"That midget is going to tell everyone stories," Fleur scowled, making Harry snicker.
"I am going to sign a marriage contract with you, tomorrow. Finding us in a heated kiss is nothing, to be honest."
"Oh, you don't know Gabby. She is going to make stories up regarding what we were doing. Little brat."
"Well, we have forty minutes… where were we?"
Fleur rolled her eyes. "My mood is ruined by her. And I need to get ready. See you later, Harry." She said before walking towards the door.
"You know, Fleur? I just noticed that I like your French accent better. Harry seems plain coming from you."
Fleur turned to him with a smirk before giving him a saucy wink and walking out of the door, making Harry sigh.
Bloody annoying little sisters.
Ch.61 A Date and Meeting
26th December 1995
Harry slid on his watch, an expensive Rolex watch with a silver Oyster-type band with a brilliant blue dial dotted with golden markings and silver hands that ticked, showing the precise time wherever Harry went. It was not only expensive but also enchanted with runes drawn on its back. On top of it, the watch was brand new. A gift from Amelia on that very morning in fact when they had opened their Christmas presents together.
And he loved the present. Watches were admittedly like a guilty pleasure for him. He simply loved watches, especially enchanted ones. Of course, there were other material things he loved, like broomsticks for example, but already having the best broom in the market reduced the excitement to buy a new broom to almost nothing. News, if the Quidditch Fortnight was to be believed, was that the bolt brand- the creators of firebolt, was making a new broom model which would be even better than the firebolt and be released in a year. But, nothing had been confirmed. For now, the newest broom in the market was the Nimbus 2005 and the Arrow Extreme, both of which were inferior to the firebolt.
So, for now, Harry had no interest in brooms unless he decided to enchant one himself and make it superior to even the firebolt.
'Now, that is an idea. Creating a broom for the NEWT project. A broom that is better than the best broom on the market. With a patent, I could likely sell the design for a good couple of million Galleons if it is better than the firebolt. Maybe even more.' Harry thought to himself as he adjusted his Dark-navy blue tuxedo, making sure he looked the best he could.
It was something Salazar had hammered in him. Appearance matters. Especially in important events and when courting a lady. He had to look his best and dress according to the occasion, whether he cared about it or not. And, for the record, he cared about today's occasion, considering he was going on a date with his fiancée, Fleur Delacour.
In lieu of the occasion, Harry had booked reservations for a dinner cruise, one which would be along the Seine aboard a cruise ship, while they enjoyed their meal and admired riverfront sights like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre simultaneously.
Harry gave himself a mental nod and rechecked his wands before walking out of the room, his black dragon-hide, formal boots clicking on the floor.
As he descended the stairs, his attention was drawn to Susan as she wolf-whistled, looking at him. He smirked and walked down the last few steps, where the whole party, except for Fleur, were sitting, all wearing warm clothes and lounging on the sofas.
"Looking sharp, pup," Sirius, who was sitting next to Amelia, commented, looking up from the game they were playing.
"You know, I quite like your hair in its natural form rather than this… how did you manage to get it settled?" Daphne asked.
"The Sleekeasy hair potion and fifteen minutes of vigorous work."
"This looks much better than the bird's nest you have," Astoria commented, earning a stink eye from her sister.
"Harry looks nice. Fleur's in for a treat." Gabrielle said with a huge smile, making Harry's eye twitch. True to Fleur's assumption, the little minx had made up stories, making Harry and Fleur a target of everyone's incessant teasing and also placing Harry under the watch of one Sebastian Delacour, regardless of the fact that Fleur was his fiancée already.
"Where's Fleur?" Harry asked, looking around.
"Fleur's getting ready," Apolline replied. "She will be down soon. Be patient."
"Is that the watch I gifted you today?" Amelia asked, likely noticing the watch.
"Yep. It is wonderful. Thank you."
"You're most welcome. Have a seat while you wait for her. A lady, after all, always takes her time to look her best."
"Oui," Apolline agreed. "And you are still twenty minutes early than your reservation time anyway."
Harry nodded and conjured an armchair with the flick of his finger before taking the seat.
"So, what are the plans for tonight?" Fleur's father asked casually.
"A nice cruise dinner down the Seine is the plan and then, whatever Fleur wants."
"A decent enough thing for a date, I suppose," He commented, making Harry bristle. While it wasn't the most romantic of date ideas it was still better than decent enough.
"Well, I am quite excited to hear what you did for Apolline then," Harry asked with a smile.
"Oh, I proposed to her on top of the Eiffel tower while using special fireworks to write, 'Will you marry me, Apolline?' In the air. It was Magnifique. And none of the muggles even suspected it one bit." Sebastian Delacour boasted, making Harry glance at Apolline, who was blushing madly.
Harry gave him an impressed nod, tipping an imaginary hat to him. It was one hell of a way to propose.
Before Harry could ponder over it more, he heard footsteps descending the steps and he turned. He had to forcibly stop his jaw from dropping at the sight he saw.
