Title: The Ad
Pairing: Not really a focus
Summary: Harry is handed a Quibbler and finds an ad in it that might be useful. Summer after 4th year.
(A/N: I'd planned for this to be a oneshot, maybe 10K-words. Looks like you'll get almost triple that as I got wordy and starting wondering, "if I do X then what happens", and I pursued a few too many of those because of curiosity.)
Harry exited the Hogwarts express, not feeling all that great. Less than a week ago he'd been forced to help give Voldemort a new body and he'd watched Cedric Diggory die. His friends had tried to help, but it hadn't helped much. Part of him understood he wasn't really trying to accept help right now so this current trouble was his own fault, but he couldn't care too much right now either.
Heading for the portal to the Muggle side of the station, he was stopped by a slim blonde girl whom he thought he'd seen talking to Ginny occasionally. "Here, you'll need this." She shoved a newspaper into his hands before she smiled at him and walked back into the crowd. He had no idea why she thought he needed it, but he carried it with him anyway.
The newspaper had been dropped to the floorboard of the car, forgotten, as he rode with the Dursleys. He didn't look at them, only out the window. He started to wonder how much this world, that is the Muggle one, would be affected now that Voldemort was back. Well, he supposed he could try to catch the news when Vernon watched it - if he was careful.
When they were back to Privet Drive, his foot hit something and he looked down and saw the newspaper again. Because it was magical he knew he couldn't leave it here so he picked it up and took it in with him along with his trunk. He supposed he could use it to line Hedwig's cage. He dropped it on his desk when he reached his room and promptly forgot about it again.
The next day, Harry wasn't in a good mood because his sleep had been interrupted by multiple nightmares. He was also bored as he hadn't been given special chores yet. Seeing the newspaper, he shrugged and picked it up and began to look through it.
Some of the articles amused him because they seemed ridiculous and helped lighten his mood. The runes crossword puzzle he skipped, since he hadn't taken that class. He'd almost skipped the personal ads too except that one managed to catch his eye before he put the paper down.
Odd jobs handled, nothing too large or too small or too strange. If I can't do it, I probably know someone who can. The fee is usually reasonable too. Send your request by owl to Odd Job at Stonehenge.
Harry blinked at that. He was aware there were a lot of things he didn't know, but he was fairly sure that Stonehenge was a tourist attraction that constantly had Muggles around it and no one could really live there. Of course, he considered after a moment, perhaps the person just lived nearby. Then there was the name; he snickered, obviously an alias … or perhaps that was the company name.
He mused for a bit about hiring someone to come do his chores for him. That would be a laugh when his aunt and uncle saw it. Of course what he really needed...
Harry sobered instantly at that thought and he put the paper down. Realizing he had an urge, he headed to the bathroom to take care of his need; he might as well clean the thing while he was there since it was on his usual chore list and he could be done with it early. The ad was forgotten by the he was done with the bathroom.
The next day Harry saw the newspaper again. It was still opened and folded back to the page with the ads just like he'd left it. His eyes couldn't help but see the strange ad again. Most of the ads were about buying or selling items, most of them strange. There were a few others promoting a service of some sort like the ad for Odd Job did. He tossed the paper back on his old rickety desk; there was no way he could ask that of someone.
It was two more days before Harry had caved and started writing a letter. It was hard to be delicate about his request. He finally decided to describe the issue as a "pest problem". Hedwig was happy to take the letter that he'd signed as only "Harry". He'd given the nearby park's address as a place to meet in two evenings at 7pm and said he'd be wearing an orange hat – a hat he'd only worn once before after Ron had given to him. He actually hated the hat because of its color but he didn't feel he could get rid of it either. It was very unique being orange with the picture of a cannon on it.
At the appointed time two days later, Harry was sitting on a park bench with his orange hat on. He was a little concerned when Hedwig hadn't returned until this morning, but she had and she had a note saying: "Agreed, I shall be wearing a black bowler hat. OJ"
So here he was, looking around for a person to meet about a job that was patently illegal as far as the Minister of Magic was concerned and probably a number of other people, for example Albus Dumbledore and anyone in Magical Law Enforcement. Yet, the job was something that needed to be done as it kept trying to bite him and he didn't really want to do it either.
