters who have chosen that it's us or them. They don't have anything to cry about when we predictably choose ourselves." Fleur was sat up straight and proud in her seat. She wouldn't be seen as though she thought less of Harry for anything he had done.

"Switching topics a little, Miss Delacour-"

"Please call me Fleur."

"Fleur. You have recently finished your education at Beauxbatons and have moved to Britain. How are you finding living here?" Rita asked, as things were getting tense and she wanted to shift the conversation to keep everyone comfortable.

"It's an adjustment. A lot of it is the same as anyone who finishes their schooling. Having to find an apprenticeship, move out of your parents home, learn to support yourself, and live with what you earn. On the other hand, it is so cold here in the winter and nearly everything is just that little bit off, like the bakery has loaves of bread and iced buns instead of la baguette and croissants; it is pleasant but it is the sort of thing I would have had occasionally at home rather than all the time here." Fleur answered.

"You said you have an apprenticeship, considering your showing in the Triwizard Tournament you must have had a lot of good opportunities." Rita prodded.

"Oui. I did. I had my pick of some pretty amazing opportunities. But it was Gringotts who gave me the best offer so I signed on to my apprenticeship with them." Fleur laid it on a little thick. she had had a few offers but not that many. She assumed most thought she would be returning to France. However, her offer from Gringotts was a good one and she didn't want to sound like she was disparaging of them in the press.

With everyone a little more relaxed Rita once again went in with what she felt was an important question. "So how do the three of you feel about how you-know-who is attacking people now? There have been six more possession killings since the first one and three of the possessed victims have taken their own lives after being let go. Also Harry do you feel responsible as you were the one to kill off his body?"

Harry frowned. "The only person responsible for Voldemort's actions is Voldemort. Would I have still cut off the bastard's head if I had known? Probably yes. Voldemort is dangerous like this but he is still less dangerous than he is with a body. But no, I don't feel responsible. He murdered a friend of mine by shooting her in the back as she ran. I only wish separating his head from his body had been more effective."

Hermione took Harry's hand in hers and continued where Harry had left off. "We feel bad for the families targeted. Those who survived the attacks and the relatives of those who passed have our deepest sympathies. We know what it's like to lose people you care about. but consider what would have happened if Voldemort had escaped without injury. Right now he would be leading his death eaters rather than looking for a way to get his body back."

The interview continued for a while longer, with the three teenagers answering most of the reporter's questions. There were a few they refused to answer like the location of the prison where Harry was keeping the captured death eaters, or how Harry was able to transport the prisoners there. Such things were best kept secret.

After the interview, Fleur took Harry's and Hermione's hands and side alonged them not only directly to their house, but directly into their bedroom. While Harry slipped into the bathroom for a second a little worried he might lose that butterbeer thanks to magical travel that wasn't his own Stepping ability Hermione asked Fleur. "I thought the Three Broomsticks was warded against apparition?"

"Oui, It is. But not against disapparation. You don't want people breaking in but it doesn't matter if the customers leave by disapparation. And you and I are accepted by the wards to appear directly into this house. You just need to pass your test."

"We will be having lessons sometime this school year," Hermione said. Then she smiled coquettishly at her girlfriend. "Is there a reason you brought Harry and me directly to the bedroom?" She tried to sound innocent as she asked.


"So have you found me a suitable body?" The vaporous apparition that was the main part of Voldemort's soul asked the strangely independent house elf.

"I think I have. A lot of our choices were rendered unusable by the Potter brat declaring feud on so many of our followers. The others are not influential or powerful enough to bother with. I was considering Black at first. This body would still let me past the wards at Grimmauld Place so I could snatch him easily enough but Potter would probably notice too quickly for you to actually do much. But I spoke with one of us in Viperclaw. He told me that there is tension between the Potter boy and the head of the Auror force Williamson. Williamson is a fully qualified Auror so he is of fit body and powerfully magical. He has a lot of sway in his department and your taking him over could really help our plans. He even has shown some right thinking in regards to the mudbloods. So you won't need to act quite as hard." the Locket possessed Kreacher answered

"Sounds promising. The only question is are we going to kidnap him before we feed his soul to the dementors leaving a blank body for me to possess or are we going to ambush him and remove his soul and take over the body where he is?"