Fleur was descending the steps, looking like a Goddess floating down from heaven. She was wearing a dark sequin navy-blue gown, similar to the gray-satin one she had worn at the yule ball a year ago but looking much more ethereal than she had then. It was a sleeveless, one-shouldered gown that hugged her body perfectly, highlighting her drool-worthy figure. A slit started from a little above her knee, showing off her long legs.
She caught his eyes, and a smile bloomed on Fleur's face and her blue eyes sparkled.
Without even thinking, Harry walked forward towards her, receiving her at the bottom of the steps.
As she stepped down from the last step onto the floor, Harry noticed that she looked about half-inch taller than him rather than her usual height which was a few inches shorter than his. She was a little above five feet, six inches while Harry was almost six feet. Harry glanced at her feet and saw the reason for this anomaly. Heels. Pencil heels.
"'Arry, you look 'andsome," She said, her French accent purposefully thick.
"And I am still searching for words to describe your beauty, Fleur," Harry replied, making her beam.
"Oh, don't you two look absolutely adorable?" Sirius asked, with an incorrigible grin on his face. "It is like you two are just made for each other!"
"Thank you, Sirius," Fleur replied.
"Oh, you two look lovely. This calls for photos!" Apolline declared, getting up and producing a magical camera out of nowhere.
"Now, come here, at this side, you two. We must have lovely pictures"
Harry licked his dry lips and moved to the decorative wall as Apolline instructed and placed an arm around Fleur's waist, posing for the camera.
What followed could be described as a photo session, one almost as extensive as the session after the wand weighing ceremony for the Triwizard Tournament, albeit with fewer people and more poses.
By the end of it, his cheeks had begun to ache due to the continuous smiling. Fleur, seemingly reading his thoughts, reminded her mother that they had reservations for the cruise and needed to get there on time and led him through the grand door of the manor, into the garden outside.
"You cannot apparate through the wards?" Harry asked Fleur, as they entered the elaborate garden of the Delacour Chateau.
"Non, only my papa can do that. Maman and I can't apparate out. We can apparate within the house, though."
"Ah, cool," Harry said, nodding contemplatively. He had only taken a customary glance at the wards of the house and hadn't done in-depth looking to know such things.
"You didn't say how we are getting there, Harry," She implored.
Harry gave her a weird look and she elaborated, "To the dinner cruise, Harry. It is in Paris."
"We will apparate, of course."
"Apparate to Paris?" Fleur asked with incredulity lacing her voice.
"Yes, apparate to Paris."
"That is halfway across the country! Hundreds of kilometers."
"Yes, I know. Don't worry, we will get there fine."
Fleur nodded. "We would have to make multiple jumps."
"Nah, too boring and time-consuming. We shall do it in a single jump." Harry said and Fleur looked at him with narrowed eyes, making him smirk. Fleur huffed before walking with him wordlessly. As they walked out of the gates, Harry felt the prickle of magic, signifying they had crossed the wards.
They walked a few more feet before Harry stopped and removed his wand before waving it over himself and Fleur.
"Notice-me-not charms. Hold my arm tightly."
Once Fleur tightened her grip, Harry closed his eyes, visualizing his destination, before willing his magic to envelope them and apparating.
Without a sound, the two teens appeared in the alcove of a shop. Fleur drew a deep breath in, recovering from the rather strange apparating experience of apparating. Usually, it felt like being shoved through a thin tube and the world turning upside down. This… It was much smoother. Still not completely comfortable, but loads better than the normal one. She looked around, taking in her new surroundings.
They had appeared in a place hustling and bustling with Muggles. The faint sound of flowing water could be heard in the distance. Fleur's eyes caught the sight of the Eiffel tower, highlighted by its yellow lights, shining brightly in the night, prominently visible above the rest of the city.
"Welcome to Paris," Harry said with a smirk. "Hope you enjoyed your ride."
Fleur chuckled softly, still looking around the nightlife of the city. "It is wonderful. I have never seen the city at night. It looks so… lively."
"It certainly is something," Harry agreed. "Though, I did tour the city after kicking your ass at the World Dueling League."
"You had to mention that, didn't you?" She scowled.
"It gives me immense pleasure to rub that in. You were so confident you were going to defeat the leetle boy, weren't you?"
"Must you hold that against me forever? And at that time, you were a leetle boy. You still are." She added, gesturing to their height difference.
"You are wearing pencil heels."
In response, Fleur maturely stuck her tongue out making Harry roll his eyes.
"Shall we get going? We have to walk a bit to the cruise."
"Oui. Let's go."
Hand in hand, Harry led Fleur to the destination where a huge, pure white cruise ship, having three floors mil give a clear, unobstructed view of the sites along the Seine was decked. The words: Bateaux Magnifique was painted in large, black letters on the side.
The couple walked up to the entrance, where two men in identical black suits stood. They waited for the family of four ahead of them to go in before walking forward.
"Bonjour Monsieur. Mademoiselle." One of them greeted the two with a smile and a slight bow.
"Bonjour. We have a reservation under the name of Harry Potter." Harry said in French.
"One second, Monsieur." The other man said, consulting a ledger. "A premium table for two, am I correct, Monsieur?"