Without warning and while he was looking the other way, a man sat down on the other end of Harry's bench and the boy almost twisted his head off by turning so fast to see who it was, hoping to Merlin it wasn't Dudley.
"Mr Harry, I presume," said a middle aged looking Asian man wearing a black bowler hat, which he reached up and tipped before setting it back on his head. His voice had been soft and didn't sound British, but he was still easily understood.
Harry thought the man wouldn't be too much taller than he was. He was also rather stocky, not thin as all of the Asians he'd seen at school. "Mr Job," he finally replied, avoiding 'Mr Odd' as that might be insulting, "if I can call you that." At the man's nod he continued, "Thank you for coming. I hope you can help me, but I won't be surprised if you can't."
The man looked surprised. "Pests are usually not difficult to remove, but I'm surprised you'd write me instead of a pest removal company, unless you're looking for something special to keep them away for longer than most pesticides do."
Harry smiled and almost chuckled; the man didn't twitch a muscle. Harry then lost his smile and sighed as he knew he'd have to give details. "These pests only have two legs, not six, and they are far worse than a simple itchy bite. The normal people to call refuse to admit there is a problem and so silently support them. They keep coming after me and I barely escaped with my life recently. Sadly, I can do little since I'm not an adult and I have no parents. I suppose you'll get angry over what I'm suggesting, but I'm at my wits end and I'd really like to live to see seventeen."
The man nodded slowly, thoughtfully. "I see, the worst kinds of pests," he said finally. "While I can guess, who are these pests to be removed?"
"You'll do it?" Harry queried, beyond surprised.
"I know someone who will do it for the right price," he smiled ever so slightly.
Slowly, Harry pulled several folded sheets of paper from his pocket and handed them over. He'd created them earlier to help as much as possible, sort of dossiers and thoughts that could be helpful. "Do you have access to a Pensieve?"
"I know a lot of people with access to a lot of things," he said as he skimmed the papers he'd been handed.
Harry reached into his pocket again and pulled out a potions phial which held the memory of his entire encounter in the graveyard recently. "Perhaps this will help as I don't know all of the names."
The man took the phial and held it without more than a quick glance. As he folded the papers back up, he said, "One to five thousand Galleons per head, depending on how difficult they are to find; and ten to twenty-five thousand for the last one, plus any travel expenses required not to exceed five thousand Galleons and receipts will be provided upon request. There may be discounts depending on the circumstances. Payment is required within three days of receipt of the invoice; a certified Gringotts draft is preferred, otherwise gold is required.
"Evidence of completed work will also be presented, either personally or as a photograph, your choice. Estimated time of completion is in two or three months but night take up to six. Do we have a deal?"
It was all so matter-of-factly done Harry just stared for a moment. "We do and I think photographs will be enough, but can I asked a related question?"
"You may ask." Still completely without emotion.
"Do you do this for anyone?" Harry added quickly, "I mean if one of them ask you to get me, would you?"
The man smiled slightly. "We do have a few morals. I'll be in touch, Mr Potter." He rose and walked off, seeming to fade away after about six steps.
It took Harry a moment to realize the man had used his last name when he'd never given it - so much for anonymity.
Harry walked back to his relatives' house slowly with his hands in his pockets, contemplating what he'd just done. Sure, he was asking for people to be killed, but they really did need killing. Then again, there was that whole "killing" thing and he'd started it. Well, sort of, but not really he finally decided. They'd started it first; he was just ending it … or so he hoped. He also hoped the man paid attention to the extra note he'd added by one name.
He was also going to need to take a trip to Gringotts. He was reasonably sure he had that much money but he needed to be doubly sure before this went too far. He'd also need to pick up some drafts to make the payments.
Arriving back at Durskaban, he was a little startled to hear snoring coming from behind a bush although he didn't see anyone. He almost went over to find the person, probably under an Invisibility Cloak. Deciding to ignore it if it was a one-time thing, he went up to his room.
However, it did start him thinking about who might want him watched and why. It was a very short list consisting of two names, and since the watcher wasn't trying to kill him, that removed one of the names. This also started him thinking about this person and what he had done or, perhaps more importantly, had not done.
