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Albus Dumbledore was becoming rather worried for those in Grimmauld Place. He was experiencing difficulty in getting into the house in question; he had already tried Apparating and taking a Portkey from just outside Hogwarts grounds but neither of them had allowed him access to the house. Clearly something was happening and he was of the opinion that it was not a good something.

He thought for a moment and realised that clearly the best way that he could discern just what was happening in the house would be go to it, if it was not possible to get inside it. With that thought thoroughly considered, he Apparated into the middle of Grimmauld Place, just outside the house.

The street he entered was silent except for the wind which rustled through the trees, his only company as it whipped around the houses and whistling as he walked. The house appeared ahead of him but there were no signs of life within when usually one could just about distinguish a figure moving around in one of the windows of the house. Albus felt a slight shiver pass over his skin as he walked up to the front door and touched a hand to the door handle. It was normally only his touch which would cause the door to swing open as he was the Secret Keeper over the house and yet the door was indubitably fastened against him. Specifically him as he could almost feel the door working against him as he twisted the handle.

This was a most unusual situation; he had never actually been locked out of a place which he didn’t believe he would be able to get back into before. Clearly the door was locked against him in many ways, most likely with Muggle locks and chains on the inside, but there were more ways to enter the house than by the front door.

Albus calmly left the front door after glancing through the windows, seeing no signs of life within. He walked around to the back of the house and stepped into the large and intimidating garden. The hedge snakes had long since gone; burnt to a crisp by Harry and Remus the summer before but the rest of the hedges remained. He walked calmly and cautiously through them, although he never let his confidence slide.

Upon reaching the backdoor he discovered that it too had been locked against him with so many spells. It would take time to break through them all and time was not something which he had in great abundance, especially as he needed to discover what had happened to the occupants of the house as soon as possible.

There was little he could do now but try the windows. Knowing that they would probably not have sealed each and every one of them with as much zeal as the two doors into the house, Albus Apparated up to the roof and cast a quick levitation charm over himself. Hovering just by the attic window, he cast a strong Reductor spell which not only smashed the window but turned a large part of the wall to rubble. It would appear that they had not bothered to seal the attic window at all.

Albus quickly stepped inside, and the moment he did so a strange wave of energy rippled through the house. It was as if his very presence removed all the spells which they had put over the building in order to keep him out. He stood still as he listened but no sound met his ears. He doubted that there was anyone in the building but he quickly travelled downstairs to the lower floors to check for any signs of life.

A crack behind him made him quip round, his wand in hand. There wasn’t anyone around but he knew he wasn’t imagining things. Then, just before he had the chance to quickly scan the area, Dobby the house-elf appeared.

“Master Dumbledore, sir!” he cried and Albus was more than slightly surprised by his presence but he was very pleased to see him.

“Dobby I need to know–” he began but was cut off by the terrified elf.

“Master Dumbledore, it was terrible, sir! They turned on each other, sir and they took Master Harry and Master Snape and Mistress Minerva…” the elf said quickly and Dumbledore spent a moment after he had finished speaking trying to understand the information.

“Where did they go, Dobby?” Dumbledore asked him quietly, hoping for a response rather less hysterical than the previous one he had received.

“Dobby does not know, Master Dumbledore sir, they were made unconscious and taken by Portkey to somewhere Dobby knows not, sir!” he said. It was as much as Dumbledore had thought: stunned and transported to Azkaban. Clearly the impostors had fooled them again and he felt anger rising inside him.

“Thank you Dobby,” he said quietly before he turned from the house elf and entered the lounge. He sank down onto one of the sofas and surveyed the scene around him. There was the slightest sign of a struggle: the coffee table slightly askew and one wine glass on the floor; the red wine staining the carpet.

He closed his eyes and tried desperately to think how best to get to those imprisoned. Normally he would have used the Order to regain any of their number which had been lost but when all the Order were captured he had no one else. He was going to have to approach Fudge and ask for Aurors. He knew that he would be refused their services, which was a shame; he didn’t like having to take what was not his by force.

Albus was certain that the Aurors would follow him should he ask them to; he was the greatest headmaster Hogwarts had ever seen, or at least the only one people could really remember. Fudge would certainly provide a strong barrier, and he did not have much time for him. He did not know what would happen to those held captive but he knew that they would not all remain alive, not for long at least. Some of their lives would be spared indefinitely; those whom he believed would have strong power over the Ministry should it be revealed that he held them hostage. Then there were others whose lives he would take joy in removing, those who he knew would cause pain to the others if they saw them dying or tortured to insanity.

“Don’t fret, Albus,” said a voice from the wall, “it’s not as if any of them really mattered anyway.”

“Thank you, Phineas,” Albus replied coolly, “but I would rather they were alive and well than in the company of Voldemort.”

“You can always get other supporters,” he told him idly as he looked down on one of his successors to the headship at the school, “although Potter is meant to be quite important, is he not?” Albus smiled slightly at the understatement; Harry was rather crucial to their winning the war.

“He is, and I would rather he had more time to prepare than facing Voldemort after imprisonment as is most likely in the current situation,” he sighed.

“Do not despair, Albus,” said another voice as Dilys Derwent appeared next to Phineas and pushed him out of the way, “they’ll be all right; they’ve always got out of trouble before.”

“True, but at present they’re trapped inside a prison which only one person has ever managed to escape before and that was when it was not being run by one of the most powerful Dark Lords ever to rise up and attempt to seize power,” Albus told them, “I do not think that in the present situation they will be able to escape without outside assistance.”