The man quickly gestured and a raven-head girl, who looked barely out of college, came rushing forward. She wore a tight, black skirt with a white shirt and a black, buttoned vest.
The man quickly whispered to her and she too bowed with a radiant smile. "This way, Monsieur, Mademoiselle." She said before leading them to the deck.
"Welcome to Bateaux Magnifique, the premium dinner cruise of Paris. We are glad to have you both here with us." She said as she led them across the deck, to a lift.
Pressing the button, the lift's doors slid open and she gestured to them to go in before following them and pressing the number 2. The elevator moved up and a few moments later, opened on the top most floor, revealing a posh room, having a wide corridor with several Hogwarts-Express-like cabins with elaborate sliding doors just with elaborate dining arrangements instead of a train compartment.
Several of them were clearly meant for only two occupants, while some were moderate-sized, likely with the ability to fit six to seven people. At the end were two huge cabins inside which two huge, rectangular tables covered in white cloth could be seen, likely having the capacity to seat a dozen people or more.
There were a total of twenty-eight such rooms on the whole floor, most of which were open while a couple likely had occupants within if the closed doors and figures behind the translucent glass window with floral designs were any indication.
With a customary glance around the room, Harry noted the exits and other doors on the floor. It was a habit he was trying to cultivate. War was on the horizon and he needed to be careful especially with Voldemort out for his blood.
As they exited the lift, the girl led them to their table.
"Your table, Monsieur. Hope you both enjoy our meal and services."
"Merci," Harry said and the girl departed. Moving around the table, Harry pulled a chair out for Fleur.
"Thank you, 'arry," Fleur curtsied as she gracefully sat down on her chair.
"Anything for my lady," Harry replied as he moved to sit in his chair, opposite Fleur.
There was a minute of awkward silence between them as neither knew what to say. The ship was yet to move for at least a good ten-twelve minutes at least and Harry had nothing in mind that he could bring up with Fleur.
"So, Harry… You never told me what you want to do after Hogwarts. You are going to give your NEWTS in a few months. What after that?"
"I will be staying at Hogwarts even after appearing for my NEWTS. I shall be apprenticing under Albus Dumbledore."
Fleur gave him an impressed nod at that. "As far as I know, he has never taken an Apprentice. Taught as a teacher? Yes. But never an apprentice."
"Well, yes, but that is not exactly true. He has hand-trained Minerva McGonagall in the art of Transfiguration, specifically, battle transfiguration. But it wasn't an official apprenticeship as she already had achieved mastery in the subject. But Dumbledore… taught her more."
"You mean the deputy headmistress of your school?"
"So, he is training her to be his successor?"
"For Hogwarts? Likely. Once Dumbledore retires, McGonagall would undoubtedly be the one to succeed him as the Headmistress. No contest. Professor Flitwick would become the Deputy."
"Shouldn't Flitwick be the headmaster? No offense but he is very well known in both the dueling ring and the Charms communities. His articles are frequently published as well. He is one of the highest authorities on charms there is in the whole of Europe."
"McGonagall is equally famous in Transfiguration circles and the only reason she isn't one of the highest on the list is that she is foreshadowed by Dumbledore. Dumbledore's unmatched in his transfiguration skills. He has a Grand Sorcerer title on top of it. Also, she has the most years as far as teaching is concerned only topped by, once again, Albus Dumbledore."
"Well, Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard in the world. Most studied as well with mastery in Transfiguration, charms, runes, Arithmancy, Potions, Alchemy, Care of Magical creatures, History, and… DADA as well, I think."
"Oh, not in DADA. He has an honorary one, yes. But not an official mastery. He received the honorary one for defeating Grindelwald. His history one is honorary as well. But, despite that, it doesn't matter. He has Seven achieved masteries and hence, the fabled title of Grand Sorcerer. You do know the levels, don't you?"
"Oui. Master for one and two masteries, which is the highest most wizards and witches achieve. Then comes Mage for three or more masteries. Sorcerer for five and above. Grand Sorcerer for seven and above… which goes to ten. From ten, it is labeled as supreme Sorcerer but no one has ever achieved it. Heck, hardly anyone has even achieved a sorcerer title in the past four centuries since the ranking system was introduced. Dumbledore is the only person to achieve Grand Sorcerer after Nicholas and Perenell Flamel."
"But you didn't answer. What after Hogwarts. Once you achieve these masteries."
"I would have to manage my finances and, along with it, Wizengamot. Two of the richest houses in Britain will be under my control. For now, Goblins manage my finances but they take a rather substantial commission to do it. So, I'll soon take it over. And, if I am ever interested in doing some job… not to brag but I'll easily get into most of them without even trying."
"True. So you're going to do finance management and the Wizengamot."
"And explore more magic when I get the time. Managing estates and politicking is a rather heavy job."
"Oui, I know. My Maman does it for the Delacour estate. She is rather skilled in finance and enjoys it. If not that, she does free-lance enchanting. She has a charms mastery and a runes degree."
"The one-year course instead of the mastery one?" Harry asked.