— — —
Harry was a bit sleep addled, having woken up three times by nightmares. Twice had been scenes from the graveyard that he'd been in only a couple of weeks ago. The third one had been from his first year, except he was forced into the mirror and imprisoned.
It was a Friday, so Vernon had left for work, making his plans a little easier. He'd also done a few chores quickly so Petunia wouldn't complain too much. He'd decided they were no longer relatives but people he stayed with only because he had no other place to go.
The last chore before he left was taking out the trash. With his orange hat on again, he'd have to change the color later, plus his wand, money bag, and key, he dropped the trash bag in the bin on the side of the house before heading out towards the park a couple of blocks away.
At the park, he found a mostly secluded place where he didn't see anyone else and stuck his wand out. The Knight Bus arrived a long moment later.
Stan was the conductor again. Harry ignored the question of who he was and merely said, "Diagon Alley," before paying the required Sickles and taking seat. A little less than ten minutes later he was dropped off in front of the Leaky Cauldron and his hat was now a dark blue thanks to a coloring charm because he'd decided he wouldn't be caught doing magic on the bus since it was moving around so fast.
Soon he was at the bank. Picking up drafts was easy, as was getting a statement for his account. Since he was there, he also pulled out some more money, and he changed some of it into British Pounds.
Harry did a few calculations in his head as he reversed his travel. Assuming the worst numbers, he could afford this operation and still have half of the gold in his vault left over. That was also assuming the number of Death Eaters was as he expected. If he was only aware of half of the total, this business could put a severe crimp on his finances. Well, he supposed he could tell Odd Job to stop when they hit a certain amount as long as they got Riddle. Perhaps he'd get a little lucky and the numbers would be on the low end and maybe he'd even get a volume discount, he thought with a grin.
As he walked through the Leaky Cauldron, he got an idea. Going up to the bar he took a seat and ordered lunch. When old Tom brought it to him, he signaled for him to stay for a moment. "Tom," he said quietly, making the man lean more over the bar, "could we work out an arrangement where you keep an old copy of the Daily Prophet at the end of each day and I send my owl to you to retrieve them so I can read them but don't have to have a subscription so some people won't notice me getting a newspaper? I'll send you a little something for them too."
The older man smiled. "Don't worry about paying me as I'd just be throwing them in the bin, Harry; I'll be happy to do it. Do you still have the white owl?"
"Send her when you want. I'll put them under the counter here and shrink them down before sending them on. You can send her every day, or every few days, whatever you want," the man said with a friendly smile. "I'm happy to help. I'll throw in a Quibbler when they come in too. Old Xeno usually leaves a few here."
"Thanks, Tom." Harry felt like he had a good deal. Maybe he'd send Hedwig every other day as he didn't need to know what was happening immediately, just soonish. Since Tom was so nice, when the man wasn't looking, Harry put a couple of Galleons on the bar for the newspapers as he left.
Harry took the Knight Bus back to the park and walked home, only a little over an hour after he left.
"Psst, Harry!" came a harsh whisper from the bush near where he'd heard the snoring yesterday. "Where have you been? You're not supposed to leave your home."
So it was not a one-time thing. Harry stopped and looked towards the voice - a female voice. "Who the bloody hell are you and what are you doing here?"
"I'm your guard to keep you safe."
"What's your name?" he asked again.
There was a pause before the voice said, "Tonks, just Tonks. Where did you go?"
"Who decided I needed to be kept safe?" Harry asked, already guessing the answer after his musing yesterday – he was correct.
"Dumbledore said you needed this. Now, where did you go?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "First, Tonks, if that's even your real name, I finally realized that Dumbledore has no right to tell me to stay here. He's my Headmaster not my guardian, so I can do what I want in the summer. Second, if it's so unsafe for me to be here, then I need to go somewhere else. Third, the people who live here don't like magic, wizards, nor witches and if they knew you were here they'd call the police, or Muggle Aurors if you don't know who the police are."
"I know who the police are."
"Then pretend they've been called and leave," he told her, really ordering her. "You're not wanted and if I see or hear anyone here again, I'll tell them to call the police; maybe I'll call the Aurors too. I get enough people stalking me at school I don't need that here too. You're making my life more difficult than it already is and I really don't need more as it's bad enough already."