"I think we should kidnap him. The best scenario is for you to possess the body while your death eaters watch. Prevent any doubt that you are you."

The apparition nodded. "You're right. Most of that lot are rather simple thinkers. Best to make it obvious who it is that has control of the body."

Kreacher's head nodded when Voldemort mentioned the lack of brain power among a number of the death eaters. "To inbred for their own good."

"Fools haven't ever realised the strongest wizards alive are all half-bloods. Dumbledore and myself. It makes it pretty obvious."

"And Potter. Don't look at me like that, you are the one who let Potter cut off your head. You better have everyone believe Potter is powerful, else you and to the extent I got our ass kicked by a bloody teenager. Four bloody times."

Spirit Voldemort didn't want to talk about this so he changed the subject. "Speaking of our goblin brother, how are his plans coming along?"

The house elf gave a wide toothy grin. "He is going after Dumbledore's finances as we planned. You don't move that much gold into a war slush fund without cutting a few corners. Better yet, ViperClaw has conscripted Potter's veela girlfriend for the work. He is going to release the documents with her signatures on them when he feels it's the right moment to shatter any hope of those two working together in the future. He hopes it will be enough to redirect Dumbledore from us to the veela for a while as well if we need him looking in a different direction for a time." They referred to that part of themselves by the goblin name for convenience. It was best that he remained comfortable hearing that as his name while possessing that body and it wasn't like they could all call themselves Voldemort.

"Excellent. You know your ability to pop around in that body is incredibly useful. Maybe we should consider getting an elf when we are all back in real bodies. Do you have a report from our sister?" He couldn't keep from laughing at that. The part of themselves inhabiting the body of the teen girl had been complaining more than any of them despite the fact that she was the only one of them to have a human body and a wand.

"The elves' minds are weak and pathetic. They may have useful abilities but they lack the independence needed to truly be useful. But if you want to waste your time training one of the bloody things, go right ahead. As to our sister, she reports that Potter is training some of his friends to fight. Real fighting, not the defence crap Hogwarts hobbles its students with. That includes the Weasley brat still at Hogwarts, his mudblood, the daughter of Xenophillius Lovegood, the man who owns the magazine 'The Quibbler,' the heir of House Longbottom, the disowned Greengrass girl, the Davis orphan, a daughter of the main line of House Abbott and the technical Warlock Bones though the house is still being run by her aunt and guardian, the current minister of magic. We know the veela is also visiting the castle occasionally. Potter has discovered the room of requirement however and makes frequent use of it. She believes mostly as private space for Potter to take his amusements from his mudblood but as the room will provide privacy if the user wants it then she is unable to see what happens in there." The elf finished the report but then continued.

"Considering that Potter was able to plan out his feud without our sister suspecting anything we should consider any reports from her as… incomplete." It was obvious that the elf was considering ending off with a far less complementary world than incomplete.

"So she has no idea where Potter is keeping our people?" The spirit asked.

"No, and she doesn't think any of Potter's sycophants do either. I think Viperclaw may be our best hope of finding that information. I suspect that the goblins wouldn't have told Potter where the prison is, merely providing a portkey would be sufficient and it would be more secure. And if the little bastards are good at anything it's security."

"Unfortunately we will need a much stronger force before we can have a hope of clearing out that infestation and taking their records. Any news from our other spy?"

"Snape is, as usual, incredibly forthcoming and still lacking in actionable intelligence. Dumbledore knows that Snape reports to us so he limits what Snape knows. After his man was caught in the department of mysteries when Potter went there, Dumbledore shifted his focus away from it. Given that, Snape believes that Dumbledore's actions were more about keeping the prophecy from Potter than us. What he is doing now is trying to investigate our past. Snape has no idea that's what Dumbledore is doing but he sent one of his band of goody-goody's to search for the records from the old Wool's Orphanage, another to search for old records of muggle births from the year we were born, and another to look into Borgin and Burkes. It's obvious to me that Dumbledore is tracking our past." the possessed elf said.

"You moved the ring, right?" asked the spirit.

"Of course. I have it while I work out a suitable body for it to inhabit. Though I did leave a surprise at the old hovel if Dumbledore gets that far." The little elf let out a cackle that the spirit couldn't help but join in. Sure there had been setbacks but things were looking up. Soon they would be more powerful than ever before.


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