A degree in a subject was a special one-year long course of the said subject under an ICW certified master. It wasn't a mastery but rather an advanced study course of the subject. It wasn't much but it gave you better job opportunities and opened a lot of doors, so to speak. A certified ICW charms mastery and Runes Degree would probably get you a job in most places where enchanting was needed, like broom companies and Gringotts.
"Oui. That one. I have been pursuing a charms mastery for the past two years. And will follow up with a degree in Runes and Arithmancy after Beauxbatons."
"Whom do you wish to do it under? The degrees?"
"There are quite a few people for the degree one. It will be very easy to do it. And… I am thinking of coming to Britain… you know? After this school year ends."
Harry raised his eyebrow. "What of your mastery? Not that I mind but, mastery is a three-year course."
"Last six months are mostly self-study and projects. And I have already completed two years. Six more months for Beauxbatons to end. Thanks to my Maman tutoring me alongside, I am quite ahead of the syllabus than Madame Forestier expects. So it might just be that I will give my mastery exam in front of the panel before my NEWT results come in!" She squealed, with a huge smile framing her face.
"Impressive," Harry whistled. "A mastery at eighteen if you properly give your presentation in front of the panel. That panel is a tough one though. Do you know who all sit on the charms panel?"
"Oui. Madame Forestier, who is my current teacher. Mrs. Sudha Patel from India's Nalanda University, Agatha Hurst from Salem Institute, Nicholas Aetós from Greece, Angelo Bianchi from Italy, Mr. Amani from South Africa, and of course, your professor Filius Flitwick from Hogwarts."
Harry nodded in agreement. The panel consisted of masters who had dedicated their lives to the advancement of the subject. They were the most revered and the highest authorities in the field. There were always seven spots on the table for seven witches and wizards. For getting a mastery, the student had to present themselves in front of a panel consisting of five of the seven masters.
What would follow, were a project presentation, an interview, and a demonstration of whatever the panel asked the student for. If the student passed their expectations, they were conferred the mastery of the said subject. If they failed, they could retake the exam after a period of six months and it continued till the candidate either gave up or achieved the mastery.
"Yes. But Madame Forestier won't be on the panel for you. It will be five of the other six."
"Oui. She won't be allowed to judge me as she is my teacher."
"I really wish you luck then. If you pass, you will be one of the youngest charms masters in the world."
"Oui. Sixth youngest in history." She said, sticking her nose in the air.
"What after it? Like, after the mastery and the two degrees?"
"I am keeping my options open. I don't… really have a preference as to where I should work. I love enchanting. But, I love dueling as well. My degrees and mastery would make me a perfect choice for warding and curse-breaking professions as well, but I don't quite fancy breaking into old tombs, riddled with traps and whatnot. And, you showed me that I wasn't exactly good at warding or ward-breaking in the Triwizard." She added with a slight grimace making Harry chuckle.
"I assure you that you aren't as bad as you think, Princess. I am just too good at that stuff. I have access to knowledge that would make the most accomplished Curse-breakers green with envy. So, it was quite unfair for you all to face me in that round. And I can attest that your wards on the box were the most difficult ones I faced amongst the champions. The coin almost got me."
"I couldn't even figure out what you had put on the box, much less break it!" She scoffed. "And you say I almost got you."
"You did. If I had just picked it up, I would've gotten stunned. And, as for you not figuring it out… it was meant to be that way, you—" Harry stopped as a chime sounded through the ship.
"Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. We welcome you to Bateaux Magnifique, the premium dinner cruise of Paris. We hope you have an enjoyable evening with us. Thank you." The announcement sounded and a moment later, the soft music began to play. At the same time, the cruise ship started as well, beginning their journey along the Seine.
"You were saying?" Fleur asked.
"Ah, yes. The wards. The reason you couldn't discern them was that I had weaved a Confoundus charm on top of the whole ward scheme. So, it would throw off detection charms of all kinds. I am guessing that your charms showed that something was there but didn't show you what that something was."
"Oui…" Fleur agreed with a frown. "I didn't know that was possible. How do you counter it?"
"There are two ways. One, a very overpowered Finite Incantatem, or, two, you unweave the ward from the main scheme, dissecting its intent, which should be easy as it is usually applied at the end and the fact you know what it does. And then neutralize. That thing would probably be done in three or four seconds if you have practice." Harry replied, omitting the fact that he had put an additional shield ward on the charm as well, protecting it from being directly hit.
"I know how to do it but am not well-practiced. I still failed… I had expected to be the best in that field… you know? Amongst the four of us."
"You were still the best amongst the three schools. If it wasn't for my inclusion, you would've won. And, if it is any consolation, Bill Weasley, one of the curse breakers at Gringotts told me that it took their team of most senior curse-breakers five hours to break through the wards. You had a few minutes. So, no need to feel sad. As I said, me being in that round was unfair for you all. We Potters were expert warders through generations and the knowledge accumulated by us is unparalleled. The Blacks have invented their own share of wards as well. "
"Fair enough… you would teach me… won't you?"