"We're only trying to help."
Harry rolled his eyes. "You're hurting more than you're helping, but that's normal for Dumbledore. He says he's helping but he never really does and I've started to notice his actions just put me in more danger and generally make my life worse." Harry turned to leave, "Idiots, the lot of them," he mumbled to himself as he walked back into the house to return to his chores, which at least kept his mind off of Cedric and the graveyard.
He also started to consider that if Dumbledore was doing this, could he be doing other things that would get in the way of Odd Job? Hmm, perhaps he could help that out with a few distractions. Maybe he could even help Sirius with more than his one effort. That deserved some thought...
— — —
Shortly after lunch, Harry sat down and wrote a letter. He'd had to write it twice, being a little peeved the first time and therefore he had to "tone down" a few words. He also searched in his potions kit for another phial and put some memories into it.
Hedwig was watching him avidly, jumping and gliding over as he sealed the letter.
He smiled at her and petted her before he tied it onto her leg. "This goes to the Head Auror at the Ministry; sorry, I don't know his name. I've read in the newspaper that the Director of MLE is a woman named Bones, so you can take this to her if you can't find the Head Auror. Be safe and I'll have more letters for you when you return."
The owl gave a happy little bark and rubbed her head against his hand before launching herself and flying out of the window.
Harry started writing letters to Ron, Hermione, then Ginny, Fred, and George just because. They all said about the same thing of "How are you and will you please let me know if you hear of any unusual news especially in regards to Voldemort or Death Eater activity." He tried to word each a little differently, but the message was the same.
Sirius's letter required more thought. He decided to tell him about the nightmares, then about idiots watching him and how difficult that was going to make his life if Vernon and Petunia found out, which was likely because the watchers were on the property here and so Dudley would probably step on one. He included Dumbledore in that list of idiots.
He also added he had an idea for how to help Sirius become free, but lied when he said he was thinking about how to do it, as he didn't want anyone - even his godfather – to know what he'd already done. That included Odd Job's work as well as what he'd done with the Ministry.
The business with the Ministry was something he hoped was a good distraction as he figured that news would eventually reach Dumbledore, who'd fall for the distraction with some luck.
There was one other important bit of work to be done, so Harry begged his godfather to be as safe as possible, but to travel to the graveyard in Little Haggleton very soon and remove all of the bones from the grave of Tom Riddle Sr, so Voldemort could never use that same ritual again to get another body back. Harry disliked putting his godfather in harm's way, but that should be a safe enough task if the man was careful … and it was important.
Harry ended the letter by saying he hoped to be able to come live with Sirius soon and if he'd tell where he was living, then Harry would get on the Knight Bus and go there.
His "lunch break" over, Harry left all of the letters on his desk and went to the next chore on the special list Vernon had given him this morning. As long as he made steady progress on the list then he thought he'd be left alone.
Just for fun, he did go out front, ready the water hose, and turn it on to water the plants; then spray into the area he thought "Tonks" and "the snore" had been in. No one objected and he didn't see any water hanging in the air, so she must have moved on – thankfully.
— — —
It was nearing the end of the normal workday when Rufus Scrimgeour's assistant brought him a letter. "This just came in, sir. I've checked it for harmful magic. You might want this too; I checked it out in your name." She set the department Pensieve on his desk.
He looked in the already opened envelope and pulled out a letter and a phial filled with memories. "Efficient as always, thanks Catherine." She left the office and closed the door behind her.
"He wants a Floo connection because someone is stalking him? Why the hell is he writing me and why does he think a few school boy's memories will make up for it?" he mumbled to himself after reading the letter. Still, it was Potter and there were some rumors about him, especially from a few weeks ago. His curiosity got the better of him so he dumped all of the memories into the Pensieve and put his hand in.
When he came out of the Pensieve, he almost dropped his wand as he fumbled with it in trying to get the memories back into the phial. "Catherine!" he yelled as he worked.
When she hurried in, he quickly asked, "Is Amelia available right now?"
The woman smirked as she'd guessed correctly and consulted the book she'd brought with her, the book that was charmed to be in sync with the schedule book Stacy, her counter-part for the Director, maintained – just like Stacy had a book linked to her schedule for the Head Auror. "She's free now but scheduled to leave in an hour."