“And since you do not have anyone left outside then outside assistance is essentially you,” Dilys said and he nodded.

“Do you mind?!” Phineas snapped at her. “Just because your portrait doesn’t join up to Grimmauld Place does not give you the right to come barging into mine now please get out!”

“Don’t you dare speak to me in that way Mr Nigellus!” she yelled and Dumbledore smiled slightly, it had been a long time since Phineas had been Dilys’ pupil but she would still treat him as one on occasion.

“When have I ever come marching into your portrait at St Mungo’s?!” he demanded of her and gave her a cool and condescending look. She did not reply but merely returned his look before marching out of the portrait, back to Dumbledore’s office.

“What a rude, impudent man!” she cried as she returned to her own portrait.

“You speak of Phineas, I presume?” Armando Dippet asked as she returned to her portrait and scowled at the portrait opposite his own.

“Of course, who else would dare to speak to their former headmistress with such obvious and loathsome disrespect?!” she glared at the portrait as Phineas returned to his frame with a sneer on his face. Dumbledore followed him through the fireplace shortly afterwards.

“What was the problem?” asked Everard as Albus entered the room. The current headmaster had been attempting to get back to Grimmauld Place by Floo powder earlier that morning to no avail and the portraits around him had all given him various, useless advice on the matter.

“The Order have gone,” Albus informed them and those around him mostly gasped. “It would appear that Voldemort has been giving Harry false information in dreams for a few months once again.”

“And he believed them again?” Fortescue asked him, an eyebrow raised. “I’m sure that you said so vehemently last time that dreams were never to be trusted, especially those giving clues about Voldemort.”

“I did,” Albus said quietly, “but this time I thought it was different although clearly it was not. We were tricked once again and this time there are almost certainly lives which have been lost because of it.”

“What a tragedy,” Phineas smirked, “so perhaps next time you will be more careful of those you trust. Potter’s dreams! How very ridiculous!”

“Be quiet Phineas,” Everard told him before he turned back to Albus. “So what will you do now? I presume that some sort of rescue mission is in order.”

“That will be exactly what is expected of him though,” Dilys pointed out to them, “and you can surely not fall right into whatever trap Voldemort has already planned for you.”

“I have no choice,” Albus said to her, “I can hardly leave them in Azkaban, Harry especially.”

“And what makes you so certain that the boy is still alive?” Phineas asked coolly.

“I hate to say it but if Voldemort knows what the prophecy says then surely he would not allow the boy to live,” Everard put in.

“He would not kill Harry,” Dumbledore said confidently as he walked slowly around the room. He could barely stand to sit still when such matters had occurred and he so desperately needed to regain those who had been lost. “He would rather keep him alive, risking his own destruction, in order to discover the power which lies within Harry and attempt to harness it for his own gain.”

“What of the others? Minerva, Severus, that damnable wolf?” Phineas asked, “I am sure that they would not all be permitted to remain alive.”

“I am sure that most of them will be alive,” Dumbledore told him, “Voldemort knows that if the Ministry chooses to rise against him then he will need to use them for hostage negotiations, although the Ministry would never rise against him. Not with Fudge in power.”

“You seem so uncharacteristically uncaring about the fact that an indeterminable number of your followers could have been put to death in horrid and potentially agonising ways,” Phineas said lightly and all those around him directed icy glares at him. “Personally I think that it’s a shame that Potter won’t die. Such a rage filled and self obsessed child. He ought never to have been permitted to re-enter the school after he destroyed your office last year.”

“He hardly destroyed the office. He broke two little things,” Dilys said, “and he had just suffered a staggering loss.” She gave her former student a cool look over her spectacles and shook one of her long, silver ringlets out of her face.

“As to the fact that so many people could have died,” Armando Dippet began, “we are in a time of war, whether it is widely known or not, and as such casualties and deaths will occur.”

“Yes, to be fair they are being held by Voldemort,” Fortescue said to him as he turned around in his portrait to face him.

Dumbledore stood looking out of his office window across the grounds. Below him he could see the forest in the distance and the Quidditch pitch. The lake was around the other side of the school, which he felt was a shame as he would rather have liked a view over the squid and Hagrid’s cabin but that was not possible without making another window in his room. Behind him the portraits were chattering on to each other although occasionally they would repeat things which they had already said; it was all part of being a portrait as they were not actual human beings, only representations of their former selves.

The thought of what could be happening to those he cared about so many miles away was taking its toll on him. He tried not to guess who would not have survived although he was almost certain that Ginny Weasley would not have survived. She was the youngest of the family and would have had no value as a hostage, only value as her death would have brought much pain to her family.

Albus closed his eyes slightly and pushed away the thoughts as he turned back to the portraits which hung behind him. They had stopped arguing now and were watching him to see what he would do next.

“I will have to go to Cornelius,” he said, more to himself than those with him.

“He won’t give you any of his Aurors if that’s what you’re thinking,” Phineas said and the others nodded, although rather reluctantly.

“Perhaps not but I’ll try,” Albus said.

“Oh Merlin, he’s going to refuse and you’re actually going to steal Aurors, aren’t you?” Phineas said in disbelief. “No wonder they want you removed.”

“Lives are at stake,” Albus said to them, “if taking Aurors without the permission of Cornelius is what I must do to save them then so be it.”

“If lives are at stake then why are you justifying your actions to a room of canvas?” Dilys asked him and he smiled slightly as he walked towards the fireplace. The last thing he heard as he stepped through to the Ministry was Phineas asking him in as patronising a tone as he could muster, whether or not he needed instructions to get to the building of his wish.

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