"Once we marry, of course. You will be a Potter then and the Grimoire will accept you."
"No, no. I meant normal things. You are far too advanced in the field of warding than I am."
"Of course, whatever you want. If you had approached me the day I arrived, I would've given you some of my special tricks."
Harry smirked. "Sometimes, the textbook ways or the ways taught are too lengthy, even in mastery course. Too methodological, I would say. Most of the casting depends on the power of the mind and the intent behind it. When you do it methodologically, it is lengthy, takes more time to learn, and is not as effective as what you do with pure intent magic."
"Sometimes, I feel, you put too much into the mind arts. Like it is the most vital branch of magic."
"It is. Well, not mind arts, per se but rather, a disciplined and organized mind. The mind is the most powerful and vital aspect of our bodies. It is the mind which commands your body and magic. Mind is the center and the reason for all casting. It is obvious that it is the most important. Do you want proof? Then, all the powerful wizards and witches you can name are a master of the mind arts. Grindelwald. Dumbledore. Voldemort. Everyone."
"What about you?"
"Me as well. Level seven in both Occlumency and Legilimency. The things you can do after mastering level six are staggering in both. For example, I can memorize things at a glance. Literally, a glance. It took me less than half an hour to memorize the whole of the NEWT textbooks that Hogwarts recommends. Verbatim."
"That seems like cheating. Even I take two to three reads to memorize something. And proper reading, I mean. I also know Occlumency. A level five. There is no further progress as far as I know though…"
"There is. It takes a lot of concentration and practice. Two more levels. Believe me, Level five to six is the toughest jump. It took me eight months of everyday practice to achieve it. Even more, maybe. And I practiced every morning and before bed."
"You do study a lot, don't you?"
"Yes… I do. This is a welcome vacation. I hadn't had one in ages." Harry moaned just as a knock sounded on the door.
A waiter pushed the door open before smiling at them, two black leather-bound menu books in his hands.
"Monsieur, Mademoiselle." He greeted, laying the menu books on the table. "If you need anything, feel free to press the bell and a waiter will be made available to check on your desire." He added, pointing to the fancy doorbell button near the window before stepping out and closing the door.
Harry ran his fingers on the smooth leather before opening the menu and scanning through it.
"Fruit de mers to start as a common starter?" Fleur asked, making Harry shrug.
"I don't mind."
"And we order something different for the main course according to our wishes."
"Fair. If you've decided, should I call the waiter?"
In response, Fleur pressed the bell herself and the waiter appeared a moment later.
"One plate of Fruit de mers for starters. Followed by Coeur de Rumsteak with a sauce foie gras and steamed rice and haricots verts for myself. And for the lady…"
"Cabieau on lettuce with a dressing of lemon and white sauce. Alongside small tomatoes and a bit of carrot rapé." Fleur replied, making the waiter nod as he rapidly noted what they said on a small notepad.
"Of course. Anything else?"
"That is all for now, thank you."
27th December 1995
Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, London
The floo in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place flared Green and a moment later, Harry stepped out of it, vanishing the soot on his clothes with a flick of his finger. As the soot disappeared, he looked around the room, where a handful of people were already present.
Namely Dumbledore, Mad-eye Moody, Andromeda Tonks, Nymphadora Tonks, Flitwick, McGonagall, Snape, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Rufus Scrimgeour, Alegron Croaker, Emily Vance, and Hestia Jones.
"Good evening, Harry. Did you have a good trip, my boy?"
"Yes, sir. It was a welcome break for me and France was delightful. Where's Sirius? He just went through a minute before me."
"Here, here," A voice called from the doorway as Sirius came in back with Remus and Molly.
"Let's begin," Moody grunted.
"Amelia is coming, Mad-eye. Let us wait for her. And Susan as well."
"Arthur and Bill too. They are getting the plans from upstairs." Molly added
"We will wait for them. And, I am afraid, I wouldn't allow Susan to join," Dumbledore stated, directing the last part at Harry.
"I am aware, sir. She is just coming through the floo and will go to her room."
On cue, the floo flared green once more and Susan stepped out.
"Good evening, Miss Bones. I hope you had a wonderful vacation."
"It was wonderful, headmaster," she said, beaming.
"Good to hear that. It has been years since I last had a nice vacation and went on a trip to just enjoy it. Alas… anyway, Miss Bones, I would have to request you to leave the room."
"Ah, a meeting. Have fun, I guess. See you all." She said, before pecking Harry on the cheek and going toward the door. She stopped at the entrance of the kitchen, and side-stepped, allowing Mr. Weasley and Bill to come in while greeting them, before leaving the room.
A moment later, the floo flared green once more and Amelia stepped out.
"Oh, I am not late, am I?" She asked, looking around.
"No, just on time. Come, have a seat so we can begin." Moody said, a touch impatient and Amelia swiftly took the empty seat beside Sirius.
"Alright. Good evening everyone. You all must be wondering why I have called you all here. That too specifically you all, instead of the whole Order. The answer is simple. We are going to carry out a plan that Harry and I have been making since the return of Voldemort. A plan to expose his return to the greater wizarding world and cause damage to his forces and use all the consequences of the event to overthrow Cornelius and his administration, all in one single, swift move."