"Thanks," he told her as he picked up the letter, phial, and Pensieve before heading out of his office at a brisk pace.
Catherine just smiled and made an entry into the book to alert Stacy that her boss was coming. Noting it was close to her normal time to leave, she tidied up her desk and left ten minutes early, knowing her boss wouldn't be back soon. She'd read the letter and could guess as what was in the memories; she'd heard the rumors about The-Boy-Who-Lived too.
"She's available," Stacy said as Scrimgeour walked into the area down the corridor from his own office.
Rufus hurried into this boss's office and closed the door before throwing several privacy spells at it. He turned around to see Amelia Bones looking amused at him.
"What crisis do you have this time?" she asked.
"I have evidence of some wild rumors being true," he said and thrust the boy's letter at her to read, which she did. When she put it down with a thoughtful look, he added, "I'm inclined to send the request to the Department of Transportation for his request myself with a high priority and to charge it to us for what he's given us."
Amelia looked at him doubtfully. "You think these are really that good?"
He dumped the memories into the Pensieve and smiled innocently, "After you."
They watched memories of a boy in the Forbidden Forest as he came upon a dying unicorn and something drinking its blood. Then there was the same boy dealing with a professor in front of a mirror, except that the professor also had a face on the back of his head.
The memory of a giant basilisk along with a conversation of a young Tom Riddle was both scary and fascinating.
A slightly older boy confronted Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew (of all people), along with another professor. The memory after that with the Minister denying reality was interesting, but not unexpected given the man and that he had been told a lie to push him in a certain direction.
Then came the memory during the last task of the recent Triwizard Tournament, from Potter and Cedric Diggory grabbing the Trophy Cup, them going to a graveyard, Diggory being murdered, then a ritual that gave rise to a reborn Dark Wizard. Both of the watchers would have given a lot to see the rest of that time, but the memory stopped after the rebirth out of the cauldron. The next memory was with Barty Crouch Jr of all people. The final memory was in the hospital wing with the Minister denying everything and saying he'd had Crouch Jr kissed with a Dementor.
After coming out of the Pensieve, Bones fell into her chair and took a few deep breaths. "Request for Potter's Floo connection and for operation until Sep 1 is approved; bill it to us."
"Thought so," Scrimgeour said with a grin, which melted into a grim look. "I think I want to watch those a few more times and develop some facts before starting a few investigations. Thoughts?"
"Agreed. Senior Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt has been working on the Black case, right?" she asked. At his nod, she said, "Bring him into this and swear him to secrecy. Only the three of us are to know about this in any form. If this gets out, I'll know it's one of you and being sacked will be the least of anyone's worries. Am I clear on this?"
"Since I haven't heard anything about it, tell Shacklebolt to go find out if Black really had a trial or not. If not, that's something to follow up on. Then go looking for information on this Tom Riddle and consider how we might catch Peter Pettigrew. I'll start working on what to do about the Minister," she told him.
"What about the supposed Imperious Death Eaters from the last war?" he asked. "I'm fairly sure they're not really so innocent."
"I'd agree," she replied thoughtfully. "Let me work on that too and see what laws I can find that could work in our favor. If we can get Lucius Malfoy out of Fudge's pocket it will help a lot."
"A good start but easier said than done." He packed up the memories. "I'll get with Shacklebolt first thing tomorrow. I'll create the form for Potter's call-only Floo connection too; probably best for him to limit it to our connection only."
"Cheaper too," she agreed with a smile. "Thanks for bringing this to my attention. This is going to be a lot of work, but well worth it."
— — —
When Harry was getting ready for bed, Hedwig returned. He praised her for her efforts then held out the letters for his friends and godfather. He was surprised when she wouldn't take them all. She did pick at Hermione's but left the rest.
Harry thought about that for a moment as he tied Hermione's letter to the owl's leg. "Does this mean you don't know where they are?"
The owl barked with a positive sound.
"Then they must be in hiding in some way. I wonder where." Harry consider it a moment longer. "Do you know where Remus Lupin is?"
Hedwig considered for a moment then barked in a positive way again.
"Brilliant, hold on a few minutes then." Harry wrote a brief letter to his former professor, asking how he was doing and if he could deliver the letters because Hedwig couldn't find them.