"You mean to say that you have had a plan in the works by yourself?" Remus asked.
"Yes, we did. Not everything is shared with the order. The last time we did, Azkaban was broken out a few hours before we had planned to strike. We are not making the same mistake again." Harry said firmly. "Also, we have been dropping hints all over, some time or the other. But the exact details of it will be shared now. You all are gathered here because you are our most trustworthy people and because we might need you to give input in this plan."
Nods were shared around the table.
"So, first of all, what we are going to do to lure Voldemort out. We will be doing so, by the means of a prophecy in the Department of mysteries that Voldemort is after."
"Prophecy?" McGonagall asked sharply.
"Yes, a prophecy foretelling his downfall. The very same thing that forced him to come after me and my family fourteen years ago. He wishes to know its full contents. At that time, he knew only a few lines, and now, he wants to know all of its contents."
"You mean to say that you-know-who is after something as willy-nilly as a prophecy, and it is the reason that Lily and James are dead?" McGonagall questioned almost unbelievingly.
"I know it sounds unbelievable. But, both Dumbledore here and Voldemort believe in this Prophecy. And I am being forced to believe it, but that is not important right now. What is important is that Voldemort wants to obtain this prophecy, which is stored in a glass orb in the Hall of Prophecies inside the Department of Mysteries… or he thinks so at least. The Prophecy orb has already been replaced by a fake one, thanks to Croaker. But Voldemort doesn't know this and wants the orb to hear the prophecy."
"He can just send someone to pick the orb, can't he?" Remus questioned.
"He can't. A prophecy orb can only be picked by the subjects it concerns. And, while we are at it, I would like to add, divination is one of the most obscure arts we study and not willy-nilly." Croaker said, scathingly.
"Alright, we aren't going into that," Dumbledore interrupted before McGonagall could retort.
"How long have you two known this?" Amelia asked, looking between Harry and Dumbledore. "How long have you two known that he is after this orb in Croaker's department?"
"Amelia, my dear, that is not important—"
"Answer my bloody question, headmaster!" She snapped.
"Since Croaker said Death Eaters were lurking outside the DOM. We told you all that he wanted something in the department. Just not what." Harry said placatingly.
"Bullshit. You told us we might be. You said you were not sure." Amelia growled. "I thought you trusted us…"
"We do. If we didn't, Dumbledore and I would've just gone to the Department and done our thing. Not called this meeting." Harry growled back, incensed by her tone. "Do you think that Dumbledore and I can't handle a few Death Eaters and force Voldemort to come out? I single-handedly killed fourteen of his men while dueling Voldemort. Fourteen."
"Harry, Amelia, please. We are not here to fight."
"I am not fighting, Headmaster. I am upset. You could've told us—"
"That there is a prophecy concerning me and Voldemort that Voldemort wants to get his hands on?" Harry asked. "What difference would it have made?"
Amelia breathed heavily, clenching her fist on the table. "The fact that there is a prophecy—"
"Makes no difference. I am going to kill him, a stupid prophecy or not. I will avenge my parents. I don't care that there is a prophecy. For me, the prophecy is a weapon against Voldemort. A weapon to lure him out into the open and kick the ministry in its behind. I never put much stock in it. I know Voldemort is coming after me, regardless. I am too big of a pain in his ass for him to leave untouched. If anything, the prophecy is just a confirmation that I will avenge my parents."
"That is not my point. I am just telling you that you should've shared it… with at least someone. Sirius, me… someone."
"Amelia… Harry did tell me." Sirius said, making Amelia's head whip toward him.
"I did… sort of. He never told me the contents of it. Said that it was useless and a hazard to know."
"I am sorry to interrupt but you can solve your family matters afterward, lass. We are here for something important." Moody grunted, banging his staff on the floor, both his eyes fixed piercingly on Amelia, making her nod with reluctance but Harry knew the topic wasn't over.
He would've to make matters right with Amelia after this meeting.
"Thank you, Alastor. Now, as for the plan, it is simple. Near midnight tomorrow, Harry and I will be going to the Department of Mysteries to pick up the orb. Severus will relay our plans to Voldemort, making him send Death Eaters to retrieve the Prophecy orb or come himself. If he does, he will be revealed. If he doesn't, we will defeat his Death Eaters and force him to come if he wishes to obtain the prophecy. Anyway, once he arrives, we will give a signal and the ministry will be alerted of an emergency, making them come to the spot and witness Voldemort in the flesh."
"Seeing so many, Voldemort will flee. He won't take the ministry with me and Dumbledore both present at the scene."
"Why not just defeat and kill him or capture him? You both have fought him to a standstill. If you two go against him alone, he is a dead man walking!" Hestia Jones asked.
"The thing is that it is not easy. One, Voldemort is not a slouch and I reckon, even on the defensive, he would give us a tough fight. And two, even if we capture Voldemort, he will escape. He is too powerful to be contained by some measly cell in Azkaban. Sirius escaped Azkaban and so did Barty Crouch Junior and Augustus Rookwood."
"Then Nurmengard. Dumbledore put Grindelwald there, didn't he? And he has been there for the last fifty years." Amelia stated. "Also, if you cannot capture him, kill him. Simple."
"It isn't simple, actually. Quite the opposite." Dumbledore said grimly. "We cannot kill him till we know how he survived on Halloween all those years ago and take steps to prevent the same from happening again. Cause if we don't, we will simply be worsening our situation."
"Albus is correct," Flitwick agreed. "All this is being caused by most of us thinking he was dead on Halloween. We need to ensure that if we kill him this time, he will die once and for all."
"Also, Voldemort would just flee if he felt that he was in danger of losing. Do you think he will remain in a losing battle? No, he won't. He will flee as soon as he sees the ministry. He won't confront Harry and me with the whole Auror and Hit-wizard force present. He has done that in the past as well while fighting me alone." Dumbledore recalled. "This time, I have Harry. So, our prime objective is to cause damage to his forces, and if possible, Voldemort himself, while revealing his existence to the world so people are no longer in the dark."
"I still feel you are holding something from us. The two of you."
"Maybe," Harry shrugged unrepentantly. "I know you don't like it. But some things… the fewer people who know it, the better."
"The boy is right, lass. This is war. You can never be sure, a trustworthy person or not. You never know when they might break, especially under duress. And, the enemy we face is a master Legilimens and a very powerful and dark wizard to boot. You may be great with a wand and stuff but you won't stand against him. I agree with Potter and Dumbledore. A few things are best concealed. I have seen what revealing schemes can do. I have seen that even your most trusted could betray you under duress and in life-threatening situations. Tell me, lass. Your niece, Potter's girlfriend. If her life is on the line, will you or will you not give the order away for her?"
Amelia gulped as Moody's eyes pierced her once more. Sometimes, it was easy to forget that Amelia was hand-trained by Alastor Moody from the moment she had joined the Auror academy.
"Speak up, lass. I know you but I want an answer from you. Whom will you choose?"
"But so would he," She added, pointing at Harry. "Wouldn't you, Harry?"
"I would," Harry replied without hesitation. "To save Susan… or any one of you for that matter, I would."
"Amelia, the difference is that Harry is a level seven Occlumens. He. Can. Lie. He can lie to Voldemort without being found out. He can lie under veritaserum. You cannot! Voldemort will rip the information out of your mind and you would be helpless. We won't." Dumbledore explained. "The thing is, that we have greater issues at hand. We will share what we need to when the time is right. And, right now, in less than thirty hours, we are about to turn the wizarding world on its head. Less than thirty hours. So, I beg of you to sit back and comply for now. Please. Harry and you can resolve the issues later as a family. Not in this meeting."
"Yes, headmaster," Amelia replied stiffly.
"Good. Now, as I was saying, late tomorrow evening, a meeting of the whole order will be called, mere hours before we go to the ministry. At that time, Severus will go and inform Lord Voldemort of our plans to retrieve the Prophecy, so we can be sure that he will come to the Department and ambush us to get the prophecy. But what they won't know, would be that Harry and I won't be alone. Some of you will be with us, standing by, ready to come in, hard on the Death Eaters as soon as we signal. Some will be given other important works."
"Now, first, let us begin with what we need to do before the attack. First, Croaker, empty all important things that could be destroyed." Harry said.
"You know, I am rather displeased with the fact that out of all places you could fight in, you are choosing my department to trash." Croaker said sullenly.
"It is the only place which Voldemort is watching right now. We don't have another option. Also, it is a possibility that only the hall of prophecies would be a warzone. And the ministry Atrium. We are giving you twenty-four hours, Croaker which is more than enough time to move stuff. Also, no person, including you, should be seen in the Department after Eight-thirty. Nine at the latest."
"Amelia, make sure the Aurors and Hit-wizards on duty are Kingsley, Nymphadora, Scrimgeour. Stay clear of level nine after 10 PM, till we signal you to come in. Once we do, Scrimgeour, you must go secure the ministry by activating anti-apparition and portkey wards all over the ministry, especially the atrium while Kingsley and Tonks, you two, raise the alarm. An emergency Level Seven alarm."
At that, all ministry employees in the room choked on their spits.
"A level seven emergency. Do you know what it fucking means?" Tonks asked incredulously.
"All hands on board and the crisis is national."
Tonks took a calming breath. "Harry, if a single step goes wrong, we two will be administered a Dementor's kiss by the martial court! Do you realize—"
"I do. I ain't shitting around. The whole ministry will need to see Voldemort in the flesh, fighting Dumbledore and me. And, this is the only way to bring them all in."
"Wait, you said you will make Voldemort flee… not capture, not kill. Flee. If wards are on him, he won't be able to flee." Amelia pointed out.
"Do you remember the 16th of December, 1976, my dear Amelia?" Dumbledore asked. Amelia opened her mouth before closing it and shaking her head
"The ministry ambush," Moody breathed, shuddering slightly. "She was in St. Mungo's… not with us. And the greater details weren't released to the public or even the ministry employees."