Using a little Spell-O-Tape, he bound the other letters together before attaching the bundle to his owl. "There, take those to Remus Lupin please. Also, before you come back please stop by the Leaky Cauldron to see Tom; he'll have some newspapers for you to bring to me. Stay safe!" he told her and watched her fly away.
Sirius he could understand being in hiding, but why the Weasleys?
The next morning, Shacklebolt was called into his boss's office and learned some startling news, starting with the alleged fact that Black had never had a trial. He mentally kicked himself for not looking for that. He could also see why this was all hush-hush for now and agreed with it.
Shacklebolt wasn't surprised to see Peter Pettigrew was alive, as Black had told him that last week, but he had to act like he was surprised for his boss. It was good to have some of this come out. He had a lot of sympathy for the man who'd been falsely imprisoned.
There was also no doubt some of this was going to cause changes. While he hoped the changes were for the better, Kingsley knew that wasn't guaranteed because there was a lot of corruption in the Ministry.
— — —
Hedwig returned with a couple of newspapers for him. Since they were shrunk, Harry put them on his old desk to let them expand when the charm wore off. He petted his owl and then let her have some well-deserved sleep.
— — —
Remus Lupin removed the small bundle of letters with his name on it and gave the white owl a drink before she flew away with a letter still on her for Hermione Granger.
It wasn't until after he'd read his own letter that he understood why the bundle had been sent to him. He'd be playing postman it seemed. It also showed a flaw in the plan of hiding Sirius and the Weasleys, at least in relation to Harry. He didn't expect anyone else to be writing them … but that wasn't true, was it? No, the students had friends too. He sighed. He'd have to bring this up in an Order meeting soon.
He'd take the letters by tonight.
— — —
Remus was lucky and ran into Sirius when he arrived; he handed the man his letter.
"What's this?" Sirius asked.
"Your post and an indication we forgot something when putting the Fidelius up. If it is good enough to really hide you, then that means owls can't find you either," Remus explained. "Do you know where the kids are?"
"Upstairs, I think. Hmm, good point on the Fidelius, but it also shows that it works." Sirius had the letter out of the envelope. "Oh, it's from Harry."
"Yours is a lot longer than mine, but you are the godfather," Remus said with amusement as he headed up the stairs. He delivered the three letters, as one was addressed to "Fred and George", before returning downstairs, finding Sirius alone in the parlor that had seen better days.
Remus had to wait a couple of minutes before Sirius looked up. "Anything good?"
"Dumbledore is being a dork, but we already knew that," Sirius replied in amusement.
Remus snorted. "Padfoot, we're out of school."
"Harry caught whomever was watching his house and thought he was being stalked," Sirius told him. "When he was told Dumbledore was behind it, he was less than complimentary according to his letter. It seems no one told him to expect a guard, so he took it the wrong way. Of course now that I think about it, I probably would have taken it the wrong way too."
"I suppose can I can see that," Remus agreed neutrally.
"He also gave us an assignment. Want to go on a little trip?" Sirius asked hopefully.
Remus rolled his eyes. "You know you're supposed to stay here for your own safety."
"Moony, it's to help Harry. He pointed out that the ritual that gave You-Know-Who a body again required a bone of his father. If we go remove all of those bones then that ritual can't be used again. I'm going," Sirius said firmly. "Are you coming or not?"
He sat there for a long moment thinking. "Very well, Padfoot. When did you have in mind?"
"I think in about five minutes," Sirius said with a grin as he stood. "Let me put this up and get changed. Oh, do you know where Little Haggleton is?"
"I have no idea," Moony replied, "but I'll go look for a map in the library. Meet me there."
"It's a plan." Sirius hurried away.
Remus took his time heading upstairs. This was for a good cause. He also considered that perhaps he should plan a little trip to an out of the way place once a week to help Sirius cope with being stuck here.
— — —
Fred and George popped into the Ron's room, where they found their two younger siblings. "Ah, we see you received a letter too."
Ron tossed his on the table next to his bed. "Doesn't matter too much because the Headmaster told me I can't write Harry, or at least not about anything important like Harry wants."
"Good thing Dumbledore didn't think of us," George said and Fred smiled along with him.
"He didn't ask me either," Ginny said with her own grin.
"I think the bearded one is slipping in his old age," Fred commented.
"Indubitably," George agreed.
"Harry is going to be upset when he finds out," Ginny said before she stood. "I think I have a letter to write."
Ron hit his head on the wall a couple of times, but not too hard. "This is so not fair." He received laughter from the other three before they each left.
After a few minutes of thinking, Ron said, "Screw it, he's my friend." He searched for his writing things. He might not know a lot, but Ron was going to tell his friend what he knew.
Harry was sitting on his bed after dinner happily reading the letters from his friends that had been delivered less than an hour ago by Ron's owl named Pig. Their letters were a lot like his had been, short, but it was the established connection that made him happy, along with all three of the letters telling him that Dumbledore had asked Ron and Hermione to not tell him "anything stressful or about the war". It was at that moment that Harry fully forgave Ron for his stupidity regarding the Triwizard Tournament.
He'd expected a letter back from Gred and Forge, as they'd signed it; but a letter from Ginny had been a bit of surprise at first. Then again, he'd never written her before so he supposed that lack was his fault. Still, he'd have start writing these three (or really four) more often in the summers.
There was also the article in the latest Daily Prophet about a Ministry worker turning up dead with the Dark Mark clearly visible on his left arm. He wondered how long it'd be before he received an invoice for that, but he was pleased that Odd Job wasn't wasting any time.
— — —
In a very hidden house in London, a group known as the Order of the Phoenix was gathering for the first meeting of the whole group since being recruited over the last couple of weeks.
Sirius watched various people come into his house, at least half he didn't know. One he did know walked by and stopped next to him for a few seconds. "I can't say more, but you have a new reason to be more hopeful," was whispered by Auror Shacklebolt before he walked on and took a seat. Sirius raised his eyebrow at that as he wondered what had happened. He'd met the Auror for the first time last week and was thankful the man had believed him about his innocence.
All had to wait until Albus Dumbledore, head of the Order of the Phoenix, entered the room and took the end of the table opposite Sirius. The theatrics was not lost on the Marauder, and a glance to his right showed the other Marauder present had noticed too.
"Welcome everyone to the first meeting of the Order of the Phoenix, an organization dedicated to the downfall of Voldemort by gathering information that can be used to defeat him, and of course, getting that information to the right person or persons, as well as acting on it ourselves in some situations.
"As you can see, we have witches and wizards from many walks of life, in many part of our society. When we get together, it will be to share information that I've asked you to be on the lookout for. At the moment, I have little that's new other than Voldemort is staying in hiding and gathering his forces. That's courtesy of Severus Snape who will hopefully join us next time. Does anyone else have anything to share?" Dumbledore looked around.
"As reported in the Daily Prophet, Walden McNair was found dead in the Ministry atrium early in the morning day before yesterday. His Dark Mark was clearly visible on his bare left arm," Kingsley Shacklebolt said. "What was not reported was there was a transcript attached to his body detailing his crimes and they were enough to send him to Azkaban for life – several times over – if he were still alive. It's suspected the transcript was created while he was under the influence of Veritaserum as he admitted that his Imperious defense in the first war was false."
Many gasped at that, but Alastor Moody grumped, "He deserved that."
"Why wasn't that bit about the transcript in the newspaper?" Molly Weasley asked.
It was her husband who answered. "Probably because it would have made Fudge look bad that one of his Department Heads was such a criminal, so he gave the order to not allow that information to be released. While I report to Amelia Bones, even I hadn't heard about the transcript," Arthur admitted.
When no one said anything after a long moment, Dumbledore looked to his right. "Nymphadora and Mundungus, I believe each you have been watching Harry Potter's house to guard him after his unfortunate adventure lately. How has that been going?"
Mundungus Fletch shrugged and said, "All righ'."
Nymphadora Tonks fidgeted for a couple of seconds. "Not so well."
"Oh, why?" Albus asked.
"Well, you see, he left the house the other day and he was gone before I could follow him because he was walking fast and I tripped on the Invisibility Cloak," she said embarrassed, and received a few chuckles.