"Oh, that was one big nightmare…" Sirius moaned.
"Wait… what are you talking about?" Bill asked.
"December sixteen, 1976… was the date of a covert operation between the Order of the Phoenix and the DMLE… a select few members of us anyway, to bring down Death Eaters. What we didn't account for was for… Voldemort. We had organized a special occasion, calling many suspected Death Eaters to the atrium of the Ministry of magic. Many were there. The Lestranges, Malfoys, Notts, Selwyns, and other so-called upstanding members of the society. It was unlawful doing it… we had no proof and yet, we had planned to arrest them by laying a surprise ambush. A surprise Ambush on some of the most prominent purebloods at that time." Sirius said, rubbing his palms nervously.
"How come I never knew about this?" Amelia asked.
"It was all buried. No one outside the people present that day knew of it and no one dared speak of it. What happened was a couple of minutes into the so-called 'Program', we Aurors, hit wizards and members of the order… open fired on the crowd filled with suspects… and some innocents as well, including Dumbledore."
"Even I didn't know of it and was caught by surprise when the attack started," Dumbledore admitted. "If I hadn't seen some of my most trusted, firing on suspects, that too non-lethal spells, I would've assumed it to be a death-eater ambush."
"Voldemort happened… with his trained Death Eaters. We had steps… the wards and the floo locked down and as soon as that happened, we attacked. Some, including my cousin, Bellatrix, were somehow ready. They cast Shields, stopping our stunners and other spells. As we continued the barrage… the thing we didn't think was possible, happened. Voldemort, apparated straight through the wards of the ministry, tearing through them, and had it not been for Dumbledore that day, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
"But… Why did no one say anything?" Hestia Jones asked.
"Both sides were guilty. We, for breaking the laws. And they had been saved by Voldemort, a mass murderer, and were seen fighting by his side. The press was also ruthlessly suppressed and quite a few, obliviated. Thankfully, there weren't many deaths to cover up on either side as the Death Eaters fled as soon as the wards broke and Voldemort followed after them, after trading a few spells with Dumbledore, keeping him busy till the Death Eaters fled. But, it was still a nightmare."
"You mean to say that Voldemort can appear straight through the ministry wards?"
"If he wants to, yes," Sirius replied while Dumbledore shook his head.
"He didn't exactly apparate into the wards. He apparated just outside them, bypassed them by his unique smoke method and destroyed them from the inside, which is always easier, and came into the middle of the atrium." Dumbledore informed. "But that doesn't mean that he cannot apparate out if he wishes to. He is certainly powerful enough to do it with raw power. Or, he has his ingenious smoke method."
"What is this smoke method?" Nymphadora asked.
"Voldemort has this method where he can turn himself into smoke somehow," Moody grunted. "A pure, black fog, which he has been seen using in the past to appear from the sky in the middle of a battle, despite anti-apparition wards."
"But it isn't useful if there is a shield-ward though. Only anti-apparition wards." Sirius added helpfully.
"That is some… relief. But the ministry has almost no wards over the atrium as it is a public space. The rest of it, including individual departments, do, but not the atrium." Bill said.
"True," Dumbledore agreed. "It is one of the shortcomings of the ministry layout, but, nonetheless, a justifiable one. It is public property and not a private one."
"So, anyway. Continuing our plan, we know Voldemort will flee one way or the other. There is no way to keep him captured and killing him is a bad idea. Even if we capture him, there is no way he is going to be held. The ministry and ICW are too much in deep shit to be sure that Voldemort will be kept locked up till we can find a way to kill him off permanently."
"What… Do you mean?"
"If he kills himself in prison before we destroy whatever means of immortality he has… he will return. He can survive as a spirit. Similar to a ghost but with much more malice and power. He can possess people. He possessed Quirrell back in my first year for a brief period of time, trying to obtain the Philosopher's stone. He failed, but escaped as a spirit, just passing through the ceiling like a ghost."
"Another one of the things you haven't told us about," Amelia grumbled while Sirius too, shot him a serious look.
Harry ran a hand through his hair. He did need to share quite a few things with his new… family. One that now included Amelia and probably the Greengrasses and the Delacours as well… barring Astoria and Gabrielle maybe.
"Alright, you can discuss that later. So, after Voldemort flees, comes the most important part of the operation. Amelia, you are going to arrest Cornelius Fudge on the charges of High Treason against the state."
Harry grinned. Now came the best part of their plan and his personal favorite.
Hope you all liked the chapter and how I have shifted the canon timeline. Soon, it will diverge completely.
A huge thanks to I_amaSWITCHbot and Ultimate_Gamer for betaing the chapter.
Also, I am sorry I am updating a week late. Those who are on my server already know that it is because I had a bunch of exams in the past two weeks and thus I couldn't find time to write. Heck, I just came back after giving one a couple of hours ago. Originally, this chapter was going to be longer as well but it was turning too long and thus I have cut it and the Battle of DOM will be in the next chapter.
Well, that's all. Thank you everyone for showering so much love on my story.
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