"He didn't come back for about an hour though and I decided it was important enough that he know that he shouldn't leave so I told him that … and … well … let's say he wasn't happy. Said he doesn't like to be stalked and I needed to leave or he'd call the Muggle police on me or anyone else that was found out there because no one who lives there likes magic or magicals," she told them in a bit of a rush.
Everyone except Sirius and Remus looked shocked, even Dumbledore looked shocked.
"I told him it was to protect him, but he said he didn't care," she went on. "And when I told him you asked us to guard him, he became even more upset saying you were only his Headmaster not his guardian and he didn't have to do what you said during the summer. He also said you made his life worse, or at least more dangerous."
Again, all but two were looking at her in shock. Remus had resolved not to say anything, so it was Sirius who said slowly, "Right, I know just how he feels, being told to stay somewhere you don't want to be by someone who says they'll help you but doesn't really do that."
Dumbledore looked down the table at him. "Sirius, the situations are very different and we must guard Harry as he can't fully comprehend what Voldemort would do to him if he was caught."
"I suspect Harry knows all too well what would happen to him if he were caught based on what he experienced in a certain graveyard a couple of weeks ago. As for the other, I suppose it is possible the situations are a little different," Sirius conceded, "but the feelings of being forced to stay somewhere you don't want to be are the same. So when is he coming here?"
"He needs to stay where his is for now. It's for his own safety," Dumbledore said gently, as if speaking to a first year.
Sirius snorted. "I've heard that too, so our situations are closer than you're admitting."
Dumbledore ignored that. "Is there any other news on Harry?"
"Err, I have some," Hestia Jones spoke up. "There are rumors at the Ministry that he wrote someone there and he's getting his house connected to the Floo Network."
"I heard that too," Tonks added.
"That would not be wise," Albus said gravely. "I'll look into that."
Remus decided it was his turn. "I've found a problem with the Fidelius."
All looked at him but it was Dumbledore who said, "What?" It was a stern command.
"It hides the people who are here so well that it blocks owls, which means those people appear to be either dead or very far out of the country where no owl can get to them," Remus explained.
Dumbledore relaxed. "Those living here shouldn't have a problem as there is no expectations for letters."
"So it's fine the students staying here appear dead to their friends?" Remus asked innocently. "Or that Harry can't communicate to his godfather or his friends?"
"Harry shouldn't be writing to anyone as his owl is too conspicuous," Dumbledore said. "In fact, I'll write him to tell him that."
"And he'll ignore you because you're only his Headmaster," Sirius said. "I noticed that you don't care that the Weasley children can't get letters from their friends, nor that Molly and Arthur can't receive letters from their friends. Any good reason for that?"
Dumbledore hesitated when he saw the Weasleys looking at him questioningly. "I'll look into seeing if we can allow owls in."
Arthur nodded and smiled in thanks.
"Any other news?" Dumbledore asked and looked like he hoped the answer was no.
"One more small item," Sirius said with a satisfied smile. "A couple of us took a trip to Little Haggleton where You-Know-Who was rebirthed and removed all the bones there that were used in his little ritual so that he can't do that ritual again."
"That wasn't very wise," Dumbledore said.
"It was Harry's suggestion, not that I'm trying to blame him, because I'm not," Sirius told them. "I thought the idea was a smashingly proactive thing to do to help us in the future, something a leader should suggest; so the deed is done. You're welcome."
Dumbledore did not look thankful though. Instead, he said, "Very well, please run all future ideas like that past me first as there may be consequences you're not aware of. I'll call this meeting to a close and we'll get together again next week. Have a good evening."
As people filed out, Alastor Moody thumped over and patted him on the shoulder. "Good idea, lad."
(A/N: The name of "Odd Job" originally appeared in a James Bond movie, so if there are any rights associated with it, they belong to that company. Here, Odd Job could be that person's nephew, who took the name when his uncle "retired". The nephew is obviously magical and has "contacts" to people who enjoy living on the "dirty side of life".
As for the owls not being able to find those living under the Fidelius, logically it has to work that way. If it didn't, then someone could put a Tracing charm on a letter and send it to someone living under a Fidelius and know very closely where they are. A couple of such deliveries would pinpoint the location well enough for a broad area attack to succeed, or so it seems to me. :)